Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Oyo Government laudable move to curb noise pollution

The recent move by the Oyo State government to enforce the law banning noise pollution in the state is a commendable one.  Indeed, it’s long overdue. It will be recalled that in March this year the State House of Assembly had invited the Commissioner  for Environment and Water Resources,  Isaac Ishola and his counterpart from the  Information, Culture and Tourism Ministry  Toye Arulogun to explain why the law banning noise pollution is still being observed in breach. The duo explained their efforts and challenges and were informed by Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Hon. Michael Adeyemo to use the force of law to make defaulters to comply if dialogue is not yielding positive results. Section 58 of the Oyo State Environmental Sanitation and Waste Control Regulation (No. 6, Vol. 38 of 2013) is targeted at curbing noise pollution of religious houses and entertainment outfits.
On August 15 this year, the two commissioners addressed the press to update the public on how they are faring with the enforcement order. At the inter-ministerial press briefing in Ibadan, the Commissioner for Environment gave a two-week ultimatum to churches, mosques, as well as clubs and restaurants to remove their outdoor speakers or face prosecution. The Commissioner further explained that the state government was committed to reducing the noise level in residential areas to 45 decibel at night and 60 decibel in the afternoon within five meters radius. He also disclosed that some places of worship had been sealed up for noise pollution, while no fewer than 372 environmental offenders have been prosecuted in the last one year.
Commissioner Ishola was quoted as saying “We are giving churches and mosques with external speakers two weeks to remove them. You don’t use religion to disturb others. I am a Christian and I have supervised the locking up of three churches for disturbing their neighbours with noise. If I can do that against churches I will do it against mosques and other places.” The commissioner equally enjoined all owners of vehicles and motorcycles to take them for emission test at the offices of three consultants approved for the exercise. He said: “If you own a vehicle, motorcycle or generator, it must be subjected to gaseous emission test. The essence is not to make money for government, but to control gaseous emission believed to be one of the major causes of cancer and other ailments. The ministry has two mobile courts that would sit during the day and we have arranged that magistrates’ courts should also try environmental offenders.”
I wonder why it took the intervention of the State House of Assembly to ginger the Commissioner for Environment in the Pacesetter State to wake up to his duty. The law had been there since 2013 but was not enforced. I am a resident of Ibadan and know the inconvenience I and my family have had to endure from the religious houses that envelope us during their diurnal and nocturnal services. Anytime churches around my house have vigil, I know for certain that there will be no sleep for me that night. This is because of their loudspeakers which are usually tuned to the highest decibel for maximum reach. What these perpetrators does not know or chose to ignore is that they are constituting environmental nuisance and it shows that they do not love their neighbours.
Am very glad to learn of the latest enforcement action by Oyo State Ministry of Environment.   It would be recalled that Lagos State government set the pace in Nigeria in 2010 by banning religious houses from mounting outside speakers. The level of noise pollution allowed in the state is between 55 decibel during the day and 42 to 45 decibel at night. Noise pollution refers to undesirable levels of noises caused by human activity that disrupt the standard of living in the affected area. Researchers said indoor and outdoor noise pollution sources include car alarms, emergency service siren, mechanical equipment, fireworks, compressed air horns, barking dogs, audio entertainment systems, electric megaphones, and loud people.
In case you do not know, noise pollution impact negatively on human health. Experts warned that it can cause annoyance and aggression, hypertension, high stress levels, hearing loss, sleep disturbances and loss of concentration. Others are tinnitus which can lead to forgetfulness, severe depression and at times panic attacks. In animals, noise can increase the risk of death by altering predator or prey detection and avoidance, interfere with reproduction and navigation, and contribute to permanent hearing loss. Sociologically speaking, high noise pollution can aid security breaches. Criminals such as armed robbers, kidnappers and rapists can perpetrate their heinous and fiendish acts with impunity under the cover of noise which will make it impossible for victims to get help as their shout will be drowned by the din around them. Thus, noise pollution does more harm than good. In fact, I see no good in it. Why must we disturb the peace of our neighbours and our environment in the name of practicing religion, marketing or enjoying ourselves?
It is imperative for all and sundry to support Oyo State government and indeed all governments that have passed legislations against noise pollution to ensure compliance with the law. It behooves the Oyo State government to adequately sensitize the citizenry on the dangers of pollution.  In sane societies, religious houses and entertainment centres are encouraged to acquire acoustic furniture, internal speakers and erect padded walls to minimise noise. The government also needs to publish where infractions against the laws can be reported including their phone numbers and e-mail addresses. In addition it should set up monitoring team to enforce compliance.

