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Consequences of Seeking Nothing and Achieving Nothing …In Defence of Dakuku

Until one Simeon Nwakaudu and his low life counterpart, Soibi Max-Alalibo were invited to come and chop by Emperor Nyesom Wike, what were they really worth? Or to put it better, who had heard of them?

Consequences of nothing, seeking nothing and achieving nothing. The only thing to their names is their names. Nothing more or so it seems.

Today, because of small offering, they are now barking, wagging their tails like small dogs expecting bone crumbs from their master’s dinner table and unsure of whether they would be chained or not for the night.

A respected Rivers son and an internationally acclaimed administrator, Dr. Dakuku Peterside had admonished Emperor Wike over the demolition of hotels in Eleme, questioning the propriety of such action.

Peterside further advised that Wike was travelling the route of Fascist Benito Mussolini and Emperor Adolf Hitler, calling on him to change from the expressway he was travelling through.

Millions of Nigerians even took the governor to the cleaners across all social media platforms, including Wike’s official handles on Twitter and Facebook over the demolition.

Respected legal luminaries and public affairs analysts across the country soaked the governor’s action in unkind words, with some questioning his legal background.

However, the duo of Nwakaudu and Max-Alalibo, who barks at everything passing, even when they have no capacity or do not profess to have any content, just to be paid, have gone mad and are dancing to the music of wickedness cooked by their master.

Dakuku Adol Peterside, Ph.D is well above your weight in content, depth, reason, being, verve, emotion, and intellect. Even Emperor Wike knows and respects himself when it comes to debates.

My humble advice for both journeymen is to retreat to their dungeons, lick whatever that is available and not shout too much.

Afterall, it is well established that you don’t talk while eating. Since both of them were invited to come and eat, it makes sense do so in quiet corners and not to be noticed.

Both of them should even be ashamed that Rivers State government under Emperor Wike has had a terrible communication gap.

Daily, Rivers people are confused, confounded, disenchanted and bemused at the way and manner the state government communicates.

According to Bernard Shaw, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

If you humble yourselves, I will sponsor both of you, including the Commissioner for Information, Paulinus Nsirim, to refresher courses on good communication policies and strategies.

According to Josef Stalin, “Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.”

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Dakuku, History And The Rest of Us

An iliterate middle-aged man who was still savouring the fact that his teenage first son, against all odds, succeeded in entering the walls of a primary school once found himself in what at best could be described as a melodrama.

He was found urinating by the wall protecting the mansion of a very respected man whose last child, a son, was a four hundred level undergraduate.

On seeing the man, the undergraduate politely advised him that rather than urinate on the wall, it would have been better to do so in the nearby bush path.

All the illiterate man could pick out of the youngman’s advice was insult, because, as his senses could lead him, the “small boy of yesterday” has insulted him with “big English words”.

The illiterate man was so furious he sent for his son to come and insult the undergraduate in “big English” in retaliation. To the amazement of passersby, who were attracted by the thunderous expressions of the man, the primary school pupil honoured his father’s call and directive to use all the English words he had been taught in school to insult the undergraduate.

The pupil suddenly planted himself in front of the undergraduate and in all seriousness started: “you’re a pencil, you’re a ruler, Mary is a girl, John is a boy …” and so on.

Meanwhile, the illiterate man was nodding his head in appreciation of his son’s ability to speak “big English”

The undergraduate and crowd that had assembled in anticipation of very serious trouble merely laughed and dispersed to their various destinations.

This is what a faceless Anthony Enoch Anietie and his principal, “Dakuku Adol Peterside, Ph.D”, under the guise of “Dapmedia Team”, a perceived political chattel, have been doing, true to colour, in response to my very sincere and harmless advice for Dakuku to avoid following the bandwagon of people who merely want to talk for the heck of it.

The shameful response was over the demolition of two hotels in Eleme Local Government Area, for flouting an Executive Order aimed at preventing Coronavirus spread in Rivers State.

In the stated advice to Dakuku, I talked about the “Looking Glass Theory” of Sociology, which makes people see only negative attributes in themselves in every other person but themselves.

Otherwise, what else could make a people to be so mischievously daft to the extent of being blind to all the widespread commendations to Governor Wike’s proactive measures taken to prevent a community transmission of the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic in Rivers State?

Such measures that had set the pace for other State Governments to follow at each point, and which had ensured that even in the face of deliberate Federal Government sabotage, Rivers State has so far had relatively limited cases of the Coronavirus infection.

Measures which even the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), had acknowledged to the chagrin of those who would never see anything good in goodness.

The latest of such numerous endorsements is from Total E & P, which unequivocally stated that if every other State had taken steps taken by Rivers State, Nigeria wouldn’t have had as much COVID-19 cases as it currently has.

But, no, the likes of Dakuku will refuse to accept that what we are faced with is a war with an invisible enemy. And that the only way to defeat such an enemy is to curb its possible routes. In the process, pains will be inevitably inflicted at some points, and regrettably too. But what should matter most  is that the enemy is defeated for the overall good. Every other thing can be taken care of later.

Instead, they would refuse to see the aim, and chose to wallow in the peripheral, even when they know that it is the only way to ensure the safety of the lives of the people, including themselves. The good news is that the true Rivers people at heart appreciate what their Governor is doing.

They know that it’s only a visionary leader like Governor Wike, who knows that only the best is good for governance, that can surround himself with such square pegs in square holes as the Honourable Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim.

Dakuku himself knows Nsirim as a seasoned Journalist, Communicator, Communications Strategist and many more the nincompoop, Anthony Enoch Anietie, and his cotravellers will not know.

