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COVID-19 and the professors

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By Femi Adesina

I hate to see professors die. And in recent days, we have lost three of them to the strange ailment called COVID-19, currently ravaging the world.

Within two weeks, we lost three professors in quick succession. Habu Galadima, Director-General, National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS). Femi Odekunle, renowned criminologist and member of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC). And Oyewusi Ibidapo-Obe, former Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos.

Each time a professor dies, I say to myself: what a waste! All the learning, gone. All the intellect, perished. The research, the knowledge, and quest for more knowledge, kaput. Sheer waste!

I have first hand experience in losing a Professor. My elder sister was one. She was a Professor of Dramatic Arts at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. In December 2015, she was traveling from Ibadan to Lagos, when that famished road consumed her. All the learning, gone. All the intellect, perished. The knowledge, and the quest for more knowledge, kaput. What a waste, sheer waste of all that is bright and beautiful.

I have seen Professors die. Young, middle aged, old. But at whatever age, the sheer sense of loss always weighs on me powerfully. Habu Galadima was only 57. Not ripe at all. Professor Ayodele Awojobi, perhaps the most brilliant Engineer from this part of the world, was only 47, when he passed. Waste. Sheer waste.

I knew the three Professors that just died, personally. Habu Galadima I’d met each time he visited the Presidential Villa, either solely, or with his students at NIPSS

Just 17 days before he passed on, he had led members of the Senior Executive Course 42 on a visit, to present their research findings on Population Growth and Human Capital Development: Challenges and Opportunities, to President Muhammadu Buhari.I was Master of Ceremonies at the event, which held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa.

In my capacity as compere, I consulted and related closely with Prof Galadima. We discussed who would do what on the program, and were engaging till the about two hours event was concluded. We both had our face masks in place, and still tried to respect the principle of social distancing, even as we conferred.

You could imagine my shock, when 17 days later, I heard of the death of the erudite Professor. He had reportedly been admitted at an isolation centre in Abuja on December 19, but sadly, he lost the battle for life the next day. All the learning, gone. All the intellect, perished. The knowledge, and quest for more knowledge, kaput. What a waste, sheer waste.

President Buhari says usually of COVID-19: ‘You can’t see it, you can’t touch it, you can’t hear it, but it is there, causing havoc all over the world.”

It kills the rich, and the poor. It eliminates the old, and the young. It has no respect for learning and research, so it takes even Professors. “Death lays its icy hands on kings, Scepter and crown must tumble down, And in the dust be equal made with the poor crooked scythe and spade,” wrote James Shirley.

And death takes everyone, everything, including Professors. How rude. Impudent. Even supercilious. No wonder John Donne wrote that death shall die one day.

“One short sleep past, we wake eternally

And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.” True.

Professor Femi Odekunle I probably knew closest among the three fallen scholars. I visited his home in Wuse area of Abuja regularly, very regularly, and he had a way of saying: “Femi, please let’s see on your way from church on Sunday.” And I usually did.

Odekunle was a Buharist, and we usually had a lot to discuss about our principal, trends in government, the anti-corruption war, and many others. When he needed background information on certain issues, he usually sent for me.

And the President loved and respected him, too. There was a time the Professor needed private audience, and he sent me to the boss. I mentioned it, and pronto, he granted the request. You can’t beat President Buhari in terms of loyalty to his allies.

When COVID-19 came, the Odekunle home took all the precautions. You must wear face mask before you were granted access, and someone was always by the door to apply sanitizers to your hands. So, how did the Prof catch COVID, or rather, how did COVID catch him? Mysterious. Inscrutable. Baffling.

As former Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Commission, Dr Olu Agunloye, has succinctly put it, I was in a way involved in the last ditch effort to ensure Prof Odekunle lived. After he had spent 11 days in an isolation centre in Abuja, the wife became restive about the quality of care he was getting. So also the son, Dosu. I began to talk with them back and forth, and the wife asked if the DSS hospital could take her husband.

