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Perspectives

Interrogating the Abaribe declaration for Abia Governor

By Chido Nwakanma

 

Senate Minority Leader and Moral Authority Enyinnaya Harcourt Abaribe declared open the race for Governor of Abia State 2023-2027 on 24 December 2021 with a courtesy call and declaration of intent to the incumbent governor Okezie Ikpeazu. The statement was at the Umuobiakwa Palace or alternate government house of Abia State. Abaribe went with a 50-vehicle motorcade of party lords and influential stakeholders across the local governments of Abia State and the three senatorial zones. The Abaribe declaration deployed surprise as one of the tested principles of war.


After a gracious reception, even the state government seemingly gave vent to this surprise in a statement that bewailed the ambuscade. The information said the declaration is a distraction from work ahead of the Abia State government and its governor. Really? So, what has distracted the governor in the last six years of perceived poor delivery? Please!

Abaribe has taken the offensive. He has seized the initiative and needs to exploit it maximally. So let us do a SWOT analysis and look at the political, economic, sociological (ordinarily scientific), and territorial (PEST) circumstances of this crucial moment.


A key strength of Senator Abaribe is his earned moral authority as a voice for Ndigbo. The many platforms of Ndigbo in the social sphere have hailed his declaration and look forward to his victory. The calculation is to have Enyi Abaribe and Chukwumah Soludo leading the state governments in charge of the principal Igbo economic centres of Aba and Onitsha. Abaribe earned his pips by his moral stance and advocacy for Ndigbo in the Senate and public outings.

Political experience is another strength. Enyi Abaribe has been in the mix of Abia and Nigerian politics since 1999. He is now like a tested civil servant who knows all the plans, programmes, corpses, and cemeteries. He can use knowledge of the terrain and players to his advantage.


While the element of surprise offers a first-mover advantage, it can also be a weakness. Abaribe has shown his hand, and the opponents can mobilise and strategise for a counter. Note, however, that December 2021 is political December for the 2023 elections. The primaries of the parties will commence in February 2022. There is no time for dillydallying by others.

Abaribe’s 12-year stint in the Senate could also be a weakness. He has upheld party loyalty and has not been publicly pointing to other directions for the governments that have held Abia State down except for his battles with Orji Uzor Kalu, the originator of the failed governance template of Abia. Senator Kalu has been working overtime on infrastructure constituency projects in his zone. He has characteristically made fanciful claims of huge Federal Government expenditure and releases of up to N50 billion. Except that the claim sounds so much like the one he made about the infrastructure renewal at Aba ahead of the Federal Constituency elections, attempting to appropriate them to himself as initiator. It fell flat.

Another weakness will feature in the PEST analysis.
Abaribe could rewrite the political template of Abia State regarding the rotation of political offices. His quest represents the opportunity as each of the three senatorial zones has had its chance at the governorship. 2023 represents a fresh start. It is a challenging proposition, though.


The threats would come essentially from chinks in the armour. They include the aspirations of persons from other senatorial zones. The more insidious threat will feature his fellow Ukwa La Ngwa of the Abia South and Abia Central zones. Then there is the First Son, who has positioned himself as Speaker and Successor-Apparent over the years.

Then there is the hardy perennial Dr Alex Otti. He has contested twice. Some portions of the street claim that he lost only to electoral malfeasance both times. Expect him to join the race from the Bende Division after giving up h claim to Ngwa.

The political factors include how well or poorly Okezie Ikpeazu performs in the critical 2022 in the key areas where Ndi Abia have complained. They include essential roads of Aba, the much-beloved Ururuka Road that links Ikpeazu’s homestead and reminds the people of the heydays, and the main arterial road that cuts through communities in Abia North, worker’s welfare, and outstanding salaries and pensions. Therefore, it is understandable that Ikpeazu avoids open antagonism with his brother, the governor.

The political and environmental are intertwined. It will require deft advocacy and networking for one Ngwa to succeed another from the local government. Many arguments support and counter the proposition.

There is the internal matter of the Ukwa La Ngwa bloc. Abia State has two divisions of Bende and Aba. The Aba Division groups in the Ukwa and Ngwa. Together, the Ukwa and the Ngwa have the most significant number of local governments in the state. The cousins insist that the Bende Division has enjoyed 16 years of rulership through Orji Uzor Kalu and Theodore Orji. They want a reciprocal 16 years for the Aba Division. Fair is fair.

The internal challenge before Abaribe and his team is convincing the Ukwa to allow another Ngwa man to take the slot when they win the consent of Bende. A ready compromise would be for the Ukwa to take the senatorial seat of Abia South as a first step.

If Abaribe is leaving the exalted national platform for the governorship, he makes the point for rebuilding capacities at all levels of our political governance. It is even more so for our local governments that the governors and politicians have made suitable only for the dregs of the system. The local government narrative needs to change as a few people are doing.

Finally, candidate Enyi Abaribe would have the burden of expectation. His entry has raised the stakes. He would have to work hard in the next 15 months to justify those expectations by articulating a winning value proposition for the management of Abia State and its resources. To whom much is given, so much more should the citizens expect.

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SLAVERY & KLEPTOCRACY IN ABIA – EVEN THE ELITES ARE NOT SPARED!

By Stephen Eks

 

Abia is a state which has loads of potential to become the jewel of Eastern Nigeria. Unfortunately, it is a state under mental slavery, oligarchy, colonisation and hegemony. All these practices have resulted to what could be better described as kleptocracy. YES, KLEPTOCRACY is the form of governance that has been going on in Abia for years. It is one of the few states that have seen the worst forms of governance in the last two decades. Unfortunately, these forms of governance have not been imposed on the state by outsiders but by Abians. The Hausa-Fulani man is not responsible for our misfortunes.

Growing up as a child in Imo and then Abia:

I was born in a General Hospital Maternity and the General Hospital was my only hospital.

I went through public primary and secondary schools in Imo and Abia States. Private schools were few and unattractive.

I posted and received letters at Post Offices. Our PO Box was 19, Osusu, Isiala-Ngwa.

I witnessed teachers/civil servants buying cars and building houses. A prudent Principal used to own a storey building!

I experienced Ururuka Public Water Supply Scheme by the Hon Ururuka. I fetched water from Hon Appolos Njoku’s overhead tank!

I experienced House of Representative members do gigantic projects.

It was a day’s journey from Isiala-Ngwa to Ariaria, Cemetery and Ngwa Road Markets to purchase materials for returning to school, camp meetings and for Xmas shopping.
My mum will first sell her farm produce at Cemetry, buy provisions there, before we proceeded to Ariaria and Ahia Ohuru for the main shopping. All these happened in 1 day despite my mum pricing everything in A-Line. Roads were good!

I witnessed Local Government Chairmen having unarmed Police Corporal stand behind them during Children’s and Independence Days.

I witnessed School supervisors visiting our public primary and secondary schools to check our nails, our uniforms, our environments, observe our teachers teach and query the Headmaster/Principal. They were fearful days for the HM/Principal and staff.

I witnessed BATA Shoes, PZ, International Equitable, Dubic, Samsung and many other companies at Aba.

I witnessed civil servants being able to train their children in universities and afford decent living even after retirement.

I witnessed the era where people with proven history and pedigree outside politics won elections.

All these changed in 1999.

The emergence of self appointed oligarchs in our politics like the Almighty Ikuku has spelt doom on our once progressive state.

Abia citizens – young, old and elites, have been hypnotised with poverty. They see politicians as their masters while the politicians see them as slaves to be used anyhow.

Everything I wrote above while growing up has been destroyed by these self anointed oligarchs.

The worst part of it that Abians are not willing to free themselves.

Elites are bowing to them, educated ones are bowing to them. The elites are even afraid to speak up publicly.

Abia is now an Almajiri State where both the uninformed and elites kneel down at the tables of folks like Ikuku begging for crumbs and left overs!

The almighty Ibeku young oligarch is not mincing words publicly about his kingmaker status and his capability and desire to install both governor and deputy in 2023.

Who would believe that the man kneeling down before his god in this picture is a Local Government boss?

Is there any hope for Abia?
Where are the Abia elites?
The time to take back your state is today.
It is up to you to decide how to go about it!

But a saviour has EMERGED ABIA will be Salvaged, rescued and Delivered in 2023!!

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Release of Funds for the Payment of Staff of Some Parastatals: Ikpeazu’s Style is Cheap, Absurd and Unexcellency.

 

By. Ferdinand Ekeoma.

 

In the last few hours, the social media space has been saturated with the news of the reported approval given by the governor of Abia state, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu for the release of funds to some institutions in Abia state.

First, let me state that the approval if carried out to the latter would be a welcome development and a commendable relief, especially after the governor’s spokespersons and some loyalists had previously denied that such debts were being owed, and condemned those who called for the rights thing to be done. That the government backtracked to accept this undeniable responsibility is a thing of joy.

