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#ENDSARS Protests: So Much To Learn

In 1992, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad was set up by the Commissioner for Police to curb a spate of armed robberies in Nigeria. By 2009 it had become a large and powerful unit, and its focus expanded beyond armed robbers to internet fraudsters. It had also become largely uncontrolled.

Members of the unit were allowed to carry guns, drive unmarked cars and operate without badges or uniform. They became known for their violent harassment of innocent young Nigerians. They also forced young Nigerians to withdraw money from ATMS and make transfers under duress.

There are numerous examples of people who have been  raped, harassed, flogged, extorted, injured or killed by the unit. In 2016  a campaign was launched calling for the Special Anti-Robbery Squad to be disbanded. It became widespread and drew some attention. Within three years the unit had been reformed, overhauled, decentralized and disbanded about three or four times. But without success.

In October the first protests started against the infamous police squad. Mostly young Nigerians gathered in the front of the House of Assembly in Lagos State to demand the end of the unit. Within days, thousands of protesters had gathered in 100 cities around the world, with the #EndSARS trending globally. The government announced on October 11 that, yet again, it was disbanding the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. But the protesters have not let up. They are now calling for wider reforms of the police.

The protest is not just about the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. It’s the result of pent-up anger over the dehumanizing policies of government, maladministration, injustice, hunger as well as high energy and fuel prices.

The cumulative effect of these roll into one. That’s why the protesters have refused to end their action. It seems this is seen as a once in a lifetime opportunity to address critical national injustices.

This generation of young Nigerians seem to be doing a good job. There is good coordination, arrangements are made for food and water as well as music to keep them busy. Medical personnel on standby, ambulances and mobile toilets for convenience are also provided.  Nigeria is said to be the poverty capital of the world. Yet young Nigerians have been protesting for over a week across the country without looting shops. They have ensured that the streets are cleaned after the day’s protest and that there’s no violence or lawlessness.

Another key factor that makes this protest unique is the use of social media. The way this has helped mobilize protesters is unprecedented. Over 70% of the population is under 30 years of age. Unemployment stood at 21.7 million in the second quarter of 2020. The youth account for 13.9 million of this.

Young Nigerians are, therefore, most affected by government policies that have led to lack of jobs and meaningful sources for livelihood. Other triggers include the lavish lifestyle of political leaders. The government budgets more money for the members of the National Assembly than for health and education.

One takeaway lesson is that a new social contract is being written. Nigerians are creating a new understanding of how leaders and public servants should relate to citizens. Secondly, the youth are reinventing governance in Nigeria and bringing about a new culture of asserting rights among the citizenry.

The 30% of Nigerian who are adults and have experienced military rule seem to have that etched deep into their psyche. They are afraid of a man in uniform. This has become a part of Nigerians’ conditioning.

However, the youth believe that the men in uniform are meant to serve the citizens and to protect them. It is a different relationship entirely. Young people are more exposed to the fact that things could be better and are ready to take their destiny into their own hands. They want to reinvent the country and to be a better place to live.

Their access to the internet also informs their action. They are able to reach the world from their bedroom.

The history and experience Nigeria had during the military era doesn’t resonate as much with young Nigerians. But, they must have read history and are, therefore, not unfamiliar with the past. But they have proven not to be deterred by the use of force of any kind.

For  years, Nigeria has been ruled by leaders who are quite elderly. These have not succeeded in finding solutions to the nation’s challenges. Corruption and hunger are rife. It is obvious that young Nigerians feel alienated and are now ready to take the bull by the horns and ensure good governance.

Politicians and leaders are waking up to a new politically conscious society. Take the comment from Chairman Nigeria’s Governors Forum, Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State; “various state governments are beginning to see how important it is to have a good relationship with young people. Given the awakening of this new political consciousness, it will not be business as usual for the country’s political leaders”.

The #EndSARS protest started as we might actually be at the threshold of a prolonged agitation that may likely blow the wind of sweeping changes that are long overdue. Should the protest continue, government will require a careful and strategic approach to manage the situation. The spontaneous nature of the protest in many states across the country should get government strategists and handlers thinking.

The most difficult protest to contain or control is a protest without faces or coordinators. Therefore, extreme caution is needed to manage this delicate moment. Employing intimidation, repression or confrontation may escalate the already tensed situation.

Some people are of the opinion that since the government is yielding to the demands of the protesters, they should calm down and allow for the implementation of their demands. But there’s lack of trust and confidence in the government that it will do what it promised. Until evident actions are seen, there may be no end to the protest

Also, the swift change of the name from SARS to SWAT at the peak of the protest is ill-timed, ill-advised and suspicious. The hasty action may the youths longer on the streets as #EndSWAT trends.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration should learn from other countries where similar nationwide protests have rocked their spaces in the past. Our government should study how they managed the situation and successfully navigated their ways through.

