Farooq Kperogi’s Unusual Poor Response, By Abubakar Abdullahi

I used to be an ardent reader of Farooq Kperogi’s column back in the days, even before the popularity of Social Media. I still do. He is someone I have enormous respect for and I really do not hope to disrespect him in this piece.

Having read the Professor’s disclaimer that he was also a member of the Obasanjo Media Team that operated similar to Buhari Media Centre, the response, to me, is just a twist of words. It is just an opposite side of a coin.

On 28th July, 2015, Garba Shehu announced a number of social media persons who volunteered to support President Muhammadu Buhari ?—? few among them are Ayobami Oyalowo, Dada Olusegun, Johannes Tobi Wojuola-Mathews. They are not more than a dozen. Barrack Obama boasted a 20 digital staffers which Trump’s Presidency plan to expand on this. Maybe Nigeria needs less.

The BMC is not a secret. They are occasionally guest speakers too on major TV shows. They use handles well known to all social media active users. (I challenge Prof to give an instance of the multiple accounts created to smear or work with other government agencies to twist narrations).

Also, the fact your Research Unit used to write the President’s speech and occasionally, attended the Federal Executive Meetings or have more international exposures, does not make it any different from BMC. It does not lay to it any more credence. It is in fact, more illegal.

In plain words, your Research Unit was to Obasanjo what BMC is to Buhari ?—? both, in my opinion, unnecessary and an exaggeration of powers. After all, you name it BMC, they could choose to call it Research Unit, too.

I will not go with the crowd to say you’re being sponsored to bring down this government. I believe you criticize it in the high spirit of nationality and for the project, Nigeria.

In the end, like the saying; whoever that comes to equity, must come with clean hands, is advocated here.

God Bless Nigeria ??

Abubakar Abdullahi

@abubakar47i

Farooq Kperogi’s Moral And Professional Inconsistency, By Muhammad Labbo

Once again, President Muhammadu Buhari is under attack for the composition of his media team, the number of people his government employs to ensure that every citizen of Nigeria is constantly kept abreast of the voice and activities of the leaders they elected to represent them.

Our suspicion is that opposition elements are driving this discussion with the aim of stripping Buhari of needed support; stripped bare of media support in his war against corruption and insecurity, the President then becomes vulnerable to defeat now and in his future political calculations.

President Buhari’s media team is currently made up of nine appointees: Femi Adesina, Garba Shehu, Tolu Ogunlesi, Bashir Ahmad, Shaaban Ibrahim Sharada, Loretta Onochie, Naziru Mohammed , Bayo Omoboriowo and Sunday Aghaeze. Of these, three handle cameras, while three are assigned to new media which has Ogunlesi as the team leader and Ahmad handling Hausa Facebook.

Now, let’s put things in perspective.

Following the appointment of Reno Omokri as Special Assistant on New Media to the then President Goodluck Jonathan, the defunct investigative newspaper, NEXT, reported in 2011, that Omokri had joined the President’s reported list of over 133 personal aides, including 25 special advisers, 42 senior special assistants, 52 special assistants and 12 personal assistants–as at February 2011. This number probably increased before that administration was voted out in March 2015.

These government advisers were paid about N780 million of Nigerian taxpayers’ money every year.

Of the 133 presidential aides, 16 were assigned to the Media, including the Special Adviser, Reuben Abati, Umar Sani, the SSA Media attached to the office of the Vice-President; Dr. Obi Asika, SSA Social Media; Reno himself; Bolaji Adebiyi, the late Sara-Wiwa Jnr. and Yakubu Musa as SAs under Abati; Dr Doyin Okupe, who had four Presidential SAs of his own under him that included Churchill Umoren, Jackson Ude ,Nasir Zahraddeen and one other. A host of others dotted the Villa at that time, including  TY Bello, a Nigerian singer and songwriter who was the official photographer to former President Goodluck Jonathan. The President went on to add to the list,  Femi Fani-Kayode who, under him, several officials including the current Group Public Affairs Manager of the NNPC, Ndu Ugamadu were engaged.

Nigeria has had many wasteful governments but this current administration is not one of them. Of the 15 Special Advisers approved for the Presidency by the Constitution, President Buhari has so far appointed only six: Media, Niger Delta, National Security, Politics, Social Investment and Sustainable Development Goals.

All this evidence of President Buhari’s discipline have been ignored by a number of newspaper columnists who are clearly being sponsored by the opposition PDP to vomit lies and spread misinformation. A typical example is Farooq Kperogi, a columnist who recently publicly condemned the existence of a group which was set up to disseminate relevant information from the government to the Nigerian people.

Our question to the critics is, what question did they ask Dr Jonathan when he had that crowd in his office? Why attack President Buhari who set out from the beginning to keep a lean team and an austere administration?

The group which Kperogi erroneously referred to as the Buhari Media Centre (BMC) is actually known as the Buhari Media Support group (BMSG). This group of volunteers who were also part of the media committee which worked with All Progressives Congress (APC) during the election campaign, are sponsored completely by private funds. None of their meagre allowances is from the national budget or from taxpayers’ money. All the funding for the BMSG is sought privately, and the group’s office is located outside the presidential villa complex—in Utako, well away from the State House in Asokoro.

Compare this to the Presidential Communication Unit (PCU) under President Olusegun Obasanjo. This group, which operated from a building referred to as the “white house” in the precincts of the Aso Rock Presidential Villa had the late Stanley Macebuh as its head. With its offices in the State House complex it was funded by the government. AND Farooq Kperogi himself was a member! Isn’t it hypocritical for him to suddenly turn round and criticise the existence of such a group?

If it was right for President Obasanjo, or any other President to maintain a media office by whatever name, and it was right for Farooq Kperogi to apply and serve in that office at public expense, what is his beef with President Buhari for having an office like that, albeit with a different name and not funded by the government?

In fact, is it not both immoral and criminal to attack Buhari who has barred his own media office from public funds when Farooq was himself paid from the treasury to do the same job in a similar office?

Every government is entitled to a robust media team. Getting the right information to and communicating with the people is the obligation of every democracy. Even the most advanced, fiscally responsible governments all over the world have invested in key media personnel. Nigerians must not allow themselves to be deceived into ignorance by the mischievous PDP script currently being played out by the likes of Kperogi in the incessant criticism of President Buhari’s investment in media.

 

Muhammad Labbo

Chairman/ Co-ordinator

BMSG

Nigeria And The Politics Of Poverty, By Matthew Ige

I have been an adult citizen for a while now, and one thing I have closely observed, and which always makes me to tremble in shame; is that most Nigerian politicians, though majority of them are intellectually feeble, light ‘upstairs’ and simple in thought, they are maestro in the manipulation of the poor electorates. They perhaps perfectly understand the psychology of poverty of the susceptible electorates, hence the smooth victory they always wield.

Chinweizu Ibekwe in his Anatomy of Female Power asserts that a way to ‘’a way to a man’s heart is through his belly.’’ This assertion best describes the hapless state of the uninformed–both mentally and academically poor electorates. These are the victims of the flawed established Nigeria institution; perpetually manipulated bedfellows—even down to their children. The reason is simple: lest they are educated, and they are wise.

It is not the case that education in itself provides the basis to affect one’s reasoning measurement; for there are ‘literate illiterates’. There are professors and academic doctors with intimidating and highfalutin academic credentials, whose thoughts and reasoning are very poor. There are academic champions who are still being plagued, not thoroughly washed from the stings of religious, ethnic and tribal sentiments. Yes, this set of people also have their own version of poverty—reasoning.

The bourgeoisies, having studied the psychology of ‘needs’ of these poor people, that all they are after in life is the Biblical necessity of life expressed in petition in prayer: ‘’Give us this day our daily bread.’’ They would not think of building house, buying a single car; they see themselves as millionaire once they can afford to buy one ‘Okada’, always extort them through this weakness.

