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Opinion

Buhari & S’East: Arthur Eze Nails It — By Femi Adesina

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Femi Adesina

There’s a wise saying in Yoruba land, which goes thus: “If you like, feed the entire city with pounded yam, egusi soup and stockfish on a daily basis, there’ll still be people who won’t like you.”

Let’s be honest and frank with ourselves. There are some people with primordial antipathy towards President Muhammadu Buhari, despite the man’s strong commitment towards transforming every part of the country. Some people have simply closed their minds, eyes and ears, and the President can just do no good.

President Buhari, however, equally has very committed loyalists in every part of the country, not minding some people who have chosen to believe the worst things, and addled their minds in the process.

Last weekend, wealthy businessman and philanthropist, Chief Arthur Eze, struck the nail on the head. He looked deeply at his own South East region of the country, and came out with a conclusion: “The President is man of the moment for the Igbo and the entire South East.

“President Buhari has demonstrated uncommon goodwill towards the people of the South East geopolitical zone, and should now rest assured of our unalloyed support and loyalty.”

Bull’s eye!

But what did Chief Eze see, that brought him to such conclusion, though he had been a supporter of the President for some time? Roads. Bridges, Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Owerri Interchange, Zik’s Mausoleum, great infrastructural projects that the region has not seen in a long while, if at any time.

In late 2018, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, unfolded a minimum of 69 different projects being undertaken by the Federal Government in South East alone, all amounting to about N680 billion. Of course, top on the list is the Second River Niger Bridge, which was built with mouth in the 16 years of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in power. The project is about 48% gone, and billed for completion in first quarter of 2022.

You have the Enugu-Port Harcourt road. Enugu-Onitsha road, and at least 67 other projects. The list is in the public domain.

Just recently, President Buhari approved a Zonal Police Headquarters (Zone 13) located at Ukpo Dunukofia, in Anambra State. It was inaugurated during the week, and will go a long way in addressing the security concerns of people of the region.

Now, do you do all these for people you don’t like? Not at all.

It is disingenuous for anyone to claim that President Buhari does not like any part of the country, most especially the South East.

When the former Major General joined the political fray in 2002, and contested for President in 2003, who was his running mate? Former Senate President, Dr Chuba Okadigbo, a true Igbo son.

In 2007, who ran with Buhari? Another true Igbo son, and former Speaker, House of Representatives, Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke.

And when former Vice President, Dr Alex Ekwueme fell deathly ill, President Buhari arranged his evacuation abroad by air ambulance. When he eventually passed on, he was given a most befitting national burial. Do you do that for a people you don’t like? Hardly.

After Ekwueme’s burial, Dr Chris Ngige, another illustrious Igbo son, came to the Federal Executive Council meeting, and gave the appreciation of the region to the President. What did Buhari say?

“I’ve only done what the Constitution prescribes should be done for a former Vice President. In flying him abroad when it became necessary, in giving him national burial, I just did what should be done for a former Number 2 man in the country.”

That is President Buhari for you. He gives every man his due, every region what they deserve. Fairness to all.

Evergreen is the testimony of retired Ambassador Ignatius Olisemeka about the then General Buhari, shortly before the 2015 presidential election.

“Without ever knowing or meeting me, Buhari gave me a chance,” the Ambassador, then 83 years old, wrote.

“As I now write, I have never met him one-on-one. We have never spoken to each other. It is an extraordinary experience of an unusual man.

“I was sitting on my desk in the Ministry of External Affairs, 40 Marina, Lagos, in 1984, when I received a letter appointing me Ambassador to the United States of America. My place of origin did not matter… My religion did not matter. I had no worthwhile contacts with Dodan Barracks…”

That’s the same Buhari that revisionists would want us to believe is nepotistic, myopic, insular, and who would never appoint a non-Fulani into any position of substance. Tufiakwa!

I remember something they twisted against the President in 2015, and which they have stuck stubbornly and irrationally to, despite our many clarifications.