However, it’s sad that this uncoordinated, undemocratic and anachronistic style and strategy is being adopted in the running of the affairs of the state. What do I mean? Abia receives her statutory monthly allocation from the federal government which runs into several billions, and generates internal revenues from which the state is expected to meet her obligations, which include monthly payment of salary, unfortunately, the government consciously and callously abandon this responsibility, thus creating room for accumulation of unpaid salary arrears, and destruction of economic lives of the people, and suffocation of the economic growth of the state.

For example, the government agreed to a monthly subvention remittance of Ninety Million Naira (N90M) which amounts to an annual total sum of One Billion and Eighty million naira (N1,80,000,000) to Abia Poly which the institution would now add to her internally generated revenue to run the institution and pay salaries, unfortunately,the government doesn’t keep to her own side of the bargain, thus creating grounds for crisis and collapse of the institution.
Out of the One billion and Eighty million that Abia Poly was supposed to get this year, the school has got only Fifty Million (50 million)naira, which was released to them in November. So even if the 4 months subvention approved today by the governor is released, that would amount to annual subvention sum of Four Hundred and Ten Million naira only (N410, 000,000). So where did Six Hundred and Seventy Million naira (670,000,000) balance go to?

Abia Poly is not the only victim of this destructive manipulation, others include ABSUTH, ABSUU, School of Health, ASCETA, HMB, ASUBEB and pensioners who have been dying and leaving their unpaid pensions behind.

The implications of these wicked and unjust actions is that, these institutions are denied the necessary funds to meet their timely obligations like hitch-free and uninterrupted academic activities, research, payment of salaries, conduct of exams as at when due etc. Again, non release of these funds creates and enables such problems like distortion of academic activities, extortion of students, stagnation of economic activities of staff and students, avoidable indebtedness imposed on staff as they resort to borrowing, student and staff restiveness etc.

If one may ask; where did the government get the funds it approved today? Does the government not know that the value of salary arrears can never equal the value of salary paid at the appropriate time, because if the workers went borrowing, they would be expected to pay the accrued interest rate at the time of repayment.

I’m not an economic expert, and I do not claim to be one, however, these challenges do not require an economic guru to get them tackled; they only require seriousness and sincerity, unfortunately these virtues appear to be very scarce in the present government.

The government led by Dr. Ikpeazu should be gentleman and responsible enough to keep to its agreement and respect its words. Playing with key institutions that formm part of the foundation of our state is akin to trying to erase our real identity as a state.

Some of us are not talking because we are directly affected or because we are talkative who want to be heard. We are talking because we shall all be casualties, either now or later. We are talking because we want the right thing to be done in our state. We are also talking because silence would present us as either co-conspirators or cowards.

Ferdi,

Federal Government just released N18.2 billion to States of the Federation as bail out fund…..

Abia State just announced the parent of some month of accrued salaries with N3.2 billion. So, they still have N15 billion to share and loot as usual since they can’t pay even the Abia Poly..

I want to respond to that paragraph where you asked where the State Govt got the money ..

The air of arrogance with which the announcement was made is shocking.

To say that Abians were rejoicing for announcement of belated payment of part of workers earned but owed emoluments is insulting.

A sensible govt would have been apologetic about the issue and promise when the outstanding would be cleared.

This is not a favour from the government but an obligation owed the workers which the government failed to perform as and when due.
Learnt the money used in settling some of these arrears, is part of the#6b released by PMB to the state. The outstanding #12b will be released by Xmas. This is to say that the salary payment was facilitated by the “Fulani man” that hates Igbos

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Ikpeazu’s self-assault in the public arena

By Chido Nwakanma

 

Persons who defend Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu have come out with many angles and perspectives since his recent disrobing.

Ikechi Enwereji urges critics to criticise Ikpeazu with wisdom. What is the insight he proffers? He says that the poor state of things dates to 16 years before Ikpeazu. He then submits that Ikpeazu has done more of the Aba Roads than anyone before him.

“All the major failed roads that every Tom, Dick, and Harry is now pointing at, in Aba and other Abia roads, did not get worse during Ikpeazu’s time. They existed before he assumed office. The roads leading to my village, Umuola Okpulor (i.e. Ehere Road, Umuola Road, and other surrounding roads), got so bad that even plantain trees began to grow in the middle of the road. Today, the story has changed courtesy of Ikpeazu’s administration. I can drive through to my town unhindered because the roads have been reconstructed and so many others he has done.”

Enwereji submits that Ikpeazu’s opponents paid critics to raise the issues trending.

A key question to ask Enwereji is Who paid you to defend a governor who has failed expectations? Who is sponsoring you?

I am not too fond of the lazy imputation of motives to everyone with a contrary word. We can be more charitable.

The defence of blaming those before Ikpeazu is hogwash, does not hold. He is the man in office and has had six years to effect changes. You cannot praise him for the good he has done in those six years and then walk back sixteen years before him for his failings.

More significantly, our Governor should stand or fall on his record. How do you owe teachers, healthcare workers and more for more than two years? What is the excuse for such crass ineptitude in public administration? Would you please mount a robust defence for the Governor rather than this jejune stuff?

O C Charles shifted the blame to political appointees of the Governor. He said they should go to the media, buy space if necessary and defend the government.

Nice as it sounds, Mr Charles falls into a familiar fallacy. It is not the number and frequency of media appearances by aides that would change perceptions of the administration. Citizens are neither blind nor deaf. They can see, and they can hear what fellow citizens are experiencing. If a road is terrible, no number of media claims will change that fact.

Communication scholars can see in this position intimations of the discredited stimulus-response or hypodermic needle theory that ascribed more powers to media messages than it could carry.

 

What counts is action.

It counted for the Governor and the PDP during the Aba Federal Constituency by-election earlier this 2021. ABSG had newly fixed most of the roads, and they held the promise of a new vista.  Citizens could see. They reasoned it and did the needful.

 

Governor Okezie Ikpeazu brought current criticisms on himself. Ihu la ihe imere onwe gi public assault la ime onyonyo Channels TV?

First, the much-acclaimed Faulks Road reconstruction failed spectacularly less than six months after the opening. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall! This fall was the result of poor decision making in the choice of a contractor. I remember watching the governor heap accolades on the contractor. Official publicists rhapsodised about “rigid pavement technology” and how it would deliver roads of a minimum twenty years span. Note that this was not the contractor earlier advertised to do the job.

A similar failing is responsible for the embarrassment of the Ikpeazu Centre Table on the Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway. The bridge is too low such that it cannot take vehicles such as trailers and trucks. It is on a federal road, so the relevant authorities declined approval. Who chose the contractor? Who has failed to eat humble pie all these years to knock down the gada and rebuild it?

Ikpeazu went on air and made a mess of articulating his policy. Rather than speak to the strengths and high points of the state’s maternal care provisions, he spoke as one without a social filter. He boasted about giving N500 to newly delivered mothers. The incredulous interviewer asked, and the Governor boldly confirmed the figure. It is a shame that Abia State disdains the rural poor so much and puts salt on their wound with such miserly stipend supposedly as support.

That statement triggered attention to the many other sins of owing critical segments of the state’s workforce for two years. He is getting deserved public censure. Even the Buhari Media Group rose to six feet in tackling Ikpeazu!

Great expectations attended Okezie Victor Ikpeazu. He represented a geopolitical leaning. I was one of those who rejoiced and voiced these expectations.

One of the expectations was that he would change the narrative of Aba. Citizens are still waiting even as the ABSG tries to claim kudos for the Afrexim Bank approval of $50m loans to the power project in the city. They should know that the project Prof Barth Nnaji spearheads predates their office. Even so, Governor Ikpeazu deserves plaudits for helping to push that cause.

There are many causes and projects to push in Aba and Abia State. The Enyimba City project awaits delivery, as does the inland container terminal. Then ABSG made considerable noise about getting the oil firms to play fair with our folks at Owaza and the larger oil-producing Ukwa communities. Then silence.

Citizens did not expect Ikpeazu’s failure to build the new Abia State Government House, preferring to reprise a Camp Neya Igbere of a former governor with Camp Okezie in Umuobiakwa. Would you please achieve for the state before self?

Okezie Victor Ikpeazu has done well in many areas, including being Chief Brand Ambassador for ABA small-scale enterprise and fashion. Kudos. Unfortunately, he has scored Does Not Meet in critical metrics.

Ikpeazu and his team should change the narrative. He should increase the amount they give to mothers who deliver. Abia should pay teachers, healthcare workers, and all the other workers that Abia State owes. Ikpeazu should replace the Centre Table, fix the fault on Faulks Road, tackle Port Harcourt Road, and regain his pips and a good public standing.

 

TEXAS MAN WILLIE OBIANO AND ANAMBRA STATE

Did you hear the defence for Willie Obiano by the Anambra State Government? In defending the Governor against the media trial by EFCC, Anambra State Government worsened the matter.

