Tuface Idibia, Buhari And The Limits of Activism, By Ohimai Godwin Amaize

Among the top news headlines of the past few days have been President Donald Trump’s supposed Muslim ban; the intrigue surrounding the rumours about President Muhammadu Buhari’s health concerns; the fiery preacher, Apostle Johnson Suleiman and the secret police’s interest in the content of a sermon delivered earlier mid-January; and the topic of this essay, planned protest against the federal government of Nigeria by popular Nigerian music artiste, Tuface Idibia.

The protest couldn’t have been better timed, coming at a critical phase of our nation’s history when the dominant words on the street are hunger and anger amid palpable discontent over the hopeless incompetence of the Buhari administration since it assumed office on May 29, 2015.

I’m a huge fan of Tuface Idibia. He is one of several top music artistes in Nigeria who have earned my respect. I’ve also been a leading advocate for the use of pop culture for social re-engineering. However, real advocacy for good governance must not be confused with the politics of emergency activism often inspired by the logic of the stomach.

In the run up to the 2015 presidential elections, Tuface Idibia, unlike many of his counterparts in the entertainment industry was not exactly quiet. He was at the forefront of ‘Vote Not Fight’ – a campaign aimed at promoting peaceful elections. With all the noble intentions and sheer goodwill that engineered that campaign, there are many who argue that the cry for peaceful elections may not have been as critical as the need to call attention to the danger of the emergence of a Buhari presidency or in more diplomatic terms, empowering citizens with the knowledge and information to make wiser choices.

This is one of the biggest challenges of activism in Nigeria today. People simply want to identify any cause, as long as it is a cause, throw their weight behind it for whatever reasons, as long as it has the potential to either launch them into the public limelight or in the case of those already in the limelight, keep them at the center of public conversations. The danger in this growing culture of activism-for-fame is the substitution of what is more critical with what is more fanciful, economically lucrative or politically convenient.

Except you were not a student of modern Nigerian history, it would have been hypocritical or tantamount to sheer ‘politics’ to feign ignorance of the dangers of a Buhari presidency, at the time he was being repackaged and presented to Nigerians as the ‘messiah’ that would ‘kill corruption’ and lead Nigeria to El Dorado.

Here is a man whose time as military Head of State left a legacy as one of our nation’s worst human rights abusers. Here is a man whose records in managing the economy of a nation fall short of the basic principles of running a local government council. Here is a man whose rigidity, incompetence, and parochial approach to governance led to his lieutenants kicking him out of office, but not before he practically ran the nation aground.  Here is a man so famously referred to by Africa’s greatest music legend, the late great Abami Eda – Fela Anikulapo-Kuti as an “animal in human skin”. Publicly available documents contain accounts of Nigerian troops jubilating in the streets in 1985 when Buhari was toppled by his own men. But less than 24 months ago, the failed dictator was presented to Nigerians as the hottest thing since sweet potatoes!

Those who came out to present the real facts of history were blackmailed and labelled as the enemies of Nigeria. All entreaties by those who saw the impending danger fell on deaf ears. An entire nation was thrown into the frenzy of Buharimania! It was the biggest propaganda scam ever witnessed in Nigeria’s 100-year history.

Those performing the orchestra of change said corruption was our biggest problem and Buhari was coming to kill corruption. Now, hunger, not corruption, is killing Nigerians! Yet, in the midst of all that confusion, those who ought to know better either joined the Buhari bandwagon or chose to sit on the fence. As history re-writes itself, it is easier to forgive those who came out to support Buhari than to forgive the ones who chickened out and sat on the fence as Nigeria faced a most defining moment of history. Sadly, Tuface Idibia falls into this latter category.

Perhaps, nothing captures the implication of our inactions better than the words of the great Desmond Tutu who said; “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

In the 2008 election cycle in the United States of America, American celebrities who believed in the change candidacy of Barack Obama rallied behind him. We saw on display a replay of that celebrity star power in 2016 on Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency. We saw the likes of Lady Gaga, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Katy Perry putting their careers on the line to lend their voices to a cause they truly believed in. It wasn’t convenient but they understood the principle of not sitting on the fence in the heat of battle.

Back home in Nigeria, we remember how Dapo ‘D’Banj’ Oyebanjo came out openly to endorse the candidacy of Goodluck Jonathan in 2011. For whatever it is worth, against all odds, the insults, and the public attacks, D’Banj earned the respect of those who understand what it takes to believe in a cause and take a public stand even when it seems that the whole world is against you.

Many have suggested that this anti-government protest is a badly needed publicity stunt for Tuface to re-launch his music career. There are many who also believe it is being funded by opposition elements against the Buhari administration. Whatever you chose to believe, I belong to the school of thought that see Tuface Idibia as a truly Nigerian legend in the making who does not need the platform of a political rally to either re-launch or re-package his musical career. He is actually bigger than that.

In all of this, the real lesson here for Tuface Idibia and his contemporaries is the need to be more circumspect in the consideration of their roles and responsibilities to society as real change agents.

In emerging social contexts, the celebrity, opinion leader or change agent is no longer at liberty to stay or stand aloof on issues of national consequence, sometimes in the name of being politically correct. Increasingly, societal expectations are becoming societal responsibilities and opinion shapers must adjust, adapt or become mere replicas in the dustbins of history.

Gone are the days when it used to be said that we can do anything we like and get away with it because, “Nigerians easily forget.” No, Nigerians do not easily forget. Not in this age of new media when our actions and inactions are fast becoming digital footprints on our path to a future that never really forgets.

Another lesson that must not be lost in the cacophony of today’s clash of opinions is understanding the true essence of social activism beyond protests and rallies. We must look back into history and learn why for instance, the Occupy Nigeria movement is best remembered today as a farce. We must learn from the legacies of icons like Nelson Mandela, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Martin Luther King Jnr who put in painstaking, time-tested and unwavering commitment into advancing the values they believed in. There are no short-cuts!

As the popular saying goes, “Better late than never.” There are many Nigerians who are happy that the likes of Tuface have “seen the light” and are taking a step to atone for their inactions that led Nigeria into this current mess. The planned protest is a good start, but an apology from Tuface to Nigerians for sitting on the fence when his voice was badly needed, would be welcomed.

 

Ohimai, a journalist and media strategist, is the publisher of SIGNAL, an online newspaper. He tweets via @MrFixNigeria

Politicians Behind The Pulpits, Olalekan Waheed Adigun

One of the greatest creations or inventions of man that has endured over the centuries is the institution of religion. This modest human invention (an attempt to understand God) is arguably also posing a great threat to man’s existence on earth. I say this because, looking at the Thirty Years War, The Crusades, the World Wars, the Holocaust, the Cold War, the Nuclear race and the likes all have their religious undertones. All these show that religion, perhaps, has killed more people than poverty, disease and hunger combined. All these happened, not because religion itself has a problem, but because politicians appear to have taken over the pulpits posing as “men of God” preaching messages of hate, spreading of fear and promoting violence.

On New Year Eve, I received a call from a friend I met on Facebook. She told me of how correct my analytic predictions on political issues will be in the New Year if I read the “prophesies” from the “men acting under the inspiration of God.” She told me all the newspapers contain the “powerful” prophesies and that they are there for the taking. I politely told her I will do that immediately she dropped the call.

After she dropped the call, I went the newspaper stand close to my place and lo, I wasn’t disappointed. Many of the predictions were so obvious that one doesn’t need to be “acting under the inspiration of God” to come up with. How does one explain a “prophesy” like “A politician will flag off his presidential campaign for 2019 election” or “New political parties will be registered by INEC…”? We all know that only politicians contest elections so why does one need to “hear from God” to come up with something like “politician will flag off his presidential campaign”?

In 1964, during the turbulent era in the Western Region with Chief Obafemi Awolowo undergoing a trial for treasonable felony, rumour became rife that attempt had been concluded to murder the politician in prison. All Awo’s rivals then controlled all government in the federation hence there was little the politician could do in event of any real attempt on his life. One thing was sure, had the Ikenne-born politician died at the time in prison, there was no way his adversaries in power would have been able to explain the situation to his restless supporters. The unrest, especially in the Western Region, would have become more complicated.

Noticing this scenario, one Prophet B.A Otubogunwa, prophesized (in 1964) that: “Towards the end of the year the death of a prisoner will cause unrest and rioting in Nigeria.” Did the “prophesy” came to pass? I say YES. A (political) prisoner, Chief Sunbo Jibowu, died at the time, but there were no “unrest and rioting” in any part of Nigeria as a result of that!

Prophet Otubogunwa again, when confronted with the development that Chief Jibowu died and there was no unrest, he insisted that “an important political prisoner” was going to die and will led to “unrest and rioting” in the country. Obviously, he was referring to Awo. Since Chief Awolowo was the only “important political prisoner” at the time. People like Otubogunwa cannot claim they heard from God since God cannot be the author of confusion and He cannot be mocked!

While some prophesies are very prophetic in the real sense of the word, this writer insists, many prophesies are nothing but the political voices only using the pulpits to spread their messages.

Only recently, one Apostle Suleman, added a feather to cap. He has a resume of failed prophesies, too numerous to count. His most recent display was his message to his Church members that whoever sees a Fulani herdsman they should “Kill him.” He added that they should also “cut his head.” Clearly, this is a political message from the pulpit.

Before I go on, let me make this clear, I do not, and cannot support the nefarious acts of the so-called Fulani herdsmen. They are lawless and should be treated as such. But what I find disgusting is that, an already politicized issue like this one needs to be taken cautiously by the Clergy. Does praying for your enemy to die improve your own “living” conditions? Does “an eye for an eye” not make everyone blind? Will he stand for some of his members or listeners who kill or guillotine an innocent Fulani herdsman when the member is being tried for murder? If everyone goes about killing herdsmen as the controversial Apostle said, is that not an easy road to Kigali? If, God forbid, war breaks out in Nigeria today as a result of his careless utterances, will he remain in his Auchi church to sort himself out of will migrate to one of the 42 countries he claims to have churches? What then becomes of his members, whom he had led into bloodletting? Is it not better to apply wisdom than being sorry?