But, if for nothing else, by the unnecessary acrimonious outburst of the said Anthony Enoch Anietie to a simple advice, Dakuku only succeeded in exposing himself further in the line of the Looking Glass Theory.

In all, one can only dismiss the purported author, Anthony Enoch Anietie, for who he is, a faceless sychophantic and cowardly insignificant fellow.

Soibi Max-Alalibo SA on Media to the Hon Commissioner Ministry of Information and Communications Rivers State

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NIGERIA’S RISING FOREIGN DEBT AND COVID-I9

Due to the sweeping grip by the Corona Virus (also referred
to as COVID – 19) pandemic on global attention, several other major changes and
even turn-arounds especially in Nigeria, were side stepped. One of these was
the sudden suspension by the Federal Government of the $23.7 billion foreign
mega loan bid, with China billed to contribute a substantial part of it. The
federal government had since November 2019 requested the Ninth National
Assembly to approve the loan package with the latter not obliging until
recently, when after a cycle of contentions on the floor of the Senate, the Red
Chamber approved it.

However, even before the ink of the endorsing signatures in
the Senate had dried, the same federal government announced the suspension of
the loan package. It had hit the rocks on many grounds, leaving it currently in
suspended animation.  In one vein was its
sudden loss of traction in the House of Representatives which should have
simply passed it in concurrence with the Senate, but did not.

According to the Speaker of the House of Representatives
Femi Gbajabiamila, the stalling of the loan package in the Green Chamber was
due to the exclusion of projects in the South East geopolitical region, and
implied lopsidedness in its provisions. Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance,
Budget and National Planning Zainab Ahmed, had blamed the suspension of the
loan on “current realities in the global economic landscape”.

Addressing the 2020 version of the ‘International Conference
on Nigerian Commodities’ organised by the Securities and Exchange Commission
(SEC), Ahmed had stated that “the current market indices do not support any
external borrowings at the moment, despite that the parliament is still doing
its work on the borrowing plan”.

Hence while Gbajabiamila and his legislator-colleagues would
still be working on balancing the impact of the loan in  compensating the South East zone over their
share of the loan, the dividends of such enterprise may still be determined by
factors beyond their control. Ostensibly, the unfavourable “market indices” in
the global landscape which Ahmed was referring to, include at least two factors.

On one hand is the recent drop in global price of crude oil,
which is the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy – a situation that has diminished
the country’s revenue prospects. Another and perhaps more significant is the
escalating scourge of the Corona virus referred to as COVID-19, which has held
the entire world hostage, with its virulence and daily mounting mortality. It
is really tempting to ask if Nigeria is finding a positive value in this
death-dealing dispensation of the COVID -19 pandemic.  

In a world where wonders will never end, it may actually be
unwise to rule out such a likelihood especially for Nigeria.There are many
reasons why this development can be hailed or decried depending on the
background factors and the perspective of the observer. In the first place it
is easily recalled that this current loan package was the substance of a long
drawn out conflict between the Presidency and the Eighth National Assembly when
it was first proposed in 2016 as a $30 billion facility.

The National  Assembly
then eventually conceded the sum of $4.5 billion. But that was not before the
associated legislative process was laced with a prolonged jostle between the
NASS and the Presidency. A striking feature of that interaction was that a
spate of insinuations of bad blood between the two institutions superseded  the more realistic scenario of the National
Assembly calling for caution over the 
unbridled profligacy in government and attendant poor debt management in
Nigeria’s fiscal regime.

 From  historical records, much of the loans
procured by Nigeria and which are nominally designated for capital,
infrastructure development, ended up in recurrent subheads, from where they
migrated to private pockets. Hence as at then and as at now, the overriding
concern in Nigeria’s public space has been over the country’s capacity to
service its ballooning indebtedness, both for now and in the future.

China with its global expansionist agenda, operates a policy
of trapping unwary, financially distressed countries like Nigeria, with
mouthwatering loan packages which the latter’s leaders were ever willing to
procure even without much regard to the future interest of the country. For the
purpose of clarification, it must be conceded to Nigeria to obtain loans and
any other assistance from any party in the world, as long as such venture falls
in line with the nation’s overall interest, both for now and in the future.

Nigerians are concerned over the unbridled passion of the
present government  for borrowing huge
sums of money without concrete plans for repayment – a situation that offers
nothing but economic enslavement of present and future generations of the
citizenry, to creditor countries. This scare has become real with China – a
major creditor nation to Nigeria, making no bones of its readiness to
confiscate the public assets and even sovereignty of debtor nations, who
default on its loans.

With the advent of the Corona Virus China is ironically
afflicted with the proverbial dilemma of the wood pecker bird. As legend has
it, the wood pecker bird which is believed to be able to carve holes in every
known type of wood, boasted of carving a hole in hard rock when its mother
would die. However on the eve of its mother’s death the bird developed a boil
on its beak. In the raging pandemic of the COVID -19, China – Nigeria’s ‘Father
Christmas’ of sorts,  has remained one of
the most hard hit countries and clearly has more than enough domestic concerns
to engage its attention than chase an endless stream of loans for Nigeria.

This signal from China, remains more authentic than whatever
euphemism that may have been deployed by Finance Minister Ahmed to mask the
real reason for the suspension of the loan.

In a more poignant context, the interplay of these two
factors has once more, graphically betrayed the hollowness and failure of the
government’s policy and knee-jerk enterprise in fostering the long held agenda
of diversifying the Nigerian economy. It would seem that like in times past,
catastrophes only spur the country’s leaders to mouth remediation plans for
such contingencies, only to return back to the old ways of doing things, once
relief comes.

