Kukah and Bakare: Reading the Diatribes

I agree with Emeritus, Archbishop of Abuja, His Eminence John Cardinal Onaiyekan, that politics,, should be inclusive of all; the priests and the proletariat alike. Even more so for participatory democratic politics.

 In defense of the right of Bishop of Sokoto, Most Rev. Matthew Kukah, to periodically damn bad governance in the country, former Abuja Archbishop observed that “…if you understand politics as to how you organize and manage the community for the common good, we are all supposed to be politicians. ….We will continue to talk. “In the whole project of nation-building and good governance, people, have different roles to play.

The role of Mr President is, of course, the most important in terms of organizing everything. “But the role of religious leaders, if you are a genuine one, should be to be able to speak in the name of God.

As a veteran of trade union movement, I bear witness about some class prejudice against the downtrodden when it comes to political discourse. Anytime workers demand for their rights, they are easily smeared as being “political” as if politics is the monopoly of the owning class.

While business owners, employers, retired military officers and permanent secretaries are proud card carrying members of political parties, every move by organized workforce to advance their working and living life is often seen as “partisan” and dangerous by the ruling class.

There was even an ouster law that once prohibited civil servants from joining political parties even when same civil servants are encouraged to register as voters and courted as voting herd. Certainly Emeritus, Archbishop was on point when he said “genuine religious leaders had a role to play in politics, which included advancing the course of the masses and speaking truth to power in the name of God”.

Plato once observed that “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” And that is where my agreement with the respected Archbishop ends.

Reading through the recent “manifestos” ( or are they “Easter messages”?) of both by dear friend, (sorry Comrade Bishop!) Matthew Kukah and Pastor Tunde Bakare, it’s clear that Nigeria is not short of political clergy men with “Star words” of significant political and partisan impact than the full time politicians.

Indeed the statements of both at Easter elicited almost feverish reaction of the Presidency than ever predictable opposition’s diatribes. If we recall past Christmas/ graveyard homilies of Bishop Kukah and Sunday’s commentaries of Pastor Tunde, it’s self evident that the duo had maximized freedom of expression in the current dispensation to be as politically relevant than many state actors.

The issue therefore is NOT the right of religious men to political expression , or right “to talk to power”, but the content and quality of their talks, the quality of their politics.

There are critical questions begging for some answers. First who are the clergy men or better still “genuine religious leaders”?. Can we always judge all books by their covers?

Pastor Bakare is not just a serving Overseer of Citadel Global Community Church (CGCC). He has always been audaciously pastoral as much as a presidential activist! He was one time Convener, Save Nigeria Group (SNG). The Senior Pastor of Latter Rain Assembly, was the political running mate to President Muhammadu Buhari during the 2011 presidential elections.

He has also expressed his willingness to contest for the presidency after the expiration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term in 2023. At Calgary in Canada, he predicted he would succeed Buhari as “Nigeria’s 16th president or head of state”. He was even reportedly arrested in March 2002 following a dooms day prediction that never materialized and critical sermons critical of the former president Olusegun Obasanjo.

Can a Pastor who is part of a Praetorian Guard be said to be talking to power when indeed he is the one being talked at? Which then raises the question what platforms do the “genuine religious leaders” use to talk to power. To his credit Cardinal Onaiyekan, made his extensive comments on participatory democracy as a guest on AIT’s breakfast show, Kakaaki in Abuja, not on the pulpit.

Many of us can relate and engage with the Cardinal, thanks to his chosen open media platform.

Bishop Kukah is credited as an initiator of the Kukah Centre, a Nigeria-based policy research institute, “..for the promotion of an active and engaged citizenry by providing support for inclusive dialogue and advocacy initiatives”. I had thankfully participated in a number of interactive by the center in which the inclusive voice of the Bishop was loud and clear.

Regrettably I could not make sense out of the recent Easter message entitled “Nigeria: Before Our Glory Departs” by the Bishop. For one, 3000 plus word overload with biblical quotes task imaginations for a distant admirer like me.

Second some questions posed by Bishop Kukah exclude the few optimistic compatriots like me. Witness this: “Nigeria must now ask itself: What is left of our glory? Where are the values that held us together? Day by day, Nigeria drifts irreversibly into a dark tunnel. Things are falling apart with unnerving rapidity because those who govern have only a pact to protect their interests. Politics is merely its conveyor belt of ambition. Nigeria has a date with destiny. If we do not turn around, The axe is already laid to the roots of the tree (Matthew 3:10).”

Notwithstanding these apocalyptic rhetorical questions with equal apocalyptic answers, the Bishop still sees self as a “a religious leader” who is ( not) afraid to say what is right”. Which then raises the question about “what is right” and by who?.

According to him, “The nation has since become a massive killing field, as both government and the governed look on helplessly…. Our people seek solace and protection, but frustration and darkness threaten to drown them. Is their government on AWOL?”. My check shows that the comrade Bishop delivered the message in Nigeria NOT in Ethiopia’s Tigray region where senseless atrocious war of attrition is claiming thousands of civilians lives. I just witnessed the colorful opening ceremony of 20th National Sports Festival open in the ancient city of Benin. Many Federal and state officials were fully on duty not “on AWOL”.

The energetic and wonderful Nigerian youths raised the banners of “promised land, Nigeria’ food basket”, “Glory of all lands” “Home of Peace “progress”, “excellence”, land of knowledge”, heart beat of the nation”, “Centre of Learning” among others NOT “ a killing field”.

It’s time we all changed from the unhelpful “agonizing narrative” of Nigeria to a mutually rewarding discourses to uplift the country for challenges of development.

Courtesy NewsDiary

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As NDDC Gets Permanent Head Office Complex

Last month, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) headquarters complex along Eastern By-pass, Marine Base, Port Harcourt, commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari   in  a virtual presentation from the Council Chamber of the State House, Abuja.

While commissioning the N16 billion complex, the president said the N300 million annual rent for the former building of the Commission would be deployed to other areas of need in the Niger Delta region.

Recall that the then Oil and Mineral Producing Development Commission (OMPADEC) awarded the 13-storey high-rise contract in June 1994, to Messrs Marshland Projects Nigeria Limited. The gorgeous edifice, which stands out in the slumpy area of Marine Base in the Port Harcourt City Local Government Council of Rivers State, started out for the sum of N4 billion.

Chief Albert Horsefall, the first Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and pioneer head of the Commission, performed the groundbreaking ceremony. The project was executed for 26 years amid serious delays, financial circumventions, and technical gauntlet.

Before Effiong Akwa was appointed Interim Administrator under whose tenure the project was completed, it had wavered under about 16 Chief Executive Officers who differed the cost, performed several revisions, redesigns, and amendments until it ultimately got to the N16 billion threshold.

The circumstances that encompassed the abandoned NDDC permanent headquarters were typical reflections of the leadership gap and managerial loopholes that had led to the underdevelopment of the Niger Delta. The development lends credence to the claims in some quarters that indeed the Niger Delta people are the major cause of the problems in the region.

Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, who coordinated the consummation of the project, gave discomfiting facts of its desertion. Akpabio recollected his first visit to the project site in 2019 and was informed that he was the only government official that had visited the project site. None of the managers of the Commission inspected the project much less commencing a strategy to complete it. It was never a part of their plans. The minister said that he met the project site in a terrible condition. While the land was mashy, the entire area was covered by vegetation.

For getting this building completed, Buhari deserves a standing ovation because this project had evaded the close attention of five governments before him. Akpabio merits commendation for pursuing its construction to the logical end at a time of great troubles occasioned by COVID-19 and diminishing resources. Not to be forgotten is Akwa, whose responsibility it was to midwife the building until its safe delivery in the midst of the hurly-burly of Niger Delta politics.

Having commissioned the NDDC building, the Federal Government must undertake holistic reforms of the Commission to ensure that monies released to it commensurate with projects and programmes. The ongoing forensic audit must be carried through to guarantee probity in the Commission’s affairs. As the President rightly stated, the incredible amount used for servicing rent in the last 26 years should be channelled to other productive ventures in the region.

The NDDC was set up as a direct retort of the Federal Government to the agitation of the oil-producing communities and states for the establishment of an interventionist agency that would address the degradation in the area as well as tackle the infrastructural depletion because some stakeholders felt that the 13 per cent derivation funds might not adequately cater to the needs of oil-producing communities.

We are grossly unsatiated with the operations of the NDDC since its establishment in 2000 despite receiving about N946.19bn in 18 years. The interventionist agency is a total failure. The financial embarrassments and corruption allegations that recently reeled it have eroded public faith in its ability to acquit its mandatory statutory commitments.

The NDDC leadership has to ensure adequate security and timely riposte to security infringements in its environs. This will leave a bequest of robust security that will benefit both the indigenes and the business community of the agency’s headquarters. Also, the Commission is advised to support the ongoing dualisation of the Eastern-pass by the Rivers State Government. This will enable easy access to the area, particularly for those who do business with the Commission.

In recent years, the NDDC has not had good image in the media. It has been one scandal after another, embellished with rib-cracking drama. When the National Assembly invited the last Interim Managing Director, Prof. Kemebradikumo Pondei, for some house-keeping investigation, there was drama when the man fainted in the midst of the nervous grilling and the session came to an abrupt end as he was rushed out to a health facility for resuscitation.

