• ‘We want sniper controlled, removed from our foodstuff ’s market’
• We can’t ban Sniper, says NAFDAC
• Teen suicides becoming an epidemic, yet 100% preventable –Psychiatrists
Number of young people, who commit suicide in Nigeria, using Sniper, a brand of insecticide and pesticides, has been on the increase. It is gradually becoming an epidemic in the country, and this has necessitated calls from some Nigerians for the ban of the product and in order to get it out of the reach of young people with suicidal propensities. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports
Sniper has, once again, come under hammer for being the most available substance and best choice for young Nigerians, who seek to end their lives for one trivial reason or the other. Today, Sniper has been blamed for instigating suicide tendencies among the youths across the country and helping them to achieve their lamentable suicide journey to the great beyond by its availability.
Thus, the propensities with which young Nigerians are taking their own lives at the slightest and senseless provocation are quite alarming and can soon be described as an epidemic, if nothing is done urgently to disabuse the minds of these cowards, who prefer to die rather than to face their challenges headlong.
Though suicide is a strange culture in this part of the world, yet there is no month that goes by without the news of a young person taking, or attempting to take his life filtering the air space for flimsy and unthinkable reasons.
Such defeatist mentality is gradually plaguing the country and stealing the lives of its potential presidents, governors, ministers, professors, managers, engineers, lawyers, judges, nurses and doctors among other professionals, who are looked upon as leaders and nation builders of tomorrow. The practice is fast eroding the culture of resilience, patience and tenacity being instilled in them as young people.
It has got to the point that young people trade their lives for a little failure or life test yet they are supposed to be emotionally strong and resolute in confronting their challenges.
Instead of taking the bull by the horns, they now see suicide as a way of dealing with life challenges and cow themselves and bow to their challenges rather than confronting it headlong. The scripture says “If you are weak in a crisis, you are weak indeed; and if you are weary when times are troubled, your strength is limited (Proverbs 24:10),” should be written in the tablets of their hearts.
Furthermore, the story of Abraham Lincoln of America who never gave up in the times of trials should be their companion in the time of distress even as psychiatry attention should be considered too.
Recently, social media went ballistic with the story of a 17-year-old boy, Amos Ibrahim, who took his own life in Jos, the capital of Plateau State, by consuming Sniper.
It was reported that the young man took the poison after failing the 2019 University and Tertiary Matriculations Examinations (UTME), Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB). Many who followed his story were hard on him for being a coward. Others called him all manner of names, which connote weakling and spoit child. They lashed him for not being able to take his chance and study hard to pass the examination.
“African tradition does not treat suicide case softly. Real African sees no reason for taking one’s life and that is why the remains of those who committed suicide were humiliated and thrown into the evil forest to serve as food for the wild animals,” Chief Nwawolo Ikenga said in an interview.
According to the traditional chief, they are not buried or mourned, saying that these are done to deter anybody with such suicidal tendency to drop it having seen how both the family of the person and the corpse were humiliated and stigmatised in this taboo committed against the land.
“Suicide is a strong sign of weakling and men who are men only in their scrotum. It’s considered abomination because they do not do it with their right senses. It’s believed to be bad omen and relationship with the family where somebody committed suicide is a voided like bullet,” he added. Also, a student at Nsukka, Enugu State, Chukwuemeka Akachi, was reported to have consumed Sniper after writing a book on how to die. Temitope Saka, a 17-year-old girl, died after drinking the insecticide in the Igando area of Lagos State.
It was reported that when Saka became pregnant, her grandmother insisted she packed out of the house. It was reported that the victim drank the poison and started foaming at her boyfriend’s house. She was rushed to the Igando General Hospital where she died. Earlier, a 19-year-old girl, Uche Obiora, allegedly took Sniper at her boyfriend’s house, which is a street away from Saka’s grandmother’s house. Sequel to this, many Nigerians are currently calling on NAFDAC to ban sniper in the country to forestall the lives of young Nigerians and adults being lost to this faceless disease, even as many others feel it’s needless banning such product because people abuse the use.
A 25-year-old Oluwadurotimi Dawodu, who felt that the menace of suicidal tendencies among youth in Nigeria, using Sniper is unwarranted called on the Federal Government to place a ban on the insecticide. He also implored other young Nigerians and parents to push on the anticipated ban until those in authority take necessary actions on this matter, saying that no more lives should be lost to Sniper again.
For Isaac Fadewole, the product should be removed from circulation just as the government did to high codeine containing syrup. He said: “I actually support the product Sniper should be removed from circulation, just like it was done for codeine containing syrup. The epidemic of its abuse is of public health importance.” “Sniper has done more damage than good in our environment. We know it is an agricultural product but it has been the only dangerous poison found in every household,” said Mrs. Bola Adesokoye.
The mother of four said almost all households in Lagos make use of Sniper to control cockroaches and mosquitoes in their homes. “It’s a strong poison and having such in a place there are children is a great risk.
