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Re: The Nation On Wike’s Maverick Conformism

We read the opinion piece with the above title, published in The Nation Newspapers of October 18, 2020, under the ‘Barometre’ section and despite some of the snide, tasteless oxymoronic innuendos colouring it, the article also drew a chuckle or two for all its worth.

For a publication like The Nation, already synonymous for its Governor Wike bashing proclivities, its noticeable departure from the usual acerbic drivel which often drips with uncensored licence, to a more tactful employment of euphemism in this particular Wike narrative, surely evokes a hearty chuckle.

 Indeed the fear of Wike’s litigation, is the beginning of wisdom against publishing reckless, slanderous stories with irresponsible libertarian liberties.

Let it be placed on record that we are in agreement with the first paragraph of the article. Yes, Governor Nyesom Wike never backs down from a confrontation, especially when and where the defence of the interest of Rivers State is involved.  He has said this at every given opportunity; he walks the talk when required to and he does it in his characteristic nature of a brave, courageous leader, who does not need to play to the gallery to get his message across.

Talking about messaging, a lot has been said about Rivers youths proceeding with the #EndSARS protest and defying a ban on protests by Governor Wike. To be sure, the Governor has already explained the circumstances that led to the statement and one point which Governor Wike stressed but which unfortunately, many have deliberately ignored is the fact that to date, the Rivers protests have been the most peaceful #EndSARS procession in the whole country. The reason for this is no doubt the messaging contained in the Press Statement.

Of course, Governor Wike has rightly justified the need to issue the Press Statement to ban the protests. He is the Governor of the State and his mandate is to protect and secure Rivers lives from security breaches, which are often identified by excellent intelligence. Those who live in Rivers State and followed the conversation on social media in the days leading to the protest would have been completely frightened by the open admissions of plans and plots to provoke something beyond a peaceful protest.

It is even surprising that a Newspaper like The Nation, with known Correspondents in Rivers state pretended to be unaware of this potential danger and then proceeded to publish a drivel like the subject article which insinuates that Governor Wike ‘took credit’ for the peacefulness of the protests. Apparently, the messaging in the last paragraph of the Press Statement banning the protest, was lost on the warped imagination of the authors of the article.

For the avoidance of doubt, the paragraph reads thus: “Law enforcement agencies are also directed to ensure that the ban is enforced and that violators are brought to book.”

The messaging was quite clear and deliberate. The subject of the protest has been cleverly given the responsibility to determine whether it will be peaceful or not. The directive was clear; obey and be damned, disobey and ultimately ensure a peaceful procession. The mandate was explicit. The messaging was perfect. Peace reigned to the disappointment of those who were shouting for war. The Rivers Governor proved once again that he is always steps ahead of his detractors.

Interestingly, the salient question which the authors of the article did not ask themselves is why a Governor, who had already banned protests, would now decide to come out and address the protesters? The real possibility that the people would turn against him and boo him and even throw missiles at him, to at least show how ‘unpopular’ his ban is to them, was very much in the air.

But contrary to their expectations, Governor Wike, the real fearless Maverick that he is, took the fairly lengthy, almost 10 minutes walk from Government House to meet the protesters. He was even hailed as he walked confidently towards them and not even a single song or placard of dissent was raised or heard.

A loud ovation greeted him when he mounted the podium. His voice was loud, strong and resonated unwaveringly like the Wike they have come to know and love and by the time he finished addressing them in a session which they even participated in, the essence and meaning of the protest had been redefined.

Their Governor has spoken and the message was delivered clearly and succinctly.The crowd was happy to see their Governor and dispersed peacefully. There was never a doubt that he would eventually come out to address them and he did not disappoint them. Governor Wike knows his people and his people know him. He is truly a man of the people.

One fundamental, yet hugely erroneous mindset which most of Governor Wike’s naysayers, especially Newspaper Columnists, have tried so painfully with concerted effort, even at the expense of rational thinking, to establish, is to personalize the vibrant, courageous and direct advocacy for Rivers State interest by painting a picture that he is promoting his own personal interests.

It is even more unfortunate that some Rivers people, who should be supporting his unflinching crusade to ensure that the State gets what it rightfully deserves, are the ones like the rats inside the house, who have joined the rats outside, to reveal Rivers secrets and demarket Rivers State in the national and global space.