With the commissioning of its headquarters office, the NDDC has a right to thumbs-up for shaking off a 26-year jinx. It must proceed from here to erect an organisation that believes in best practices. That way, it will begin to recoup part of the public confidence that was frittered away through the financial and administrative reversals of the past decades. That too will keep corporate scandal away from flying through its elegant building into the front pages of the tabloid press.

Then, its business will look as glamorous as its new edifice.

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Boko Haram: One Massacre Too Many

The latest gruesome killings of 43 rice farmers in Zabarmari community in Jere Local Government Area of Borno State by the Boko Haram terrorists debunk the pretentious claim by the Nigerian government that it is winning the war against terror. More than 10 years after it initiated its violent campaign to found a caliphate in Nigeria, the insurgents remain a deadly force against the Nigerian state.

When the news of the carnage broke, panic and commotion gave way to anger over the way the insurgents operated unchecked for a long period despite the ongoing military onslaughts on them. Sources in Borno said 76 persons were murdered in all, apart from those abducted.

Soon after the incident, condemnatory statements came in from everywhere. The United Nations, Pope Francis and aid organisations were among those disgusted at the heart-rending attacks on innocent farmworkers. State governors sent out messages and visited their Borno counterpart, Babagana Zulum. We are overly tired of the customary denunciations.

Though the killings of the rice farmers impinged on the very profundities of humanity, senseless atrocities by Boko Haram have been characterised by treachery and deceit. Last October, the implacable extremists drenched the irrigation fields near Maiduguri with the blood of 22 farmers in two separate incidents.

Like all Islamist sects, Boko Haram mutates, carrying out overwhelming raids on soft targets or exploding IEDs as it delights. Between July and November this year, Zulum’s convoy was assaulted on three occasions despite the heavy security around him. Soldiers, police officers, members of the Civilian Joint Task Force and civilians were slain in those attacks.

Boko Haram has caused much trepidation and destruction to Nigerians. The New York Times reported on September 13, 2019, that Islamist extremists were better armed and had more advanced weapons than the less enthusiastic Nigerian military. it is difficult to understand why the government has failed to procure weapons from any country willing to assist in ending the festering savagery.

Already, following constant attacks on farmers, there is a palpable fear of food insecurity as farmers and the over two million people displaced are afraid to return home and their farms. According to international sources, the jihadists have flagrantly killed 36,000 persons. Former Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima, however, generously put the death toll at 100,000.

Ekiti State Governor and Chairman, Nigerian Governors Forum, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, recently claimed that some of the insurgents that escaped from the Boko Haram territory are the ones operating as bandits in the Northwest, while some of them are involved in the kidnapping currently pervading the Southwest as well as the atrocities by herdsmen.

The reality is that the federal government is unable to withstand Boko Haram’s firepower and bloody campaign. Rather, it still lives in the past, endlessly referencing the initial success it achieved when it assumed power in 2015 by retaking the local government areas under the control of the insurgents in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States.

In the intervening period, the terror group has become more ferocious, attacking military formations at will and confiscating high calibre weapons. It solidified its firm grip over the Lake Chad Basin area, inducing a coalition by Chad, Niger and Cameroon against it, but Nigeria suffers the most drastic tolls in the group.

The military’s lacklustre performance in the war has led to widespread calls by Nigerians for the sack of the service chiefs and replace them with new ones with fresh ideas and solutions. But such calls have always been rebuffed by the president for reasons known to him. We make similar calls for their sack because they are bereft of new ideas to tackle insurgency.

This conflict is one of the biggest blights drooping on the conscience of the country’s leadership. It may never end because it mimics aloofness from Buhari and his commanders. The war is uncoordinated and purposeless, prompting even the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, to admit to a longer duration of insurgency ahead.

Things have to change. President Buhari should be in sync with reality. Beyond his condemnation ritual, Nigeria’s commander-in-chief has to move out of his comfort zone and take real charge of the battle to see what goes on and stop relying solely on briefings. He should emulate Chadian president, Idriss Déby, who has led wars against Boko Haram on several occasions when his country was attacked.

With a reinvigorated objective, Nigeria can put an end to Boko Haram, but upon the condition that the present administration must be strategic. Haunted and devastated by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in 2014, Syria and Iraq turned to the West for succour. By the end of 2019, a Western coalition led by the United States had wiped out ISIS completely.

If the truth must be told, Nigeria cannot win this war on its own. The president has to go all out and attract greater international assistance if he is serious about defeating Boko Haram, which also has foreign backing from other terrorist groups like ISIS and a few countries.

