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My Wife and Best Friend: One Year Just Like Yesterday

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by Kola Balogun

Beatrice (Beauty) Okiomoado Kola-Balogun, my wife of twenty-eight years left this sinful world to be with her creator, who loves her better around 9.00 pm on the 18th of August 2020. It was the darkest day of my life; a day I never wished to see! I left the National hospital that day around 1.00 pm since I was not allowed to go into the ward where she was with a view to returning the following morning to continue to hang around as I had done in the past one week since she was admitted into the facility.

On getting home, I called my children to give them update about their mom’s condition – that I spoke with her that Tuesday morning when she told me she wasn’t feeling better.
As it is usual with the family, it was a conference call; I told them how my day was spent at the hospital. We talked about other issues and the next approach towards her medical issues when she is discharged. We talked at length – everyone saying how much we were missing her, especially me, who could hardly do anything on my own without her input.

Meanwhile, there were several calls by the hospital and my General overseer, Rev. W. Okoye requesting me to come to the hospital while I was discussing with the children. Immediately we ended the call and I saw the missed calls, my heart skipped a bit! ‘’What could have happened?’’ I retuned the hospital’s call and was asked to come to the hospital that night. My thoughts ran riot! ‘’How could the hospital who had not allowed me access to her this past four days be calling me to come this night?’’ I reasoned. I refused to believe that the worst had happened! I suppressed every negative thought concerning her. ‘’How would I survive without her?’’ ‘’Where would I start from?’’ These were the questions that were ringing in my head seeking for answers as I drove to the hospital that night.
On getting to the hospital, the Doctor started with telling stories of the frailty and transience of life – ‘’nothing is new under the sun, ….’’ I didn’t know when tears started flowing from my eyes. The long and short of all his sermonizing was: ‘’your wife died about an hour ago at exactly 9.00pm’’! I was dumb founded for minutes – not talking, yet tears were running down my cheeks. ‘’How do I live without my soul-mate?’’ ‘’Where do I start from?’’ These and many more question ran riot in my head all that night.

It’s been one year now and God in His infinite mercies has kept me and my kids. We have become sources of encouragement to each other and we are determined to ensure that we carry on her legacy and keep her memory alive for the rest of our lives. Writing this tribute in her memory after this one year is a little way of expressing my undying love for her.
This one year without her has sent new memories flooding forward. Her life was a blessing and her memory a treasure. I loved her beyond words and miss her beyond measures!

Among the many qualities that endeared her to me was her kind-heartedness and going out of her way to do anything for you once she is fond of you. Since we got married on 28 December 1991 till her demise, she maintained that quality and never for once gave it up at any moment that I know. There was this extra ordinary fondness she had for her eldest brother, chief Charles Adogah SAN. She would rather give up her personal comfort than to disappoint her brother or any of her siblings for that matter. When I noticed that quality in her, I made up my mind never to obstruct her any time she had the obligation to assist or be with anybody, and for this she was always grateful.

So, when she had to travel to the village that weekend, I did not discourage her due to her ill-health. I would not have succeeded even if I tried. It was in fulfilment of a promise she had made to help organize the cooking/feeding aspect of a function in the village. “Madam’’, as I called her, you are not feeling fine and you are still going to embark on this journey?” I asked her. “You know that I had already given my word and he is depending on me to make everything work out successfully, how can I disappoint him at this last minute?” she made the journey and came back still looking frail and weak. She did some tests and it was confirmed that she had malaria and some level of typhoid fever. After taking two different sets of drugs treatment and she did not get better, the Doctor advised we go for injection option. The Doctor said they had discovered that some malaria were drug-resistant in recent times. I believed the doctor because I had the same experience while she was away to the village. She was placed on a three-day injection treatment. To our utter amazement, she did not get better after the injections. It was during one of the nights when she wasn’t feeling better that we had to go to another hospital aside the one where she had been receiving treatment.

The details of our experience at this other hospital is a story for another day. Exactly six days later, my loving wife, my confidante, my ‘mother’ gave in to the cold hands of death! It is exactly a year ago since she left me and the memory of the good times we had are the only consolation I have right now.

