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TERHEMBA SHIJA: AN ALTERNATIVE VIEWPOINT…

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By Mike Utsaha

This isn’t the best of times for us as a people and as a nation, and the reason is pretty obvious. This notwithstanding, the Benue Political Community seem to have taken a break from concerns around combatting the effects of COVID – 19, and has rather focused attention on the recent resignation from the Peoples Democratic Party by the erudite Professor of Creative Writing and former member of the Benue State Executive Council Prof. Terhemba Shija.

Professor Terhemba Shija

The resignation of Shija from the PDP, after many years sojourn in that Party, has unsurprisingly, elicited mixed reactions. Although the text of the public statement which he personally signed, gave no indication as to his immediate next steps, there are speculations already that his resignation is a first step towards the actualisation of a gubernatorial ambition come 2023, on an alternative political platform, a platform which he allegedly undermined during the 2019 general elections.

A little bit of a background here, just so that base motives are not ascribed to this alternative viewpoint.

As a much younger person I loved books a lot, I read practically everything that was in sight, newspapers, novels, journals, etc. and that is how I first came in contact with Terhemba Shija many years ago, through his first published work “Whispers of Distant Drums”.

Then, by October 1995 when I was called to the Bar, Shija was the then Head of the Benue State Liaison Office in Lagos where I had undertaken my mandatory Law School Studies. Without any prompting, and without any prior notification, but obviously in honour of my parents, who were in Lagos to share in the joy of my admission to the prestigious legal profession, Shija hosted a large Party in my honour in his official residence somewhere in Victoria Island.

Many years later, coincidentally in the month of October 2012, when my younger Sister Alu got married to her heartthrob Pius Ayoo, Shija was there once again, to host a sit out in Hallydays Hotel Makurdi, this time around, in honour of the Ayoos and Utsahas.

Even here on Facebook where we maintain an enduring bond of friendship, we share a commonality of interest on issues of diverse interests, and I am constantly intrigued by mass hysteria that usually accompanies his outings.

Naturally, I have had and maintained more than a passing interest in Shija even as I owe him a debt of gratitude for his thoughtfulness, kindness and generosity, and I needed to mention this upfront.

I think it is a great act of disservice to our great Party the All Progressives Congress (APC) to even contemplate a cold shoulder for Shija. Globally, political parties thrive on membership, the more the merrier. The political process is a market place whose legal tender is the freshness of ideas that one brings to the table. It is decidedly a market place of ideas.

Besides, if Shija worked against the APC during the 2019 general elections in favour of his Party the PDP, then he was discharging the responsibility expected of a loyal, forthright and committed Party man. Rather than condemn him for this, he ought to be commended for his exemplary conduct, notwithstanding the motivation, if any, for this line of action. So, if tomorrow Shija decides to pitch his tent with the APC I personally consider it a salutary development.

It should be stated, without equivocation of any kind whatsoever, that the 2019 electioneering campaign of the APC in Benue was poorly conducted quite frankly.

We went into that election as a fragmented Party with disparate and varied interests.

We refused to take advantage of resources at our disposal and relied essential on the feeble and capricious efforts of spent political forces of yester years.

Indeed, in some cases, we were pants down in bed with the most vociferous opposition elements. We squandered our chances and goodwill as a party, we took a lot of things for granted even as we were in a contest with a formidable incumbent governor who was too well aware of the consequences of losing his seat, and with it, his constitutional immunity.

So, to now turn around and blame Shija for our lack lustre performance in that election is for me akin to playing the game of the proverbial Ostrich.

Like I mentioned earlier on Shija has been an active member of the PDP since 1999. In my view, it is a fitting testimony to his selflessness and consistency of character that, notwithstanding the fluid nature of our political process, he has never ever contemplated, until now, a change of platform.

Conversely, it is also a fitting testimony to the soul and character of the PDP that it could not retain or at least tolerate Shija within its fold, in spite of his many years of committed and dedicated service and sacrifice to the Party.

Let me conclude, not only by wishing Shija all the very best in his future endeavours, I additionally urge him, most respectfully, to consider taking up membership of the APC, if and when he decides to continue making modest contributions to the democratisation process in our country Nigeria. The fortunes of our great Party will be significantly improved if he takes this step.

We look forward to working very closely with him and benefitting from his wealth of experience, depth of knowledge and the network of friends and associates he has cultivated within and beyond our country Nigeria.

