Wednesday, July 31, 2013
In the last one week or thereabout, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority has embarked on a media hype aimed at sensitising Nigeria air travellers to what it calls Passengers’ Bill of Rights. This is a right step in the right direction, it must be stressed. It is actually long overdue. Truth be told, the country’s aviation industry is undergoing a lot of innovation and face-lift. Many of the nation’s airport terminals such as those in Lagos, Benin, Enugu, and Kano have been remodelled while some are still under reconstruction. To most observers, the aviation industry is well-regulated. Aside from the Federal Ministry of Aviation, there are six other parastatals or agencies under it. They are the Nigeria Meteorological Agency, Nigeria Airspace Management Agency, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, Accident Investigation Bureau and Nigeria College of Aviation and Technology. There are 16 airports and 16 airlines licensed to operate domestic flights in the country.
However, the Air Passengers’ Bill of Rights could not have come at a better time given the very lackadaisical way local and international airlines operating in the country have carried out their business. Flights are delayed for “operational or technical reasons”, whatever that means. Passengers are not often told about this until much after they ought to have boarded. There are rampant cases of missing luggage. During the festive seasons, flights are overbooked with many passengers with valid tickets not being able to board. Sometimes, those at the ticketing sections create artificial scarcity of seats in order to make desperate passengers to pay above the normal fares. They sometime do this in cahoots with touts who serve as middlemen.
A colleague and I had experienced a situation where our flight from Abuja to Gombe took off earlier than scheduled without being informed about the flight re-scheduling even though the airline had our phone numbers. We had to buy the ticket of another airline before we could make the journey. Yet, there was no refund from the airline we originally booked. We were asked to use the ticket to fly on another day as it is valid for one year. Another colleague was taken to Yola instead of Gombe and he had to transport himself back to Gombe from there. Recently, our plane had to first go to Lagos from Ibadan to refuel before heading for Abuja. We were only informed about this at the point of boarding. I had also experienced, on a number of occasions, landing delays due to airport closure because the President or a VIP was about to take off or land. This aimless roving in the air is very dangerous.
Not too long ago, at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja, several flights were delayed leading to congestion at the waiting lounge. Seats were at a premium. Some of us had to stand for some time until flights started taking off. As we were waiting, there was this stench from God knows where oozing into the waiting lounge. The air-conditioning systems, though working, were unable to offer much comfort. This same airport had also experienced long power outage on several occasions. This is unbecoming! I like travelling light hence always have my bag as hand luggage. I hate the frequent delays for retrieval of checked-in luggage. Sometimes, it takes 30 minutes or more to get one’s luggage. Occasionally, by the time the luggage arrives, the bag or suitcase may have been tampered with by those engaged to load and offload them. Sometimes, some of the contents may have been pilfered. There is so much tardiness from the airline operators and some airport staff.
In essence, it is heartwarming that NCAA has deemed it fit to have this air passengers’ bill of rights. According to the executive summary of the bill accessed from the NCAA website, there are 20 canons of this bill named “Your Flight Rights”. They are: If your flight will be re-routed or delayed, you must be notified at least two hours in advance; if you have a ticket or print-out that shows a confirmed reservation for a specific flight and date, an agent cannot deny you boarding because you have no reservation in the computer; if you need to cancel a ticket purchased under a nonrefundable fare, you must be able to apply the fare you paid towards a future flight, minus any applicable charge or cancellation fees; you must be compensated if a flight departs before the ticketed time; if your luggage is delayed or lost, you must be compensated within five business days; if your flight is delayed for over one hour, cancelled or you are denied boarding, you have a right to compensation; also, if airline staff or agents treat you discourteously, you must be compensated by the airline.