For instance, in this very article, the author, just like the naysayers did when the N78.9 billion refund was announced with great media blitz, used the very deliberate and misleading phrase referring to Governor Wike thus: “…but he displayed a most audacious brand of flexibility when the presidency disbursed N148bn COVID-19 funds to five states, with Rivers State a beneficiary.”

To set the records straight, the Presidency did not and has not ‘disbursed’ any funds to Rivers State. The Presidency only gave an approval for the funds, which in the first place is a refund of Rivers monies expended on federal roads in Rivers State.  Again, the funds in question has nothing to do with COVID-19, another misleading information.

It was only at the end of September this year that President Muhammadu Buhari wrote to the National Assembly to seek permission to release the money. Governor Wike thanked the President for the approval, just as any grateful Governor would do, but Rivers State has not seen a kobo of that money till date.

Some other critical questions to ask the naysayers are: ‘Has Governor Wike ever advocated for anything from the Federal Government that is personal to him and not in the interest of Rivers State? Has there been any issue that Governor Wike highlighted that is not a national problem?

In 2017, Governor Wike held a world press conference where he was the first Governor in Nigeria to highlight the brutality and atrocities of SARS and call for the police unit to be reformed or disbanded. Some top Rivers people actually protested for SARS to remain. Today, those people have been shamed into silence by Nigerian youths and their silence is defeaning. Yet Governor Wike came out boldly, addressed the protesters loudly, without fear and redefined the context of the agitation. That is how you know a great leader of his people and not one who plays to the gallery.

Governor Wike also set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry too, which  suggested far reaching recommendations. At that time, they accused him of playing politics, but today, the Federal Government has not only disbanded SARS, some officers have also been dismissed and will face prosecution. While other States will now be setting up their own Judicial Commissions of Inquiry, Rivers State has since concluded its own. This is the truth that the naysayers cannot live with so they write all manner of garbage to hide their shame, cowardice and ineptitude.

By the way, as the article rightly pointed out, “There is no doubt that Governor Wike sees himself as the epitome of good and empathetic governance in Nigeria”. This is arguably the most honest and correct statement in the entire write up and it is also important to inform the author that by the reckoning of Rivers people in particular and Nigerians in general, Governor Wike is already winning his coveted place in history and writing his name in gold. 

And contrary to the puerile insinuation that the Rivers Governor “quickly and willingly eats his words,” one can say without equivocation that Governor Nyesom Wike is not only a man of his words, but he also walks the talk which he has demonstrated many times.

Recall for example that on September 13, 2017, Governor Nyesom Wike, while addressing a press conference in Port Harcourt, said the following: “Most of the kidnappings and armed robbery taking place in this State are done by men of SARS. They use exhibit vehicles to operate. As the Chief Security Officer of the State, you complain, but they choose to play politics with crime. They fight crime in some States, but they refuse to fight crime in Rivers State. We are done with the elections, but they are using SARS to create insecurity in the State. As I speak with you, they will deny.

“I have never seen a country where they politicise crime. It is very obvious that they want to give the impression that Rivers State is unsafe. They want to instil fear preparatory to declaring during the elections that there are so much killings. The authorities are deliberately trying to destroy a whole State and you want the people to be happy? I will no longer write (to the IGP). Now is the time to take my case to the public for the whole world to know what is happening.”

In October 2020, three years down the road from his first #EndSARS Press Conference, the Nigerian public has at last responded and Governor Wike, addressing the peaceful #EndSARS protesters in front of Government House, Port Harcourt, did not eat his words but repeated them for emphasis. He has always been a man of the people and a leader who stands by his words.

Yes, Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike is also Maverick. He is sincere and independent minded when it comes to fighting for what is right and in the interest of Rivers State. Those who accuse him of being an insincere politician are the real enemies of the people who want to only promote their own selfish interests at the expense of the wishes and desires of the people.

It is ironic indeed that some Rivers folks, especially those fighting Governor Wike for asking the Federal Government to give Rivers State its due, have conveniently forgotten that once upon a time, not too long ago, another Rivers Governor started and sponsored a very selfish, anti-Rivers acrimonious war of attrition, hate and bitterness against the Federal Government.

