Tales Of The Unexpected, By Olusegun Adeniyi

SCENE ONE: In the course of a break-in at a local branch of the Central Bank (not in Nigeria), one of the robbers, holding a pump action gun in his hands, shouted to everyone: “Don’t move, if you don’t want to die. The money in this bank belongs to the government while your life belongs to you.”

With that message, everyone in the banking hall laid down quietly. That is called “Mind Changing Concept”.

That is a lesson that will serve the people of Rivers State where the rerun legislative elections were conducted last weekend amid reports of beheading of security personnel, maiming and torture of innocent citizens, ballot snatching etc. The people must begin to ask themselves whether the violent men who preside over their affairs and the desperate invaders from Abuja really care about their welfare. Perhaps they may need to go and take lessons from their compatriots in Ondo State.

I understand that when the “Change agents” (and readers can take that both literally and figuratively) arrived polling stations in the Ondo State capital during the gubernatorial election last month, selling their “Dibo ko se ‘be” (vote and cook soup) philosophy, many of the voters also responded in deep Akure dialect: “Mi kin bami meo un ki mi sibe, omoluka ni Jegede, a se gomina lijomiran” (may I have the money now to enjoy the pot of soup; Jegede is a good man, he can still be governor another day).

At the end, without any blood-shedding, the vote-by-barter deal in Ondo State was closed!

SCENE TWO: When a lady in the banking hall lay on the floor in a suggestively provocative manner that exposed too much flesh, one of the robbers shouted at her: “Please cover up! This is a robbery, not a rape operation!”

That is called “being professional”.

On Monday, a gang of armed bandits who now operate freely in Zamfara abducted about 35 women working on a farm at Matankari village in Dansadau district of Maru local government area of the state. A few hours after whisking the women away, they sent back the aged ones among them while retaining the younger ones that they believed would command value for their nefarious activities. The bandits obviously have some “code of ethics” but the question remains: how can we encourage agriculture and ensure food security in a situation where farms are no longer safe with several rural communities now at the mercy of sundry marauders?

SCENE THREE: When the bank robbers returned home with the loot, the youngest of them (graduate of a local university) asked the leader of the gang, who did not complete primary education, “Big brother, can we begin to count the money so as to ascertain how much we got from the operation?” He got an instant response: “You no sabi anything! There is so much money in the bags that it will take us several hours to count. Just put on the television. It will not be long before we know from the news how much we took from the bank!”

That is called “experience” which, as they say, is the best teacher.

I am sure that is the message President Muhammadu Buhari took with him to The Gambia where he led the ECOWAS delegation to plead with the eccentric dictator, Yahya Jammeh not to take down his country with him. In the bid for an amicable settlement, the delegation must also have had some quiet words with the victorious opposition leaders that it is foolish of them to begin to count chickens that were not yet hatched. In Africa, you don’t tell a defeated incumbent who still holds the lever of power that you are going to jail him.

In his intervention on BBC website on Tuesday, veteran Gambian journalist, Ebrima Sillah blamed the “opposition coalition’s political naivety” for the logjam despite admitting that there are many unanswered questions regarding secret killings and unexplained disappearances perpetrated under Jammeh. “The Gambia will heal faster if we muster the courage to forgive each other, even if we do not forget. Living in a country where people nurture hatred for each other is a dangerous recipe for further conflict. We cannot afford to focus on the past,” wrote Sillah who himself was nearly killed by Jammeh before fleeing into exile with his family more than a decade ago.
There is a lesson in there for so many people, including in our country!

SCENE FOUR: After the robbers had left the bank, the manager directed the supervisor to call the police quickly. But the supervisor said to him: “Not yet time for that! Let us take $1 million from the vault for ourselves and add it to the $7 million that we previously embezzled”.

That is called “thinking outside the box” or to put it in the proper Nigerian lexicon, “applying wisdom”!

I am sure those who have read the report of what transpired before the Senate ad-hoc committee on the north-east humanitarian crisis last week must have been aghast at how some fat cats in the Presidential Initiative for the North East, (PINE) spent N625.5 million to clear non-existent grass in Yobe State and another N422.5 million to provide temporary shelter (tents) to displaced families. At least that is what is in their statement of accounts that also documents a donation of N50 million to an unnamed NGO. Some people in high positions in this government have been “applying wisdom” to corner to themselves and cronies money that was meant to take care of the most vulnerable of our society.

If we dig deep, and we are already hearing stories, it is this same disposition that must have led to the tragedy last weekend at a church in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State where no fewer than 29 persons met their untimely death with scores of other worshippers injured. Without rainfall or breeze, that a building would collapse the way the church did points to some criminal negligence and it is a familiar story. On 12 September 2014, a guesthouse being constructed inside the Synagogue Church of Pastor TB Joshua collapsed in Lagos, killing no fewer than 115 people, 84 of them South Africans. No consequences!

SCENE FIVE: That night, there were media reports that $10 million was taken from the bank. Meanwhile, the robbers counted and counted and counted, but they could only find $2 million. Immediately sensing what must have happened, the near-illiterate leader of the robbery gang told his boys: “We risked our lives and only took $2 million. The bank manager took $8 million with a snap of his fingers. It seems it is more lucrative to be educated than to be a thief!”

This is called “knowledge is worth as much as gold!”

If you doubt that, you have evidently not been paying attention to the activities of the new “sogun dogoji” (money doublers) that Nigerians now troop to as they look for solution to their economic challenge. Even while the promoters claim to “produce nothing” and their customers know “that there are no investments at all”, they are still in business of “taking from those who are richer to poorer ones, in this way restoring social justice.”

That is the explanation put out by the MMM promoters in newspaper adverts at the weekend. The problem now is that neither the rich nor the poor customers of the wonder banks can get any justice. On Tuesday, participants of the MMM Ponzi scheme were informed of a one month “Freezing’’ on all accounts, the implication being that it is going to be a bleak Christmas for those who are due to withdraw both their capital and the promised 30 percent interest.

According to a letter displayed on their website page by its founder, Sergey Marvodi, the reason for the measure was to ensure the sustainability of the scheme in the New Year and make it even better. If you believe that, to borrow from James Hadley Chase, you can believe anything! The Yoruba people have a way of putting this: “Eni nwa ifa; onwa ofo”. I don’t even know how to translate that but take this: be careful of financial promises that are too good to be true!

Meanwhile, I may have “improved” on that online bank robbery joke broken down into the foregoing “five scenes” but the copyright does not belong to me. What I have done, for want of what to write this week, was to use it to draw some embedded lessons, even if in a perverse sense, about contemporary events in our country.

Wherever you turn in Nigeria today, what you find is a flight of common sense. That is what pushes some voters in Rivers State into allowing themselves to be used as cannon fodders for politicians who don’t care about their interests and that is why their counterparts in Ondo would sell their votes for a pot of soup that would last them at best only for a few days. It is the same lack of common sense that is responsible for the situation in Zamfara State where government is practically on holiday. The less said about the naivety of the opposition in The Gambia the better just as I will leave the Senate to conclude their investigations into how some people are feeding fat on the tragedy of our traumatized citizens in the North-east. As for the subscribers of the Ponzi scheme, I will join them in prayers over their trapped money.

However, even in this season when sanity seems to have left our shores, there are still some edifying stories. On Monday, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, ordered the immediate release of a mother and child, who had been detained for three days at a police station for allegedly stealing plantain. In discharging and acquitting the lady of the crime to which she confessed, citing hunger, Owoseni gave her a sum of N10,000 after warning her not to commit such crime again.

That is leadership. The kind of application of common sense we need very badly if this society is to advance but which we hardly see today. That then explains why when we send our young girls to a sporting competition within the continent; we make no allowances for their upkeep and welfare because we don’t expect them to win. Despite all the noise we make about agriculture and the investment of the last five years in the sector, we also do not expect to have bumper harvest. And for that reason, Nigerians are told to expect famine in January because the “unexpected” harvest has engendered “grain drain” to neighbouring countries.

Therefore, and most unfortunately, progress is measured in Nigeria today by the things we do not expect!

