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Daura, go and sin no more

August 10, 2020

By Casmir Igbokwe

No doubt, Mallam Mamman Daura has sinned and fallen short of the glory of our democracy. Although his is not a mortal sin, it is serious enough to cause some friction in the polity. But we can still forgive him, if he truly confesses, repents and promises not to go back to that sin again. 

Recall that Daura, who is President Muhammadu Buhari’s nephew, told the BBC Hausa Service recently that competence should be placed above zoning or rotation in the 2023 presidential contest. Many stakeholders and groups, including Igbo and Yoruba socio-cultural groups, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Afenifere, respectively, had since replied him in kind. They condemned his standpoint and noted that the next president of Nigeria should come from the South. 

That is the only natural and rational thing to do. Since the country’s independence in 1960, the South-East region has been playing on the periphery of political leadership in Nigeria despite being one of the three major ethnic groups. Even when Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was the ceremonial President in the First Republic, the real power resided in Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa, a northerner. Aguiyi Ironsi was Head of State for only six months after the failed coup of 1966. He was toppled and killed in a counter-coup staged mainly by northern soldiers.

Ordinarily, merit and competence should be placed above any other consideration in the search for an egalitarian society. That should also be the standard practice in a civilised, homogeneous entity. But ours is still a struggling democracy and since it is a heterogeneous society, there is every need to put some policies in place to achieve political inclusiveness.

That was what happened in 1999 when we kicked off this 4th republic. The country conceded the presidency to the South-West to appease the region over the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election. The unannounced winner of that election, the late Chief Moshood Abiola, was detained instead of being sworn in as the president. He later died in detention. The crisis that trailed that unfortunate national episode forced the then military President, Ibrahim Babangida, to step aside. When democracy returned in 1999, the two major political parties at the time fielded only candidates from the South-West. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo eventually emerged the president.

When Obasanjo completed his second term as president in 2007, the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua from the North-West succeeded him. Death snatched Yar’Adua away in 2010 prompting his deputy, Goodluck Jonathan, to take over. Jonathan who is from the South-South lost to the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.

In deciding the standard-bearers for these presidential contests, rotation had always come to play. In fact, Buhari would not have become president if not for the sentiment that it was the turn of the North. Now that the North has crossed the bridge; now that it is about to complete its term in the presidency, a prominent son of that region is telling us that competence is preferable to rotation.

I smell a rat. Daura is naturally taciturn. For him to voice out his mind this way means that something may be cooking for 2023. The presidency, though, has sanitised itself against his competence virus. It said the views of the elder statesman were personal to him. But then, the erstwhile Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Adams Oshiomhole, also did the same thing against Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu in the Edo State governorship contest four years ago. He said unprintable things against the pastor politician. Today, Ize-Iyamu is his beloved son in whom he is well pleased.

Truly, if equity still has any meaning in our polity, there shouldn’t be any debate about where the presidential pendulum should swing in 2023. Except the South-East is still being punished for the ‘sin’ of the civil war, no rational being who wants the peace and unity of Nigeria will deny that region the next shot at the presidency.

It is not even certain how Daura and Co. intend to measure this competence because if it is the only criterion, the South-East has it in abundance. The region is never lacking in technocrats, sound academics and intelligent managers of men and resources who can turn around any bad situation for good.

It is ironical that those who lowered the standards in the country have suddenly become the champions of competence. It is also hypocritical to talk about competence in a country that celebrates quota system. In the entrance to our federal unity schools, the North is given a preferential treatment in order to catch up with the rest of the country. If the cut-off mark for a pupil in Anambra State is 139, that of a pupil in Zamfara can be as low as 2.

This marginalisation of the South-East occurs in almost every facet of our national life. In the award of contracts for major infrastructure in the country, the zone is usually ignored. Though the Federal Government claimed 69 projects were ongoing in the region, many federal infrastructure in the zone are dilapidated. In most political and security appointments, South-East is not reckoned with. No officer from that zone heads any of the security agencies in the country, be it army, navy, air force, police, customs, immigration and so on.

In the number of states and local government areas in the country, the zone does not fare better. While other regions have at least six states, it has five.

The South-East is also completely left out with regard to the headship of the three arms of government. President Muhammadu Buhari is from the North-West. Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, is from the North-East. Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, is also from the North-East. The President of the Court of Appeal, Hon. Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, is from the North-Central. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, is from the South-West.

The situation equals the inequalities and dichotomies in South Africa during the apartheid era which Alan Paton chronicled in his famous novel, “Cry, the Beloved Country”. Nigeria essentially stands on a tripod – Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo. But the Igbo nation is now like a conquered territory. Its survival appears to be at the mercy of certain power brokers. The so-called three Rs – Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction – are nothing but a ruse.

That is why there are agitations by youths of the region for self determination. Members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) who tried to protest the sorry state of affairs in the region were branded terrorists and proscribed. But the real terrorists who claim to have repented are pampered and rehabilitated.

Each country evolves a peculiar system aimed at bringing peace and stability to her polity. In a plural, complex society like ours, rotation, quota system or federal character is usually entrenched to achieve a situation where no zone feels left out in the scheme of things. Rotation may not be in our constitution, but it is worth being respected by the political parties if we are serious about the unity of Nigeria. We can only discard it if the presidency goes round the six regions of the country. Otherwise, let’s restructure so that each region will develop at its own pace and competence. This will drastically minimise the struggle to occupy the seat of power at the centre.

Re: Reward for ‘repentant’ murderers

A murderer is a murderer and should be punished if caught. The nefarious and unwholesome activities of Boko Haram should not be compromised or swept under the carpet in the name of reward or rehabilitation. How do we know they have genuinely repented? What are the criteria that show that they will not go back again? This group if arrested should face the wrath of the law of the land.  The federal government should do the right thing now.

– Bishop Prof. Uzoma Emmanuel, Owerri, Imo State, 08037748145

Dear Casmir, the contrasting and ironical treatments of the victims of terrorists’ activities and that of the terrorists perhaps fulfil the scriptural paradox of God’s profound love for the sinners. In this era of economic hardship, it is becoming increasingly necessary for people to feign repentance from crimes and terrorist activities to attract government attention to secure rehabilitation and integration. Albeit this kid-gloves treatment of repentant terrorists is not without attendant negative impact on the disposition of the youths towards playing the good citizen, it may however not be viewed as anomalous.

– Idongesit Inyang, Uyo, 08084318845.

The arrival of Boko Haram in Nigeria was premeditated to be an alternative to Niger Delta resource control fighters who were granted amnesty. Unfortunately, the supporters of Boko Haram have failed to realize the numerous damages the sect has brought to Nigeria. These crops of repentant murderers can be willing weapons in efforts to Islamise Nigeria through herdsmen

Pharm. Okwuchukwu Njike, +234 803 885 4922

You should focus on those stealing the money meant to rehabilitate North-East starting with six governors stealing internally generated funds with their senators/House of Representatives and House of Assembly members.

– Hon. Ngozika Ihuoma, Owerri, +2348060019005

Dear Casmir, we could be sitting on a keg of gun powder if care is not taken. What we have on ground could be the age-long war tactics used by Moremi of Ife to conquer enemies. She allowed herself to be captured only to study war secrets of the enemies, escape back and launch a reprisal. Government should watch out for true contribution.

– Cletus Frenchman, Enugu.+2349095385215

Casmir, the war against Boko Haram doesn’t start and end on the battle field. It continues with a psychological battle of the mind with the intention to change the tainted/adulterated minds of the presumably repentant Boko Haramist. Should our disappointment over a supposedly repentant Boko Haram member going back to his vomit make us throw away the baby along with the bath water?

– Mike, Mushin, +2348161114572

It is not a crime for government to rehabilitate repentant crime oriented persons, but my concern is what of those families they infested with death and injuries, what will be their fate?

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

Mr Cas, this kind stupid thing can only happen in a country called Nigeria. The ancestors, great grandfathers of Boko Haram are rewarding their children with money, amnesty etc.

– Emma, Wuse 2 Abuja, +2348035585109

Dear Casy, the reward for the so-called repentant murderers had been on since 2016.  Buhari gave some Boko Haramists some cash and kind some few years ago worth millions of dollars and the terrorists went back to their camps, used the money to buy arms and ammunition, and went on their killing campaign.

Anonymous, +2347036225495

  • Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, August 10, 2020.

Reward for ‘repentant’ murderers

August 3, 2020

By Casmir Igbokwe

They looked radiant in their immaculate white uniform. Government decided to rehabilitate them because they claimed to have repented from committing atrocious acts against Nigerians. They are called repentant Boko Haram fighters. But behind this facade of repentance and radiance lies some landmines that could cause terrible heartache to many families in Nigeria.

Recently, over 600 of these repentant terrorists completed the de-radicalisation programme of the Federal Government. They are now ready to be reintegrated into the communities. The military had earlier released and resettled about 1,400 of them into the society.

The military high command defended this initiative, saying it was only targeted at low-risk Boko Haram members not captured during combat. The Federal Government had initiated Operation Safe Corridor in 2016 to de-radicalise these repentant militants. Those captured during combat are reportedly processed for prosecution.

In a similar move, the Senate, in February this year, proposed a bill titled, “National Agency for Education, Rehabilitation, De-radicalisation and Integration of Repentant Insurgents in Nigeria 2020.” The bill proposes that funding for the agency should come from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND). It also proposes other sources of funding to include donations, grants, funding from the six North-East states and annual subventions from the government.

Hardly had the bill, sponsored by Senator Ibrahim Geidam representing Yobe East, passed the first reading when it attracted angry reactions from some stakeholders. The Chibok community, the Christian Association of Nigeria and some others kicked against it.

Some widows and other victims of Boko Haram terrorism had frowned seriously on this amnesty programme.  In an interview with the BBC recently, a widow said, “I have not received any assistance. I am left with four children. The kind of life we live now is, some days we eat, some other days we have nothing to eat, and then you (government) say ‘Boko Haram fighters have repented,’ and you take care of them.” Many other widows had lamented their plight and demanded justice and prosecution of the ex-militants.