The statement said Governor Obiano is away; he has four months to govern the state, after which he will return to his country, Texas, in the United States. The statement boasted that the Governor had already told the elders and leaders of Anambra State about his plans to abandon them.

Please understand the statement.

  1. It confirms that Governor Willie Obiano is regularly absent from running the government of Anambra State. He does so without formally handing it over to his deputy, as the constitution stipulates.
  2. Willie Obiano confirms that though he ruled over Anambra State for eight years, he does not consider it his home and will leave for his home state of Texas in March 2022.
  3. Obiano disdains Anambra and its people.
  4. Many traducers consider Obiano a failure, with statements and actions such as this as the trigger.
  5. It is about perception: people’s behaviour draws on their perception of reality, not reality itself.
  6. Sadly, the Anambra State Government has made this perception real.

 

 

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RIVERS 2023: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH 

 

“How many times must a man look up before he can see the sky? How many times can a man turn his head, pretending that he just doesn’t see” – Bob Dylan.

Aeleera!  Ozulem!  Ibite e!  Ibiam!  That’s the way Ogoni, Ikwerre, Kalabari and Okrika say “Enough is enough”.

Etche, Ekpeye, Ibani, Engenni, Ogba, Abua and Ndoni have words in their various native tongues, to say “Enough is enough”.

So are Egbema, Andoni, Ndoki, Odual, Degema, Omuma. They also have words in their languages to say “Enough is enough”.

Not four, not eight, not sixteen but twenty-four years by 2023. Rivers State has been adrift this long, yet we have not heard voices screaming Aeleera!  Ozulem!  Ibite e!  Ibiam!

 

WE ARE IN A SORDID STATE OF AFFAIRS 

It was Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the USA that said:

“The purpose of government is to enable the people of a nation to live in safety and happiness. Government exists for the interests of the governed, not for the governors“.

But in Rivers State like in the rest of Nigeria, the reverse is the case. The safety and happiness of the people have been subjugated to those of the rulers.

Rivers State governors since 1999 increase the cost of governance excessively. They build and furnish lavish residential quarters for all arms of government – Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. They expand their fleet of vehicles and approve large sums of money and mansions as retirement benefits for themselves. They legislate the massive plundering of public coffers into law.

The happiness and economic wellbeing of the people have since taken the back seat in governance. Vast majority of Rivers people are poor and homeless, the elderly are abandoned, our youths are jobless and a large percentage of our children are out of school.

Astonishingly, Rivers people are strangely silent. They are yet to yell Aeleera!  Ozulem!  Ibite ee!  Ibiam. They are yet to say in their various languages “Enough is enough”.

Since 1999, Rivers State has been governed by governors who didn’t tell the people anything before they became governors. Neither did the people ask for anything. They became governors and ruled the way they liked. They just govern like that … Just like that and the results are there for all to rue.

Rivers State that was once the envy of Nigerians on account of its peaceful ambience, beautiful culture and the general wellbeing of the people, has lost its glory.

Port Harcourt (the garden city) that was the second home for most Nigerians and an investment haven for multinationals is now a shadow of its former self.

Rivers State is now known for poor and brash political leadership. The state is ensnared by impunity in governance, lingering insecurity and general social disorder.

It is littered with dead and dying industries. Bedeviled by mass unemployment and sprawling poverty. It suffers from river and air pollution. Its critical infrastructure, like the Rivers State Secretariat Complex are in advanced stages of decay. Schools and hospitals are dilapidating.

 

BUT WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT TO SAY ENOUGH IS ENOUGH?

Confronted with the devastating effects of twenty-two years of rudderless governance (1999-2021), Rivers people are yet to shout, Aeleera!  Ozulem!  Ibite e!  Ibiam! They only murmur in their closets.

Traditional rulers, chiefs, elder statesmen, top politicians, entrepreneurs, men, women, market women and youths are yet to voice the deep anger welling inside of them. They are yet to scream “Enough is enough”.

Why are Rivers people so silent? Why are big politicians, rich businessmen and businesswomen, elders and traditional rulers quiet? Why do their hearts boil but their mouths shut? Why can’t they shout Aeleera!  Ozulem!  Ibite e! Ibiam!?

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated” – Thomas Paine (1776).

Rivers State is on the verge of a New Dawn that requires that we all stand up to be counted. We must therefore come together and scream on the rooftop that enough is enough.

Aeleera!  Ozulem!  Ibite e!  Ibiam! is our battle cry. It is our chant for 2023.

Tell it on the mainland, in the rivers and in the mangroves. Shout it in the city of Omoku. Publish it in the streets of Port Harcourt and Bori. Spread it in all the towns and villages. Write it on billboards, posters and flyers. Print it on T-shirts and face caps.

We must stand up and shout enough is enough to imposition of candidates in 2023. We must resist the flouting of internal party democracy by the so-called leaders of political parties. We must punish any imposition with the power of our votes.

We must scream Aeleera!  Ozulem!  Ibite e!  Ibiam! to another governor from Ikwerre ethnic nationality in 2023. Rivers State is a multi-ethnic state and all the component parts must have a sense of belonging.

The shout of Ozulem! should be loudest because the present crop of Ikwerre political elite are burning their candle from both ends. They are eroding the future of Ikwerre politics.

Ikwerre youths should shout Ozulem! on top of their voices. It is their political future that is being usurped by the current selfish political elite.

Rotation of the governorship and other political offices would ensure inclusiveness,  justice and peace in a multi-ethnic state.

However, rotation of political offices must not be at the expense of proven competence, quality and character. There are competent persons in all the ethnic groups in Rivers State. We must therefore reject mediocrity in governance . We must say no to the drafting of unwilling persons into leadership. Rivers State deserves the best.

Shout Aeleera! to the emasculation of Local Governments, the Legislature and the Judiciary.

Scream Ozulem! to secret budgets and excessive discretion in governance.

Yell Ibite e! Ibiam! to another four to eight years of poor governance.

These are the times that call for bravery and sacrifice. We have the power in our votes to make history in 2023.

In the next one hundred years, let this generation be remembered as having raised its voice to say “Enough is enough” when it mattered the most.

 

AELEERA!  OZULEM!  IBITE E!  IBIAM!

 

May God be forever glorified!

 

Sotonye Ijuye-Dagogo

28/11/21

 

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The Analogue President In Digital Wonderland

The 2023 presidential election is a make-or-mar moment through which Nigeria can either die permanently or enjoy a magical resurrection.

Nigeria cannot afford to lag behind in the age of digital democracy in which an analogue president will be totally out of place.

This is the argument of a boon companion of mine who just sent me a remarkable photograph of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in his heyday manning a laptop computer.
Some vociferous Nigerians adjudged poor Goodluck Jonathan as being so “clueless” that they replaced with an analogue oldie.

As they say, it’s only when a woman experiences marriages with two husbands that she can see the needed difference.

The word is out in enlightened Nigerian circles that the suffering-and-smiling country cannot afford to stay put in the dark days of computer illiterate-and-innumerate leaders.

Time was when all that defined the Nigerian leader was just his garish agbada and the sheaf of unread papers in front of him.
Now the leadership must perforce embrace the computer and the digital possibilities of the new age.

It had been Nigeria’s misfortune that since independence no Nigerian Head of State or President had been through the four walls of a university, except for the briefly tragic advent of the mourned ex-President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and of course Goodluck Jonathan.
It has to be stated though that just being to the university does not necessarily make a great leader.

Even so, not having a proper education is definitely not the best preparation for modern leadership.
One tries as much as possible not to keep going back to the colonial masters to source the blame for Nigeria’s many problems, but the evidence is all too glaring that colonial Britain never really wanted educated and aware leaders for this country.

Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was avidly hated by the British who ensured that the independence election was skewed to favour the feudalists.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s promotion of the ideals of free education was a threat to the neocolonial plans of Britain.
Working in cahoots with the feudalists, the Brits ensured that even when a military coup was staged to oust the inept civilian regime primordial concerns were smuggled in to disorient the entire nation.

It is remarkable that the major makers of the coup, notably, Majors Emmanuel Arinze Ifeajuna, Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and Wale Ademoyega were the intellectual lights in the then military.
Nzeogwu didn’t in fact reckon with the gumption of his advertised friend, then Major Olusegun Obasanjo; whence his decision not to inform him of the coup plans.

According to information now coming out about that first putsch, the coup plotters planned to bring Chief Awolowo from prison in Calabar and install him as the leader of the country.

The coup majors planned not to even take “No” for an answer from Awo; they would compel him to rule by decree!
Nigeria would thus have been offered an educated leadership such that laptops would have become the forte of succeeding leaders of Nigeria many moons ago.

We would not have needed to wait till way past the millennium to embrace the computer at the topmost echelons of Nigerian leadership, only to regress almost immediately after.