Others include: You have a right to refreshments in-flight and when there is a delay of more than one hour; the airline must provide decent lodging and feeding for you if your flight is delayed overnight; as a passenger with mobility or other special needs, you have a right to priority treatment; you have a right to sanitary restrooms in-flight; you have a right to best price information; and flexible/refundable tickets at cost; if too many people show up for your flight, the airline must ask for volunteers to give up their seats for rewards from the airline (such as vouchers for future travel, a hotel stay or even cash.) The rewards must be negotiated on an individual basis with the airline; if you are involuntarily denied boarding, the airline must explain your rights in a written document, which must state how the airline decides who gets to stay on an oversold flight. You may keep your ticket and use it on another flight. If you choose to make alternative arrangements, you can request an “involuntary refund” for the ticket; and lastly, you have a right to choose between quiet and entertainment in-flight
I must add, very quickly too, that the bill is not all rights for passengers. There are a number of duties highlighted in the bill for airline customers to fulfil. These are: All adults are required to present photo identification upon check-in and at boarding; passengers have a duty to be courteous to staff and agents of airline operators; if you do not check your luggage in sufficient time for it to be loaded on your flight, the airline will not be responsible for any delay in the delivery of your luggage to your destination; you have a duty to arrive before the time on your ticket; finally, even if you have already checked in for your flight, an airline can cancel your reservation if you are not at the departure gate on time.
Does the NCAA have the requisite capacity to enforce these rights and duties? Time will tell. However, the rot in the aviation sector goes beyond the airlines. Also culpable are some members of staff of the regulatory agencies. For instance, some employees of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria at the screening points are in the habit of doing “fine bara”, that is diplomatic begging from passengers. You’ll hear them solicit something for “the weekend”. This is untoward and very unprofessional. All forms of touting and hawking at the perimeter area of the airport should also be banned. In the unlikely event of plane crash, prompt settlements of insurance claims to the crash victims’ families must be ensured. NCAA will do well to adequately sensitise air travellers to this very important regulation. We must end impunity of the airline operators in Nigeria NOW!
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Spoiling the ship for a ha’porth of tar is an old wise saying which means destroying something big due to nonchalance or allowing something of great value to decay for lack of timely repair. This truly reflects in many Nigerians’ private and public lives. It would seem maintenance culture is alien to us given the way we go about our lives recklessly. Many of us do not care a hoot about our health or well-being. We hardly go for medical check- up and when sick, indulge in self-medication. Any wonder many now give up the ghost after “a brief illness”. That will mostly happen when we don’t nurture our bodies and fail to seek timely medical assistance from appropriate quarters when indisposed. As with our bodies, so with our personal belongings such as cars and household items. When the car wiper is not working, we ignore it as being insignificant particularly if it’s not during the rainy season. When the rear lights or head lamps are not working, many of us ignore and avoid night driving instead of fixing them promptly. It may be one of the tyres that is bad; we would rather manage until “God provides money to buy another one”. Even routine servicing of vehicles is a luxury to many car owners. When accidents occur arising from these little problems, we blame it on the devil.
In most houses, when the roof starts to leak, we ignore because it’s not the rainy season; we fail to fix the bad electrical sockets; the blocked drain-pipes and a thousand and one small defects or damage around the house when noticed. The day disaster strikes in the form of flooding or fire outbreak or building collapse, we blame everyone else but ourselves. Even considering our attitude to our environment, many of us are unhygienic. We dump refuse indiscriminately, litter our surroundings and build houses on waterways. These are largely responsible for the many environmental hazards we now face as human beings. Had it been that we properly maintain our environment, we possibly would have averted many of the catastrophes.
These lackadaisical attitudes also reflect on our work culture. It is not uncommon to see burst water pipes spilling water on the highways, yet maintenance staff at the water board or corporation will look on as if it is a normal thing to have such spills. Thus, while taps in many homes are dry, the road is flooded with water that should have been put to better use in the homes and offices. Same with the Power Holding Company of Nigeria’s electricity cables. When cables snapped from the electric poles, they are hardly promptly repaired. In some instances, these had caused electrocution of many people. What about our roads? A lack of proper maintenance had made many potholes on the roads to turn to gullies thereby causing fatal road accidents with attendant deaths and damage to the vehicles involved. These are colossal and irreparable losses which are avoidable if necessary care had been taken.
