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Remembering The Quintessential Revolutionary Strategist Chima Ubani

 

By Uzo Maxim Uzoatu

 

It’s crucial in this charged season that a good number of clowns in the name of politicians are toying with democracy in Nigeria that one remembers the departed one: Chima Ubani. A crusader, organizer, activist, revolutionary, hero, strategist, and above all else, a passionate human being, Chima Ubani died on September 21, 2005, in the struggle for the enshrining of true democracy in our dear country. He was committed to mother earth on Thursday, October 27, 2005. It does not make sense at all to write about the great one in the past sense. He is destined to live eternally.

Yes, Chima died aged only 42, but he recorded enough achievements that could last others for two lifetimes. He died in a motor accident around Potiskum, Yobe State, on Wednesday, September 21, 2005, alongside the deputy photo editor of the Vanguard newspapers, Tunde Oyeleru. Chima was on his way to Yola from Maiduguri after a hugely successful rally staged to protest the fuel hike by the anti-people Obasanjo government of the time. He had the option of traveling in the plane with the then Labour leader Adams Oshiomole – who later became Edo State Governor and now chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) – but Chima, characteristically, selflessly gave up his seat and ended up traveling in Oshiomole’s marked jeep. The rest, as they say, is history. It suffices to say that Chima did not die in vain.
He put his heart and soul in the struggle, and died for others. He was without a shadow of doubt the greatest strategist in the Nigerian league of activists. It was Chima who initiated the 5-million-man march that dimmed Daniel Kanu’s One-million-man march for General Sani Abacha’s self-perpetuation in power. The activists of the military era such as Olisa Agbakoba were always beholden to Chima in the marshalling out of strategies for the struggle.
Chima actually studied Crop Science at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he revolutionized the student union movement. He joined forces with comrades such as Olu Oguibe and Emma Ezeazu to rouse the hitherto sleeping campus. He gave revolutionary impetus to the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). He upped the ante of the struggle when he joined the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) and rose to become the body’s Executive Director.
He matched eloquent theory with effective praxis. He was slight of build but what he packed inside of him moved mountains. He was a born leader whom all followers were compelled to listen to. He never disappointed in all his callings, and his passing was a deathblow to principled struggle in the country.
It is so sad that such a devilishly arranged accident could take Chima away from our shores. If he had been alive today, some of the clowns prancing around as presidential candidates would have been put on the run for their dear lives. The incumbent president and the ill-assorted assemblage of pretenders can only have very sleepless nights in their pathetic prancing. Chima in his life never suffered such fools gladly.

General Ibrahim Babangida, for instance, cannot forget the name of Chima Ubani in a hurry. The SAP riots during his regime as military president owed all its success to the input of Chima Ubani who liaised with committed comrades across the nation to put the fear of God into the very heart of the military dictator.
Not even being jailed by the Abacha junta could quench the fire of Chima Ubani. He was captured and dumped in the dungeon but he at no time betrayed his comrades. He came out to restart from where he stopped. He lamented that the struggle should not just stop in sacking the military. It was his idea that the opposition must get organized to take power.

It was in his determination to seize the power game that he formed Democratic Alternative (DA). He felt that it was the complacency of the truly progressive revolutionary forces that has left the conservatives to play tango with the destiny of the nation. His Marxist grounding informed his astute understanding of society, and his life’s ideal was to see labour topple capital.
He left a young wife and young children behind, and it is incumbent on all of us who are still on this side to make sure that the struggle succeeds at last for the benefit of this long-suffering country.

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As Nigeria gets set for presidential campaigns

By Chidi Odinkalu

The mantra of candidate Muhammadu Buhari in the campaign that eventually took him to Nigeria’s presidency in 2015 was one word: “Change”. For a fact, it was not original. Thirty-two years before 2015, in the 1983 presidential election, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s Nigeria Peoples Party, NPP, first deployed that slogan in their unsuccessful bid to make President Shehu Shagari a one-term president.

 The moment then seemed ripe for that message. Under the watch of President Shagari’s National Party of Nigeria, NPN, a unique mixture of poor luck and official criminality conspired to bring Nigeria to its knees. The desire for change seemed very real but then the NPN did not plan to quit power and its opponents were too divided to offer any potent threat. So ,Shagari managed to increase his share of the announced results from 36% in 1979 to 47.5% in 1983. Nnamdi Azikiwe, despite the resonance of his slogan, only ended up with 13.99%.

Muhammadu Buhari, then a Major-General in the Nigerian Army, decided thereafter to procurewith the gun what the opposition could not with the ballot box: he ousted President Shagari in a military coup. Having taken power as a soldier from Shagari in 1983, Buhari went back to the future in 2015 to purloin the mantra of the NPP. It is doubtful whether Buhari knew in 2015 that his slogan was a genuflection before the altar of an “Igbo party”, which was how many people viewed the NPP.

 To be fair, it was not only President Buhari’s All Progressives Congress, APC, that cannibalised the remains of the NPP in 2015. The NPP’s party slogan was “Power to the People” which the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, had stolen at inception in 1998. So, going into the 2015 election, the two leading parties drew their inspiration from one source.

The real challenge in 2015 was one that is all-too-familiar in African politics: an anti-climax of fulfilled political expectations. The ruling party had been so long in power, it had no effective plan for transition into opposition and the opposition party had become so comfortable in that role it did not prepare for governance.

 The electorate had to take considerable responsibility for this. People were so enamoured of the unproven powers of the Buhari magic, they decided not to bother with asking him to explain what kind of change he meant. It should have been evident to anyone who cared that “change”, is value neutral. It implies motion without necessarily promising movement or progress. Its direction can be negative or positive. It has precisely the kind of laconic quality to empty it of any clear commitment. With the promise of “change”, candidate Buhari promised everything while simultaneously committing to nothing.

