Friday, 20 May 2022

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

Parliament

Parliament (629)

When the Union flag was lowered and the Nigerian flag raised 57 years ago there was a sense of euphoria. Many former colonies had to fight a war of independence in which many lives were lost but we were spared that trauma. So it would be fair to say that Nigeria got its independence on a platter of gold. But that gift was thrown away six years later. The war we didn’t have before independence we had it after: the Biafran war.

That war which lasted for 30 months and cost one million lives still haunts us today like an unscrutable mystery. At the end of that war General Yakubu Gowon had on Biafra’s surrender announced that there was “no victor and no vanquished.” He also established a three-pronged programme of reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction, as a way of bringing the war weary Easterners from the cold into the comfort of the Nigerian family again. The rebel leader, Emeka Odumgwu-Ojukwu, who had fled to the Ivory Coast remained in exile for 12 years. When President Shehu Shagari pardoned him he was allowed to return to the country without any pre-conditions. That gesture represented the final nail in the coffin of secession.

The Igbos who were the major victims of the war or of its cause in the first place have never felt convinced that they have been fully reabsorbed and their rights as full-fledged citizens of Nigeria fully restored. This argument has gone on for years and many Nigerians on the opposite side of the war are convinced that the Igbos having fought and lost a war could not expect to be treated as if they had won the war. War is a serious business that often comes with serious and dangerous consequences. In the political arena, the Igbos have produced a vice president, several Senate presidents, a Central Bank governor and a number of ministers that took charge of important portfolios. In the security sector, two Igbos had become the Inspector General of Police, while another Igbo man had occupied the strategic position of Chief of Army Staff. But many Igbos have argued that they have been denied the top trophy: the Presidency.

The Presidency is the top job in the land and many people from various parts of the country covet it. No one is likely to wrap it like a parcel with a ribbon around it and donate it to the Igbos. If they want it they must work for it by networking with other groups and doing the necessary horse-trading. However, I believe that their flirtation with secession through MASSOB and IPOB is clearly the wrong way to go. If the thesis is that an attempt, even a half hearted attempt, at secession will induce the political decision makers to donate the presidency to the Igbos it is a fraudulent thesis. In fact, on the contrary the agitation for secession will rather damage almost irreparably the case for an Igbo presidency. My advice to the Igbos is for them to begin to mend fences now instead of allowing Nnamdi Kanu and his gang to put a fly in the Igbo ointment.

The two major parties, APC and PDP have allocated the presidency to the North. If the Igbos choose to contest for the presidency in the PDP they will have to wait until 2027. But if they want to run in the APC they have to pray that President Muhammadu Buhari runs again in 2019 and successfully brings his second term to an end in 2023. If someone else from the North runs in 2019 he will go for two fresh terms which will terminate in 2027. But the Igbos can choose any of the minor parties as a platform but the chances for success on such party platforms are extremely slim. The starting point is to rein in Nnamdi Kanu and his gang and begin to build trust as they network with other political and ethnic groups in the country.

At present, Nigeria is in a state of confusion arising from agitations from different groups in the country. Old questions about the Nigerian condition have arisen and these questions are begging for new answers. The reason for the search for new answers is that the old answers have not been adequate in laying to rest the ghosts of these questions. Ours is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious community. In such a heterogeneous polity with several nationalities each with their own set of values and expectations, there will always be differences of opinion. The problem is often how to find many points of convergence and reduce the many areas of divergence so that all groups can find comfortable accommodation within the polity. As of now no group is certain that it has found its comfort zone. That is why we have several discordant tunes.

It is most unlikely that we can all agree all the time on all the issues that confront us and affect our lives. But we must understand where we all stand and where we all want to go. We must search for shared beliefs, shared expectations, shared goals and common grounds. We moved from centrifugalism instalmentally in the 60s into the extreme centripetalism that the military bestowed on us. This has brought a political gridlock that manifests itself in unpaid bills, new foreign and domestic debts, unsettled staff salaries and pension benefits, spiraling inflation, corruption, unemployment, crisis of rising expectations and high crime and many other dysfunctionalities. These have combined to put pressure on the country’s unity and sense of oneness. This has also made the search for a new direction urgent, very, very urgent.

A lot of things are wrong with our country and these are problems that have been with us for many years. A time like this offers us an opportunity for introspection. The World Bank says that about 67 per cent of Nigerians go to bed everyday on an empty stomach. That is a dangerous situation because a hungry person can become an angry person. Besides, there is a long unemployment and underemployment queue whose estimate is more than 25 per cent. That means that we all are sitting on a keg of gunpowder. The worst aspect of the problem is that the opportunities are shrinking further as factories close shop or trim their operations and show some of their staff the exit door. We have been told that the economy has made its exit out of recession but we need to stimulate it for optimal growth so that we can begin to experience some worthwhile improvements in no distant date.

Every year we go through the ritual of drawing up, presenting and defending the national budget. Most of the time these budgets are passed in the middle of the year. This means that there is often not much time for implementation before the year draws to a close. Then the ritual starts again without any information to the public on how much of the previous year’s budget was actually implemented. This year’s budget had experienced some hiccups which led to its late passage. Even when it was passed with all the padding that was done by the legislators no one was truly sure what was eventually approved by the executive. Isn’t there a way of reducing these uncertainties and the acrimony that reduce budgeting to the science of voodooism?