It is on this psychological pedestal of the poor that the villain politicians would continue to unduly, though without any physical duress, dominate the miserable poor electorates. It will then come to pass the saying that the poor will remain poorer while the rich will remain richer. There will be, as long as this status quo remains, the poor dynasty and the rich dynasty.
The most prevalent poverty version that is obtainable in Nigeria is poverty of the mind; a type of poverty established as a result of our own aboriginal institutional inexactitude.

It is not that most of the developed nations today, say USA, has never had or does not have people that are financially poor, at least relatively; but her people, as it were, to a large extent are exempted from the poverty of the mind. How did they come about it? Their institution!

Former president Barrack Obama is famously known for saying ‘Africa doesn’t need strong men, it needs strong institution’. But to fault Obama’s perception of perhaps Africa’s nucleus needs, there is indeed strong institution in Africa, of which Nigeria is among.

The problem is not that there is non-existence of institution in Africa—-Nigeria specifically. Rather, the enduring issue is that we have institution, but this institution, on the contrary, or rather for it be an enviable one; it is one that is built on mediocrity, primitiveness, incivility, uncriticalness, rationed ingeniousness, barbarism, glorified backward, satisfaction of average life and lame mental and intellectual exhibition. It is an institution that gives wanton leverage to the minority ruling class and bourgeoisies—-symbolic vultures—-preying on the carcass of the teeming majority, who are plagued with abject poverty.

Yes, that is our enduring, doubly powerful institution.

The poverty of the mind, what it does to our collective national consciousness is innumerable, and the chief among them is forgetfulness. With little, though false and cosmetic generosity from the villain politician, especially when the elections are fast approaching, the victims of this poverty swiftly forget or forgo the avalanche of misfortunes inflicted on them by these political dramatist personas.

Neither to forget nor to forgo, I must add, is a a
crime; but the forgetfulness of the faux pas of these politicians is not an innocent one. The people, through the preconditioned and configuration of their poor mindset, and having being reduced to beings whose aspirations and expectations are fixed on the scummy basic necessity of life, they swiftly forget the day their supposed leader aforethought withheld their salaries; wantonly violated their rights; and deliberately dehumanized them.

The all-encompassing effect of poverty of the mind is that it will make the nation to ever remain underdeveloped and underdog. Since the mindset of the average citizens have been programmed by default to food alone, the disposition to be critical of things will be radically rationed, if not totally disappeared. In the long run, the government will never be responsible nor accountable to the electorates who voted them into power; there will inevitably be regurgitation of cluelessness, mediocrity, material and mental poverty; and most unfortunate of all, humanity will be dethroned while the government official will assume the status of triumphalism.

Matthew Ige,
Lagos, Nigeria.

The Presidency: Osinbajo and Unquestionable Loyalty, By Yushau Shuaib

In September 2009, about 9 years ago, this writer published an article title “If Yar’Adua Doesn’t Die!” (http://yashuaib.com/politics/if-president-yaradua-doesnt-die/) It was a response to strong insinuations in the media on the plight of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who was alive then but some commentators were already expressing views on expectations after his likely demise.

We are currently witnessing a similar scenario as the national discourse has shifted to debates on the ailing or recuperating President Muhammadu Buhari who left the country on January 19, 2017 for medical vacation in London after handing over power to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to act as President.

The media is awash with views of Nigerians as well as patriotic commentators over the transfer of power and the commendable progress made so far in the absence of Buhari. Meanwhile, spin-doctors and political manipulators, in their different shades, have joined the debate, mostly on cyberspace. In some cases, the issue is coloured in sectional sentiments, political undertones and religious undercurrents.

In fact, there have been gossips on the motives behind recent fasting by some Christians in the South as well as speculations on massive prayers by some Muslims in the North over the ill-health of the president. Some scenarios are disturbing, as some comments attempt to create rift between Buhari and Osinbajo who have so far shown maturity, sincerity and respect in their mutual relationship.

President Buhari does not only trust Osinbajo, he assigns the law professor and church pastor to oversee the economic sector as the Head of the Economic Team. In fact, sensitive offices and strategic positions within that sector including the Chief Economic Adviser are domiciled under the Office of the Vice President. In more than two occasions, President Buhari has officially, through legislative mandates, handed over power to Osinbajo to act as Nigerian President.

Aside from the recent controversial and illegal disengagement of a female chartered accountant, Mrs Maryam Danna Mohammed from Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) and the replacement of the boss of the agency with an aide of the Vice President, Professor Osinbajo has demonstrated, to some extent, unquestionable loyalty to President Buhari in his utterances and actions. A politically conscious person, Osinbajo has not behaved otherwise. As a legal luminary, acting President Osinbajo knows the implication of wilful disobedience to court orders by Buhari’s administration, especially on several bails granted to some personalities who are still being detained illegally, he nevertheless refused to act or intervene professionally on the legal dilemmas probably to prove his absolute loyalty to the administration. In tandem with the style and language of his boss, Pastor Osinbajo has consistently re-echoed the message of the administration on war on terror and the aggressive rhetoric on the anti-corruption campaigns.

As a loyal public officer, Osinbajo has embarked on local tours and hosted several meetings towards addressing seeming economic and socio-political challenges. The deliberate efforts, in the absence of the president, have so far strengthened local currency, the Naira, boosted oil production and stabilise the polity. In most occasions, he insists that he is a representative of the president. For instance, when he travelled to the heart of Niger Delta to appeal against militancy, Osinbajo said he was there as an emissary of Buhari to offer “a new vision” for the oil-producing region.

There is all certainty that Professor Osinbajo would have sought the consent of his boss and/or members of the Federal Executive Council in taking some of the far-reaching decisions which are being commended. We should therefore encourage the administration to be focused without creating a division between Buhari and Osinbajo while making comparison.

There is always the fear that political sycophants may feast on such divisive and distractive debates to create avoidable complications which almost consumed two previous administrations. The political imbroglio between President Olusegun Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku Abubakar as well as cabal-infused impasse between President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Vice President Goodluck Jonathan were triggered by reckless sentiments from supporters

It is always painful any insinuation that questions the loyalty of a subordinate and doubts the strength and competence of the boss. Such a dilemma merely creates feeling of betrayal and instigates a crisis of confidence that can distract and derail a focused administration. In our clime, there is a thin line between sanity and insanity among political fans (fanatics) whose supports are based on ethnic, religious and sectional sentiments.

We should therefore, support the brilliant strides of acting President Osinbajo in sustaining the tempo of progressiveness and pray for the safe return of President Buhari to carry on the task of greater nationhood.

Yushau A. Shuaib

100 Days In Office: Obaseki’s Landmark Achievements, By Gloria Adagbon

Rejoinder: As Ibori Stirs Buhari’s Tea, By Muhammed Labbo

At the back page of Daily Trust (Sunday edition) 19th February, 2017, Sonala Olumhense regaled his readers of how in August, 2015 he “reflected on the need for a vibrant communication strategy” as he put it “that will serve his mission “.

Of course his “reflection” was in the form of an open advice to President Muhammadu Buhari, on how he should be able to have a “winning communication strategy”.

Apart from going down memory lane, Olumhense also made unwarranted comparisons between President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-graft war with that of Jonathan’s administration.

In doing his analysis, Olumhense threw up three known personalities from Niger Delta, namely ex-governors James Ibori, Lucky Igbinedion and Dipreye Alamieyeseigha and made unnecessary comparisons to what we had in the past. He says: “given how the APC has proudly been gathering the dregs of other parties as defectors, Buhari may yet be Ibori’s state pardon as Goodluck Jonathan was Diepreye Alamieyeseigha …”

In my view, this type of analysis is totally unrelated and inappropriate, except for mischief making or ruinous intent.

While President Buhari’s determination to fight a transparent anti-graft war is unquestionable, Olumhense attempted to rope the administration into other extraneous matters.

I see this as a digression and distractive. For the avoidance of doubt, President Buhari’s anti-graft war is untainted, and no amount of deceit will make discerning Nigerians think otherwise.

More importantly, my concern about the speculative and hypothetical write-up is the aspect where he made references to a non- existent BMC (Buhari Media Centre).

My first reaction is that Olumhense has not read the response to Mr. Farouq Kperogi’s initial article.  The response was far-reaching and addressed all the concerns raised in Kperogi’s earlier article.