Four years later, when he ran for re-election, President Buhari reached back into precisely the same bag of trickery, promising “next level” without indicating “of what?”

 In less than four weeks, on September 28, 2022, the campaign season for the 2023 presidential election will begin. If Nigerians are not to fall into the same error as in 2015, when the electorate seemed hynoptised into choice without information, then in 2023, there has to be a concerted effort to get clarity concerning the positions of leading candidates on the issues that matter.

It is a measure of the misadventure that has been the Buhari presidency that the two issues that arguably did more than any others to persuade Nigerians to his corner will not much bother most people in 2023. One is integrity and the other is corruption. On both issues, the Buhari presidency has been characterised by “a yawning gap” between rhetoric and reality, which has spawned a rich supply of choice epithets from “a fraud” to “dishonest integrity”. Many believers, shell shocked from the duplicities of this Buhari era, seem to have decided that they will not mind capable rogues who can get things done.

 

 One is coexistence. It has become cliched that Nigeria has not been this frayed since the end of the Civil War in 1970. The major reason for this is that President Buhari, in the memorable words of former military governor of Kaduna State, Col. Abubakar Umar, has profoundly “mis-managed Nigeria’s diversity”. As a testament to this, on the approach to the 40th anniversary, the landscape of the 2023 elections could potentially reprise the 1983 elections. There will be two major candidates from the South, one from the North, and an unending supply of dog whistle. It will be a brave candidate who campaigns boldly on a message of coexistence. But maybe such is the kind of candidate that the country needs at this time. Every serious candidate needs to be pressed on this point.

Two, what is the value of a Nigerian life? By the most conservative counts (based on open sources), 5,797 persons in Nigeria have been killed in the first half of this year but the numbers do not do justice to the desperate straits in which the country finds itself. We have become used to the president neither acknowledging the human abattoir that the country has become under his watch, nor having any interest in empathy or fellow feeling. This indifference has set the country asunder when it should be coming together against the common threat of insecurity. Economic activity has been blighted and a nation-wide food security crisis could be imminent.  In many cities, such as Kaduna in the North-West and Jos in the North-Central, going from one part of the city to another could be a death sentence. Even the uniformed security services are struggling to protect themselves. Each serious presidential candidate must be prepared to show from the first hour of office what they propose to do to alleviate insecurity.

Three, how will the Commander-in-Chief optimise the security services? This is probably the most important job of a president. It is also the one that the present incumbent has proved most inept at. Under him, the Federal Government retrenched the police, transferring its responsibilities to the armed forces. When he addressed the cohort at the National Defense College in 2017, then Interior Minister, General Abdulrahman Dambazau, described the situation of the country as “military operations other than war, MOOTW” and proclaimed the doctrine that the armed forces are now “spearheading all internal security operations due to the fact that the Nigeria Police is no longer in position to handle such matters effectively.” As proof, today, the army is actively deployed in all 36 states of the Federation in 18 special, expeditionary theatres. What this means is that the army is too stretched to be effective against threats upon the homeland, while the police is too demoralised to do its primary task of safeguarding law and order. Every serious candidate must have a plan to reverse this and make the security services fit for purpose.

Four, the economy will require attention in respect of both monetary and structural reforms. The president who will be inaugurated on May 29, 2023 will not have the luxury of a honeymoon. He’ll have to confront a disabling debt overhang, the removal of petroleum subsidy, a fiscal cliff, and a national currency in free-fall .

Five, to make progress on the above four issues, every serious candidate has to answer the question: are you prepared to serve only one term? This is not a matter of political convenience or deals. Rather, any president who desires to make progress on these must be prepared to confront committed blowback. If they are too in love with a second term, then the first term will be wasted. This indeed may be the defining issue of all.

 

*A lawyer and a teacher, Odinkalu can be reached at chidi.odinkalu@tufts.edu 

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The Cemetery Of Corruption Called Nigerian History

There is talk here and there of bringing back History with a capital “H” in the Nigerian school curriculum. It is cool by me to do a short history course with the ruling party, APC, and President Muhammadu Buhari. Necessary lessons need to be learnt before the elections that will lead into the next dispensation of Nigeria’s much touted democracy. To start back in time, Nigeria’s first coup as arranged by Emmanuel Arinze Ifeajuna, Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, Adewale Ademoyega etc. did raise the issue of corruption as a major prong of why they struck to sack the First Republic. The entire coup attempt got mired in the corruption of ethnic politics until there was the bloodier counter-coup.

Of course the Nigeria-Biafra war supervened, and after the war, Nigeria’s first president, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe proposed the adoption of the theory of Diarchy in which the soldiers would be sharing power with civilians. Despite the denials here and there, Diarchy has been Nigerian game over the years in the name of democracy.  The Nigerian military enjoyed a long stay in power until the Second Republic was inaugurated in 1979 with Alhaji Shehu Shagari as President.

 

The military overthrew the civilian government on the last day of 1983 with the selfsame charge of corruption ruling the airwaves amid martial music. Incidentally, Buhari who is back in power today with the mantra of corruption in his every utterance. It needs to be stated that the corruption in his civil democracy of today trumps the corruption of the opposition politicians he jailed back then as a military ruler with uncountable years of imprisonment.