 National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency as well as State and Local Government Environmental Protection Agencies need to belt up and partner with National Orientation Agency and Nigerian print and electronic media to sensitise Nigerians on the dangers of environmental pollution in general and noise pollution in particular. Beyond the use of traditional mass media, as individuals, we can use the social media (Twitter, Facebook, SMS, WhatsApp, Blogs) to educate other people who may be unaware of the hazards of noise pollution.  Protecting our environment against pollution is our collective responsibility. We must endeavor not to be part of the problem but must do everything to be part of the solution; the change vanguard.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Reversing Nigeria’s deplorable water, sanitation and hygiene situation

Three weeks ago, precisely from September 20 – 22, I was at Yankari Game Reserve for a three day workshop organised by WaterAid Nigeria. It was an eye-opener! Did you know that 57m people in Nigeria don't have access to safe water?   Did you know that over 130m people don't have access to adequate sanitation in this country?  Did you know that our dear fatherland is the worst country in Africa for urban sanitation access?  Were you aware that in this country, almost 60,000 children under five years old die every year from diarrhoea diseases caused by poor water and sanitation? These are not my personal opinion; it is from WaterAid, an international organisation that is working in 37 countries of the world which has been in Nigeria for about 20 years now.
If the above statistics from WaterAid shocked you, calm down and wait for the one from United Nations Children Fund. According to UNICEF, “About 70m people, out of a population of 171m, lacked access to safe drinking water, and over 110m lacked access to improved sanitation in 2013. Open defecation rates, at 28.5 per cent pose grave public health risks. Every year, an estimated 124,000 children under the age of five die because of diarrhoea, mainly due to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene. Lack of adequate water and sanitation are also major causes of other diseases, including respiratory infection and under-nutrition. Many schools in Nigeria lack safe, private toilets and hand-washing facilities. This affects enrolment and performance, particularly in the case of girls.” Peradventure, this grave situation was partly why Sustainable Development Goal six was on ensuring access to Water and Sanitation for all by 2030.
Even without any official statistics, it is an open secret that the water, sanitation and hygiene in Nigeria is very deplorable. Even in urban centres there is no state in Nigeria, including the Federal Capital Territory that is 100 per cent covered by public water supply. In FCT with the exception of parts of Bwari and AMAC Area Councils, the others like Gwagwalada, Kuje, Kwali and Abaji have no public water supply. In Ibadan where I was born, schooled and live, there is largely no public water supply. If there is, perhaps it may be in the Government Reservation Areas of Bodija, Agodi, Jericho, Iyaganku and Oluyole. In fact, since I was born, water though is on government concurrent legislative list has been made to be citizens’ responsibility and not government’s. So sad! In many communities around the country people fetch their drinking water from the stream or well. In some instances, animals and human beings share same water sources, which should not be. A good water is supposed to be colourless and tasteless. Unfortunately, potable water in many homes is brownish and had taste which means they are not safe for human consumption.
Since there is hardly water for drinking in many homes, little is available for sanitation and hygiene.  As seeing from the above statistics, open defecation is still a serious challenge in Nigeria with a whooping 130m not having access to adequate sanitation. This is so because many homes, schools, public buildings and business complexes are built with few or no toilet facilities. A visit to many rural communities will reveal that most of them indulge in open defecation as their homes are built without even a pit laterine. Despite federal and state governments’ pronouncement of environmental sanitation days, many citizens hardly participate in the cleaning of their environment. Many residential houses are overgrown with weeds while the drainages are blocked due to dumping of solid wastes in the gutters and water channels. These unwholesome practices apart from causing flooding are also harbinger of diseases.
Personal hygiene is alien to many people in this country. Because of shortage of water, clothes are not washed as at when due. Many do not even brush their teeth twice daily as recommended by dental experts. Washing hands after defecation or when one’s hand is soiled is a Herculean task for many people as they see it as waste of scarce water resource. Though it is advised that fruits should be washed before being eaten, many people ignore this hygiene practice and carelessly eat unwashed fruits.
The implications of not embracing WASH are grave. It affects health and even the economy. Experts said many of the water and insect borne diseases such as cholera, typhoid, malaria, dysentery, and the likes can be drastically reduced if only we all adopt water, sanitation and hygiene practices. In spite of the acute shortage of water in many metropolitan areas of the country, the few privileged communities that have pipe borne water also engage in water wastages. Because the publicly supplied water is highly subsidised to make it affordable, many residents who enjoy this facility are known to be lackadaisical in the way they use water.   Their leaking taps and pipes are not repaired promptly.
Anytime I pass by and see water gushing out of burst reticulated water-pipes I am sad. This is a scarce commodity being allowed to waste.  Another concern is that sometimes water supply from Water Corporation or Board is either coloured or full of particles, thereby unsafe for drinking. It behooves Water Board to fix these broken pipes promptly. The Board should make available hotlines to call to alert it to areas where citizens have noticed broken pipes leading to water wastage. For those who do not have access to chlorinated pipe borne water, they should embrace the simple practice of boiling their drinking water once they are not sure of its safety.
I do know that the common practice now is for people to buy sachet or bottled water believing that it is very safe to drink. That is however not totally true. Many of these water manufacturing companies are either not licenced or adulterate their product after licensing from Standard Organisation of Nigeria and National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control. Health experts have also recently made it clear that it is unsafe to drink processed water in plastic container when it has been exposed to too much sun or heat. It has been said by experts also that indiscriminate drilling of boreholes in search of water is dangerous as it is not environmentally friendly.