I travel a lot and use hotel facilities in the course of my assignments. I am always shocked at the neglect and quick degeneration many of the hotels undergo in a short span of time after their inauguration. Often times, hotels established within two years would start experiencing decrepit facilities such as leaking sewage, noisy air conditioning systems, bad lightening, damp rooms, smelly blankets, stained bedspread, broken chairs and tables, dysfunctional television sets, etc. When you complain, you are asked to bear with them and that the hotel management would soon effect the needed repairs. Often times, these are never done on time, all because little or no money is voted for facility maintenance.
Have you recently been to any of the federal or state Ministries, Departments and Agencies? You will nearly puke at the sorry sight that welcomes you into some of the offices. Files carelessly dumped everywhere, dilapidated office furniture, stinking toilets, bushy environment, fans and air-conditioning systems that work like grinding machines and many more. You will need to pray for journey mercies when you ride in their elevators as many of them are in bad shape and could trap those who commute in them as a result of a lack of proper maintenance. In some states running mass transit projects, many of the buses and other vehicles have broken down due to lack of maintenance. Eventually, many of the ramshackle vehicles are sold off as scraps to motor spare part dealers. These are vehicles bought for millions of naira. If we had embraced maintenance culture, perhaps, our beloved national carrier, Nigeria Airways, our Nigeria National Shipping Line, our Nigeria Railways and Inland Waterways Corporation would not have become comatose or mere relics that they are now.
It is to our collective shame that we do not consider maintenance a priority issue in management. We are such a wasteful lot! It is high time we as individuals and government shed this toga of indifference to the issue of maintenance. Prompt maintenance is economical, promotes the lifespan of the objects and prevents avoidable disasters. We need to vote sufficient funds to maintain our public utilities and even private ones. You and I need to embrace maintenance culture if indeed we are serious about making this nation a better place for all.
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
For the umpteenth time, our education sector has been thrown into another avoidable industrial action. The Academic Staff Union of Universities began what it termed a “comprehensive, total and indefinite strike” on July 1, 2013. Their polytechnic counterpart, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, had downed tools for eight weeks before being joined by ASUU. The grouse of the university teachers are as follows: The inability of the Federal Government to implement some of the issues contained in a 2009 agreement it had with ASUU as well as the violation of the Memorandum of Understanding it entered into with the union in December 2011.
According to the ASUU National President, Isa Fagge, “Before now, there has been this issue of the implementation of the key issues contained in the 2009 agreement we entered into with the Federal Government. We have had several meetings and deliberations to let government understand why these issues must be resolved but it is like the more we meet and deliberate, the messier the issue gets. One of the issues that needed to be addressed was basically that of the Academic Earned Allowance. This earned allowance, and other issues, had dragged on until government then agreed to write an MOU with the union. But as we speak, there has been nothing to show that government was committed to an MOU it also willingly wrote to better the university sector. It is in this regard that we are embarking on an indefinite strike.”
Just last month, primary and secondary school teachers in 11 states, namely, Cross River, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Ogun, Edo, Kogi, Niger, Borno, Benue, Zamfara and Sokoto, embarked on a strike action over the non-payment of the 27.5 per cent Teachers’ Enhanced Salary Scale and N18,000 minimum wage due to them.
It is obvious from the aforesaid that the federal and indeed state governments who own these institutions have not proved to be honourable in ensuring the faithful implementation of the agreements they entered into with the academics since 2009. This has engendered a lack of trust and confidence of the scholars in the government. This latest strike action has already disrupted the academic calendar of the affected public tertiary institutions.
