‘King Of Witches’: Struggling Against Community Madness, For Children’s Rights By Afeso Albert Akanbi

I think it is time for the government to step in,
not in words but through action, to study the issue of child abuse in detail, understand the systems of representations of specific beliefs, the actions and social mechanisms related to mob justice, religious operations and traditional institutions…

In the first quarter of the year 2000, then a student of the University of Calabar, Sam Itauma, upon a trip to his home town in Akwa Ibom State, was still seated astride the motorcycle as it wove its way through the crowd in the market square near his home in Ikot Afaha, Eket, when he saw another crowd near the not too far town hall doing something really bizarre.

Akwa Ibom is not far from Calabar, where over 100 years ago, Scottish missionary Mary Slessor stopped the killing of twins, whose births were considered by the natives for many years at that time as an evil curse.

Perhaps this is why today, cruelty to children can be easily stomached by indigenes of the State.

Eket is a small oil rich yet poverty stricken city. There, child abuse has recently taken on a new dimension. Although the people worshiped Ala the ‘earth deity’ through their ancestors, now Christianity has been predominantly fused with the traditional local belief system so that there is an upsurge in the number of prophets and pastors, some of them founders, others pastors of churches which are local franchises of big denominations, who have discovered that they can only prove their spirituality by naming children, 15 years downwards, as witches.

In conjunction with communities and local militias comprising mainly of the youth, children are declared witches, rounded up, tortured, abandoned, maimed and even killed.

In a depressing case, a pastor denounced an unsuspecting and vulnerable boy of about 10 years. Thereafter, his father tried to force acid down the boy’s throat in a desperate bid for exorcism; the acid spilled over as he struggled, burning his face. The boy died a month after.

If the fact that no one was punished for the boy’s death was alarmingly enough, then the most depressing part of it all is that the boy’s passing was celebrated as ‘one less mouth to feed’!

According to my friend, Mr. Sam Itauma, founder of the Child Right and Rehabilitation Network (CRARN), in recent times, over 30,000 children have been maimed, abandoned, tortured and even killed at the behest of pastors, with the blessing of society.

Sam Itauma was nicknamed ‘King of Witches’ because, for over 15 years, he assumed the arduous task of taking into his home kids who have been abandoned, most times at great risk to his own life.

Everywhere one turns, it appears we are taking out our frustrations on the most vulnerable, even though all our major religions admonish us to protect and cherish them as the future of our species.

When he saw the crowd on that fateful day, he quickly jumped down from the motorcycle and ran into the thickest part of the mob. Under the supervision of a boy, he discovered that they were actually beating a five-year old accused of witchcraft. It was a very rowdy crowd, with many of them holding all manner of instruments that could inflict mortal wounds on a person. Upon seeing Sam, because she knew of his reputation, the little girl began to plead with him to save her life. Sam saw the visible stripes thorn into her flesh from the long canes that had been used on her. By then she had crawled into a hole that had formed under the root of a large hibiscus tree that had bowed to the rhythm of a great wind, which was just large enough to cover the upper part of her body. Some of the boys were pulling at her legs to pull her out, while others kept raining torrents of the cane on the visible part of her body. Still groaning in pain and crying for help, she clung desperately to the roots of the large tree in hiding.

Mr. Sam related how a chill ran through his spine upon seeing that spectacle. He was confused and in tears. In desperation, he yelled at the ring leader, a boy he knew very well, that if the girl dies he will make sure he was prosecuted.

One of the boys in the crowd warned him to stop wasting his time trying to save a little ‘witch’, while there were much more in the town hall already condemned. Confused, Sam dashed for the town hall not far from the market square.

The level of madness dawned on him when he saw that over 40 people, mostly kids, had been rounded up earlier in a large witch hunt that was akin to a pogrom. They had received so much beating that about eight of them had actually died. The little girl was one of them but had escaped at the town hall. Her assailants had pursued and caught up with her at the market square.

The CIA World Fact Book 2017 puts Nigeria’s population at 186,000,000, with children below the age of 14 being put at slightly over 42 percent, meaning that today we have over 70 million children in Nigeria. Yet, only a very negligible number of kids are not abused in one way or the other today.

Alimajiris and child brides, resulting in extreme cases of VVF, abound in the North as street hawkers, child labourers, house helps; while out of school kids are in the West, as baby factories disguising as orphanage homes abound in the South-East in general and Enugu State in particular. And now these unfortunate souls called child ‘witches’?

Everywhere one turns, it appears we are taking out our frustrations on the most vulnerable, even though all our major religions admonish us to protect and cherish them as the future of our species.

For example, in Kano State alone, over three million alimajiris are left by parents, who are extremely poor, in the hands of mostly illiterate imams with no knowledge of child care. Sometimes up to 50 almajiri children are left to one man, left to begging for alms and doing menial jobs, from which they make returns to the imams.

According to the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education, Adamu Hussaini and Chioma Chuka of Tech-Her, Nigeria has the highest out-of-school kids, not only in Africa but in the entire world!

Children accused of witchcraft are subjected to psychological and physical violence, first by their family members, and then circle of friends, local militias, church and pastors or traditional healers. Once accused of witchcraft, children are stigmatised and discriminated for life.

Yet the popular ‘woman of God’ in Port Harcourt and her co-travellers believe and preach that ‘Satan manifests himself in children as witches and wizards’, and find the heart to exploit poverty, ignorance, and superstition to further their trade, by making videos and writing books on ‘ways of discovering a child witch’, and denouncing the kids as such. Parents are made to pay as much as 400,000 Naira in some cases for the ‘deliverance’ of these kids.

It is depressing to know what millions of Nigerian children in their formative and highly impressionable years are going through today.

What is going on in Akwa Ibom is a clear case of child abuse, aided and abetted by a willing and an insensitive adult society and it must be stopped with immediate effect.

Children accused of witchcraft are subjected to psychological and physical violence, first by their family members, and then circle of friends, local militias, church and pastors or traditional healers. Once accused of witchcraft, children are stigmatised and discriminated for life.