This should be totally made an agricultural affair and not sold in our foodstuff market or where children can easily have access to,” she added. On the other side, Ilemona Jane said Sniper is not the problem, arguing that the situations in the country leave people thinking that death is the only solution to the problems they are facing. “People can literally jump into rivers/ off bridges, drive their cars into walls, stab themselves to death. Do we ban rivers, bridges, cars and knives too? I don’t think banning sniper is the solution but re-orientation it,” she said.
Leo Ralph is not comfortable with the rate suicide news are flying all over the places, using sniper but he doesn’t still think that banning the product is a good idea. He said: “I have Sniper in my house. My kid brothers stay in the same house too. With the recent stories of suicide flying around, I am no longer comfortable with it. But I don’t think banning this product is a solution to the problem. The main issue here is depression.”
Omojuwa Joe, who said no to ban of sniper, asked what the national suicide line is? “Where do people go if they need help? What’s the government’s response to the news? How do you ensure the news and stories do not create a herd effect in the country. To me, these are critical matters and not the ban of Sniper.” More importantly, while the argument is raging on, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) wade in to douse the heated argument, which has been going up and down for some time now.
The agency said despite growing conversion over the use of Sniper for suicides, it does not have the powers to ban such a product from the market. NAFDAC regretted the fact that young people go for the product as the only available substance that can cause death of anybody who consumed it due to its efficacy. The Director of Special Duties, NAFDAC, Dr. Jimoh Abubakar said despite its abuse NAFDAC lacks the power to ban the product, saying that a product will not be banned because people abuse the purpose for which it was produced.
He said: “The case of Sniper is like when people use acid to attack fellow individuals even when the purpose of acid is not to attack people and people will call for the ban of Acid. Then what happens to the real reason for which it was created at the first instance? “Some years ago, NAFDAC was also called to the rescue when people started attacking others with acid. Asking us to regulate when people have criminal tendency or intention is not within the remit of NAFDAC’s regulatory activities. “Sniper is an insecticide, it is not meant for people to drink or kill themselves. From NAFDAC’s perspective, we are regulating it and ensuring control. The purpose of control is also to ensure that during the labelling of sniper and other products registered by NAFDAC.
“There are certain warnings to be put there, especially for pesticides and chemicals. Warnings are usually written boldly on the label to ensure that people don’t misuse it out of ignorance.” He noted that NAFDAC cannot ban a registered product because people abuse its uses. Sunday Telegraph learnt that one out of every five Nigerians have mental illness, but the sad part of it is that most Nigerians think people who suffer from mental health challenges are those on the streets. It was learnt that the people on the streets represent just one to two per cent of mental health cases in the country.
The 98 per cent of mental illnesses come from literally normal persons and not those on the street. As it were right now, one out of every five Nigerians is currently depressed and depression is so high that it cuts across all gender, socio-economic status etc.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), while the link between suicide and mental disorders – depression and alcohol use disorders – is well established in high-income countries, many suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis with a breakdown in the ability to deal with life stresses, such as financial problems, relationship break-up or chronic pain and illness among others. It is estimated that around 20 per cent of global suicides are due to pesticide selfpoisoning, most of which occur in rural agricultural areas in low- and middle-income countries. Other common methods of suicide are hanging and firearms.
A consultant psychiatrist, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) Idi Araba and Coordinator Suicide Research and Prevention Initiative (SURPIN), Dr. Raphael Ogbolu, said there are peculiarities of those within ages 13-35. The first thing to consider, Ogbolu said, is the period they live in, which he described as the Millennials and Generation Z. He said the Millennials (Generation Y) are considered to be those born 1980 – 1994 and tend to be raised by single parents, and they are technologically wise.
According to the psychiatrist, Generation Z (post-Millennials, iGeneration, Gen Tech, Digital Native) are those born between 1995 and 2010/2014. They are less traditional and are more likely to be single parents, and are more entrepreneurial, more into phones than Television.
He said what these two generations have in common is arguably the advent of social media and the Millennials are likely to reach adulthood around year 2000 at about the time GSM came into Nigeria, this meant that their popular mode of communication was less likely to be face-to-face, and as such both generations more often lived in a virtual world where social media gained a lot of prominence. Ogbolu said they are therefore more likely to have less social and interpersonal skills compared to the older generations and the problem with this is that a lot of ‘make believe’ and fake personalities come into play.
“For that reason, we have children who will become sad because they cannot show off pictures of their family on vacation abroad when they see their mates showing off such pictures, even if they are fake. This in turn can affect self-worth and lead them to question.
“This is made worse by a technological world where someone can create a photoshopped image of a ‘beautiful’ person. All this does is to diminish the self-esteem of a child who already lacks self-belief and confidence,” he added. The Global Health Observatory puts the global age-standardised suicide rate at 11.4 per 100,000 people, and suicide is the second leading cause of death among those aged 15-29 years. Sunday Telegraph learnt the rate in Nigeria is put at 9.5 per100, 000 people.
It has been strongly linked to depression, and also drug abuse, directly or in association with depression. In Nigeria, the SURPIN has found that about one-fifth of suicide cases seen at its affiliated institution are those aged 13-19 years, and that over 50 per cent of the crisis calls received through its hotlines are from those aged 13- 29 years; 27.8 per cent were students.
Suicide is one of the priority conditions in the WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) launched in 2008, which provides evidence-based technical guidance to scale up service provision and care in countries for mental, neurological and substance use disorders. In the WHO Mental Health Action Plan 2013–2020, WHO Member States have committed themselves to working towards the global target of reducing the suicide rate in countries by 10 per cent by 2020.
The psychiatrist said relying on statistics from WHO Global Health Observatory Data, suicide in Nigeria is at an estimated rate of 9.8 per 100,000 higher than regional average stressing that action is needed especially considering that the rate is an underestimation as many cases go unreported and undocumented.
According to a psychotherapist, Maymunah Kadiri, anyone can be depressed at any point in time. She said: “As a young person, you can have depression. Some of us may be depressed without being aware because it is only doctors that can diagnose if one has chronic depression or not.”
Suicide is preventable She noted that suicide is 100 per cent preventable because the red flags are there; the warning signs are there. She explains: “If a friend tells you that if he or she dies, nobody should miss him or her that is a red flag.
“If a friend gives you a gift that you know she cherishes a lot; that is a red flag or a warning sign. A friend who could do anything just to look good and then all of a sudden, nothing matters anymore, that is a warning sign.
“A friend who is no longer picking your calls, always wanting to be alone and crying, you need to watch such a friend. The truth is, no one wants to die, the people that are committing suicide just want to run away from their pains, the only thing that comes to their minds at that fragile stage is suicide and the most rampant form of suicides is drinking insecticide, and suicide by hanging. The expert advised those going through depression to get a healthy system, imploring the youths to aspire to be great as all humans have a drop of greatness in them. “If your friends are not helping you, you would need new friends that can support you.
Also, you need to optimise your strengths and minimise your weaknesses,” she added. The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, His Eminence Dr. Alfred Adewale Martins, said he is deeply worried over the growing teen suicide in the recent times in the country.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Awolowo –Dosunmu: Why I’m not in active politics
Former Nigerian Ambassador to the Netherland, Dr. Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosumu , the youngest daughter of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo bares her mind on the need for the present government to pay more attention to restructuring and security challenges affecting the country. She tells FLORA ONWUDIWE why the nation needs a competent woman to be president of Nigeria and sundry issues
It has been argued that Nigerian women have not been given the opportunity in nation building. Do you agree?
Yes, I do. I don’t have the specific numbers with me now, but the numbers of elected female politicians have been dwindling with each election cycle, certainly since 2011 or so. That is not a good trend. In fact, Nigeria is said to have the lowest number of female parliamentarians in sub-Saharan Africa. So, my answer is, women are not doing well at all.
What are the challenges you think are confronting women politicians?
The obvious one is finance because politics has become so horribly monetised now. It is like a transaction, a trade or investment. Unless you are loaded and have enough disposable funds to spend without batting an eyelid, and there are not many people in that position, certainly very few women, you should not venture into the Nigerian brand of politics as it is currently being played. So that, for sure, is the first constraint for women.
Secondly, politics in Nigeria has become more like war. It is extremely adversarial. It is no longer a contention of ideas. It is just too terrible for women to get involved in. I think those are the two issues, money and the violent nature of politics these days. It is not the kind of environment women can thrive in, unfortunately.
If a woman was given the chance to become the president of Nigeria, would you support her wholeheartedly?
Not just any woman, but competent woman. Yes, if a competent woman, as competent as the best that is on offer, male or female, is presented, of course I would wholeheartedly support her. If two people with equal abilities were presented and all that differentiated them was their gender, most certainly, I will support the woman.
Why do you suppress the political genes that run in the family?
(Laughter) How much time do you have? If you have two days, minimum, then I can explain to you fully. The truth is that it just doesn’t work for me. It has not worked for me for many years. I came to the conclusion that since my greatest reason for going into politics would be to advance Papa’s legacy, then if the partisan political route was not available and if it is not conducive, then it is better simply to find another route by which to preserve that legacy and to try and move it forward.
Fortunately, Papa was as much, if not more, of a philosopher and thinker as he was a politician and he committed most of his thoughts into writing. I actually believe that this intellectual side of him represents the very essence of his legacy.
What advice would you give to a woman you find competent to be on top or ahead of others?
First of all, I am sure that there are more than enough women in Nigeria that are competent enough to run this country. The first advice I would give is to, first of all, realise that politics anywhere, and mostly in Nigeria, is not a tea party. So she really needs to be convinced beyond any doubt that this is what she wants.
