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Opinion

Osun: The Storm Foreseen (1)

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By Abiodun Komolafe

To a casual observer, the philosophy of maize signifies that the process of life is gradual. The first thing you see in maize, when it is growing, is the root, followed by the shoot, before the leaves eventually appear.

What this simply means is that, when Gboyega Oyetola came on board as governor of Osun State, he had three notable groups of Nigerians to contend with. The first comprised a cross-section of the people – the agitated, who were banking on the wholesale application of the ‘philosophy of what works’, to demand change ‘with immediate effect.’ To the second class of people, ‘life itself is gradual.’ Therefore, the governor should be given a chance to build development, because ‘destructive change can lead to the disruption of the social order.’ The third category is comprised of the anarchists and pessimists who, right from the first day, have been fortified with the notion that time moratorium is futile; ‘chance or no chance, nothing good can come out of this government.’ In the eye of the objective observer, therefore, how has Osun fared in the last one year, in the context of the hypotheses above?

Well, for those who want ‘immediate change’, it is a lose-lose situation, because, effectively, nothing so spectacular has really changed, except, of course, that civil servants are now paid as and when due, which, in practical terms, is one of the cardinal duties of any responsible government. Talking to facts, policies of government must work; and must be seen to be working. Therefore, the issue at stake is beyond policy formulation because no insight is so far gained or meaningful benefits achieved from the application of sophistry or brand manipulation of government policies.

The most unfortunate thing about the second class of people is that, from the look of things, this set of people will also have to wait, possibly, till ‘Thy kingdom come’ before they begin to see some meaningful development. And the reason is simple: it takes leadership, good vision, foresight, accommodation, resilience and good politics to achieve development in any given society. For Osun, the sad narrative is not about the dearth of competent hands or attributes of leadership. It is, most unfortunately, about a palpable lack of cohesion in the policy machinery of the state. For instance, the newly-appointed commissioners, in spite of an elaborate retreat organized for them at the inception of their cabinet responsibilities, still work as if they are alone, striving individually, rather than as a team, to ‘please Mr. Governor.’

For the third category of people, history over the time, has shown that, unless something concrete and tangible happens to mitigate their agitations, they are likely to win the day! It is therefore for the government of the day to prove them wrong!

Far from waxing lyrical, the troubles with the current administration in Osun are many, some of which may not have been initiated or caused by the incumbent occupier of Bola Ige House. Nonetheless, failure to address these thorny issues with tact – and holistically too – may spell doom for both the ruling party and the sitting government. To put it mildly, one of its shortcomings is that there are too many neophytes, who call themselves politicians, currently in government. When you have cabinet members who do not enjoy robust political patronage amongst the indigenous people; or, widespread legitimate acceptability; or, whose acceptability profile is defective, such a government will be unstable, lacking genuine respect of the use of state’s unquestionable authority! And, that is dangerous for a transformational democracy like ours!

Well, it is possible to carelessly tag the agitations of the ‘old-guard politicians’ as being inconsequential, but they sure know what it means to lose political capital and commanding influence; more importantly, how to gain back any ‘lost’ political goodwill, more than the greenhorns. The general feeling out there is that the old politicians are no longer relevant and some identifiable groups of people within the ruling party, who sincerely worked for its victory in the last governorship election, are currently left in the cold.

The orthodox market women, aka Iyalojas, are no longer dancing while the usual handshake between the street and the Seat of Government has become a thing of the past. The ‘State Boys’ are reportedly trapped in the nightmares of their neglect while erstwhile conversations between the clerics and their long prayers for the state no longer find accommodation in the government’s scheme of things. The political hangers-on are hungry and are ready to write the prescriptions, even, administer the dosage for an ‘Us vs. Us’ implosion in obedience to the intensity of their resentment. Strangely, too, the opposition, though still licking its wounds, is busy strategizing how to capitalize on the alleged political naivety of the government. To a vast majority of these aggrieved blocs, the unbearable realities are showing on their faces and this may have negative effects on the very foundation of governance in the state if either of two things is not opted for.

