Thursday, 17 August 2017
Parliament

Parliament (542)

Nigeria’s comedy industry grows by the day. Comedy, it now seems, is the readiest avenue to stardom in Nigeria; very funny. Every which way one looked in the country they are as likely to behold an unfurling hilarious drama. You do not need to be able to afford a premium ticket to enjoy a good comedy at the Muson Centre in Lagos; or such-like places. Variegated comedy theaters abound in the Nigerian landscape, with high-performing actors and actresses on hand; from our very lawless Motor Parks to our very rowdy market places, through to the hallow chambers of the National Assembly, colourful live comedies are never in want. The “our mumu don do” protesters, otherwise known as “Buhari return or resign” and their opposite group, wittingly or unwittingly, presented the latest evidence of this growing population of comedians in our midst.

Though it’s incompatible with my breeding to speak condescendingly about a supposed patriotic gesture of my fellow citizens, but the warped reasoning of these protesters has compelled me to break with established tradition. Indeed, these groups of protesters have merely confirmed that “our mumu never do.” My reasons are outlined thus:

Muhammadu Buhari, the Daura born, retired two-star army general, incapacitated or not, remains the substantive president of the geographic expression called Nigeria. Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, by his own admission, unfailingly takes directives from, just as he unfailingly reports back to his indisposed principal.

Long before he took seriously ill, President Buhari presented Nigerians with the unassailable evidence that he is discharging the nation’s first office at the behest of a select group. The president’s wife, Aisha, and Senate President Bukola Saraki famously confirmed that unacceptable situation. For my part, l couldn’t resist devoting an article on this pages to that realisation – “Buhari belongs to some persons.”

Despite the glaring fact that the unity of Nigeria is severely threatened by centripetal forces across her six geo-political zones, due primarily to her fundamentally flawed political structure, the First Estate of the Realm, in reviewing the extant national Constitution, completely failed to decisively attend to Nigeria’s most pressing contemporary challenge: Administrative Restructuring. Few weeks prior to the commencement of that constitutional review exercise, the Honourable Members of the green chamber surprisingly voted against the Bill on relocation of the International Oil Companies headquarters back to the Niger Delta region. Need l say that that surprise nay-vote at once offended against best global business models and regional sensitivities. (Question: are our elected Representatives verily representing the interests of the electorate; or, our mumu don do?).

Lives and property in Nigeria have never been more threatened as is in present-day Nigeria; Boko Haram insurgents, mindless kidnappers, satanic mass killings (my heart goes out to the victim-families of Ozubulu), armed robbers, militants, separatist agitators, cultists, ritualists, hawkers of human limbs, and such-like dreadful groups now hold sway; and Nigerians continuously contend with the psychological trauma of these threats. Yet, our elected leaders live in cocooned luxury and security at the expense of our common wealth. Our mumu don do?

Year after year Nigerians are called by successive leaderships to make selfless sacrifices for a terribly mismanaged country, but none of these hapless citizens has even an inkling of the dividends of their long-sufferings. Elsewhere, citizens would demand of their leadership a concrete vision of their nation’s ultimate destiny in an exchange for their expected sacrifices. Could any Nigerian predict what the value of the national currency, the naira, will be twelve months hence; nor can anyone say what the unit cost of electricity or the prices of petroleum products will be six months from today.

So, our mumu don do? Only a comedian would answer in the affirmative. But in spite of these major oddities Nigerians somehow still carry on living life as though nothing has gone amiss. Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the inimitable Afro Beat legend whose twentieth memorial anniversary was commemorated recently, had waxed a best-selling album to depict the Nigerian state; he named it.

“Suffering and smiling.” And not too long ago, an international poll concluded that Nigerians were among the happiest people on Earth. True, Nigerians continue to smile in spite of their spine-breaking sufferings because of institutionalised social-conditioning by the country’s self-seeking and steeply selfish leadership class. The latter, keenly minded of its conspicuous self-centeredness (cathedral-like official residences; countless number of luxury vehicles; long list of security details; globe-trotting on chartered flights, e.t.c.) aggressively exploits the opium of tribe and religion to pitch the masses against themselves. It does this to benumb their senses; tribe and religion never fail to have their narcotic-like effects on the multitude. And because nature created humans to think individually the multitude never could think through the maze; this is why the masses are so easy to manipulate. The multitude is sheepish (a euphemism for mumu); why else do you think politicians love campaign rallies? It is far too easy to persuade the multitude than the individual. Thusly, the decisions and actions of the multitude are largely determined by those it looks up to, be they religious bigots, tribal jingoists, self-seeking politicians, or purveyors of truths. The quality of a people’s leadership is therefore predicated on their degree of sheepishness. (When the people are ready, the mystic appears) History bears this out.

Therefore, the most urgent task for the Nigerian masses for the present is to rid themselves of their decades of social-conditioning, and begin to listen to the voices of selfless thinkers or true philosophers. Nigeria has her fair share of this tribe of persons; and these have been prodding the citizenry to eschew tribe and religion from its electoral culture. But thus far this has been to no avail because our mumu never do. Buhari’s resumption of office or resignation from it would not change Nigeria’s unfortunate narrative. The existing leadership class or its entrenched mind-set is what needs substituting. Only one vector can make this happen: a less sheepish electorate. So, the our mumu don do protesters had better look away from the convalescing septuagenarian in the Queen’s country, revert to their drawing board, and diligently focus on the extensive work that needs to be done on the multitude…

• Nkemdiche, a consulting engineer lives in Abuja.