(Mike Utsaha is a legal practitioner based in Abuja)

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Opinion

Otò ge: Why Governor Abdulrahaman Abdulrazaq enjoys massive support in Kwara

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By Anjolaoluwa Folajimi

For several years, late Chief Olusola Saraki, Waziri Ilorin reigned supreme in the Kwara State politics. From the second republic down to the present democratic dispensation, his name made or marred the political fortune of many aspirants in the State.
His political clout transcend over three decades. The political legacy “Oloye” remained unrivalled until 2019 when the “Oto ge” Tsunami put an end to the political influence been enjoyed by the Sarakis in Kwara State politics.

With a change in government, courtesy of the “Oto ge” revolution, a political “greenhorn”, under the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq emerged as the Governor of the State of Harmony. The new Kwara helmsman, a consumate businessman is the son of the first lawyer from the Northern Nigeria, late A.G.F AbdulRazaq, SAN.

Though not known in the political landscape of the state and by extension, the country, Abdulrazaq was fully prepared for governance, having contested and lost the Governorship seat in 2011 under the defunct Congress of Progressive Change (CPC), he has attended to the demand of the office since May 29, 2019 with total zeal, dedication and commitment. A focused and committed leader, the 7th executive Governor of Kwara State in the less than two years on the saddle, has changed the narratives of governance in the State. A development that has endeared him to the people in the 16 local government areas of the state. Not even his political detractors and the oposition can denied the fact that the 61 year old Governor has turned the face of governance, delivered dividend of democracy, give purposeful leadership to the state and written his name on the hearts of Kwarans with indelible ink.

Despite the rot in the system and the downturn of the economy, Abdulrazaq has brought his ingenuity to bear in turning the almost comatose fortune of the state back of its heels.

In the words of Ambassador Nurudeen Mohammed, a Chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress and Nigeria’s immediate past Ambassador to Malaysia, “Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq remains a man of the people and he stands tall as a man of honour among the majority of our party members in the state, in spite of the unfair demarketing campaign launched against his administration by some party chieftains and their co-travelers in the opposition. This is not by chance. Not only has the Governor demystified the office of Governor with his uncommon humility, simplicity, and prudence, he has redefined the story of our state in many positive ways. Whether in health, education, road, or water, the Governor has touched lives in many ways never seen before. He has strategically taken governance to the people such that there is no electoral Ward in the state that cannot point to one or two things that they have benefited in just 18 months of his administration.

“A modest and humble personalty, the Governor who has driven his own private car since day one of his administration to date. Here is a Governor who lives in his own house till date. Here is a Governor who is not taking salary. Here is a Governor who is willingly opening up his government for accountability through the phenomenal social audit process. Here is a Governor who just wants to deliver his campaign promises to the people, despite the biting economic realities. Here is a Governor who gives every part of the state a fair sense of belonging by always identifying with them in time of cultural celebration or mourning, and extending government’s patronage to every segment of the state. Today, Kwara is a model state on the continent in youths and women inclusion in government.”

The retired diplomat rated the Governor high in the health sector. According to him, the health sector of the state has received about the highest priority even before the advent of Covid-19 pandemic.

Mohammed further said, “the administration has started rehabilitation works across dozens of decrepit primary healthcare facilities. Long-abandoned routine immunisation and vaccination is back. For the first time, Kwara now has isolation centres equipped with modern gadgets like ventilators, defibrillators, patient monitors, and others. Its oxygen plant has been revived. For the first time, the state now has ambulances with capacities to manage patients in critical conditions on the go. Indeed, Kwara is now listed as A-list state in healthcare sector.”

The story of education sector of the state has continue to beat the imagination of Kwarans. Priority attention was accorded the sector, which had hitherto suffered neglect by previous administrations leading to the state been blacklisted from accessing from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) fund for more than seven years before his advent as the Governor.
It is on record that Kwara State under Abdulrazaq, has accessed a backlog of N7.1bn UBEC counterpart funds with a matching grant of N7.1bn to gradually reposition the schools. Aside from the upcoming UBEC intervention, the state on its own is carrying out renovation works in at least 43 basic schools. With the UBEC funds in the kitty, no less than 600 basic schools are to get facelifts while teachers are also to be trained.

Worthy of commendation is the transparent process of recruiting 4701 qualified and competent teachers into our public primary, junior and senior secondary schools in the State.

Abdulrazaq’s developmental efforts are not limited to public institutions. In the wake of the novel Covid-19 pandemic, he extended his hands of kindness to Proprietors of 1,119 privately cowned schools in the state. Soft loan were given to help cushion the effects of the pandemic due to shutdown on public places on their schools and teachers.