She needs some years of rigorous preparation, reading, studying, learning and setting her personal and home life in order so that it can be her safe haven at all times. Because there is no point in going into politics if it is going to cost more money than she can conveniently afford or raise, the word conveniently is very important here, she needs to have a Plan B to fall back on if things don’t work out in politics. More than that, be sure it won’t cost you things that money cannot buy, like integrity and a good reputation.
My next question will be, are you willing to take the risk because it is a very risky business in Nigeria, on many levels. Then, be very clear in your mind what you want to achieve, what you want to do for the people. Politics right now, is too much about power for its sake alone. It is too much about selfish acquisition, so you have to be different. I would ask her to focus on the development of this country. Whatever she does, everything must revolve around the development of Nigeria and the development of its citizens and improving the life of everybody across the board from the lowest to the highest. She must not focus on one segment of the society to the detriment of the others. She must be determined about her mission and must not allow herself to be carried away by the perks of office.
Having said that, what are the chances of such a person succeeding within the current political milieu? Very slim I would imagine, because apart from everything else you have to satisfy so many contending interests. It’s a minefield out there.
The present government has declared the 26 years of June 12 struggle Democracy Day. What is your comment?
I think it is the proper thing to do. It is a step in the right direction and I hope it is sustained.
Do you think today, the Yoruba politicians have totally abandoned the ideals of your father?
If I look around me, education is not doing very well, health services are not what they should be, human capital development generally is not what Chief Awolowo envisioned. The best I can say under the circumstances is that there is plenty of room for improvement.
Your father was said to be the leader of the Yoruba race, but since his demise, no one has stepped in that shoe to lead the Yorubas. What is your opinion?
You just made a statement. It is very difficult to add to it but let me just say this. It would be good to have a rallying point again. Because that was what Papa was. He was a rallying point that everybody related to and trusted. But his thoughts and ideals are still with us. And some of the people who rallied round those ideals with him are still with us doing their best to remind people that a better future is achievable. Papa was larger than life, he was unique. It would be naïve to expect to have an Awolowo every ten years or whenever, and it is not likely to happen. So the best thing we can do is to rally round those enduring ideals that he lived and worked for. I wish we could do that.
At what year did you become politically conscious of what your father was doing? Can you recall any political scenario?
No I can’t recall any single incident. I grew up knowing him to be in politics and that was just part of my reality. It was just part of my life growing up. He was Premier and that was just a fact of life as far as we were concerned. We were brought up not to consider it a big deal. We were just children growing up and our father just happened to be in government. It didn’t really impact our lives, or so we thought.
We went to the same schools as our neighbours, we did the same thing that our neigbours did. Ok, we occasionally went to have afternoon tea with the colonial Governor’s wife, play games at the Governor’s Lodge, and so on. But at the same time our lives were really very ordinary. There was nothing in our daily routine that particularly signified that Papa was any different from any other father in the neighbourhood. We had no security detail. Nothing. Sometimes, we walked to and from school if there was no car available. That was part of life. So there wasn’t any particular incident.
I think the time when I really understood, in a mature way, what it was all about and I think empathised is the word, when I understood really what he was trying to achieve was during the second Republic. I was a medical doctor and I was doing my own work, but I had the opportunity then to watch him at close quarters. During the First Republic, I was too young to make much sense of what was going on.
In the second Republic I lived close enough to Papa and Mama, my house was not too far, to make sense of it all. I understood better. Perhaps that sowed the seed, without my necessarily being aware of it at the time, for what I am doing now, the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation and more recently the HID Awolowo Foundation. Maybe.
Were you able to recognise your father’s political enemies?
Yes I could understand. During the crisis from 1962-1966 unless you are complete moron, you would understood who was on the other side, who was really after your father. He was not my political mentor. He was my father. We went through the restrictions and detentions with him. We spent our holidays in Lekki, that was where he was restricted to.
When he was in detention, we went to Lagos and when he was jailed we went to visit him in prison, in Lagos and then in Calabar. And when he and his colleagues were restricted in various parts of the then Western Region, which included Delta and Edo states, Papa suggested to Mama that she should go and visit all his friends, as a mark of goodwill. And that was what we ended up spending our holidays doing, when other children were having fun and enjoying themselves. So, I could not help but feel that this was not right. It was so disruptive of our lives, and yes, it left a permanent impression in my mind.
Was that why you were emphasising on the word empathy?
Yes. Ordinarily, after his travails, he should have just said enough, particularly, since he had a profession to go back to. As a matter of fact, a lot of people don’t know that his taxable income as a lawyer was about three times his salary as Leader of Government Business. He was doing very well as a lawyer. His income took a hit by his going into government. So he could have gone back to his legal profession.
But his mission was what his entire life was all about. He was extraordinary. Yes I came to understand that he felt obliged to do what he was doing. To ask him to do otherwise would be like asking him not to continue to live so I understood that very, very clearly.
