Why Nigeria Needs To Implement The National Livestock Transformation Plan, By Richard Ogundiya

Not too long ago, news about the Ministry of Agriculture’s proposed ‘RUGA Settlements’ broke, evoking outrage sparked by tribal and religious sentiments that fueled misconceptions, debates and misunderstanding of what the program was set to achieve.

The nomenclature seemed to be part of the problem: Ruga is a Hausa word that means “a Fulani settlement”. With a raging sentiment founded on ignorance and ethnic division, an internal form of xenophobia, against the Fulani ethnic group, more or less because President Buhari is one, the term Ruga it seemed would not fly in many parts of the country. Yet the concept, though inchoate, if well thought-out, planned and deployed was aimed at placating clashes between herders and farmers. Herders and their cattle are accused – and most times rightly so – of illegal grazing activities on farmers’ farmlands. This has been scientifically blamed on environmental and demographic forces, especially desertification caused by climate change and population explosion. The proliferation of small and light weapons in the intense competition for land and resources have further aided criminals and marginalized groups to capitalize on the conflicts; thus there has been the consequent rise in cattle rustling, kidnapping, armed robbery, insurgency, rural banditry and ethnic militia. Given that host communities (including farmers) have access to sophisticated weapons, minor disagreements or provocation often degenerate into violent clashes causing widespread destruction of property and human casualties.

According to the Global Terrorism Index (GTI, 2018), nearly 1,700 violent deaths have been attributed to clashes between herdsmen and farmers between January and September 2018, six times more people than those killed by the terrorist group Boko Haram in that same year.

Land scarcity, the over use of resources, and climate change have dried up fertile land in many parts of Northern Nigeria which the Fulani have historically used for grazing, driving many of these pastoralists into other states inhabited by farmers; crop yields of Nigeria’s middle belt and southern-based farmers are threatened due to the increased presence of cattle roaming on farmlands. The Fulani herders are mostly ascribed the Muslim identity, while the farmers are predominantly ascribed the Christian identity, seamlessly adding a religious dimension to the conflict over resources. These farmers, especially those in the southern parts of the country perceive the influx of “Muslim” herders as an Islamization drive. Hate speech has also become an accelerator of violent conflicts alongside the phenomenon of fake news worsening its negative impact. As such, the insecurity and unavailability of land in both Nigeria’s northern and southern states has the long-term potential to disrupt the country’s agricultural and livestock economy.

But it has always been a looming crisis. Back in 1965, the Northern Region Government created a ‘Grazing Reserve System’ with over 417 grazing areas across the north. Under this structure, the government provided space, water and vaccinations for the livestock while the herdsmen paid taxes in return. However, the discovery of oil and subsequent exploration made Nigeria an oil rich economy, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s spawning an abandonment of the project. As a fallback, herdsmen began to resort back to their traditional and seasonal grazing routes which had been interrupted by industrialization, urbanization and other natural factors marking the beginning of a decades-long conflict between farmers and host communities. Till date, these clashes have been on the increase and now constitute one of the major threats to Nigeria’s national security.

As part of measures to end the persistent friction that has claimed lives and properties, states like Benue and Taraba began enacting legislations prohibiting open grazing within their borders. This, they hoped would reduce the risk of herdsmen destruction of farm lands and the associated attacks causing displacement and loss of many lives. But little or no progress has been made; while the clashes seem to rear its head every now and then.

The contest has thus created 2 key gaps in Nigeria’s agricultural practice – first, an inability to meet domestic food requirements and second, an inability to export at quality levels required for market success. One of the Federal Government’s approaches to curb this dilemma and protect lives as well as the nation’s food security is the development of the National Livestock Transformation Plan, which many still confuse as RUGA. [ Recall that the Ruga Model Settlement was suspended by the President, as it was said not to have been in accordance with the already approved plan by the National Economic Council, the National Food Security Council and the Federal Executive Council’s National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP). It was also a unilateral implementation by the Ministry of Agriculture.]

The NLTP commissioned by the National Economic Council which Vice President Yemi Osinbajo chairs is a blueprint that will support and strengthen the development of market-driven ranches in the livestock ecosystem for improved productivity through breed improvement, pasture production, efficient land and water capacity enhancements. The scheme seeks to provide a similarly conducive habitation for nomadic herders and those who rear livestock using a private public partnership model for its set up. It is designed to create a basis for leading agribusiness companies to emerge along the lines of Brazil’s JBS, The USA’s Perdue or the Sino – American Smithfield. Most importantly, the scheme will, to a great extent, stop the spread of violence and insurgency in the affected regions, by simply keeping herders away from the farms of farmers. It potentially would aid significant boost in Nigeria’s agricultural productivity, a sector that currently employs about 38% of the total working population and accounts for a large share of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is killing two birds with a stone; restore peace in the region and create more wealth for the those in the line of farming and livestock business.

Contrary to speculations, NLTP benefits all involved, from the farmers to those in animal husbandry and not just cattle herders; with no intent of enforcing the project on any states, as states are not just at liberty to adopt, they are expected to develop their own home grown plans for implementation. The FG’s Plan is to settle them in an organized place with basic amenities like schools, hospitals and veterinary clinics, thereby adding value to meat, diary and other animal products. The project is voluntary for all 36 States, with options of presenting their unique delivery mechanisms according to their respective challenges. To be clear, while a number of states in the conflict zones will receive high levels of attention, the purpose of NLTP is to catalyze a transformation in livestock production systems across Nigeria in a defined and effective manner. However, the process will continue to require an expansion of the role of private capital and investors, accelerating the rate of formation of small and medium sized enterprises and improvements in overall condition of doing agribusiness.

Recent estimates puts Nigeria’s livestock population at 19.8 Million cattle, 43.4 Million sheep, 76 Million goats and 213 Million poultry, all under traditional pastoral management – the reason our productivity is amongst the lowest globally. Thus the need for commercial ranching models for a country with 250 million people by 2030. Nearly 60 percent of the ruminant livestock population is found in the country’s semi-arid zone and mostly managed by pastoralists. Domestic production of livestock products is far below the national demand, resulting in large imports of livestock and its products. The annual expenditure on food exportation amounts to USD 3-5 Billion annually putting pressure on the National foreign exchange with milk importation alone amounting to USD 1.3 Billion per annum. Except for eggs, the domestic production of animal products is less than half the demand for beef mutton and goat meat, while for milk and pork products it is less than quarter the demand.

The livestock industry development is constrained by low productive breeds, inadequate access to feeds and grazing lands, lack of processing facilities, low value addition and technical inputs in the management of the animals, diseases and conflicts.

The NLTP’s agenda is to to create new opportunities for farmers and provide more affordable and healthier diets for future generations. Managing this growth also requires a complex institutional response that can stimulate income and employment opportunities in the rural areas, protect the livelihoods of small farmers, improve resource-use efficiency at all levels of the value chain, minimize negative environmental and health consequences, and ensure adequate access by the poorer sections of society to the food they need to live healthy lives.

NLTP plays an integral role in revolutionizing how livestock farming is practiced and its effect on the nation’s economy, social well-being of its citizens and huge export capacity. Its implementation strategy identifies five main pillars as priority areas: Conflict Resolution, Justice and Peace, Humanitarian relief, Human Capital Development and issues on Gender, Youth, Research Information and Strategic Communication.

As the decades old conflicts between farmers and pastoralists surface and resurface every now and then, a sustainable solution must be designed, one that equally looks at the big picture that caters for the economic opportunities that come with pastoralism and husbandry, while also developing the needed human capital for the long term. This is what the National Livestock Transformation Plan ultimately seeks.

The needless sentiments that followed the RUGA scheme must be put aside as the Federal Government looks into the implementation of this programme alongside willing states. Ethnic, tribal and bigotry-defined points of view must be set aside to accommodate the NLTP’s long-term solution. Needed stakeholder consultations have been made through the National Economic Council, with input from traditional rulers and relevant stakeholders of cattle breeders and farmers associations. It is expected that Governors and these stakeholders carry the message of peace, reconciliation and development that the NLTP brings to their states and their local communities to ensure there is understanding and buy-in of it before acceptance. This is where Ruga failed. Nigeria needs the NLTP as much as it seeks peace, stability and development.

Richard Ogundiya is a journalist and researcher, and writes from Lagos.

