Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Nigeria without music

“If music be the food of love, play on,

Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,

The appetite may sicken, and so die.”


― William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night


Imagine a Nigeria without music. How will it be? Exciting, colourful, peaceful, dull or boring? The answer is obvious, isn’t it? Music which is otherwise referred to as joyful noises is a necessity in a world full of tension, bloodletting, fear, sorrow and despondence. Music helps to lift people’s spirit when they are sad. It helps to calm frayed nerves. It heals, it gladdens, it excites. There are people who read best when they listen to music. There are people who sleep soundly when they are listening to music. Even while exercising, driving or doing house chores, people listen to music. No party or political rally is complete without music. Anyone who dances without music would be seen as a potential psychiatrist patient because all dances are to be accompanied with music and perhaps musical instruments. Music is so important to life so much so that without it the world would be lackluster.

Music is a whole industry in Nigeria. There are traditional and contemporary music; foreign and indigenous. The traditional genre includes folklore songs, fuji, juju, highlife and gospel while the contemporary includes genre like the rap, hip-hop, blues, rock ‘n’ roll, Afrobeat and many more. These days, many musicians are demonstrating their ingenuity and creativity by fusing traditional with contemporary music in order to create a unique brand for themselves. Music is a profession as well as a vocation. A lot of Nigerian musicians have no other job besides songwriting, producing or singing. Many Nigerian musicians have won international music awards including Grammies which is the ultimate music award all international musicians covet. Nigerian artistes like Sade Adu and Seal have both won the Grammies although they ply their trade outside the shores of Nigeria. Musicians like Femi Kuti and King Sunny Ade have also been severally nominated for the Grammies although they failed to clinch the prize.

Other Nigerian musicians who have done the country proud on global stage include Fela Anikulapo Kuti,  Innocent Idibia better known as TuFace Idibia, Lijadu Sisters, Whizkid, P-Square, Christy Essien Igbokwe, Sir Victor Uwaifo, Dr.  Victor Abimbola Olaiya, Sir Isaac Kehinde Dairo, MBE, Dr. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister,  Davido, Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey, Olamide, Sir Dennis Osadebey, Dan Maraya Jos and a host of others too numerous to mention.

Unfortunately, this vibrant music industry is plagued with a number of challenges. They range from piracy, leadership crisis, inclement operating environment, non-payment of commensurate royalties by music producers and promoters, etcetera. For instance, harsh operating environment has driven away many foreign music companies such as Ivory, EMI, Sony, Decca and Phonodisc records. Also, talent hunt musical concerts such as the one organised by the Benson and Hedges Golden Tones have been rested. Worst still is the persistent infringement on the intellectual property of Nigerian musicians by some unscrupulous Nigerian businessmen in cahoots with their international accomplices. These scoundrels whose headquarters is in Alaba International Market in Lagos buys just one original compact disc only to illegally mass-produce same and sell these pirated copies at ridiculous price of N100 per copy. Now, these criminals are living off the sweat of the musicians who did all the hard work and invested huge sums to produce their albums. Aside the pirates, many of us Nigerians are in the habit of dubbing and downloading music illegally. Many Disc Jockeys, Radio, Television stations, hotels and marketing companies are also guilty of music copyright infringement.

These anomalous situations are what have given birth to Nigeria ‘No Music Day’ which is in its eight year. According to a songwriter and CEO of NowMuzik, Mr. Efe Omorogbe, “This coming September 1 will mark the eighth consecutive edition of ‘No Music Day’. We hope that everyone remembers that historic week in 2009 when for several days; a group of Nigerian artistes held huge rallies at the National Theatre in Lagos and went on a week-long hunger strike to protest the cruel abuse of the rights of artistes in Nigeria. For the first time in the history of mankind, the music industry in a country called for the halt of the broadcast of music all over the country for a whole day, September 1, 2009. That action captured the imagination of the world and ‘No Music Day’ was born”.

Tomorrow, September 1, 2016 is another ‘No Music Day’ and the theme of this year’s event is “The Monetisation of Musical Content in the Digital Space”.  Information garnered from the website of Copyright Society of Nigeria quoted the  renowned Intellectual Property activist and Chairman of COSON, Chief Tony Okoroji as saying that:  “Every year, in marking ‘No Music Day’, our objective has been to engage the Nigerian people and the various governments on the potential contributions of Nigerian music to the socio-economic development of the Nigerian nation and the necessity to fully deploy the substantial comparative advantage which our nation possesses in this area so as to provide hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs to the teeming masses of Nigerian youth who parade the streets of our country with little hope. I have no doubt that if the right environment is created in Nigeria, the enormous creative energy exhibited by our young people will be released to the amazement of the world” I couldn’t agree more with Okoroji on this submission.