We were in Washington, USA, on an official visit. And the President met with Nigerians based in that country. A question came on how he would fill political positions, since he got less than 5% votes in some parts of the country.

The President said in politics, it made sense to reward those who voted for you, more than those who didn’t. If you got 95% votes in some areas, and 5% votes in others, it stood to reason that those who voted more should get more positions. Then he added: “But the Nigerian Constitution forbids any leader from doing such, and I will do as the Constitution prescribes.”

What did mischief makers do? They took the video recording of the earlier part of the President’s speech, cutting off the part where he balanced it. And they began to share it far and wide, just to portray nepotism. They repeat it till tomorrow, despite many explanations, simply because it suits their heinous purpose.

Despite the sparse number of votes in the South East in 2015 and 2019 elections, would we be right to say the entire region is arrayed against the President? Not so. After the 2015 election was won, I remember a piece I wrote in Daily Sun Newspaper, under the headline, ‘Igbo Heroes of Change.’ I mentioned people who contributed significantly to the Buhari victory like Chief Ralph Obiora, Dr Chris Ngige, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, Hon Juventus Ojukwu, Osita Okechukwu, and many others.

Also today, we have great admirers of the President from the South East, and some of them will stand by him through thick and thin. I am talking of people like Joe Igbokwe, Dr Uche Diala, Peter Claver Oparah, Emeka Oparah, Dr. Kelechi Nwagwu, Zara Gift Oyinye, Jewel Ifunaya Chika, Dr Emmanuel Nwusulor, Anozie Emeka, Abuchi Anueyiagu, Egondu Okorie,and uncountable others, which space won’t permit me to mention.

For President Buhari, when he does anything in any part of the country, he does it because it’s the right and fair thing to do. Most of the 69 projects going on in the South East had been awarded before 2015. But they were never funded. The President reversed the trend, and most of them are proceeding apace, and will be legacies by the time the man exits from office.

President Buhari has his eyes on history, and he will have his place in the pantheon of honor. At the onset of COVID-19 and its devastation on the economy, I was glad to hear him instruct the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed: “No matter what happens, salaries of workers must not fail, pensions must not fail, and funding of infrastructure must not stop.”

Don’t you like the commitment of this President? I sure do.

I commend Chief Arthur Eze for being forthright and true about the President and the South East. Coming a week after Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State expressed similar sentiments about the fairness of the President, it’s time for those in entrenched positions to open their eyes and see, open their ears and hear, lest they become perpetually blind and deaf. Willfully so.

President Buhari does justice to every part of the country. Those who had imbibed a lie should now wake up, and smell the coffee.

*Adesina is Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Buhari

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Opinion

‘The Revolution Will Come And Buhari Will Join It’

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Fredrick Nwabufo

By Fredrick Nwabufo

What makes a revolution? Knowledge. Information. Awareness. Awakening. The biblical Moses was a prince in the ménage of the persecutors of the Hebrews – his people. He did not know their toil because he was far removed from them. He lived in the cloistered world of princes while his people retire to a night of torment and awake to a morning of labour.

But one day, a bolt of epiphany hit Moses – the prince of Egypt. He saw his people in servitude – and I guess the prince knew he was not free himself if they were in manacles. Conscience-smitten, he committed a homicide. He became a fugitive, and eventually the liberator of his people.

Awakening! Anyone can be Moses – in the case of Nigeria. Like the people of Israel under captivity in Egypt, most Nigerians have retreated into a carapace; they have become tepid and so disillusioned that they are living through each day listlessly. They have seen state violence. They have read how active citizens were tortured and incarcerated for demanding a better deal for the country. They have seen critics of the government magicked from sight for seeking to hold the government to account.

Nigerians have seen it all. This explains their docility but does not excuse it. Like the Hebrews, some of them will seek to remain in Egypt out of fear for Pharaoh’s whip. They will curse their intending liberators and murmur against their ‘’chi’’. They desire change but have been psychologically sterilised to fight for it.

