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Radicalizing the South-West…

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Radicalizing the South-West…

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable – US President John F.  Kennedy: Remarks on the Alliance for Progress, 13 March, 1962.

Hereditary bondmen! Know ye not (that) who would be free, themselves must strike the blow? – In: Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom, 1855.

Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they… As long as a people is compelled to obey, and obeys, it does well; as soon as it can shake off the yoke, and shakes if off, it does better; for, regaining its liberty by the same right as took it away, either, it is justified in resuming it, or there was no justification for those who took it away…The strongest is never strong enough to be always master, unless he transforms strength into right, and obedience into duty – Jean Jacques Rousseau in “The Social Contract” (1762).

Dissent is the highest form of patriotism – Whether attributed to US President Thomas Jefferson or historian Howard Zinn.

To start with, have you seen how the APC/Muhammadu Buhari administration retreated, tail between its legs, over the El-Zakzaky bail issue only after the Shi’ites turned violent? The amateurish way Buhari has handled the Shi’ites portends grave dangers. First, the government got itself boxed into a corner by the Shi’ites. It had to find a way of escape through the courts. The judiciary has further confirmed its new-found notoriety as lackey and errand boy of the executive. It is now beyond dispute that our judges are willing tools in the hand of the Executive. They have thrown their independence to the dogs. Pity! Now, not only the Shi’ites but other groups with an axe to grind know they will not get Buhari’s ears until they, too, put his back to the wall.

This government does not value the language of peace. The only people it respects are those who talk with it in the streets. More importantly is the fact that the amount of literature that has filled the internet on the Shi’ite versus Sunni, Fulani versus Hausa divide has debunked government’s own narrative of why it is going for broke with the Shi’ites whereas more dangerous groups like the Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen are getting kid-glove treatment from it. Unfortunately, government has been unable to debunk the Shi’ites superior argument that government’s high-handedness has little to do with national security but more with the fight-to-the-finish between two fanatically religious groups (Sunni and Shi’ite) and the now sharpening-up fight-to-the-death between Fulani overlords bent on keeping their hitherto Hausa vassals under subjugation and the growing militancy of the Hausa and other Northern minorities to overthrow Fulani suzerainty and reclaim their independence. So it is religious as well as political struggle. Nigeria is merely the grass on which the many elephants in the North are conducting their battle for supremacy. We now have a better understanding of the issues involved; thus helping us to make informed commentaries as well as take decisions that will better safeguard our individual and collective interests.

George Santayana says those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeating its mistakes. Unfortunately, it has also been posited that history teaches that human beings hardly learn from history. Human memory, says Adolf Hitler (Mein Kampf or My Struggle), is so short that you have to tell them the same “truth” again and again. Is it not said that those who drive people from the open space of discussions drive them into cellars (closed places) where revolutions are made? Hence Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong admonishes “…letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend…” Where dissention is forbidden and freedom of speech criminalised, we have a society in regression, a process that has been on in Nigeria for decades, beginning seriously with the silencing of human rights activist and convener of the Ogoni Bill of Rights, Ken Beeson Saro-Wiwa. Vile dictator Sani Abacha had thought the judicial murder of Saro-Wiwa and his comrades would silence agitations in the Niger Delta – but it only radicalised them the more. Faithful, then, is the saying that the tree of liberty is watered with the blood of tyrants and martyrs alike. Today, the Niger Delta swarms with militants so much so that elections there wear the full regalia of war! But for the wisdom of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua ably assisted by the then VP Goodluck Jonathan who came up with the amnesty programme, this country might have gone up in flames.

Failing to learn from history is why Boko Haram has become the Frankenstein monster that it is today. Just like they thought the killing of Saro-Wiwa would signal the end of the Niger Delta struggle for better living standards, they also thought killing Boko Haram’s leader without uprooting the insurgency would do the trick. As our people would say, they only turned Boko Haram into a snake that was wounded but not totally killed, only for it to return with a vengeance. Did you read the Wall Street Journal’s account of how 1,000 of our soldiers were buried peremptorily in unmarked graves in Maiduguri? When I read Festus Adedayo’s account (Sunday Tribune, 4th August) of how the death of his brother-soldier in Sierra Leone was casually broken through a letter – and nothing more – I remembered, also, my cousin, Brother Fasasi. A man cannot be more handsome! The last we saw of him was when he came to say goodbye after he joined the army at the 133 Battalion, Owo in those civil war days. Few days after, they were drafted to the war front. He never returned! It is not the Army alone that treats its members cavalierly; it appears to cut across. I remember when Rosaline’s father died after having served the police for over two decades. To collect his entitlements, his colleagues in the same pensions department where he last served demanded bribes from Rosaline who, as the eldest child, just finished Form Five! She was aghast to see that those making such demands were colleagues who drank “burukutu” with her father. They pleaded for understanding because, according to them, the same treatment awaited their own families at their own demise. What a system! And what a people!