The socio-economic costs of these strike actions are enormous. With this development, many final year students who should have graduated this year may not be able to do so. The ripple effect of this is that with delayed graduation, medical students who should go for their housemanship; law students who should go for their law school programme and the generality of other students who should be mobilised for their mandatory one year national service scheme would also have theirs postponed. In the long run, it is the students’ destinies that are generally being manipulated with these endless industrial actions.
Many of these students would now have time to fully engage in social vices such as prostitution, cultism, kidnapping, armed robbery, fraud and many others in order to while away time as well as make illicit money. It will be difficult for many of them to seek proper legitimate job as they are not certain when their lecturers will call off their strike; more so, they have no meaningful qualifications to seek full employment.
In the course of needless travels embarked upon by students when their lecturers down tools, some of the students have died prematurely. The disruption of studies of the students will also have negative psychological impact on them. By the time the strike is over, many of the students would most likely have forgotten what they were taught before the unwarranted break.
This frequent dislocation and disability of our public tertiary education is what is making many wealthy Nigerians to send their children and wards to tertiary institutions abroad in Ghana, the United Kingdom, the United States of America or some Asian countries. Millions of scarce foreign currencies are lost to this education tourism as payments have to be made in dollars, Euros or pound sterling. Those who could not send their children overseas have to pay through their nose educating them at the more stable private universities in the country.
In my university days, we used to have foreign students from countries such as Cameroon, Ghana, Niger, Mali, Benin Republic and Sierra Leone. Nigerian universities then made a lot of good money from these international students whose tuition was usually very high and who had to pay in hard currencies. Gone are those days! The reverse is now the case. Another consequence of these strikes is the brain drain of academics to more stable climes. Many university teachers have voted with their feet to seek appointment in the private sector and foreign institutions all because of the perennial instability in our ivory towers.
Is this how we want to continue to mould the future generations of this country? Is this how we intend to become one of the 20 fastest economies in 2020? Do we have to import foreigners to manage our education sector in Nigeria in order to restore stability, order and efficiency? It is most disheartening that government continues to act in bad faith in implementing signed agreements with the unions of tertiary institutions. Yet, President Goodluck Jonathan comes from that constituency while most, if not all, our governors are themselves graduates of tertiary institutions.
Nigeria’s education sector needs to be properly funded given the primacy role the sector plays in human capital development. The nine per cent earmarked for the sector in this year’s budget is a far cry from the UNESCO’s stipulated 26 per cent. It is impossible to make a brick without straw. Proper funding of our public academic institutions is non-negotiable if we hope to tame the rising number of schools’ drop-outs. I am aware that the government has been considering the idea of re-introducing or increasing tuition fees in our universities, polytechnics and colleges of education. Much as this option looks appealing in order to close the funding gap of these institutions, the wider implication is that education will be priced out of the reach of students from poor families. This will further populate the ranks of social misfits who can easily be mobilised as agents of terrorism and insecurity.
I therefore appeal to members of the academic staff union of universities and polytechnics to give the government the benefit of the doubt by going back to work in the interest of their suffering students. Let’s save our tottering education sector from the imminent total collapse.
•(This article has been written before news filtered in that the strike by ASUP has been called off on Tuesday)
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
The Green Chamber, that is, the House of Representatives on Thursday, July 4, 2013, received the report of its Constitution Review Committee headed by the Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha. The committee’s counterpart at the Red Chamber, Senate, had submitted a similar report a month ago, precisely on June 5. This piece attempts to compare and contrast the reports of the constitution review committees of the two chambers of the National Assembly. While presenting the committee’s report to the Senate, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said its recommendations “were arrived at on the basis of extensive research, study tours, proposals from memoranda submitted to the Senate Committee, strategic collaborations with key partners, consultations with stakeholders and feedback from the National and Zonal Public Hearings on the review of the Constitution.” Same reasons were adduced by the House Committee with the major difference in approach being the conduct of people’s public sessions across the 360 federal constituencies on Saturday, November 10, 2012. The result of the public sessions had earlier been presented on April 19, 2013.