The most recent of such knee-jerk dispensations was the 2016
economic recession that midwifed the 
Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP). As at present the positive
dividends of the ERGP remain only in the claims of government officials as the
economy still gropes and misses its performance targets. Given that by its
pervasive impact on the global economy, the ravages of COVID-19 may not abate
in a hurry, who knows how far the ‘benevolence’ of China and other creditors to
Nigeria, will be retained in respect of providing loans in the spirit of
business as usual – hopefully after the reign of COVID- 19?

Until that dispensation comes, this is thanking COVID-19:
even in its fatalistic odiousness, for coming to the country’s rescue in
helping cage the unbridled passion for cheap but booby-trapped foreign loans,
by Nigeria’s leaders.

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Still On The Upgrade Of NASS Complex

Since the National Assembly (NASS) approved N37billion in
the 2020 budget for the renovation of the NASS complex, there have been   arguments over the appropriateness or
otherwise of the amount.

As opinions on the issue oscillate, various camps or divides
are being formed in defence of their respective positions the lawmakers have
insisted that the humongous sum for the project wasn’t misplaced.  As the debates and arguments surge furiously
on all sides, there seems to be no meeting point on the issue.

When the NASS legislators sacrificed their annual vacation
to approve the 2020 budget, some thought it was done squarely for national
interest and to return the country to the January to December budget cycle.
They were hailed for a sacrificial act. But their real intentions were
discovered with their insertion of N37 billion in the budget.

It is difficult to understand how the federal lawmakers
arrived at the figures without a deep reflection the nation’s battered economy
which has always been at the butt of global economic rankings. Is it not
surprising that despite the belt-tightening homily by President Muhammadu
Buhari, the lawmakers could still propose such a prodigious amount for the
renovation of the NASS complex?

It seems the NASS lawmakers who claimed to understand
Nigeria’s economic problems in their 2019 election campaigns, have suddenly
lost touch of what this nation of over 180 million people is experiencing. Why
have they chosen to close their eyes to the economic realities and shameful
waste of our resources?

Although current oil prices appear favourable, where were
these lawmakers when the World Bank forewarned that Nigeria’s economy could be
at great risk should oil prices fall to the level they were in 2016? Besides,
in arriving at the decision to spend that much on the renovation of the NASS
complex, the lawmakers could have considered our rising debt profile and the
amount used to service it. Why did these factors fail to feature in their
debate?

The truth is what the lawmakers are asking for is more than
an upgrade. It is an outright reconstruction or rebuilding of the complex. That
is why when Nigerians criticized the proposal, the criticisms were dismissed,
especially by the senators. Anyone who has seen the NASS structure in Abuja of
recent would agree that the edifice is not 
doesn’t require such volume of renovation or reconstruction.

This is not the first time federal lawmakers have been
criticized by Nigerians for their spending habits in a dwindling economy like
ours. A few months ago, senators where criticized over the plan to purchase
SUVs that would cost the nation N5.5billion.Those vehicles were purchased in
the face of cheaper alternatives. It is sad that these federal legislators,
rather than act in ways that would benefit the country economically, indulge in
wastes that have always earned them storms of criticisms.

Our federal lawmakers have to purge themselves of the
arrogance of power and denigration of the opinion of Nigerians as such
arrogance   arouses the anger of
Nigerians.  

Since the advent of the present administration, there have
been excessive dependence on foreign and domestic borrowings.The   question the legislators ought to ask is
whether it is profitable to borrow, not for the development of the nation, but
for white elephant projects that add no value to the economy such as the one
the reconstruction or renovation of the NASS Complex.

It is better to invest such money more widely in small scale
businesses that can get several Nigerians employed than expend it on an
unbeneficial single project. The controversy clearly indicates that we haven’t
got our priorities right.

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Security Agents Demoralising Patriotic Youths

It has become a routine for security agents to harass
Nigerians, particularly youths, under the guise of law enforcement. Nigerian
youths are intimidated, extorted, arrested illegally, arbitrarily detained and
even killed extra-judicially.

This unfortunate development has been perpetrated by regular
security agents like the police and even the military for a long time. But it
seems the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and some other
paramilitary organizations have entered the fray.

In Ibadan, Oyo State, EFCC operatives, using crude force,
sacked the patrons of a nightclub in a bravado style. This action caused so
much concern that there would almost have been reprisals from the public. Law
enforcement is a given globally, but the manner security agents in this country
go about it leaves much to be desired.

In the case of Club 360, the aforementioned nightclub, EFCC
officials invaded the building at midnight and ransacked it thoroughly,
subjecting those present, especially youths, to a crude and humiliating
treatment. Vehicles, phones and laptops were confiscated. In all, about 89
persons were arrested.

By every given standard, this seems an unusual way to
enforce the law. It is harassment. Granted there could be some suspected
fraudsters at the location, but what about the innocent among them? Should they
have been manhandled and treated badly as well? In civilised climes, law
enforcement is intelligence-driven and, therefore, excludes all forms of
over-drive by security agents.

Although the EFCC has the responsibility to check and
prevent financial crimes, their dramatic incursion into nightclubs and
entertainment homes on the allegation of harbouring internet fraudsters may
amount to using a gun to kill a mosquito. The outcome is usually unintended,
one of which is to discourage investments and businesses.

When people lack trust in their security apparatuses, they
tend to recoil from society in apparent disgust and blend with their social
class, tribe or religion and do businesses in ways that benefit only them and
their families, not society or the nation. This is dangerous because of its
negative economic implications.