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RUGA Settlements: Our Hope, Our Fear, By Gidado Yushau Shuaib

Incontrovertibly, the recently suspended Ruga Settlement project was an initiative of President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration. The rationale behind such project was to help eliminate the age-long practice of open grazing of cattle by Fulani pastoralists, which has been the cannon fodder for farmer/herder clashes.

Shortly after the announcement of the program, different shades of opinion sprout into the open, with some believing that it was a deliberate effort by Mr. President to favour his Fulani ethnic group. Just as others saw the move as leeway for the president to compensate the rampaging bandits or more commonly tagged as ‘Fulani herdsmen’, because he shares the same ethnic lineage with them.

These Fulani herdsmen are so criminalised to such an extent that the recent killing of Mrs. Olufunke Olakunrin, the daughter of Reuben Fasoranti, the leader of the Yoruba socio-political group was linked to them. Such development generated a lot of controversies across Nigerians with different persuasions. Colossal of these allegations was the one shared by the brother to the late Olafunke for claiming to have been reliably informed that attackers who shot his sister were Fulani herdsmen.

However, the police commissioner, on the other hand, had said that the attack was carried out by bandits who came to the road and fired sporadically at motorists. From the foregoing, Fulani ethnic group seems to have become an endangered species. Aside from the fact that most security challenges have been blamed on Fulanis, anytime a herd of cattle is sighted roaming the streets of our towns, the submission by many people, especially on social media, is that these people do what they do because their brother is the one at the helms of affairs.

What a blatant misrepresentation! As far as I am concerned, the people don’t give a hoot who the president is. They only are concerned about where to locate a greener pasture. If we must tell ourselves the truth, in as much as these people remain, wanderers, no amount of misrepresentation or stereotyping can change the lot of these Fulanis.

Truth be told, the Ruga settlement project is impressive but the mode of delivery and the time of the project was wrong. I mean, why should the government introduce such an impressive policy when the atmosphere is well charged with mutual suspicion, Fulaninisation and Islamisation agenda claims?

Similarly, failure on the part of the government to provide a holistic document to explain the Ruga policy and its benefit received a backlash. The denial by Professor Yemi Osinbajo, saying his office has absolutely nothing to do with the project, and is not under the supervision of his office, was also unwholesome. 

The Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Umar, had attempted to shed more light on the debacle, but it seems that these words have been falling on deaf ears. Mr Umar was quoted as saying: “It is one project that will help to take them away from our streets and stop them from wandering in the bush. And in the next five to ten years, you will never see a nomad moving about, wandering or kidnapping. And this will help to address some security challenges we are contending with now.”

The perm sec’s verbiage never dropped down before various socio-cultural groups started coming out to express their displeasure with the programme. They described the establishment of cattle-rearing settlements for herdsmen as a move to colonize the country.

Another reason why the Ruga kite did not fly is that the nation is now fragmented along ethno-religious lines, a situation which will make it difficult to build consensus around important things that matter for our socio-economic progress. Also, the realisation that the Ruga settlements will cater for the livelihood of herders, while neglecting farmers, who many believe are the main victims of the conflict between both groups, has also elicited scathing condemnations from the majority who unabashedly opposed the idea.

I think the call for the suspension of Ruga project stemmed from the age-long rivalry with farmers. While herders are feeling relieved from troubles of farmers, farmers are however feeling cheated by the program because they own the lands. As expected, Governors Samuel Ortom of Benue and Arc. Darius Dickson Ishaku of Taraba state were the first to reject the move for setting up Ruga settlement in their states. This stemmed from the fact that the indigenes of this states are predominantly farmers, who could not stand the sight of settler-herders in their states. 

By and large, I want to believe that it is only an incurable optimist would have concluded that debates on the project will not assume a regional, religious and ethnic dimension, right from the outset. In the meantime, it behoves on the Federal Government to go back to the drawing board, re-strategize, brainstorm and redesign the sacred objectives they seek for the programme. They should be clear-cut visions, not ones that will be greeted again with an unmitigated uproar. Otherwise, the project will be dead on arrival whenever it is relaunched in the sooner or later future.

Gidado Yushau Shuaib, the editor of  The News Digest, can be reached on giddyshuaib@gmail.com

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Farmer/Herder Conflicts And The Misunderstanding Of Ruga Settlements, By Ussiju Medaner

The nation over the last few years have been turned into chaos by both the incidences and the politics of herdsmen/farmers clashes. In the months preceding the 2019 elections, the veracity of the attacks, as claimed by the social media was at the climax. It became the other of the day to have records of deaths as a result of the clashes or as painted direct attacks in the region of the north central and some south east states. The opposition parties, most especially the PDP flourished on the news and likelihood of the next attack as it became a major campaign ingredient of the party; it was at the period that PDP took it as a responsibility to document and report killings, mostly exaggerated, without at any material time ever propose a feasible solution to the menace. 

It was clear then as much as it is now that while the herdsmen/farmer clashes were real, the magnitude of the political manipulation and propaganda that turns it into a greater national menace is a greater problem for the country. We cannot win a war as a people when we chose not to fight on a common front. 

No sensible government would fold its hand at such a time of insecurity within its enclave. Much was expected from the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, yet everyone was battle set to antagonise every presented solution, not only to the herders/farmers clashes but every other issues. 

The world all over, the only reason you would not see a cow roaming the street and causing unpreventable impasses as experience in some part of Nigeria is because the cows confined to ranches. The ownership of such ranches is a secondary issue. The peculiarity of the Nigeria situation demand radical approach to resolution of the perennial problem. We all remember that  in the hopes of solving the same problem, the PDP government of Jonathan budgeted a sum of N100billion for some selected states to build mini cattle ranches. 

The Jonathan government then raised a committee chaired by the then governor of Benue state, Mr. Gabriel Suswan to investigate and proffer lasting solution to the frequent conflicts between herdsmen and farmers. The committee recommended the release of N100 billion through the CBN as a seed funding to all states for the construction of ranches. The money was released without the approval of the National Assembly but there was no evidence of how it was utilized as no ranch was constructed. This misappropriation of fund is mostly responsible for the continued herders/farmers impasses. The funniest thing is that there was no uprising or antagonism to the plan as at that time; in fact it would have been a success if Jonathan had won in 2015.

The question is why the same program approved by Jonathan government and inherited and modified by the Buhari administration would only become anti people during Buhari administration? The Buhari government only set up a committee headed by the vice president and have as member governors and stakeholders across the federation to analyse and confirm the feasibility of the proposed policy from the past administration. The committee came out with the unanimous decision that made the president give the go ahead for the project. The feasibility and the plus of the project have since attracted foreign organization support. The World Bank  and international financial institution have already keyed into financing the laudable project.

But the likes of Fani Fakayode and PDP would rather wants us to remain with the problem so that they would continue to have issues to attack the government with. As a people we would have prefer the clashes to continue and enjoy the daily news of fresh attack or more  prefer to continue using the menace to play political joker. What the game of opposition is doing to this nation will be our undoing one day if we don’t pause to analyse and retraces our step. Where goes the principle of constructive criticism? Must we criticize everything for the sake of remaining relevant? Can’t we for a while consider the overall well-being of the nation?

The role the opposition is playing in the rejection of this noble program capable of bringing lasting peace across the federation call for serious concern. We must reaccess our legislation and begin to enforce the law to protect the nation on all front. The intentional creation of unrest and incitement against  the government in power and spread of deliberate hate speech against some certain tribes and their cultural heritage by the like of Fani Kayode must be checked. We cannot continue to allow our law to remain a toothless dog. Spreading fake information is prohibited and punishable by the law of Nigeria and so it should be. It is an offence to conjure information detrimental to the peace and unity of the nation for personal and selfish interest. These men must be stopped before they destroy this nation.

The like of Fani kayode flourish in spreading fake news. They remain only relevant when there are opportunities for them to antagonise the government not minding the consequencies of what they do. Most of the utterances of Fani-Kayode fall under the offences stipulated within Section 24 of the Cybercrimes (Prohibition, prevention, etc) Act 2015. The government should also desist from the habit of responding to such remarks rather, the government should act. The public should see more of government actions rather than lame responses. In saner climes people like Fani-Kayode would retract silently into their shell and would never be taken seriously looking at the inconsistency of their statements. He is against this government which is the only government that is probing his corrupt actions during the years he was supposed to be in service to the country. 

