Dear 6-month old me

Dear 6-month old me,

Ezinma Ukairo - Dear 6-month old me

You look rather chubby today; probably because I have been rubbing my eyes lately. Something is in my eye again. The right one itches all the time. I might get an infection if I don’t stop soon.

But I’m not writing to talk about my eye. I have some questions for you.

You don’t know it but it’s 2015. Yep! You turned 20 months ago. It’s an age I know you really looked forward to. You must have felt you’d be sure of everything by now – what you want and don’t want. But I am sorry, because things haven’t panned out the way you expected.

Okay that’s a lie. You are where 9-year old us wanted to be – third year law student who is taking French classes to fulfill what 14-year old us came up with. You made plans when you learnt what plans were. You had dreams as soon as you could. At each stage, my darling, you came one step closer to fulfilling what you want. So thank you! Thank you for being you.

I am sometimes confused. But most days are better than the rest. It usually helps when I make a list – oral or written – of things to do. I equally question life. Always. I wonder, ‘what is the end to all these?’ It is not all rosy, you see. But I remind myself and I want you to also remember that “you have a purpose and that is the end to all these”. Nope, I’m not telling you the purpose, you figure it out.

Losing weight is the rage now. It is crazy considering we have always been big. Almost everyone who can afford it is wearing a corset. I have tried dieting, I even checked out a gym the other day; I think I am just not motivated enough. I’ll just eat healthy and work out. It would be suicidal for me to regiment my meals now; we like food, the healthy kind of course. Lol, do you know the meaning of suicidal? Well, it means when someone feels like ending his or life. Why would someone want that? I know, right?! Life is so beautiful ish. Well my darling, people do. But do not be perturbed (don’t worry, I will explain all the big words at the end) because I’m not suicidal … yet. Trust me, it is fun being you.

So before I ask my questions, let me tell you a little bit about 20-year old you – us. Sweetheart, you are tall, beautiful, smart and intelligent. Girl, are you wonderful at speeches! You are gap-toothed though; you didn’t like it the first time you noticed. But your smile is beautiful. People ooh and aah every time you smile. Hehehe, okay, I’m exaggerating … a bit.

You still walk like a soldier; don’t even think of learning to walk ‘girly’, it’s sooooo sloooow. Errrr … I don’t know if it is alright to tell you about our love life, you are just 6 months old ba? Shaa, I shall tell you anyways, so that as you grow you can try to make some things right.

You have dated some, and no you haven’t been overtly free with your emotions but you could have been more careful. Just remember that you should not date until you are ready to say “I do” in charge of your emotions. Please, only get into a relationship with a man (please, man not boy) when you are sure of what you expect both from him and from yourself. When you are everything Beyonce described in her song “Grown Woman”, then you can date. Be a big girl, know what you want. Wait until you are a strong lady with clear-cut principles on life, politics and love. Note that love came last.

When you get to 20, you will have a best friend who will mean the world to you. Do not lose her! She is amazing. How would you know her? Well, she is a year and three months younger than you, and she looks like a cute rat. Which reminds me, try very hard to convince Dad to let you live off-campus; the rats in this hostel are simply devilish. Devilish I tell you!

Now my questions … actually, just one question: What’s the weather like today?

With love,
20-year old us.

P.S. The 20-year old you got this letter when she was six months. I am simply doing the same thing for you. Remember to continue the tradition.

So, big words and their meanings:
Perturbed = worried
Lol = Laugh out loud; it is a cool way to show you are laughing while texting.
Ooh and aah = sounds people use when they are amazed
Amazed = errr, when people are just thrilled about something
Thrilled = errr….???
Nne ehn, you know what? You will learn English Language in nursery school, so don’t worry.

By Ezinma Ukairo

ON TOP D MATTER: Final weeks of the National Confab

YES, in spite of all the evidences to the contrary, I continue to hope that some respite just might come for us from the National Confab. Find below the summary of events in these concluding weeks of the conference. For the full article, visit here.

 


 

The National Conference convened by President Goodluck Jonathan may be winding up soon, amidst lingering dissatisfaction over the outcome of the conference.

The conference, chaired by Justice Idris Kutigi, a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, has 492 delegates and it is expected to articulate and coordinate the views and thoughts of Nigerians, with a view to building a stronger, united, peaceful and stable nation.

At the end of their four-month-deliberation, the delegates reached consensus on wide-ranging recommendations made by the 20 standing committees of the conference. Some of the recommendations include the creation of 18 new states and an additional state for the South-East geopolitical zone, the zoning of elective positions at all levels of government, the establishment of state police, and the establishment of a commission to address the plight of FCT indigenes.

Others are scrapping of state/local government joint account, scrapping of state independent electoral commissions, removal of fuel subsidy and removal of immunity clause, among others.

The delegates, however, failed to reach consensus on the contentious issues of resource control and derivation principle for the Niger Delta region, which was contained in the main report of the Committee on Devolution of Power.

They were also unable to agree on two new issues: the proposed 5 per cent of the national income, each for the development of mineral resources across the federation and for the special intervention fund for national emergencies.

 

Another death

Professor Muhammad Nur Alkali, who was one of the six delegates representing the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (SCIA) at the 2014 National Conference in Abuja is dead.

