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Opinion

Nigeria @ 59: We Shall Overcome

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Joe Igbokwe

By Joe Igbokwe

Great leaders convert their bushes into great cities around the world while miserable leaders convert great cities into bushes. A seasoned banker , Fola Adeola told us in a gathering that two sets of people were given separate tasks to carry out within a specific time. When the time given to them to accomplish the task elapsed the organizers came for assessment. While a set tried so much to accomplish the task given to them, putting on their thinking caps the other team did not just know how to start. Adeola concluded that the team that failed had nobody in the house. There was no human being in that team.

Given the resources and human capital available here in Nigeria, one had thought that our Country would have been rubbing shoulders with the great cities in world but unfortunately we are not. The problem was not lack of resources and adequate manpower but ugly educated men and women who who had nothing to offer seized the center stage and brought nothing to the table. The result is that we had many years of lost opportunities, misplaced priorities, militarily interventions and incubus of bad leadership that spanned more than four decades. We had enough money to build our infrastructure and straighten our collapsed institutions but we failed. Today we are paying the price of many years political of irresponsibilities, prebendal and ethnic politics, power without responsibility, wealth without work, politics without principle.

Thank God for the decision we took in 2015 to bring a righteous man into the saddle to start the process of taking back a stolen, plundered and subdued nation. It has been a great battle for the soul of Nigeria since then. The plunderers are not done yet. They thought Nigeria will still remain for them and their families, their concubines, their soulmates, their marabouts, their fellow looters and grabbers of anything in sight. They were crushed beyond recognition in 2015 and 2019. They did not know what hit them. Till date they are still running helter-skelter, hitting their heads against concrete walls, gnashing their teeth and cursing the day President BUHARI was born. I pity them. We cannot return to the years of the locusts.

President Buhari is changing the narratives across Nigeria and every decent Nigerian can feel the impact except the plunderers and pathetic thieves. We will continue to stand behind this President who is breaking his back to build a nation. We are seeing his impact across Nigeria. We are seeing the love he has for this country. We are living witnesses of the hard decisions taken to reposition and rejig a stolen nation. We will continue to stand by him come what may. It is our country and #wediehere.

Teamwork will help us, patriotism will help, integrity, honour character will help Nigeria to rise again. Look deep and see the hard decisions President Buhari is taking to rebuild Nigeria. Yes things are hard but we have to pay the price of our many years of profligacy and irresponsible behaviors. You cannot eat your cake and still have it. Those who know better tell me that actions carry consequences. Let genuine leaders who see what PMB is doing throw away their primordial sentiments, ethnic preoccupation and put Nigeria first. Collective responsibility is where to go.

The late Professor China Achebe tells us that “A man who calls his kinsmen to a feast does not do so to redeem them from starving. They all have food in their own houses. When we gather together in the moonlight village ground , it is not because of the moon . Every man can see it in his own compound. We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so. Therefore let us continue to be united and enjoy the power of togetherness. Let us smile not because we do not have problems but because we are stronger than the problems…”
TOGETHER WE SHALL OVERCOME!!!

-Joe Igbokwe writes from Lagos

Opinion

Op-Ed: IPOB And Nnamdi Kanu Cannot Restore Biafra

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By Kalu Nwokoro Idika

Confrontational journalism is seemingly becoming a thing of the past in Africa because individuals who are bereft of moral conscience have hijacked and taken the centre stage of the profession. But this is not to say that there are no more good men in the journalistic circle who no matter the circumstance can’t exchange justice and truth for a grain of beans. Journalists in every society are meant to shoulder the burden of informing the masses and also shielding them from predatory lies that could distort and harm their mental sanity. Moreover, this goal of keeping the masses informed must be done with objectivity. That is the signature of true journalism.

When pen warriors begins to write for the sake of mundane praises and stomach infrastructure the entire society will be at lost. That is to say, the vigour to write the truth will somewhat become a scarce commodity. Therefore, as a servant of the people, I am not under any form of obligation to pamper deceitful lies just to be seen as a good writer. I owe the people the duty to exhume and expose every destructive mendacity that could possibly undermine their economic and political wellbeing.