But we digress! The Presidency gloats because it thinks it has “succeeded” in scuttling the “RevolutionNow” movement’s planned nationwide protests. It should bury its head in shame! There is no better way of understanding how little-minded our present rulers are than this. If it has chalked up any “victory” at all, it should be told that it is pyrrhic and will soon turn into ashes in its mouth. Unfortunately, they are creating problems not only for themselves but for future governments and generations of unborn Nigerians, just like Abacha did with Saro-Wiwa and Umaru Yar’Adua did with Boko Haram’s leader, Mohammed. The destruction that Boko Haram continues to visit on Nigeria would have been avoided if their insurgency had been better handled. Nigeria at the moment suffers from similar pig-headed policies and mindless intransigence by Buhari. He has made the Boko Haram crisis worse through a security architecture made up solely of his Fulani tribe and Sunni religion that has performed abysmally below expectations. Yet, he will not tinker with it. He has created another monster in the Fulani herdsmen who, on the Global Terrorism Index, are the world’s fourth most deadly terrorist group. Tribe and religion have become Buhari’s Achilles heel. Rather than deal decisively with insecurity caused by Fulani herdsmen and others of their ilk, our own Nero fiddles while the country burns. To disabuse the minds of many that the murderous herdsmen are not doing his bidding, Buhari has to deal with them decisively. He should not be bent on gifting them with colonies, RUGA, etc. when he should be treating them as the vile terrorists that they are.

The South-West used to be quiet before the murderous herdsmen came – There were no Niger Delta-fashion militants and there were no South-East-fashion secessionist group like IPOB. The invasion of the South-West by murderous herdsmen has changed the equation. Not only is the South-West now restive, the various extant militant groups there are being roused from their slumber by the government’s insensitivity to South-West sensibilities, interests and concerns. This cannot but be dangerous. Have you noticed that the South-West’s intelligentsia, who were prominent in the epic June 12 battle, are already in the trenches? Learning from June 12, I think the South-West will prefer to fight and win this battle as it did June 12 – but if the avenues of peaceful protests are shut, like the Buhari administration is doing, then, the grim prospects would be either to surrender or pursue the project through other means.       

LAST WORD: I smell revolution in the air! Let the “REVOLUTIONNOW” protests continue! Set the captives free!                       

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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

A

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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The place of the President and Vice President under the Nigerian and America Constitutions (5)

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The place of the President and Vice President under the Nigerian and America Constitutions (5)

THE VICE PRESIDENT IS NEITHER A SERVANT NOR SLAVE OF THE PRESIDENT (continues)

INTRODUCTION

In parts 1 to 4 of this writes-up, I fervently discussed the importance of the place of the President and Vice President under the Nigerian and American Constitutions and why the Vice President must never be seen as a mere dispensable spare tyre. Today, we shall conclude our discourse on the above topical issue.

Courts in Nigeria, especially the Court of Appeal, have done a great job in elevating the office of the Vice President beyond that of a mere servant or loyalist of the President who can be removed at the pleasure of the President.

In the case of Atiku Abubakar v. Attorney-General, Fed. (2007) 3NWLR (Pt 1022) 601; the Court went further to state quite unequivocally:

”Having regard to the Oath of Allegiance and oath of office stipulated in the Seventh Schedule to the 1999 Constitution and requires to be sworn by the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he does not owe a duty of allegiance and loyalty to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or the political party on whose platform he was elected to the office of Vice President. The allegiance of the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and he has an unreserved or unalloyed duty to defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as required both in his Oath of Office and Oath of Allegiance under the Constitution.

“Next to be considered is the question of the Vice President breaching ‘his obligation of one mindedness, loyalty, material trust, confidence and good faith.’ This passage or its variant runs through most of the questions framed for determination of the first defendant’s counter originating summons.

This point was strenuously pressed or pursued by the first defendant supported by the second and sixth defendants, the Inspector General of Police and the Independent National Electoral Commission. None of them directed the attention of the court to any authority, statutory or decided case. I, too, do not know of any authority which creates a supine, single-minded Vice President, indeed a robot. It is respectfully, to my mind not the intention of the Constitution to create a Vice President with no mind of his own. I shudder to imagine what would be the fate of the country in unlikely event of a President dying in office or impeached and the Vice President had to assume office of the President. The only source from which one can glean the person to whom the Vice President, indeed all those who hold their offices under the Constitution owe allegiance and loyalty is the Oaths of Allegiance and the various Oaths of Office contained in Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.

‘I have painstakingly reproduced both the Oath of Allegiance and Oath of Office of the Vice-President etc and can find nowhere in both Oaths where loyalty and faithfulness and true allegiance is owed to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who in his own right subscribes to the same Oath of Allegiance with the Vice-President and an Oath of office that is essentially identical to that sworn to by the Vice President. I agree that the Vice-President should have an undivided loyalty but that loyalty is due to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and not, I repeat not, to Mr. President not Peoples Democratic Party who in any case is a stranger to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. If the Vice-President were to have undivided loyalty to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as postulated by the defendants, how does he defend the Constitution which he has sworn to defend in event the President’s interest or desire is in conflict with the Constitution?. It is respectfully my view, that the Vice-President’s allegiance is to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and has an unreserved or unalloyed duty to defend the constitution as adumbrated in his Oath of office and the Oath of Allegiance.” Per. Abdullahi P.C.A.

The Nigerian Constitution, like the American presidential system, envisages a single executive of which the President is the Head and in whom the executive powers are vested. Article 11 of the Constitution of the United States, just like section 5(1) of our Constitution, provides that “the executive power shall be vested in a President of the United State.” The principle implies the preclusion of a current vesting of the executive powers in two or more persons of equal authority. The Principle also has the effect that the legislative organ cannot take away from the President or confer on others, functions of a strictly executive nature: See MYERS V. UNITED STATES 272. US 52; Nowak & Rotunde, Constitutional Law, 6th edition paragraph 7.14, page 298; and Nwabueze, Constitutional Democracy in Africa, (Vol. 4) Forms of Government, page 76.