Posted On Tuesday, 15 August 2017 12:22 Written by
Any close watcher of events in the country in recent times would know that the country is passing through a very trying period. Never in the history of Nigeria has it faced this kind of troubles. The troubles are multifaceted. Over and above every other thing is the battle for the soul of Nigeria. The centrifugal forces from different sectors of Nigeria want to rip it apart. It looks like a joke. But never before has the country been so threatened to such an extent. Not even during the civil war.

The events of the Nigeria civil war were one directional. It was a section of the country contending against the whole, which made it fail. That was child’s play compared to what is happening at present. The country is facing multi-faceted problems from several directions. Each problem is potentially dangerous. The spate of agitations and quit notices being issued from right, left and centre are frightening.

At the last count, no less than five quit notices have been issues across Nigeria. The coalition of Arewa youths started it all when it issued an ultimatum to the Igbo resident in the north to leave their region or be forced out from October 1, 2017. That immediately sent jitters across the country and re-ignited the unending ethnic tension bedeviling Nigeria. Each ethnic group appeared to have been awakened from slumber.

As if that was being expected, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) readily welcomed the Kaduna declaration and saw it as oil that would lubricate the wheel of their march towards Biafra. IPOB called on all Igbo in the north to return en masse without wasting time. It also ordered northerners living in the South-East to vacate.

Almost immediately, a coalition of Niger Delta militants, in a sharp reaction, rose from a meeting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State and ordered all northerners to vacate the oil-rich region. The militants threatened to attack all oil wells owned by northerners in the Niger Delta before October 1. They also threatened to declare the Niger Delta Republic. The group demanded for the return of all oil blocks given to none indigenes of the Niger Delta.

A group called the Middle Belt Renaissance Forum, made up of youths from all the states in the Middle Belt, after its crucial meeting in Abuja, declared that all herdsmen must vacate the Middle Belt by October 1. It declared that the Middle Belt is not in any way part of the Northern agitation for the Igbo to vacate. The Forum charged the North to stop using the Middle Belt to achieve its selfish political and economic aims as was the case in the past.

As if it wants to ensure that it was not left in the cold, a group of Yoruba nationalists had, after a meeting in Lagos, declared Oduduwa republic, which it said is seceding from the entity called Nigeria. Although, it did not issue quit notice against anybody, it slammed Nnamdi Kanu, IPOB, MASSOB, and the Arewa Consultative Forum for disrespecting the Yoruba nation for too long!

The Yoruba, to me, has been the only placating force holding Nigeria together after the other regions appeared to be set for a show down. That the Yoruba has now joined in this fray shows how serious the situation has become. As it were, virtually every section of the country wants to pull out of Nigeria.

Unfortunately, October 1, which normally, is used to commemorate Nigeria’s independence from colonial rule, has now become the new date set for the sharing of Nigeria to its component parts. What an irony of situation! Can Nigeria survive October 1, 2017? Would there be independence celebration this year? What is the government doing about these divisive forces? Is anything being done to assuage the situation? What is the way out?

Former Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, the other day, captured the terrifying situation when he said that Nigeria is sleep walking to national disaster and yet the present leadership of the country seems to be indifferent. Anyaoku spoke at a lecture he delivered in commemoration of the 98th birthday of Chief Akintola Williams, the renowned accountant.

But that, really, is not the case. The leadership cannot be said to be sleep walking, for that will mean they are unconscious of what is happening. Whatever is happening, including the leadership lackadaisical response is done in full consciousness. The leadership is not sleeping. Whatever it is doing is deliberate; in full consciousness and with all the senses very much awake. The absence of President Buhari has complicated the problem.

Just the other day, for instance, the National Assembly (NASS), threw out a bill on the devolution of power to the states, which would have served as panacea to the agitations to the chagrin of Nigerians. Nigerians had placed hope that passage of the bill could reduce tension in the country.

The issue of restructuring, which has gained currency across the country, could have been pushed forward if the devolution of power bill had been passed. But that seems to have failed, thereby, exposing the country to avoidable imminent danger. The rejection of the bill by the NASS confirmed what I had written in this column that the lawmakers are paying lip service to restructuring. The opportunity came for them to show patriotism and love for the country but they blew it and are now helpless.

For now, I can’t imagine what the NASS could do to save the country; they are averse to implementing the 2014 National Conference Report and have missed a golden opportunity to save the country. Why couldn’t the NASS make history as change agent that pulled the country out of the cesspit? Why have these peoples’ representatives refused to do the will of the people but pursue their own selfish agenda?

It needs to be stressed that miss-governance is at the root of all the agitations. Leadership failure is absolutely Nigeria’s main problem. It is worrisome that amid the tension in the land, the political leadership is acting as if all is well. By neglecting the situation, no critical effort is being made to deal with the situation.

Although, while at no time, since the war broke out in 1967, has there been absolute peace in Nigeria, a situation where every section of the country wants to break out is unprecedented. That is why there ought to be crisis emergency meetings going on in government circles to deal with the problem and save the country.