He died in his residence in Maiduguri on the night of Friday, August 1, 2014. The 68-year old professor of History, a two-term Vice Chancellor of the University of Maiduguri (1985 – 1992), former Director General of the Nigeria Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) and Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee under the administration of General Sani Abacha.

More recently, he was a member of the Committee on Insecurity in the North East (The Boko Haram Committee). He will be buried later today, Saturday, August 2, 2014, in Maiduguri.

 

What to do with the recommendations?

Prior to the adjournment of plenary session on July 14, there was intense debate amongst Nigerians on who should implement recommendations of the conference. While some school of thought suggested that the recommendations should be forwarded to the National Assembly for consideration and passage into law, others believed that that they should be subjected to a referendum before their inclusion in the constitution.

Alhaji Balarabe Musa, the National Chairman, Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), said that the recommendations should not be subjected to referendum on the grounds that most of them were “superficial”.

Musa said that instead of dealing with the negative state of the nation, the delegates only dealt with the consequences of the negative state of the nation. He noted that corruption, organized violence, insecurity and unemployment were some of the factors that contributed to the negative state of the country. And he suggested that as a way out, the National Assembly could regard the recommendations as public hearing.

Conversely, Gilbert Agbo, the National Secretary, New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), said that the recommendations should not be forwarded to the National Assembly for passage into law, since some of the recommendations were not in favour of the legislators.

He stressed that Nigerians should be allowed to decide on the recommendations via referendum organized to determine their acceptance or rejection since “power derives from the people”.

Sam Eke, the National Chairman, Citizens Popular Party (CPP), who shared a similar viewpoint with Balarabe Musa, said that the recommendations should be forwarded to the National Assembly for consideration, amendment and passage into law.

He said that those advocating referendum were just “trying to build something on nothing.”

 

Waiting for draft report

There were reports on Monday that the absence of the draft final report, according to reports, may stall resumption of the National Confab, earlier scheduled to reconvene on August 4. The leadership, in a letter to delegates and signed by the Assistant Secretary, Media and Communications, James Akpandem, stated that the decision to extend the resumption date by one week was to avoid a situation where delegates would return to Abuja on August 4 and discover that there were no necessary materials to conclude the session within the time frame specified in the work plan.

There are indications that much interest in its work will have been lost when the conference eventually reconvenes to certify the draft report. The vocal section of Nigeria, from indications, believe more were lost than gained. Their opinion stems from the fact that the country may not be much different after the conference, with major national controversies subsisting.


 

God bless Nigeria.

compatriot

I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter…and I am proudly Nigerian yet

My Beef with Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola

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The 57-year old former commissioner of Lagos state is the present governor of the state of Osun. Getting there was no ride in the park for him; he fought a dogged battle for his mandate following the results of the April 2007 elections, a battle which lasted nearly four years as he was not sworn in as governor until October, 2010.

I remember following the legal battles as a much younger man and rooting for him partly because I admired his tenacity, but also because I believed that only a man who was convincingly justified could hang on to a fight for that long. So when the October judgment came in his favor, I sent Governor Aregbesola a pat on the back via DHL – I am still waiting for him to acknowledge receipt.

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When I was posted to Osun state a few years later for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme, it felt to me like somebody in the highest was rewarding my support for the engineer governor’s cause. But one year later as I packed my bags to leave, I was neither an admirer nor a fan of Ogbeni Aregbesola.

My beef with Engineer Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola, Executive Governor of Osun state (State of the Living Spring) is a very rare beef. It is red, juicy and meaty, laden with strips and strips of milky, stringy akwara-ndu.

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The beef is justifiable because a lot of it is based on my personal experiences during the year I lived as a khaki-wearing tenant in one of the more rustic communities of the state. Because one can only masticate so much beef in one mouthful, this beef is restricted to the governor’s mishandling of education in Osun.

My primary assignment in Osun was to teach students of a secondary school and like many of my fellow corps members, I approached the job with enthusiasm and a burning zeal to impact positively in the lives of the young ones. But that zeal was soon ruptured because I quickly saw that the system was not designed for much positivity. The educational system I met in Osun state was held high up as a brilliant executive make-over; it was heralded both within and especially outside the state as a revelation – the resurrection of a hitherto dead system. But in heart-wrenching reality, it was still a corpse, only better suited.

The following lines will explain why:

  1. Communication:

In my first class teaching Physics to the SS3 class, something very akin to the following scenario ensued.

“Did you learn about motion in your SS1 and 2 classes?” I asked.

The class nodded as one.

“And the laws of motion?” Nod again.

“Good. How about force and friction, temperature and pressure? You know them?” Nod. Nod.

I was on a roll, flowing and very happy they were following.

Then I called up a girl in the front row. “Ope, please stand up and tell us what pressure is”.

Opeyemi stood – she was a thickset light-skinned girl whose round face made me think of a happy doll with her low-cut hair and marked ample cheeks. She said nothing, just stood with her fingers splayed out, palm down on the desk before her and eyes set on me.

I thought she was shy so I tried to reassure her. “Don’t worry,” I said, “You don’t have to quote your book, just explain it to me in your own words”

Ope stared on at me for a few moments more. Then she said, “Oga, só Yoruba

“What?” I asked, lost.

“Só Yoruba” she repeated, “Só Yoruba dí è dí è”

 flabbergasted

Beautiful people of heaven and earth, she requested that I speak Yoruba to her, or in the least interject sprinklings of the vernacular in my lessons. The reason was that she could not understand the words I was saying in English. Neither could the rest of her SS3 classmates, who were all registered for and few months away from writing the West African School Certificate Examination at the time.