While we must blame the politicians profiting from Fulani herdsmen attacks and get them punished for their wrongdoings, we must also be watchful of politicians behind the pulpits. The former are seen enemies and can be dealt with using a simple process. The latter are more dangerous and can take multiple dimensions at the same time. At they say, two wrongs do not make a right. While we must also deal severely with the criminals attacking our farms in the name of herdsmen, we mustn’t leave those politicians using the pulpits to settle personal scores. They are politicians who are simply messing up the pulpits!

OlalekanWaheed ADIGUN is a political analyst and independent political strategist for wide range of individuals, organisations and campaigns. He is based in Lagos, Nigeria. His write-ups can be viewed on his website http://olalekanadigun.com/ Tel: +2348136502040, +2347081901080
Email: olalekan@olalekanadigun.com, adgorwell@gmail.com
Follow me on Twitter @adgorwell

Why President Muhammadu Buhari Must Read “How Google Works” By Sulaimon Mojeed-Sanni

Permit me to start by asking what is President Muhammadu Buhari reading? The question becomes pertinent in the light of the economic troubled waters Nigeria seems to have found itself. It is trite belief that reading expands the mind and the ability to read extensively widens creative engagement with everyday problems. Related to leading people or a country, reading opens countless doors of exploration, thereby fortifying the capacity of the leadership to project future happenstance and plan for them.

During the time of former President Goodluck Jonathan, we were made to understand that reading and knowledge sharing amongst the cabinet Ministers was a common feature and that Richard Dowden’s “Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles” was one of his favorite books – maybe, his background as an academic influenced such passion. However, in the current dispensation, the Spokesperson to President Muhammadu Buhari said his favorite part of even reading a newspaper is the cartoon section, which usually makes him laugh. I do not think I would have been bothered what anybody reads in a newspaper if he is not my President. Moreover, I love cartoons too but it does not take precedence over knowledge expanding reading.

Close to two years into what most Nigerians thought would be a wand wading change, President Muhammadu Buhari led administration is fast filtering away the good will that brought it into power. From the edge of his oval office, Mr. President – the presumed messiah, and his team should be wondering why their sleepless nights (if truly they do have one) seem not to be yielding the desired dividends of democracy nor surmount the savagery hunger that has pervaded the land.

For a government that came into the office dressed in the toga of change, disrupting the status quo should be a reoccurring decimal. Many of us who joined the change against transformation campaign did so purely in expectation of an effective leadership with sustainable plans to navigate resistance and create rapid growth and new possibilities within the country. But what has been observed so far, are the reenactment of the things voted against; underperforming and inflated budgets, subversion of laws, dawdling decision-making process, chauvinistic appointments, prioritization of self above the electorate, the spiraling cost of living and growing unemployment. The unchanging behavioral pattern criss-cross the different arms of government and levels of government without exempting the populace who wanted change but do not want to change.

The Judiciary still allows cases crept into long years, leaving able bodied men/women awaiting trials, wealth and means still determine judicial treatments while perpetual injunctions still sell at the bar. In the Legislature, showmanship remains a pride of place, oversight hindered by pecuniary interest and motions and bills moved in hundreds without corresponding efficacy. But in truth, if we sincerely desire change, then we must allow the government to run like a private entity desirous of making a profit for its stakeholders – the populace. It is in the light of the above, I think it is pertinent Mr. President picks up a copy of “How Google Works “, a book written by two Google Inc Executives, Eric Schmidt and Alan Eagle.

The book depicts how the internet century we find ourselves runs, where technology is roiling the business landscape and the pace of change can be equated to the speed of lighting. In the book, Mr. President will be fortunate to learn about how Smart Creatives (young people with creative ingenuity to apply what is learned)  made end users the target of every Google’s product and drive the brand from a mere university project/ Silicon Valley startup to what we all know as Google today.  Applying this to governance, the administration will learn what it is worth to inject young creative minds in the current dispensation with the mandate to take governance down to the people by formulating the policy that are people driven. In the view of Eric Schmidt and Alan Eagle, a “smart creative is a firehouse of new ideas that are genuinely new. Her perspective is different from yours or ours. It’s even occasionally different from her own perspective… She is curious creative. She is always questioning, never satisfied with the status quo, seeing problems to solve everywhere and thinking that she is just the person to solve them. She can be overbearing.” In simple layman’s language, we need to change tactics of Nigeria’s governance; we cannot be doing the same thing year in, year out and expect different results.

From the Book, Mr. President and members of his cabinet will understand that a prime Google philosophy is not profit but users’ satisfaction which on the long run ends in more product sales. This area of thought dwells also in Public Relations where a quality product sales itself through the word-of-mouth. The government need not spend heavily on publicity if it is doing the right thing. Until government stop attaching undue relevance to itself and stop seeing itself as the must-go-to entity, we might not be ready to drive change. A government is not an end product; it is a service, service to the people. When that service fails to bring about commensurate satisfaction, then the government has failed in its primary responsibility to the people. Getting and satisfying end users are its core responsibility from which it derives its relevance. Less regard is given to the government, its rules and policies today because services which it ought to render to gain trust and retain loyalty are being performed by a plethora of citizens. An average Nigeria is a government, rendering almost all services; power, water, road, and education.

There is a general perception that Mr. President listens to few counsels, particularly the HIPPOS ( Highest-Paid Person’s Opinion) in Aso Rock, but their views are often sycophantic, thus, derailing the government.   “How Google Works” will give Mr. President the insight to understand that no government strives on the limited scope of a single clique’s idea or ideas. A major reason, the anticorruption campaign has been near comatose. While Mr. President says the corruption monster is fighting back, he believes his kitchen cabinet can do no wrong as exemplified in the most recent grass cutting mess, yet Babachir Lawal did no wrong! For Babachir to be so important that he cannot be unplugged should be a concern to all well-meaning Nigerians. Mr. President, ego creates blind spots, you do not know it all, engage the right people who are waiting for you to come to them. No one should be indispensable.

A stroll through President Muhammadu Buhari’s social media handles on announcing he is going for a 10-Day Vacation tells you how frustrated Nigerians are getting with the system that takes pride in moving at the pace of a snail, even snails seem to be relatively very active at night, not this administration. Loathe him or like him, during his inauguration speech, President Donald Trump said something very instructive about governance in America and how it has to return to the people, not some few hands living fat on the toils of the people. Whosoever wrote that speech mirrored the Nigerian predicament where those in the capital particularly the Presidential Villa – Aso Rock, spend billions overseas while the Nigeria’s infrastructure suffers. We do not even take pride in ourselves again; vacation in foreign lands, prioritize foreign wars, feel less concerned that the factories are shutting down and do not even know the depth of hardship in the land.  President Trump said what Americans want are great schools for their children, safe neighbourhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves, “these are the just and reasonable demands of a righteous republic.” Isn’t that the same inalienable request Nigerians seek for when they voted massively for President Muhammadu Buhari under the Change Mantra? A story is told about Israeli tank commanders heading into combat, rather than say “Charge!”, they rally their troops by shouting “Ah’cha’rye,” which translates from Hebrew as “Follow me.”  Can Nigerians follow the President’s footsteps in this regard? Is he leading by example?

Like the mistakes made by Former President Goodluck Jonathan and his retinue of hangers-on, critics of the present administration are not the enemies of the state, Mr. President needs to look inwardly to find his albatross. From the analysis embedded in How Google Works, the ‘Hailing Hailers’ would learn that the ‘Wailing Wailers’ are competitors to power and competition make an organization willing to work, better.  To paraphrase a section in the book, “critic keeps you sharp. We are all human and subject to complacency, no matter how often we tell ourselves to stay on our toes. Nothing lights a fire like a competitor.”

Google today prides itself on data-driven decision-making. But do we have reliable figures down here? We are used to bandying figures around, populations census are designed to be held every Ten years, ours was last held in 2006 with palatable figure differentials, yet the government is not prioritizing doing a new one. I think I would agree with the Minister of Works, Power, and Housing, that we need to do a census of houses to know the actual number of energy we need to drive change, it is a scientific way of planning. ” Decisions once based on subjective opinion and anecdotal evidence now relies primarily on data… London’s water pipes are monitored by thousands of sensors, reducing leakage by 25 percent. Ranchers embed sensors into their cattle that transmit information about the animals’ health and location; each cow transmits about 200 megabytes of data per year, allowing ranchers to fine-tune what, when, and how much they feed their cattle,” it was written in the book. And you just read rightly, water pipes are monitored with sensors and ranchers monitor cattle with sensors to get maximum output. Setting up grazing land or cattle marching down on the Federal Capital was not considered as the ideal way of change. Reading How Google Works will tell Mr. President, we need to be ingenious to excel as a nation.

One needs to do the statistical analysis of emigration from this country to know what we are losing, it is an obvious truth that it is the healthier and more vigorous that emigrate, and not the reverse, yet our government is not bothered. Videos emerged some weeks back showing how able-bodied Nigerians were held hostage in Libya, some even insinuate they were randomly being killed. Wages and salaries in Nigeria are not only ridiculous but pathetically frustrating, just imagine what Eighteen Thousand Naira buys in the market today when 4-litre of palm oil sells for Six Thousand Naira. To change, we must restructure our wage system to give priority to manufacturing, agriculture, education and research focused sectors and reduced drastically, the civil and public service; exceptional people deserve exceptional pay.

In the end, I suggest Mr. President also reads  Adolf Hitler’s, “Mein Kampf”, particularly the first Chapter to understand the unending struggle that exists  between the middle class and the very poor, how daily need to survive drifts families apart and a child trained in a presumably fractured home loses his human dignity and compassion to defend his nation. Mr. President must be humble enough to understand the social contrast, mere charitable relief of Five Thousand naira to the extremely poor or school feeding in a school that lacks basic infrastructure, will end in waste, particularly in this country alien to accountability. Mr President’s work is the sum total of the ingenuity of the team he puts together to achieve is electoral promises.  “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts,” Mr. President needs to return to reading and apply what he learnt if he must achieve, 2019 is around the corner, either for the preservation of his self-glory or the upholding of the tenant of his All Progressives Congress, something needs to be done fast.

