Sunday, 21 January 2018
Thursday, 04 January 2018 00:46

Minister: Buhari’ll run

Advocates of another term for the President are getting more serious. Communications Minister Adebayo Shittu told reporters yesterday after a meeting with the President at Aso Villa that he had been appointed to lead a group in support of President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2019 election.

According to him, the Muhammadu Buhari/Osinbajo Dynamic Support Group will on January 20 inaugurate its Southwest zonal office to launch the President’s reelection battle.

He said for Buhari to seek a second term “goes without saying”.

“I know he has not made up his mind but I can say that some of us can assist him in making up his mind so that Nigeria can continue to enjoy stability and progress.

“I mean if you have a child who goes to primary school, does well, proceeds to secondary school, does well, and you keep asking, is he going to university? It goes without saying. By the grace of God, we his ardent supporters who appreciate his worth on behalf of millions of Nigerians would urge him to recontest.”

Asked whether campaigns for 2019 elections had begun, Shittu said: “Everyday since he came into office, all his activities are geared towards letting Nigeria know they have a saviour, a rescuer, somebody who is committed to providing relief to Nigerians in all respects.

“In the area of fighting corruption, insurgency, whether in the Northeast or the Niger Delta, in the area of repairing the economy and providing jobs and providing social stability in the society. You will agree with me that today but for Buhari, Boko Haram would have invaded even Lagos.”

Shittu, who hails from Oke Ogun, Oyo State, plans to run for governor in 2019, having previously failed as the governorship candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in 2011.

The President has not spoken about his interest in 2019.

During the last National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja, an attempt to move a motion on his 2019 candidature was stopped.

Presidential spokesman Femi Adesina said on New Year’s Eve that ”nobody knows whether or not the President will seek reelection. About four groups have come to the President, asking if he will go for second term. The last of such groups was Good Governance Support Group, but the President has not said anything.”

However, in October, last year, the Buhari Support Organisation inaugurated its office in Abuja to campaign for Buhari’s second term.

Buhari’s men and many public office holders gathered at the event which enjoyed wide publicity.

Customs Comptroller General Col. Hamid Ali, the chief speaker at the event, urged the President to reward those who worked for his emergence but still left in the cold more than two years into the four-year tenure.

Members of the group-led by Senator Abu Ibrahim, later visited the President at the Villa.

The President himself gave a subtle hint that he would run when he told Nigerians in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire when met with them after attending an African Union/European Union Summit, that he might need Nigerians’ vote in future.

Published in Headliners

I join my fellow citizens this morning to welcome and celebrate the New Year 2018. This year promises to be pivotal in our quest for CHANGE.

Unfortunately, I am saddened to acknowledge that for many this Christmas and New Year holidays have been anything but merry and happy. Instead of showing love, companionship and charity, some of our compatriots chose this period to inflict severe hardship on us all by creating unnecessary fuel scarcity across the country.

The consequence was that not many could travel and the few who did had to pay exorbitant transport fares. This is unacceptable given that NNPC had taken measures to ensure availability at all depots. I am determined to get to the root of this collective blackmail of all Nigerians and ensure that whichever groups are behind this manipulated hardship will be prevented from doing so again.

Such unpatriotism will not divert the Administration from the course we have set ourselves. Our government’s watch word and policy thrust is CHANGE. We must change our way of doing things or we will stagnate and be left behind in the race to lift our people out of poverty and into prosperity.

My address to fellow Nigerians this morning is devoted mainly to informing you about the intense efforts this Administration is putting to address our country’s huge infrastructural deficit.

We are going to make significant in-roads in advancing road, rail and power projects across the country.

The Ministry of Power, Works and Housing is one of the drivers of this Government’s commitment to renew and increase Nigeria’s stock of infrastructure in order to achieve global economic competitiveness as targeted under the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.

With regards to Railways, we have set ourselves ambitious targets. Already in construction stage is the Lagos-Kano Standard Gauge Railway.

The line should reach Ibadan from Lagos by the end of 2019 and will carry two million passengers per year and five million tons of cargo will be transported every year giving a substantial boost to the country’s economy.

Construction of the Kano – Kaduna segment is expected to commence this year and reach Kaduna by the end of 2019. By the end of 2021 the two ends will be joined so that we will have standard gauge railway across the main North-South trading route.

The Abuja – Kaduna route will be boosted by additional rolling stock next Thursday and will be able to handle one million commuters annually.

At the same time I have approved and negotiations will be concluded in the first part of this year for the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri line covering Aba, Owerri, Umuahia, Enugu, Awka, Abakaliki, Makurdi, Lafia, Jos, Bauchi, Gombe, Yola and Damaturu. The Abuja to Itakpe line will go through Baro and terminate in Warri with construction of a new seaport at Warri.

Negotiations are also advanced for the construction of other railway lines, firstly from Kano to Maradi in Niger Republic passing through Kazaure, Daura, Katsina, Jibia to Maradi.