I have come to realize that the biggest fear anyone could have is not the fear of death, but the fear of never truly living – being there for others! Touching people’s lives positively and giving them hope in their hopeless situations.

‘Beauty’, my loving wife, lived! She was a quintessence of awe-inspiring impact to everyone who had the privilege of knowing her. She was an organizer, a bridge builder, a mother indeed! Most times, she would be on the phone mediating between siblings, friends and acquaintances till late into the night after I might have slept off. I remember an occasion when I told her that the inventors of GSM must have had her in mind when they embarked on the mission. She would call almost everybody on har contact register some days, including myself while in the office, just to ask after their welfare. A testimony to this fact occurred in December 2020, four months after she had passed when some of her friends in Benin city started calling her line. I had switched off her line that August immediately after her passing and when I switched it on again in December because I needed to retrieve some information from the phone, those calls started coming in. “It is very unlike her to stay for a whole month long without calling to check on us, even when we don’t call her that regularly, we’re really going to miss her soothing words of encouragement” said those her friends when they learnt of her passing.

One quality my wife possessed which I have been missing since her departure is composure! My wife was never in hurry to do anything. In one of our usual discussions one day, – we usually teased each other with our weaknesses and laughed at each other at the end. I told her that night that she always amazed me the way she composed herself calmly in whatever she did. She replied that it was the reason she liked planning ahead. True to her words, just a few days ago, our house help told me that most of the things she bought and stored in the refrigerator that we had been using were exhausted – one year after her passing we were still using ingredients she had stored! She was indeed a rare breed!
Her generosity was unprecedented, she would insist we left change for hawkers and road-side sellers whenever we stopped to purchase items like roast corn, roast plantain or bottled water. “I feel for these people and I wish I had the power to turn around their fortunes – how much would they make from these items they are hawking?’’ She would say. The peak of her generosity was when she requested that we started paying the school fees of our security guard’s children. Our security guard in the village has five children, two in the secondary school and the remaining three in the primary school. She started paying the kids’ school fees herself before informing me; when I asked her why she did that, she replied that it is to prove to me that it is doable, especially now that we are done with paying school fees for our own biological children. We had both agreed that we were going to set up orphanages and help stranded children back to school. We had actually started a programme of help to widows which we tagged “Lifeline”. She spare-headed the programme; every December she would travel to the village to arrange the bags of rice, and other ingredients and items we distributed to widows before Christmas. When she passed, we – my children and I and her younger brother who had been contributing to the programme, decided that we are going to rename the NGO after her. We named it – “Beatrice Ado Kola –Balogun Foundation”. Arrangements were on going and my eldest daughter was coordinating things in Canada, making contacts to relevant agencies. While all these were going on, my brother in-law, Mark, her younger brother said he had a dream where she was asking about the foundation. This is her lot! – doing things well and at the right time. We were able to conclude all arrangements and made the first presentation these month August at the first anniversary of her passing working in collaboration with Women impacting Nigeria, an NGO that touches the lives of widows. (She was compulsively kind-hearted but in ways that weren’t apparent to many people.)

My wife was one of the most brilliant students of the Bible and preachers I’ve ever known. But she was so modest, humble and quiet about her abilities that she didn’t often get the credit or recognition that she deserved. People often said I wrote her sermons whenever she was invited to preach the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The truth is that my wife didn’t believe in my ability to prepare a good sermon for her. She would sit down and write everything herself! The only thing she would request I assisted her to do was in typing in bold font for easy reading for her, with a serious warning not to change anything from the original manuscript and that I should come back with both – manuscript and typed copy.

Beauty was a rare combination of beauty and brain. A bastion of support, dependable ally, soul-mate and partner of unprecedented standing. Life, truly is not fair; but I dare not give in to the disempowering tyranny of despair. That would tantamount to a disservice to the perpetual optimism that defined Beauty, my loving wife, whose favourite scripture is lamentation 3:37- “Who is her that says a thing and it comes to pass, when God has not commanded it”. I’m consoled by the fact of the above scripture that God had permitted it that she should go and rest in the bosom of her creator.
Once more, I want to use this opportunity to express my gratitude for the barrage of empathy and support I have been receiving from friends, brethren and family for this past one year. Amina Ohunene Francis-Audu (my wife’s gist partner), thank you so much for the delicious vegetable soup you send across often. You have shown that you are a friend indeed and I am sure that she would be proud of you in her new position.