At the risk of sounding repetitive I wish to restate here our legal right as volunteers of Buhari Media Support Group to exist (see below).

“EXPOSING THE LIES IN FAROOQ KPEROGI’S CLAIM OF THE EXISTENCE OF BUHARI MEDIA CENTRE

Few days ago, United State based journalist, Professor Farooq Kperogi wrote on his facebook wall about the existence of a so called “propaganda” group known as Buhari Media Centre. My first thought was that the publication is one of what has clearly become his new found love of attacking the person of President Muhammadu Buhari for whatever reason, but seeing how far the intent of the so-called expose has helped in deceiving gullible Nigerians into believing his hatred, masqueraded as the criticism of the president, I felt the need to set the records straight and tell Nigerians that Kperogi deliberately twisted what is never a secret to garner more support for his new found love.

Firstly, Kperogi’s claim about the existence of what he called “Buhari Media Centre” is a twist of fact. To the best of my knowledge, no such group other than the Buhari Media Support Group (BMSG) exists and its existence has never been shrouded in secrecy as he alluded to in his publication. Members of the group were drawn voluntarily from the members of the defunct Media and Publicity Committee of the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council who out of their free will, patriotism and love for president Buhari decided they want to remain together as a media support group as the name implies, to help the president and his media handlers propagate his achievements and also advise on the demands of Nigerians from the media space. This, the group has been doing since its formation and diligently too.

Kperogi alluded in his write-up that the group operates in secrecy, use pen and pseudo names and exists primarily for the purpose of engaging in propaganda especially to “attack/demonize/smear people critical of the president”. But this again, is another twist of fact and a deliberate attempt to misinform. BMSG since its creation shortly after the inauguration of the president in May 2015, has been a public knowledge. Apart from the fact that the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, Mallam Garba Shehu had on 28th July, 2015 via a series of tweets announced the existence of the group, I, as Chairman and Co-ordinator of the  BMSG on 27th October, 2015, hosted and addressed a Press Conference in our office, attended and reported by every major media organization in the country. The BMSG has also periodically issued Press Statements which are equally widely used in the media. Where then is the secrecy about the existence of the group?

Members, who are drawn from different fields like the media, economy, medicine, law etc have been granting interviews, appearing on radio and TV programmes and writing articles in their areas of specialisation. None of them does these in pen or pseudo names, but Kperogi missed the point by reducing these patriotic and voluntary work to ‘propaganda’.

I however ask, is it ‘propaganda’ to propagate the various infrastructural projects such as roads, railways, power etc., being executed across Nigeria? Is it also ‘propaganda’ to propagate the successful war being waged by this administration against graft in public offices? Is it within the prism of ‘propaganda’ to inform the Nigerian people about the achievements of the military against Boko Haram?

 Conversely, the BMSG on a daily basis, reviews events in the media, guage the mood, feelings and perceptions of Nigerians about policies, programmes and actions of government and make reports or advisory for necessary action.

Another issue that is clearly false, but Kperogi has chosen to deceive Nigerians with is the number of members comprising the Buhari Media Support Group which he has painted as Buhari Media Centre for reasons best known to him. As earlier stated, the Buhari Media Support Group is an offshoot of the Media and Publicity Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Council. After the winding-up of the activities of the committee upon successfully winning the 2015 election, some members of the defunct committee volunteered to remain together to assist the president showcase his activities in office knowing what lies ahead and learning from the media attack he was subjected to since 2013 when he joined the political fray, and most especially during the 2015 election campaigns. More than half of the members of the defunct committee could not remain with the group because of their other engagements, even though they promised to always help propagate the president’s achievements wherever they may be. Of the nearly half who remained from 2015 till date, some have also left for other engagements. So the story that the “Buhari Media Centre” as Kperogi chose to call it has 40 paid journalists, bloggers, media analysts, commentators is completely false.

One important fact to note about the existence of the group and its activities is that there is no link between the government and Buhari Media Support Group as far as funding is concerned. The Buhari Media Support Group is a voluntary organization and is being funded by private individuals and not from any government coffers as the Kperogi publication intended to impute. While in the past dispensation funding for similar media organisations controlled by the media aides of the then president came from the Office of the National Security Adviser and other government coffers, under President Buhari, the Buhari Media Support Group does not receive a dime from the government. The Buhari I know will never allow that.

I will also not forget to mention that those who chose to demonise the Buhari Media Support Group today, as if it has no right to exist, forget that under the last PDP administration, former President Jonathan apart from having more than sixteen media aides, had different media propaganda machinery under each of the aides, all of them drawing funds from government coffers.

I have taken the pains to embark on this narrative to straighten the record and pinpoint the fact that there is no secrecy about the existence of Buhari Media Support Group, neither does it draw funds from the government. Whoever believes otherwise should come up with their facts. BMSG will continue to serve as a volunteer organization for the progress and development of Nigeria, in line with the vision of President Muhammadu Buhari and his administration. We are a group of patriots, united in our love for our country and belief in our President. We have refused to become diasporans but chose to remain in our country to, with other Nigerian patriots,  salvage our dear country.

In conclusion, while acceding to the right of all persons to air their views publicly, it is expected that they check the veracity of their write-ups to avoid twisting facts of an issue. Kperogi, particularly, must learn to separate deliberate falsehood from genuine criticism. If BMSG despite its ardent support for the president can within itself criticize some actions of the government and offer appropriate advice where necessary, we would not frown at citizens who choose to toe this path, but it must be done with all sense of responsibility.”

Though the conclusions he draw were in the realm of speculation and mainly hypothetical, still it is of necessity to put the record straight.

There indeed exists a Buhari media Support Group, and not Buhari Media Centre.

The group does not have government funding of any sort, and does not manipulate the media, but the Group is firm at ensuring that the numerous achievements of the Buhari administration to reposition the country are not hidden from the Nigerian people who unanimously voted for him.

As clarified when the Kperogi article was first published, the Group is not a “shadowy organization” as it operates in the open.

Taming The Tides of Insecurity through Effective Road Network By A Working Governor, By Petra Akinti Onyegbule

As we journeyed from Lokoja to Okene enroute to Akure for the swearing-in ceremony of the Ondo State Governor-elect, Barr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), my mind dwelled on a number of things that have changed in my journeys along the familiar road with deep reflections on the innate capacity of purposeful leadership to fully transmogrify failing infrastructures into pliable ones with sheer dint of commitment and sufficient political will to deliver in the glare of scarce resources.

Much of these thoughts in-dwelled me before settling on the road we were driving on – the Lokoja – Okene stretch of the Federal Highway and I realised once again how much our everyday life is affected by governance, anchored on leadership or the lack of it and how inexorably linked our access to infrastructure is, to our living standards and what difference a visionary leadership could make in a short period of time when leadership is accompanied by focus, selflessness and commitment and I averred that true leadership is not about being in charge, true leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.

Being from Ogori, the road is one I had plied very frequently. And as we moved smoothly and swiftly for that matter, I recalled how torturous transiting through this road used to be, few months down the fading past. The experience was always a nasty one with intermittent descent into wide gullies bestriding the un-motorable road lack of networks amidst insecure grunts of apprehension. As my mind lingered on the ease and comfort now experienced on the road, compared with what obtained in the not too distant past amidst the attendant jolt from my thoughtful riverie, I became suddenly overcome with emotions and overwhelmed with deserving appreciation as commendations for His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello from social commentators who are frequent users of the road continually come to mind.

Of the several journeys through that road I can remember, there has never been one that felt like this one. The journey was smooth and quick. There have been several leaders at the helms of affairs in our dear Kogi State, but I make bold to say none has given this road this much attention at renewal, no one, not even close. Never mind the question of the consistent window dressing of majority of our prominent roads by successive administrations with outrightly purchased or rented size of mammoth crowds to cheer the leaders for variegated political plaudits at the bogus commissioning- those are plays upon the stage. What is truly unprecedented in the mind of the patriotic and discerning Kogi people is the propelling love of the people by the Governor, the desire to improve on their access to functional road infrastructure and the sheer magnitude of quickening heartbeats in millions of Kogi people who are filled with appreciation for the uncommon transformation of their once ruined road networks which they hitherto plied largely buffeted within and without by the simmering ache of dread.