A COMPARISON OF THE ROLE AND FUNCTIONS OF THE VICE PRESIDENT OF NIGERIA AND THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

The Vice President of the United States:

1) Is the second-highest officer in the executive branch of the U.S. federal government, after the president of the United States, and ranks first in the presidential line of succession. The Vice President is also an officer in the legislative branch, as President of the Senate.

2) Article I, Section 3, Clause 4 confers upon the Vice President the title President of the Senate and authorizes him to preside over Senate meetings. In this capacity, the Vice President is charged with maintaining order and decorum, recognizing members to speak, and interpreting the Senate’s rules, practices, and precedent.

3) As President of the Senate, the VP may also preside over most of the impeachment trials of federal officers.

4) The Twelfth Amendment (like the superseded Article II clause) provides that the Vice President, in his capacity as President of the Senate, also presides over counting and presentation of the votes of the Electoral College.

5) Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 stipulates that the Vice President takes over the “powers and duties” of the presidency in the event of a President’s removal, death, resignation, or inability.

VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA

1) As the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he does not owe a duty of allegiance and loyalty to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or the political party on whose platform he was elected to the office of Vice President.

2) The allegiance of the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and he has an unreserved or unalloyed duty to defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as required both in his Oath of Office and Oath of Allegiance, under the Constitution.

3) The Vice-President shall have an undivided loyalty but that loyalty is only due to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and not, I repeat, not, to Mr. President, or to any person, Authority, or political party, which in any case, is a stranger to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

4) The relationship between the President and Vice President, is not that of master and servant as each of them is a deliberate creation of the Constitution and neither of them is an employer of the other.

5) The Vice President is created by the Constitution. His appointment and removal from office are also provided for in the Constitution. They are not determined through the whims and caprices of the President.

Fellow countrymen, let the President and Vice President walk and work together for the benefit of and in the interest of the Nigerian people. Let no cabal or shadowy group (however powerful) sabotage one in preference for the other. The country eventually suffers the consequences of such inappropriate action. May Nigerian leaders uphold the tenets, letters and spirit of our constitutional democracy that we have voluntarily subscribed to. (THE END).

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

“However good a Constitution may be, if those who are implementing it are not good, it will prove to be bad. However bad a Constitution may be, if those implementing it are good, it will prove to be good.” (B. R. Ambedkar).

LAST LINE

I thank our overwhelming readers across the globe, for always keeping faith with the Sunday Sermon on the Mount of the Nigerian Project, by Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, FCIArb., Ph.D, LL.D. I enjoin you to look forward to next week’s bumper treatise. You have not seen nothing yet.

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Griezmann heads back to Atletico in crunch game for Barc

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Griezmann heads back to Atletico in crunch game for Barc

…combines with Messi,Suarez to wreck former club

 

Antoine Griezmann has had a tough start to life at Barcelona but is finally showing signs of settling in as he prepares for Sunday’s crunch clash at title rivals Atletico Madrid, his first game back at his old club since a bitter split. The French striker was Atletico’s top scorer and talisman for five years and appeared to show his loyalty to the club when he rejected a tempting offer to join Barca in 2018 and pledged his future to the Madrid side in a televised documentary.

But a year later, he joined Barca for 120 million euros (103 million pounds), prompting a legal complaint from Atletico after it emerged the Catalans had negotiated with Griezmann without their (Atletico’s) permission, leading to club being fined a paltry 300 euros. Griezmann might have been wondering if the move had been worth it as he has faced constant criticisms for a slow start at the Camp Nou, scoring five times in 17 appearances. He started on the bench in Wednesday’s Champions League match with Borussia Dortmund but an injury to Ousmane Dembele presented him with a chance which he duly took.

Griezmann dovetailed with strike partners Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi in a flowing attacking display and provided a superb finish to a pass from Messi to round off a 3-1 win and end a run of six games without scoring. The Frenchman’s lack of chemistry with the two South Americans has been a big talking point but the trio are starting to click.

“A lot has been said about the connection, especially when one of them doesn’t score, but the best players always end up understanding each other,” said Barca coach Ernesto Valverde after beating Dortmund. “Luis and Leo understand each other perfectly because they have been playing together for a long time, and with time the three of them will learn to gel even better with each other.” Barca top La Liga on 28 points and have a game in hand on Atletico, who are fourth on 25 and in a dire run of form, winning once in their last six games in all competitions. Real Madrid are second on 28 points and can go clear at the top for at least a day when they visit Alaves on Saturday in the middle of a resurgent run of five wins in seven games, in which they have scored 21 goals.

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Guys, your looks speak!

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Guys, your looks speak!

I think we should have a rethink about our mode of dressing which is fast sliding into abnormality. An article written by Amara Blessing Nwosu, a resourceful writer and relationship coach, pointedly addressed the issue being a woman with experience on the subject. Read on:

Iused to be one of such people who felt it didn’t matter what I looked like. I used to believe I could wear whatever I wanted as long as my spouse approved of it. I used to feel I could look crazy outside, but very decent inside. I was one person who used to love going to the extreme when it came to clothes/fashion.