The imperative of environmental sanitation and hygienic practices cannot be over-emphasised. We need to clean our environment as a habit even without government prompting. Personal hygiene such as hand washing and oral hygiene will make us live a healthy life. And as the saying goes, cleanliness is next to Godliness and a healthy people are wealthy people. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Fortes and foibles of Buhari’s 2017 Independence Day speech

Hearty congratulations Nigerians! Last Sunday, October 1, 2017, our dear country attained 57 years of independence from colonial rule.  Expectedly, a number of activities were lined up to celebrate the epochal event. In line with the somber mood of the nation, there was no rolling out of the drums or any elaborate ceremonies. Prayers were duly offered in mosques and churches and the president addressed the nation at 7am after which he travelled to Maiduguri to celebrate the day with our troops fighting Boko Haram insurgency in the North Eastern part of the country.
In the last 72 hours, I have been busy analysing President Muhammadu Buhari’s Independence Day speech across different electronic broadcast platforms. I watched the broadcast in the studio of Nigerian Television Authority after which I discussed it on the station’s flagship programme ‘Weekend Deal’ for some 15 minutes. I thereafter moved to Arise TV for another two part discussions first with former Speaker of House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Umar Ghali Na’aba and later with veteran journalist, Mrs. Moji Makanjuola. Thereafter, I was on ‘O & M Show’ on African Independent Television. The day after saw me discussing the speech on ‘Majelisa’ on Kiss 99.9 FM, and ‘Frank Talk’ on Peoples Television.  
I have read the president’s aforementioned speech severally and have even re-read his 2016 Independence Day speech to find out the No. 1 citizen’s trail of thoughts. I must confess that the president needs to be commended for his articulation and elocution.  In the 2017 speech, the president made use of more statistical data than he did in 2016. However, his areas of emphasis are slightly different from that of 2016. In 2017, the president’s areas of emphasis were in three areas: Security, Economy and Anti-Corruption.  Same as last year’s, broadly speaking.  However, under economy, the president did not say anything about the refineries, roads, railways, dams, and housing scheme of his administration as he did last year.
In using data, the president reminded us of the two million deaths in the country’s 1967 – 1970 fratricidal civil war, promising not to allow what he called ‘a re-run’.  He gave the breakdown of the successes recorded in the agricultural sector. According to Buhari, “The Federal Government’s agricultural Anchor Borrowers Programme, which I launched in November 2015, has been an outstanding success with: N43.92bn  released through the CBN and 13 participating institutions, 200,000 small holder farmers from 29 states of the federation benefitting, 233,000 hectares of farmland cultivating eight commodities, namely Rice, Wheat, Maize, Cotton, soya-beans, Poultry, Cassava and Groundnuts, in addition to fish farming.”
On fertilizer, the president said: “Since December last year, this Administration has produced over 7 million 50Kg bags of fertilizer. Eleven blending plants with a capacity of 2.1 million metric tons have been reactivated. We have saved $150m in foreign exchange and N60bn in subsidy. Fertilizer prices have dropped from N13,000 per 50Kg bag to N5,500.” He went further to say that: “a new presidential initiative is starting with each state of the Federation creating a minimum of 10,000 jobs for unemployed youths, again with the aid of CBN’s development finance initiatives.”
The president was sincere and honourable to admit that power remains a huge problem. He said as of September 12, 2017 production of power reached an all — time high of 7,001 Megawatts. Government is increasing its investment, clearing up the operational and financial log jam bedeviling the industry and hope to reach 10,000 Megawatts by 2020. He noted that the special window created for manufacturers, investors and exporters, foreign exchange requirements has proved very effective. According to him, since April, about $7bn has come through this window alone.  PMB said the country has recorded seven consecutive months of lower inflation, Naira rate is beginning to stabilise, appreciating from N525 per $1 in February this year to N360 today.
Still talking statistics, the president informed the public that in order to stabilise the polity, the Federal Government gave additional support to states in the form of: State Excess Crude Account loans, Budget Support Facility, Stabilisation Fund Release to state and local government as follows: N200bn  in 2015, N441bn in 2016, N1tn in 2017. Altogether totaling N1.642tn. This, he said, was done to enable states to pay outstanding salaries, pensions and small business suppliers who had been all but crippled over the years. The questions are: Have the states fulfilled their part of the bargain? Have they used the funds as directed by the federal government?
From the president’s speech statistics, it is possible to have an infograph that will drive qualitative and quantitative analysis.
Though the president enumerated his government’s five pillar N500bn Special Intervention Programme as consisting of:  Home Grown School Feeding Programme, N-Power Job creation to provide loans to small-scale traders and artisans, Conditional Cash Transfer, Family Homes Fund and Social Housing Scheme, he however did not give a desirable breakdown of how much has been spent on each strand of the programme, successes and challenges. This is a huge gap in his otherwise laudable speech.
 In the government’s fight against corruption, the president said his government has: Empowered teams of prosecutors, Assembled detailed databases, and Accelerated the recovery of stolen funds. He recounted that the Administration’s new institutional reforms include: Enforcing Treasury Single Account, Whistle-Blowers Policy, and Integrated Payroll Personnel and Information System. Again, statistics would have helped drive home the point here. Am sure Nigerians would love to know how much has been realised from TSA, implementation of the Whistleblower policy and IPPIS payment system. How much loot has been recovered both internally and from outside the shores of the country? How many ghost workers have been detected to date? How many persons have been convicted for corruption under the administration?
Arising from last year’s speech, Mr. President you promised that our four refineries will be repaired so that Nigeria can produce most of our petrol requirements locally, pending the coming on stream of new refineries. “That way we will save ten billion USD yearly in importing fuel.” How far with that promise? What is the status of the Water Resources Bill encompassing the National Water Resources Policy and National Irrigation and Drainage Policy to improve management of water and irrigation development in the country?  How many of the twelve River Basin Authorities have been revived? Nigerians will also be delighted to know the status of the itemised 12 federal roads meant for dualisation, reconstruction or rehabilitation in your last year’s speech.
Mr. President sir, you said your government is initiating a pilot housing scheme of 2,838 units uniformly spread across the 36 states and FCT and that it is expected that these units will be completed within 4 – 6 months. Was your government able to deliver on this promise? Why is it that there was no project commissioned by your government to mark our 57th Independence Anniversary? In conclusion, it is important for you sir to know that name-calling and tongue-lashing people calling for self-determination will achieve nothing. Equal right, justice and fair play will. Negotiating with the ‘hot-headed’ agitators is the best way out.