Recalling Governor Abdulrazaq intervention in the provision of portable water, Hon. Abdulmumin Katibi, a one time member of Kwara State House of Assembly said, “in May 2019, water tanker was the source of potable water in most parts of Ilorin, the capital city, even in the Government House. Today, Pipe-borne water is back and stable in the metropolis while nearly 500 boreholes have either been dug or rehabilitated across the state. No fewer than nine water works have been fixed since this Governor came on board while contracts for more have been awarded. With water situation being tackled, Kwara is keying into the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), a key component of the Sustainable Development Goal 6 to promote hygiene and end open defecation. Under this scheme, many schools and hospitals across the state would now for the first time get tap water and pour-flush toilets.”

Urban and rural road infrastructure since Governor Abdulrazaq assumed office has continued to receive attention. The administration has fixed over 100 rural and urban roads/culverts/bridges. Many agrarian communities are now getting standard roads, those hitherto cut off from civilisation are being linked, while at least 500 rural roads are to be fixed under the World Bank-enabled Rural Access and Agricultural Marketing Project (RAAMP) arrangement for which the administration had earlier paid counterpart funds. These road projects are spread across the senatorial districts, deliberately linking agrarian areas to the urban centres.

Modelled after President Buhari’s Social Investment Programme, Kwara State Social Investment Programme (KWASSIP) is the Governor’s multi-faceted and nonpartisan response to the question of extreme poverty and government’s poor attention to the vulnerable. Under the scheme, at least 21,623 petty traders have accessed soft loans to stay afloat while over 10,000 transporters who could not work during the COVID-19 lockdown were supported. Similarly, already-enumerated 10,000 vulnerable and poor senior citizens, from age 60, are now getting monthly stipends under what would be the state’s first ever institutionalised social protection scheme.

The scheme is also offering free digital training to young people to help them cope in the new economy. Over 3000 persons received training in July last year while 10,000 more are undergoing a richer version of the course in the second phase of the programme in conjunction with Wootlab Innovation and Grow With Google. A total of 30,000 young people are billed to benefit from the training within three years.

It is on record that the federal government has indeed hailed Kwara State’s version of the Owo Isowo (TraderMoni) for its innovative features, such as the inclusion of BVN of the beneficiaries. This is just a few of the many interventions Governor Abdulrazaq has made to lift our people out of purverty. The interesting thing about him is that he sees governance as an affair that transcends party loyalty, and this explains why he has become so popular with the masses, to the chagrin of his traducers!

To achieve the desired transformation in the State, Governor Abdulrazaq’s administration has positively changed the narrative of staff welfare in the state civil service. There is now regular payment of salary. No more percentage payment and promotion of staff has resumed while arrears of salaries and allowances dating back to as far back as 2012 are now being paid. Besides, pensioners now enjoy regular payment of pensions. A sustainable arrangement for payment of gratuities on monthly basis has now been put in place.

However, the unprecedented achievements recorded within this short period is now being threatened by some self serving political leaders, with dangerous sense of entitlement, greed and lust for personal gains are out to forment trouble.

It is a known Convention in the ruling All Progressives Congress that the Governor of a state is the leader of the party in the state. This explained why the likes of Minister of Information, Lai Labode, his counterpart, Minister of State Transportation, Gbemisola Saraki and Akogun Oyedepo have failed in their bid to highjack the party machinery from the Governor.

Despite a well sustained campaign of caluminy by this set of individuals, the political rating and public perception of the Governor continue to assume a constant rise.

An instructive development was the recent endorsement of Governor Abdulrazaq by the kinsmen of the Information Minister from Irepodun Local Government area of the state. Lai Mohammed kinsmen and APC leaders who publicly identified with the Governor include former Kwara State Commissioner for Information, Oloriewe Raheem Adedoyin, a member Kwara State House of Assembly, Hon. Tayo Awodiji, Deputy Chief of Staff, Government House, Princess Bukola Babalola, Prince Shuaib Olanrewaju, Barr. Teju Ogintoye, Gen. Lasisi Abidoye(rtd), Elder Agboola Adewumi, Conrade Ben Dintoye, Alhaji Raheem Olokoba, Prince Samuel Alebiosu, Mrs. Deborah Aremu, Gen. Lasisi Abidoye(rtd), Mrs Shade Omoniyi, Chief Raphael Awotunde, Mr. Yomi Adeboye, Mr. Femi Ajibade, Dr. Sule Popoola, Mr. Debo Adeleke, Hon. Azeez Yakubu and others.

Declaring their support for the Governor at a Press Conference recently in Ilorin, the Minister’s kinsmen through their spokesperson, Hon. Olabanji Olayemi, who is also the Chairman, Kwara South caretaker committee, was quick to refer the Minister to some laudable projects of the Governor in their area. The projects include, “the completion of Taiwo Road, Omu Aran-Esie Museum Road asphalt lay, renovation of court building in Omu Aran, free surgery, state government social investment programmes such as Owo Arugbo and Owo Isowo, comprehensive renovation and construction of additional facilities in Oro Grammar School, Oro.

