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Editorial

2023 General elections: Time citizens must act as custodians 

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Nigeria is at the edge  of another season of crossroads. The reality of conditions before the Country, however, make the 2023 General Election coming forth in few months, a subject of critical concern. The unpalatable state of living conditions, amidst negativities of various fabrics of the society have made the call for citizens to be, more than before, careful and thorough in the selections of candidates who will bear rule in custody of public offices for another regime, has been one rational campaign in right perspective.

On the choice of deciding candidates to assume political offices for another  political season, the call for doing same wisely, has become resonating. Such call has largely been premised on the ground that whether the Country would experience worsening of conditions or turning point unto the yearnings of the thrust of growth and development longed for, is dependent on the choice of candidates settled for in the forth coming General elections.  Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Wednesday, the 10th  August, 2022, had spoken on why Nigerians should not afford to make  wrong choices during the 2023 General elections. He warned that making the wrong choice in the election may consume the nation. The former President who spoke in Lagos as the special guest of honour at the Wilson Badejo Foundation’s 15th annual lecture with the theme, ‘Overcoming the twin challenge of poverty and insecurity in Nigeria’ had said progress for the  nation is tied to making the right choice in 2023. “It is either we make the right choice in 2023 because if we make the right choice, we would get there. However, if we do not make the right choice in 2023, things would consume us and we pray against that one. We must make the right choice in 2023, Nigeria is not where it is supposed to be today. If anyone says it is ok where we are at the moment, then the person’s head needs to be examined,” he had said.

Essentially, the question of the disposition of the masses to the subject of choice, pose pregnant issues of concern.  Issues relating to money politics, do-or-die politics,  winner-takes-it-all syndrome on the part of politicians are much in view as  characteristics of the Nigerian political climate. On the part of the populace, more importantly, issues of apathy, vote selling, ethno-religious  nepotistic, and pecuniary leanings, have been pronounced; but yet elections must hold for transition of government, in as much as the standing order of the embraced system settled for in the Country is democracy.

However, while apathy setting in recently has become pronounced, it is noteworthy the failure of governments of successive administrations, which had informed same cannot be expunged from the prevailing political culture of the masses, with deficient dispositions some of which have been mentioned above. It is noteworthy that some of these deficient dispositions, are what politicians have learnt to exploit to have their ways during elections. Thus, having been able to manoeuvre their ways through, by optimising the cultural inadequacies, becoming responsible in government becomes of less concern to them –  hence, the successive recycling of political officer holders with records of failure which have borne the disappointment informing why many recently are staying  far from the polls, believing there is no essence for same, since same set of politicians recycled into offices have largely behaved similar ways with insignificance for development, but rather deterioration of conditions.

To say there are no competent hands to rule the Country within the Nigerian political space, however, would deeply be questionable and controversial; hence that may not be the case, but rather, the case would have to be that such candidates, who hold the credence,  may not come near the appeals of majority of the masses who form the electorates. Hence, the subject of intelligence in election has come to bear. It is such orientation to election where the choice of candidates by electorates are determined by critical and informed perusal of the political climate, sieving the system to weigh the candidates vying for various positions, and reaching an informed decision on the best suitable candidate for each position in contest, voting for same, bereft of any touch of ethno-religious, myopic, and nepotistic sentiments. This would be the way to go.

By this, bringing on board candidates whose track records have proven the veracity of competence would be the driving force informing election and emergence of candidates, capable of running and meeting the demands of public offices as informed by in-depth consideration of their track records of competence, which informed the choice of the electorates at the polls, against leanings on any form of sentiment.

It is within this purview that Nigerians can track their representatives for accountability, having set in place a culture where from the on-set, the orientation and pathway that informed the  election was borne by intelligent sorting of the political space, sniffing for the best hand for every office  and choosing same at the polls, which really gives enlightened understanding to the reflections of election process and not mere selection activities.

As the General elections draw close, the need for the Nigerian populace to rise to become custodians of the process is pertinent. Rising up to same would demand intelligent engagement and participation. It is when such positive disposition, birthing the rise of enlightened political culture is set in place, that Nigerians themselves can really become the custodians of democracy in their own Country. Assuming this status, would form the foundation for a systemic culture where accountability would come take a pride of place, as every citizen would have to rise to the responsibility of intelligently engaging the system. At this point, the pathway to the degree of political consciousness would be formidable, where it becomes practically difficult for politicians to play pranks on the intelligence of the populace.