The music industry is a goldmine largely untapped and with right policies and incentives capable of providing millions of jobs for army of Nigerian unemployed population. It is a sector government cannot afford to ignore as we seek to wean our economy off over-dependence on oil and gas.  The value chain is simply very huge. We have the songwriters, producers, directors, dancers, choreographers, promoters, marketers all living off the artistes, the musicians. This sector can earn us the much needed foreign exchange as there is a huge demand for Nigerian music in Africa and the rest of the world.

So what is COSON asking us to do tomorrow? In commemoration of ‘No Music Day’ broadcast stations across Nigeria have been requested not to broadcast music between the hours of 8am and 10am as a mark of solidarity with the nation’s creative industry. Rather than broadcast music, the stations have been asked to dedicate the 8 am to 10 am time belt to the broadcast of interviews, documentaries, debates and discussions that focus on the rights of creative people and the potential contributions of creative activities to the national economy. Newspapers and magazines across the country are also requested to publish special features on these issues. The Nigerian public is urged to tune in to different domestic radio and television stations to engage members and affiliates of Copyright Society of Nigeria and other music industry experts who will spread out to diverse broadcast stations to discuss “The Monetisation of Musical Content in the Digital Space” as the Nigerian nation seeks alternative resources to replace the dwindling oil revenue. Nigerians, let’s protect and promote our own music industry.

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Is Nigeria a nation in tow?

The above question was what many journalists and distinguished guests who graced the public presentation of my second book, ‘A Nation in Tow: Essays on Governance and Leadership in Nigeria’ asked me last Thursday, August 25, 2016. It was a rainbow coalition of sort as people from all walks of life gathered to celebrate with me on the August occasion of the two in one event which also featured a public lecture that was delivered by a literary icon and eminent scholar, Professor Isaac Olawale Albert from the University of Ibadan. Among the very important personalities who attended the occasion were the chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu who was ably represented by the INEC Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Barrister Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi;  the Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Commission, Dr. Boboye Oyeyemi, MFR,mni represented by   Deputy Corps Commandant, Raymond C. Uduche;  the immediate past Executive Secretary of Tertiary Education Trust Fund, Professor Suleiman Bogoro;  Secretary of Women’s Right Advancement and Protection Alternatives, Hajia Saudatu Mahdi, MFR;  wife of the immediate past Inspector General of Police, Mrs. Agharase Arase;  Member representing Donga/Ussa/Takum/Special Area Taraba State in the House of Representatives,  Hon. Rimamnde Shawulu Kwewum and a Chartered Accountant ,  Mr. Muritala Adegboyega Ajani.

The question as to whether Nigeria is a nation in tow was answered for me by the book reviewer, Dr. Abubakar Umar Kari of the University of Abuja who observed thus: “From the cover, the book captures the imagination: an apt illustration of a badly damaged car hanging from and being driven away by a towing vehicle. The caricature metaphorically, yet perfectly depicts the reality of Nigeria – a nation that has received quite a mauling and which needs to be quickly towed away for prompt attention of mechanics.” Indeed, the book title is a metaphor on Nigeria. The country is challenged in many areas. Little wonder there is a strident and persistent call for the restructuring of the country which is akin to panel-beating of a vehicle that is badly damaged in an accident.

I have put 26 years of my life into writing for our national development. In the over 600 published articles I have to my credit, I have been an advocate of devolution of power from the centre to the federating units. I have severally called for the diversification of Nigerian economy from oil and gas to agriculture, tourism, solid minerals, sports and information, communication technology, among others. Furthermore, I have advocated for improved inter-governmental relations among the tiers of government (federal, state and local) as well as arms of government (executive, legislature and judiciary). These are my own ideas and ideals of restructuring.