Henceforward, captured Boko Haram suspects should be prosecuted. They should not be granted amnesty as is presently the case. Lately, the United Arab Emirates convicted six Nigerians for funding terrorism with $782,000. That is the way to go. Employing financial intelligence, Buhari should track and uncover the backers and financiers of insurgency, bringing them to justice.

There is an urgent need for Nigeria to restore its alliance with Cameroon, Chad and Niger, taking the lead with human and military resources. The coalition has to work together to hold down regained territories long enough to pare the insurgents’ influence. Also, the prolonged issue of insufficient weapons and corruption in the prosecution of the war should be settled forthwith.

Alalibo resides in Port Harcourt.

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Perception On Reputation Of Nigeria’s Political Elite

Open Letter To Eminent Elders Forum

A quick read of your alleged Press Release, leaves me as a citizen of Nigeria with only one comment: how can we say that a man who is sick of gastro- enteritis ( ie stomach upset of sorts ) will be cured by moving him from his new house to his old house?

Respectfully, your position in the document claims to carry the authority of Senator Ibrahim Nasiru Mantu, Dr Akin Fapohunda, Prof Chukwuemeka Eye Onukaogu, Elder Muyiwa Ayo-Vaughan, Elder Smolette Adetoyese Shittu-Alamu , Chief Anayo Arinze and Professor Echefuna R.G. Onyebeadi.

It is dripping with 25 carat signature spread. But forgive me to say, it portrays inadequate or poor analysis of Nigeria’s present public perception challenges and the impact on reputation of our political elite at State and National levels . There is also an additional problem.  I wonder if it is designed to fly a kite, to gauge reactions. In which case it is pregnant with an attempt to mislead in other to rearrange group advantages.

I submit below two major planks to facilitate a coherent and historical rebuttal of the publication attributed to the Eminent Elders Forum.The first is that your diagnosis of Nigeria’s system is superficial and not objectively fundamental. The second is that you ignored the devastating pattern of Master -Slave  relationship imposed on citizens at State level and by national establishments. To pretend that the relationship problem in Nigeria is only one between tiers of government, is totally ridiculous.

In fact Nigeria would work better than it has been since 1999, if the Federal Government today is able to lift just 3 sectors. Let us fund our universities and health facilities with matching  performance goal, to achieve minimum international benchmark. In addition let us also plant industries in every state to create more career and productive economic opportunities for citizens.

I swear by your ancestors, that not many Nigerians will worry how President Buhari and State Governors greet each other in the morning! 1). Now let’s attempt to engage the objective and historical character of Nigeria’s system. (a) In my view the tragedy of Nigeria’s Presidential system is in its fundamental flaw.

The feudal system that runs the politics and economy of Nigeria is historical. As the product of peripheral Capitalism which emerged from colonial rule and military dictatorship that gave advantage by the fiat of political power, Nigeria’s economy was not designed to be competitive against Western industrial interests. Rather it was to cater for the appetite for wealth of a few citizens in power and those well connected to them.

The 1999 Constitution and Presidential system it created, tried very hard to concretise that objective. 20 years after, we can see that it has achieved the purpose of making Nigeria and Nigerians poorer with each successive administration, while those in power get even Bank Managers to serve napkins at their dinner tables.

A unique Feudal System was the machinery that welded both the economy and political advantage into a simple dictatorship in a democracy.The system enthrones a few persons in each state as the Governor and his cronies,  to rule as the “Emperor’s men”, with power of life and death over helpless citizens. All institutions are brought under the control of each Governor by hook or crook. The Legislature, Judiciary, Press and  even the Traditional Rulers insitution, are forced into the Governor’s “loyalty” queue, sooner or later.

b) The Feudal System does not prioritize productivity as a premier goal of governance at national, State or LGA level. The bonanza of a Crude Oil economy which allows NNPC to serve as the warehouse of wealth for those who have political power, has injected the political elite with a virus. It is the stampede for political power as the only business worth investing in. While the state continues to invest more money in massive amounts in undemocratic and unproductive elections, every other sector of life is diminishing because it is underfunded or rendered uncompetitive. Education, health and Security are good examples.

Therefore the Feudal System is able to create a primary condition for systemic transfer of wealth into a few hands and simultaneous increase in mass impoverishment, as a political tool of control. No level is an exception.

(c) The Feudal System is not capable to enthrone a “competence and performance driven” framework, at the State or Federal government level. The system actually incapacitates structures and institutions ( both Private and Public Sectors)  by systemic incompetence that is undermining the transaction and competitive capacity of our business environment. For instance businesses are not encouraged by deliberate government policies that are designed to build sectors to strengthen local economies and indigenes of a state as bona fide citizens.

This situation tends to weaken local business and allows foreign capital to dominate every sector of choice.

The systems demand for personal “loyalty” shuts out those who are able to feed themselves and maintain any modicum of self worth. This hunger for loyalty is reflected in deceptive  “tribalization” of establishment positions and hand picked allocations of opportunities in each state and in the federal government . The system creates the false impression that  government policies or programmes tend to transform into investment in ethnic solidarity but it is actually the necessary perimeter fence to protect a system that is not competitive and which places group interest as the only priority.

(d) The system thrives on subordination of the majority, at the pleasure of those who hold political power and their cronies.They tend to take every possible gain away from the public and give to themselves and their families, even more of what they do not need.

2). The second plank of our analysis shows that the philosophy of our feudal system manifests in practical terms by creating a few “Masters” in each State. In most States we can hear the cry that “it is our own people that are oppressing us”.

(a) It does so by letting a few to monopolize revenue and opportunities. You cannot count up to 1000 persons in most states of Nigeria today who can spend N10m of their own money without negotiation of assets ( by they way they acquired such assets  with sudden alacrity). Can that situation be corrected by mere demand for restructuring?  It is the same at the Federal level too.

 I doubt that we can count up to 10,000 Nigerians who can spend N20m without serious asset negotiation.

(b) We have a system that allows a small percentage of our population at State or at national level, to lay siege and achieve  control of the wealth at each level of government.They do so at the expense of the entire population of their respective States or at the expense of 99.99% of whatever is Nigeria’s correct population. Industrialized western democracies talk about an “oligarchy of the 1%” who have more wealth than the 99% of their population.

In Nigeria it is far less than 1% who have turned millions of citizens into “Slaves” in their States and at national level. This is done without regard to their region or religion, as a result of the gross social injustice of the feudal system .

(c ) In terms of the exploitation of the population of each state, there is no Christian or Moslem Governor. They are united in their arbitrary use of power and resultant embarrassing privileges. By the same token the poor in each State are the same and subjected to oppression , no matter their region or religion!

3). So how come the Eminent Elders Forum missed all these realities and internal contradictions? It leaves them open to the valid suspicion that they are trying to protect an existing privilege system by merely turning the mat!

There is nothing eminent in the very illogical analysis and recommendations of this Eminent Elders Forum.For instance why do you take old Midwest out of the new equation of 6 zones?

 It is clearly to weaken the Niger Delta by ressurecting the 50 years ghost of a “Mid West Region” as a high value estate of the South West. 

Amaopusenibo Bobo Brown, veteran journalist, former National President of NIPR is the CEO of Grain Consulting, PH

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Dakuku Reminds Biden Of Nigeria’s Interest

… In Congratulatory Letter To President-elect

I wish to congratulate you on your winning the hard fought US Presidential Election, unseating the incumbent President Donald Trump. We all know the difficulty in defeating an incumbent American president, even a deeply flawed one. We know what happened when John Kerry challenged an incumbent President George W. Bush or when Mitt Romney tried to unseat President Barrack Obama. You have done something remarkable. Congratulations!

Your life story is quite notable and inspiring. You were elected a US senator when you were still 29 years old.The minimum age of US senator is 30 years but because your birthday comes up every November 20, you were to be sworn in when you just clocked 30. At the age of 78, you will be the oldest US president ever sworn to office, at a time when most of the world is looking towards youth for inspiration and leadership. This is the burden of history.

We know about your life tragedies. The painful loss of your first wife Neilia and daughter Naomi on that faithful day of December 18, 1972 left the Senator-Elect from Delaware devastated but you were able to gather yourself together to embark on a political career that impacted heavily and positively on the American political landscape.

This speaks to your tenacity. Then on May 30, 2015, you experienced another great tragedy as Joseph Robinette Biden III, known to everyone as Beau Biden, succumbed to brain cancer. Beau, the Attorney General of Delaware was your beloved first son, your protégé, your hair apparent. That you will rise  five years later from this painful heartbreak to become the president-elect of the United States of America is a message that we can always emerge from the depths of despair to the heights of success.

On January 20, 2021, after you are sworn into office as the 46th President of the United States of America, you will  inherit a country and a White House that has so much transformed in just four years since you left there with your friend and boss, Barrack Obama.

You will inherit a country that has exited the Paris Agreement, the most valiant global attempt to tackle the threat of climate change; a country that is pulling out of the World Health Organisation, potentially incapacitating a coordinated global ability to tackle health challenges; a country of which allies in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) are wary of, in the face of increasing Russian aggression; a country engaged in various trade wars with China, EU and even small African countries like Rwanda.

