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Rivers State 2023: Homily For Amaechi’s ‘Return’

As the year 2023 when the next general polls will hold draws near, jostling by political gladiators and their respective followers for positioning sundry strategic ambitions, is building up across the country.

One place where politics around and in 2023 will offer significant drama – and in a macabre context, is the Rivers State, with indications that the immediate past governor of the state and Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi, is ‘returning’ to active politics in the state. He had left office in 2015 at the end of an eighth year stint, and under circumstances that were not simply incendiary, but largely disposed the state as one of the hot-beds of political high-drama throughout the period preceding, during and after that year’s general elections.

Courtesy of a prolonged face-off between Amaechi and his estranged political ally, successor and incumbent governor of Rivers State Nyesom Wike, the former faced a significant dip in political fortunes featuring a tacit disconnect from the mainstream of politics in the Rivers State for much of the period between 2015 and 2019 during his first stint as Minister of Transportation.

Indeed, throughout that period, Amaechi could as well have been described as being in the political wilderness as far as politics in the Rivers State was concerned. It is not an exaggeration to note that during that period, efforts by him and the Rivers APC to gain any tangible foot hold in the state were largely neutralised less by the dominant PDP than by the infighting in the APC – with him cited as the arrowhead of the problem, for indulging in dictatorial tendencies that breached the tenets of intra-party democracy.

The fortunes of the Rivers State APC took a further dip in 2019 when due to failure to reconcile differences among its members, especially between Amaechi’s supporters and those of Senator Magnus Abe, the party lost the opportunity of fielding any candidate for any political office in the state at the 2019 general polls and was subsequent blighted from the power calculus in the state. Their failure to resolve their differences amicably imposed on them the deserving penalty of mutually assured destruction, with more than salutary consequences for the teeming rank and file of party faithfuls.

Needless to state that the in-house crisis in the APC in 2019, facilitated the total sweep of the electoral fortunes of the state by the rival PDP, which went ahead to operated unopposed and unchallenged in every tier and facet of governance in the state. Since then not a few observers have rued the lack of opposition in governance in the Rivers State, as a contradiction of the ethos of democracy.

Meanwhile, fears over the return of Amaechi to active politics in the state are justified by at least four incidents during which he had beaten the drums of war as a begrudged and embattled belligerent, baying for revenge. Firstly was at the funeral ceremony of late Justice of the Supreme Court and international jurist Adolphus Karibi-Whyte on September 26 2020, where Amaechi deviated from his tribute to the deceased, and veered into launching veiled invectives at Nyesom Wike, by insinuating that the latter was misgoverning the state as well as suppressing free speech.

Secondly was his defiance of a Presidential directive by his boss President Muhamadu Buhari that all ministers should visit their respective home states at the end of the recent #EndSARS protests and relate with stake holders in order to douse tensions there. Amaechi was widely reported to have shunned the exercise especially as it offered the prospects of coming to the Rivers State and fostering a contact and even reconciliation with Wike.

Yet the third instance was his failure to participate in the recent parley in the Rivers State Government House Port Harcourt, between a delegation from the Presidency led by the Chief of Staff to the President Professor Ibrahim Gambari and political leaders of the South South zone. Many believe he also shunned the parley ostensibly to avoid a rendezvous with Wike, who was the chief host of the forum.

Without doubt the fourth instance and perhaps the most significant one was the recent rally by the Rivers State APC during which Amaechi in his capacity as a leader of the party in the South South, received some decampees from the PDP to his party. That occasion graphically brought to the fore what to expect from an Amaechi return to dominance in the politics of the state.

Against the backdrop of the forum witnessing the participation of only his faction of the APC in the state, lies the uphill task he has to address in his goal of returning as the undisputed leader of the party in the state.

His stake in this enterprise becomes most accentuated as his presidential ambition come 2023, unfolds. As things stand, how far he will go in this new enterprise depends wholly and solely on what he offers in his new missionary journey.With all eyes fixed on the governorship of the state in 2023, it is understandable that both the APC and PDP will deploy all assets and arsenal at their disposal to clinch the prize.

However with the sabre rattling posture of Amaechi and his camp, the PDP in the state cannot be expected to lower its guard against ‘enemy forces’ and in line with tradition, will strive to match force with force against the APC. The ultimate consequence will be another disposition of the state towards a further dip into the vortex of perdition, by the build-up in the camps of the two matadors being Wike and Amaechi.

By 2023, neither Wike nor Amaechi will be eligible to contest for governorship hence they will likely field their anointed cronies and engage in a possibly bitter proxy war, which may not spare the wider interests of the good people of the state. If by their antecedents the emerging scenario is not scary, then little else will be in the country’s politics firmament. Yet such a dispensation constitute a grand disservice to the state, against the backdrop of the serial privations it has suffered all through the inter-personal fight between Amaechi and Wike.

To put it succinctly, the politics of the state calls for leadership perspectives that are manifestly altruistic, and therefore go beyond the parochial idiosyncrasies of any individual no matter how endowed such may be. From the perspectives of demography, economics, geography and politics, the dawn of meaningful development and progress in the Rivers State  beyond its presently stunted circumstances can only be with a broad minded political leadership.