How can we make our governments work better so as to reduce the level of poverty, disease, ignorance, corruption, terrorism, cultism, infrastructural decay etc when the bulk of our budget, about 80 per cent, goes into recurrent expenditure? With only 20 per cent left for capital projects how much can we achieve to turn around a country with decaying infrastructural facilities? Pretty little. So it is clear that as a nation we are living above our means; we are piling up debts, foreign and domestic again, we are mortgaging our future and the future of our children. Our governments and parliaments are engaged in conspicuous consumption not minding the dire state of the economy and the poor state of its people. No one expected that at 57 Nigeria’s economy would be in the bind in which it is now considering our massive mineral and manpower resources. But it appears the presence of such solid and liquid mineral resources has unbelievably become a harbinger of doom, a disincentive to hardwork and creativity, a curse from which we have made very little effort to exit.

The little piece of good news is that there has been some encouraging happenings in the agricultural sector. If we do not take our eyes off the ball in that sector we may be self-sufficient in food production before 2019. That would be a good legacy for the Buhari administration and an indication that oil or no oil we can survive. And thrive.

Buhari is President at a momentous time in the annals of our country, a time during which the very existence of the country as a unit is being challenged once again. The nation expects him to be a great bridge-builder and unifier and one with a vision of a greater Nigeria. That vision demands that he rises above the din of ethnic and geographical irredentists and comes up with a life changing transformation agenda for Nigeria. That demands courage and the right dose of political will. The next two years will reveal whether he has them or not.

https://guardian.ng/opinion/does-buhari-have-it/

Posted On Wednesday, 04 October 2017 00:12 Written by

IT was simply impossible not to empathise with the Minister of Education, Mr Adamu Adamu’s sense of indignation during the celebration of the International Literacy Day. In a moment of agonising self-indictment, he admitted that the number of illiterates in the country had literally hit the roof under his watch, being “between 65 million and 75 million.” The minister revealed this when he paid a courtesy call on Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State at the state capital, Birnin Kebbi, during the two-day International Literacy Day Conference organised by the National Commission for Mass Education. Represented by the Director of Basic and Secondary Education in the Ministry of Education, Mr. Jonathan Mbaka, the minister said that with the estimated population of Nigeria at 170 million, the number of illiterates was too high. He said: “Education is the bedrock of any country’s development and any country that does not educate its populace is bound to fail. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, we have a large population of illiterates; the figure, considering our population, is unbecoming.”

This dismal figure represents just a tad below 45 per cent of the country’s estimated population and that is alarming, to put it mildly. What makes the situation worse is the staggering figure of out-of-school children in the country, as the states from the southern part of the country have also joined in producing the league of illiterates. Even at that, the rate of school dropouts is also very high. Confronted by existential problems, children who were once enrolled in schools have been leaving schools to fend for themselves even when public schools have been failing to impart qualitative education to those who attend them. In other words, it may be misleading to assume that children enrolled in schools are getting educated enough to become assets to the country. Many of them are hardly benefitting from the poor and crude infrastructure and personnel in these schools and the government appears to be oblivious of the damning reality.

The situation is really a quandary. Rescue is a far cry away because if school leavers at different levels are regularly left despondent, desultory and without any gainful employment, it will be difficult, not to say impossible, to persuade others that attending schools is actually a good option. It would seem that the fundamental question of the philosophy of education, that is, “education for what?”, should be addressed by governments at all levels, as the notion that education is merely to access white-collar jobs is not really helpful after all. Equally unhelpful has been the practice of rampant, automatic promotion in public primary and secondary schools which makes pupils to write public examinations which they are not prepared for.

Governments at all levels should be single-minded about mass literacy, as opposed to having certificates for the purposes of employment. It is vitally important even for those doing menial jobs to be literate. We think that massive public education and campaigns are necessary in this direction. Of course, there are agencies of government saddled with the task of achieving mass literacy and encouraging adult learning, and it has now become imperative to assess their activities and impact on the people. The fact that some people do not have certificates should not mean that they are unable to read the prescriptions on their drugs or cross the road at the prompting of traffic lights.

The National Commission for Mass Education must register its relevance in terms of performance. Making people literate should be clearly separated from formal education. The commission should be able to draw the line and come up with programmes that will be accessible to both the old and young populations. A situation in which about 45 per cent of the country’s population are virtually illiterate should bother the authorities. We think that the way to go is to encourage people to go to school, adults for adult literacy programmes and the youth populations for regular education. The government should also equip the nation’s schools and motivate the teachers to make learning a delightful experience.

https://www.tribuneonlineng.com/nigerias-75-million-illiterates/N

Posted On Wednesday, 04 October 2017 00:07 Written by

By its very nature, a library is an indispensable resource of any institutions of learning. It is a collection of sources of information and similar resources, made accessible to a defined community for reference or borrowing. Before the (digital) big data age, a library consists of a building, room or virtual space where a vast array of information resources are stored and accessed for study. In its simplicity, a library is a basic necessity for schools and other educational institutions for the purpose of acquiring knowledge.

