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When Nigeria Biafra War ended in the year 1970, it gave the ethnic minority groups in the southern Nigeria the opportunity to excel in their various fields of endeavour. I had the opportunity as a young school leaver to teach in the Primary School at St. John’s Primary School, Rumueme in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State.
Master Ezenwo Nyesom Wike was among the first set of the pupils I taught in the junior primaries of that school. He was so robust that he fell in love with me. He was also intelligent and articulate in his class work. His interaction was full of brilliant ideas. I remember in one of my classroom interactions with my pupils, I told them that I would raise them up to be responsible citizens in Nigeria but that none of them should splash water on me if he/she saw me trekking on the road. I can remember that it was Master Ezebunwo who retorted immediately that he would stop and give me a lifting help if he saw me trekking on the road. No wonder when he became the Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Council after his university degree programme, the first thing he did was to invite all who had been his classroom teachers from primary school to university education to visit him in the office. Though I did not go, we heard that he empowered almost everyone who honoured the invitation.
He reasoned that it was the teachers that taught him to be whatever thing he was. Governor Wike holds teachers in high esteem. He believes that teachers are more important than any other professionals in Nigeria. So, he lends a positive attitude with the teachers.
I became intentionally interested in him when I noticed that he had running nose. My lecturer in a higher school (Dr. Mummuni) told me that any child between the ages of five and 12 that has a running noise must be a very intelligent child. Such a child must be pragmatic, charismatic, brave and optimistic in character. They are fast thinkers in their reasoning. They appear to be erratic or dogmatic in their behaviour. And if they grow up to adulthood, they would begin to show that they are wonderfully created.
Wike studied Political and Administrative Studies in the University of Port Harcourt in his first degree before he entered the University of Science and Technology to study Law. His primary political party in his life is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) .
When the political wave was very uncomfortable because of turbulence in the polity, many even those who started the party with him jumped out of the boat thinking that the boat would sink. But Wike singlehandedly mended the boat, so when those politicians who abandoned him began to rear up their ugly heads in order to compete the presidential seat with him, he would not allow them but spoke with authority that such politicians were not fit for the contest. He boasted that they should not reap from where they did not sow.
In his first administrative job as the Obio/Akpor Local Government Chairman, he was elected the Chairman of all the Local Government Chairmen in Nigeria. The edifice he put up at Rumuodomaya, headquarters of Obio/Akpor Local Government was second to none in Nigeria. It was akin to what King Alfred Diete-Spiff did as the first Governor of old Rivers State in Port Harcourt.
Wike as a charismatic leader is a digital and ebullient achiever. He calculates events before he ventures into them. He is a team manager. His powerful personal influence earned him the position of Chief of Staff in Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi’s administration. He performed very well in that administration that he became a perfect material for Ministerial position in Nigeria for four years. Many politicians in Nigeria had sought to go back to their states to be elected as Governor but it was not easy for them. Wike was swift to clinch the position of Rivers State Governor in 2015. The position which he enjoys till today. He was equally eyeing the presidency in Nigeria and many have thought that he had failed the primary election that would have offered him the position of Nigeria’s President come 2023.
But this writer believes that Wike did not fail and believes that political events are prone to unfold repeatedly as expectations will not be over until they are over. In politics, electoral process is wrought with surprises and shocks of which anticipated results will not be over until it is over. Remember what happened in Imo State; how the present incumbent Governor, came to office. Remember the case of Bayelsa State and so on. Shocks and bewilderment are the main menu of Nigerian politics.
Wike is always optimistic in all his endeavours. He weighs the two sides of a coin before he takes a decision. So nothing is unexpected to him as he has no regrets for any action he takes. In his administration as the Governor, he is aware that the three major projects in Nigeria as a third world country are road, light and water. Among the three projects, road appears to be paramount, because good road network will bring about development.
