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Opinion

David Umahi: The Unsung Hero Of Nigerian Democracy

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By Philip Nweze

The story I’m about to tell seems too good to be true. It is one that cannot be forgotten with the passage of time. One that plastered me with curious excitement and makes me carry a sense of pride for being an Ebonyian. In this era of rancourous partisan divisions and tsunami of negative politics, this particular tale is a modern masterpiece in Nigerian politics. In fact, from every indication, it looks like good times are here for opposition political parties in Ebonyi state.

Ebonyi Governor, David Umahi took the nation’s political commentators by surprise earlier this month when he announced that he would pay fifty percent of nomination fees for councillorship and chairmanship candidates of opposition political parties willing to partake in the April 22 local government elections in the state. The opposition political parties in the state had cited the exorbitant cost of Ebonyi State Independent Electoral Commission (EBSIEC) nomination forms as reason why they may have to forfeit the elections. Not only were the fees slashed but the governor provided a forum for relaxation and entertainment for his “perceived” enemies during the get-together.

This act is instructive in many respects. First, it is unheard of in Nigeria political terrain. We live in a country where intolerance reigns supreme. A case in point is the animosity and age-long antagonism between the two main political parties in the country, where members of the two political parties consider themselves the biggest enemies instead of treating themselves as political opponents. Political parties in Nigeria specialise in insulting each other. During elections, one is confronted with the most primitive of abusive language, as protagonists trade the most tasteless of insults. Petty political activists carry out frivolous noise making gimmicks in motor parks, or simply pass reckless opinions in public drinking places. Members of opposing political parties are persecuted, vilified, plotted against at high level places of authority, falsely accused and the sad thing is that this experience has been in the heartland of a renowned democracy.

If you are bold enough to compete against a sitting governor, you are seen as stabbing the heart of a god for daring to challenge your superior. Every election in Nigeria eventually turns into a tragedy. The election booth is soaked with blood, with crisis rocking from coast to coast. There is a fighter, nay a killer, in almost every Nigerian politician. Often, I question this unwarranted overzealousness, quite certain that some things deserve no more than a good laugh and they will go away, rather than Nigerians slaughtering fellow Nigerians.

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I simply volunteered to dispatch information of this rare act of maturity displayed by the Ebonyi Governor as a proof that there still exist unsung heroes of Nigeria’s democracy. A just and well functioning democracy requires that all citizens have fair access to the political arena, a fact well understood by the governor. Umahi understands that Ebonyi is a young, fragile democracy, which is why it is necessary to focus on tolerance, to nourish and push for tolerance so that the state can be united for a purposeful contribution to national development. His style abhors making the opposition targets of graceless lowbrow attacks as is the case in most states of the federation. He favours progress of Ebonyi state above progress of party.

In advanced democracies, political parties cooperate, debate and exercise mutual respect when different views are involved because this could open a very useful insight to the electorate. They compete on the basis of ideas and programmes they are promoting leaving the citizens to decide on their own which party would occupy the spot on their ballot. The very possibility of democracy turns on tolerance. Society by definition involves people getting along peacefully and cooperatively most of the time, if not all the time.

Leaders identifying with the opposition is a rare act in our political clime. Even our media men have lost sight of neutrality. Our media leads ahead of its readers in the crusade of intolerance, and one just needs to get the next Nigerian newspaper to get the point. This is why I strongly believe that the leader of Ebonyi state deserves garlands. May I clarify that the governor’s political successes and triumphs were made possible by his strong belief in God, the practice of genuine love, his vision and pragmatism in politics, and compassion and benevolence in his private and official activities. Ebonyi is a magical land today because its leader understands the nitty gritty of politics and how to play resultful politics without bitterness and rancour. Chief Umahi surely understands to respect the ideals and endeavours of the institution of politics, without subjecting opponents to sub-human treatments.

Other Nigerian politicians must choose unity in place of bickering and quarrels orchestrated by political rivalries. The problem facing Nigeria is not beyond redemption. The solution lies in behavioural re-orientation as well as unity and oneness among Nigerians for the attainment of common social goals. We have seen politicians celebrating egregious acts of violence, or at best, turning blind eye to the menace. This is quite evident at the height of infighting within some parties and it continues to be a trend which has set most parties on its splitting path.