Which is why most functional, effective and result-oriented school systems always have library resources, which include books, newspapers, periodicals, maps, films, prints, documents, CDs, cassettes, videotapes, DVDs, e-books, audio books, databases.

The information and resources in a library could be limitless depending on the scale and purpose for which it was set up. Libraries could be organised and maintained by a public body, an institution or individual to serve the same purpose.

But in Nigeria, there is nowhere citizens can actually turn to find good libraries. Only very few private schools maintain some semblance of good libraries. Public libraries in schools from federal to local government councils have disappeared. In fact, in the 41-year-old Abuja, the national library project is the most neglected project scheme in the central business district (CBD).

It is against this backdrop that a recent promise by the Federal Government to provide adequate funding for school libraries makes some sense. Somehow, it is strange that the issue of library is being treated as a separate issue from the decadent education system: the two are inseparable. Talking of a school without good libraries has been part of the reasons for the downward trend and absence of competitiveness in education here this newspaper commented on two weeks ago. Sadly, most schools in the country are in that quagmire.

That is why the government’s promise to fund libraries shouldn’t be mere rhetoric considering that there had been similar impromptu promises that were not fulfilled. Again, we are in a tenure midterm ambush when political leaders make empty promises to win public support for next elections. That shouldn’t be the case.

There are so many reasons this library revival project should not be a pipe dream. In the first place, most citizens as we often do here, have been concerned about little or no attention that governments at all levels pay to education. Specifically, all our institutions of higher learning are poorly rated in global and continental contexts. Yet, our students who go abroad for undergraduate and graduate studies are daily reported as beating world records in academic pursuits. The records should have been beaten at home in our schools. Nigerian power elite members usually travel abroad for even short-term skills acquisition courses in foreign universities that have some global brand equity. What is worse, when it comes to graduate employability index in global context, Nigeria is nowhere to be found.Even most of the private primary and post primary schools that are doing well here, there are foreign labels such as “British and Montessori Schools.” Just in the same vein, some of them are foreign missions such as Loyola Jesuit’s. Sadly, our public officers elected and hired to take care of these institutions get their wards admitted into these “glocalised’’ schools in the country. This is shameful and unacceptable.

Again, we would like to call on the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, who promised the library revival project during the 2017 National Readership Promotion Campaign, organised by the National Library of Nigeria in Abuja to be a promise keeper. Education is on the concurrent legislative list. And so, all the 36 states and 774 local governments that actually have more schools should not be left out. They should note that without quality education, there will be no development on any fronts. They should therefore pay attention, not only to the equipment of libraries, they should also equip the schools and teachers to have an all-round development in education.

After all, the event that set off the pledge for the revival of the libraries, had as its theme, ‘‘Working together to build a virile reading nation: Challenges and Strategies,’’ and was aimed at promoting reading culture in the country.

But it is hard to agree with the minister’s observation on the occasion that the present generation of Nigerians is to blame for the poor reading culture. What have the elders including the minister bequeathed to the present generation? Are the elders too reading to solve the problems of society? If the elders had had a reading culture, would all the libraries have collapsed?

Education administrators and policy makers should note that traditional libraries are not common anymore. What is in vogue is the development of virtual libraries known as e-libraries, which can be accessed from any locations through the Internet. That is the direction the world is going and Nigeria should not be left out. Governments and private proprietors should ask for experts who will help them develop some e-libraries while re-equipping the old ones where necessary. After all, it is said that, “a library is the great gymnasium where we go to make our minds strong.” But ultimately, there should be commitment to funding education in a radical manner that can deliver employable products of our schools for development.

https://guardian.ng/opinion/a-time-to-build-modern-libraries/
Posted On Tuesday, 03 October 2017 23:31 Written by

Nigeria’s comedy industry grows by the day. Comedy, it now seems, is the readiest avenue to stardom in Nigeria; very funny. Every which way one looked in the country they are as likely to behold an unfurling hilarious drama. You do not need to be able to afford a premium ticket to enjoy a good comedy at the Muson Centre in Lagos; or such-like places. Variegated comedy theaters abound in the Nigerian landscape, with high-performing actors and actresses on hand; from our very lawless Motor Parks to our very rowdy market places, through to the hallow chambers of the National Assembly, colourful live comedies are never in want. The “our mumu don do” protesters, otherwise known as “Buhari return or resign” and their opposite group, wittingly or unwittingly, presented the latest evidence of this growing population of comedians in our midst.

Though it’s incompatible with my breeding to speak condescendingly about a supposed patriotic gesture of my fellow citizens, but the warped reasoning of these protesters has compelled me to break with established tradition. Indeed, these groups of protesters have merely confirmed that “our mumu never do.” My reasons are outlined thus:

Muhammadu Buhari, the Daura born, retired two-star army general, incapacitated or not, remains the substantive president of the geographic expression called Nigeria. Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, by his own admission, unfailingly takes directives from, just as he unfailingly reports back to his indisposed principal.