Economic activities will thrive. Farmers and industries will spread. Wike reasons that if he carries all the three projects at a time, his effort would be insignificant. And that is where all the past administrations failed. You want to impress everybody and become Jack of all trade and master of none. Wike believes in doing one thing and doing it well. He believes that Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt are the two major local government areas that link Rivers State to other states. So, he vowed to give them a facelift that will liken them to Lagos and Abuja. All the bridges and roads that he concentrated in Obio/Akpor and Port Harcourt have actually raised the status of Rivers State. And he did not stop there, he has also extended his road network to all the 23 local government areas in the state. All the communities, even the homes of his opponents have benefitted from his administration. So, any incoming governor should take a cue from what Wike has done. Take one project at a time, either light or water. Concentrate on one and make sure your community has a perfect light or water infrastructure in the first tenure. Then, begin to spread out to other parts of the state because nobody will do it for you. The administration of Wike is for social welfare as he said. Then, employment, workers’ welfare and other stomach infrastructure will follow. He did the important things first which he did not expect any governor to do for him in his community.
Wike is an optimistic politician as nothing is unexpected to him in the game of politics. He monitors every step taken by his opponents particularly in rigging elections. He must have learnt from his mentor, Late Senator Obi Wali that the first major factor in politics a man should learn is how to be immuned from shock. Nothing gives Wike a shock. He strives in the midst of political turbulence. Wike believes that if his brothers from the South-South did what the Northern delegates did, he would have floored Abubakar Atiku mercilessly at the PDP presidential primary. Should Wike contest this anomaly in court he would have won the case in court, but he allowed the peace to reign because that action would have derailed the transition process.
That is why he returned home unruffled and instructed his followers to rally round PDP against the fight in 2023. Wike is so optimistic that PDP will win the 2023 election, because merging his force with that of the Northern delegates from the Atiku camp will give PDP a resounding victory at the poll. He has promised to throw his weigh behind the party.
By: Fidelis Ikechi Jahka
Dr Jahka writes from Oduoha, Ogbakiri.
Election 2023: Before Things Go Wrong
It is delightful and hope-raising, seeing the zeal with which the youth and many Nigerian celebrities go about sensitising and encouraging people to go register and obtain their permanent voters cards (PVC) in readiness for next year’s general elections. The academia, traditional and religious leaders and many other opinion molders, the media are not left out. Some people were criticising some video clips that made the rounds last week, where priests denied some worshippers access to the church because they had no PVC. That was indeed an extreme measure but is it not said that desperate time demands desperate measures? A lot of Nigerians have sat on the fence for so long, hoping and praying that the country becomes better, taking no action to see to the materialisation of their wishes and prayers. A few people have been allowed to choose the leaders of the country and manage the affairs of this nation , leading to several years of bad leadership across the country. So, it is good that more people have realised the importance of elections and are now willing to participate in the electoral process.
It is therefore, worrisome, when certain stories are heard about what is happening in some parts of the country which is capable of dampening the reawakened enthusiasm. Last Thursday, June 9, there was a reported incident about how thugs attacked Alaba International Market traders that went to register for PVC at Ojo Alaba, Lagos. But for the resistance of the traders, the INEC machine used for the exercise would have been carted away by the thugs.This kind of intimidation and harassment is the last thing Nigeria needs now. Voting is the constitutional right of every Nigerian and people should be free to exercise this right in any part of the country they find themselves. Besides, knowing how tension-soaked the nation is at the moment and how such an act with ethnic colouration can trigger crisis in the nation, it should be avoided. And whoever would sponsor those thugs to carry out such shameful acts does not mean well for the country. Similarly, bloggers and all the people that post videos and stories on-line should be wary of the language and tone of the reports so as not to send bad signals capable of causing disaster in our society. For instance, a Facebook video of the Ojo traders attack was captioned, “Igbos living in Lagos denied PVC registration by FG…” Such inciting headline was very dangerous and uncalled for. Before you know it, Igbos in the South East will start to make it difficult for Yorubas and Hausas to get PVCs. Same way Hausas will give Igbos and Yorubas problems in the north and the whole country will start boiling. Should we not avoid divisive comments and actions as we warm up for the elections?