On December 5, 2008, under some type of pressure, the former governor of Akwa Ibom State signed the UN Charter on the rights of children into law, listing stiff penalties for offenders, yet since then nothing much has changed. In fact, it was not long after that one dubious figure by the name of ‘The Bishop’, who owns a church in Ibaka, Akwa Ibom State, confessed in front of cameras to single-handedly killing over 110 child ‘witches’. Reliable sources say that figure is way more than that. He was arrested and charged to court. As I write, this man is free and left to continue his business.

Because belief in witchcraft practically disappeared in Europe with all its attendant ills, it was previously believed that the same thing would happen here. But the current situation indicates the contrary. Far from fading away, the social and cultural representations have been maintained and transformed in order to adapt to contemporary contexts.

If one visits the CRARN facility in Eket, one would see a very strong example of unbelievable survival, remarkable bravery and a tale of madness, of a people, that should ordinarily protect the most vulnerable in society.

I think it is time for the government to step in, not in words but through action, to study the issue of child abuse in detail, understand the systems of representations of specific beliefs, the actions and social mechanisms related to mob justice, religious operations and traditional institutions, and the political, economic and social situation of contemporary Nigerian societies that will enable the development of effective actions for child protection and awareness?raising with regard to the fundamental rights of the Nigerian child.

Our kids deserve nothing less.

Afeso Albert Akanbi is a novelist and researcher. Twitter: @afeso82. Instagram: afeso82. Blog: akanbifeso.wordpress.com.

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#NotToYoungToRule; Another Look At The Scoreboard By MikhaiL Adeniran

The National house of assembly recently passed a bill allowing Nigerians from the age of 25 be able to contest for elections from state house of assembly, to governorship, to national assembly and president. Though, the age 35 is benchmark for president but at least at the age of 25, you can have a seat at the state house of assembly.

It’s a very good development to see the youth given the privilege to decide the future and run the affairs of their states and country. But if the mentality, outlook and the news around these youths are anything to go by these days, we have only created monsters.

The average Nigerian youth doesn’t even give a damn about this country, to him/her it would even be a sin if he doesn’t take his/her portion of the embezzling of Nigeria funds.

Go to the Nigeria Universities, student union president are problems on their own, and they have replicated all shades of “yeyerity” and abuse of power they can see from their leaders at the top. Some of them chief of staff, numerous personal assistant, protocol officers and even personal security personnel. When you see them on campus, they are always surrounded by flocks of people, some of them even have motorcade convoys of up to five cars, ordinary SUG president fa!

When they leave office, you begin to hear how they have misappropriated and diverted lots of funds. You will hear how they have abused the power of office, they will brag and intimidate with their powers. They wield the power of the office left, right, Centre. Did I tell you that their tenure only last for an academic session which usually is at most 10 months.

The narrative is the same across all universities in the country. If someone tested with the position of SUG president can abuse it to that extent in just 10 months, then I can’t imagine what he would do if made a member of state house of assembly for a tenure which usually is four years. And these are eventually the kind of people that get to these positions, because they are quick to reference their leadership position in the past which counts as experience. One in Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) ile-ife, allegedly bought a “korope” bus for #3million naira and it wasn’t even a new bus, it was second hand. Another one in the University of Abuja, the SUG president was also suspended for mismanagement of funds, the amount was not stated but you could guess it will be in millions too.

Let us not forget that as we are graduating so are the children of these very corrupt politician and leaders, in the past months, you have been seeing them traveling outside the country to attend the graduation ceremony of their children. They have the means to bankroll their children election and campaigns, and now they have a bill that allows them to contest for election. What if their children in the corridors of power is their plan to enjoy their loot in retirement?

The average Nigerian youth doesn’t even have the patience nor time to make research, he doesn’t know anything and you see him on social media spewing rubbish and arguing on matters he doesn’t even know about.

The Nigeria youth is our greatest assets to realizing that Nigeria our forefathers imagined, the Nigeria we all fantasize about. That Nigeria is possible but the irony is that the people that should be at the forefront feel they have no business with the affairs of leadership of the country. But you will see them on television ranting and giving solutions to problems from economy to power and every sector of the country, to them that is as much as what they owe to their country.

In as much as the not too young to run bill is a commendable and good news to the Nigerian youth, it should be a call to all youth to saddle up and put in all the work necessary to ensure that it really counts for something.

But right now from where I’m standing, the scoreboard hasn’t change. Its Nigerian youths nil, Nigerian government +1. But hey! It’s just one man’s opinion.

MikhaiL Adeniran
Email: adeniranmikhail@yahoo.com
T: 08030464565
Twitter: MikhailAdeniran
IG: iamikhail

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Abba Kyari:  Celebrating Nigeria’s Future Inspector  General Of Police By Eneh John

“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do”. –Anonymous

Nigeria’s finest detective and crime fighter, Abba Kyari has become a household name in Nigeria today. Solving unresolved crime and kidnapping cases has become his hallmark. In eight months, Kyari has been promoted from a Chief Superintendent of Police, to a Deputy Commissioner of Police.

Earning two promotions in eight months as a well deserved form of encouragement to service delivery from the Inspector General of Police and the Police Service Commission is highly commendable.

The future looks brighter for the young officer, who was enlisted in the Nigeria Police in year 2000, after his graduation from the University of Maiduguri, where he bagged a Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography.

Special appreciation must also go to the team working with Abba Kyari at the Intelligence Response Team(IRT), for without them, Abba’s exploits may have been sabotaged or be in futility.

He recently came again to National prominence, when he led members of his team to capture Nigeria’s wanted billionaire kidnap kingpin, known as Evans. It is no doubt that, the Nigerian police, today, could boast of intelligent men like Kyari. It did not just happen, but it has been by dint of hard work and commitment to duty.