Buhari’s Visionary Placement As An Economic Strategy, By Nasiru Suwaid

The time was somewhere, immediately after the declaration of results of the 2015 presidential elections, when unlike today, the line of demarcation is not visibly blurred between the All Progressive Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), where the emotions of a very demanding political contest was evidently raw and the narrative of us versus them is the talking point in most political circles in Nigeria.

It was at that very moment, when General Muhammadu Buhari (GMB) [as he then was], the recently declared president-elect, accepted the idea and proposal of having Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the about to step down minister of agriculture, on behalf of the nation, to contest for the seat of the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB). Mind you, it has been a post that eluded Nigeria for the past 35 years, despite the many efforts to get the job for a Nigerian, thus, it became a task that most accomplished for the interest of Nigeria, solely.

Despite the fact that it was a project that was started by an outgoing defeated regime and exploring the enormous international goodwill of a newly elected but yet to be sworn administration, President-Elect Muhammadu Buhari vowed to do the needful.

While for the likes of the Turakin Adamawa, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, all that is needed for him to be recruited, was to massage his ego, about his famed influence with the South African government, and most particularly, the President Jacob Zuma family, as for the Jagaban Borgu, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, his support hinged in the fashion of the need to announce to the world, who is the premier gatekeeper in the politics of the south-west of Nigeria.

As for President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB), having being acquainted with the state of the Nigerian economy, which has been raided and mismanaged by a regime that is about to hand over power, the need for having a Nigerian in Africa’s premier lending entity, became an imperative, if not a necessity that must be achieved, because, the country would need a massive foreign exchange inflow, to weather the likely but possible economic downturn, Nigeria would encounter once the new government has taken over power.

As of today, the fact that it is the African Development Bank (AfDB), which is the first international multilateral institution, to come in the aid of the administration with a six hundred million dollars last month, in its most challenging hour of need, has vindicated the foresight of President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB), even when many of his closest lieutenants [I inclusive], were blinded by the divisive haziness of partisan politics at the time, to oppose the action of the president-elect.

Now, let us move past forward to the middle of this year, but before then, it has been a joke in the social media, indeed, even in the traditional media commentariat, about a statement once credited to candidate Muhammadu Buhari, during the electioneering campaigns, that he would make the price of crude oil to go up, thus strengthening the value of the Nigerian naira. The question has always been asked, how could a mere Nigerian, not an Arab oil Sheikh in the mould of an Ali al-Naimi, Saudi Arabian powerful but former longest serving oil minister, to have the power to influence the price of crude oil, even if he is the president of the largest crude oil producer in Africa.

However, on the instance where you seek to do the impossible, to influence the price of oil, in order to do that, you need to have someone in the secretariat of the Organization Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), though, for such a nation to sell an individual for candidature into the office of the Secretary General of Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), that person, must have been part of the organization before, thus, he could understand the difficult intricacies, divergent tendencies and peculiarity of interest of each member nation.

Principally, that is what brought the idea of the promotion of the candidature of Muhammadu Sanusi Barkindo, to man the secretariat of the world’s premier oil cartel. By the end of last week, not only has there been an agreement, to reduce production volume and quota allocation (excluding Nigeria, amongst few other nations), by an amalgam of notoriously divided group, in fact, Barkindo was able to bring-in Non-OPEC members into the agreement, and the resultant higher surge in crude oil prices is there for all to see, almost touching the sixty dollars mark, surely, an unexpected boost to the 2017 Nigerian national budget.

All things being equal, anytime from this week, if everything happens as expected, for a nation facing a serious humanitarian problems, specifically, caused by the activities of a fanatical insurgent sect, in the north-eastern part of the country, having an indigene of the area, in the person of Amina Mohammed, who is the Minister of Environment, to serve as a Deputy Secretary of the United Nations Organization (UNO), it would help a lot in the international understanding of the conflict, the availing of the much needed social support structure and the immediacy of keeping the terroristic rebellion, in the front burner of the attention span of the global donor community.

Follow me on twitter: @neeswaid

On Buhari’s Visit to The Gambia, By Olalekan Adigun

On Saturday 10 December, 2016, the world woke up to the shocking news of The Gambia President, Yahya Jammeh, rejecting the result of the country’s Presidential election he earlier accepted. What could have necessitated this decision remains in the realm of speculations but may not be unconnected with the statement credited to Adama Barrow to the effect that his administration may look into the books of Jammeh who has been in power for about 22 years. How true this is remains to be seen. Events look to have moved fast since Jammeh made the announcement on state TV last Friday.

Aware the implication of this especially in a continent that has a history of sit tight leaders, several African Heads of State have moved in to forestall impending doom on the tiny West African country. On this list is Nigeria’s President, Muhammed Buhari.

Buhari’s visit to Banjul has raised some question here in Nigeria. Since he was sworn in as president in 2015, he has traveled out of the country on countless occasions to the chagrin of many Nigerians. Many Nigerians see most of his travels as needless and economically unbeneficial to his country especially as the recession has hit the country hard. Couldn’t Buhari has ordered his Minister of External Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama , who has stayed at home more than the President himself to attend to brief the Gambian president of Nigerian official position? These and more are the issues raised about President Buhari’s visit to The Gambia.

First, let us make it clear that what is going on in The Gambia is purely political. Political issue, therefore, must be solved politically, not diplomatically. Why do we say this?

In a continent with a history of incumbent sitting tight and volatile to ethnic and religious conflicts, incumbents have the capacity to exploit the volatility in these states to hold on to power by promoting ethnic conflicts, if not full scale war. We witnessed this in 2008 in Kenya (which led to power sharing agreements between the two main factions) just as we also saw in Ivory Coast in 2012 (before French-led troops could restore order). These two events alone led to avoidable loss of lives and properties. Since it is a political issue, leaving such for diplomats may led to unpredictable series of events that may be beyond the control of those in the diplomatic circles themselves. Political problems often require political solutions!

Secondly, whether many people admit it or not, (West) Africa’s problems are often Nigeria’s problems. Buhari personally going to put pressure on Jammeh to obey the will of the may be the prudent measure to take at a time like this before things get out of hand. Now that the warnings are there, it will be easier to solve the problems that when they take other dimensions.

Many people will probably remember that when the Liberian civil war started, no one predicted it will spill quickly into Sierra Leone and Guinea. Nigeria did not understand the magnitude of what was happening till it was forced to hurriedly put together, with other members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), what is now known as ECOMOG. ECOMOG alone has cost Nigeria and Nigerians a lot in terms of human and material resources. The country would have been spared all these expenses, had it intervened earlier enough.

That also remind us, we think, had Nigeria intervened politically, earlier than the French by putting intense political pressure on Laurent Gbagbo, may be a lot of lives would have been saved in 2012!

In our opinion, Buhari’s visit to The Gambia at this state of the build-up to what could be a major crisis is timely and prudent. It can be the other way too!

 

Olalekan Waheed 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

The Yahya Jammeh Problem By Reuben Abati

When President Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia conceded defeat after the December 1, Presidential elections in that West African country of 1.9 million people, the gesture was widely hailed and described as an indication of great hope for democracy in Africa and particularly for The Gambia, which Jammeh had ruled with an iron fist for 22 years. That election was also perhaps the most important political development in The Gambia in 52 years – the first change of government through democratic elections. The winner of the Presidential election, Adama Barrow, was the product of a coalition of opposition parties who provided the platform for the people’s yearning for change. Adama Barrow (the British press should please stop referring to him condescendingly as a former Argos’ security guard!), became the symbol of the people’s hopes, and of freedom from Jammeh’s tyrannical rule that was benchmarked by its brutality, love of witchcraft and human rights abuses. Jammeh’s concession made it seem as if all his past sins would be forgiven.

But on December 9, he made a volte-face going on state television to say he could no longer accept the results of the election and that he had decided to annul the results. It is alleged that Jammeh may have resorted to this because of an alleged missing 365, 000 votes and the adjustment of the final results by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) which showed that Adama Barrow had won with less than 20, 000 votes, hence Jammeh cited “unacceptable errors” which had come to light. This, if of any consequence at all, seems contrived.