At that time, those vilifying Governor Wike today for calling out the Federal Government over Rivers interests, were the very crusaders, foot soldiers, propaganda merchants and incorrigible cheerleaders of the acrimonious war by that Governor against the Federal Government.

Sadly, the result of that war and the deadly repercussions and collateral damage it has brought to the State and Nigeria, are what Nigerians and Rivers youths are protesting against across the whole of the country today.

As the saying goes: “The chickens have finally come home to roost.”

Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.

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#ENDSARS PROTESTS: A MINIATURE ARAB SPRING

Rivers State Governor, Barr. Nyesom Wike increased his complexity by his deft decision (some call it U-turn) to respond promptly and directly to the EndSARS protesting young men and women spotting different brands of denim trousers and linen tops in the hot sunny afternoon and trekking through major streets of Port Harcourt.

Governor Wike’s Information and Communications commissioner, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, a professional journalist who is also the Rivers State chairman of Nigeria institute of Public Relations, had in a statement, warned against any protests since SARS had already been scrapped by the Inspector-General of Police; and there was legally, no longer any justification for any protest against a nonexistent entity.

But the issue of SARS men overstepping their bounds is gargantuan, and in need of the type of action that creeps out when legalese no longer serves any therapeutic value. At such moment, questions become incomprehensible. 

This underscores why the governor who has been the foremost critic of the activities of SARS even when the rest of us feigned ignorance of their behaviour suddenly became the target of caustic commentaries.

Yet, amid the antagonistic sentiments, the governor walked out of Government House, stepped into the van, cleared his throat and spoke frankly, turning anger in the sun into a frenzy for popular action against injustice and lack of transparency. That was the message about the nomination of the President’s Special Assistant on Social Media, Mrs. Lauretta Onochie as a National Commissioner in the Independent National Editorial Commission.

The hullabaloo over that unconscionable nomination could continue at the National Assembly as the Senate will take a stand to either confirm or reject her nomination. A staff of President Muhammadu Buhari who does not hide the depth of her loyalty to his policies and partisan interests, Ms Onochie can win any contest for a seat in the cabal of the Buharists and the alarm sounded by Gov. Wike at the EndSARS protest has already found expected response as over 70 civil society organizations and individuals have condemned the action of the Presidency.

Nigerians are very patient people and ironically, patient  people often get less than equitable return for their loyalty and patience. Consequently, what should be treated as anomalies grow to become part of our heritage. It took Nigerians from all sections, sex, tribe, occupation etc. great energy to endure the harassment, and extrajudicial murder of their loved ones and several years of mental torture   from the conduct of the SARS men to demand an end to the perfidy and to be doubly sure that their shenanigans will truly end beyond mere pronouncements and platitudes.

What is playing out now as expressed by the anger and nationwide protests, is huge. It is the kind of revolutionary change that manifest in due time. Nigerians are cultivating and living the democratic spirit which seeks to interrogate bad decisions and false policies that do not enhance personal liberty, national growth and human civilization.

The right to differ and the freedom to speak even against projects, policies and programmes that do not promote the common good is a natural right which a modern democratic government cannot abridge. Those who do not understand are still living in the yester years. They need a nudge.

Years of unbroken democratic governance in Nigeria requires that the ethereal values of accountability and good governance should influence the attitude of the citizenry and the government as well. For when these values snap, the result is usually a fast decline and slide into the unfathomable, but very potent force that anyone can hardly control.

The EndSARS protests featured popular celebrities, idols and models of youths many energetic men daring their traducers, women clutching babies and others who are eager to express their displeasure at the state of affairs in their country and their frustration in finding safety and decent means of livelihood. Gov’s Wike’s approach might have saved the situation in our dear Rivers state where politics is introduced at every turn.

Today SARS has been brought to an end. But we do not know what nagging issue could overshoot the threshold of angst in the minds of Nigerians. If we underrate this protest, we would be taking very wrong steps and hasten our journey to the Arab Spring.

About ten years ago, a series of spontaneous protests against anti-democratic forces and regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and other countries led to revolts in North Africa and the Middle East, and enforced far-reaching demands that provoked urgent reforms in the Arab world. Nigerians have shown that they are after all humans who also have the capacity to congregate and to hold on for long in defiance against their oppressors.