I don’t blame these widows. Firstly, the mood is not yet ripe for amnesty for terrorists in Nigeria. Secondly, their murderous activities are on the rise almost on a daily basis. And the victims, most of whom are not properly taken care of, are still nursing their wounds in agony.

The parents of Miss Leah Sharibu are typical examples. Their daughter was among the 110 schoolgirls kidnapped from their school in 2018 in Dapchi, Yobe State. In 2014, over 200 schoolgirls from Chibok had suffered the same fate. The girls regained their freedom after many months in captivity. But Miss Sharibu is still in their custody. Her crime is that she is a Christian who refused to renounce her faith.

Besides, insurgents, some of who may be among the ‘repentant’ ones, recently killed at least 30 innocent travellers in a town called Auno in Borno State. They burnt most of the victims to death while sleeping in their vehicles during an overnight stop and abducted some women and children.

Senator Ali Ndume, representing Borno South in the Senate, had lamented that, in Borno State alone, about 1.7 million people had been displaced, 60,000 children orphaned and about $9.6 billion lost to the insurgency. Experts estimate that over 35,000 people have died in Nigeria since Boko Haram started its terror campaign in 2009. Over two million others have been displaced from their homes. In 2018 alone, 2,040 people were killed. This reportedly represents a 33 per cent increase on the figure for 2017, which was 1,532.

Since 2015, Nigeria has remained the third most terrorised country in the world. The current Global Terrorism Index shows that we are only better than Iraq and Afghanistan which ranked first and second respectively. Even Syria, Pakistan, and Somalia are better than Nigeria.

Ironically, while Nigerian soldiers are getting increasingly restive and depressed over poor welfare and sundry issues, their supposed enemies are pampered in the name of amnesty. Recently, about 356 of these soldiers opted to leave the army, citing loss of interest. Last week, a depressed soldier went berserk in Bama, Borno State, and shot an officer dead.

Some people have tried to justify this amnesty for Boko Haram by comparing it with the 2009 Presidential Amnesty Programme for Niger Delta militants. The two situations are not the same. Boko Haram is known worldwide as a terrorist organisation whose main agenda is to transform Nigeria into an Islamic state. But the Niger Delta militants were driven by socio-economic needs, resource control, and equitable distribution of wealth. Since the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua granted them unconditional pardon in 2009, the frequent shutdown of oil facilities experienced in the height of the agitation drastically reduced.

What is required currently in the Boko Haram case is sincerity of purpose. The government intends to gain greater understanding of the insurgents through the amnesty programme. This is aimed at knocking down the deadly ideology of the group. Part of the problem, however, is that it is not certain how government will determine genuine repentant terrorists and fake ones.

Feigning repentance is part of the strategies of insurgents to infiltrate communities and cause more havoc. Some of the so-called repentant fighters could actually be spies sent on a reconnaissance mission. Senator Ali Ndume representing Borno South in the Senate said this much last week following reports that a repentant Boko Haram member killed his father, stole his wealth and disappeared after reintegration.

Ndume said, “They are like Kharajites. Many among those released have since run away. They will never repent. The government should know what to do about them, but not reintroducing someone to you, who has killed your parents or your relations.”

He asked government to stop the programme and rather train those in the Internally Displaced Persons’ camps in various vocations.

The Federal Government may need to consult such countries as Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia, which run variegated forms of amnesty programmes. In Pakistan, Ehsanullah Ehsan, the Taliban terrorist who shot Nobel Prize winner and female education campaigner, Malala Yousafzai, in 2012, purportedly got amnesty after he surrendered in 2017. Pakistani military officials had claimed he was an important counter-terror asset who gave them secret tips about the operations of the Taliban. They paid him monthly stipend to enable him to start a new life. Ironically, Ehsan fled Pakistan in February this year and has been talking about human rights abuses in that country.

Going forward, our own government must devise means of deciphering terrorists who repented genuinely and those who are fake. In doing this, it must realise that both Nigerian and international laws require that gross violators of human rights are prosecuted and that the fundamental rights of victims are protected. Hence, it must factor the feelings of the victims of insurgency in its counterinsurgency measures. This means it must take good care of the victims of terrorism just as it is rehabilitating the terrorists.

Above all, it must not hesitate to take drastic actions against terrorism. The military must be equipped to take the war to the terrorists’ hideouts. And all prisoners of war must be made to face the full weight of our anti-terrorism laws.

Re: Nigeria, a nation crippled by public servants

Dear Casmir, corruption is one single factor that has held down the development of this supposedly great nation. When the present government came on board, not a few believed that the system will be purged of corruption in view of the purported integrity of the current president and the anti-graft mantra of the ruling party. This has turned out to be all flux. Any instituted probe is now regarded by Nigerians as mere grandstanding as earlier probes have failed to yield desired results that could serve as deterrent to others.

– Idongesit Inyang, Uyo, 08084318845.

Nobody is talking about Ikenna Nweke simply because he is from the most hated tribe in Niaja, but if the story is the opposite, the story will be everywhere on how the Igbo are smearing the image of the nation.

 – Ovuta Sunday, +2348112222545

Sir, may you live long, including your well-wishers, relatives, family, friends, admirers and my very self but minus our foes. Having dreamt and or prophesied capital punishment as applied in Asian continent, sometime, someday, it will be applicable here.

      — Raru Joo, +2348037408332

Dear Casmir, to quarantine corruption, we have to use espionage on offices by spying officials. Whistle blowing should be taken serious. Eligibility committee should be inaugurated by INEC in parties to assess the moral status of politicians before being allowed to contest.

  – Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +2349095385215

In the early eighties, Ovie Whiskey the then FEDECO boss swore he would faint at the mere sight of a fresh bundle of N1 million. Now, our public servants have seen and also played with hundreds of millions, billions and even trillions of Naira, yet none has fainted, and may never faint. State of the art estates and traffic-stopping cars occasioned by high level corruption now adorn the Nigerian space while the not-so-opportune Nigerians can’t say with certainty when the next meal comes for their families. I am on the same page with Cletus Frenchman that for a start there should be in place a process of cleaning up of our school system, churches/mosques and other social entities knowing that these are the nurseries/breeding grounds of corrupt practices.

– Edet Essien Esq. Cal. South, +2348037952470

If not that it is undemocratic, Nigerian army should take steps of Jerry Rawlings of Ghana to teach our wicked leaders a lesson over corruption.

    –  Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

Casmir, it seems most, if not all, public institutions in the country, namely: EFCC, NDDC, NEDC, NSITF etc are now more involved in an unannounced ‘stealing competition’ to decide ‘who steals the most’. We need a ‘Ballon d’ disgrace day’ in Nigeria where a roll call of ‘top 50’ convicted corrupt Nigerians should be published on yearly basis and the stolen amounts included in descending order to shame them.

  – Mike, Mushin, +2348161114572

Dear Casy, the two institutions that checkmate evil men in any great nation all over the world – the judiciary and police – are not in place in this geo entity called Nigeria. The executive, legislature and the judiciary arms of government in Nigeria are corrupt.

-Eze Chima C. Lagos, +2347036225495

Casmir, corruption in Nigeria is the major setback to our national development. The attitude of the public to ill gotten wealth makes it more deadly. Fela, the legendary afro beat musician, told us that Authority stealing passed armed robbery. According to him, pen is more powerful than gun.

–  Pharm Okwuchukwu Njike, +234 803 885 4922  

  • Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, August 3, 2020.

Nigeria, a nation crippled by public servants

July 27, 2020

Casmir Igbokwe

The joke in town now is that the letter ‘C’ in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the North-East Development Commission (NEDC), and some other Nigerian government agencies represents one word – Corruption. As simplistic as this appears, it draws our attention to the plight of a nation crippled by the ministries and agencies established to salvage it.

For now, the major attention is on the NDDC. The commission reportedly got N81.5 billion between October 29, 2019, and May 31, 2020. It expended all. Not on major infrastructural projects but on frivolities and inanities. The House of Representatives is probing it. The Senate has turned in its own verdict. And the forensic audit ordered by the Federal Government will likely turn in mind-boggling sleaze in this agency.

The Senate verdict is straightforward – sack the Interim Management Committee (IMC) of the commission, led by Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei. The upper legislative chamber also asked the management of the commission to refund extra budgetary expenditure of N4.923 billion made between March and May 2020 to the Federal Government. The beneficiaries of this money are members of the NDDC IMC, other staff members and the Police High Command. The Senate vowed to review the act establishing the NDDC and asked the Federal Government to constitute a new board for the commission, which should be under the Presidency for proper supervision. It indicted the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, headed by Senator Godswill Akpabio, and accused it of negligent supervision.

Simply put, this interventionist agency has raped the resources of Nigeria. Over the years, it has been a cash cow for corrupt contractors and staff. It is common knowledge that once one gets a job in the NDDC, one’s fortune is made for life. Imagine sharing N1.3 billion as COVID-19 palliative to staff!

Meanwhile, while the staff and contractors took good care of themselves, the major reason for setting up the agency in 2000 – development of the Niger Delta – suffered. All over the region, abandoned projects are more than the completed ones.

For instance, the NDDC reportedly paid millions of naira for non-existent and abandoned projects in some communities in Delta State. In one community called Ifiekporo, in Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State, NDDC awarded contract for water project. But, according to Premium Times investigation, the project was not executed. Out of about 20 water projects the NDDC reportedly commissioned in some parts of the state, only five were said to be functioning. The rest were either not executed at all or abandoned. A certain Bienci Resources Nigeria, which secured the contract to reactivate the water supply scheme at Ifiekporo community, was discovered to be non-existent. There are many other fake companies, which got paid for roads, water, power and some other contracts. Many of these projects were never executed. In Imo, Cross River, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Edo states, the story is the same.

While the equally corrupt lawmakers regaled us with the sleaze in the NDDC, the alleged disappearance of N100 billion in the North-East Development Commission (NEDC) surfaced. The North-East region is directly bearing the brunt of the Boko Haram insurgency. Millions of people have been displaced from their homes. Thousands of others have died. And the agency created to intervene and ameliorate the suffering of the people has in itself become the problem. The House of Representatives is set to probe the commission over alleged corrupt practices, ranging from inflation of contracts to award of non-existent contracts to contract splitting, among others.