Beyond Lagos, Abuja and perhaps Kano, the Rivers State is easily the most cosmopolitan community in the country given its status as the base of the country’s oil and gas industry, as well as its maritime and aviation endowments. With its heavy presence of non-Rivers indigenes who see the state as home away from their ethnic bases, no governor sponsored by any godfather in the state, with clannish tendencies can successfully run the state without issues.

This is where the return of Amaechi to Rivers State politics at this time stands to repeat the failure of 2019 unless it is shorn of any vestiges of parochialism and impunity, but adopts a reconciliatory disposition. For it is difficult to see how he can penetrate with any of his acolytes as next governor of the Rivers State, the current formidable massing of factors against his return in the form of deep cleavages in the state chapter of the APC, a five year hiatus in regular mingling with the mainstream of his acolytes in the course of his tenure as Minister of Transportation, a deep seated animosity between him and the sitting governor of the state as well as a disposition of arrogance towards even his allies. Electoral breakthroughs are hardly built on such unproductive premises. 

Courtesy: Daily Trust.

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Issues

Diversification Still Option For Nigeria’s Economy

With more than half its revenue derived from oil exports, Nigeria’s economic fortunes are tied to the boom and burst cycles of the oil market. Those fortunes have waned way below expectations this year and, with more than one-quarter of its labor force jobless, it is time to question our country’s economic pathway.

For decades, the mantra of ‘economic diversification’ characterized attempts to reverse Nigeria’s dependence on oil with little real progress. Despite numerous reforms, international loans and restructuring programmes, 85 million Nigerians live in deteriorating conditions of poverty. The current coronavirus pandemic combined with mounting debt obligations and declining GDP gives new urgency to this issue.

Nigerian-born Dr. Philip Emeagwali; according BrainyQuote, once said, “Nigeria is a West African nation of over 100 million energetic people. It is endowed with lots of natural resources, but lacks human resources”.

Indeed, the observed lack of human resources is not about certificates, degrees and exposure, but may well include the obvious death of self and political will and ingenuity, needed to transcend any seeming impossibility.

With the long history of military regimes, Nigeria experienced only devastation in the development of non-oil economy. This has resulted (and Keeps resulting today) in law standard of living, a huge division between rural and urban areas, and excess economical imbalance.

The country has a big issue with developing the multi-sector economy. Nigeria is rich in natural resources that can make it happen.

Unfortunately, we’ve not seen government with a strong will power to invest part of the revenue brought by the oil sector into solving the problem of poverty, growing agriculture, and other sectors.

After independence in 1960, Nigeria had agriculture as its main source of income. With the exportation of cocoa, cotton, rubber, palm oil and groundnut to other counties of the world, the nation’s economy was “self-sufficient” and balanced. No one heard about negative payment balance, the economy was rising, factories here working, different regions were developing and unemployment level was drastically low.

The oil boom changed everything. The economy’s trajectory quickly switched to selling crude oil and spending all the revenue instead of investing proceeds into growing different economic spheres.

As a matter of priority, Nigeria government must encourage the diversification of Nigeria’s economy. It is the only viable way to survive the current environment of global economic uncertainty with the volatility of oil price. It is crucial that government do not believe that oil provides an endless source of revenue.

The fall in international oil prices, which led government to slash its oil benchmark price from $57 to $30 a barrel and cut 20% of the capital budget, worsens these problems, but it is far from the only factor. Biomass, which drives household pollution and contributed to the death of 114,000 people in Nigeria in 2017, is the most dominant source of energy in Nigeria, amounting to more than 80% of the total energy mix, followed by fossil fuels (18%), and a negligible amount of renewable energy.

Although a diversified energy sector with a strong emphasis on renewables is known to reduce health and economic risks of combustion, there has been little emphasis on the role a diversified energy mix could play in ensuring sustainable development – even though the estimated potential of 427,000MW of solar power and photovoltaic generation means Nigeria has enormous renewable energy opportunities.

The global economy is also undergoing tectonic structural changes that will affect demand for Nigeria’s oil, leaving a fossil fuel-dependent economy more vulnerable. Improvements in global fuel efficiency, the ascent of electricity as a substitute for oil in the transport sector, and the falling prices of renewables and storage technologies all lead to a reduction in demand for fossil fuel products.

This is not a ‘get out of oil’ prescription, and energy transition is complex. But it is inevitable. There are no universal strategies applicable to all countries; local contexts and political realities inform what is possible. Nigeria can take advantage of its abundant natural gas deposit as a ‘transition fuel’ to buy it time for putting the appropriate transition structures in place. The country has made progress in reducing the amount of gas flared, but much remains to be done for Nigeria to meet the 2030 global deadline to end flaring, after failing to meet its 2020 national target.

The first step to proper transition is to align Nigeria’s international obligations with its domestic policies and legislations – the distance between words and action must be bridged and the institutional capacity to implement raised. And, while they contain symbolic green gestures, the economic recovery and growth plan developed in response to the 2016 recession, and the post-COVID-19 economic sustainability plan, do not espouse green growth as a fundamental objective.

