Connect with us

Opinion

When PEOPLE POWER is activated, STRUCTURES crumble

Published

on

By Tony Ekata

DO YOU KNOW?

When PEOPLE POWER is activated, STRUCTURES crumble. It happened in South Africa. It happened in Pakistan. It happened in F rance. It happened in Ukraine.

Volodomyr Zelensky, a lawyer and comedian, was a political outsider before he became Ukrainian president. His political party, Servant of the People, named after a TV series in which he played the role of Ukrainian President, was formed in 2018 with no structures anywhere except on social media where he was considered the frontrunner in opinion polls after he declared his intention to run for President in December 2018.

In 2019, he contested against political juggernaut, incumbent President Petro Poroshenko, and won with 73.23 percent. Not only that, but his party also won a landslide victory in the snap legislative election held shortly after his inauguration as president. What was his trump card? He positioned himself as an anti-establishment and anti-corruption figure, a hot selling point for a people already sick and tired of corruption in high places.

Does that ring a bell? Nobody gave Zelensky, a comedian, a chance against the onslaught of Russia’s hard nut former KGB boss Vladimir Putin. He has led his people in the battle against Putin from the front, unlike some Generals, who would be bunker-bound at the threat of rag tag bandits.
Imran Khan, the renowned Pakistani cricket star had no significant political structure when he was voted Prime Minister in 2018. He rode to power on the populist approach that emphasizes the idea of juxtaposing the people against the elite.

Emmanuel Macron was a banker and civil servant before he became President. His only political experience was as a senior adviser to President Francois Hollande and later as Minister of the Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs between 2014 and 2016. In April 2016, he formed the En Marchel centrist political movement.

By May 2017, he contested and was elected President, beating serial presidential contestant and seasoned politician, Marine Le Pen, with 66.1 percent of the vote. He was only 39 years old, which made him the youngest President in the history of France.

A month later, in the June 2017 French legislative election, Macron’s party, renamed La République En Marche (LREM), secured a majority in the National Assembly. Those legislators belonged to the traditional parties with decades of structure. They saw the need to realign with progressive forces and did the needful. That is how rational human beings behave.

Now, the response of the naysayers to the above is quite predictable. They are going to say, ‘Nigeria is different!’. Exactly! Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world, courtesy the same grandfathers that will not allow their children and grandchildren with modern ideas to lead.

Those basing their 2023 permutations on stereotypical variables should hear this: What happened in Soweto in June 1976 happened at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos, Nigeria, in October 2020. Nigerian youths dared security forces and spoke in one voice, amplified by the social media, to say enough is enough to the mindless killing of youths on flimsy grounds.

#ENDSars was born! It reverberated around the world. It rekindled separatist agitations. It may not have achieved its purpose for various reasons. But it would be foolhardy to presume that #ENDSars is dead. We can already see its reincarnation in the OBIdient Movement.

The choice for the electorate in 2023 is not between Atiku, Tinubu and Obi. It is between continuing to live in bondage and making a fresh start. It is between disgruntled Nigerians and the hegemonic predators. It is between purveyors of the oppressive status quo and hitherto apathetic youths and students bent on taking the country back from the leaders of yesterday and today, using the people’s money to pave the way for them and their children and grandchildren to remain the leaders of tomorrow.

For those saying social media cannot elect a President, they are very correct. But at the same time, they are missing the point. It’s the people that will elect a President using social media to get people to register and change the perception of registered voters. Is that not happening already? That you are in PDP or APC does not mean you must vote for those parties. Party membership cards are not demanded at polling booths before the casting of ballots. Buhari rode partly on social media hype as MR INTEGRITY to Aso Rock in 2015. It was on social media the hooey that NEPA bill is better than PhD was sold and bought. Millions of votes cast for Buhari in 2015 by registered voters were not for the APC. They were for Buhari based on the perception created that he was the long-awaited messiah. They were protest votes against PDP and GEJ and their perceived 16 wasted years and cluelessness.

The unprecedented interest in who becomes Nigeria’s next President is symbolised by the OBIdient Movement. Whether it succeeds or fails in 2023 is not the issue. For sure, Nigeria is entering a new era of political activism. If Obi fails in 2023, it is Nigeria that will fail – again! It is an unfathomable irony that Nigerians agree that there is a dire need for a redirection of the country but want to leave the reins in the hands of morally deficient operators who contributed actively to steering it into the present morass.

So, if you want Nigeria to win, help build the superstructure needed for the victory. Talk to your friends, neighbours and family members. Let them know the absurdity in taking money from politicians to make their children and grandchildren slaves to the politicians’ children and grandchildren. Nigeria is made up of families, not political structures!

(Tony Ekata is a South Africa-based Communications consultant and Public affairs analyst)

Continue Reading

Opinion

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

Published

on

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

Continue Reading

Opinion

ON BETTA EDU AND TUNDE IRUKERA

Published

on

* 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)*

Continue Reading

Opinion

MUSINGS ON NIGERIA’S INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATION

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading

Archives

Categories

Meta

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending