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Taking a cue from the Shi’ites…

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Taking a cue from the Shi’ites…

The whole history of progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favour freedom and yet, deprecate agitation are men who want crops without ploughing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters… Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they are resisted. – Frederick Douglass

 

The Shiites of Nigeria and, indeed, the world over, will no longer wait for Godot! After they failed to be treated according to law by the APC/Muhammadu Buhari administration; after the judiciary, the so-called last hope of the common man, failed them, they have decided to take their destiny in their own hands, as it were. After the government blocked its ears to the voice of reason, the Shiites are now pursuing their project in the streets. Reason and commonsense having failed, rage and emotions have taken over. And blood is flowing freely.

 

 

No government in the history of this country has had this much shedding of blood in peace time. It is like those hellish days in Rwanda when – is it the Times or Newsweek – screamed on its cover “There are no more demons left in Hell; they have all gone to Rwanda”. The demons are all now trooping into Nigeria! They are relocating from all the hot spots of the world – from Syria, from Libya, name it – and are now converging on Nigeria.

 

They first came as herders; now bandits of all shades and kinds have joined them. The Buhari administration welcomes them. It even wants to gift them colonies and settlements all over the country. While the controversy over RUGA rages, the government, in the way it has handled the Shiite issue, is wittingly or unwittingly creating another Frankenstein monster the same way its predecessors created Boko Haram. Dictatorial regimes have a way of radicalising their own people. Ordinary people; peace-loving citizens when pushed to the wall will fight back.

 

All over the country, the Buhari administration is pushing people to the wall. The Yoruba of the South-West already have their back to the wall. Even the deaf can glean that unmistakeable message from statements emanating from all manner of likely and unlikely places in the region. Only a few errand boys and lackeys of the powers-thatbe are playing to the gallery with the way they are trivialising a very serious issue.

 

 

Government appears not to be interested in doing the needful in the South-West, in the same way it arrogantly snubbed the Shiites until they are now forcing it to respond to them by fire by force. Will the South-West also need to toe similar line of taking its demand for the protection of life and property to the streets before the government takes it seriously? Force does not suppress popular agitations.

 

Many dictators get to realise this only when it is too late. “Meanwhile corpses lie in new-made graves – bloody corpses of young men; the rope of the gibbet hangs heavily… Those corpses of young men, those martyrs that hang from the gibbets, those hearts pierced by the gray lead, cold and motionless as they seem, live elsewhere with unslaughtered vitality. They live in other young men, O kings!

They live in brothers, again ready to defy you… Not a dismembered spirit can the weapons of tyrants let loose but it stalks invisibly over the earth, whispering, counselling, cautioning.

 

Liberty! Let others despair of you! I never will of you” (From “Poem of the dead men of Europe…). Che Guevara succinctly put it when he said: “Wherever death may surprise us, let it be welcome if our battle cry has reached even one receptive ear and another hand reaches out to take up our arms.” How many receptive ears have heard the Shiites’ cry for justice and how many hands are reaching out to the weapons of the slain?

 

The Presidency plays Pontius Pilate when it attempts to wash its hands off the continued detention of the Shiites’ leader. He has been admitted to bail again and again; let him enjoy his bail while his trial continues. Is that too “technical” for this fumbling and wobbling government to understand? Tanko Muhammed is everywhere!

 

Listen to this debate in an African parliament: Honourable Madisha: Half of people in this parliament are stupid! Speaker: Hon. Madisha, withdraw that statement. Hon. Madisha: I withdraw the statement. Half of people in this parliament are not stupid. Speaker: Thank you; let’s proceed. How sound is the speaker in question?

 

Hon. Madisha only played on his intelligence or took him for a jolly ride. The first and second statements by Madisha said exactly the same thing. So, he withdrew nothing but only adumbrated it. It is like

saying six or half-a-dozen; better still, “the cup is half-full” or “the cup is half-empty”. Hon. Madisha still got away with saying that half of the people in the parliament were stupid without the technically deficient speaker realising it.

 

Or did he simply choose to play the ostrich so as to let sleeping dog lie? How many other Honourables in the parliament saw through Hon. Madisha’s cruel joke? Standards have fallen everywhere, particularly so in this country Nigeria.

Many will tell you that the so-called dichotomy between educationally-advantaged and educationally-disadvantaged states of the country is where the rains began to beat us. When students who score 2% are admitted into Unity secondary schools, how do you expect them to cope? Yet, they must be pushed through!

 

When people who barely managed to go through college now find themselves in the commanding heights of the society, what performance do you expect from them? Mr. President’s school certificate controversy comes to mind here. If the school certificate and other results of the now confirmed CJN, Tanko Muhammad, which are trending on social media, are also anything to go by, we shall be expecting too much from him if we want stellar performance.

 

Federal character is one policy that means well on paper but whose implementation has ruined merit and excellence across board, especially in federal establishments. Ask those from the southern part of the country working in federal establishments; they have tales of woes and frustrations to tell as they are made to do the job while less qualified and less competent northerners – always – call the shots. This kind of “monkey dey work, baboon dey chop” is one of the reasons why it is extremely difficult to make a nation out of the many nations comprising the geographical expression called Nigeria.

 

Beyond competence, though, is the deliberate choice of our leaders across board to engage in rigmarole, like I believe Tanko Muhammad did, any time they want to obfuscate issues, not that they do not know what they are doing. El- Rufai, Osinbajo, Tinubu, Oshiomhole, not to talk of Lai Mohammed, are fond of this.

 

Everywhere now, technicalities are used to deny justice and serve vested interests. How did Tanko Muhammad himself become CJN? In the states where the House of Assembly is steeped in crisis; in elections all over the country, technicalities have come to the rescue for those that are intent on perverting the course of justice. Expecting the CJN to talk straight on the issue of technicalities/justice is preparing the noose for him to hang himself on a future date.

 

Or what do you make of a Buhari who reasons that since Kano and Bayelsa each have the same number of senators, then, the Constitution cannot be fairer to all? That, certainly, is not the height of Mr. President’s intelligence. They get ridiculous when they bend over backward to defend the indefensible and serve vested interests – and not that they are nit-wits. LAST WORD:

 

The rate at which Nigerians are being murdered abroad is alarming. I, however, find the noise our government and people are making over it as hypocritical. Charity, they say, begins from home. If the life of a Nigerian is worthless here at home, how can it attract premium outside?

 

FEEDBACK

 

RE: Politicians kill, judges bury May the good Lord deliver us! Let our judges also read Amos 5: 23 & 24 – 0806 532 4139.

 

Yours defies description.

 

Shall I call it blunt, hard, courageous and truthful! Honestly, I have never read anything like this about our Judiciary in my 45 years at the Bar. Your picture of our Judiciary is the true picture but that you have the courage to call a spade a spade gladdens my heart that great and patriotic men like you are still in this country Nigeria. More power to your elbow! – Chief Segun Adegoke, Ondo.

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Is Aisha Buhari still convincing?

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Is Aisha Buhari still convincing?

“I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room and the other rooms” – Muhammadu Buhari

Three critical issues are competing for space this week, the bizarre invasion of an Abuja High Court by operatives of the Department of the State Services (DSS) for the re-arrest of Omoyele Sowoere right before the Judge, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu. Not even during draconian days of Gen. Sani Abacha did this happen. This is the continuation of the desecration of the institution of judiciary by this regime that began in 2016 with the midnight breaking of homes of Judges and Justices and the follow up unilateral removal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen in January this year.

The other matter that can also not be ignored is the curious conviction of the former Governor of Abia State, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu. I believe that the real story behind the jailing of OUK will come out in future to determine whether he was victim of corruption or politics.

But to me the huffy issue this week is the First Lady Aisha Buhari’s deliberate silence on the burning to death in Kogi State of Salome Acheju Abu, the woman leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by agents of the All progressives Congress (APC). It beats my imagination why the supposed mother of the nation would be wordless at such wicked act against motherhood and still has the audacity even as the woman was yet to be buried to be in the news over mundane political and family squabble that has no visible significance to the burning national issues.

Since the office of the First Lady was made popular in Nigeria during the reign of General Ibrahim Babangida through his late amiable charismatic wife, Maryam, none has been able to capture the heart of Nigerians positively like the current one Aisha Buhari.

Maryam Abacha showed a disposition of a caring and motherly personality but the excesses of her late husband, Gen. Sani Abacha while in office successfully masked her efforts. History did not pen down anything on Chief Ernest Shonekan’s aberration government while Abdulsalami Abubakar’s era was transitional and couldn’t have recorded anything meaningful.

The restless Stella Obasanjo was actually stellar in her performance in the first lady seat but did not win the heart of Nigerians like Maryam Babangida or Aisha Buhari. Hajiya Turai, the wife of late President Umaru Yar’Adua was shrewd and possibly deeper intellectually than all others but the ailment of the husband that eventually consumed him denied the country the opportunity of knowing her better. Mama P, the overwhelming wife of President Goodluck Jonathan was everywhere, very political and overpowering but mostly for the wrong reasons.