Since Nnamdi Kanu and his cohorts usurped and took over the business of Biafra agitation through his franchise radio, a lot of irreparable damage have been done to the South East region. Though, some of his abusive foot soldiers who do not have the foresight might attempt to dispute this statement. The arrogant leader of IPOB has indeed achieved his mission of causing confusion here and there. The little respect and tranquillity we had has been completely eroded through his abusive and unintelligent sermon on his catastrophic radio.

Unequivocally, I’m an ardent believer of Biafra restoration but Kanu’s brand of agitation is on the opposite. Nnamdi Kanu cannot restore Biafra because of his unsavoury disposition. Radio Biafra London which he uses as a weapon of mass destruction has ended up brainwashing and disfiguring the brain of the young youths and some misguided adults. It has become increasingly difficult for some of our youths to engage in any meaningful debate without throwing abuses. Individuals with contrary perspectives are either seen as vagabonds fathered by Hausa/Fulani or a paid agent of Nigeria all because their opinions are in sharp contrast with the one of the demagogue panting profusely on radio Biafra London.

Nnamdi Kanu Biafra will be worst than Nigeria. This might sound so puzzling but is the truth. Even in his utopia Biafra, Buhari will be a lesser dictator when compared with what Kanu will automatically metamorphosed to. A man that do not condone varying views but only sees everything that he says as sacrosanct. No wonder Edward Dalberg-Action said “absolute power corrupt absolutely”. IPOB leader who is an emotional manipulator never knew that he could gain such an overwhelming support from our people. Instead of using this goodwill to heal old wounds and unite the Igbo race, he turned it into a means of settling personal scores with his perceived enemies.

History has shown that arrogance and pride destroyed and reduced a lot of leaders during their reign to a trash. Nnamdi Kanu the arrogant leader of lPOB is already on this path. A freedom fighter that lacks respect for the elders. Kanu must desist from his irresponsible attitude of issuing threats to our fathers. Only a bad child can exhibit his kind of behaviour. You hide under your business radio to threaten and disband organisations you did not form. Stop arrogating positions and titles to yourself. The Igbo people are known to be acephalous in nature. So I wonder where you are drawing your leadership rascality from. Enough of your insensitivity! Our fathers must be accorded the respect they deserve and whenever they err, corrections should be done with utmost diligence and love and not by abusing, threatening fire and brimstone.

The restoration of Biafra will be a complex mirage under IPOB and Nnamdi Kanu. No road map! No sincerity! No vision! Antagonism and elimination of opponents have always defined the movement. For the past 7 years, there is nothing to show as a result. Innocent Biafrans have been killed, maimed and jailed while a deluded leader stick on his microphone to bark day and night over an utopia nation. The Biafra nation which we graciously hope for will be restored in truth and honesty but only God will make it possible and not man.

However, Nnamdi Kanu and his co travellers shouldn’t think Umu Igbo are sleeping. Biafrans are taking records of everything. Judgement day is fast approaching. I know that this commentary will infuriate the proprietors of the movement. And in their usual manner, the plan for my assassination will be presented on their table. I am aware that there is a list which contains the names of the people who are to be assassinated because they disagree with IPOB. Let this madness continue while we watch.

Be it as it may, any son of the soil that will be used to kill his own blood just because the person disagrees with their line of philosophy, such individual is bound for destruction. It’s better for the person not to contemplate it much less of doing it. Everyone must apply caution. This was how Bokoharam started and escalated to the present monster we see today. Biafrans are not known to be sheepish and stupid. We are trained to look before we leap. I will advise every young Biafran not to be a willing tool in the hands of power mongers.

Conclusively, Nnamdi Kanu and his IPOB can’t restore Biafra. Our hope should be anchored on God because He alone shall wipe our tears, heal our wounds and restore the nation where we all shall have equal opportunity and happiness.

~ Idika is a political analyst, investigative and freelance journalist. He can be reached via e-mail: kalunwokoroidika@yahoo.com

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Opinion

21 Years Uninterrupted Democracy: Wetin We Gain? (Concluded)

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Alex Enemanna

By Alex Enemanna

In the first part of this two series intervention, this writer highlighted some gains the 21 years democracy (or civil rule if you like) in the country has ushered, as well as the obvious challenges holding it to ransom, stunting its growth and of course whittling down the dividends the people ordinarily ought to reap from a system of government centered on their welfare and corporate development.