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Nigeria: What Kind Of Restructuring?

It is beyond conjecture that the simple phrase ‘restructuring Nigeria’ has migrated from its simple lexical roots in the English language, to suffer in this country, the derogation of a problematic catchword for any interest that latches on to one or more of its political connotations. It has in the process, also imposed on the country an ambience of unhelpful, deepening divisiveness.

However, a more profound perspective of the widening conversation on restructuring Nigeria, really betrays little else beyond  hasty and parochial considerations and therefore poor management of the core interests of the proponents of the agenda, to restructure the country. From indications, the bone of contention remains the context as well as pace of whatever restructuring should Nigeria undergo. 

The foregoing consideration remains illuminated by some of the trending comments in the course of the restructuring debate. For instance, while speaking at a recent symposium that was arranged by the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) and the Nehemiah Leadership Institute on the way forward for Nigeria, the General Overseer of the church Pastor Enoch Adeboye lent his voice to the resounding call for the restructuring of Nigeria, if possible in a political configuration of a ‘United States of Nigeria’ which will accommodate and harmonise the interests of all constituent entities, from the perspective of their respective socio-political peculiarities.

According to him Nigeria has to restructure in order to avoid breaking up.

Against the backdrop of Adeboye’s studied and sustained silence on political issues in the country as well as strict, self-imposed restriction to his clerical duties in overseeing his church which is endowed with a global presence that boasts of about 14,000 churches and millions of members in at least 80 countries of the world, his intervention on Nigeria’s restructuring debate, not surprisingly enjoyed wide and authoritative acclaim.

However Presidential spokesman Shehu Garba, countered with a most disproportionate response which went beyond Adeboye, and allusively referred to proponents of restructuring Nigeria outside the parochial mindset of the Buhari administration as “unpatriotic’. Shehu went further to gloat that the Buhari administration was not going to entertain any suggestion on restructuring that is outside the context of its mindset. Even as Shehu’s response – dripping as it was with arrogance as well as vitriol, and which is widely believed to be a response to Adeboye’s, offered no credible clue on the government’s plans now or in future on restructuring, it nevertheless served as a condescending warning to all exponents of restructuring, requiring them to jettison whatever independent brainwave they may be nursing.

In the alternative they are required to key into the administration’s mental construct on the matter, which for now remains in limbo. However in just a matter of days, Shehu’s denunciation of Adeboye and other advocates of restructuring collapsed in the face of an expansion of the counterpoint to his take, when the revered Northern Elders Forum (NEF) threw their weight behind restructuring of the country, and even called for the process to commence with changes in the Constitution itself.

Speaking on ‘Channels Television’ recently on behalf of the NEF, its spokesman Hakeem Baba Ahmed asserted that Nigeria as a country was not working, and needed to be restructured in a manner that will address the fundamental faults in it. As things stand, the intervention of the NEF should matter to the Buhari administration as its core significance was the marooning of Shehu’s  position on a lonely road, which leads to a dead end featuring a disconnect with the trending restructuring agenda.

Needless to state that such a dispensation is hardly a comfort zone for the administration as it stands as working at cross-purposes with the very people it was elected to serve. For one, the call to restructure Nigeria is not new and has been on the front burner since colonial times, as records exist on various past efforts to integrate the disparate ethnic nationalities that came together to form the country. Even after independence, additional efforts had been made to foster closer co-existence among Nigerians, in order to sustain the agenda of unity in diversity, on which the country is intended to thrive and progress.

In that context, the sporadic calls for ‘restructuring Nigeria to avoid its break up’, could only have been spawned by a syndrome of failure to follow-up by succeeding administrations, on the founding vision of the patriarchs of the country. This scenario comes as a play out of the allegory that ‘what the fathers gathered with the rake, the children throw away with the shovel’. Seen in context, it needs to be considered whether latter day Nigerians are not building capital on a cocktail of questionable tendencies which include mutual suspicion, intolerance and hegemony, in the context of which some potent elements remain fixated on failure factors which are working against the unity of the country.