Long before he took seriously ill, President Buhari presented Nigerians with the unassailable evidence that he is discharging the nation’s first office at the behest of a select group. The president’s wife, Aisha, and Senate President Bukola Saraki famously confirmed that unacceptable situation. For my part, l couldn’t resist devoting an article on this pages to that realisation – “Buhari belongs to some persons.”

Despite the glaring fact that the unity of Nigeria is severely threatened by centripetal forces across her six geo-political zones, due primarily to her fundamentally flawed political structure, the First Estate of the Realm, in reviewing the extant national Constitution, completely failed to decisively attend to Nigeria’s most pressing contemporary challenge: Administrative Restructuring. Few weeks prior to the commencement of that constitutional review exercise, the Honourable Members of the green chamber surprisingly voted against the Bill on relocation of the International Oil Companies headquarters back to the Niger Delta region. Need l say that that surprise nay-vote at once offended against best global business models and regional sensitivities. (Question: are our elected Representatives verily representing the interests of the electorate; or, our mumu don do?).

Lives and property in Nigeria have never been more threatened as is in present-day Nigeria; Boko Haram insurgents, mindless kidnappers, satanic mass killings (my heart goes out to the victim-families of Ozubulu), armed robbers, militants, separatist agitators, cultists, ritualists, hawkers of human limbs, and such-like dreadful groups now hold sway; and Nigerians continuously contend with the psychological trauma of these threats. Yet, our elected leaders live in cocooned luxury and security at the expense of our common wealth. Our mumu don do?

Year after year Nigerians are called by successive leaderships to make selfless sacrifices for a terribly mismanaged country, but none of these hapless citizens has even an inkling of the dividends of their long-sufferings. Elsewhere, citizens would demand of their leadership a concrete vision of their nation’s ultimate destiny in an exchange for their expected sacrifices. Could any Nigerian predict what the value of the national currency, the naira, will be twelve months hence; nor can anyone say what the unit cost of electricity or the prices of petroleum products will be six months from today.

So, our mumu don do? Only a comedian would answer in the affirmative. But in spite of these major oddities Nigerians somehow still carry on living life as though nothing has gone amiss. Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the inimitable Afro Beat legend whose twentieth memorial anniversary was commemorated recently, had waxed a best-selling album to depict the Nigerian state; he named it.

“Suffering and smiling.” And not too long ago, an international poll concluded that Nigerians were among the happiest people on Earth. True, Nigerians continue to smile in spite of their spine-breaking sufferings because of institutionalised social-conditioning by the country’s self-seeking and steeply selfish leadership class. The latter, keenly minded of its conspicuous self-centeredness (cathedral-like official residences; countless number of luxury vehicles; long list of security details; globe-trotting on chartered flights, e.t.c.) aggressively exploits the opium of tribe and religion to pitch the masses against themselves. It does this to benumb their senses; tribe and religion never fail to have their narcotic-like effects on the multitude. And because nature created humans to think individually the multitude never could think through the maze; this is why the masses are so easy to manipulate. The multitude is sheepish (a euphemism for mumu); why else do you think politicians love campaign rallies? It is far too easy to persuade the multitude than the individual. Thusly, the decisions and actions of the multitude are largely determined by those it looks up to, be they religious bigots, tribal jingoists, self-seeking politicians, or purveyors of truths. The quality of a people’s leadership is therefore predicated on their degree of sheepishness. (When the people are ready, the mystic appears) History bears this out.

Therefore, the most urgent task for the Nigerian masses for the present is to rid themselves of their decades of social-conditioning, and begin to listen to the voices of selfless thinkers or true philosophers. Nigeria has her fair share of this tribe of persons; and these have been prodding the citizenry to eschew tribe and religion from its electoral culture. But thus far this has been to no avail because our mumu never do. Buhari’s resumption of office or resignation from it would not change Nigeria’s unfortunate narrative. The existing leadership class or its entrenched mind-set is what needs substituting. Only one vector can make this happen: a less sheepish electorate. So, the our mumu don do protesters had better look away from the convalescing septuagenarian in the Queen’s country, revert to their drawing board, and diligently focus on the extensive work that needs to be done on the multitude…

• Nkemdiche, a consulting engineer lives in Abuja.

Posted On Tuesday, 15 August 2017 12:22 Written by
Any close watcher of events in the country in recent times would know that the country is passing through a very trying period. Never in the history of Nigeria has it faced this kind of troubles. The troubles are multifaceted. Over and above every other thing is the battle for the soul of Nigeria. The centrifugal forces from different sectors of Nigeria want to rip it apart. It looks like a joke. But never before has the country been so threatened to such an extent. Not even during the civil war.

The events of the Nigeria civil war were one directional. It was a section of the country contending against the whole, which made it fail. That was child’s play compared to what is happening at present. The country is facing multi-faceted problems from several directions. Each problem is potentially dangerous. The spate of agitations and quit notices being issued from right, left and centre are frightening.

At the last count, no less than five quit notices have been issues across Nigeria. The coalition of Arewa youths started it all when it issued an ultimatum to the Igbo resident in the north to leave their region or be forced out from October 1, 2017. That immediately sent jitters across the country and re-ignited the unending ethnic tension bedeviling Nigeria. Each ethnic group appeared to have been awakened from slumber.

As if that was being expected, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) readily welcomed the Kaduna declaration and saw it as oil that would lubricate the wheel of their march towards Biafra. IPOB called on all Igbo in the north to return en masse without wasting time. It also ordered northerners living in the South-East to vacate.

Almost immediately, a coalition of Niger Delta militants, in a sharp reaction, rose from a meeting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State and ordered all northerners to vacate the oil-rich region. The militants threatened to attack all oil wells owned by northerners in the Niger Delta before October 1. They also threatened to declare the Niger Delta Republic. The group demanded for the return of all oil blocks given to none indigenes of the Niger Delta.

A group called the Middle Belt Renaissance Forum, made up of youths from all the states in the Middle Belt, after its crucial meeting in Abuja, declared that all herdsmen must vacate the Middle Belt by October 1. It declared that the Middle Belt is not in any way part of the Northern agitation for the Igbo to vacate. The Forum charged the North to stop using the Middle Belt to achieve its selfish political and economic aims as was the case in the past.

As if it wants to ensure that it was not left in the cold, a group of Yoruba nationalists had, after a meeting in Lagos, declared Oduduwa republic, which it said is seceding from the entity called Nigeria. Although, it did not issue quit notice against anybody, it slammed Nnamdi Kanu, IPOB, MASSOB, and the Arewa Consultative Forum for disrespecting the Yoruba nation for too long!

The Yoruba, to me, has been the only placating force holding Nigeria together after the other regions appeared to be set for a show down. That the Yoruba has now joined in this fray shows how serious the situation has become. As it were, virtually every section of the country wants to pull out of Nigeria.

Unfortunately, October 1, which normally, is used to commemorate Nigeria’s independence from colonial rule, has now become the new date set for the sharing of Nigeria to its component parts. What an irony of situation! Can Nigeria survive October 1, 2017? Would there be independence celebration this year? What is the government doing about these divisive forces? Is anything being done to assuage the situation? What is the way out?

Former Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the other day, captured the terrifying situation when he said that Nigeria is sleep walking to national disaster and yet the present leadership of the country seems to be indifferent. Anyaoku spoke at a lecture he delivered in commemoration of the 98th birthday of Chief Akintola Williams, the renowned accountant.

But that, really, is not the case. The leadership cannot be said to be sleep walking, for that will mean they are unconscious of what is happening. Whatever is happening, including the leadership lackadaisical response is done in full consciousness. The leadership is not sleeping. Whatever it is doing is deliberate; in full consciousness and with all the senses very much awake. The absence of President Buhari has complicated the problem.

Just the other day, for instance, the National Assembly (NASS), threw out a bill on the devolution of power to the states, which would have served as panacea to the agitations to the chagrin of Nigerians. Nigerians had placed hope that passage of the bill could reduce tension in the country.

The issue of restructuring, which has gained currency across the country, could have been pushed forward if the devolution of power bill had been passed. But that seems to have failed, thereby, exposing the country to avoidable imminent danger. The rejection of the bill by the NASS confirmed what I had written in this column that the lawmakers are paying lip service to restructuring. The opportunity came for them to show patriotism and love for the country but they blew it and are now helpless.

For now, I can’t imagine what the NASS could do to save the country; they are averse to implementing the 2014 National Conference Report and have missed a golden opportunity to save the country. Why couldn’t the NASS make history as change agent that pulled the country out of the cesspit? Why have these peoples’ representatives refused to do the will of the people but pursue their own selfish agenda?

It needs to be stressed that miss-governance is at the root of all the agitations. Leadership failure is absolutely Nigeria’s main problem. It is worrisome that amid the tension in the land, the political leadership is acting as if all is well. By neglecting the situation, no critical effort is being made to deal with the situation.

Although, while at no time, since the war broke out in 1967, has there been absolute peace in Nigeria, a situation where every section of the country wants to break out is unprecedented. That is why there ought to be crisis emergency meetings going on in government circles to deal with the problem and save the country.

Posted On Tuesday, 15 August 2017 12:18 Written by

I refer to Chidi Anselm Odinkalu’s opinion piece titled, “Nigeria’s toxic NGO Regulation Bill” in The Guardian of July 27, 2017. His fears on a draconian bill from the federal parliament (House) to monitor the activities of non-governmental organisations are in order. Thanks to civil society, Nigerians are vibrant, and demand accountability from governments which have led to the ushering in of a degree of open governance.

Thanks to foreign aid, the AIDS scourge around the world has reduced tremendously. And unlike in times past, more people now have access to antiretroviral treatment than was previously possible. And deaths have reduced to a noticeable level. Currently, we do not look at AIDS patients with the woe-begone-thee outlook of before, thanks to enlightenment campaigns, so also is the reduction in the level of tuberculosis, malaria, improved education for girls, as well as improved agricultural practices etc. But are non-governmental organisations in Nigeria truly equipped to carry out the mission for which these aids are meant?
Do we really have the system in place, the political institutions built over time to sustain the works of non-governmental organisations in words and in deeds?