Then came easily the most pretty and younger charismatic Aisha wearing the apparel of a caring concerned mother of all irrespective of party, religious or ethnic afflictions; a disposition that won her the hearts of many Nigerians.

She came up courageously occasionally with utterances that were populist and progressive amid grumblings from the highly conservative environment within that she found herself.

She won the hearts of many when she cried out on the negative role of the cabals on her husband’s government. Then she claimed that those who suffered for her husband to win the election were being sidelined. She even threatened then not to campaign for the ruling APC in future elections if situations do not change. Aisha even went as far as challenging Nigerian men to rise up and fight the men who she claimed have hijacked and were destroying her husband’s administration. By those outbursts the First Lady unconsciously became the voice of the people from within.

Recall that it was in response to one of the eruptions of the wife that President Muhammadu Buhari while on a visit to Germany was confronted by international journalists where he dropped the now popular other room talk.

After the controversial 2019 general election Aisha disappeared to London via Saudi Arabia to surface six weeks after when the fake Presidential marriage dominated the media space. We all witnessed the small squabble that has not ended between her and the families of her husband’s relation and Man Friday Mamman Daura. Poor journalist Garba Shehu doing his professional duties appears to have been roped into the first family tiff.

Just recently Aisha was in the news again sounding like a broken record about her husband’s government being hijacked by bad people.

She actually did not mention the bad people in the telephone interview to a television station. But her husband who is the President would not agree to her negative assertions and calls it “her business”. Of course to agree with the wife would mean acceptance of not being in charge or endorsing the argument of being incompetent and unfit to govern.

But a critical appraisal of Aisha’s rants and her other attitude to politics generally opens the door to the other rooms in examining her. It seems like she only jumps to public sentiment when she fails to have her way and makes the guileless public think she is a free thinker fighting for all.

For instance, the APC loss of Adamawa State in the last election was due largely to the controversy she created trying to use his brother to dethrone an incumbent governor. When she could not crisis was injected and the party never recovered.

Again in recent Kogi State gubernatorial election, the First Lady was passionate about Governor Yahaya Bello not minding his awful performance. The reason being that the governor is a close pal of her son Yusuf. She had to go campaigning and pleading to voters.

After the election, a woman, a mother – Madam Acheju Abu – was burnt alive in her house by political thugs, the First Lady the supposed mother of the nation has remained mum. To me this has erased all my thinking that Aisha Buhari is a populist caring mother of all who would not allow power and interest to becloud her vision for Nigerians in general and Nigerian women in particular.

What appears to be coming out very glaringly is that Aisha may just be a political actress who resorts to public sympathy when she loses and makes the public believe she is crusading for them. Her interests in Kogi and Adamawa states politics have exposed her real self. The First Lady and her office keeping tight-lipped at such wicked heartless murder of a Nigerian mother because of interest leaves much to be desired. It raises a lot of questions about the sincerity of her crusade. She no longer sounds convincing and persuasive at least to critical minds. When the President, her husband, describes her attitude as ‘her business’ it says a lot for discerning minds to decipher.

Moreover, if Nigerians are to accept her constant cry of her husband’s government being hijacked, she would not be doing any credit to him as such digressions merely underscores the feeling of many that there is incompetence and clear absence of leadership in the land in the past four years. Trying to exonerate herself or that of the husband in the mess does no positive because the constitution insists that the buck stops in only one man’s table as far as Nigeria’s political leadership at federal level is concerned and that person is President Muhammadu Buhari.

What all these asides tend to confirm is that Nigeria is not in the hands of the best and it calls for concern and great supplications of all to God for solution.

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Zamfara bells the cat: Will others follow?

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Zamfara bells the cat: Will others follow?

T

he saying, usually, is: Who bells the cat? The story is told that rats met one day and the agenda was how to put a halt to the havoc the cat was wreaking in the rats’ midst. Suggestions after suggestions were considered before the rats, in their collective wisdom, decided on the one that appeared to them the most suitable: They will get hold of a bell and fix it on the cat’s neck so that any time this enemy approaches, the jingling of the bell will send an alert to the rats to vamoose. Good idea but who will execute this plan? Who bells the cat? Which of the rats will undertake this very dangerous assignment? Your guess is as good as mine!

 

 

“Who bells the cat?” is, thus, a hypothetical question; no rat dares to! Hence, the cat problem persists till date for rats and their generations.

 

If belling the cat is difficult for rats, reining-in our greedy, gluttonous, rapacious, do-nothing, and good-for-nothing politicians by the hapless and helpless citizenry is no less hazardous, herculean and a mountain to climb. We have talked and yelled but the deaf and dumb politicians would not yield. Impunity is the name of the game. Nigerian leaders take their own people for granted. Worse, they treat them as chattel. Who will arrest the politicians? They control the security forces! Who will call them to order? They are the ones who issue orders that must be obeyed! Think or talk of the law: They write and un-write the law and then ride roughshod over it. They are law unto themselves! To complete the cycle, they have now made the Judiciary their footstool!

 

But thank God for little mercies, the cat of rapacious, asinine and insane political leaders has been belled in the most unexpected quarters – Zamfara State. The PDP governor there – a governor, I must say, by fortuitous circumstances that we are all familiar with – working in tandem with, again, a fortuitous PDP-controlled House of Assembly – has repealed a law which gives humongous retirement or upkeep allowance to former governors (and deputy governors?). In some states, other categories of ex-political office holders have also wangled their way into these freebies – or are about to.

 

Immediate past APC governor of Zamfara, Abdullaziz Yari Abubakar, quoting the law, thought he was on high moral ground when he demanded the payment of N10 million monthly upkeep allowance and a pension equivalent to the salary he was earning as governor from the incumbent. He had been paid the N10 million for June and July but his so-called pension for June had not been paid. Responding, the state has now repealed the law in question, stating that Zamfara lacks the resources for now to pay. It should not only be “for now”; it should, in fact, be forever!

 

Yari had reportedly paid himself N300 million severance package as he left office, in addition to other perquisites like state-of-the-art limousines, houses in choice places, etc. To be sure, Yari is not alone in this rip-off of state resources. If anything, it is the standard practice all over the country. Yari may even be modest if you get to know what other ex-governors awarded themselves. I don’t have the facts but I have heard it said that this obscene and patently corrupt practice originated from Lagos. I stand to be corrected.

 

So many things are wrong with former governors awarding themselves freebies on their way out of office. One: While in office, they got everything free. Free accommodation, free feeding, free transportation, free medical care, free air, free water, free everything for themselves, their families, friends, and hangers-on. Two: They got paid their salaries as and when due. Three: They awarded themselves security votes in hundreds of millions of Naira monthly. Security votes are never audited and governors apply it as they wish. Four: They presided over the state budget, always in billions of Naira every month, which they applied or misapplied as they desired. Five: Evidence is that they did not perform satisfactorily but wasted huge resources with little or nothing to show for it. So, even the job they were given to do and for which they were given immense perquisites, remunerations and resources, they did not discharge satisfactorily. Six: There is hardly a state of the Federation that is not neck deep in debts, both foreign and local. This is the legacy that the ex-governors have left for their states. In some of the states, the debts cannot be fully re-paid in the next 50 years. Therefore, none of the states is even in a position to pay the freebies the ex-governors have awarded themselves.

 

 

Seven: Many of the ex-governors were selfish and self-centred in awarding themselves the allowances and pensions. Ask them what they gave to the deputy governor, the legislators and other political appointees. Many of the ex-governors only took care of themselves while leaving the others high and dry or with peanuts at the very best. Eight: Many ex-governors collecting these humongous allowances from their states collect other benefits elsewhere. We all know many of them have made the Senate their retirement nest, where they also collect mouth-watering salaries, allowances, oversight bribes and constituency project largesse. Many who are not in the Senate are party leaders and ministers where they also feed fat on state resources. Nine: Civil servants who worked all their life, 35 years, etc. do not get a fraction of what these ex-governors award themselves. To make matters worse, we have seen pensioners collapsing, fainting and dying on the queue to collect their own peanuts. Many die before their entitlements, meagre as they are, are paid. Ten: Just for being in office for four or eight years, these set of people want the State to serve them for life. They want to maintain a lifestyle of the nouveau riche at the detriment of the collective aspiration, social and economic well-being of their people. They are so selfish and mindlessly-bigoted that they can’t see how pig-headed and untenable their action is, especially in the face of dwindling resources made worse by burgeoning people’s needs and expectations.

 

 

Now that Zamfara has belled the cat, let the other states of the federation follow suit. This is one issue civil society and Labour, if their leaders are not the good-for-nothing noise-makers that many say they are, must fight and see to logical conclusion.

 

At 44th Convocation, OAU honours four

 

Authorities of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife will, this weekend, confer honorary Doctorate degrees on four eminent Africans whose immense contribution to the social, economic and political development of their immediate environment, country, continent and the world at large has been adjudged invaluable.