The first is to accommodate the old structures with tact and caution and learn how to manage them, especially, taking into consideration the place of August 9, 2014 in Nigeria’s rich political history. As a remarkable Nigerian and an accomplished politician, a time like this presents a tempting opportunity for Oyetola to reach out to the useful ones among existing structures, buy them over and make them work for him. After all, politics is about the people; and policy without the people is a nullity! Interestingly, too, winning elections and governance have obviously moved away from party issues. I will return to that later!

In the alternative, the administration may need to talk to the Service Chiefs and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to give state heads of security agencies needed directives and incentives to do the bidding of the governor wholesale. Of course, this may be more costly and unhealthy, especially, in a country buffeted on all sides with problems of insecurity, economic underdevelopment and over-politicization of all sociopolitical issues.

Yes! The political power and influence of the sum total of the diverse politically aggrieved groups of people in Osun may not be able to successfully challenge the state. Nonetheless, the dark side of politics is that, collectively, they stand formidable; and could probably slow the pace of development, or, altogether, render the state impotent. Also, the rightness or otherwise of the structure and relevance of what the active actors do will depend, largely, on who is doing the appraisal or attempting a definition.

May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Osun State!

(To be continued.)

~ KOMOLAFE writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria. He can be reached via email: ijebujesa@yahoo.co.uk

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Opinion

Breaking News From Aso Villa

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By Femi Adesina

Quite a challenging week it has been for Nigeria, and, indeed, the rest of the world. Except perhaps in China only, where the affliction started from, figures of Coronavirus infections continue to mount in other parts of the world. Italy and Spain have been particularly badly hit.

But as the world reels under the impact of a most pernicious pandemic, a suicide bomber wreaking deadly havocs, merchants of fake, hateful news remain fully at work. Aso Villa, the seat of presidential authority, has been their focus for most of the week. They have kept churning out spurious reports after the other about President Muhammadu Buhari, and some other people who work with him. If you choose to believe them, the President by now has even been evacuated, and is receiving medical attention at an undisclosed location somewhere in the wide world.

Breaking news from Aso Villa. That is what you have had day after day. And each time I am contacted to authenticate one story or the other, I tell the enquirers that the Presidential Villa is part of the world, part of humanity, and the people there are not immune from what is happening in the rest of the world.

But the outright fake, hateful news, I have ignored all week. Not a word in response. How do you begin to give wings to concocted stories through responses that will make the falsehood fly faster? No, purveyors of wickedness should not have the satisfaction of drawing us out all the time, and getting some tacit endorsement for their flight of fancy.

A top aide of the President tested positive early in the week. He is receiving adequate care, and he has our best wishes. But for the sinister minds, it was floodgate to all sorts of malediction. All sorts of Breaking News followed:

‘Intensive care machines brought into Aso Rock.’ ‘President Buhari coughing ceaselessly.’ ‘PMB under intensive care.’ ‘Adesina among those who accompanied Abba Kyari to Kogi.’ (I never did). ‘Garba Shehu under self-isolation.’ ‘Buhari may be smuggled out of the country, as condition worsens.’ And by yesterday, a recorded message started circulating on WhatsApp, saying President Buhari had been sneaked out of the country. To where? By who? Their fecund imaginations did not say.

And more Breaking News: ‘Buhari bans journalists from covering Aso Villa.’ (A man supposedly in intensive care was still banning reporters. Lol). ‘Buhari in self-isolation’ (Yet he was in the office on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, even receiving visitors). ‘Aso Villa shut down.’ And the vile beat goes on…

Why do some people conjure nothing but evil? Why do they imagine vain things? In 2017, while President Buhari had his medical challenge, they were on orgy of negative wishes, misinformation, and disinformation. But God pulled a fast one on them. He brought the President back, as right as rain. Haven’t they learned their lessons?