You were one of the Yoruba leaders that were provoked when the armed herdsmen were encroaching to some villages in the South-West to pitch their tents, intimating Mr. President to curb the movement of the herders. What is the stance of the Yoruba now?
There was a communiqué after that meeting and that represents the Yoruba position. Nobody likes what is going on, all the kidnapping, all the horrors that are going on. All we are saying is that government has all it takes to effectively control the situation. Let them deploy everything in their arsenal on behalf of the Nigerian people, so that people can go about their lawful businesses in peace and confident of their security. That is all we are asking for.
You are among the people who advocate for restructuring and why? Is that the best that could ever happen to Nigeria?
As a diverse entity that is the best thing that can happen to Nigeria. And it is nothing new. It is what obtained, pre-independence, and it worked brilliantly. In the era of regions, we had a truly federal structure where federating units were actually empowered, financially and constitutionally to take care of their territories competently and efficiently. Since we changed that system to a unitary system it’s been downhill all the way.
In any case, a country as huge as Nigeria surely, it makes better sense to administer it in less unwieldy, federating units. All we have now are states, federating units in name only. Every one of those units is left panting for financial handouts from the centre every month.
That doesn’t make any sense. They need to have control over their resources in order to administer their territories, including real control over the security of their territories. That is where the demand for state policing comes in.
Don’t you see how much better it could be if the people who are in charge of security are those who have a comprehensive knowledge of their territory? They would be equipped to respond better and quicker to any potentially threatening situations. So, yes I am a firm believer in restructuring. In fact it is the best route to unity, real lasting unity of this country.
What would you take away from your father politically?
It is total commitment and dedicated, selfless service to Nigeria and the best interests of every single Nigerian.
Encomium as Pa Sylvester goes home
“Ugofolozor was delighted to go. He was looking up to leaving this earth. He was ready to proceed on a LONG journey with Nwoye Ibe who had been waiting for him. I am not here to mourn the transition of our father, brother, uncle, grandfather but to celebrate his life. Your love for me and my family was well known to everyone that to you, I could do no wrong.
To me too, you did no wrong. All you did were a demonstration of your nature as a teacher who had responsibility to nurture young ones to grow to become responsible citizens of the society. I am happy to be a direct beneficiary of that, even when I got caned more than double for the same offence as others. I now realize that those canes were for my own good as you told me, in those days when we lived at Awka Etiti- that Nwa Onyenkuzi shouldn’t be found wanting anyway.
“I am happy that I was part of your life till the last minute; you waited for me to return from my Retreat in our Temple in the USA before breathing your last. What is there to say other than that a saint of a man has gone on a long journey well prepared, happy and fulfilled”.
Those were the goose pimples – inducing words of Engr Emeka Eze, the son of Pa Sylvester Chukwukadibia Eze; Ezeadichi Ugofolozor of Alor town, Idemili South Local Government Area, Anambra State who died in April this year after a brief illness.
As his remains were being lowered, the crowd of sympathizers could not fight back tears, as emotions ran wild and the church choir rendered hymns in honour of the late Patrick. President General of Alor Peoples Assembly Mr. Okechukwu Elosiuba, sounded even more philosophical when the reporter spoke to him: “William James a renowned philosopher said that the best use of life is to invest in something that out last life”. Also, he said that good deeds are certificates of deposit invested in our future to be reckoned with when the book of life is balanced.
“These assertions recapture vividly the life and times of our legend, Chief Sylvester Eze, and as a teacher, a lot of students and pupils passed through him by way of mentorship and tutelage. Also he believes in assisting people. A lot of people enjoyed his good will while he was alive. All these people you see assisting in the burial drank from his milk of experience, guidance and accomplishment”.
Widow of late Eze, Mrs. Francisca, recalled those forty-two years of marriage while paying tribute to the love of her life. “It all seemed like a dream. During your last days on earth, when your health deteriorated, we prayed and hoped that you will recover and come home. We kept vigil at the hospital hoping and praying for a miracle. Towards evening of the next day, my son instructed his driver to take me home so that I can rest and come back the following day. I never knew, it was a ploy to hide the news of your passing from me.
“In our 42 years of marriage and companionship, you were nothing less than a God fearing and devoted husband. You trained and raised our children well in the fear of God. They were all committed to you even till your last seconds of your life. Traditional Ruler of Alor Community Igwe Mac-Anthony Chinedu Elibe Okonkwo, described Eze as a father and great teacher who in his eighty-seven years on earth touched the lives of people and produced great sons and daughters from the Idemili clan and beyond.
“If not that death is an inevitable end of man, men like Ugofolozor should be immortal. His dexterity, courage and confidence are quite uncommon. The support and wise counsel he offered me were the secrets of my progress on the throne as the Traditional Ruler of Alor Kindgom.