I have never seen that road that motorable, that pliable, that secure and that smooth. ‘I have never taken a journey so swift all thanks to the Governor’s development efforts’, said an excited commuter.

I have never seen a people that excited, that appreciative and that contented with the performance of a Governor. And I looked back at the past – how I have never seen Kogi people that anxious, that fearful, that sad and disenchanted, more like very uncertain of its course in those times that the road was a scary nightmare.

In a similar vein, I have never seen a transformation so vivid with clear evidence of committed work and applauded performance so unencumbered by questions of divisiveness, tribalism, qualifications and ethical considerations. All these happened with no specter of local or foreign foes casting any dark shadow over the workings of our democracy as heralded by the working Governor without segregational colouration.

One thing about performance is that it cuts across all the people as ultimate beneficiaries without undue interference by a tangled web of conflicting interests. Despite the pageantry of unity that accompanies any accomplishment that cuts across everyone in Kogi state, there is a piercing sense of fulfillment that touches close to home that the one doing these exploits is the revolutionary game changer Governor. A man the people have come to enjoy their decision to bestow the keys to the Kogi State leadership room with conclusions on his character and fitness for the office he humbly holds.

Apart from the cogent and limitless benefits to travellers on this road and many others in form of easy and comfortable drive, less wear and tear on vehicles and the tyres, faster and safer travels, there is a more important reason why people of good conscience continue to applaud the performing Governor Bello for working on the road- the improvement on the security apparatus on the roads that yielded in his recognition as the Governor with the greatest strides in security improvement in the country in the last year under review.

It should be recalled that these bad roads hitherto contributed to the insecurity challenges faced by the State as they made it easy for robberies and kidnaps to happen unfettered on that axis. Journeys on that route were previously characterised by reasonable apprehension, palpable fear of imminent danger over carefully orchestrated robbery ambushes and hostage taking owing to the slowness of journeys accentuated by structurally defective road infrastructure.

This move to further improve on security which is priority for a responsible government like Governor Bello’s, the Governor acting on intelligence reports that criminals hide behind bushes along the roads to perpetuate crime, directed that in line with the Kogi State Government’s unalloyed commitment to ensuring security, STARDUST CONSTRUCTION WORKS Ltd be engaged to clear 5 meters on both sides of the roads from Kabba Junction to Otite in Okehi LGA; Check Point in Okene LGA to Okpela; from Check Point in Okene LGA to Ajaokuta to assist the road networks, open up the lingering hideout of criminals on that route and ultimately contribute to nipping insecurity challenges in the bud once and for all.

As if that was not enough, the government did not rest on its oars, the second phase of the road clearing and widening project was billed to commence from Kabba Junction through Odo-Ape to Kabba Town. The third phase will equally commence from Lokoja through Ganaja to Ajaokuta Township and the link road between Igalamela/Odolu to Ofu and several internal road path in Omala LGA which have been previously considered to be insecurity flashpoints for the unbridled infestation of crime in the State.

It is instructive and commendable to note that the Kogi State Government has completed the clearing of the roadsides between Koton-karfe and Abaji in fulfilment of her giant strides towards delivering on its promises to improve on the road networks and ensuring the security of lives and property of the commuters in a continuous bid to making Kogi safer and more secure.

The fact that one of the multi-dimensional approaches the Bello-led administration is taking to curb insecurity challenge in Kogi State is to improve on the road network confirms his faultless genius as solving the people’s peculiar infrastructural challenges and delivering the dividends of democracy to all Kogi people irrespective of their political affiliation despite the unavailability of scarce resources. It is worthy of note that these worthwhile huge investments in the road and security infrastructure is already paying off as seen in the substantial improvement of security in the State.

One can only wish the hard working, diligent, extremely focused and performing Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello, more wisdom, strength and sound health as he continues in his laudable efforts and giant strides poised towards repositioning our dear State in more ways than one as cardinal focal points of his development drive contained in the New Direction Blueprint in the years ahead. Indeed, Kogi State people are grateful for this unprecedented transfiguration and sincerely pray the state continues in this New Direction.

God bless, His Excellency, Mr. Governor.
God bless the people of Kogi State.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Petra Akinti Onyegbule is the Chief Press Secretary to the Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello.

Evaluating The Gains And Pains Of The Kogi State Govt’s Staff Verification Exercise, By Petra Akinti Onyegbule

With a monthly wage bill well in excess of 3 billion naira and total monthly revenue comprising federal allocation and internally generated revenue that would occasionally manage to hit 2.7 billion naira on a particularly good month, it was a politically and ethnically divided state with huge infrastructural deficit and very lopsided finances that Governor Yahaya Adoza Bello inherited in January last year at the behest of his administration.

This extraordinary state of affairs put the incoming governor in between a rock and a hard place, but he wasted little time in setting up a Staff Verification Exercise Committee. This committee was tasked with helping to plug the leakages in the system by sanitising government payroll and pruning the state’s civil service, ridding it of ghost workers, an extremely padded work force, shocking redundancies, double paychecks, proliferation of ineligibles, and names that should generally not be on the government’s payroll.

Granted that with the exercise marking its first year today, it has no doubt taken longer than was originally envisaged. However, the groundswell of resistance towards the idea of staff verification was so intense and so rancorous right from the onset that one cannot in all honesty overlook the fact that many of these dissenting voices are sponsored by our detractors and people who desire not the progress of the state nor the welfare of its citizens by clandestinely encouraging the old order of fees manipulation, voucher-stuffing and inappropriate payment that perpetually plunged the State’s finances into bad debt and dour watershed. This is not to discountenance the sincere concerns of genuinely aggrieved workers who have been affected by the exercise, but ultimately, the exercise has been to the benefit of the people whom the Government swore to serve.

Findings of the committee so far have revealed how massive the drain on the state’s scarce finances have been. At this point, the exercise now saves the state billions of naira, with as many as 8,879 ghost workers flagged on the payroll. To be honest, this is a huge one and it is quite unfortunate to imagine how much funds had gone into the coffers of ghost workers who never worked for the government. ‘It is no longer business as usual, but business unusual’, the people remarked as the bad eggs are flushed out.

These staggering numbers ensure the state’s books are firmly in the red and awkwardly in unjustifiable deficit even before anything gets done in terms of execution of capital projects. What this means in essence is that even if all that was expected of government was to sign off on monthly payroll, Kogi’s federal allocation plus IGR would require significant subvention for salaries alone to be sorted out on a monthly basis, just because of the nefarious activities of some evil cabals who out of their stuffing dubious efforts have made it increasingly difficult, If not impossible for the State to meet its statutory monthly payment obligations.

This level of sleaze is what some fellow Kogites had gotten used to over time and under previous administrations, and it goes to explain the absolute lack of infrastructure in the state, even as public debts and obligations kept mounting to high heavens in unimaginable proportions. And here was this young, but very competent Governor with vast administrative experience attempting to expose all of that monthly ritual, and put an end to it. No one expected the payroll cabal would go down without a fight, so we were prepared for them from the get go as no one fights corruption without corruption fighting back.

Like as already been noted, this Government regrets the hiccups the exercise has endured so far. Valid concerns were raised by Labour vide the respective unions about the original committee tasked with this assignment. Unfortunately, mistakes were made in the process of trying to make the process more transparent and all-inclusive. But rather than churn out a shoddy job, Governor Bello would rather a thorough job is done that will stand the test of time, and also offer a veritable platform to build upon, irrespective of how long it takes, afterall, whatever was worth doing at all, is worth doing well.