Can our people and government take actions on critical issues without reverting to donors? I am looking at taking ownership of the process. How is our level of diplomacy and engagement with open society? Maybe this is where a bill as proposed is needed. I have sat down to think about this. Just recently, I needed sponsorship for a programme to help young children. I wrote many letters to non-governmental organisations in-country. Only one sent a negative reply. Even then, they told me that their external donors determine projects they must fund locally. The outfit in question deals with issues that hover around children, I plan saving children. You wonder why they couldn’t take the lead to inform their donors about my plans but settled for the easy way out.

In contrast, one U.S. foundation stationed in the United States to which I sent a letter – promptly replied within days. It regretted not being able to assist but gave me customised web links to download resource materials to help develop content for the proposed, programme. I can’t forget my trip to the British Council, of course supervised by Nigerians. I went there to see if I could get resource persons for a TV show on education. They were excited. They made me apply formally. This was in August 2016. As I write this essay, no-one has deemed it fit to reply, even though I had a meeting with a Nigerian manager in charge of education (even when I sent text messages giving gentle reminders) neither did they give me a resource person even when I told them the date I planned to go on air. I wonder what might have happened had I ventured there to ask for sponsorship. What then drives that British organisation to development? Or how do they support developmental progress when formal letters are received, acknowledged but statuses of applications never communicated to applicants.

Do we need to harp on recruitment into NGOs in Nigeria? Due to the need to staff top decision making positions with Nigerians, merit in many places has been thrown away and we have settled for nepotism. To get a job in many NGO outfit in Nigeria, you may need to be connected or come from a particular geographical location in Nigeria. I remember being interviewed for a position at The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in 2010 in Port Harcourt. Seven years later, not one person bothered to inform me why I failed the test and oral interview. I submitted efforts for two days. Silence means I failed right? No issue with failing though. Great men have failed at some things in earlier days. But courtesy demands I am informed, isn’t it? NGOs in Nigeria are proto-type of our civil service.

Our love for clannishness is not only affecting the decisions of donors in Nigeria but is also eroding the importance of NGOs in Nigeria. I remember how I campaigned to get a job in a USAID-funded NGO in 2009 in Port Harcourt but the top managers told me the available position was reserved for an indigene of the state even when no-one had applied for it. We fork out nativist agenda in growth agencies. I am not judging these NGOs. But we need to feel their presence in Nigeria and appreciate their unbridled interest and resourcefulness in addressing issues that have bedeviled our society. If truly we want to evolve as a people or develop as a nation, these issues must be squarely faced.

What do NGOs teach us here? And how effective are they to the Nigerian society? President Donald Trump plans to cut down drastically on U.S. foreign aids around the world. Experts have warned that it would harm U.S. national security. The Trump administration is also proposing cuts in U.S. funds to the United Nations. The president reasons, that the U.S. carries the burden of the world alone to a large-degree, with no gratitude from many countries that can’t survive without her foreign aids. Nigeria needs to begin to discharge her own burden – without being nursed, fraternally.

• Abah wrote from Port Harcourt.

Posted On Tuesday, 15 August 2017 12:15 Written by

Atiku Abubakar, Waziri Adamawa, a former Vice President of Nigeria and a former presidential candidate, no doubt may be one of the most maligned high ranking former public office holders from the North. In addition to the public perception that everyone who has been in government has stolen government money and is corrupt, the experience and challenges Atiku Abubakar had with his then boss, during his time as vice president has contributed to whatever perception of him the section of the public may have. There is a general lack of trust for former public office holders, understandably so. For these reasons, whatever any former public office holder says or does must be for his personal aggrandisement in the perception of skeptics. Of course skeptics are many, and will always be.

But can we stop for a moment and listen sincerely to what this individual is saying? Can we take a look at our own system and analyse how well we have done, how much we have progressed? We all have this consensus that the nation has not met her potentials. I saw on Omojuwa’s twitter handle the other day, where he stated “When you read up on Nigerian’s history, it just feels like this country got frozen in time. The same problems over half a century. Kilode?” “Kilode” meaning what happened, in Yoruba, an expression I understood to mean nothing seems to have changed. The agitations arising from all regions of the country are signs of the consensus that the people no longer believe in the present system. It is an old saying and a popular one that it is only a fool that will do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.

It really does not matter who says it, I think the content is more important than the container. This is not to say I share the view of those who are disparaging the former vice president for his outspokenness and his position on the issue. As a matter of fact I commend him for his courage and continuous faith in the Nigeria project. But the point I want to buttress is “what is he saying?”

Our problems as a people as observed by many have been over-centralisation, bigotry (be it religious or ethnic) and corruption. The lack of growth and development is only symptomatic of the above tripod of pathology which is in turn complications of our present system. The suspicion and lack of trust amongst citizens from different ethnicities and regions have continuously been fed by our present structure.

Atiku is saying the present system has not worked for even his region despite other regions of the country’s perception that his region, the north presently benefits the most from the present arrangement. This is a view that most other people also share. He has said one united Nigeria is possible if we practice true federalism. He is again not alone in thinking that the period in the history of Nigeria when we made the most progress coincided with the period when our dear country practiced federalism as it was intended. Bearing in mind that there is no such thing as true federalism, and that federal systems generally evolved in society in line with their peculiar challenges with a view to solving them, true federalism cannot be some kind of system that is cast on stone otherwise there will not be congresses and assemblies as it is with most democracies. Lawmaking is a continuum and the structure of government is part of the law that needs to be continuously reviewed. Atiku has consistently called for a major change in the present arrangement (restructuring).