Harassment of innocent and young Nigerians by security
agents, notably in the services sector, will certainly harm the economy if not
checked. First, the nation’s economy is a weak and struggling one which is
being diversified from the hitherto oil monopoly we have always had.

Since Nigerians, especially at services centres, have become
vulnerable to attacks, unwarranted arrests and detention, they will customarily
be wary of patronising services-based businesses like restaurants, nightclubs,
entertainment enterprises, among others.

In the United Kingdom (UK), for instance, statistics
revealed that out of the four areas of the economy (services, manufacturing,
construction, and tourism), services alone contributed about $2.65 trillion
which amounted to over 80 per cent GDP in 2016. These services included retail,
food and beverage, and entertainment. That is how significant the services
sector of a nation’s economy could be if properly harnessed.

But in Nigeria, rather than encourage services providers,
security agents, under the pretext of law enforcement, often invade and
humiliate them, most times unjustifiably. What foresight or tangible benefits
are there to be derived from such precipitate action?

Similarly, EFCC officers stormed a nightclub in Osogbo, Osun
State, in October 2019. At the end of their operation, they arrested suspected
94 Yahoo Yahoo boys on an allegation that they had turned the place into a den
of internet fraudsters. The EFCC had also carried out mass arrests of youths in
similar operations in Enugu, Uyo, Aba and Lagos. Sadly, such clubs are usually
unable to recover from these invasions.

In a popular case, the EFCC arrested a musician, Naira
Marley (real name Afeez Fashola), allegedly for singing songs that glorified
internet fraud. Is that not baffling? By their legal roles, the Nigerian
Communications Commission and the Nigerian Copyright Council, as regulators,
are in charge of this field, yet the EFCC intruded by taking over their
functions.

The many untoward activities of the anti-graft agency are
responsible for the crude state of the organisation. Twenty years into the Fourth
Republic, they are yet to imbibe the basics of law enforcement in a democratic
setting. Isn’t that too long a time to adjust to the present reality as against
the brutal days of military dictatorship?

Besides the EFCC, the youth have other security agencies to
contend with. Those among them who drive expensive cars, use iPhones, laptops
and technological gadgets are repeatedly hounded by the police and the
military. At a time in 2017, the molestation was so much that some young
Nigerians founded the hashtag, #EndSARS.

The #EndSARS demotic movement was incensed by the human
rights abuses such as arrests, extortion and detention of the youth by the
police. As a result, the police high command in Abuja promised to rehabilitate
the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Whether that was done or not is yet to
be seen.

While that was going on, the police renewed their abuses
when a policeman killed Kolade Johnson at a TV viewing centre in Lagos last
April in his desperation to arrest young men and women wearing dreadlocks and
“sagging” trousers. For wearing tattoos, the military descended on some youths
in Aba last year, arresting and torturing them.

Just in December last year, some police officers attached to
the Eagle Crack Unit in the Rivers State Command allegedly tortured a motor
mechanic, Ikwunado Chima, to death on allegations of being a secret cult member
and a robber. At random, officers stop vehicles and arrest young people for
flimsy reasons, apparently with the intent to extort money from them.

It is wrong to assume that every young person is a criminal
and therefore deserves to be treated as such. Law enforcement agents,
especially the police, variously rob young Nigerians by compelling them at
gunpoint to transfer monies into their accounts electronically. Girls are not
exempted as sometimes they are indecently assaulted by security agents.

Is it a crime to be a youth in Nigeria? Nigerian youths
already have enough in their kitty. Unlike other climes where young people are
entitled to many benefits, in Nigeria, they are deprived of every good thing.
No jobs, no quality health care, no good education, and above all, no future.
Indeed, youths in this country are in the most precarious state.

Therefore, security agents shouldn’t add to their misery.
Their rights should not be violated on account of where they go to have
relaxation or fun and what they put on. If they violate the law, they have to
be accosted with civility, not in a gangsterish manner.

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Revisiting US Visa Ban On Nigeria

Like any other patriot, sad news about Nigeria always
generates deep feelings of revulsion in this author’s guts. Hence it is easy to
appreciate the scope of his discomfort from recent developments which have
drawn global attention to Nigeria – specifically in demonstrating unequivocally
that governance in this country, is not only anti-people, but also falls far
short of civilized standards as it runs on a wide tolerance for inaccuracies,
half-truths, untruths and patent falsehood. Perhaps one of the most dramatic
scenarios that is defining for the country a new level of response from the
civilized world to its serial missteps, is its degeneration in ranking and subsequent
inclusion, in the most recent US immigrant visa ban for six countries. The US
had last week listed this country along with Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar,
Sudan and Tanzania. By the order as from February 22, 2020, citizens of these
countries shall be restricted from resident visas in the US, but can only enter
that country as visitors on short stay.

By extension Nigeria is now ranked on the US terrorism
threat index with countries as Iran, Iraq (later removed), Libya, Somalia,
Sudan (also later removed and now returned), Syria, Yemen, Chad, North Korea,
Venezuela, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Tanzania. Interestingly many
Nigerians have cried wolf over the lumping of the country in a class they feel
it should not belong to, and hope that the ban shall be lifted soon. However
such a hope can only be justified not by any emotional disposition of the
Americans, but by the Nigerian government taking specific action to disabuse
the minds of the US administration that a desirable change has taken place here.