 

Sulaimon Mojeed-Sanni writes via smojeeds@yahoo.com, tweets can be send to @OmoMojeed. He lives in Abuja

SSS Vs Apostle Suleiman: Let The Truth Be Told, By Inibehe Effiong

It is politically correct and simplistic for anyone to demand the arrest and prosecution of Apostle Johnson Suleiman, the outspoken and controversial Founder and General Overseer of the Omega Fire Ministries over his recent belligerent utterances against those said by the Nigerian government to be aliens from Mali, Niger, Chad and other neighboring countries; the so-called Fulani herdsmen.

That is what is expected of any die-hard supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari who may be motivated either by ethnic, religious or political sentiments and considerations. It perfectly fits into the narrative of those seeking to divert attention from the unabated mass murder of Nigerian citizens by ‘’foreigners’’ in Southern Kaduna and other parts of the country and the troubling silence of the Nigerian state.

For me, it is Nigeria first. Loyalty to our nation and its Constitution should always take precedence over political, ethnic or religious affiliations. Are we not ashamed as Nigerian citizens that the State Security Service (SSS) is taking action against Apostle Suleiman, a citizen, for making inciting statements in response to the Southern Kaduna massacre when no single person is on record as having been arrested and prosecuted for the killing of defenseless Nigerians, whether Christians or Muslims, in Kaduna State by ‘’foreigners’’?.

I refuse to join the mob calling for the head of Apostle Suleiman, not because I am a Christian or a Southerner but because my spirit, soul and body resent, detest and reject hypocrisy, injustice and oppression in every form. If Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State could shamelessly use taxpayers money to settle or compensate alleged murderers who he also claimed are foreigners in his unserious attempt to dissuade them from their murderous and satanic proclivity, what justification does anyone have to demand the prosecution of Apostle Suleiman for basically calling for self-defense, though in a rather bellicose language?

Governor El-Rufai who is on record for issuing divisive, irresponsible, inciting and dangerous threats and statements in the past without being arrested or prosecuted, further legitimized the insane culture of appeasement of criminals in Nigeria by seeking a truce with alleged murderers instead of bringing them to justice and compensating the victims. If there is no other person that knows those who take senseless pride in shedding innocent blood of human beings because their cows have been attacked or killed, Governor El-Rufai knows them, on his own admission.

The Nigerian state and the SSS or DSS cannot be strong with those calling for self-defense and weak with those who are the real perpetrators of violence and mass murder. It is an unprovoked assault on the intelligence of patriotic Nigerians for the SSS to swiftly go after Apostle Suleiman when the alleged murderers who instigated his bellicose and unfortunate statements are walking freely. That is not just a case of double standard but an audacious and tragic statement that in Nigeria under President Buhari, the criminal justice system is skewed to protect the killers and hunt those calling for self-defense or revenge against the alleged killers.

Is there any self-respecting and truthful person in Nigeria today that will deny the complicity and utter nonchalant disposition of the Buhari’s administration to the killings and destruction by the so-called Fulani herdsmen? Why are we pretending as if we are oblivious of the conspiratorial inaction of the federal government to the mass killing of Nigerians across the country by the herdsmen?

Who has been prosecuted for the Agatu massacre in Benue State? Who has been prosecuted for Nimbo massacre in Uzo-Uwani of Enugu State? Who has been prosecuted for the serial murder of protesting Shiite Muslims in the North? Who has been prosecuted for the continuous killing of Pro-Biafra agitators in the East? Do the lives of our people really matter to President Buhari?

Like many Nigerians, I was outraged by the statements made by Apostle Suleiman after watching the video. Religious leaders should foster the bond of unity, preach peaceful co-existence and not be the instigators of anarchy. Not all Fulani herdsmen are murderers. There are criminal elements in every tribe and religion. We should never submit to the temptation to stigmatize or label an entire religion or tribe for the criminality of its disgruntled members.

The herdsmen have their grievances which should be attended to. Similarly, the host communities and farmers also have their grievances. The bottom line is that no person or group of persons should be excused and protected by the Nigerian state for embarking on mass murder because his or their cows or farmlands or crops have been killed or destroyed, as the case may be.

A deeper and dispassionate introspection on this matter evinces a fact that many commentators and public intellectuals are shying away from. The fact that if the President Buhari-led administration had fulfilled her primary purpose under Section 14 (2) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) by prioritizing the security and welfare of its citizens, there would have been no calls for self-defense and revenge against the continuous attacks by the herdsmen.

Mr. Buhari failed, refused or neglected to act responsibly when the crisis between the herdsmen, their host communities and farmers reared its ugly head at the inception of his administration. The apparent inaction and seeming complicity of the President and other leaders like Governor El-Rufai allowed the crisis to fester and emboldened the herdsmen to continue to kill people indiscriminately at the slightest provocation.

It is because the Nigerian state under President Buhari is confused as to whose life is more important; between that of a human being in Southern Kaduna, Nimbo, Agatu or any other part of the country and a cow, that we now have a situation where those accused of mass murder are protected and compensated while the victims are abandoned and left unprotected and those who react fiercely or irresponsibly to the shameful and pathetic dilemma of the Nigerian state like Apostle Suleiman, are speedily targeted by the institutions of the state.

Get this clear: Apostle Suleiman is not above the law. He is not immune from arrest and prosecution. What we are saying is that it is unacceptable for the SSS to go after him over his bellicose utterances when the killers of innocent Nigerian Christians and Muslims are walking freely. This is not the time for anyone to pretend to love the rule of law more than others. Let justice be done and the law enforced without ethnic, religious or political bias.

Self-defense is a fundamental right recognized and guaranteed by Section 33 (2) (a) of the Nigerian Constitution. There is nothing unlawful in calling on those whom the Nigerian state has failed to protect and rescue from the murderous grip and attacks of blood thirsty criminals to defend themselves. If Apostle Suleiman went beyond the constitutional allowances of self-defense and freedom of expression, let the law take its course.

However, it will be an aberration for Apostle Suleiman to be punished or persecuted over his utterances when the real perpetrators of the violence and the mindless killings that he complained of are left to go unpunished. Justice should be blind to all persons irrespective of their race, religion, sex, ethnicity or political leaning.

Inibehe Effiong is a Legal Practitioner and Convener of the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (COHRD) and can be reached at: inibehe.effiong@gmail.com

Finding Economic Justice In Buhari’s Social Investment Programmes, By Johannes Tobi Wojuola

“We must recover the whole sense of gift, of gratuitousness, of solidarity. Rampant capitalism has taught the logic of profit at all costs, of giving to get, of exploitation without looking at the person… and we see the results in the crisis we are experiencing!” – Pope Francis

 

The portraits of globalization and neo-liberalism are oft painted as very attractive and propitious. In reality they are for some – who are just a handful.

 

Two big words and two big problems that have been responsible for creating a large margin of inequalities and concentrated wealth in the hands of a few. Big businesses continue to benefit from globalization and neoliberal policies; they have become stronger and more powerful. But at the expense of disadvantaged groups and the poor – who are in the majority.

 

Globalization is the unfettered interchange of products and ideas around the world. Its cousin, neo-liberalism is that economic philosophy that favours a free-market. One that is preferably undisturbed as much as possible by the state.

 

The nexus of these two concepts has created a situation where those who control the resources of a society’s economy have concentrated a large percentage of society’s wealth in their hands. And consequently, inequalities have grown wider by the day.

Fact: 62 individuals own half of the world’s wealth.

This is symptomatic of the ills of a world daily drawing closer towards capitalist ideologies with no social buffers.

I am not anti-liberalism or anti-globalization. However, I am an advocate that with growing inequality numbers and rising unemployment figures caused in large measure by these; government must intervene to fill in the gap through principles and policies of economic justice. Like me, many argue that these inequalities can be managed through the right social investment programmes.

 

A balance must be struck through conscious government policies and affirmative action for the underprivileged and disadvantaged. Every serious government must invest in the lives of its people – especially the poor, who it must protect from economic shock.

 

This is what every, and particularly Buhari’s social investment programmes seeks to do: Giving handouts to the poorest Nigerians; providing youths with necessary skills and stipends to be able to create jobs after a short while; making loans accessible to local traders whose income are merely subsistent; giving free food to children in public schools and bursaries to poor and promising students in tertiary institution.

 

Some questions may resonate in the mind of commentators on this issue: would these programs have the needed impact to fill in the gap? Would 5,000 Naira change lives? Or will 30,000 Naira and skills to young graduates change their fortunes?

Absolutely.

 

In fact, these programs don’t just have immediate effects on the lives of the beneficiaries, but long term impacts. Skills are intangible assets that can always be called on; so also education – a broad target of these programs.

Also, with more disposable income to the household of beneficiary families, through the Conditional Cash Transfer to the poorest Nigerians, there would be improved living standards and more cash at hand to boost their purchasing power and nutrition.

Five thousand Naira to the poor seems a paltry sum. But the needs of the elite and those of the poorest families in the hinterland are a world apart. While the former may only need that to purchase recharge card, 20 percent of that amount could be survived on by a rural family for a week. Yes: these families only need to buy basic condiments and food items to augment what is already on ground.

And with the quid pro quo precondition for benefitting from this program – where beneficiary families are required to send their children to schools and show evidence of same before they can access the grants – increased attendance and higher completion rates at school would be expected.

Most of the beneficiaries, who live in agrarian communities, are also likely to invest in agric businesses. For instance buying and rearing chickens; which is argued by the world’s richest man, Bill Gates as a guaranteed way out of poverty.

The Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme – GEEP – also known as Market Moni, another scheme of the Buhari administration’s social investment programmes is providing small loans as low as 10,000 Naira to as much as 100,000 Naira to millions of small scale traders at no interest rates and with no collateral requirements. Accessing capital is a big challenge for this demography of the lowest cadre of businessmen. High interest rates and rigid collateral demands have chased them from accessing loans to expand their businesses and employ more labour. The fear of interest rates is the beginning of wisdom for every borrower. Dowsing this is critical to developing and supporting small businesses.