 
Posted On Tuesday, 15 August 2017 12:18 Written by

I refer to Chidi Anselm Odinkalu’s opinion piece titled, “Nigeria’s toxic NGO Regulation Bill” in The Guardian of July 27, 2017. His fears on a draconian bill from the federal parliament (House) to monitor the activities of non-governmental organisations are in order. Thanks to civil society, Nigerians are vibrant, and demand accountability from governments which have led to the ushering in of a degree of open governance.

Thanks to foreign aid, the AIDS scourge around the world has reduced tremendously. And unlike in times past, more people now have access to antiretroviral treatment than was previously possible. And deaths have reduced to a noticeable level. Currently, we do not look at AIDS patients with the woe-begone-thee outlook of before, thanks to enlightenment campaigns, so also is the reduction in the level of tuberculosis, malaria, improved education for girls, as well as improved agricultural practices etc. But are non-governmental organisations in Nigeria truly equipped to carry out the mission for which these aids are meant?
Do we really have the system in place, the political institutions built over time to sustain the works of non-governmental organisations in words and in deeds?

Can our people and government take actions on critical issues without reverting to donors? I am looking at taking ownership of the process. How is our level of diplomacy and engagement with open society? Maybe this is where a bill as proposed is needed. I have sat down to think about this. Just recently, I needed sponsorship for a programme to help young children. I wrote many letters to non-governmental organisations in-country. Only one sent a negative reply. Even then, they told me that their external donors determine projects they must fund locally. The outfit in question deals with issues that hover around children, I plan saving children. You wonder why they couldn’t take the lead to inform their donors about my plans but settled for the easy way out. 

In contrast, one U.S. foundation stationed in the United States to which I sent a letter – promptly replied within days. It regretted not being able to assist but gave me customised web links to download resource materials to help develop content for the proposed, programme. I can’t forget my trip to the British Council, of course supervised by Nigerians. I went there to see if I could get resource persons for a TV show on education. They were excited. They made me apply formally. This was in August 2016. As I write this essay, no-one has deemed it fit to reply, even though I had a meeting with a Nigerian manager in charge of education (even when I sent text messages giving gentle reminders) neither did they give me a resource person even when I told them the date I planned to go on air. I wonder what might have happened had I ventured there to ask for sponsorship. What then drives that British organisation to development? Or how do they support developmental progress when formal letters are received, acknowledged but statuses of applications never communicated to applicants.

Do we need to harp on recruitment into NGOs in Nigeria? Due to the need to staff top decision making positions with Nigerians, merit in many places has been thrown away and we have settled for nepotism. To get a job in many NGO outfit in Nigeria, you may need to be connected or come from a particular geographical location in Nigeria. I remember being interviewed for a position at The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in 2010 in Port Harcourt. Seven years later, not one person bothered to inform me why I failed the test and oral interview. I submitted efforts for two days. Silence means I failed right? No issue with failing though. Great men have failed at some things in earlier days. But courtesy demands I am informed, isn’t it? NGOs in Nigeria are proto-type of our civil service.

Our love for clannishness is not only affecting the decisions of donors in Nigeria but is also eroding the importance of NGOs in Nigeria. I remember how I campaigned to get a job in a USAID-funded NGO in 2009 in Port Harcourt but the top managers told me the available position was reserved for an indigene of the state even when no-one had applied for it. We fork out nativist agenda in growth agencies. I am not judging these NGOs. But we need to feel their presence in Nigeria and appreciate their unbridled interest and resourcefulness in addressing issues that have bedeviled our society. If truly we want to evolve as a people or develop as a nation, these issues must be squarely faced.

What do NGOs teach us here? And how effective are they to the Nigerian society? President Donald Trump plans to cut down drastically on U.S. foreign aids around the world. Experts have warned that it would harm U.S. national security. The Trump administration is also proposing cuts in U.S. funds to the United Nations. The president reasons, that the U.S. carries the burden of the world alone to a large-degree, with no gratitude from many countries that can’t survive without her foreign aids. Nigeria needs to begin to discharge her own burden – without being nursed, fraternally.

• Abah wrote from Port Harcourt.

Posted On Tuesday, 15 August 2017 12:15 Written by

Atiku Abubakar, Waziri Adamawa, a former Vice President of Nigeria and a former presidential candidate, no doubt may be one of the most maligned high ranking former public office holders from the North. In addition to the public perception that everyone who has been in government has stolen government money and is corrupt, the experience and challenges Atiku Abubakar had with his then boss, during his time as vice president has contributed to whatever perception of him the section of the public may have. There is a general lack of trust for former public office holders, understandably so. For these reasons, whatever any former public office holder says or does must be for his personal aggrandisement in the perception of skeptics. Of course skeptics are many, and will always be.

But can we stop for a moment and listen sincerely to what this individual is saying? Can we take a look at our own system and analyse how well we have done, how much we have progressed? We all have this consensus that the nation has not met her potentials. I saw on Omojuwa’s twitter handle the other day, where he stated “When you read up on Nigerian’s history, it just feels like this country got frozen in time. The same problems over half a century. Kilode?” “Kilode” meaning what happened, in Yoruba, an expression I understood to mean nothing seems to have changed. The agitations arising from all regions of the country are signs of the consensus that the people no longer believe in the present system. It is an old saying and a popular one that it is only a fool that will do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.

It really does not matter who says it, I think the content is more important than the container. This is not to say I share the view of those who are disparaging the former vice president for his outspokenness and his position on the issue. As a matter of fact I commend him for his courage and continuous faith in the Nigeria project. But the point I want to buttress is “what is he saying?”