With the good people, however, positive things are happening. Tony Elumelu’s UBA is giving N5 billion to help Nigeria and Africa. Abdusamad Rabiu (BUA) has donated one billion Naira in cash. . Folorunsho Alakija has imported test kits and other materials for Nigerians, worth hundreds of millions of Naira. Aliko Dangote, after an initial donation of N200 million to combat Coronavirus, is leading top bankers and the private sector generally to raise aid. GTBank has donated a 100 beds care center. The Redeemed Christian Church of God has provided ventilators. And many more. These are the people and organizations that should define us as a people, not the conjurers of wickedness and doomsday. God is surely greater than them. And Nigeria too.

~ Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity. 

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Opinion

COVID-19: A War Without Arms

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Alas! It’s a global novel virus.

It started as an epidemic outbreak in China,

Now, it has snowballed into a pandemic,
Spreading like Australia wide fire,

Attacking at a speed swifter than light,
Killing its victims like an angry vulture,

It is Corona Virus, nicknamed COVID-19.
It has no regards for boundaries, personalities, and affluence.

COVID-19 has brought down governments without firing any arms.

It brought nations to their knees without minding their military strengths nor have regards for the sophisticated ballistic and chemical weapons in their arsenals.

The foundation of many establishments are shaken and threatened to core.

It has dazed and rendered world powers powerless.

It has brought down respected and exalted institutions.

Global economy is at a standstill and steadily nose-diving,

The world economy is fast crumbling under the fold of the riotous virus.
It has made a global mockery of world best medical think tanks.

Nations have no choice than to lockdown
The streets of popular cities are deserted, now turned ghost cities.

The pandemic exposed the vulnerability of human’s without respect to race, color or language.

It revealed the humanity in human.

The panic pang of watching fellow humans fall helplessly to the gruesome hand of COVID-19 is terrifying.

Sooner or later, the world would have a relief from the fist tight fold of the ravaging pandemic.

And when it finally bids the world a goodbye, after its irreparable havoc on humanity,

When friends and families painfully reminiscence the traumatic experience of losing someone so dear to their hearts,

I hope it would lead us to better appreciate little things which are often regarded as inconsequential but in reality, they are the most consequential.

~ Odunayo Oluwatimilehin, OYEWOLE.

A Postgraduate student, University of Ibadan.

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Opinion

Coronavirus: The Nigerian Dream Cure

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By SKC Ogbonnia

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), which has compelled people to stay within their localities, illuminates the genius of the ageless adage: charity begins at home. It has exposed the malignant ignorance within Nigerian leaders who prefer foreign medical treatment while neglecting the amenities at home. The COVID-19 has profoundly exposed the nature and scope of the Nigerian healthcare crisis. Yet, every cloud has a silver lining!

SKC Ogbonnia

SKC Ogbonnia

The recent coronavirus controversy in Enugu is a perplexing preface. A 70-year old woman was suspected to be carrying the virus. But there is no laboratory capable of administering the COVID-19 test in the entire Eastern Region. Thus, it took several days before the test result could arrive from faraway Irrua in Edo State. Though the result returned negative, the woman had already died while isolated in a squalor at a grungy ESUT Teaching Hospital complex. The irony is that this incident took place in Enugu—of all places, the Igbo flagship metropolis that has no excuse to lag in development, having served as the capital of Eastern Region, capital of Biafra, capital of East Central State, capital of the old Anambra State; and currently the capital of Enugu State. This predicament only goes to ridicule the faculty of the globally renowned Igbo intelligentsia that parades Enugu as its sanctum.

The most mind-boggling yet is the situation in Northern Nigeria. Though the North is the perennial epicenter of the national healthcare crisis, it never dawned on the politicians to establish standard laboratories for testing a disease like Coronavirus in the entire region, besides an outfit at the nation’s capital, Abuja. To test for the virus. those in Sokoto will have to travel over 650 km while those in Maiduguri must commit 845 kilometers before reaching Abuja. One can only wonder the wisdom of the Northern leaders, widely celebrated for strategic vision in gaining power, but who continually fail to maximize such power towards the common good of their people.

In a 2015 essay, “Every Nigerian Blood Is On The Line”, I drew attention to the ignorance of Nigerian leaders, who tend to forget that good leadership is vitally important to both the led and the leader. I enumerated the embarrassing cases of highly placed politicians from the immediate past administration who lost their close relatives because they failed to provide good amenities in the local communities, such as President Goodluck Jonathan, Dame Patience Jonathan, Namadi Sambo, David Mark, and Ike Ekweremadu, among others.