A truly fair society is fashioned in a way that benefits all, especially the least advantaged – and that is what economic justice is. By and large these programmes would boost productivity among the disadvantaged population; rising inequality would be watered down; living standards would be improved and economic activities would be stimulated across the country.

Government has a paramount duty to its citizens: to improve their lives and well being.

And in the face of concentrated wealth among a few, and a raging recession, it has a responsibility to focus its policies and programs on the redistribution of this wealth in bridging the divide.

Social Investment Programmes may seem like the tale of Robin Hood. But it is a better ballad: with no one getting robbed, it is lowering the raised social bar to give economic protection and opportunities to disadvantaged populations – victims of growing inequalities and the effects of neo-liberalist policies.

Johannes Tobi Wojuola, a Lawyer and Member of the Abuja Global Shapers (An Initiative of the World Economic Forum, Davos), writes from Abuja.

America Doesn’t Owe Anybody Anything, By Umar Hassan

President Donald Trump has promised to get Americans off welfare by rebuilding America with American labour. He has promised an end to the era where their borders were open to countries stealing their companies, making their products and destroying their jobs. America will no longer enhance foreign industries at the detriment of its own and will no longer spend trillions overseas while its infrastructure continues to decay. It will not protect other countries’ borders at the expense of its own and will not empower other armies while its gets depleted.

Trump is just the right man to finally make the world understand that America doesn’t owe anybody anything and there couldn’t be a better time than now when its gestures are not only being taken for granted but also used to paint it the villain.

As of this time last year, the United States campaign against ISIS tagged Operation Inherent Resolve had gulped $6.2 billion at a princely rate of approximately $480,000 an hour and the Pentagon was asking for an additional $7.5 billion to keep on fighting the ISIS. That was all just a year and half into the campaign and before the terrorist group made massive forays into Afghanistan and Libya. But what has it gotten in return? Castigations and denigrations that defy human reasoning.

President Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama has been blamed for the rise of the ISIS by withdrawing US troops from Iraq in 2011 but it is important to note that the Status of Forces agreement made by the Bush administration set a 2011 withdrawal date. This much was said by Bush when he held a famous joint press conference with the then Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri Al Maliki and moments after saying that, he was stoned by an Iraqi journalist. That was the extent to which most Iraqis had grown to abhor the United States presence in their country. They saw the US troops as illegitimate occupiers and causers of civilian deaths. Al Maliki summed up the sentiment when he said:

“The incomplete sovereignty and presence of foreign troops have being the most dangerous, most complicated and most burdensome legacy since the dictatorship. Iraq should get rid of them to prevent its young democratic experiment”.

The US merely complied with the wishes of the Iraqi people by pulling the stops on a war that had cost it $1trillion at that time, so I find it utterly disgusting to hear people say they left earlier than they should. The oppression of the Sunni minority by the Shiite majority after the Americans left ensured an emerging ISIS had a lot of sympathizers from the Sunnis who had been instrumental to helping the US troops fight Al Qaeda. There have been many reports on how complacent the Iraqi army got when they were left to stand on their own and this made the ISIS grow in confidence. It is not Obama’s fault that the Sunni/Shiite conflict had been going on for centuries or that Al Maliki rubber stamped the oppression of the minority Sunni after the US left and killed hundreds of those who dared to protest neither is it his that the Iraqis didn’t make the over $20 billion spent by the US in rebuilding its armed forces just a year after its withdrawal, count.

The start of the Syrian civil war in 2011 meant the ISIS had more than enough land across the border to comfortably grow in. While I am not disputing the fact that the US may have covertly armed unrecognized forces severally to help fight a common enemy and that this could very much be said to have created a situation where weapons were left in the hands of people very prone to being swayed by the ISIS, it is important to understand its motive which simply put is, helping a people fight a just cause. Take Syria for example where Bashir Al Assad had ruled for about 10 years as at the time of the famous revolt in some Arab nations against perpetual leadership in 2010 popularly referred to as the Arab Spring. He had taken over from his father who had ruled for 29 years and Assad was the most vicious of all the rulers turned against by their own people. He went as far as dispersing protests with life bullets and attacking his own people with chemical weapons. It was obvious the war had taken a new dimension and arming and training those willing to stand up to the government was a great service to the Syrian people. That a lot of Syrian fighters with arms thought the ISIS cause a worthier one at some point is not America’s fault. Here in Nigeria, when a lot of people in the South East and South South turned to armed robbery after the civil war because of the abundance of arms in the region, governments fought hard to curb the scourge rather than blaming who was supplying the Biafrans arms during the war.

As elementary as this may sound, it still remains the truth. The problem lies first with the extremists, their warped understanding of Islam and the individuals and countries supporting them. Terrorism has been helped by the advancement of the social media which has allowed the extremists prey on vulnerable minds and show off their might more easily. Then you also have the fact that the weaker groups are now uniting with the stronger ones instead of fighting themselves.

They may be a plethora of other reasons why terrorism is growing but it is certainly not because of the United States of America. The world owes it loads of gratitude for its efforts at making it a better place and not condemnation.

Trump is the new man on board and he has promised to spend less on helping others fight their wars. It makes sense if you consider the money that has being pumped into that by previous governments and what he wants to use funds for. The new ‘big brother’ wants everybody to fend for themselves and it has dawned on quite a number of people especially those who kept hating the US for helping them that America doesn’t owe anybody anything.

 

Umar Sa’ad Hassan is a lawyer based in Kano.

An Overview Of The Change Mantra, Its contours And The Transcript Of Our Dreams, By Jimi Bickersteth

At a resort in Yeketome,Badagry, off Lagos, this bright and warm January morning, the palm trees rustled in the slight breeze,in a passive world of their own. Every now and then there came the sound of a soft thud as a coconut dropped.

The faint roar of the traffic along the sea road blended with the swish of the sea,breaking on the beach. The expanse of blue water,attracting the fluorescent clothing of the bright morning sun,lit softly,the golden shine cascading amongst a million waves,as it made a soothing reflection on the palm fronds woven terrace. With each breaking of the wave, my mind eye became clearer and brighter.

I know by the time you get to read this, barring any unforeseen, PMB must have gone on vacation to the UK,and the nation expects him back from his 10-day vacation reinvigorated. Here’s hoping the wearingly six-hour flight would not been irksome and irritating.
It must be a relief to see him back home; back home, to tons of loads of problems, but hopefully, with a feeling of rejuvenated body and mind, and freshness-an easy lilting smile.

Back home to the warm embrace of a desperately expectant, but, a static society he left behind,one where he’ll be fighting with his back to the wall,for a fast eroding goodwill. Yes,the nation under PMB’s watch, so far,has been ‘no melon’ spelt backwards.

A tough,reticent, hardly smiling,with a hostile and cold mask, PMB-always,had been, always would be,is a mien that is not working for our democracy under his watch;particularly, his feeble attempts to right the wrongs, and to overcome the nation’s growing economic inertia.

In spite of myself, I suddenly became bored,bored stiff about all this  “network” and “arrangements”,with how people got into our political offices,but being offensive to no one.

With the rush of the wind across my face, I became calm but breathless, no calmer than a spinster who has found a man under her bed.
A sudden thumping of my pulse and a tight feeling across my chest, reminded me of my Swipha drugs (picked over the counter),which I didn’t use last night.

The nation’s situation of glum, is breathtaking, continuous, with no end in sight; what with corruption, debt crisis, hyper inflation, unstable dollar naira exchange rate;with ‘darkness’ in the land foreshadowing a brilliant Fashola’s general factotum; and suppressed tensions over the nation’s horizon that all could sense rather than see.

It is pretty unnerving and I started breathing the way an old man with asthma would, with a relief that was comic. With an incredulous gasp,as I pushed back my chair to give me a little breathing space and stared at the thatched roof of my hired tent, the lens of my reading glasses reflected the sea, the sky and the palms.A dragonfly zoomed its large wings across my face and hummed to sea,while I thought how nice it would be to get this nation moving again.

A nation big enough to more than take care of itself. But I know if we are to get it right, get somewhere (and anywhere)there are certain things that must be in place, and in our minds a new beat the nation must begin to dance. Lot’s of bigger ideas and ideals to be deployed, before everything, everything, would get ship- shaped.

We need more than the stilted conversation from the National Assembly and politicians who presently are welcome to Nigerians as an outbreak of poliomyelitis;and there’s the need to be shielded,if not finally excused from the moral burdens up there;the grand conspiracy and high wired deceit in the Land; that has gotten Nigerians who had imagined the APC led administration would be blasé enough to take the change choreographed by the Party in its stride,but hadn’t, rather it pollutes the polity with reckless streaks that often times swamps cautious judgment and optimism.

These politicians as a breed,has failed to realize that its not about what we want to do; what we are going to do; which, always often don’t get to first base;it’s what we are doing without rubber cushioning.

The moment they are elected, they often forget,that it is their duty and moral obligation,in spite of any other social investment packages, to ensure and create an enabling environment for the primary things- which includes: provision of affordable food, housing, health, and education.

It is said that a week,(not to talk of 20 months) is a long time in politics, more so in a nation with an embarrassment of riches, and a democracy riddled with clichés, but fitting – a small plus against a lot of minuses. It is easy to criticise, (as I intend to do here)you’ll say;but, then, Nigerians are getting it rough and hard,and are  in a difficult position, all of who are full of oil and soft soap on all those whom the nation was showering her baubles.

With the foregoing as a background,time it is therefore, to shelter an ugly illusion; and there can never be an auspicious and better time than now, that, Mr president is rejuvenated and very fresh.

That President Muhammadu Buhari’s performances or lack of it, is drawing very critical acclaim from a people expecting an immediate change of the old order,a people whose dreams of hope for equal opportunities regardless of where one hails from in the geographical divide is daily vaporising before their very eyes. Peoples all of who have a common frater cousin in poverty;and dying hungry and hopeless, in a country that has so much to offer in terms of human,natural and material resources.