Governor David Nweze Umahi is a lesson for other Nigerian politicians on the need to be tolerant of opposing views and the crucial roles of opposition political parties as catalysts of true democracy. The gospel is that others must be appreciated, valued and respected even within the context of politics. Governor Umahi is a leader imbued with social conscience, justice and equality. He is one of the leading lights of the country who believes in fair context without trying to pull any one down.

With this rare act by the governor, peace is fully on course in Ebonyi politics.

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Opinion

Bridging Housing Deficit In Nigeria

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By Alex Enemanna

Housing is one of the most pressing needs of man. Standing in-between food and clothing, shelter is also a must-have even in the domain of lesser animals, just like they need food, like human to live. Apart from the critical role housing plays in man’s existence, it helps in his security and giving him a sense of self esteem.

Interestingly, irrespective of our social and economic status, we all need roof over our heads after the day’s activities. The low status of a man in the society does not make the need for a decent housing less important.

However, Nigeria is still miles away from attaining sufficiency in housing for all, just like food shortage has for long been a social challenge.

According to World Bank 2014 collection of development indicators, about 50.2% of our people still live in slums and unplanned settlements with its huge psychological and health effects caused by inaccessibility of social amenities. This is even as insignificant percentage live in debauchery and affluence, with catalogue of estates in their names, making the gap between the haves and have-nots become more worrisomely visible.

This social challenge has further been protracted by the country’s uncontrolled population growth which according to World Bank 2017 report is put at 2.6% annually. Available report from Proshare indicates that the national housing deficit is in excess of 17 million units.

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Not much has been done by those in authority to reasonably bridge this disturbing gap. Sadly, housing finance is at its infancy in our country. Its mortgage ratio is put at 0.5 which is grossly inadequate compared with what obtains in other climes especially South Africa where housing finance has hit 30%.

A non-governmental organization, Centre for Affordable Housing Finance in Africa (CAHF) puts Nigeria’s home ownership rate at 24%, far lower than that of Indonesia that boasts of 84%, Kenya 73% and South Africa 56%. Not even our country’s status as the giant of Africa could come to play in remedying this deficit especially where other countries in the continent are making reasonable progress.

Mortgage finance industry in Nigeria targets mainly high income earners, not including middle and low income earners. This is also coupled with high cost of securing and registering land title in Nigeria where acquisition has now become an exclusive reserve of the rich and those whose friends are in government.

In addition to this, the slow administrative procedures, lack of access to finance and inconsistent policy of the government has remained one of the impediments towards achieving sufficiency in housing in the country.
Not so much success has been recorded in the pseudo government interventions at bridging housing deficit in the country.

The Federal Housing Authority, equivalent of Federal Housing Administration in the US which was charged with the responsibility of preparing and submitting to the government proposal for national housing programmes, development and management of real estate on both commercial and profitable basis in all states of the federation, provision of sites and services scheme for the benefit of Nigerians has been dwarfed by poor administration and corruption. Like many other interventionist plans, the Federal Housing Authority is in limbo. The schemes wherever they are found across the country are on the ‘A’ list of expensive real estates. They have been sold off to money bags who can afford upfront payment, who then place the burden of recouping their investment on the shoulders of hapless citizens.

Efforts by individuals to put in place a makeshift shelter for themselves and their family members have always been met with brute resistance from the government even when there are no plans to advance their welfare through the provision of housing. Such harsh policies are usually justified with excuses that they are attempting to distort the government’s masterplan. In Abuja for instance, regular demolition of the so called illegal structures has become a recurrent decimal. The period of the current Kaduna state governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufa’i as the FCT minister recorded the mother of all careless demolitions of people’s homes in the name of maintaining a masterplan, as if the plans are being made for animals and not humans. Till date some of those displaced are either struggling to be on their feet again or joined in the catalogue of things that give us sleepless nights as a people. Some of these lands still lie fallow without any indication that there are plans to develop them anytime soon.

In as much I do not fault the government’s efforts to control development in the urban centres and restore sanity, there is need to put in place affordable housing system where even the low-income earners can have a place to live. One of the ways to achieve this is not usually by leveling people’s homes, even for vendetta and political reasons. A little regulation could be the magic wand the country needs in its efforts to make housing provision for citizens.

The high cost building materials cannot be extricated from why our dream for affordable housing for all has not been met. More worrisome, majority of the building materials used in the country are imported. This therefore makes the local production of building materials at commercial quantity very imperative. Legion of real estates in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and other cities have been overgrown by weeds and currently being occupied by rodents. This is because of their unaffordability.