Follow me on twitter @jideojong 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Need for improved services at Yankari Game Reserve


I was at Yankari Game Reserve, Bauchi last week. From Tuesday, September 19 – Saturday, September 23, I was at the foremost Nigeria’s tourist site for the second time. My first visit, purely for tourism, was on July 9, 2016. However, this time around I was there for official business; to attend a three day workshop organised by WaterAid Nigeria. During my first visit, I only stayed for approximately four hours, however, this time I was there for four nights and was therefore able to get familiar with the environment and assess the facilities. Before I delve into my overall impression of the Game Reserve, let me first say a few words of introduction about it.

There are over 100 tourists’ sites in Nigeria with eight of them being national parks. The parks, according to Wikipedia are: Chad Basin National Park, Cross River National Park, Gashaka-Gumti National Park, Kainji National Park, Kamuku National Park, Okomu National Park, Old Oyo National Park and Yankari National Park. Yankari was originally created as a game reserve in 1956, but later designated Nigeria’s biggest national park in 1991 and managed by the National Parks Service until 2006 when responsibility for the management of the reserve was handed back to Bauchi State Government. It is the most popular destination for tourists in Nigeria and, as such, plays a crucial role in the development and promotion of tourism and ecotourism in Nigeria. It is also one of the most popular eco-destinations in West Africa.

Let me tell you why should endeavor to visit the Park. It is a new world. It broadens visitors’ worldview about life. It is a large wildlife park that covers an area of about 2,244 square kilometres (866 sq mi). Yankari contained Nigeria’s richest wildlife oasis with over 50 species of animals and 350 species of birds. Some of the animals include the African Bush Elephant, Olive Baboon, Patas Monkey, Lions, the African Buffalo, Leopard, Wild Cat and Hippopotamus, among others. There is also the Wikki natural warm spring with excellent swimming facilities, Marshall Cave and fish ponds. The Park is reputed to be the first of its kind in West Africa.

YGR has a 110 room Wikki Resort Hotel at the center of the Park. Other structures include a safari and conservation center, a student’s hostel, a restaurant and bar, sports facilities, religious centers, camping ground, conference halls, a research education center and an airstrip. I like the architectural design of the chalets. It is indeed a combination of a strong blend of traditional architecture with modern building technology. I also like the fact that the entire 115Km of the road from Bauchi town to the Park is built with solid asphalt.  The environment is scenic, serene and natural. There is uninterrupted water supply. The place is also very secure with armed security personnel as well as CCTV (WCS Camera-trap) to ensure safety and security of both the animals and the visitors to the Game Reserve. There is no gainsaying that I thoroughly enjoyed my five day stay at Yankari.