A major player in the Second Republic, Alhaji Umaru Dikko who had escaped to London, gave a countering press conference that corruption was only a smokescreen for the coup.  According to Umaru Dikko, the soldiers took power because they were angry that the then ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) had paved the way for Vice-President Alex Ekwueme, an Igbo from the former Biafran enclave, to succeed Shagari as President. Buhari arranged a bungled attempt to put Umaru Dikko in a crate to bring him back to Nigeria to be tried for corruption.

The other dimension was that the military bigwigs did not find it funny that Shagari pardoned the Biafran leader, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, and brought him back to Nigeria from Cote d’Ivoire in a blaze of overwhelming fanfare. When the Second Republic was overthrown Ojukwu was put away in prison by Buhari even as the former Biafran leader held no political post. Even as the military took power touting Buhari’s integrity, the army boys would soon overthrow him with the charge that he suffered from the corruption of parochial and prebedalism that ran counter to the largeness of the Nigerian enterprise.

The military brought forward Military President Ibrahim Babangida to dominate the Nigerian space with political mumbo-jumbo, economic hocus-pocus and not a little corruption thrown in as state policy. It became quite clearer than structural adjustment that the military brass-hats could jump higher heights of corruption than their civilian counterparts.

Babangida succumbed to final disgrace when he annulled the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by his bosom friend Bashorun MKO Abiola. Amid nationwide riots, Babangida quit power after cobbling up a very wobbly kind of “Diarchy” featuring Chief Ernest Shonekan and General Sani Abacha. It did not take daredevil Abacha any time at all to kick out the overmatched Chief Shonekan. Whatever the civilian politicians achieved in corruption was eclipsed by Abacha because after his death his loot was so much that it forced open even the secrecy of the secret vaults of the Swiss banks!

 

Upon the dubious death of Abacha, the military knew it had lost all respectability for staying in power, and the military honcho had to recruit its retired type, General Olusegun Obasanjo, to take over as civilian president in 1999.

It is a well-known Nigerian fact that the more things change, the more they remain the same. That is why the legendary musician Fela Anikulapo-Kuti will never truly die so long as his album “Army Arrangement” still plays, and his lines such as “Soja don put everybody for reverse” remain on the lips of Nigerians.

When Obasanjo had to leave power “against his personal wish and desire” after his Third Term bid failed, he brought to power an ailing civilian, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who of course died on the job.

The next civilian on the line, the then Vice-President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, met with all makes of obstacles before he could replace the dead man as President.

The Jonathan presidency was so harassed and openly told that Nigeria would cease to exist if he ever won re-election.

Buhari became touted as the godsend of change, but old habits die hard, and the old reasons for which he was overthrown by his military compatriots back in 1985 manifested with bewildering crudity in a so-called democracy.

Now Nigeria is back to worse than square one in the new season of electioneering with hardly any lessons learnt from history other than corrupting the hallowed name of democracy.

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ABIA AT 31, A GARMENT OF SHAME

By Chukwuemeka Igu

Thirty one years ago, the dreams and aspirations of illustrious, selfless and visionary sons of ours came to fruition as the then military head of state, General Ibrahim Babangida approved and created Abia State. The announcement was received with excitement, joy and enthusiasm.

As a young state, there were loads of expectations, hope and projections. But alas, the state has remained in the doldrums of underdevelopment, economic mismanagement, infrastructural rot, executive recklessness with impunity and above all, zero regard for the people’s welfare.

Government after government in the state have run the affairs of the state in a rented apartment. While those at the helm of affairs have built mansions for themselves within months of taking over the mantle of leadership, non has deemed it fit to built a government house for the state. We have spent billions of naira in paying rent, which would have been enough to give Abia a befitting government house and reduce government expenditure.

For thirty one years, Abia State cannot boast of an airport. Successive governments have not made any attempt to give the state at least a local airport, while our neighbours like Akwa Ibom, Imo, Cross River and Rivers all have airports which is as well a huge source of revenue for their respective states.

For thirty one year, Abia could only manage to build one flyover which took the present administration of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu close to seven years to build. What a shame! Abia became a laughing stock among the comity of states in Nigeria. For thirty one years of our existence as a state, Abia has not been able to boast of quality road network. One can boldly say that Abia has the worst roads in the south east if not in the entire country..

Payment of workers’ salary, pensions and gratuities has been a problem despite the huge federal allocation to the state. Abia earns higher than Ebonyi, Enugu and numerous other states in Nigeria due to the oil deposited in the state, plus its internally generated revenue, yet we have never had a time when workers were paid as and when due.

Abia primary and secondary school pupils and students in public schools still pay school fees which has been a thing of the past in other states. Public school teachers in Abia are always on strike due to non payment of salaries. Recently, Abia State Polytechnic, Aba lost accreditation due to non payment of salaries. What a shame!

Abia State Hospital Management Board are owed up to thirty months of salaries, Abia State College of Education Technical, Arochukwu twenty eight months, to mention just few.

The late Dr Michael Iheonukara Okpara had a vision and laid a foundation for agricultural development to generate revenue, today, governor Okezie Ikpeazu has leased out those agricultural estates to his friends and political associates, namely, Abia Rubber Plantation, Amaeke Abam, Arochukwu, Abia cocoa plantation, Abia Palm, Abia Cashew, Ulonna Farm Settlement etc and the money went into private pockets.

Abia at 31 is still struggling to have a model capital city. One can say that the Okezie Ikpeazu led government is the worst thing that has happened to Abia State. While other governors are strategizing on how to give their states a face lift, Ikpeazu is busy chasing the wind, following governor Nyesom Woke of Rivers State around like a shadow.

To be candid, Abia has no reason to celebrate this milestone. Abia is a shame. This is not the Abia in the dream of our founding fathers. Every well meaning Abian must rise up and resist every attempt by Okezie Ikpeazu and his cohorts to install Prof. Uche Ikonne as the next governor of Abia State. Prof. Uche Ikonne is an accident waiting to happen.