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CHRISTIANS SPLIT AS POPE BACKS SAME-SEX UNION

There  appears to be a deep crack in christendom as  Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church, has endorsed same-sex civil unions in a landmark move that has received mixed reactions.

The pope’s endorsement came midway through a feature-length documentary, titled “Francesco”, which premiered at the Rome film festival last Wednesday.

The documentary features fresh interviews with the Pope, and delves into issues about the environment, poverty, migration, racial and income inequality, and the people most affected by discrimination.

“Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family.Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it. What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered. I stood up for that.” Pope Francis said.

While serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages. However, he had never come out publicly in favour of civil unions as pope.

Traditionally, the Catholic Church considers sexual activity between members of the same sex to be a sin. According to the Catholic theology of sexuality, all sexual acts must be open to procreation and express the symbolism of male-female complementarity.

Anglican Bishop Emeritus of Diocese of Okrika, Rt. Rev. Tubokosemie Abere said the Bible is the authority of every believer adding that the Bible has declared in Genesis that a   sexual union should be between opposite genders, male and female.

He said the pope could be speaking out of his personal concern to save sinners including homosexuals.

Cardinal Raymond Burke, a frequent critic of Francis, said the pope’s comments should be “rightly interpreted as simple private opinions of the person who made them. Such declarations generate great bewilderment and cause confusion and error among Catholic faithful,” Burke, a member of the Vatican’s highest court, said in a statement Thursday on his website.

He added that Francis’ views were contrary to Catholic teachings.

Southern Baptist leaders reiterated their commitment to the authority of the Bible’s teaching regarding sexuality and marriage.

SBC President J.D. Greear was among several Southern Baptist leaders who reaffirmed the SBC’s conviction that marriage is an institution created by God and exclusive to one man and one woman.

“No matter what a pope, pastor or elected official says, we do not get to define sexuality or the family,” said Greear, who is also pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area. “The Creator does, and on this His word could not be more clear.”

The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 defines homosexuality as sin and marriage as “the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.”

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, was one of the first conservative Catholic leaders to go public with criticism.

“The Pope’s statement clearly contradicts what has been the long-standing teaching of the Church about same-sex unions,” Tobin said in a statement. “The Church cannot support the acceptance of objectively immoral relationships.”

In contrast, Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry, which represents LGBTQ Catholics, hailed the pope s comments as a “historic” shift for a church that has a record of persecuting gays.

There are questions   about the origins of Pope Francis’ bombshell comments endorsing same-sex civil unions, with all evidence suggesting he made them in a 2019 interview that was never broadcast in its entirety.

The Vatican refused to comment on whether it cut the remarks from its own broadcast or if the Mexican broadcaster that conducted the interview did. And it didn’t respond to questions about why it allowed the comments to be aired now in the documentary “Francesco,” which premiered Wednesday.

In the movie, which was shown at the Rome Film Festival, Francis said gay people have the right to be in a family since they are “children of God.”

“You can’t kick someone out of a family, nor make their life miserable for this,” the pope said. “What we have to have is a civil union law; that way they are legally covered.”

Those comments caused a firestorm, thrilling progressives and alarming conservatives, given official Vatican teaching prohibits any such endorsement of homosexual unions.

While serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages. However, he had never come out publicly in favor of legal protections for civil unions as pope, and no pontiff before him had, either.

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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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FeaturedFront Page

Of Social Media Activism And #EndSARS Protests

Over the past week, young Nigerians have ramped up widespread protests-online and offline-against rampant brutality by the police.

The core of the protests have included a call for President Muhammadu Buhari to scrap SARS, a notorious “special” police unit designated to combat armed robbery but is largely known for blatant extortion and in some cases, extra-judicial killings.

SARS officers typically target and detain young men by accusing them of being online fraudsters, simply on the evidence of owning a laptop or a Smartphone, and then request arbitrary and exorbitant bail fees before they regain their freedom. In more extreme cases, SARS officers abduct civilian targets and force them to make withdrawals at ATM in exchange for their freedom.

The unit also targets young women as well, often claiming, again with scant evidence that they are prostitutes, which is illegal in some parts of Nigeria. There have been several reports of women being sexually assaulted while in detention.

The latest round of anti-SARS protests have morphed organically from online hashtags into street protests in what feels like a tipping point for a generation of young Nigerians.

One of the core components of the protests has been the seamless transition between online and offline campaigns. Mainly using Twitter and WhatsApp, young people have rallied and mobilized waves of protests to locations across the country with pretty simple formulas.