We must therefore all know that the position of the government is in the interest of a peaceful Nigeria. There has been series of arguments around the country about the intention of the Federal Government (FG) to establish ranches (referred to as Ruga Settlements) in various parts of the country. This decision has been reached for various reasons which are the imminent reality of our society: the most prominent of which is the recurrent conflicts between herders and farmer in various parts of the country, to improve the standard of animal husbandry and meat quality in the country, create a sustainable economic value chain for animal husbandry within the country which will solve several other societal issues such as unemployment and standardize revenue generation by the sector to the FG and the various states involved in the process.

The arguments, arising from various quarters, sometimes hinged on bogus information or misinformation, are carted by many among us who fail to link the line of truth in these arguments. It is more disheartening to find intellectuals engage in arguments stirred mainly by bias rather than factual evidence from research.

The FG does not intend to coerce any state into participating in this programme. This is essentially because a programme of this nature would thrive more under voluntary participation rather than coercive inclusion. It is also important to note that though the FG has gazetted lands in each state of the federation, constitutionally, considering the Land Use Act, the only land belonging to the FG is within the FCT. Lands in each of the 36 states of the federation are all under the state government, hence, the only way the FG can undertake any programme which involves land is only if the state government makes the land for such purposes available to the FG. 

Ruga Settlement or ranch is not a strange idea to any part of the country, the Obudu Cattle Ranch in Cross River State was established in 1951 and it is now a place of pride to the country. Several other ranches were constructed after that but were lost through years of mismanagement after the military intervention of 1966 and subsequent military regimes. The operational failure of the ranches in Kano, Niger and other parts of the country is what increased the rate of nomadic herding within the country. Therefore, ranching is not an alien practice among us; it is only one of several sectors or our country that has suffered neglect over the years. 

With the rate of crime and criminality associated to farmers and herders clashes around the country, it is expedient that states and well-meaning citizens in the country should support this move by the FG to create ranches/Ruga settlements around the country. 

It is not healthy for our national development to see that whenever the government makes any move towards ameliorating a bad situation we see intellectuals coming forth for selfish and parochial reasons to make attempts to undermine the efforts of the government. 

We Nigerian should wake up to the challenges before us and opt for development and progress. How can we be against ranching when foreign companies in the likes of Cownexion have indicated interest to invest in ranching in Nigeria? Why have the Fulanis not colonized the areas like Obudu where ranches have been established for the decades they have been there? Instead, Obudu is one of the most remarkable sites of tourism in Nigeria. Let us not bow to the fakes in the remarks of those against national growth and development.

God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

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Osinbajo’s Rise And Climb: Through The Hearts Of Nigerians, And Through Our Rough Political Waters, By Richard Ogundiya

For most of the country’s democratic sovereignty, there’s been enough disparagement about the weakness of the nation’s second office. However, one gripping fact from the 2019 general elections is the rising power of the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the public’s increased interest for his job more than in other election cycles.

Six years ago I sat in a room filled with young professionals and graduates who claimed to be interested in national politics, only 3 people knew who the Vice President of Nigeria was at the time, Namadi Sambo. It wasn’t so strange, the same goes for Atiku Abubakar, President Buhari’s strongest contender in the 2019 general elections; not a lot of people can point out to his deeds and accomplishments as the Vice President of Nigeria between 1999 to 2007, save allegations that haunt him to this day. By his own conduct, Professor-turned-Politician, Yemi Osinbajo, a central across-the-board figure, exercising his shrewdness and mild suaveness in his service as Buhari’s deputy provoked this sudden outburst for credo. While many argue that the VP office is like the human appendix, a vestigial organ on the body politic – unnecessary, Prof as he is fondly called has broken the jinx; he is arguably Nigeria’s most industrious VP on record. Since assuming office in 2015, he has worked with relevant departments and agencies to identify problems and recommend solutions regarding economic development, healthcare, foreign exchange policies, poverty alleviation and food security.

With vast experience in international law practice and academia, the VP has served in several positions of authority and contributes to the national discourse even before his foray into active politics. As Attorney General of Lagos State, he is credited with undertaking far-reaching significant judicial reforms, addressing critical areas as judges’ recruitment, remuneration, training and discipline as well as access to justice for the poor by establishing appropriate institutions in the Office of the Public Defender (OPD) and the Citizens Mediation Centre (CMC). He solitarily founded the Orderly Society Trust (OST), an excel literacy programme that aims to provide children in public primary schools with the same level of training in English as is available to their counterparts in private schools. His drive for getting the average Nigerian child quality education doesn’t stop at that, he organized the Liberty Schools Project that still provides free primary school education with free school lunches to poor children. The Project currently has three sites, one very close to where I live in Lagos.

In 2016, when the nation’s economy hit a nosedive, the VP alongside the National Economic Council which he chairs presented ‘59 strategies for implementing the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP). The efforts of the NEC were instrumental in defining Nigeria’s policy direction and prudence that saw Nigeria ushered out of a recession quicker than economists predicted. Policies such as the unpopular ban of FOREX provisions to 41 items made significant impact in managing our scarce Dollars at that time.

On the President’s directive, he plays a significant role in the ‘Niger Delta New Vision’ plan – a set of promises, solutions and initiatives the President Buhari administration has set in place for the restoration of peace and ensuring the region benefits maximally from the nation’s oil wealth. The programme has fostered security in the creeks and enabled an increase in production and hitch-free flow of crude to the international market. Along with 12 Federal Ministries and state governments, Professor Osinbajo launched the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Clinic (MSME), a scheme addressing the plethora of challenges affecting the growth and productivity of growing businesses to bring about significant and sustainable GDP growth, employment generation and increase in local productivity.

Osinbajo’s claim to fame can be traced back to May 2017 when he was conferred the Acting President of the Federation during President Buhari’s medical leave. Unlike his predecessors, President Buhari vested all legal powers to him in accordance with the constitution. As Acting President, Osinbajo exhibited fearlessness and charisma, taking decisive and perhaps dramatic actions. He ordered the overhaul of SARS – the Police’s notorious anti-robbery squad and demanded quick investigation of numerous allegations of assaults by the unit. He sacked Daura, the DSS Chief, describing his actions as ‘unacceptable and a gross violation of constitutional order, rule of law and all accepted notions of law and order’. Indeed, he knows his stuff. In that interlude, when he wasn’t leading FEC meetings, he was engaging the 36 states with a keen interest in grassroots politics, women affairs, agriculture and young people. He has shown a mastery of communication and responsibility; like President Buhari, he is still actively engaged in the fight for the return of kidnapped girls and the welfare of their families; during the campaigns, he held numerous town hall meetings across the country and participated in youth-led initiatives clamouring for change. In less than 5 years on the national scene, he has gained good popularity among the Nigerian people for his achievements and dexterity in handling national issues.

In the cyberspace, the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has gathered the most likes, comments and engagements, grossing over 500,000 likes on Facebook, 2 million followers on Twitter and 500,000 Instagram subscribers and social strength of 16 million, he is the second most-followed Nigerian politician after his boss President Muhammadu Buhari. For the first time in a long time we are witnessing a proactive and dynamic 62-year-old man – petite, eloquent, tech-savvy, and an unassuming leader.

While a vice presidential pick has never been solely credited with swinging an election, it can leave an indelible impression about the judgment of a would-be president or help address something that is lacking at the top of the ticket; whether it be a regional appeal, ideological purity, religious sentiments or a gap in their resume. Sometimes, it’s all of the above.

His role in the country’s technological ecosystem cannot be easily undermined. From being part of a tech tour around hubs and start-ups across Nigeria to facilitating the 2016 Aso Villa Demo day, a platform meant to promote innovation and provide opportunities for entrepreneurs and start-ups solving local problems. Interestingly, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg made his first trip to Africa and was also part of the pitch competition to which the VP played host. At the Google For Nigeria 2018 event, Osinbajo assured that Nigeria will partner with Google to boost internet connectivity nationwide. You’ll also catch the VP at creative events and spaces where Nigeria’s new age is being celebrated. Whether it’s at the Ake Book Festival, Art Summits or Fashion Week, he appeals as a desirable model of what a progressive leader should be.

Many also love him for his religious ties, prior to his role as VP, Professor Osinbajo served as a top pastor in the Redeemed Christian church of God, Nigeria’s largest Pentecostal Church body, but beyond this, his sheer honesty, intellectual acuity and genuine delight has caused him to be loved by all and sundry. His rise to the heart of the Nigerian people has been an easy climb.