We have had enough of clueless, irresponsible and wasteful administration. Time to make that needed change is now. We have suffered enough.

This is a new beginning. The night is far spent. Morning has come. We must wake up and do the needful which is to run these political thieves out of government and bring in credible, competent and visionary leaders. Time to act is now!

*Chukwuemeka Igu writes from Umuahia*

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The Cemetery Of Corruption Called Nigerian History

There is talk here and there of bringing back History with a capital “H” in the Nigerian school curriculum.

It is cool by me to do a short history course with the ruling party, APC, and President Muhammadu Buhari.

Necessary lessons need to be learnt before the elections that will lead into the next dispensation of Nigeria’s much touted democracy.

To start back in time, Nigeria’s first coup as arranged by Emmanuel Arinze Ifeajuna, Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, Adewale Ademoyega etc. did raise the issue of corruption as a major prong of why they struck to sack the First Republic.

The entire coup attempt got mired in the corruption of ethnic politics until there was the bloodier counter-coup.

Of course the Nigeria-Biafra war supervened, and after the war, Nigeria’s first president, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe proposed the adoption of the theory of Diarchy in which the soldiers would be sharing power with civilians.

Despite the denials here and there, Diarchy has been Nigerian game over the years in the name of democracy.

The Nigerian military enjoyed a long stay in power until the Second Republic was inaugurated in 1979 with Alhaji Shehu Shagari as President.

The military overthrew the civilian government on the last day of 1983 with the selfsame charge of corruption ruling the airwaves amid martial music.

Incidentally, Buhari who is back in power today with the mantra of corruption in his every utterance.

It needs to be stated that the corruption in his civil democracy of today trumps the corruption of the opposition politicians he jailed back then as a military ruler with uncountable years of imprisonment.

A major player in the Second Republic, Alhaji Umaru Dikko who had escaped to London, gave a countering press conference that corruption was only a smokescreen for the coup.

According to Umaru Dikko, the soldiers took power because they were angry that the then ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) had paved the way for Vice-President Alex Ekwueme, an Igbo from the former Biafran enclave, to succeed Shagari as President.

Buhari arranged a bungled attempt to put Umaru Dikko in a crate to bring him back to Nigeria to be tried for corruption.

The other dimension was that the military bigwigs did not find it funny that Shagari pardoned the Biafran leader, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, and brought him back to Nigeria from Cote d’Ivoire in a blaze of overwhelming fanfare.

When the Second Republic was overthrown Ojukwu was put away in prison by Buhari even as the former Biafran leader held no political post.

Even as the military took power touting Buhari’s integrity, the army boys would soon overthrow him with the charge that he suffered from the corruption of parochial and prebedalism that ran counter to the largeness of the Nigerian enterprise.

The military brought forward Military President Ibrahim Babangida to dominate the Nigerian space with political mumbo-jumbo, economic hocus-pocus and not a little corruption thrown in as state policy.

It became quite clearer than structural adjustment that the military brass-hats could jump higher heights of corruption than their civilian counterparts.

Babangida succumbed to final disgrace when he annulled the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by his bosom friend Bashorun MKO Abiola.

Amid nationwide riots, Babangida quit power after cobbling up a very wobbly kind of “Diarchy” featuring Chief Ernest Shonekan and General Sani Abacha.

It did not take daredevil Abacha any time at all to kick out the overmatched Chief Shonekan. Whatever the civilian politicians achieved in corruption was eclipsed by Abacha because after his death his loot was so much that it forced open even the secrecy of the secret vaults of the Swiss banks!

Upon the dubious death of Abacha, the military knew it had lost all respectability for staying in power, and the military honcho had to recruit its retired type, General Olusegun Obasanjo, to take over as civilian president in 1999.

It is a well-known Nigerian fact that the more things change, the more they remain the same. That is why the legendary musician Fela Anikulapo-Kuti will never truly die so long as his album “Army Arrangement” still plays, and his lines such as “Soja don put everybody for reverse” remain on the lips of Nigerians.

When Obasanjo had to leave power “against his personal wish and desire” after his Third Term bid failed, he brought to power an ailing civilian, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who of course died on the job.

The next civilian on the line, the then Vice-President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, met with all makes of obstacles before he could replace the dead man as President.

The Jonathan presidency was so harassed and openly told that Nigeria would cease to exist if he ever won re-election.

Buhari became touted as the godsend of change, but old habits die hard, and the old reasons for which he was overthrown by his military compatriots back in 1985 manifested with bewildering crudity in a so-called democracy.

Now Nigeria is back to worse than square one in the new season of electioneering with hardly any lessons learnt from history other than corrupting the hallowed name of democracy.

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ASUU, Buhari and his cocky education ASUU

By Martins Oloja

There have been several rhetorical questions on this page – from whether President Muhammadu Buhari would be able to make history to if there would indeed be some redemption songs for the president who has barely nine months and nine days to return to Daura or Kaduna. Verily, verily there is a sense in which one can read some writings on the walls and conclude that the lanky General can’t make history anymore. He never listened to the lyrics  of all redemption songs renditions for the past seven years and three months.

All I have to say now is a recourse to my February 18, 2018 reflection on “Thank God, Buhari Won 2015 Election” (https://guardian.ng/opinion/thank-god-buhari-won-2015-election/) without which the nation would have been engrossed in a mourning and lamentation over the best president Nigeria never had. All we have to say as a people now is ‘Thank you Lord for averting a disaster foretold by directing the steps of the then President Goodluck Jonathan to accept defeat unconditionally in 2015.