To be continued

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Issues

On Ending Pensions For Governors, Deputies

With stories of retried civil servants not getting their  entitlements in various states of the country, the issue of come governor enjoying fantastic pension benefits after serving 8 years in office has become sensational.

While presenting his 2021 Appropriation Bill to the Lagos State House of Assembly, the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said he would put an end to the payment of pensions to his predecessors and former deputy governors of the state. He said the law had to be repealed to free the state government of the legal obligations and reduce the cost of governance.

Lagos blazed the trail in 2007 its then governor, Ahmed Tinubu, at the twilight of his tenure, signed into law a bill to provide pensions and other welfare benefits to former governors and their deputies beyond what was approved for former political officeholders nationwide by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, (RMAFC).

The Lagos State Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension) Law stipulates that former governors who completed two terms consecutively are entitled to a house each in any location of their choice in Lagos and Abuja. They are also entitled to six new cars every three years, 100 per cent of the basic salary of the serving governor (N7.7m per annum), free healthcare for himself and members of his family and furniture allowance, which is 300 per cent of their annual basic salary (N23.3m). The law further states that deputy governors are beneficiaries of vehicles, fully-paid vacation, medical insurance and other juicy perks.

While some states pay N300m as gratuity, others pay as low as N2.2m annually as a pension. Also, some states pay 300 per cent of annual basic salary every four years as furniture allowance. Free medical trips for ex-governors and their family members are provided in many states. Some states also provide two houses (one in their state and another in Abuja) for former governors.

Soon after Sanwo-Olu’s laudable decision, his Kwara State counterpart, Abdulrazaq Abdulrahman, on November 13, 2020, made a similar pronouncement via his Twitter handle. The governor said his administration would send a bill to the state House of Assembly to abolish pensions for former governors and their deputies. He said the decision was in line with his campaign promise.

Zamfara State had earlier repealed its public office holders pension law in November 2019 after former governor Abdul’aziz Yari allegedly requested his N10 million ‘monthly upkeep’, which he said had not been paid for some months then. The Zamfara House of Assembly thereafter abolished the law that allowed the payment of pensions and other allowances for the state’s former governors and their deputies. Imo State is set to repeal theirs accordingly.

At the last count, about 26 states have this life pension law for their former governors and their deputies. Ironically, according to reliable sources, states paying former governors and their deputies jumbo pensions top the list of states with the highest domestic and external debts in the country.

Information on the website of the Debt Management Office, (DMO), had it that the 26 states which have the pension laws for their ex-governors owe a total of N3,920,194,580,284.72 (about N4tn), comprising N2,906,789,725,341.46 domestic debts and $3,311,780,571.71 (N1,013,404,854,943.26) foreign debts as of June 30, 2019.

It is mind-boggling that former governors and their deputies and in some cases former speakers and their deputies are living large, existing in obscene opulence while most of their citizens wallow in abject poverty. To rob salt upon a festering injury, many of these former governors have taken “permanent seats” as either senators or ministers after their tour of duty as governors.

Following the obnoxious pension laws, many former governors now draw billions as retirement allowances from their respective state governments. This is even as some governors have refused to pay pension arrears and gratuities of retired workers in their states and these debts have continued to mount.

In approving those bogus pensions, state governors failed to consider the severe economic impacts the huge payments would have on the states. We find it extremely unreasonable for a pension to be paid a public office holder who quits office after a maximum of eight years while the civil servant who labours for 35 years or attain 60 years of age to retire is denied their legitimate benefits and left to suffer hardship. We opine that not only governors should be denied this largesse, former presidents and heads of state who are currently placed on life pension should also cease from enjoying it.

In a suit instituted by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP), Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court, Lagos, had in a judgment ordered the Federal Government to recover pensions collected by former governors now serving as ministers and members of the National Assembly, and directed the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), to challenge the legality of state pension laws permitting former governors and other ex-public officials to collect such pensions.

In another suit filed by the Taraba State Government against Mr. Garba Umar, a former acting governor of the state, the National Industrial Court declared as null and void, the payment of the controversial jumbo pension and gratuity to former governors and deputies not in harmony with what is approved by RMAFC. These laudable judgements should be enforced immediately.

Like many other retired public officers, government support for governors and their deputies should, based on recommendations of the RMAFC for severance allowances, be modest and within the limit of what is reasonably required for their upkeep and sustenance after leaving office. Former governors and their deputies should be assets, not liabilities to their respective states.

It is hoped that  states still paying life pension to their former governors will follow the good examples of Zamfara, Lagos and Kwara States. It is even more desirable now that Nigeria is in its worst economic recession in the last 36 years.

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Issues

Of National Priorities And Rising Debt

That borrowing to finance projects is and acceptable protocol in governance in not in doubt. But loans are never free and often bear condtions that are scary and unhealthy. This makes the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, revelation  that Nigeria’s public debt would hit N38tn by December 2021 quite worrisome.