 

According to a statement by the OAU Public Relations Officer, Biodun Olanrewaju, the quartet are the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame; one of Nigeria’s finest marketing communications practitioners, who is also a quiet but great philanthropist, Mr. Biodun Olusina Shobanjo; President of African Export-Import Bank (AFREXIMBANK), Dr. Benedict Okey Oramah; and the Chairman of the First Bank of Nigeria Plc., Mrs. Ibukun-Oluwa Abiodun Awosika.

Kagame’s outstanding leadership qualities and achievements in Rwanda and within and outside Africa were considered for him to be offered the award, especially his being actively instrumental to ending the infamous genocide in Rwanda in 1974. In recognition of these, Kagame will be conferred with the Doctor of Public Administration (Honoris Causa).

 

Shobanjo’s trail-blazing efforts and enduring legacies in the Marketing Communications industry in Nigeria, as the doyen of the industry in the last 50 years, and his humane social activism set him on the pedestal for the award of the Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa).

 

Similarly, Oramah will receive the Doctor of Sciences (Agric. Economics) (Honoris Causa) in recognition of his outstanding academic achievements and unique contributions to finance and trade in Africa; an area in which he has published a book and written many articles.

 

Mrs. Awosika’s outstanding contributions to the growth of entrepreneurship in the society, in addition to her humane social activism, earned her the Doctor of Business Administration (Honoris Causa).

The four will be conferred with their degree as part of the events marking the 44th convocation ceremonies of OAU between today and Saturday, 4th December, 2019.

I wish my alma mater, GREAT IFE, the very best. This is not just the only great but also the greatest university in the entire universe! Like our GREAT IFE “aluta” anthem goes, any other university that lays claim to being great is a counterfeit!

 

Prof. Eyitope Ogunbodede’s tenure as OAU vice-chancellor has been very outstanding and his achievements astounding. His reputation as a principled administrator, stickler for excellence and probity; and an uncompromising change agent has travelled far and wide.

 

 

I listened to one such commendation last Thursday evening at Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital. The event was a private get-together over a sumptuous meal of pounded yam. Present was the editor who lured me into The PUNCH – the editor of editors, Comrade (Alhaji) Nojeem Jimoh (aka Bawoo) – and one of the avatars of press freedom and winners of the democracy we enjoy today, Niran Malaolu.

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Edo’s political conundrum (5)

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Edo’s political conundrum (5)

My last edition elicited some reactions from rodents, cockroaches, bedbugs, e-rats, and media halleluyah boys from slave camps who are quick to dabble into any discussion without due diligence. Persons with dubious ancestry who can never run a home let alone understand the full import of responsible parenting also expressed their mercantile skills, in their vainglorious effort to impress their paymaster. During the day, they adorn the stained garment of being APC members, at night, they hobnob with mammons, shrines, and flirt with chieftains of the PDP. Those whose capacities are better defined by their insatiable libidinal mendacity, producing children on pay-as-you-go tenor, also had the temerity to question some of my statistics. Rather than controvert the import of my submissions, they went bunkers, and struggled to smuggle in some false statistics to rationalise their intervention.

I read one of such lame responses from one unknown quantity with a pseudonym @St. John Clarke at-large, who, rather than address the talking points in my submissions, laboured so hard to locate my personality, as if my biography was the subject matter of my elocution. But the traits of hirelings and media gigolos are easily decipherable once you painstakingly apply the eagle eye to dissect their personae.

From what has happened in the last 10 days, it is obvious there are still unsettled issues and tempers are still very high. If Governor Godwin Obaseki had heeded the earlier advice to avoid this needless political imbroglio, all the junketing around from Benin to Abuja, forth and back, on chattered jet, to seek for ways out, would have been avoided and taxpayers’ money saved for some other burning state issues. But power is a crazy aphrodisiac. It gives a false sense of pride to those who occupy the power rostrum. It creates a different ambience around those who wield power; they do not see tomorrow as the terminal date of their tenure, nor do they bother about the ephemerality of power. They confront powerless conscience with conscienceless power and often times, assume the unmajestic role of givers and takers of life. They never see the end of power. To them, power lasts forever no matter its constitutionally guaranteed terminal date. When the applecart alters its mobility, human depravity, betrayal and knavery become the essential themes, and their capacity to make 360 degree turn instructively stares them in the face. When they step out of power, the reality of their actions begins to dawn on them. Their friends-in-power begin to look elsewhere. Their phone hardly rings. Loneliness sets in and the full import of their action begins to take its toll.

I spent five days in Benin City last week during which time I was able to attend the birthday ceremony of my cousin, Distinguished Senator Franca Afegbua, Nigeria’s first democratically elected female senator, who proved bookmakers wrong in 1983 to defeat other contenders for the coveted Bendel North senatorial seat under the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). The ceremony was organised by Mrs. Betsy Obaseki, the Edo First Lady, who felt Senator Franca Afegbua has remained largely an unsong heroine of our democratic struggle. The event was so touching as it afforded me the opportunity to unveil some aspects of Senator Afegbua’s political trajectory; the storming petrel of old Bendel State politics of the Second Republic.

The event took place in the serene conclave of the newly built civil servants’ rotunda. In her usual elements, Franca’s voice still resonated with the familiar sound bites of her youthful days when she traversed the corridor of national politics and the global arena with uncommon panache and elegance. The Edo State government, in rare show of magnanimity, gifted her a house and made further promise for her upkeep and care. To this generousity, I thank the governor and his adorable wife of sublime humility, for the recognition accorded Senator Franca Afegbua, even though, I did state at the event, that it won’t stop me from constructively engaging the government in order to get its compass right.

As a party man, it will be natural for me to support the candidate of the PDP at the next gubernatorial election to upstage the incumbent governor, no matter the achievements his supporters are mouthing for him.

In concluding this episode of my intervention, it is worthy to state in unequivocal terms that the politics of the Edo State House of Assembly has given the state bad publicity in recent times. From June 17, 2019 when the House was reportedly proclaimed till date, it has been one theatre too many between actors loyal to the governor and the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. I have read too many literatures on the propriety or otherwise of the Edo House of Assembly, and I am compelled to align myself with the considered view that the Edo House of Assembly does not yet exist as we speak. The reasons for this are quite obvious. First, by virtue of section 91 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended), an Assembly cannot be less than 24 or more than 40 as the case may be. And it is obligatory for members-elect to be inaugurated by a letter of proclamation by the Governor of the state. Even though I do not quarrel with the fact that the governor did transmit a letter of proclamation, I am unable to see the propriety in inaugurating the House of Assembly at about 9.30p.m. on the said date, in a gestapo manner that brazenly murdered the beauty of representative democracy. On that date, 17th June, 2019, only nine members-elect out of 24 were inaugurated and made to take the oath of office. That figure ridicules the whole essence of representative and participatory democracy that talks about majority rule.

It is true that the Edo Assembly has been forum shopping for legitimacy, junketing from one court to another, but the real problem lies in the reality that a minority rule currently prevails in Edo State as we speak with respect to law-making and legislation. Rather than be an independent arm of government that oversights on other arms of government, the current Edo Minority House has become an extension of Dennis Osadebe Avenue. And the latest declaration of the seats of the members-elect vacant has further compounded the already fractured politics of the APC in the state.

The framers of the 1999 Constitution did not envisage this kind of legislative cul-de-sac when it stated unambiguously in several provisions in the Constitution what a House should be composed of, the number and its modus operandi. Can a member-elect of a legislative house who has not been inaugurated or sworn to an oath of office, assume the full rights, privileges and nomenclature of a member that has fully been inaugurated? Does a member-elect who is not entitled to salary and other appurtenances of office be said to possess a seat that is now declared vacant? At what point does a member-elect become a member of a House of Assembly? Does the Edo Minority House possess the nomenclature to be called Edo House of Assembly in view of its minority status and the questionable circumstances upon which it was purportedly inaugurated? Whose interest is the present minority rule serving? Is the state as a constituency fully represented in the business of lawmaking as we speak?

All these and many others are questions that should agitate our minds in our search for solutions to this present legislative logjam. Shifting the goal post to suit the whims and caprices of the Executive arm against an imaginary godfather elsewhere is to me, an exercise in overkill. Those 14 members who have not been representing their constituents have unwittingly submitted to minority rule, which is not representative enough.

Someone asked me a very simple but loaded question concerning the absentee lawmakers-elect. Who chased them out of the four walls of the House of Assembly complex? Why haven’t they submitted themselves for inauguration? Who is to be blamed; the lawmakers-elect or the governor? Edo State is presently volatile politics-wise, hence it might be suicidal for any of those persons to approach the Anthony Enahoro Complex for inauguration especially as it is known that they are not supporters of the governor. Second, if the Nigeria Police can guarantee their safety and security, I want to believe that they would be willing to present themselves for inauguration, that also means if the Clerk of the House, who is a member of the state public service will be available to prescribe the right oaths, without fear or favour. Being under the direct control of the state civil service, I am yet to see how much of erection he can possibly muster to go against the wishes and dictates of the Chief Executive of the state, if contrary directive is given. It is easier to admonish that the lawmakers-elect should return to Edo State for the inauguration ritual, but the politics of Edo politics has gotten to an anti-climax, following push from some of Governor Obaseki’s colleagues to force Comrade Oshiomhole out of the National Chair seat. The National Chairman, not used to chickening out of any engagement without a fight, given his years of many struggles, is apparently winning the political battle, judging by the number of governors and state chairmen that are queuing behind him. Both APC governors and their state chairmen met differently with the President last week, and the reports went contrary to the expectation of Governor Obaseki and his co-travellers.