For instance, when dozens of people converge on a location to host their own protests, they share their location on Twitter asking for “reinforcements”-a move that has seen crowds go from a few dozens to hundreds within hours in some places.

Alternatively, strategic locations are pre-identified online with people then encouraged to come out and protest. In one such case, thousands of young people responded to calls to come out before 8am on October 13th to protest against police brutality in Port Harcourt despite the state Government’s ban on protests. The move resulted in miles-long lines of traffic jam in some parts of the city. It also proved effective as it forced the Rivers state governor to show up and address the protesters in person a few hours later.

The protests have spread to other states across the country in similar fashion with social media also deployed as a key tool for organizing. And there has been little reason to offer extra motivation to galvanize young people to show up for these protests. The notoriety of SARS is such that millions of young Nigerians have either had gory personal experiences or know someone who has.

The campaigns have also been sustained online where they initially began. The #EndSARS hash tag  yielded 28 million tweets over the past weekend alone, according to social media analytics firm, AfriquesConnectées.

Wise to the power of amplification and allies, a core part of the campaign has included pushing hashtags  to global figures to tap into larger, international platforms. The move has yielded fruit with celebrities, from Premier League footballers in England and American hip hop stars to Oscar-winning Hollywood actresses also sharing the hashtag and lending their support on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

But it’s not just celebrities, young Nigerians believe the Buhari government is uninterested in engaging with key social issues until the international press shines an embarrassing or inconvenient spotlight on a problem. To that end many of the early hashtagged tweets were all concerted efforts to catch the attention of big media organizations including the BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera and New York Times. Most of those media houses have indeed obliged and covered the biggest social protest news event since “Occupy Nigeria” protests in January 2012.

While some prominent individuals have been involved in the protests, it’s key to note that much of the organization have happened organically online, without any stated campaign “leaders”-a dynamic similar to the US Black Lives Matter movement which represents a problem of sorts for governments.

With protests in the country typically fronted by local Nigerian groups like the National Labour Congress or student unions, political leaders often try to resolve them by “negotiating” with leaders of this groups which often leads to accusations of compromise or even corruption.

Just like its organization, the funding of the protests have also been decentralized. The costs of the protests are being funded primarily through donations coming from Nigerians at home and abroad. Funke Akindele donated data for protesters. But local tech startups-most of which are led by and have young people as a key customer base-have also become prominent actors in the campaign as well: in addition to making donations, fintech startups have also set up donation links to ease the crowdfunding process.

One such donation drive managed by Feminist Coalition, a weeks-old group of young Nigerian feminists that was formed in the wake of the protests, raised around $55,000 in four days through cash and bitcoin donations.

So far, donations have been dedicated to providing protesters with food and water as well ensuring first aid and other medical supplies are available at protest venues across the country. In severe cases of police brutality against protesters, donations are also being used to pay off hospital bills.

Young lawyers are also working pro-bono across the country, offering legal representation to arrested protesters. It’s a key service given the real threat of being unlawfully detained without a sentence and without access to legal representation. Indeed, 72.5% of inmates in Nigerian prisons are serving time without being sentenced.

The intensity of the protests highlight a key cultural shift in Nigeria: while older Nigerians may have been conditioned against public protests given their lived experiences under successive brutal military regimes in the 1980s and 1990s, Nigerians below the age of 35 either never experienced those years of dictatorships or were too young to understand what they lived through.

Essentially, younger Nigerians are speaking up without fear and tapping into digital tools to make themselves heard by an older generation of leaders.

It’s a developing trend that is being accelerated by social media. With their low bandwidth consumption which is ideal for slower networks, Twitter and Whatsapp have become vital platforms for raising political awareness not just in Nigeria but across the continent. African governments are responding by stepping up online censorship plans through questionable social media laws.

There are signs the Nigerian government is also wary of the power of social media and technology as there have already been several unsuccessful attempts to regulate social media in Nigeria. However, online advocacy will only get louder given current trends: Nigeria will account for more than a fifth of the 475 million mobile internet users in sub-Saharan Africa and will also welcome 25 million new mobile subscribers by 2025.

But unlike some other African countries, Nigeria has yet to shut down internet access as a response to dissent from citizens and one likely reason is the potential steep economic cost: a total, nationwide internet shutdown will cost Nigeria an estimated $134 million daily.

The protests can be said to have already yielded fruit. Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu has already announced SARS has been disbanded. However, it comes with the caveat that SARS officers may be transferred to other units in the police force-a decision that undermines the call to root out impunity from the police force.

Recent evidence also provides little reason to believe that the Inspector General’s directive will yield tangible on-ground results. The latest announcement is the third time the police leadership has placed restrictions on the unit’s operations in four years. And so the protests have intensified even after news that the unit has been “disbanded.” Protesters are now calling for President Buhari to take more tangible action for legitimate investigations to bring errant officers to book in a bid to instill a measure of accountability in the police force.