If thirty percent of the men in the Nigerian police could be as effective and dogged the way Abba is, Nigeria as a society, would have been wearing another look in the eyes of the masses.

It is our collective belief that, Abba Kyari, will someday, become the Inspector General of police in Nigeria. While giving kudos to the current Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, for his commitment to fighting crime, and also giving men like Kyari to rise to greatness in their jobs.

We see a Nigerian Police in future; headed by Abba Kyari, get involved in detailed and thorough investigations, discovery of naturally endowed detectives, trained and civil policemen.

With his rapid rise in ranks, it will not be too long for Kyari to take over the mantle of leadership of the police in the nearest future.

Fighting Kyari in the police is like fighting God. Although Kyari may have hios challenges and shortcomings, including haters, but one thing that cannot be taken away from him, is his steadfastness and loyalty to duty.

He has given the Nigerian police a new look and rebranding. Today, we celebrate him, not as a policeman, but as an Ambassador of peace, who has brought joy and smiles to the faces of different families he may not have known.

Far in the North, East, West and South, DCP Abba Kyari, I want you to know that the Nigerian people love you. That we stand by you. The Media is with you. Keep doing good in your little ways, and may God guide you aright.

Let me borrow the last words of the gallant soldier who died in the hands of boko haram, in the cause of serving this great country, Colonel Muhammad Abu Ali, he said, “I don’t think I will make it. I’m proud to have diligently carried out my duty, thereby paying the supreme price. I pray that Nigerians remember my sacrifice to the Nation.”  Even in death, we remember Colonel Abu.

As you live on Kyari, forget about the people who envy you, and remember always, that the masses are with you, in the cause of your service to this great Nation Nigeria.

Twenty one gun salute to Nigeria’s future Inspector General, Abba Kyari. We celebrate you today and always.


Eneh John is an Investigative Journalist, Human Rights Activist and Editor of Trail Reporters News



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Constitution Amendment: A Fatal Blow To Nation-Building By Godwin Onyeacholem

Nigeria has a frightening history of precariously balancing herself on the cliff’s edge from time to time. And each moment usually comes with a fair amount of anxiety and numbing terror, such that it is only through the intervention of some supernatural force that the country has not gone the way of some chinaware smashed on a concrete floor.

By October 1, 2017, the country will roll out the drums to celebrate 57 years of independence from its British colonizers. It survived a civil war, six military coups and eight military heads of states who ruled for a total of 29 years until the will of the people forced the soldiers to return to the barracks in 1999, with a cautionary note never to return to the political arena. Since the last seventeen years, the country has witnessed a succession of civilian governments produced from four general elections, the last being an unprecedented transfer of power from an incumbent government to an opposition party.

But despite these seeming achievements, the national question has remained unanswered. Post-independence Nigeria is contending with a fierce centrifugal pull by popular and fringe tendencies tearing away at the soul of the world’s most populous black country. It seems that the restive elements would hardly be blamed for their actions. Successive governments have not been able to muster the leadership vision and statesmanly discipline required to forge a nation from the diverse ethnic nationalities occupying the geographical space called Nigeria.

Rather than strive to construct a proper federal state based on social justice, equity and merit, as envisioned by the colonizers and their local inheritors, otherwise known as founding fathers, the new crop of leaders have stubbornly stuck to a retrograde unitary arrangement imposed by the military since 1966. Thus Nigeria has remained in the backwoods of underdevelopment, pitifully existing not even anywhere near the shadows of countries like South Korea and Brazil with which she rubbed shoulders in the early days of independence.

In this suffocating atmosphere of pathetic leadership, ethno-religious and regional anger is flaring, fuelling a renewed and more intense cry for a restructuring of the so-called federal republic, as well as strident agitations for a dismemberment of the country amid mutual sabre-rattling and hate speeches. Indeed, this moment is reminiscent of the eerie call in the mid 60s for a return to the homestead. For sure, for a particular ethnic group down south, this is the kind of tense situation that warrants an exigent call on those who aren’t moving to get off the way (B’o lo oya).

This country has been in that frame of emergency for a long time. It has perpetually groped in the darkness it brought upon itself. Now, those who argue that we don’t have a country yet really have to be excused. At no time other than this moment does Nigeria need to heal herself of the pathologies that have held it down for decades.

That can only begin by reinventing the country through a total redesigning of its architecture. And the place to start is the constitution. What Nigeria needs today is a brand new, people-driven constitution, not an amendment of an anti-federal, military-imposed 1999 constitution which is currently being operated. In the first place, the idea of amendment is odious as it has been repeated again and again to the point of becoming a cliché that the extant constitution is Decree 24 handed down by the military. And it’s not only that its originators are not known believers of federalism, they are also the least qualified to give the country a constitution that will guide it through its democratic journey.

A democratic Nigeria cannot continue to rely on a military document, for the military cannot give what they do not have. That is why a constitution that originates from their regimented, command-and-obey mindset can only be nothing but a document full of useless unitary principles even for a multi-ethnic society.

Therefore, by embarking on an amendment of a constitution of such massively flawed origin, a dubious document which politicians swore to defend but which the military never allowed them to see before assuming office in 1999, the National Assembly is only carrying out a futile exercise. It is no surprise that the purported amendment turned out a jamboree of self-service. The legislators have proved once again that their interest is more important than that of other citizens and the country. That is why they can afford to fiddle when the country is forever tottering on the brink.

But what is more of a surprise is that even very senior lawyers who ought to know better have weighed in on the side of a hopeless amendment when they should be beating the drums for a fresh people’s constitution. These lawyers, and indeed all those who genuinely love this country, should let the legislators know that the way to go is not amendment, but by putting in place a law for a Constituent Assembly whose duty it is to draw up a constitution that will be approved by a referendum of the people.

Anything short of that, such as the misguided exercise the National Assembly has taken upon itself, will escalate agitations and intensify the drums of war.