May God almighty reward you and your husband and all those who have been standing by me for this past one year.

Beauty, my love, the memories of your love, sacrifices and affection for me and the kids will remain ever green in our hearts. If truly a person’s quality is measured by what he or she wants to achieve and not what he or she achieved, then, the quality of your personality is unquantifiable. You had those great plans – to touch lives, especially the girl-child! I will always love you. Thanks for the privilege and value of your friendship!

Kola

 

 

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Opinion

Ali Bello: The Unseen Architect of Progress in Yahaya Bello’s Legendary Administration

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By Joseph Ikani

In the tapestry of Governor Yahaya Bello’s legendary administration in Kogi State, one name resonates quietly yet profoundly—Ali Bello. A technocrat and administrative virtuoso, Ali Bello has been the invisible force behind the scenes, steering numerous successes that have defined the state’s transformative journey.

As Governor Yahaya Bello’s administration concludes on January 27, 2024, it leaves behind a legacy marked by a plethora of infrastructure and overall development in Kogi State. However, the first term, spanning from 2015 to 2019, was not without challenges. Heavy criticism emerged as the populace eagerly awaited the tangible dividends of democracy. While Governor Bello was fervently committed to infrastructural and rural development, his ideas faced resistance from some once-trusted allies and members of his administration. The divergence in priorities became apparent, with the governor emphasising infrastructure while others leaned towards human capital development and political empowerment.

The turning point came with the intense campaign for Governor Bello’s second term in 2019, a victory that solidified his commitment to the state’s progress. As the whistle blew for his second term, ongoing projects were swiftly completed, and new ones emerged, transforming the state’s landscape. Key projects such as the establishment of Confluence University of Science and Technology in Osara, the construction of the Ganaja flyover, the establishment of ultramodern general hospitals in Gegu and Isanlu, and the expansion of the general hospital in Idah to a zonal hospital began to take shape. At the heart of the execution of these monumental projects was the hands-on involvement of Ali Bello.

Governor Yahaya Bello, CON

One remarkable example is the construction of the Ganaja flyover, a project initially rejected by Governor Bello due to its high contract cost. The previous administration had awarded the flyover project at a staggering cost of over ten billion naira. It was Ali Bello and his adept negotiating skills that secured TEC Engineering Construction Company a more cost-effective deal, expanding the project beyond its previous design. The governor himself acknowledged that, without Ali, the construction of the flyover would have remained an unattainable feat.

While other associates of the governor were visibly present around him and within the government house vicinity, Ali Bello stood out by being ubiquitous at all project sites, spanning from Kogi East to Central and West. His relentless commitment, aimed at ending the era of subpar execution of contracts, became the driving force behind the state’s development.

This article aims to shed light on the unsung hero, Ali Bello, clarifying that any antagonistic disposition towards Governor Yahaya Bello’s first tenure was not out of malice but a genuine desire for the well-being of the people. As a staunch observer of the state’s affairs, it is imperative to commend those who positively influenced the change in governance. Ali Bello emerges not only as a catalyst for progress but also as a misunderstood figure. In his quest for transparent spending on people-centric projects, Ali became an inadvertent target of hatred and animosity, facing malicious victimisation, orchestrated plots, and accusations. Despite the adversity, Ali Bello’s diligent work, passion for excellence, and genuine dedication to the well-being of the people have played a pivotal role in the progress that Kogi State has achieved under Governor Yahaya Bello’s visionary leadership.

* Joseph Ikani, Ph.D.
is at the Centre for Public Accountability, Abuja
akinjoe1979@yahoo.com

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ON BETTA EDU AND TUNDE IRUKERA

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* By Tunde Olusunle, PhD, FANA

Two notable events hallmarked January 8, 2024, the very first Monday post-yuletide this new year. Nigeria’s President, Bola Tinubu suspended Betta Chimaobim Edu, the young medical doctor who hitherto served as Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation. She was fingered in inexcusable financial infractions which ran counter to public service rules and procedures. In the second instance, the President disengaged from office Babatunde Ayokunle Irukera, the urbane attorney and executive vice chairman of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, (FCCPC). Alexander Okoh, director-general of the Bureau for Public Enterprises, (BPE), was also relieved of his appointment, same day. In different ways and to differing extents, I know Edu and Irukera, respectively.