I made the contacts, and the way was being paved for his transfer, when the unthinkable happened. Professor Odekunle lost the battle for life. All the learning, gone. All the intellect, perished. All the knowledge, and search for more knowledge, kaput. What a waste. Sheer waste!

And then, Professor Ibidapo-Obe. I had known him since his days as Vice Chancellor of University of Lagos. We had invited him to grace The Sun Awards, while I worked with The Sun Newspapers. He came, and that was the beginning of our acquaintanceship, which lasted till last weekend.

It was a shock for me to hear the news. He was a first class brain, best graduating student in his set, who had his Master’s and Ph.D in record time. He was President of the Nigerian Academy of Science. But impudent COVID-19 did not respect all that . Now, all the learning, gone. All the intellect, perished. All the knowledge, and search for more knowledge, kaput. What a waste. Sheer waste!

On Tuesday this week, our country recorded 1,354 new cases of Coronavirus infections. It was the highest daily record so far, and deaths have hit 1,319, in all the 36 States, and the Federal Capital Territory. Fellow Nigerians, it’s no time to be careless or reckless. The second wave of Coronavirus is not smiling at all.

The worst enemy is the one who can see you, and you can’t see. It strikes stealthily, and fatally. And with Coronavirus, “you can’t see it, you can’t smell it, you can’t touch it, but it is there, causing havoc round the world.”

May God save us from such implacable foe.

*Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity

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Guest of the week

PMB and the futurologists

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By Femi Adesina

It’s the beginning of a year, and it’s that time you hear all sorts from futurists, prospectivists, and foresight practitioners.

The Good Book tells us of the 5-fold Ministries of Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers. These are offices into which God has called some people, to lead, guide and comfort His people. Unfortunately, however, some people have decided to call themselves, and they go about, running riot all over the place with guess work, divination, and outright falsehood, all to beguile the people, pass themselves off as somebody, and ultimately make filthy money.

Since he became leader of the country, President Muhammadu Buhari has been an object of the futurologists. They have come up with tons of predictions, many of which went wide off the mark, hitting the crossbar.

Many times, they have virtually killed him. Many other times, they have deposed him through the 2019 election. They have foreseen sickness, death, empty seat at the Presidential Villa. But year after year, month after month, President Buhari continues to do his duty to the country, and to his family. He remains constant like the Northern Star.

Yes, typical of a human being, he can be sick and indisposed from time to time. We remember 2017, when President Buhari was practically unavailable between January and August, with only intermittent returns to the country in-between. Human beings, prince or pauper, President or manual laborer, can be ill, can recover, or can even die. What eventually happens is a matter of mercy from God Almighty.

“I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” (Romans 9: 15). President Buhari has obtained mercy, compassion, in plenitude, and many a false prophet is frustrated. Even angry. All their prognostications have failed, and the next thing is to write a book on them, like Prof. Wole Soyinka did. ‘Requiem for a Futurologist.’ Many so-called prophets are tricksters, artificers, swindlers, charlatans, scoundrels.

I had cause to take up a mountebank sometime last year, when he said the President’s jet would crash at the last quarter of 2021. What was his intention? Patronage. That the President should send emissaries to him with bags of money, so he could pray and stave off the tragedy. Prayer contractor! The President was particularly busy with international travels at the period the ‘prophet’ mentioned. USA, Ethiopia, Riyadh, Glasgow, London, Paris, Durban, Dubai, Turkey, and many other places. Did any accident happen? Not even an incident. That is where God is different from man. He has mercy on whom He will have mercy.

That was what the marabouts did to Sani Abacha, that he remained holed in Aso Rock. Between November 1993 and June 1998 that he was head of state, you could count both local and foreign trips he made on the fingers of one hand. There was a time plenty hype had been made on his visit to Oyo State, to commission the Asejire Water Scheme. The State was agog with expectations, and a holiday had been declared. Only for Abacha not to show up. He had been caged by the futurologists.

At another time, he had been confirmed to visit Lagos, to commission projects, including the Marwa Gardens, in Alausa area of Ikeja. Col Buba Marwa was a star, a poster boy of the administration. Visiting Lagos would have been good for Abacha himself. And all was set. The city had been put under lockdown. At the last minute, Abacha refused to show up. Caged again by the horizon scanners, who always see negative, never anything positive.

It was said that in the few times the head of state ventured out of the fortress called Aso Rock, he would lock up all the Service Chiefs at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, until he returned. So that they wouldn’t be able to effect a military coup while he was away. Whether the story is true, or apocryphal, I don’t know. What I sure know is that the day Abacha’s time was up, it was simply up. “There’s no armor against fate.” (James Shirley).

What we learn from the antics of the prophets against President Buhari is that no man ever has the final say. God is the ultimate decider. If man says anything, and God has not concurred, then nothing happens. Let that man move from mountain to mountain, praying that his prophecy should come to pass, it would be like beating a dead horse. Sheer waste of energy.

Serve your God. Show malice to none. Plot and do no evil, and let’s see the negative prophecy that would come to pass against you. That’s an eternal lesson we learn from our President.

Like I said at the beginning, the prophetic ministry is divine, ordained by God. “By a prophet the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved.” (Hosea 12: 13). But let nobody begin to posture as if he has the final say, the power to foretell, and it remains inviolable. Only God has the final say, and He is full of mercy and compassion.

I used to open my doors to one young prophet years back. I liked his knowledge of Scriptures, and ability to pray fervently. Whenever he asked for an appointment, I obliged. Of course, I didn’t always believe everything he said, but I was helpful to him in ways I could. Till about this time of a certain year. Maybe he felt it was time for him to finally have me under his armpit, control my life totally. So he came with a number of frightful prophecies for that year. I listened to him calmly, and he left. The Good Book says; “But he who prophesies speaks to men for their edification, encouragement and comfort.” (1 Corinthians 14:3). He had come to do otherwise.

That was the last he has seen me till date. He has phoned hundreds of times, begged, pleaded, made requests, I’ve not obliged him once. He attempted to merchandise with the gift of God, and he picked on a wrong man. So also do these prophets pick on the wrong person, when they come attempting to cow and frighten our President.

In about 17 months, President Buhari would land safely, as God wills. He would finish his tenure in a blaze of glory, and retire to Daura to tend his cattle. That is the prayer of millions of good people. Let no so-called prophet attempt to hoodwink or browbeat us to the contrary. Who has the final say? Jehovah has the final say.

Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity

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FCE, Technical, Akoka has benefitted about N2bn from TETFUND — Provost

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In this interview with Nigerian NewsDirect, the Provost of the Federal College of Education (Technical) Akoka, Lagos, Dr Ademola Abdulwahab Azeez, speaks on the impacts of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) in the development of tertiary education in Nigeria. According to him, not less than N2billion has been benefitted by his institutions alone. He mentioned that beyond infrastructural development, the fund has been instrumental in capacity development and research for Academia among University stakeholders. Excerpts:

How have you gone about attracting TETFUND to FCE  Technical? 

My first reaction is that, Nigerian academia should be grateful to the  Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for being the agent that has brought progress to the Nigerian educational system, especially the tertiary system. If not for the struggle,  the Federal Government would not have accede to ASUU’s agitation. Initially, the tax deduction on education was one per cent but later increased to two per cent. That two per cent deduction tax, paid by private companies and organisations has done a lot for ours tertiary institutions, such that no institution in Nigeria can complain of not having access to TETFUND projects or interventions; except if such an Institution is not serious because the guidelines are very clear on the rate of allocation given every year. We have allocation for normal intervention, zonal intervention and for special intervention. While the special intervention is done every year, it circulates within the zone.