Godwin Onyeacholem is a journalist. He can be reached on gonyeacholem@gmail.com  

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Agenda 2019: Abuja Clique Connection, Nigerian Youths Not Really Ready To Run By Otunba Ilemobade

Comparative analysis of Nigerian youths engagement with politics and the manifestation of any democratic interactions amongst the youthful population of Nigeria with the sole purpose of political mobilization to redefine socioeconomic and geopolitical architecture  of Nigeria is not encouraging.

I am a keen observer of socioeconomic and geopolitical developments in Nigeria in relation to the dynamics, attitude, arguments and the level of political sagacity employed by the so called “politically conscious” youths and I must confess they lack the proper understanding of the framework or superstructure on which existing clientelist, pseudo-democratic, cultist, rentier capitalist system under which they perambulate operates.

One of the fundamental principles they neglect to take into consideration is the philosophical pronouncement that those who own the gavel of power, authority, influence and means of production in a clientelist, pseudo-democratic, cultist, rentier capitalist system under which they perambulate have a distinguishing characteristic of self-perpetuation. Therefore, any attempt in using persuasive argumentation in the direction of democratic easing for Nigerian youths full participation in governance shall be met with a brick wall.

Nigerian youths are daydreaming post-transition forgetting that the demand for change and restructuring would require revolutionary zeal and sacrifices without which nothing tangible can come out of their intellectual exchanges with entrenched interests who are hell-bent on consolidating their hold on power.

I am of the opinion that we are post-transitioning given the turbulence and distortions experienced in our polity social and geopolitical terms coupled with the ”non-transformative” docile demeanour of Nigerian youths to stamp their political aspirations on developments concerning governance in our clime.

Nigerian youths should have capitalized on the confusion within the transition epoch by setting agenda for existing political parties given their numerical strenght by pro-activity via a revolutionary take over of existing party political infrastructures using the avenue of political parties youth wings. IT IS EITHER YOU TAKE POWER FROM WITHIN OR WITHOUT.

A critical look at the basket of #NOTTOOYOUNGTORUN reveals extreme incoherency in setting socioeconomic and geopolitical agenda simply due to lack of knowledge and incompetence in using the mechanism of social capital and technology to engender a revolutionary vanguard of youths to take over power using social media as an instrumentality for mass mobilization.

Deeply disappointed with #NOTTOOYOUNGTORUN looking at the total number of people who marched on @nassnigeria in respect of age discrimination. This is a divided youthful population with a movement without any grassroots support just imagine Biafra agitation garnered more grassroots support. A movement that lacks community level participation would not fly in effecting sociopolitical change #NOTTOOYOUNGTORUN is draped in the garment of those Abuja Clique who are themselves not really marginalized enough to push for liberation perspective or orientation.

It is noteworthy to state here that Nigerian youths must be ready to pay the ultimate price within the purview of what I call participatory action if they are really ready to run. Please take a cue from Venezuela, Tunisia, set an agenda for an egalitarian society now. Stop seeking a piece of the crumb or looking for paraphernalia of office to garnish your ego.




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Globalization: Implications For Buhari’s Economic Agenda By Johannes Tobi Wojuola

President Muhammadu Buhari’s determination to boost the nation’s economy does not seem to click with the tenets of globalization of trade as enunciated by the Western world. This is because the West, including the neo-liberalist and the Brettingwood philosophers, see the peculiar nature of the approach as theoretical.

The conclusions by both groups is based on their penchant for a free market space, unfettered by government inhibitions and stringent policy controls. They also look for opportunities for the dumping of all sorts of goods, especially, sub-standard and fake products.

Although globalization favours free market space, the reality is that the Nigerian milieu objects to such position on grounds that it prefers to avoid the luxury of the now for investment in the future.

One flaw noticed in the free market clause is that it brings together countries that are unequal in terms of competition of goods and services in the market place as there is no level playing field for such activity. Big economies have been found to always dominate the smaller economies on issues concerning international markets and such is achieved through capitalist and free-trade policies.

For instance, the Brettingwood school of thought favours the devaluation and the free float of the Naira so that the currency loses value against the Dollar. They also support the flooding of the Nigerian market with foreign goods in order to make profit at the expense of the Nigerian producer.

Evidence has shown that globalization does not create symbiotic relationships between unequal countries. It rather fosters the bigger above the smaller.

Studies have shown that each country that achieved industrialization has at some point adopted some form of economic nationalism or the other which involves the application of initiative, policies to protect, encourage and promote local efforts targeted at development and growth.

England, China and the United States are popular examples. At some point, they introduced policies that asserted control on their local economies through the imposition of tariff and the restriction on the movement of goods. All these were geared towards boosting their industrial productivity and tapping into resources that had become fallow.

These same countries constitute the present day beneficiaries of globalization because they had looked inwards and produced what they consumed, placed priority on the development of local industries, patronized locally manufactured goods and enforced laws that protected their local markets from cheaper imported goods. Having satisfied local demands, their industries went further to produce for export which opened the doors for foreign exchange earnings.

Based on the foregoing, one wonders why Nigeria’s economic nationalism should be viewed differently by the same West.

Despite the antics embedded in globalization, Nigeria has opened its eyes to see the gaps in the arrangement and the attendant conspiracies and has therefore decided to act in its best self-interest to get things right by tinkering with its contents and demands.

To achieve the feat, the Buhari administration has not dumped globalization agenda in its entirety, rather it only on focused on striking a balance between economic nationalism and globalization. This has been done by simply allowing the free inflow of goods that are indispensable based on the fact that they are not produced in the country, while restrictions are placed on luxury items that starve and weaken local entrepreneurship and production.

Nigeria spent $2.4 billion on the importation of rice between 2012 and 2015. When the present administration came into office it delisted rice from the government’s foreign exchange window. The decision has saved Nigeria about $5 million daily.

By the end of 2017, a total ban on the importation of rice would be effected. Government action on rice has already boosted local production such that farmers would be in a position to satisfy local demand by the time importation of the commodity is struck out of the import list. It is a win-win situation because the consumption of local rice is fast becoming the norm, while the local producers are smiling to the banks.