Today’s Nigeria is a country where wrong desires coincide with opportunity and greed; where the mass of the people have an unending struggle for rights and survival; and, where seeing through the veil of optimism and hope can be especially challenging and daunting.

Why, because,the economic forces were no longer been made to control,regulate and or direct the attainment and continuous enhancement of the economic prosperity and social wellbeing of the citizens; and administrations after administration had made the nation to forget, that cultivating the habits of creativity is essential to our survival as individuals and as a nation.

This factors led us to the wilderness of despondency and the nation became dependent.With Nigerian economic dependence intensified, its consequences for the Nigerian people were also intensified, and the steady decline of agricultural production and the increasing dependence on food imports has plagued the nation.

The proceed from crude oil, the mainstay of the nation’s economy and substantial foreign exchange earner was no longer sufficient to meet the country’s needs. As a result, the real income of the vast majority of the Nigerian population has decreased, particularly burdened are the poor of the people who depend on “subsidised” basic services. Manufacturing capital has been crippled, especially in enterprises that rely on the constricted domestic market.

A credit squeeze pervades the financial system. Unemployment increases rapidly- the country further integrated into the global capitalist system as a marginalised, peripheral and subservient member.

Thus, the nation found itself where it is today, with the struggle for economic independence postponed. In fact, the popular base for it is being increasingly further weakened, and in the eyes of the third world and the progressive forces, Nigeria has remained “big- for- nothing”, and carry an alias, as a nation that is inexorably squandering its potential for greatness.

Slowly and consistently,as a cistern with a pinhole ,the nation is draining away,while our leaders are erroneously thinking we had the world on a string. Consequently,the Nation’s influence within AU, ECOWAS, or what have you, even with its neighbours has dwindled, so bad, that insurgencies in Cameroon, Chad, and Niger use the country’s northern borders as training and fishing grounds.
The fear of Nigeria’s might which used to be the beginning of wisdom for African leaders, nay,world leaders is no longer there.

These and much more have escorted the nation to increase in senseless, violent acts, mindless fleecing and corruption in high places. It meant something was seriously wrong with society, and a leadership, chronically tensed like a motor that stays revved up. The cameo by insurgencies, like the Boko Haram, the Niger Delta Avengers,to mention but a few,was because our leaders failed to recognise that undetected apathy was every bit destructive to the very fabric of society’s personal safety and neighbourhood morals.

Actually, the real tragedy that travails Nigeria today is not Boko Haram,ND,NDA,IPOB,MASSOB, or whatever,those suicide bombers are far from being our real problem, as their existence and growth into phenomenal horrors are only an effect of certain fundamental problems, which,peripherally, do not appear as what they really are.

Stating the fact as known, soberly and without hysterics. What moral suasion would convinced a people that has been deceived and goaded into belts-tightening, that in the middle of recession, some 21 States in the federation spend a staggering #37.4 billion on pension for only 47 ex-governors.

This and the bare knuckled facts above speak volume, and has brought Nigerians a customized smile, that smile you see on Nigerians and imagined as a smile, is just the kind of spasm you see on someone’s face when they have a sudden stomach cramp.

Not many of our  shifty and fringe people who are finding life and living harder, who expected an explosion but got no expression are laughing. The experience is like that of a nation just coming out of a war not a mere change of guard.

Then cameo penultimate week, the government’s economic team, with PMB’s ‘magic wand’ tagged ‘ERGP’
-Economic Recovery and Growth Plans, with a debonair, distinguished, handsome looking man with the touch of the elder statesman about him; a cool aloof expression, always immaculately dressed and a razor sharp legal brain, Minister for Budget and National Planning as its arrowhead.

Looking at the paper dispassionately, one comes away with the impression that the policy’s espousal of monetarism is merely putting the nation on; a nation that,is always and for now,will always be a marginalised,peripheral and subservient member in the global capitalist system.

This may mean that the hopes of a quick economic recovery, even in government eye, has vanished like a fist becoming a hand. Too Bad, for a government that has promised so much, in fact, a whole panoply of social and economic improvements.

As part of its economic recovery plans, the sale and or divestments of national assets has a prime and pride of place. The sale and or divestments of national assets to raise funds needed to combat recession, as stated in the ERGP,is but another invitation to chaos and a disequilibrium, using the nation’s recent history and experiences therefrom; simply put, buying up the commonwealth,is the administration’s own style of creating its own nouveaux rich class,bourgeois tastes, attitudes and ideas; supporting the interests of capitalism; not a socialist economy.

It went further among other rhetorics, stable oil production; restoration of crude oil production, these as policies,are rather puerile and dead on arrival. Nigeria’s economy heavily relies on oil revenue, the slides in its prices, due to the world oil glut; low output due to renewed hostility of the insurgents in blowing up the NNPC oil pipelines; and the criminal neglect and poor maintenance of the local refineries have plunged the nation into recession,let the economic team think outside the box. Think agriculture.

To increase oil production, but can Nigeria unilaterally increase its share of the quota in the crude oil cartel,OPEC?
To increase production of yet to be identified volume of oil is to promote bunkering and make a few opportunists richer. One may ask,when are we to commence the inventory, to determine and know for sure,the exact figures of barrels per day produced.

The ERGP set out to provide breakthroughs and a way out of the nation’s present economic logjams and social lockdown, but only succeeded in fabricating with overweening arrogance, a utopian paradise,(and it would be great to wakeup to a transcript of all our dreams). In the process, it fashioned out a policy that’s fit for the rich and idle, not one for a hurting generation,surving on mere instincts and without placating palliatives.

If indeed we are in a democracy,then, the Nation cannot accept this ERGP as a fait accompli,when it is witnessing a great depression that has seen businesses and families go through worst experiences, perhaps for the first time in their lives, with young boys and girls,fathers and mothers sitting on their stoops under broken verandahs, hungry.

Conversely, the government by its growth plans has shown itself to be truly over whelmed by the enormity of the problems and the misery the people has had to cope and endured therewith,that it copiously left out taxation and other taxes. In any case,with the growing rate of unemployment,retrenchment and downsizing,all over the lengths and breadth of the nation, who is left to pay the taxes? With no industrial base,manufacturing concerns and or production, where do you expect taxes to come from, and this are mere elementary submissions.

Torn between morality, Law, common sense and semantics, the nation needs an uncommon common sense to get out of the quagmire it has found itself,not this tried, tested,and tired policies/agendas,that often serve as a reminder to us,that, we’ve passed through this pass before,it didn’t work then, and if it wasn’t working then when we were vibrant, the possibilities of it working now that we are disillusioned is remote.

In my humble opinion,I  feel the government and whoever the authors of the PMB’s ERGP were,shouldn’t have relied practically on their own perspective alone,not at a time the nation has to its references, such a large scale,enormous, widespread and incontrovertibly true inconveniences.

Everyone is had it tough this days,save, public servants and their ‘the job is rotten,the pay is good’ existence, that has come down on the nation like a ton of concrete;and who will never advice PMB on pay cut;even when the nation is proposing, going a borrowing in its 2017 budget, to the tune of #2.36trillion (foreign)and #1.05trillion (local). With the budget deficit of the past years ,and still unrelenting, the recurrent debt servicing, what future lay ahead!

Poverty, lack,privations and misery, widespread deprivation caused by unemployment and an expectant nation waiting on government to come out with a policy that should guarantee that the poorest and most deprived people will receive special government help; but this ERGP has succeeded in further throwing the people in the throes of confusion and insecurity.

Hence,as different as the patterns in kaleidoscope : the retired, single mothers, angry young men and women fallen on hard times and insecure, watched helplessly, how the soft facadè of lofty ideals of a nation shattered like stained glass windows pelted by rocks.

They have been forced to defend themselves with arsenal of angry words, and spoke in a tone devoid of creed, tribe or religion.
The youths and children not left behind, as they are within their pitying limited talents are learning to be streetwise to fend off predators eager to exploit them, childhood itself a casualty of our troubled time, robbed of childhood, and a deformed and ill-equipped future; girl -mother in their teens,pregnant for equally green and inexperienced boys, results of broken homes, with foster care creeping on us as looming shadow. They all, cursed the voice of Change that echoed across the Niger and in the creeks.

The inattentiveness to this sordidness is what would prompt one to make an educated guess,that, the economic team did not stretch, widen and grow their views beyond what they feel or imagined; or if they did at all,they only managed to scratch the surface. There is nothing strange or new about that,even, the great Isaac Newton’s,”Principa Mathematica”contained a simple calculation error that went unnoticed for 300 years.

The government,therefore, has to start doing what needed to be done based on the reality on ground,which,are quite different from what its economic team know or based its recovery and growth plans on. That can be humbling! But then,humility,is a secret of an enduring popularity for any politician. Somebody said, “To be humble to superiors is duty; to equals, courtesy; to inferiors, nobility.

In any event, it’s foolhardy to ignore the beacons that warns you of danger. It’s likely they’ll have to ask questions further, conduct real and empirical surveys and opinions polls of those outside their neighborhoods,comfott zones and in remote places,outside of their sphere of influence and for more than once,before they’ll be able to come up with a policy that is truly representative of a truly Nigerian wish that would match our aspirations and the Nigerian Dream, with the current policy, for me, it’s a no- no.

The government should therefore not be timid to approach nor afraid to ask,so that they could do things better and differently from its predecessors. Anything contrary, the PMB administration would give an impression for the world to come to a conclusion that he knows no more of what has happened to our country than the previous government does-which is exactly nothing.

The coterie of advisers must note that the song and jubilations that heralded Buhari’s victory in the last general election has drowned and the soaring spirits quickly had to settle under the weight of responsibility. What in a nation with a backpack full of complications. In a nation with a freak economy and myriads of other daunting social and political issues.

The President have to hasten slowly ( no pun intended), and deliberately turn things around, to wash the fear from our system, of being alone in the wilderness, to be combative with hearts and minds of unflinching granite that brooked no contradiction.

PMB has not been able to pull in the reins, and all manner of things have been let loose. He may feel less constrained, but, the economic team policy , notwithstanding,he still has to contend and deal with what’s come out of the experiences of the last Twenty months or so;and the coming weeks and months, would be such a very busy and interesting one for the nation’s great white hope.