Richard Ogundiya is a Journalist covering technology, politics, development and culture in Africa.

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In Defence Of Abba Kyari, Pmb Chief Of Staff, By Chukwudi Enekwechi (JP)

President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff Malam Abba Kyari has been described in several quarters as a consummate technocrat, team player and dyed- in -the wool loyalist of the Buhari ideals. Some schools of thought describe such ideals as Buharinomics.  Yet his legendary patriotism and service to the country have been misinterpreted in some quarters, hence the reference to a non-existent ‘’cabal’’ in the Presidency. On the contrary, what they erroneously term as a ‘’cabal’’ if looked into critically is the ability of the president’s chief of staff to manage the affairs of the Presidency with prudence, accountability and sense of responsibility.

Even for his critics they acknowledge, the brilliance of Malam Abba Kyari. Firstly, he is a University of Warwick-trained Sociologist, University of Cambridge trained lawyer and a holder of Master’s degree from the same Cambridge University as well as an accomplished journalist. This man of letters also worked for the reputable law firm of Fani Kayode and Sowemimo and also an editor with the New Africa Holdings Limited Kaduna. 

From 1990 to 1995, Kyari was the Secretary to the Board of African International Bank Limited. Later he was elevated as an executive director at the United Bank for Africa from where he rose to become the managing director and Chief Executive of the bank. Abba Kyari has over the years garnered experience in the oil sector as he successfully emerged as a director of Exxon Mobil Nigeria.
From the foregoing there is no iota of doubt that the president’s chief of staff comes from a solid background of hard work, experience, sound education and devotion to the service of country. His foray in the public and private sectors have added to position him well for the pivotal role he is playing in the polity under the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. He has never wavered in his commitment toward the task of nation-building and he believes that President Muhammadu Buhari will successfully rebuild Nigeria for the good of all.

It is therefore surprising that a few disgruntled individuals and vested interests will latch on to the opportunity of a sponsored protest to cast aspersions on the person of the president’s chief of staff, Malam Abba Kyari for no justifiable reason. First and foremost there is no empirical evidence that a ‘’cabal’’ actually exists in the presidential villa. Perhaps there is a misconception about the workings of the inner recesses of government especially at the highest levels in Nigeria. 

Abba Kyari occupies a sensitive position that requires absolute loyalty to the president and he has not shirked in this responsibility, and the assessment of his performance rests with the president – his employer and principal. It is indeed doubtful if outsiders are in a better position to score the performance of a consummate technocrat and policy maker like Abba Kyari better than the president who hired him.

For the avoidance of doubt, Abba Kyari remains a strategic player for the overall growth and development of the country leveraging on the commitment of the Buhari administration towards making Nigeria work again. Like his boss he has not relented in pursuing the ideals for which the administration came into office. Such ideals are encapsulated in the security of the country; bolstering the economy and combating corruption mostly in the public sector. Now the reality is that these three areas are constantly receiving attention, hence the progress in infrastructural development and rapid economic growth across the country.

It is pertinent to remark that the Buhari administration work as a team and they have recorded significant milestones, and it is only fair that credit is given to the man whose office is the hub for realising the lofty objectives of the administration.

While protests are acceptable in a democracy, it is expected that the privileges and rights of people in power are equally respected. In the case of Abba Kyari he has not violated any known Nigerian law and going by the commendations of his principal he has lived up to the expectations of his high office. 

As President Muhammadu Buhari begins his second term in office Abba Kyari as a major player in the administration will help to actualise the execution of various programmes and projects across the country which will help to ease the pains inflicted on Nigerians by past corrupt administrations.

As things stand, with the level of commitment being exhibited by the likes of Abba Kyari and Malam Garba Shehu in the Buhari administration, Nigeria is on the path of rapid socio-economic development over the next four years.

By Chukwudi Enekwechi (JP)
An Abuja based Journalist
Member Buhari Media Organisation

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Jibrin: Undisputed Kingmaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, By Idris Omolabake

The story of the emergence of former Speaker Yakubu Dogara and his successor, Femi Gbajabiamila, will be incomplete without adequate mention of the exploits of Abdulmumuni Jibrin, an influential member of the House of Representatives from Kano State.

Jibrin has succeeded in ‘installing’ two different speakers of the House of Representatives in two different circumstances, first through a rebellion against the establishment; and the other in enforcing the position of same establishment.

In 2015, the youthful Jibrin who only joined the House in 2011, played prominent role in the leadership tussle between then ‘Equity Group’ headed by Yakubu Dogara and the ‘Loyalist Group’ headed by Femi Gbajabiamila. That struggle eventually produced Dogara as Speaker, thereby causing a major rift within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Fast forward to 2019, Jibrin who served as the Campaign Director General for the election of Gbajabiamila like he did for Dogara in 2015, has also delivered the incumbent Speaker. This is a feat exclusive to him as no one person has delivered two speakers consecutively in the history of Nigeria’s House of Representatives.

Who is Abdulmumuni Jibrin?

Abdulmumin Jibrin is a Nigerian politician and a 3rd term member of Nigeria’s House of Representatives from Kofa, Bebeji LG, Kano state. He is 42 years of age. He was at various times chairman House Committee on Finance, Appropriation and Land Transport with oversight on Nigeria’s revenue, expenditure, railways and rail projects respectively. 

He is a globally trained business executive, academician turned politician. He holds a BSc, MSc and PhD in Politics, Diplomacy and International Relations from University of Abuja and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. He was at various times trained at the London Business School, Harvard Business School and SBS- Swiss Business School- Zurich Switzerland where he obtained SEP, PLD and MBA respectively. He is an Alumnus of the Harvard, London and Swiss business schools. 

Prior to joining politics, Abdulmumin played an active role in the private sector as Chairman/ CEO Green Forest Group LTD running a Nigerian conglomerate in diverse fields.  He served as Chairman (Nigeria) of Turkish construction giant Tasyapi and Chairman Abuja branch of Nigeria-British chamber of commerce. He also lectured at the university with publications to his credit. 

A consummate mobiliser, Abdulmumin was the Director, Media and Strategic Communication of the Women and Youth Presidential Campaign Team and most recently, Director General of Femi Gbajabiamila for Speaker campaign council. He is a public finance and foreign policy expert and has shown significant interest and contributed to improving Nigeria’s revenue and expenditure process. He has won numerous awards and he is a fellow of many professional bodies including the Chartered Institute of Finance and Control. 

He is a Paul Harris fellow of Rotary international.  He holds the traditional tittle of Jarman Bebeji conferred on him with the approval of the Kano Emirate Council. It is a tittle reserved for the courageous and generous.

Political Career:

Prior to his emergence on the federal parliamentary scene, Jibrin had been involved in national politics especially during the presidential campaigns in 2003 and 2007. In 2011, Jibrin won election to represent Kiru/Bebeji Federal constituency under the Platform of the PDP, and later decamped to the newly formed All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2014. It is worth noting that he led the first set of 37 lawmakers who defected in a massive swoop that shook the political landscape. Not surprisingly, he won re-election into the House under the new platform in 2015.

2015 speakership election…

In 2015, the APC just like in 2019, zoned the position of Senate President to the north-east geo-political zone and specifically chose Ahmed Lawan while the post of Speaker, the south-west zone was favoured with Gbajabiamila anointed. However, the rebellion against the party’s position led by immediate past Senate President, Bukola Saraki and the Equity Group in the House of Representatives where Jibrin played prominent roles, eventually led to a defeat of the choices of the party. Suffice to say that it was same Jibrin who nominated Dogara for the post on that historic day thereby culminating months of chaperoning an arduous campaign that eventually paid off.  

In the political preambles to the election, Jibrin reportedly led a walk out of the mock primary organized by the party at the International Conference Centre, Abuja. This much was amplified in an apology letter he wrote to former APC national chairman, John Oyegun in 2018, when he needed forgiveness and a relaunch into reckoning after a political drought that almost ended his public life. He wrote then: “I recollect with deep regret and pains and can still hear the echo of your voice in the make-or-mar meeting at the ICC shouting “sit down Jibrin, sit down Jibrin, Jibrin sit down” ” you dare not walk out of this hall Jibrin”! Sen Lawali Shuaibu watched helplessly with the box of ballot meant for the mock elections as I forced myself up, stood my grounds, made my points, held the hands of Yakubu Dagara, and pulled him out of the hall.”