Over the past days, unarmed protesters have been met with teargas, water-cannons and live rounds from police. There has also been widespread reports of arbitrary arrests of protesters who are being slapped with trumped up charge. Even worse, at least 10 unarmed protesters have been killed since the start of the protests, according to Amnesty International.

So far the government’s calls for an end to protests and promises of reforms have been ignored as protesters continue to organize across the country. And there is little indication that will change soon with Nigerian youths, desirous of a brighter future and a better country.

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For The RecordsFront Page

60 Years After, Nation-Building A Far-Cry

Address On Nigeria’s 60th Independence

Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike,

Governor Of Rivers State

It is my honour and privilege to welcome you to the ceremonies marking the 60th Independence Anniversary of our country, Nigeria. ​As we join the rest of the country and other well-wishers to celebrate independence, let us start by appreciating our forefathers through whose struggles our nation was freed from colonial rule on the first of October 1960.

​As you know, political independence was necessary for us to take full control of our destiny and steer our nation and our people towards a progressive and prosperous existence. ​And so, today’s reality is that we have been a free nation; absolutely free from the shackles and indignities of being ruled, dominated and exploited by imperial Britain for the past 60 years.

 This is no trivial historical milestone and achievement, for which we are justified in rolling out the drums to celebrate with other friendly nations who share in our excitements and wished us well no matter the circumstances and challenges of the moment.​We therefore salute the courage, sacrifice and heroism of our founding fathers that resulted in the birth of this potentially great nation.

We shall forever be grateful to them not only for the plateau of independence they delivered to us on a platter, but also, for reclaiming and restoring the pride and dignity of our people to self-rule. ​We also appreciate our past and present national leaders and the Armed Forces of Nigeria for their labour and sacrifice to keep this nation together for the last consecutive 60 years in the midst of the challenges, which continues to manifest in many forms and proportions.

 At independence, our founding fathers envisioned to build our nation with due regard to our diversity and with visionary enthusiasm provided the basic building blocks for sustaining a united, peaceful and prosperous Nigeria in the foundational constitution documents.

 We had democracy, regional autonomy and fiscal federalism as the guiding principles for political, social and economic relations between the central government and the constituent regions.

​No one part or region was deliberately denied against what was due to it; neither was any ethnic nationality politically and economically unduly favoured above all others by the central government. ​Above all, the regions controlled their resources and were engaged in healthy competition for development and transformation while remaining loyal to the corporate existence and progress of the Federal Republic.

Under these arrangements, Nigeria thrived on a peaceful and progressive path and as great author, Chinua Achebe, once affirmed: “there was a country” at least in the First Republic, when true federalism and regionalization of political power and resources held sway.​Unfortunately, the fundamental foundational principles of negotiated constitutionalism, regional autonomy, and fiscal federalism were blatantly jettisoned by long years of misguided military incursions and adventurism into the nation’s body politics.

Although the military has since vacated from politics over 20 years ago but the constitutional, political and economic substructures they mischievously imposed on us, especially the inherent error of commission or omission in the nationalization of communal lands and resources, have continued to challenge and diminish the nation’s fragile peace, unity and socio-economic progress.

And so, 60 years after independence, nation-building remains a far cry and the lofty goals and aspirations of our founding fathers for a politically transparent, economically healthy and socially peaceful and prosperous nation remain betrayed while the way to a glorious future is arrested.

​No one is in doubt about the fact that ours is a nation blessed by God with enormous human and natural resources, yet, after 60 years of self-rule we are still held behind as a nation teeming with one of the poorest and helpless population in the world with an average income per capita of less than a dollar per day.

Without inadequate access to social, political and economic rights, including quality education, healthcare, nutritious food, housing, social security, information technology, energy and transport infrastructure, Nigeria’s misery index remains one of the worst in the world. ​And then, violence, banditry, rampant killings and insecurity continue to plague and ravage sizeable parts of our country for over a decade, destroying communities, farmlands and causing massive dislocations and untold sufferings to already desperate and hapless populations.

​Never in our history since the end of the civil war have Nigerians been so divided, despondent and distressed with prognosis that clearly point to the fact that the cracks are getting deeper in the much-strained, abused and debased walls that have managed to hold this nation together. As things stand now no one can really predict the future survival of this nation if we continue to maintain this nebulous, rigged and generally rejected federal system through corruption, repression and the abuse of both legitimate and illegitimate state institutions.

 We may as usual choose to gloat in the limited progress we have made since independence, especially the relative expansions in access to education, healthcare and other socio-economic infrastructures without giving any considerations to the serious challenges preventing us from building a free, fair and just nation that would command the total loyalty of all nationalities above all other interests.