As rightly observed by Hon. Kwewum at the book launch,  Nigerians needs to improve their reading culture. Many of the trending issues today had been debated in the past and solutions proposed. For twenty six years, I have been contributing to public policy discourse aimed at betterment of Nigeria. Many a time, I have a feeling of dejavu about Nigeria as the nation keep marking time on the spot and failing to fulfill her great potentials. A reporter asked me at the event if there was a correlation between the title of my book, ‘A Nation in Tow’ and the topic of the public lecture presented by Prof. Isaac Albert which is ‘Elite Fragmentation and our Common Future’. My response was that there is an associational linkage between the two. Indeed, Prof. Albert in his speech gave me a clue as to why many noble ideas recommended by well-meaning Nigerians like me have been largely ignored by successive government at all levels.   

According to the academic juggernaut, “The most dangerous problem besetting the nation, perhaps, is that of elite fragmentation. This is because without elite consolidation none of the problems facing Nigeria now can be constructively solved. A fish that is rotten from the head has no chances of survival. Nigeria is rotten from the head and our common futures are imperiled.”  He observed further that:  “A negative impact of elite fragmentation is that it leads to ‘washing dirty linen’ in the public. It has to do with the elite breaking their own secret codes and when this happens, the ordinary citizen is shocked by the revelations that follow as the politicians trade accusations and counter-accusations. However, it is in this negative impact that democracy finds its relevance. The more the ruling elite fragments, the more information they provide to the public about how they conspire against the society in the name of ruling. This helps to strengthen democratic governance as the society is expected to use this information for engaging their leaders. However, elite fragmentation becomes a threat to democracy when it is monumental in terms of the number of people involved, the complexity of the issues and the refusal of the issues to go away easily.”

In concluding his lecture, Prof. Albert submitted that Nigeria cannot move forward until personal transformation takes place in the ruling elite in the country. To ensure this, he recommended thus:  “The first is for the political class in Nigeria to acknowledge the fact that they and not the people they rule constitute a major burden on the democratisation efforts in Nigeria. They would need to have a change of attitude. Money and positions must not be the attraction for coming to take up public offices but the genuine interest to serve the people. For now, Nigerian politicians demonstrate a poor knowledge of how the ruling elite can be held together. This is obviously a minus for the present system.” Albert suggested that the scrapped Centre for Democratic Studies established by the Ibrahim Babangida administration should be revived and that politicians should be made to spend some weeks there before they are allowed to assume power. He ended on a dispirited note that:  “Even then, no amount of training would heal the demented heart and mind of a politically greedy person. Unfortunately that is what the majority of the Nigerian ruling elite are: a greedy pack of selfish individuals.”

Very insightful thoughts there. I have posited more solutions to Nigeria’s problem in my two books: “Nigeria, My Nigeria: Perspectives from 1990 – 2010” and my latest tome, “A Nation in Tow: Essays on Governance and Leadership in Nigeria”. These are my modest contributions to public policy and national development which I hope our policy makers and researchers will find very useful as we chart the way out of our national quagmire. I’m glad not  to be among the people Frantz Fanon referred to in 1969 when he said that  “The future will have no pity for those men who, possessing the exceptional privilege of being able to speak words of truth to their oppressors, have taken refuge in an attitude of passivity, of mute indifference, and sometimes of cold complicity.”

Jide is the Executive Director of OJA Development Consult.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The INEC dialogue on inconclusive elections