As events turned out, Major-General JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi who dislodged the coup-plotters was as lacking in grooming as the civilian leaders.

He was grossly unprepared for power and soon fell to the bloody counter-coup of the vengeful feudalists.
Education was thereafter effectively put on one side while the country blundered into civil war, and concomitant kleptocracy and kakistocracy!
The soldiers who boast of winning the civil war on behalf of Nigeria were at one in their lack of education and grooming.

They ran a “lootocracy” that all but grounded the otherwise richly endowed nation.
When the military brass-hats organized so-called elections for the return of the country to civil rule, they ensured that power was put in the hands of a reluctant Alhaji Shehu Shagari, a man who only aspired to go to the Senate.
Awo had said then in the course of the 1979 elections that he could only discuss the subject of education with Zik but definitely not with Shagari who had nothing to offer in that field!
The tragedy of Nigeria is that the supremacists who claim to know all that is good for the country could in all their years not see anybody better than Obasanjo to saddle with civil power in 1999.

Stuck in analogue backwardness, the country wasted eight years in which she would have shot straight into the stratosphere given the humongous amounts of money earned by the most populous black nation on God’s earth under Obasanjo.

Yar’Adua almost accidentally came along but death would not allow him to stay long enough to embrace the laptop and all the computer age goodies.
President Jonathan came along, ever more accidentally, and latched on to the computer essence and the singsong of digital presidency but then the 2015 analogue change happened, and Nigeria was taken to the next level of going back to worse than square one.
Analogue backwardness can no longer fly now that the 2023 presidential election is on.

Nigeria can no longer afford a grandee principal knowing next-to-nothing about the gizmos of the laptop, internet, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on.
Nigeria does not need an analogue president lost in digital wonderland.

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ARISE O RIVERS YOUTHS

You constitute 40 percent of the population and 50 percent of registered voters. You are between 18 and 35 years old. You are the spine of society. You are full of energy. Communities, churches, political parties thrive because of you. There is no future without you. The present relies on your raw strength and intellect.

You have gone through school and obtained certificates but you don’t have a job. Many of your mates didn’t have the opportunity to attend school to the level they desired. Some, for no fault of theirs, didn’t even have a good primary or secondary education.

You wake up each morning confused on how to begin another frustrating day. You go hungry all day and watch your siblings and parents go without food. You want to help but you have no way to earn a living. You take to begging. You are unable to live your age because you don’t have the finances to meet your obligations. You are stagnated and have become a man-child. A grown man that is still a child. You are frustrated and humiliated. What a wicked society!

You eke out a living by doing odd jobs. As a graduate, you ride Keke napep, Uber and Bolt. Some of your friends get roasted in the mangroves, boiling crude oil (Po fire). They risk their lives to survive. They pollute our rivers and air. They compromise the health of the rest of us.

Some of your schoolmates turn into yahoo boys, hacking online platforms and stealing from unsuspecting people. Some are area boys, others go into violent crimes like kidnapping and armed robbery. The girls are forced into barefaced prostitution or veiled whores – slay queens, selling their bodies to survive. Yes “bad boys will be bad boys” but in your case, you are forced into criminality by an uncaring society.

Like women and children that bear the brunt of societal dislocation, you are at the receiving end of the ongoing acts of crass irresponsibility by the political leadership.

Unfortunately, like the youths at the grassroots who ‘carry everything on their heads’ you are on Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter promoting the cause of your oppressors. You turn against yourselves fiercely, trying hard to prove to your so-called political leaders how much you do to protect them. Instead of channeling your energy to fight oppression, you hail the oppressors.

I HAVE SOME INFORMATION FOR YOU

It has not always been this way. Life was much better in my days. Primary education was free with books. No child paid more than fifteen naira in secondary school. Yes! You heard me, not more than N15 for tuition and boarding combined.

In university, I was on Rivers State scholarship (not bursary) and so were all other Rivers students. We had good meals at the cafeteria for 50 Kobo a plate. Real good meals. Rice, large chunks of chicken, fried ripe plantain and tea. Large pieces of meat and fish in our soups.

After NYSC, there were jobs for me to choose. I had an official residence in old GRA and a small car too. The same way I had a job when I left secondary school even before WAEC released my results.

Life was much better in my days, yet those before me, say that theirs were even better than mine. These were in the 1960s to the late 1980s.

I was in secondary school and in university when Commander Alfred Diete-Spiff and Chief Melford Obene Okilo were governors of old Rivers State respectively.

“Five years after the civil war, Diete-Spiff’s administration made Rivers State one of the top 3 of the then Nigeria’s 12 states, along with former Bendel and Lagos States. The Governor did not have a monopoly over control of government money and decisions. The Founding Fathers in the administration made sure that government invested state resources in industries and enabling infrastructures located in different parts of the state. Jobs were everywhere. He built the biggest and best assets in Nigeria in terms of human capital and infrastructures. There was no insecurity of lives and property in Rivers State”. – Amaopusenibo Bobo Sofiri Brown

Even then, we complained about inadequate amenities. But not in our wildest imagination could we have thought that Rivers State would degenerate to the current level. That unemployment will make university graduates, political thugs.

But “As time dey go, things just dey bad, they bad more and more” – Fela

Performance in governance declined drastically. Those in government failed to match Nigeria’s rapidly growing population with corresponding economic growth. Instead of promoting more investments in agriculture and industrialization, old investments were allowed to rot. The Trans-Amadi Industrial Layout is now a ghost town.

Unlike the governors before them, Rivers State governors, since 1999, in varying degrees, ignored real investments in education, health care, housing etc. Governors since 1999 had more money than their predecessors yet the lot of our people has never been this harrowing.

In Rivers State, almost every brand-new car on the road, every mansion in town and every lavish party are owned and enacted almost exclusively by former and current political office holders. They build sprawling estates and mansions at home and abroad; their children live and school overseas; even those who (before 1999) had never set their eyes on Lagos or Abuja, now own mansions in the big cities of the world.

“If your condition today make you shake, and you still not dey talk the way you feel, make you open your two ears very well, to hear the truth talk me I dey talk” – Fela

You have been reduced into agents of destabilization in the hands of the political elite who deploy you as attack dogs on social media and as thugs during elections. But you bear the brunt of poor political decisions.

“If you dey follow-follow, make you open eye, open ear, open mouth, open sense. Na dat time you no go fall” – Fela

You must organize yourselves and channel your energies to change the status quo and usher in a New Dawn. You must demand to know the plans, the proven competence, quality and character of the next governor. Don’t just support! Don’t just follow!

WHERE HAVE ALL THE YOUTH BODIES GONE?

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery (because) none but ourselves can free our minds” – Bob Marley

Where are the youth movements and youth councils? This is the time to emancipate yourselves. This is the time to starve for your tomorrow. This is the time to shun Greek gifts. Tell your mothers and sisters to reject the wrappers and rice. Tell your fathers to refuse the N5K. Tell them to starve for your tomorrow.

Youths have stood up to rescue this country in the past. The Nnamdi Azikiwes, the Obafemi Awolowos, the Anthony Enahoros were young people that spearheaded the fight for independence. Diette-Spiff was 25 years old when he was appointed military governor of old Rivers State. If they did it then, you can do it now. Arise o’ Rivers youths. The future is now!

Sotonye Ijuye-Dagogo
21/11/21

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A LONG LETTER TO RT. HON. CHIBUIKE ROTIMI AMAECHI AND GOVERNOR NYESOM EZEBUWON WIKE

Your Excellencies,

WE ARE AT THE THRESHOLD OF A NEW DAWN

In writing this letter, I know that you may never see or read it. I know that your supporters and aides who read this letter may never find the courage to bring it to your attention. And even if they do, Your Excellencies may wave it aside.

I hope however, that both of you will see and read this letter and that the content will appeal to you.

In any case, this letter speaks to Rivers people too. It awakens their expectations of both of you and where you fail, it inspires them to take their common destiny in their own hands.

Your Excellencies, I am able to write to both of you at once because you share a lot in common and because your political actions and inactions are of serious consequences for Rivers State.

One thing both of you share in common that places an obligation on you, is the incontrovertible fact that you are the biggest beneficiaries of the current democratic dispensation in the state.

Another thing that you have in common, which has tremendous potential to determine the future of Rivers State, is the fact that you are the leaders of the two dominant parties, the APC and the PDP.

Both of you had barely began life, so to speak, when the 1999 elections gave you the opportunities to become Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly and Chairman of Obio-Akpor LGA respectively. Since then and 22 years after and still counting, you have both become Governors of Rivers State and Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The political, social and economic privileges that you enjoy in a state of over five million people are legendary. You are under obligation therefore, to show gratitude to the people of Rivers State that have taken care of all your needs and wants for almost a quarter of a century.

I write this open letter to you, believing that you will be moved to reciprocate the uncommon benefits that our state has bestowed on both of you.