Also remember the strong man of Ibadan politics, Lamidi Adedibu, who died on his way to procure traveling documents towards a foreign medical trip. Equally relative is the case of Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and Alex Ekwueme. These two prominent men suffered stroke in the same Enugu at different times but had to allow a few weeks to stabilize before embarking on foreign treatment. Before they could reach their British destinations, their situations worsened. Neither Ojukwu nor Ekwueme made it back home alive. Needless to mention sitting Head of State Sani Abacha and President Umar Yar’Adua, who died at the Aso Villa, under questionable health conditions.

The crisis conundrum is that the current leaders still do not seem to get it. Nigeria’s top office holders, including President Buhari, embrace foreign medical treatment as a second nature. But that was then—definitively then!

The point, if it is not already apparent, is that coronavirus has emerged as a quintessential equalizer. It has provoked a national consciousness and common sense, by consequence. The pandemic has made it imperative that people, both rich and poor, must seek prevention or treatment in their immediate environment. The elites may be accorded the usual preferential treatment, quite alright, but any attempt to ignore the masses, as in the past, is a poisoned chalice.

The foregoing thesis becomes more compelling, when considered that the threat of the COVID-19 in Nigeria is real. Though there are only 44 confirmed cases as at the time of this essay, the low number simply signifies lack of adequate testing centers. A forewarning is that out of those 44 cases, 35 were in the Western Region, being the cluster where 4 out of the 5 testing laboratories in the country are located. It is also not a coincidence that both the East and the Far-North are yet to record any case. Their common denominator is plainly the absence of testing centers in those zones. Moreover, testing for the COVID-19, for now, remains an elitist agenda. But the truth remains that every Nigerian life is on the line.

A dream cure, therefore, is a revolutionary approach that can sufficiently address the Nigerian short and long-term healthcare needs. Besides any mitigation measures or cure for the COVID-19, Nigeria must, without any delay, equip and modernize to international standards eight existing university teaching hospitals. While six of such hospitals should be spread in the six political zones, the remaining two would be allocated to Abuja and Lagos. This revolutionary plan is well studied, and the goal is twofold: First, it will significantly improve the national healthcare delivery for the ordinary Nigerian people. Second, it will be able to treat the Nigerian leaders and stem the shameless pattern of medical tourism in foreign lands.

Establishing eight world-class hospital—within one year—is not rocket science. The sources for the financial and the human resources are equally well studied. The budget for the hospitals is $8 billion. The most cost-efficient is direct funding through crude oil, its hazy market and politics notwithstanding. A plain source is to plug out $12 billion from the now suspended 2016-2018 External Borrowing of $22.7 billion proposed by President Buhari. While $8 billion goes for the hospitals, the remaining $4 billion will be dedicated to mitigating the coronavirus pandemic. Phase II will target the state capitals and so on…

The dream cure is neither politics nor business as usual. It should be executed by a Healthcare Revolutionary Council (HRC) that can include these notable patriots: Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Omoyele Sowore, Akinwumi Adesina, Adeleke Mamora, Femi Falana, Bartholomew Nnaji, Ngozi Iweala, Oby Ezekwesiri, Ogbonnaya Onu, Kanayo Ubesie, Donald Duke, Pat Utomi, Ben Murray-Bruce, Festus Keyamo, Muhammadu Sanusi II, Nasir el-Rufai, Obadiah Mailafia, Nuhu Ribadu, Aisha Buhari, Shehu Sani, Mathew Kukah, Khadija Bukar Abba Ibrahim, Hameed Ali, Yakubu Dogara, Aisha Al-Hassan, Audu Ogbe, Iorwuese Hagher, Natasha Akpoti, Yakubu Mohammed, and Abubakar Sani Bello.

SKC Ogbonnia writes from Ugbo, Enugu State, Nigeria
Twitter @ SKCOgbonnia

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