As I was saying, now we have seen through the Buhari’s much vaunted capacity, integrity, tenacity via the oratory and sophistry he has used to deal with banditry alone. We have seen how far he has managed fundamental objectives including ‘security and welfare of the people’ as the primary purpose of government he has led these past seven years.

All we can do now is to remind our leader some of the inconvenient truths he ignored at his take-off point. One of the truths he kept in the grave has been the quality of his cabinet he was allowed to make for more than six months in 2015.

This isn’t a piece to deconstruct that cabinet making at this time. There is a time for everything. There is indeed a time for progress report. But a question we will ask him about his cabinet at this time is why he chose an accountant turned journalist Malam Adamu Adamu as his minister to manage a complex and complicated sector, Education at this time. What can the nation recall as the focal point of the administration’s achievement in the areas of education, which is ‘the only source of labour that builds a nation’ as Tunji Olaopa, a retired federal permanent secretary and professor puts it in a recent book, titled, ‘The labour of our heroes…’Yes, it isn’t a time to assess the Buhari’s executive council of the federation (2015-2023).

But in view of what has been happening to tertiary education in the world’s most populous black nation, in the last seven months when all public universities have shut down, and our children in those universities have been at home and their teachers have endured hunger and thirst, is our president proud of the ‘effectiveness and efficiency’ of his minister of education whose statements have so far been toxic in this current ASUU-FG crisis? Why hasn’t the President been personally involved in this negotiation even through the Vice President, a professor of law who was at the University of Lagos?

How did the president feel when he read or heard about the Minister of Education’s outrageous message to the university students to sue the striking lecturers for wasting their time?

What should we the parents of these hapless children do to the minister (Adamu) for the seven years the locusts have eaten out of education in his feeble and lazy hands? When should we the parents and voters sue the President who has continued to keep this minister in charge of Education of this great nation? The last time we heard from the minister on this crisis was when he walked out on student leaders who met him and reminded him of his responsibility to them.

What did the President tell the Minister when he watched the video coverage of Adamu’s walk-out on the students? What did the President do when another Minister denigrated the ASUU members recently at the inauguration of the APC presidential candidate’s campaign officers where the Minister, Festus Keyamo, (SAN) was quoted as saying, ‘let’s discuss more serious things, ASUU’s case isn’t a serious thing’? How does the president want the world to regard him as the leader of ‘the richest’ and most populous African nation that would allow its public universities to be closed for more than six months?

Even if the university teachers have crossed any redline, whose responsibility is it to call them together as the father of the nation? What kind of leader would allow higher education teachers to be treated shabbily like this? Should we understand the current complacency of the Buhari’s government towards education to mean that the President doesn’t have good people around to tell him the truth about the implications of his inaction and the attitude of his education minister at such a time as this?

Why would a leader tell university teachers to go to hell and they should go hungry for seven months without pay and they would like to seek rapprochement with them and the parents of the students Adamu is challenging to sue their teachers? Again, where is Nigeria’s National Assembly at this critical time? Why are our representatives just concerned about the next election without caring a hoot bout the next generation of leaders? Are the suffering and malnourished students of today not going to be the leaders of tomorrow?

How many of the more than two hundred million people would have the resources to send their children to good schools abroad as our leaders are apparently doing today? Are our leaders aware that most of our university lecturers in science and technology schools are relocating abroad in search of greener pastures?

Does the education minister tell the president and some Labour Ministry’s arrogant negotiators that most serious nations, especially some in Nordic countries pay teachers better than other public officers because they believe that only qualified and satisfied teachers can produce better graduates?

Aren’t they aware that in the United States, which is still proud of its exceptionalism on all fronts, public officers including policy makers are still concerned about the fact that their American children (students) are well outside the top-ten international student rankings in reading, science and mathematics apart from the nation’s position of leadership on everything from the economy to the military to issues of moral authority?

They (Americans) are beginning to argue that their rating “will continue to plummet unless we take dramatic action…”. Michelle Rhee, a former chancellor of Washington D.C., public schools from 2007-2010, now a driving force behind American education reform, has already written a classic on this development, titled, ‘Radical: Fighting To Put Students First’.

The founder and CEO of ‘StudentsFirst’ has drawn attention to the fact that although the United States is well known as a world leader in innovation, boasting of brilliant thinkers and trendsetting companies, yet there is a fact that, that status is at grave risk because American children are getting outside the top-ten international student ranking. The power behind Samsung, a global brand is South Korea, with a population of 51.3 million.

They have more than Samsung to export to the world because of the power that quality education that they take seriously has given them. They are among top-five countries with excellence in Research and Development (R&D) funding in global context. That is their power. You can make the same claim of Singapore. The economic power of Singapore isn’t tied to any extractive industry. It is only linked to their intellectual power. Yes their brainpower through education quality their legend, Lee Kuan Yew bequeathed to them.

There are more examples of these powerful countries. How many times shall we write that there is a nexus between the economic power of South Africa and the quality of its universities? It is not by accident that the best university in Africa in all global ratings is the University of Cape Town.

Is it not also true that of the top ten universities in Africa, most of the times, six to eight are in South Africa? What we are saying isn’t about setting up technical universities, agriculture universities, medical sciences universities, maritime universities, police and army universities that are underfunded and ill-equipped. This isn’t about the number of graduates in the country. It is about the quality of the graduates. It is about the capacity of the graduates to solve 21st century’s challenges in this age of the high-tech, digital disrupters.