Your Excellencies, there is no gainsaying that our country, Nigeria has been plagued by poor political leadership at the national and subnational levels since independence with only one notable exception.

Unfortunately, Rivers State is not the exception because the lot of our people has nosedived uncontrollably for the worst.

Poor governance has created mass poverty and bred insecurity. A vast majority of Rivers people, especially our youths wake up each day into emptiness and helplessness, having nothing to do. Violent crime is now the order of the day. The strong terrorize the weak. The apparatuses of state are used to protect the strong.

Your Excellencies, this sad reality may be lost on both of you due to the deafening sound of praise singers who will be quick to say to you that you are the best things that have happened to Rivers State. No you are not and I do not blame you wholly for your not-too-good performances. You are products of a grossly defective political system.

The good news is that both of you are at the threshold of making indelible history if you align yourselves with the current wave of change and correct the evil system that has enslaved Rivers people and subjected them to scorn, pain and penury.

By the way, both you did better than your predecessor, Dr. Peter Odili, who as the first governor of Rivers State in the fourth republic, had all the opportunities to lay a proper foundation for good governance but failed woefully. For this, Odili has paled into political insignificance, kept afloat only by the magnanimity of Governor Wike.

Change, they say is the only permanent thing in life. After twenty-two years of the reign of impunity and dictatorship, Nigeria is at threshold of change. The country is reforming its electoral processes in order to cede more powers to the people. This is evident in the adoption of the electronic transfer of election results and the mandatory direct primaries.

In Rivers State, the people are fed up and angry with the political class that has taken them for a ride for too long. There is revolt in the air. The pent up anger is palpable and it is gaining expression. 2023 will be a decisive year whether both of you like it or not.

However, as leaders of the two major political parties, you are in the best position to facilitate this change with easier efforts and without violence and bloodshed.

I therefore call upon you to take on the challenge and engrave your names in gold.

If you heed this clarion call, you will go down in history as persons who read the signs of the time. You will be remembered by posterity as persons who led their angry compatriots from political slavery to emancipation, even though you largely contributed to their woes.

But if for any reason, you decide to stand against the strong wave of change; if you decide to throw away this golden opportunity, the change will still happen in spite of you.

Then you be remembered forever as persons who held sway in the years of impunity, wastage and brigandage, in the era when vagabonds, mercenaries and hoodlums ruled and pillaged Rivers State.

Before I forget, this is a second chance for you my friend Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi. Second chance because providence has given you another opportunity only as leader of APC in the state. You had the opportunities as governor to lay a solid foundation for democracy and good governance but like Odili, you failed.

CLARION CALL

Firstly, I call on Your Excellencies to drop your opposition to the Mandatory Direct Primaries provision as passed by the National Assembly. In making this call, I understand how you both feel about the prospect of direct primaries.

You love the current system where nobody in Rivers State gets into elective or appointive political position without your approval. You consider this as a way to assert your authority as governor and/or as the leader of your political party.

You confiscate the powers of your party men and women, denying them the right to aspire into elective offices. You deny them the right to nominate candidates too.

I have carefully looked at the reasons you proffered against mandatory direct primaries and have come to the conclusion that the reasons you gave amount to nothing when compared to the benefits.

Dear Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, you postulate that direct primaries will be too expensive to run. But your party, the APC recently conducted ward congresses all over the country which are as expansive as direct primaries.

To cut cost, I suggest that the political parties should run all the primaries (House of Assembly, Governorship, House of Representatives, Senate and President) on a single day or two. They should run multiple ballots at a time. No need to run them separately. There are countries where the electorates are asked to vote on other issues side-by-side elections. They provide several ballots on Election Day.

Dear Governor Nyesom Wike, you argue that mandatory direct primaries infringe on the rights of the political parties to conduct their internal affairs. You threatened to go to court if the electoral law is amended with a provision for mandatory direct primaries.

Mr. Governor, what does internal party affairs really mean? Does direct primaries confer advantage or disadvantage on anyone? Who is afraid of direct primaries? Why would the parties conduct their affairs in breach of the people’s will? Can anyone claim the right to do wrong?

Why did Mr. Governor support the electronic transmission of results with so much vehemence only to oppose direct primaries? Is it to transmit the election results of persons you handpicked for elections? How does that promote democracy?

Your Excellencies, no matter how hard you try to disguise your real motives for opposing mandatory direct primaries, you can’t fool the public. They know that your intentions are not altruistic. I therefore call on you to be the men that you really are. Real men support change. Real men change.

Secondly, I call on you to uphold democracy within the APC and the PDP. Promote reconciliation in your parties and ensure a level playing field for all. This is the hallmark of progressive leadership.

You are both likely to be offended by this advice because you still want to impose candidates for the 2023 elections. You still want to prove that you are in-charge. But the future of politics in Nigeria, has no room for imposition.

Have you pondered over the sad endings and regrets that have become the lot of all governors that imposed their successors?

Even now, the members of the National Assembly that passed the mandatory direct primaries that Mr. Governor is against, were all imposed by him. He cannot now remove them.

Imposition of candidates amounts to election rigging. It is like coup plotting and armed robbery. It is treason. It is evil to the extent that the imposed persons practically run away with public treasury. They have no obligation to the people.

Imagine what will happen if both of you decide to support a level playing field and allow the majority of the men and women in your parties to choose candidates for the 2023 elections.

Such a monumental decision by you will, undoubtedly, cause offence to a handful of your cronies, who for being ‘loyal’ to you lay claims to some air of entitlement.

But your patriotic decision will bring joy to the hearts of millions of Rivers people and set the state on the path of political stability and the attendant sociopolitical benefits. The Rivers State House of Assembly will automatically be filled by persons that are answerable to the people and not to the governor.

Thirdly and related to the second above, I call on Your Excellencies, to remove your knees on the necks of persons in the APC and PDP who want to contest the 2023 elections.

Elections are fifteen months away yet those nursing the ambition to run for elective offices have not started the slightest exploratory moves. They are afraid of running fowl of the leaders of their parties.

But groups and individuals are calling on both of you to run for the presidential tickets of your respective parties. – A time tested ritual that precedes formal declaration of interest. It is obvious that you are testing the political waters and weighing your chances.

On the contrary stories about those who want to run for elective offices in Rivers State are in the realms of speculations. No Rivers politician in APC or PDP has had the courage to declare his/her interest for fear of being blacklisted by you.

Remove your knees on the necks of Rivers State politicians and let them breathe God’s free air.

IMPERATIVES

Your Excellencies, Rivers people are tired of a political system that throws up candidates at the eleventh hour every four years. Only for such candidates to rush through campaigns, get ‘elected’ and implement whatever programmes that meet their fancies.

Rivers people are fed up with having in the Brick House, persons they did not choose. They can no more endure a government that operates without a master plan because the cost of planlessness is enormous. Hundreds of billions of naira have gone down the drain on account of governors that didn’t have plans before seeking office.

Our people can no more afford a governor that will sell critical state assets without talking with people; a governor that will breakdown a large and functional General Hospital without replacement; a governor that will embark on white elephant projects like the abandoned monorail and the Karibi Whyte Specialist Hospital, including the failed relocation of Rivers State University.

Rivers people can no longer afford a governor that will spend his first tenure in office (when he had more money) doing almost nothing only to engage, in his second term (with lesser funds) in selective urban renewals and the construction of multiple flyovers on a single road without expert advice.

IN THE NEW DAWN

Governance shall not be left at the discretion of governors any longer.

Rivers State must have its own Constitution that will spell out our rules of engagement. This shall include industrialization, revenue allocation and power rotation. Nigeria is a federation and Rivers State must be run like a small country within the larger Nigerian nation. We are asserting the right to collect VAT. Let’s also assert the right to have a state Constitution.

Rivers State must have a long term infrastructure development plan that shall be backed by law and from which no governor can deviate. A masterplan that will integrate the entire state. The success of any government shall be judged by the efficiency it brings to bear in the implementation of the development plan.

Rivers State must be self-sufficient in food production, independent in energy, become the preferred destination for cultural, medical and educational tourism.

Local Government Council administration must be made to cater effectively for the grassroots and ensure special protection for the most vulnerable.

CONCLUSION

Your Excellencies, the task ahead is enormous and we need time to find who can lead Rivers State into the New Dawn.

You both have very significant roles to play as leaders of the parties that are most likely to produce the next governor of the state.

If you heed this clarion call, you will both gain in stature and go down in history as fathers of modern Rivers State who retrieved the state from the brink of disaster.

If you don’t, Rivers people will have no option than take their destiny in their own hands.

Some handful of highly placed persons in your kitchen cabinets may say to you that you will lose face if you do these things. But be rest assured that you won’t lose face, rather you will gain in statesmanship and you will be loved because of the peace and progress that your actions will bring to Rivers people.

Your Excellencies, as you prepare yourselves for the onerous task ahead, please be assured of my highest regards.