It is a known fact that the government is already overburdened with barrage of issues bedeviling us and may not anytime soon bridge Nigeria’s growing housing deficit. To this end, there is the need for a robust Public Private sector Partnership arrangement. The success recorded in telecommunication, mass media and other sectors can be replicated in housing. Similar efforts failed in the past as a result of poor monitoring and evaluation by the government. This must be guarded against. The greater number of Nigerians sheltered, the better for all of us especially at a period when insecurity in the country has hit the rooftop.

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Opinion

An Open Letter To Senator T.A Orji

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TA Orji

By Kalu Nwokoro Idika

I am writing this letter to you with so much grieve and disappointment after reading the report of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on how you, your son and other crooks who could be at large fleeced Abia State treasury and left the entire State in total ruins. Considering the magnitude of your financial banditry as a former Governor, I contemplated throwing caution to the wind in this letter but however, I considered how parochial such approach could be looking at the level of premium placed on the issue at hand.

Since the return of the much touted democracy in 1999, Gods Own State has had it so bad when it comes to good governance. The narrative has been very unfavourable. It has been a reign of economic vandals and petty thieves who know next to nothing about leadership. When other federating units are working assiduously with the scarce resources at their disposal just to better the wellbeing of their people, the sermon seems to be the otherwise in Abia State as political demagogues are rather engrossed in a marathon of looting and political vendetta

In 2007, when Mr Orji Uzor Kalu handpicked and made you his successor, many of us knew that you were not different from him; an old wine was simply changed into a new wine skin. He conscripted you into the government house with the false believe that you shall assist to shield his financial malfeasance from the public. But unfortunately, his instinct dribbled him when he suddenly became aware that you were nothing but a dubious and peckish lion panting for the slightest opportunity to devour and unleash mayhem. The recent revelation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on how you and your son who is now the speaker of Abia State House of Assembly plundered the common wealth of the State calls for an urgent action.

Mr Orji, your era as the former Governor of Abia State was characterised by elaborate fraud. Abia never witnessed any iota of development. It was all about the usual sharing of money to political contractors and thugs who assisted in maintaining the political abracadabra that sustained your inept and clueless administration. Under your supervision, Abia State became the most dirtiest place in Nigeria, insecurity was at the peak and there was high level of infrastructural decay. Your government did practically nothing in order to ensure that Abia metamorphosed from the threshold of peripheralism. Little did we know that you were busy looting and mortgaging the future of the State for personal aggrandizement.

The terrible tale of how you and your fickle son embezzled over five hundred billion naira meant for a State that is on the brink of economic collapse calls for a state of emergency. Very catastrophic for Gods Own State that hardly pays its workers and pensioners. When we thought the enemy was far from us little did we know that the killer was within. Five hundred billion naira which would have changed the entire economic landscape of Abia State was diverted and pocketed by a heartless fellow like you without any sign of remorse. You bastardised the entire political process in Abia State and also recruited a wimp as a successor whom the political baton of cleaning up the mess you created was given. Know wonder you ran like a kleptomaniac toad to the senate to hibernate.

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Are you not ashamed of yourself Mr T. A Orji? Where is your conscience? With five hundred billion naira, Abia State would have been on the page of economic prosperity. There will be state of the art hospitals, schools, roads, factories and viable transport system. Thousands of jobs will be created with such money but you never thought it wise, now Abia State is dying because of your selfishness. The pathetic side of the whole charade is that you are presently in the senate as a law maker. I wonder the kind of law an economic saboteur will be making in the parliament. No doubt, only a nation without a defined priority would allow a distinguished enemy of democracy like you to be in their legislative chamber. If there is any atom of shame in you Mr T. A Orji, by now you should have vacated your seat in the senate and surrendered yourself to the anti graft agency for onward prosecution.

You pocketed N383 billion, revenue from federal account, N55 billion from excess crude revenue, N2.3 billion Sure-P, N1.8 billion ecological funds, N10.5 billion loan from First Bank of Nigeria through the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Local Government Affairs, N4 billion loan from Diamond Bank, N12 billion Paris Club refund, N2 billion agricultural loan for farmers, N55 billion ASOPADEC fund and N500 million purported to be security vote, which were being converted for eight years according to Economic and Financial Crimes Commission

Mr Orji, history will be unkind to you and other scoundrels that perpetuated this ominous crime which has left Abia State in tatters. But one thing is paramount, there won’t be any hiding rendezvous for you and others as the long arm of the law is bound to catch all of you. Many workers and pensioners died out of frustration due to your greed and their blood will be on your head. The good people of God’s Own State won’t rest until justice is served. You are wicked and very ungodly.