At the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and many other agencies of the government, it is the same story. Money meant for development and critical intervention in areas of need has been wasted with impunity. And we have moved on, as if nothing is amiss. Last November, the Senate Committee on Public Accounts accused 25 government agencies of funds mismanagement. Problem is, these accusations and probes yield nothing at the end of the day. Remember power probe and fuel subsidy probe? They are all nothing but circus shows.

The fact remains that corruption and the perception of it have worsened in Nigeria. At the inception of this administration in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari made fighting corruption one of the cardinal targets of his administration. But from the look of things, the more they try to fight this monster, the more it festers.

Sincerely speaking, there is no country where you won’t find corrupt people. The difference is in the commitment and seriousness in tackling it. In a place like China, corruption is considered a mortal sin. It carries the death sentence, if convicted. Some senior government officials in that Asian country have actually been executed on account of corruption. This may appear too harsh, but it is working for them.

If we go the China way, perhaps, not up to 10 per cent of Nigerians will survive. Hence, it is not recommended. But there are tough measures the incumbent government can take to redeem itself. President Buhari, in particular, must do something to salvage whatever is remaining of his battered image. Most people believed so much in his ability to cage corruption. Many of them are disappointed today.

If the President were to be alive to his responsibilities, some of his appointees should not remain in office by now. With the allegations and counter-allegations hovering around the NDDC, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Akpabio, has no moral right to remain in office. He should go with the members of the IMC as recommended by the Senate.

If the President were alive to his responsibilities, he would have set examples with public officers indicted for corrupt practices in the recent past.

It all boils down to leadership deficit, which has been the bane of Nigeria. It is not just the problem of the central government. It permeates through the states, local governments, ministries, departments and agencies of government. The tragedy is that there doesn’t seem to be any hope on the horizon. The two major political parties that should provide us with good leaders are surrounded by wolves in human clothing. All you see and hear are infantile bickering that lowers the estimation of our politics before right-thinking members of civilised societies.

Go through the verbal exchanges between the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and you will understand my point. Last week, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, reportedly returned to the APC from the PDP. The ruling party was happy such that when the opposition party asked the President to resign on account of the widespread corruption and insecurity that have hit his administration, the APC’s response was that the PDP was disturbed by the gale of defections threatening it. Jokers!

For us to tackle corruption effectively, we must first of all solve the country’s leadership problem. The best way to do it is to reform our electoral and political systems. We should be able to vote out any corrupt government that fails in its responsibilities. If people in power know that there is an effective way of rejecting them at the polls, it will make them to sit up. If we get this right, other things will follow. But will the powers that be go for such reforms? It is very doubtful. After all, they are direct beneficiaries of the shenanigans.

  • Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, July 27, 2020

Akpabio, Nunieh, Magu & Malami

July 20, 2020

Casmir Igbokwe

The past few weeks have been very interesting for Nigeria. Corruption and the forces fighting it have been entangled in an intricate war. I thought the capture of suspected cybercriminal, Raymond Abbas popularly called Hushpuppi, would put an end to Nigeria’s disgraceful outing on crime this year. I was mistaken.

Last week happened to be more eventful. Different public officers claimed that corruption was fighting them. Ibrahim Magu, the nation’s erstwhile frontline corruption hunter, suddenly became the haunted. He spent some days in custody and is facing a presidential panel probing his activities in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Though he has been suspended as the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, he believes he is innocent and has asked for fair-minded hearing from the panel.

On his part, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said he was traumatised by different allegations which had subjected him to “considerable distress, psychological trauma, anxiety and greatly injured his character and reputation.” He has threatened to go to court.

It is at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), that the national drama is about to reach its climax. My old-time friend and former Acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Joy Nunieh, revealed how she slapped the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Godswill Akpabio, for alleged sexual harassment. In denying the allegation, Akpabio regaled us with how he was happily married and contented with his wife and that they were blessed with four daughters. He also enthused that he had appointed several women into various high level positions like commissioners, permanent secretaries, etc and had continued to champion the cause of women. The two combatants have also threatened legal actions against each other.

It is becoming more interesting and I think we are in for a long-drawn war. None of the characters involved in this comedy show plays minor role anywhere. Akpabio does not shy away from political battles. And Nunieh is a veteran of many struggles, including the Ogoni emancipation struggle. Look at the way she outmanoeuvred the security agents who stormed her house in Port Harcourt last week to arrest her. She called Rivers Governor, Nyesom Wike, who quickly came to her rescue and took her to Government House to cool off.

As the headlines these days go, President Muhammadu Buhari has been ordering and vowing to deal with the variegated mess in the country. But, the more he vows to get to the root of the crisis rocking the NDDC, the more the mess.

The other day at the National Assembly, the Acting MD of the commission, Professor Kemerbrandikumo Pondei, walked out on a House of Representatives panel probing the alleged N40 billion irregular expenditure of the commission in Abuja. According to Pondei, the House Committee Chairman, Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, is an accused party in the matter and cannot preside over the investigative hearing. On his part, Tunji-Ojo alleged that the commission’s expenditure between January and May 2020 was N81.5 billion which is far above the N40 billion they were asked to investigate. Part of the expenses reportedly include N1.5 billion as COVID-19 palliatives for NDDC officials, and N475 million to the police to procure face masks and hand sanitizers.

Even the Senate and the NDDC are also at loggerheads. NDDC Director of Projects, Dr Cairo Ojuogboh, reportedly said the problem was not with his commission but with the Chairmen of the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on NDDC. He accused them of hijacking the 2020 budget of the Commission.

I don’t know what gave Pondei the effrontery to walk out on the House. But again, Buhari, in the words of his media aide, Garba Shehu, “has expressed strong determination to get to the root of the problem undermining the development of the Niger Delta and its people in spite of enormous national resources voted year after year for this singular purpose.”

For now, we can only wait for truth to unravel after the series of investigations currently going on. The only snag here is that the back and forth accusations have made us an object of joke in the comity of serious nations. I am concerned that the hitherto tough-looking Magu, whom I visited recently as a member of the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS), would be taking the same corruption drugs he has been administering to people. I am disturbed that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who supervises Magu, would be weighed down by allegations of corruption.

Little wonder, a recruitment agency in Dubai, Shirley Recruitment Consultants, advertised for some positions for Africans recently but excluded Nigerians. Don’t blame them. It is called perception. In corruption perception index, we have been scoring very low.

Not that we don’t have good and transparent Nigerians. We do. Recently, for instance, a Nigerian PhD student in Japan, Ikenna Nweke, received the commendation of the Japanese government and the police for returning a lost big purse containing huge sums of money. He even rejected the 10 per cent of the money which he is entitled to by Japanese law.

Besides, Nigerians have excelled in many fields of human endeavour. Dr Chidubem Obi from Anambra State scored 5.0 Grade Point Average (GPA) to become the first African to achieve that feat in Sechenov Medical University in Russia. In the United States of America, Nigerians are the most educated immigrants. Some of them hold commanding heights in that country’s education, health and business sectors. The first black woman to be president of the Harvard Law Review, Imelme A. Umana, is a Nigerian.

And just last week, a Nigerian from Anambra State, Professor Charles Egbu, was appointed the first black Vice Chancellor of a United Kingdom university, the Leeds Trinity University.  

These are the people who give us hope, who send signals to the world that not all Nigerians are criminals. As Ikenna Nweke put it, “The criminal elements are just a tiny fraction of the country’s 200 million population.”

Re: Galaxy of brains for Anambra governorship race

I just think that the dysfunctional nature of governance in Nigeria including Anambra has less to do with the poor educational or other qualifications of candidates for public office per se. Politicians over the years who have performed badly in office have degrees and solid years of experience as lawyers, doctors etc. Some of them have PhDs and even taught for years in the universities like Governors Ikpeazu of Abia and Ayade of Cross River. Look at the successive Attorneys General of the Federation from Andoakaa under Ya’Ardua to Adoke under GEJ and the incumbent Malami, all seasoned lawyers in practice who rose from the ranks to become SAN before they were appointed AG. Look at their records in public office. In the Nigerian system, you might get the best candidate on paper and someone who parades known credentials elected and he will end up as disaster in office. Let’s hope Anambra gets luckier after Obiano to get some with discipline and focus to govern with a sense of purpose and not carried away by the frivolities of paraphernalia of public office, a deadly virus that attacks most public officials in Nigeria!

  • Prof. Obi Aginam, Canada 

Dear Casy, the galaxy of the eggheads that are jostling for Anambra governorship election of 2021 is great and intimidating but my concern has to do with leadership deficit in our body politics since the second republic. I pray that whoever emerges as the governor after the election must continue from where Peter Obi stopped. Obi showed good leadership in Anambra state. May God bless the souls of M.I. Okpara, Akanu Ibiam, Sam Mbakwe, Emeka Ojukwu and also the living ones like Jim Nwobodo, Peter Obi and the rest of them in and outside govt. Let Anambra vote wisely. God bless Anambra and Igbo land.

  • Eze Chima C. Lagos, +2347036225495

Prof. Chukwuma Soludo who is incidentally your brother and starting point is a first class brain. The other side of him is that people are complaining that he is not a good mixer with average people. Secondly, shall we continue to produce the adherents of Roman Catholic denomination? The same thing goes to Mr. Valentine Ozigbo, Chief Obiora Okonkwo and Dr. Godwin Maduka who are incidentally the first class brains in Anambra with Roman Catholic background. In the case of Sen. Ifeanyi who is incidentally a Roman Catholic and business mogul with poor academic background, we should recall that Americans told Ross Pero that there is difference between the management of private and public sector. The other sides of Mrs. Uche Ekwunife who defeated Chief Victor Umeh to equalise the defeat meted to her by Umeh are (i) She is now from Anambra Central.(ii) She is a Roman Cath. (iii) She was a 3rd class student who cannot beat the records of Chief Umeh in the red chamber not to talk of beating the records of her predecessors if she eventually emerges as a governor.  The only option is Chief Godwin Ezeemo who is incidentally a good marketer and business mogul with Anglican Communion background.

-Mr. Chinedu Ekwuno (JP) 08063730644

Anambra 2021 gubernatorial election is going to be interesting in the sense that those aspirants are not pretenders but contenders in their ambition to rule. All the bigwig aspirants have what it takes to develop Anambra state. May the will of God be done in Anambra state in 2021!

  • Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

Dear Casmir, I expected you to title it “Galaxy of Stars”. Glory be to God that Anambra is now parading professionals in politics. It’s a state that never had their boys reading beyond primary six in the 80s and JSS3 in the 90s. Salvation has come to the house of Israel.

Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +2349095385215

Ndi-Anambra should vote wisely to ensure that the best candidate succeeds Obiano. Also, Federal Govt. should make sure that there is level playing ground. INEC and security agents should discharge their duties professionally.

  • Smart, Abakaliki, 08134774884

Casmir, it’s easier to put together a galaxy of stars or an avalanche of men with fantastic academic records pre-election period. However, what we lack, even as a nation, is an avalanche of ‘men of integrity’ with a genuine heart for ‘selfless service’. Anambra and Nigeria desperately need men who are ‘legacy conscious’ and who desire that their names be written in gold in their states or country’s hall of fame.

  -Mike, Mushin, +2348161114572

  • Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, July 20, 2020

Galaxy of brains for Anambra governorship race

July 13, 2020

Casmir Igbokwe

Anambra State is blessed with abundant human resources. In 2021, the people of the state will go to the polls to elect a successor to Governor Willie Obiano. Even before the campaign officially starts, the challenge the majority of the people of the state will have is choosing among the galaxy of stars who will be vying for the number one position in the state. From the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and to the All Progressives Congress (APC), the quality of the governorship aspirants is super. That is the type of human quality we desperately need to contest elections in other states and at the federal level in Nigeria. Today, we will briefly examine the credentials of some of the key aspirants. Their strengths and weaknesses will be analysed when the political drumbeat reaches a crescendo.

Professor Chukwuma Charles Soludo is our starting point. Though he has not formally declared, he appears to be the only one to beat in APGA. Born at Isuofia in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State, Soludo is a first-class brain. He is a product of Uga Boys Secondary School, Uga in Anambra State. He graduated with a first-class in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Thereafter, he did his postgraduate and doctorate degrees in Economics from the same UNN.  He was the best graduating student at all the three levels.  

Though he has held different positions in government, he stood out as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria between 2004 and 2009. Under his reign at the CBN, Soludo championed banking consolidation that changed the landscape of our banking industry for good. It was popularly christened the Soludo Solution. He had variously worked as a consultant in world renowned institutions like the World Bank, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa,  European Union, African Development Bank and many others too numerous to mention. In September 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed him as a member of the Economic Advisory Council. A multiple-award winner, Soludo is Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR), Nigeria’s third highest national honour. He is married with children.

Mr Valentine Chineto Ozigbo, the immediate past President and Group Chief Executive Officer of Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc (Transcorp) is of the PDP. The Transcorp conglomerate comprises Transcorp Power, Transcorp Hotels, and Transcorp OPL281 (an oil and gas company).  He stepped down as President of the group in March 2020 and retains a seat on the boards of Transcorp Plc, Transcorp Hotels plc and Transcorp Power Limited. Currently, he chairs the Finance and General Purpose Committee of Transcorp Power Limited.

Ozigbo hails from Amesi in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State. A Chevening Scholar, he holds a B.Sc. in Accounting and an MBA in Banking and Finance both from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He also has M.Sc. in Finance at the Lancaster University, United Kingdom. He is a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria, the Chartered Institute of Taxation, the Institute of Tourism Professionals and the Institute of Credit Administration.  

He is widely travelled and has over 25 years experience in corporate transformation, hospitality, energy and banking. Ozigbo is a multiple award winner. He is married with children.

High Chief Obiora Okonkwo had his early education in Onitsha, Anambra State. He later proceeded to Russia where he had a first class in Economics from the Russian Peoples Friendship University in Moscow. He obtained his master’s in economics with distinction from the same Russian Peoples Friendship University in Moscow. He holds a PhD in Political Science from the Russian Academy of Science, Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Moscow; a Professional Fellowship Doctorate from Institute of Chartered Economists of Nigeria and Fellowship of the Institute of Chartered Arbitrators and Mediators of Nigeria.

Dr Okonkwo is the winner of many awards and author many books. He hails from Ogidi in Idemili-North Local Government Area of Anambra State and is the Chairman of the boards of many companies. Some of his companies include The Dome Entertainment and Hospitality Limited, Solicom Engineering Limited, Private Airline Services Limited (PASL), Rokada Security Company Limited, among others. A widely travelled man, Okonkwo is a Knight of the Order of King Leopold, the highest national honour bestowed on foreign nationals by the King of Belgium. He also holds different traditional titles. He is married with children.

Dr Godwin Maduka is an accomplished Harvard trained medical doctor based in Las Vegas, United States. He is the founder of Las Vegas Pain Institute and Medical Centre and one of the best in pain management in the world. Born in Umuchukwu formerly Nkerehi in Orumba South Local Government Area of Anambra State, Dr Maduka went to Nawfia Comprehensive Secondary School and All Saints Grammar School, Umunze. After his secondary education, he got an admission to study medicine at the University of Port Harcourt but could not do the programme due to lack of money. With monetary support later from his younger brother, he moved to the United States where he got full scholarship to study Medicine at the University of Tennessee.  He was also at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for his postgraduate training. After his education in 1997, Maduka moved to Las Vegas where he worked as an anaesthesiologist at some hospitals before starting his own practice.  

He is well known in Anambra State for his philanthropic credentials. He has invested millions of dollars in various developmental projects in his hometown, Umuchukwu. Some of them include churches, schools, market, police station, magistrate court, houses for the poor and a 17-storey medical research centre. He holds a chieftaincy title of Okeosisi Orumba (Big tree of Orumba) and has won many awards including Africa’s Most Inspirational Developmental Entrepreneur and Philanthropist in 2017. He is married with children.

Mrs Uche Lilian Ekwunife nee Ogudebe popularly called Iyom by her admirers is an amazing woman. She hails from Igbo-Ukwu in Aguata Local Government Area by birth and from Nri in Anaocha Local Government Area by marriage. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Business and Accounting from the University of Calabar and an MBA from Nnamdi Azikiwe University. Before venturing into politics, Mrs Ekwunife was in the banking sector where she rose to become area manager.

She currently represents Anambra Central Senatorial District in the Senate. Mrs Ekwunife is the only woman in the race for now. But she is a woman who can do even more than what a man can do. Recall that she defeated the former Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh, in the last senatorial contest for Anambra Central Senatorial District.  Before going to the Senate, she was at the House of Representatives between 2007 and 2015. She represented Anaocha/Njikoka/Dunukofia constituency of Anambra State. Uche is married to Larry and they have children.

Senator Ifeanyi Patrick Ubah may not be an academic giant but he is a bulldozer in business.  He is the CEO of Capital Oil and Gas Limited, the founder of The Authority Newspaper, and owner of Ifeanyi Ubah Football Club. He is also a politician of no mean repute. Ifeanyi, who hails from Otolo, Nnewi, in Anambra State, learnt trade at a young age. He was once an exporter of tyres and spare parts to some West African countries and DR Congo. He has been able to attend local and international business courses and seminars in leadership and business management. He dumped APGA for the relatively unknown Young Progressive Party (YPP) and contested for Senatorial election last year. Surprisingly, he clinched the ticket, defeating candidates of formidable parties like APGA, the PDP and the APC. He currently represents Anambra South in the Senate. What Ubah has going for him is his philanthropy and human empowerment schemes. He is married and has children.

Chief Godwin Chukwunaenye Ezeemo is another consummate businessman. He is the Chairman of The Orient Group of Companies which comprises over seven subsidiaries including Orient Export Limited, Sokka International, Orient Feed Mill and Farms Ltd., Global Orient Water, Orient Daily Newspapers, among others. Born in Umuchu in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State, Ezeemo attended St. Peter’s Secondary School, Achina in Anambra. He later obtained an Ordinary National Diploma (OND) and Higher National Diploma (HND) in Marketing from the Federal Polytechnic Ilaro. He controls his chains of businesses from his base in Anambra. Ezeemo is happily married.

By and large, any one of these formidable aspirants has what it takes to transform Anambra State. As the day of reckoning fast approaches, Anambra people have no other option but to warm up for a great political contest. We shall keep you updated.

Re: Gov Bello’s COVID-19 cocktail

Dear Casmir, thank you for your Gov Bello’s cocktail. Kogi state was documented as the most corrupt state whose governor won where an opposition woman was burnt and murdered. In sane society, Bello should have resigned. He is a disgrace to APC and Nigeria.

  • Chuma, Mbaise, Imo State, +2348057525085

Viewed from the background of confusion, uncertainties and arguments generated by coronavirus, you need not blame doubting Nigerians. In those countries that are regarded as the epicentre of coronavirus, observance of safety guidelines is compelled by the deadly virus. Whereas in Nigeria, compliance is usually enforced by our security agencies. These days, all deaths in Nigeria including those caused by old age are ’caused’ by coronavirus. The only exceptions are deaths caused by accident. The high and low of our society are caught in the web of the face mask drama. Vice-president Osinbajo wears his face mask. But I have observed that President Buhari doesn’t. I am confused and I need answers. Wearing of a face mask, we are advised by medical experts, is not about protecting yourself alone but also the people around you. Or is it that our president, like the Bellos, doesn’t believe in the existence of the virus?

  • Edet Essien Esq., +2348037952470

Casmir, from my vantage position as a microbiologist, I see Gov. Bello as a ‘fatal accident’ that is waiting to happen in Kogi and by extension Nigeria. All travellers from Kogi should be treated with special suspicion as potential high risk covid-19 transferors.   