Recently, I was discussing with some of my friends on Facebook, we came to a conclusion that we should be careful about our looks because it says a lot about us. I used to dress in such a way that people who were not close to me saw me as one crazy Lagos girl who was so involved with society life. People who knew me before now know there are changes in Amara. I used to carry my hair pure blonde with my long bright red polished nails and some crazy clothes on me.

The first impression people used to have about me was that of a club girl who was just enjoying her life. But I was a different person, entirely different from what I appeared to be outside. I remember some years back, when I went to help a woman in my estate who had a new baby (I find joy doing this). I was the one cooking, washing, cleaning and going to the market for her. Then one day, the husband came to me while I was cooking and said, “Amara, I never knew you were this humble. I used to see you as a very arrogant and crazy person, but my wife continued telling me how nice you are.” I laughed and then told the man, to his utmost surprise that I have never gone clubbing in my life, I don’t party, I don’t keep too many friends, I rarely visit people, and I don’t take alcohol.

A guy who later became a friend told me how he used to despise me because he saw me as a very arrogant person. He saw me as one spoilt brat who didn’t have anything in her head until the first day we spoke when he saw humility and respect for morals. He said he used to ask his friends why they should always bring someone like Amara to speak during conferences, but that stopped the day his friend forced him to seat and hear me. He said he was there just to prove to them that all Amara knows is fashion.

I am not here to talk about me, but to let us know that when people say we are addressed the way we dress; they are right. I was addressed and perceived as someone entirely different from who I truly was. This is the case with so many of us. We are constantly addressed by how we are perceived and our looks (how we are dressed) create the perception others have of us. I decided to change my looks and I can tell you I have never regretted it.

It was only when I changed my looks that I started attracting the kind of friends I have now. When I used to dress to flow with the fashion world, I attracted friends who were mostly nuisance and idle minds. But my new looks now tells everyone “she is a serious minded lady and responsible.” I am not trying to preach hypocrisy here, but I became a crusader for decency and moderation in our dress code because I have seen what it can do.  In the course of my youth training programmes, I have had girls come to me with so many complaints about always attracting the wrong men.

My question has always been who do you call “the wrong man”? If your definition of the wrong man is a man who is not “rich”, I am sorry I can’t help. But if your understanding of “the wrong man” is a man who is not responsible enough and is not as decent as you are; if you are talking about the “yahoo yahoo boys,” if you are talking about drug couriers, if you are talking of a man who sags like a prisoner, then I can help you.

There is something about you that says it all about you. Even when that “good man” accepts you and falls head-over-heels in love with you, the mother rejects you. We are still Africans, I know we live in a modern world and that is why you struggle so much to become more western than the westerner; but the fact remains, we are still in Africa.

During my conference last month, I told the teenagers to always look at the British Royal Family and America’s first family. I first asked how many people would choose being a nation’s first lady or princess instead of being a Hollywood actress, they all chose the former. I then told them to stop imitating Hollywood and Nollywood and start imitating Royalty.

I don’t know why our clergy keep quiet over these things in the church. I know you will tell me it is not my duty to change any man. I agree with you, but what do you do when that person stays in the church for one year and there is no conviction to change? We over do things and this is our greatest problem. You want to dress like the civilized world, I am in support of that, but who are your role models? You keep looking at Beyonce, Madonna, Jennifer Lopez and Lady Gaga. Why not go for the likes of Oprah, Hilary Clinton, Michelle Obama and Condoleezza?

I know you want to look fashionable, now tell me; have you ever seen the likes of Oprah, Clinton, and Condoleezza wearing ankle chain? You won’t see Obama’s wife wearing two earrings on one ear at the same time. You won’t see her push out her boobs for the whole world to see. You won’t see her wear a see-through clothe comfortably without a camisole inside. This is a true example of Royalty.

Please avoid the temptation of going for something simply because it looks good on your friend; you are two different individuals. It is time we go back to a life of decency. I have learnt a lot from my male friends and I can tell you that men are no longer attracted to women who are very artificial. Avoid the heavy face panel-beating (make-up), men are tired of seeing the false, they want to see the real you. Learn to cover up properly and leave the men guessing.

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2023: Memo to the South-East

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2023: Memo to the South-East

“If somebody cannot let you be his gateman, how is he going to give you the keys to his house to come and live in the house?” – Senator Enyinna Abaribe

 

 

T

his memo will make better sense to any reader if you avail yourself of the three previous memos in this space addressed to the other three geo-political zones of the country – the South-West, the North and the South-South.

This memo to the South-East is the last of the serial memos to the four critical geo-political regions where the nation’s political games are mostly played.

 

 

The essence of the memo was to draw attention of these regions to the policy that has helped to stabilize the nation’s polity since 1999 when the country embraced full democracy, and to also alert on the danger of the guileful attempts by some ambitious politicians in these regions to thwart it by 2023.

 

The three memos heftily marshalled why this stabilizing policy should not only be respected and encouraged to continue, but should for sake of justice and equity be directed to the South-East, the only vital region that has not had the opportunity.

History witnessed how in 1979 Nigeria military felt the need to return the country to civil rule but the same military in their impatience jumped back from barracks to the political terrain after four years in 1983.

 

The official reason for this impulsiveness by the military was that the then ruling party, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), in their landslide election victory broke the rules of engagement during the handover. But the real reason was that the powerful political block controlling affairs then from the North was so uncomfortable that the way the NPN was going and the conspicuous influence of the then Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, power could return to the South-East in 1987. This was unthinkable to some powerful political groups in the North who did not only sack the government but took President Shehu Shagari to a guest house and his Vice, Dr. Ekwueme to the prison.