Secondly, Lagos to Calabar the “Coastal Rail” through Ore, Benin, Agbor, Asaba, Onitsha, Sapele, Ughelli, Warri, Yenagoa, Otuoke, Port Harcourt, Aba, Uyo and Calabar. In the next few years, all these Nigerian cities will be linked by functional modern rail systems, giving enormous boost to the social and economic life of our people.

With respect to the Abuja Capital Light Rail, progress has reached 98% completion, as at 64% completion when we assumed office. Only test runs remain before start of operations.

This train service will stimulate economic activities in the Federal Capital and provide residents with an efficient and safe transportation system. Twelve railway sub-stations around the capital over a 45.2 kilometre route will serve as a catalyst and a pull factor to the economy of the area. The Light Rail System will reduce traffic congestion and carbon emission in line with the Administration’s policy on climate change.

Management of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) has been reconstituted and has been charged with a 12 week rapid intervention in road repairs to cover all the geo-political zones. Government is undertaking repairs and maintenance of 44 roads within the six geo-political zones.

Twenty five major highways will be funded under the N100b SUKUK facility. Each geo-political zone will benefit by an equal amount of N16.67b. The following major highways are to receive special attention:

a. Oyo – Ogbomosho,

b. Ofusu – Ore – Ajebandele – Shagamu,

c. Yenagoa Road Junction – Kolo Otuoke – Bayelsa Palm,

d. Enugu – Port Harcourt Dual Carriage Way,

e. Onitsha – Enugu Expressway,

f. Kaduna Eastern Bypass,

g. Dualization of Kano – Maiduguri Road,

h. Dualization of Abuja – Lokoja – Benin Road,

i. Dualization of Suleja – Minna Road.

In addition, Government has approved work to start on the re-construction of Abuja – Kaduna – Zaria – Kano road which is in a state of disrepair. Work will soon start and is expected to be completed in 2019.

More Nigerians across the country are experiencing improved power supply to their homes and businesses. However, power remains a concern to this government because too many people still do not have regular and reliable supply.

The Payment Assurance Guarantee Scheme which started in January 2016 has enabled the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trader to raise so far N701 billion to assure Generation Companies of at least 80% payment for any power delivered to the national grid.

Consequently, generation has now reached 7,000MW. On December 8, 2017 the country achieved 5,155MW of power delivered to consumers, the highest level ever recorded.

Several moribund projects have been revived. Repairs of Afam Power Station added 110MW in 2017 and another 240MW will be added this year through a private investment partnership.

Katsina Power Project is now being tested and producing 10MW of power from wind for the first time in Nigeria. It should be fully operational this year.

The Zungeru 700MW Hydroelectric Power Project, stalled by court cases is due for completion in 2019. The transmission and other requirements to operate the 30MW Gurara Phase 1 Hydroelectric Plant, the 40MW Kashimbilla Hydroelectric Plant and the 215 MW Kaduna Gas/LPG/Diesel Power Plant will also be completed this year.

A landmark project, Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Project is at last taking off. This project has been on the drawing Board for 40 years, but now the engineering, procurement and construction contract for the 3,050MW project has been agreed with a Chinese joint venture Company with a financing commitment from the government of China. Completion is targeted for 2023.

As I mentioned earlier, the Transmission Company of Nigeria can now distribute all the 7,000MW that can be generated. TCN and the Niger Delta Holding Company have added 1,950MVA of 330 down to 132KV transformer capacity of 10 transmission stations and 2,930MVA of 132 down to 33KV transformer capacity of 42 sub-stations including Ikot Ekpene, Aba, Alagbon, Ajah, Ejigbo, Funtua and Zaria.

This Administration is working with the privatised distribution Companies to overcome the continuing challenges of distribution.

These massive public works should spearhead the recovery and lead millions back to employment. You will recall that it was not until last year that we got out of the economic recession into which the country had fallen as a consequence of past unsustainable economic policies which projected short-term illusory growth.

The government is slowly stabilizing the economy.

It was in order to change the steady and steep decline that we adopted the more sustainable policies and programmes captured in the Economic Recovery Plan. Diversification efforts have resulted in improved output particularly in agriculture and solid minerals sectors. The relative exchange rate stability has improved manufacturing sector performance.

We have got to get used to discipline and direction in economic management. The days of business, as usual, are numbered.

Two years ago I appealed to people to go back to the land. I am highly gratified that agriculture has picked up, contributing to the government’s effort to restructure the economy. Rice imports will stop this year. Local rice, fresher and more nutritious will be on our dishes from now on.

By the same token, I am today appealing to enterprising Nigerians with ideas and unemployed graduates and other able-bodied and literate men and women with ideas not to just sit and wait for employment from the government or the Organized Private Sector. Great nations are built by enterprising people who turn their hands to anything that circumstances dictate.

In respect of political developments, I have kept a close watch on the on-going debate about “Restructuring”. No human law or edifice is perfect. Whatever structure we develop must periodically be perfected according to changing circumstances and the country’s socio-economic developments. We Nigerians can be very impatient and want to improve our conditions faster than may be possible considering our resources and capabilities. When all the aggregates of nationwide opinions are considered, my firm view is that our problems are more to do with process than structure.