Jibrin and his group were able to garner votes across the two political parties to pave the way for Dogara to emerge speaker. After the election, he was offered the chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee of the House, a position that became the springboard to the travails that bedeviled him for much of that 8th assembly.

Budget controversy and suspension from the House…

Jibrin’s journey into the wilderness kicked off with his resignation as the Chairman House Committee on Appropriation as announced by the Speaker on Wednesday, 20th July, 2016. He described the speaker’s speech announcing his exit as the chairman of the committee as “a misrepresentation of the facts, false, mischievous, unfair and a calculated attempt” to bring his name to “disrepute.” That disputation led to weeks if not months of rancorous exchanges between him and the leadership of the House.

Between late July and early August, 2016, Jibrin visited several law enforcement and anti-corruption agencies of government including, the Department of State Services (DSS), the economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) and the Nigeria Police with a wounding petition that contained purported gross misconduct on the part of the accused lawmakers. But it was unclear if any of the agencies acted on the documents submitted with so much fanfare.

Before he was eventually banished by the House, Jibrin was left in the cold as 10 principal officers of the House rallied in support of Dogara and denounced Mr. Jibrin. Incidentally, Femi Gbajabiamila, then Majority Leader who was at the time thought to be a political enemy of the Speaker as a result of the previous, bitter speakership battle that lead to the emergence of Dogara, also joined the body of principal officers in denouncing Jibrin. It is however, worth noting that the Lagos lawmaker now speaker, had spoken against the suspension of his Kano counterpart, describing the decision as illegal and unconstitutional.

Furthermore, Jibrin’s party, the ruling APC warned him to ceasefire but Jibrin was defiant and continued his onslaught against the House leadership. He even refused to appear before a disciplinary committee set up in September, 2016 to investigate his claims of budget fraud against the leadership claiming the investigation was a witch-hunt. On September 28, 2016 the grand finale of the Jibrin saga played out as the House Committee on Ethics, Privileges, and Public Petitions swiftly concluded its investigations and submitted its report a week after the commencement of the probe.

The Committee’s recommendation that Jibrin be suspended for 180 legislative days was adopted by the entire membership of the House in plenary. He was also barred from positions of responsibility in the House till the end of the 8th assembly. Like the fighter that he is, Jibrin filed an action in court to challenge his suspension.

Whistle-blower banished to the cold…

Despite his suspension and subsequent ‘relocation’ to London, Jibrin refused to pipe down on his attacks on the leadership of the House and maintained forthrightness on the matter. 

Even when Jibrin completed his suspension, he still could not resume his duties as a federal lawmaker as the House insisted on an apology which he bluntly refused to offer.

However, on Tuesday, 13th March, 2018 Jibrin finally decided to end his long drawn battle with the House leadership. The following day he was ushered into the green chamber in a manner that demonstrated conciliation and mutual forgiveness. On his return, Jibrin said: “Lessons were learnt by both parties; the leadership and the victim. Lessons on the part of leadership and lessons on the part of members.” Incidentally, the court at about this time, ruled that his suspension was unconstitutional. He was subsequently appointed as Chairman of the House Committee on Land Transport and his entitlements hitherto withheld, paid in full. 

2019 elections and the Parliamentary Support Group…

Upon resumption at the House in 2018, Jibrin convened the Parliamentary Support Group PSG, with the mandate of full loyalty to President Buhari. Notably, the group was already in existence in the Senate. It was seen as a demonstration of courage by his colleagues. Thus, Jibrin even led over 100 members of the House to pay solidarity to the President in 2018 at a time when the National Assembly Joint executive session issued a 13-point demand to the President. Jibrin had earlier described it as a “PDP executive session” prompting a reproach from the House. Former member, Sunday Karimi moved a motion calling for sanction against Jibrin who just returned from suspension.

Interestingly, the new group also had a subtle leadership tussle with Gbajabiamila who in his position as the Leader of the House, was automatically leader of the APC caucus. The PSG reportedly made attempts to undermine Gbajabiamila, even though jibrin, in a tweet attempted to diffuse the tension by saying: “Against the back drop of the media reports, I wish to state that there is no crack in the APC caucus. We have internal issues, and there is nothing unusual about it. However, the issues will be resolved internally. We have one caucus, and Femi is the leader.”

2019 election and Jibrin’s declaration not to re-contest

Jibrin won his re-election in a resounding fashion. He took to Twitter to declare that he will not be re-contesting the post of House of Representatives member again, saying “victory against all odds…the hardest in all elections I ran. Exhausted and utterly worn out! It’s additionally an emotional exit as this shall be my final contest for the House of Representatives.” For Jibrin, the 2019 election was not without some controversy as he was arrested in connection with an alleged attack on Sen. Rabiu Kwankwaso’s convoy.

The 2019 speakership election

Jibrin supported the aspiration of the current Speaker and was promptly offered the position of the Director General of the Campaign, in recognition of his knack for political dexterity, hard work and antecedence of success. Off to work he went, canvassing, persuading, and deploying carefully crafted political strategies that eventually paid off on June 11, 2019.

Jibrin perhaps gave the longest nomination speech ever when nominating a Speaker, engaging in a charm offensive to woo members across party lines on the day of election. Although many pundits predicted the 2019 tussle for speaker would replicate the 2015 scenario, but it turned out the rebellion had lost a fighter in Jibrin.

The same manner he was at the forefront of the action in 2015, he was at the forefront of action in 2019. Bringing energy, doggedness and organization to the Campaign, something probably missing in 2019.

Maybe learning from the 2015 election of speaker, Jibrin in an interview with Channels Television, disclosed that he had no agreed compensation deal with Gbajabiamila. He even ruled himself out of the post of Leader of the House, the next most powerful position after Speaker and Deputy Speaker. In a further show of humility and modesty, he related his feeling in a tweet thus: “Twice lucky…it’s fair to say hard work, courage and commitment BUT honestly I have been so many times lucky…really nothing special about me. Just your regular guy! Best wishes to Yakubu Dogara and congrats to Femi Gbajabiamila. God has been so gracious…humbled!”

Political future…..

After the emergence of Gbajabiamila as Speaker, all eyes have been on Jibrin. What does he want? What will he be offered? Insiders in the Gbajabiamila camp revealed that everyone is confused about what to do with Jibrin. He has held the two most important committees of Finance and Appropriations consecutively with a wide scope of oversight covering almost every sector. The two committees are even referred to as the 11th and 12th Principal Officers in the House. There is also strong whispering within the House that the Kano Born politician may consider an immediate return to his private business or the university to pursue his professorial ambition. The next few days or weeks will tell.

In the long term however, there are other options for Jibrin: maybe he would seek to be governor of Kano or choose to go to the senate. Whatever choice or moves he makes, one thing is certain: opponents will only underestimate him at their own peril.

Omolabake, a public analyst, writes from Abuja

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KOGI 2019: Making A Case For Kogi West And Tunde Irukera, By Bala Haruna

The race to the gubernatorial elections in Kogi State this year is intense and peculiar for several reasons. Apart from the fact that the incumbent has betrayed the trust of the people with non-performance that has made it impossible to pay workers’ salaries and execute projects, the issue of fair play and equity among the various zones have come to the front-burner. Of the three zones in the State, only the West – the second largest ethnic group, have never ruled the State. Therefore, it becomes pertinent to dissect the credentials of a prominent son of Kogi-west and what his candidacy portends for the State.

Babatunde Irukera, the present Director-General of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) comes across as the perfect alternative to Gov. Yahaya Bello. A cosmopolitan and a technocrat with vast international exposure and connection will be the breath of fresh air that Kogi desperately needs at this trying times. It will be recalled that he contested the 2015 elections but as a faithful and loyal party man, he stepped down at the last minute for Late Abubakar Audu. What happened in that election is now history as Audu, the presumed winner passed on before the official declaration of results while his Kogi-west deputy, James Faleke was eventually prevented from ascending the throne based on some alleged lacuna in the electoral act. However, not a few people believed that Kogi-west was schemed out of the Governorship by vested interests. Compensating Kogi-west with the All Progressives Congress (APC) gubernatorial ticket now becomes imperative in the interest of justice and fair play. Given the level of resentment the people of the confluence State have for the incumbent and by extension the APC, the party needs to field someone deemed a break from the norm with a record of performance in both public and private sector, that is where Irukera comes in. Born on the 4th of September 1968 in Kaduna state, Irukera hails from Egbe, Yagba West. He studied law from the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife and upon graduation in 1989, he proceeded to the Nigeria Law School in Lagos in 1990.  In 1995 he proceeded to the United State of America, where he carved a niche for himself as a successful Immigration expert in 1996 after passing the Washington State Bar examination at first sitting, a year after arriving America.