But for this divisive mindset, it is not difficult to see that the country was programmed ab initio as a work in progress, which needs time to mature and consolidate. This mindset which thrives on factors that are distant from the foundations laid by the founding fathers of the country, rather than anything else, has been the driving force behind the miasma around the restructuring conversation. In the final analysis the restructuring of the country is a process rather than an event.

The difficulty confronting this present administration remains its misreading of the restructuring of the country from a narrow prism of piecemeal perspective as defined by its own systemic limitations, rather than a wholesale framework as is derivable from the complement of copious insights as elegantly articulated from several fora by Nigerians. By jettisoning the works and wisdom of past administrations this Buhari administration shot itself in the foot, and lost out in connecting with legacies of preceding administration.

Otherwise what can the administration say about the off-handed repudiation of the resolutions from the past national dialogues, the most recent of which are the 2005 National Political Reform Conference on which the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, invested a whopping sum of N6 billion, and the 2014 National Conference which cost about N15 billion? Granted that each of the conferences made far-reaching recommendations on restructuring the country, the question looms up on whether Nigeria is better off now with the denunciation of the invaluable insights from them?

 Is the country not crippled by the handicap of tunnel-thinking as some would say?

The response to such questions being in the negative, constitutes the principal face of the dilemma of the country, courtesy of the evasive approach by the present administration, to the issue of restructuring Nigeria, beyond the parameters it remains fixated to.

Courtesy Daily Trust

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Transportation Crises In Nigeria’s Diamond Age

So much has occurred in our 60 years arduous journey in nationhood. We have successfully fought a civil war, moved from the parliamentary system of government to the presidential system. We have badly suffered lack of due restraint by military administrations and had a bitter struggle to restore sustainable democracy.

Although we have made slow progression as a country, we still struggle to entrench those tenets that unite a nation. A lot has transpired. In the course of our voyage under the present administration, we experienced a recession for the first time in 25 years and exited it eventually.

There are many other areas of our national life that can be examined closely, but the concern here is the transportation sector. Nigerian transportation system constitutes road, water, air, and rail. But the dominant ones are unarguably road and air transport. Strangely enough, the ignored rail transportation might well be the most demotic at independence.

 Goods were moved across the country by rail, and it was also the means for individuals to move from one part of the country to another. Some of the existing rails were built during the colonial era, while water transportation is nearly non-existent.

Nigeria has about 8,600 km of largely unexplored inland waterways. Water transportation is widely utilised in the Niger Delta region because of the topographic peculiarities of the area. Water and rail transport basically rank low in the nation’s 60 years of independence.

Air transportation is in a vigorous state, though gradually. With 31 airports across the federation, air transportation has been gaining impressive public acceptance. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, no fewer than 15,232,597 air travellers used Nigerian airports in 2016 compared to about 173,000 in 1970.

Gone are the days when local flights were characterised by crashes and accidents that frightened many people out of their wits from using flights for domestic trips. Despite the growth in the sector, the aviation industry is still faced with many challenges that extenuate the actualisation of its full potential.

The most increasingly dominant transport mode in Nigeria is road. With over 200,000km, road transport accounts for more than 90% of the 3% contribution of the transportation sector to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the economy. Sadly, road transportation has practically replaced the rail system in the movement of goods and heavy machinery.

While the country lags behind in developing other transport sectors, our roads are saddled with over utilisation. Following the pressure on them, they are quick to rapid decay. To worsen the trouble, Nigerian roads are, to an obscene degree, characterised by inadequate road network, the dearth of national road transport planners and managers, poor traffic management, and bad sustenance culture.

For instance, a city like Lagos was once depicted graphically by Forbes as one of the worst cities for drivers and traffic jam. This is a normal experience for commuters as a result of the bad road network, narrow roads, and the display of insanity by some motorists.

The problem in Lagos is further worsened by the Apapa Port. As a result of the gross negligence of rail and water transportation, most imported goods are hauled to other parts of the country by road. Products for export are also ferried to the port by road. This sets truck drivers with other road users at the same time.

The Apapa situation is not a bizarre case. Virtually all the entry points into the ports in Nigeria are met with decrepit roads. Again, bad roads are somewhat not unique to the ports; rather, they have become defining attributes of Nigerian roads.

The President, Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), Engr. Kashim Ali, once admitted that 70% of the roads in Nigeria were horrible. He said, “there are about 200,000km of roads in Nigeria, and 36,000km belongs to the federal government and of the latter, only about 30% are in good condition. The shares of the States and local governments are in terribly worse conditions.”

The chilling effect of this dangerous situation is the proliferation of road accidents, high rate of highway robbery, rise in automobile breakdown, and exponential growth in health challenges. According to the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, narrow roads, bad roads and many sharp bends are noticeable features on our road network. Some highways have become most infamous for robbery which is often supported by the creaky state of sections of the highways.

Every president or governor ironically promises to remedy the roads upon assumption of office which they have little or no intention to keep. This oratory is often repeated at every budget presentation, yet not much seems to have changed.

In his 2016 independence speech, President Muhammadu Buhari strongly indicated that the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing had received a total of N197.5b to continue work on 12 roads, which he listed in the speech. He also stated that “other major highways are in the queue for rehabilitation or new construction.” The hope is that these roads would be completed before he exits office in 2023.

Road construction and maintenance require a huge financing, which the government has amply failed to demonstrate capacity to handle in very substantial ways. The Infrastructure Construction Regulatory Commission, ICRC, that provides a financing arrangement from banks, proves a viable alternative in this regard.

To that extent, the ultimate solution to road transportation lies in Public-Private-Partnership. The government obviously cannot singlehandedly address the road challenges in the country. It requires the unanimous backing of the private sector to meet the key objectives of the people. Lagos State is a particular example of how highly beneficial PPP can be in road construction and maintenance.

Nigerians are prepared to pay toll on our roads so long as they are motorable. Similarly, the government can motivate companies to construct roads for a tax holiday. This is why the Dangote tax-for-road deal seems proper regardless of the many repugnancies in the deal. PPP will remain a valuable option if it is done with unusual candidness.

Even if all the roads in the country are well managed, our transportation problems may not necessarily be solved so long as road transportation is directly responsible for 90% of the movement in the country. Therefore, there is a need to vary our transportation system in order to grow other transport sectors.

To this end, the government needs to correctly implement the Cabotage Law to encourage local investment and ownership of ships for domestic maritime business. This will considerably improve water transportation and significantly curtail reliance on road transport.

The rail system in the country needs a comprehensive resurgence. An effective and well-connected rail system will drastically curb the roads of trucks and other heavy duty vehicles. We seem to be moving slowly in this direction.

As we commemorate our painful 60 years independence anniversary and look towards more years as a nation, the present leadership should consider it  appropriate to plan enough for the future of the nation. Highly effective transportation is crucial to economic growth and industrialisation. If we truly desire to be a great nation, then we must radically overhaul our transport system.

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Nose Masks: Imprisonment Of A Lifetime

Late last year,Wuhan was in the news globally,for the wrong reason. The reason is a pandemic called Corona virus.

Like a harmattan wild fire it sprout from Wuhan and spread to the rest of the globe, living the first world nations grappling for non existent solutions and the third world nations bewildered,confused and flabbergasted.

Nowhere else to run for solutions, nations sought for homegrown solutions. The first to come up with remediation took advantage of others,while the helpless look up to the powerful for a permanent solution.

They disagreed to agreement later to succumb that a kind of chloroquine could be of great assistance.

Still gasping for the permanent solution we settled for the protocols

All tailored towards maintaining good hygiene, the protocols came in their other

A.                          Wash your hands with soap and water.

B.                          Use a hand sanitizer.

C.                          Wear a nose mask.

D. Maintain social distancing which brewed debate and later christened physical distancing.

E.                          See a doctor if you feel unwell. That is if curfew and security agencies will let you. Not forgetting the koboko boys.

F.                          Obey government directives (even if it is tyrannical) etc.

The list appeared endless but abridged into numbers.

Alas! We now hear that Corona virus has come to stay. Thus, the protocols seems for a lifetime.

Particularly, the wearing of a nose mask, different designs,features and sizes now flood the open market. The once exclusive products of the medical practitioners, security agencies and a few others, now is available for all.

The nose mask is for a unique purpose to prevent obnoxious odour and that temporary in the real sense of the matter.

This is how it works: we inhale oxygen from plants and exhale carbon dioxide for same. Obviously, nature takes care of itself. Inhale and exhale simultaneously as nature takes care of the rest.