The #RevolutionNow protests across the country on Wednesday unbolted a new perspective in my conception of the reception of Nigerians to change. Citizens without any financial or material inducement poured into the streets in states and even in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) despite violence and threats of bloodshed by security agents. This counts for something.

It is crystallising. A few Nigerians are unplugging themselves and awakening others. There is a rise of new consciences. More and more citizens are breaking out of their carapaces and daring the undared. I have studied the circle of protests from Katsina, where the billboard of President Muhammadu Buhari was torched, to Kano, and now to the latest rounds of mass actions across the country, I can say the revolution will come.

The government huddles in fright sensing the awakening of timorous citizens. The deployment of instruments of suppression against citizens is symptomatic of the authorities’ morbid fear. They know the armies and chariots of Egypt are no match for a handful of Moses. And if they were holding up the end of their bargain with Nigerians, no citizen would be in the street brandishing placards of judgment against the administration.

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The protests for change are a judgment against the administration. And if the government is a thinking one, it will appreciate the courage of Nigerians to register their concerns in peaceful protests. Only a non-performing government will be afraid of citizens’ protests or interpret civil actions as subversion.

Also, I think there is a deliberate misconception of the intent of citizens’ clamour for a revolution by the government. Perhaps, the misreading is a consequence of the administration’s insecurity. I believe, Nigerians seek change not bloodshed. They want to be able to apply for jobs they are qualified for without needing to pay a bribe or having access to power. They want to enjoy the electricity that they pay for.

Nigerians want good roads and the necessary infrastructure that will make life liveable. They do not want to die of malaria owing to poverty and lack of money to buy even drugs of N100. They want to educate their children and have the means to provide for them. Most importantly, they do not want to be slaughtered in their sleep by bandits. They seek protection of their life and property. This is what revolution means to Nigerians. Change not bloodshed or an overthrow of the government.

Nigerians only want to overthrow corruption, insecurity and poverty. I think, President Buhari himself will join the army of protesters if he has the capacity of discerning the genuine intention of citizens demanding change.

Nigerians seek a revolution against corruption, insecurity and poverty. Buhari can join the cabriolet.

Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist
Twitter: @FredrickNwabufo

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Opinion

Suffering Citizens And Buhari’s Phantom Regrets

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By Jerome-Mario Utomi

If there is any statement in recent times that portrayed President Muhammadu Buhari as a leader with understanding that ‘public order, personal and national security, economic and social programmes, and prosperity is not the natural order of things but depends on the ceaseless efforts and attentions from an honest and effective government that the people elect’, it is his declaration during an interview with The Signature 50 magazine, that he would only feel better as a president when lives of citizens improve.

Buhari in that interview among other things noted that looking back at his five years in office as President, his greatest regret is that despite international ratings, lives of Nigerians are yet to improve as he had expected.While Buhari as part of his achievements expressed happiness that the economy is no longer in the forlorn state that it used to be, he, however, regretted that the progress being made has only reflected on the international rating of the nation’s economy not on the lives of Nigerians.

This is no doubt a constructive declaration that peripherally earned the president a height of respect. Mr. President’s worry becomes particularly more appreciated when one remembers that the challenge of development is one of the greatest problems that have dominated world history. As human beings have always been concerned about how to improve their condition of living and better confront the forces of nature and the environment.

Despite the concerns expressed above, a more constructive understudy of Mr. President’s policies, politics and speed in strategic decision making process in the past five years reveals that impeded improvement of lives in Nigerians was as a result of government’s poor leadership judgements and failure to perform the great roles of planning and acceleration of development processes.

This assertion comes in different forms and shapes.

Fundamentally, aside the ‘ignorance hypothesis theory’ which among other provisions ‘maintains that poor countries are poor because they have a lot of markets failures and because policymakers do not know how to get rid of them and have heeded the wrong advice in the past, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson in their book; Why Nations Fail, provides a compelling understanding of what set the groundwork for Nigerian’s poverty.