There is a saying that the biggest room in the world is that of improvement. You can always better your best. Yankari management need to do a lot more to improve the facilities at the Park both for customer satisfaction as well as in order to generate more income. In my July 13, 2016 article in this column I recounted my experience during my first visit. I raised the issue of the need for the management to produce branded souvenirs for sale. Am sure a lot of tourists and others there on business trip will like to buy mementoes to preserve memories of their visit.  Unfortunately, more than a year after my unsolicited advice was given, nothing has been done. The only small shop that exists on the camp sells groceries.  It is advisable that more stalls be allowed to offer varieties of goods for sale including arts and crafts of Bauchi State and indeed Northern Nigeria.

There is need for improved telecommunication service at the Park. Only two telecom companies – MTN and Airtel – have network there. Thus, if you’re not a subscriber of these two, you’ll be totally shut out of communication with outside world for the duration of your stay there. The internet services offered by the two are also very slow. I advise that more GSM service providers should be encouraged to provide telecommunication services there.

Furthermore, I observed that there is no bank at the Park. I learnt that the closest place to get any banking service is at Alkaleri, the Local Government headquarters. That is quite far from Yankari which is about 40 minutes from when you turn away from Bauchi – Gombe highway. My advice is that banks should consider setting up a small office at the Park or at least install their Automatic Teller Machines to enable visitors to the Game Reserve, who may be cash-strapped, to withdraw money from their account. Point of Sale machines should also be made available to enable people who may not have cash on them to pay through the device.

The sporting facilities at the Park need to be rehabilitated. The lawn-tennis court is in a state of disrepair. The electricity supply also needs to be improved upon. Light is mostly available at night from about 6pm. Without electricity during the day, it will be very discomforting to stay in the rooms as the air conditioners will not be working and it’s not advisable to open the windows for ventilation as most of the mosquito nets are in tatters hence all manner of flying insects roam in to constitute nuisance to lodgers. I suggest the management of the Park should provide standing fans in the room as alternative to air conditioners in case the latter malfunctions or for the use of those who are allergic to ACs. I equally suggest that strong wire-nets that are not easy to be torn off by the stubborn baboons on the camp should be installed on the windows.

The intercoms in the rooms also need to be made functional. If this communication device is reactivated it will be easy to reach out for different services including housekeeping, restaurant, reception, etcetera.  The management of Yankari should also license some reliable people to offer car hire services. The restaurant should be manned by educated people who understands and can communicate effectively in English language. They should also see to it that their customer service is prompt. I also propose that maintenance of facilities at the Park be given top priority.  

I know some of these requested services will cost the management some money. However, it will be a worthy investment which will be recouped over time as more tourists who have idyllic  experience will not only want to come back but will also tell their friends, colleagues and family members about their enjoyable stay thereby enticing them to visit.  Only the best is good enough for Bauchi, the Pearl of Tourism.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Lessons for Nigeria from 2017 International Day of Democracy