If Jammeh as candidate in the election has any grouse, the appropriate place to seek redress is in court, and the Gambian Constitution provides for a 10-day window within which to file a petition. That 10-day period of grace expires today. By annulling the election single-handedly without recourse to the courts (the promise to do so by his party, the APRC, is an after-thought), Jammeh is guilty of an assault on the sovereignty of the Gambian people.  His conduct is objectionable and should be considered an act of high treason. Jammeh suffers from the delusion that his love of power and personal ambition is more important than the stability and progress of his country. The people’s will as confidently expressed on December 1 is supreme. Jammeh should be made to realize that he is just another citizen and that The Gambia is not his personal estate.

The African Union, ECOWAS and the UN Security Council as well as the international community in general have condemned the infamy that Jammeh is seeking to foist on his people. But the AU and ECOWAS should take the lead in coming to the rescue of The Gambian people. The long-term objective, in case Yahya Jammeh does not relent, is to invoke the Constitutive Acts and Principles of both bodies on democratic transition and thus “criminalize” any further attempt by Jammeh to violate the democratic process. We appreciate the fact that ECOWAS leaders: chairperson Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, and the Presidents of Nigeria (Muhammadu Buhari), Sierra Leone (Ernest Bai Koroma), Ghana (John Dramani Mahama) and Guinea (Alpha Conde) are in fact meeting with President Jammeh today in Banjul. They will also meet with opposition coalition leaders. The primary task of that team should be to bring all parties concerned to the negotiating table, insist on the supremacy of the people’s will and advise Yahya Jammeh to obey the rule of law.

It is possible that he would refuse to listen. Before now, this Gambian anti-hero has shown a capacity to defy the international community. He once turned himself into a herbal doctor and claimed he had found a cure for HIV/AIDS. In 2013, he pulled his country out of the Commonwealth. He is also opposed to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Ironically, the current chief prosecutor of the ICC is a Gambian, Fatou Bensouda. Yahya Jammeh is also an incurable megalomaniac, given his love of titles: H.E. Sheikh Prof. Dr. Alhaji President Yahya AJJ Jammeh Babili Mansa. On many occasions, he wanted to be Chairman of the ECOWAS, but his colleague-Presidents always turned him down in favour of much junior Presidents who met him in office. For a while he shunned many international engagements, sending his Vice President instead. To be fair to him though, he is not as stupid as he is made to appear internationally and he has probably realized that the game is up. But could Yahya Jammeh be playing a game, to negotiate, to gain amnesty?

His relapse out of that moment of lucidity that saw him conceding defeat on December 2 may well have been caused not by his claim of “unacceptable errors”, but fear. The Gambian situation may end up providing special lessons in how triumphant opposition parties should manage victory in order not to provoke a succession crisis. Dictators in general are afraid of what will happen to them when they are no longer in power and hence, many of them hang on to office until they die or they are disgraced out. While the antidote to this is good governance, it is also pragmatic to situate certain responses within the context of post-election realities.

In The Gambia, the post-election situation has been poorly managed. Jammeh and Barrow have met only once since the election was won and lost. They are practically not on speaking terms. The opposition, apparently due to lack of knowledge and tact, has also been busy threatening to deal with Jammeh as soon as he hands over power. Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang, who led the victorious coalition has been busy taunting Jammeh. She is a perfect illustration of how much damage reckless windbaggery can do to opposition politics.

Madame Fatoumata says Jammeh will be prosecuted.  Gambia will rejoin the International Criminal Court and Jammeh will be sent to The Hague for trial. Jammeh says he’d like to retire to his farm in his native Kanilai, Madame says he will not be allowed to do so, because he has “bunkers and treasure” there and enough weapons to start an insurrection. He won’t even be allowed to go abroad. “He can’t leave. If he leaves, he’s going to escape us”, she says. And she adds: “we don’t trust him. The longer we leave him, the more possibilities he has to leave the country to escape the country and even do an insurgency…Senegal is very alert. Nobody trusts him…” She further referred to Jammeh’s wife as a “gold-digger” who should be put on trial and jailed. It is precisely this kind of reckless post-election rhetoric that threatens peaceful ruling-party-to-opposition-tra nsition in Africa. Fatoumata Jallow-Tambalang’s tactlessness has to be managed. She and Samsudeen Sarr should shut up, at least for now!

 Yahya Jammeh’s response has just been as vengeful. He quickly promoted loyal officers in the military and got the military hierarchy to recant. He also sent soldiers onto the streets of Banjul and Serekunda and other parts of the country to subdue an already frightened populace. He had admitted the result of the Presidential election as the “will of Allah”, but now he is relying on his own will to protect and preserve himself. The early exposure of the mind of the opposition has driven Jammeh back into the trap of tyranny and unless the situation is well managed, we may have a serious crisis in The Gambia with a well-resourced dictator turned rebel. What is playing out in The Gambia right now is a two-way politics of vengeance, which leaves both the people and the governance process stranded. Getting the country out of that logjam should be the main remit of the ECOWAS mission.

The ECOWAS leaders visiting Banjul must engage The Gambian military hierarchy. Jammeh is in the process of using them to carry out another coup. His first coup was against Dawda Jawara, 22 years ago, the current effort is designed as a coup against the people and the opposition. And even if he does not get away with it, he is determined to plant enough problems that would make The Gambia impossible to govern after his exit. Right now, The Gambian military has lost its mind. Chief of Defence Staff General Ousman Badjie endorsed the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election and pledged loyalty to the people and the elected in-coming government, but after the bribery of military promotions, the same CDS started insisting on another election. A divided, psychopathic military is a serious problem to any country. We saw that in Guinea-Bissau and Mali. The ECOWAS team must make it clear to The Gambian military leaders that there will be no regional backing for any act of lunacy. 

ECOWAS has its own problems. Oftentimes, ECOWAS leaders succumb to unnecessary compromises. They should not return from The Gambia with any unholy compromise. Yahya Jammeh lost the election on December 1. He boasted before then that any election in The Gambia is “rig-proof” and “fraud-proof”. In four previous elections, he won with a landslide. Now, all of a sudden, elections conducted under him are no longer “rig-proof”. He should pack out of the Presidential Villa and allow The Gambia to move on without him. He is the latest victim of coalition opposition politics in Africa. His defeat should send a clear message to the other sit-tight, royalist leaders across the continent. The long-term solution to the Yahya Jammeh problem should be the introduction of a Constitutional term limit for The Gambian Presidency to prevent Jammeh from ruling as he once claimed for “one billion years!”  

Above all, Yahya Jammeh is a spoilsport. He jumped out of his moment of lucidity just when we were celebrating the good news from Ghana. John Mahama is Ghana’s first one-term democratically elected President since 1992, but he has been gallant in defeat and most gracious. There is no chance he will behave like Jammeh. He is educated. He has a good head. He is a thinker and a writer. He certainly has a brighter future ahead of him.

Let No One Play Politics With The Crisis In Southern Kaduna, By Mustafa Ramala

The Southern Kaduna crisis has been around for decades and I am yet to see a true solution to end this unfortunate situation. When I began reading the debate in the media recently, I was very intrigued to hear the views of many sides especially of the elite and youth from this particular area. But it seems to me that almost everyone is speaking either based on sentiments or as a result of outright ignorance of the actual situation.

Or else, those critical of Governor El-rufai will not blame him for “needlessly paying Fulani herdsmen compensation” without getting the real facts of the matter. A simple Google search would have guided their arguments and criticism of his Administration; since information has since emerged from ‘General Agwai’s report’ which confirmed that indeed it was the late Governor Yakowa that commenced this payment in good faith as compensation to the herdsmen for their lost cattle. It is important to note that General Martin Luther Agwai is a distinguished Nigerian who served the Military with distinction and who retired honorably, as such his reputation is in no doubt. He is also from Kaduna South, as was our late Governor Patrick Yakowa. This point is not intended to underscore the loss of lives or/and properties the People of Southern Kaduna might have suffered during the ensuing decades of conflicts but merely to set the record clear with regards to payment of compensation to Fulani Hersdmen by the Kaduna State Government.