The duo classified political and economic institutions as either inclusive or extractive; they argue that countries with extractive institutions tend to be poor, while those with inclusive institutions tend to be rich. While submitting that sustained growth occurs when countries move away from extractive political institutions and towards inclusive ones, they concluded that inclusive political institutions give rise to inclusive economic institutions, which then generate economic growth.

To further demonstrate this belief is the words of Professor Ndubuisi Ekekwe who recently wrote; today, our Vice President, Prof Osinbajo, gave a speech on improving the ease of doing business through reforms. A friend in New York sent me the link with this comment: “…your country does not know that the only reform Nigeria needs for foreign investment now is a stable currency. Your problem has gone beyond bureaucracy”.

Similarly, bearing in mind that good governance entails the diligent exercising of the economic, political and administrative authorities to manage a country’s affair at all levels within the rule of law in such a manner that delivers maximum dividends to citizens’, Mr. President need not ask question or regret why the nation’s economy is not impacting in the lives of the people. The reason is simple. By his continued refusal to heed the call by Nigerians that his security votes and other avoidable expenditures need to be slashed, President Buhari has not demonstrated good leadership example.

Going by reports, the 2020 financial estimate shows that Mr. President and His Vice will spend N4.2Billion. Out of this amount, travel will gulp N3.3 Billion, while catering will take N149.1 Billion. This high cost of governance has not only led to poor delivery of democracy dividends but its happening in a country where over 112 million Nigerians now live below the UN poverty line.

Even if Mr. President provides answers to the above source of worries, his inability to stamp out corruption in the country is another obvious reason why Nigerian masses could neither breathe nor their lives improve.

To explain this fact, graft according to Rudy Giuliani is nothing new; it may be the second-oldest profession. Powerful people and those with access to them have always used kickbacks, pay-to-play schemes, and other corrupt practices to feather their nests and gain unfair advantages. And such corruption has always posed a threat to the rule of law and stood in the way of protecting basic civil and economic rights

Corruption is, but a human problem that has existed in some forms. Its fights in Nigeria also dates back to Colonial governments as they (Colonial Overlords) sufficiently legislated against it in the first criminal code ordinance of 1916(No15 of 1916) which elaborately made provisions prohibiting official bribery and corruption by persons in the public service and in the judiciary. Also at independence on October 1, 1960, the criminal code against corruption and abuse of office in Nigeria were in section 98 to 116 and 404 of the code.

What is, however, new is that corruption has recently transformed into an instrument of national strategy. The development has gotten so bad to the extent that if what happened in the time past was a challenge, that of the present is a crisis.

Separate from the corruption crisis rocking the country, there are other legions of reasons why socioeconomic lives of citizens may not improve easily except the Federal Government takes theatrical steps to address the current situation in the country.

More particularly, the present state of poverty, insecurity, infrastructural decay, terrorism, a high rate of out of school children and youths unemployment, unchecked population explosion, technological backwardness, corruption, poor planning and implementation of policies, are but testaments that this administration like its predecessors neither understand nor possess the needed expertise to perform modern jobs of leadership.

To explain, regardless of the field, for one to do any job creditably well, certain steps must be followed. This step in the words of Lance Bettencourt includes; defining what the job requires; identifying and locating the needed inputs; preparing the components and the physical environment; confirming that everything is ready; executing the task; monitoring the results and the environment; making modifications and concluding the job. Because problems can occur at many points in the process, nearly all jobs require problem resolution steps. Some steps are more critical than others, depending on the job, but each is necessary to get the job done successfully.

Regrettably, such logic doesn’t hold-up here.