Since 2007, United Nations has set aside September 15 of every year as International Day of Democracy. This year’s IDD was celebrated globally last Friday. In Nigeria, save for some media houses which hosted discussions around the issues raised in this year’s theme which is “Democracy and Conflict Prevention” nothing much was heard from government quarters. This may not be unconnected with the fact that Nigeria, since 1999, has chosen May 29 as her own Democracy Day. That choice has not been without contention as many Nigerians, especially those from South West geo-political zone are of the opinion that June 12 should have been chosen as Democracy Day in commemoration of the June 12, 1993 presidential election which was annulled by the military junta of General Ibrahim Babangida (Retd.). Many political observers felt that on that day, Nigerians set aside primordial sentiments such as ethnicity and religion and voted for a pan-Nigeria  Muslim-Muslim ticket of Bashorun MKO Abiola and Ambassador Babagana Kingibe in a widely acclaimed freest, fairest and most credible election in Nigeria.
According to the United Nations, “This year's theme of democracy and conflict prevention focuses on the critical need to strengthen democratic institutions to promote peace and stability. A more integrated approach to foster resilient societies calls for effective and inclusive democratic governance with respect for human rights and the rule of law.“ The world body observed further that: “Resilient societies are able to mitigate disputes through mediation, dialogue and a reasonable degree of legitimacy of their institutions. Developing effective conflict prevention mechanisms and infrastructures provides a foundation to resolve grievances and sustain peace. Processes, such as peace agreements, elections and constitutional reforms, can help maintain equilibrium between competing interests and reduce fragility and the likelihood of organised violence.”
It cannot be better said! Nigeria, it is very instructive, needs to strengthen her democratic institutions in order to promote rule of law. Which institutions are we talking about? Political parties, election management bodies, the legislature, the judiciary, the executive, the media and the civil societies, among others. There is no gainsaying that though these institutions are working in Nigeria, they need to be more efficient and effective. Take for instance the political parties; this is a critical institution of democracy that is responsible for leadership recruitment, interest articulation and political socialisation. Political parties sponsor candidates for election and they are the sole platform for electoral contest for now, until perhaps the proposed amendment for introduction of independent candidacy sails through the ongoing constitutional amendment exercise.
Unfortunately, our political parties in this country leave much to be desired. Many of them lack internal democracy. They also lack cohesion and are known to observe most electoral laws in breach. Topmost among them are the laws against money politics and electoral violence. The kind of leaders being recruited for Nigeria by the country’s political parties are more of treasury looters, self-centred and integrity-deficient. Any wonder that 18 years into this Fourth Republic, the country hasn’t got much to show in terms of democracy dividends to the suffering masses. It is instructive to note that political parties give birth to at least two out of the three arms of government. They are the executive and legislature. The products of these two vital organs of government have not justified the implicit trust and confidence that make people to vote for them at election. It has been more of personal aggrandisement for them and nonchalance towards the plight of the poverty-stricken populace.
What is the nexus between democracy and conflict prevention? In a democracy, institutions of government are supposed to work harmoniously to guarantee peace and stability without which there can be no development. The Nigerian Constitution put it succinctly when it says in section 14 (2) (b) that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” The fragility of Nigerian state is not in doubt given the various agitations for self-determinations by different interest groups top of which is the clamour for secession by the Indigenous People of Biafra. The country has also been on tenterhook since the Niger Delta militancy began with emergence of groups such as the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, Niger Delta Avengers and the likes.  In the North East, since the 2009 emergence of Boko Haram insurgency, there has been no lasting peace nationwide.
The UN in the 2017 International Day of Democracy is pointing us in the direction of what we need to do not only to prevent conflict but to also bring about peace and stability. These include inclusive governance. In truth, marginalisation, discrimination, injustices and inequalities help to fuel discontent and rebellion. As rightly observed by Albert Camus, “Rebellion cannot exist without the feeling that somewhere, in some way, you are justified.”   It is very important that Nigerian government explore the options of dialogue, mediation, peace agreements, credible elections, constitutional reforms among others to redress these perceived injustices. Military option alone will not work. We have seen what dialogue did in the Niger Delta. By giving the people of that region Niger Delta Ministry, Niger Delta Development Commission, Amnesty Programme, 13 per cent derivation, proposed regularisation of illegal refinery into modular refinery scheme,  emergence of President Goodluck Jonathan first as Vice President in 2007, Acting President in 2010, and president in 2011, the restiveness in the Niger Delta region has reduced considerably.

I am of the opinion that similar measures need to be taken to allay the cry of marginalisation by the Igbo. Appointment into key government positions under this administration, fixing of infrastructural challenge of the geo-political zone and at least a Vice-Presidential slot in 2019 and presidency in 2023 will go a long way to douse the current political tension being generated by the IPOB strident call for self-determination. Heeding the call for economic and political restructuring of this country will also help the Buhari administration to stabilise the polity. Above all, rule of law in terms of supremacy of the law, equality before the law and fundamental human rights are very crucial to peace and stability of any democratic country; and for Nigeria, it is imperative. Whether we like it or not, there can never be peace without justice just as there can never be genuine development without peace.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Leadership lessons I learnt from King Sunny Ade

Over time, as a media personality featuring on various radio and television programmes and writing for newspapers, I have often advocated for diversification of Nigerian economy as a panacea to our pulling out of economic doldrums. However, I failed to appropriate and adapt the same message for myself, until recently. I pride myself as a psephologist, an expert on election matters.  I have, prior to my setting up my consultancy outfit, worked for both national and international organisations working on delivery of credible and peaceful elections. Meanwhile, in the ancient town of Ibadan, among my friends and colleagues, I have on many occasions demonstrated my dexterity as a compere at social events. I have served as Master of Ceremony at several of my friends’ wedding receptions and other parties.
I have been rendering this service, pro bono, free of charge as lawyers are wont to saying.  However, recently at the launch of   Westminster Foundation for Democracy‘s Youth Empowerment Programme held at Sheraton Hotels and Towers in Abuja, I was engaged as the Master of Ceremony. Earning my first pay as an MC opened my eye to the opportunity to diversify my revenue base. I therefore informed friends, colleagues and acquaintances about my skill as a good compere. One of those I told was Dr. Pius Osunyikanmi, a friend and former schoolmate at postgraduate level at University of Ibadan who was a former Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan and is currently the Director General of Technical Aid Corps in Abuja. Pius boosted my image as an MC last Friday, September 8, 2017 when he asked me to anchor at the guest reception after the burial ceremony of his father-in-law, Pa. Oluyemi Akinfolademi Adesuyi at Ile-Oluji, Ondo State.
In attendance at the august event in September was the Ondo State governor, His Excellency Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, his deputy HE Agboola Ajayi as well as commissioners. Others include the All Progressives Congress party executive in Ondo State, Senators, House of Representatives members, honourable members of the Ondo State House of Assembly, business moguls, academic juggernauts and several other dignitaries. On the band stand was the King of juju music, the inimitable and indefatigable King Sunny Ade, a multiple Grammy Award nominee and winners of many national and international music awards. KSA was also a former president of Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria better known as PMAN.  
Being his ardent fan, it was a humbling experience sharing the same stage with a living legend and music icon like KSA. Though I have met him informally once at a hotel in Ibadan many years ago, last Friday was my first contact with him at business level. I watched, rather, studied him closely as he plied his trade on stage. I noticed how he applied his voice, eyes, legs and body to deliver quintessential performance on stage. I have never danced like I did to the timeless music of the legendary entertainer last week. For those who knew me closely, much as I liked music, particularly old school, evergreen music, I am not a good dancer. Am just too self-conscious. However, I threw caution to the wind last Friday as I danced to the enthralling melodious music of KSA. My wife, who was at the party with me, was very surprised to see me dance.
You may want to ask whether I was engaged to dance or to anchor the dance session. Well, my job was at interludes. To recognise dignitaries and organise the dance sessions of the deceased children and family members as well as other dignitaries with the musician. Thus, while not holding the microphone to perform my appointed duty, I decided to also relax with the king’s music.
What did I learn from the king of juju music? A lot! I learnt his attention to details. KSA knows immediately when his band member errs. He knows when his drummer, pianist or guitarist is not giving him the right musical key or off tune. He uses his eyes to reprimand the band member who is out of line. I also saw him walk to the sound engineer several times to get him to adjust some things be it to increase the volume of a particular microphone or reduce the volume. While he disciplines his band members on stage, he equally rewards good performances on the spot. When any of his band members did well, he doles out money from his pocket to give the exemplary staff, even while on stage. In my presence he gave money to his drummers, his Hawaiian guitarist and his sound engineer.  That is carrot and stick principle.
KSA is an astute businessman. Part of my job as the event anchor was also to time each dance session with him. The instruction handed to me was to give each of the family members 10 minutes each. With King Sunny Ade, once the money is flowing, there is no relinquishing the microphone. On several occasions, I gave the sign for him to stop to enable me call the next group to come on stage, the King held on with his musical performance until there was no more doling out of currency notes to him in appreciation of his musical dexterity. That somewhat made my job as a compere  a bit challenging. One thing I also admire about him is his organisational skill. Apart from band-boys which include his instrumentalists, vocal back-ups and sound engineer; KSA has three people collecting names of dignitaries that he will need to adulate. They are like his marketers who go round to compile names of very important personalities whom he need to praise-sing. Aside these men, there are two bouncers stationed in front of the stage to keep unwanted guests and miscreants in check.

KSA as a master of his musical trade knows his onions well. He knows when to slow down the pace of the song and when to fasten it, when to change the tune, when to dance, when to sit, when to dramatise, when to relax and when to be serious. He demonstrated all these skills as I watched on in amazement. The only thing I didn’t see Sunny do last Friday was to play his trademark guitar. For those familiar with the legend, he’s regarded as a guitar wizard. Could it be age that made the king not to play his guitar at Ile-Oluji? I doubt it. Even at over 70 years of age, the music icon is still nimble on his feet as he danced skillfully with his vocalists. My chance encounter with him last week has left an indelible memory on my mind. Thanks KSA for making my day. Kudos for the soul-lifting performance and leadership qualities. Happy birthday to you sir as you clock 71 on the 22nd of this month. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Election dispute resolutions in Nigeria and Kenya