It was not just SS3 students though, and not just the students in my school. In Osun state, I met students who could not write if you dictated notes to them, and when you wrote the lecture notes out on the board, they drew it into their books because they could not read.

oh-c'mon

I kid you not.

Maybe this deficiency exists in more Nigerian states than Osun. Maybe, but for Osun state whose government swears that education is a priority…tsk tsk tsk.

 

  1. ‘Free’ education:

Knowing his beginnings and the path that led him to the pinnacle of power in Osun state, Ogbeni Aregbesola should know that nothing that turns out good in life is ever given free of charge. Not good wealth, not good friends, not good health…and definitely not good education.

Perhaps the biggest irony of the government’s policy of ‘free’ education is that when critically analyzed, the system is not even free. A much-touted dividend of the ‘free’ education policy is the common uniform for all students of government-owned schools.

Aregbe01

About the ‘free’ school uniforms, parents in Osun state had the following to say: “the uniform wears out too quickly and cannot be purchased elsewhere than from the State approved company. We were made to wrongly believe that the uniform would be free as part of the Free Education policy when the first batch was distributed for free. However, purchasing another one afterwards costs about N2,000” (www.9ralife.com)

While we’re on the matter of parents, another sad result of the ‘free’ education system in Osun state is a complete and conscious self-dissociation from the education of their children by parents, especially the unenlightened. In many schools, the PTA was more or less nonexistent and where it did exist, it had no purse to fund events like student socio-cultural and end-of-term gatherings because the government decreed that parents not be levied. On market days, the classrooms dried up because parents sent their children to the market with wares for sale. And on other school days, one too many parents took their children to the farms.

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No chance, no time, school can wait.

In order to avoid such indolence by parents towards the education of their wards, and in fact, for the sake of reason considering the population of children involved, subsidized education is clearly a wiser path to tow than ‘free’ education. But His Excellency’s government will not hear of it.

 

  1. Opon Imo:

According to Aregbesola, Opon Imo is ‘a virtual classroom containing 63 e-books covering 17 academic subjects for examinations, an average of 16 chapters per subject and 823 chapters in all, with about 900 minutes or 15 hours of audio voiceovers…more than 40,000 JAMB and WAEC practice questions and answers…mock tests in more than 51 subject areas, which approximates to 1,22o chapters, with roughly 29,000 questions referencing about 825 images’.

I wish I could confirm or challenge any of these claims but I cannot because in all the months I spent teaching in Osun state, I never saw an Opon Imo tablet. Neither did my students, nor for that matter, any students in my local government of primary assignment. My enquiries revealed that it was a similar case in many other local governments across the state.

I do not know which students received the 50,000 units of Opon Imo tablets that the governor supposedly ‘distributed across the state’…

Aregbe04

Oh, there they are.

Still, I wish more of them ended up in the hands of the younger students, more than two-thirds of whom are yet to own one. And if they eventually do get the Opon Imo, I would like to ask Governor Aregbesola questions like: ‘Are the learning materials in English or Yoruba?’, ‘Who will teach the children to use the Opon Imo? No, not all the propaganda about support centres and ambassadors…really, who will teach them?’, ‘And you say it will phase out textbooks? How? More importantly, why?’

 

  1. Re-classification of schools:

Another key point of Ogbeni Aregbesola’s education policy is re-classification of schools into elementary school (5 years), middle school (4 years) and high school (3 years), as against the national education policy of 6-3-3. In addition, the re-classification had attendant mega schools which accommodated many small schools bringing children from different religious backgrounds under the same roof to learn.

The administration claimed that this new system would give the pupils more time at the middle school so as to be “better prepared for maturity into high school”.

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From my vantage point at the grassroots, all I saw the re-classification doing was tearing apart whatever hope was left for the struggling Osun child. These children were being taught WAEC syllabus in local parlance, had very minuscule grasp of English language as a result and even less significant academic and social abilities. It was therefore very tactless, in my opinion, to force upon them the rigors of such a transformation.

Seeing as a good number of students still struggled to grasp the technicality of writing their own names, it was disorienting to learn that their class was no more JSS 2 for example, but Grade 7. Many of them quit school when their classes were moved far away from them, to one of the mega schools. And consequently religious havoc erupted in the state as Muslim schools protested against having to conform to Christian students in their midst, and vice versa.

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The re-classification activity was not just unnecessary but potentially damaging to the struggle of education in the state of Osun. It was a badly conceived move by the governor’s administration and even worse, poorly executed which explains why in many rural communities, the change was just too burdensome that it was made only on paper.

I do not think that Engineer Rauf Aregbesola is a bad man with intentions to ruin Osun state. I think he is an intelligent man – his media and publicity contraptions are so robust that to observers from outside the walls of the state, he can do no wrong; I think he is a shrewd politician who in spite of all, manages to keep both the grassroots and elite smiling for the camera; and I think he is a man whose good intentions for his people are constantly at war with – and losing to – his personal and party political ambitions.

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Come Saturday, August 9, 2014, the people of Osun state will march to the polls to cast their votes for the person who will sit in the executive seat of the state for the next four years. My beef with the man currently in that seat does not project any ill will towards him. It merely calls attention to the potentially fatal tilt of the education system which I witnessed under his leadership.