 

 

By their thinking then Ekwueme was too powerful and could also be the bigger thief in the administration. However, after roundly investigating him and nothing incriminating was found, the juntas themselves declared that he left the government poorer than how he entered. But even that was not enough to consider him for President probably because of where he came from.

 

 

But did Ekwueme relent, the answer is no, he continued in the struggle for a better democratic Nigeria until he and other like minds under the Group of 34 successfully forced the military to make another retreat to the barracks in 1999.

The military formed new political parties and Ekwueme and his group joined the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with a more national outlook although dominated by South-East and South-South and others joined the All Peoples Party (APP) dominated by the North and Alliance for Democracy (AD) dominated by the South-West

 

 

The military as the political midwife was at home with a more conservative PDP than the more radical APP and AD. But the same Ekwueme they truncated in 1983 was at the forefront again. Still not comfortable with an Igbo, and the radical Yoruba NADECO group that dominated the other party, the military went in search of a neutral hand from the South. That was how a former military leader Olusegun Obasanjo fresh from prison was made to remember what he forgot at the Villa. It was also convenient for them as Obasanjo was being used as one stone to kill two birds, stop Ekwueme who was visibly at the forefront to clinch the PDP ticket and also calm the nerves of the restive Yoruba bloc over June 12. It was irrelevant to the juntas that Obasanjo was politically unwanted person by his Yoruba kinsmen then. What followed is now in the history book with a power rotation created for stability between North and South. From Obasanjo it returned to the North to Umaru Yar’Adua but got disrupted by his death after two years and restored back in 2015, six years after. After the restoration, by 2023 the North is supposed to complete eight years and power is expected to come down South again possibly for fairness to the area it has never been like the South-East.

 

 

This week opened with the major headline news being that the leader of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Alhaji Musa Liman Kwande, flying the usual kite that the North will vote for a Northerner in 2023 in whichever party that fields them. That statement was a huge political guide to the political parties ahead of 2023. Other rabble rousers like Ango Abdullahi, Junaid Mohammad and Nasir El rufai had in previous times given the hint along the same line, but they still needed to underscore it by coming this way.

 

 

In my memo to the North three weeks ago I pointed out to them clearly the danger it portends for them to disrupt the stabilizing factor in our polity. The responses I have gotten from the other memos have one thing in common, that actually the South-East deserves it in the interest of justice but they must go for it as power is never given as Tom Tom is given to children but fought for and obtained after some rigours.

 

 

A lot of them also frowned at the pull him down syndrome among the Igbo politicians and the mechanical way they approach their politics. Some said many other things that however have no empirical base. Short of exposing their phobia against Ndigbo a lot of the commentators also expressed fear of Biafra especially in relation to Nnamdi Kanu and his Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB).

 

 

Those looking for excuse to deny Ndigbo the opportunity of contributing to Nigeria’s growth at the highest level politically easily raise the issue of Biafra but in truth to anchor on it to deny them the Presidency of Nigeria is the quickest route to empower the pro Biafra forces. The easiest way to consign Biafra to history where it belongs is to give equal opportunity and sense of belonging to the people and make them begin to realise that a just bigger Nigeria is far more beneficial to a smaller Biafra. To further engrave Biafra in the hearts of every Igbo is to continue to deny them equal opportunity in the current space.

 

 

But having made that point clearly, Ndigbo need to carry out a lot of adjustments in their politics. Stooping to conquer is a wise strategy elders drop for their children. There is nothing wrong in joining different political parties, what is really wrong is seeing yourselves as enemies and allowing yourself to be used as instrument to flog your brothers and sisters. If the notion is real that Ndigbo are endowed with enormous talents and creativity and they cannot deploy it in their politics then it does not make any meaning. Tortoise native intelligence made meaning when it was able to finish a race ahead of other faster animals using its ingenuity.

 

 

Carrot and stick is needed as a weapon if Ndigbo is to really grab this power. To get power out of a highly swerve Fulani holding it, Ndigbo must be a mix of tortoise and lion. The Yoruba used every means to drum June 12 injustice into the ears of all and it resulted in Obasanjo Presidency. Niger Delta Ijaw got Vice Presidency ahead of Ndigbo through a statement they made to the country through their militancy. They were to become President for six years providentially. It was also through that statement that the Fulani President Yar’Adua had to create Amnesty programme to pacify not to prosecute them. When the North ganged up in 2015 to wrestle power from Jonathan it was total beyond political party affiliations. It would be wrong to see IPOB as obstacle to Igbo Presidency rather it’s a catalyst. 

 

 

If therefore Ndigbo have no lesson to pick from these instances, and rearrange their politics, they should as well perish the Igbo Presidency project and continue their subservient roles in our polity until providence arrives either with Biafra or a restructured Nigeria. May we see a better Nigeria.

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What goes round comes around…

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What goes round comes around…

I

f a writer does not generate hostility, he is dead – Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul, Nobel Laureate in Literature (2001).

In any man that keeps silent in the face of tyranny, the man dies – Prof. Wole Soyinka, Nobel Laureate in Literature (1986).

Those who vote (in elections) decide nothing; those who count the votes decide everything – Maximum Leader Josef Stalin of the now defunct USSR.

Those who fail to learn from history are often condemned to repeating its mistakes – George Santayana.