President Buhari does not appear to know how to play the politics of politics, but his directive to some of the party chieftains to follow due process if they are desirous of removing the elected National Chairman, was a political uppercut kind of. It is pretty difficult to remove any National Chairman of a party, except he or she is forced to resign willy-nilly. And those who should participate in the process are not just the overbearing governors, but the state chairmen, principal officers of the National Assembly, three members of Reps each from the six geopolitical zones, the National Working Committee (NWC) members and the National Executive Committee (NEC) members. To strike a two-third number out of this population has been a tall order for those who want Comrade Oshiomhole out of the way in order to factorise the politics of 2023. Putting Obaseki’s Edo State brouhaha forward is just a teaser. The real reason is the 2023 politics of the APC and how the factors will play out. If peradventure the National Chairman is made to eat the humble pie, I doubt, if he will bow out without extracting a deal. The deal would be to the point that both Obaseki and himself are made to bow out, whilst a new thinking will sprout from the ashes of the political contradiction. For anyone to think that the National Chairman will just be eased out on the promptings of a governor and his five other colleagues, will surely not come easy.

But, if men were to be respectful and loyal to relationship and friendship, should we get to this sorry level of broken hearts to the extent that they now search for ways to undo each other?

I will still repeat my earlier homily, that Governor Obaseki needs to take a more proactive step to resolve this lingering crisis than anyone else. He needs votes if indeed he intends to seek re-election. In Edo State, the fortunes of both APC and PDP are almost at par, reason why it is incumbent on any candidate of the dominant parties to reach out to the people for votes. Those who are clapping for Governor Obaseki are doing him political harm because in the final analysis, a mere statement from certain quarters can upturn political gains. The days and months ahead will unveil the direction of this political pendulum, but it won’t certainly end without casualties.

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The ordeal of getting national ID card

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The ordeal of getting national ID card

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few days ago, I attempted to obtain a reprinted copy of my national identity card, which I could not trace but what I experienced was disturbing. I decided to share the ordeal with the hope that those concerned would do something urgently to redress the plight of Nigerians. Initially, I had reported at one of the closest collection centres on obtaining relevant information on what it takes to get the national identity card reprinted but I could not complete the exercise because I needed to make an online payment and thereafter come along with the printout for further processing.

 

 

After making the online payment and returning to the same collection centre, it was practically impossible for me to gain an entry as a result of the mammoth crowd of people, mostly students, waiting to obtain copies of the national identity cards for registration for examinations conducted by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), and Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), which has now been made compulsory. According to the examining bodies, the policy was introduced mainly to curb impersonation and malpractices.

 

 

The truth is that examination malpractice not only breeds corruption, but it also lowers educational standards, encourages social vices, and eroding moral values, integrity, and ideals. Hence, the reason why legitimate and concerted efforts should be geared towards stamping out any form of moral turpitude from our national life. As laudable as this idea may look like, the unnecessary burden placed on students to acquire the national identity cards before they can be registered for the examinations should be reconsidered. Back to the ordeal of the students, they thronged the collection centres in large numbers struggling to gain an entry into the premises of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), which was established by the NIMC Act No. 23 of 2007. At the commission’s office that I went to, there was only one gate where the candidates were being screened before they were allowed to go inside the building.

 

 

Apart from the youth, I saw elderly persons probably trying to obtain the cards for their children and wards. I felt bad seeing such elderly people being maltreated inside the harsh weather condition. Some students were seen fighting and scuffling in an attempt to be called and allowed inside the office ahead of others. After watching the melee from afar, I eventually spotted two persons that were trying to penetrate the crowd to gain an entry, I sensed that they could be officials of NIMC and I quickly joined them in maneuvering ourselves inside the centre. After gaining an entry, I saw another set of candidates seated without much attention given to them. Surprising, when I got inside, I stood for almost one hour before I could be attended to while none of the students that I met already seated was ever accorded any attention, despite their wailing in the stuffy room that they were crammed into. As I was leaving the jam-packed office, I saw another group of students loitering around, looking confused, tired, exhausted and frustrated. It was revealed that the candidates have been at the centres as early as 4a.m. to get enrolled but were left stranded due to poor network, faulty working tools, and power failure. Many of them complained of preferential treatment by officials of the commission, who allegedly attended to enrollees based on their relationships.

 

 

Exiting the compound was another tug of war. Already, the small gate that served as the entry point had been almost blocked because of the huge crowd, while the second gate had to be opened for me to move out. By the time I got out, the number of students struggling to move inside had almost doubled under the intense heat and biting sun. My pity for the students increased as I was driving out of the street only to see many students still approaching the main road leading to the commission’s office, definitely gearing up to face the harrowing experience. I left the place annoyed, sad and disappointed that fellow citizens’ time is being wasted and subjected to unnecessary punishment; all in the name of obtaining a national identity card. The time wasted and suffering meted out to the students can be attributed to poor logistics on the part of the authorities concerned.

 

 

To begin with, why the sudden recognition and acceptability accorded the identity card? I remembered that about four years ago when I first obtained mine, the identity card was never officially recognised as a means of identification in banks and other places. I had to ask some stakeholders then that what had gone wrong with our institutions that they should reject what is supposed to be valid means of identification, just like the international passport, driver’s licence and voter’s card. For me, the national identity card should be accorded more credibility than the others. Suddenly, the disposition changed and hence, the sudden prominence and rush for the acquisition of NIMC cards said to have captured only about 37 million people, which is less than 20 per cent of Nigerians, out of which over 700,000 cards are said to be uncollected. If due recognition had been accorded the identity card at its inception, the mad rush that we are seeing today would probably have been averted. This is the Gestapo manner that we usually run state affairs in the country.

 

 

As a way forward, NIMC would have to harmonise all existing database sitting in silos into a single database, where information, data of individuals and companies operating in Nigeria, could be accessed. The National Identity Number (NIN), which is generated, is unique with social security numbers that can be used for health care, education, and pensions, among others. NIN ties together all records such as demographic data, fingerprints, head-to-shoulder facial pictures, biometric data, and digital signature. By an Executive Order signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, one cannot obtain a passport or driver’s licence without the National ID Card.

 

 

The Federal Government also approved September 16 of every year as National Identity Day, also called 16.9 and the Identity Day (ID-Day), to create more awareness and acceptability. To abate the continued punishment being meted out to innocent students, the activities of NIMC should be decentralised with immediate effect. More issuance and collection centres should be opened across the country such that students would no longer be made to suffer for the deficiencies of our public administrators. Students should be allowed to obtain identity cards at the point of purchase of the forms. There is a need for public-private partnerships in tackling this problem as NIMC could be seriously handicapped in carrying out its duties effectively and efficiently.

 

 

The current challenge being experienced is not limited to NIMC, as most state institutions in Nigeria provide poor services, lack the discipline to accord customers due respect and value for their hard-earned resources. This ugly trend has also crept into the business sectors such as banks, insurance, and manufacturing industries where people are treated shabbily. It is rather unfortunate that offices such as the Service Compact with All Nigerians (SERVICOM), and Consumer Protection Council (CPC) appear to have neglected the people and are not seen as doing enough to protect the people when it comes to quality service. For now, the burden placed on students should be removed.

 

Kupoluyi writes from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), adewalekupoluyi@yahoo.co.uk.

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Back to the gutters: That DSS invasion of the sacred precints of a court of law

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Back to the gutters: That DSS invasion of the sacred precints of a court of law

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n 6th November, 2019, the DSS, the nation’s secret Service in the mould of FBI or CIA, danced naked in the streets, when it invaded a court of law in an attempt to arrest Omoyele Sowore, accused of reasonable felony over his “Revolution Now” mantra. Recall that the DSS had finally bowed to a 24-hour ultimatum issued by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, to release Sowore and pay him N100,000 damages.

 

It was a show of extreme shame, disgust and degeneracy to see a whole secrete security apparachick descend to the abysmal gutters of physically invading the hallowed chambers of a court of law to forcefully arrest a suspect, viet armis, by resort to crude and unorthodox Hitlerite Gestapo tactics in a supposed constitutional democracy. The video that went viral about this ugly and ill-advised outing that has further reduced our worth in the perception of the international community is condemnable in every sense of the word. It downgrades us, belittles us, and our humanity and make us laughable before civilised nations. We beheld an unarmed, helpless and hapless Sowore being dragged on the floor, helplessly, like a vanquished prisoner of war (PoW) just taken as ransom. Justice Ojukwu had to be spirited off to her chambers by her security.