Again If not, a ranking senator representing the people of this particular zone would not play politics with the lives of his own people by calling them to defend themselves knowing fully well that more bloodshed will be the only result since it is not ‘tooth picks’ they will carry and defend themselves with. By the way if this type of call was a solution, the 1992 Zangon Kataf religious crisis would have brought not only peace but also prosperity to the entire Kaduna South today.

More than two decades later, the unfortunate 1992 events still leave considerable scars in the entire Kaduna South. For example, I spoke to several contractors who supposedly should be working on Projects in Kaduna South but are now too scared and unwilling to resume developmental projects anywhere in these areas due to fears of attacks and reprisals between the divisive sides in the conflict.

The effects are numerous; for example, Traders divert historic trade routes depriving the villagers of their means of livelihood and affecting the booming commerce that this area is known for, family ties are torn apart as people migrate away to safer communities, local and foreign investors are unwilling to come in regardless of the untapped resources etc. and all of these lead to total economic and social meltdown in that area.

So then, let us comprehend how many more decades back a ‘1992 type’ solution today will set the good people of Kaduna South…

I am not exonerating Malam Nasir El-rufai because as Governor, the security of life and property of every one in Kaduna is his utmost responsibility. But if YOU are making a contribution on this issue and you are judging this matter solely on your perceptions of the man or based on your political affiliations or you are just guided on pure hatred for his person, then you will not be making any meaningful inputs toward a long lasting solution.

While we should hold the Governor responsible for safety of lives and property, we must be critical of our leaders through the lenses of objectivity and an unprecedented unity of purpose even if we are mostly always biased in our reasoning and critique.

Misunderstandings are always expected in heated conversations (similar to the ones I see between the El-rufai camp on the one side and the other camps on the other), but if real peace and the common man is what you fight for; then on this matter you will not be focused on defending Governor El-rufai, Senator Laah, or any one particular individual for that matter. Rather, you will demand proper accountability of responsibility from all of them as your leaders and push them to deliver on the People’s mandate, pure and simple.

I have no doubt that Governor El-rufai means well for the people of Kaduna South and believe he is committed to a long lasting peace and prosperity of the zone. But let us even assume that he does NOT mean well! Will bickering amongst yourselves get his attention or push him to fulfill his responsibilities?

There is a popular theological saying that “It is only when people truly change that their situation will change for the better”, so it is the hope of many spectators and well wishers of Kaduna South that all stakeholders will put aside their personal idiosyncrasies and ugly sentiments. The people must refuse to be used for once and come together in unison and with one voice, then by your sheer number you will force an end to this crisis. One can imagine this is the type of support and pressure that both the Governor and the Senator will prefer to get from their people in order for them to deliver on their promises. They certainly do not need your hypocritical lip service or praise songs.

Another saying goes, “The power of the people is so much stronger than the people in power”, BUT ONLY IF THE PEOPLE WORK UNCONDITIONALLY TOGETHER.

 

Mustapha Ramalan writes from Abuja

Ondo: A Critique Of The Little Axe That Fell The Great Iroko, By Williams Charles

It is no longer news that the governor of Kogi state, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, who hitherto was seen in the political circle as providential, thus politically inept, a small fry, a greenhorn and a tenderfoot, has proven his critics wrong, proving himself to be not just a young kingmaker and a political juggernaut but also, a bulldozing gladiator and a force to be reckoned with in politics.

The past few weeks have seen this new “kid” in the block dazzling his critics, uprooting, disparaging and dismantling the structures of a renowned Nigerian’s south west political schemer and strategist of all time, Olushola Mimiko, a man dubbed as the Iroko of the south west politics.

The choice of the name Iroko to describe this strong political tactician may not be unconnected to an interesting characteristic of the tree, rot resistance. Iroko is very durable, and is resistant to both rot and insect attack. Indeed Olusegun Mimiko has from his days at the Labour party being a force to be reckoned with. He has been defiant to all political maneuvers aimed at getting rid of him and making him irrelevant; consequently, he has proven indefatigable and unbeatably impervious, a nightmare to politician’s foes. Haven demystified and deflated such credentials by this 41 years old unassuming politician, It is now proven that, political sagacity does not come with your long foray in political warfare but with brains, intelligence and zeal, attributes the Kogi state governor has displayed lately.

Following the young governor’s activities of late, it is apparently perceptible that Yahaya Bello is a very practical politician, who matches words with appropriate proportion of actions. Everywhere he went and everything he does, there is pragmatism in his approaches. While others who partook in the falling of the Iroko, either delegated responsibilities, or worked through proxies, or from the comfort of their offices at Abuja, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, was the GOC commanding the political infantries and combatants that wrecked the havoc to the core of the Iroko’s trunk.

He was on ground in Ondo state to garner support for Rotimi Akeredolu, moving from enclaves to enclaves. The most interesting and calculative tactical manover and moves he deployed was to identify with the sizable number of non-indigenes of Ondo state that formed a larger percentage of the voting population, having he had one-on-one contact with them, with the intent of capturing the core of their hearts.

His pragmatism can also be seen in many instances, one of such was demonstrated sometime last week when the young governor led security operatives to dislodge trailers that barricaded the Lokoja-Abuja road, causing heavy traffic logjam, due to a fracas between the Nigeria army operatives and tanker drivers. Entreaties were made by serving Generals in the army and very influential personalities which fell on deaf ears until the governor, upon the request of the warring trailer drivers arrived the scene. He didn’t leave the scene until around 11pm when all issues were resolved and all gridlocks removed and traffic restored.

Before his assumption to office, it was a truism that Kogi state civil service was one of the most fantastically corrupt civil services in the country. Its workforce is ghost worker laden to the tone of 40%. Attempts made by previous administrations to right this trend has always gone over the bar and met stiff resistant. The processes are either intentionally scuttled, compromised or government lacking the political will to implement submitted report. Upon assumption into office, the first step of the governor was to make sure, these ghosts are sent back to their graves to rest in peace. Initially, it felt like it would be business as usual, but for the determination and doggedness, the process would have been jettisoned owing to pressure emanating from various quarters to outright condemnation and attack on the governor’s personality by perceived beneficiaries of the long term largess. Kogi state wouldn’t have had it better. Within a short while, it is expected that the practical steps and approach of this young governor, would begin to yield positively for the people of Kogi state. At the moment as I write, the young governor has ordered the payment of all outstanding salaries owned civil servants as promised by him that he would not carry over any payment into the incoming year.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  states “One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.”

Succinctly put, age in politics is a serious and important yardstick for performance and achieving results. There is the power to go the extra mile, there is the ability to think outside the box, the brain is fully functional at its maximum and there is the adventure or venturing to do things in a different way. It is believed that only unserious people would do a process over and over failing expecting different results. Except there is a daring breakaway from the past logics that have failed, there can be no forward movement. It takes a daring and adventurous young man to get result in the multi-tasking society that we are in and that’s why the young governor is faing the tide. No wonder shakepsre said, there is a tide “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures”

This is a metaphorical expression, the use of which we often find in literature and everyday life. In our lives, we get ebbs and flows; however, we, sometimes, are unable to recognize whether the tide is an opportunity or an obstacle. It is up to us how we avail it as an opportunity or an obstacle. An elderly person can give this wise suggestion to the younger ones, as it contains beauty of thought about availing themselves of the opportunity. It only takes a young man to take action because he has the strength and abilities.

It takes courage and strength to face the tide, if Kogi must progress, it needs to support this 41 years old. He has the “can-do” mien. He leads from the front and not the back.

His unscheduled visits to many of the states ministries and parastatals, presents a man who does not sit down in his office and work by the reports submitted to his desk by his appointees. Rather he goes out to inspect and supervises so as to rake in, first hand information about happing in his domain.

Finally, the 41 year old governor has a penchant for the people of Kogi state. Wherever he finds himself, he puts off the toga of executiveness then mingles with his people. No wonder, during the Edo gubernatorial elections held in the month of September, Yahaya Bello was often times found in the cluster of his people at Igarra, Auchi, Uromi etc. He repeated, the same act was repeated during the Ondo election that found the young governor yet again in the midst of his people in areas like Owo. It takes one who has the love of his people and humility bto seek out for them wherever he finds himself.