This is why the Buhari government should note that although we are helpless now about what his administration has made of Nigeria’s Human Development Index (HDI) through education and health policy thrust, posterity will remember him as the leader who allowed insurgents called Boko Haram campaigners (anti-education campaigners) to destroy even foundation of education in his northern Nigeria and he did nothing for eight years to resolve the crisis of tertiary education he inherited. And so after May 29, 2023, we will remember to recall him and his education minister to account for what happened to higher education quality, the main weapon we need to resolve all other problems in the country.

Even if we are helpless, we will continue to recall that he also promised to solve the ASUU crisis he blasted his successor for when he was campaigning in 2015. He actually noted that his predecessor was quite irresponsible for failure to solve that same ASUU problem while wasting money in other areas including too many jets in the presidential fleet and leakage in oil revenue, unbridled fuel subsidy, among other wasters.

The Buhari administration should be told that we will continue to repeat the story I have told many times here about what any powers need to destroy any country. Yes, a south African teacher has said that you don’t need any atomic bomb to destroy any country. According to the teacher, all you need to do for the collapse of any country is destroying its education standards.

The following words posted by a teacher at the entrance gate of a South African university sums up where the Nigerian leader and his education minister are leading us: ‘Destroying any nation does not require the use of atomic bombs or the use of long-range missiles.

It only requires lowering the quality of education and allowing cheating in the examinations by the students.” The result is that: Patients die at the hands of doctors. Buildings collapse at the hands of engineers. Money is lost at the hands of economists and accountants. Humanity dies at the hands of religious scholars. Justice is lost at the hands of judges. Because, “The collapse of education is the collapse of the nation…”

And here is the conclusion of the whole matter: President Buhari should immediately direct his Education Minister, Adamu to swallow his pride and vanity and resolve the ASUU-FG avoidable conflict now or never. It has become a symbol of suffering and shame to the Buhari administration, which will in the end be blamed for the collapse of public universities in Nigeria.

 

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Beyond the Pyrates’ offensive song

 

By
Abimbola Adelakun

The viral video of the members of the National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) gyrating to a song about a presidential candidate’s health condition is a prelude to the satirisation that will still come as the 2023 elections draw closer. The song is about how a man who, despite his visible hand and leg tremors, insists on taking his turn at the presidency. Some have voiced disapproval at the indiscreet reference to debility. Thankfully, we have come a long way from when journalists were imprisoned for mentioning Gen. Sani Abacha’s health condition. These days, such talk is regulated by people who are concerned it violates cultural values.

Policing rhetoric in an election season so as not to offend delicate sensibilities is, well, a shortcut to shutting down legitimate issues. The Pyrates singing about the health condition of the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, whose aspiration to the exalted and stressful position of the Nigerian president is still valid critique, should not be shouted down just so we can preserve cultural mores. We are talking about a presidential candidate with apparent signs of frailty and senescence, who predicated his ambitions on no higher cause than his entitlement. Some might quarrel with the Pyrates’ style of expressing this issue but one cannot deny the substance of their observation. If we are not supposed to talk about his health now, what if he wins? Is it when he starts to travel outside the country to treat “ear infection” before we can justifiably agonise about our inability to learn from our own recent history? Since 1993, Nigeria has had at least six leaders. Three of them ailed—two died in office and one spent extended time in a hospital abroad. The uncertainty and the shenanigan in Aso Rock that accompanied the last days of one of them, President Umaru Yar’Adua, is enough reason never to overlook any presidential candidate’s health status.

Ideally, people’s state of health is their private business, but we cannot entirely avoid some thorniness during an election. Several objectionable issues will still arise and merely taking offence will not clarify much. The other day, some people took umbrage when Tinubu, while campaigning in Osun State in July, noted to their supporters that their opponents would “labour to death.” They complained it was a tactless expression of classism, although all I heard was the usual election season’s humorous turn of language to animate the people gathered on campaign grounds. If we choose to find offence in everything, we can also mischievously drag Tinubu’s comment further to observe that in a country with a high rate of maternal mortality, “labouring to death” is insensitive to women. We could do that or we could simply take it in our stride that election seasons are a time people duel through language. Distasteful or not, free speech is still—thankfully—free speech. Freedom is not freedom if someone does not push its limits.

We must not be naïve to merely frame the issues around the health conditions of politicians aspiring to critical public positions as a matter of cultural values while overlooking the crucial matter of public accountability. Our society tends to erect taboos around certain topics and thus forestalls critical questions. We should confront issues; we should ask the electoral candidates whether the conditions of their respective physical bodies can withstand the immense weight of the responsibility that their desired public office entails. What is at stake is not just the dignity of the said candidate alone. It is ultimately about the flourishing of the nation because when a leader is healthy, the nation is well too.

The presidency is one of the most difficult jobs in the world; demanding that whoever will man it must be in a reasonable physical shape is not unethical. For a country—and even continent—where our pathetic coterie of leaders frequently jets abroad for medical tourism, you cannot blame those who spoke up, especially when the candidate’s health challenges are already starkly apparent. The only line, I believe, should never be crossed is picking on children. There is no good outcome that can come from heckling minors. However, any adult who seeks elective office should prepare to be scrutinised without let.

In a clime like ours, where all politics is cynically oriented towards merely seizing power and maintaining political patronage, we cannot afford to ignore a presidential candidate’s health. Even if people refuse to confront it, we can bet that the political class is already working out the math for their own purposes and their calculations will surely haunt the president’s tenure. Both long- and short-term planning will be affected by how the power mongers, who surround such a president, estimate his longevity in office. Such a leader too will be paranoid and resort to deploying scarce resources to appease the restless forces who can turn his health issue into political capital. History is replete with such intrigues. Unfortunately, by the time all political power is directed towards protecting the president from the opportunistic vultures creeping around the corridors of power and waiting for that decisive moment when power will change hands in their favour, nothing will be left for the people.