We tried the Parliamentary system: we jettisoned it. Now there are shrill cries for a return to the Parliamentary structure. In older democracies, these systems took centuries to evolve so we cannot expect a copied system to fit neatly our purposes. We must give a long period of trial and improvement before the system we have adopted is anywhere near fit for purpose.

However, there is a strong case for a closer look at the cost of government and for the public services long used to extravagance, waste and corruption to change for the better. I assure you that government is ever receptive to ideas which will improve governance and contribute to the country’s peace and stability.

As the electioneering season approaches politicians must avoid exploiting ethnicity and religion by linking ethnicity with religion and religion with politics. Such must be avoided at all costs if we are to live in harmony.

In this respect, the rest of Nigeria could learn from the South Western States who have successfully internalized religion, ethnicity and politics.

Political discourse should be conducted with civility, decorum and in a constitutional manner. We all have a collective responsibility to strengthen our democracy and entrench the rule of law. We should draw encouragement from the series of bye-elections conducted by INEC last year which were generally violence-free and their outcomes adjudged to be free and fair.

Before I conclude my address I must reassure my fellow citizens that security of life and property is still top of our government’s agenda. We have since beaten Boko Haram. Isolated attacks still occur, but even the best-policed countries cannot prevent determined criminals from committing terrible acts of terror as we have seen during the past years in Europe, Asia, Middle East, elsewhere in Africa and in America.

Our government remains determined to protect all Nigerians in line with our election pledge and promises. On behalf of all Nigerians let me offer our thanks to the Armed forces, the Police, other para-military forces and traditional authorities who are working round the clock to ensure that you and I go about our normal business in reasonable safety.

Terrorism and urban crimes are world-wide phenomena and our security forces are continuously adapting their responses to changing threats.

With regard to rampant cases of kidnappings, we are taking immediate short-term measures to combat this new evil creeping into our societies. Tighter police methods and swift and severe punishment for those proved to be engaged in kidnapping are on the way.

With respect to Niger Delta, Government is still engaging the responsible leadership of the Communities to help in identifying and addressing genuine grievances of the region. Our clean-up programme in collaboration with the United Nations is making satisfactory progress.

I am grateful to all the Governors and other Political & Community leaders of the Niger Delta States for their part in bringing relative peace to the areas.

Finally let me again express my heartfelt thanks to all Nigerians who prayed for me during my illness last year. I feel deeply humbled by your prayers and good wishes and I am more determined than ever to serve you to the best of my ability.

Good morning. And I wish everyone a Happy New Year.

Published in Headliners

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Femi Fani-Kayode has revealed that it was Prophet T.B. Joshua’s prayers that assisted George Weah, former World Footballer of the Year, clinched the Liberian presidency.

The former minister while congratulating Weah on his well deserved victory, stated in a tweet, “I congratulate George Weah on his election as the President of Liberia.

“I thank God for his life and for that of Prophet T.B. Joshua who prayed for him and assured him of victory when he visited him in his Church in Lagos a few weeks back.

“This is a well deserved victory!”

Published in News & Stories
Wednesday, 27 December 2017 12:39

George Weah elected Liberia President

Former World Player of the Year, George Weah, has been voted president of Liberia after clinching 12 of the 15 counties in the West African nation.

The ex- soccer star becomes the 25th president of Liberia.

Hours before the results were announced Weah took to Twitter to thank all his supporters, saying he plans to liberate the country.

“I am deeply grateful to my family, my friends, and my loyal supporters who contributed to our campaign during this extremely long election season,” the ex- AC Milan striker said.

Published in Headliners

Members of the Kwara South Unity Forum in Kwara State have initiated a recall process against the senator representing the Kwara South Senatorial District, Dr. Rafiu Ibrahim.

According to a photocopy of the acknowledged copy of the petition, made available to journalists in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, on Sunday, the petition had been sent to the Independent National Electoral Commission and the office of the President of the Senate.

The letter, dated November 13, was received and acknowledged at INEC on November 14 and the office of the President of the Senate on November 17.

The public notification of the recall process however did not come without a drama.

While the group was about addressing journalists at Ofa on the recall process, hoodlums and thugs stormed the venue and disrupted the media briefing.

The General Secretary of the Kwara South Unity Forum, Mr. Ahmed Akorede, alleged that the invaders also made away with some valuables, adding that members of the group had been receiving threat messages, for discharging their “human right and constitutional” responsibility.

The President of the group, Mr. John Adegboye, while addressing journalists during a media briefing at Ijagbo in the Oyun Local Government Area of Kwara State, alleged poor representation by Ibrahim.

He also accused Ibrahim of disregarding members and elders of the senatorial district while taking directives from external personalities.

He further alleged that issues, critical to the growth and development of Kwara South, were allegedly being openly disregarded and dismissed by the senator.