As germane as this call may be, I have heard argument against him with great surprise, especially because such arguments have also come from people you expect should know better. Despite the former vice president’s courage and visionary ideas, I find it not too surprising that oppositions abound.

The former military president, Ibrahim Babangida also expressed support for a system change a few weeks ago and the polity was laced with similar reactions. No doubt that some of our former leaders had opportunity to do “right” and they didn’t. But are they not allowed to change their views? Should their views not be affected by

changing situations? From the period of the Ibrahim Babangida administration till now is a long time and there is no doubt that a lot has changed. Despite that, Atiku has been quite consistent with his view on the need to practice true federalism. As far back as 2009 at the National Conference On Consensus Building For Electoral Reform held at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja as a keynote speaker, despite applauding almost totally all the recommendations of the Justice Uwais commission on electoral reforms, Atiku still pointedly disagreed with the commission’s recommendation that state electoral bodies be taken over by the federal INEC and the reason he gave was that if it should happen, it would further make a mess of our federal system of government. As vice president, he also spoke against the over concentration of power amongst other things at the center and has in different fora expressed the need for devolution of power to the federating units (states).

I do not believe that any one man has the magic wand that solves our numerous challenges nor do I believe that the solution to our problems is one prong and that with restructuring all our problems will go away. The former vice president has also expressed his views that restructuring may not necessarily be an easy sail.

But we shall search for the eye of the fish in the head of the fish as looking elsewhere will only be a waste of time. In the Vanguard Newspaper of 30th July, 2017, the former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole joined the barrage of individuals who have tried to disparage Atiku’s stance on our political outlook and was quick again to ask what the former vice president did during his time. He, Adams, went further to describe restructuring as some ambiguous word employed by politicians to hoodwink gullible Nigerians. The question being asked is why is Atiku just realizing this? Why didn’t he restructure Nigeria when he was vice president for 8 years? I will like to draw our attention to the Atiku vice presidential era so we will be able to mirror what it would have looked like calling for restructuring just after returning to democracy in 1999.The country was ruled by the military for 16 years and in this period the focus by all well-meaning Nigerians was to return the country to democracy. A struggle he, Atiku was well part of. Wouldn’t it have been foolhardy to begin to call for restructuring only after the then 1999 constitution has barely been tested?

Well I have news for all naysayers, I and millions of Nigerians are not gullible, we have just refused to be called stupid as doing same thing over again and expecting a different outcome only makes us stupid. A day after Oshiomhole’s vituperation, I read again, Alhaji Yakassai’s interview in the same Vanguard Newspaper. My first observation was his striking mental alertness considering his age and I quite respect him for that. But once again he showed his opposition to restructuring by pointing out the perceived complexity of the process and attempting to puncture Atiku’s position. I do not agree with him or anyone who interpreted Atiku’s speech at the University of Nigeria (UNN) recently to mean he is saying restructuring Nigeria is going to be easy. And I say to them that hard ailment requires hard medication. The country has been held down for far too long by this present system of government and is responsible for all the vices we have now become characterized with.

The cry that time is running out by Atiku is real and to continue to vilify him for his position is ludicrous.

  • Dr. Ememena Bright is a medical practitioner based in Warri, Delta State and can be reached via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Posted On Friday, 11 August 2017 02:39 Written by

The recent meeting of the governors from the South-West in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, marks another watershed in the annals of the region. It is another strategic thinking by a region that is known for leadership with vision, a virtue that distinguished the South-West from its peers. Coming at a period when the country is facing very harsh and tough times and challenges, the meeting underscores the general belief among the people that the region needs to be rescued, especially against the backdrop of terrifying security challenges and a parlous economy that was hitherto the envy of other sections of the federation.

That the meeting, organised by the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN), was attended by the governors and not representatives amply showed the urgency and desirability of a collective will and effort, since it takes a whole to make a serious impact, given the nature and manner of suffocating challenges. From massive youth unemployment to incessant threat from bandits and herdsmen as well as collapsed infrastructure, the South-West is writhing under a heavy burden.

Their decision to create a joint task force and joint actions on security threats to guarantee the safety of lives, property and prosperity of the people of the region, foster competitive advantage and establish a Western Nigeria Export Development Initiative (WENEDI) to drive the export potentials of the region is ennobling.

What is required now is for the governors to fully demonstrate the commitment, will and capacity to walk the talk. This is the only way to convince the people that there is a new dawn that is meant to build institutions that would restore the lost glory of the region, as encouraged by the political leadership of the zone through integration at post-independence Nigeria.

Part of the beauty of federalism is the principle that empowers the federating units to explore the factor of comparative advantage, which is at the heart of the prolonged clamour for restructuring of the country. Therefore, the current initiative by the governors is avowal on the imperative of a synergy to pool resources together towards exploring the bond of commonality at all fronts. Sadly, the Ministries of Integration which some of the governors individually created at the dawn of the DAWN have been scrapped. We strongly believe that is not good enough.