​However, let it be known that the persistent failure and or resistance to heeding the voices of reason in confronting and resolving the contending core political and economic issues troubling this nation as quickly as possible is akin to postponing the doomsday, which looks inevitable with the way things are going.

​Our nation can be strong and progressive if we practice true democracy, fraud-proof electoral system, effective and politically neutral law enforcement, deepen the rule of law and enable the practical independence of our judiciary. ​Again, our nation can only be free from the perpetual state of crisis, violence and threat of disintegration if we exhibit and courage, sincerity and commitment to rational restructuring, effective devolution of powers, resource control and true federalism as our governance system under a people-propelled and robustly negotiated constitution that secures basic human rights and social justice as the touchstones of our existence both as a nation and as a people.

Therefore, as we celebrate the 60th independence anniversary of our country, let us all reflect on the need to save Nigeria from the self-destructive direction it is wrongly headed. ​Let us resolve to take the right steps to lay and institutionalize the necessary constitutional and political systems that will enable us to build a free sovereign democratic and functional nation under God where everyone, including the unborn generationbs, can have equal access to political, social and economic opportunities and live in peace, security and happiness with one another.

 ​This is the only way for us to have and build an inclusive and prosperous nation unhindered by divisive and seditious tendencies and loyalties to sectional interest in our match towards realizing the lofty aspirations of the founding fathers and other patriots.

​As the Governor of Rivers State, I wish to reaffirm the subscription of the people of Rivers State to the unity and continuous existence of Nigeria and our resolve to welcome, accommodate and live in peace with our neighbours and our brothers and sisters from other parts of the country on the basis of reciprocity, mutual accommodation and tolerance.

 ​The commitment of our government is to build a State that is home to all Nigerians and foreigners alike who desire to either reside, visit or invest and share in the social and economic opportunities on offer and in our prosperity.  In the last five and half years, we have prioritized and improved the living conditions of our people with unprecedented investments in the provision of socio-economic infrastructures across the length and breadth of the State.

We are constructing roads, flyovers, jetties, markets and expanding healthcare and education facilities throughout the State including our rural areas to accelerate economic growth and make life more meaningful for our people.We have spared no efforts in advancing and achieving security and Rivers State is now reckoned as one of the few most peaceful States in Nigeria and with a much-improved business environment that is attracting investors into the State in their numbers.

We have prudently managed our economy and kept it on the path of safety and stability such that we have been acclaimed as the most fiscally viable State in the Country, generating resources enough to meet our capital and recurrent expenditures. Clearly, we have a bright future and our dream is to create a prosperous State that offers viable opportunities for everyone who works hard to lift him or herself from the valley of want and poverty into the plateau of economic progress and prosperity.

Although much has been achieved in our determination to build a better and prosperous Rivers State, we believe that there is much more to be done to mobilize resources to build our economy and generate good jobs for our youths and a prosperous and dignified life for all our people.

 I therefore call on everyone to stand with us to confront our common challenges and together take Rivers State to the promise land of our dreams as we will achieve more if we stand together and act as a united people with a common destiny.

​Finally, as I wish all Nigerians a happy Diamond Jubilee anniversary, let us all take pride in our diversity and rise above narrow ethnic and other sentiments to build a truly peaceful, united and prosperous nation.

​May God continue to bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

God bless Rivers State

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Front PageIssues

NIGERIANS FLAY BUHARI’S INDEPENDENCE SPEECH

…Sue for Peace, Unity

As Nigerian’s reflect on the state of the nation after sixty years of independence from colonial rule, some residents of Rivers State have expressed views on their expectations for peace and unity in the country.

The general overseer of God’s Intervention Ministry, Port Harcourt, Dr. Mrs. Blessing Paul popularly called Mama B, was not satisfied with the state of affairs in the county. She however prophesied that good things will begin to happen in the country. She prayed that God will continue to endow the nation for greater exploits and sought God’s intervention for peace in the destiny of the nation.

She said whatever economic and social setbacks that have confronted Nigeria will be replaced with abundant blessings and called for uprightness in the leadership of the nation stating that righteousness exalts a nation.

The chairman, Transitional Council Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) Chief Keeper Gbaranor called for equity and justice in the affairs of the country.

He advocated for the restructuring of the Nigeria state, to make for devolution of power and resource control to the respective confederate states, arguing that it was the only way to guarantee fairness and even development to the component subnationals.

Ambassador Godspower Igwe a chieftain of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the state, sued for peace in the country.

Amb. Igwe called for concerted efforts to move the nation forward insisting that there is still hope for Nigeria and commended President Mohamadu Buhari for his efforts at initiating and promoting development in the country.