Adegboroye also accused Ibrahim of abusing their democratic rights and intelligence and was not sufficiently addressing human capital development in the area.

He stated, “A situation whereby, a man we voted for, now comes out openly and with audacity, to state that he needs to consult ‘his boss’, who isn’t even from Kwara South, is nothing but a violation of our human and democratic rights.”

Adegboye said it was wrong for Ibrahim to kneel before the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.

According to him, the Senate is a gathering of equals while the President of the Senate is simply the first among equals.

He said, “We find it demeaning, insulting and outrageous that our senator acted as an escort and body guard to the wife of the Senate President when she was arraigned in court on charges of money laundering by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

“This unnecessary show of subservience has been interpreted to imply a situation in which we are not the people in control of our destinies. We cannot accept this anymore.

“It is therefore under these circumstances that the good people of Kwara South today decide to intimate the generality of Nigerians about our intention to recall Senator Rafiu Ibrahim from the 8th National Assembly.

“We affirm that the Kwara South Unity Forum has instituted recall proceedings against the senator representing Kwara South Senatorial District. The days of ‘shadow democracy and indirect rule,’ whereby a few individuals become more important than the entire electorate, are over.”

But a coalition of students, during another media briefing, passed a vote of confidence in Ibrahim.

The coalition comprise the National Association of Nigerian Students, Kwara State branch, and the National Association of Kwara State Students.

The students’ speech was jointly signed by the Chairman, NANS, Kwara, Abdulkadir Aliyu; President, NAKSS, Abdulafeez Oyedepo; and Director of Travelling and Exchange, NANS, Abdullahi Olawale.

Aliyu, who read the speech, said Ibrahim had made tremendous contributions towards infrastructural and human capital development in Kwara South.

He said, “Ibrahim’s unblemished reputation, leadership sagacity, hospitality, open door policy, philanthropic gesture, kind heartedness, ‘articulacy’, listening ears and most importantly, his integrity, have given us hope that with his kind, there is great hope for the Nigerian students.”

A stakeholders of the All Progressives Congress, led by Kazeem Adekanye, during the media briefing, urged the senator and the proponent of his recall to embrace dialogue.

Adekanye, a former Chairman, Transition Implementation Committee, Irepodun LGA, said there was unity in the party.

He said, “For some of us, we believe that we have leaders that we respect. Yes, we may have one or two things that may not be okay with us, we should employ better means of engaging them so as for us all to reap the benefits of democracy.

“We all know that as senators, their primary job is to legislate; the other aspect has to do with constituency project. I am aware he has brought a lot of constituency projects to Kwara South. He has also been reaching out to people as individuals and I am sure he has reached out to traditional rulers.

“We in Kwara South, we are under one leadership of Dr. Bukola Saraki. All of us, who are his disciples and followers, are united under that banner. There are no internal crises; there is no war between us.”

Published in News & Stories

President Muhammadu Buhari on Saturday felicitated with Nigerians, particularly the Christian community, on the occasion of this year’s Christmas celebration and reassured that “better days lie ahead for us as a nation.’’

The President, who stated this in a Christmas message released by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, in Abuja, said his administration had redouble efforts to surmount the challenges facing the country.

He said: “I am deeply convinced that better days lie ahead for us as a nation as we make progress on all the major fronts where we have set our energies to surmount the challenges.’’

According to him, the commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ is an important opportunity for all citizens to show love to one another and encourage unity by spending quality time with friends, families and the less-privileged.

He also enjoined the citizens to draw inspiration from the exemplary lifestyle and teachings of Jesus Christ, who constantly stood for what is right, true and honest.

“The Holy Book describes Christmas as a festival of peace, joy, healing, hope and fulfillment. It kindles great expectations in the heart, irrespective of the challenges of the moment.

“As we celebrate this yuletide season, let us devote some time to pray and appreciate the sacrifices of members of our armed services to keep our nation safe and secure.

“By the same token, and keeping with the spirit of the season, our gallant troops serving in the frontlines in the fight against insurgency; those wounded, lying in the hospital, as well as civilians who have suffered the brunt of evil and wicked elements these past years, deserve our fervent goodwill and sustained prayers.”

Buhari maintained that the personal fortitude of these individuals would continue to inspire the nation to victory “as we turn the tide against the enemy and annihilate those who work against the unity of our nation.

“In this season of hope, let us remember to provide refuge to those who cannot enjoy Christmas at home with their families, or have been driven from their homes by insurgency or violence, particularly the Internally Displaced Persons.’’

On illegal migration, the President frowned at the activities of trans-border syndicates who had been luring youths to modern slavery.

NAN

Published in Headliners

Today, 23rd December, it is 16 years that the late Chief ’Bola Ige, SAN, a former Governor of Old Oyo State and sitting Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, was assassinated in his Bodija Estate, Ibadan home that Sunday, 23rd December, 2001.

I was press secretary to the late Chief Ige, when he was governor of Oyo State and also the chairman of the Protocol and Publicity Sub-Committee of his Burial Planning Committee.