You will inherit a United States of America that has so diminished in stature that most people now look towards the Ballevue Palace in Berlin’s Tiergaten District rather than the White House at in Washington DC for the Leader of the Free World.

You will inherit a White House that has been bogged by scandals – a once revered edifice where the previous occupant hired and fired at will; where many of the previous occupant’s friends and associates are either convicts or are in criminal indictment; where government business and personal interests were willfully and vicariously intertwined and from where several malevolent tweets were sent out at 2am by a leader whose moral profile  is questionable. From January 20, 2021, we expect that the dignity of the office of the president of the United States of America would be fully restored.

We shall no longer have an American president who will be laughed at by other world leaders; an American president who is at an unending war with facts, truth and reality; a president who luxuriates in insults and name calling; a narcissist and self-indulgent president who would be more concerned about TV ratings than his countrymen suffering and dying from a virulent pandemic; a president who denigrates unfavourable reporting as fake news, declares the free press as ‘an enemy of the people’ and is engaged in an internecine war with the mainstream media; a president who engages in dog whistles and stokes the embers of racial tension and ethnic hatred for political gain; a president who finds it difficult to disavow white supremacists and is dogged by allegations of racism; a president with opaque business dealings who fights tooth and nail to hide his tax returns and a billionaire-president who pays only $750 in annual personal income taxes, ran a fake university and established a fraudulent foundation; a president who at the time of writing has refused to concede to an election he has clearly lost but instead has engaged in frivolous lawsuits and outlandish claims of massive election fraud capable of destroying America’s institutions and undermining democracy.

In as much as the impiousness of your predecessor is not in doubt, you should recognize that the election did not provide a massive repudiation of him or what he stood for. The 72 million plus votes he gathered is the largest in US  presidential history (bar your own equally amazing numbers) while the fact that your party did not make expected gains in the Senate, House of Representatives or State legislatures meant that Mr. Trump and the Republican party still appealed to a lot of American voters.

The closeness of the votes in the ‘Battleground States’ of Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada, Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania, all of which you won by the skin of the tooth to take you well above the 270 electoral college votes needed to clinch the presidency is a testimony of the thin line that separated your remarkable victory from possible defeat.

 So you have a duty to unite a deeply polarized country. You campaigned as a moderate, centre left candidate and you should govern as one. Your policies and programmes should be such that meets the needs of Americans but it should also meet the needs of other countries of the world. The United States of America remains the richest and most powerful country in the world and her domestic and international policies do have huge impact on the rest of the world.

For Nigeria, our first demand is that you get your country to ratify the election of  Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, who you should know also holds your country’s citizenship, would bring to the WTO, decades of experience and expertise in finance and trade as well as competence in administration.

This must be the reason why the support of her candidacy cuts across different countries and continents and her assumption of duty is only being held up by the whims and caprices of the current outgoing occupant of the White House. Secondly, Nigeria has been on the receiving end of Mr. Trump’s harsh immigration policies.

You should take another look at the proposed change to student visa rules by the US Department of Homeland Security which will mean Nigerian students (alongside 35 other African countries) will only be issued with initial two-year visas even if their degree programs will take longer.

While they can apply for extensions which will come at extra costs, there is no guarantee they will be granted.You should also restore the visa interview waiver for Nigerian applicants who have previously visited the United States and are seeking for the same type of visa. US visa fees should be reduced and most importantly, the ban on issuance of immigrant visas to Nigerians should be revisited .

Nigeria has huge ties to the United States. Apart from millions of African Americans who trace their origins to the largest Black Country on earth, more than a quarter of a million people living in the United States were born in Nigeria.

This is the reason why the fact that Nigeria recorded the largest global drop in visitors to the US in 2019 is worrisome and should be addressed by your administration. Nigeria has several security challenges most especially the battle with Boko Haram, a terrorist group that has killed and maimed thousands of Nigerians in the North Eastern part of the country and elsewhere.

Assistance of the United States in the area of provision of military hardware, technical assistance as well as training of military personnel would be essential for the country to win this war on terror.

In the area of the economy, Nigeria was one of the victims of the protectionist ‘America First’ policies of the incumbent Trump administration. At $2.2 billion in 2017, Nigeria is the second largest U.S. export destination in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The United States and Nigeria have a bilateral trade and investment framework agreement. In 2017, the two-way trade in goods between the United States and Nigeria totaled over $9 billion. I implore your administration to open the American market for Nigerian goods and to remove tariffs on Nigerian exports to the United States to correct the current trade imbalance that is highly skewed in favour of the United States.