 

When a  government that is supposed to respect and protect institutions, citizens’ rights and rule of law, invades and desecrates the SACRED precincts of a court of law, then we are in trouble. When the same DSS invaded judges’ homes in October, 2016, terrorizing the hapless judges and their families, many uninformed Nigerians hailed the misadventure as a sign of fighting corruption. I had vehemently disagreed then, citing section 36 of the 1999 Constitution and section 7 of the ACJA that inure in us our humanity and human dignity and respect. I had warned then of a possible descent into anarchy and chaos if the masked DSS goons were not immediately restrained and halted on their tracks.

Friday’s disgraceful and atrocious outing by the DSS is the clearest exemplification of a rudderless state in search of a redemptive deus ex machina. A government that is short on tolerance to criticism, plurality of voices and opposition and which serially violates citizens’ rights and disobeys court orders is a ready recipe for organised disenchantment. Our constitutional democracy should be one modelled on the rule of law and not on the rule of the thumb of a benevolent ruler, even if dictatorial, tyrannical, absolutist and fascist.

 

ATIKU AND DOKPESI: TWO HEROIC TROJANS OF A KIND (Part 1)

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Let me devote this week to two uncommon Nigerians; two heroes of democracy; two business Czars; two philanthropic moguls; and two indomitable and unconquerable Pan Nigerians, who have valiantly soldiered on in life, inspite of man-made obstacles and ill-intentioned booby traps erected on their destiny routes.

 

They are Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Waziri Adamawa, and Dr Raymond Aleogho Dokpesi, Ezomo Weppa-Wanno Kingdom.

 

These two national icons share a common birthday, 25th of every year. While Atiku’s was born on 25th November, 1946, that of Dekpesi is 25th October, 1951. Let me x-ray these rare homo sapiens seriatim.

 

ATIKU ABUBAKAR, GCON: THE POLITICAL ENIGMA HIS TENDERFOOT

 

Atiku Abubakar’s story, up to being Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and later bidding for the presidency of the biggest black nation in the world, was not one of “grace-to-grace”. His was one of “grass-to-grace”, having been born to a petty Fulani trader and farmer, Garba Abubakar, in Jada village, Adamawa State. We share this grass-to-grace, “nothing-to-something” story together. Praise God.

 

After completing his Primary School education in 1960, Atiku was admitted into Adamawa Provincial Secondary School, same year. He graduated from secondary school in 1965 after he made grade three in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination. Abubakar then proceeded to attend Nigeria Police College, Kaduna. He left the college for a position as a Tax Officer in the Regional Ministry of Finance. Later, he received admission to study at the School of Hygiene, Kano, in 1966. In 1967, he graduated with a Diploma. That same year, Atiku Abubakar was admitted for a Law Diploma at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, on a scholarship from the then Regional government. He graduated in 1969 and was employed by Nigeria Customs Service that same year.

 

With four wives and 28 children, Atiku easily maintains one of the most disciplined polygamous homes in Nigeria, nay, globally.

 

PROFESSIONAL CAREER AND FORAY INTO THE MURKY BUSINESS WORLD

 

Abubakar started out in the real estate business during his early days as a Customs Officer. In 1974, he applied for and received a N31,000 loan to build his first house in Yola, which he immediately put up for rent. From proceeds of the rent, he purchased another plot and built a second house. He continued this way, building a sizeable portfolio of property in Yola.

In 1981, he moved into agriculture, acquiring 2,500 hectares of land near Yola, to start a maize and cotton farm. The business fell on hard times and closed in 1986. He then ventured into trading, buying and selling truckloads of rice, flour and sugar. He did not make easy money.

Abubakar worked in the Nigeria Customs Service for twenty years, rising to become the Deputy Director, (as the second highest position in the Service was then known. He retired in April, 1989 and took up full-time business and politics. He ran for the office of  governor in the then Gongola State now Adamawa and Taraba states) in 1991, and for the Presidency in 1993, placing third after MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe, in the Social Democratic Party (SDP) primaries. Atiku was later to set up, with the help of Gabrielle Volpi, an Italian businessman in Nigeria, the Nigeria Container Services (NICOTES), a logistics company operating within the ports.

Abubakar’s business empire also includes Adama Beverages Limited, a beverage manufacturing plant in Yola, as well as an animal feed factory.

 

EARLY POLITICAL CAREER

 

Abubakar’s first foray into politics was in the early 1980s, when he worked behind-the-scenes on the governorship campaign of Bamanga Tukur, who, at that time, was Managing Director of the Nigeria Ports Authority. Towards the end of his Customs career, he met Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, who had been second-in-command of the military government (headed by Obasanjo) that ruled Nigeria between 1976 and 1979. Abubakar was drawn by Yar’Adua into the political meetings that were then regularly taking place in Yar’Adua’s Lagos home. In 1989, Abubakar was elected a National Vice-Chairman of the Peoples Front of Nigeria (PF), the political association led by Yar’Adua, to participate in the never-ending transition programme initiated by then Head of State, Ibrahim Babangida.

 

FIRST PRESIDENTIAL RUN

 

In 1992 Abubakar launched a bid for the presidency of Nigeria on the platform of the Social Democratic Party. He was unsuccessful, coming third in the convention primaries, losing to MKO Abiola and runner up, Babagana Kingibe.

 

PHILANTHROPY AND PROMOTION OF EDUCATION

In 2005, Atiku founded in Yola, his Adamawa State, American University of Nigeria (AUN), the first American-style university to be established in Sub-Saharan Africa. The American styled university emphasises critical thinking, small classes, student participation, problem-solving. AUN has since received special recognition from Google and many local and international organisations.

In 2012, Abubakar donated $750,000 to the National Peace Corps Association in the United States, “to fund a new initiative featuring global leaders who will discuss Peace Corps’s impact.” It was the largest ever individual donation in the Association’s history.

 

In a bid to alleviate the educational decadence in North Eastern Nigeria, Abubakar issued scholarships to 15 escapees of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping. He has since been in the business of philanthropy, using his wealth as manure to fertilize parched homes, businesses and economic landscapes of the less privileged. Atiku easily reminds one of late democracy martyr, Chief M. K. O. Abiola, in sheer philanthropy, generosity and large-heartedness. (To be continued).

 

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

“Power acquired by violence is only an usurpation, and lasts only as long as the force of him who commands prevails over that of those who obey.” (Denis Diderot).

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Matchmaking: The best option!

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Matchmaking: The best option!

Matchmaking is the first and most credible way of meeting life partners. From the cradle of civilization to date, the nobles, the wealthy and the privileged class members of the society have been more involved in picking life partners for their children especially within their own level or circle. The choice of spouses is very important as the sustenance of their affluence and business empires depend so much on it. Spouses are automatic partakers of destiny, business, estate and the future of one’s lineage. Incidentally, God, the Creator of mankind, actually initiated that process in the Garden of Eden with the first family on earth. God brought Eve to Adam, and Adam instantly admired, loved and got fascinated to Eve. By this action, love at first sight could be real!

There are many ways and places people do meet and strike the chord of relationships. Every avenue of human interaction is a potential opportunity for connecting with missing ‘ribs.’ People meet at worship centres, cinema, parks, beach, in public transport, in the neighbourhood, at wedding, naming and burial ceremonies, through friends, after a rough encounter like argument or quarrel, at sporting events venue, on walkways, in banking halls, at shopping centres, at work or in the course of duty, at eateries, in the markets, at saloons, gyms, filling stations, on flights, at schools, at hospitals, at accident scenes, at police stations, at the airports, at motor parks, at the bus stops, on social media platforms among other places.

In the larger society decades back, parents, most of who were peasants, traders and skilled craftsmen, often determined which families their children would marry from. Customarily, they will investigate the would-be in-laws’ lineage to know if there’s any illness, mental case, premature death, poverty, bareness, marital failure, spiritual issue or social stigma that was common in the family. More often than not, children rarely reject the choice of their parents because they knew parental decision was in their best interest.

Virtually all the marriages worked out by parental arrangement in that glorious era endured. Despite challenges, the marriages survived the odds because the parents were the ‘sureties’ and arbiters at every point of need or crisis. Respect for parents, desired to be responsible couples, fear of stigma in case of divorce, protection of children and family names or reputation were pivotal to the success of marriages at that time.

People at work do introduce their friends and loved ones to those they are convinced will treat them well in relationship or marriage. Spiritual leaders, especially ministers of God are much more involved in the business of matchmaking. Being confidants and reservoirs of secrets to awaiting brides and grooms, it is much easier for pastors to connect people together based on the privileged information they have about such adults most of who are their church members. Similarly, too, many of such marriages do endure.

Neighbours, colleagues, church members and associates are very common nexus for matchmaking. In this jet age, parental involvement has been reduced to zero level. And I want to believe it is one of the reasons value for marriage is waning as occasioned by frequent separation and divorce cases, domestic assaults, infidelity, philandering and reckless home abandonment. All necessary checks on the background of the spouse before marriage is contracted are no longer done. This negligence possibly is responsible for some hard-hitting circumstances that seem to defy logics and human solution.