In 1997, he started a partnership ( Thomas & Irukera) which ultimately became Partners, Attorneys & Counsellors, both in Chicago. As DG of CPC, he is responsible for the daily management of the Council and leadership in fulfilling its mandate to protect consumers and secure remedies when consumer rights are violated. His record of advocacy and cases in favour of consumers is outstanding and provides the clarity that both the Council and industry need in ensuring due regard for customer service and protection of consumer rights. Irukera has to his credit key sector related consumer protection advancements including advising the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority with respect to its role in sector consumer protection. He led the initiative in developing current aviation consumer protection regulations as well as the Passenger Bill of Rights. He also led the team that revised existing aviation economic regulations and superintended a comprehensive regulatory and parliamentary investigation into anti-competitive behaviour by foreign airlines. He has also provided capacity-building and advisory services to federal agencies and other clients with respect to competition/antitrust issues. He co-authors the Nigerian chapters in a range of competition/antitrust-related widely regarded international publications. Apart from his intimidating credentials, what stands him out is his strong corporate network which he has garnered over the years as DG CPC. This will come in handy to develop Kogi State as corporate organisations will find Kogi State a viable destination to do business with Irukera in the saddle. The APC already bedevilled with a string of gubernatorial losses in Adamawa, Bauchi, Imo, Oyo, Sokoto and just recently Zamfara – adjudicated by the Supreme Court, cannot afford to gamble with Kogi State. The people of the State groaning under the current leadership of Gov. Bello are yearning for a viable alternative to liberate theState. The APC must not by its acts of omission or commission handover the State to the opposition. The party can reinvent itself by fielding a man of integrity, competence and charisma like Babatunde Irukera. Indeed, the party can kill the proverbial “two birds with a stone” – placate Kogi west to entrench equity and give the State afresh start with Irukera. The way to redemption can’t be better defined. Bala Haruna, a political analyst and Kogi State Indigene wrote from Abuja.

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This Country Recently Became Africa’s Largest Economy. Now It’s Too Big for Businesses to Ignore, By Melissa Cook

From a market on Lagos Island, Nigeria, the skyline of the city of Lagos is visible. Among many companies, there is a great deal of nervousness around investing in Nigeria.

Nigeria has overtaken South Africa as Africa’s largest economy. And with over 200 million people, it is the largest market in the continent, its population nearly twice the size of Ethiopia (110 million) or Egypt (102 million).

Yet among many companies, there is a great deal of nervousness around investing in Nigeria. One business development officer of a large company told me recently: “We’re not in Nigeria; one of our guys heard you can’t go there.”

This kind of second hand hearsay is a risky way to make proper business decisions. When firms make what we refer to as accidental decisions—those based on media reports or anecdotal evidence—it is hard to effectively quantify and manage risks.

Nigeria is definitely a challenging place to operate. But ultimately, the nation is too important to ignore.

Investment by the United States in Nigeria is Growing

Foreign direct investment stock from the United States into Nigeria was $5.8 billion in 2017, up 32.8 percent since 2016, according to the U.S. Trade Representative. However, a significant chunk of U.S. FDI in Nigeria and the continent goes into the resources sector.

The Commercial and Investment Dialogue with the Nigerian government, originally recommended by President Obama’s President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa, is now in full force, and earlier this year, the U.S. Commercial Service hosted the USA Trade Fair in Lagos, Nigeria—attended by more than 4,000 delegates. Many of America’s biggest firms were out in force, as were smaller names in the agribusiness, aviation, consumer, energy, industrials, and security sectors.

Now, other countries are starting to catch America’s lead—notably the Chinese.

China’s Africa Strategy Presents a Formidable Challenge

China is using all of its political, industrial, and financial might to build deep connections in Africa. Engagement is strategic, multilateral, and well-organized under the biennial Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and the Belt and Road Initiative.

Chinese construction firms are building road, rail, port, communications, mining, and energy projects funded by loans from The Export-Import Bank of China or state-owned banks, using Chinese machinery, and with Chinese operators often operating the asset after completion.

Source: UNCTAD World Investment Report 2018
Chinese business development teams visit Africa’s toughest neighborhoods to establish relationships—often long before most American executives have even considered an investment in the country in question. Headlines trumpet Chinese “investment” in Africa, but much of this is actually lending, rather than equity investment. International experience is helping Chinese firms improve their product quality, service delivery, and technological capabilities every day, making them ever-stronger global competitors.

The key to China’s success on the continent is that designing “good enough” equipment for the price their customers will pay. A Chinese-made truck starter will fail after a fraction of the starts a North American truck operator considers normal—but it will also cost a fraction of the price. Likewise, a Chinese-designed smartphone will work on local networks, enjoy long battery life, run the right apps—and come at an affordable price. Despite recent political hiccups, Huawei is the dominant supplier of communications and networking equipment on the continent. Africans benefit from the firm’s low-cost vendor financing, ultra-advanced technology, and turnkey service for modern network installations.

In Nigeria, Demand Exceeds Supply

Nigeria is famous for its power shortages. With only about 5GW of grid power available (on a good day), it’s no surprise that there is an estimated 20GW of captive, backup, and household-level power installed by the private sector.

But this isn’t just a risk. It’s also a business opportunity.

In 2011, Nigeria privatized the power generation and distribution portions of its electricity industry. Performance is well below expectations so far, thanks to gas supply shortages, below-contract tariffs, and poor cash collection. The opportunity? Most manufacturers run their own captive power plants—and they’re investing in advanced gas-fired turbines, high-efficiency production equipment, and renewable energy capacity. Households need prepaid electric meters, energy-efficient appliances, and more cost-effective standby generators.

The continent is becoming a big beneficiary of China’s large-scale investment in renewables—which are now vastly cheaper than they were just a decade ago. In Nigeria, solar, wind, and mini-hydro are rapidly filling in the gaps where grid power is unavailable. Local micro- or mini-grids can deliver power to light homes, charge phones, refrigerate medicines, preserve harvested produce, and bring the internet to schools.

In Nigeria, as elsewhere in Africa, the financial services sector is undergoing a transformation. Mobile money accounts are increasingly popular, led by M-PESA in Kenya. Mobile money has boosted economic activity and brought millions into the financial services sector.

African financial-technology entrepreneurs are testing innovative—and potentially disruptive—services. Where regulations allow, entrepreneurs and mobile operators are introducing low-cost mobile payment, investment, insurance, savings, loans, and cross-border money transfer services using the latest technology.

According to the World Bank, small- and medium-sized enterprises create an estimated 4 of every 5 new jobs in emerging markets, yet traditional corporate banks are still focused on serving large corporate customers.

Can You Create Long-Term Shareholder Value Without Africa?

This isn’t a simple question, but it has to be asked as part of any long-term growth and risk analysis.

Public capital markets are relentless in pushing for short-term earnings and returns. Set aside today’s imperative to meet quarterly earnings expectations, ignore for a minute the potential for activists to disrupt your investment programs because they don’t see an immediate ROI on your long-term strategic investments.

The long-term survival of a business depends on its ability to adapt, grow, and participate in the global economy of the future—and countries like Nigeria are part of this story.

This article was culled from https://www.brinknews.com/this-country-recently-became-africas-largest-economy-now-its-too-big-for-businesses-to-ignore/

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Democracy Day: Show Of Shame By Past Presidents, Heads of States, By Ladidi Mohammed

Shunning June 12 Democracy Day celebrations is the clearest indication that most of our past Presidents and Heads of States were only about their selfish goals and not about Nigeria. They will do everything possible to make Nigerians know they are sulking; this includes shunning Democracy Day celebration.

The skewed thinking of many Nigerians and their joy that former Presidents and Head of States did not attend the Democracy Day celebrations is a pointer to our problems. Not only is their joy misplaced, it is very ridiculous.

