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What Time is it for Nigeria?

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By Obiageli Ezekwesili

There is Time for everything. Figuratively speaking, a person or country can be asked, “What Time is it?” with an intention to trigger a deep rumination from those who should know or care. The start of the New Year after a bloodied end of 2023 with yet another mass brutal killings of over 150 children, youth, women, and men during the Christmas week, in several villages of Plateau State did provide the context for one to ask. So, I ask first, those among my fellow citizens who have only always hoped against hope that our country will ultimately Become, “What Time is it for Nigeria?”  I next ask all those who have held and the ones currently holding political and public leadership positions in the country, “What Time is it for Nigeria?”

The blood of Fidelis Solomon and over one hundred and fifty other victims gruesomely massacred in the latest Plateau State carnage, and the blood of the hundreds of thousands of innocent Nigerians cumulatively killed in the North Central, Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, Southsouth and Southwest regions of our country are crying, “What Time is it for Nigeria?” What is your answer, fellow citizens?

This really is the hardest question that all the people of goodwill in Nigeria must ask and answer candidly. Anyone who attempts to evade asking and confronting the inevitable tough answer to this question merely lives in delusion.

For me, it is the critical time to confront the hard conversations on how to create a viable Nigeria that transits from mere country to a nation of people who though diverse have collectively negotiated to unite themselves around a shared sense of nationalism to build a just, equitable, peaceful, orderly, prosperous, stable, resilient, and ethical society based on shared values, national vision and common identity. It is the most feasible way to avoid Nigeria becoming a truly bankrupt country with all her people.

Bankruptcy, an extremely scary word, was recently used by Nigeria’s National Security Adviser (NSA), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu to describe the financial situation of the country. In his words: “We are facing very serious budgetary constraints. It is okay for me to tell you. It is fine for you to know. We have a very serious situation… We have inherited a very difficult country, a bankrupt country to the extent that we are paying back what was taken. It is serious.”

Bankruptcy in corporate use, means the death of an entity because it stops all operations and goes completely out of business. Death is the loss of soul. Like humans, a country also has a soul, and it contains the values and boundaries of what is acceptable or abhorrent behavior. For example, in Nigeria, there was a time when a certain modicum of values served as filters of what behaviors were rewarded and punished. The soul of our country began to die when public leaders became bad examples, disdaining values and rewarding vices. As the people either helplessly watched on or simply did not care and many chose to join the leaders in sliding the scale of values, the soul of Nigeria started to erode. The soul of the country has eroded to a degree where today, the value and respect for human life is closer to zero than to one.

The bankruptcy of a country and people which relegates the dignity of life is much more damaging than empty public coffers. Public leaders who do not value the life of their fellow human being bankrupt the soul of their country. The cyclical pattern of empty coffers in a country vastly endowed with the natural, human, and other resources to have emerged as a globally productive and competitive economy is a factor of Nigeria’s values bankruptcy. The Nigerian-State run by governments which are inured to the debasement of human lives is bankrupt of soul.

We shockingly arrived at a time in our country when regardless of the number of mass abductions, maiming and killings of fellow humans being in our country, the Nigerian-State moves on without an iota of accountability and consequence for especially murderous criminals. We are in a time when Nigerians have normalized and accepted that their governments and leaders can conduct, enable, or ignore acts of impunity. A time in which the lines between reward and punishment are so blurred that the country exists without any form of deterring consequence for the most atrocious behaviours.

So, even though evidence abound in our public finance data to support Ribadu’s assessment of the current state of the country’s finances, Nigeria’s reality is worse than mere financial bankruptcy. An empty treasury is the least of insolvencies that stymie Nigeria and Nigerians. The substantial and existential danger is that Nigeria as a country is totally bankrupt of values, void of soul and headed into a cataclysmic collapse of the kind that more money cannot change. What can more money do to reverse the callous acceptance of a brutish, short, and nasty existence into which majority Nigerians have now acculturated their minds?

What will more money do for a people who no longer expect their leaders to take responsibility for basic duties including accountability for failure to produce results? What can more money do for a country where kidnapping of citizens grew into an industry nationwide? The Nigeria we all lament today is a sad example of what failure to agree and uphold a national integrity and values system can do to any people. Nigerians chose to be lethargic to how our country is governed, so our public leaders willfully distorted incentives and sanctions in our society.

Yes, the public coffers are empty, but the time now is to tackle the cause and not one of the symptoms of our national bankruptcy as a country and people. Nigeria must first overcome the existential sustainability question as our top priority agenda at this time. Is it not staggeringly alarming that Nigeria’s contemporary peer-countries are contending to lead the 21st Century by shifting global economic dominance while we in contrast are steadily regressing farther away from being a country? Nigeria’s multiple existential threats to retaining the status of country are fiercer than ever before. We now barely tick the boxes for the full status of a country, properly so called.

A Nigeria that is fast losing most of the basic criteria that qualified us to be included in the United Nations list of recognized countries should alarm all patriots into action to save and avoid the tendentious pattern of our political class tunnelling our focus to addressing symptoms instead of their underlying causes.

Our evident state of affairs is that Nigeria now more than ever before ticks closest to the box of a failed state on the criteria of renowned Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy magazine. The index annually uses Economic, Political and Social factors to evaluate fragility and resilience of countries. Nigeria has every year over the last ten years remained within the group of 15 countries out of 170 that rank closest to fragile-failed country status. For example, on the economic front, Nigeria is entangled with endemic issues of systemic and widespread grand as well as petty corruption, “high economic inequality, economic development along group lines, low growth, severe economic decline and rising extreme poverty.”

In the context of the Fragility Index on the political front, Nigeria experiences “breakdown of capacity of government to function usually characterised by delegitimisation of the state, deterioration of public services, suspension, or arbitrary application of law; widespread human rights abuses, security forces operating as a “state within a state” often with impunity, rise of factionalised elites, and rise of external political agents and foreign states.”

On the social metrics, the index evaluates Nigeria’s “depleting social capital, loss of social cohesion, a squandering and poor management of its diversity, demographic pressures and tribal, ethnic and/or religious conflicts, massive internal and external displacement of refugees, creating severe humanitarian emergencies, widespread vengeance-seeking group grievances and sustained human flight” and such like.

It will amount to a historical missed opportunity if Nigerians do not in 2024 collectively resist the syndrome of tunneling our focus to the lowest common denominator of our problems. The Federal Government in its current narrative about public financial distress is leading everyone down that path because even though it is true that Nigeria and Nigerians are faced with the severest fiscal distress ever experienced in recent history, our single-minded focus must be the battle for the Soul of Nigeria. No amount of money from higher oil prices, tax collections and more domestic and external debts can win this battle for us.

More money cannot save a country and people that have lost their soul. Even then, the fact is that from all evidence available in the public domain, additional money earned by Nigeria now merely and mostly feeds the avarice and voracious greed of Nigeria’s politicians anyway as the budget process has often revealed. The question that should therefore seize the minds of citizens of Nigeria and move all in the direction of the right actions is found in the timeless words of scripture; “Behold, what does it profit a man, nay, a woman and people of a country, to gain the whole world but lose their soul?”

There is a raging battle for the Soul of Nigeria, a country which has turned into a massive killing field and mass graves overrun with the blood of innocent children, youth, women, and men brutally murdered, battered or abducted without any consequence to the criminals.

Every Nigerian of goodwill – regardless of ethnicity, religion, economic status, and political persuasion – knows that the Nigeria we once knew is gone. The collective momentum must now swiftly gather to the tipping point for Nigerians to compel a legally mandated National Conversation that will fundamentally negotiate and determine the value we place on our lives and the values that will uphold, preserve, and dignify a New Nigeria and Nigerians. Throughout history, dead countries commenced their dying when human life ceased to have worth. This is the kind of time Nigeria finds itself, but we can by a collective will confront the demons that have dwarfed the realization of our country’s giant potentials and change the course of our checkered history.

Could this be the ironic time a lethally flawed government of President Bola Tinubu which continues struggling with a crisis of legitimacy, makes the urgent and historic choice to facilitate and enable a New Constitutional Process credibly co-led by citizens? Will the Tinubu administration surprise us and choose the good of Nigeria and Nigerians this Time?

Will he take up the gauntlet at this Time and ask himself the question, “What Time is it for Nigeria?” Can Tinubu’s candid answer be that it is “The Time for me to do right by the Citizens of Nigeria?”

There is indeed Time for everything, and Nigerians are anxiously waiting. It is Time.

Obiageli “Oby” Ezekwesili, a former Minister of Education and Solid Minerals, is Founder and Chairperson of the Board of the School of Politics, Policy and Governance (SPPG).

Opinion

The rise and fall of Philip Shaibu

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By Bola Bolawole

Edo State deputy governor, Comrade Philip Shaibu, has kicked the canvass; he was impeached by the Edo State House of Assembly days ago and a replacement was promptly provided by his erstwhile boss, Gov. Godwin Obaseki. Shaibu was in court while his impeachment was being perfected; we await the court’s verdict but time is not on his side. Governorship elections are due in the state on September 21st, a few months from now. It is said that one of the reasons why Shaibu had to be impeached was his insistence on contesting the governorship position in that election; apart from other “irreconcilable differences” between him and Obaseki.

Shaibu’s desire from Day One, and the pact he thought he had with his boss, was that Obaseki would hand over the baton of leadership to him; an “emilokan” kind of arrangement. And while the good times lasted between the two buddies, Shaibu enjoyed it to the hilt. He was loud! He was visible! He was influential! He was powerful! He was feared! He made Obaseki’s enemies his enemies and Obaseki’s friends his friends. He fought battles on behalf of Obaseki and waged wars in defence of a man he held dear. But nothing lasts forever and spanners often get thrown into the works. Gentlemen’s agreements are often honoured in their breach and what goes around, as they say, comes around! The reasons for this are not far to fetch.

The period between one election and another is damn too long for anyone to gain say what can happen along the line. Just one night – usually referred to as the night of long knives – can change many things. Politicians always lack fidelity; they make agreements, knowing full well that they will break them. That is why our people refer to any agreement with politicians derisively as “adehun alagbada.” Agreements made by politicians wearing flowing robes (agbada or babariga). You trust such agreements to your chagrin. Sometimes the politicians themselves are not to blame: shifting alliances dominate politics; today’s friends are tomorrow’s enemies; and political permutations are in a state of constant flux. Hence, the saying that there are only permanent interests and not permanent friends – or enemies. Especially here in Nigeria where our politics lacks principles and ideological underpinnings and political parties are nothing but Special Purpose Vehicles or mere platforms for the purpose of contesting elections.

Few deputy governors serve out their term gracefully; fewer, still, succeed their boss. The reasons for this are also many. To start with, not many governors are agreeable to the running mate chosen for them. All manner of interests play a role here and the principal oftentimes simply stomachs his misgivings so he could achieve his goal before he begins to think of what to do next. Where a deputy governor is stronger politically than his boss, that is a disaster waiting to happen. Once the governor finds his feet, his next project will be how to cut his deputy to size. Where a deputy loves to hug the limelight, it is a matter of time before he falls out of favour with the boss.

There were people who contested the running mate slot and were not happy they lost out. And from Day One of the administration, there are people scheming to replace the sitting deputy. A deputy that has a mind of his own will also not be a good friend of the boss. Leaders here love docile and pliant subordinates and followers. They want someone who will not outshine them if he succeeds them. They want someone who will not probe them after they leave office. They want someone who will cover their tracks for them. They hate anyone with a strong personality or character. They will not stomach anyone who has a mind of his own.

If you think a deputy governor is close to the governor, you will be deceiving yourself; the razzmatazz and public show of effusive affection notwithstanding. They may be Number One and Number Two but that is where the closeness ends; they may be poles apart in their thinking, political philosophy, orientation and way of life. They may belong to different political camps and may harbour divergent opinions on critical issues. Some governors and their deputies are like night and day, light and darkness. Their marriage of convenience is just for them to win an election, after which the competition and trouble begin.

I once was in a meeting where we were discussing with the governor until the Deputy Governor walked in. The conversation stopped abruptly but the JJC that I was, I resumed the conversation after the usual pleasantries but soon noticed that everyone else was quiet. So, I, too, went numb. After Her Excellency had left, His Excellency scolded me severely: “My man, why were you talking so freely before a stranger?” A stranger? The deputy governor in an administration was a stranger, I asked. “Yes! Is she one of us?”

So, you can be Number Two in an administration and yet be a stranger! I also witnessed a governor ditching people who were instrumental to his winning an election only to pitch his tent with a political neophyte with no political base. I took him up! He listened to me patiently and then replied mockingly: “Excuse me, Sir, the politics you learned is that of the classroom; the politics that we are practising here is that of the streets. What benefit will it be to me and you if we support a person to win an election and after that, you and I will no longer have access to this Dining Room (in the Government House)?” I simply gazed at his mouth! Realpolitik!

Very few bosses will support a strong personality to take over from them. Bosses are averse to a deputy who has a mind of his own. These are fundamental truths that anyone aiming to play second fiddle must understand before throwing their hat in the ring. Another useful hint is to take this advice of the elders very seriously: Prepare for the trouble that is certain to come when things are still rosy between you and your boss. Scriptures say in the Book of Habakkuk, it may tarry but it will surely come. And because it will surely come, it will not tarry! What do you make out of that? China’s revolutionary leader, Chairman Tsetung Mao, put it this way: “To have peace, prepare for war!” Does this sound contradictory? Diplomats and theorists of war define this as the principle of detente or of mutual assured destruction (MAD). Mad indeed! Scriptures again say the horse is prepared for the day of battle, not on the day of battle. Shaibu appeared not to have taken the wisdom of the elders to heart.

To survive as a deputy, you must wear loyalty and servility like a badge. This must radiate in you inside-out. Either you have this gift endowed in you from heaven or you learn how to stoop to conquer. How many politicians can stomach what Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu put up with to become Mr. President? I once listened to the head of a Mission, a highly-respected man of God, give the criteria needed before any pastor could be promoted to the topmost echelon of the organisation: “Someone who has not, not even once, raised his voice against the authorities”! And I marveled! Lick spittle? That criteria is even stricter than that of Stephen Decatur when he said: “Our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but right or wrong, our Country!” Decatur at least wished that his Country would make an effort to be in the right! It will be much easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a deputy to satisfy some bosses.

This, however, is not to discourage the likes of Shaibu from challenging ungrateful, use-and-dump bosses; whether they succeed or fail does not really matter. One such politician succeeded some years back: his name is Olusegun Mimiko in Ondo State. Mimiko dared the sitting president, Olusegun Obasanjo, to resign as Obasanjo’s Minister of Housing and Urban Development and take on the incumbent governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Agagu. Mimiko built the Labour Party from scratch and, with it, ran a campaign that unhinged the then ruling PDP and unseated the sitting governor, Agagu. The election was blatantly rigged – I was on ground in the state as Media Consultant to Agagu and witnessed it live and direct – but the court eventually restored Mimiko’s stolen mandate.

History often repeats itself, especially with those who fail to learn from history, as George Santayana has posited. There is, therefore, nothing wrong if Shaibu tries his luck in Edo state. Maybe he will be the next giant-killer! Even if he is not, there is no harm in trying because every experience deepens our renascent democracy.

FEEDBACK

Nigeria: between religion economy and knowledge economy

A beautiful piece that aptly captured my feelings and thoughts on how religious activities contributed to the economic woes/crisis and general backwardness of the country. – Oso Victor Gbolahan.

Am blessed and educated by this article. It really opened my eyes to see the foolishness of religion economy taking priority over the knowledge economy. I now have a better understanding why Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world! Indeed, it will continue to be until we move from religion economy to knowledge economy. Pilgrimage should be a personal responsibility. – Aderemi Ajadi Desalu.