I’m also aware of some career matchmakers in town. Many of them deal with high profile individuals either in need of momentary sexual satisfaction or life partners. How successful this trade has been especially in getting people connected for marriage I can’t quantify but I’m persuaded it could have indeed helped many; perhaps except those who might be wary of being matched with complete strangers.

Relationship managers, counsellors, coaches and ministers are equally good matchmakers. They are custodians of love-seeking people’s requests. For instance, I have more female subscribers on my Hook Up service than men. The way a relationship counsellor or minister will connect people together will be different from the others mentioned earlier. Some of the roles being played by the parents in the ages past do reflect in a relationship counsellor’s approach.

In addition, social media platforms and dating sites have made connections easier but the seriousness and trustworthiness of the people on the other side are a different matter entirely. In some cases, online mates do appear sharply different from the highly cosmetic and photo-tricked pictures they see on the internet. In that case, ‘please shine your eyes!’

As love-seekers do pray, attend social events and hangout at fun centres hunting for partners, they should not shy away from telling a few trusted persons around them of their need. There are huge benefits in meeting life partners through somebody, especially good people. As the saying in Yoruba that a needle that has tread is never lost; so, any relationship that involves good people from the onset has chances of survival and eventual consummation. The couple will always have someone or people to run to in moments of crisis. Wise guidance through counselling, prayers, frank talks, scolding (sometimes if necessary), pampering and encouragement are never in short supply for the couple. These were the parental functions that steadied the homes of their children in the ages past.

From Mailbox

Re: Guys, Your Looks Speak!

Dressing and lifestyle are interwoven. One’s dressing determines who the person actually is in the eyes of the society. This is why people must be guided on what they put on because the society will judge them by how they look. The church that is supposed to speak on moderation for both male and female are not doing it for selfish reasons of losing offerings and other financial supports to the church. Sad! – Chief Emo, Abuja.

Re: The Flipside of Governor’s Home

Wow! This is quite educating, revealing and interesting. Thanks for a job well done. Where can I get the book to buy? It’s a must-read. – Mrs. Smith, Abuja

Re: ‘I Prefer Woman Living with HIV as Wife’

Abstinence still remains the best policy ordained by God, and tests before marriage. HIV may be manageable, but the attendant complications still kill. People rarely die of it. They die of HIV related complications. I wish him well and God’s healing. – Liz, Lagos

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The Senate without Dino

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The Senate without Dino

“When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer ‘Present’ or ‘Not Guilty’ – Theodore Roosevelt

The 9th Senate under Senator Ahmad Lawan has a lot of work on its hand to escape from the warning of the British Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow that a “A legislature cannot be effective while suffering from public scorn”.

The indicator light coming out of the current Senate is not showing that the Nigerian public is going to see a robust parliament this time. Even as they may likely win award in the area of Legislative-Executive harmony, what would be conspicuously missing is going to be that vital ingredients that make parliament seen as the soul and mind of the people and democracy.

When a parliament loses its essence in the guise of maintaining good working relationship with the executive, it would have a lot of struggling to do to impress the populace that it’s delivering in its primary responsibilities of making laws for the good governance of the country as well as standing as a check on the excesses of the Executive arm. No parliament gets accolade for being a butt of the executive.

The proper rating of a democratic system anywhere in the world is based on its parliamentary duties and the electoral process. Where and when these two features are deficient or absent, democracy cannot be said to have been standing on a good foundation. Back in the month of June this year when the executive and the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), were making frantic efforts to impose leadership on the two chambers of the 9th Assembly, parliamentary watchers had forewarned of the far reaching implications, and how such was going to deny the nation of a vibrant legislation. I think the hand writing is beginning to show.

It appears that what we are going to see with the 9th Senate will be garbage-in garbage-out. Whatever the Executive brings goes back to it unscathed. To try to scrutinize any Executive document could be misconstrued as disloyalty and a breach of rules of engagement of the promised Executive/Legislative harmony.

When a parliament especially a major chamber like the Senate carries the apparel of a rubber stamp legislature, everybody is a loser. The Executive will miss the critical and necessary evaluation of its policies that could help stimulate Executive functions. In its absence, the legislature will be biddable, spineless and boring to the public. When an invertebrate parliament exists in a nation, the ultimate loser will be the people.

The first sign of the kind of Senate in offing in this dispensation was seen during the screening of ministers where no serious effort was made to examine the nominees despite the glaring debility in their backgrounds. Added to that is the rush to approve taxes and loan requests from the Executives at federal and states without much interrogations or consideration of its consequences to the already overwhelmed citizens.

The embattled National Chairman of the ruling party, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole last week curiously celebrated the non-return of some Senators of the 8th Senate. He claimed that the Senators they stopped were the problems of the 8th Senate and were indeed saboteurs to President Muhammadu Buhari’s humdrum first term.

But not a few are in agreement with Oshiomhole on his groundless assertions. Rather pundits believe that these characters on record contributed significantly in the enviable image of the 8th Senate despite the orchestrated distractions from the Executive that included the prosecution and trial of the then Senate President Bukola Saraki.

Let us just envision the image of the 9th Senate without Senators Dino Melaye and Shehu Sani. The drama that usually comes from Dino that often lightens and recharges the chamber will be missed, ditto the comics from activist Senator Sani with his witty words. Some of Senator Dino’s behaviour outside the Chamber may not be befitting of a distinguished lawmaker but it does not diminish his outstanding contributions in the chamber and to his constituency for which he would be greatly missed.

Already from July to date what we have seen coming out of the red chamber has been a boring near rubber stamp deliberative body that is clearly incapable of galvanizing the Executive and acting as the conscience of the people. 

Oshiomhole celebrating exit of these senators forgets the impelling atmosphere and intellectual inputs these characters brought to the last Senate. In this 9th Senate except of course the insightful and intuitive contributions of the native boy and minority leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, it has been a drearily and a near lifeless legislature. The hot heads that made it a robust parliament in the last Senate are conspicuously missing. The Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu who acted like an encyclopaedia to the 8th Senate although still in the 9th has been AWOL this time for obvious reasons, descending from number two man in the red chamber to just a floor member, naturally comes with some psychological issues and that is perhaps worsened by the senseless and needless act of insubordination by some Biafra agitators at the ill-fated new yam festival in Germany in August this year.

That Dino was forced out of the Senate not for non-performance or constituent’s rejection but just for standing up to the Executive says a much about the democracy we are running. That Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State with an undisputed report of being the worst governor in the country in the last four years was forced on the people in the same election that Dino was forced out, also speaks a lot about our own definition of democracy in this part of the globe. Even more voluminous a concern is the fact that blood was spilled to achieve this by a government that is a huge beneficiary of a rare disposition from President Goodluck Jonathan who left government because he does not believe his ambition is worth the spilling of blood of any Nigerian.

Even as we continue to pretend that all is well with our democracy, truth remains that unless those blood wasted are that of sheep or chicken, all cannot be said to be alright with our polity.

In a country where a President relinquished power because he did not feel his ambition is worth the blood of a single citizen, and the beneficiaries of such gesture wastes human blood in the process of grabbing power, it then means no lesson was picked from that enormous sacrifice.

Even as the ruling party and the Executive arm of government appear to be in a state of thrill over the non-availability of certain Senators in the 9th Senate, the huge task for Senator Lawan-led red chamber is to try and meet up with the expectations of the people as well as captured by the British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn that: “It is the right of a democratically elected parliament to act in defence of our traditional liberties, and everything should be done to keep it that way.”

May it not be the portion of this 9th Senate that in 2023, their image will not be such as the American Senate at a time that the 26th US President Theodore Roosevelt had to poke that: “When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer ‘Present’ or ‘Not Guilty. God help us.

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Clipping the wings of Alapere canal

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Clipping the wings of Alapere canal

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kure is the Ondo State capital. The panegyric of the people runs thus: Akure l’omi meji/O p’ejeji l’Ala/ Ala se bi ere bi ere/Ala d’omi ebo. Translated: Akure has two rivers/It named both Ala/Like play, like play/Ala became rivers you must worship.

 

 

In those days, human beings were offered as sacrifice to the gods. So, Akure might have sacrificed two human beings to its two Ala every year. That was double jeopardy. What could have been responsible: Carelessness, carefree attitude or lack of deep thought and reflection? Akure indigenes to the rescue, please!

 

 

It could also mean that Akure did not act fast enough to nip a looming disaster in the bud. It allowed the problem to fester until it became a calamity it had to live with. Mercifully – and hopefully – humans are no longer used as sacrifice to the gods in this digital age. The gods themselves must have gone digital and would, if asked, prefer dollars and pound sterling or holiday in Dubai to human sacrifice!

 

 

A note of warning is being sounded here today that Lagos State Government must learn from Akure and clip the wings of the Alapere canal before it becomes something else! A decade or so ago, the canal was just a stream. The locals crossed from one side to the other with the help of a plank thrown over it. No more! The Alapere canal is now a river. Boats can sail on it right now.