Below is my 2002 tribute of the above title to the late Chief Ige, popularly called “Uncle ’Bola. May his valiant and creative soul continue to rest in peace:

“I am writing this elegy, if poetic license permits me to describe it so, exactly on the 19th anniversary of the prized invitation to me from “His Excellency, the Governor of Oyo State, Chief ‘Bola Ige, to an End-of-Year-Dinner at the Government House, Agodi, Ibadan on Tuesday, January 4, 1983.

“My attendance (in company of my wife) and my homely comments at that party were not unconnected with my secondment, a month after, from the former Television Service of Oyo State, TSOS (now BCOS-TV) to Chief ’Bola Ige, then governor of old Oyo State, as a Press Secretary.

“I, with Femi Mapaderun (also seconded from Radio O-Y-O) joined the governor’s incumbent Press Secretary, Dapo Aderinola, our colleague and friend, to form a Media/PR triumvirate under the leadership of Mr Yemi Farounbi (as he then was). We were saddled with burnishing His Excellency’s image that crucial (1983) General Election year-what with the defections of Uncle ‘Bola’s erstwhile political associates the year before.

“Had nature not decided otherwise, I have strong reasons to believe that Uncle ‘Bola was to have been either my biological uncle or school teacher or both. Nevertheless, nature ‘corrected’ herself by spanning the uncle/teacher chasm with my appointment as press secretary to the “Cicero of Esa-Oke.”

“From  the very day I assumed duties as a Press Secretary, till his assassination on Sunday, December 23, last year, Uncle ’Bola groomed and encouraged a ‘cousin’ from the world before this in my humble self and I remain forever the loyal and grateful protégé.

“I recollect that my first contact with Uncle ’Bola was in 1979. I had joined the then NTV, Ibadan the year before from the Daily Sketch. I was a print journalist in a rush to glow in Africa’s first television station. I had been assigned to cover the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Oyo State Executive Committee’s press briefing at the Rex Cinema at J. Allen/Dugbe area of Ibadan. Pardon my immodesty to say that the intellectual interactions between a typical NTV Ibadan reporter and a gubernatorial candidate on that day were in symphony. A scout for talent and wit that he was, Uncle ‘Bola, then Oyo State chairman and gubernatorial candidate of the UPN, made it plain that I was welcome at his Oke-Ado, Ibadan residence, both officially and unofficially (privately) I embraced the uncommon invitation.

“A few weeks after the Rex Cinema meeting, I, with my friend and colleague, Biodun Oduwole, were at Uncle ‘Bola’s Oke-Ado residence to conduct interviews for our separate programmes for our station, NTV, Ibadan. We met him at table having a lunch of boiled rice. We did not turn down his kind invitation to join him at table, although we (Biodun and I) ate our share of his lunch with stew.

“Funsho, Uncle ‘Bola‘s daughter and eldest child, then a 19-year old lady, (now Mrs Adegbola), was at table with her doting father. His oft-repeated calls of “Funsh, Funsh” showed the tremendous degree of doting between father and daughter.

“Our after-lunch banters that day heightened Uncle ’Bola’s interest in my professional career and private life so much so that he stood as my ‘guarantor’, as it were, when Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar Rimi, then governor of Kano State, sometime in 1982 declined to grant me an exclusive interview on learning that I was an NTA reporter, during the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) Governors’ meeting in Abeokuta, Ogun State. After much persuasion by me and Uncle ‘Bola’s “Abubakar, oblige him. I know him well”, I secured the 30-minute interview with Governor Rimi for my very popular personality interview programme, “Speak Out”.

“A professional handling and transmission of the volatile interview with Governor Rimi earned me a letter of commendation from the then General Manager of NTA, Ibadan, Prince Bayo Sanda and an open sesame to the Government House, Agodi, Ibadan with Uncle ‘Bola as the host, guest (on my programme), teacher and fair critic as occasions dictated. As stated earlier, I joined Uncle ‘Bola’s media team in February 1983 and it was an admission to the ‘Awolowo School of Life ’under Uncle ‘Bola’s principalship. He taught us a lot-politics, etiquette, poetry, music, culinary, diplomacy and values among other subjects of life.

“In a published birthday tribute in 1992 to Uncle ’Bola, I wrote inter alia “…As you now sit quietly at the bay watching the political waves romp, those who await the ark know themselves…” And when in 1999, he returned to politics and was in the thick of action and no longer the apostle of ‘siddon look’, I again wished him a happy 69th birthday in another article titled “To Uncle Bola Again”. May I quote from that article?:

“If modesty does not permit me to rate my prophecy of the ark, there was an Awo-type accuracy in Uncle ’Bola’s own prediction in his last live radio/television broadcast to the citizens of old Oyo State as the governor on September 30, 1983. I quote relevant portions of the broadcast:

“Today, Oyo State has been pushed to the gate of temporary change and the masses, the great majority of the wonderful people of Oyo State, are now awaiting the beckoning of destiny. May God guide us through. I have already left the Government House this morning and by mid-night today, my four-year term will end. I go back to Oke-Ado, Ibadan and Esa-Oke. One thing is certain; through the grace and power of the marvelous God, the support of you, our people and the solidarity of the patriotic forces in the country, the Unity Party of Nigeria, I will return.”