  • Mike, Mushin, +2348161114572

Dear Casmir, I can’t blame Bello. We have to legislate against politicization of public health and undue intimidation of patients by health workers. Never in the history of lab tests have patients been diagnosed of ailments without being shown their results but people complained of that in this Covid-19.
– Cletus Frenchman, Enugu.+2349095385215

  • Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, July 13, 2020.

Gov Bello’s COVID-19 cocktail

July 6, 2020

By Casmir Igbokwe

If he had been a medical doctor or pharmacist, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State would have been a disaster. His COVID-19 cocktail would have been a bizarre mixture. But he is not in the medical profession. Hence, it is still a puzzle where he got his coronavirus mishmash from.

Recently, Bello bellowed that COVID-19 was a hoax. He warned his people not to give in to what he called fear and evil on the issues of COVID-19.

“It is a disease that has been imported, propagated and forced on people for no just cause. Nothing kills faster than fear. I urge you all not to accept cut-and-paste as COVID-19,” the youngest governor in Nigeria cautioned. He added, “Whether medical experts and scientists believe it or not, COVID-19 is out to shorten the lifespan of the people. It is a disease propagated by force for Nigerians to accept.”

He also believes the recent death of the state Chief Judge, Justice Nasir Ajanah, was natural and not COVID-19-related as reported.

Last Wednesday, precisely a day after Bello’s outburst, some hoodlums attacked the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital. They reportedly carted away computers and other sensitive materials from the administrative department of the institution. Some of the materials were used for data collection and management of COVID-19 in the state. They also took away laptops and phones of some members of staff and patients. The management of the medical centre and the Kogi State government had been at loggerheads over the COVID-19 pandemic. The same strong dispute defines the relationship between Bello and officials of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). At a point, he barred NCDC officials from conducting any test in Kogi and asked them to leave his state or go on 14-day quarantine.

But, could it be true, as the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) alleged, that the “target and mode of the attack (on FMC) strongly expose a desperate mission to destroy gathered information, suppress statistics and completely disrupt COVID-19 management effort in the state”?

Only Bello can answer this. Nevertheless, his efforts to suppress the search for truth about COVID-19 have won many converts. To these converts, the daily update on the number of COVID-19 cases in Nigeria is mere manipulation of figures. They think that some officials in charge of the management of this virus are profiteering from it and would not want an end to it. Their recurring questions are: if the disease is in Nigeria as such, why have we not seen many corpses in many places like we saw in Italy, Spain and some others? Since the disease has no cure, what medication is the government administering on the patients who have reportedly recovered from the disease?

I’m not sure if there are clear-cut answers to these questions. Even, the manner some state governors glibly announce their fall and recovery from the knockdown effects of this disease leaves some question marks as well. Ordinarily, our leaders are too secretive to talk about any sickness that knocks them down. But the reverse has been the case since this coronavirus surfaced in our country. The other day, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State announced that he had the disease. Hardly had sympathy messages finished landing on his desk when we heard that he had started playing table tennis and had fully recovered. Now, Ebonyi State governor is the latest patient among the governors. Also, Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo and Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta are currently down with the disease. Let’s watch and see how many days their isolation will last. Some other governors who had suffered and recovered from the virus include Governors Bala Mohammed of Bauchi, Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna and Seyi Makinde of Oyo states, respectively.

Well, even if COVID-19 is a scam in Nigeria, is it not better to err on the side of caution? Did the same disease not kill the former Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, and the former Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi? What will it cost us to observe the safety protocols so that we don’t transmit it to the vulnerable members of society?

The doubts people like Bello created in the minds of some Nigerians negated the earlier ban on interstate travels by the Federal Government. In theory, there was a ban but in practice, what the government did was to open channels of multiple incomes for the security agencies. Drivers were made to drop as much as N1,000 per checkpoint. They passed the cost burden to the commuters who had to pay between N12,000 and N15,000 per trip from a place like Lagos to the East.

It was good that the Federal Government lifted the ban on interstate travels because the lockdown had collapsed completely. Some transport companies had to use vehicles without brand names to commute people. I don’t so much blame them because most of them had been knocked down economically. They lost billions of naira to the lockdown. A new luxury bus reportedly costs about N200 million. Many transporters took loans from banks to buy new buses only for the COVID-19 pandemic to surface and cripple their business. The implication of this is that they have to increase transport fares in order to meet up with their obligations to the banks and others. Even now that the ban is lifted, the major transport companies will spend a lot of money to put their long-parked vehicles back to shape.

The airline industry faced a similar challenge. They also lost billions of naira to the pandemic. For those that will still remain in business, regulatory authorities will have to ascertain the safety of their aircraft before they start flying again as many of the planes were grounded during the lockdown.

As it is now, COVID-19 does not appear to be ready to leave us soon. Rather, what we see every day is an increase in the number of cases. Currently, Nigeria has over 28,000 cases and over 630 deaths. Worldwide, over 11 million people have contracted the disease and over 500,000 deaths have been recorded.

What this entails is that we have to adopt different strategies to evade the disease, hoping that there will be a breakthrough in the research for drugs or vaccines to tackle the problem. The Federal Government is moving in the right direction by trying to open up the economy again. The hunger pandemic appears to be even deadlier now than ever before.

However, people should not let down their guard. When in public places, they should wear their masks and maintain social distance. They should also cultivate the habit of washing their hands regularly and using hand sanitizers when necessary, until we see a significant drop in the rate of infections.

May I, at this point, draw the attention of Bello to what happened in Ghana last Friday. Carlos Kingsley Ahenkorah was forced to resign as Ghana’s Deputy Trade and Industry Minister for disobeying coronavirus self-isolation measures in spite of being COVID-19 positive. Ahenkorah, who is also a Member of Parliament, visited a voter registration centre in his constituency, as Ghana is compiling new electoral roll for December elections. This drew condemnation from his countrymen. Ghanaian President, Nana Akufo-Addo, did not waste time in accepting his resignation.

There is every need for our own leaders to be more serious with this pandemic. Lagos is showing good example. Last Friday, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu reiterated the mandatory use of face masks in public places and warned that enforcement agencies would begin to charge defaulters to court. The Lagos State government has also accredited seven private laboratories to conduct COVID-19 tests at reasonable cost. Testing and treatment in all state-owned health facilities remain free.

Community and religious leaders as well as corporate bodies and non-governmental organisations should join hands with the government to enlighten people about this pandemic. If, at the end of the day, it turns out to be a hoax, we will hail Bello and urge the President to give him a national award. But for now, let him join the train to drive coronavirus out of our lives.

Re: Edo and the APC ‘corn men’

Chinua Achebe’s ‘The Trouble With Nigeria’ squarely rests Nigeria’s problem on ‘a failure of leadership’. And by extension, let me add that Nigeria’s problem cannot be divorced from a failure of followership as well. An enlightened and disciplined followership necessarily evokes a strong and vigilant leadership. Nigeria’s failure is two-pronged: failure of leadership and followership. Oshiomhole’s chairmanship of the APC is an unmitigated disaster: a direct departure from the purposeful and progressive era of the Oyegun-led APC. The experimentations of Oshiomhole on Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu have merely depicted a man whose agenda was to extract his personal pound of flesh, even if the APC must die. An embarrassed President Buhari must have been relieved when he finally latched on or relied on an existing court order to cage the marauding Oshiomhole who has all along been acting like a Bull in a China Shop.

–  Edet Essien Esq., Calabar South, +2348037952470

Comrade Oshiomhole going back to his vomit over supporting Pastor Ize-lyamu governorship ambition is very unfortunate. With the ugly names the APC former chairman called Pastor lyamu in 2016 governorship election, Edo electorate should vote wisely to avoid resource looting at the end of the day. The Edo electorate should know that the devil they know is better than the Angel they did not know.

–   Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia,+2348062887535

Dear Casmir, according to Winston Churchill, the war time British Prime Minister, “a soldier dies only once but a politician dies many times before his death”. Politicking is about marketing of policies and principles but in Nigeria it’s about stomach infrastructure leading to social suicide. May God save us.

– Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +2349095385215

 Casmir, Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu’s crisscrossing or swapping drama episode would make for an interesting blockbuster, best seller movie. Before you say Jack Robinson, they swapped in grand style and in record time. They are phenomenal. Their politics is worth researching into. Has there ever been such in world politics? Please, I need an answer, as I think it should go into the Guinness Book of Records.

–  Mike, Mushin, +2348161114572

  • Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, July 6, 2020.

Edo And The APC ‘Corn Men’

June 30, 2020

By Casmir Igbokwe

That popular photo of Adams Oshiomhole and Godwin Obaseki relishing corn together a few years ago vividly describes the nature of our politics today. That was when both of them campaigned together for the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State. Then, Oshiomhole, the just sacked National Chairman of the ruling party, was a delight to watch on the campaign stage. With the traditional APC broom in one hand, he pranced about in vigorous campaign dance for his beloved candidate. He would raise Obaseki’s hand as if to say, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” Now that the two gladiators are sworn political enemies, their corn episode has become a good pun to describe the selfish conmen masquerading as politicians and leaders in Nigeria today.

Recall that Governor Obaseki’s closest rival then was Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). While Obaseki pilloried the PDP, Ize-Iyamu pooh-poohed the APC. Today, the two candidates have swapped positions. Disqualified from contesting the APC governorship primary, the incumbent governor quickly moved over to the PDP. He is now the governorship candidate of the party in the September election. Ize-Iyamu had earlier defected to the APC and is now the party’s governorship candidate. Now, they will begin to say glowing things about their current parties and throw jibes at the new opposition. No ideology; no principles; no shame!

Ironically, Oshiomhole was still engrossed in his mockery dance against Obaseki when the drumbeat dramatically changed. The Appeal Court upheld his earlier suspension by his ward in Edo State. His supporters cried foul. But before they knew it, three acting National Chairmen had emerged: the late Senator Abiola Ajimobi, Victor Giadom and Hilliard Eta. President Muhammadu Buhari gave his initial support to Giadom. But events moved so fast that disgusted protesters had to besiege the national headquarters of the party in Abuja. Police stepped in to seal the premises.