For example, my College benefited from 2019 special intervention. The zonal intervention is general and no intervention budget for Universities is uniform. The same applies to the polytechnic and colleges of education and same also goes for the states too. But the difference is that the one for the state is rotated among the three tiers of education.  For example, TETfund would give the fund to one of those Universities.  So, the following year, it will go to another institution within that state. The same goes to the polytechnics and colleges of education. But for the Federal institutions,  it is allocated to us every year. What I did when I came on board in May 2019 was to check tikkhe record and I discovered there are projects my college was unable to assess from TETfund. So, I approach the TETfund’s leadership and met some of the directors in charge of project and they were able to go to the file and I was able to assess the method of allocation for the previous ones. As at then, any institution is allowed to merge about three projects. That was what I did –  to check all the projects that have not been assessed by previous administrations  got consultants,  submitted a proposal and the result of the proposal is what you are seeing in the college today. So, we were able to merge normal and special interventions. e

Were the contractors  selected by TETfund or by the school management?

You have to follow the procedures for bidding; the law allows us to advertise. The projects are public, so we advertised according to the stipulations of the Procurement Act 2007. We advertised in  national newspapers, which must run at least for six weeks and any successful bidder would be given the contract; not necessarily the lowest bidder. At  times,  the lowest bidder may not have the technical ability and the finance to execute the project. In a nutshell, there were procedures we needed to follow and that was exactly what we did.

How regular and proactive are the release of the funding?

It depends; for instance if it’s procurement, the laws allow you after you have allocated the project to the contractor, to pay certain amount – 85 percent for procurement, but  for project, 50 percent for the first time and thereafter to be followed with subsequent processes upon satisfactory performance by the contractor.

Over the years, how much in figures has your school benefited from TETfund in Naira?

It’s about N2billion.

What role do you think other organisations can play like TETfund in boosting qualitative education in tertiary institutions?

From the projects that Tetfund have been financing, I can convienently say TETfund has been supporting qualitative education. It’s now left for the administrators and management of the institutions to focus on areas that can benefit Nigerians. Because apart from the infrastructural development, what we need to do more is to invest on human capital development. When you train your lecturers and administrative staff, they will be able to meet up with challenges of running modern day institution, so as to make our institutions become competitive

In this area of man-power development,  what is Federal College of Education, Technical, doing?

As a College of Education, Technical, we have been committed to training of our staff in the technical areas. Particularly, we are also teaching the students and we also use funds from TETfund for training and further studies – Masters and P.hd, and the numbers have increased astronomically. Presently, we are running degree programmes in affiliation with the University of Benin. We also have sufficient man power to run our degree programmes without affiliating with anyNigerian university .

What do you think may be responsible for the trend that Nigerians are sourcing for technical workers from Togo, Benin Republic, and other neighbouring countries to come into Nigeria to work; does this implies Nigerian artisans are weak?

That is true and that is the reason why colleges of education like ours, and even universities of technology, are focusing more on the technical areas where Nigerian skills are needed so that we won’t be complaining of not having jobs. There are jobs to be done but we have few qualified hands. For example, how do we train our mechanics? How do we train our technicians?  We condemn them that they are not well educated, but if you buy a new car today you will rely on these technicians. It’s like we are just playing to the gallery. So, it’s the responsibility of any higher institution to make sure there is a focus on technical training in all the areas we need services, instead of relying on foreigners to come and do it for us. So, we need to set up our workshops, laboratories and change the work force; that is developing human capital in modern technologies, ICT, Engineering, and so many other areas.  To achieve that, you need to bring in experts from outside for training. So, TETfund has also been assisting by supporting lecturers and staff to go for workshops and training outside the Country in order to get the best training and also come back to Nigeria to also retrain colleagues and students as well.

We understand that strike is a major impediment against sustainable manpower development in higher institutions, how have you been managing workers’ unionism in your institution?

What we do here is an open door policy administration to make sure that the management and the staff union in the college are carried along. We let them know what we have achieved and the challenges we are facing? I do tell them that if they have good ideas on project proposals, they should not hesitate to bring such ideas to the management because without good relationship between the management and the unions, you might not be able to achieve much. So, we have been interacting with them so they know what the management is doing, and if they have any contribution or idea to cheap in, they could do so.

What nature of feedbacks are you getting from employers of labour and alumni particularly now that government is facing funding challenges?

One good thing for our graduates is that once they finish, they start their own businesses or go into full teaching and the reports we have been getting have been encouraging. For those of them who decided not to do government jobs, they set up their own businesses and they are doing well. In respect of that, the institution has set up what we called, “the Center for Endowment Development Advancement Alumni Relation (CEDAR)” aimed at fostering alumni relation so as to attract funds or support from alumni who are in industries and entrepreneurs in a bid to also develop the college. One of the objective of CEDAR is to attract project support from any alumnus. We will name the project after such alumnus just to institutionalise that person’s name. This at least will serve as encouragement to others who want to follow same example because we need more workshops, infrastructures, and laboratories.  If such is given to the college by the alumni, it will go a long way.

What can you say have been your major achievements and challenges?

We have been able to develop more projects, boost infrastructural development and teaching facilities, effect construction of laboratories, classrooms, install changes in equipment, among others. The major challenge is funds; to get fund to renovate our dilapidated hostel facilities and even the classrooms. Our focus is to have more classrooms that have all the facilities, like fully installed ICT facilities and others. This is to ensure students feel the sense of coming to institutions like ours, so as to train the student in technical areas that will develop the economy in the Country.

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The EFCC collaborative strategy

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By Erasmus Ikhide

THE scourge of corruption is one of the reasons why Nigeria is not living up to its ‘Giant of Africa’ Shibboleth and has continued to crawl on her knees in adult diapers to the chagrin of her countrymen both at home and in the Diaspora. Since Independence, billions of dollars has been lost to corruption according to the global anti-corruption watch dog, Transparency International (TI).

On hindsight, it was commendable of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to have established the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2003 to effectively tackle graft and corruption. That nearly twenty year old vision has yielded fruits as the agency is making sturdy strides in the gargantuan war against the malaise.

Corruption is too huge to be fought alone by the EFCC and we commend the EFCC for forging strategic partnerships with other agencies in the country to make corruption minimal. We recall during the heady days of the sinister apartheid regime in South Africa that the liberation fighters most notably Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Desmond Tutu, Winnie Mandela etc didn’t take the Boer regime headlong alone.

They sought collaboration among many nations like Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Kenya etc for financial, technical and ideological support. Many South Africans in exile who were fighting the cause from abroad successfully lobbied the then Margaret Thatcher led administration to impose sanctions on the regime of the then Pieter Willem Botha led government. Mbeki, then based in London played a key role in the negotiations that led to the release of Mandela from incarceration after 27 years behind bars. The American War of Independence from Britain which led to the latter defeating the army of King George III had the backing of France. Noble causes are never fought alone. This piece will critically examine how the EFCC has partnered with Nigerian agencies to wage war against the hydra headed monster of corruption.

The EFCC has gone into a partnership with the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) in 2020 for speedy investigation of infractions committed by oil companies in Nigeria.  This is a step in the right direction as the oil sector – the goose that lays the golden egg for the Nigerian economy is bedeviled by many irregularities allegedly committed by the big players in it especially the International Oil Companies (IOC’s). Popular businessman and politician, Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim told the world that he made his fortune as a tax consultant to the Federal Government by ensuring the government got billions of dollars in taxes from the IOC’s. Nigerians deserve a better deal from the black gold and this partnership is designed to bring home the bacon to the doorsteps of Nigerians.

In 2021, the EFCC and the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) have gone into a partnership to ensure that the revenues due to the government in the oil and gas sector is remitted  to the government and to also fight corruption in the sector.