At the last count, 88,973 individuals have been screened at state and local government level, with an appeal panel set up to address valid complaints from those who were not cleared. Gradually, the State is making progress in its lofty initiative of ridding the civil service of palpable rot and a bloated payroll of non-existent workers. The process may be slow and painstaking, but it is sure and steady. The exercise might come with temporary pains, but the gains are permanent and enduring. The State Government thus wants to assure the people that the outcome will be fair to all concerned. While at it, the Bello-led government continues to ensure payment of entitlements to its bonafide workers as verified with promises to extend same to others going through the verification processes.

Equally significant is the pace of infrastructural development ongoing in countless parts of the state. As government plugs drains in the system, it is also working hard at expanding its revenue base and converting it’s savings into verifiable laudable schemes of visible development. The significant savings arising from the painful but necessary payroll reforms, plus government earnings from other sources are all coming together to help transform the state into one big construction site, and for the benefit of all Kogites.

As expected, every cogent change takes time and comes with considerable resistance. The proponents and the beneficiaries of the padded work force would naturally resist the move and paint the process as a witch-hunting exercise with maligning anecdotes. But one thing about witch-hunting is that it takes a witch to be witch-hunted, this is by self-acceptance, admittance, rather than critical indictment. Staff verification is known to have taken much longer elsewhere, but there seems to be something about Yahaya Bello’s Kogi that gets people talking all the time, even when the chatter is unwarranted.

More often than not, sacrifices like this are misunderstood to be punishment because of the skewed perception of the illegitimate beneficiaries. But this is a cleansing measure to save the State’s finances, not a punitive one. The Governor’s determination to be thorough about the exercise, rather than pay lip service to it and achieve little or nothing in the end, sets him apart from the others. His mantra is that, whatever happens, no genuine worker will be sacked. And God willing, the outcome of the exercise will endure integrity tests. This is the Bello ideal and midas touch mantra.

This is why an Appeal Panel was set up to ensure that every worker who has not been cleared is given a final opportunity to do so. What’s more, the Appeal Panel has been charged to let the work they do be guided by the principles of fairness, transparency and justice. It has been tasked to ensure that no innocent person suffers the brunt unjustly and no guilty is left in the saving books unhammered. The era of sacred cows is over and for good.

Again, let me echo His Excellency’s commitment to ensuring all genuine workers and pensioners get their legitimate due. Painful as a surgery can be, some times it is the only option if a life must be saved. Every surgical operation comes with some opening and some pain, but the patient must ensure same to be whole. One cannot because of labour pains refuse to give birth again. So it is with Kogi State and these necessary civil service reforms. We had gotten to the point where no other approach would have sufficed in order to keep the State afloat. It is only logical that blockage replaces leakages for development aims to be reasonably achieved.

To ensure proper deterrence is set, and in order to avoid a slide back to our former ways anytime soon, the Governor intends to make examples of some senior civil servants under whose watch the state’s finances were so pillaged. Permanent secretaries, Directors, Treasurers and other key personnel will be made to account for expended funds that passed through them. As a result, accountability must be the watchword going forward. Civil servants must learn to take responsibility.

As always, government craves the indulgence of Kogites and seeks their usual understanding in stemming the tide of this corruption that has deprived Kogites of meaningful development for ages. Having come this far, the end of this difficult exercise is already in sight. By end of March, we would be completely done with this phase of the civil service reforms. As funds get freed up from the clutches of those who have intercepted them all these years, they will be made readily available to genuine, hardworking and deserving staff who have worked and earned their wages. Soon, the era of delayed salaries will be long-forgotten.

Additionally, civil servants will be equipped with the requisite resources including manpower trainings that they will require to add value to the system and ensure we have an efficient and effective civil service that is merit-driven, competitive, productive, sound, sustainable and sustained. As cliche as it may sound, the entrenched rot took years to take root and bear fruits. One year is a long time, but not too long to displace a monster which had grown really powerful enough to threaten the existence of the State. March is here, this phase shall be over and the civil service structure we help build today will ensure the state’s workforce is not taken for a ride again. Until this is done can there be room for genuine recruitment of those willing to work in line with the Government’s laudable dream.

Having obtained the feedback on payment; it was discovered that some were overpaid, some underpaid, whilst some were cleared but yet unpaid. This problem was however caused by the different bankers who had to deal with the enormity of work in tandem with the staff verification exercise. But despite the understandable cause, Mr. Governor was displeased with the Banks and he very much expressed his displeasure at their incompetence especially because of those cleared workers that were yet unpaid and he swiftly directed a redress.

A reconciliation team to look into the books and reconcile the records have been doing just that. This past Friday, some cases were sorted and some medical doctors who were erroneously paid via Grade Level instead of CONMESS had their cases sorted out. This is effective governance in display and leadership at work and Mr. Governor deserves accolades for his sheer humanity on this.

Beyond this, it is instructive to note that the widespread digitalization of the State workforce has begun. We are moving with the times in line with international best practices and standards in order to put paid to deliberate errors of human judgment for pecuniary advantages. This is ultimately to regulate and concretize our payroll, to ensure that payment is standardized on one hand and the ‘Clock in and clock out’ policy as obtained in the developed world to ensure people work for their wages and that the government no longer pays for work not done or pay for what it never bought. All these are lofty strides put in place by the digital Governor in this tech age towards improving civil service efficiency and productivity.

At the end of the staff and pensioners’ verification exercise, there will be monumental benefits to the State, the workers, pensioners and the generality of Kogi State people. It is normal that restructuring policies of government verging on tax, wage cuts, verification of workers and pensioners which are sound policy prescriptions would be often misinterpreted because of incompatible partisan interest. What is paramount however is that a serious government gives primacy and utmost priority to sound restructuring policies that have the best possible positive impact on the greatest number of people. This is what the Bello-led administration has done. This is what this government exemplifies.

This administration inherited several major liabilities. One of them is this over-bloated wage bill with the vouchers inundated with many ‘Ghost Names’ on the State Government’s payroll, this exercise has therefore assisted in weeding out ghost names with great successes recorded. This savings will thereby create room for some genuine employment. Government’s thrust is to undertake the verification exercise thoroughly to block all leakages. It is against this background that the verification exercise executed by this administration is deemed timely.

From the budgetary point of view, a massive recurrent expenditure stultifies development and does not encourage government to meet its macroeconomic goals of wealth and job creation, capital project funding and above all poverty reduction in the State. Since the verification exercise has the ability of reducing the burdening cost of governance, then it is equally capable of reducing recurrent expenditure. A reduction of the recurrent component of the budget implies that more capital projects would be embarked upon to re-position the economy on a strong pedestal to create jobs for the good people of Kogi.

The verification exercise is therefore well intended to block leakages in an era when the Nigerian economy is hemorrhaging, with profound backlash on staff salaries and its attendant unmet expectations in service delivery and it is hoped that it is encouraged and supported by all the well-meaning people of Kogi. Verification seeks to free some money for investment in critical infrastructure with spill-over effect on capital development. This indeed is the core essence and the overarching goal of the verification exercise. Ostensibly, in seeking the ‘public good’ in the overall interest of the people.

Another very germane reason is the desire for transparency and accountability. This government is built on public trust and accountability. The civil service is the live-wire of Government, which requires periodic restructuring for effective and productive service delivery of government policies and programmes. This lofty objective cannot be accomplished without staff verification, which helps in planning, policy packaging and implementation. Implementation, being the engine room of Government. It is only when the government knows it’s actual workforce, that it can adequately plan for them.

In the words of the NLC Chairman, Onu Edoka, “one of the most significant effects of the exercise is ‘attitudinal change’ amongst civil servants. If we understand the profundity of attitude on individuals and society, we will appreciate the enormity of work and impact this simple verification exercise has had on the general psyche of civil servants to make them more accountable and transparent in the discharge of their statutory duties.

Can’t Fight Xenophobia With Xenophobia By Simon Kolawole

Something unNigerian happened in Abuja on Thursday: protesters vandalised an MTN office in an apparent reprisal mission over the perennial xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa. MTN, being the biggest South African company in the country, is by far the easiest for reprisal. This, I suppose, was meant to send a message to South Africans that their interests in Nigeria are also at risk if they do not relent in their shameful targeting of Nigerians. It would seem Nigerians in the former apartheid enclave have committed an offence by doing well economically. When you flourish in a foreign land more than many of your hosts, envy and resentment are to be expected.