I first met Edu late 2018 in Port Harcourt, immediately after the Peoples’ Democratic Party, (PDP) national convention which produced Nigeria’s charismatic former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as presidential flagbearer. The little-known Edu found her way to *Intels Camp,* an idyllic, oasis in the bedlam of the capital of the oil-bearing state, where Atiku’s delegates and political strategists were quartered. An amiable extrovert, she spontaneously cultivated friendships with some of us on that occasion. She desired a role in the presidential campaign, so she clung to us literally, for inclusion as politicking gathered steam ahead of the 2019 elections.

I visited Calabar not too long after. I was detailed on a specific assignment to Cross River State by the headquarters of the PDP. Edu was Special Adviser to Benedict Ayade, the professor governor of the state on Community and Primary Healthcare. She graciously assigned a car to me to move me around in the course of my visit. I had always longed to visit *Tinapa resort,* the baby of Donald Duke the first democratically elected governor of Cross River State, this fourth republic, conceived to recalibrate trade and economic activity in the nation’s South South. That 2018 visit provided a perfect opportunity and inspired a very despondent poem which features in my most recent volume ofpoetry, *A Medley Of Echoes.* Edu was quite helpful.

Edu and I were in touch from time to time thereafter. She excitedly shared video clips of her screening by the senate for confirmation as minister last year. I acknowledged them and wished her every luck. In our previous engagements, she had always expressed preference for a health portfolio, ostensibly because of her professional background. That was the last time I heard from Edu! One will need to interrogate the nexus between people’s previous personas, vis-a-vis the spontaneity of office-induced metamorphosis and heightened hubris. I’ve observed a trend over the years such that further scrutiny has become imperative. Like I always tell those who ask me why I don’t jump upon presumably well entrenched friends when they are in high public office, the point is that I have a “bad habit.” I won’t be found lounging on the corridors or waiting rooms of any friend in public office at whatever level, if we cannot have a telephone conversation and firm up an appointment.

An eminent and adulated public officer like George Akume, former governor, senator, minister and now Secretary to the Government of the Federation, (SGF), returns people’s calls. How about Enyinnaya Abaribe, former deputy governor, high ranking senator and institutional memory of Nigeria’s parliament. Nobody therefore should consider himself too big or important to get back to people, and reach out. The immediate predecessor to John Owan Enoh, the sports minister, used to be my friend, or so I thought. He dragged me to sit with him on the high table at a post-inauguration reception hosted in his honour at the Transcorp Hilton, same day in 2019. His transformation thereafter was such that I never asked for the direction to his office all through his four years as minister! A Yoruba proverb pointedly enjoins us to be intentionally self-respecting so we can be reciprocally adulated.

Irukera and I knew each other by reputation for decades before we finally met. We lived with our parents and siblings in Ilorin the Kwara State capital over time, but never met. He was indeed at the Federal Government College, (FGC), at the same time with one of my siblings at some point, while I was at the University of Ilorin. On one of his visits to Abuja well before his appointment to the headship of the erstwhile Consumer Protection Council, (CPC), he insisted on meeting “this elder brother with whom he shares so many attributes.” We were both born in Kaduna at different times and bear the same name, “Babatunde” which in Yoruba lore presupposes that we are reincarnations of one of grandfathers, paternal or maternal. We are both Yagba from Okunland in Kogi State, and proud alumni of the University of Ilorin. We would further discover that we both got married same day, same month, same year! And so he visited first time and again, ever volunteering to be the one who visits more in deference to his older brother. This was until I insisted on knowing his place, so as to mitigate the “scores” if we were playing a game of football.