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Editorial

Nigeria’s National Identity Card initiative: A misguided venture

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The recent announcement by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) regarding the launch of a new national identity card with payment functionality epitomises folly.

While touted as a solution to streamline identification and financial services, the collaboration between NIMC, the Central Bank of Nigeria, and the Nigeria Inter-bank Settlement System appears to be a misaligned endeavour.

In a nation burdened by limited resources and an array of urgent challenges, Nigeria’s pursuit of grandiose projects with questionable benefits is a luxury it cannot afford.

Despite its surface appeal, closer scrutiny reveals a troubling trend of duplication, bureaucratic inefficiency, and a glaring gap between governmental aspirations and citizens’ realities.

This venture echoes previous attempts to overhaul the national identification system, notably the ill-fated 2006 concession awarded to Chams.

That endeavour, marred by allegations of collusion and technical sabotage, squandered over $100 million, leaving a bitter legacy of failure. In light of this history, skepticism abounds regarding the prospects of the current initiative.

As Nigeria grapples with pressing socio-economic issues, including poverty, insecurity, and inadequate infrastructure, it is imperative that resources be directed towards initiatives with tangible benefits for the populace.

The proposed national identity card, with its payment functionality, appears to be a misplaced priority in this context.

Rather than embarking on ventures with dubious returns, Nigerian authorities must prioritise accountability, transparency, and citizen-centric policies. The nation cannot afford to repeat past mistakes at the expense of its long-suffering populace.

Furthermore, the purported justification for the new card – facilitating access to “multiple government intervention programs” for the financially marginalised – falls short when juxtaposed with the formidable hurdles Nigerians encounter in simply linking their National Identification Number (NIN) to vital services like mobile phone accounts or bank facilities.

The pandemonium and exasperation prevalent in these endeavours, resulting in citizens squandering valuable time and resources, should stand as a stark warning regarding the government’s competence in executing such extensive identity management schemes.

Moreover, if the concern is the proliferation of identification documents in Nigeria – from international passports and driver’s licenses to voter cards and the existing national ID card – this newspaper holds that this mosaic of identification systems not only spawns unnecessary confusion and bureaucratic headaches for citizens but also casts doubt on the government’s capacity to efficiently orchestrate and amalgamate these diverse platforms.

Instead of tackling these persistent issues head-on, the introduction of yet another identity card appears to be an ill-conceived effort to reinvent the wheel, with scant consideration for the practical challenges confronting Nigerians in their daily lives.

In a nation grappling with limited resources and a plethora of pressing needs, the decision to allocate billions of naira to this new card project is both confounding and deeply concerning. Many would argue that the government’s time and financial resources could be more effectively directed towards enhancing existing infrastructure, fortifying public services, and confronting the numerous socioeconomic challenges plaguing the country.

From the dire state of the healthcare system to the ongoing insecurity that has resulted in significant loss of life, there exist far more urgent issues warranting the government’s attention and, critically, its constrained financial resources.

Moreover, the assertion that the new card will facilitate access to “government intervention programs” for the financially marginalised raises concerns about introducing yet another bureaucratic barrier for vulnerable Nigerians.

Instead of introducing a new identification system, the government’s focus should be on refining and strengthening existing social welfare programs, ensuring they are accessible, efficient, and tailored to meet the needs of the populace.

The government’s ambition to distribute the new card to approximately 104 million citizens is cause for concern. Undertaking such a monumental task without a clear and comprehensive plan is likely to result in further delays, logistical complexities, and a considerable squandering of public funds – resources that could have been channeled towards making tangible improvements in the lives of Nigerians.

In essence, the rollout of the new national identity card with payment functionality reflects a recurring pattern in Nigerian governance: the inclination towards grand, top-down initiatives that often fall short of addressing the underlying issues fueling the country’s challenges.

Instead of pursuing this dubious venture, the government’s focus should shift towards strengthening existing identification systems, fostering better coordination among government agencies, and prioritising investments in areas directly impacting the lives of Nigerians.

As a nation, we must resist the temptation of embracing flashy new projects that promise quick fixes to complex problems.