Our problems as a people as observed by many have been over-centralisation, bigotry (be it religious or ethnic) and corruption. The lack of growth and development is only symptomatic of the above tripod of pathology which is in turn complications of our present system. The suspicion and lack of trust amongst citizens from different ethnicities and regions have continuously been fed by our present structure.

Atiku is saying the present system has not worked for even his region despite other regions of the country’s perception that his region, the north presently benefits the most from the present arrangement. This is a view that most other people also share. He has said one united Nigeria is possible if we practice true federalism. He is again not alone in thinking that the period in the history of Nigeria when we made the most progress coincided with the period when our dear country practiced federalism as it was intended. Bearing in mind that there is no such thing as true federalism, and that federal systems generally evolved in society in line with their peculiar challenges with a view to solving them, true federalism cannot be some kind of system that is cast on stone otherwise there will not be congresses and assemblies as it is with most democracies. Lawmaking is a continuum and the structure of government is part of the law that needs to be continuously reviewed. Atiku has consistently called for a major change in the present arrangement (restructuring).

As germane as this call may be, I have heard argument against him with great surprise, especially because such arguments have also come from people you expect should know better. Despite the former vice president’s courage and visionary ideas, I find it not too surprising that oppositions abound.

The former military president, Ibrahim Babangida also expressed support for a system change a few weeks ago and the polity was laced with similar reactions. No doubt that some of our former leaders had opportunity to do “right” and they didn’t. But are they not allowed to change their views? Should their views not be affected by

changing situations? From the period of the Ibrahim Babangida administration till now is a long time and there is no doubt that a lot has changed. Despite that, Atiku has been quite consistent with his view on the need to practice true federalism. As far back as 2009 at the National Conference On Consensus Building For Electoral Reform held at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja as a keynote speaker, despite applauding almost totally all the recommendations of the Justice Uwais commission on electoral reforms, Atiku still pointedly disagreed with the commission’s recommendation that state electoral bodies be taken over by the federal INEC and the reason he gave was that if it should happen, it would further make a mess of our federal system of government. As vice president, he also spoke against the over concentration of power amongst other things at the center and has in different fora expressed the need for devolution of power to the federating units (states).

I do not believe that any one man has the magic wand that solves our numerous challenges nor do I believe that the solution to our problems is one prong and that with restructuring all our problems will go away. The former vice president has also expressed his views that restructuring may not necessarily be an easy sail.

But we shall search for the eye of the fish in the head of the fish as looking elsewhere will only be a waste of time. In the Vanguard Newspaper of 30th July, 2017, the former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole joined the barrage of individuals who have tried to disparage Atiku’s stance on our political outlook and was quick again to ask what the former vice president did during his time. He, Adams, went further to describe restructuring as some ambiguous word employed by politicians to hoodwink gullible Nigerians. The question being asked is why is Atiku just realizing this? Why didn’t he restructure Nigeria when he was vice president for 8 years? I will like to draw our attention to the Atiku vice presidential era so we will be able to mirror what it would have looked like calling for restructuring just after returning to democracy in 1999.The country was ruled by the military for 16 years and in this period the focus by all well-meaning Nigerians was to return the country to democracy. A struggle he, Atiku was well part of. Wouldn’t it have been foolhardy to begin to call for restructuring only after the then 1999 constitution has barely been tested?

Well I have news for all naysayers, I and millions of Nigerians are not gullible, we have just refused to be called stupid as doing same thing over again and expecting a different outcome only makes us stupid. A day after Oshiomhole’s vituperation, I read again, Alhaji Yakassai’s interview in the same Vanguard Newspaper. My first observation was his striking mental alertness considering his age and I quite respect him for that. But once again he showed his opposition to restructuring by pointing out the perceived complexity of the process and attempting to puncture Atiku’s position. I do not agree with him or anyone who interpreted Atiku’s speech at the University of Nigeria (UNN) recently to mean he is saying restructuring Nigeria is going to be easy. And I say to them that hard ailment requires hard medication. The country has been held down for far too long by this present system of government and is responsible for all the vices we have now become characterized with.

The cry that time is running out by Atiku is real and to continue to vilify him for his position is ludicrous.

  • Dr. Ememena Bright is a medical practitioner based in Warri, Delta State and can be reached via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Posted On Friday, 11 August 2017 02:39 Written by

The recent meeting of the governors from the South-West in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, marks another watershed in the annals of the region. It is another strategic thinking by a region that is known for leadership with vision, a virtue that distinguished the South-West from its peers.  Coming at a period when the country is facing very harsh and tough times and challenges, the meeting underscores the general belief among the people that the region needs to be rescued, especially against the backdrop of terrifying security challenges and a parlous economy that was hitherto the envy of other sections of the federation.

That the meeting, organised by the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN), was attended by the governors and not representatives amply showed the urgency and desirability of a collective will and effort, since it takes a whole to make a serious impact, given the nature and manner of suffocating challenges. From massive youth unemployment to incessant threat from bandits and herdsmen as well as collapsed infrastructure, the South-West is writhing under a heavy burden.

Their decision to create a joint task force and joint actions on security threats to guarantee the safety of lives, property and prosperity of the people of the region, foster competitive advantage and establish a Western Nigeria Export Development Initiative (WENEDI) to drive the export potentials of the region is ennobling.