Defending the 2021 budget proposals at the sitting of the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Loans, recently, the Finance Minister disclosed that the total public debt stock comprising external and domestic debts of states and the federal government as well as the Federal Capital Territory, (FCT), stood at N31.01tn ($85.90bn) as of June 30, 2020.

According to her, the debt would rise to N32.51tn by December 2020 and N38.68tn by December 31, 2021. This means Nigeria will borrow N6.17tn in 2021. Zainab also hinted that the federal government would borrow $2.1bn from Brazil to finance agriculture.

The recurring circle of borrowing so much today, so much the next day, and so on, has left many Nigerians bothering about whether the government is actually on a rescue mission or not. This appears so when the interest of the next generation is not being contemplated. We equally wonder whether the authorities in Abuja are interested in the repayment of these loans.

Indeed, the current state of our growing public debt profile is scary. Official data indicate that total debt grew from N12.118 trillion in May 2015, to N12.6 trillion in December 2015, N17.36 trillion in 2016, N21.725 trillion in 2017, N24.387 trillion in 2018 and N27.401 trillion in 2019. The figures rocketed to startling levels in 2020 with the active collusion of the Ninth National Assembly, (NASS).

In the early years of the Buhari administration, figures from the Debt Management Office (DMO) indicated that Nigeria’s total debt increased by about 90% between December 2015 and March 2018, from about N12.6 trillion to about N22.71 trillion, and that total domestic and external debt stock of the federal, 36 state governments and the FCT stood at N22.38 trillion or $73.21 billion on June 30, 2018.

Recall that this particular NASS approved a whooping N10.08 trillion or $28 billion loan for the Buhari administration within a year. With the latest public borrowings of N8.7 trillion and N5.51 trillion accompanying the approvals of the 2020 federal budget, the overall public debt position has risen to about N41.6 trillion.

These recent loans have come from various sources; $3.4 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, (IMF), $2.5 billion loan from the World Bank, $1 billion loan from the African Development Bank, (ADP), N850 billion domestic capital market loans and a host of others.

The federal government had earlier in the year planned to take N2 trillion from the current N10 trillion pension funds to finance the development of infrastructure, following a decision taken at a recent meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) under the chairmanship of the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo. An articulation of the current borrowing strategies of this administration demonstrates the downward and questionable direction of the economy.

The situation has generated more questions than answers. It is sickening that the government has been pig-headedly proceeding with the procurement of these liabilities despite reservations by stakeholders in respect of the equitable spread of the projects, possibilities of seamless repayment plan and viability of some of the projects for which the loans are being sought.

The usual response by the authorities is that following from the debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio criteria, the country is currently under borrowed. They, however, fail to educate Nigerians that the debt service-to-revenue ratio is unfavourable. The present debt service-to-revenue ratio is alarmingly over 50%. With this huge debt and repayment quotient, what will be the country’s future creditworthiness?

Are issues of repayment considered when these loans are approved, particularly when it is obvious that any incoming administration in 2023 will be inheriting a heavy debt burden and thus will find it difficult to operate? Again, in the event of a future sovereign default, what remedies are in place to address the problem or what national assets would have to be sold to service the debts? The unfortunate public debt situation in Zambia and Kenya that ran into serious crises in this regard are quite instructive.

The role of NASS in this matter has intensified the problem. This NASS doesn’t appear competent to query any loan or other agenda of Buhari. Where then are the expected benefits derivable from the checks and balances of the presidential system of government, which is designed to enhance governance in the pursuit of the common good? No one is against obtaining loans if they are attached to viable projects.

However, we are disturbed about the borrowing spree under President Muhammadu Buhari. Something drastic has to be done to arrest this undesirable trend. Who will save us from this menace? Since the current government came into power in May 2015, its mantra seems to be that of “borrow, borrow and borrow” until there is no more money to borrow anywhere.

What the government should do now is to set up monitoring mechanisms on the performance of loans, and mobilise funds within the country to stop the borrowings, at least in the interim. Nigeria can do better without these loans. 

Alalibo lives in Port Harcourt.

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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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Issues

Infectious Diseases Bill: Paradox of Optimism and Fear

The two Chambers of the National Assembly are currently working on a new legislation that would provide legal backing to the management of infectious diseases and pandemics in the country. But a welter of criticism is swelling around some of the provisions in the bill that observers say infringe on the rights of citizens.

The Bill, which has already passed second reading in the House of Representatives, is titled:”Infectious Diseases Control Bill 2020″, while the one which passed first reading in the Senate is titled: “National Health Emergency Bill 2020”.

The one at the lower house was sponsored by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Chairman, House Committee on Health Institutions Pascal Obi and Chairman of the Committee on Health Services Tanko Sununu. The Bill seeks to repeal the Quarantine Act and enact the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill, make provisions relating to quarantine and make regulations for preventing the introduction into and spread in Nigeria of dangerous infectious diseases, and for other related matters.

The Bill is criticised for giving too much powers to the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in the management of infectious diseases and pandemic in the country in ways that could infringe on the fundamental human rights of Nigerians.