Needless to emphasise that executive recklessness has over the years reigned supreme. From the Obasanjo era in 1999 till date, the story has remained the same. In 2004, Nigerians saw an Obasanjo presidency that woke up one day and cold-heartedly decided to withhold Lagos state allocation for 14 months on the ground of a frosty relationship with the then governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Tinubu’s only offence was the creation of additional 37 local council authorities, having satisfied all legal procedures required in law. The Otta farmer was hell-bent on feasting on Tinubu’s pound of flesh and possibly some pints of blood to quaff it down. The Lagos pillar of politics was the only surviving opposition governor then in the South West. Papa Iyabo saw the existence of Alliance for Democracy as an affront and would stop at nothing to discomfort Tinubu.

The then president used the weighty influence of his office to unleash hardship and economic difficulty on the generality of Lagosians just to settle political difference. He spared no thoughts about thousands of workers whose wages would be denied as a result of his reckless action. He thought less about families whose daily bread would hang in the balance on the account of his flagrant abuse of power. Should we talk about the then Abia governor, Orji Uzor Kalu whose personal businesses Obasanjo crippled? Or do we talk about the 46 oil blocks he took away from Abia and ceded to other states because of his personal differences with the governor?

Obasanjo is not a lone traveler here. Nigerians in recent times see an EFCC that unabashedly exhibits partisanship, dancing to the tone of ‘powers from above’, behaving like an appendage of the Executive and making mockery of whatever is left of its independence. Under Magu as the acting chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ekiti state government’s bank account domiciled in Zenith Bank was placed on Post No Debit (PND) under Ayodele Peter Fayose as the governor. The reason is not far-fetched. Fayose was arguably the loudest opposition voice even till the expiration of his tenure as Ekiti governor, even when leaders of his People’s Democratic Party (PDP) could barely muster courage to put the government on its toes.

In the cult of power abuse, the state governors are not left out. Positions of trust are being brazenly converted to tools for coercion, intimidation and harassment of perceived political enemies. A certain Kaduna governor whose anointing for pulling down structures could be best described as legendary and hostility to opposing views only imagined has remained outstanding in playing the politics of demolition. In advancing his mission of intolerance and loathe for opposition, the man who became popular for levelling houses he considered to contravene the Abuja masterplan back then as a minister again in Kaduna unleashed his ‘demolition bulldozers’ to pull down the factional headquarters of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). The building in a posh area of the city of course belonged to Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi and it housed the secretariat of the factional Kaduna Restoration Group headed by Danladi Wada.

Untamed excesses of the state chief executives is beyond description. They corrupt the judiciary and come back to wail when the game turns against them. They suffocate the legislature to suit their whims and caprices. They single-handedly appoint those who preside over the legislature, a supposed independent arm of government. It is a common practice in the country for governors to choose the Speaker of State Assembly they prefer to work with in apparent effort to plant their allies at helm of affairs in the state legislature. We see governors who wake up to use security agencies to hound journalists around, albeit unjustifiably over reports they find unsavoury. The trumped up charges against journalist Agba Jalingo, the publisher of Cross River Watch by governor, Ben Ayade is a sad reminder to how crass abuse of power has inflicted a deep injury on our democratic process. A Dave Umahi woke up from wrong side of the bed and claimed to bar two journalists, Chijioke Agwu of The Sun Newspaper and Peter Okutu of Vanguard from entering the government house or any government facility in the state. Is the government house or any public facility an estate of the governor? What this tells you is the imaginary sense of entitlement that beclouds those who preside over our affairs.

The catalogue of overweight burden placed on the shoulder of the nation’s democracy by political actors is inexhaustive as it is sickening and disturbing. Lack of ideology of the various political associations has exposed the desperation of politicians to clinch power at all cost. The process of cross-carpeting from one political party to another in the country beats the speed of light. They scavenge for where there is sufficiency in bread and butter. Not many Nigerians believe there is a distinctive line between the two dominant political parties; the APC and PDP. Where they don’t see the broom sweep enough milk and honey towards their direction, they seek refuge under the umbrella. When the umbrella falls short of offering them adequate shield by their own definition, the broom becomes the only option. It is a motion around a vicious cycle without a clear cut direction. While this happens, the welfare of the people is perpetually relegated to the background.