Betta Edu is on a yellow card for now relative to the ongoing inquest into her role in a bouquet of financial malfeasance, less than five months in office. While there is a broadsheet of untoward heist perpetrated under her watch, the fact of her approval to the effect that about N600 million be paid into the personal account of one of her proxies is on the front burner. The internet has been throwing up records of Edu’s activities during her stint in office. Her “testimony to answered prayers” at the December 2023 of the mammoth *Shiloh* prayer convention of Bishop David Oyedepo’s Living Faith Church is trending. Edu’s exhibitionist rocking and revelry alongside her “big girl” associates are also in the clouds. The irrepressible, dart-throwing Shehu Sani, former legislator and public engager has indeed applauded Tinubu’s decisiveness in promptly taking out Edu. He doesn’t miss the chance to take a swipe at the president’s predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari, who could only *ashuwa* Nigerians in every instance, never, ever able to act resolutely.

Last December, *Leadership* newspapers one of Nigeria’s respected tabloids named Irukera’s FCCPC “Government Agency of the Year.” The organisation was so recognised for “promoting fairness, regulatory stability and consumer protection within the marketplace.” Irukera was applauded for pursuing “a transformative journey in reshaping and rebranding the CPC, into a proactive and consumer-centric FCCPC.” *Leadership* posited further: “Irukera’s oversight of the commission’s transformation and operationalisation beginning from January 30, 2019,” has been a game-changer. He was credited with his “unwavering dedication to fostering a dynamic and responsive regulatory environment and recorded numerous milestones across diverse sectors including healthcare, digital finance and electricity.” The tabloid noted that “one standout accomplishment is the strategic development and implementation of the “Patient’s Bill of Rights,” among a host of other plaudits.

Irukera hosted a media engagement on the eve of Christmas where he disclosed that the FCCPC had weaned itself off from government funding and was now self-sustaining. According to him, rather than draw from the federal till, the FCCPC indeed remitted N22 Billion to the federation account! Irukera volunteered at that encounter that 90 per cent of the internal revenue generation, (IGR) of FCCPC came by way of enforcement of payment of penalties by defaulting companies. In a milieu where many government funded establishments overdraw their allocations, expend their IGR and go cap-in-hand for supplementation, the FCCPC generated N56 Billion last year out of which N22 Billion was remitted to the federal treasury. Such has been the quantum transmogrification of the FCCPC under Irukera, who inherited an IGR of N154 million in his first year in office in 2017.

There are insinuations to the effect that Irukera has been so treated because of his relationship with former Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, a professor of law and senior advocate of Nigeria, (SAN), who was instrumental to his appointment in 2017. Osinbajo and Irukera were partners in a Lagos-based law firm. Osinbajo contested in the presidential primary of the All Progressives Congress, (APC), in June 2022, which was won by Tinubu. Even before both men met at the ballot at the *Eagle Square,* Abuja, Tinubu never disguised his disaffection towards Osinbajo his own protege, who dared run against him. Osinbajo served as attorney general of Lagos State under Tinubu when the latter was governor from 1999 to 2007. Tinubu also threw Osinbajo up as running mate to Buhari after the APC presidential primary in December 2014.

Irukera is grateful for the opportunity to have served Nigeria’s “incredibly vibrant and loyal consumers.” He is glad to leave behind “a strong institutional advocate in the FCCPC and an outstanding team of soldiers who work there daily for the cause of fair markets.” Irukera offered transparent leadership at the FCCPC, took bold and daring steps, made far-reaching decisions and achieved much in the Commission’s mandate to protect the consuming public from unfair practices. He fearlessly brought to their knees, otherwise powerful local and international companies infringing on consumer rights and made them accountable. Such is the sterling legacy Irukera is leaving in FCCPC, a hitherto little-known government concern.

The period of Betta Edu’s suspension should serve as one to holistically rethink the whole concept of the Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation ministry; the National Social Investment Programme Agency, (NSIPA), and their affiliates. Since their emergence under the Buhari administration, they have been fraught with allegations of mindless thievery and mammoth fraud. From Sadiya Umar-Farouk who pioneered the ministry under Buhari; through Halima Shehu the NSIPA chief executive who was recently dismissed by Tinubu and now Betta Edu, the rancid smell of fiscal cannibalism, chokes. Nigeria’s commonwealth to the tune of N88 Billion is alleged to have been fleeced by these three.