With PMB’s laid back approach since assumption of office last May,it is one’s hope that PMB & Co knows what they want. Who says life gets dull when you get what you want. Put your feet up and enjoy the soaps – soaps after all are supposedly a reflection of real life.

In the ensuing serial drama, (ta bá lè dúró wòótán),if we can wait and watch to the end,the APC would not be in a position to be able to label anyone,those we invited to dine and take exceptions to our complaints about their table manners. One thing is clear,though, this alliance of strange progressives and strange bedfellows is beginning to look unnatural.

Everything looks fuzzy, at the moment, but, Nigerians should not be worried, because that was how dreams were sometimes, especially when one is close to wakefulness. In dreams you run desperately like a mouse running on a treadmill and never getting anywhere, but dreams disappears in the morning leaving your thinking and reasoning intact. Is PMB, nay, the APC itself not a dream, in a dream or on a dream.

The nation knows that “Change” is inevitable and for Nigerians it has become somewhat very necessary, but PMB has to be more careful of trying to change itself to earn acceptance. The truth is, he already has it, just that the people can no longer accept and excuse all the things that are wrong with the nation and its politicians.

That his administration has truly squeezed life out of the people, so much, that life has become harried,the people exasperated and downhearted with a life that has turned stale,all fizz and no taste,is not in doubt.

I suddenly had this distraction in my mind of a John Locke essay, that seventeenth century English philosopher, who in that essay made a case against the dogma of innate ideas and successfully proven that experience is the key of knowledge.

He must not interprete our humble correction and convincing conviction as rejection. Indeed, he should be concerned about the absence of it. So,let him,fix his mind on the problems and his promises,not his feelings, and get the nation back on track to the paths of recovery, growth and progress.

If it is soothing music to the ears of the PMB led government,let’s play the refrain here. It is true the last PDP government, caused frost and brought forth plagues of snail and caterpillars to destroy our seeds and fruits. Yes! But,speculation has reached such a peak and a pitch, that 20 months after,we should by now have known where it all went wrong and off the beam,and a decisive decision be made
immediately as to what we are doing to correct and or right the wrongs,and equally,should have learnt how PMB intended to alter the “norm”.

But for now,what we do have, is a nation that’s been consigned to go through numbing pain, that hurt so badly, that words cannot describe,but it shows on the weariness etched in our deeply circled dark eyes. Sincerely, Nigerians have gone through such a roller coaster of worry, despair, insecurity, hunger and grief.

To navigate out of the morass and decline, we need the good and value judgment and those who know more about life. These seeming wild, frustrating bouts of confusion and dithering, must be followed by leaping brightness and warmth.

Mr president’s primary duty is to acknowledge the deplorable conditions under which Nigerians live and die. This in itself is enough impetus for an awareness of danger,that should make PMB aware of the weapons and strategies and the nature of the enemy- poverty, second only to religion, which between them had perpetrated some of the worst and most terrible atrocities that have scandalised history.

To be successful in the daunting task ahead,as the good people of Nigeria,feel and hope he will, PMB will have to be truthful and honest to himself, as the bucks end on his table. He can no longer afford to isolate the truth and the reality.
He must begin to prove to all that,though, a good education is invaluable,there are uneducated millionaires and that fortunes are found in everyday pains.

To be able to so do,it’s important to focus on understanding the people,their moods, be open and authentic so that the people can understand him.
Today, there wasn’t anywhere in the world that AK47 and force could raise people up.Even if we had the bullets, what good would the revolution be to a people who hardly know how to use toilet paper, not to speak of a pen or pencil. They have to be taught. They have got to learn what the choices are before they can make them.  otherwise, (as PMB could testify with his experience in 1985), could make him vulnerable.

The unwillingness on the part of some leaders to be transparent and keep people in the dark, to maintain a measure of control is outdated, secrecy spawns isolation, not success. Knowledge is power,yes, but what leaders neeed is collective power and that requires collective knowledge.

Whatever the condition,Nigerians should never waiver nor go on a downward spiral into a mire of bitterness, self-pity,wounded pride that had led us to a life of debauchery, but, set Nigeria and the islands of people free from the excruciating burdens of mental, emotional and financial lack and make attempts by joining hands to protect all we have striven to achieve both as a nation and individuals; the hopes,the years toiled in the oasis of dreams and hard work.

We must not sit around like the Maytag repairman, stop watching our harvest on the field. The nation’s problems are as old as the nation, and all it probably would require were a new set of personnel and the
assurance that the hopes to find perfect and lasting happiness is just a will-o’-the -wisp,but, knowing what to do and actually doing it are two different things.  It is not a vision we lack but resolve.The APC and PMB’s tenure would be measured by its effectiveness and impact.

Homewards bounds, at about 1840hours,I noticed the sun turn to a red ball,as it sank slowly into the sea. Long shadows crept up the deserted and lonely beach. The palm trees were black against the rose and yellow sky. Cars continued to crawl at breakneck speed along the sea road.

Now my exit line: to Lagos this was just another hot evening with a dark night to come,unaware of the problems of the future.
But I see a big picture of a big future for the nation, if only we have the right leadership orientation. For now,it’s important to keep the nation, its leaders and politicians thinking on the right lines and to make sure the president uses such soft powers his office guaranteed him in the right way and for the greater good of all,then we can all wear a brass halo.Sweet dreams.#
Jimi Bickersteth.
Jimi Bickersteth is a public affairs analyst, blogger and writer.
He can be reached on twitter
@alabaemanuel
@jimi.bickersteth
www.Facebook.com / jimi.bickersteth

Who Wants President Buhari Dead? By @DeleMomodu

Fellow Nigerians, please allow me to say wherever two or more Nigerians are gathered these days the topic of discussion must, naturally, dovetail to our dear President’s state of health and the consequential suggestion that our country is ailing as a result. This controversy didn’t start today. I remember how Governor Peter Ayodele Fayose, the enfant terrible of Ekiti State, raised a horrific alarm, just before the 2015 election that eventually catapulted Major General Buhari back to power. He had screamed to the whole world, indeed to high heavens, that the then APC Presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, had suffered brain damage and that he had to be flown abroad in an air ambulance for treatment. I was in London at that time and I remember making frantic calls to impeccable sources who I believe would know the truth. I was able to obtain pictures of visitors to the modest apartment General Buhari was staying at the time, which was somewhere in the high brow Mayfair. The visitors included Nasir El Rufai and Kayode Fayemi and they were able to dispel the ugly rumour even if some doubting Thomases still believed the worst had happened as Fayose continued to spur them on.

It is about two years since that happened and it doesn’t seem much has changed. The only difference is that Buhari is now the President of Africa’s biggest nation and any news about him would be of greater interest to Nigerians, wherever they may be, and indeed the rest of the world. Since assuming power as Executive President, whenever the President has travelled abroad on vacation, the rumour mill has gone into overdrive with all manner of people espousing their own theories as to what is wrong with the President and the sort of treatment he has gone to receive. This trip is no different. It has been compounde by the fact that it was announced oin this occasion that the President was going on a medical vacation as he would take the opportunity of his holiday to see his doctors. This is why I believe the President’s information managers should try harder to dispel the rumours. They left the door ajar with the small piece of information they provided. Mischief makers would make capital out of this once nothing more was said about the matter. There is no big deal telling us how the President is spending his holiday, where he is staying and so on. If indeed he is seeing doctors for a routine check up or worse still his health is failing like happens to all mortals, there is nothing to be ashamed of. We should be provided with the information and updated regularly with what is happening. If the President had routinely gone into hospital Nigerians should know the hospital as a matter of right what hospital he has gone to and if possible the doctors attending to him. The doctors should be allowed to inform the public as much as possible without jeopardising his right to the little privacy that he has left. The citizens of Nigeria and the rest of the world are anxious to know every little information about the President of the most populous black nation and they should be obliged.

What seems clear to me is that those in charge of disseminating information about the President do not seem to realise that once you become President of Nigeria, especially now in the era of social media, you become a gold fish with no hiding place.  The President of Nigerian is no longer a private person upon assumption of office.  His life belongs to Nigeria and Nigerians.  That is the simple truth that the President and his publicists must realise and accept. It was in the dark ages when people think that they are protecting the President and Nigerians by not telling us about things happening to the President and around him.

If the President’s PR people are not obliging Nigerians then, the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo should take charge properly by addressing the public and allaying the fears of the people. He is a very cerebral person who must appreciate the debilitating effect that the kind of stories being peddled about is having on the polity and the economy.  The has led to people even carrying some salacious tales that some infernal cabal have asked Professor Yemi Osinbajo to resign in order that a Northerner can act as President and to prevent a Yoruba man from becoming President in the event that the worst happens to the President.  The reason that such fiction is able to thrive is because people feel that the Vice President has not come out powerfully enough to demonstrate that he is truly the Acting President. For many, his body language leaves too many questions unanswered. They claim that he either appears like someone in the dark about events around him or that he is just being too careful not to send wrong signals. The way we disseminate news still leaves much to be desired. We seem to treat power with too much trepidation and thus allow touts to take over and rule the airwaves and cause confusion all over the place.  I know that is not the case because the Vice President is not that kind of person.  He is a careful but deliberate man who brings his intelligence and experience to bear on all that he is doing.  However, it is clear to me that he has not been faced with this kind of dilemma before. I am sure that the Vice President knows that neither the President nor himself have any real private life again. It is clear that President’s handlers do nt know this.  I was surprised to hear what my brother, the Special Adviser to the President, Femi Adesina, had to say about this matter suggesting that it was left to the President to tell us what he wished about himself, his vacation and his health.