For example, if the present Government is in the habit of identifying and locating the needed inputs, preparing the components as well as confirming that everything is ready before introducing new policies as specified above, the FG would not have come up with recent order directing all property owners and their agents to charge 6% Stamp Duty on all tenancy and lease agreements they enter into with all leases and remit promptly to the Service

What is more, if Mr President had expressed a little interest in monitoring the outcome of his past actions with the hope of making modifications, maybe, he would have considered as misguided priority the 1.6 billion dollars taken to fix Lagos to Ibadan, the request for 5.3 billion dollars to fix from Ibadan to Kano, 3.2 billion dollars to fix Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, and Lagos to Calabar which is about 11.1billion dollars, If Mr. President had had the interest of Niger Deltans at heart, he would not have declined assent to the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) as recently passed by the 8th Assembly nor ignored the deafening call by well-meaning Nigerians to have the future of this country discussed. Or better still, have the 2014 national confab report implemented; as the content of that report has the capacity to make this political entity and its integral parts, more efficient, more acceptable, more productive, more functional and above all, more equitable.

Most importantly is the revelation that the solution to our national poverty goes beyond showing mere regrets, to include tackling tragic leadership gaps.

Utomi, a Lagos-Based Media Consultant could be reached on: jeromeutomi@yahoo.com.

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Opinion

Social Housing And The Spirit Of Jakande In Cross River

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By Jerome-Mario Utomi

Justice according to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is centrally a matter of how individuals are treated, it is also possible to speak of justice for groups – for example when the state is allocating resources between different categories of citizens. Here each group is being treated as though it were a separate individual for purposes of the allocation.
Here there is a contrast with other virtues: we demand justice, but we beg for charity or forgiveness. This also means that justice is a matter of obligation for the agent dispensing it, and that the agent wrongs the recipient if the latter is denied what is due to her.

Definitely not a false argument but there is an important distinction to make.

In a country like Nigeria, the position of justice when allocating resources, in absolute terms, is not a substance of obligation, but largely a function of behaviour, character, habits, of the personality in public office (the agent dispensing justice).

Using as focal points the right to adequate housing which is both a human right and one of the basic needs of man borne out of desire for security, privacy and protection from negative impacts of the environment, it was Alhaji Lateef Jakande as executive governor of Lagos State in 1979, that his administration was sincerely effective, open and implemented the four cardinal policies of; housing, education, transportation and infrastructure.

It is factually documented that he introduced housing and educational programs targeting the poor, building new neighbourhood primary and secondary schools and providing free primary and secondary education. He established the Lagos state University. Jakande’s government constructed over 30,000 housing units. The schools and housing units were built cheaply, but were of great value. Some of the housing units include low cost estates in Amuwo-Odofin, Ijaiye, Dolphin, Oke-Afa, Ije, Abesan, Iponri, Ipaja, Abule Nla, Epe, Anikantamo, Surulere, Iba, Ikorodu and Badagry.

To fund some of the projects, Jakande increased the tenement rates and price of plots of land in affluent areas of Victoria Island and Lekki Peninsula and the processing fees for lottery, pools and gaming licenses. He also completed the construction of the General Hospital in Gbagada and Ikorodu and built about 20 health centres within the state. As a governor, he established 23 local government councils which were later disbanded by the military. He also started a metroline project to facilitate mass transit. The project was halted and his tenure as Governor ended when the military seized power on 31 December 1983.

Since that date, the spirit of social housing-an umbrella term used to refer to rental housing which may be owned and managed by the state, by non-profit organisations, or by a combination of the two, usually with the aim of making it affordable, departed the country.

But however resurfaced recently after about three decade’s this time around in Cross River state, Nigeria.

Its first manifestation in the state was on Friday, May 29, 2020; at Ifiang Ayong- a sleepy riverine community in Bakassi Local Government Area which came alive as dignitaries from all walks of life gathered to witness an epochal and life- changing event. The commissioning of an ultra-modern Estate comprising 52 units of 2- bedroom bungalows built by Governor Ben Ayade. ‘He did not build it for commercial purposes; the sprawling Estate, fully furnished and complete with essential amenities, is the new home to the displaced Bakassi people who lost their ancestral land, homes and livelihoods to the Republic of Cameroon in 2002 following the ceding of the Peninsula to the Central Africa country’.