Highlights of the proposals from the House committee include: establishment of an Electoral Offences Commission and barring of persons convicted of any electoral offence from holding public office; full autonomy for the local governments, recognising them as the third tier of government having elected administrations with a fixed term of four years; denial of appropriation to councils that do not have democratically elected officials and the prescription of the mode of election for local government officials, their functions, tenure, qualifications for elections, and other related matters. Other suggestions by the committee are: Removing the immunity from prosecution for criminal offences for persons occupying the position of president, vice-president, governor and deputy governor; provision for independent candidacy in elections in Nigeria and the removal of the requirement for assent of the president for the amendment of the constitution. The committee also redefined citizenship to mean that a person who has lived in a community for a specified period is entitled to the same rights and privileges as citizens of that community. The committee equally altered Section 42 of the constitution to specifically prohibit discrimination against persons living with disability.
Similarly, the report has proposed that certain socio-economic rights captured as fundamental principles of state policy be incorporated into Chapter IV, the justiciable part of the constitution. By implication, the rights to education, favourable environment, free primary and maternal health care services, and the right to basic housing would now become justiciable. In order to entrench the independence of the offices of the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Accountant-General of the Federation and the Auditor-General of the Federation, and insulate them from political control, the report accorded the offices a first line charge on the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation. In addition, the report recommended the separation of the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation from the Office of the Minister of Justice. The committee also called for the establishment of office of the Accountant-General of the Federal Government to complement the extant Accountant-General of the Federation. The proposal likewise stipulated that no expenditure is to be made by any organ of government without appropriation by the legislature. Perhaps, the most contentious proposal from the House Committee is the one calling for the proscription of the State Independent Electoral Commission. Under the proposed amendment, elections into local government councils are henceforth to be managed by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Most of these recommendations are similar to what the Senate committee had earlier proposed. The areas of difference being as follows: The Senate committee proposed a single term of six years for Presidents and Governors but the House committee did not. The Senate committee had proposed mayoral status for Federal Capital Territory, the House did not. The Senate committee devolved some powers from the exclusive to the Concurrent List as well as put national security on the Exclusive List. Some of the items carved out of the Exclusive List are: Pensions, Prisons, Railways, Stamp Duties, Wages, Arbitration, Environment, Health care, Road Safety, Land and Agriculture, Youths, Public Complaints and Aviation. Ironically, the House Committee did not see the need for this.
While the Senate enlisted the State Independent Electoral Commissions among the state executive bodies to be enjoying funding from the State Consolidated Revenue Fund, the House Committee is calling for its scrapping. This is unfortunate. The malaise faced by SIECs has been correctly diagnosed by the Senate. The SIECs need autonomous funding like that currently being enjoyed by INEC. This is the only way to sever them from the apron string of the governors to which they are currently tied. The SIECs are headed by eminent, revered and accomplished Nigerians and if a similar reform as had taken place in INEC is effected on them, they will be better positioned to deliver free, fair and credible elections. The Senate and House Committees also differed on the proposed life pension for the President, Deputy President of the Senate, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. The House committee did not see this as expedient, neither do I. The Senate committee did not also see the need to create a separate office of the Accountant-General to the Federal Government alongside the current Accountant-General of the Federation.
It is heartwarming, however, that the two committees jointly rejected the call for the creation of more states. While the House of Reps committee claimed to have received 35 requests for state creation, the Senate committee said it got 61 requests. I have on many occasions affirmed that Nigeria, at present, does not need more state but the strengthening of existing ones for better governance. Many of the proposals by the two committees excite me and enjoy my support. This includes the proposed devolution of power, autonomy for local government, abolition of joint state-LG account, separation of Office of Attorney-General from that of Minister and Commissioners of Justice, enlistment of State House of Assembly, SIECs, Auditor-General of the State and Attorney General of the State for funding from the State Consolidated Revenue Fund as well as the proposal that certain socio-economic rights captured as fundamental principles of state policy such as education, right to favourable environment, right to free primary and maternal health care services, and the right to basic housing be incorporated into Chapter IV, the justiciable part of the constitution.