Hopefully, Engineer Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola or his successor will pay attention; because otherwise, I fear for the future of the children in the state of the living spring.

I rest my beef.

beef02

Locate me @ojukwu_martin on twitter

ON TOP D MATTER: Weeks 11 – 15 of the National Confab

It is nothing less than God that has me coming back to this topic of the National Confab. Like many of you readers and Nigerians, I am fast tiring of first, remembering that there are a group of people jaw-jawing it out in Abuja in a bid to produce some solutions to the issues that bother us and secondly, knowing that yet again we are hoping on the power of talk which from past experience is all we know how to do. The recent happenings especially with Boko Haram only served to get me fed up even faster until I came upon this interview published earlier this month.

The interviewee is Prof. Obiora Ike, “a solid intellectual” in the words of my brother-in-law. You can get the full transcript of the interview here but I will share tidbits of it below which recapitulate the events of week 11 – where we left off on ON TOP D MATTER – to week 15 of the National Confab. These tidbits, I hope, will also give you the forbearance to hold on just a little bit more. Maybe something good just might still come of this…

Prof. Obiora Ike, former Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Enugu, is the Deputy Leader of the Southeast delegation to the National Conference. He speaks ON TOP D MATTER as follows:

Prof Obiora Ike

ON CENSUS?

There were questions that concerned economic justice; that we have to do a population (census) that has to be realistic in Nigeria, and not where we fathomed any numbers, etc.

Census is being debated and there is going to be a new census in Nigeria in which all the items that were neglected in the previous censuses will become items.

ON INDIGENOUS AND RESIDENCY RIGHTS?

It is not your indigeneship but your residencyship makes you have rights, privileges and duties wherever you are. For instance, if I am born in Lagos, though I live in Kano and I pay tax in Kano, I am a citizen of Kano after five to seven years, and I can aspire to the highest political office in that state. (sic)

So, residency right becomes a very serious matter and the committee has brought it to the plenary and it will now be looked into. It gives you the opportunity to migrate to any part of the country to live.

ON NOMADS AND FULANI HERDSMEN?

(This issue) was very contentious because the law and even people, who come from the South, were very vocal and clear: that any nomad should stay in his nomadic environment.

There was even someone who said we are in the 21st Century and we eat meat produced in other countries and you don’t see cows moving around the streets of New York. But those from the North said even if they must accept ranches, the state and local governments should pay for the ranches and people from the South said no.

Well, we ended without consensus and the next day, a motion was brought and asked we should give a five-year period for the nomads to customize to see that the cows don’t move around again.

ON A UNICAMERAL LEGISLATURE?

A problem identified by people is the take-home package of those in elective positions. It is a crime in a country like Nigeria, where very many people live on less than three dollars a day and very few earn more. But if the system makes it possible, it must be changed and the system that can make that possible is a uni-cameral legislature.

We are going to have a unicameral system whereby the Senate and the House of Representatives will be one House. We will no longer have a president picking his vice during the campaign, but a situation where he will go to House and pick who will be his vice. We will no longer have you appoint commissioners or ministers from anywhere, but the appointment will be done from serving legislators in government.

These are already at the level of the plenary and this will be voted soon at the conference. It has nothing to do with the present National Assembly because over 70 per cent of them are going next year.

These ideals have been well-thought out; there has been comparative study on them; experts have addressed the various committees on these and the people knew quite clearly that what kept Nigeria behind for many years is the number of bureaucracies and every bureaucracy is corrupted.

ON LAND USE ACT AND SPONSORSHIP FOR PILGRIMAGE?

The report of the Land Committee to the plenary is that the Land Use Act should be expunged. First of all, you don’t need it in the Constitution; it can be a decree and we feel it is disenfranchising the custodians of the land. It has provided opportunity for corruption and caused under-development.

It is like the funding of pilgrimage; we think it is not right for government to pay money for people to attend pilgrimage because nobody funds the traditional worshippers and religions. It is a very unfair practice.

ON TAXES FOR RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS?

The fact is no committee recommended taxation for the Church or any religious group. The only committee that may have recommended that may be the Committee on Religion, but I am in the committee and we did not even discuss it.

Religious institutions are voluntary, non-governmental institutions and non-profit-making institutions that add value to the life of a people. So, where do they make money to pay a tax?

After the submission of the report on religious committee was brought to the general assembly, there was an opinion by one member, out of 492, whether religious institutions should not pay tax if they engaged in revenue-generating ventures. It was just a question or proposal that religious institutions should pay tax if they own jets, if they ran hotels, if they ran bakeries, if they ran universities and other such things that make money.

Nonetheless, the confab did not take this item as an acceptable topic. I do have a personal opinion, of course, and that is that religious institutions are sacrosanct by virtue of what happens in different countries. But if religious institutions go into business – and they must register such business as business – then they must pay taxes on those businesses, which are income earnings as business.

ON THE CREATION OF STATES?

The Southeast went to the conference with an expectation that there must be one extra state created for the Southeast;

The Committee on Restructuring of Power in Nigeria approved one more state for the Southeast. It will now come to the general conference for confirmation. If the general conference approves, it will now be left with the President to implement it.

ON ZONING AND THE DEVOLUTION OF POWER?