Last Friday, September 1, 2017 the unprecedented happened in the East African country of Kenya.  The Supreme Court of the country, led by Chief Justice David Maraga upturned the electoral victory of President Uhuru Kenyatta. The apex court said the August 8 election was fraught with irregularities and deeply flawed. According to their lordship, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, which was in charge of the vote, “failed, neglected, or refused to conduct the presidential election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the Constitution” .The court in a majority decision of four against two justices therefore asked the IEBC to hold a re-run election within 60 days.  Since that news broke, I have been privileged to analyse the import and implications of the judgment on different media platforms. I have featured on programmes on Nigerian Television Authority, Radio Nigeria, Arise Television, Raypower 100.5 FM and   African Independent Television.
Since that epochal judgment was delivered last Friday, a lot of commentators and analysts have been pouring encomiums on the Kenyan judiciary while castigating the IEBC and the election observers who said the election was credible and conducted according to international best practices. Many have even said that Nigerian judiciary should learn from their counterpart in Kenya. Not so fast! I dare say that while the action of the Kenyan Supreme Court is noble and commendable, I will rather prefer us sticking with our own election dispute resolution mechanism than copying that of Kenya. It is important to note that each country has its own peculiar history shaping its laws.
There is need for Nigerians to know that the entire court process from filing to delivery of judgment took two weeks. That was possible because the Constitution of Kenya in Article 163 (3)(a) says “The Supreme Court shall have exclusive original jurisdiction to hear and determine disputes relating to the elections to the office of President arising under Article 140.” According to Article 140 (1) of Kenyan Constitution:  “A person may file a petition in the Supreme Court to challenge the election of the President-elect within seven days after the date of the declaration of the results of the presidential election. (2) Within fourteen days after the filing of a petition under clause (1), the Supreme Court shall hear and determine the petition and its decision shall be final. (3) If the Supreme Court determines the election of the President-elect to be invalid, a fresh election shall be held within sixty days after the determination.”  This is a supersonic election dispute resolution mechanism!  
Little wonder that Engr Raila Odinga never got justice in the three previous times he has filed petitions at the country’s Supreme Court. How much evidence can a serious petitioner garner within one week of conduct of election? Kenya has 40,883 Polling Stations and if a petitioner had to prove fraud in all or majority of those units as our own system here requires, not only will it be practically impossible to collect credible evidences and assemble witnesses within that timeframe. It will also be impracticable to prove electoral heist beyond reasonable doubt in 14 days specified by the Kenyan law. It would be recalled that Odinga has so much lost faith in the Kenya judiciary that he said initially after the August 8 election that he will not go to court but was hoping for United Nations intervention. Thankfully, he later reconsidered and subsequently went to court. Even at that, he was not confident of victory as he was as shocked and pleasantly surprised as many Kenyans by last Friday’s judicial victory.
It is important to understand Nigeria’s election dispute resolution processes. Unlike in Kenya, Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution (as amended in 2010) in section 239 (1) says that “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the Court of Appeal shall, to the exclusion of any other court of Law in Nigeria, have original jurisdiction to hear and determine any question as to whether - (a) any person has been validity elected to the office of President or Vice-President under this Constitution. An aggrieved candidate has a right of appeal to Supreme Court if dissatisfied with the ruling of the Court of Appeal in presidential matters.
Also, the Court of Appeal has the constitutional right to set up election petition tribunals which according to the Electoral Act 2010 in section 133 (3)(a) says shall be constituted not later than 14 days before election. Section 134 of the Act is very important to this discourse. Unlike the supersonic process in Kenya, that section of our law in subsection (1) says “An election petition shall be filed within 21 days after the date of the declaration of results of the elections.” (2)”An election tribunal shall deliver its judgment in writing within 180 days from the date of the filing of the petition.” (3) “An appeal from a decision of an election tribunal or court shall be heard and disposed of within 90 days from the date of the delivery of judgment of the tribunal.”
It is important to note that what happened in Kenya last Friday was a fluke; a flash in the pan. While I concede that it is a ‘locus classicus’ as it is said in law and an unprecedented happenstance in Africa, it is most likely not sustainable. The luck Odinga and his party, National Super Alliance had was the ability to prove in a very short time that there was electoral fraud only at the level of result collation and electronic transmission of result. According to a report in New York Times of September 1, 2017 (online edition), “Walter Mebane, a professor of statistics and political science at the University of Michigan who studies elections worldwide, volunteered to run the voting results through a computer model he developed to detect electoral fraud….he and his team found patterns that showed widespread manipulation.” Will Odinga and his party have been able to prove election manipulation in the country’s 40,883 polling stations, 290 constituencies and 47 counties in two weeks?
Lest we forget, Nigeria’s judiciary especially the top echelon (justices of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court) has been demonstrating a lot of courage and judicial activism in election matters. What happened in Kenya last Friday nearly happened in Nigeria in 2008 when the Supreme Court in a split decision of 4 – 3 upheld the flawed presidential election of April 21, 2007. While Justices George Oguntade, Maryam Mukthar and Samuel Onnoghen held that there was substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act 2007, however the remaining four members of the panel, namely, the then Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Idris Kutigi, Justice Iyorgyer Katsina-Alu, Justice Niki Tobi and Dahiru Musdapher upheld the election. Since 2007, Nigeria’s judiciary had annulled several governorship, senate, House of Representatives, State Houses of Assembly elections. That arm of government is responsible for the staggered gubernatorial election we now have in Nigeria and has assisted immensely to reduce incidences of electoral violence and deepen Nigeria’s democracy.

In conclusion, people should stop blaming election observer missions as if they are the one that conducted the election. They only reported what they saw in the areas where they deployed during the pre-election and Election Day. At the collation point they are hardly present. Now that the IEBC has fixed October 17 as the new date for the presidential rerun election in Kenya, I do hope the electoral commission will do a better job than it did on August 8. It should overhaul its system especially by taking into account factors enumerated by the Supreme Court in nullifying the earlier poll. May the best candidate win!