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Opinion

2019: The Youths And The Making Of A Rancour-Free Election By Alex Enemanna

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Election all over the world is a serious business. Be it at government, town union, academic, religious, professional body levels or any organised formal or informal human gathering. It provides the opportunity for every qualified member to make a decision on those who pilot the affairs of the organisation within a defined duration. Expectedly, being an interest-driven game, actors deploy any means within their arsenal to lift the trophy.

As Nigeria gears up for another round of general election next year, it is pertinent to remind the youths the enormous powers they wield in deciding the outcome of the election. In his interaction with students of Bayero University Kano in INEC Youths Votes Count Campus Outreach Initiative on August 7 this year, the INEC boss Mahmoud Yakubu minced no words in stating that out of about 81 million registered voters (then) the youths constitute the largest percentage.

Hear him; “Quite a large number of those who have registered to vote are the youth, meaning the young boys and girls between the ages of 18 and 35. When we did the analysis of the 2015 presidential election results, the youth also played a very important role”. What this implies is that our young people are critical in the leadership recruitment process of our great country. They are the ultimate deciders on who gets what in our political equation.

Regrettably, this power has lied fallow, grossly under-utilised for the overall good of all Nigerians. We were all witnesses to how the former president of US, Barack Obama deployed the social media especially Facebook to help gain the momentum and the votes he needed to win his elections in 2008 and 2012 respectively. Since then, all political candidates around the world have learned to put full utilisation of the social media on their list of strategic tools to run their campaigns because of the overwhelming influence it wields. In Nigeria for instance, the social media also played a significant role in deciding which pendulum the 2015 election swung. Events in recent times are also indicative of the fact that the new media will play a role in influencing the attitude of voters in 2019. Who would have believed that a major player in the upcoming election and the vice presidential candidate of PDP, Peter Obi would have signed up to the social media anytime soon? The point here is that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and other platforms are places where the youths are not in short supply.

Paradoxically, no electoral violence can be planned, hatched and executed in Nigeria or anywhere in the world without the full and active participation of the young people. In February 2015, a lecturer at the Department of Political Science, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka Dr. Frank Okafor while delivering a lecture at a workshop organised by Women Aid Collective (WACOL) in partnership with Democratic Governance for Development blamed 95 percent of electoral violence on youths.

According to him: “It is now becoming a national character of the Nigerian state in such a way that the country and her citizens are held hostage by this smashing political reality. From independence to date, electoral violence, all the violence linked to elections are mostly perpetrated by the youths, who are not only in the service of the politicians, but financed by them so long as they do their biddings. With the benefits of their vigour, seeming lawlessness and lackadaisical attitude to the Nigeria project, the youths are the willing ready-made weapons of politicians, who think more of their parochial interests than the development of the state and”. Isn’t this revealing?

In 2011 alone, according to Human Rights Watch, about 800 people were killed while about 65,000 people were displaced in 12 Northern states in 3 days following the violence that greeted the April presidential election. The states affected include Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe, Kano, Katsina and Zamfara. Human Rights Watch also put the number of people who died before the election between November 2010 and 17 April 2011 at 140.

Instructively, the United States Institute of Peace described Nigeria’s 2011 election as best run but most violent. They said the election received high praise for being well managed but the number of casualties recorded in the post election violence torpedoed any electoral violence in the history of Nigeria. It is difficult if not impossible to convince any rational mind to believe that these political violent protests were perpetrated by senior citizens who have just one bar for their life battery to get fully drained. They’re young men, vibrant, full of life and in their most active life cycle.

The desperation to acquire political power in Nigeria has majorly fueled the cycle of violence that has rocked our beloved country, despatched our compatriots to their premature graves, instilled fear in the minds of our people and caused them to live in uncertainty. This vociferous desperation cannot be extricated from how irresistibly attractive political office has been made to look in our country, which arguably ranks as one of the top high in the world.