The Southeast also came with expectations that there must be fiscal federalism within Nigeria; there must be serious devolution of power from the centre to make Nigeria a working federation; there must be clear distinction between religion and state, as religion and state could not be understood to be identical…they demanded a Nigeria that is free and fair; a Nigeria where the conference deliberations will not be put on the shelves.

Local governments do not belong to a Constitution, they belong to the management in an area and therefore should be removed from the Constitution and put into the state where they belonged and states will have the right to create as many local governments as they would wish and could fund. Of course, money comes to the centre; money also comes to the states; so, there will be no need to have a specific number of local governments in the Constitution and the committee unanimously approved this provision.

An issue was whether the federating units in Nigeria would be the states or the zones and on this one, the Western Nigeria (Southwest) came with one clear identity: that the federating units in Nigeria to be the zones. The Northern states did not want it, the South-South did not want it, and the Southeast wanted it.

But when it was time to vote, one state in the Southeast joined the rest and out of the 22 members of that committee, about six or seven voted in favour and that one was not carried. Nonetheless, that committee has recommended — and I am quite happy about it and it looks like there would be an opportunity for zones to arrange among themselves — that there would be zoning.

The zoning policy is already accepted in Nigeria but it is not constitutional but now, it will be constitutional that zones exist and this is the number of them, then they will agree to either collect their money as a zone, or do whatever thing they wanted as a zone. But that has to be done by their Houses of Assembly and then they are bringing it to the National Assembly and making it a national affair.

Right now, the zones will be operating as zones but the federating units will go to the states.

ON BOKO HARAM?

The conference has used every legitimate word in the dictionary to condemn this heinous act by criminals who answer Boko Haram. The conference has been able to limit them to non-religious group because the Muslims have said they are non-Muslims, that they are even anti-Islam because they burn mosques and churches, and they fight government as they fight soldiers. So, they are an insurgency group that is determined the fight the Nigerian federation.

I do not think that Boko Haram insurgency has escalated since the conference started but Boko Haram has been there since year 2002 and that was when a certain (Modu) Sheriff was governor in Borno State. They have also become more violent in years 2008 and 2009 when Yar’Adua was in power and they continued their engagement of the police and Nigerian military recently. But with the imposition of emergency rule in the area, there have been some restraints.

It is very clear that the group is not a war for the President or Nigerian army but a war for all Africans and, indeed, the whole world.

The Nigerian army and President Jonathan have tried; the security is infiltrated and this makes the Boko Haram fight a little bit difficult. Terrorism has not won any war anywhere and if the Nigerian people are united, I do feel it is a phase in the Nigerian history and the people should stand up to it. The international community has become part of it and I don’t think anybody can win a war against the whole world.

 

AFTER THE CONFAB?

A bill is in the National Assembly to appropriate the discussion and resolutions of the conference into the Nigerian Constitution. The President of Nigeria does not need the Senate or House of Representatives to appropriate some of the resolutions that may emanate from the conference because they may be policy directives and government decisions at that level.

The people of Nigeria are waiting to be asked in a referendum to make a choice on what the National Conference will bring up and the conference, by way of its moral weight, has become a voice for the people of Nigeria, whether there is law or not.

But definitely, the conference is not a talk show and the people there are not wasting their time. We are looking at how to develop the country and move it forward.

compatriot

Just maybe…

Mention me @ojukwu_martin on twitter

 

EKITI 2014 AND THE RE-DEFINITION OF A GOOD MAN

fayosefayemi

The Ekiti 2014 gubernatorial elections which held on Saturday, June 21 returned Ayo Fayose as victor over incumbent governor, Kayode Fayemi. The results of that election reminded of five lessons which I had hitherto forgotten:

1)       Ekiti 2014 and the re-definition of a good man

By Vincent Nzemeke (@vincentnzemeke on twitter)

“The result of the gubernatorial election held in Ekiti state this weekend evoked memories of a stage play I watched at the Muson Centre, Lagos sometimes in the 2011.

Although it was an adaptation of Chinua Achebe’s famous book ‘A man of the people’, the play which also had the same title was tweaked to fit into the reality of modern day Nigeria.

Debuting just weeks before the 2011 general election, it was a political satire that portrayed our lives as a people. It was set to depict the complexity of elections in Nigeria and how the perception of the people can affect the outcome of an election.

In the play, Tobi an American returnee was vying for a senatorial seat with Chief Omobolaji Bello, a stark illiterate who had accumulated so much wealth from his position as the one and only chairman of the biggest motor park in the community.

During the campaign, Tobi marketed lofty ideas and visions for the community to the people. He waxed lyrical about how he had spent his time and personal resources to develop the community and went about with a list of what he had done and the many things he hoped to achieve if given a chance to represent the community at the Senate.

Chief on the other hand, had a carnival-like campaign that touched every nook and cranny of the community. He had itinerant dancers who made a show everywhere his train stopped. He spent a better part of the campaign period throwing jibes at Tobi and telling the people not to allow him corrupt them with his foreign ways. And of course, he had a deep pocket from which he doled out money relentlessly to the people.

To cut the long story short as we say in this part of the world, when it was time to vote, the people settled for Chief Bello. They rejected the lofty ideas and vision of young Tobi and settled for the chief who had over the years connived with politicians to under-develop the community.