On Tuesday, August 16, 2016, The Electoral Institute, the think-tank of the Independent National Electoral Commission, with funding support from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation rallied all election stakeholders to discuss the lingering issue of inconclusive elections in Nigeria. The roundtable which was held at the organisation’s auditorium in Abuja had in attendance academics, top INEC staff and a robust representation from the political parties, security agencies, legislature, media and non-governmental organisations. The theme of the forum was, “Trends of inconclusive elections and the challenge of strengthening the electoral process in Nigeria”.  The lead speakers were Prof. William Alade Fawole; Prof Joy Ngozi Ezeilo and Prof. Habu Mohammed. There were also 11 lead discussants. I was one of the distinguished participants.
Setting the ball rolling, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of the Board of the Electoral Institute, Hajia Amina Bala Zakari, argued that contrary to popular perception held by the general public that inconclusive elections were as a result of weak electoral processes, they are as a result of a strengthened electoral process which is robust and has progressed steadily.  She explained that the emergence of strong parties, fielding strong candidates in keenly contested elections with narrow margins, evidence-based elections with the use of technology especially the use of the Smart Card Reader and the e-Track leading to a more transparent process are some of the of the indicators of a stronger electoral process.
The immediate past acting chairman of INEC noted that on the flip side, politicians and their followers having discovered that the electoral body is several steps ahead of them are also changing tactics and therefore resorting to “Direct intimidation of voters and INEC staff not to use the Smart Card Reader to force over voting; perpetrate violence through the use of weapons including guns to scare away voters in an attempt to influence outcome of elections; disruption/obstruction of elections in an opponent’s stronghold by whatsoever means possible and infiltrating the system through attempts at bribing election officials.”
In a paper entitled, “Inconclusive Elections in Nigeria: Engendering or Endangering Electoral Process”, Prof. Habu Muhammed, observed that there are two types of inconclusive elections in Nigeria. They include: INEC-declared inconclusive elections and Tribunal or Court-ordered inconclusive elections.  According to the eminent scholar, over-voting, electoral misconduct and violence, non-usage of Smart Card Readers lead to cancellation of results and eventual declaration of inconclusive elections. So also is the upturning of elections by an election petitions tribunal or court. According to him, inconclusive elections create political apathy and despondency on the part of the electorate as they usually give up their mandate and are reluctant to turn out for elections. In addition to the contraction of the democratic space for the electorate, the costs of running a re-run election arising from the declaration of inconclusive elections is very high. In terms of lives and property, the social and economic costs of violence that precipitated the declaration of the re-run elections held in Kogi, Taraba, Imo, Bayelsa, Rivers and Kano are unimaginable.
Ezeilo in a paper entitled, “Paralysis of Inconclusive Elections: Legal and Political Subterfuge”, identified five causes of inconclusive elections. They are:  Margin of lead (in Kogi, Bayelsa, Osun, FCT, Imo and Nasarawa elections were in the main declared inconclusive because of margin of lead); security threat leading to failure to conduct elections in all areas, including malfunctioning of Smart Card Readers; cancellation of election on recognised grounds; electoral violence affecting completion of election or collation and announcement of results; and when Returning Officers abscond and fail to announce election results. According to her, inconclusive elections engender  paralysis of the electoral/political system;  impact on election credibility as they increase perception that people’s votes don’t count in elections;  results in voter apathy in re-run elections; high rate of election petitions and endless litigation; and  overwhelms INEC, the court and security system.
Fawole in a paper entitled, “Politics as War, Elections as Combat: Interrogating the Fundamentals of Inconclusive Elections in Nigeria”, believes that the desperation of the political elite to capture power  which sometimes leads to inconclusive polls was as a result of the winner-takes-all, zero-sum game nature of Nigerian politics. In his opinion, “In most of Africa, opposition parties and politicians hardly survive for long as ruling parties deliberately enfeeble them or employ the executive, legislative and judicial powers of the state to frustrate or coerce them to jump ship and anyone outside the hegemonic faction of the ruling class is usually at risk, a factor that accounts for what is generally known as carpet-crossing in Nigerian politics”. The erudite scholar further observed that the most current spate of inconclusive elections, about 13 since November 2015, is the fallout of politicians’ inability to rig, manipulate elections and have the outcomes they desire the way they were accustomed to. He submitted that what was being witnessed was deliberately contrived to frustrate INEC, sow doubts in its credibility as an efficient election management body, so that politicians and their respective political parties could get the outcomes they desired, by hook or crook.
The three scholars recommended, among other things, attitudinal change on the part of all election stakeholders especially the politicians, reform of the electoral laws, establishment of Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal, and insulation of INEC from external political interference as well as the need for the commission to genuinely address its internal operational, administrative and logistical lapses in order to guarantee efficient electoral conduct.
INEC rightly has decided to tell its own story on the issue of inconclusive elections. Its chairman has been on tour of media establishments where he is using the opportunity to put the issue of inconclusive elections in a proper context. Last Friday, August 19, he was at the headquarters of The PUNCH. There, while fielding questions from the newspaper, he debunked the claim that since his ascension of office a majority of the polls conducted were inconclusive. He explained that most of the 137 elections conducted by the commission in the past eight months were conclusive. He said more than any commission in the history of this country, his Board has conducted more elections outside the context of general elections. He equally said that inconclusive elections did not start with him.
Yakubu opined that inconclusive elections started in 1979 when there was controversy over the presidential election resulting in  litigation on what constituted two-thirds of 19 states. Other states where there have been inconclusive elections before his appointment include Ekiti, Imo, Bauchi, Taraba and Abia. Yakubu stated that if everyone, including the staff of the commission, the voters, politicians and other stakeholders, played by the rules, there would be no inconclusive election. The INEC chairman also lent his voice to the clamour for the Electoral Offences Commission and Tribunal that will arrest, investigate and prosecute electoral offenders.
In my own estimation, more of the sensitisation programmes embarked on by INEC on this issue of inconclusive elections are needed to disabuse the mind of the public who have started to cynically refer to it as Inconclusive National Electoral Commission.
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Saturday, August 20, 2016