“Even though Uncle ’Bola did not return to Government House, Agodi, Ibadan, I, on his behalf, returned, four months after that broadcast, to serve three of his military successors for five years as Press Secretary. Please, remember that Uncle ’Bola first took me to Government House Ibadan as a Press Secretary in 1983.

“Each time I stepped into the Government House Ibadan, after his ouster, Uncle ’Bola’s “We shall return” continued to echo in my ears. Today, as you celebrate your birthday, Uncle ’Bola, whether in Abuja, Ibadan or Esa-Oke, you may please wish to ponder on your 1983 prophecy. If the return meant by you is where you are now, as a Federal Minister or still ahead, it has not been without its cross.

“Whereas clerics/malims hold the preserve to sermonize about the travails of prophets, we, their congregations, can be excused to enumerate the travails of our leaders before they sang their songs of victory.

“First, Nnamdi Azikiwe. From the pangs of hunger as a student in the United States of America, that led to his suicide bid on a railway track, the flight to Ghana, to the African Continental Bank/Eastern Nigeria Government financial enquiries and the 1979 tax tar.

“Next, Obafemi Awolowo. From the pains of semi-orphanage, (the loss of his father) at an early age to his peasantry in Ijeun, Abeokuta, his maternal grandmother’s hometown, the liquidation of his cocoa/transport business in Ibadan, the Action Group crisis which blew open at the 1962 Jos Convention, the Coker Commission of Enquiry to the Treasonable Felony Trial and the 10-year jail term.

“And third, Ahmadu Bello–His brushes with the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar and the Northern Region Colonial Administration Financial Enquiry, every great man/woman must dance to the ‘No cross, no crown beat”.

“Dear Uncle ’Bola, as wine glasses are probably being clinked, may I propose the toast by recalling your shoeless feet, until your affectionate sponsor and older brother, Uncle George, bought you pairs on gaining admission to Ibadan Grammar School, the 1962-1963 restriction, the UPN night of long knives, our lucky escape at Tonkere-Modakeke, the symbolic “Eyin Iya mi ati Baba mi” 1983 political broadcasts, the FEDECO assault, the Election Petition, the military century jails terms, the Epe House Arrest, the Abacha gulag and Ahmed Usman ‘prisoners of war’ nonsense.

“I have quoted extensively from my 1999 birthday tribute to my boss and mentor. Today, he is no more with us, as he had joined the triumphant band in heaven. But, in paying tribute to Uncle ‘Bola, one may ask: has any lesson been learnt by us, the living, between 1963, 1979, 1983, 1993 and how?

“Let us all pray to God to forgive us our sins and replenish our motherland with tolerance, justice, joy and progress. Uncle ‘Bola, my beloved soul uncle and mentor, good bye. God shall grant you eternal rest.”

Alabi, the Agba Akin Olubadan of Ibadanland, was the Press Secretary to the late Chief Bola Ige when he was the governor of the Old Oyo State (1979-1983).

Published in Parliament

LATELY, crude oil prices have rallied steadily, rising above $60 per barrel in November. The increase has been precipitated by three principal factors. First is the production cut by members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The reduction in OPEC members’ output reduced supply to the market with a corresponding increase in prices. Another reason is the ongoing hostilities between Iraq and Kurdistan over the status of the city and region of Kirkuk. The crisis has impeded Iraq from reaching its optimal production capacity.

But the most recent factor is the situation in Saudi Arabia. When Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed ibn Salman, launched an anti-corruption purge which saw the arrest and detention of 201 persons, including 11 princes and 38 officials, oil prices rose to $62 per barrel, hitting the highest point since July 2015. Since the Kingdom is the world’s largest exporter of crude oil, whatever happens therein goes a long way in determining the direction in which the oil price pendulum will swing.

The rise in the prices of crude oil is good news to Nigeria because oil is the main source of the country’s revenue. Thus, a rise in its prices signals a surge in Nigeria’s revenue inflow which increases the likelihood of budget implementation and project execution.  However, since the benchmark used for the budget is usually lower than the expected crude oil prices, high crude oil prices means that more money than appropriated comes into the government’s coffers. The temptation, therefore, is for government agencies and officials to treat such money as free fund and squander same.

A pointer to this is the issue of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) which was forced to pay N30 billion into the Federation Account following the boycott by state finance commissioners of the September meeting of the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) because, according to them, the revenue to be shared was grossly inadequate.

The House of Representatives ad hoc committee investigating the pump prices of petroleum products quickly swung into action, directing the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to provide details of the N30 billion unremitted crude oil revenue into the Federation Account. While the step taken by the House is commendable, the action of NNPC suggests that the above-the-benchmark revenue from crude oil sales is largely unaccounted for and ends up in private accounts because if the commissioners had not raised the alarm, the money would not have been paid into the Federation Account.