 

After the uprising of the 17th June, The Secretary of the Writers’ Union had leaflets distributed in the Stalinalee, stating that the people had forfeited the confidence of the Government and could win it back only by redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier in that case for the Government to dissolve the people and elect another? – Berthold Brecht.

 

First they came for the Socialists. And I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists. And I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews. And I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me. And there was no one left to speak for me – Pastor Martin Niemoller.

 

Each of the quotes above speaks to the Nigerian situation. Death for “hate speech” notwithstanding, conscionable people must still speak out because, speak we die; keeping silent we also die. Stalin, were he to live, would marvel that in Nigeria, not even those who count the votes determine the outcome of elections but political thugs backed by partisan military and consenting INEC. In all of this, we pretend not to know that previous democratic experiments got truncated on the twin altar of election malpractices and corruption, both of which are not only rife but also at an unprecedented level, the pontificating of the ruling party notwithstanding. With the way elections go today in Nigeria, the electorate have already been dissolved by government. And those who acquiesce, defend, promote, rationalise and overlook the shenanigans of today because they are beneficiaries or are not yet the victims should know it is turn-by-turn. Their turn will come, by which time there will be no one left to speak out for them. What goes round comes around!

 

Nigerians generally are not analytical and methodical but flippant and flimsy. Sentiments – and not reason – gauge our actions. We are the people Leopold Sedar Senghor, erstwhile Senegalese president and author of “Negritude”, had in mind when he posited that reason is Hellenic (White/Euro-American) while emotion/sentiment is African/Black. Like Aime Cesaire, you, too, may disagree with Senghor but the facts speak to the point.

 

Do we have a sense of history? Obasanjo as military Head of State started on-going destruction of public education (witness the 1978 Ali Must Go students’ protests). He handed over power in 1979 knowingly to the worst set of civilians, saying the best candidate may not win in an election. Are they destroying the judiciary today? It started with Richard Akinjide’s 12 two-thirds of 19 states. The Supreme Court gave a judgement but said it should never be cited as precedent! Obasanjo handed the presidency over to Shehu Shagari and NPN. Oh, how they ruined Nigeria!

 

Lacking a sense of history, we allowed the same Obasanjo back into office in 1999. This was after he had consented to the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election. Obasanjo went to South Africa to quip that MKO Abiola was not the messiah Nigeria needed. He probably would have headed the Interim National Government but as editor of The PUNCH/Saturday PUNCH at that time, we got wind of the story and slammed it. The wily fox beat a quick retreat only to make a come-back in 1999. Handing over again in 2007, he chose the worst of three sick fellows. He paired him up with a nincompoop who barely knew his right from his left. Again, better candidates were shoved aside. Nigeria almost collapsed as a result of the constitutional crisis engendered by Umaru Yar’Adua’s ill-health and consequent death in office.      

 

Obasanjo foisted Goodluck Jonathan on Nigerians. Between 2007 and 2011 we saw enough of Jonathan to know he did not possess the guts, ability and agility to run the country. Yet, we gave him the nod on sentiments. He wobbled and fumbled till 2015 when the desperadoes hounded him out of office. As bad as Jonathan was, Muhammadu Buhari by his antecedents should not have been an option. Like Obasanjo! We, however, did not, again, do due diligence.

 

Buhari was a dictator in his first coming. He is a worse dictator now. Buhari had no mind of his own in his first coming, relying on the now late Gen. Tunde Idiagbon whom I described as his brain box. Today the same Buhari relies on a cabal that rule from behind scantily-concealed veil. Religious bigot, ethnic jingoist, clueless and incompetent – everything that Buhari was in 1983/1985 he has been today with renewed vigour and vitality. Our calamity is self-inflicted.

 

How can PDP/Bayelsans weep that Jonathan dashed his home state to APC? If Jonathan could let the presidency slip through his fingers in 2015, how dare you think losing a mere state would mean anything to him? As our people would say, he who steps on his own dress would not mind shredding another man’s dress. We need to pay more attention to people’s antecedents before entrusting them with positions of responsibility.

Between Secondus and Modu Sheriff…

Recent events must have PDP leaders thinking which of Ali Modu Sherriff (aka PDP’s undertaker), and the incumbent, Uche Secondus (aka “Se ko dun”: Cook PDP well and let it taste good in APC’s mouth), is more of a pain in the arse. Exchanging one for the other, has PDP not jumped from frying pan into fire?

 

Ex-Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State and sitting Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers reportedly brought Sherriff. They had thought Sheriff’s touted deep pockets and vast connections, especially his insider-knowledge of the ruling APC, would help in the battle to return PDP to power. But shrewd Sheriff had his own game-plan!

 

 

PDP leaders thought they had a mule in Sheriff but the ex-governor of Borno was a tiger. You may ride it – but only if you would never disembark. When Sheriff showed his hands and PDP wouldn’t agree, come see battle! PDP climbed down by fire by force but Sheriff the Shylock had his pound of flesh.

Having led the battle to dislodge Sheriff, interim chairman and Kaduna ex-governor Ahmed Makarfi wanted the plum job. Many thought it should go to the South-West instead to balance the party’s zoning formula. Wike and Fayose however decided otherwise. Overnight, the party chairmanship was gifted the South-South. Enter Uche Secondus!