He stated that the recent commissioning of the rail line between the Atakpe to Kogi state was laudable and called for the support of Nigerians for the president.

Eze Vincent Nnaemeka Nwanewa in his comment appealed for love for one another, urging all Nigerians to embrace peace, and collectively work together with the powers that be to build the nation.

Prominent Rivers statesman Rev. Sokari Soberekon was however full of knocks for the leadership of the nation. According to the former  world wrestling champion, the government has failed, citing the palpable insecurity, corruption in all sectors of the country and the abject poverty prevailing in the country in the last sixty years  in a nation blessed with natural resources.

Rev. Soberekon called for resource control for the oil producing states, insisting that the continued underdevelopment of the Niger Delta region was provocative and insensitive of the present administration.

The elder statesman condemned the rationale of the Buhari administration to build rail line up to Niger Republic, stating that Nigerian states especially the East and Niger Delta states have no functional rail lines.

Kingsley Ejekwu, a businessman and politician based in Port Harcourt was not comfortable with developments in the country and called for new initiatives to build a united nation.

He however commended the Federal administration for the progress being made to reposition the country citing the new Port Harcourt Airport, the Bonny-Bodo road and the revamping of railways in the country as achievements.

Keke Driver, John Allen; who spoke to The Vortex on the Independence Anniversary decried the poverty in the land and the high cost of goods including the recent increase in fuel and electricity tariff. He concluded that there was nothing to celebrate in the country.

Mrs. Patience Anurika, a petty trader in Port Harcourt called for a change of priorities in the country. She decried the lack of attention to the poor in the society, stressing the lack of financial assistance to low income earners like the petty traders.

Mrs. Anurika lamented that the poor in the society can no longer feed the family as result of the economic crises in the country. She appealed to the state and federal government to create jobs to assist younger generations and stem the frustration of families and increasing crimes in the country.

Comrade Enefa Georgewill of the Civil Society Organization (CSO) reacting to the celebration of Nigeria 60th independence anniversary, described the state of affairs in the country as threatening and undemocratic.

He said what happened on the independence day when  protest by civil society groups in the  country was disrupted by  policemen was a shameful threat to democratic ideals. 

He stated that any nation that attempts to suppress citizens opinion cannot be said to be practicing democracy.

“We are not yet independent. Human rights and freedom are under threat, free speech is threatened and life itself is under threat.” Georgewill declared.

He condemned the character of the ruling class in the country who tend not to understand the plights of the masses in a democracy and called on the people to take their destiny in their own hands to salvage the country for themselves.

A security expert and elder statesman, Baba Jide Fashaken said Nigeria’s 60 years of independence is nothing to write about as the armed forces could not defeat the insurgents that have caused untold hardship and loss of lives and properties.

Fashaken, a retired Police Officer said those who threatened during President Goodluck Jonathan that they would make this country ungovernable should be arrested as, pointing out that unless they are arrested and prosecuted, the killings, kidnapping, banditry, terrorism, herdsmen attacks among other crimes will continue.

An economist, Mr. Belema Eli also flayed President Muhammadu Buhari’s Independence Day speech for comparing Nigeria’s petroleum pump price with other oil producing countries rather than it with social and human welfare.

Mr. Eli opined that what the President should listen to the cries of the masses and ensure that the refineries’ worked, rather than planning to build new ones, adding that even the planned construction of rail line from Nigeria to Niger Republic is a misplaced priority. “Most federal roads are death traps even as that of Oyigbo to Port Harcourt and Akpajo, Eleme, Onne are awaiting urgent government attention,” he said.

A Muslim Leader and Vice President General, supreme council of Islamic Affairs Rivers State, Alhaji Nasir Awhelebe Uhor said, “it is good to say that Nigeria is still together as a country inspite of all challenges as we mark 60th Independence anniversary. Several times people predicted that Nigeria will disintegrate but the objective of a country is not just to survive but how to live.

Alhaji Uhor noted that for Nigeria to come this far, it is time for it to be able to judiciously analyze its national and human resources for good services of the people rather than surviving on few individuals, stressing that the greatest challenge was how to make the country to survive for all Nigerians and not for the privileged few.

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Front PageIssues

Nigeria at 60: Sing Stanza Two Of National Anthem

Sixty years after independence, Nigeria appears to be struggling in practicing the rudiments of democracy. The country is still at crossroads. Across the six geo-political zones, there is hardly peace. In the North, Boko Haram is on the prowl. In the Middle Belt, the Fulani herdsmen have intensified killings. The brand of terrorism in the South is armed robbery and commercial kidnapping. Besides, there are problems of ethno-religious conflicts, and youth unemployment. Today, Nigerians are more divided along ethnic and religious lines than they were before independence.