Mr. Biden, in as much as the Democratic Party in the United States on which platform you won the presidency is known for liberal ideals, which include the promotion of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual. Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) rights, I plead with you to avoid one of the major mistakes that the Obama administration made in Africa.

The first black man to be the president of the America angered so many people in the continent as he tried to ‘force’ them to accept the concept of same sex relationship and same sex marriage.

 Nigeria, like most African countries, is largely a conservative society. The idea of a sexual relationship or marriage between a couple of the same sex is alien and reprehensible to a large section of the society to the extent that there was overwhelming support for the law that criminalized same sex relationships in Nigeria.

Any attempt to pressurize or arm twist Nigerians to accept homosexual relationships will hurt our relationship. You can endear yourself to Nigerians if your actions in government would be more of a reflection of your Catholic faith than a posturing that depicts you as a proponent of the far left liberals of the US Democratic Party.

As we look forward to your date with fate on January 20, 2021, we are filled with excitement and a foreboding of glad tidings that your administration will usher in for America and the rest of the world. We believe that you would give the office of the most powerful man in the world your best shot. We are hopeful of a new dawn in the United States of America and the rest of the world. Best wishes Mr President- elect.

Dr Dakuku Peterside, former member House of Representative and Ex-Dircetor General of NIMASA.

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CommentsFor The Records

Re: Oyigbo, Gov Wike And Blood Of The Innocent

Our attention has been drawn to the Editorial of Daily Independent Newspaper, on November 5, 2020, titled: “Oyigbo, Governor Wike and blood of the innocent.” Beyond dismissing it as the now fashionable campaign by all manner of relevance seeking commentators and publications, professional courtesy however demands that the usual misleading and highly opinionated allegations associated with such enterprises, be addressed for record purposes.

First of all, we note with a huge sense of disappointment, that the photograph which accompanied the story and was wrongly captioned Wike, is in fact not the photograph of the Rivers State Governor and this, sadly, is not just a glaring reflection of professional laziness by a publication of the seeming pedigree of Daily Independent, it is also an unfortunate reaffirmation of the bastardization, which the basic norms and ethics of our noble Journalism profession has progressively been subjected to over the years.

Against this backdrop therefore, it follows logically that if a highly regarded publication like Daily Independent does not even know what Governor Nyesom Wike, a prominent Nigerian Governor, looks like, then whatever story associated with that ignorance must have been crafted and penned with half-baked or outrightly ignorant references.

This conclusion is succinctly buttressed in the very first lines of the Editorial which reads thus: “Unconfirmed reports of brutality and killings in Oyigbo community of Rivers State following siege by the military should ordinarily come across as shattering.”
Without trying to undermine the morphology and snytactic capacity of whoever heads the Editorial Board of Daily Independent Newspaper, simple common sense is bound to wonder how the “unconfirmed” reports of very sensitive information like ‘brutality’ and ‘killings’ will be ‘shattering’ to a top Newspaper like Daily Independent, whose primary professional responsibility should be investigative journalism, and in this instance, to inform and educate the general public.

The fact that the Editorial then proceeds, on the basis of this “unconfirmed reports” in Oyigbo, to reel out a lengthy and utterly warped profiling of Governor Nyesom Wike’s personality as well as the pragmatic responses to the recent events in that community, leaves much room for the interrogation of Editorial integrity and objectivity.

Be that as it may, it will only be proper and magnanimous for us to recognize and accept the praise and commendations which the Editorial rightly expressed in its appreciation of Governor Nyesom Wike’s firm, pragmatic, committed response to the carnage that was visited on Oyigbo by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), as well as the warm, compassionate, humane and empathetic embrace of the Rivers State Government to the hapless and bereaved widows and children of the slain soldiers and policemen, whose lives were cut short in their prime.

While it is easy to pontificate from wherever this editorial was crafted, one apparent disconnect which bedevils many commentators, is the pedestrian assumption that governance must always accommodate the reactive restraint of pandering to the whims and caprices of agents of destruction and destabilization like IPOB, at the expense of endangering the lives and property of innocent citizens in the long run.

With the benefit of hindsight however, one can excuse the Editorial on the ground that it must have been written before the real profiling of IPOB in Oyigbo, which it referred to as “the ill-advised profiling of indigenous community,” was brought to the public domain by comprehensive and intensive intelligence, in Governor Nyesom Wike’s widely reported state wide broadcast and meetings with the leaders of the Non-indigenes and which, quite irreversibly, led to the imposition of the 24 hours curfew, which too has since been reviewed and relaxed by the State Security Council.

We also take considerable exception in the expression contained in the Editorial that: “It is obvious the Governor’s apparent determination to engage in confrontation with members of the outlawed Indigenous Peoples of IPOB beclouded his sense of judgment at the peril of overwhelming majority of community dwellers who may not share the ideology of IPOB or approve of the tactics of the secessionist group.”