Looking at commentaries, one major reason that triggered plaudits and encomium for the state government from various quarters across the nation is that in the early 2000s, the Federal Government inaugurated a Special Committee on National Social Housing Scheme (NSHS) with a presidential mandate to provide housing for its less privileged citizens. In the pilot phase of the scheme, the committee was to build 18,000 units of houses across the country before the end of 2006. However, the Committee could not deliver because the principles of social housing and values were yet to permeate the “development and management” of government’s housing plan and delivery systems. And since then, little has been done to translate such objectives into actionable plans. Or clarify processes and opportunities for citizen’s participation in the development and management of social housing in Nigeria.

But before the happiness elicited by the development at Ifiang Ayong could settle, another was up this time around at Obudu Ranch Resort in Obanliku Local Government Area.

Worried by the squalid and deplorable living conditions and abject condition, highlighted by shanties and dilapidations of the host communities of the Obudu Ranch Resort in Obanliku Local Government Area, Cross River State governor, Sir Ben Ayade who was on a one-week working visit to the Obudu Ranch Resort, promised to change their situation with the provision of social housing.

“We are here at the Ranch and when you look to the left and right, what you see in the entire place are the aborigines, the original owners of Obudu Cattle Ranch. “They are relegated to the worst form of human existence; reduced to want, in body, in spirit, in soul and in the most sub-human living conditions with collapsing roofs and huge massive temperatures that run your blood chill and your bones cold.”

And so my government is committed to constructing social housing to change their course and prove to them that God uses humans as a vessel; to make your town and your place look beautiful as well. So, for us as a state, we are committed to exterminating this kind of extreme poverty.

On his one week visit to the Ranch, he disclosed that the visit was meant to give him the opportunity to see things for himself as his administration gets ready to revamp the prime jewel of hospitality in the state.

“I decided to take a guided tour to spend one week with the people to feel their pulse as we prepare to make the Ranch the most attractive centre for visits in Nigeria. I want to see how the citizens, the aborigines have been living side by side with the glaring reality of the luxury of the ranch resort.

In what could be likened to a tale of two cities, Governor Ayade lamented: “It is a shame that where I live which is the presidential Villa is as if am in Europe and just a few minutes walk from there, this is what you find. The contrast is unacceptable to my conscience because I have a background akin to this people and so I understand the feeling. I understand the pain.”

“My performance efficiency should be measured by how much I have lifted people from extreme poverty to comfort not by how many culverts, how many bridges, how many superhighways, how many deep seaports I have built. The real growth is human growth and that is why I do not believe in Gross Domestic Products (GDP).

“I believe in human happiness index. I want to be assessed on the basis of how happy these people are with the onset of me being governor. When I leave office, what will be the difference I have in their lives? Until I make such a difference, I would have failed as governor.”

On his determination to reposition the ranch, Ayade hinted: “Very soon the ranch will be the biggest attraction in this country because we are building an international airport to support the ranch for export of potatoes and export of ornamental flowers.

“So, if we are going to do that, and go into commercial farming in Obudu cattle ranch and industrial tourism, where does that leave the host communities? That is why we are here today to assure them that they have a critical role to play. We had a meeting with the leaders of the community and have assured them that the squalor and the sub-human conditions will be exterminated in the next six months. We will be here and you will see the difference.

“Cross River does not have enough but I care enough to make a difference for them and we surely will as a state.This is my commitment.”

Indeed, this is true justice coming from a man who similar to Pa.Lateef Jakande, loves his people and is passionate about their development. Interestingly also, Ayade in my estimation stands out at the forefront of the crop of patriots wanting the best for his community, state and country, Nigeria.

Utomi is a Lagos-Based Media Consultant. He can be reached on jeromeutomi@yahoo.com.

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