To restore sanity, the National Executive Committee of the party, led by President Buhari, dissolved the Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC). A caretaker committee headed by the Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, has been set up to organise a national convention for the party. The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, turned himself to APC’s Commissioner for Oaths as he swore in the caretaker committee.

Interestingly, angry members of the NWC loyal to Oshiomhole said the NEC meeting held in Aso Villa last week was illegal. But in their protest, they failed to realise that Oshiomhole-led APC was the father of illegality? The last general elections showcased this fact in great measure. Ballot-box snatching and intimidation of voters were rife. In different parts of Lagos, for instance, hoodlums loyal to the party attacked innocent voters suspected to be PDP loyalists; drove them away and burnt ballot papers.

Just as the 2019 presidential election approached, a national leader of the party turned his private residence into a mega bank with two bullion vans stationed without qualms. The government of the day didn’t find anything wrong with it because it was in their own interest.

In a manner reflective of dog eat dog syndrome, the APC in Lagos dealt with one of its own, Akinwunmi Ambode, in the last governorship election in the state. Ambode had performed relatively well in his first term as governor. But apparently because he did not satisfy the personal wishes of some power brokers in the party, he was denied a second term. He went back to lick his wound knowing that no condition is permanent. Today, some of his traducers are the ones bearing the brunt of the latest crisis in the party. Little wonder, the APC and its leadership are riddled with over 37 court cases by aggrieved members.

It is worthy to note that hubris is one of the greatest causes of the downfall of man. In its heyday as the ruling party, the PDP boasted that it would rule Nigeria for 60 consecutive years. The electoral successes the party recorded then swirled its head. Like the biblical Goliath, it beat its chest and showcased its oppressive armada against the generality of Nigerians. Sixteen years after, a David emerged in the APC and cut the perceived giant to size.

Barely five years after its ascendancy to power, the same bug has bitten the APC. It is very doubtful if the party will survive after Buhari. The signs are there already. In any case, the measure one gives is always the measure one gets. The chronic ambition of some of them to become Nigeria’s President in 2023 will sharpen the knife that may finally cut the peace of the party into pieces.

The ultimate question is: when will Nigeria be blessed with good selfless leaders? This is a nation of great men and women. But since Independence in 1960, it has been one leadership misfortune or the other. These leaders are foisted on us by major political parties. The smaller parties that usually present credible candidates never get to power. And so Nigeria remains quarantined with leaders whose major interest is how to feather their nest.

Even when they leave power, they still want to control affairs of the state. That is why they put their protégés in power. And that is why they con the rubberstamp legislature to pass laws that will enable them to receive life pensions and double salaries and allowances.

We are gradually losing our relevance in the comity of nations. Forget the ‘Giant of Africa’ sobriquet. It was in the past. The major advantage we have is population. But that alone cannot guarantee us leadership on the continent. The recent invasion of Nigerian High Commission in Ghana symbolises the abyss into which our image has sunk.

We desperately need political and electoral reforms in Nigeria. I don’t see the present leadership in the country initiating that because that will mean upsetting the apple cart. We had a chance to do part of it in the Electoral Amendment Act. But Buhari refused to sign it into law. That was why we witnessed massive rigging that dogged the last election. Until we are able to effect a smooth change of government through free and fair election, our political pains will fester. Let’s hope that one day a selfless leader will emerge to put a stop to all these nonsense.

Re: Anambra, COVID-19 funds and other stories
Once again thank you for exhibiting uncommon courage to broach an issue which many for inexplicable reasons have glossed over – the façade in Anambra State. The rot in Anambra is deep. The sum total of the state of affairs in the state and what outsiders are made to believe is that what we have in Anambra state is government by the social media. Most of the achievements they push forward are creations of Photoshop. All is aimed at covering up a vacuous, unfocused and wasteful style of governance never seen before in the state. Not even the “dead woods” government of Odera (Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju) tried the suicidal spiral descent course the State is treading in now.
All round the state with the exception of the flyovers in the state capital, one cannot vouch any significant people oriented project. But for Covid-19 intervention, no single hospital or even health centre was face-lifted. Same applies to schools; then there is erosion eating up the state. The streetlights and traffic lights which the acolytes of the government celebrate are at best picturesque projects with no direct benefits to the citizenry. Traffic lights on pothole-filled major roads and streetlights powered with generators and the consequent daily energy drain on the public purse.
Yes, the government has done well in security as it relates to curbing of robberies and kidnappings but its responses during clashes involving the indigenes and itinerant herders from the North leaves much to be desired. In altercations reported so far in the State, the state government had tended to favour the herdsmen over the indigenes.

Perhaps the area where history reserves its worst verdict on the current government of Anambra State is on the system of Local Government administration in the State. It is precisely four years since the government sacked the duly elected local government officials it inherited from its predecessor – the Mr. Peter Obi-led government. Ever since that action in June 2016, the 21 local government areas of the state have been administered by appointed caretaker committees. This has rendered the local governments insignificant, moribund and near non-existent in the affairs of the State. Most worrisome is the appropriation of the federal allocations to these 21 local governments by the state government and the seeming collusion of the State House of Assembly. Please when next you are writing about Anambra State, which I believe will not be far, do help us to ask the state government about “The Bitter Leaf Revolution”. The state direly needs the $3 – $5m it purportedly generates annually. Keep up the good work.
– Hon. Aloy Uzoekwe, 08038503174, uzoekweao@yahoo.com

What is the noise about the management of COVID-19 fund when the Commissioner for Health has said “Drugs had been procured and more would be purchased for the management of COVID-19 cases?
– Chinedu Ekwuno, 08063730644

Dear Casmir, it has always been a disappointment whenever an outgoing leader attempts to groom a successor. It didn’t work in Anambra, Edo, Abia, etc. The best is for us to legislate against grooming of successors.
– Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +2349095385215

Casmir, I hope the saying in local parlance that “monkey dey work baboon dey chop” is not the order of the day in the war against covid-19? Misapplication of covid-19 funds is exploitative and an act of wickedness and should stop now.
Mike, Mushin, +2348161114572

Leadership is about wisdom, understanding and focus. Graft agencies should go after Nigerians who used Covid-19 to enrich themselves.
– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

Peter obi should be celebrated for his probity, accountability. He is a role model.
– Smart, Abakaliki, 08134774884

Dear Casy, Obiano has joined the type of leaders whose homes are on fire and they resort to hunting rats. The latest siege in Onitsha by Obiano boys is akin to Boko Haram and banditry in the north.
– Eze Chima C. Lagos, +2347036225495

  • Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, June 29, 2020

Anambra, COVID-19 Funds And Other Stories

June 30, 2020

Casmir Igbokwe

The story of the COVID-19 funds philanthropists donated recently in Anambra State appears convoluted. Resident doctors at the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital (COOUTH), Awka, mentioned it in passing last Wednesday. But it is enough to raise fresh enquiries about these funds and the state of affairs in this Light of the Nation.

The resident doctors had fumed, “It is unconscionable for politicians to fritter away the COVID-19 fund donated by philanthropists while COOUTH doctors who have been on the frontlines exposing themselves to increasing risk with inadequate PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment) continue to earn an insulting hazard allowance of N3,500.”

The doctors did not provide further details. But the Anambra State House of Assembly Committee on Health had earlier raised similar eyebrows about the funds. The committee, last week, sought some clarifications on the N30 million COVID-19 medication funds as well as other allocations in the budget of the state ministry of health. During its oversight meeting with a delegation from the state ministry of health, the committee sought for concrete evidence on how monies with sub-heads in the budget were utilised. Chairman of the committee and member representing Aguata One State Constituency, Dr. Cater Nnamdi Umeh, reportedly observed that huge sums of money were allocated for education and sensitisation of the citizenry on the existence and consequences of COVID-19 infections. Yet, Umeh regretted, the ministry of health could not deploy the funds for aggressive campaigns on the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee also raised some other grey areas.

The state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Vincent Ogochukwu Okpala, reportedly said drugs had been procured and more would be purchased for the management of COVID-19 cases. He enthused that as far as the war on COVID-19 was concerned, the state was firing from all cylinders. It’s good to know this. But to clear all doubts, the ministry of health should provide all necessary documents as requested by the committee. The committee should also make all discussions open and transparent.

We do not wish to have a repeat of the inanities that enveloped Anambra State in the past. When Senator Chris Ngige was the Governor, for instance, we heard of such indignities as burning of a state, slapping of a governor and payment at source. The same reactionary forces tried to fight Mr. Peter Obi when he took over from Ngige as the governor. But he refused to open the treasury to them. He was addicted to cutting of costs. And one of the brutal consequences of his actions was his induced removal from office.

Obi survived the plots against him and left many worthy legacies after two terms. In the area of health care provision, for instance, he came first in the entire country. From a state that did not have a single accredited health institution, he left the state with 13 accredited health institutions, including Onitsha General Hospital and the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital, Awka. He built the teaching hospital from the scratch. He also supported selected missionary hospitals in the state. His success in health is better evaluated by the fact that he won first prize in Bill and Melinda Gates award on health. Anambra State got millions of dollars for this. Obi used this monetary award to provide 10 health centres in 10 remote communities in Anambra State.

One of his strongest points was saving over N75 billion for his successor, both in local and foreign currencies.  The Managing Director of Diamond Bank where some of the savings were domiciled, Dr. Alex Otti, attested to this fact recently. According to Otti, some $155million was invested in the tier two capital of three Nigerian banks with maturities of about five years at interest rates of up to nine per cent per annum to the credit of the State. Otti said the present value of that investment was over N95 billion. Today, regrettably, Anambra is entangled in an uncomfortable web of debt. The Debt Management Office indicated that the state had a debt profile of over N34 billion as at September 2019.