As in the case of Lagos State, as stated in the Public Office Holder (Payment of Pension) Law No 11 official Gazette of Lagos, 2007, who would not want to have a mansion in choice place in Abuja and Lagos? Who would not want six brand new cars every three years? Who would not want 100 percent of the basic salary of the serving governor (N7.7m per annum)? Who would not want free health care for himself and members of his family? Who would not want furniture allowance, which is 300 per cent of their annual basic salary (N23.3m)? Who would not want house maintenance allowance, which is 10 per cent of basic salary ( N778,296 ) after serving a second term as Lagos governor? Added to these and several others is domestic workers comprising a cook , a steward, a gardener and others whose appointments are pensionable, all from the state funds. Also inclusive are eight policemen and two officials of the Department of State Services for life for anyone who has served Lagos for eight years as governor. Do you still wonder why there is desperation to be a “leader” in our country? It cuts across all the states including Akwa Ibom. The take-home pay of our federal lawmakers, which according to the senator representing Kaduna central, Sen. Shehu Sani is within the neighbourhood of N13.5m monthly per senator has continued to be a subject of debate.

Rivers State since 2015 has consistently remained violent-prone. The post-electoral litigation and the massive annulment of supposed electoral victories, rerun and counter rerun elections the state has experienced since the last election has a lot to do with the volatility of that environment. Scores of deaths including that of Corps members and executions have taken place in the state undocumented. No thanks to the skyrocketing unemployment rate, proliferation of arms and light weapons and the uncontrolled circulation of illicit substances. The major political warlords Wike and Amaechi have engaged in blame trading and finger pointing games, yet there seems to be no ray of hope few days to the next election.

Few days ago, there was a reported clash between PDP and APC supporters in Ilorin, Kwara state at Emirate convention. Expectedly, both parties have exonerated their supporters of any involvement in the clash, a typical case of an elder staying at home and watch the goat deliver while still tied to the tree.

Admitted, election is no church service where everyone is expected to put on his full garment of piety and exhibit a mien of holiness. However, decorum, decency and the milk of our humanity must not be allowed to take a flight from our political contestation. If we continue to pull the trigger against our countrymen and women, our neighbours, friends, relatives etc who then will they govern? The space?

The youths must shun brigandage and all forms of political thuggery. It is enough that the political class has perpetually gobbled away the future of the youths, subjected them to a bleak future and uncertain tomorrow. It is a decorated foolery and refined idiocy for our youths to continue to risk their lives just to feather the nests of their perennial oppressors. It makes no scintilla of sense that our young men take up arms against one another while the children of these politicians are far away America, Europe, Asia enjoying our commonwealth in obscene luxury.

The media, government agencies, opinion moulders, religious and traditional leaders must harp more on the need for a violent free, peaceful election come 2019. The security agencies must be at their best, exhibit a high sense of neutrality and show proactiveness in nipping violence in bud before they occur.

The political actors must avoid charging the atmosphere with hate-filled words. The recently signed peace accord by the presidential candidates of various political parties is a step in the right direction. They must however show that they are committed to peace, beyond signing a piece of paper. The peaceful transition of power from the ruling party to the opposition party which happened for the first time in Nigeria’s history in 2015 was hailed across the world. This giant feat must be consolidated upon and not reversed.

The world is watching us. We must not fail.

Enemanna is an Abuja based journalist.

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Opinion

COVID-19: Time For Buhari To Replace His Mercedes With Innoson

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By SKC Ogbonnia

The consensus around the world is that the lessons from the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) would provoke commonsense among Nigerian leaders to harness the full potential of their local economy, but this dream may never come close, if President Muhammadu Buhari does not lead by example.

A defining theme of my foray into the 2019 presidential race is that Nigeria’s problem is not as complex as commonly imagined. For the problem is neither the lack of natural resources nor human resources. It certainly has nothing to do with good visions or the enabling policies. The Nigerian endemic problem is squarely the failure to influence the efficient implementation of the policies towards the greater good.

It is not surprising, therefore, that amid the COVID-19 pandemic, President Buhari demonstrated visionary leadership by declaring that Nigeria will henceforth promote and patronize made-in-Nigeria products over foreign goods. Buhari’s vision is laudable and mirrors the case of Asian countries, particularly China and India, which for several decades banned a good number of foreign products to enable their local industries to thrive. Today, both Asian nations have become economic envy of the world.

Interestingly, not long after the made-in-Nigeria policy went public, instead of patronizing Innoson Motors, the sole local auto manufacturing outfit, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) hurriedly approved a whopping sum of N683, 613 million for purchase of 19 Made-In-Japan Toyota vehicles for the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA).