Truth is that all the so-called poverty alleviation and empowerment archetypes have only provided for the colossal bleeding of the national wallet. The *tradermoni,* “public works programme” and “conditional cash transfer” among others, have been most dishonest in serving the interest of vulnerable groups. Who authenticates the number of individuals or households provided with tokens for poverty mitigation? The entire poverty tempering superstructure under its various aliases and nomenclature amount to a consolidated scam.

For his inimitable altruism and diligence in service to nation, for opening the eyes of government to the fact that state institutions can be transparently and profitably run, Irukera deserves proper recognition. People who apply themselves to service the way Irukera has should be invited for a handshake and photo opportunity with the President. On such an occasion, Tinubu should ask him to name a particular government department he hopes to help his “renewed hope” agenda. The National Productivity Centre, (NPC), and the Ministry of Special Duties should immediately list Irukera for applicable honours, as different from the Buhari “all comers” epoch.

*Tunde Olusunle, PhD, poet, journalist, scholar and author is a Fellow of the Association of Nigerian Authors, (ANA)*

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Opinion

MUSINGS ON NIGERIA’S INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATION

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The uneasy thing about Nigeria’s Independence Day celebration reminds me of Frederick Douglas’s thought-provoking speech which he delivered on the 4th of July, titled “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”. This famous and powerful address was made on July, 5, 1852. Douglas, an African American abolitionist and former slave questioned the hypocrisy of celebrating American independence and freedom while the black people were inhumanely treated under the shackles and manacles of slavery.

In that famous address, Douglas argued passionately that the celebration of freedom and independence was a hollow gesture for the African slaves and thus challenged the moral conscience of white America, urging them to confront the moral depravity and injustice of the institution of slavery.

Douglass began by acknowledging the significance and achievements of the American Revolution, praising the architects of the American republic for their commitment to the cause of liberty and justice. However, he quickly shifted his focus to highlight the stark contrast between the ideals professed and captured in the preamble of the American constitution -“we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal…” in the one, and in the other, the horrid condition experienced by the enslaved African people. In that speech, Douglass draws heavily and eloquently from the Bible, the American Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence to reveal the contradictions and ironies inherent in the American society.

It is in that sense, that we as Nigerians must reflect on Frederick Douglass’ powerful words and draw parallels from that knowledge and experience with a view to inspire us to critically examine the significance of Nigeria’s independence. Although Nigeria’s independence from colonial rule on October, 1, 1960 marked a pivotal moment in our history however, it also revealed the complexities and challenges that accompany self-rule 63 years down the line.

Like Douglass, who highlighted the stark contrast between the ideals of liberty and the reality of slavery in America, we must also interrogate and understand the overreaching implications of independence for Nigerians.

Independence should not just be about political freedom or self-rule, but entails also, the responsibility to harness our God given potentials-both human and natural in order to live up to the promise of a free and prosperous nation. This would mean, tackling poverty, misery, unemployment, inequality, illiteracy, insecurity, corruption and ethno-religious tension that persist within the Nigerian society.

Similar to Douglass’ call for justice and equality for all Americans, it is crucial to recognize the fact that true independence encompasses freedom from man-made hardship and suffering, systemic oppression and other forms of insecurity.

Frederick Douglass believed that the Fourth of July should be a time for reflection and self-assessment, urging Americans to confront the hypocrisy of celebrating freedom while denying it to a significant portion of the population. In the same vein, Nigeria’s Independence Day should prompt us to critically examine the discrepancies between the nation’s founding principles and the troubling reality of a vast majority of Nigerians today. By every conceivable standard, Nigeria is a deeply troubled nation.

We therefore must engage in introspection and ask ourselves challenging questions: Are we truly living up to the ideals of a united, prosperous, and just nation? Are all Nigerians able to fully enjoy the benefits of independence, irrespective of their social class, religious and ethnic background? How can we genuinely address the governance deficit and put an end to the failure of successive administrations with a view to better the social and economic conditions of all citizens in Nigeria? Do we really deserve the kind of leadership foisted on us for decades? Must Nigerians continue to adjust and readjust in order to survive under the grip of a highly perfidious elite operating an economic and political system that thrives on injustice and corruption?

Think about it!

Joelengs
01.10.2023.

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