It is also imperative that the governors should be more pragmatic in tackling the issue of security. There is nothing wrong in all the governors in the zone adopting the template set by the Ekiti State government on grazing bill, as herdsmen constitute the greatest threat to security of life and property now.

One way to immortalise the Director General of DAWN, Dr Dipo Famakinwa, who suddenly passed on recently, as well as buoy the policy of integration is by the South-West states collaborating in the area of agriculture. The success and impact of the Lagos and Kebbi states in the production of rice reveal the huge potentialities of such collaboration among states in the South-West, which is blessed with clement climate for all year-round farming and cultivation. Thus, we recommend that western states should work together on agriculture based on the comparative advantage in the growing of specific crops.

Posted On Friday, 04 August 2017 23:22 Written by

Like day and night, it is impossible not to have an opinion about Lai Mohammed. Love him or hate him, the Information minister has struck a chord in recent times with his statements about protecting the Nigerian cultural industries from losing money to foreign lands in the name of production and sponsorships.

“We will amend the NBC code to ensure that our Premier League improves. We will make sure that in the Code, if you spend one million dollars to support a foreign football club like Manchester United in Nigeria, you will not be allowed to air that programme unless you spend 30 per cent of that money to promote Nigeria’s league,” said Mohammed at an industry meeting in July.

However, sport industry voices have remained silent even when the minister spoke about something that has troubled them for a long time. It is clear that Nigerian corporations love to associate themselves with football. And the brand of football they like to piggy-back on is not that which is played locally.

It is European football, that shiny product, like a well-polished 2017 Lamborghini Aventador gleaming in the sun. The English Premier League, that behemoth of cultural imperialism, has so captured our imagination that our country spends billions annually to get its fix. Like Marx’s opium, the EPL has become our poppy, seeping into our national vein without let.

An industry research states that Nigeria’s top 15 sponsors will spend 110billion Naira ($343m) between 2016 and 2019 on servicing their relationships with European football properties. The Nigerian Breweries has agreements with five clubs – Arsenal, Real Madrid, Juventus, PSG and Manchester City, while Globacom has had a long-running agreement with Manchester United. Big Nigerian corporations sponsor the broadcast of the EPL, Uefa Champions League and Europa League while Etisalat (now 9Mobile) is a keen sponsor of tennis broadcasts.

While Mr Mohammed has called for higher taxation against companies that spend money on sponsoring sports programmes and overseas clubs, not one statement in support has come from the sports minister, Mr Solomon Dalung. Dalung, who has overseen one of the most turbulent periods in Nigerian sport with several athletes failing to find funds to compete internationally, has abandoned his constituency, in this debate, after the political interference in sport federation elections last month.

What Mr Mohammed has called for is not new. Countries have regularly fought to protect their local cultures from cultural imperialism. Canada in the 1950s and ‘60s insisted on placing a quota on foreign programmes that could be shown on television. This was to avoid the Americanisation of their values by the giant neighbour, the USA. China kept the world out during its Cultural Revolution until it was strong enough to re-engage with the West. And it came out better.

European football, an increasingly global business, is taking too much of our resources. While the British left us with flag independence, we have become stuck onto their football, a form of sport cultural imperialism. What must we do to get out of their grip in order to create our own industry just like the entertainment industry left the shadow of American music?

Sport, unlike entertainment, is regulated by the government. This is one of the major impediments to the growth of the sector as administrators run it like bureaucracies. However, many of the problems we have in our sport have also been self-inflicted. The loss of influence by national TV, the NTA, mixed with its archaic ideas about sports broadcast rights, means even the Nigerian domestic league cannot be seen by the majority of our citizens. It has been the purview of the South African company, MultiChoice, to create value for our league by paying for rights and screening it to a few million subscribers. With SuperSport dropping the NPFL over the last few months and putting more money into buying EPL rights, we are left without our league on TV.

Who is to blame? A poor self-esteem which abandons the local but chases after the foreign. Many of our children cannot speak their mother tongue. We abandon our local customs, we fail in passing traditional values down the line, these are all failings on our part dictated by the mega cultural forces that are stacked up against us.

Is protectionism the way to go like Minister Mohammed has proposed? The United States, the biggest economy in the world, has a president that has called for greater protection for its citizens by pushing for higher tariffs on imports from Europe.

Perhaps it is best to also find what works for us. One change is mandatory though: we need to change the way our sports are run; where administrators sit on government allocations without a care in the world to turn profits. As long as we lose our best players to Europe every month, we will continue to look abroad for football entertainment. And so the businesses will put their money where the highest numbers of eyes are.

If they eventually get higher taxes, perhaps companies will end their spending on sport altogether. After all, it is not compulsory to spend their hard-earned money on domestic football that has not created enough value and captured the imagination. Nigerian sport can learn a lot from the entertainment industry whose sheer power of innovation has revolutionised our cultural offerings to the world.

Posted On Friday, 04 August 2017 23:15 Written by

Posted On Friday, 04 August 2017 23:01 Written by
Page 7 of 45

Xclusive Nigeria Television (XNTV)

Newsletter

- Advertisement -



Ads