However, the failure of the NNPC to remit the money points to the far more serious issues of incompetence and negligence of those whose responsibility it is to track the nation’s revenue. Since there is a daily production figure and crude oil prices are not a secret, why was it so difficult for those in charge of monitoring this to find out the unconstitutional act of the NNPC before the commissioners’ protest? Was it a case of a collusion of a few against the interest of the majority? The current administration has repeatedly accused its immediate predecessor of failing to save and squandering the nation’s resources. Therefore, it should not be found guilty of what it accused others of.

Every avenue for ripping the country off should be effectively blocked. The excess earnings from crude oil sales should either be deployed to infrastructure development or saved for the rainy day in the Excess Crude Account as stipulated by the nation’s laws. It is distressing and discomfiting to note that in spite of the hike in the prices of crude oil and the attendant increase in the nation’s revenue, so much debt has been amassed in the last two years. This is not the way to go. No country can experience development without prudent utilisation and optimal management of resources.

The Ministry of Finance must up its game of monitoring and managing the nation’s resources for the benefit of every Nigerian. Every dollar earned by the country must be properly appropriated for the benefit of every Nigerian. It should not be left for a few to misappropriate.

Published in Parliament

As the year 2017 winds down, it is imperative to assess the contributions of the eighth Nigerian Senate against the backdrop of this aphorism by poet, Mary Oliver, “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” We have a very “good” habit in these parts by focusing on the negatives in a way that blinds us to some of the good work that may have been done.

To many times, we often remember the Senate for the frequent face-offs that they have with members of the Executive arm, invitations to public office holders, motions of national importance and resolutions, however, there are also many times when they do make the people proud. This piece intends to interrogate some of those memorable bills through which our senators have demonstrated that their service and fealty do indeed rest on the interests and wishes of the people.

In the passage of the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill, the Senate demonstrated that not only does it listen but also has it fingers on the pulse of the people. The Senate has via this bill, which reduces the required ages for seeking political offices, ignited greater participation of the youth, not just in politics but also in political leadership. For a country with over 70 per cent of its population under 35, this is a wonderful development that holds a lot of promise especially for young people going into 2018 when political realignments will gain momentum ahead of the general elections.

The #OpenNASS was another pivotal movement that made the transition from online advocacy to fruitful offline engagement just like the #theNotTooYoungToRun campaign. The decision to open the Budget of the National Assembly to the general public showcased an exemplary commitment to transparency and accountability which the institution hasn’t always been known for. For the first time, since Nigeria’s return to democratic rule 17 years ago, anyone could google up and see, in fine print every dime that the Senate did intend to spend and how it planned to spend it. Such move has raised the level of confidence and trust that ordinary Nigerians have in the Nigerian Senate and the important work that they do there.

No single issue has, over the past decade, caused so much economic and social destruction to our country as the extremist insurgency in the North East of the country. It has been a thing of great pride to see how citizens all over the country contributed their best to this painful road of recovery. Here again, the Senate chimed in with commitment and focus, passing the North East Development Commission Bill (signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari), which among other things establishes a commission tasked with the responsibility of rebuilding and rehabilitating the North East whilst ensuring the resettlement of the internally displaced persons into their homes. Surely rebuilding the North east is the most definitive way to defeat the insurgents, and it’s great to see the Senate playing its part in the fight.

In November, the World Bank released its Ease of Doing Business Report for 2018 with the joyful news that Nigeria had moved up 24 places to be ranked in the 145th position out of 190 countries against the backdrop of a decade of decline in the global rankings. While the Executive arm received tonnes of plaudits for this great feat, many commentators forget that the Senate had helped to lay the groundwork with the Ease of Doing Business Bills – the Credit Bureau Services Bill and the Secured Transactions in Moveable Assets.

The Credit Bureau Services Bill passed in May 2017 helps reduce the risk of lending or engaging in business with individuals or companies with a financial history of not paying back while the Secured Transactions in Moveable Assets, enables ordinary Nigerians use invoices and receipts to access loans and working capital. Together, both laws smoothen the rough edges of doing business in Nigeria by securing lenders from working with people who have questionable financial history and also enabling more Nigerians to borrow towards growing their businesses. This, no doubt, would translate in unlocking more growth potential for our economy.

Lastly, as a nation we have always paid lip service when it comes to leveraging technology to make life easier for the people. What better way to side with the people than to show understanding that the viability of our whole democracy lies in the integrity of our electoral system with the passage of the INEC Reform Bill which will shore up and safeguard our voting process.

Thanks to the bill, there shall now be full biometric accreditation of voters with Smart Card Readers, INEC Officers must now instantly transmit accreditation data and results from Polling Units to various collation centers in a manner that determines final results on real time basis. INEC is also now mandated to keep a National Electronic Register of Election Results as a distinct database or repository of polling unit by polling unit results for all elections conducted by INEC. Collation of election result is also now mainly electronic, as transmitted unit results will help to determine final results on real time basis. But the best part of the bill is that it kick-starts, in earnest, the technological evolution of our voting system. Such adoption of technology to drive our political system as piloted by the Senate would make our elections more free, fair and transparent.