What is required now is for the governors to fully demonstrate the commitment, will and capacity to walk the talk. This is the only way to convince the people that there is a new dawn that is meant to build institutions that would restore the lost glory of the region, as encouraged by the political leadership of the zone through integration at post-independence Nigeria.

Part of the beauty of federalism is the principle that empowers the federating units to explore the factor of comparative advantage, which is at the heart of the prolonged clamour for restructuring of the country. Therefore, the current initiative by the governors is avowal on the imperative of a synergy to pool resources together towards exploring the bond of commonality at all fronts. Sadly, the Ministries of Integration which some of the governors individually created at the dawn of the DAWN have been scrapped. We strongly believe that is not good enough.

It is also imperative that the governors should be more pragmatic in tackling the issue of security. There is nothing wrong in all the governors in the zone adopting the template set by the Ekiti State government on grazing bill, as herdsmen constitute the greatest threat to security of life and property now.

One way to immortalise the Director General of DAWN, Dr Dipo Famakinwa, who suddenly passed on recently, as well as buoy the policy of integration is by the South-West states collaborating in the area of agriculture. The success and impact of the Lagos and Kebbi states in the production of rice reveal the huge potentialities of such collaboration among states in the South-West, which is blessed with clement climate for all year-round farming and cultivation. Thus, we recommend that  western states should work together on agriculture based on the comparative advantage in the growing of specific crops.

Posted On Friday, 04 August 2017 23:22 Written by

Like day and night, it is impossible not to have an opinion about Lai Mohammed. Love him or hate him, the Information minister has struck a chord in recent times with his statements about protecting the Nigerian cultural industries from losing money to foreign lands in the name of production and sponsorships.

“We will amend the NBC code to ensure that our Premier League improves. We will make sure that in the Code, if you spend one million dollars to support a foreign football club like Manchester United in Nigeria, you will not be allowed to air that programme unless you spend 30 per cent of that money to promote Nigeria’s league,” said Mohammed at an industry meeting in July.

However, sport industry voices have remained silent even when the minister spoke about something that has troubled them for a long time. It is clear that Nigerian corporations love to associate themselves with football. And the brand of football they like to piggy-back on is not that which is played locally.

It is European football, that shiny product, like a well-polished 2017 Lamborghini Aventador gleaming in the sun. The English Premier League, that behemoth of cultural imperialism, has so captured our imagination that our country spends billions annually to get its fix. Like Marx’s opium, the EPL has become our poppy, seeping into our national vein without let.

An industry research states that Nigeria’s top 15 sponsors will spend 110billion Naira ($343m) between 2016 and 2019 on servicing their relationships with European football properties. The Nigerian Breweries has agreements with five clubs – Arsenal, Real Madrid, Juventus, PSG and Manchester City, while Globacom has had a long-running agreement with Manchester United. Big Nigerian corporations sponsor the broadcast of the EPL, Uefa Champions League and Europa League while Etisalat (now 9Mobile) is a keen sponsor of tennis broadcasts.

While Mr Mohammed has called for higher taxation against companies that spend money on sponsoring sports programmes and overseas clubs, not one statement in support has come from the sports minister, Mr Solomon Dalung. Dalung, who has overseen one of the most turbulent periods in Nigerian sport with several athletes failing to find funds to compete internationally, has abandoned his constituency, in this debate, after the political interference in sport federation elections last month.

What Mr Mohammed has called for is not new. Countries have regularly fought to protect their local cultures from cultural imperialism. Canada in the 1950s and ‘60s insisted on placing a quota on foreign programmes that could be shown on television. This was to avoid the Americanisation of their values by the giant neighbour, the USA. China kept the world out during its Cultural Revolution until it was strong enough to re-engage with the West. And it came out better.

European football, an increasingly global business, is taking too much of our resources. While the British left us with flag independence, we have become stuck onto their football, a form of sport cultural imperialism. What must we do to get out of their grip in order to create our own industry just like the entertainment industry left the shadow of American music?

Sport, unlike entertainment, is regulated by the government. This is one of the major impediments to the growth of the sector as administrators run it like bureaucracies. However, many of the problems we have in our sport have also been self-inflicted. The loss of influence by national TV, the NTA, mixed with its archaic ideas about sports broadcast rights, means even the Nigerian domestic league cannot be seen by the majority of our citizens. It has been the purview of the South African company, MultiChoice, to create value for our league by paying for rights and screening it to a few million subscribers. With SuperSport dropping the NPFL over the last few months and putting more money into buying EPL rights, we are left without our league on TV.

Who is to blame? A poor self-esteem which abandons the local but chases after the foreign. Many of our children cannot speak their mother tongue. We abandon our local customs, we fail in passing traditional values down the line, these are all failings on our part dictated by the mega cultural forces that are stacked up against us. 

Is protectionism the way to go like Minister Mohammed has proposed? The United States, the biggest economy in the world, has a president that has called for greater protection for its citizens by pushing for higher tariffs on imports from Europe.

Perhaps it is best to also find what works for us. One change is mandatory though: we need to change the way our sports are run; where administrators sit on government allocations without a care in the world to turn profits. As long as we lose our best players to Europe every month, we will continue to look abroad for football entertainment. And so the businesses will put their money where the highest numbers of eyes are.