Apart from rice, the Buhari administration also placed a moratorium on the provision of Foreign Exchange by the Central Bank for the importation of 41 items. These items ranged from cement, palm oil, meat, furniture, toothpicks, soaps and cosmetics, tomatoes, tomato paste to textiles.

The items made the prohibition list because the raw materials for their production and even the finished products are readily available in the local markets. Like the experience in rice, local producers of the items have sprouted across the country and they are in business.

For Nigeria’s fledgling industries and manufacturing sector to grow, an environment for their success must be created by closing the borders to stop the importation of foreign alternatives.

The imposition of higher tariff on imported automobiles is beginning to yield dividends as more automobile assembling plants have started investing in Nigeria. So far, 22 automobile companies including Honda, TATA and Toyota are on the list of such companies.

The revival and rehabilitation of local refineries and the construction of new ones through private initiatives have given the government to confidence to announce a plan to stop the importation of fuel in 2019 when the refineries are expected to produce at full capacity.

In summary, economic nationalism, coupled with protectionism is needed for Nigeria’s industrial and economic growth. The nation requires some break from globalization in order to put its acts together and look inwards to identify areas of comparative advantage in the production of goods and provision of services.

If this is not done, Nigeria will remain a perpetual consuming nation, while targets set to attain the status of a producing nation or economically independent country will continue to be a mirage

Globalization is a blessing and a curse. For Nigeria, the realization that there must be a balance between economic nationalism and globalization remains the way to go. Based on the premise, globalization is the hope for tomorrow even though it is by application, the curse of today for Nigeria.

Johannes Tobi Wojuola is a lawyer, and member of the Abuja Global Shapers Community (An initiative of the World Economic Forum)

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On 37 Kano Students In Egypt: Separating Fact From Fiction, By Salihu Tanko Yakasai

There have been hues and cries, spread of misleading information on social media and wilful demonization of the administration of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje on the decision of the Kano State Government to return 37 nursing students of Mansourah University in Egypt due to poor performance.

It is therefore important to point out some facts as regards to the issue.

First of all, in November 2016 Governor Ganduje visited the 2 universities – Mansourah and October 5th – both in Egypt, where Kano state has some students undergoing programmes on scholarship. Being part of the entourage, I remember when Governor Ganduje visited the students in Mansourah, the school authority and the agent handling their affairs complained bitterly to the governor about the low performance of these students. They specifically mentioned the bad behaviour of some of them, including one with a theft case with the Egyptian police, some caught in gross misconduct, examination malpractices and one harassing the female dean of their faculty.

Governor Ganduje and the Nigerian Ambassador to Egypt both took time to advise the students improve on their performance and be good ambassadors. Given the fact that it was increasingly becoming difficult for the state to keep up with their school fees and upkeep allowances due to economic downturn bedevilling the state and nation at large, the students were urged to justify government’s commitment on their studies amid competing demands at home.

Upon our return to Nigeria, Mansourah University sent a letter in January 2017 (two months after the governor’s visit) through their agent warning that the students were still lagging behind in their performances and this will ultimately lead to their withdrawal. This was the last official communication between the university and the state government.

The issue was then deliberated upon extensively at the state Executive Council meeting, at the end of which the council came to the conclusion that the students had demonstrated no capacity to improve and so there was no justification to continue keeping them in Egypt despite the several warnings issued to them by both the school authorities and the state government to improve.

It is worthy of mention that Governor Ganduje inherited over 2,000 of these foreign students in several countries across the world and has expended billions to pay for their outstanding fees and allowances (most of which had not been paid since 2014), and majority of them have so far concluded their studies and returned home. There was no single student that was prematurely returned back to Nigeria for any reason whatsoever except these 37 students.

It is also important to note that states like Sokoto and Rivers have both returned ALL their students but Kano reasoned that allowing them to continue was the best option. This should be commended by all Kanawa. Moreover, in Mansourah University there are 154 students being sponsored by the Kano State Government, why didn’t the governor decide to return them all back to Kano, if it were because of any reason other than their very poor performances? Why is it that their colleagues also in Egypt at the October 5th University are still undergoing their studies without any complaints? The governor has even gone further to promise them automatic employment at both Giginyu and Zoo Road Hospitals upon the successful completion of their programmes. These are some of the questions we need to ask for the sake of objectivity in order not to let sentiments becloud our judgement.

Additionally, the alleged letter showing their improvement circulating online was not written by the management of Mansourah University (unlike the one in January 2017). It was written by the agent on the 15th July 2017 (months after the decision to return them back to the country had been taken by the State Executive Council and Airline tickets issued to those students for their return) and was not communicated to the government. Why should government be found guilty to a charge that was not addressed to it and without taking its plea?

May I also remind us all that on issues like these that involve committing part of the meagre state resources to execute, a thorough selection process should have been administered in the selection of these students by the past administration in order to ensure that only those that are brilliant and qualified enough merit the sponsorship. It is paramount that we put sentiments aside and look at the issues objectively.

I’ve personally seen instances where parents who sponsored their children for studies abroad had to return them home due to poor performance, and I see no reason why this case should be treated differently.

Mr Yakasai is the DG Media & Communications, Government House Kano

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Fraud And Hypocrisy Called “Restructuring” By Louis Azige

Every sincere and well-meaning Nigerian knows that the nation is in dire need of “restructuring” to reduce the powers, responsibilities and resources that are concentrated in the central government, and reallocate same to other levels of government, especially local governments that have become almost irrelevant in the country because they can no longer provide even the basic needs of the local and majority people at the grassroots. Restructuring is equally capable of ensuring the viability and independence of component units of the federation and as well, promote healthy competition in resource development for the overall good of the people.

The call for restructuring from various individuals, groups and sections of the country has become very intense. This call is propelled by what many members of the governing class championing the cause term as “injustice, marginalization and domination” of one group or section of the country by the other.