The Whistleblower Protection Bill, Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) Bill and Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill all passed this year are aimed that giving fillip to the fight against corruption. This somewhat deals a lie to the notion that the Legislative arm of government is not interested in killing corruption before it kills the nation.

The eighth Senate seems not to be as tone-deaf as a lot of critics make them out. A wise man once said, looking back and looking forward is the only way to make progress. In looking backward, we have seen the grounds covered by our legislators in the eighth Senate and that they can deliver progress. In looking forward, we can challenge our law makers to always place service before and above self whilst delivering a future that we all can be proud of.


Ndukwe is an Abuja based communications professional.

Published in News & Stories
Saturday, 23 December 2017 15:50

The Guardian Editorial: States of ridicule

It is impossible not to be offended by the tragedy of Nigeria’s democracy and warped federal system which governance at the state level has become over the years.

With wanton constitutional breaches as the order of the day, the states are largely an embarrassment to the idea of democracy as impunity or the rule of man trumps the rule of law.

This travesty needs to be checked by the people who must rise in unison to demand better conduct from their governors and elected representatives in the state assemblies.

In most, the governors manage the affairs of government like mafia potentates, while elected legislators, political appointees and private citizens are mere toys in the hands of imperious masters. Most governors have virtually pocketed the State Houses of Assembly.

The truth therefore is that at the state level, democracy is imperiled and economic development truncated as a result of impunity.

The 1999 Constitution guarantees the separation of the powers of the three arms of government as the roles and functions of the Executive, the Legislative and Judicial arms are clearly spelt out. This is meant to safeguard the spirit and practice of democracy.

As a check on the Executive Arm of government, both the Legislature and the Judiciary ought to be independent. But such is the disgrace that governance at the state level has become that lawmakers answer to the governors by hook or crook.

This has not only been fertile ground for corruption, it has rendered the legislature impotent when dealing with the executive arm.

The result is that even when governors commit terrible, impeachable offences against the people who elected them into offices, their respective legislatures, so compromised and so subservient, are unable to provide any check. Indeed, most houses of assembly are no more than extensions of the governors’ offices.

One of the problems is the manner in which elected officials are produced from the different constituencies: many owe their election into the legislature to the governors and therefore become beholden to him, that all-powerful godfather.

The judicial arm is often not protected from the overbearing superintendence of the state chief executives as it gets subventions from the state governors and sometimes becomes equally subservient. Even capital projects in the form of building and maintaining courtrooms depend on the whims and caprices of the governors.

As this newspaper once noted, the mess in most of the states is a complete ridicule of the idea of responsible governance. Hardly is there due process or accountability. In the award of contracts, political considerations often outweigh other factors.

Construction works are done only to please local titans or party stalwarts with a view to strengthening them politically and not necessarily to deliver such projects to the people.

As a result, when the contracts are poorly executed, the executive arm is unable to take any serious actions against them and the result is that too many abandoned projects abound in many states.

Close friends and members of the family of state chief executives are known to enjoy undue patronage while governors’ wives run pet projects which serve more often than not as conduit for waste or outright pilfering of public funds.

It has been correctly observed that some states have not witnessed any major physical development since 1999 as huge sums of money which could have been used for development in the states are in the pockets of the leaders, past and present.

The result of this is that development is arrested. Roads are in a bad shape. Health facilities are not in good shape. Schools suffer from very terrible infrastructure deficit. And teachers, where they are available, are not paid.

Nigeria’s warped federal system in which state governments go to Abuja monthly to collect allocations from the Federation Account has encouraged indolence and corruption. The drive for internal sources of fund generation is weak in most states. Most cannot meet their financial obligations to their employees even as the same poor governance has created a bloated civil service with extremely low productivity.

In the hands of the state governors, the third tier, the local government has been castrated and fares much worse in service delivery to the people. With too many employees who have no work to do, they have become a castrated tier with little responsibility, bloated workforce and no productivity.

Teachers, in both primary and secondary schools do not feel motivated to carry out their functions anymore and the future of the country is technically in jeopardy.

Nigerians, of course, should begin a conscious process of holding their governors accountable and making them know that corrupt and inept governance will not be condoned.

The people should take their voting rights more seriously henceforth so they can send poor performers out of offices at the earliest possible time. The power of recall should also be taken seriously and routinely exercised over erring legislators. All citizens must, indeed, be watchdogs of democracy.

Certainly, some states are better governed than others but it is only when all the states are properly governed on the principles of fairness, equity and justice, that the anguish in Nigeria would be minimized and democracy would have a greater meaning to the people.

The situation now is such that governance in many of the 36 states is in a state of ridicule and the leaders in those states are nothing more than a dent on the armour of democracy.

Published in Parliament
Page 2 of 13

Newsletter