If they eventually get higher taxes, perhaps companies will end their spending on sport altogether. After all, it is not compulsory to spend their hard-earned money on domestic football that has not created enough value and captured the imagination. Nigerian sport can learn a lot from the entertainment industry whose sheer power of innovation has revolutionised our cultural offerings to the world.

Posted On Friday, 04 August 2017 23:15 Written by

 

Posted On Friday, 04 August 2017 23:01 Written by

What seems to be sounding louder by the day is the call for restructuring by various interest groups in Nigeria. The impression the agitators are giving is that the country is structurally lopsided to the extent that something urgent should be done, if the various ethnic, tribal, religious, economic and political interests are to continue co-habiting harmoniously. The issue now is how sincere or genuine are these agitations for restructuring? Over the years, the need to restructure the federation has been at the front-burner. Recently, renewed agitations followed disturbing activities by secessionists as well as the various threats given for Nigerians to quit parts of the country, issued by other different groups avenging their angers on the perceived imbalance and displeasure over the state of affairs in the country in terms of allocation of resources, appointments, environmental degradation, human right abuses, dominance of the Federal Government over states, power sharing parameters and the unity of the nation.

To address the concerns raised by those calling for restructuring, there is need for the various federating units to develop according to their resources and at their own pace without being slowed down by others. The process of restructuring would involve changes in the distribution of powers, responsibilities and resources, which is contrary to what is provided for under the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended); a product of military regime that arrogates a whopping 68 items to the Exclusive Legislative List alone, unlike the 1960 Independence Constitution that had 44 items on the list while the 1963 Republican Constitution equally granted the regions 50 per cent of their resources. In line with what true federalism should be, the Federal Government should rather concern itself with highly sensitive and critical sectors like currency, defence, immigration/customs and foreign affairs while devolving other sectors to the federating units.

The various interests that had clamoured for restructuring strongly believe that the current structure is nothing but a recipe for anarchy, insecurity and instability. In other words, a restructured nation would make the federating units explore the resources in their domain, considering the fact that there is no state in Nigeria that is not endowed with arable land for agriculture or mineral resources that could make them self-reliant and capable of transforming the lives of the people, if well utilised. This was what the country experienced, development-wise, during the era of regionalism, where there was healthy competition among the four regions Northern, Western, Eastern and Mid-Western governments brought about optimal harnessing of resources for development. In the past, agitations for restructuring had been championed mainly by segments of the nation, notably southerners, but over time, other Nigerians, cutting across other geopolitical zones, have clamoured for the imperative of addressing the structure of the country in such a way that the federating units would be more functional, premised on the principle of comparative advantage unlike the current arrangement, whereby states had become completely dependent on the Federal Government.

For instance, the Western Region, under the leadership of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, successfully laid the foundation for development in commerce and industry by creating an efficient Western Nigeria Development Corporation, the parent of the present-day O’dua Investment Company; revolutionised the production and marketing of cocoa by farmers; reformed the local government system; improved the Western Nigeria Civil Service; implemented the first free primary education programme in Africa; introduced and managed the first Free Medical Service programme in Nigeria for children up to the age of 18; established the first television station in Africa: the Western Nigeria Television (WNTV), Ibadan, in 1959 the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife), among others. Apart from the Western Region government, monumental achievements were also recorded by the other regional governments. But what do we have now? It is unfortunate that today, most of the states in the country appear unviable and under-resourced to deliver good governance, as they depend almost entirely on monthly allocation from the Federation Account, the bulk of which they expend on salaries and other recurrent expenditures, leaving out capital expenditures that should actually drive development.

From the foregoing, any opportunity that would bring about positive change and better the lot of the people should be embraced. Therefore, if the call for restructuring is going to turn things around for the better, it is worth trying. But looking at the agitations from another perspective, those calling for restructuring, simply because they have been at the receiving end in the current power equation, should not be seen as being patriotic in their agitation. Those who belong to this category are made up of mainly politicians, who belong to several groups and affiliations. They appear to have joined the call for restructuring for three reasons. First, is to protest their exclusion from governance. In other words, they are using the agitations to vent their anger and obvious irrelevance under the current dispensation.

Secondly, some of the agitators are joining the call to acquire cheap popularity. Those who belong to this category do not have a clear idea of what restructuring actually means and how to attain it. They are simply part of the advocacy to elicit publicity and undue attention to themselves alongside the group they represent. Thirdly, we can refer to those belonging to this group as those warming up for the 2019 general elections, who merely are using restructuring to launch their political campaigns and to situate themselves better for the task ahead. Those belonging to this third group include new political affiliations and politicians that are desperately seeking relevance because the present arrangement and configuration may limit their chances to achieve their political ambition, in 2019. I have used the above scenarios to illustrate that not all agitations for restructuring are genuine and sincere.

On the way forward, efforts should be made to lay the foundation for a truly federal structure through constitutional amendment. The Federal Government should initiate the process without further delay, by putting in place a body that would fashion out the modalities without compromising the existing legislative framework, already provided by the National Assembly. On the likelihood of making use of the recommendations in the 2014 National Conference, one of the tasks to be carried out by the new body is to examine the confab report and make suggestions on the useful portions. I do not subscribe to the idea of adopting the report in its totality. Similarly, I do not also believe that the report should be archived. Rather, sincere and practicable recommendations should be adopted. Hence, there is need for government to decipher and carefully separate the wheat from the chaff in the growing agitation for restructuring.