Besides the financial sector, Obi left a mark in other sectors. In housing, for example, he opened the State and also partnered with the Hydraform, a South-African company for the adaption of the technology in Anambra State. I recall the massive importation of the machines when one Arc. Mike Nwafor was the Head of the State Housing Corporation. I know that trainings were organised for the deployment of the machines, but I do not know what successes have been registered.

Obi did very well in commerce and industry. Those of us who knew how Onitsha Harbour Industrial Park used to be are happy over the complete rehabilitation of the place with roads so strong that they are still intact in spite the fact that the road takes the heaviest trucks’ traffic in the State. Industries that came up in that place or became rehabilitated after improvement in infrastructure were many.

Also, Obi not only took the courageous decision to return schools to their original owners, he committed more than N7 billion to Anambra schools directly to the owners to rehabilitate the schools. This is besides the provision of two buses each to all the schools in the state, provision of generators, employment and training of ICT teachers, INTERNET connectivity, rehabilitation and provision of laboratories, sporting equipment and Microsoft academies.  The result was so visible that the schools started taking first position in external examinations.

Road Construction was another sector Obi came first in the country. When he was the governor, the Federal Ministry of Works said in its reports that “Anambra State has the best network of roads in the country”.  The then Commissioner for Works, Callistus Ilozumba, periodically published the progress of road projects in the State with clear pictures of the roads Obi inherited and completed, started and completed, and ongoing. My town, Isuofia, also benefitted. In fact, one of the roads passed through my father-in-law’s place down to Nanka, a neighbouring town. Ilozumba had stated that the philosophy guiding the choice of roads to rehabilitate under Obi was economic benefits. A good example is the policy of constructing roads that lead to factories. This, he said, was the reason he constructed the Harbour Industrial roads, Cutix Road, Juhel Road, Innoson Road, among others.

Besides, the culture of road maintenance was part of the policy of government under Obi. For instance, I am aware that Obi maintained Ichida-Awka-Etiti Road built by Ngige. Ilozumba also revealed how Obi purchased full construction equipment and set up the Anambra State Road maintenance Agency (ARMA) and appointed Mr. Ejike Nwanne from Oba as the first Managing Director. The agency, he noted, was one of the reasons Anambra roads remained well maintained during the time of Obi.

This is how it should be. In sane societies like the United Kingdom and the United States, roads are maintained routinely. Roads built over five years ago need routine maintenance and any government that fails to do this is failing in one of her cardinal duties.

During my recent trip to Anambra State, I observed that though most of the roads are still standing, some already require maintenance. Typical examples are the S.M Okeke Avenue, Amikwu, Awka; Amawbia By-Pass; Ekwulobia By-Pass, Nanka-Agulu-Awka Road and many others. The question is: Where is Anambra Road Maintenance Agency (ARMA)?

Last year, ARMA assured road users in Anambra that government would fix the dilapidated portions of the roads in all parts of the state ahead of last Christmas. The Managing Director of the agency, Mr. Emeka Okoye, said the state government had already fixed such roads as Udoka Estate, Roban Stores Road, Prisons Road and Aroma-Ifite Road. He added that the state engaged contractors to complement the agency’s efforts to ensure zero potholes across the state.

Unfortunately, some of the road contractors engaged by the state had since abandoned the work. The other day, the state House of Assembly threatened to blacklist and expose these road contractors embezzling tax payers’ money. Chairman of the House of Assembly Committee on Works, Hon. Timothy Ifedioramma, explained that the state government had mobilized some of the contractors but they had done little or nothing on the roads. He regretted that some of the already fixed roads did not stand the test of time due to poor executions.

What is the government of Chief Willie Obiano doing about this? The state Commissioner for Works, Marcel Ifejiofor, had said last year that the state government actually sacked three contractors for incompetence. Ifejiofor added that the state government had set up Anambra Design and Review Committee on roads headed by him to monitor developments on the roads. So, what has this committee done? Are the members sincerely satisfied with the state of the roads today?

Next year, politicians will begin to campaign for the governorship of the state. How many of them are willing and ready to take the state higher than where Obi left it? We shall come back to this at the appropriate time.

  • Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, June 22, 2020

Heralding Nigeria’s 5G technology

June 21, 2020

Casmir Igbokwe

The latest telecommunications invention in the world is the fifth generation (5G) network. Some advanced countries struggled to be the first to have a commercial launch of this innovation. In the United States alone, Accenture estimates that the industry is expected to spend $275 billion over seven years. The technology can provide data speeds at least 20 times faster than 4G. Soon, technological advances will range from self-driving cars to artificial intelligence. 

Incidentally, Nigeria has her own 5G wonder. It happens to be ‘Kilishi’ and ‘Kunu’ technology. Last week, the Director General of the Raw Materials Research and Development Council, Professor Hussain Ibrahim, averred that his council had developed atechnology to optimise this ‘Kilishi’(locally spiced roasted meat) production. In an interaction with the Senate Committee on Science and Technology, Prof. Ibrahim enthused that this technology was the only major breakthrough the institute had successfully developed for commercial use since its creation 33 years ago.

“In our 30 years of research activities, we are still the largest research institute. But to be candid with you, we are making progress,” Prof. Ibrahim added. When a member of the Senate panel drew the DG’s attention to the fact that the agency was wasting Nigeria’s money, his defence was that they didn’t have a laboratory. 

Another institute, the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO), had announced its own breakthrough in automated machines for ‘Kunu’ and ‘Zobo’ (local drinks) preparation in 2018. This, the agency said, was to enhance competitiveness and productivity in the food and beverage industry. The then DG of FIIRO, Prof. Gloria Elemo, was quoted to have said that the institute was partnering with an indigenous automation company, Automation and Engineering Nig. Ltd., to produce the automated machine. She boasted that the institute would continue to use technology to enhance the quality and competitiveness of the country’s manufacturing sector.   

In 2016, the Ministry of Science and Technology, which supervises these research institutes, regaled us with the plan to produce pencils in Nigeria. Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, the Minister of Science and Technology, promised then that this plan would materialise by 2018. He said it would have a meaningful impact on the economy.

The minister said he chose pencil because though it looked simple to produce, we had not been able to do it. And we had all the things required to produce it. He was optimistic that Nigeria would become Africa’s technology hub by 2026.

Year 2026 will soon be here. But before then, the Projects Development Agency (PRODA) in Enugu has made that breakthrough in the pencil production project. Onu urged Nigerians to come to PRODA to acquire the pencil technology for their investments. The agency, he said, could also manufacture industrial machine parts including those of aircraft. Its research also focuses on development and production of lithium ion battery, and manufacture and standardisation of the agency’s Electrical Porcelain Insulators.

At least, PRODA has tried, though it has not matched its performance during the civil war. Known then as the Research and Production Department of the old Eastern Region, PRODA made some key inventions that helped Biafra in the prosecution of the war. For instance, the agency invented the famous ‘ogbunigwe’ bomb which dealt a terrible blow to the ‘enemy’ troops. Even shortly after the war, the agency pioneered the first made-in-Nigeria car. The idea died naturally when the government failed to follow up on the prototype.    

It is important to note that the Western world had made more advanced inventions some centuries ago. Thomas Edison, credited with inventing the light bulb, patented the first commercially successful bulb in 1879. Today, lighting companies like Phillips and Stack have further advanced the lighting technology. They have created wireless light bulbs that can be controlled via smartphone app. There are many other century-old inventions.  

It is shameful that we have chosen to advertise our mundane technologies when the scientific world is already thinking of a 6G technology. I don’t really blame Onu. He has made a mark by building something where there was nothing before. He deserves praises because if we had produced the small technologies, he probably would be talking about the big ones today.

It all boils down to the leadership deficit the country has been suffering from since independence in 1960. And this is not only a federal or state problem. It exists even in ministries and agencies.   

Look at what is happening at PRODA for instance. In September 2018, the agency’s workers, under the aegis of Joint Union of PRODA, reportedly petitioned the Minister, Dr Onu, against the DG, Mr Charles Agulanna. In their petition, the workers alleged that the DG and the management team “have not only performed far below expectation, but have brought more damnation and retrogression to the institute, and research and development in the country.” The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is also said to be investigating Agulanna for alleged series of fraud.

At FIIRO, there is confusion at the top management cadre. The qualification of the Acting DG, Chima Igwe, is the issue. According to the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), Igwe has no PhD degree as claimed. In a statement it released in February, 2020, the ICPC said Igwe completed the three-year programme at the Universite d’Abomey Calavi, Republic of Benin between 1999 and 2002. He reportedly wrote his thesis, but failed to defend it. Hence, the ICPC concluded, he could not be said to have been awarded a PhD. Consequently, the FIIRO Governing Board removed Igwe and appointed another acting DG in the person of Dr. Agnes Asagbra. In a further twist to the story, there were reports last May that Dr Onu had ordered the Board to reinstate Igwe. The embattled DG was said to have presented the original certificate of his doctorate degree duly issued on February 14, 2020. The Ministry of Science and Technology reportedly verified and confirmed the certificate through the Ministry of Education. Between Igwe and Asagbra, I’m not sure who is in charge now.

Nevertheless, the Ministry of Science and Technology should begin to take a critical look at these research institutes. Those that have shown promise to do well should be encouraged and well funded. Those that have shown gross incompetence should be reorganised or shut down. We cannot continue to waste scarce resources on agencies that are chronically inept.  

In the meantime, can we please stop boasting about our ‘kilishi’-type inventions? Or discuss it in hushed tones if we must? This is to avoid making ourselves a laughing stock in serious societies.

Re: A governor’s N50m single trip to Abuja

Thanks for your recipe on management of state fund. Any governor who went to Abuja with N50m on a single trip is a financial crime suspect and should face the music of EFCC and court of law. Peter Obi is prudent but most of his political appointees were economic vampires. I am happy when someone told me that the governor you alluded to in the case of waste of fund on champagne alone does not take alcohol again. I am also happy that when he was in private sector, there was no loss of fund traced to him as a result of consumption of champagne before he retired meritoriously from the organisation. Behold, he is alert governor.