In conclusion, late Anini would have been more preferable in the Senate than you. You constitute a threat to democracy and economic prosperity. As the anti graft agency is thorougly digging into your case, I will suggest you start preparing yourself for what is to come because out of greed you decided to eat alone at the expense of the poor masses. There won’t be peace for the wicked.

Warm regards!

Kalu Nwokoro Idika is a political analyst, investigative and freelance journalist.

He can be reached via email: Kalunwokoroidika@yahoo.com

Disclaimer: Opinion articles are solely the responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official standpoint of Oriental Times or any of its editors thereof.

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Opinion

Breakdown Of Igbo Marginalization In Nigeria

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Ohanaeze Ndigbo

By Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba

“I sincerely believe that the incessant cries about Igbo marginalization in Nigeria is unfounded”
Ola (Kassim)

Mr. Kassim in a well written article (On Feb 17, 2020, at 3:43 PM,) wrote the above. He went to try to prove the impossible, that the Igbo is not marginalized except for the period 1967-1970 (the war period). He cited examples: The Igbo are doing just as well as other ethnic groups; The Igbo are found in almost every village, town and city outside of the SE where they ply their trades; work in all professions for which they are qualified, live and raise their children; have been in every government since the war; have a small percentage of their mega rich, the ordinarily rich and the comfortable ones among them who breathe the same air as the ever dwindling and struggling no of the middle class and a mass of poor people; thanks to their hard work, the Igbo own more than 2/3 of the privately owned properties in Abuja; The Igbo also own residential and commercial real estate properties in Lagos, Port Harcourt, and many other major cities in Nigeria; etc.

Mr. Kassim concluded by stating that “Marginalized and oppressed peoples throughout the world are usually not granted free access to live anywhere they want in their countries.”
The examples cited by Mr. Kassim would look like true. When the Igbo cry about marginalization what they actually mean is marginalization by the federal government. Let’s see how:

The SE zone has only 5 states as compared to 6 and 7 states in other zones; has just 15 senators as compared with 18-21 in other zones out of 106 members; has 43 representatives out of 360; has 5 governors out of 36; the lowest number by dollars and by counts of all federal infrastructure development programs including road mileage and bridges; zero police and military colleges and infrastructure; little refineries and electricity grids and pay the highest for electricity; etc.

The federal government borrows money for its development programs but invests the least in SE even though we collectively pay for the loans. 50 years after the war, the war damages have not been repaired despite the fact that billions of dollars were donated by foreign government to repair the damages. The money went to other Nigerian states that had no war damages; some state governments seized Igbo assets and did not release them and did not develop them and they went to blazes. Etc.
These are the reasons for the incessant cries about Igbo marginalization. Nigerians when they sit in a conference like in the House or the Senate agree on the marginalization principles.

But individual Nigerians once out of group welcome the Igbo in their communities. The quick recovery of the Igbo is due to individual efforts of Nigerians. The Yoruba, Hausa/Fulani, Edo, Ijaw, Efik, etc. each as individual made tremendous sacrifices to see the survival of the Igbo. My uncle had a couple of houses in Kafanchan. During the war, the tenants collected the rent from his property and after the war they handed the rents to him. He was instantly rehabilitated and he sent my cousins to America where they now are thriving. The suppliers to Igbo traders refurnished their customers with inventory without demanding credit worthiness or security deposits. My former students came looking for me and one who was in a secondary school in 1970 gave me one pound from his pocket money. The former military governor of Midwestern Nigeria, Col Ogbemudia, gave a grant to University of Nigeria. There were many benevolent acts like these.

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But the Military Governor of Rivers State, Diette Spiff, seized Igbo properties in Port Harcourt and disposed them to his cronies. No compensation. And he put a Rivers’ government stamp on the act. Mr. Kassim’s treatise on the Igbo discrimination/marginalization may look good to a casual reader but there was/is structural marginalization embedded in Nigeria governance that calls for incessant marginalization calls. Until we listen to the cries and do something about them, they will be incessant.

Restructuring is possibly the only solution and many other Nigerian ethnic groups seem to be coming around to the idea.

Nigeria putting her head in the sand like the ostrich, and ignoring the reasons for the cries is not the answer.

~ Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba writes from Boston, Massachusetts, United States.

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