At what point before now do we have to wear nose masks. First, to the medical practitioners when they have to open a human body for operations or similar activities to prevent inhaling of obnoxious odour from same activities.

Second, when the security agencies have to disperse protesters with teargas cannisters. This is to prevent them from inhaling the unhealthy teargas, as they use same against the protesters against their will to quell or end the protest in mapped and marked setting. Soon after the created harsh atmosphere, nature takes care of the rest, gradually, peace returns.

Whilst in mask, the practitioner is left uncomfortable,albeit, temporary. This is because he/she exhales and inhales into the same piece of material cocooned in the cacophony of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Quite dangerous but temporal to save a bigger damage.

Covid19 protocols to the least has initiated all of us. Hear we are masking ourselves on the streets and in public places.

The air within the mask is hot, combusting and somewhat suffocating but we have to obey. Who corrupted this atmosphere and how long shall we remain imprisoned?

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Of Students Unionism And The Aluta Spirit

The Nigerian system is designed in a way to enable youths prepare for future leadership roles and political endeavours. That is why organisations like the National Association of Nigerian Students, (NANS), Nigeria Youth Parliament and National Youth Council were established for the upliftment and development of the youth. But NANS has failed to live up to its billing.

NANS is the umbrella union of all Nigerian students in higher institutions. Like labour unions, it is primarily instituted to protect the rights of students all over the country and cater for their welfare. Rather than perform those critical roles that will enhance the well-being of students, the body has entangled in utter mediocrity and nonperformance.

Student union bodies globally have similar functions and that is to project worthy ideas, initiative and perspective to school authorities and even governments. By this means, many of them have tackled societal problems and proffered solutions where necessary.

Beyond that, student union is established to promote discipline, unity, orderliness and conducive learning environment for students. However, against all expectations, many Nigerians may agree that NANS has fallen short of these indices. Clearly, the body has failed in many respects.

Gone were the days when NANS robustly engaged in intellectualism and stimulated intellectual discourse among students and lecturers on campus. Students published in scholarly journals and were soundly exposed that loyalty, courage and truthfulness were among the many virtues they imbibed.

Today, all that is history. Student unionism in the country has been hijacked by strange persons with precarious intentions. Union officials, who once set agenda for the government, have suddenly changed their behaviour and ceded their platforms to pretenders.

Because student union leaders have abdicated their roles, the quality of education in higher institutions has greatly vitiated. This development led to the existence of all manner of vices on campus such as prostitution, cultism, ‘sorting’, examination malpractice, sex scandals, robbery, drug addiction etc.

Given the ugly trend, there are public clamours to return higher institutions to the path of sanity. But we must understand that a move towards a reversal to their former status will remain impracticable if active student unionism is not reactivated or restored.

Like in the olden times, we need a student union administration that will complement the efforts of government in all ramifications. We need a union that will not only confront school authorities, but will speak up against bad governance just the way it did during the military era.

It is needless to say that student unionism is synonymous with the nation’s future. That is why it is tragic to see our future leaders jettison their prospective leadership roles for selfish interests that have consumed Nigeria and kept it where it currently is.

The student union movement requires a total rebranding because of the amazing and uncertain direction it treads. Though effort to return it to its erstwhile status is a collective one, students must particularly indigenise it, work hard and make it a reality.

Student unionism has to return to the days when it created an atmosphere for constructive criticisms,

peaceful protests, competitiveness in academics and equal representation. The current student politics, which is a reflection of what obtains today in our society, must be repudiated else it may produce the same kind of leaders we have.

It strikes me that student leaders like Lanre Legacy, late Segun Okeowo (of the 1978 Ali-must-go renown), Adeola Soetan and George Iwilade Afrika have been hurriedly consigned to the footnote of student activism while their legacies are left to rot.

Indeed, we are in dire need of student union leaders that will draw inspiration from those idealists and firebrands; sacrificial leaders who will build on the tradition of the apostles of student unionism in the country and restore the lost values and glories of the movement.

Therefore, for the student movement to attain this elevation, those in its leadership positions must enthrone the objectives and independence of the union. They must focus on the key virtues of transparency, accountability and hard work and see the mandate they have as a privilege to return the union to enviable heights.

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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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