At the end of the performance, the leader of the advocacy group that organized the play asked us (the audience) why the people chose Chief Bello. There were many opinions because everyone had an explanation for what we had just seen. But at the end, we all agreed that there would never be an acceptable definition of “the man of the people”, especially as it relates to politics in Nigeria.

As the results trickled in from Ekiti on Saturday, that million dollar question resonated in my mind. It was obvious from the early results that Fayose, the PDP candidate had a commanding lead.  I was curious to know why the people of Ekiti where it is said that almost every family has a professor would send a cerebral governor like Kayode Fayemi of APC packing and replace him with a man who was impeached some years back.

If the people of Ekiti could turn their backs on a governor whose performance in the last four years has been adjudged to be well above average even by his political rival, who then is qualified to be called a man of the people?

Is it the man with an eye on posterity who devotes himself to building infrastructures and delivering other dividends of democracy that can be bequeathed to the next generation or the one who simply gives the people what they need to survive today?

Since the election ended, I have read tomes of commentaries in newspapers and social media platforms that are at best ridiculous. The Fayose lackeys will tell you that their man won because PDP is better than APC but I don’t buy that.

I have always described both parties as two sides of a bad coin because they are different only in names and symbol. The broom is as corrupt as the umbrella.

The election in my estimation was a protest against Fayemi who even in the halcyon days of his administration had been accused of running an elitist government. I once had a chat with a civil servant from the state who told me point blank that the man was way too sophisticated for the ordinary man in Ekiti.

According to him, Fayemi junkets from one part of the country to the other delivering lectures about how the future of Ekiti would be better while the people lack the basic things they need to live through today.

Fayose, methinks won this election because he is a good man in the Nigerian sense. You see in this clime, no one cares a hoot about tomorrow; we live for now and simply leave the future to take care of itself.

Fayemi concentrated on what posterity would say about him, Fayose bothered only about what those living now think about him. That is why it is so easy for him to connect with the lowest of the low in Ekiti and get them to vote for him.

I am also of the view that Fayemi devoted too much effort to social media rather than getting to the grassroots. As one of the tweets circulated on Saturday puts it: “the peasants and ordinary folks in Ekiti who voted for Fayose have no Twitter and Facebook accounts. The governor should have known that the bulk of those singing his praise on the social media don’t even have time to vote. Fayose did not brag on Facebook, he did not gather followers on Twitter, he went to the people and that was what mattered at the end of the day.

All said and done, Ekiti 2014, has given me a perfect definition of a good man in today’s Nigeria. I believe this new definition will also be useful to those of us aspiring to venture into politics sooner or later.

A good man is he who does not give a hoot about what posterity would write or say about him, he simply lives for now. A good man is not he who talks about leaving a legacy for generations yet unborn; he is the one who shares food, money and other essentials needed by the masses to live through today.

When I finally decide to begin my political career, I hope to be a good man.”

 

As written by Vincent Nzemeke, a friend, brother, former and future colleague who blogs at vincentnzemeke.blogspot.com

2)       When I finally decide to begin my own political career, I hope to be a good man too; a good man who has a twitter account.

 

3)       An incumbent cannot lose a re-election bid in Nigeria unless (a) he slapped a priest in Owerri; or (b) he is not a good man. P.S: Goodluck Ebele Jonathan will do well to know this in view of 2015.

 

4)       Our leaders are not forced to be who they are not by their positions of authority or by political parties or by ‘pressure’; they elect to be the IGODO masquerades they turn out to be.

 

5)       “Leadership itself is merely the opportunity to serve & power is a God-given resource with which we are meant to change lives for d better” – Kayode Fayemi.

 

GOD BLESS NIGERIA!

ON TOP D MATTER: Weeks 11&12 of the National Confab

still on the matter…

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It’s been another fortnight and in that time – as usual – plenty has happened. Find below a summary of the most relevant events:

  1. Death. Again:

The National Confab has recorded two more deaths. First was Hajiya Maryamu Kutigi, wife of the chairman presiding over the Confab, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi (rtd). She died at about 2am on Wednesday, the 28th of May and was buried the next day according to Muslim rites.

At about 10am on Saturday, the 7th of June in an Indian hospital, Prof. Mrs. Dora Akunyili followed. Prof. Mrs. Akunyili was the former NAFDAC boss whose dogged attitude on the job transformed the face of the food and drug administration agency; she was also Minister of Information and Communications from December 2008 to 2010 and was at the conference as a delegate with the Anambra contingent. In one of the earlier ON TOP D MATTER reports (see here) concerns had been raised over her emaciated physical appearance but the 59-year old professor of Pharmacy and Pharmacology allayed all fears stating that she was on her way to full recovery from ill health rather than the other way around. She was wrong though; reports filtering in suggest she lost to cervical cancer, a battle she had been fighting for nearly two years.

These deaths bring the death toll to three of confab delegates in less than three months since the commencement of the National Conference (see here for the other deaths). And this has raised concerns in different quarters of the country. Questions have begun to re-emerge with respect to the criteria that were used for validation of delegate nominations; two of the three deaths resulted from critical health situations which the victims had been diagnosed with before the Conference start date.

Since there were clearly no age limits, one would expect that there should have been screening procedures set up to discover ailing nominees. Surely such discoveries would have saved some of these invaluable lives. As is usually the case with ‘unimportant’ questions such as these, nobody is answering and we can only hope that in the few weeks left for the Confab to pack up we do not experience any more deaths.