Diplomatic sources confirm that the banning of Nigeria was
not considered at random nor in a rush. According to the sources, the US
government and Nigeria have been discussing matters relating to this country’s
lax passport issuance regime as well as other security related matters. The US
has been particularly worried about the issuance of Nigerian passports to
undocumented persons hailing from Mali and other parts of the Maghreb. And six
months ago they informed Nigeria of the possibility of the ban. The straw that
may have broken the horse’s back was the open sesame recently granted by the
Buhari administration to all Africans to come into Nigeria without adequate
immigration formalities.    

In the same vein is the clarification by the US government that
among other criteria for the ban is that Nigeria failed to comply with the
established identity-management and information-sharing criteria, with respect
to the status of its citizens. Secondly, Nigeria does not adequately share
public-safety and terrorism-related information, which is necessary for the
protection of the national security and public safety of the United States. And
in the light of the foregoing therefore, Nigeria presents a high risk –
relative to other countries in the world, of facilitating the avoidable entry
of terrorists into the United States, through identity-theft related
tendencies.

While debunking the US claims may in one sense, serve the
purpose of ‘protecting’ the image of Nigeria, whoever is familiar with the
diminished premium on and mis-management of public records and especially
demographic data in Nigeria, will easily appreciate the dilemma of the
Americans in coming to terms with the Nigerian situation. Whereas by Nigerian
standards, the US complaint may seem rather far-fetched, for that country their
demographic records constitute the very oxygen that drives their private and
social lives. Comparing the significance of demographic date in both the US and
Nigeria, is like juxtaposing the illuminations from a white fluorescent light
in a dark room with that from a lighted candle in an equally dark room. The
difference is at any time, crystal clear.

As a civilized society, the US places significant premium on
citizen demographics being the quantifiable characteristics of their
population, and which is recorded with as much precision as can be mustered.
And such efforts are just for the purpose of ensuring that every citizen is
adequately provided for in terms of basic social amenities, as well other
considerations. Hence demographic characteristics such as distributions of the
population in order of gender, age and over space, are consistently and
accurately monitored and recorded.

Not so for Nigeria. In this country demographic information
is to say the least highly politicized and hence susceptible to manipulation
leading to the same routinely featuring grave inaccuracies in both its
computational processes and analyses. In the same vein is the issue of citizen
profiling also problematic, as personal data is often adjusted and ‘doctored’
as frequently as clouds change formation. The outcome is that wittingly or
otherwise, suspicion hangs over the head of every Nigerian as a potential or
actual personal-data cheat. Incidentally, while a situation of diminished
premium on personal data may be tolerated within the country, when such is
taken outside the country to areas where due scrutiny prevails, the outcome
could turn out to be significant – like this case of the US banning Nigerians
from certain privileges they had taken for granted.

 Meanwhile, even as
the issue of consistency and integrity of Nigeria’s demographics may rankle the
ear, a greater sin from the same crucible of muck, remains the penchant of
several public office holders to proclaim patent falsehood with the hope that
the ambience of officialdom will cover their indiscretion. Painful as it may be
for many Nigerians, the current Minister of Information Lai Mohamed is
presently stuck in a messy affair in which his recent bare faced denial of his
previous pronouncement is haunting him. In the wake of the motion for the
anti-people anti-social media bill which was sponsored by Senator Mohammed
Musa, under the title “Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations
Bill”, and presented to the Senate on November 5 2019, Mr Lai Mohamed had
then  spiritedly canvassed plans of the
administration to “sanitise” the social media circuit, and vowed that nothing
would stop the administration in that venture.

However, during a recent interview with Tim Sebastin of
Deutsche Welle the German television network, he simply denied the existence of
the bill and debunked his earlier take on the matter. Mr Lai Mohamed escaped
with a semantic slip as Tim Sebastin missed the exact title of the contentious
bill. Yet as the proverb goes that a rose by any other name, will smell as
usual, Lai’s maneuver did not fool Nigerians as a welter of harsh reactions
have trailed his misadventure.  

Why he has not resigned from the Buhari cabinet even with
this bare faced act of indiscretion is a situation the administration owes
Nigerians a duty to explain. It needs to be clarified when the indulgence in
mispresenting facts as well as peddling untruths and half-truths, became the
accepted modus operandi of the Honourable Minister of Information. But this is
Nigeria where people in power easily escape with even blue murder. After all,
in their monopoly of impunity, what is so special in telling a few lies in
order to gain personal advantage for self-aggrandisement, as some would say?

Apparently, the US under Donald Trump is not amused and has
said so in a clear language, through the visa ban. Nigeria has apparently been
escaping sanctions in the past under previous US Presidents and under equally
different circumstances. How Nigeria reacts to the current US action under a
no-nonsense Trump, is a matter for another day.

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Unemployment, A Ticking Time Bomb

The prediction by the World Bank that Nigeria crucially had
to create millions of jobs to avert imminent bust requires a composite approach
to better the economy frantically. The release further advised the country to
establish at least 30 million jobs by 2030 to prevent the unfortunate augury
from being fulfilled. Don’t forget, 2030 is only 10 years away.

The implication is that the economy must generate 3 million jobs
annually for 10 years. But how is that possible when statistics have revealed
that about 19 million Nigerians enrolled in the labour market within the last
five years while only 3.5 million jobs were created within the same period,
leaving a shortfall of 15.5 million jobless Nigerians? Also, the unemployment
rate has quadrupled in the last four years attaining an all-high 23 per cent.

From the foregoing, it is explicit that there have been
consistent job losses. Very few manufacturing activities happened while service
providers only managed to employ a few people all due to an asperous business
climate. Agriculture, the largest employer of labour, has lost attraction
largely because of the activities of insurgents and bandits in some parts of
the north. The prolonged herdsmen/farmers’ clash never bolstered matters.