I am aware that the next stage will be for the two chambers to vote on each of the propositions with each of the clauses that gets two-thirds majority support making the list of the recommendations to the 36 State Houses of Assembly whose two-thirds majority concurrence will be the final seal for the amendment of the relevant part of the Constitution. I need to warn that the National Assembly is about missing its July 2013 deadline for the conclusion of the amendment process. It therefore needs to fast-track the exercise and concludes the entire process before the end of 2013.
On a final note, it is regrettable that electoral reform issues have been put to the background in this reform agenda. Yet, a bouquet of reform is needful to help stabilise our electoral process and deepen our democracy. These include the political party management (internal party democracy), conduct of election (INEC wants all elections to be held in one day) and election dispute resolution procedures. My major concern is the spineless state Houses of Assembly which kowtow to the whims and caprices of their imperial majesties, the governors. I do hope the state governors will not use them to scuttle the good works of the National Assembly.
Thursday, July 4, 2013
June 12, 2013 marked the twentieth anniversary of the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election presumably won by Chief MKO Abiola and which was regarded as the freest, fairest and the most credible presidential election in Nigeria’s political history. It was a day Nigerians set aside their ethnic, religious and other primordial sentiments to elect a new president for the most populous black nation in the world. Unfortunately, the military junta led by former military President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida annulled the poll leading to a political impasse which culminated in the ousting of the military regime and inauguration of an interim government led by Chief Ernest Shonekan on August 27, 1993. The interim government was declared illegal and unconstitutional by a court and late General Sani Abacha took over the reins of government on November 17, 1993. The political debacle which ensued as a result of the annulment of the June 12 election led to death in detention of Bashorun MKO Abiola.
As the nation celebrates 20th anniversary of that cancelled election, Vanguard newspaper of June 8, 2013 published a speech by former General Babangida which stated the reasons why the election was annulled in 1993. It turned out that one of the key basis was due to the breach of campaign finance regulations by the two presidential candidates’ namely Alhaji Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention (NRC) and Chief MKO Abiola of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). It would be recalled that between 1987 and 1993 Nigeria experimented with two party systems. The IBB annulment speech read in part: “There were allegations of irregularities and other acts of bad conduct leveled against the presidential candidates but National Electoral Commission went ahead and cleared them. There were proofs as well as documented evidence of widespread use of money during the party primaries as well as the presidential election. These were the same bad conduct for which the party presidential primaries of 1992 were cancelled.”
IBB went on to say that “Evidence available to government put the total amount of money spent by the presidential candidates at over two billion, one hundred million naira (N2.1 billion). The use of money was again the major source of undermining the electoral process. Both these allegations and evidence were known to the National Defence and Security Council before the holding of the June 12, 1993 election, the NDSC overlooked these areas of problems in its determination to fulfill the promise to hand over to an elected president on due date.”
Babangida went on to say that “Apart from the tremendous negative use of money ……There were cases of documented and confirmed conflict of interest between the government and both presidential candidates which would compromise their positions and responsibilities were they to become president. We believe that politics and government are not ends in themselves. Rather, service and effective amelioration of the condition of our people must remain the true purpose of politics.”
Even the junta agreed with the credibility of the election when it opined that: “It is true that the presidential election was generally seen to be free, fair and peaceful. However, there was in fact a huge array of electoral malpractices virtually in all the states of the federation before the actual voting began……..there were proofs of manipulations through offer and acceptance of money and other forms of inducement against officials of the National Electoral Commission and members of the electorate. There were also evidence of conflict in the process of authentication and clearance of credentials of the presidential candidates.”