Defenders of Tinubu on his health typically insist that the condition of his body does not matter since all that is necessary is his mind. They throw up this spurious argument as if his body stands apart from his mind. With the way they go on and on about how the functionality of his mind supersedes the state of his body, one would think it is possible to extricate his mind from his body and place it on a chair in Aso Rock. It is a dishonest argument. They know how the issue of the leader’s health has recurred in Nigeria and their wishy-washy comebacks are outrightly disingenuous. While I would concede that people with imperfect health conditions have a right to aspire to public offices, I also think there is enough lesson from our history to make us eschew sentiment and be circumspect.

I do not subscribe to tasteless jokes about disability, debility and death. Unless used on occasions where such humour serves as some form of therapy, it is pointless picking on people because of their health conditions. None of us, no matter how much our genetic composition has favoured us, will escape mortality. Any one of us can have our bodies broken by circumstances at any point. Sickness and death are no punishment for any sin; they are natural outcomes of being born and forced to live in this bag of flesh and bones we call our bodies. At some point, everyone alive at this present moment will eventually yield to the dictates of nature. Still, nobody should use moral blackmail to take the issues of a candidate’s health off the table.

Ideally, if someone can function effectively in an office, their physical challenges are not disqualifying. In societies where government functions are properly distributed and institutions are stable enough, the president’s health condition and attendant politics can be properly managed. Debility or old age alone does not disqualify people from public office unless it impairs their ability to discharge their duties. For instance, the current US president, Joe Biden, is well-advanced in years but manages to maintain an impressive record of achievements. Unlike the USA though, our society is not that well-organised. Here, the sun rises and falls on the whims of the president. Each time a leader has been sick, the politics of preserving their rule throws the country into disarray (especially when they have also had to embark on medical tourism). Besides, the challenges ahead of Nigeria in 2023 are so tasking that the last person that should occupy the presidency is someone who cannot withstand the immense pressure of that office.

The unease with making Tinubu’s health issues into a song is understandable but such modes of expression are also an established means of waging critiques against power and authority. If, instead of a song, the Pyrates had penned their observation like many of their commentaries on national issues, which they regularly post on their website as press releases, I doubt anyone would have had problems with it. The fact that making their criticism into a song got more attention than their other printed matter shows what must be done in Nigeria to get attention.

 

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What is going on in Rivers State is a misnomer.

By Yemi Adebowale

 

He enjoys grandstanding and all the attention that comes with it. This man also does virtually everything to the extreme. That’s Nyesom Wike, the springy and tyrannical governor of Rivers State. Few weeks back, he gleefully announced that his government had decided to award contracts for two additional flyovers in Port Harcourt. When completed, it would be his administration’s 12th flyover in three years.

Wike celebrates his bizarre investment in flyovers, saying, “It has undeniably laid a solid foundation for sustainable growth of Rivers State.” He adds: “It will be record breaking in the history of this country that a state government is able to embark on 12 flyovers, not in eight years. You’ll remember these flyovers started in 2019, my second tenure. It is not that we started in 2015. For you to do 12 flyovers in four years, I don’t see who has broken that kind of record.”

A record? Certainly, a naughty one. It is so sad that this man called Wike equates development with massive construction of flyovers. So sad, he doesn’t understand the meaning of human capital development. While he is busy constructing his bogus and extremely expensive flyovers, thousands of youths of the state are roaming the streets unemployed. He is unperturbed about this crisis. Wike is not working to harness these human resources by motivating the creation of jobs. Instead, he is talking about building more flyovers. This governor seems to have forgotten that he promised to employ 10,000 teachers, to ease unemployment, during his campaigns in 2019. So, when is Wike engaging them? All his energy and resources are concentrated on building flyovers in Port Harcourt. Wike’s projects outside the Port Harcourt/Obio Akpor axis are insignificant.

While Wike is building flyovers in Port Harcourt, public hospitals, roads and public schools across the state continue to depreciate. What is going on in Rivers State is a misnomer. It’s a shame that 99.9 per cent of homes in this rich state have no access to something as basic as public water. I need to properly situate what constitutes growth. To attain development, projects must be inclusive and people-oriented. Government must touch the lives of the people directly with quality healthcare, housing, education, water supply and passable inner roads. Government must also provide opportunities, human capital development and social security. Unfortunately, Wike does not understand this and has decided to largely concentrate on splendor projects. This is why he is spending over N100 billion on flyovers.

In this same Rivers State, where flyovers will gulp about N100 billion, the state’s pensioners are struggling to survive due to huge unpaid annuities. In fact, payment of pension and gratuities stopped immediately Wike became governor. The pensioners said some of them had not received one kobo from the state government since 2015. That’s the situation in Wike’s Rivers State. It has been over seven years of pummeling hapless pensioners. This is man’s inhumanity to man. This garbage is happening in a state that has been spending billions of Naira on flyovers.

It is also depressing to note that Wike has also been erratic on payment of salaries and promotion arrears to civil servants. At a point, he ordered a junk biometric test, and deliberately created payment delays…

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CAREER UNCERTAINTIES AND THE FUTURE OF MASS COMMUNICATION PROFESSIONALS IN A DISTRESSED ECONOMY.

By Chido Obidiegwu

 

“Daddy I want to be like you.They call you golden voice.You named me Diamond.I want to be called diamond voice.I want to be talking at events or radio or television like you.Please Dad allow me to study Mass Communication as you did”. That’s my first daughter Diamond Chimamanda speaking.