Kupoluyi wrote from Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB

Posted On Saturday, 29 July 2017 00:34 Written by

Education is in dire straits in Nigeria. More than 10 million children are out of school across the nation. The federal budget always falls short of the requisite 26 per cent recommended by UNESCO for developing nations. It is a well-known fact that “education is power,” but Nigeria continues to treat the subject of education with abject levity.

It is against this grim background that one welcomes with profound happiness the book Realities of Nigerian Education written by Chief Sam O. U. Igbe, the Iyase (Prime Minister) of Benin Kingdom. A retired Commissioner of Police, Igbe was a colonial era civil servant and a trained school teacher of yore. He is indeed a master of the subject, and pointedly laments that the family, the community and the society at large have obviously abandoned “the responsibilities to ensure strong educational foundation for their children.” Education standards keep falling given the unprincipled politics played by the mandarins of government. Chief Igbe submits that there is a crying need to review the National Policy on Education to take care of the identified deficiencies in the system. This way, a purpose-driven system of education can be instituted through the potent instruments of appropriate curricula and syllabi.

In his foreword to the book, Prof. Mon Nwadiani, former Dean of the Faculty of Education, University of Benin, stresses that “this book is largely informational, educative, inspiring and soul searching as to where, how and why we got the business of educating the citizenry wrong. The unique value of the book is the presentation of strategies aimed at enhancing the quality and relevance of education in concert with the spiritual nature of man ceteris paribus.”

According to author Igbe, “Education is the most prized contrivance by mankind to better his lot. Of all the living creations, only man has developed this means of passing his values, skills and attitudes to succeeding generations. Educational development began since creation, and continues throughout the life span of mankind.” He believes that the “governing class will definitely need self-cleansing to achieve these educational objectives.”

In Realities of Nigerian Education, Igbe starts out with what he terms “Indigenous Education” wherein it is incumbent on the home, the neighbourhood and the community to provide the foundation for the education of the youth. He then delves into formal education as promoted by the early Church Missionary Society (CMS), the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society, the Baptist Mission, the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Mission.

The CMS established the first Teacher Training College in Abeokuta in 1859, an institution that was later moved to Lagos in 1867 and then to Oyo in 1896 where it became known as St Andrew’s College, Oyo. The author incidentally undertook a Pivotal Teachers Training Course in St Andrew’s from 1954 to 1956.

The Baptist Mission established a station in Abeokuta in 1850 and founded the Baptist Training College at Ogbomosho in 1897. The United Presbyterian Church of Scotland established its mission in Calabar in 1846 and then founded the celebrated Hope Waddell Training Institute in 1905. The Roman Catholic Mission opened its station in Lagos in 1868 and founded St Gregory’s College in 1876.

Igbe deposes that the early colonialists did not participate in the pioneering activities of these missionaries. “It bears repetition,” he avers, “that they (colonialists) were preoccupied with the problems of subjugating the inhabitants of the newly acquired colonies, and the subsequent activities of having to procure commodities for the fledgling industries in their home countries.”

It was in 1882 that “the first Education Ordinance was promulgated to introduce some control and supervision into the educational efforts of the missionaries.” Yaba Higher College was established in 1932, and in 1948 the “Education Code was passed establishing a three-years Education Diploma Course for students who passed the Cambridge School Certificate, and thereafter, passed the entrance examination to the Yaba Higher College.”

Igbe in Realities of Nigerian Education then undertakes a crucial dissection of Special Education in regard to Autism, Slow Learning Disability, Attention-deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders, Educational and Behavioral Disorder. The vision and mission of the National Mathematical Centre are ready grist to the mill of Igbe’s appreciation of education in Nigeria. The need for technical and vocational orientation to conquer joblessness in Nigeria cannot be gainsaid.

The author ups the ante on the question of the National Policy on Education from the time of the Regional Education Laws to the military era and the democratic epochs. The role of the teacher is indeed pivotal whence the urgency of proper teacher education. His understanding of teaching strategies and methods can hardly ever be bettered.

The modern technological gizmos of today do not escape the attention of Chief Igbe in Realities of Nigerian Education, as he writes: “The Jet Age with all its breathtaking breakthroughs in mechanical, technological, electrical and computer engineering, and the seeming fictitious science appliances have now evolved into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

Chief Sam O. U. Igbe has written a very crucial book in Realities of Nigerian Education which ought to stand the teachers and the governmental authorities in good stead toward moving education in Nigeria forward. His rallying cry should reverberate across all the geo-political zones of Nigeria thus: “The youths in their various ways must become part of the necessary specialist national labour force as Jet Age Nigerian academics, technologists, technicians, scientists, and the diverse hard work experts gearing to distinguish themselves to make the name Nigeria unforgettable in this age of educational adventures.” Chief Sam O. U. Igbe deserves celebration for writing the timely book, Realities of Nigerian Education.

Posted On Saturday, 29 July 2017 00:30 Written by

After almost two decades of energy sapping combat with corruption, Nigeria, from all indications, is still in quandary on how to effectively tame the menace. Today in Nigeria, corruption stands tall and rotund, gnawing at every effort made to subdue it. Both the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the sister Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) seem to have lost track, leaving corruption to rear more hydra heads.