I said the Abuja reprisal is unNigerian because, to the best of my memory, Nigerians do not assault foreigners unprovoked. We even tend to treat foreigners better than fellow Nigerians. We must rank among the most accommodating societies in the world. Like a Nigerian who suffered xenophobic attacks in South Africa two years ago told the BBC: “If I should take you to my place, my mother would make your food first every morning before making my own food. That is how welcoming we are. That is how we show appreciation to foreigners.” He was described as “Ibo” but I can assure you that my mum would do the same thing. It is very Nigerian!

In a funny way, the attack on MTN in Abuja did not hurt South Africans — it hurt the Nigerian employees instead. Their phones and laptops were stolen. They were assaulted. So Nigerians are being robbed and molested in faraway South Africa — and, to retaliate, Nigerians are robbing and molesting fellow Nigerians in Abuja! You may say this is the dumbest thing to do, but I could see that many Nigerians — including those who should know better — were delighted. They even asked for more South African companies, such as Multichoice and Shoprite, to be targeted. Indeed, Nigerian students have asked a couple of South African companies to leave the country.

Why are South African thugs always attacking Nigerians? I think there are political and economic roots to the malady. Politically, Nigeria and South Africa have become fierce rivals since the end of apartheid. There is a struggle between the two to lead Africa. Nigeria, having contributed so much — more than any other country, I dare say — to the liberation of South Africa from apartheid, believes it deserves some deference from the southern African country. South Africa, having been built into a mini-Europe by the apartheid government, believes it should be the pre-eminent country in Africa. They feel superior to the rest of Africa, Nigeria inclusive.

When the question is asked, for instance, on the African country that should get a permanent seat in the Security Council of the UN — in the event that the Big Five are in a generous mood to admit more members — the battle is directly between Nigeria and South Africa, with Egypt putting up a slight fight. Nigeria displays as its credential the role it plays in peace-keeping across the continent and its financial and material support to poorer African countries, not forgetting its enormous population. South Africa flaunts its economic might and level of physical development, which is clearly ahead in sub-Sahara Africa. Pride is thus at play between the two countries.

However, the ascension of Mr. Jacob Zuma to power in South Africa seems to have magnified the rivalry between the two countries, who are working very hard to outplay each other in the politics of African Union. We should remember that South Africa and Nigeria took different positions in the crisis that rocked Cote d’Ivoire after the defeat of the recalcitrant President Laurent Gbagbo in the 2011 elections. In the crisis that engulfed Libya, eventually leading to the death of Muammar Ghaddafi, Nigeria and South Africa did not see eye to eye. We can safely conclude that there is no love lost between the two countries.

The political rivalry, I suspect, has spilled into other areas of human endeavour. The South African white economic elite, empowered by massive accumulation of capital under apartheid, had invaded the rest of Africa at the end of white minority rule. They had the biggest telecom companies, the biggest supermarket chains, the biggest banks and the biggest media companies. They were always going to dominate Africa. In no time, South African Airways, MTN, Vodacom, Shoprite, Pick n Pay, Spar, Steers, Debonairs, Hungry Lion, Mr. Price, Woolworths and DStv were all over the continent, prospering spectacularly in the huge Nigerian market.

Bu there are two South Africas in this game. There is the White South Africa and the Black South Africa. White South Africa is prosperous and adventurous while the Black South Africa is poor and desperate. The poor and desperate South Africa was created by the white supremacists who treated blacks as foot mat under apartheid, denying them good education and oppressing them mindlessly for decades. It will take several generations to undo this damage. White South Africa owns the big corporations, although the black middle class is gradually being initiated into the inner circle. Nevertheless, the majority of blacks are still struggling to breathe.

Now, the narrative of “Superior South Africa” is no longer limited to White South Africa; the black “nouveau riche” are also in on it. The poor and desperate blacks have also apparently been indoctrinated into seeing other Africans, particularly Nigerians, as different from themselves. They possibly see themselves as “black Europeans”. The success of immigrant businesses in South Africa is thus viewed by them as a threat and a nuisance. They cannot understand how Nigerians will come into their country and be making it big while they are struggling. The result is that Black South Africa now “beefs” us. We are easy targets when their economic frustrations boil over.

It gets complicated that some Nigerians are into crime — drug, fraud and prostitution. This provides an excellent excuse for South Africans to lump everybody together and conclude that Nigerians are “destroying” their country. Although Nigerians may not be able to run big corporations very well (most of our so-called big companies are one-man businesses that can hardly survive in a competitive economy), we are not bad in small business. Nigerian SMEs are doing very well in South Africa. Therefore, the poor and desperate South Africans cannot but envy and despise the prospering Nigerians. Their frustration and resentment are conjoined. Hence the attacks.

I have two conclusions. One, it is time for the Nigerian government to stand up strongly for Nigerians. Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, the foreign affairs minister, should summon the South African high commissioner and deliver a firm message to him. Also, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo should call up Zuma and let it be known that we too have the capacity to hurt them without throwing a single stone. It appears the South African government is deliberately not doing enough to protect Nigerians, maybe for political reasons. In fact, Nigerians complain that the authorities look the other way when they are being attacked. What a shame.

Two, the federal government should continue to protect South Africans and their assets in Nigeria. Nigerians are not known for xenophobia. We must not allow some misguided and deranged hate-mongers down below to distort our culture. We should, I propose, not repay evil with evil. We should not allow the conduct of the thugs to shape our own reaction. Hospitality to foreigners is a cultural thing for Nigerians. We cannot afford to lose it. An eye for an eye, it is said, will only make the whole world blind. We cannot fight xenophobia with xenophobia. When they go low, Michelle Obama said, we go high. Word.

AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…

OSINBAJO ON-THE-SPOT

You will never understand how overjoyed I was when I heard that the acting president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, paid an unscheduled visit to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos on Thursday. Not just that, he even inspected the God-damned toilets, conveyor belt, travelator, escalator and carousel. Osinbajo expressed dissatisfaction with most of what he saw. I love that. We have been complaining about this intercontinental embarrassment for years but we were ignored. It appears the airport has been deliberately left to rot in order to market Nigeria as an unserious country. Yet we keep saying we want to promote tourism, trade and investment. Jokers.

THAT N500K GIFT

Mr. Kola Awodein, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), has admitted giving Justice Adeniyi Ademola, a judge now facing corruption trial, a “gift” of N500,000 for his daughter’s wedding. Judges are normally not expected to accept gifts from lawyers — neither are lawyers expected to give gifts to judges. But this case is particularly interesting because Ademola was handling a case involving Awodein’s client, President Muhammadu Buhari, at the time. The bigger problem, though, is that since many judges are on trial for receiving “gifts”, Nigerians will be watching how this particular case goes. One gift can certainly not be more equal than others. Intriguing.

ASSESSING THE ASSESSOR

The University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) appears to be the first Nigerian public university to introduce student assessment of their teachers. UNN students will now grade their lecturers on the quality of instruction. The days of the “almighty lecturer” may be over — assuming the authorities will do something about teachers consistently rated poorly. It’s a common practice abroad. There is another practice I would want Nigerian universities to adopt: appointing two markers for every paper (preferably one male and one female). If both cannot agree on a grade, an external marker will make the final decision. The issue of sex-for-marks will be tackled forever. Innovative.

FLOBYT FREE WIFI

On a visit to Canada last year, I could not believe the pervasiveness of free WiFi in the country. Virtually every shopping mall, eatery and gas station made WiFi available at no cost. Someone once joked that WiFi should be a fundamental human right, and I’m beginning to toe that line too. It was gladdening to hear that Mavin Records founder Don Jazzy and technology company, Tsaboin, have launched Flobyt, a free WiFi service, in Nigeria. Mr. Dele Odufuye, Tsaboin MD/CEO, said the service has been installed across several locations in Lagos. The locations include eateries, parks, taxis, buses, restaurants, and cafés. This is really good news. Connecting!