I refused and discouraged her resulting in a father versus daughter cold war.The war was raging when Prof. Angela Nwanmuo,the head of department of Mass Communication at Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu University,Igbariam invited me as a keynote speaker at her department’s students week event. She graciously gave me the latitude to speak on any relevant topic of my choice.That altercation with my daughter came handy and influenced my choice of the above topic.

I dissuaded my daughter from studying Mass Communication because of extant sordid experiences of Mass Communication professionals in Nigeria today ; be they practitioners of Advertising,Public Relations,Print and Electronic media journalism, other talk service providers and and their likes.

I therefore thought it germane to provoke thoughts and possibly instigate action towards battling the threats to my profession inspite of the diverse opportunities inherent therein.

To this end,I firstly diagnosed the fundamental problem which hinges on the deficiency in the curricular of our Mass Communication Schools.They are more theoretical than practical and are devoid of entrepreneurial armament.

The vexatious advent of social media which gave rise to upsurge of a colony of half baked ” influencers” whose main qualification is ability to own an Android phone and load in some data also came to the fore for scrutiny.
The disheartening demise of drives of Advertising Agencies,Public Relations Companies, Newspaper publishing companies ( especially government owned), irregular or in some cases non payment of salaries of the ones that survived, suffocating non payment for services rendered by government media houses by the governments were dexterously pin pointed.

I also brought to the fore the violation of creative concepts copyrights of practitioners by prospective clients as well as shortchanging of practitioners in their rightful placements and Advert commissions.

The perplexing abuse in the issuance of Radio and Television ownership licenses
to cronies,politicians and non professionals which has obviously affected industry standards was not spared in the intercourse.

Being an unrepentant solutionist advocate who would not want to be typed a prophet of doom,I posited that all hopes are not lost afterall.I marshalled out some postulations that could help in managing the perilous times we are in.

They include:
1.Expedient review of the curricular of Mass Communication schools to equip fresh practitioners with the weaponry to face the new world information,communication and technology order,become self motivated and gainfully employed entrepreneurs.
2.Collapsing and forging the plethora of professional Associations into a united pressure group to lobby and sponsor bills for the birthing of laws that will truly and genuinely professionalize Mass Communication professionals in the National Assembly. Some of the legislations to be pursued include and not limited to:

a.That Mass Communication professionals must head the media desks of all government Ministries, Agencies and Departments as well as similar units at all medium and large scale Corporate Organizations
b.Placements and Advert commissions must be specific privileges and preserve of professionals
c.Copyright laws must made effective to the letters on the protection of creative concepts and proposals developed by professional members
d.Professionals must be given the first right of refusal in the issuance of broadcast stations ownership licences while already issued licences not in use should be revoked
e.Federal and State governments and their parastarals must promptly pay for services rendered by their media houses to guarantee their survival
f.The social media law must be given greater bite and phangs and fake news culprits should be made to face the Law.

Concluding,I submitted that my recipes were not in anyway exhaustive or sufficient and urged my audience to devise their own approach to tackle the menace asphyxiating and harmorhaging our trade.

I also called for further studies or indepth research on the subject matter noting that”uncertainties can either enrich our lives or diminish our lives”.

I pray that the uncertainties we experience now enriches our lives such that I will be encouraged to reconsider my stance over my daughter’s desire.

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The Urgent Need For A Supplementary UTME 2022 Examination

By Uzo Maxim Uzoatu
There is a crying need for the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) to urgently undertake a supplementary Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) for the candidates who could not sit for the examination due to no fault of theirs.
It bears repetition that the 2022 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) left much to be desired as some centres could not sit for the examination while in other centres electricity and network problems made a mess of the process.
Even some of the candidates who sat for the examination in some other centres could not have their results published. It would be wrong of the JAMB authorities to end up punishing the victims due to no fault of theirs.
It is so unfortunate that this great tragedy is somewhat being swept under the carpet despite several protestations.
A typical example of JAMB failure occurred at 12 Noon on Tuesday, May 10, 2022 at the examination centre in Anplus International Services, via Afor Market Bypass, on Agulu to Nnewi Road, in Adazi-Nnukwu, Anambra State.
All the candidates could not write the examination, and all pleas to have it re-scheduled fell on deaf ears.
The plight of the candidates who were due to write the examination at Anplus International Services, Adazi-Nnukwu was not an isolated case as some other centres in the Awka/Enugwu-Ukwu area in Anambra State suffered similar fates.
It is in the light of these unforeseen failures, and the spirit of natural justice and equity, that this plea on the conscience of JAMB authorities is being made to set a supplementary examination for these helpless, frustrated, deprived and silently suffering Nigerian youngsters whose future is being toyed with.
It is incumbent on the JAMB leadership to act on the side of justice. The cries of the students and their parents and guardians should not be left unattended to. It goes against the grain for parents and wards to pay all the due fees only for their loved ones to fail without having to take the actual examination in the first instance.
It is not as if the supplementary examination will cost a fortune. All it would take is for the JAMB authorities to do a comprehensive stocktaking of the 2022 examination.
Every centre where there were issues should be identified. The candidates can then be invited to do the computer-based test (CBT) in centres where the computers function optimally.
The mark of greatness is to rise from failure. It is understandable that JAMB is facing enormous challenges given the undeveloped and underdeveloped telephony and internet penetration in Nigeria.
There is no need to duck from the challenges as if they never happened. It is by properly addressing the outstanding issues that JAMB will win the respect of the public. Pretending that matters did not go wrong in some centres is not the right way to go. Things can only go progressively worse if past wrongs are swept under the carpet.
As the old proverb stresses, “A stitch in time saves nine.”
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