The Bill amongst others, empowers the Director-General of the NCDC to be in charge of the administration of the new Act, notification of prescribed infectious diseases, surveillance, medical examination and treatment, vaccination post-mortem examination, destruction and disposal of infected animals, food and water, isolation of certain persons, prohibition or restriction of meetings, gatherings and public entertainments as well as control of occupation, trade or business.

Some provisions of the Bill stipulates that; “Except as otherwise provided by this Act, the Director-General of Nigerian Centre for Disease Control shall, subject to any general or special directions of the minister, be responsible for the administration of this Act.

“The Director-General may, subject to such conditions or restrictions as he thinks fit, appoint any public officer, officer of any statutory body; or employee of a prescribed institution, to be a Health Officer for the purposes of this Act or any particular provision of this Act.

“The Director-General may, subject to such conditions or restrictions as he thinks fit, delegate to any Health Officer all or any of the powers conferred on him by this Act. Every medical practitioner who has reason to believe or suspect that any person attended or treated by him is suffering from a prescribed infectious disease or is a carrier of that disease shall notify the Director-General within the prescribed time and in such form or manner as the Director-General may require.”

It also states that “The Director General may require any person who is, or is suspected to be, a case or carrier or contact of an infectious disease to submit to medical examination or medical treatment within or at such time, and at such place, as the Director-General may determine.

“The Director-General may order any person who is, or is suspected to be, a case or carrier or contact of an infectious disease to be detained and isolated in a hospital or other place for such period of time and subject to such conditions as the Director General may determine”.

Another provision of the Bill that particularly generated serious condemnation is the power to order certain persons to undergo vaccination or other prophylaxis. It stated that: “In an outbreak or a suspected outbreak of any infectious disease in any area in Nigeria, the Director General may by order direct any person or class of persons not protected or vaccinated against the disease to undergo vaccination or other prophylaxis within such period as may be specified in the order.

“In addition to the power conferred by subsection (1), where it appears to the Director that — an outbreak of an infectious disease in any area in Nigeria is imminent; and it is necessary or expedient to do so for the securing of public safety, the Director may by order direct any person or class of persons not protected or vaccinated against that infectious disease to undergo vaccination or other prophylaxis within such period as may be specified in the order.”

Opposing the Bill, a veteran Columnist Tola Adeniyi called on the Nigerian Media, Civil Societies, Traditional Institutions, Labour Unions and the Intelligentsia to condemn the insidious Bill that will force vaccination on all Nigerians.

He said, “There is nowhere in the world where across-the-board vaccination is made mandatory. We must save Nigerians from Death Sentence being orchestrated by the Western World and their racist agencies. Whoever has taken bribes and inducements from the financiers from outside, should limit the curse to their families”.

Also, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) alleged that lawmakers in the House of Representatives were offered monetary inducements for the speedy passage of the Vaccination Bill.

CUPP in a statement signed by its Spokesman, Ikenga Ugochinyere, said it was in possession of intelligence report that the leadership of House is determined to pass the compulsory vaccine bill without subjecting it to the traditions of legislative proceedings.

“Opposition Coalition (CUPP) has intercepted very credible intelligence and hereby alerts Nigerians of plans by the leadership of the House of Representatives led by Femi Gbajabiamila to forcefully and without adherence to the rules of lawmaking to pass the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill 2020 otherwise known as the Compulsory Vaccination Bill which is proposing a compulsory vaccination of all Nigerians even when the vaccines have not been discovered”, CUPP said.

Opposing the Bill after presentation by Gbajabiamila, Sergius Ogun (PDP, Edo) urged the House to think twice and avoid giving too much power to the NCDC to solely manage infectious diseases in the country.

“Be careful with trusting omnibus powers on an agency whose responsibility it will be to determine whether or not, a vaccine is necessary for combating a given outbreak. Such could give rise to conspiracy,” he argued.

On his part, Nkem Abonta (PDP, Abia) argued that the Bill was coming at a wrong time and called on the lawmakers to apply restraint on the speed and subject the new legislation to public hearing for public input.

Abonta said; “We are all aware of what is awash in the social media. We need a Bill for control or prevention of disease. What I am trying to say is we should not because of what we are trying to do make big error. If we are going to do away with public hearing, then we must seek for direction and not speed.”

Despite these criticisms, the Senate also initiated the same Bill with a name, ‘National Health Emergency Bill, 2020’, sponsored by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Primary Healthcare and Communicable Diseases, Chukwuka Utazi (PDP, Enugu).

But soon after the Bill was read for the first time, the former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu led opposition against it.

Ekweremadu, who under Order 14(1) of the Senate Standing Orders as Amended, demanded for the draft copy of the Bill or in gazetted form, insisted that the content of the bill must be made open before subjecting it to any consideration.

He argued that his privileges and those of other senators would be breached if details of the contents were not made available to them before it is given further legislative consideration.