 

  1. SUBSIDY OR NOT:

On Tuesday, the 3rd of June, the conference committee on public finance and revenue, chaired by Senator Adamu Aliero, recommended a total removal of subsidy on petroleum products, arguing that this had been a major financial burden the nation has been made to bear. The recommendation generated heated debate at the plenary and created sharp division among the delegates, who accused one another of vested interests.

However, when the recommendation was put to voice vote, delegates rejected total removal of the fuel subsidy.

The compromise was for a motion which mandated the government to meet the following requirements before attempting total removal of the subsidy:

  • That the Federal Government shall, within a period of three years from the date, build new refineries and repair existing ones to full capacity utilization;
  • That private sector entrepreneurs who have already been granted licenses to build new refineries shall, within a period of three years from date, build such new refineries, or automatically forfeit such licenses;
  • That upon fulfillment of the preceding conditions, the Federal Government shall be free to remove any subsidy from petroleum products.

The delegates unanimously adopted this motion.

Proponents of total removal however continued to speak to reporters about their conviction that the nation was better off with the removal of the subsidy. Mrs Hauwa Shekarau, leader of Women Lawyers in Nigeria under the aegis of International Federation of Women Lawyer was one of such delegates. Referring to the existence of the subsidy as an appendage of the pervading rot in the country, she wondered “why those who in one breadth decry corruption would at another, defend or argue for the retention of a clear infrastructure of corruption”. I wonder too.

 

  1. LABOR RECRUITMENT AND MINIMUM WAGE:

Delegates, on Thursday, the 5th of June, unanimously rejected an amended recommendation of the Mrs. Ebele Okeke-led Committee on Public Service to jerk up the NGN18,000 minimum wage to NGN40,000. The decision was based on the reason that a review of workers’ salaries was unnecessary at the time.

The development came just as it recommended a complete ban on government ministries, departments and agencies from collecting application fees from applicants seeking employments into such organizations. This recommendation stemmed from the few months old Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) recruitment exercise where many job seekers died and others injured in a stampede. The conference adopted a proposal for the setting up of recruitment centers in the states of the federation to look into issues of employment.

 

With just a little over a month to go, the National Confab gradually wraps up. That end however, is not looking as rosy as a few optimists – myself included – had envisioned it. While I pray for repose for the souls sadly fallen, I also pray for those still standing on the floor of that deliberation venue and the resolutions they will reach. So help us God.

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Mention me on twitter @ojukwu_martin

ON TOP D MATTER: Weeks 9 & 10 of the National Confab

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It’s been two weeks-plus since my last update ON TOP D MATTER of the ongoing National Conference and a lot has happened. WAW brings you recapitulated roll-call of events over the time since then…

  1. NGN3 Trillion Security Allocation:

On the 19th of May, Femi Falana, SAN, while contributing to a debate on the rescue of the abducted Chibok students, alleged that the government from 2010 to 2014, voted N3 trillion on security and expressed concern that nothing much has come out of it in the face of continued security challenges and ill- equipped nature of the country’s soldiers. He therefore urged his fellow delegates to demand that the government account for the manner in which this allocation was spent. His motion met stiff opposition from other delegates like Iyom Josephine Anenih, Chief Anayo Nnebe and Chief Mike Ahamba, SAN. No more was said on the proposed probe.

 

  1. Dead delegates and Replacements:

The National Conference sitting in Abuja was on the 5th of May, Monday hit by another sad news of the death of a delegate, Dr Mohammed Abubakar Jumare age 71, from Kaduna State. Dr Jumare who came to the Conference as an Elder Statesman died in the early hours of Monday in Abuja and was buried later in the day in Zaria. Until his death, he was Chairman of the Local Government Service Commission, Kaduna state. The confab you will remember had earlier lost retired police AIG Hamma Misau from Bauchi state.

Earlier on Tuesday, the 20th, two new delegates emerged to replace the two deceased delegates. They are ex-AIG Ahmed Ibrahim Baba and Alhaji Sidi Amin, who were introduced to other delegates after the committees reconvened for plenary.

 

  1. Extension By Four Weeks:

Vanguard reported that the Federal Government on Thursday, the 22nd of May extended the National Conference by four weeks to make up for lost time occasioned by many public holidays and the hosting of the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEFA). With this, the conference will now end on July 17, 2014 and not on June 17, 2014 as was scheduled.

Chairman of the conference, Justice Idris Kutigi, announced this to delegates, saying that after a meeting with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, the Federal Government agreed to grant the conference four weeks extension. He revealed that the conference had applied for six weeks to enable it cover some lost grounds but was instead granted four weeks. Deliberating on the issues, the conference secretariat suggested that sittings should also be held on Saturdays and Sundays.

However, delegates rejected the idea and suggested that two hours of lunch time should be reduced to one hour. Again, that was not taken as the secretariat use the two hours lunch time to prepare minutes of proceedings of the conference.

 

  1. Land:

The Land Tenure Matters and National Boundaries Committee has recommended the removal of the Land Use Act from the Constitution because its poor implementation has worsened land problems in the country.

According to the General A. B. Mamman-led committee, the new Constitution should give all Nigerians the right to have access to and own land irrespective of ethnic origin, class or gender as well as the right of communities to have land protected from human activities that would hinder or degrade the productivity of such land, through pollution and flooding.