On October 1, 1960, the future of Nigeria was bright. World powers acknowledged the enormous natural endowment, quality and quantity of its population and vast opportunities available to the former British Colony. But one error of judgment made at independence was in not renegotiating the terms of the union which was consummated in 1914 when the Southern protectorate was unified with the Northern protectorate in what political historians call amalgamation.

From historical accounts, it doesn’t appear the amalgamation agenda was borne out of a genuine national consensus but was rather a business idea by the British colonialists to maximize their drive for more natural and human resources to enrich their local economy and service their agro allied industry. For instance, Nigerians are not aware of the witnesses at the amalgamation of 1914. Why are there no known indigenous witnesses to the signing of the amalgamation treaty or was it purely a British affair?

This mistake of history by our ‘heroes past’ to renegotiate our union or to at least brainstorm on the necessity or otherwise of the continuous existence of Nigeria as an entity or otherwise, still hobbles Nigeria and is the fundamental source of the groundswell of disagreements and discontents amongst the divergent segments of the contemporary Nigerian society.

This is the origin of the current agitation for self determination and/or restructuring. Still dwelling on the fundamental symbolism of the 1960 independence, let us revisit a symbol of our sovereignty; the National flag and examine its import and philosophy.

First, we note that the symbolic meaning of the green, white, green flag with vertical stripes represent Nigeria’s natural wealth, while the white band represents peace. However, as Nigeria has become a grown adult at 60, those two symbols of natural resources and peace have eluded millions of Nigerians who have now become vulnerable and endangered species, deprived, oppressed, marginalized even  by government whose legal mandate is to guarantee safety of lives and property of the citizens.

The grand norm says the security and welfare of the citizens are the primary duties of government. Successive governments have spectacularly failed to discharge these primary constitutional obligations. Thus, the obvious fact that the natural resources of Nigeria have become like curses on corporate Nigeria even as peace is an illusion.

The people of Niger Delta are facing social injustice on  a scale that is unfathomable yet their backyards are the habitation for much of the National wealth which only less than 1 % of Nigerians made up of unpatriotic elements and their surrogates share amongst themselves.

Not long ago, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimated that as at a decade ago, nearly $400 billion of Nigeria’s crude oil revenues have all been stolen by successive political and military leadership of the Nigerian state. For instance, one of the dictators to have graced Nigeria as a military despot stole nearly $5 billion which was found in few of his several accounts and this late dictator, General Sani Abacha, successfully hid this massive quantum of cash in foreign jurisdictions at the time Nigeria was a pariah state under different global wide sanctions.

Imagine how much would have been stolen by governments of Nigeria under the periods that the country is not under any form of sanctions including now that the country is marking 60th year of independence.

Imagine how a typical 60-year old looks. But as a 60 year-old country, her citizens are still poor, endangered and buffeted by all kinds of violence whilst the government appear helpless.

You wonder why at 60, Nigeria is a very dangerous place, with incompetent leaders and a lot of uncharismatic followers.

Nigeria’s constitution which is a sacred code of conduct is flagrantly abused by those who wield political power. The latest book by Michelle Obama titled, “Becoming” would prove the statement that a 60 -year old adult must behave well because even at the age of 15, Michelle who would go on to become first lady as wife of USA president Barack Obama, was looked upon as an adult.

She writes; “by the time I was fourteen, I basically thought of myself as half a grown-up anyway, maybe even as two-thirds of a grown-up. I’d gotten my period, which I announced immediately and with huge excitement to everyone in the house, because that was just the kind of household we had. I’d graduated from a training bra to one that looked vaguely more womanly, which also thrilled me. Instead of coming home for lunch, I now ate with my classmates in Mr. Bennett’s room at school. Instead of dropping in at Southside’s house on Saturdays to listen to his jazz records and play with Rex, I rode my bike right past, headed east to the bungalow on Oglesby Avenue where the Gore sisters lived.”

The question we need to answer is why at 60, the Nigerian state still behave like a toddler going by the crude type of political leadership in place? The straight answer is the general lack of will-power by the citizens to stand by their rights as provided for generously in chapter 4 of the 1999 constitution and the willingness of the people to be oppressed by the persons they elect to govern.

Renowned Professor Chinue Achebe wrote; “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.”

In 2020, Nigeria’s problem is both poor leadership and lethargic followership. For instance, in 2015, during the general elections as well as the 2019 polls, majority of voters succumbed to the temptation of mortgaging their conscience for bags of salt, rice, wrappers, and few cash which were freely distributed to would-be voters by those seeking the mandate of the people.

The abnormal has been normalized by a section of the political class who seek to amass wealth while 90 million Nigerians become absolutely poor with the 60 year old Nation becoming the poverty capital of the World.