He will be greatly missed,” he said. Being a strong member of the Roman Catholic Church where he contributed to its growth, faithful came in their numbers to bid him farewell. The Catholic Women Organization (CWO), came to pay tribute to their father; and console the family.
“Your father in his life time was the C.W.O Nnokwa Zone’s Patron. He served God and humanity in that capacity to the best of his gifts. He assisted us morally, financially and encouraged us to carry out God’s work diligently. Honestly, Late Chief Ugofolozor was an active Patron,” the group said. Being a town Union Leader the Alor Community abroad recalled his role as community Opinion leader whose words of advise played very pivotal role to the development of the community. Chairman Alor Development Union in Abuja, Engr. Uzodimma Akubue said, “In moments like this, God gives us the opportunity to reflect on the manner in which we conduct our lives.
Our God is so kind and generous that he forewarns us of the impending doom, especially when we reject his mercy while alive”. His kindred, Umuokwu General Assembly painted their own picture of late Pa Sylvester Eze through its chairman sir Kanna Aniefuna. “We may lack words to describe and honor of Chief Ugoforozor but suffice it to say-He was an indispensible decimal, a resourceful person, a pillar and a colossus of his time in Okwu City.
As an elder statesman, he served Umuokwu Community with all his heart, strength and wisdom. He was the financial secretary of Okwu city for many years and only retired voluntarily in 2011 due to age. And sincehe left the office, the proficiency and standard he left is not yet broken. Born in 1932 late Sylvester Eze was the fifth of the Children of late Pa Peter Ezedimegwu Muomakwo and Madam Monica Adankwo Eze and a member of the Igwebike Age grade.
Nigerians must condemn injustice or suffer same fate –Nnamani
The proclamation and inauguration of the National Assembly which occurs every four years usually brings with it a new crop of legislators brimming with new ideas. A former Governor of Enugu State and Senator, representing Enugu East Senatorial District, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani is one of the of ideas in the current dispensation. In this interview with ONWUKA NZESHI, the former governor unveils his thoughts on the Nigerian Project and how he intends to fill the gaps in the next four years
Your Excellency, you are one of those who were in the National Assembly some years ago and are returning after a break. How do you feel about this your second coming?
It is a privilege for me to be involved in a somewhat second missionary journey because I’ve had opportunities as a young man to test the political waters of Nigeria. I have been involved in the leadership of my state (Enugu State) as governor, after which I also had opportunity to do one term in the Senate. Then I went through a period of hiatus which could be described as my wilderness years.
So this is a second opportunity to play a role in statecraft or leadership of my people. The period of the wilderness years, gave me an opportunity to reflect, think and also go through “hunger” for participation in the affairs of my people. You know, as you get older, the compulsion to have a voice; the compulsion to be heard in the caucus of your elders becomes much more intense.
I can say that on this second missionary journey, I am coming into it with greater and more urgent sense of awareness.
My sense of history is also more urgent because I’m now older with a greater sense of the need for Nigeria to join the comity of nations. I also have a greater sense of the social burden of my country. Being in my twilight years, I am coming with greater sense of urgency to be part of the greater explosion in terms of the economy that we all expect in Nigeria. There is a greater sense of the need for the sleeping giant to wake up because indeed, Nigeria is the giant of Africa. But it is a giant that seems to walk with the feet of clay.
How can we justify this idea of Nigeria being giant of Africa given the situation of things in the country?
Nigeria is a great country because when Nigeria sneezes, Africa quakes. We are the most populous black nation and has contributed more than any other nation in the liberation of other African states. Mention them- South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Angola and the rest of them. Not only that, Nigeria has contributed a lot in terms of human lives and money to the stabilisation and peace in other African countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan. Nigerians are all over the world.
We’ve had democracy for 20 consecutive years now. I want to be part of the process. I want to be there when the giant wakes up because I know he will certainly wake up. So I’m enthused, I’m ready to participate in this process
What has really changed between when you went on political sabbatical and now?
I have a keener sense of injustice and the price that people pay when they keep quiet. I am much more aware of it now. There is always a price that people pay when they keep quiet in the face of injustice because it (injustice) is going to go round. The system is a closed system, so when you see injustice and you keep quiet, it’s going to come to you. It will come to you one way or the other.
I will be interested in issues of human rights, equality, justice and rule of law. When people are arrested and get bail, we should make sure they are released. Once court grants you a bail, it’s not subject to any other legal interpretation of human manipulation. So basically, I am in the Senate primarily to participate in debates and advocacy of my own viewpoint and the viewpoint of my people on the Nigerian project.
What special interests do you have in the Nigerian project?
The Nigerian project is how these ethnic nationalities have gone through several tribulations such as the slave trade, colonialism, military dictatorships, debt enslavement, HIV/AIDS, Ebola and so on. In the era of slave trade, ethnic nationalities and kingdoms were plundered in order to fund the Industrial Revolution in Europe and America; Africans were captured and shipped overseas to work in the plantations.