As unemployment advances, population growth edges faster.
While the population grows at 2.6 per cent annually, the economy progresses at
a paltry 2 per cent. With a low Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $397 billion,
Nigeria’s population expansion has been projected to hit about 401.3 million by
2050.

Of course, this is portentous because it will exert enormous
pressure on the economy, the job market and social infrastructure. As
employment declines, extreme penury is on the rage. If the projection that
unemployment figures will rise to 23.5 per cent this year is anything to go by,
then we must anticipate a time bomb.

I believe the situation would have ameliorated if we
operated a social welfare scheme. Rather, in the face of dwindling economy and
increasing poverty, all what Nigerians can get are mere promises and at best
ill-defined and rudderless social benefit schemes like “Trader Moni,” “Market
Moni”, and “Farmer Moni” that disburse soft loans without collaterals.

The impact of the schemes is hardly perceptible. They have
failed to prevent Nigerians from sliding into poverty every single minute of
the day. Sadly, the number of extremely poor Nigerians has recently moved from
91.50 million to 94.4 million, fuelling speculations that a populist revolt may
happen sooner than later.

Following the frightening figures, President Muhammadu
Buhari pledged to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years. But
how will he go about it when there are no sustainable policies to create
massive jobs? On the other hand, State governments have never helped matters
either as they have failed to reduce unemployment.

What do we expect? After all, this is what occurs when a
country decides to practice a lopsided, “feeding bottle” federalism. A report
by BudgIT (an NGO) stated that 33 States are heavily dependent on monthly
allocations from Abuja and therefore cannot survive by themselves. Any wonder
the States are unable to boost activities needed to generate employment.

While the States are irredeemably dependent, Nigeria heavily
relies on other countries for survival thus financing jobs in those nations.
This situation is clearly against sound economic practices. How does one
explain a development where we import virtually everything including fuel that
should be taken for granted by virtue of our role as a leading crude oil
producer? Since oil constitutes more than 90 per cent of our exports, the
economy is usually left to the vagaries of crude prices in the international
market.

Truth is Nigeria can never get its economy right till it
gets its political structure correctly. An economy that energises States to go
cap in hand to Abuja every month cannot inspire growth and development. The
present sharing system only breeds parasitism, indolence, graft, joblessness
and poverty. To reverse this ugly trend, fiscal federalism is the answer to a
structure that gives impetus to uncompetitiveness. Let States drive the
economy, not the centre.

We must look at what has worked best in other climes to
create jobs by focusing on sectors that have the highest potentials. Resolving
the current power crisis is the beginning point. Then the private sector should
be empowered to lead the way. Finally, we must always understand that the
agricultural and manufacturing sectors hold great capacity for job creation.

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As Buhari Unveils Treasury Secrets

In a country where a voodoo-like culture of secrecy, shadows the
handling of public funds by government officials, the recent directive by
President Muhamadu to the Treasury to make public, the daily transactions of
MDAs, could not have been more welcome. According to tweets by Mr Waziri Adio
the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency
International (NEITI), Buhari had directed the Accountant General of the
Federation (AGF) to publish on a daily basis, the expenditures of all MDAs on a
dedicated portal http://opentreasury.gov.ng.

The initiative which comes under the Open Treasury Portal, is intended
to make public the daily treasury statement on how monies that come into the
coffers of the federal government are spent. The specific details for
publication by all MDAs include payments in excess of N5 million, monthly
budget performance as well as quarterly and annual financial statements. Just
as well, the Accountant General of the Federation shall also publish on a daily
basis, the transactions of the treasury in excess of N10 million.

All of such transactions shall be presented in compliance with the
Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS), and shall be delivered within
stipulated deadlines. 

Novel and rather unexpected by the Nigerian public as the initiative
is, the President may have through it scored a bull’s eye in his efforts at
rescuing an otherwise faltering anti-corruption crusade. Ordinarily, details of
financial transactions of any form in virtually all public offices in Nigeria,
are reserved for a select few who have direct dealings with such designated
matters of finance, and no one else.

In fact, it constitutes a mortal sin for any member of the select few
to divulge the details of financial transactions to anybody outside the
precincts of any particular office. Not surprisingly therefore, this situation
has been the primary cause of the wide spread syndrome of conspiratorial and
mindless looting as well as sharing of public funds without fear of reprisals,
in most cases. Hence the rash of stories of theft and loss of humongous sums of
money from the public till, by as many as find themselves close to it. In some
offices there is actually a contest among staffers over how much each of them
can or has successfully looted. It is as bad as that.

For many Nigerians, this development provides – even on a marginal
basis, an opportunity to heave a sigh of relief that at least one can foresee
the day when public finance management in Nigeria, shall enjoy a turn for the
better. In any case, it is not that Nigerians are largely unaware of the
questionable flows of public largesse into nefarious ends and purposes. Rather,
the conspiratorial airs that pervade the scenes of criminal looting of public
funds, easily deny the public of effective real time tracking of the flow and
quantum of the sleaze.

Indeed, it is courtesy of the efforts by several due-process minded
interests and organisations such as the NGOs, that a cross section of the
citizenry has been sensitized in respect of much of this messy situation.
Hence, the Presidential initiative on Open Treasury Portal qualifies as a major
and welcome turn in the anti-corruption campaign, as it offers the citizenry
some modicum of oversight powers. 