These excuses given by the military for aborting its own transition to civil rule program raises more questions than answers. If the National Defence and Security Council decided initially to overlook these anomalies why then suddenly realizing that it cannot hand over to the winner of the poll? Was the military government expecting a different electoral outcome and would it have accepted the result of the election if the NRC candidate were to be the one coasting home to victory? Would it not have been more sensible, having allowed the election to hold, to then set up an election petition tribunals where all the breaches could have been tendered in a petition and allowing the judiciary to independently adjudicate on the matter?
How far is it true that the junta never really wanted to leave power but only embarked on the transition program in order to serve as a red herring and to buy time? If the junta of General Babangida was genuinely interested in leaving power, it should have allowed the National Electoral Commission who was the regulator of the electoral system to deal with the issues. Alternatively, National Republican Party which was the losing party has the locus standi to challenge the outcome of the poll and should have been allowed to go to the election tribunal than the military unwarrantedly stepping in to cancel the most peaceful and credible election. If the military had to annul election over an estimated N2.1b spent on the presidential election 20 years ago, will it ever have allowed any recent election to stand given the humongous amount our current political contestants spend on their electoral contest in breach of campaign finance regulations?
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
I am not a native of Ogun State but have been privileged to school in the state and was recently there to observe its 2012 Local Government election. I am enthralled by the state’s many unique features and its primacy in the historical calendar of the Yoruba race. Ogun State occupies an exceptional position in the political economy of the South-West geopolitical zone, and indeed Nigeria, as a country. The state is comprised mainly of the Egba, Ijebu, Awori, Egun, Remo and Yewa; all Yoruba speaking but with different dialects. Among the major towns in Ogun are Abeokuta, Sagamu, Ilaro, Ipokia, Ifo, Ota, Ijebu-Ode and Ijebu-Igbo. The uniqueness of Ogun State derives from the role some of its indigenes have played in the politics, economy and even the social life of Nigeria.
The tertiary institutions in Ogun State include the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta; Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye; Babcock University, Ilisan-Remo; Crescent University; Covenant University, Ota; Redeemers University, Tai Solarin University of Education; Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro, Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Ojere; Federal College of Education, Osiele; to mention but a few. The Aro Neuro-psychriatrist Hospital, the foremost hospital for the treatment of mentally challenged people is located in Abeokuta, Ogun State capital.
Similarly, the indigenes of the state have scored a number of firsts in Nigeria. The first Premier of the old Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, was from Ikenne; the first woman credited to have driven a car in Nigeria, the late Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, hailed from the state; the first Nobel Laureate for Literature in Black Africa, Prof. Wole Soyinka, also hails from Ogun State as well as the first indigenous Chief Justice of Nigeria, Chief Ademola Adetokunbo. Others include the first western trained psychiatrist in Nigeria and Africa, Prof. Adeoye Lambo; the first Nigerian lawyer, Alexander Akintola Sapara-Williams; the first Nigerian Supreme Court justice, Hon. Justice Olumuyiwa Jibowu; the longest serving Nigerian president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (1976-1979; 1999-2007) are all from Ogun State. Though the Yoruba generally love to party, however, the Ijebu people are unrivalled when it comes to elaborate partying popularly called “Owanbe” or “Aaremise”. Besides, Ogun is where the journalism profession started in Nigeria more than 150 years ago when Reverend Henry Townsend published the first Nigerian newspaper titled, “Iwe Iroyin fun awon ara Egba ati Yoruba”, in 1859.
The Gateway State, as it is popularly known, is also the state of the late Bashorun Moshood Abiola, the martyr of Nigerian democracy, who hailed from Abeokuta, the state capital. Likewise, Chief Ernest Sonekan who headed the Interim National Government in 1993 after the annulment of the 1993 presidential election; and former Chief of General Staff and second in command to ex-Head of State, Sani Abacha, Lt.-Gen. Oladipo Diya, is also from Odogbolu in Ogun East senatorial district are from Ogun State. The immediate past Speaker of the House of Representatives, Saburi Oladimeji Bankole, is also from Abeokuta.