Achieving genuine progress demands a nuanced, collaborative, and evidence-based approach that acknowledges the distinct needs and challenges of diverse communities.

It’s high time for the government to abandon this latest identity card scheme and redirect its efforts towards more impactful and sustainable initiatives that truly serve the citizens it is sworn to uplift.

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Editorial

Articulated vehicles and the scourge of avoidable deaths

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Nigerians across the country continue to die utterly preventable deaths thanks to a lack of political will on the part of its leaders. It is an ugly fate thrust upon its citizens to live in a country whose economy is built upon the blood of the ordinary people, not out of sacrifice, but nonchalance. Articulated vehicles wipe out families, dreams, and human capital in one fell swoop. Press statements from the leaders are not enough. We need the May 2024 immediacy of the Tinubu administration in this sector too.

Last week, a falling container killed a woman in the Ogudu area of Lagos. The woman was inside a car when the fully loaded 40ft Mack articulated truck fell on it, leading to her instant death, according to the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA).

In October 2023, a businessman identified as Akuma Kalu, was crushed to death by a 40-feet container that fell on his car along the failed portion of Etche-Ngokpala road in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers state.

In September 2023, five women died in a fatal accident that occurred in the early hours of Friday at Odumodu Junction, Nteje, Oyi Local Government Area along Awka Road, Anambra State. As usual, the container of the truck fell upon the bus carrying these people, killing them. We could go on and on. The story remains the same: tragedy upon tragedy.

Every year, the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, does sensitisation with little result to show for it because the arm of the law is too short to punish offenders at the root of the problem. The constant assault on the senses has led to a desensitisation on the part of the populace. Month after month, another story of a truck that erases a family, or multiple families because its brakes fail, or its container is overturned. The combination of the death of empathy on the part of leaders and the emotional exhaustion of the citizens will lead Nigeria down the path of a dystopia.

The governors of each state have a responsibility to institute laws to protect the indigenes. This, the Federal Government must also do nationwide. The FRSC has rules and regulations for trucks. The Government needs to only enforce these rules. Enough of blaming the trucks themselves because they are not the evil entities. The lack of accountability and a weak system perpetuates the dilemma.

The political class should not wait until Nigeria happens to one of their own before acting as is usually the case. Most cases bear the mark of immediate fatality. By the time a family member experiences it, it would have already been too late. We have hope that this administration will do what it takes to restore hope to the common man. Time to act is now.

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Editorial

Renewed Hope Initiative: Beating back inequality in all spheres

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Nigeria is full of inequalities that its leaders contend with administration after administration. With every President comes a partner who shares in the vision, and does her part to alleviate the pains of the citizens. Oluremi Tinubu has etched her name in the annals of history as one of such compassionate ones.

Recently, in Abeokuta she flagged off the Renewed Hope Initiative for women in agriculture and people living with disabilities nationwide in a bid to achieve this noble goal of equity in Nigeria.

“We are supporting 20 women farmers per state with the sum of N500,000 each. To this end, a draft of N10 million per state for the South West zone will be handed over to the first ladies of Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, and Oyo states who are the Renewed Hope Initiative (RHI) state coordinators for onward disbursement to all beneficiaries in their respective states,” she said.

“The Renewed Hope Initiative Social Investment Programme will be empowering 100 persons with disability, small business owners in Ogun State with a sum of N100,000 each to recapitalise their existing businesses.”

In Kebbi, represented by the Wife of the Speaker, House of Representatives, Fatima Tajuddeen Abbas, in Birnin Kebbi, she said, “Agriculture plays a pivotal role in achieving sustainable development and food security. Consequently, we are introducing ‘Every Home a Garden’ competition to encourage each Nigerian woman to cultivate a garden at home to feed the family and share with neighbours, we want to see food on every table.”

We commend the forward thinking and passion for national growth required for such a herculean task. If emulated in all quarters, it will stimulate the economy at the grassroots. It is well acknowledged that the government cannot do it alone. Private individuals who are capable must rise up to contribute to national growth.

It isn’t alien to the Nigerian condition, after all. The country was able to survive the assaults of the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to the joint efforts of private individuals under the umbrella of Coalition Against COVID-19, CACOVID, a Private Sector task force in partnership with the Federal Government, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). The Renewed Hope Initiative joins the tradition of programmes committed to national improvement. History will look upon it kindly.

 

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