The foregoing notwithstanding, the problem area with the Open Treasury
Portal initiative remains that of implementation. As is easily recalled,
throughout the life of the Buhari presidency, several well intentioned
initiatives have been launched and have plodded on with less than satisfactory
runs in progress. At this juncture the mention of a few of such will suffice.
Take for instance the case of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) project which
was launched in 2015 by the federal government with provision for concurrent
participation by states and even local governments. It is remarkable that over
four years after its advent, the programme is still recording glaring
violations by several MDAs of the federal government, while not a few states
are yet to migrate unto it.

Coming to the Integrated Payroll Payment Information System (IPPIS) the
signals coming around it, especially as concern the country’s university
community, point to a compromised administrative measure which manifests issues
bordering on across-the-board implementation. Against whatever promise the
initiative offers the country, it remains a matter of concern that the
government is yet to work out an accommodation with some sections of the
country including the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU),
leading to fears of another looming industrial action by the members.

Moving over to the National Identity Card project executed by the
National Identity Card Management Commission (NIMC), the situation remains an
inchoate one with official red-tapism holding sway. This is in spite of its
strategic significance to the critical issue of national security and other
matters associated with citizen profiling. As at present the question of when
all Nigerians will be captured in the ID card data base, not to talk of being
issued with the cards, has its answer blowing in the wind.

As for electric power sector reforms under the Buhari presidency, the
situation remains as static as a non-starter. As always the President will
proclaim highly inspiring intentions with his lieutenants following up with
assurances of performance; many of which in the end, turn out to be hollow. In
spite of the serial official excoriation of past administrations of Olusegun
Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar Adua and Goodluck Jonathan over their failures in
providing steady and uninterrupted electricity for Nigerians, the present
administration has yet to deliver a better package.

However, in no other area has public misgiving over the relative
incontinence of the Buhari administration been more pronounced than in the
anti-corruption fight which the present Open Treasury initiative is intended to
address. To say the campaign is running according to plan is to misread the
situation and Buhari is hopefully aware of that. The drastic provisions of the
Open Treasury Portal qualify to be seen as inspired by  Buhari’s fight-back mindset, and testify to
his concern over shoring up the  fight
against corruption.

Yet, as it is with the other instances of poor follow-through by his
lieutenants, how far they will help to make the Open Treasury Portal succeed
must remain a burden to President Muhamadu Buhari. Drawing from lessons of the
past however, he needs to change tactics with respect to dealing with his
lieutenants this time around, to ensure the intentions of the Open Treasury
Portal are realized, no matter the circumstances. That will place him on the
same page with the wider cross section of Nigerians.

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CommentsFront Page

Re-Strategizing For The New Nigeria Project

The seeming
difficulty in raising a new generation of leaders is apparently due to the
percolation of negative values from some set of leaders into the impressionable
consciousness of the emerging community of potential leaders. There is yet a
nationally shared vision regarding the Nigeria of our dream to which the
leadership is committed in spirit and in truth. The consequent ideological
underpinnings of the envisioned Nigeria is in the behavior of a political
leadership class that repeats the same old game of playing chess with the
destiny of the nation.

It is
failure to come up with a vision and the direction to take that makes it
difficult for many public policies such as the quota system, Federal Character,
NYSC, the rebranding Nigeria project, Change Begins with You to promote active
citizenship in Nigeria.

To achieve
corporate citizenship, a state must ensure social cohesion and social justice.
It demands that all forms of social inequalities; gender, income, class,
political and material etc are minimized as much as possible. In any society
where the wealth gap between the rich and the poor is excruciatingly wide in
ways that are even facilitated by the government through its tax regime, the
social strain of inequality undermines social growth.

In Nigeria,
where the ethnic diversity is so virulent as to constantly undermine social
cohesion, where there is a disproportionate sharing of scarce resources in ways
that enable one group to have more than the other, it builds the blocks for
social disorder.

Nigeria’s
diversity facilitates ethnic and religious distrust at individual and group
levels. This can be explained as one consequence of t sure sign that relating
with an Igbo appears as a distasteful possibility.

Essentially,
social cohesion demands a strategy of governance, as good governance is the
framework within which the transformation of ethnic diversities into nationhood
can begin to unravel.

Two
dimensions of the strategy of governance are needed to ground social cohesion.
The first is, urgent need to leverage education and value reorientation as the
dynamics which engages with the citizens’ mental sets and worldviews.

The way
people perceive the world and their relationship with others has a lot to do
with what they have learnt or refused to learn as they go through life. Such
citizens might have learnt but there is a sense in which learning undermines
the basis of relationship when it is founded on crass individualism and selfish
understanding. A state that desires social cohesion must therefore invest in an
educational policy that encourages the growth of reflective, respectful and
ethically-minded citizens who are willing to trust others and live with them in
tolerance. Ultimately, this kind of value reorientation helps the citizens to
learn skills, competencies and values that promote the common good.

The second
strategy of governance required for social cohesion is a reform blueprint that
leads to a capacity building social policy. This refers to policy initiatives,
social relations and institutional arrangements that energize human well-being.
It constitutes a deliberate attempt, on the part of government, to intervene in
the redistribution of resources among its citizens as a means of achieving
welfare objectives that empowers the citizens. This involves investing in
healthcare, employment, housing, and so on as well as opening up the society in
ways that undermine inequalities, protect the vulnerable and facilitate
democratic relations.

The Nigerian
project at present seem to lack coherent strategic dynamics that would ensure
that the leadership deploys towards ameliorating the Nigerian al condition.

Until the
political leadership is awakened to this consciousness of ameliorating the
negative conditions that affect national progress, the country will remain with
the cries of desperate citizens seeking for better opportunities to express
their potentials maximally and position the country for socio-economic growth
and political greatness.