Yours sincerely

Sotonye Ijuye-Dagogo
15/11/21

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Igbo Communities Lament The Scourge of Mkpuru Mmiri.

 

He was stark naked and walking incoherently along the presidential road, Enugu, last Tuesday afternoon.

Looking at the young man who was murmuring to himself as he walked, he was not up to 25 years old. Yet, he has become so haggard with overgrown hair and fingernails. Those who stood by and watched as the young man walked past adduced several reasons for his current mental imbalance.

“He was a bus conductor. But he has sold himself to taking the deadly substance called Mkpuru Mmiri (Methamphetamine or Crystal Meth). See what it has turned him into,” one of them said.

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Another young man, who joined in the discussion, gave the name of the mentally deranged young man as Kelechi, saying: “They usually source the drug from Asata or Abakpa area. I also heard that it is available in the New Artisan area, which was demolished by the state government some time ago. I heard that they supply it from the nerthern states.”

He added that the mentally deranged young man combined smoking Mkpuru Mmiri with other hard drugs, adding that, “the worse of it all is that he hardly eats good and enough food. But in order to continue to be high, he takes it as if it is food.”

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In a video that has gone rival, which he personally made, one Shedrack, who claims to be the Chairman of Ogboifite youths in Aguta Local Council of Anambra State, had lamented the danger posed to the society by the substance.

Shedrack had in the video pointed at an uncompleted building in the area. He said the building was proposed for use as a high court complex by the administration of former governor Peter Obi, but could not be completed before he left office.

“This is where they sell Mkpuru Mmiri in this area. It is a dangerous drug and it is destroying our youths. The vigilante knows about this place. It is a young man who returned from South Africa that is running the cartel. The other time, I came here with some youths and we arrested three girls. We have to do something to stop this illicit business before it will destroy our youths,” he was seen shouting in the video.

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At another location in Nsugbe, in Oyi Local Council of Anambra State, some youths arrested two young girls that sold the deadly substance in the area.

One of the girls, whose name was given as Onyinye from Isuaniofia in Awka, said she was only helping her mother to sell the substance.

The group that caught her had brought two young addicts, who looked haggard and pale and asked her to identify them. Onyinye indeed identified the young men as her customers, but disclosed, “I stopped selling the substance to them when I was warned that they have become mentally deranged.”

She narrated that she, “usually sold the substance to them even when they didn’t have money. It is not as if I force them to buy; they indicate on their own that they want it and that they will pay later.”

The youths that arrested her later asked her to quit the community with her mother or be ready to face whatever might befall them if they dared to disobey their order.

Last week, Umudioka, a community in Dunukofia Local Council of Anambra State, also declared war on illicit drugs, including crystal meth.

In a public service announcement signed by the President General of Umudioka Improvement Union, Mr. Chike Odoji, the community said the sales and consumption of these illicit drugs had been proscribed in their environment.

He disclosed that they would be working with National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Police Anti Cult Unit and other relevant law enforcement agencies to begin the arrest of defaulters, dealers and consumers within the community.

He advised the youth to stay away from anywhere illicit drugs was traded or consumed, stressing that the community won’t spare anyone that violates the directive no matter the person’s social status.

Other illicit drugs proscribed alongside Mkpuru Mmiri in the community were Isi na Awa Agu, Aju Achu Enwe, Stonch and India hemp. These are names of the drugs in their local parlance.

Also perturbed by the rising use of the substance among youths in Enugu, the Enugu State Students Community, last Thursday, joined the campaign against it and other hard drugs.

The students took the campaign through major roads and streets of Enugu, the capital city. The road walk started from Okpara Square through Enugu metropolis and ended at the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) where a sensitisation programme was held.

The march, which was organised by the Special Assistant on Students Affairs to Enugu State Governor, Ilogebe Chidi, was aimed at lending a voice against the menace caused by the abuse of hard drugs amongst young persons. They displayed banners and placards that urged youths to abstain from drug abuse especially Mkpuru Mmiri.

Indeed, there are worries about the rate of consumption of hard drugs by young men and women, especially in the Southeast region. The worries are further heightened by the rate at which mentally deranged able-bodied young men and women now roam the streets.

Most discussions in public places in the region now centre on how youths consume Mkpuru Mmiri in particular. The region has also started recording an increase in all kinds of crime. Stories of people breaking into private apartments to look for money or missing pots of soup, including the ones on fire, are now common.

Sources alleged that some youths take to all manner of crimes after taking the substance. “It makes them look down on anyone that comes their way. They do not think that anyone can contend with them after taking the drugs, that is the point,” a source stated.

Investigations by The Guardian revealed that the abuse of the substance has become a topical issue in the Southeast region. However, sources said it is sourced from the northern part of the country. It was further gathered that because the substance is far cheaper than other illicit drugs, many youths are embracing it.

“They said it is one way they can subdue frustration and think less about the nearly hopeless situation in the country. You also know that the price of some of these illicit drugs like cocaine and what have you is now on the high side. So, they think Mkpuru Mmiri is affordable and available,” a social worker, Mrs. Catherine Ibe told The Guardian.

The substance, it was gathered, looks like an ice block, but can also be blue in colour. It is said to be one of the hardest drug addictions to treat. Sources said it could be dissolved in water and consumed hence the Igbo name Mkpuru Mmiri.

“It is very addictive and affects the central nervous system of whoever takes it. It creates a feeling of massive happiness that is very addictive and makes the taker want to fly. When the effect wears off, the taker tries to have that feeling again thereby taking it again,” a medical expert, Dr. Jude Onah stated.

He added that someone with addiction to the drug can be identified by his tattered dressing and shabby looks, adding that, “he or she is always picking at hair or skin; loss of appetite and weight loss; moving eyes about every time; strange sleeping patterns – staying up for days or even weeks at a time; always talking nonstop; borrowing money often, selling possessions or stealing; angry outbursts or mood swings; psychotic behavior such as paranoia and hallucinations.”

He added that it creates possible death and makes one to age fast and look sick all the time, explaining that the “treatment has always been handled by psychiatrist experts, the same way people with mental derailment are treated.”

“My only worry is that when such ugly damage is caused on one’s body, the percentage of survival will seriously be hampered,” he noted.

A psychiatrist, Dr. Nok Obayi, on his part, said the substance used to be common in Asian countries. He added that what was yet to be determined was whether there were other substances added to the ones being taken in Nigeria that have created the devastating effect being seen on those consuming it.

“We are not sure it is entirely the crystal meth that they are taking now because people that come to you are people that have problems. It is either they are violent or what have you. Generally, most people now use certain combinations and concoctions and that makes it difficult to use the chemical to test. For instance, if it is something like cocaine you want to test and it happens that the patience added probably charcoal or any other substance to what he consumed, the chemical may see only cocaine and not the other substance. It takes only inquiring from the patience to know. But we have a standard treatment for cocaine and Indian hemp,” he explained.

Speaking in the same vein, a consultant psychiatrist and Medical Director of Tranquil and Quest Behavioural Health, Lagos, Dr. Gbonjubola Abiri, described crystal meth as an illicit substance.

Her words: “It is an illicit substance of abuse also known as Crystal Methamphetamine, it is strong and highly addictive. It affects the central nervous system in the human body. It is illicit because it is not a drug that has been regulated for everyday use. It falls in the category of drug stimulants. With respect to its features and composition, it looks like glass fragments or shiny bluish-white rocks. The street name is hype or glass; it’s a popular party drug. It originates from Asia; it has been around since World War two, it was initially a substance given to soldiers to stay awake.”

She explained that the substance could be consumed through smoking, ingesting in the form of pills or snorting it through the nose, or by injection with the powder mixed with alcohol or water.

“Basically, they take a lot of it, sleep off and then they are back to it; so it becomes a pattern. This is known as the binge crash pattern phenomenon. It has been noticed from research that users of crystal meth neglect food and continue to use it to increase euphoria. Users put up a bolder, aggressive, impulsive and violent behavioural pattern. Overall, they exhibit behavioural traits that are out of the ordinary. What this drug does to a person is increase the amount of a chemical called dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is an excitatory neurotransmitter; it controls the nerves,” she added.

On how people addicted to the substance could be rehabilitated, she said: “I need to establish that people use drugs for two reasons; to run away from pain or to run towards pleasure. It puts them in a roller-coaster state of mind; hence it is hard to treat because, after long usage, the functions of the brain start to deteriorate. So, the functions of thought, cognition, emotion, perception, feelings and even behaviour start to become affected. The individual usually becomes more anxious and confused. The brain becomes rewired as the individual becomes dependent on the substance; this is known as addiction. Even with the amount of damage it causes them, they don’t stop. It essentially severs every aspect of their personal lives; it drives them to criminal activities and other worse things.