For the first time since the creation of Kogi state, Kogi just got it self a complete leader, the onus lies on the people to give him the much needed support to him so he can deliver, because he has all the impetus to do so, like he has replicated in Edo and Ondo respectfully.

 

Williams Charles Oluwatoyin

Is a Media and Communications Consultant.
wlmcharles@yahoo.co.uk

Osun And Kaduna States’ School Feeding Programme: A Tale of Two Cities, By Flourish Tolulope

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

These opening lines of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities come to mind when you have to compare the biting recession with what’s going on in Osun public education space, especially for children who are recipients of the Osun Elementary School Feeding and Health Programme now known as O-MEALS. This is in light of the fact that OMEALS keeps going strong even in the difficult economic environment (about six years now) while state like Kaduna State had to hurriedly apply the brakes on its own programme just six months in.

THE school feeding programme was first established in Brazil in 1950, targeting the children of the needy. Today, it has become a universal right under the law. Globally, many countries like India, Ghana and Kenya have recorded successes in school feeding programmes to give children good nutrition.

THE idea of school feeding is not new in Nigeria. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo launched his home-grown school feeding programme aimed at about 25 million children but the programme hardly took off. Immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan also made efforts towards the same idea, all to no avail. Lagos, Kano and Kaduna have also attempted school feeding projects in the past but could not sustain it. However that of Osun is still ongoing.

The programme was initiated by the Federal Government in 2004 through the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Act. According to information culled from the states website, “On assumption of office, the present Aregbesola- led administration undertook a comprehensive review of the inherited school feeding arrangement and came up with an overhauled and rebranded programme that was officially launched on the 30th April 2012. Implementation in primary schools is ongoing throughout the State. The key areas of improvement undertaken by the current administration are, inclusion of elementary Year 4, thereby increasing beneficiaries to 254,000, Capacity Development and Empowerment 3007 Community Caterers, Backwards Integration to Local Markets and Process Improvements.”

The O-MEALS programme aims to reverse the very low academic performance of pupils noting that good nutrition is necessary for development of cognitive skills. This follows a logical pattern since it has been scientifically proven that malnutrition impedes development in children. A well fed child is able to concentrate better in school and so able to learn much more. He is healthier and falls ill less often, so he doesn’t miss school as much. With the declining standard of education in Nigeria, and the nation’s 10 million or so out-of-school children, it is critical to do all we can to ensure that every child gets an education, at least a basic primary education. This is more so at a time that financial difficulties are making it difficult for many parents to properly feed and educate their children. A 2015 UNICEF report released revealed that over 1.7 million Nigerian children under the age of five were acutely malnourished, resulting in nearly 1000 deaths daily from malnutrition-related causes. This represents 10 percent of malnourished children globally. While a meal a day at school may not permanently solve malnutrition in the country, it will significantly alleviate the problems.

So far, (six years and counting), the programme has been hailed as a major success, with other states taking notes. Representatives of various states in Nigeria, at the end of a three-day study of the Osun State school feeding programme, vowed to use the template set by the state. They concluded that the Osun State Government had set a good template for the implementation of the nationwide school feeding programme. Speaker after speaker at the event commended the governor of the state for identifying school feeding as one huge opportunity for social welfare and an instrument of economic strength for Nigeria.

Also, international institutions showing interest in learning how it works. For example, “In November 2012, Partnership for Child Development (PCD) United Kingdom and the Government of the State of Osun signed the Osun Elementary School Feeding Transition Strategy Plan Document to further strengthen the programme. As at July 2016, of the 13 original pilots, the State of Osun is the only state currently implementing the programme. The programme still continues till date, despite the challenges.

What Happened in Kaduna and What Osun Did Right

The feeding programme in Kaduna was problematic from the start. It was heavily criticized as a misplacement of priorities given the fact that schools were heavily dilapidated. Understandably, this cannot be said to be the sole fault of Governor Nasir El-Rufai who was not at the reigns when the structures gradually rotted away. Many pundits claimed El-Rufai simply wanted to “score a curious point.” Regardless of what El-Rufai’s motives were, Osun appears to have gotten it right in this regard. The administration has shown its commitment to not only ‘stomach infrastructure’ as the uninformed may term OMEALS, but Aregbesola has remodeled, rebuilt and equip one beautiful school after another even as his tenure enters its twilight. The Opon Imo project and other interventions which have been justified by improving WASSCE results for Osun show that when physical structures and conducive learning environments are provided alongside, the feeding programme can be sustainable.

Also, due to the complexities of implementation and the peculiarities of the Nigerian environment, there is need for painstaking planning, especially in the area of statistics gathering, even before its take-off. It contributed to the crash in Kaduna. School population sky rocketed in some places from 200 to about 2000, in classes that were built for much less. In other words, the government was investing one billion per month on a project that was giving it problems and wasn’t achieving much. There were reports of mismanagement and diversion of funds by school administrators and principals who gave vendors’ monies to their friends. There were cases of students who showed up only at meal times, which led to increased attendance but very low retention. In Osun on the contrary, the registration, verification and identification process which included a uniform for vendors have helped curb excesses. And because there’s more for kids to enjoy in school than meals, they stay after the plates are packed to learn.

Another issue, that of funding dealt the most fatal blow to the Kaduna Feeding program. At the cost of N50 per meal, Kaduna was spending over 1billion per month. According to Governor El-rufai, the State had yet to receive the reimbursement for seven months, which the Federal Government through the office of the Vice President (OVP) promised to provide. This accounted for about 60% of the total cost. While the Governor acknowledged that OVP was doing it’s best to provide the funds, the state could just no longer bear the burden.

Many odds were stacked against Kaduna’s school feeding program, but these odds are also stacked against OMEAL. Perhaps, much more. This then suggests that maybe what is required for social interventions like this transcend data, infrastructure, and funds. It appears to be something called the will of the leader to plough on even in adversity, a resource Aregbesola appears to have.

Flourish Tolulope wrote in from Lagos.

Rethinking the Definition of Waste, By Simon Kolawole

The middle-aged man sprinted in my direction, seized my suitcase and began towing me to his cab. I was startled by the aggression, but I played along, like a sheep heading for the slaughter. After all, I would still need a cab out of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, and somebody would have to do the job.
“Oga, if they ask you any questions, tell them you called me from Lagos to come and pick you up,” he instructed.

“Why?” I asked, still wondering what this game was about.
“I will explain to you later,” he vowed, and as we entered his cab, he started thanking me.
“I’ve been here for three days, no passengers. If you didn’t allow me to pick you this night, that means I would be here till tomorrow. This N6,000 you’re going to pay me now, I will just hand it over to my wife when I get home. She will go to the market tomorrow and we will finally have food in the house. Thank you, oga.”

I was downcast. This is a familiar story in Nigeria these days. It got me thinking for a long time, and I finally asked him: “By the way, why have you been here for three days?”

I was not impressed with his initial explanation.
“There are too many cabs at the Abuja airport,” he said, lamenting that “we are more than 800 waiting to pick passengers everyday”. It was affecting “market”, he said. So I asked him something similar to a rhetorical question.

“Let’s say there are 5,000 passengers landing in Abuja everyday, and 800 of them need to take airport cabs to get to town, would you still say 800 cars are too many?” I asked.
I knew where I was going.

“No. But when will 5,000 passengers start coming to Abuja again? These days, there are no events, no conferences, no seminars, nothing. It is affecting everybody,” he replied, hitting the nail exactly where I wanted. No events, no business. Simple.

Let’s do simple economic arithmetic, the type we were taught in primary school. Let’s say the ministry of trade and industry is organising a three-day conference in Abuja on, say, “Creating a Manufacturing Hub in Your Village”. And let’s say I want to come and attend. Now let us look at the chain of economic activities that the three-day conference can stimulate or generate — and how many jobs will be created, sustained or saved in the process.