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A Sense Of Sisyphus In The Land

These days, it is often with an expression of ‘nothing can
be done’ that we encounter co-patriots each time we interrogate the kind of
leadership that has been foisted on Nigeria through a democratic coup.
Democratic coup? Yes. Because ostensibly, the ballot box, that arcane symbol of
democracy, produced the men and women who occupy the seats of government across
the land. Yet, most critical minds would say that there is a frightening
dissonance between the citizens of the country and those who were purportedly
elected by the hapless citizens.

If we had any doubts that we were back to the PDP
shenanigans and how they stayed in power for sixteen years, the last
governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states thoroughly washed away the
doubts. The nightmare of a violent capture of power, synonymous with the years
of military misadventure in government stares us in the face. State
institutions have been captured by uncanny minds whose determination and goals
are to impose a peculiar brand of governance on the docile citizenry. How, we
may ask, did we arrive at this impasse?  

 We have returned to
the past when fear became the dominant watchword in our relationship with those
who held the reins of power, supposedly in trust, for the people. A ‘democratic
coup’ is a sort of oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. Yet it captures the
fundamental contradiction which we deal with every day as we read the news or
feel the pulse of the country through verbal exchanges. Millions of voters
apparently voted for the elected officials; yet the officials feel no
obligations whatsoever to the electorate. Impunity, sits squarely in the
corridors of power, especially at the federal level. 

There is a hollow and forlorn belief that change is possible
but not with the preachers of that doctrine, not by those unholy apostles who
knocked on our doors for votes in the twilight of the Jonathan administration.
The suffering nation did not need the lamentation of Jeremiah to be convinced
that the sixteen- year democratic tyranny had to come to an end; to be replaced
with a tight-fisted general who swore that he had become a latter-day convert
to the ideals and practice of democracy and would wipe off corruption from the
corridors of governance in no time. The people believed. They buried the
hatchet in the head of a common enemy! Poor Jonathan. Poor Patience!  

Indeed, nobody who fervently wished for and conscientiously
worked to end the PDP rule under President Goodluck Jonathan ever imagined that
five years after the exit of that government, we would somewhat miss the demons
of PDP. For, in the strictest sense, we could ‘negotiate’ with the Jonathan
administration; we could pour invectives and damn the consequences because
invariably there were no consequences for denouncing that which we did not like
or approve. The dominant narrative in the public space, aided by the power of
the Lagos media, pictured an administration mired in filth and dirt of
monumental proportions. The administration was portrayed as a weak one; so weak
that it could not defend the territorial integrity of the country. It was so
weak that a beautiful Jezebel had the life and reasoning of the President
locked in a ring and tossed into the pockets. Stories of alcohol-loving president
were routinely leaked to the public.

Now the question on lips is: how did we get sucked in by a
government that ordinarily we would not have given a second thought to? What
was the magic that made diehards believe that the men who now occupy the rungs of
power would be the messiahs that we had long waited for? Now, we seem to be
content that ‘it could have been worse’ and resort to the exhortations which
the Bible or Quran give in times of extreme hardship. Certain ‘givens’ have
been discarded in a cavalier manner and it all seems to be routine. Civil
liberty organisations which shouted their voices hoarse in the days of the
Jonathan administration have all become docile, inactive and complicit in the
face of assaults on persons and institutions that gave the country a relative
sense of unity. 

When politicians begin to attack and compromise institutions
then the country is well on the way to being handed over to the dogs. The
judiciary, the press and civil society. These are currently under attack. The Hate
Speech Bill is a manifestation of the spirit of intolerance to contrary
opinions. The bloodthirsty hounds in power are baying for blood, the blood of
men and women who have the courage to be different. It is one of the signposts
to dictatorship. Sadly, and perhaps tragically, the sponsor is a legislator who
was elected by the people to speak for them in parliament.

All the leakages we witness are evidence of collapsing
frameworks and structures. To be sure, some are protected, even insulated from
the caving roof. But this will only be for a while. If anybody thinks the
insurgency in the north east would simply go away, then they are dreamers. Boko
Haram and all the other extreme actions taking place there are the symptoms of
decades of neglect. The chicken has come home to roost. Even the most ‘powerful
men’ cannot travel home to stay with family. Yet, they live like the ostrich in
the false allure that is Abuja or Lagos.

The ballot box is a fundamental symbol of democracy. It is
not democracy. It is the route to democracy. It is sacred when respected. But
it can also be abused, made a travesty when polluted by the filthy hands in
power. If there is a lesson we have all learnt, it is that the incumbent
government is not faithful to the niceties of the ballot box. There is a
ravishing desire to subvert and pretend that the ballot box has given them
supremacy over other contestants. But compatriots know that the ballot box, the
voters’ card has been traumatised metaphorically that it no longer makes a pretence
of it.

The APC has over taken the PDP in the raucous journey into
exotic manipulations of outcomes. The art has been extended to the judiciary.
If they think that the entire country has been fooled then they are the bigger
fools on the train of foolishness. A day of reckoning will come. I am sure PDP
did not envisage the near-evaporation that took place in 2015. In the words of
our elders, PDP took enough for the owner to notice. The owner did notice. And
acted. And the rest is history if I may borrow that cliché.

Sisyphus is condemned to push a boulder up a hill, condemned
to that futile act for the rest of his life, for eternity. In this, he is like
the girl in African folktale whose mother gave her the task of cooking sand and
that she must not go and play until the sand is cooked. When will our sand be
cooked? When will the boulder being pushed to the peak by Sisyphus get to and
stay at the top of the hill? Time will tell! Courtesy The News

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