As past Presidents and Heads of States who have claimed at different times that the June 12 election was wrongly annulled, one would expect that even if they failed to declare June 12 as Democracy Day, they will at least grace the maiden celebration.

But not our past Presidents and Heads of States, they have their own agenda and they do not want to see Nigeria celebrate anything. What is more appalling is that some of them have claimed to be true democrats, how can this be?

Their actions and utterances show that they were never democrats, speak less, leaders. A leader is a person who defines and exhibits moral and ethical courage and sets an example for everyone else. What kinds of example have this lot set?

It is often said that true leadership is all about developing people and helping others reach their full potential, please how have our past Presidents helped Nigeria to reach its goals? The election is over, the case is in court, that does not mean that they should carry their hate and divisive embryo everywhere they go.

Nigeria is much more than an election and Nigeria is in dire need of true leaders, leaders who do not politicize everything. What is more painful is that African leaders graced the occasion that our own past Presidents shunned. What an irony, Nigeria who claims to be the ‘Giant of Africa’ displaying its problems in open glare.

I think it is a shame on all the past leaders save for General Yakubu Gowon who I believe was unavoidably absent. As for President Goodluck Jonathan who many applauded for his big heart in the 2015 election, I think he might be losing the plot. We know who Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is and we have seen how he is trying to drag Nigeria down because of selfish reasons.

Only yesterday Babagana Kingibe confirmed that Obasanjo was one of the architects of the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
President Jonathan should not go down that route. He should not allow the same democracy that he preserved remember him in the negative. He is the reason why President Muhammadu Buhari can declare June 12 a Democracy Day.

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Why Arc. Bulama Is The Best Man To Serve As Next National Secretary Of APC, By Engr Joseph Achebo

The parameters of what constitutes a nation goes far beyond population demographics, it transcends ethno-religious proclivities or other iterations of social stratification. A nation is a deliberate conurbation of people, who have chosen to come together for the betterment of all, and the detriment of none.

Our nation may have officially come into being in the decades leading up to independence in 1960. However, our intrinsic national identity has been spawned, shaped, and nurtured by great men of vision, our forbears, who have laboured tirelessly to forge our national identity, arriving today at what we call Nigeria, our fatherland.

Back in the 1940s and 1950s, when our progenitors and founding fathers such as President Nmandi Azikiwe, Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and others negotiated our freedom from the British Empire with the promise to run a government of the people, uphold justice and maintain the freedom of the press.

As time passed on, and before the demise of our said founding fathers, they expressed their disappointment over the decay and loss of confidence in the government of Nigeria. They were shocked and astonished at the deterioration in the educational system, judiciary, legislative and the Executive systems of Government. They lamented and admitted that this was not the future they had anticipated for a country they fought so hard to liberate from the tyranny of our colonial masters.

However, although our great nation has weathered tumult and turmoil, shaking the sociopolitical and economic underpinnings of Nigeria to its very foundation, regardless, we remain undeterred. We as a people remain undeterred because even as other generations before us have produced leaders of renowned reputation to stir us back on course, there are still national warriors living in our generation, and Arc. Bulama is one such national warrior.

To forge ahead, and for Nigeria to take its proper place among the great nations of the world, unity is key. As a nation we must aim for and stick to a singular determination and goal of pulling our different parts together, drawing from the talents and the wells of human resource from each and every State, to ensure full representation across the board, and to strengthen our collective resolve.

For this lofty but achievable purpose, APC needs a national secretary of very high intelligence, intellectual exposure, ebullient personality, ethical predilection, and unique character to helm the secretariat of the party.
The best man for the job, who fits the iterated criterion is none other than Arc. Bulama. The nation and indeed APC is at the cross roads and at this stage in our journey as a nation and a party, we need a man of high educational credentials, and who is also possessed of exceptional amiability. A friend to all, a welcome personage in all gatherings in all the six geopolitical regions. A Godly man, with an exemplary family, sound in the Holy Scriptures and who inherently has a firm grasp of the importance of tolerance. That man is Arc. Bulama.

Everywhere he goes he represents the good face of APC and along with his modernist approach and open door policy, everyone feels comfortable and carried along. Having him as party secretary would go a long way towards achieving true party cohesion which is a badly needed attribute in APC today.

Not only is he already widely recognized in the party and the nation as a whole for these stellar qualities, there are feelers from all quarters that people want him at the engine room of the APC. The party leaders and members alike have unanimously chorused him as the next National Secretary of APC.

With Arc. Bulama as the national Secretary of APC, we can all be rest assured that the labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain. Providence has given us a man of his calibre for such a time as this. We must arise and answer the call of the people, they deserve the best of APC, and with Arc. Bulama as national party secretary today, we are assured of a greater tomorrow.

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Economics, Economist, Financial Times And Nigeria, By Garba Shehu

One would imagine that business papers like economic success stories; apparently not. Instead, they feast and thrive on negatives. Financial Times, for instance, is worried about a government policy that is enabling boom in rice production in Nigeria. And the Economist is panicky about toothpick manufacturers springing up following tariffs that protect local manufacturers to get off the ground and compete globally.

Both papers only see negatives. Specifically, Economist dwells on out-of-date statistics. Deliberately it turns away from the positives as it will complicate already tailored narratives. Some foreign correspondents keep the storyline simple: Africa is home for all bad things: poverty, disease and crime. And unremitting bleakness lives on the continent, and success is the aberration.

Since only negative reports on Africa make it to the international media, a backward picture of a nation is painted succinctly and efforts at growth in different ramifications, both investment and diplomacy are ignored. From the content of these stories, readers must be baffled that Nigerians know toothpicks, let alone be able to manufacture them.

The fact remains that with squeeze in media budgets there are not enough knowledgeable foreign correspondents based on the continent to report accurate news and uphold journalistic standards. And the parachuting style clearly defies ethics and quality. To cut cost, many media houses rely on the expedience of technology. The highly revered and sacrosanct fact-checking skill of journalism slips as a result. Anyone with a laptop is trusted as credible source. Cogent arguments no longer have a place, instead we have jumbled and emotive criticisms.

For instance, the Financial Times declares proudly that President Buhari failed to spur rice growing, whilst stating that production was at record levels up 60 per cent in 2018 from what we had in 2013. The Economist talks about overdependence on oil, yet criticises policies such as subsidies or financial incentives that allow local businesses to compete and diversify the economy. It frowns at power shortfalls, but turns around to attack Alhaji Aliko Dangote – the man building the world’s largest oil refinery and improving power infrastructure in Nigeria.

Fundamentally, the foreign correspondents fail to appreciate context – understandably if they have to cover a large “patch’’ with shoe-string budgets, but never-the-less it is impermissible as facts must remain sacred. The Economist states that the economy was “sputtering’’ when President Buhari’s first term began in 2015, and still concluded he made a “bad situation worse”. “Sputtering’’ sounds euphemistic. The reality is that the economy was on its knees. The overdependence on oil, paired with impending global commodity crash, made the entry into recession at the beginning of the term inevitable. Now, however, the first quarter growth of 2019 has been the strongest.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently said analysts and onlookers must recognise “how deep the shock” was to the economy. As a famous American business magnate observed: “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” Indeed, Nigeria had been awash in oil dollars (over $100 a barrel), yet previous governments failed to add muscle to the economy.

Since the recession struck (crude oil went below $40 per barrel), the government has taken measures to redress weaknesses in our economy. The IMF goes on to praise the strong diversification in the economy and welcome the focus on public investment. For instance, the government has spent record figures on infrastructure in the past two years and capital expenditure is now around 30 per cent of the budget, rather than inadequate 10 per cent in 2015.

There has also been a drive to self-sufficiency where possible. It makes no sense for Nigeria to import rice, yet foreign shipments were dumped to maintain dependency. Farmers needed help: strategic tariffs were applied to allow for initial competition, whilst the Central Bank of Nigeria financial initiatives allowed growers to access capital for fertilizer and equipment. Over the past three years, production has risen year-on-year. Nigeria, as of 2018, is Africa’s largest producer of rice. Self-sufficiency has almost been attained.

From reading some foreign articles, you would be surprised to find these success stories mentioned; amazed that anyone would cheer the decision on tariffs to ward off desolation. And the failure to see or present any achievement perpetuates stereotypes that serve as disincentives to Foreign Direct Investment and partnership.