  • Mr. Chinedu Ekwuno (JP), 08063730644

Dear Casmir, the National Assembly should Institute “embargo on white elephant Projects”. Any government investment not accessible to the have-nots should be proscribed. Profligate expenses should also be banned.

  • Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +2349095385215

Casmir, you have said it all. We need to cut spending on governance so Nigeria will move forward. Orosanya report should be implemented to cut wastage in governance. 

  • Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

Casmir, the extravagant, reckless and frivolous spending nature of an average leader in Nigeria stems from the bad culture, poor orientation and belief of taking the populace for a ride. They do this, just to show that a new sheriff is in town. They are unaccountable to a weak and sometimes compromised legislature and a judiciary that is ready to take its own share of the national cake. Such leaders don’t care about legacies or good names they should leave behind.

-Mike, Mushin, +2348161114572

Bro Cas, this revelation which has not been refuted by the governor shows the insensitiveness of our leaders and insincerity of APC-led federal govt. But if left unchecked, Nigeria is sowing the seed of its disintegration as the masses would like to take their destiny in their hands because you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all of the time.

Smart, Abakaliki, 08134774884

Dear Casy, Nigeria has become the British chalice of poison foisted on the tribes that make up this geographical entity. There was no referendum in 1914 and the British handed political power to the tribe that invaded the north in the 1790s to 1840s conquest of that region and since then, Nigeria died. APC govt has become Nigeria’s undertaker that foisted a despot on us as president. That bug has entered most of the states.

Eze Chima C.  Lagos, +2347036225495

Dear Casy, my heart bleeds each time I pass through Onitsha bridge head, Njaba area of Imo, Ugwu-Oba area of Enugu and see what some Igbo boys do to commercial truck\lorry drivers with what they call “Commerce & Industry Tax”. They attack and break their mirrors, assault the drivers and puncture their tyres at will. They claim it’s the respective governments of Anambra, Enugu and Imo states that sent them. They don’t have a fixed amount payable by those trucks. Anambra government can rake in too much money as revenue by dislodging those criminals and ordering every loaded truck passing head bridge to pay just #1000 into the govt coffers just like Lagos Wharf landing fee.  

  • Nomeh Ekene W.Ugwu, +2348035166661

Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, June 15, 2020

A governor’s N50m single trip to Abuja

June 8, 2020

By Casmir Igbokwe

In a transparent and sane society, there would have been uproar by now. But ours is a country of anything goes. So, there was not even a whimper. We simply shrugged off the revelation that the former Bauchi State Governor, Mohammed Abubakar, spent N50 million for each trip to Abuja from Bauchi as governor.

At first, the allegation seemed unbelievable. But coming from the incumbent governor of the state, Senator Bala Mohammed, it is not impossible. In a media chat to mark his first year in office, Senator Mohammed affirmed: “N50m just to go to Abuja, it is there on record. I don’t even take it. My protocol, yes, as a governor, will take N3m to N5m to go with me. We are not saying this to beguile anybody but it is there. If you take N50m times four, that is N200m, you cannot do anything, you need projects.”

I had expected that ex-Governor Abubakar would have called a press conference to debunk this allegation. Since he has not done that, I assume that there is an element of truth in it. The reaction by his media aide, Ali M. Ali, that the allegation was diversionary is unsatisfactory. Ali wondered how N50m could be spent on such travel when the ex-governor usually stayed in his house in Abuja on such occasions. “This is unthinkable,” he noted.

Yes, it is unthinkable! But I am not sure Ali has the details of everything the governor did when he was in office. And it is not certain if he consulted him before his swift response. Thus, we need to hear directly from the governor. We need to know some other details, including how the state government spent about $3 million to repair its 50-seater aircraft that is currently parked. The governor said the state needed extra $3 million to effect another repair on the aircraft he described as valueless.

The Bauchi episode replicates itself in many other states. It confirms the common knowledge about how those at the helm squander our commonwealth and leave the majority of us in penury. Some waste millions of naira on champagne alone. Some travel in chartered aircraft when commercial airlines are at their service. And they move with a retinue of aides whose travel perks also run into millions of naira.

This is why I admire the former Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi. Faced with similar opportunities when he was governor, Obi chose a life of prudence. He never moved with unnecessary convoy. He travelled only on commercial flights and in economy class too. For him, the millions of naira spent on preparing food for him at the state liaison offices each time he travelled outside the state were unnecessary. He stopped it and only preferred to take his meals in his hotel. He deployed the money he saved from all these to the development of his state such that he never borrowed a dime throughout his tenure as governor. Rather, he saved a lot of money for his successor. So far, he has remained the best governor Anambra has produced in all ramifications.

Why can’t other Nigerian leaders emulate this philosophy of Obi? Why is there so much wastage in the governance of the country? Currently, Nigeria’s debt stands at about N33.078 trillion. The other day, the Nigerian Senate approved the Federal Government’s $5.513 billion external loan request. In March this year, the same Senate approved FG’s $22.7 billion external loan request. And in this April, there were reports that the Senate approved President Muhammadu Buhari’s N850 billion domestic loan request. Why are we on a borrowing binge? Why spend billions of naira to service loans and mortgage our future when there are other creative ways of generating money?

In case they have forgotten, here are a few of these creative ways: One, they should block the security vote loophole. We must learn to run a transparent government where every kobo spent on people’s behalf must be accounted for. As it is currently, security votes are not accounted for. It gives room for serious embezzlement and encourages shady characters to vie for these top leadership positions just to grab state resources. It is not healthy.

Two, all governors travelling outside their states must go with commercial airlines. Whoever wants to charter aircraft should do so with his personal money. The Presidency, on its part, should reduce the number of aircraft in the presidential fleet. There are at least nine planes in the presidential fleet when only two or three would have been adequate.

Three, political office-holders should reduce the number of their aides and political appointees. Some governors have hundreds of aides who draw salaries every month. The functions of some these aides overlap, indicating that some of them are not necessary. In some states, you have special assistant, senior special assistant and special adviser on one position. The Presidency is also guilty of this. Most times though, these appointments are political. They are meant to compensate some people who helped in the campaign for elections. There must be some other ways of compensating these people without creating avenues for haemorrhaging the resources of the state.

Four, all the states paying life pensions to ex-governors must put a stop to it. Some of these former governors receiving these pensions are currently serving as ministers or senators. Hence, they earn double pay simply because they served the state for eight years. This is not right.

In some states, the entitlements are outrageous. A typical example is Lagos State, which first introduced this law during the tenure of Bola Ahmed Tinubu. According to the Lagos life pension law, any ex-governor who served the state for two terms is entitled to a house each in Abuja and Lagos, six brand new cars every three years, life pension of N30 million per annum, etc. In Akwa Ibom State, a former governor like Godswill Akpabio is entitled to N200 million annual pension and many other benefits. Meanwhile, Akpabio had been a senator and is now Minister of Niger Delta Affairs. Some other states with this double pension law include Edo, Delta, Rivers, Kano, Katsina, Niger, Bauchi, Borno, Abia, Oyo, Ebonyi and Gombe.

Good enough, some states have abolished that law. Zamfara put a stop to it last year. And the most recent is Imo State, which repealed it a few days ago. Kwara State suspended it in 2018. It is not certain why it has not completely abolished it.

Five, government at all levels should stop depending wholly on oil, which is a depleting resource. The Federal Government has done well by trying to revive agriculture. But it needs to do more. There is no reason relevant ministries should not encourage manufacturers to mass-produce goods for export, especially to sister African countries. Car manufacturing company, Innoson, for instance, should be able to export its vehicles to some neighbouring countries.

In all, if our leaders are able to cut cost of governance and diversify their revenue base, there may not be any need to take humungous loans. As for Bauchi State, all I can say is, sell that aircraft and plough the profit in some developmental projects in the state. Call ex-governors to render account of their stewardship if need be.

Re: Now that worship centres are about to reopen

How I wish they will abide by the directives when the church reopens because it is the responsibility of every government to protect the lives of her citizens. Also, government should wield a big stick to any church/mosque that violates the directive as J.J Rousseau stated that he who doesn’t want to be free must be forced to be free. So we must force our people to be alive. Lastly, government should consider easing the lockdown of interstate borders because of the hardship it imposes on traders.

– Smart, Abakaliki, 08134774884

Casmir, having relaxed the lockdown to the extent of reopening worship centres, government would bear the burden of 40% likely increases should the chickens come home to roost. Why crash under undue pressures when the curve is yet to flatten? Watch out for these interesting scenarios at worship centres: 1. Government authority vs spiritual authority. 2. Faith vs logic. 3. Nose mask protection vs divine protection. 4. Social networking vs social distancing. 5. Restrictions in the house of God vs liberty (in the presence of the lord there is fullness of joy/liberty). 6. Realities vs conspiracy theories (doubting Thomases). 7. Faith purveyors vs fear promoters. 8. Caution vs throwing caution to the winds. May God perfect our imperfections!

– Mike, Mushin, +2348161114572

Dear Casmir, salvation proceeds from the heart and one’s belonging to God also rests in the internal. Being a Muslim is different from being a Mohammedan. Mohammad never lifted sword on a Christian instead he lived in peace and harmony with them because it was Syrian Monks that spotted him a prophet. So, attacks on Christians are not Islamic.

– Cletus Frenchman, Enugu, +2349095385215

Dear Casy, as you rightly said, we have become too religious and ungodly. Most of our Christian leaders abandoned their followers by not being able to provide for them both spiritually and materially. Now, some have lost their means of livelihood through this Covid-19 pandemic. Currently, Nigerian govt coro is deadlier than covid-19. The Fulani herdsmen terrorists supported by this present federal government have taken over our lands from Middle Belt to the whole South. This is the time for us to unite and rekindle our faith as exemplified by our lord Jesus Christ who is the author and finisher of our faith.

– Eze Chima C. Lagos,+2347036225495

Religious bodies should re-arrange their sitting pattern during service to avoid spreading of Covid-19 pandemic. The clergy should not use the opportunity of re-opening worship centres to milk members dry with different offerings & tithes to recover all that they have lost.

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

  • Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, June 8, 2020