“Renovation of block of 3 classrooms with an office and store, GSS, Omuaran, renovation of a block of 4 classrooms, CHS, Ajase-Ipo, renovation of a block of 4 classrooms and workshop building, Esie/Iludun Technical College, renovation of examination Hall, GSS, Omu Aran, renovation of a block of Laboratory, PMC, Oro-Ago, and many mores.”

In their verdict, Olayemi said, “In the light of the enumerated achievements of the governor in Irepodun LGA, it is not difficult for us to publicly declare unequivocal support for His Excellency, Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, the Governor and our party leader in Kwara State.”

The voice of people of Irepodun is on a daily basis being re-echoed from all the nooks and crannies of Kwara State. If in less than two years, Governor AbdulRazaq has recorded these milestone achievements spread across all the wards in the state, no sooner than later, he may emerge as the new political force that will dominate the political horizon of Kwara State for long.

Folajimi is a member of APC in Kara state.

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Opinion

The Mallam Ismaila Isa Funtua I knew

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By Ifueko M Omoigui Okauru

When in Public Service, one never knows the shoes you step on or those who write behind your back especially when you are in the process of reform, requiring unsettling changes to many.

One day, sitting in my office, as Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), in the early days of the tax reform process, I was told a gentleman by name of Mallam Ismaila Isa Funtua was at the reception to see me. I invited him in, not knowing who he was.

He introduced himself as a life patron of the International Press Institute and Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) (I had no clue of what that meant) and said he had a matter to discuss with me.

He brought out an official letter purportedly written on my behalf regarding unilaterally imposing VAT on the newspaper industry.

First, this was the first time I was seeing the letter. Second, it was not my style. I didn’t and still don’t take unilateral actions such as was suggested in the letter without consultation even if that was what I wanted to do.

I was shocked.

He mentioned the reason he came. That he didn’t know me but decided to meet with me.

That after reading the letter from the FIRS, the newspaper proprietors had met and decided to fight the FIRS and its reforms on an action that was to cripple the entire industry without even any engagement.

That he promised the group that though he didn’t know me, and had never met me, he had seen and listened to me on TV at different times. That he somehow wanted to be sure that the letter as written was truly written on my behalf as it seemed out of character with the person he had viewed from afar.

He gave me benefit of doubt and I will forever be grateful to him.

There in started my wonderful relationship with Mallam Funtua, Chief Ogunsola then of Punch and Uncle Sam (Amuka Pemu) of the Vanguard newspapers.

I had built the confidence of a formidable trio and only later did I realize what incredible value that brought. It was in every sense a win-win relationship for Government and the newspaper industry.

This relationship extended to my husband after we got married in 2007.

On occasion I would call after I had left office in 2012, and he would berate me for not asking after him enough. On his part, aside from his occasional calls, every time my husband ran into him, he would always ask after my well being, reminding him that he had not heard from us for a while.

If I was to call him a day before his demise, he would have been right as I had not spoken to him in several months. But I would have told him, as I always did, that our relationship was beyond just a call, but one forever in my heart. It is however a wake up call, that for those we love and share cherished memories of, we should constantly keep in touch as we never know the day God chooses to call us to his side.

I will always remember him for that singular act of walking into my office, not knowing me and giving me the benefit of doubt. In Public Service, and indeed any service, that’s immeasurable value.

The news of his death was broken to me by my husband. He woke me up from sleep to let me know. It came to my husband and I as a shock. Seeking answers, and several calls after, I understand that he had driven himself to hospital for a medical check-up as he wasn’t feeling well. The rest is history.

Mallam Isa Funtua, Rest In Peace
May Allah forgive your sins and grant you eternal rest in Heaven.

My condolences to his immediate and extended family.

▪︎ Omoigui Okauru, MFR, former Chairman , Federal Inland Revenue Service/Joint Tax Board
Managing Partner, Compliance Professionals Plc sent this via WhatsApp

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Opinion

Is Dogara A Coward? “He Left PDP For The Same Reason Akpabio Did”

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By Ikenna Ellis Ezenekwe [Chem Engr, NYC]

Who does Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara thinks he is fooling?

His decision to exit the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] for the All Progressive Congress [APC] could not have come at a more convenient time. A time when the current Speaker of the House of Representative Rt. Hon. Olufemi Hakeem Gbajabiamila mandated the Federal Minister of Niger Delta Affair to put his mouth where his money is – and produce the names of the supposed federal lawmakers who were recipients of the Niger Delta Development Commission [NDDC] contract bonanza and related fraud.