We have to expose the rot in all subsidies associated with religion so as to promote an effective knowledge economy that can rebuild the Nation. Nigeria can, and will be, better than it is now if we do away with religion economy. – Palcorub Nig. Ltd.

It is possible that Nigerians flock to churches and mosques because they think that their hope lies there. And the churches themselves may be bearing the weight of Nigeria’s failure because its members face the suffocating atmosphere of Nigeria’s stagnation and its attendant influence and corruption. I think, therefore, that it is not the complete truth that Nigeria is the way it is because Nigerians are religious but, rather, because Nigerians pay lip-service to religious teachings. – Ayodele Iyiola.

Bolawole is a former Editor of PUNCH newspapers and also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.

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Opinion

Osun 47bn first phase infra plan: How Governor Adeleke’s Govt allocated N23bn on a single road in Ede

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By Waheed Adekunle

Following the release of whooping sum of N47billion recently approved by Governor Ademola Adeleke of Osun State for some of the ongoing roads projects in the state, it has been conscientiously observed and conspicuously noticed that nothing less than N23 billion naira was deliberately skewed to dualise a single road in Ede.

This humongous fund was purposely earmarked to further isolate the Governor’s country home through deliberate effort to complement many roads that had been constructed, rehabilitated and reconstructed within Ede axis at the detriment of the other parts of Osun, since the inception of Governor Adeleke.

Recall that the state government had a few days ago released the financial implications of some of the roads already embarked on, after incurring several bashings from the general public particularly members of the opposition party.

The state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had since last year, continued to advocate transparency and accountability in the management of the public funds, calling out Adeleke’s government to make public the costs of the approved contracts and unveil the identity of contractors handling many of the public infrastructure projects in the State.

But in its belated response to the clamour, which though appeared very suspicious and ambiguous, the Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Kolapo Alimi, was quoted to have said Governor Adeleke approved over N23 billion for the construction of Akoda to Oke-Gada road in Ede. A road that is less than 12km.

According to the statement, N12,200,512,000 was approved for the dualisation of 5.50km Akoda to Baptist High School road and N11,090,838,764 for the dualisation of 3.86km Baptist High School to Oke Gada road, both in Ede, totaling N23,291,350,764.

It was however, conspicuously noticed that the less than 12km dual carriageway was unnecessarily divided into two segments for no just cause, as each of the segments was given to different contractors, for the reasons best known to the government. It is equally on record that the award of the same road which started last year was severely criticised by the opposition party for not following the due process and in accordance with the Osun 2015 Procurement Law.

In a saner clime, if not for personal gratification, awarding 12km intra-city road to two companies is nothing but a charade as such could only encourage corruption, nepotism and poor service delivery.

It is no long news that the resurface, regurgitation and promotion of ‘Edenisation agenda’ started from the draconian Executive Order made by Governor Ademola Adeleke right from the spot where he was being sworn-in as the Governor. The Executive Order that had ruined the lives of many people such as (over 20,000 OYES volunteers that were arbitrarily sacked; many health workers that were callously ordered home; school teachers that were sent packing and rendered jobless; O’meal vendors that were cruelly sacked among others). These are the people whose sources of livelihood had been hampered and future mortgaged in the hands of tyrannic policies that had yielded no positive impact or provided commensurable replacements thus far. No doubt the “Order” was considered as an instrument of reprisal skillfully crafted and widely enunciated to subdue perceived enemies and score cheap political points.

Taking cognisance of the fact that, Osun is one of the few states in the country with major cities and towns, the approval of over N23 billion out of N47 billion plus acclaimed ‘first phase infra project’ to execute a single road in Ede at the expense of other cities and towns in the state, has further validated the Edenisation agenda of Adeleke’s government.

It is far from rational thinking that in spite of inherent nepotism and clannishness that characterised the administration, the Adeleke’s government could still allocate humongous funds to execute just a single road in Ede at the expense of many deplorable roads that had become death traps in many villages, towns and cities in the state.

A visit to Ede would definitely expose one to and give a clear picture of many intra-town network of roads that the current government had used the people’s commonwealth to rehabilitate or reconstruct in the Governor’s country-home in the last 15 months. Some of the roads that had been constructed and completed so far in Ede under Governor Ademola Adeleke’s government are: total filling station to Alusekere through Muslim Grammar School to Owode-Ede road; Akankan to Prof. Oyeweso road; Anuolu junction through Obada to Alusekere road; Akankan to Agate road; Orita Alajue junction to Elerin road; Orita Oloki to Ogberin road; Orita Oloki to Orita Oja-Timi road; Oja-Timi to Isale-Apaso road; Okunola Okunade Sawmill to NYSC Camp road; Isibo through Muslim Grammar School to Orita Muslim Cemetery road; Ibiyemi to Sawmill Oke- Gada road; Manyasahu filling station to Hamaddiyah road.

Aside from the aforementioned roads (all in Ede) that had been completed by Adeleke’s government, there are many other ongoing networks of roads in Ede which include Orita Agate to Olorin among others.

Some of the raging questions agitating minds are; if former Governors and governments had used the state resources parochially to solely advance the cause of their towns particularly in infrastructural development while serving the state, would it be possible to have some of the physical infrastructural development we have today in most of the villages, towns and cities? How life would have been for other towns in Osun if for instance, former Governor Adebisi Akande (from Ila-Orangun) whose tenure opened up Osun to socioeconomic renaissance and infrastructural rejuvenation concentrated all or larger chunks of the infrastructural development to his country-home? Ditto others. This is a food for thought!

Chief Abdul-Kareem Adebisi Akande was once a governor, he didn’t ‘ILANISE’ Osun but rather ensured even, fair and equitable distribution of resources across the state under his watch, ditto former Governors Olagunsoye Oyinlola (from Okuku); Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola (from Ilesa) and Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola (from Iragbiji).

As painful as the scenario of nepotism, chauvinism and flagrant disobedience to the fundamental principles of fairness, equity and rule of law which are the hallmarks of the current government, it is crystal clear that history beckons on all either positively or negatively. Many have governed Osun and they have written their names in the golden pages of history for generations to come, thus, the current government should know that people are copiously taking record of everything that is happening under it for posterity sake.

May God heal our land!

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Opinion

Nigeria: Child marriage violates girl’s rights

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Child marriage is a common practice in Nigeria rooted in traditional, economic, religious, and legal conditions that disproportionately affect girls and women. Nigeria’s rates of child marriage are some of the highest on the African continent.

The 2020 UN Development Program said in its development report that 43 percent of women ages 20 to 24 had been married by the age of 18 in Nigeria. Child marriage has deep and lasting impacts on women throughout their lives. It prevents them from making their own life choices, disrupts their education, subjects them to violence and discrimination, and denies their full participation in economic, political, and social life.

Ordinarily the choice or adherence to any organisation legal or Illegal should be the prerogative of everyone anywhere in the world.

On 9th of December 2023, Miss Motunrayo Abigail, a 15-year-old  Nigerian who lived with her grandmother (78 years) in Oke Aro community of Akure in Ondo State, was forced by her grandmother who has been brainwashed by a mosque Imam of the community to marry one Mr Rasheed Aremu, 45, who  is now at large. Abigail informed her Mother who later informed the authorities  and human rights services about her ordeal and secured her freedom from forcing her to early child marriage without her consent. The Chief Imam has now been arrested and facing the wrath of the law while Mr Rasheed Aremu is at large.

The father of the girl, Mr A. Pedro who lives in diaspora has commended the swift response of the law enforcement agencies and human rights services for their quick intervention and bringing normalcy into his  daughter’s life. He called on the federal government to intervene and quickly implement a UN developmental program in the country.

The Nigerian government has obligations under African and international human rights law to protect children from being forced into marriage. However, Nigeria’s federal and state laws hold contradictory positions on protecting children from marriage and violent traditional practices.

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