 

 

The game-plan was for Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto and Fayose to get the PDP flag and running-mate slots respectively but ex-VP Atiku Abubakar turned the table by winning the PDP ticket. While the losers were still sulking, Atiku rubbed salt in their injury by choosing Peter Obi as running mate. So did the South-West lose on both ends!

 

 

Wike and Fayose railroaded Secondus into office but no sooner than Atiku bagged the ticket than Secondus shifted base. He cross-carpeted and became like Atiku’s follow-come; even saying Atiku could single-handedly chose his running mate. Obi was not the consummate politician that his South-East base favoured for the high office of VP. And with the South-West wounded, it was a half-fit PDP that went into the 2019 presidential election. Massive rigging apart, PDP played like a not-fully-fit striker in an el classico. The rest, as they say, is history.

 

 

With that and the losses suffered by PDP in the just-concluded Kogi and Bayelsa elections, it is debatable who, between Sheriff and Secondus, has done PDP greater disservice. While the struggle to offload Sheriff lasted, PDP suffered avoidable loses in Edo and Ondo elections.

 

 

More importantly, however, PDP has not displayed an understanding of the mechanisms of political parties. Conversely, APC behaves more like a political party. Unlike PDP which behaves as if bereft of party ideology, APC sticks together, even if their ideology is backward, reactionary, anti-people, anti-progress, ultra-conservative and anachronistic. PDP appears more as a group of individualistic power-mongers and office-seekers.

 

 

“My country, right or wrong!” cried Carl Schurz (1872) but for PDP, it is “I and I alone”! Little wonder, then, that one of their leaders told me that politics is a game of self-interest!

Wike was right in telling the Amayanabo of Okrika that with the fall of Bayelsa, the enemy has entered PDP’s territory and Rivers will be the next victim. Pastor Martin Niemoller (quoted above) revealed this step-by-step tactic of creeping fascists and remorseless Hitlerites a long time ago. But Santayana (also quoted above) posits you must learn from history before you can avoid its pitfalls. Has PDP, indeed, Nigerians as a people, ever learnt from history? How, then, shall we avoid repeating the same mistakes again and again?

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Edo’s political conundrum (4)

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Edo’s political conundrum (4)

 

Yes, democracy is a demonstration of craze, betrayal, contradiction and sinfulness, yet you hardly get punished for it. Just ask yourself, in the gale of suspension and counter-suspension of officers of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State, including the purported suspension of the National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, just two days later, those who played the antagonists role were seen scrambling to get into the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting presided over by the National Chairman, who was presumed suspended.

Does that not tell you that there is some madness oozing out from the cocoon of Osadebey Avenue? What do we call this; illogical, contradiction, ostentatious foolishness or a piece of political idiocy? You declared the National Chairman suspended, passed a vote of no confidence, then 48 hours later, you started scrambling for space to gain entry to attend the NEC being chaired by the same person you presumably suspended. This is a graphic representation of the political maladies and obtuse reasoning that have become the permanent feature of Edo political narrative.

In the last one week, I have received calls from concerned Edo citizens who have expressed willingness to intervene in this political imbroglio between the APC main actors, but like I told them, Governor Godwin Obaseki is not willing to end the onslaught until there are enough casualties. Following the outcome of the APC Executive Committee meeting which recorded some mild dramas, it is obvious tempers are simmering on the part of the Edo oppressors, who have now devised the use of thugs to beat up anyone who does not sing the Obaseki anthem. Some of these bootlickers won’t stop at nothing to drum it loud into our ears that Obaseki has delivered on promise.

They told me his nickname is “wake and see”, whatever that means. But from interrogation, I was made to understand that Governor Obaseki works at night when the people are asleep, and once they wake, they would be saluted with a new project to their consternation. That exactly is the problem of the Obaseki administration. Any project that takes 10 hours of the night to get completed, gives credence to its poor quality. It is obvious the Edo Government is delivering on quantity, little wonder the roads that were hitherto fixed, have been swept off by agents of denudation and erosion within three months.

In 2017, I had written a prognosis of what to expect from Governor Obaseki having listened to him explain the rubrics of his policy agenda. He told me that a 10- lane road will connect Gelegele seaport to Okpella industrial hub, as part of targeted measures to open up the Edo economy. He mentioned huge investment in the area of education, teachers’ capacity building, healthcare delivery and huge investment in rural roads and agricultural renewal. His policy framework and direction was quite irresistible.

On paper, Edo was already wearing the architectural derringdo of London or another Dubai. Imagine the huge investment a 10-lane road network cutting across the state from the seaport to Okpella industrial zone, would bring to a state that depends largely on monthly allocation from Federal Government. Two years gone, Obaseki appears to be at sea trying to translate what is captured in his imagination to practical benefit for the people. Federal roads in Edo State under the APC-led Federal Government are the worst in the country. State government roads in some communities are also in terrible state. Okpella township roads are reeking in outright neglect.

Despite promises by the state government to continue the construction from where Oshiomhole left them, it has been a matter of empty promises. Someone had asked me barely a week ago if I was not convinced that Governor Obaseki has surpassed the expectations in terms of performance. I told the fellow that it all depended on what aspect of his intervention one is dissecting.

I am aware he is trying to rehabilitate the old, abandoned secretariat buildings on Sapele road. I am aware he has almost completed a new building for the courts, as well as another building for offices just beside the government house. I also saw the empowerment village along Sapele road which formerly housed the State Government Press. I saw the Technical College nearing completion, and also Ekpoma township roads, which was started by the Oshiomhole administration, also nearing the asphalt stage.