The speculation about Muslim-Muslim ticket by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the forth-coming presidential election is also a big concern. Usually, at a time like this, when a new government is to be formed, some people, for some selfish reasons, will propose and support all manner of proposals. We are already seeing that playing out with the like of the former Governor of Abia State, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, throwing his weight behind the presidential flag bearer of the APC, Bola Tinubu, picking a northern muslim as his running mate. They will claim “it does not matter, religious consideration in choosing leaders is rubbish, after all Tinubu’s wife is a Pentecostal pastor” and all that. They will forget that the presidential candidate is Tinubu, not his wife. Their quest to be part of an incoming government will prevent them from considering the peculiarity of Nigerian society and the importance of an all-inclusive government that will give every citizen of all tribes and religions a sense of belonging.
So, the basic question for the APC and other political parties is, how will a Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian leadership foster the much-needed unity and harmony in the country? One issue that featured during the campaign for the election of the various party presidential flag bearers was the present division of the country along religious and ethnic lines with each of the candidates promising to do everything possible to unite the nation. Is this how to achieve it? One should believe that a situation like this was envisaged by the drafters of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria when they inserted Section 14 (3) which has to do with Federal Character. It states: The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.
Section 14 (4) talks about having the same composition in states and local government and their agencies; that the conduct of the affairs of these bodies shall be carried out bearing in mind the diversity of the people within their areas of authority and the need to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the peoples of the Federation. Truly, the jettisoning of these well-thought-out provisions of the constitution is a major reason for the challenges we have in the country. When someone in power floods the ministries, agencies, parastatals, commissions, military and paramilitary with people from his ethnic group and same religion, even when they are not competent or most qualified for the job, how will people from other ethnic groups and religions feel about it? How will such tribalistic, sectional, nepotic tendencies bring unity, peace and harmony in the country?
Little wonder that in the current political season people are pitching tents with people from their regions, states and what have you. Even when they know that such a candidate is not the right person for the job they still file behind him because he is their brother or practice the same religion with him. A friend pissed with the division in the country tweeted, “when it is time to fix Nigeria, we look for our ethnic and sectarian kins even if unqualified. But when our cars break down, we do not look for the Muslim or Christian, Yoruba or Hausa mechanic to fix it, we look for the best. Until we begin to approach fixing Nigeria with the same attitude we approach fixing our cars, our problems are only just starting”. Ideal and true as this view, it can only apply in Nigeria when our leaders stop seeing themselves as being in positions of authority not only for themselves, their families, their religious and tribal kins but for the whole nation and are ready to carry every citizen along; when justice, equity and fair play become the guiding principle in all we do both as a government and as individuals.
It is therefore, my fervent prayer and wish that our government and political leaders will listen to the advice and caution of many well-meaning Nigerians and desist from taking actions that will plunge the country into crisis and worsen our numerous woes. Again, we hope the prevailing electoral participation wave should be sustained to the D-day even in the impending tsunamic onslaught of money from the desperate money bags so that the right, competent and capable person who will work for the interest of every Nigerian and turn things around positively will emerge.
By: Calista Ezeaku
It must be obvious to every honest and patriotic Nigerian that all is not well with the ways that affairs of this country are being managed. It would be wrong to think that there are no capable persons in the country who can put things right, without victimising or granting licence to any section in the process. Neither is it necessary that such capable persons would have to be “mad” in order to correct recalcitrant situations. Astuteness in governance demands a thorough and clear understanding of the sectors that need drastic changes and then having the political will to effect them urgently.
For the next President of Nigeria, such tasks would and must include the following: Drastic cut down on the official and extra-official remunerations of political office holder. We cannot pretend not to know who, political office holdes are, in the three tiers of governance, neither can we pretend not to know that there are extra-official remunerations. Gifts for favours done and “lobbies” to influence and induce favours, including “stomach infrastructure” to influence nomination, are gross abuses which perpetuate corruption in governance. Nigeria’s wage bills for elected officials are the highest on earth, deliberately put in place by departing military regime.
Next President of Nigeria should set up a probe into the mafia system of governance called the Presidency or cabal, made up of faceless official and extra-official pressure groups, often acting arbitrarily, in the name of the President. Again, we cannot pretend that no such mafia system, cabal or parallel government exists in Nigeria’s Presidential system of democratic governance. Democratic governance cannot operate that way. A third task for the next President of Nigeria is to reshuffle, restructure and reorganise the nation’s security and intelligence architecture and institutions, to make them truly nationalistic and patriotic. Again, no honest Nigerian would pretend to be ignorant of the fact that these agencies deserve some serious search-light. From Professor Omo Omoruyi, to retired General T. Y. Danjuma, Nigerians have been told times without number that these agencies are compromised and seen to be serving sectional interests. Add these allegations to the absorption of repentant Boko Haram insurgents into the nation’s armed forces!