 

The problem is caused by the incessant, persistent, and continuous dredging or clearing of the water hyacinth and other debris that clog the canal, leading to the flooding of the areas lining the course of the canal from Agiliti to Alapere and into the Lagos lagoon. Properties and high premium land have been lost and continued to be lost. As the canal widens due to dredging, structures along its course are demolished.

 

 

What the authorities ought to do is shrink the canal, line it on both sides with concrete walls, and reclaim all the land it has swallowed up. This is a clear case of canal encroachment on people’s property and not of people-encroachment on the canal. It is the mountain going to Muhammed and not the other way round. The people whose property and structures are demolished now and again as a result suffer double jeopardy. They need help! 

 

 

I have taken up this issue with the relevant Lagos State authorities and I must appreciate their prompt action. My brother, friend, and professional colleague, Mr. Tunji Bello, who is the Lagos State Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, deserves special commendation. He responded quickly to complaints and gave assurances. He also followed up; making good his promise that something urgent would be done. Last week, the clearing of the Alapere canal was so thoroughly done like no other time in the past. In the event, however, physical structures close to the canal lost a swathe of land to the canal again.

 

 

One of my church buildings is by the canal. In the past we had a respectable distance from the canal before it was dredged again and again to become the river that it now is. As the dredging persisted, we lost half of a property we had designated as car park. Then we lost a portion of one of the church buildings. Last week again after another round of dredging, the authorities came again asking for another pound of flesh. But we think we have had enough! Not only that; we think now is the time to apply the final and full solution to the menace of the Alapere canal by putting a stop to its creeping confiscation of people’s property; reclaim the land it has swallowed up; and line it with concrete walls on both sides.

 

 

For sure LASG is aware of this solution. I have written to the appropriate authorities in the past on this issue. I have met with engineers of the Ministry of Environment. I wrote to the then governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, through my brother, Mr. Tunji Bello, who was then Secretary to the State Government. I met with His Excellency, Gov. Ambode, who promised to act. Not only would he line the canal with concrete walls, he also promised he would tar Bakare and Ori-Ola streets. I must thank my friends in the government who facilitated the meeting – Tunji; Steve Ayorinde, the then Honourable Commissioner for Information; and the then Chief Press Secretary, Habib Aruna. My brother, Kehinde Bamigbetan, who succeeded Steve, thank you.

 

 

Lining the Alapere canal with concrete walls will not come cheap. That is the snag. According to the project drawing I was privileged to view on the laptop of one of the engineers at the Ministry of Environment, the project some 17 years back was estimated to cost over N100 million. You can imagine what the cost will be today. But there are no viable alternatives. The palliatives of dredging and clearing only worsen the problem. Procrastination and delay also only make the project more costly. Better, then, if the bull is seized by the horns. Government can do this project piecemeal. In a matter of three to four years the whole length of the Alapere canal can be effectively lined with concrete walls and this perennial problem can become a thing of the past.

 

 

More than enough lives have been lost to flooding along the course of the Alapere canal. Last year, two persons were washed away. Enough havoc has also been wreaked by dirty water, debris, refuse and dangerous reptiles emptied into the community from the canal. The health hazard suffered by the people in the communities concerned is better imagined than felt. Only last Sunday while service was on, a snake making its way from the canal was accosted and killed right under the staircase of my church.

 

Do we appreciate the gargantuan nature of the task before the government of Mr. Governor – as Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu said we should now address him? Of course! Those who should know say Ambode did not touch drainage in the four years that he was in the saddle. That is why, they reason, drainage and flood problems have accumulated to these terrible proportions. Ambode has played his part and has departed, leaving his marks in the areas he chose to. History and posterity will judge everyone. Now the baton is in Sanwo-Olu’s hands and he has started to run his own race. Flood control, opening up of blocked drainages, and removing obstacle to free flow of flood waters are said to be one of his priorities.

 

 

In this wise, Mr. Governor has a good combination in his deputy; in Tunji; and in Otunba – or is it Akogun? – Joe Igbokwe. I have full confident in their ability to help Sanwo-Olu get this job done.

 

 

Next, Sanwo-Olu must address three issues. One: The day Alapere canal was cleared, it was swept as clean and neat as Grandma had taught me to sweep the floor. You remove your slippers when sweeping the floor and if a grain of sand sticks to the sole of your feet, then, you start all over again. That was what the canal looked like from my vantage position on the staircase of my church. The next day, however, an avalanche of empty bottles and cans of table water and soft drinks, sachets of “pure water” and all manner of refuse had taken over again! It was like no job was done at all the previous day!

 

Until something is done to the menace of empties, we will find it difficult to solve the problem of drainage blockage and perennial flooding. There are some businesses we must term “silent killers and destroyers”. Their products are harmful to health; and their waste products a nuisance to the environment. Pity, we have no reliable statistics here; otherwise, it may as well be that the cumulative damage that such businesses inflict soars far above their positive contributions.

 

 

Two: Vision Scape or PSP, Lagos is yet to arrive at the winning formula for refuse disposal. Until everyone is captured in the configuration and made to pay for refuse disposal; until indiscriminate dumping of refuse is thereby discouraged, the problem of blocked drains and of flooding would not have been solved. Methinks the banning of cart-pushers should be re-visited. They should be the first leg in a chain that will deliver a cleaner Lagos while also providing thousands of jobs if properly galvanised and modernised.       

 

 

Three: Lagos must now take its IGR to the next level rather than rest on its oars. By international standards, the IGR it boasts of at the moment (as local champion) is mere peanut. It must now begin to think, act, and grow its economy to compare with other mega cities of the world if Lagos is not to move in the direction of a mega slum that stares everyone in the face right now.

 

 

 

 

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When it all ends…

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When it all ends…

We gather here today not to mourn but to celebrate a distinguished life, the life of Brigadier-General Mobolaji Johnson, a great patriot, an accomplished administrator, one of the makers of modern Lagos who, sadly, will never share this physical space with us again.

In whatever role we knew him, the first and longest serving military administrator of Lagos State stood out as a special person for his leadership and charismatic personality. If anyone was qualified to be addressed as “an officer and a gentleman”, it was General Johnson. Despite his imposing frame, he was as gentle as a dove. He never threw his weight around, even though he was a man of power. He was a man of authority, but he was never authoritarian. Though a soldier, he never ruled with an iron hand; he was compassionate. Gen. Johnson was a gentleman in the true sense of the word. A prince among soldiers, he had the common touch.

This occasion, despite its somber nature, is an opportunity to sing the praise of this great Lagosian, thank him for his service to our dear state and say a final bye to him. So it is my hope that today’s event will help to reaffirm our resolve to pursue our journey to a Greater Lagos that he envisioned and my administration is committed to delivering. 

I thank you all for responding to our invitation to honour a goal-oriented leader who did great things for Lagos State and the nation.

I must also thank the family of our beloved pathfinder for allowing us to honour him. I say this because a funeral is first and foremost a family affair. But in our life’s journey, men and women renounce their personal space to undertake the noble calling of public service. When this happens, many things change, not only in life, but also in death. One of the changes is that their private lives are shared with the public who they serve, and it is often difficult to inter them privately when they fulfil their mortal covenant.

Many people will share with you their experiences about this great man of many parts, Gen. Johnson. They will speak of the great things he did as governor.

It is hard to eulogize any man – to capture in words not just the facts and the dates that make a life, but the essential essence of a person, his private joy and sorrow, the unique qualities that illuminate someone’s soul. How much harder to do so for a giant of history, such as our own Gen. Mobolaji Johnson.

Given the sweep of his life, the scope of his accomplishments, the acclaim that he so rightly earned, it is apt to remember Sir Mobolaji as an iconic figure, smiling and serene, detached from the tawdry preoccupations of lesser men. A quintessential manager of resources, Gen. Johnson touched and transformed thousands of lives through his foresight, service and industry. He was a symbol of decency, humility and integrity, fairness and justice.

Our illustrious and now departed son of Lagos was a constant source of support and inspiration to successive governors of Lagos State, especially from 1999 till date.

He was always willing to offer his wise counsel and experience whenever the need arose. Even while it was obvious that his health could not really allow rigorous endeavours, Gen. Johnson was a regular feature at every major Lagos State Government ground breaking event. Such was his unbelievable and unswerving commitment to the cause of Lagos State. How then are we not going to miss him sorely?

As the First Military Governor of Lagos State, he discharged his mandate equitably – with remarkable dignity. His indelible record of service remains intact. The “Centre of Excellence” that we proudly proclaim today is a product of his vision for Lagos State when he conceived several landmark programmes and projects for the newly created state from 1967.

Even in death, the story of the development of Lagos to a model megacity cannot be told without a mention of this unassuming and worthy leader. Some of the impactful projects he executed as governor are still visible.

In the realisation that Lagos State is the most populous and leading state in the federation, Mobolaji Johnson was determined to turn the state into the pride of the nation. The policy thrust of his administration was shaped by his faith in the creative capabilities and boundless energies of the people, especially the masses. Thus, his early days in office clearly showed him as a man who brought resourcefulness, experience and dynamism to the task of solving some of the teething problems of our dear state.