Many people have become more concerned about restructuring than the viability of the economy of the country and ultimately, the wellbeing of all Nigerians. This restructuring is spoken about as if it will automatically address the challenges confronting the nation.

I wonder what exactly is happening now that has not been part of our life that is increasing the urge for restructuring. From time immemorial, nearly all sections and groups in Nigeria have seen themselves to be marginalized or cheated in the allocation of resources in the country. For instance, the Governor of Niger State (as he then was), Dr. Babangida Aliyu while inaugurating the Advisory Council of Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation in Abuja in February 2012 opined that the underdevelopment and poverty in Northern Nigeria is due to the poor allocations the nineteen (19) states in the region receive from the Federation Account.  He equally saw the 13% derivation allotted to oil-producing states to be cheating on the part of Northerners.

On the contrary, the renowned Prof. ItseSagay who is now the Chairman of the anti-Corruption Advisory Committee under the Buhari- led government remarked in 2012 that Northern Nigeria does not contribute anything to the national purse but succeeded in manipulating political power to corner oil blocks to the disadvantage of the South and called on Southerners to come together to fight intellectually for the anomaly in the uneven allocation of oil blocks in the country.

From the foregoing, it is clear that no section of Nigeria is satisfied with what it gets as its share of the nation’s cake. Northern leaders are accused of manipulating the political process to allocate more resources to the North. Yet, the region is worst hit by poverty and lack, illiteracy, and underdevelopment in almost all ramifications in comparison to Southern region of the country. The South on its part that has been accused of taking much of the nation’s resources through the 13% derivation allocation to oil producing states as well as the off-shore/on-shore dichotomy is very much dissatisfied with what it gets and is clamouring for resource control. What then are we restructuring? Who is satisfied? Who is not marginalized?

A report by Vanguard newspaper of May 12, 2014 titled “National Confab: Key Issues Before Northern Delegates” established that between 1999 and 2014, the six states of the South-South earned N17 trillion (each receiving an average of N2.96 trillion) while the nineteen states of the North received N10.53 trillion (an average of N554 billion per state). On the other hand, the eleven states of the South-West and South-East combined together received 8.79 trillion (an average of 799 billion per state).

If the report above is anything to go by, then the governing elite that have been in power since 1999 and have now been displaced and consequently, forced to turn around and clamour for restructuring because of “unequal and unjust distribution of the nation’s resource” should tell Nigerians how all of these resources earned previously were used to build infrastructures and better the lives of the people in these regions.

Many of those who have suddenly woken up to realize that the nation need to be restructured are politicians who have probably been displaced from the scheme of affairs or looking for a springboard to gain support to prosecute their political aspirations in 2019.

They have deliberately refused to tell Nigerians how restructuring will end poverty, unemployment and inequality in the nation.They have refused to tell Nigerians how it will end the excessive greed and plunging of the nation’s resources by the governing elite; bring food to the table of the common man; end the exclusive reservation of jobs for the children of the privileged few in the society.

Until all these questions are answered, the call for restructuring of the nation is nothing but fraud and hypocrisy. This is a mere ploy by the governing elites to divert the attention of Nigerians from the nation’s common wealth they have misappropriated and continue to misappropriate.

The call for restructuring is nothing but an in-house fight among the governing elites to create more opportunities for themselves and perpetuate themselves in power. It is not a call for the good of the common man, but a call for the common man to wrestle power and hand it over to them.

Let the governing elites clamouring for restructuring be more transparent in managing the resources allocated to their regions and states.


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Peoples Democratic Party And Resurrection By Bashir Sharif

By the sanctity of its hummer, the Supreme Court has, at long last, decisively decided on the overstretched litigation between the two warring factions of the People`s Democratic Party. Delivered recently, the judgment has it that the Makarfi faction is the authentic and therefore legitimate leadership of the crisis ridden party, consigning the claim of Ali Modu Sharff to the domain of history. Needless to say, the judgment is both exciting and nostalgic, with many celebrating what many lament. After all, as democracy is a matter of choice, the court also has to decide one way or the other.

However, beyond the sadness and joy of those that stand by their entitled preference, the import of the judgment is significant for many reasons. In the first place, it abhors and moved to curtail, more than ever, the absurd manipulation by our politicians to exploit the inherent weaknesses of the judicial process by blatantly using technicalities, including moving from one court to another on same issue, to unduly delay proceedings knowing that they will remain in office for as long as the case lasts. More often than not, this attitude forces the court to give technical instead of substantial social justice, leaving the victim with the feeling of being robbed of justice and, as a result, the motivation to explore other means to express dissent, to regain and emphasize self respect.

Secondly, it adds value to the unique position of the judiciary in having the last word in all disputes. The Supreme Court has now implanted in the doubting Thomas that it can mediate conflicts before they subvert, with impunity, the rule of law. It is instructive that, by the immediate gesture of Ali Modu, the ruling remains, even if outwardly, accepted as sacrosanct while Makarfi has taken over the affairs of the party without any hindrance or encumbrances, making the PDP the overall winner. The party now has the chance to develop a coherent representative template that can shape and channel popular preferences into government.

Thirdly, the judgment impliedly admonished party stakeholders that the era of impunity, where imposition and excessive use of money held sway, should be phased out if democracy were to be deepened in the country. Lesson is now learnt that, irrespective of real and imagined profile, the PDP must now reconstruct its legitimation and the basis on which to seek for power again. It must be sufficiently democratic, in all manners and characteristics, to not only justify its appellation but also the trust and confidence that every political party yearns for.

Assuming that the PDP would do the needful, including taking a little more than its share of the blame for loading an inept administration over the country before now, apologize for the catastrophic consequences and regain the confidence of Nigerians, it can pose serious challenges to the ruling All Progressives Congress in some states.

Admittedly, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has, within the two years it has been in office, recorded monumental achievements that, for a long time to come, will remain indelible on the minds of Nigerians. Even by international standard, the administration is being commended for substantially subduing the insurgency that, before now, had forcefully taken control of the North East, apart from catastrophic strikes on soft targets across the country like Friday congregation at Kano Central mosque.