Day Tambuwal Rained Encumiums On Imam Imam, By Ankeli Emmanuel

It was like every other event organized in the seat of the Caliphate, with lots of dignitaries in attendance.

As expected, the aura of the event was however more unique than others. More so that it serves as a platform for allowing the citizenry have a say as to how best they think governance should be for the overall interest of the led.

Yes, it was a day, when all stakeholders from across the length and breadth of the state gathered under one roof to discuss the 2017 Sokoto state budget presented by Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal before the State House of Assembly for consideration.

The event organized by the state Coalition of Non- Governmental Organizations (CONSS) was  in collaboration  with office of the governor’s special adviser, media and public affairs, Mallam Imam Imam.

Registering his modest surprise over the turn out, chairman of CONSS, Alhaji Abdullahi Shunni noted that “similar event to allow for public input into the state budget had been organized six times before now, but of all, this remained the first time a seating governor honours the event in person”.

Abdullahi Shunni in his presentation noted that, when the governed are duly aware of the government’s plans for them, it makes the business of governance lots easier; hence, transparency is guaranteed.

“There are about 173 member organizations across the 23 local government areas of the state that formed the CONSS.

“And collectively, we are suggesting that the governor finds strategies to improve locally generated revenue in view of the dwindling federal government allocation.

“We are also suggesting that the governor should continue  to strengthen agriculture, solid minerals  industries and increase his political will in blocking leakages”.

Narrating the rationale behind the 2017 stakeholders budget summit from his own perspective, Mallam Imam Imam, the special adviser, media and public affairs to Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, opined that, the 2-Day Stakeholders’ Consultative Forum on the Sokoto 2017 budget  will provide the needed opportunity to many to contribute on the various government policies and interventions.

Acccording to Imam Imam, the open-door policy of the government has amongst other benefits led to increased mutual trust.

“Sokoto is one of the few states that have adopted the Participatory Budget Model where communities often decide on what projects are to be executed by the government.

“Our aim is to continue to be more accountable and responsive. Citizens are diverse. Not only do citizen viewpoints differ from those of government insiders, it also differs from citizen to citizen.

“Because no single citizen or group of citizens is able to represent the views of all citizens, we arranged diverse groups of citizens at this forum to have a say on the fiscal document. We have representations from community leaders, organized private sector, women and student groups, non-governmental organizations among others.

“With this stakeholders’ consultative meeting, this administration has shown practically that it values the people’s ideas and their concerns.

“Participatory budgeting allows citizens to identify, discuss, and prioritize public spending projects, and it gives them the power to make real decisions about how things are done. This has led to entrenchment of mutual trust which is today benefiting government and citizens equally”.

Mallam Imam Imam in his submission on the relevance of collective intellectually mutual deliberation as a reliable source for better achievements noted that everybody’s view point matters in good governance.

“When residents gather as we have here today, they have the opportunity to agree upon important decisions, and with everyone weighing in, we can build healthier, more vibrant, and more economically diverse and economically sound communities.

“Sokoto’s 2017 budget has outlined various strategies that will lead to increased investment, boost internal revenue and ensure inclusive growth in all parts of the state.

“The strategies to be adopted include aligning monetary, trade and fiscal policies and expand infrastructure, ensure the development of small and medium scale enterprises, improve ease of doing business, deliver the desired change in the agricultural sector and importantly expand government’s social investment programmes in areas like education, health, youth and women empowerment”.

After herald of speeches by other dignitaries, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal took the stage and disclosed that the 2017 Sokoto Stakeholders Budget Summit was very important hence it lays further foundation  for all-inclusive government.

Tambuwal, however broke his silence on some of the criticisms rained on him by the people of the state with a very revealing testimony on reasons for some of his actions considered absurd by some.

What baffles many was not just the mere fact that Governor Tambuwal gave an explicit but very convincing reasons for appointing those considered as non-indigenes into his administration but also left participants in the 2017 Budget Summit in no doubt that his appointments will continue to be on merits.

Before President Buhari Returns Home By @DeleMomodu

Fellow Nigerians, something major is happening in our dear beloved country and it is very positive. Every disappointment they say is a blessing. While we are very sad that our President, Muhammadu Buhari, has not been feeling too well for some time now and needs treatment and recuperation abroad, I now believe that God wants him to also have some time for sober and deep reflection. Someone asked me about two weeks ago, on Twitter if I have given up on the Buhari government? My answer was an emphatic NO! And the reason I gave was simple and straight-forward enough: I believe in miracles. 
 
What has happened in Nigeria in the past few weeks, even days, can only be a testimony to that miracle I prophesised. When President Buhari left Nigeria he formally wrote to the Senate putting his Vice-President in charge as Acting President until he returns. That singular act which is merely a repetition of what was done during previous extended personal visits abroad by the President is salutary as it is stellar and itself heralded the transformation in this government that we are witnessing. It seems to me that President Buhari knew that his government needed some change in direction, some fillip, and in his infinite wisdom chose a subtle way to initiate that change without seeming to jettison his kitchen cabinet. 
 
When I flew out of Lagos to Johannesburg last Monday, February 20, 2017, a US dollar was selling for about 520 naira in the omnipotent black market. As at Thursday, it was selling at around 475 Naira. By yesterday, Friday 24 February 2017the Naira was exchanging at about 460 Naira to the Dollar.  What a difference a week makes.  This remarkable resurgence of the Naira is coming on the heels of new policies and directives that the CBN has been mandated to put in place by the rejuvenated economic team that the Acting President is the driving force.
 
Not just that, I received a report from Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi that the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, paid an unscheduled visit to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport on Thursday, February 23, 2016, and caught the airport officials napping. My joy knew no bounds. Only last Saturday, I had complained bitterly about that unfortunate airport on this very page. 
 
In the past seven years, I must have written countless times about that that gory airport. It was one of the reasons I disliked President Jonathan’s government because it had done a wishy-washy renovation of the place and was celebrating it as if we can now compete with some of the best airports in Africa (note that I did not mention Dubai, Europe or America). I took pictures of dead escalators, comatose elevators, jet bridges in blatant darkness, leaking roofs, cranky conveyor belts, flooded and stinking toilets, murky basements, potential structural deficiencies from a disused underground car park and generally an airport in various stages of disrepair, dilapidation and decay. We did what we could to alert our leaders to the monumental disgrace at that airport. 
 
It is however not just the infrastructure that is wrong with the Airport.  At a time when the Acting President has launched a 60-day initiative for making it easier to do business in Nigeria, it is incumbent upon him to ensure that this starts from our international airports as this is the first thing that the foreign visitor and investor sees upon arrival in Nigeria. I have never been able to understand why we must have Security operatives openly checking passports along their Immigration airports upon arrival at the Airport.  In the same vein, I cannot understand why we must stick with the archaic, unhealthy and unsafe practice of manually rummaging through passenger’s luggage when they are departing and having the full complement of security agencies visibly on hand to do this to the inconvenience of passengers and other airport users.  Technology has long since gone beyond this. Security and search of luggage is now automated, mechanical and above all unobtrusive.  It cannot be the case that our huge unemployment rate is responsible for creating jobs where none should exist thus creating an indolent corrupt workforce.  The devil they say finds work for idle hands.  Despite our repeated calls for the overhauling of the International Airport, Minister after Minister have however behaved as if the place was virtually jinxed and the gods of Abuja could do nothing to sanction their rascality.
 
Anyway. The good news is that the Acting President has started doing some of the things we expected and advised President Buhari to do. I do not want to over-excite anyone yet but this is smelling good, like the Americans would put it. We must enter special prayers and intercede with serious fasting so that President Buhari can continue along this path of progress when he returns to office, hopefully very shortly, by the grace of God. 
 