“The treatment process entails putting them in a controlled environment like a mental health facility. The stage that occurs for the individual at the beginning of treatment is that they crave it even more; they become more aggressive because the last bit of it is leaving their body. And in that time, the brain starts to repair itself. The rehabilitation process is between three and six months or sometimes a year. But a major issue for most people is relapse – they go back to it.”

On the difference between crystal meth and other illicit drugs, Abiri explained that drugs like marijuana are psychoactive depressants while some drugs called shrooms from mushrooms are hallucinogens and extremely dangerous.

“As quick as they give the ‘high’ is just as quick as they can kill a person. This happens when the individual has taken an overdose of the substance. Crystal meth distorts reality; it brings poor judgment and it can also lead to mental illness. The symptoms of overdose in the use of Crystal meth are nausea, convulsion, irregular breathing, irregular heartbeats, irregular body temperature and hallucination,” she added.

Tales From A
Former Addict
A former drug addict, David Folaranmi, who spoke with The Guardian, said he took crystal meth when he was residing in the United Kingdom (UK), adding that is in the same category as crack cocaine. He also affirmed that it gives a feeling of euphoria, ecstasy and happiness.

“It is something that makes people bigger than they are and pushes them to look down on others. Although a lot of people are just finding out about crystal meth, it has been in existence for many years. I had it while I was in the UK. Unfortunately in Nigeria, anything we do, we do it to the extreme and that is why it is blowing up in everyone’s faces.

“While I was taking drugs including crystal meth in the UK, it lasted for about seven years down to when I got back to Nigeria and it became really bad that I started living in the ‘Bunks’ (where drugs are sold and used without disturbance) even though I came from a very good and religious background. One day within seven years, my mum who was my support system came to get me from the bunks and this made me suicidal. I decided to drink poison after which I was rushed to the hospital where I was admitted for three days before regaining consciousness.

“My mum continuously prayed for me. I believe Jesus saved me. After this incident, my addiction to drugs died miraculously. Scientifically, it is not believable, because this was me who smoked at least 30 sticks of cigarettes, with heroin daily, and the craving for this died naturally. I had four friends who died from a drug overdose.

“After then, I started a foundation where we educate, enlighten and sensitise young people in schools and other gatherings on the dangers associated with drug abuse,” Folaranmi said.

He noted that abstaining from taking crystal meth was the most difficult thing ever.

“I never tell people that it is easy; instead, I tell them that they would have to fight a battle against it tooth and nail. We found out that using stimulants is probably more pleasurable than sex. While I was on drugs, I wasn’t interested in having sex because it seemed like the most enjoyable thing to me. I’m using this analogy so you can understand how difficult it is to stop.”

Giving insight on how an addict to the substance could be rehabilitated, he said: “A victim needs to know he or she needs help because they are in a situation where they cannot help themselves. They now need professional assistance; they have to go through the process of rehabilitation, isolation, detoxification, reintegration and aftercare because when you recover, you cannot be allowed to go back into society just like that; the person will relapse.”

Analysts Blame Loss Of Values For Development
PRESIDENT, Global Society for Anti-Corruption (GSAC), Mr. Franklin Ezeona, said the abusive usage of the destructive Mpkuru Mmiri by Southeastern youths has exposed the failure of all the religious centres in every nook and cranny of the region.

“It shows that these religious bodies are in competitive marketing of harvesting the youths with unproductive doctrines of prosperity and miracles based on sowing of seeds and fasting rather than quality human capital developments and imbibing the doctrine of hard work.

“It is time the religious centres and parents stop pampering the youths with too much hope in prosperity and miracles without hard work and teach them about true salvation and fear of God and to obey the laws of the land, which makes abuse of any hard drug a capital criminal offense.”

On his part, Chiamaka Ezeribe from Ekwulobia, Anambra State, who analysed the situation, attributed the rise in the consumption of hard drugs by youths in the region to karma. She reasoned that what some Igbo youths did in other countries to make money by trafficking in hard drugs had been brought back to the people and was now endangering the future of the zone.

Ezeribe stated: “Our people glorify them when they go out there and without any meaningful employment, return home with wealth. We don’t ask about the source of the money they parade rather we end up giving them chieftaincy titles. Those drugs they sell to countries to be consumed were destroying their youths. Today, these countries have tightened their security and there is no way for them again to do the business of drugs. So, they have decided to be moving the drugs into Igboland for our unemployed youths to consume. That is the way the law of karma works. Until we stop being hypocrites until we stop glorifying evil, this thing will not leave us,” he said.

We Are Monitoring Development, Will Respond Appropriately, NDLEA Assures
WHEN The Guardian contacted the NDLEA, the spokesman of the anti-drug agency, Mr. Femi Babafemi, said the agency was aware of the consumption of the substance in the country, especially in the Southeast.

He added that the Chairman/CEO of the agency, Brig. Gen. Mohammed Buba Marwa (rtd), recently gave specific instructions on how the agency should respond to the development.

According to Babafemi, “Mkpuru Mmiri is the Igbo slang for Methamphetamine or Crystal Meth, a very dangerous illicit drug. It looks like ice or white chalk crystal and sometimes can be blue. That is why the users sometimes refer to it as “ice.” It can be dissolved in water.”

Babafemi explained further: “It was developed in Japan in 1919 and grossly abused during World War II when it was issued to pilots on a suicidal mission called “kamikaze.” After the world war, it was briefly used as a medication for depression and for controlling obesity, but it was quickly abandoned and banned thereafter, especially from the 1970s.

“Meth is categorised as Schedule II (i.e. “drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use, potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence”) by the International Drug Control Conventions.

“Since the 1990s, the production of crystal meth has been hijacked by Mexican drug cartels and they came into Nigeria to set up laboratories in 2016.

“It is a very addictive stimulant that renders the user hyperactive and prone to destructive tendencies, which at the extreme do not exclude suicide or homicide at the slightest provocation and without a feeling of remorse.

“As a stimulant, it has powerful euphoric effects, similar to those of cocaine. Meth typically keeps users awake, depriving them of sleep. Its use and abuse also carry acute health risks including high blood pressure and cardiovascular-related illness.

“Aside from being unable to sleep and being violent, users exhibit anti-social behaviours arising from paranoia and hallucination. The drug takes a toll on the physical look of its users. It typically makes them look older and their faces prone to acne. Sometimes, excessive use leads to damaged gum and teeth, commonly called ‘meth mouth.’

“What is most frightening is that meth addiction is one of the most difficult to treat because no drug can cure it, except by behavioural therapy, which at the moment is not readily available in the country.

“Since the launch of the Offensive Action campaign early this year, NDLEA has recorded significant seizures of kilogrammes of the drug. Likewise, the Agency has located and destroyed not less than 18 meth-producing laboratories in the country in the past few years.
“The agency has been monitoring the trend in Meth production, abuse and trafficking. And because of the rampant abuse and production of the drug, especially in the Southeast, the Chairman/CEO recently gave specific instructions to relevant directorates of the agency on how the agency should respond to the development. You can rest assured that in a matter of time, the pipelines of such illicit drugs would be shut down and those behind it brought to book.”

 

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A LONG LETTER TO RT. HON. CHIBUIKE ROTIMI AMAECHI AND GOVERNOR NYESOM EZEBUWON WIKE

A LONG LETTER TO RT. HON. CHIBUIKE ROTIMI AMAECHI AND GOVERNOR NYESOM EZEBUWON WIKE

Your Excellencies,

WE ARE AT THE THRESHOLD OF A NEW DAWN

In writing this letter, I know that you may never see or read it. I know that your supporters and aides who read this letter may never find the courage to bring it to your attention. And even if they do, Your Excellencies may wave it aside.

I hope however, that both of you will see and read this letter and that the content will appeal to you.

In any case, this letter speaks to Rivers people too. It awakens their expectations of both of you and where you fail, it inspires them to take their common destiny in their own hands.

Your Excellencies, I am able to write to both of you at once because you share a lot in common and because your political actions and inactions are of serious consequences for Rivers State.

One thing both of you share in common that places an obligation on you, is the incontrovertible fact that you are the biggest beneficiaries of the current democratic dispensation in the state.

Another thing that you have in common, which has tremendous potential to determine the future of Rivers State, is the fact that you are the leaders of the two dominant parties, the APC and the PDP.

Both of you had barely began life, so to speak, when the 1999 elections gave you the opportunities to become Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly and Chairman of Obio-Akpor LGA respectively. Since then and 22 years after and still counting, you have both become Governors of Rivers State and Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The political, social and economic privileges that you enjoy in a state of over five million people are legendary. You are under obligation therefore, to show gratitude to the people of Rivers State that have taken care of all your needs and wants for almost a quarter of a century.

I write this open letter to you, believing that you will be moved to reciprocate the uncommon benefits that our state has bestowed on both of you.

Your Excellencies, there is no gainsaying that our country, Nigeria has been plagued by poor political leadership at the national and subnational levels since independence with only one notable exception.