“In line with Order 14(1), which has to deal with privileges, as one of the serving senators, I move that draft copies of the bill should be made available before any other legislative action is taken on it. This is very important because it would not augur well for the Senate to follow the same route with the House of Representatives where a controversial Bill on Control of Infectious Diseases was passed for first and second reading last week,” Ekweremadu maintained.

The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had in a statement by the National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbondiyan said; “It was imperative to allow for popular participation, especially as the bill seeks to prescribe clauses on critical issues, particularly that of vaccination, which has become globally controversial in the face of raging conspiracy theories on the COVID-19 pandemic. Such an approach is already worsening public mistrust as well as heightening apprehension over the intentions of presiding officers of the House of Representatives and the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led administration at this critical time.”

The party insisted that Nigerians should be “Carried along in the decision-making process of such a critical legislation, which seeks to make provisions that will directly affect their health, as well as overall individual and collective safety and well-being. Anything short of that would be counter-productive and capable of breeding an avoidable public resistance, especially given the deepening fear and anxiety in the polity over the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Unperturbed by the hues and cries against the Bill, Speaker Gbajabiamila who is the lead sponsor said allegations that the Bill is a sinister attempt to turn Nigerians into guinea pigs for medical research while taking away their fundamental human rights was far from the truth.

The Speaker however, said the House will subject the Bill to a public hearing where Nigerians from all walks of life would be given the opportunity to contribute to the draft law.

“Suffice it to say that none of these allegations are true. Unfortunately, we now live in a time when conspiracy theories have gained such currency that genuine endeavours in the public interest can quickly become mischaracterised and misconstrued to raise the spectre of sinister intent and ominous possibility. The Control of Infectious Diseases Bill will be put forward to a public hearing where stakeholder contributions will be sought to make improvements to the Bill before it is reviewed and debated by the Committee of the whole,” Gbajabiamila added.

In apparent demonstration of intolerance to opposition against the Bill, the House of Representatives at its plenary resolved to take legal action against an online media organisation for allegedly reporting that the House has collected $10 billion from Bill Gates to pass the Infectious Disease Control Bill.

Speaker, Gbajabiamila mandated the Clerk of the House, Patrick Giwa to liaise with the Majority Leader of the House and the Legal Adviser to the National Assembly to commence legal action against the media outfit.

The House reached this resolution at plenary, following the unanimous adoption of a motion of Personal Explanation by the Deputy Speaker of the House, Ahmed Wase.

On the other hand, the controversial Bill has received the support of the NCDC Director-General, Chikwe Ihekwazu as he pledged support for the new quarantine and public health Bill while responding to questions by Members of the House.

Ihekwazu said there was need for an updated legislation to the infectious diseases control law, stressing that the NCDC is the most affected by the provisions of the current Act.

He however, maintained that the House did not consult him before commencing work on the new Bill but did not said whether the legislature must consult him before bringing up the law that would enhance the fight against infectious diseases.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Civil Society community, comprising 69 members commended the decision of the House of Representatives to subject the Control of Infectious Diseases Bill to a public hearing in furtherance of the right of citizens to contribute to law making.

The Civil Societies, in a statement recommended that the House should provide information on the committee responsible for the coordination of public hearing and communicate a practical schedule for public engagement on the Bill.

Other recommendations demanded the House to host a virtual and physical public hearing, carry out multi-layered stakeholder consultations and intensify publicity on the Bill to enlighten Nigerians on the provisions of the Bill.

Any attempt to hurriedly act on this proposed bill could lend credence to rising public concerns and conspiracy theories on social media locally and internationally that the House of Reps is acting insensitively under the “dark influence” of some global vaccine players with undeclared interest.

Consequently, the suspicions already generated by the poor handling of this process are bound to trigger a new wave of resistance and rejection when a COVID-19 vaccine is eventually discovered and brought to the country.

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Issues

Illegal Demolition of Hotels And Human Rights Abuses By Gov Wike- Tam-George

Yesterday afternoon, two hotel in the Eleme community of Rivers State were demolished by a team led by the Governor of the State, Mr Nyesom Wike.

According to a statement by the State Government, the hotels had violated an Executive Order, banning the operation of hotels in the State until further notice.

No formal charges were brought against the affected hotels before a court of law, by the Rivers State Government. The owners of the hotels had no opportunity to defend themselves before a Judge. And the so-called Executive Order itself is spurious, draconian and ill-defined.

But the illegal demolition of the hotels yesterday fits into a long and sickening pattern of lawlessness and impunity by Governor Wike in Rivers State.

In July 2017, Governor Wike had shut down and revoked the Certificate of Occupancy of Novotel Hotel in Port Harcourt, simply because critics of his lawless regime had lodged overnight at the hotel.

In the past three years, Mr Wike has deployed his private army of thugs, disguised as State “task forces”, to kill innocent citizens, loot markets and shops, terrorize young women in Port Harcourt, and extort money from drivers and traders in Rivers State.

Three weeks ago, on the 24th April, Sergeant Lovender Elekwachi, a traffic warden on duty in the Eneka area of the State, was murdered in cold blood, by Governor Wike’s marauding task force. The tragic incident was widely reported by the media, including the BBC.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only served as a perfect smokescreen for Governor Wike to escalate his reign of criminality and terror in Rivers State.