Nigerians would want details and conditions of Nigeria’s membership of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) made public, in order to remove any misgiving in the minds of the public. It was during retired General Ibrahim Babangida’s leadership of Nigeria that the country joined the Islamic Brotherhood. Not only is Nigeria a secular state, but the impression must not be created that one religion has an advantage over others. Add this to the increasing fanaticism of public lynching of “those who disrespect the name of the Prophet!” Similarly, Nigerians would want the next President to publish names and details of known sponsors of insurgencies in Nigeria. The case of Kaduna State is of significant importance, especially with kidnappers who hold travellers hostage and demanding for ransom, telling us that the Government of Nigeria knows what they are demanding. Groups of insurgents in the South are asking for referendum and resource control where other bandits and marauders in the North have not told Nigerians what their demands are. Must Nigeria go the Afghanistan Way or be held to ransom by local and foreign insurgents?
The sixth task of Nigeria’s next President, whoever he may be, is to revisit or review the country’s foreign policy and all international agreements, to ensure that there are no hidden agenda or booby traps anywhere. We are often told by experienced diplomats that the international community is a shark-infested environment, where fair can be foul and foul fair. From the construction of a gas pipeline from Nigeria to Morocco, to international trades and movements or taking of foreign loans, there is a need to place the interests of this nation first, now and in the future. Military and security pacts may be shrouded in secrecies but they should be reviewed, to ensure internal stability. The issue of reduction of the number of political parties in Nigeria is a vital task which the next President of Nigeria should address, without sweeping it under the carpet. Like rapid increase and growth of universities in Nigeria, the number of political parties in the country is obviously too much. Political parties are supposed to articulate and represent ideological leanings, orientations and relevance for a nation and its aspirations. Global ideologies and worldviews cannot be as numerous as the number of political parties in Nigeria, unless we want to promote frivolities in the name of ideologies. Nigeria does not need more than three or four political parties.
To address and resolve issues of census or the nation’s population, is and should be an urgent task for Nigeria’s next President. We cannot pretend to be unaware of the truth that census issue was one of the causal factors of the first military intervention in Nigeria’s polity. Even though serious allegations and objections were swept under the carpet and denied, no honest Nigerian can say that census figures are flawless. Neither can any honest Nigerian deny the fact that revenue sharing formula in Nigeria uses population figures as vital instruments, coupled with land mass. A situation where resource generation and control are over taken by population and land mass, is it not possible to distort census figures for political and economic advantages? Obviously Nigeria’s political economy is skewed towards parasitism and the encouragement of duplicity, all of which give rise to national instability. A part of the challenges which the next president should address is census controversy. To say that Nigeria’s economy is in a precarious state is an issue that the nation’s leadership must address with serious diligence. Ranging from unemployment, job losses and under employment, to the gross diminution of the value of the naira, the state of Nigeria’s economy deserves to be addressed immediately. Arising from the state of the nation’s economy is also the challenge of food security, which is further undermined by clashes between farmers and herders in various communities. Engagement in food production activity demands that farmers should not be the targets of attacks.
The tenth task for the next President of Nigeria is the issue of drastic reduction of family size. It is no longer a pride for couples to boast of having as many as nine children, no matter how wealthy the family may be. There should be a policy to limit the number of children which a woman should have, to three, so that family size be placed under control. As much as possible, vasectomy should be encouraged among men and women also educated properly on family planning, with provision of facilities to terminate unwanted pregnancies. The masses are marginalized in money politics oligopoly.
By: Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
Nigeria is confronted with several insurmountable and hydra-headed problems more than any other time in our history as a nation since 1960. The prevailing socio-economic challenges are so bleak that people wonder if there is a way out. Our public universities have been closed down since March this year because of the refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari -led Federal Government, to meet her obligation in an agreement reached with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). Students have turned wanderers, Bus conductors, fortuitous drivers, going cap in hand to beg, look frustrated and disappointed, wondering if education is still necessary in a country that less than five per cent of her budget is allocated to education against UN’s stipulation.