The 50 billion Naira lawsuit recently instituted by 16 elder statesmen from the Middle Belt and Southern parts of the country against the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government is a testament to the fact that we have consistently operated a winner-take-all government since 1999. The juicy positions are usually reserved for the president’s kinsmen and cronies. The current administration however has taken it to a point where the rest of the nation begins to question their Nigerianness. The appointment of key cabinet members and the security architecture were not only slanted along regional lines but brazenly tailored to violate the principles Federal Character. A sense of alienation and cry of marginalisation rose to a level never seen before in the annals of the country’s history. The minority are overwhelmingly emasculated and denied a voice. Are they not supposed to be part and parcel of project Nigeria? What is the justification in having a Federal Capital Territory that plays host to almost all the government institutions in the country yet cannot produce a single cabinet member? Where is the justification in having a Federal Capital Territory that plays host to the three arms of government but produces just one senator and 3 House of Reps members while the rest of the states produce three senators and over 10 Reps members each?

We cannot continue to deliberately and mischievously give democratic governance a name that originally does not belong to it. Most of our rural communities are being strangulated by a mind-boggling dearth of infrastructure. They cannot boast of any visible government presence despite full participation in leadership recruitment process. Pipe-borne water is conspicuously a scarce commodity. The roads through which they ferry their farm produce to the city markets are impassable. Maternal and infant mortality on daily basis assumes a deadly proportion on the account of dilapidated health infrastructure, a situation that has further been further compounded by the COVID-19 outbreak. The community schools now shadow of their old selves while the rate of out-of-school children skyrockets, currently estimated at 13 million.

As I bring this piece to a close, it is worth celebrating that our hard-earned democratic government has not kissed the dust like doomsday sayers had envisaged. However, not so much has been achieved in engendering inclusion and sense of belonging among the people. Till the politicians begin to adhere to established rules, think less of themselves, and pay attention to the yearnings of the people, our democratic journey cannot be said to be on its full swing.

Enemanna is an Abuja-based journalist.

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Opinion

Power Sector Reform And Tariff Hike

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By Jerome-Mario Utomi

It is a common knowledge that The Minister of Power, Sale Mamman, at the Investigative Public Hearing on Power Sector Recovery Plan and the impact on COVID-19 Pandemic, organised recently by the Senate Committee on Power insisted that the new increment on electricity tariff initially planned for April 2020 will now take off in July.

While noting that due to the COVID-19 outbreak and customer apathy, the proposed tariff review was delayed by three months of which the impact of the subsidy being incurred in maintaining the current tariff level had to be maintained till July 2020, the Minister, going by reports, lamented that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic had also affected the plan for the repositioning of the electricity market toward financial sustainability under the Power Sector Recovery Programme.

Indeed, aside calling for a collective action, the issues from what the Minister is saying, is by no means political; it is a well chiseled concern that affects the survival of humanity, our nation and calls for a new perspective, approach and understanding by all Nigerians. .

Also making the Federal Government effort as alluring is the fact that successive administrations have in the past came up with the electric power sector reform, EPSR, ACT of 2005 and the roadmap for power sector reform of 2010, which were supposed to sanitize the power sector, ensure efficient and adequate power supply to the country, but ends up existing only in the name.

But with the current Siemens Electrification Plan under the Presidential Power Initiative which is expected to transmit and distribute a total of 11,000 Megawatts by 2023, And other critical Transmission Rehabilitation and Expansion Programme such as the Alaoji to Onitsha, Delta Power Station to Benin and Kaduna to Kano among others, President Buhari appears to understand that the growth, prosperity and national security of the country is critically dependent upon the adequacy of its electricity supply. And, the link between electricity supply and economic development is such that the health of the industry is a matter of deep and personal concern to all citizens. Nigeria is no exception. Especially now that the roadmap will be tailored to the peculiar needs of Nigeria’s power sector and develop with specific attention to prioritize projects in the sector.

However, the hike in tariff in views says something different.

Going by reports from the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Residential customer category (R3), in the Ikeja Disco who currently pays N26.5 per kilowatt/hour, will start paying N36.49 per kilowatt/hour beginning from April, indicating an increase of N9.99.

Similarly, residential customers in Ibadan, Kano, and Port Harcourt Discos, who currently pay N29.17 per kilowatt/hour, N24,43 per kilowatt/hour and N27.49 per kilowatt/hour, will from July pay N44.66 per kilowatt/hour, N42.63 per kilowatt/hour and N48.39 per kilowatt/hour, respectively. The increases in their respective tariffs include N15.49, N18.2 and N20.9.