I had suggested in my memos to him that what he was looking for in Sokoto (the city) is actually in his sokoto (pocket). He has got a powerful joker in the pack and that is his Vice President. Professor Osinbajo is not your typical politician. He is a technocrat with the diligence, astuteness and thoroughness of the smart lawyer that he is. He has a passion for Nigeria and its great development that is uncanny and worthy of emulation. Whilst I am relatively close to Prof Osinbajo through my best friend, Prince Adedamola Aderemi, and his family, we do not meet that often.  However, we once met at London Heathrow, long before he ever dreamt of becoming Vice President, if he ever did, and we discussed Nigeria for so long, almost forgetting that we had flights to catch. I remember how we agreed that running a government should not be so difficult. Our paths crossed again during the campaigns. He and our mutual friends, Pastors Ituah Ighodalo and Ghandi Afolabi Olaoye who were with him at the time, shared similar hopes for Nigeria. Our passion alone coupled with temporal faith in the Buhari/Osinbajo administration was enough to move mountains.
 
So, what went so wrong that this miraculous government began to wobble and fumble as soon as it came to power? It is one of those ironies of politics that a government that came on the promise of ameliorating the suffering of the people actually exacerbated the terrible situation it met on ground. 
 
Many wonder why a government and political party that has an Osinbajo and parades several other political wizards has found it difficult to stabilise the economy? How come a President that received substantial votes from across the country without much controversy could not unify the nation? Why did Buhari decide to start his tenure with fighting on too many fronts? Here was a leader who already had his hands full from Boko Haram menace. The only reasonable conclusion was that President Buhari was programmed to fail by the same cabal that has held Nigeria by the jugular since Independence. This fact, that Baba was heavily jazzed by some principalities, was actually corroborated by an insider and no less a personage than Mrs Aisha Buhari, the wife of our President. 
 
Truth is Professor Osinbajo is re-navigating the country in the right direction and should be encouraged to do more by President Buhari. If a man discovers a snake and a woman kills it, it doesn’t matter who did what. The glory ultimately goes to President Buhari for having the wisdom of entrusting Nigeria to such a loyal and dependable ally. Baba should ignore the demons of power who may wish to drive a wedge between them. Any parent or sibling would be proud of a child making the family great. This is what Osinbajo is doing and he should be commended and applauded for it.
 
Nigeria needs to make a lot of money quickly and reduce the dollar rate since most business people depend on importation of goods and even services. For the time being, our first source of income is oil. Osinbajo has done the most necessary thing by visiting the Niger Delta and offering the olive branch to the militants. I don’t know why Baba thought he could wipe them off the surface of the earth just like that. Thank God, something good is likely to come out of this timely effort at dialogue and negotiation. 
 
The second major task for the Acting President is to resuscitate and revive our ailing companies.  Many of them are shutting down and everything must be done to ensure that they resume business properly. Too many Nigerians have already lost their scarce jobs due to the stubbornness of government to free its soul from siege mentality and see businessmen and women as partners in progress.
 
The third major mission is to ease the palpable tension in the land. President Buhari has done very well in fighting insurgency in the North but, sadly, a new menace is ravaging Southern Kaduna where lives are being wasted recklessly. We pray that government would find a quick solution. Peace must be allowed to reign supreme and Government must be seen not to be taking sides.
 
The government bureaucracy in Nigeria is atrocious. Everything must be done to curtail the excesses of civil servants who are too set in their ways. The rule of Law must be enforced. No Nigerian should feel inferior to a fellow citizen on account of ethnicity or religion. No one is comfortable investing in a country full of stress and unnecessary hiccups. 
 
When Baba returns, he should reach out more to Nigeria. Many people feel he has become too distant and a bit standoffish since achieving his dream of attaining power. I personally believe that this may not be the truth but perception counts a lot. When Baba comes back, he should be less acrimonious and reconcile Nigeria. Nigeria is haemorrhaging dangerously.  Prof Osinbajo seems to be waving a magic wand right now.  President Buhari will do well to own that magic wand when he returns and build on the progress made by his Vice President.  That is the essence of a good team. It is what Nigerians desire and what they deserve after the darkness that they have recently been plunged into.
Bashorun Dele Momodu OVATION International +234 805 506 9220 www.ovationinternational.com www.delemomodu2011.com

Concerning PDP’s Misguided Foot And Misfiring Gun By John Mayaki

Like an errant child, the Edo State Chapter of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has done it again. In a reckless press conference that displayed the opposition party’s penchant for acting unheedingly to details, PDP swaggered into town, like a mouse into a cattery, attempting fruitlessly to vilify both the All Progressives Congress and Governor Godwin Obaseki.

If PDP wants to throw a tantrum, there is no problem with that. There is however some problem with if PDP, in throwing its tantrum, abandons order and sanity, picks up a gun, and shoots itself in the foot.

PDP’s history is replete with particulars of where the party has deployed little tact and shown even lesser invention in the conduct of its affairs. Now, in this most unfortunate press conference, the Chairman of the Edo state Chapter of the People’s Democratic Party, Chief Dan Orbih has gone and dwelt on issues both himself and his political party lack every moral grounds to pontificate.

Firstly, the question that ran through the minds of rational Edo people is what is the character of the man talking? Are the words of this man – Chief Dan Orbih – and his antecedents before him, and his party to be taken seriously or with a pinch of salt?

Dan Orbih is Chairman of a PDP that governed for about 10 years in Edo state and created unquantifiable socio-political mess for which the people angrily voted the party out of power and replaced it with the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Under the administration of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the mess by Dan Orbih’s PDP was being cleared up and the people of Edo State, satisfied with APC, chose to vote in Mr Godwin Obaseki. He is continuing, like his predecessor before him, with helping the people of Edo State to recover from the unmitigated trauma of PDP governance in the state.

How then can an unblushing Dan Orbih, who has no moral justification whatsoever, seeing as his party failed the people and the state woefully, begin to paint the APC government in bad light simply because he wants socio-political relevance, which the wise people of Edo state will not avail the PDP anymore.

Ordinarily against this backdrop, Orbih’s conference and the claims he made therein should be ignored. However, it is necessary to respond to them, as his intention is to whip up public sentiments against the state government.

One is worried as to where Orbih and his party forged documents from that they could claim with such an unholy level of confidence that they are government documents in that ill-fated press conference. The veracity of the said document needs to be authenticated because PDP can go to any length to fabricate anything including and not limited to Government Vouchers.

For a public document like a voucher purportedly obtained from the government house to be authentic and taken seriously, it must be either the original or a certified true copy. In this case, the PDP, in furnishing journalists with the said vouchers did not disclose whether it was the original copy or a certified true copy let alone which authority certified it assuming it was the latter.

On the issue of cabinet formation, Governor Obaseki will not be blackmailed into making mistakes, for so we can infer from PDP’s unwise press conference. He is taking his time to put a credible and competent team together with appointees who must be recommended from the 192 wards to the state government.

Section 14, schedule 4 of the constitution states that the composition of government in Nigeria shall be carried out in such a manner as to recognize the diversity and dynamics within that government constituency, therefore, it cannot be expected that the appointments of cabinet members are to be done overnight, if this provision has to be adhered to.

Orbih must be reminded that there is a process of appointment and if he is busy plotting how to get an appointment, then why will he not simply say so. If that is the case, he should apply from his ward and the party will consider his papers if he is eligible. His character, if worthy, will advocate for him.

However, the public is quite perceptive to his dubious academic credentials, which can block his eligibility in the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led government. Governor Obaseki needs people who know their onions, not assumptive people. Neither will a party like the PDP suffer a man whose mien suggests a bereavement of ideas, work experience and credible means of livelihood to get political appointments under its famed umbrella.

On the issue of Contributory Pension Scheme, Orbih should be asked what is wrong in initiating schemes designed to protect workers’ welfare at an old age. The Pension Reform Act of 2004 gives the state government authority to implement its provisions in favour of workers.

Besides PDP and Orbih lacked the gumption, even they were extravasating outlandish ideas at ill-conceived press conferences to reveal to Edo people that Governor Godwin Obaseki budgeted N6 Billion to facilitate the scheme just as deductions are paid into designated pension funds custodians.

Therefore, Edo State Government wishes to assure the good people of the state of its readiness to initiate and execute people oriented programs that will improve the standard of living, generate jobs for our teeming youths, deepen the economy, provide security and create the enabling environment for socio-economic activities to flourish.

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