Unfortunately, Rivers State is not the exception because the lot of our people has nosedived uncontrollably for the worst.

Poor governance has created mass poverty and bred insecurity. A vast majority of Rivers people, especially our youths wake up each day into emptiness and helplessness, having nothing to do. Violent crime is now the order of the day. The strong terrorize the weak. The apparatuses of state are used to protect the strong.

Your Excellencies, this sad reality may be lost on both of you due to the deafening sound of praise singers who will be quick to say to you that you are the best things that have happened to Rivers State. No you are not and I do not blame you wholly for your not-too-good performances. You are products of a grossly defective political system.

The good news is that both of you are at the threshold of making indelible history if you align yourselves with the current wave of change and correct the evil system that has enslaved Rivers people and subjected them to scorn, pain and penury.

By the way, both you did better than your predecessor, Dr. Peter Odili, who as the first governor of Rivers State in the fourth republic, had all the opportunities to lay a proper foundation for good governance but failed woefully. For this, Odili has paled into political insignificance, kept afloat only by the magnanimity of Governor Wike.

Change, they say is the only permanent thing in life. After twenty-two years of the reign of impunity and dictatorship, Nigeria is at threshold of change. The country is reforming its electoral processes in order to cede more powers to the people. This is evident in the adoption of the electronic transfer of election results and the mandatory direct primaries.

In Rivers State, the people are fed up and angry with the political class that has taken them for a ride for too long. There is revolt in the air. The pent up anger is palpable and it is gaining expression. 2023 will be a decisive year whether both of you like it or not.

However, as leaders of the two major political parties, you are in the best position to facilitate this change with easier efforts and without violence and bloodshed.

I therefore call upon you to take on the challenge and engrave your names in gold.

If you heed this clarion call, you will go down in history as persons who read the signs of the time. You will be remembered by posterity as persons who led their angry compatriots from political slavery to emancipation, even though you largely contributed to their woes.

But if for any reason, you decide to stand against the strong wave of change; if you decide to throw away this golden opportunity, the change will still happen in spite of you.

Then you be remembered forever as persons who held sway in the years of impunity, wastage and brigandage, in the era when vagabonds, mercenaries and hoodlums ruled and pillaged Rivers State.

Before I forget, this is a second chance for you my friend Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi. Second chance because providence has given you another opportunity only as leader of APC in the state. You had the opportunities as governor to lay a solid foundation for democracy and good governance but like Odili, you failed.

CLARION CALL

Firstly, I call on Your Excellencies to drop your opposition to the Mandatory Direct Primaries provision as passed by the National Assembly. In making this call, I understand how you both feel about the prospect of direct primaries.

You love the current system where nobody in Rivers State gets into elective or appointive political position without your approval. You consider this as a way to assert your authority as governor and/or as the leader of your political party.

You confiscate the powers of your party men and women, denying them the right to aspire into elective offices. You deny them the right to nominate candidates too.

I have carefully looked at the reasons you proffered against mandatory direct primaries and have come to the conclusion that the reasons you gave amount to nothing when compared to the benefits.

Dear Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, you postulate that direct primaries will be too expensive to run. But your party, the APC recently conducted ward congresses all over the country which are as expansive as direct primaries.

To cut cost, I suggest that the political parties should run all the primaries (House of Assembly, Governorship, House of Representatives, Senate and President) on a single day or two. They should run multiple ballots at a time. No need to run them separately. There are countries where the electorates are asked to vote on other issues side-by-side elections. They provide several ballots on Election Day.

Dear Governor Nyesom Wike, you argue that mandatory direct primaries infringe on the rights of the political parties to conduct their internal affairs. You threatened to go to court if the electoral law is amended with a provision for mandatory direct primaries.

Mr. Governor, what does internal party affairs really mean? Does direct primaries confer advantage or disadvantage on anyone? Who is afraid of direct primaries? Why would the parties conduct their affairs in breach of the people’s will? Can anyone claim the right to do wrong?

Why did Mr. Governor support the electronic transmission of results with so much vehemence only to oppose direct primaries? Is it to transmit the election results of persons you handpicked for elections? How does that promote democracy?

Your Excellencies, no matter how hard you try to disguise your real motives for opposing mandatory direct primaries, you can’t fool the public. They know that your intentions are not altruistic. I therefore call on you to be the men that you really are. Real men support change. Real men change.

Secondly, I call on you to uphold democracy within the APC and the PDP. Promote reconciliation in your parties and ensure a level playing field for all. This is the hallmark of progressive leadership.

You are both likely to be offended by this advice because you still want to impose candidates for the 2023 elections. You still want to prove that you are in-charge. But the future of politics in Nigeria, has no room for imposition.

Have you pondered over the sad endings and regrets that have become the lot of all governors that imposed their successors?

Even now, the members of the National Assembly that passed the mandatory direct primaries that Mr. Governor is against, were all imposed by him. He cannot now remove them.

Imposition of candidates amounts to election rigging. It is like coup plotting and armed robbery. It is treason. It is evil to the extent that the imposed persons practically run away with public treasury. They have no obligation to the people.

Imagine what will happen if both of you decide to support a level playing field and allow the majority of the men and women in your parties to choose candidates for the 2023 elections.

Such a monumental decision by you will, undoubtedly, cause offence to a handful of your cronies, who for being ‘loyal’ to you lay claims to some air of entitlement.

But your patriotic decision will bring joy to the hearts of millions of Rivers people and set the state on the path of political stability and the attendant sociopolitical benefits. The Rivers State House of Assembly will automatically be filled by persons that are answerable to the people and not to the governor.

Thirdly and related to the second above, I call on Your Excellencies, to remove your knees on the necks of persons in the APC and PDP who want to contest the 2023 elections.

Elections are fifteen months away yet those nursing the ambition to run for elective offices have not started the slightest exploratory moves. They are afraid of running fowl of the leaders of their parties.

But groups and individuals are calling on both of you to run for the presidential tickets of your respective parties. – A time tested ritual that precedes formal declaration of interest. It is obvious that you are testing the political waters and weighing your chances.

On the contrary stories about those who want to run for elective offices in Rivers State are in the realms of speculations. No Rivers politician in APC or PDP has had the courage to declare his/her interest for fear of being blacklisted by you.

Remove your knees on the necks of Rivers State politicians and let them breathe God’s free air.

IMPERATIVES

Your Excellencies, Rivers people are tired of a political system that throws up candidates at the eleventh hour every four years. Only for such candidates to rush through campaigns, get ‘elected’ and implement whatever programmes that meet their fancies.

Rivers people are fed up with having in the Brick House, persons they did not choose. They can no more endure a government that operates without a master plan because the cost of planlessness is enormous. Hundreds of billions of naira have gone down the drain on account of governors that didn’t have plans before seeking office.

Our people can no more afford a governor that will sell critical state assets without talking with people; a governor that will breakdown a large and functional General Hospital without replacement; a governor that will embark on white elephant projects like the abandoned monorail and the Karibi Whyte Specialist Hospital, including the failed relocation of Rivers State University.

Rivers people can no longer afford a governor that will spend his first tenure in office (when he had more money) doing almost nothing only to engage, in his second term (with lesser funds) in selective urban renewals and the construction of multiple flyovers on a single road without expert advice.

IN THE NEW DAWN

Governance shall not be left at the discretion of governors any longer.

Rivers State must have its own Constitution that will spell out our rules of engagement. This shall include industrialization, revenue allocation and power rotation. Nigeria is a federation and Rivers State must be run like a small country within the larger Nigerian nation. We are asserting the right to collect VAT. Let’s also assert the right to have a state Constitution.

Rivers State must have a long term infrastructure development plan that shall be backed by law and from which no governor can deviate. A masterplan that will integrate the entire state. The success of any government shall be judged by the efficiency it brings to bear in the implementation of the development plan.

Rivers State must be self-sufficient in food production, independent in energy, become the preferred destination for cultural, medical and educational tourism.

Local Government Council administration must be made to cater effectively for the grassroots and ensure special protection for the most vulnerable.

CONCLUSION

Your Excellencies, the task ahead is enormous and we need time to find who can lead Rivers State into the New Dawn.

You both have very significant roles to play as leaders of the parties that are most likely to produce the next governor of the state.

If you heed this clarion call, you will both gain in stature and go down in history as fathers of modern Rivers State who retrieved the state from the brink of disaster.

If you don’t, Rivers people will have no option than take their destiny in their own hands.

Some handful of highly placed persons in your kitchen cabinets may say to you that you will lose face if you do these things. But be rest assured that you won’t lose face, rather you will gain in statesmanship and you will be loved because of the peace and progress that your actions will bring to Rivers people.

Your Excellencies, as you prepare yourselves for the onerous task ahead, please be assured of my highest regards.

Yours sincerely

Sotonye Ijuye-Dagogo
15/11/21

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