Silence is not always golden. It can be somewhat destructive if care is not taken. I’m reasonably certain that President Buhari is on a short vacation as announced when he was travelling. Even if I do not know exactly where he is, I believe he is resting and possibly seeing his doctors for an annual check up. Why make a sog and dance or fetish of this? President Buhari is human after-all. It is sad that we often make mountains out of molehills by our actions, inactions and ill-actions. Nigeria ought to have learnt useful lessons from the days prior to the death of former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. This was how Nigeria was thrown into total confusion in 2010 because of the inordinate ambitions of a few people. I believe we have come a long way since then.  I thought we had established that our public officers, especially our leaders, are in the spotlight and the full glare of the citizenry.  That is the price you pay for leadership. You cannot expect to be in that role and then want to be a private citizen.  If you want that, then you stay in the confines of your sitting room or the “other room”!  You certainly do not aspire to public office, if that is your desire.  There are very good reasons why we need to know what is happening to our leaders, especially the President and the Vice President. Our Leaders forget that they are Public servants. Emphasis being on the word “Public”.  They are being maintained by our hard earned money, tax payers money, whether they are on holiday, or on a routine medical check or a major medical operation. We therefore have a right to the information that is presently being hidden from us. If the President does not care as some of his aides are suggesting, we care! It is our country and we asked him to lead us.

The state of health of the President, Vice President, and other major leaders in the executive, the legislature and the judiciary are of paramount concern to us.  If they are ill and unable to govern, legiste or dispense justice, we, the people, must know.  They cannot be patched up.  It is them, the elected leaders, and not their cohorts, associates and acolytes that we elected to govern and legislate for us. Those associates, kitchen cabinet members or other surrogates cannot overreach the Constitution and govern on behalf of the President or Governors.  That is what almost happened during President Yar’Adua’s last days. We vigorously resisted those that sought to hijack the government at that time and succeeded in driving them out of Aso Rock.  Nobody can take us back to those dark days. We are not prepared for anybody to set us back.

The Nigerian Constitution is clear on what would happen in case of any eventuality to the President. No Jupiter can change that unilaterally, not even the Vice President. Fortunately, Prof Osinbajo is an esteemed and erudite lawyer.  I am positive that he will not allow the Constitution to be suborned.  He is a God-fearing and courageous man and will defend the laws of our land as he has pledged to do. I expect that President Buhari will do the same.  That is why he has consistently transmitted a message to the Senate that the Vice-President is to act for him when he is away on vacation.

What happened in The Gambia just last week should have shown clearly that the days of reckless rascality in government and governance in Africa are gone forever. Fortunately, Nigeria and its leaders have taken the lead in enthroning democracy in other countries, cue Charles Taylor and Liberia, Gbagbo and Ivory Coast and now Jammeh and The Gambia, and so cannot now turn around to do the opposite in our own country.

On a more serious note, someone needs to talk some sense to the ruling party, APC. In case, the party apparatchik are still living in denial, it should be told in very clear terms that APC is flailing and floundering aimlessly and dangerously. The party is not living up to expectations. Nigerians are suffering and crying. No excuse can change the fact that most of the promises we made have not been kept. Volunteers and non-party members like us are being harassed and confronted on the streets by those who feel let down by a government we helped to midwife. It is shocking that a party which coasted to power on the wave of a significant majority of popular votes has virtually wasted and frittered away its goodwill so fast. Something drastic and urgent has to be done to arrest the slide into oblivion. The best and most charitable friends of APC would admit privately, if not publicly, that this government has failed to sparkle, in fact, that it has been too lacklustre and sluggish. It is as if it feels it has all the time in the world. Why is APC unable to fly?

There are just too many questions begging for answers and APC has stubbornly refused to own up to its many shortcomings and seek help from within and outside. If you not know the way forward, one should be able to retrace his steps before it is too late. Those who invested in APC did so in the hope that it was coming to demolish the behemoth called PDP and make life better for most Nigerians. Never did we campaign that the journey was going to be an Israelite one that would take a total of 40 years instead of four. I believe Nigerians are very patient and understanding people but they often justifiably get impatient whenever they feel someone has taken them for a ride. This is why it may seem they are kicking fitfully and restlessly against the APC and unable to endure the hardships they currently face.

True change is needed and maybe the way to start being accountable is to publish details of the President’s state of health so we truly know where we are!

Why The Narrative About The Conflict In Southern Kaduna Is Disingenuous, By Okoi Obono-Obla

The Nigeria elite is highly hypocrite and suffers from selective amnesia! I recall that in January, 2006 Ebom people bombed neighbouring Ebijakara in Abi Local Government Area of Cross River State with dynamites. More than 300 were killed and all the houses in Ebijakara destroyed.

Today Ebijakara are homeless and internally displaced people. I waged a relentless campaign for Justice for Ebijakara no body from Cross River supported it.

Today, some people are pretending to be vociferous about unfortunate conflict in Southern Kaduna just because President Muhammadu Buhari.  Must we politicize, sectionalize and bring religion into everything under the sun?

Ebijakara is entirely Christian but it did not arouse the conscience of Christians Community Cross River State nay Nigerian!

The narrative that the crisis in Southern Kaduna is Christian versus Muslim is totally dishonest, biased and disingenuous.

It is a script by some anarchists and trouble makers who are hungry for blood and wants to use such narrative to ignite a conflict in Nigeria.

All communal conflicts in Nigeria are rooted in ancient animosities, grudges, prejudices and intense struggle for land rights! The one in Southern Kaduna is no exception!

In Cross River State such bloody conflicts and eruptions are frequent occurrences! They are Ediba-Usumutong; Nko-Mkpani-Nyima; Onyedama-Nyima-Nko to mention but a few!

I recall the bloody communal conflict in Aguleri and Umuleri communities in Anambra State some few years ago.

In 1995, the people of Umuleri invaded Aguleri and started killing, maiming and destroying properties belonging to Aguleri. Aguleri and Umuleri are Christian and Igbo communities.

The crisis was brought to an end by the Obasanjo administration, when he went to the effected communities and invited leaders of the three (3) communities (Umuoba Anam inclusive) to the state house for a meeting. It was during this time that an agreement was reached, to settle out of court. A peace committee was formed to see to an amicable settlement.

I recall the bloody communal war between Ife-Modakeke in Osun State in the 1990s and 2001. This conflict has raged for more than two hundred years.

I remember the invasion of Ezillo community in Ebonyi State by well-armed gunmen from Ezza Community in the early hours of the morning in December, 2013 who indiscriminately open fire on innocent villagers killing more than 100 people in Ezillo! The Ezza and Ezillo people are both Christian and Igbo!

Two days a bloody conflict erupted between the Obudu Community in Cross River State and a neighboring Community in Benue State. The conflict is still raging!   The Obudu and Tiv people are predominately Christian!.

For the past five years, the people of communal war erupted between the people of Ochienyim in Amagu Ikwo in Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State and the Adadama community in Cross River State that resulted in massive killings on both sides. These are two supposedly Christian Communities.

The truth of the matter is that Nigeria is rife with communal conflicts and violence.

Maybe there is something structurally and fundamentally wrong with the justice, law and order sectors in the country that conflicts are never resolved but are allowed to snowball into wars!

Government must put in place a machinery to promptly deal with conflict and punish those who instigate and perpetrate them.

OKOI OBONO-OBLA

Kogi: Yahya Bello’s Screening Fiasco, By Isa Eneye Mubarak

I’ve been quiet since the start of Yahya Bello’s regime in Kogi state because I’m a firm believer. I do not give up on people easily, and I’ve not given up on him yet. So I’ll try and be constructive in my argument as much as possible. As Paula Abdul rightly said ‘Constructive criticism is about finding something good and positive to soften the blow to the real critique of what really went on.’

Whatever information I gathered cannot be far different from the reality on ground by the ordinary citizens of Kogi State what their families are going through in the hands of our so called digital administration. People who benefits from a government praises it, those who don’t criticize it. People are being tagged “enemy of progress” just for criticizing the Digital Governor.

The arrival of Yahaya Bello was ‘miraculous’ and very much welcomed by many that wanted change in the governance of Kogi State. I’m not just in total support of the need for screening but also the total elimination of corrupt individuals, some have held the state to ransom earning what they do not deserve, fixing ‘ghosts’ in our payroll. There’s need to weed this people out for this state to move forward. The verification/screening that ordinarily would have been the best thing to have happened to Kogi state have become a nightmare and disaster.

The Governor started off the wrong foot as he made frantic efforts to remove ghost workers. Some genuine workers today are yet to be paid their salaries and yet the governor and his cabinet keep on telling the whole world that all debts has been cleared that only ghost workers are the ones nagging. It is so deplorable that some people who started as civil servants in the then Kwara state before the emergence of Kogi state and before Yahaya Bello was even born are now presently seen as ghost workers.

Many celebrated the Islamic and Christian festivals without a farthing in their pockets. The Yahaya Bello they celebrated has suddenly become a bone in their necks. Many sins are pardonable but to declare a living being ghost and deprive them of their wages attracts repercussion.

In all honesty, Bello has done a woeful job at this, 11months of screening is total incompetence. During this screening, workers were not paid. This shows he’s insensitive to worker’s welfare, this people have families, they have responsibilities, some totally depends on their salary to cater for their family. It is easy to tell the masses to sacrifice for the state but the Governor and all his cabinets are living like kings.

I can understand the need for sacrifice for this process to be completed but not to the detriment of worker’s not being able to pay children’s school fee, or feed their families.

People have died because of this, families have broken because of this and life has become unbearable because of this. It is one thing to read about it online, its another to see the actual situation on ground. Its horrible and unbearable.

The people who praises this kind of incompetence is either benefiting from the so called ‘digital Governor or are likewise insensitive too. What is even digital about Yahaya Bello? Is it his stubbornness and flamboyant style of living that is digital? What exactly is digital about him?

It is disconcerting that the same civil service reform (staff screening) exercise which was done in states like Kaduna, Sokoto, Benue, Plateau, Kwara with much bigger staff strength within weeks and few months didn’t take much time, or controversies as the one done in Kogi State which is yet to be fully concluded. It doesn’t require rocket science to know that the bank verification number (BVN) of workers holds the key to a genuine and successful staff audit and that was what all the states used in cleaning up their civil service., However, our ‘new direction’ government opted to go the archaic way which has raised more questions than required of this administration’s hidden agenda to systematically retrench workers under the guise of screening.