According to the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, the justification for the abrupt breach of the policy is that the need for the foreign vehicles predated the COVID-19 pandemic. As if her logic lacks in folly, the Minister of Transport, Chibuike Amaechi, followed that the approval became necessary, because “it’s the first time in four years that NPA was buying any vehicle.”

The simple takeaway from both Ahmed and Amaechi is that Nigerian leaders embrace lunacy as legacy. This goes without saying that the rationale behind the choice of the foreign vehicles over local brands has nothing to do with the common good. Instead, it has everything to do with the manic competition for financial profligacy among the different arms of the Nigerian government.

The decision by the Executive arm of government is merely to outdo the wastefulness synonymous with the Nigerian Legislature. The NPA squander dittoed the Senate, which not long ago rejected Innoson only to launder over N5 billion for Toyota brands. The House of Representatives would also double down to sink another N5 billion into Toyota Camry saloon cars in place of moderately priced Innoson jeeps that are specially designed and tested for the Nigerian roads.

This pattern of lavishness by public officials, particularly under the prevailing COVID-19 crisis, is plain cold-blooded. It is impunity going too far.

But President Muhammadu Buhari must own full blame. Though his call to patronize local products is commendable, he is neither able to influence his appointees to implement the policy nor able to lead by example himself. Rather than demonstrate patriotism, by proudly using the Made-in-Nigeria goods that he preaches, Buhari appears to be emulating the ostentatious style of the regime before him.

Mister Buhari should quickly revert to the tenets of his 2016 “Change Begins With Me” slogan. The core principle demands that he declares Innoson as the official brand for all government agencies, beginning with the Presidency. If a General Buhari, as a military head of state, could endear himself to the Nigerian people over 30 years ago, by embracing jagged foreign Peugeot—then assembled in Nigeria—as a badge of honor, it is only patriotic for him to replicate such gesture for wholly made-in-Nigeria vehicles.

It is worth mentioning, however, that the Innoson Motors is on record to have stated that the company has seen more patronage from the Buhari government than the one before it. That is commendable, at base. But the mediocrity of the previous regime can never be substituted as a gold standard for success.

President Buhari is a man widely known as ascetic and who assumed power on the mantra of revolutionary change. He should, therefore, embolden his change vision, as well as the authenticity of his policy on local goods, so that others can follow. The message, if it is not already explicit, is that the Nigerian president should, without further delay, replace his official car, a German-made Mercedes Benz, with a Nigerian-made Innoson brand.

The COVID-19 pandemic has combined to plunge Nigeria into an economic miasma and true change has become inevitable. The leaders can no longer afford to carry on business as usual. In short, besides leading by example, it has become imperative for President Buhari to remind public officials that the country risks a serious mass revolt, if they continue to swim in ocean of affluence while submerging the masses deeper and deeper into abject poverty and despair.

SKC Ogbonnia, a 2019 APC Presidential Aspirant, writes from Ugbo, Awgu, Enugu State. Twitter: @SKCOgbonnia

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Opinion

Let Me Shine!

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Nigeria

By Odunayo Oluwatimilehin

I am a little creature,
created to fulfill a special purpose on earth.
I am a product of human consummation.

I developed first as a foetus, and progressed gradually,
into a living being composed of a spirit, soul, and a body.

I am the long awaited bundle of joy,
A symbol of conjugal completeness,
A magical color that beautifies Marital vows.

I brought joy, happiness, and change of status to the family I was delivered to.
I was the reason behind the bright moon smiles on faces.
I was cherished, loved, and cared for at my arrival.

Now that my parents desire to have me has been granted.
I have just “One wish”.
Just one wish and I’ll be fine.

One wish to express my inert dreams.
One wish to be ‘Me’.
One wish to leave an indelible mark on the sand of time.

One wish to dazzle like Diamond.
One wish to shine forth as Gold.

Please, strengthen me when I’m weak.
Counsel me when I’m discouraged.
Hold my hands often, and affirm your love to me.

Just like houseplants,
Nurture me to grow on the right path.
Do not spare the rod when I’m wrong.

Release me like an Eagle when the time is right.
No matter the heights I’ll reach,
I will forever remain your little child.
Let me Shine!

Dedicated to Children all over the world, in celebration of May 27th, 2020 Children’s Day

HAPPY CHILDREN’S DAY!