We can also notice how, by serious commitment, the administration elevated our food security situation to over 75% from mere 26% during the former administration. Other areas where it has, to the delight of many, done so well, in spite of institutional odds, include the anti-corruption crusade, Single Treasury Account regime and gradual control over the economy.

However, what one finds in some of the APC states is lack of moderation, that licenses abuse of power and flagrant disregard for due process and the rule of law. Out of this scenario, a bizarre dichotomy of wholesome and half cast members is wantonly created, where the former are being involved wholesomely and the later disregarded and denied what legitimately belongs to them.

Indeed, the situation of the half cast members of the party is a metaphor of a recalcitrant child destined to be cramped and diminished. With the assumed PDP resurrection, the half cast in those states are most likely to bring their current situation into focus, and decide how they can survive and become relevant.

Sounding simplistic, this challenge is real and must therefore not be taken lightly by the APC, especially as the states in question cannot again ride the waves that they did not initiate, at the time of need.

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Datti Baba-Ahmed’s Lazy Outburst On El-Rufai By Bashir Ibrahim Dabo

Datti Baba Ahmed had written a rebuttal against Gov. el-Rufai’s stance on the ideological thoughts of our founding fathers after independence in the Daily Trust of 24th July, 2017 titled “El-Rufa’i’s vituperations against Sardauna, Awolowo, Zik”. Contrary to Datti’s assumption, the video was shot at the Transformed To Transform Nigeria Conference for Youth Corpers held on January 22, 2014 at the Yar’Adua Center, Abuja. Datti being a supposedly P.hD. holder ought to have known the importance of research in verifying information. This intellectual deficiency and laziness, coupled with his outright hatred for Malam Nasir had made him to display his profoundly hidden side to the public. But that is Datti’s pedigree. He’s not known to be thorough and meticulous.

He accused Malam el-Rufai of riding on President Buhari’s popularity to win election. At least Malam worked hard with Buhari to make sure there was a platform – Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) – through which nonentities like Datti would ride and win elections in 2011. Again, Malam worked hard with other Nigerians to get rid of PDP by taking a leading role in the restructuring committee of CPC, which later contributed to the merger that led to the formation of APC. el-Rufai was among the 37 persons that signed the document which gave birth to the formation of All Progressives Congress in 2013. After investing his energy, intellect and resources into bringing the APC about and given the potential to turn the fortunes of Kaduna State around, which he showed the people, it cannot be said to be out of place that Malam Nasir rode on PMB’s popularity to win his gubernatorial seat. He’s better than Datti, a political entrepreneur that won an election in 2003 before ‘winning’ his P.hD viva.

Datti in 2003 defeated Hon. Abdulkadir Usman (Global) to win a seat to represent Zaria Federal Constituency in the Federal House of Representatives under Buhari’s ANPP. Datti won that election solely because of Mai Gaskiya’s popularity and Sen. Suleiman Hunkuyi’s political structure and financial support. Now, neither President Buhari nor Senator Hunkuyi has any respect in the eyes of this opportunist. But I’m glad he’s doing well with his University in Abuja.

Back to Malam’s video, the event was meant to address the dilemma of nation-building and guide the Youth Corp Members on how not to repeat the mistakes of the past if they desire a united and truly integrated country.

Malam Nasir attempted to highlight the errors made by our founding fathers – Sir Ahmadu Bello, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo. The trio’s inability to dismantle the self-serving structures instituted by the British colonialists prior to independence was at the crux of el-Rufai’s discourse. Despite being the best leaders we’ve ever had, our founding fathers were not infallible. But most of us have a consensus that their mistakes, as late Danmasanin Kano Maitama Sule would put it, were mistakes of the head not of the heart.

Malam el-Rufai’s argument was more of an ideological argument than infrastructural or physical. He drew a comparison with the great Mwalimu of Tanganyika – Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, who was a Nationalist and pan-Africanist – with our founding fathers whose nationalism died at the dawn of independence. Any good student of Nigerian Government and Politics would know that the Nigerian Nationalist’ main goal was achieving an independent sovereign state. Hence, from 1st October , 1960, Zik, Awo and Sardauna’s attention was more on developing their regions distinctly than national integration. This, however, they did undoubtedly with distinction.

If Datti has a score to settle with el-Rufai, he’s at liberty to do so. Because Nasir el-Rufai, like our founding fathers, is not infallible too. But pretending behind defending Sardaunan Sokoto is cowardly and hypocritical.

May God bless our founding fathers for their sacrifices and forgive them for their trespasses – Amin.


Bashir writes from Lagos and tweets @Bashir_Dabo

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How Diezani Alison Madueke Undeveloped The Niger Delta Region, By Okoi Obono-Obla

Madam Diezani Alison Madueke is an Ijaw woman from Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta Region. She was Minister of Petroleum Resources under the then President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, an Ijaw man also from Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta Region!

Diezani Alison is presently embroiled in legal proceedings in the United States over assets dubiously acquired by her fronts whom she lavishly awarded choice oil contracts while she was Minister of Petroluem Resources.

The Niger Delta Region over the years has suffered squalor, deprivation, chronic poverty, environmental degradation and despoliation from exploration of crude oil by multi-National oil corporations from metropolitan West! However the assumption of the presidency of Nigeria by somebody from the Niger Delta Region presented a golden opportunity to squarely addressing some of the problems that has plagued the region!

The appointment of a woman from the Niger Delta Region was also another golden opportunity to tackle head on these problems! This was not the case! Imagine Diezani Alison Madueke buying furniture and artwork with $100 million! At the current exchange rate, $100 million is almost equivalent to N360 billlion! Investing such a humongous amount into devastated region like the Niger Delta on social infrastructure such a building of roads, schools, health centers, railway lines would surely expand the economy and create opportunities and jobs for the teeming young population! But the likes of Diezani do not care! Yet they create a Niger Deltan must be president!

Now that we have seen how selfish, self centered and vision less some of our political elite are, nobody should ever come to suggest that during election time we must vote along promodial and sectional lines! The political elites always use these fault lines when they want to divide us to have their way! All the people Diezani used as fronts to fleeced the federal government were never from her back of the neck!

They were her allies in the enterprise of kleptocracy which is the hall mark of the debauched political elite we have been saddled with for such. Long time till President Muhammadu Buhari mounted the saddle!

Okoi Obono-Obla

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Right of Reply: The vituperations of Datti Baba-Ahmed By Samaila Aruwan

On 22ndJanuary 2014, Malam Nasir El-Rufai gave a lecture in Abuja to youths, The Nigeria of our Dreams, where he addressed the question of nation-building. Parts of this lecture, like several other previous interventions in national discourse, are now being selectively dredged up,without context and presented as if they were freshly delivered.The locusts are out, nibbling away at the rules of discourse without any notion of intellectual honesty or the need to preserve the integrity of discourse.

That is the context in which to situate the vituperations of Datti Baba Ahmed, who latched on to a tiny slice of a full lecture to spew his bile on Malam Nasir El-Rufai. Datti, proprietor of Baze University, admitted that he based his entire diatribe on a Facebook posting. No need to exercise any mental faculties to seek the full speech; just a headlong rush to a skewed judgment. There is hardly a more potent illustration of the deepening corruption of discourse and the crisis in education than this. The proprietor of a university cannot be bothered to consider a little research!

This is so because Datti is a failed politician from Kaduna State, seeking opportunities for unearned relevance by attacking a person whose name is sure to get the attacker headlines and a few seconds of infamy. Datti is following the well-trodden path of others like him eager to hide their past and impending political demystification. Datti accused the APC of an undisclosed injustice, but he forgot to admit that he approached many people, including El-Rufai,in 2015 with his resume seeking to be nominated as the Minister of Education in President Buhari’s government.

Having failed to be nominated, he is embittered and frustrated. He has also pitched tent with one of the newly registered parties, and is preparing the ground to leave the ‘unjust’ APC.Members of the old CPC are yet to forget the circumstances leading to Datti’ssurrender of one of the two senate seats the party won in Kaduna during the 2011 elections. This is the proper context for understanding Datti’s defamatory gobbledygook couched as intellectual discourse.

What exactly did Nasir El-Rufai say in the 2014 lecture that Datti attempted to distort and earn some dishonorable media attention? Malam El-Rufai drew attention to the failure to create a mortgage system that could democratize access to housing after independence, and the persistence of regional divisions. The video footage of the44-minute lectureis available onYouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fObhYFKYOew.

The founding fathers of this country did their best for the regions they governed. Nasir El-Rufai has paid tribute at various fora to the attainments of Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. In 2016, he delivered a speech at Ikenne to acknowledge Chief Awolowo’s contributions, especially in Education. His book, The Accidental Public Servant, is fulsome in his praise of the Sardauna.

To give these greats their due does not preclude the fact that the history and circumstances of their times weighed on how they approached the idea of Nigeria. They were understandably champions of their regions, in new times for them and their peoples. The destiny of their regions, and the peoples in them, were paramount concerns for these leaders. Tons of scholarship and the reminiscences of those who were there attest to this.

The Northern Region was ardently federalist, and wary of being marginalized in an emergent Nigeria by the regions that had more persons with Western education. Thus, it did not totally open the doors of its public service to non-northerners. In so doing, Sir Ahmadu Bello and the leaders of the north soughttocreate opportunity for many northerners, and pressed for advantage in national institutions. The Sardauna earned due reverence as the leader that brought confidence to the North in difficult times.

We do not do ourselves or the memories of the founding fathers any justice by attributing infallibility or perfection to them. They richly deserve our veneration for doing so much with so little. They were limited in their national approach, for reasons that the generations that have succeeded them ought to have overcome. The idea of Nigeria needs ardent champions. That is the challenge of our time. As the Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II observed years ago before ascending the throne, the generation that gave us independence were Northerners, Easterners and Westerners. There is no need to remain frozen in those identities, when we can coalesce as Nigerians. This is the essence of Malam Nasir El-Rufai’s 2014 speech.

Datti makes a futile effort to belittle Malam El-Rufai, with an alternative narrative of his personal journey. Fortunately, Malam Nasir El -Rufai’s public service history, beginning with teaching pro-bono for 17 years at the ABU’sDepartment of Surveying to the BPE and his service as FCT minister is well-known. Despite the loud self-interest and the negativity of naysayers, hekick-started the privatization and public enterprise reform programme, then restored the FCT to the vision of its founders.That is the compliment Datti makes in a backhanded way.

The likes of Datti mistake candid discourse for insult. The shrillness of the narrow-minded will not stop those who have something meaningful to say from contributing to our national dialogue. As to Datti’s allegations of looting and promoting insecurity, he will have an opportunity to present his evidence in a court of law unless he publicly renounces his libel with apology within one week. Our laws provide for those who feel so defamed to seek redress. Mallam El-Rufai will do so, as he has always done when any person or medium attempts to soil his reputation. In court, Datti and his co-travelers would be compelled to make the specifics public rather than hide under unsupported generalization.

Regarding the frustrations of Datti for not having the courage to getinto the governorship primaries in 2014 or secure unearned preeminence in the APC, we pray Allah to give us all grace in all circumstances, and the humility to surrender to His will, accepting defeat and triumph with the equanimity of grateful mortals. Making everything about self-interest and ambition vainly excludes the Almighty whose ways no human calculations or models can determine. On his own part, Mallam El-Rufai submits to the omniscience of Almighty Allah, and awaits Datti and his new party for the political contestation in Kaduna State, if Allah spares our lives.

Aruwan is Senior Special Assistant-Media and Publicity to the Governor of Kaduna State.

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