The two main anti-graft agencies created to fight corruption over the years do not seem to have a co-terminus approach in their war against the incubus. Sometimes, they work at cross-purposes. The EFCC, for instance, is seen to be impressionistic and egregious in the war, using the media as a tool, all along. On the other hand, the ICPC appears stoic and laid back, convinced that it could advance in the war against corruption by mere system overhaul and prevention. All the same, little results continue to trail every initiative they had put in place. Before the advent of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, corruption became virulent, holding a promise to make Nigeria history.

Months ago, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed invented an idea of how Nigeria could dig pitfalls around corruption and make it fall, at least gradually. Nigerians laughed their heads off when he came up with a catch phrase; “Change begins With Me.” He had little audience since a disproportionate number saw his idea as impracticable having hitherto, been treated to the effusive and gratifying impact of corruption. But Lai Muhammad was not acting in isolation of the expanded agenda by the government of President Buhari to battle corruption headlong. Now, that effort has started resonating positively in different corridors, and most veritably in agencies like the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB).

A week ago, JAMB dominated the media space with reports about being parsimonious in handling its finances for the just concluded 2017 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UMTE). JAMB was reported to have remitted the sum of N5 billion into the federation account being the amount it saved from the conduct of the examination. Nigerians found the feat very incredulous; believing that no agency of government had been that transparent. JAMB is simply demonstrating responsiveness to the anti-corruption posturing of the present government. The idea is that other agencies of government must be on the cue to initiate their ways and means of advancing the war, using different techniques.

If JAMB appears to have woken up suddenly with a foul mind against corruption, the starting point should be traced to the Registrar, Professor Isaq Oloyede. The Registrar, once the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, is an instant fighter of corruption. The legacies he left behind at the University of Ilorin speak volumes. Since he assumed office as Registrar, he has laboured to impress it on JAMB stakeholders that a new era where the agency’s funds must be judiciously utilised had just set in. His vows to bring a new order in JAMB ruled by efficiency, financial prudence and transparency were mocked in familiar quarters. But he meant business. At every point, he had dared saboteurs who seemed determined and desperate to subvert his every good steps and efforts. Today, his commitment to “Change” and insistence on leading by example has started paying off.

Before the 2017 UMTE, the Registrar had expressed aversion to the idea of raking in the sum of N7 billion from sales of registration forms and blowing the sum of N6.8 billion in the conduct of examination. He vowed not to spend more than N500 million for the 2017 UMTE and managed to do just that, leaving JAMB with an excess of N5 billion.

The spokesman of JAMB while analysing the cost saving measures by JAMB for the 2017 UMTE said, “Before now, JAMB budgeted for the sum of N7 billion. But this year, we have been able to prune down the cost very drastically, limiting our spending to N500 million. JAMB may not spend up to that in 2018 since it is expected to improve on the template from this year to attain this goal.

In his address to stakeholders of JAMB at a recent meeting for reviewing the conduct of the 2017 UMTE and preparations for the following year’s exam, the Registrar explained the reason he had chosen to lead by example. He alluded to the Change Begins With Me mantra of the Federal Government, stressing, Change Begins With Me campaign is not only a slogan, it is already a way of life which we believe in and which we have adopted as our guiding principle.

JAMB is not only excelling in the area of prudence, accountability and transparency. The Board has started re-inventing the future of Nigeria by curbing corruption maximally at the level of writing of examinations with more of candidates being inculcated with the spirit of hard work, self confidence and adequate preparations before every examination.

Years before now, examinations written in Nigeria at all levels had been characterized by brazen malpractices. Schoolteachers had been in collusion with invigilators and parents to allow impersonators write examinations for academically deficient students. Female students had severally been caught stuffing exam answers in the innermost part of their bodies, and had recourse to blackmail when exposed. There are reports of magic centers too, which no invigilator or examination official dared to visit during examinations, mostly JAMB, WAEC, NECO and others. The effects have been disastrous for Nigeria. Those who exploited the weak examination systems had secured employment into sensitive places, using the old power of corruption. Today, the system of Nigeria hardly runs unless oiled with brazen and sickening touch of corruption. JAMB has started changing the narrative, just as the 2017 examination it conducted was reported to be 98 percent free of malpractices.

In the 2017 examination, JAMB simply deployed Information Technology to halt corruption and all forms of malpractices. Its closely knitted synergy with GSM networks providers made this easy. Before the examination, JAMB created 642 Computer Based Test centers (CBTs) to administer examination for over 1,722,236 candidates, the highest ever in the history of the Board. Each of the CBT Centers had CCTV cameras to track down registration and examination malpractice within and outside exam halls. In the process, it was easy to weed out Centers that indulged in irregularities and malpractices. Today, all candidates must register under the lenses of the CCTV camera just as the footage is uploaded to the Board Headquarters for close monitoring and future references. Indeed, there is nothing stopping JAMB from improving on the feat it attained this year.

If other government agencies must learn from JAMB, their focus should be on necessity for immediacy in execution of plans and table-tables. For instance, JAMB has already set machinery in motion for conduct of the 2018 UMTE. In reviewing its omissions and successes during the last examination, the Board is planning to spend far less than N500 million to conduct the next UMTE. By implication, JAMB is expected to remit more than N5 billion into the federation account next year!

In essence, leading by example as demonstrated by an agency like JAMB is an unassailable way of re-inventing Nigeria. Individuals, groups and most especially government agencies should start emulating JAMB to change the narrative about Nigeria being irredeemably corrupt.

Samuel, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja.

Posted On Saturday, 29 July 2017 00:13 Written by
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