His biography is a story of inspiration.

Mobolaji Johnson was first appointed the Administrator of the Federal Territory of Lagos on January 15, 1966 and later as Military Governor at the creation of the state on May 27, 1967. His regime witnessed an increase in the state’s revenue from N36.7 million to N99.7 million. The increase was largely due to the revenue allocation formula that had just been introduced and increased revenue from crude oil, which was partly shared out to the state governments

Under his leadership, the state government generated the larger proportion of its earnings from Internally Generated Revenue (IGR). According to the government then, the IGR was known as “sources under the control of the Lagos State Government”.

The Mobolaji Johnson administration began the construction of Ikorodu and Mushin General Hospitals. It also modernized the General Hospital, Lagos, by building the new mortuary block, physical medicine department, sewage treatment plant and installation of a standby generator. The administration also commissioned the nurses’ hostel, doctors’ flat at Marina, Isolo and Harvey Road Health Centres.

His administration also built the maternity annex at Onikan Health Centre and an additional ward at Igbobi Orthopedic Hospital. It equally opened five new Government Colleges in each of the five divisions of the state.

The Gen. Johnson administration also introduced the harmonized teachers’ salaries and conditions of service to enhance the status of the profession and commenced the implementation of the Universal Primary Education (UPE).

It also completed projects under the Lagos Water Supply phase 1 Expansion Programme and designed the Owo Water Works as an alternative to Iju Water Works to serve Ojo and environs. Other strides of the administration are: Construction of the Victoria Island Sewage Scheme for Ikoyi, Lagos Island etc.; introduction of the regulations for motorcyclists to wear crash helmets; introduction of Traffic Courts; establishment of Agricultural Extension Works Stations; construction and commissioning of the Government Printing Press at Isheri road in Ikeja; and so on.

Many recollect with nostalgia the young officer who commanded the parade at the Race Course when the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe became Nigeria’s first and only indigenous governor-general in 1960 before she became a republic. On horseback, Gen. Johnson was dashing and professional. He added so much colour to that landmark ceremony.

Mobolaji Johnson began his military career at the Zaria Military Depot in 1958. Two years later, he served as a member of the United Nations Peace Keeping Troops, Congo between 1960 and 1961. He was promoted as 2nd Lieutenant in the Nigeria Army in 1961. He became a Captain in October 1962. He was Deputy Commander, Federal Guards, Commander, Federal Guards, Deputy Adjutant and Quartermaster-General Headquarters, 2nd Brigade, Apapa, Lagos, Station Commander, Benin, Midwest (old Bendel State), Second in command, 4th Battalion, Ibadan, among others.

Gen. Johnson, needless to say, earned his epaulettes.

He set Lagos on a course and a race of an unending quest for improvement, innovation and development.

We remain inspired and grateful as we celebrate the life and times of this great man, and more importantly his service to our people, borne out of deep conviction, and executed with grace and without blemish.

We will miss him, even as we keep in our minds the lesson of his enviable life – that hard work pays and the power of vision cannot be blighted by human inadequacies. 

In the end, “beauty fades and riches take up wings for themselves and fly away, but the last quality of a human being is character.” Gen. Johnson was a man of character. May The Almighty smoothen his path to eternity and bless his family.

Rest in Peace, Brigadier General Mobolaji Johnson, the people’s General.

God bless Nigeria, God bless Lagos and God bless you all.

•A tribute to the first military administrator of Lagos State, Brigadier General Mobolaji Johnson, by Governor Sanwo-Olu.

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Education: Nigeria’s pathway to exiting extreme poverty HQ

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Education: Nigeria’s pathway to exiting extreme poverty HQ

W

e cannot grow Nigeria if we do not invest in education. This is such a notorious fact that it is almost a cliché. When philosophers say that an investment in education yields the most interest, they were stating a truism for which we see ample evidence in Nigeria.

The reason why we have insecurity is because we have poverty, and the reason why we have poverty is because we have illiteracy. It is a cycle that we can only break by educating our people. For the past four years, our education budgets have demonstrated the fact that developing the minds of our people has not been our priority.

Two weeks ago, a friend of mine, Prof. Anya O. Anya, who just happens to be a former Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG), revealed that Nigeria has taken more loans in the last three years than she has taken in the 30-year period preceding 2016.

 

Now, how can we have such a monumental increase in borrowings vis-à-vis an unprecedented reduction in investments in education?

 

I am a businessman. Perhaps the first lesson one learns in business is that you do not take loans except it is to expand your business. There is no justification for taking out loans to pay salaries; meanwhile, you are not investing in your future generation.

Nigeria’s greatness is not as tied to her elders as it is tied to her youth. That is where our investments should be focused on.

Let me give some facts and figures on the linkages between education and crime and insecurity.

 

Scandinavia outspends every other part of the world in investing in education, with the Nordic nation of Denmark spending an average of 8% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on education. They are followed closely by Iceland, Sweden, Norway and Finland.

Now, is it a coincidence that in every survey of crime and insecurity released by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) for 2018, these same nations and their region are listed as the safest parts of the world as well as the most crime-free states? I don’t think so. In fact, as someone who has invested heavily in education for decades, I know that this is not a coincidence.

 

Instead of doing many things and doing them poorly, what I am advocating for is that the Federal Government of Nigeria and the federating units should rather focus on doing one or two things so that we can do them well.

Education is the principal thing. When we get this right, we will get Nigeria right. The easiest way, to make the most significant impact, in the shortest amount of time, is via education.

 

As proof, I cite the fact that 2014 represented the year Nigeria invested the most in education with a N493 billion allocation (then the equivalent of $3.3 billion) to education, representing 9.94% of the total budget.

 

The very next year, the trio of the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, and CNN Money rated Nigeria as the third fastest-growing economy in the world. Again, I ask, was that a coincidence?

 

If you think that it is, then how do you explain the fact that Nigeria slid into a recession the same year that our education budget began to drop from their pre-2015 levels? The total percentage of the budget allocated to education in 2014 was 9.94%, which dropped to 6.10% in 2016. It is as clear as night and day.

 

What did we do right in 2014 to get such a bounce in our economic growth? I have answered that question already. We increased our education budget, and for the first time, it got to almost double digits (9.94% of the entire budget).

 

What I propose is that the federal, states, and local governments should consider a policy of allocating at least 10% of the total budget appropriations to the education sector. If insanity is doing the same thing and expect different results, it follows that the sane thing to do is that when you get a result that you like, you are challenged to repeat the process, and in fact, improve upon it, so that you can get the same or perhaps improved results.

 

And the results will come. The effects of education on the economy is not just that education improves the employability of people; it goes beyond that. There is documentary evidence from the Human Development Index that the United Nations publishes annually, that educated people are healthier.

 

Because they are healthier, the proportion of their income and the income of the government that is spent on treating diseases and sickness reduces, they, therefore, have more disposable income to spend, which boosts the economy. Healthier people are more productive. Because they are more productive, they are less prone to crime. The multiplier effects go on and on.

 

Why am I saying these to you, graduates and undergraduates of the American University of Nigeria? I am an elder, and so are most of those now directing the affairs of Nigeria. If we are not able to make these changes, then you are challenged to make them, for yourselves and your children, and their children’s children.

 

Very sadly, we have bequeathed to your generation a Nigeria that is the world headquarters for extreme poverty. The only way we can turn that around is via education. The word coincidence keeps popping up today. Obviously, it cannot be any coincidence that we are also the global capital for out-of-school children, with approximately 13 million Nigerian children out of the formal education system.

 

Why is it not a coincidence? Because the former global capital for out-of-school children, until Nigeria took over, was India, which also happened to be the previous world headquarters for extreme poverty, again, until Nigeria took over.

If we can find a way to ensure that all Nigerian children leave school with at least basic reading and writing abilities, we would have found a way to end extreme poverty in Nigeria, which is why we must devote the bulk of our resources to education.

 

And all tiers of government must recognize that there would be more money available to the government, via an improved economy, which means improved taxation, if they invest in education. I have been in this business since the 1980s. For every Naira you invest in educating a child, you add N5 to his life earnings. Tell me which other investment can yield that type of return on investment?

 

And it should not just be the government. I have been spending some time in Germany because of the Saudi German Hospital investment I am attracting to Nigeria. One thing I found out in Germany is that private-sector corporations and manufacturers have their schools and institutes. Vocational education is so big in Germany and Japan that a lot of the German and Japanese labour force are vocationally educated by the industrial sector, rather than by the government or their parents or themselves.

 

The German government has cited the system, called the Dual VET system (Vocational Education and Training), as the key to their status as Europe’s dominant industrial power.

Via the Dual VET, millions of German youths spend 50% of their educative time in vocational schools owned by German corporations and spend the other 50% working on the job.

As a matter of fact, more German youths (52%) pass through the Dual VET, than through the conventional education sector.

Why can’t we have this in Nigeria? We do not have enough access to education. That is why Nigerian parents spend $1 billion per annum educating their children abroad, with much of that amount going to Ghana.

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