The Vanguard Newspaper on April 23,  reported that the EFCC Helmsman, Abdulrasheed Bawa was quoted to have said when he received the NEITIBoss at the EFCC’s Headquarters in Jabi Abuja where he said “We have developed expertise in oil and gas investigation. We did oil subsidy investigation, we did oil swap investigation, we did OML and OPL investigations, which came with billions of naira recovered. We can work together to ensure that what rightly belongs to Nigeria is ours.”

He urged the Agency to take advantage of the Extractive Industries Fraud Section of the Commission, which was created exclusively to tackle fraud in the extractive sector.

“In 2012, the EFCC set up a special team for petroleum subsidy which I was part of, and at the end of our assignment, it was changed into a permanent section in the EFCC. It was changed from special team for petroleum subsidy to Extractive Industry Fraud Section, and the EFCC did not stop at that. We ensured that every Zone of the Commission have that section.”

The Thisday Newspapers reported on December 16, 2020 that the EFCC and the Department for State Services(DSS) have partnered to effectively tackle graft in Nigeria. A statement issued by EFCC said the Ilorin

Zonal Head of the EFCC, Oseni Oluwasina Kazeem, made the disclosure Tuesday while playing host to the State Director, DSS, Patrick Ikenweine, at the commission’s office in Ilorin.

Kazeem, who decried the rate at which corruption had permeated every sector of Nigeria system noted that the cankerworm could only be tamed through collaborative efforts of all stakeholders, including the DSS.

He commended the DSS for being a good partner in the fight and called for more robust working relationship between the two agencies. Earlier, the Director DSS, Ikenweine stated the essence of his visit which he said was to familiarise with critical stakeholders in the State.

“I’m here to familiarise with you in a bid towards building on the existing cordial relationship with your agency.

“The DSS and EFCC have a record of good working relationship, which I hope should be sustained,” he said.

The EFCC and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) went into a partnership during the Chairmanship of Babatunde Fowler to fight tax evasion in the country. This collaboration, according to the FIRS Executive Chairman, Tunde Fowler, will ensure Nigeria’s financial security and independence, which he said are key to national development.

Fowler made this known in Abuja at the opening of International Conference and Capacity Building Workshop on the Use of Beneficial Ownership Information and The Recovery of Assets in Africa. He beckoned on Nigerians and the international community to collaborate in the fight against “any illegality”.

“Corruption is anything illegal. Whether it is money laundering, taxfraud, tax evasion or other illegalities. We must collaborate to fight them. When you are fighting corruption, you are taking back from the corrupt people, what they erroneously think belongs to them. That is why they resist the fight against corruption,” Fowler said.

The EFCC and the Presidential Artisanal Gold Mining Development Initiative (PAGMI) on August 3, 2021 reiterated the need for continuous education and enlightenment of artisanal gold miners and gold sellers in view of their vulnerability in being used to perpetrate sinister acts of money laundering.

A few days ago the EFCC encouraged the members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to embrace financial crimes in the country.  “Add your voice to mine, because the fight against economic and financial crimes involves you and I. I will play my part, you will play yours.”

The EFCC chairman stated this in a sensitization lecture on the Role of Youth in Curbing Cybercrimes presented on his behalf by officials of the Commission at various Orientation camps of the Batch B stream 1 set of corps members.

“Embrace hard work and shun crime, Yahoo-Yahoo is not a sustainable way of life. As dynamic young men and women, our desire is to harness your intelligence and energy for greater public good in your areas of primary assignments,” Mr. Bawa said.

The EFCC is extremely pragmatic in its strategic partnerships with other Nigerian agencies as they cannot win the anti-corruption war alone. We urge the EFCC to forge more partnerships especially with the

media, religious bodies and the Civil Rights groups as the collaborative efforts will greatly reduce the scourge of graft and set Nigeria on the path to greatness which may dwarf the achievements of the Asian Tigers.

Ikhide writes from Lagos, Nigeria

Follow me on Twitter @ikhide_erasmus1

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