On the 27th of April, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet warned governments to refrain from violating fundamental human rights, “under the guise of exceptional and emergency measures” during the COVID-19 crisis.

But in the past six weeks of the pandemic, Governor Wike has caused the death of a law enforcement agent, confiscated private properties, demolished hotels, brutalized market women in Port Harcourt, and held pilots and oil workers on essential duties in illegal detention.

The alarming acts of lawlessness by Mr Wike mean that Rivers State has descended into a state of anarchy. State institutions have been hijacked by a lawless government, and the people themselves have been ‘kidnapped’ by a moral hoodlum in power.

Governor Wike is an extremely powerful politician in Nigeria, who is widely deemed to be above the law.

  1. We therefore call on the UN Human Rights Commission to urgently investigate and initiate criminal proceedings against Mr Nyesom Wike in Rivers State.
  2. We strongly appeal to the United States Congress and the State Department to urgently initiate and maintain consequential pressure, including visa restrictions and asset freezes against Mr Wike, for his reign of impunity in Rivers State.
  3. Governor Wike is well-known for his expensive vacation junkets to European cities, even as children die from preventable water-borne diseases in Rivers State.

We therefore strongly appeal to the European Union to initiate and maintain consequencial diplomatic actions, including money laundry investigations, visa restrictions and asset freezes against Governor Wike, who constantly proclaims that “nothing will happen” to him, despite his reign of terror.

We believe that those who hold public office should never be above the law.”

Dr. Austin Tam-George, Former Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State

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Issues

Tam-George: An Intellectual Prostitute Let Loose- Nsirim

Austin Tam-George has consistently been biting the finger that fed him because he is an intellectual prostitute. He looks for every available opportunity to lampoon Governor Nyesom Wike in order to impress his paymasters as a paid hack without conscience.

Someone like Austin Tam-George does not have the moral standing to discuss governance because his tenure as Commissioner for Information in Rivers State was a monumental failure.

A man who used his first month in office as Commissioner to throw 2O Rivers indigenes who were earning a living in the Ministry as casual workers into the unemployment market surely loves Rivers State.

Perhaps Austin Tam-George’s patriotism also led him to seize the monthly imprests meant for Departments in the Ministry.  Maybe he should explain to Rivers people and the those he is serving why a Commissioner should arm twist Heads of Parastatals under him to make monthly returns to quench his voracious appetite for money.

Was it not his kinsman in one of the parastatals that engaged him in a verbal warfare along William Jumbo Street in Port Harcourt that helped to tame his unquenchable taste for money?

His grouse with Governor Wike is because the over inflated and bogus proposals he made under the guise of upgrading the State Media Houses without recourse to the Bureau for Public Procurement were turned down by the governor who insisted on due process.

Austin Tam-George was quoted as saying that he will never forgive Governor Wike for not allowing him dupe the government. The likes of Austin Tam-George are always available for the highest bidder that is why his recent outburst should not be taken seriously.

When he was looting the money generated by parastatals under him he never remembered United Nations and European Union. As the proverbial dog that eats the bone hung on his neck, he milked the media houses dry before he was sacked from the State Executive Council.

He should know that the record of monies siphoned from the Media houses are still in the archives and will be released if he dares to make any more noise. If Governor Wike did not retain him in his cabinet because he lacked character is it enough to look for any slightest opportunity to impugn his integrity?

Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. A word is enough for the wise.

Paulinus Nsirim Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State May 11, 2020 

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Issues

Giant Nigeria Held Hostage By Naira Exchange Rate. A critique of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s policy perspective on “What Africa Must Do…”

The recent statement by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, appears to announce that he has come out from a post- election “fattening room”. His silence on government policies and  national trends must have served him as a welcome companion. And why not?  Any normal citizen who survived the locally fabricated tornado of our 2019 elections in Nigeria, would have done no less.

By the way, our elections are not for normal citizens.  Since 1999 have they have been infected from design by a mischievous “establishment virus”. It is inclined to turn each election into a social tornado that fits a simple pattern: we tend to spend more money on elections ( perhaps more than any other country in the world). We tend to sponsor the most expensive gadgets backed by laughable supervision gaffes, even before the elections.

Our elections tend to lead to threats of more injuries or deaths during each cycle. Then, largely more election litigations follow each cycle, as data from 1999-2019 show.In the end what do we get? A predictable outcome: the nation is saddled with a mediocre performance that gives us less value- for- money spent. In effect, we spend all that money to devalue our democracy by taking it at least one step down the ladder of public service efficiency.

But we all know that facts from past exercises point to both those who hold political positions and their leading opponents. They do not want free and fair elections. Simple! Not at LG, State or Federal level. They only want to win by other means! Most INEC people know that fact. All the political parties know that. The security agencies know it . And the courts are no less part of this conspiracy of mediocrity.