First, I buy an air ticket. That is income for the airline. I take a cab to the Lagos airport. Income for the cab driver (plus his wife and his children, and the market woman). I pay passenger tax to FAAN. Income for government. The airline charges VAT on the ticket. Income to the federation account. The airline keeps flying and keeps people employed. That’s income for employees and employers, and income for the aviation fuel marketers. At the end of the month, the airline’s employees pay PAYEE and pension contribution, as well as income tax to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). You may also be aware that marketers have hundreds of employees and pay all kinds of taxes too.

My flight touches down in Abuja. The cabman picks me up for N6,000. He has already paid N200 “gate fee” to FAAN to gain entrance to the airport, so that’s another income for FAAN. He takes me to the hotel. I pay for three nights. That is income for the hotel, the employers, the employees, the government, and the entire string in Abuja. The ministry of trade and industry rents a conference hall from a hotel. That is another chain in the income trail. The ministry advertises the event in newspapers. Income for newspapers and advert agencies, who also have employees. The ministry engages event organisers, who hire ushers and bouncers. Another link.

I’m not done yet. Somebody makes the banners and the backdrops. Income. Somebody prints the souvenirs such as T-shirts, conference bags, notepads and pens. Income. NTA dupes you to report the event. Income. After three days, the conference is over and I return to the Abuja airport. I take a cab to get there. I buy another flight ticket. I pay another FAAN passenger fee. The airline buys fuel again. The airline, I almost forgot to say, pays a caterer to supply snacks on the flight. I get to Lagos. Take another cab home. Income, income, income all the way. Income for small businesses. Income for medium businesses. Income for big businesses. Income for government.

Ladies and gentlemen, to me as a villager, that is the economy at work. All the talk about job creation is not that government should set up a national carrier or a bakery and employ people. It is not simply about dishing out N5,000 a month to “unemployed” graduates. It helps, sure, but to what extent? It is not simply about recruitment into the civil service. How many people can the government employ? The major focus should be about what the people can do by themselves. And how government can stimulate the people to do these things by themselves. Give Nigerians a space and watch them move the world.

I was flabbergasted a while ago when President Muhammadu Buhari banned government agencies from printing souvenirs because they are “a waste”. What??? He instantly dealt a heavy blow on many SMEs — the sort of businesses government should be actively encouraging with incentives and patronage. Every N1 spent by the government could end up generating economic activities worth N5, as I have illustrated in my fictitious three-day conference. The best thing the government could have done was to cut the budget for souvenirs or set standard prices to contain over-invoicing. With this “no souvenirs” decision, thousands of jobs were wiped out effortlessly.

I am fully with Buhari on cutting waste in government — in fact, I have been campaigning for this all my adult life and I am certain Buhari is the man to do it. But I would like to raise two points. One, we must define “waste” within an economic context. What “waste” is harmful? What “waste” in helpful? When government officials hold a training programme in Paris, I would call that harmful waste. Most of the benefits will go to the French economy, not ours. But if a similar programme is held in Nigeria, that is not a harmful waste. Even if you want to call it a waste, we are at least creating economic value with the “waste”. I’d cheekily call this “waste to wealth”.

Two, there is something wrong with the notion in Nigeria that government expenditure that oils an economic value chain is a waste. Even in many developed countries where the private sector is flourishing very well, government is still the largest spender and the stimulator of the economy. For instance, the single largest consumer of goods and services in the US is the government. One American economist put it this way: “If the government actually stopped spending, our economy would collapse.” In Nigeria, we take pride in starving the economy of public funds when there are uncountable life-changing, economy-stimulating projects to be done!

Back to my point: government has to rethink its definition of “waste”. Any spending that will positively stimulate economic activities should not be classified as waste. One day, I was shocked to see some “good” roads being repaired in the US, and someone explained to me that it is part of keeping people working and keeping income flowing. Meanwhile, chartering flights with state funds to attend political rallies should be classified as “harmful waste” — not because economic value is not generated, but to what end? The money is better spent on “wastes” like giving uniforms to pupils and keeping textile merchants, button sellers and tailors, in business. Helpful.

=======================

AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…

THE U-TURN
Just as I was dancing “azonto” that Ghanaian president John Mahama had finally conceded to Nana Akufo-Addo, Gambian president Yahya Jammeh rained on my parade by making a U-turn after initially congratulating Adama Barrow. Why did Jammeh summersault? Barrow, according to reports, had been threatening to probe and prosecute Jammeh. This, I believe, is the major reason why many African presidents refuse to leave office — the fear of humiliation. They would rather be “late president” than “ex-president”. Unfortunately, when you say probe should not be priority, you are accused of supporting corruption. I do really fear for Gambia. Ominous.

ALMIGHTY LAWMAKERS
The National Assembly has been having fun in recent times proposing all kinds of laws and seeking to wild all kinds of power. There is currently a bill that will allow them to insert their so-called constituency projects into the budget, even if these are not in the bill sent by the executive. Not so long ago, they sought to put the Code of Conduct Bureau and Code of Conduct Tribunal at the beck-and-call of the National Assembly — apparently in response to the perceived persecution of Senate President Bukola Saraki by President Muhammadu Buhari. Hopefully, these lawmakers will one day realise that you make laws for posterity, not for selfish reasons. Foresight.

JUNGLE JUSTICE
Generally, Nigerians love public lynching — both verbal and physical — as we see on social media everyday. However, the video of a young boy being lynched, recently, for “stealing” has raised, yet again, the issue of jungle justice in this animal kingdom that we live in. It revived the traumatic memories of the UNIPORT students who were lynched years ago following what turned out to be a false alarm. People say they don’t trust the police, so they take the law into their hands. Just shout “thief” and the next thing is death — even if there was no stealing. In a society where government truly values the lives of its citizens, jungle justice would have ended long ago. Sadistic.

UNWISE SOLOMON
On a second thought, it would appear President Buhari deliberately picked some characters as ministers in order to give us comic relief while we pass through this economic downturn. There are quite a number of entertainers in his cabinet. Comrade Solomon Dalung could well have been minister of youth, sports and comedy, given the kinds of things that come out of his mouth anytime he opens it. Speaking on government’s failure to pay the Falcons their allowances despite winning the African Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON), he said nobody expected them to win — as if failure was his target. Nigeria is killing the spirit of these ladies. Outrageous.

Religious Groups: Fundamentalism, Religious Politics And Power Grab In Nigeria

By Ade Ilemobade

Karl Max in his work A Contribution to the critique of Hegel’s Phoilosophy of Right says “Religion is the opium of the people.”

Nigeria is a good example of a nation wherein the citizenry is under the influence of Quoranic and Biblical opiate which is an alarming situation given the demographics of those predispose to these two fundamental problems hindering our developmental goals.

Religious fundamentalism amongst the young cuts across spatio temporal gender barrier or geographical nexus as a comprehension of the fact that our young citizens have become submerged in religious indoctrination to the extent that they start depicting element of religious psychosis cum delusion and schizophrenic bipolarism which have metamorphose their characters as human into Gorgon Medusalike monster witness on all our university campuses amongst religious zealots inclusive my personal experience while jogging at the Redeem Christian Church Camp recently. I wonder if it is not time we must begin to think of abrogating religious Zombies in Nigeria.

It is in this regard that I am advocating the abolition of religious politicisation and fundamentalism and these objectives should be the preoccupation of all government institutions charge with coordination of internal affairs worldwide in other to remove the illusory happiness of the people that religion is preaching and the urge to gravitate towards political power grabbing unfolding but not seen by many contemporary analyst.

I am mindful of the critique that will follow this piece in respect of the protection of fundamental right to freedom of conscience and religion cum free speech but I need to make a clarification here that this is not about abolition of religion or free speech rather I am writing here about control of excesses and dogmatic divisive vituperations with political undertone coming from the churches and mosques in Nigeria. We need to note here that there is/are always limitations to those right if and when the integrity or unity of the nation is threatened by religious zealots or Zombies who are making absolute claims on state citizens and followers alike thereby jeopardizing the fundamental tenents of seperation between the state and religion.