Just when the Minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio responded that the recipients were not the members of the current House of Representatives but the members of the previous House of Representative under the leadership of Rt. Hon. Yabuku Dogara – Dogara woke up and discovered the corrupt nature of PDP in Bauchi State – and the pristineness of the APC. He suddenly came to realization he no longer wants a part of it.

Who does he expect to believe the tale he just discovered after more than one year the Government of Bauchi State is corrupt? After partaking in the unholy communion? Who is fooling who? And, who is gullible enough to believe the fairy tale?

The Cambridge dictionary defines a hypocrite as “someone who says they have particular moral beliefs but behaves in way that shows these are not sincere”. And, defines a coward as “a person who is not brave and is too eager to avoid danger, difficulty, or pain”.

If only the Nigerian public knew the Economic & Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC] was hot on his trail and had pulled his files, it would be clearer to understand the predicament Dogara finds himself.

The EFCC had begun investigating his activities while at the Green Chamber – and had concluded on its findings. To arrest the former Speaker was the next move. Dogara was faced with arrest and prosecution – in the same manner Senator Godswill Akpabio was faced with arrest prior to his shameful exit. Like Akpabio, Dogara flipped the switch and crossed over for the political cleaners where his sins will be forever forgiven – and amnesty granted, at the APC.

In Akpabio’s case, he was rewarded for his crossover, and for the synthetically manufactured battle he waged against the Governor of Akwa Ibom – the PDP Governor who took over the Governor’s seat after his exit. He was awarded a ministerial position in return.

In the case of Dogara, the play cards are the same. Off the bat, following his crossover, he launched his version of a synthetically manufactured battle against the PDP Governor of Bauchi State – detailing what he termed as corruption with the Bala Mohammed administration. An administration that has won accolades beyond the boundaries of Bauchi Stare as worthy of emulation. One that has revamped the educational infrastructure within the span of 12months by adding over 350 classroom blocks across the wards that makeup the State. Has achieved the erection of world standard molecular laboratory for the testing of Covid19 that presently serves four neighboring States at over 300 samples daily. Road construction networks in proportions never witnessed in the history of the State – including water treatment plants to accommodate the increase in population due to migration of IDPs.    

The question then becomes what is really Dogara’s agenda? It cannot be Bala Mohammed or his administration.

Apart from freeing himself from the grips of the EFCC. He maybe positioning for the Vice President position against the 2023 presidential elections or a Ministerial position.

As a coward battling out of the fear of possible prosecution, it is evident he has sold his rights and integrity to the drowning APC. A vomit he excreted. With which face will he face his former colleagues whom he lampooned when he defected from the APC to the PDP?

After labelling the APC, the party of corruption, he has returned to the party of corruption. Now, he sees the PDP as the party of corruption. Who is he fooling? And to imagine he was the number four citizen of the country for 4years defines the trouble with governance in Nigeria.

“What happened to the N4.6 billion loan taken from a bank and paid directly into a private company’s account?” – was one of the questions Dogara wanted answered. He claimed it led to his decision to exit the party.

Dogara, himself, knows firsthand the truth behind the non-existent loan. But he is earger to play dirty. He wants to play ostrich. Dogara knows the Bauchi Government never secured any N4.6billion loan.

The supposed N4.6billion concerns a legitimate contract awarded to a contractor for the purchase of vehicles for the government. The Bauchi State government, as most clever state governments do, issued the contractor an Irrevocable Standing Purchase Order [ISPO] – which in layman’s term means the Bauchi State government reached an agreement for the contractor to be paid in monthly installments through automatic deductions from the government’s bank account. Armed with the ISPO, the contractor approached a financial institution and presented the ISPO as a collateral to secure a loan. The contractor was awarded the loan – and the vehicles were delivered.

Dogara puzzlingly called simple transaction a loan in an open letter released to the public.

And to know that Dogara was among the recipients of the vehicles is disheartening and exposes his hypocrisy. He collected a Toyota Land Cruiser. Yes, he even wrote a thank you letter to the State government acknowledging the receipt of the vehicle.    

Dogara’s defection back to the APC may not be his last defection. It should be understood Dogara left the PDP for his personal gains and not for the benefit of good governance. The fear of EFCC prosecution and/or persecution propelled his exit [cowardice] – but to author a letter depicting the government of Bauchi as corrupt is weak and unnecessary.      

Ikenna Ellis Ezenekwe is a Chemical/Environmental Engineer resides in New York  

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