It recommended the right of landowners to adequate compensation commensurate with current market value and social attributes of land in the event of acquisition by the government for public purpose, and that prior to government acquiring any land from any community, there must be compensation and when the government fails to use the land for a period of 10 years, it would forfeit the land and return it to the people.

 

  1. 13% Derivation for Oil-producing states:

The issue of percentage derivation of oil proceeds is presently at 13% for oil-producing states but it wasn’t that way as at the time inner-caucus proceedings commenced. Delegates majorly from the Niger-Delta pushed for a 50% derivation against the 13% which was status quo. Their counterparts from the North sought to further reduce the 13% to 5%. After debates, a resolution was agreed upon, leaving the derivation as it was for oil-producing states – at 13%. What this means is that for all oil proceeds remitted to the Federal Government, 13% would first be paid to oil-producing states as derivation, a certain percentage to the Federal Government for administration and the remaining percentage shared equally among all states including the oil-producing ones.

Speaking with Sunday Vanguard on the 24th of May, former governor of Akwa Ibom state, Obong Victor Attah who is the Co-Chairman, Committee on Devolution of Power, said the decision to retain the 13% derivation was taken to ensure that certain things were protected within the entity called Nigeria and to guard against what may lead to secession or further inflict wounds against the backdrop that the country was, at the moment, facing security challenges.

 

 

  1. $1 Trillion for Niger-Delta Clean-up:

SOUTH-SOUTH delegates yesterday decried the harm wrought on Niger-Delta environment by oil exploitation and demanded $1trillion about N160 trillion to clean up the region and save the inhabitants. The demand came on a day that Elder statesman, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark warned that Niger Delta might be wiped out without urgent clean up as delegates disagreed over the recommendations of the Committee on Environment.

Lamenting the untold hardship Niger Deltans living along the coastal lines face, he recalled that the United Nations had, in 2011, submitted a report to the Federal government stating that it would take 30 years and $20 billion to clean up the oil spills in the Niger Delta region. He said it was sad that it took the Federal Government two years to set up a committee to consider the report.

In her contribution, a Federal  Government delegate, Ms Annkio Briggs who urged the Federal Government to commence the process of clean-up of the Niger-Delta with initial budget of one trillion US Dollars,  stressed that what was happening in the region was destructive and caused by environmental pollution and degradation as a result of gas flaring and oil spillage.

 

  1. Northern Bid to Scrap NDDC, Niger-Delta Ministry Fails:

Attempts by northern delegates to adopt a proposal for scrapping the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, hit a brick wall as delegates overwhelmingly opposed the proposal. The North, in a position submitted by Professor Aishatu Madawaki, a delegate from Sokoto State, said the existing ministry and agency were a duplication of the Federal Ministry of Environment, since they were performing similar functions.

They proposed that in a situation where the ministry and agency were allowed to remain, then a similar body be created equally for the northern region to take care of its soil erosion, desert encroachment, desertification and deforestation, among other issues in the region. But the proposal did not sail through as delegates opposed it.

Speculations are rife that the bid was born of the drawn-out debates over the 13% derivation paid to oil-producing states from oil proceeds.

 

 

  1. Churches, Mosques Will Now Pay Tax:

DELEGATES at the on- going National Conference yesterday, the 27th of May voted to enlist churches, mosques and religious organizations into the tax net. If the recommendations of the Conference sail through the National Assembly, leaders of religious bodies will be subjected to paying of tax like other Nigerians, business men, government organisations and enterprises.

The decision to make religious bodies pay taxes came up when a delegate representing Civil Organisations, Mallam Naseer Kura in his contribution to the debate on the report observed that religious leaders were making much money and should be taxed.

Also in his contribution, a delegate representing the Nigeria Guild of Editors, Isaac Ighure frowned at the situation where according to him pastors and heads of churches make too much money with some of them owning private jets. “Some people buy private jets when people in their churches are suffering and living in abject poverty, they should be made to pay taxes,” he submitted.

The delegates in their deliberation on the report of the committee on religion also voted that federal and state governments should stop the sponsorship of Islamic and Christian pilgrimages.

A move to scrap Islamic and Christian pilgrims’ boards however, led to an uproar which forced the conference leadership to move the vote on the issue to today, the 28th.

Delegates also rejected a motion for setting aside Fridays as free working days when the matter came up for voting.

 

 

  1. Will Delegates Fast For Nigeria?

Earlier yesterday, a delegate, Prof. Yusuf Turaki had blamed both Northern political and religious leaders for allowing Boko Haram insurgents to fester in the region. Turaki, who spoke while making his contribution to the debate on the report of the conference Committee on Religion at the plenary on Tuesday, warned that Northern Nigeria is at the brinks of collapse and ruin solely on account of religious extremism, militancy, fanaticism and bigotry.

Also contributing, a delegate from Benue State, Senator Jack Tilley-Gyado, suggested that delegates should observe a three-day fast to seek the face of God concerning many sins being committed by those in authority, including past leaders some of whom he said were part of the ongoing conference.

“Please don’t serve lunch for three days” he implored, “We will achieve peace and those who are overweight will lose weight. We should go back and create the middle class. I know that no human beings can equal the Holly Books. But we are not reading them, we are not practicing them”.

 

Will the delegates go with this fast agenda?

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Today and the next three days will tell…

 

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