Let us state categorically that nothing ever beclouds the judgment of a proactive, fearless, administratively astute, strategically brilliant and politically conscious leader like Governor Nyesom Wike.Those who read and listened to his state-wide broadcast will know that IPOB had already been designated an outlawed terrorist group, even rejected by the South Eastern Governors where it claims to derive its illegal separatist mandate.

What happened in Oyigbo was not the first time IPOB had bared its destructive fangs in the community, but it crossed the red line this time, by hiding under the guise of #EndSARS protests, to kill four policemen and six soldiers, burn down all the Court buildings and police stations and threaten the lives of other innocent Nigerians and bonafide residents in the community.

If the curfew had not been imposed comprehensively and in the nick of time, it would have exploded into a full blown ethnic war in the community and across Rivers State. That said, it is now left for you to judge if the unavoidable yet necessary inconveniences of a few days of temporary curfew was not worth the immediate removal and cessation of the threats and dangerous activities of a terrorist group and the futuristic preservation and security of lives and property in Oyigbo.

Let us place on record, for the avoidance of doubt, that the IPOB attack was against the twin institutions of the State government/Police and the Nigerian Army. Governor Nyesom Wike responded as the head of the state government by reinforcing the proscription of IPOB and its activities in the State through a legitimate Executive order and imposing a curfew on the community to save lives and secure property, after the first carnage unleashed by IPOB.

Unfortunately for IPOB however, its second attack was against the Nigerian Army, which constitutionally reports only to the Chief of Army Staff and the President of Nigeria. Not only was it confirmed that the IPOB hoodlums killed some soldiers, it was also reported that they stole some military rifles too and the leadership of the Nigerian Army, acting independently, instructed and directed the response and recovery operation of its stolen arms on its own mandate and authority.

Ironically, the Editorial exhibited intellectual laziness by failing to see that its own poignant examples of Odi and Zaki-Biam only exposed the fact that Governor Wike is indeed a good student of history and it was rather the IPOB that exhibited a crass ignorance of history for which they not only placed the lives of innocent indigenes and residents in Oyigbo in danger, but may also have paid a heavy price of their own too, according to the “unconfirmed reports” that has ‘shattered’ the Daily Independent Editorial board.

Let us also place on record again, that Rivers State was the most peaceful and best organized state, amongst all the flashpoint states and in spite of the various social media provocation, during the #EndSARS protests, until IPOB and its hoodlums hijacked the peacefulness of the process.

Governor Wike supervised the protests successfully not only by his astute management of sensitive information, excellent collaboration with security agencies and direct participation and identification with the protesters, but also for the simple fact that he had already anticipated a day like #EndSARS long ago and cried out early, but no one listened to him then.

Now, again with IPOB, Governor Wike has also taken the courageous step as arguably the only Governor in Nigeria, who has reinforced the proscription of an already designated terrorist group, whether in the North or South of the country and this, in conjunction with initial curfew which has now been relaxed, has again demonstrated the extent to which he has kept faith with his primary responsibility to protect the innocent civilian population of Rivers indigenes and residents, from unwarranted intimidation, brutality and possible deaths from the agents of destruction and carnage.
One would therefore have expected the Daily Independent Editorial, whose caption does not even reflect the primary agent, instigator and perpetrator of the shedding of the innocent blood of 10 soldiers and policemen and the burning of courts and police stations, to blame the necessary culprit in this matter, and it is this constant unprofessionalism in our Journalism, which also deliberately refuses to call out and chastise the real troublemakers in our society, that worries all discerning Nigerians.

We are not sure the Editors of Daily Independent saw the faces of three-month and six-month babies that lost their fathers to the barbaric act of IPOB at Oyigbo. What will be the fate of these babies and the widows that will suffer to raise them? Yellow journalism did not think this is important. What a sad development at a time when well-meaning people are lamenting that these innocent babies will face a turbulent future.

To be sure, calm, peace and normalcy has returned to Oyigbo community with the relaxation of the curfew and the reinforcement of the proscription of IPOB, which no doubt, has sent a clear warning to its leaders and members that they are no longer welcome in Rivers State and there is no place for them in Oyigbo, Ikoku or indeed anywhere in the State, in that outlawed, terrorist nomenclature.
Governor Nyesom Wike deserves praise for living up to his leadership responsibilities and Nigeria would indeed be a better place with leaders like him setting the standard and constantly raising the bar for firm, proactive, fearless and courageous leadership, which always puts the welfare and interest of the people first and above everything else.

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

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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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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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