These foreigners also approached sovereign African nations primarily for trade and spread Christianity. Somehow, they convinced the rulers of these African kingdoms that if they signed pacts or agreements with them, these foreign powers will defend them. From signing treaties, they moved to asking these Africans to pay for the bureaucracy and machinery that will be used to defend their territories. This was how these sovereign nations were pacified and by the time they knew what was going on, they became a state under colonial rule.
So you have a country in which if you run a line, all the way from the borders in the North to the Atlantic Ocean in the South, there are no commonalities. There are no commonalities in language, history, and religion. The French, Germans and British simply sat down and divided Africa and those of us here ended up in one country. So the debate on the project is how do these ethnic nationalities continue to live together? How do they share their resources? How do they police themselves? How do they relate with their foreign neighbours?
Earlier, you talked about military dictatorship or militarism. How has this affected the Nigerian project?
It started with things that were happening in Latin America, Argentina, Chile, Egypt where military coups led to change of government’s. So militarism became popular and swept through Africa. In Congo, Patrice Lumumba was overthrown; in Ghana, Kwame Nkruma was removed, in the Republic of Benin, it was Matthew Kerekou, in Togo, it was Dylvanus
Olympio and Gyansingbe Eyedema. In Nigeria, you all know the story of the January 1966 Coup and the counter -coup of July that same year.
It was series of coups all through Africa. Militarism set Africa back. It set Nigeria back because rather than talking about four or five year development plans, we ended up with emergency governments. So my interest is to join the debate on the Nigerian project.
Most politicians get elected to the National Assembly on the promise to deliver dividends of democracy to their people. Are you not interested in the basic social infrastructure for your constituents?
Of course, I am also interested in the bread and butter politics, and making sure that my own people get their own share of the national cake. I mean their share in terms infrastructure such as roads in the South-East where apparently the roads are in a state of abandonment. I am also intrigued by the rail system development. How come, nobody is talking about the South-East in terms of rail development? I believe that if you are talking about rail, the South-East should actually have priority because you want to move goods from Port Harcourt into the hinterland; you want to move goods from Onitsha into the hinterland and you want to link Onitsha and Lagos because most of the goods coming into the ports of Lagos are actually bound to end up in the South-East.
So it would be interesting to know why we are not talking about rail system in the South-East or why other areas should have priority over the South-East in terms of development of the railways. I am also interested in aviation and what’s going on with the Enugu Airport. Instead of upgrading the airport, you are talking about even closing it down.
What would you do about the challenge we have with our elections?
I will also be interested in electoral reforms. The pertinent question about Certificate of Return has to be addressed. What is Certificate of Return? It is meaningless. It doesn’t mean anything. It is a distraction. What is Certificate of Return? Is it in the Constitution? It’s an invention of those running the electoral system. It’s a new word in our political lexicon. What is Certificate of Return? What are you returning?
When you conduct an election, you have a Certificate of Declaration where you are declared the winner and it states your result, signed by the Returning Officer and your agent. That’s the Certificate of Return. You don’t need any other bureaucracy to give you a Certificate of Return. All they are trying to do is to put a third party into the process to manipulate the system.
When it’s going to favour you, you remember there is a Certificate of Return. When it’s not going to favour you, nobody talks about it. So this is a new invention by the bourgeoisie and the dysfunctional elite that has absolutely no sense of altruism. They are only thinking of how to profit and gain advantage of the system.
When you look at the 2019 Elections in terms of the paper work, manpower mobilisation and the expenses were totally unnecessary. There should be no interfacing agent between the voter, the vote and the result. You don’t need any interfacing agent. You don’t need anybody to announce results.
I’ve had cause to give an example with the banking system. You get your ATM card, you go to the ATM, collect your money and go. Nobody is there to give you the money. Nobody is there to announce the amount of money collected because everything is automated.
The same can happen with elections. It is a very simple process. You have your voter’s card which is like an ATM card. You can take that voter’s card, slot it into the card reader or an appropriate machine; that machine will recognise you as a voter using several parameters. When it recognises you as a voter, you now vote on that machine and we would all see it.
We’ll see it at the RAC, at the INEC offices and we will see it at the Civil Society Situation Room where oh have the media. It will simply register on the screen as +1 – one vote cast in Maiduguri; one vote cast in Calabar or one vote cast in Port Harcourt or Benin for PDP or APC or any other party. It will be cheaper, faster and it will be devoid of human manipulation. If you can do it with your banking sector, you can do it with your electoral system.
As a medical doctor, what would you be bringing on board in the health sector?
I will be interested in things like maternity leave and making it a law even in the private sector. I also have a member of my staff who have interest in paternity leave where even fathers will also go on leave since we are talking about equal rights. I will be interested in certain cultural practices like female genital mutilation, early child marriages and the problem of visico vaginal fistula (VVF). I will be interested in areas of health jurisprudence for people going to emergency room and being treated without asking for police report. I will be interested in indigent health care where people go into emergency rooms and obtain treatment as a right as long as it is a government -owned hospital.