On their part, commercial customers in the C3 category under Disco, who currently pay N24.63 per kilowatt/hour, will also start paying N38.41 per kilowatt/hour, representing a hike of N13.78. Industrial customers in the D3 category in Ikeja Disco currently paying N25.82 per kilowatt/hour has also increased to N38.85 per kilowatt/hour. This change is represented by an increase of N13.03.

Commercial customers in the C3 category for Ibadan, Kano and Port Harcourt Discos, who currently pay N27.11 per kilowatt/hour, N22.71 per kilowatt/hour and 25.14 per kilowatt/hour, will from April pay N42.03 per kilowatt/hour, N40.27 per kilowatt/hour and N48.39 per kilowatt/hour, respectively.

As expected, the development has elicited genuine concern and reactions from stakeholders.

While some hails, and describe the new tariff regime as normal with people-driven approach, others view it with skepticism. To this class, the approach is not only ill-timed but riddled with visible pitfalls. For the rest, which are greater in number and made up of business executives and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), government’s decision to increase tariff on electricity at a time when greater number of Nigerians are without prepaid metering system, amounts to a broad day robbery. They are particularly not happy that the planned hike, if implemented, will make it the third time electricity tariff will be upwardly reviewed in the country within the space of 5 years.

The boundaries between these three spheres have been shifted back and in some cases been a source of tension.

Essentially, as someone that witnessed these arguments, they may at the most basic level be classified into; reliable, trustworthy and factual, and those riddled with biases as analysts failed to understand the economic and political forces or realities that currently shape government policies.

Despite these facts, there are some ingrain truths.

Consider this position recorded in depth during a focussed group discussion on the new electricity tariff regime in Lagos, organized recently by the Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA)-a Lagos Based non-governmental and non-religious group, where the participants among other concerns queried; why is FG coming up with such a plan at a time the global community is concerned that COVID-19 has caused massive shocks to both the informal and formal economies and unearthed massive inequalities within our societies and in Africa? At a time the World Bank estimates that the Sub-Saharan Africa region will see significant economic decline, and plunge to as low as -5.1% this year? Can such decision be adjudged as right in a society that unemployment rate is currently, going by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), report, at 28% and under-employment at 16% with many other expected? At a time when manufacturing companies are leaving the country in droves as a result of high cost of doing business in the country? In the face of these realities, they concluded that, if the proposed tariff is allowed, it will become yet another ‘man-made code that neither squares with moral laws nor uplifts human personalities’.

While I believed and still believe in the FG’s effort to ensure stable electricity in the country, the truth must be told to the effect that the whole gamut of restiveness over new tariff was orchestrated by lack of consideration of the masses by the FG coupled with the concern by the masses whether the new power sector reform/road map project will see the light of the day or end like the previous attempts.

Separate from the feeling that those factors and institutions that impeded success in the history of such projects are still alive and active on our shores, there are instances why such/worry expressed cannot be described as unfounded.

In 2010, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, during the launch of a similar roadmap stated “As President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, I and my Vice President, Arc. Namadi Sambo, GCON, are conscious that what we do with the Nigerian electricity supply industry will go a long way in determining whether Nigeria remains in darkness or joins the rest of the world in the race for development. Our commitment is to bring an end to our nation’s stunted growth and usher in the fresh air of prosperity by pursuing a new era of sector-wide reform which is driven by improved service delivery to every class of customers in the Nigerian electricity sector. Promising that with diligent implementation and meticulous application of what this Roadmap provides, we will see an end to the chronic electrical power supply shortages.”

Regrettably, as at the time of his departure from office in May 2015, there were neither traces of appreciable increase in power generation nor the promised fresh air of prosperity.

What about the current administration? Are they different from the previous ones that between May 1999 and 2015, in their ‘attempt’ to address the intractable power crisis committed about N2.74 trillion to the power sector without achieving any significant result?

Even if an answer is given to the above, it will not in any appreciable way erase the established feelings among Nigerians that the Federal Government instead of urging citizens to conserve energy and reduce consumption of fuel and electricity and other belt-tightening approaches without hardship, came up with the idea of tariff hike that will further impoverish the masses.

Utomi, is a Lagos-Based Media Consultant.

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