Yet isn’t it ridiculous that they all seem to pitch in with feverish grand-standing? No it is not ridiculous. It is because each election allows some people in relevant establishments to go for the kill. Seems each establishment does the best it could to get its fair share at what has become a painful and expensive national circus.This virus affects Nigeria’s institutions and establishments, not only those connected with elections. Increasingly their performance tends to show that competence and the will to be seen as positively competitive, no longer matter to Nigeria as a country.

 Everything else we are going through, seems to be a fall-out of this social reality. That is why only a few among Nigeria’s top political elite, bother to show by their behaviour that they are still “normal” like the rest of us. They sit back to care about competence or performance, worth the title.  Others of their tribe, are sadly not like us anymore. So Alhaji Atiku’s statement pointing the way for government performance to achieve efficiency, is positively pregnant. It talks about how government must  make the Nigerian economy and Africa’s market potential, a priority to be rescued from Covid -19. Or the pandemic would snatch the opportunities from our citizens, while other countries will be set to launch their citizens to higher progress.

But I suspect you know how this will end. Alhaji Atiku will likely find himself accused as a “sore loser” or worse. Some zealous Federal Government  agencies or President Buhari’s party officials will be blinking with rage to charge at Alhaji Atiku. Please don’t blame them. It is one area where pretension of efficiency by those involved, leads to steady bank alert for fighting perceived critics of government.

No action of value to our nation, is likely to come from such a timely wake- up call. It is because it is part of a trend that shows what kind of system our country is running since 1999. A feudal political system does not want performance efficiency to make it competitive, because that requires competence -based allocation of opportunities. Nigeria left the lane of competence based decision making in the public sector  20 years ago. It tends to get worse with each passing adminstration.

Problem is that there is no Private Sector in the real sense to cover up the establishment policy failure and widening performance gaps. As I shall show, Alhaji Atiku’s call only scratched the surface of a deeper national problem. To be sure in a system where a country wants to be seen by it’s citizens as caring for their interest, the response would be different.

According to Ms Blank the woman who is a co-leader of what is becoming known as “Verbatim theatre” culture, which is a new form of drama to express crucial underlying national issues,  we should all join hands to make Nigeria react differently. Our nation’s growing disregard for a culture that promotes performance value, should be at the “heart of what we should be grappling with as a country”, as Ms Blank was quoted on a different issue by *The Economist* of March 7-13 2020 (page 73) . 

But many of our politicians no longer connect with the dream that keeps majority of our people awake every night at the LG, state and federal levels.  It is not a fantasy. No! Once upon a time our nation was the centre of Africa’s ambition and the point on any map of Africa, which Black professionals such as Dr Patrick Wilmot, Lindsay Esoghene Barret and many others wanted to belong to or identify with.

For instance in the 1970s just a few years after the Civil War, ordinary Nigerians were respected and our nation too became respected. Up to the mid 1980s, we were in the centre of most markets: from West Africa to many parts of Africa, Europe and the Americas. Even in far away South East Asia Nigerians moved on the street with a swagger like descendants of local Princes. One indicator was the power of the Naira.  At every airport around the globe, the Naira was treated like a King and those who carried it, felt regal confidence in their wallets and steps.

Between 1970-1979 the US dollar ($) exchanged for less than one Naira ( N)!

By 1998 it took about N23 to get $1. But by 1999 -2007, the exchange rate had brought Naira to a sustained downward slide: thus from N89 to $1 in 1999, it moved to N142 to $1 in 2007. Between 2010-2015 it made a peak of  N170 to $1. In March 2020 the Google report on the Naira is N386 to $1! It explained why from 1999, only people in power as government and their cronies, can claim any dignity as Nigerians.

 A study of the exchange rate slide from 1983-2019 shows that things have gotten worse with each passing year. The problem is that the exchange rate is not mere numbers. It talks about the purchasing power of a people and the quality of life they have. What the exchange rate of the Naira says is that for 20 years ordinary Nigerians need their governments at state and federal levels to look at how much Naira a dollar commands, and resolve to push up productivity of our economy. As Ms Blank said in a related insight, it is the only way to empathize with  stories of ordinary citizens and to show that government feels the pain behind their nostalgia for past years. 

But sadly enough Alhaji Atiku’s statement didn’t address the exchange rate. And that is curious. From 1983 the Naira has been held hostage as a national currency with diminishing exchange rate, when compared to the US dollar or any other foreign currency. That is about 37 years of downward slide of our national currency. In a sense it also shows how our national economy has fared. Something significant is that it has taken the Chinese  about 30 years to move their national economy in the opposite direction.

In 2020 the world economy is waiting for China to trigger a recovery in it’s capacity as the second largest economy in the global market.  Donald Trump is pulling his hair out of the way to trumpet a Marshall Plan for the US economy to regain leadership of the global markets. The government is putting about $350 billion at the disposal of Small Business enterprises to get them back into production of goods and services. In the age of globalization which Trump has redefined to seek optimum advantage for the US, sympathy is not on the table in market relations between nations .

To be continued…

Brown, a veteran journaluist is emeritus national president of NIPR and Managing consultant/CEO of GRAIN Consulting, PH.

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