The unprofessional method employed by the committee rubbished and ridiculed the whole process. In a self defeating manner, the government having realized the failures associated with this unapologetically derailed and fantastically unethical committees, have disbanded successive committees only to set up a more disastrous one.

One of the areas this ‘digital governor’ has done a perfect job is PUBLICITY. So quick to take every little thing to the News. He has done so well in this aspect that if you live on social media you’ll be convinced he has done a perfect job. Some propagandists here (social media) tell us about how the governor has workers at heart or what he intends to do or how ‘all debts has been cleared’ but what we’ve seen for the past one year is paper policy, campaign after election, mere talk, power without will, affluence on the side of some appointees.

Yahaya Bello and his cronies count on followers believing their lies, even in the face of irrefutable evidence to the contrary. They basically live in an echo chamber in which everyone watches the same news channel, listens to the same talk radio, reads the same newspapers and web sites where propaganda is the new hub.

A leader is bound to make mistake, when such mistake is constantly been defended by his cronies in his Cabinet such leader has no interest to change for good. It’s been a year, all we know about this government is screening, screening, and screening. Endless screening! Yahaya Bello’s government lacks direction even if it is tagged a new direction government. May God give him the right direction.

 

By: Isa Eneye Mubarak

isamubarak66@yahoo.com

@isamubi3

Trump’s Wall Will Kill The Drug Cartel, Save Thousands of Lives In Mexico, By Peregrino Brimah

As United States president Donald Trump moves ahead with building the “great wall” between America and Mexico at its southern border, there is an important benefit of the wall that has little been considered: the Mexican point of view.

While the border wall is mostly reviewed for its function in preventing unwanted and risky, undocumented immigration into the United states; the wall will serve a perhaps more important and critical function: strangulating and extinguishing the Mexican drug billion dollar industry, saving lives and improving the quality of life in Mexico.

“Gangster Warlords” author Ioan Grillo in his recent video published in Business Insider “Narconomics: How Drug Cartels Make Billions,” revealed how notorious Mexican drug cartels make billions of dollars through the cross-border drug trade into the United States. We are talking about a billion-dollar industry used to fund deadly violence in Mexico and destroy the fabric of the US’ southern neighbor.

The United States is the largest market for Mexican drugs with authorities estimating as much as $19-29 billion dollars wired to Mexico every year from drug proceeds. Once drugs get to the US border they are sold at triple their cost in Mexico. The money remitted from these drugs sponsors Mexican drug gang violence and leaves a massive trail of death with over 15,000 gang-related homicides reported every year. Half are attributed to cartel-related violence according to Mexican reports.

Mexico should be as enthusiastic as the United States in curbing this dangerous and deadly drug trade across the border that leads to half the deaths in the eleventh most populous country and most populous Spanish-speaking nation in the world. By now the Mexican leadership should at least have agreed to pay half, $6-7.5 billion for the wall.

Dr. Peregrino Brimah; drbrimah@ends.ng

Opon Imo: How Aregbesola Laid Foundation For Digital Education In Nigeria, By Inwalomhe Donald

Much has been written about the role technology played in bringing social and political change across much of Africa, but less is known about the technological revolution that is taking place and transforming people’s lives in the State of Osun, Nigeria. This deep and rapid mobile penetration is catapulting the State of Osun school children into the 21st century and bringing new and previously unimagined opportunities. African schools and universities are now exploring the use of mobile technology to assist teaching.

Whether critics like it or not, Governor Aregbesola has laid the foundation and remains the pioneer of digital education in Nigeria and he represents an agent of change as far as digital education is concerned in Nigeria. The history of Digital Education will remember Governor Aregbesola as the first Nigerian to implement the UNESCO recommendation on digital education. Nigerians need to visit Osun Sukuk Schools, Middle Schools and Elementary Schools. Governor Aregbesola has undertaken to build and equip schools with computer classrooms and training teachers to use digital media in education. In this line, Opon Imo “local content’’ in digital education has allowed teachers to use tablets to teach students. In the history of Nigeria, Governor Aregbesola will be remembered as the first leader to introduce digital education. Like India, the State of Osun is working to improve on Opon Imo. In years to come, Governor Aregbesola will be remembered as a pioneer of digital education in Nigeria.

About 33 states in Nigeria are presently working on how to introduce digital education by using Osun model of Opon Imo. Opon-Imo, is indeed the first digital education revolution in Nigeria. Through Opon-Imo books, libraries, virtual laboratories and study materials of Osun schools are introduced and made available to students. Governor Aregbesola promised that there would be no need of students buying books and other study materials. The tablet of knowledge, indeed, served that purpose. The way secondary school students operate and interact with each other has drastically changed with the advent of OPON IMO, the first digital education revolution in Nigeria. Over the years, the impact of technology has been profound, not just in terms of making our lives easier, but also in terms of our approach to the way we carry out tasks, solve problems and resolve issues.

There is no doubt that Governor Aregbesola understands the role that technology can play in realising the vision for Nigeria’s growth – it is at the core of the Opon Imo and a key driver across all plans devised by the State Government of Osun over the last six years. The government recognizes the transformative power of technology and sees it as an enabler for the change that we all seek – be it in delivering better citizen services, digitising education records, efficient and productive functioning, or using technology to provide a new social security platform

Until recently many students in Osun had never touched a tablet computer. But it took them about “one minute to work out how to use one when such devices arrived at Osun schools. Osun students were no slower to embrace the new tool. Teaching used to be conducted with a blackboard and a handful of tattered textbooks. Now children swipe the touch screen of the devices, which are loaded with a multimedia version of Nigeria’s syllabus.

The prospect of many of Africa’s 300m pupils that want digital education has not escaped the attention of global technology giants either. A bigger question is whether digital tools will actually improve education. Early results are encouraging. In Osun, reading skills improved measurably among school children. In Osun, researchers found that even in the absence of teachers, children figured out how to use tablets provided to them by the State Government, to teach themselves to read.

As we transit towards knowledge driven economies, the need to build human capacity to gain competitive advantage has become a front burner issue for developed and developing nations. This situation is seen as more critical for developing nations which hold the majority of the world’s uneducated and have suffered decades of education infrastructure neglect.

To reverse this situation, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) timelines, developing nations will need more than orthodox initiatives to bridge the huge learning gap. The use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) appears to be one of such promising innovative means of democratising access and improving the quality of learning.

The State Government of Osun, under the leadership of Governor Rauf Aregbesola, in its resolve to champion inspiring innovations for Africa, has undertaken a ground breaking step to utilise ICTs to concisely tackle the learning problem through the Opón Ìmò Initiative.

The State, through its Opón Ìmò Technology Enhanced Learning System (OTELS), has developed a learning tool that could revolutionize learning in developing states around the world. This tool is called the Opón Ìmò, “Tablet of Knowledge”.

The digital revolution has hit education, with more and more classrooms plugged into the whole wired world. But are schools making the most of new technologies? Are they tapping into the learning potential of today’s Firefox/Facebook/cell phone generation? Have schools fallen through the crack of the digital divide? This groundbreaking tool offers a vision for the future of the State of Osun’s education that goes well beyond the walls of the classroom to include distance learning with “anytime, anywhere” access, digital home schooling models.

Opon-Imo (Tablet of Knowledge), an e-learning device which solved educational needs of Senior Secondary School students of Osun State, introduced by Governor Rauf Aregbesola, have become one of the biggest known digital initiative in Osun’s educational history and Nigeria. Opon Imo has solve the educational needs of the state and cut cost in the sector as promised by Aregbesola upon its inauguration, the project has solved the major educational problems of the state, leaving with it huge progress that the state had battled with for a long time.

On Tuesday June 4, 2013, Governor Aregbesola, in a speech entitled, ‘Opon-Imo Enters the Stage’ had told the people of Osun, “It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all and to be here myself for this epoch-making event in the annals of this state…Today in the State of Osun, we are taking another momentous leap forward in our unflinching and unstoppable effort to lay a solid foundation for the education of our children. “The much-awaited Opon-Imo has finally arrived. The smart computer tablet has entered the education scene, to the glory of Almighty God, and to the victory of the public school students of Osun, but to the utter bewilderment of ill-meaning cynics, whose ardent wish is for the project to fail. Unfortunately for them, God has a different plan for Osun and for its good people.”

“This initiative, the first of its kind anywhere in the world, covers 17 core subjects with over five extra curricula subjects for senior secondary 1, 2 and 3 levels. The tablet contains over 56 textbooks, 900 minutes of virtual classroom lessons and 1000s (Thousands) of practice questions for WAEC and JAMB. In addition to aiding preparation for School Leaving Examinations, the introduction of the tool is expected to aid adoption of information communication technology (ICT) skills among students in the state,”

The typical Osun classroom like Indian classroom was once characterized by students sitting through hour-long teacher monologues. Now, technology is making life easier for both students and educators. Schools are increasingly adopting digital teaching solutions to engage with a generation of pupils well-versed with the likes of tablets and iPads, and trying to make the classroom environment more inclusive and participatory.

Governor Aregbesola has observed that in line with Osun’s increasing interest in technology for school education, there has been a rush of education-focused tablet computers in the market. It aims to eliminate digital illiteracy by distributing the Opon Imo tablets to students across Osun at free rates. While the project itself has become successful, it has generated a lot of awareness and interest among students around the educational tablet.

Aregbesola had observed “Digital learning facilitated through tablets will revolutionize the educational space,” He has invested in developing content and services targeted toward tablet audiences. To start with, he offered Osun school curriculum-learning modules, and at home live products on the opon imo. Students can now have access to good teachers, educational content and a great learning experience anytime, anywhere.”

But even as schools in Osun are going through this transformation powered by technology, one key question is how big a role technology will play in the education sector. Technology plays a critical role in all these. Despite numerous studies on the impact of ICT in education, the outcomes remain difficult to measure and open to much debate. It needs to be understood that technology is only an enabler and a force multiplier and cannot be treated as a panacea. We believe that impressive gains in teaching-learning outcomes are possible only through an integrated approach like Opon Imo intervention.

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