Granted, there are challenges in Nigeria. The country is a large and diverse nation with structural challenges that have been passed down through decades. But foreign reports ignore the complexity, and instead offer platitudes as solutions. This diminishes the difficulties facing those in governance: they must merely “stamp out corruption” or “improve governance” – common advice amongst those quick to criticise, but barren in tangible and measurable solutions.

Similarly, we are told to “harness the vim of Nigerians’’ – which is true. But this seems obvious as to even need mentioning. It is – to be sure – how you do that. We in governance have no illusion about this. Vim is harnessed when a nation has decent infrastructure that connects the economy, and thousands of miles of road have been constructed, as well as the expansion and upgrading of colonial-era railway network. When children have good education; we are currently ensuring 9 million free school meals daily across the nation and it has boosted enrolment and attendance. And when business reforms create enabling environment; already Nigeria has gone up 24 places in Ease of Doing Business ranking since 2018, and the country is currently one of the top 10 global reformers, which is good news!

Garba Shehu is Senior Special Assistant to the President, Media & Publicity.

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Four Things Prof. Yemi Osinbajo Means to Nigeria, By Nathaniel Adoji

  1. Hope for Nigerians (through the Social Investments Programmes): Vice President Yemi Osinbajo oversees what is regarded as the largest social investments programme in sub-Saharan Africa. The National Social Investment Programmes (N-SIP) comprises of the N-Power Programme, currently employing 500,000 graduates; the GEEP loans (Market Moni, FarmerMoni andTrader Moni), providing credit to over 3 million Nigerian traders, artisans and businessmen; the Home Grown School Feeding Programme, feeding over 9.5 million children in public schools in 31 states nationwide; and the Conditional Cash Transfer programme, putting disposable funds in the hands of over 300,000 of the poorest families in Nigeria.

The Social Investment Programmes are the most successful social investment programmes ever implemented in Nigeria. Designed, promoted and managed by Vice President Osinbajo, they have lifted millions of Nigerians out of poverty. Indeed, the N-SIPs are giving hope to millions of Nigerians nationwide and helping them to improve their lives.

It is not surprising that only a week ago, President Muhammadu Buhari commended him for the success of the programmes – like the World Bank and many more. The commendations are evidence of hard-work, transformational policies and dedication. They are deserved as well.

  1. Improving the Economy: As a recession seemed inevitable in 2016 – giving the absence of any savings by previous administrations, falling of the price of oil in the international market, the destruction of Nigeria’s oil assets by militants, and the monotonic nature of Nigeria’s economy – Nigeria needed a team to steer the ship out of the storm. And Prof. Osinbajo provided the lead of this team.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is the head of Nigeria’s Economic Management Team. His leadership was able to bring the country out of its worst recession to hit it in decades. Since the country’s exit from the recession, he has overseen the economy grow from negative, and headed to a double digit, even beyond the predictions of the IMF and the World Bank. The journey with his captainship has been a steady and sure rise: diversification has been successfully pursued, with increased inputs now being seen from the non-oil sectors in our GDP and revenue; the country’s foreign reserves have doubled in just four years; the minimum wage increase is set for implementation despite Nigeria’s low earnings from oil; these and more show a focused, dogged, resilient and witty economic management team – led by Professor Osinbajo.

The Niger Delta New Vision, which is the blueprint of the Buhari administration to develop the Niger Delta, is being spearheaded by the Vice President on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari. His leadership and forthrightness to ensure development was clear for all to see during his tour of the region and meetings with Niger Delta elders. Osinbajo’s leadership acumen has not only helped rebuild the trust of many who had been skeptical of the Federal Government’s New Vision, it has also contributed in no small measure to the peace and stability in the region. This has greatly helped to improve oil revenue that had suffered greatly from past restiveness, and so the country’s economy.

Also, the Vice President is chair of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), which was inaugurated in July 2016, as the administration’s flagship initiative to reform the business environment, attract investment and diversify the economy to reduce the nation’s reliance on oil. Since its setup, PEBEC has spearheaded reforms that have improved the nation’s economic environment through its Ease of Doing Business reforms. This ensured Nigeria moved up 24 places on the World bank’s Ease of Doing business index and earned the country commendation as one of the top 10 reforming economies in the world. Also, the Vice President has helped launch the administration’s Energizing Economies project which provides solar power to markets and economic clusters for small businesses and petty traders and so, drives economic growth.

  1. Leadership: Seen as youthful, agile, contemporary and versatile, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo stands out as the significant link between Nigeria’s young population to the President Buhari administration. And he doesn’t stop at that. He is a mentor to hundreds of young Nigerians through his platform, Act Now Group. His aides are comprised mostly of a tech-savvy generation of young upwardly mobile youths. Osinbajo gladly welcomes opportunities to mentor young people to become excellent in their respective fields and contribute their quota to nation-building. He walks the talks and is a bridge-builder, for both the young and old generations.

As Nigeria’s number two citizen he has taken positions that prove his deft appreciation of leadership: he took the role of mending the fence of feuding members of his party APC. As Acting President, he took hefty but pertinent decisions: he appointed a Chief Justice where there was a vacuum, he unflinchingly sacked a recalcitrant head of Nigeria’s security services, he signed Executive Orders to improve Nigeria’s business community. As a lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, he is a leader of thoughts who has left indelible marks of astute thoughts in Nigeria’s jurisprudential space. His prominent role as Head of Nigeria’s Economic Management Team needs no second mention.

Just recently, in demonstration of true leadership, the Vice President temporarily delayed his trip to the airport for an official assignment to engage with some Abuja residents protesting on the highway over alleged land grabbing by members of the Nigerian Army. He subsequently met with leaders of the community and also Nigerian Army to ensure the issues are resolved amicably. Osinbajo has displayed such exemplary leadership on many occasions.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo means leadership to Nigeria today – cutting across professions, ethnic groups and age demographics.

  1. Bringing people closer to government: From Oyo to Owerri, Maiduguri to Yenagoa, everywhere he goes, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has a way with people that instantly magnets them to his inborn charm and aura of personality. Whether in the wide corridors of power, in the narrow passages in marketplaces or wading through flooded areas around Nigeria, Professor Osinbajo is at home with both the high and mighty, as well as the low and ordinary Nigerians. Simply put, Osinbajo’s deep connection with people goes deeper than the surface. It is neither for the camera or for the klieg lights or for photo-ops, just the epitome of a man whose life and career has been built on the foundations of championing social causes well before his university days, and giving back to society through his talents, skills, and resources.

Recently, during the launch of the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme in Ekiti State, the Vice President was pictured sitting with one of the schoolgirls in her classroom while the pupils enjoyed their meal. Like a dotting father, Osinbajo leaned closer to listen to what the little girl was saying at the time. Later that day, he tweeted, “She spoke, I listened. She was the boss of me today ?.” It felt like a photo-op moment, but it was more than that. It succinctly captured a man devoid of airs, one who embodied the essence of true leadership driven by compassion and genuine concern for people’s welfare. Everywhere he goes, his connection with people is evident. Everywhere he goes, it is evident that people, Nigerians, simply love this man. Sometimes, the crowd is so overwhelming, that Osinbajo’s security and protocol struggle to contain them. True compassion cannot be masked in photo-ops. Osinbajo is the real deal. He brings a human face to governance like never seen before from one holding the Number 2 position in Africa’s most populous country.

At countless events, despite his busy itinerary and schedules, and retinue of security, Osinbajo takes out time to listen to a child, a young or old man or woman, who wouldn’t have had a whiff of opportunity to come close to him in any situation. He listens to everyone, regardless of status or social class. Whether it was that woman that was moved to pray for him in the market, or a group of three generations of a grateful family he visited during one of his family chats, or the excited mai suya who couldn’t believe his eyes that Nigeria’s Vice President actually stopped by his stall to engage him in a conversation and then purchase his wares, or those group of starry-eyed kids who surrounded him and listened with rapt attention, or those excited young men and women who just wanted to take selfies with this great man; Osinbajo’s deep connection with people shines through.

Osinbajo brings that quality of compassion into political leadership and governance, he goes to meet the people where they are, bringing government closer to ordinary people. He loves to be there, to feel the pulse of the people, with the people, so that he could help them to make their lives and situations better.

Nathaniel C.Adoji

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