The point being made here is that even though there are six Yoruba-speaking states making up the South-West geopolitical zone namely: Lagos, Oyo, Osun, Ogun, Ondo and Ekiti states, Ogun State alone has produced all the political leaders of Nigeria coming from the zone. Is Ogun State the most politically savvy state in Nigeria? I don’t think so. The state possibly derived its pre-eminence from the salutary influence of the early missionaries who settled in the ancient city of Abeokuta and introduced western education to the purely agrarian society. Ogun State also benefits from its proximity to Lagos with which it shares a common boundary. Lagos is the economic nerve centre of Nigeria. Many indigenes of Ogun State daily throng Lagos for their economic survival. They migrate there to live or to labour or both. Many even live in Ogun State and work in Lagos State. These two factors may have played a role in the early civilisation and business acumen of Ogun people; but the factors alone will be inadequate to explain the dominance of Ogun State in the political leadership of Nigeria. After all, Oyo State is also close to Lagos State. It would seem that providence just favours the state which was carved out of the old Western Region in 1976.
Ogun State is also the home state of foremost industrialist, the late Chief Adeola Odutola who pioneered tyre manufacturing in Nigeria. It is the state of Otunba Subomi Balogun, a renowned banker; Otunba Mike Adenuga, a notable telecoms operator, is also from the same state. Fola Adeola who co-founded Guarantee Trust Bank with the late Tayo Aderinokun is also from the state. The state is also the home of the great educationist, Tai Solarin, who established Mayflower School, a foremost private school that has churned out academic and industrial giants.
In the music genre, Juju maestro, Ebenezer Obey Fabiyi; Fuji Exponent, King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal; Waka Queen, Salawa Abeni; ace musician, Tunji Oyelana; folklore singer, Jimi Solanke, are some of the living legends from Ogun State. Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, the Afrobeat king; Apala king, Haruna Ishola; Yusuf Olatunji (Baba Legba); Ayinla Omowura (Eegun Mogaji); Adeolu Akinsanya (Baba Eto), are some of the great musicians from Ogun State who are no more. Renowned thespians from the state include the late Chief Hubert Ogunde; the late Chief Akin Ogungbe; Olu Jacobs; Charles Olumo (Agbako); Taiwo Hassan Ogogo, and many others too numerous to mention. In sports, football legend, Mathematical Segun Odegbami and the late Green Eagles midfield maestro, Muda Lawal are from Ogun State. Prince Bola Ajibola who was a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and who for many years represented Nigeria as Judge at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, The Netherlands, is a native of Egbaland.
The famous Olumo Rock is to be found in Abeokuta. The batik, tye and dye craft popularly known as adire produced by Abeokuta people is of international repute. Large deposits of limestone have attracted two giant cement factories to the state. These are Ewekoro Cement Factory and more recently, Dangote Cement, Ibeshe. Agbara Industial Estate is also located in Ogun State.
However, while Ogun State has produced political leaders for the Yoruba race and Nigeria at large, it has yet to have an inclusive governance formula that could ensure that power oscillates seamlessly among the three senatorial districts namely Ogun Central, Ogun East and Ogun West. Since the time of Chief Bisi Onabanjo as the first executive governor of the state (1979 – 1983), the pendulum of governance under democratic dispensation has been swinging between the Ijebu and the Egba leaving out the Yewa in the Ogun West. One of the best chances the Yewa had was in 2011 when the Peoples Democratic Party ceded its governorship slot to the Ogun West people. Unfortunately, ego and muscle-flexing between the two prominent politicians of the PDP who were candidates of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former governor Gbenga Daniel respectively made both to lose to the incumbent Ibikunle Amosun of the Action Congress of Nigeria, an Egba man. Will the Yewa be lucky to have the number one position in 2015? Time will tell.