Nigeria faces the challenge of globalisation, youth restiveness, unemployment, terrorism, drug addiction, arms proliferation, poverty, diseases, declension of family values, wars and cultism, banditry, terrorism, corruption, inordinate ambitions, drug addiction, materialism and hopeless disposition. Worst of it all, Nigeria is caught in the web of bad governance and people are groaning under an education and economic repressive government. The present administration that is the catalyst of some of the problems that bedevil the nation is helpless and overwhelmed by the monster it has created.
These ugly scenarios evident in our nation, to say the least, are symptomatic of a nation that is at the verge of failure. These vices which are creation of leaders and some the led, pose danger to the survival of our nascent democracy. The veritable option to preclude a major economic, social and educational upheavals and catastrophe and bring back Nigeria to the path of sanity and rectitude is the preparation of the future generation leaders to be able to proffer self-groomed solutions to the challenges that presently bedevil the country. Nigerians should be proactive and dispassionate about the electoral processes, beginning with the registration and obtaining of the permanent voter card (PVC). The Permanent Voter Card gives electoral value to every adult citizen in an adult suffrage voter system. This means it is with the power of the PVC that a failed administration can be ousted or voted out of power in 2023.
It remains the non-violent and seamless process of Great Reformations and Revolution. The apathy that characterises the ongoing registration of voters conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) across the country leaves much to be desired. Such apathy that thrives on the presumption that “vote does not count” will only translate to the perpetuation and sustenance of bad governance, with the attendant untold hardship and avoidable pains.
The ballot is the people’s power. Every government derives its legitimacy from the people through the exercise of their franchise. If we are apathetic and apolitical, in participating in the ongoing exercise, then we should not expect to have a difference in result and experiences from what we are already going through.
Vote will count if we are proactive to change that will take this country to the place our founding fathers had in mind. Vote was essentially the instrument to determine those who emerged as flag bearers of the political parties at their governorship, presidential and national assembly primaries supervised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). If the vote does not count, why was the process allegedly monetised or “dollarised”? Aspirants to positions, especially the presidential positions of political parties were said to have bought delegates votes.
This simply implies that the ballot is the power and process for a person to emerge in an elective office. The flawed processes with the consent of men and women who lacked integrity, are self-serving and are unpatriotic to the ideals and vision of Nigeria’s founding fathers, remain the straw that “breaks the camel’s back”.
Apathy and selfishness on the part of some Nigerians, have driven the country to a point of precipice. We must insist on getting it right in 2023 by ensuring that the right candidates are given the electoral mandate to hold the resources of the people in trust. A sure and certain way to achieve this, is to participate in the chain electoral processes; from the registration to the elections proper. Those who are card carrying members of political parties should resist the temptation of compromising free and fair electoral processes by aspirants. The future of Nigeria depends on what we do today. The interest of the generality of Nigerians should not be subsumed under the whim and caprice of a selfish and callous minority.
With the concerted efforts, patriotism, participation in the election processes, Nigeria will find her lost bearing and undoubtedly take her pride of place in the commity of nations. According to the analysis of one of the presidential candidates of one political party, in the forthcoming 2023 General Elections, last year, Nigeria made N970.3 billion from the oil sector, N1.6 trillion from non-oil tax, 2.8 trillion from a cumulative of other sources. In total, Nigeria realised N5.5 trillion in revenue. Of the N5.5 trillion revenue, N4.2 trillion was spent on debts repayment from January to December. What was left after debt servicing was a paltry N1.3 trillion as against a budget of N13.57 trillion. To achieve optimal budgetary performance, the Buhari’s administration had to borrow a whopping N12.27 trillion. This is outrageous and gross mismanagement of commonwealth. The only instrument to drive change that will yield democratic dividends is the Permanent Voters Card. Get it, use it wisely, do not mortgage your future and posterity by succumbing to antics of selfish people. Your PVC is the good Nigeria we clamour for.
By: Igbiki Benibo
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Dissecting Rivers Gains