According to Dirac: I cannot understand why we idle discussing religion. If we are honest—and scientists have to be—we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality. The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination. It is quite understandable why primitive people, who were so much more exposed to the overpowering forces of nature than we are today, should have personified these forces in fear and trembling. But nowadays, when we understand so many natural processes, we have no need for such solutions. I can’t for the life of me see how the postulate of an Almighty God helps us in any way. What I do see is that this assumption leads to such unproductive questions as why God allows so much misery and injustice, the exploitation of the poor by the rich and all the other horrors He might have prevented. If religion is still being taught, it is by no means because its ideas still convince us, but simply because some of us want to keep the lower classes quiet. Quiet people are much easier to govern than clamorous and dissatisfied ones. They are also much easier to exploit. Religion is a kind of opium that allows a nation to lull itself into wishful dreams and so forget the injustices that are being perpetrated against the people. – wikipedia.org

Those proselytizing, preaching or spreading religious dogmas are themselves exploiters of the people camouflaging as being righteous when in fact their major aim is hegemony a leverage to control the mind and purse of the people or the nation if given the opportunity to grab political power.

Religion might provides ethical wisdom for society according to T.S. Eliot or social cohesion in some cases but the moment it is used to achieve given political ends contradictory to fundamental state philosophy of fairness and neutrality in a liberal democratic settings that is the moment the instrument of the state in respect of the use of force must be applied to prevent religious zealots like Boko Haram or any other groups from constituting themselves into a state within a state.

Nigeria as a constitutional liberal democracy must avoid any attempt by religious groups to hijack political power rather they must be restricted to the domain of worship and praise singing which is the hallmark of their dogmatic proprosition, it is in this wise I am in agreement with Thomas Hobbes when he describes religion as conflict generating organism that often creates political instability therefore governments must censor religiously politicised opinions in other to achieve stability or tranquility this is certain because the state has a legitimate duty to protect citizens from indoctrinations and harm that such views can/might generate.

The view expressed by Thomas Hobbes about the conflict generating ontology of religion is exemplify by what is happening today in Northern Nigeria to be precise North East coupled with the Kaduna Islamic Movement in Nigeria religious conundrum and it is my opinion that these are prelude to the bigger disaster coming from the fundamentalist christians given my experience at the Redeem Christian Church Camp an environment where Zombies are made of young impressionable minds who will do anything the Church leadership commands.

Identity conflict or Conflict of allegiance between devine and republicanism are some of the elements I noticed conversation wise in my philosophical interractions with some of the young people I spoke With while jogging.

We are beginning to witness such conflict of identity amongst adherents of various religion in Nigeria as regards their allegiance as citizen to the state. Boko Haram and Islamic Movement in Nigeria are typical examples of these kinds of anti-establishment movements with affairmation that authority is derive from the devine and political authority is of no significance therefore they repudiate any obligation to obey laid down rules and regulations.

In conclusion, it is my considered view that the abolition of religious politicisation and fundamentalism should be the preoccupation of all government institutions charge with coordination of internal affairs of Nigeria in other to remove the illusory happiness of the people that religion is preaching and the urge to gravitate towards political power grabbing by religious groups unfolding but not seen by many contemporary analyst.

 

OTUNBA ADE ILEMOBADE is a philosopher

Twitter: @pearl2prince

 

The Implication Of Supreme Court Judgment On Ekiti Local Govt Council By Okoi Obono-Obla

Yesterday (Friday, the 9th December, 2016), the Supreme Court of Nigeria gave a momentous and landmark decision which has put paid to the question whether or not State Governors in the country have the power to dissolve Local Government Area Councils in their State and replace them with Caretaker Committees appointed by them.
The Supreme Court answered the question in the negative and held that no State in the country has the power to dissolve Local Government Area Council in their State and replaced them with Caretaker Committees appointed by them.
The decision of the Supreme Court of Nigeria also resolve the question if State Assemblies can enact laws that are inconsistent with the provisions of Section 8 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) that the Government of every State shall subject to Section 8 of the Constitution (supra), ensure their existence under a law which provides for their establishment, structure, composition, finance, and functions of such councils.
The judgment of the Supreme Court of Nigeria arose from a case filed by Local Government Area Councils challenging the decision of the then Governor John Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State to dissolve the 16 Local Government Area Councils on the 11th October, 2010 through a radio announcement despite the fact that the tenure of these councils still had up to 29th December, 2011 to end.
The Supreme Court trenchantly in the decision end the action of then Governor, Dr. Fayemi and describe the rampant dissolution of local Government Area Councils by State Governors as tantamount to ‘’ executive lawlessness’’.
The pertinent question is: What is the implication of the decision of the Supreme Court on the local government system and the rampant dissolution of elected local government councils by State Governors and replaci9ng them with undemocratic Care taker Committees?
 
The implication is that the Supreme Court has set a precedent on this issue and henceforth any State Government that dissolve a democratically elected local government council in its State and substitute it with undemocratic appointed care taker Local government council is acting unconstitutionally and such a decision is ultra vires , null and void and of no effect.
Also another implication is that undemocratically elected local government area Councils are not entitled to enjoy the monthly allocation of revenue from the Federation accounts.
Conversely, any State Law that infringes on Section 8 of the Constitution that provides that the Government of every State shall subject to ensure their existence under a law which provides for their establishment, structure,
composition, finance, and functions of such councils is illegal , null and void.
In my State-Cross River, the three years tenure of the present Local Government Councils will expire on the 20th December, 2016!
Despite this, the State Independent Electoral Commission has not set up any time table for the conduct of local government elections.
There has been endless speculation that Governor Ben Ayade is nurturing the thought of constituting Caretaker Committees to replace the present Local Government Area Councils which will end on the 20th December, 2016!
It is clear as the crystal that such a move will amount to a flagrant and egregious breach of the Constitution and the judgment of the Supreme Court enunciated in the Ekiti State case.
The implication is that by 21st December, 2016 the existence of the present local government councils would become extinguished and otiose by virtue of constitutional lapse of time and illegal.
It follows that by the 21st December, 2016 there will be no democratically local Government Councils in the State that will be entitle to allocation of revenue from the Federation accounts.
Conversely, these local government area Councils will no longer in the eyes of the law legal and illegitimate.
The consequence for the Local government councils will be dire if they are no longer in a position to enjoy allocations from the Federation Accounts.
Is a constitutional crisis brewing in the Cross River State local government system in the light of the issues discussed above? Your answer is as good as my own.
Okoi Obono-Obla
(Note that view canvassed above is the private opinion of the author)

#GhanaDecides: Like Nigeria, Corrupt Inheritor After President’s Death Replaced By Aged Opponent

By Peregrino Brimah

In an eerie form of coincident destiny, the electoral stories of Nigeria and Ghana have followed quite identical paths for the last series of transitions.

The Good

Both nations had quite popular presidents who died in office. In Nigeria late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua died in office in 2010 at age 58 years and was replaced by his Vice, Goodluck Jonathan. Umaru Yar’Adua had spent 3 years in office. Late Yar’Adua fought terrorists north and south and the corrupt cabal at the same time, overturning sales of state assets to the vultures by his predecessor and quelling MEND terror on the south and Boko Haram in the north within a few years. A God-fearing unifier, Nigerians across ethnic lines were quite happy with him and his performance across board. Late Yar’Adua was and remains the only Nigerian president to fully declare his assets.

For Ghana, former President John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills died in July of 2012 about three and a half years after being elected to office in 2009. He was 68. He was also replaced by his Vice, John Dramani Mahama. Atta Mills was well loved and respected. He is remembered for being God-fearing and his legacy of ethical leadership. Nicknamed “Asomdwee Hen” or “Prince of Peace,” Professor Atta Mills was also sound in economic policies, leading Ghana to unprecedented economic growth with single-digit inflation and a stable exchange rate.

The Bad

Inheritors of the throne, Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and John Dramani Mahama did not lead the best of regimes. Suffering and corruption were the hallmark of both’s administrations. Right from his days as Vice president, scandals were Mahama’s brand. One of the worst being a phone-call placed to his phone by a lady, Phaedra on a live recording set of the “Real Housewives of Atlanta” show where she had bragged of her escapades and direct contact with Ghana’s #2 man. Outgoing President Mahama was bogged with numerous corruption allegations also involving his flamboyant, burning-hot rides brother. Gifts given and received by him including vehicles from foreign businessmen and allegedly buying homes for election officials overseas were part of his long list.

Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan did not fare much better. His days as President began with a name brand as the most “clueless president in the world.” A title he embraced. But like Mahama, allegations of corruption were established ever before he became President and included his family members. As governor of Bayelsa, the corruption tales begun with his wife investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Committee, EFCC for several cases including the alleged laundering of $13 million. The Jonathan 5 years in office were filled with torential series and hapless cries of massive corruption to the point of calamity to the nation. Obstinately declaring that “stealing is not corruption,” Goodluck Jonathan embraced his labels again and preached alternate scales that Nigerians should use to rate and appreciate his administration. Torrents of blame and monetary seizures have trailed the Jonathan family since being voted out of office.

Interestingly the people gave both men a chance, electing them into office as president for their go, even after both men had already been tainted. But one chance only it was.

And The Old

In 2015 Nigeria held elections with then president Goodluck Jonathan contesting for a second term as president and third term in the presidency. Former military leader Muhammadu Buhari under the APC party contested against him and won, defeating Goodluck Jonathan soundly with 2.5 million more votes. Buhari was 72 according to his official age when he became president in May of 2015. Buhari won with about 54.5% of the vote  with Jonathan at 45%.

With a similar margin of 54% to 44%, Mr. Akufo-Addo, of the New Patriotic Party soundly defeated the incumbent, president John Mahama to become Ghana’s president-elect. A human rights lawyer, astonishingly President-elect Mr. Nana Akufo-Addo is also 72 years old!

Like Nigeria’s Buhari who had contested three times previously and lost, “Try me” Nana was a veteran presidential race runner, he ran unsuccessfully for President of Ghana in the 2008 and 2012 before the people finally decided to give him the shot. Buhari ran unsuccessfully in 2003, 2007 and 2011. Sometimes really wanting something is not enough of a validation and does not translate to the capacity and suitableness for that role.

It would be wise for Ghana to learn from its “big brother” and partner in fate, Nigeria and its ongoing trials. Like Nigeria, the recent discovery of oil in Ghana has not quite helped as the country is battling with continuous inflation and increasing prices of utilities like power, which are no longer half as stable as they used to be. In Nigeria, old Buhari who came into power with a lot of support and goodwill is having a hard time. Nigeria quickly fell into a recession with loses of millions of jobs as the new elder-led Buhari administration slowly and clumsily looked for the steps. Dwindling currency power which has tanked the Naira and Cedis an identical 400% over the past few years discombobulated the new administration. Elders expect savings and a tidy house. Summarizing Nigeria under Papa Buhari, the president appears stuck in an old pattern of doing things and challenged by an advanced technological and complex world, thereby becoming at the complete mercy of whoever he is related to and hopes knows what should be done. Many of whom do not share the pain, vision and desperation of the nation. The president is at the mercy of a list that includes family, the very same corrupt cabal, the same politicians who drained and damaged the nation, the World bank and IMF…just whoever.

Also importantly, the elections in Ghana and Nigeria were both quite polarizing with divisions along religious and ethnic lines. Mr. Akufo-Addo would do well uniting the country and not following Nigeria’s example where divisions appear to have become more plentiful, deeper and deadlier since Buhari’s swearing in.

Challenging times are bringing “change” candidates not just in Nigeria and Ghana but across the world. But sometimes the more things change the more they remain the same and sometimes get worse. Ghanaians must not wait. Victory does not end with the declaration of the winner but begins with it. Ghanaians must track every step their new president takes and make sure he is fast, smart, strong and able to take them to the promised land.

The modern world is intensely collaborative, with many amazing tools that enhance this. Exploring “Direct democracy,” it will be good for the new president to listen to and carry the real people along. That way he can’t go wrong and he can’t loose favor.

We congratulate President-elect Mr. Akufo-Addo on his victory.

God bless Ghana.

Dr. Peregrino Brimah; @EveryNigerian

The takeaways, As Moroccan Delegation Visits Nigeria, By Chukwudi Enekwechi

Recently, the King of Morocco Mohammed VI was in Nigeria for a state visit in reprocity to President Muhammadu Buhari’s earlier visit to the North African country. The fanfare that greeted the Moroccan King’s visit was loud and unprecedented in the annals of our bilateral relations with other African countries, and Morocco in particular.

Perhaps we can attribute the success of the visit which came with several gains for Nigeria to the visionary leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari who since assumption of office has deployed all diplomatic arsenals towards winning global friendship for Nigeria.

Nigeria as a country stands to gain immensely from the visit considering the vantage position of Morocco as a prosperous country with stable leadership which has translated into technological know-how and economic boom.

It is therefore noteworthy that Nigeria and Morocco signed a number of landmark agreements during the King’s visit. One of such agreements is on fertilizer production as a Moroccan company; OCP in partnership with Dangote Group will establish a fertilizer plant in Nigeria. This has the potential to serve Nigeria’s fertilizer needs, and the whole of West Africa, as well as boost agricultural production in the country.

Both countries also signed a Bilateral Air Services Agreement which will enable both countries have direct flights with each other. This particular agreement is significant in that it will reduce incidences of death and other harrowing experiences which Nigerian travellers experience in the course of travelling illegally through the Sahara desert.

The agreement on exemption of visas for diplomatic and official passport holders will greatly facilitate Nigeria’s diplomatic cooperation with the North African country, as well as remove the unnecessary bottlenecks that militate against easy movement of government officials between both countries.

During the visit, Nigeria also signed a bilateral agreement with Morocco on marine fisheries cooperation. This agreement will boost Nigeria’s marine potentials, more so as large expanse of navigational waters have remained largely unexplored due to lack of requisite technology.

Morocco is famous for having several decades of technological know-how in fish packaging, especially the popular “sardine” which is consumed in high quantity in Nigeria. Of course the agreement on agriculture will positively impact our nation’s food security, as it will ultimately reduce food imports and avail Nigerian farmers with modern technology in agricultural production.

OCP the Moroccan company with focus on fertilizer production has successfully made impact in Ethiopia where bumper yields have been reported with the use of fertilizer manufactured by it.

From all indications, President Muhammadu Buhari is utilizing all available diplomatic means towards ensuring that Nigeria leverage on other sectors, rather than depending solely on oil and gas in solving our myriad of socio-economic challenges.

It is pertinent to point out that the fertilizer to be produced in Nigeria by the Moroccan company will be suitable for Nigerian soil, and will lead to increased agricultural activity that will contribute tangibly to the country’s gross domestic product.

An agreement was also signed between both the Moroccan agency on sustainable energy and its Nigerian counterpart.

While the state visit by the Moroccan king has come and gone, the memory will continue to linger in our minds as President Buhari through calculated and deft diplomatic moves has continued to win international goodwill and respect for Nigeria.

These achievements in the diplomatic arena are not surprising as his experience of a leader with vision and mission to reposition Nigeria, not only as a regional leader in the West African sub region, but as a major global economic and political player.

Having attained a significant mileage on the three planks of his administration namely economy, security and fight against corruption, President Muhammadu Buhari is currently exploring new areas to give all Nigerians wider opportunities to grow and expand their businesses.

The three day official visit of the Moroccan King Mohammed VI to Nigeria is a win-win for both countries. For example, while Moroccan companies will invest heavily in Nigeria’s economy, the trans-Africa gas pipeline which will run along the coast of Africa will now terminate in Morocco which is a gateway to Europe, and there is the potential that we can supply gas to Europe directly. This has the added potentials of translating into billions of dollars in earnings for Nigeria.

Another important agreement signed during the visit was between UBA, a Nigerian bank and its Moroccan counterpart, and this is aimed at facilitating the huge business transactions to commence between the two countries.

On the whole the meeting between King Mohammed VI of Morocco and President Buhari was intended to facilitate and strengthen bilateral and economic relations between the two friendly countries, and this will greatly impact on trade and oil and gas sector.

Chukwudi Enekwechi, Journalist and Politician, writes from Abuja and can be reached via kwechis19@yahoo.com.

Send this to friend