I saw the industrial court and the refurbished Ogbe Stadium, Benin City. Beyond all these, Governor Obaseki has not really touched the heart of the needs of Edo people in terms of improving their living standard. Education, security, human capacity development, healthcare delivery system, investment drive and a vibrant civil populace that easily buys into governmental initiatives. Investment in education is still crawling.

The desire to promote an agro-allied business initiative to diversify the Edo economy remains a pipe dream. The Sobe Maize Farm which guzzled billions of naira is a poor investment initiative that was programmed to fail from the outset. I visited the location on my way from Okpella through Ifon in Ondo State last week and what I saw there confounded my imagination.

I also visited the abandoned Benin Industrial Park along Sapele-Warri interchange, given the zeal for the foundation laying ceremony by Vice President Osibanjo, one would have thought that by now, business would have commenced. Also, the Gelegele Seaport which almost became a legacy project of the Obaseki administration, has been abandoned for reasons best known to the government. College of Education, Ekiadolor, which was renamed Tayo Akpata University of Education has been jettisoned by this administration. Since the Pro-Chancellor, Rt. Hon. Thomas Okosun resigned his appointment, another Pro-Chancellor has not been appointed and the gradual phase of transforming the college to a University of Education has been stalled.

The College of Agriculture, Iguoriakhi that should be a training ground for skilled manpower to drive agro-allied business has been shut down. The Edo University, Iyamho has not enjoyed any investment in the last three years from the state government, ditto for Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma. Only recently the state government promised to complete the dam in the school for ease of water supply. Barely a week ago, the Minister of State for Budget and Planning, Mr. Clem Agba, visited the Oba of Benin and used the opportunity to draw the state government’s attention to the deplorable flooding situation in Benin City and its environs.

The minister had appealed to the state government to commence further works on the Benin City Storm Water Masterplan to mitigate the perennial flooding and erosion across the city. The state government, rather than swallow the phlegm of such an advice, which would help address this very salient issue, decided to raise dust over nothing, cautioning the Honourable Minister that he would soon be invited to answer questions bordering on the project.

The Edo government has suddenly become paranoid to issues that stare it in the face. It is hypersensitive to criticism no matter how constructive, and ready to unleash its army of mobile thugs on anyone who raises queries about its lacklustre performance. For the past three years, I am yet to see any legacy project that can outlive this government. This is not to say the government has not done anything, as that would be uncharitable, but the fear of the unknown pricks its conscience on a daily basis, such that attention is now shifted away from governance to the politics of 2020, 4+0 or 4+4 depending on who is singing the chorus.

Insecurity in Edo State has assumed an all-time high, no thanks to the near-zero investment in that sector. The number of check-points on Edo roads is better imagined than real. Call them exploitation points with POS in some cases used to extort money from hapless transporters, the inner sanctuary of the security architecture in the state has finally crumbled.

The narration by the recently released Court of Appeal Judge, Mrs. Ihime-Nwosu who was kidnapped in broad day light in the heart of Benin City is a lesson for us all in a state with porous security network. Her description of the manner of her kidnap coupled with the fact that the kidnappers had a field day without confrontation by the Police, was enough testimonial for a failed security system that is poorly funded by the state and federal governments. Often times, the operational vehicles which the Obaseki administration handed over to the Police are refurbished Hiluxes that serve mere cosmetic purposes. Before long, they park up helplessly at the point of operation where they had been deployed. These are regular sites when you travel on major roads in Edo State.

I thought when the government talks about EdoBest in the area of education, I was looking forward to seeing some sort of Eldorado in the education sector. At best, Edo schools, both primary and secondary schools are still at the level that Comrade Oshiomhole left them. Before tenure expiration of Oshiomhole, about 2,520 teachers were interviewed and screened by the Professor Agbonlahor-led committee which comprised seven other Professors of Education from the University of Benin, ready to be absorbed into the state teaching service. This figure was to cater for the shortfall in terms of teachers’ population in the state’s secondary and primary schools. Three years after, most Edo schools are without sufficient teachers. The four secondary schools in my community suffer similar fate. None of the four schools can boast of six teachers. At best, what you find are four, three and two teachers in that order, and further augmented by communal effort to make up for the discrepancies. The schools in the other villages in the local government are also victims of this insufficient teachers. This is why I find it curious when I heard the claim that 157,000 jobs have been created in the last three years. How can government claim to have created 157,000 jobs without recruiting at least 4,000 additional teachers to make up for the shortfall, especially in an enlightened state like Edo?

But when you realise that Edo now export thugs to other states, you will understand why government has deliberately neglected the educational sector. Only last week Friday, 22nd November, 2019 did we witness another demonstration by exported thugs at the Abuja National Headquarters of the APC, where they were sweating profusely under the scorching sun, asking for Oshiomhole to take a bow. I did not know governance has collapsed in Edo State until I saw hitherto able-bodied young men, chorusing the intemperate verbiage of a nun dimitis for Oshiomhole. Typical of a man who is both vertically and horizontally challenged, he glided away with effortless awe, as those thugs occupied the space on Blantyre Street. Those who purportedly suspended him were under the mango tree making phone calls to reach out to their godfathers-in-training, some borrowed entry tag to put up a comic show, all in a bid to assure their followers that all was well. How does one feel sitting in a meeting presided over by a man you reportedly suspended. What figure of speech is that?….

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