Odunayo Oluwatimilehin, OYEWOLE.

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Opinion

An Open Letter To Governor Ifeanyi Okowa

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Your Excellency Sir,

This open letter is a direct response to the official press statement that was made by the secretary to the state Government, Mr Chiedu Ebie on the 19th of May. In the press release, he announced that the government of Delta State is putting measures in place in other to establish a security organization which will be positioned to combat the rising insecurity in the State. I agree with your decision considering the porous security situation in the country and coupled with the covert moves of the powers that be to export hundreds of Almajiri folks to states that are unconnected to their political and economic misery.

Indeed, your decision is commendable but there is an observable error in it. This error is not telling good about us. Gains will not be made if what was mentioned in that press statement should come to be. People who are fighting for survival must apply common sense when it comes to their security. This letter is simply designed to remind you that the idea to include some Northerners into the yet to be established Office of Special Adviser on Peace Building and Conflict Resolution calls for a serious concern.

Your Excellency Sir, there won’t be any need for me to start schooling you again about insecurity in the country. You are the chief security officer of your state and moreover you duly understand the security situation in the whole of Nigeria. I still don’t understand the rationale behind the planned inclusion of some Northern extraction into the Office of Special Adviser on Peace Building and Conflict Resolution. After examining the decision, I can prognosticate dark days ahead. Things are not done that way. The decision of your government is somewhat misplaced and makes us to look like people who can’t do things on their own.

Dark days are truly ahead. We the Easterners should stop acting to love Nigeria more than others when at the end the people whom we are trying to align ourselves to doesn’t care about our ‘one Nigerianness’. Damning this mentality of ‘let’s do it this way so that nobody will see us as divisive people’ is one necessary thing that must be done. We owe no one apology or explanation on how we can go about our security in as much as it’s done according to the extant laws. Perhaps, it’s a matter of survival and not a cry for political correctness!

There is hisbah police in the North and Amotekun in the Southwest, how many Easterner can we see both in Hisbah and Amotekun security formations or any of their affiliated committees? Can they even conceive such dastardly idea? These people for a minute don’t trust us but we easily trust and unnecessarily engage them into sensitive issues about us. This is a country that thrive on suspicion. No oneness! No trust! So I wonder what your government is planning to achieve by getting these Northerners involved in the so called committee. Don’t quote me wrong. I’m not trying to say that your government shouldn’t engage the stakeholders in consultation when it comes to matters like this. But the main point is that limitations should be defined in sensitive issues like the one at hand. Some people are meant to stand outside while certain problems about us are being discussed.

We know the solution to farmers and herders clashes in the region. Open grazing should be completely banned in the state. A defined space should be made available for grazing of cows. 24 hours surveillance should be mounted in the place. Any herder caught with firearms should be arrested and prosecuted without minding who is infuriated or not. As the chief security of your state, you are constitutionally responsible for the security of your constituents. Adequate security decisions and actions should be made to work in consonance with the present security reality.

On several occasions, the marauding herders have killed and displaced hundreds of farmers in the Eastern region with little or no actions by the governors to arrest the escalating tension. Without minding the damage the activities of the herders have caused on the region, you unfortunately fell to the trick of wanting to involve a total stranger into the Office of Special Adviser on Peace Building and Conflict Resolution. It is unacceptable Sir! That decision can blatantly result to self sabotage.

However, when Hisbah was formed, no Easterner was there. And when Amotekun was constituted, they never invited an Easterner to be a member of any committee so why are we inviting strangers into important issues about us? Remember, he who sups with the devil should have a long spoon. The purported plan of involving some Northern elements into the Office of Special Adviser on Peace Building and Conflict Resolution is a slap on us. The plan should be revised. There is no benefit in it. It will only complicate matters and magnify the arrogance of these tormentors. Don’t make the mistake of buying a baby lion that will grow and turn around to devour our flesh.

In conclusion Sir, I will suggest you reassemble your security tink tanks. All of you should sit and do a deep brainstorming on your decision. Weigh the future implications and make proper amendments. Let’s avoid the issue of had I known.

Yours sincerely

Kalu Nwokoro Idika

Kalu Nwokoro Idika is a political analyst, investigative and freelance journalist. He can be reached via email: Kalunwokoroidika@yahoo.com

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