I will also be interested in statistics because you can’t do anything without data. If you are going to build a rail system between Abuja and Kaduna, I would like to know the data you have collected in terms of the trend in terms of human movement and goods. If you are moving from Enugu to Onitsha, I want to know how many people go from Enugu to Onitsha. I want to have the statistics because that will now tell us the type of rail to do. It is statistics that should tell us where to put the rail system. It will also tell us where to site our airports. I will like to have data on births, deaths and disease. I will also be interested in data on commerce and agriculture.
What’s your perception of the 9th Senate and its newly elected leadership?
I believe we are expecting a vibrant Senate. I’ve had the opportunity of studying closely the new President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan and I’ve done a review of his background; he has a PhD in Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System from a UK university. That shows he is an academic, he’s a man of study and an intellectual who has information.
I have also had cause to work with him. I was in the Senate for four years. I believe he was the Chairman, Public Accounts Committee at that time and I’ve also had opportunity to interact with him and I’ve found him a gentleman. He comes across as an intellectual and a man in total control of his temperament. So I’m looking forward to working with him and he certainly has my support. I believe he’s going to steer the Senate with listening ears.
I believe that the two arms of government (Executive and Legislature) are co-dependent and as long as we wish each other well; as long as the focus is Nigeria, the Senate can act independently. The Senate can assert itself without confronting the Executive or jeopardizing the goals of discipline.
In the past a frosty relationship existed between the Executive and Legislature. Do you think this conflict can be avoided?
I believe that Senator Ahmad Lawan is going to find a meeting point between the level of independence and the level of frustrating the Executive. It wasn’t envisaged that there will be antagonism between the Executive and the Legislature because it is actually one government.
That is why in America, the Vice President is the President of the Senate.
I don’t want to get into the semantics or allegory of this independence of the legislature but how can you really say you are independent when the number two person in the Executive will cast a deciding vote on what you want to do. Are you really independent when the Vice President will come into the Senate and decide what you are going to do?
When a party gets elected into government, if the party is in control of the Executive and Legislature, it means that both arms would work together. The leader in the Executive will call the Legislature to brief them of their policies and programmes and find out what are workable. The Legislature may suggest some amendments to what the Executive presents. Thereafter, the policies can be formally presented to the Legislature who will now convince the opposition to pass it.
Sometimes, the Executive can even invite the opposition when they are putting together a bill. When they now agree they will present it formally to the Legislature. This will decrease acrimony, time wastage and make things easier.
So if you look at how constitutional democracy was developed, the idea was not that the two arms of government will fight or be antagonistic to each other. The idea was that they are going to be co- dependent and work together. If the party in the majority is in government and controls the Executive, if they are lucky and they are also I control of the Legislature, they are going to work together.
There is no dividing line, it is one government. Now if they convince the opposition and it buys into the plan, it sails through but if they can’t convince the opposition, the matter will be out to vote. If they win, you go along with it. So based on the election of Ahmad Lawan that happened penultimate Tuesday, I can tell you it was a bipartisan effort. As an academic and an intellectual I have been able to read the fine line between an antagonistic legislature and a legislature that is alive to its responsibilities and helps the Executive have a smooth operation of government.
The 8th Senate could not pass the South-East Development Commission Bill before their tenure elapsed. What are you going to do about it?
My role is to revisit it. We are going to look for it and bring it up again. I am surprised that the North East Development Commission Bill was passed without the South East Development Commission Bill being passed. I hope that I the future, in the Senate, what is good for the goose will also be good for the gander. As you pass the North-East Bill, you also pass the South-East Bill, if not you hold it until all of them are ready and passed together.
Not only will this be my advocacy, it will be my responsibility to go to my colleagues, visit them one by one and appeal to them to ensure equity and fairness in developmental matters of this nature. If you look at the Senate Presidents address, he called for the bipartisan spirit to continue. He said there is no party – No APC and no PDP So I will speak to their bipartisan conscience for us to work together.
Features23 hours ago
Suspect: We were told my brother’s skull would be vomiting money
Politics24 hours ago
Baylesa guber: Intrigues as PDP ticket tears Dickson’s group apart
Arts & Entertainments23 hours ago
I wasn’t born with a silver spoon- DR. OLATOKUNBO AWOLOWO-DOSUNMU
News23 hours ago
How we lost Colonel, Captain, three soldiers –Army
Show Biz23 hours ago
How Wizkid performed into 29th birthday after Braxton, Tiwa Savage
News24 hours ago
PDP closes case after 62 witnesses testified against Buhari
Features23 hours ago
My wife’s killers won’t know peace –Funke’s husband, Idowu Olakunrin
News24 hours ago
UI begins e-voting, elects new governing council members