The truth is, 60 years after independence, our youths see a bleak future and are glad to flee their fatherland, in search of greener pastures, risk their lives crossing the arid and lonely desert and the mighty ocean, and end up in countries where they are dehumanized. Those countries know that our own political leaders desecrate our dignity. So, they have no iota of respect for bearers of Nigerian passport.

Neither comfortable at home nor secure abroad, Nigerians are unhappy because truth has been abandoned, justice banished. Honesty has become a crime, dishonesty is rewarded. Competence no longer matters. But Nigeria needs leaders who are intellectually, ethically and technically competent to manage her affairs. Not those who encourage penury and make it impossible for them to make ends meet.

At 60, our country is wounded, bleeding and dying. We must quit the path of deceit. Our president and governors, ministers and commissioners, members of National and State Assemblies, our judges and legal practitioners, religious leaders, and all citizens must take responsibility for healing this country.

At 60, we pray using words of the second stanza of our national anthem: May God guide us and our leaders right.

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Front PageNews

Anglicans Converge At Okrika, Enthrone Bishop

The Anglican Communion will witness another bout of history today in St. Peter’s Cathedral, Okrika, as they hold a special service for the enthronement of the Rt. Revd. Enoch Atuboyedia as Bishop, Diocese of Okrika.

According to the Diocesan Communicator, Ms Medline Tador and the chairman of Publicity Sub-Committee, Sir Charles Ogan, the Enthronement Service will be attended by the Archbishop, Ecclesiastical Province of the Niger Delta, The Most Rev’d Tunde Adeleye, Bishops, Government Functionaries, Clergy, Diocesan officials, Knights and their Ladies, parishioners, captains of industry, and traditional rulers and chiefs.

As part of the programme, the supervising Bishop of Okrika and Bishop of Ikwerre Diocese, Rt. Revd. Blessing Eyindah formally presented Rt. Revd. Enoch Atuboyedia to the Lesser Chapter as the new Bishop and also dedicate the renovated Bishop’s Court.

The Rt. Revd. Enoch Atuboyedia was consecrated at Cathedral Church of the Advent, Life Camp Gwarimpa, Abuja by the Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of all Nigeria, Anglican Communion His Grace, the Most Revd. Henry Chukwudum Ndukuba last Monday,21st September, 2020.

The Diocese of Okrika was created on 11th March 2003 and was inaugurated on Monday, 17th November, 2003.

The Special service will be held under strict compliance with COVID 19 protocols and regulations.

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CommentsFront Page

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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Front PageNews

COMMUTERS PANIC OVER ABSENCE OF COVID-19 FREE BUSES

Commuters in Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas of Rivers State have decried the sudden absence of COVID-19 Free Buses plying designated routes in the state.

The commuters who made their feelings known to our correspondent during an interview in Port Harcourt, said the free bus service which was introduced in June, 2020 as a palliative have since August 3, 2020 seized to operate.

According to some commuters who spoke with our reporter, the busses that had become a source of relief are no more plying the roads after barely three months, adding that with the comfort and compliance to Covid-19 Pandemic protocol, they felt safe from contacting the virus.

A House wife, Mrs. Oluchi Nsirim said the absence of the buses was affecting the masses greatly and appealed to the state government to bring back the buses.

A commuter, Mr. Preye Sunday Willimo opined that people were feeling bad about the withdrawal of the government free buses on the routes of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor, saying that it is like a deceit.

He appealed for the buses to operate to help the public, especially students and market women adding that they are willing to pay a token fare for the bus service.

A trader, Mrs. Joy Batubo said it is unfortunate that people from the onset of the free bus service were skeptical about its sustenance but regretted that as many people are getting used to the buses with compliance to Covid-19 rules, they are feeling disappointed.

She stressed that the free bus service has been helpful as it gave sense of belonging to the poor in the society and appealed to government to re-launch the scheme for the benefit of the down trodden.

A public servant, Mrs. Jannifer Levi noted that it was a relief to many people because some do not have transport fare to pay to their various offices following the hardship caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and also enjoined government to bring back the buses for the sake of the less privileged in the society. 

In his reaction, a Public Affairs Analyst, Mr. Christian Pallousi said his candid appeal was for government to bring back the COVID-19 free buses on the road as the masses it is the relief package they have gotten from government during this period.

A proprietor, Mr. Tamunobelema Owubokiri expressed that since Covid-19 is still around, the free bus services should serve as a palliative until when the state is free from the pandemic, pointing out that they are ready to pay the fare.

Meanwhile, source told our correspondent that the buses were parked to undergo maintenance work at their office at Waterlines premises, without any maintenance work being carried out.

Efforts to speak with the Commissioner for transport, Hon Samuel Ejekwu proved abortive.

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