PDP house of commotion and the way out

The crisis rocking the acclaimed biggest political party in Africa, the Peoples Democratic Party, is yet to abate. Indeed, it got worse during the week as confusion reigned supreme at the second attempted convention of the party in three months held in Port Harcourt on August 17, 2016. It would be recalled that the party had on May 21 tried to hold a convention but due to the litany of court judgments barring it had decided to set up a caretaker committee under the leadership of former Kaduna State governor, Senator Ahmed Makarfi. Last Wednesday, Police in a proactive manner locked the party members out of the Sharks Stadium venue of the convention and the party had to move the event to its secretariat in the state. Ahead of the convention, an Abuja Federal High Court presided over by Justice Okon Abang had ruled that holding the convention will be in contempt of his court order while another Port Harcourt Federal High court had okayed the holding of the convention. Apparently, the police were enforcing the order of the Abuja court while acting in contempt of the Port Harcourt’s injunction.

At the last count there were alleged to be about 17 different court cases that have been filed by PDP members on the leadership tussle plaguing the party. There have been claims that the incumbent ruling party, the All Progressives Congress and indeed the presidency has a hand in the PDP leadership debacle. Those who hold this view in PDP said that its factional chairman and former governor of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff  is a mole the ruling party is using to destablise the party and pointed to the sealing off of the Port Harcourt Shark’s Stadium by the police as biased action ordered by presidency.  APC and the presidency had stoutly debunked these allegations. It is noteworthy that the Wadata House headquarters of PDP in Abuja has on a number of occasions in recent past been sealed off by the police in order to forestall breakdown of law and order.

I was a guest analyst on “Good Morning Nigeria” a programme on Nigerian Television Authority on Thursday, August 18, 2016 to discuss the PDP crises especially the Port Harcourt convention of August 17. It is important to understand the genesis of the current leadership struggle in the party. One major deficiency PDP has is its apparent lack of democratic ethos. The democratic in the name of the party is a misnomer. PDP relishes and basks in underhand dealings such as imposition of candidates, election rigging, money politics and hold dearly to the Machiavellian principle of “the end justifies the means”. Noble Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka reportedly nicknamed PDP as a nest of killers. The party had been led by about a dozen chairmen in 16 years and many of them were imposed on the party. Little wonder there is a high turnover of leadership. There have been Solomon Lar, Barnabas Gemade, Audu Ogbeh, Ahmadu Ali, Haliru Mohammed, Vincent Ogbulafor, Okwesilieze Nwodo, Bamanga Tukur, Adamu Muazu, Uche Secondus, Kawu Baraje, Ali Modu Sheriff and Ahmed Makarfi. It is noteworthy that some of these chairmen were appointed in acting capacity thus their tenures were interim.

While it is true that PDP had won four out of the five general elections held in Nigeria since the return to civil rule in 1999, the party had perpetually been in turmoil all because of the aforementioned trademarks. PDP grew into a behemoth and became so arrogant at a point that it deregistered some of its members in order to scheme them out of its power game. Things however came to a head at a special convention held in Abuja in August 2013 when seven governors of the party and a former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar walked out of the venue of the convention and announced the birth of new PDP. Eventually, the VP and five out of the seven governors moved into the newly registered APC to boost its rank and electoral fortune in 2015. Alhaji Bamanga Tukur was the PDP chairman at the time and rather than reaching out and reconciling with the aggrieved members who broke away to form the new PDP, Tukur and his co-travellers at the Wadata House called the aggrieved members spent forces and liabilities who will not be missed. The thought of PDP leadership then was that whether people vote for the party or not, they will win elections. Of course, it has been working for the party since 1998 when it was formed but the PDP leaders forgot that the only thing that is permanent in life is change.

PDP governors and other powerful interest group forced Tukur to resign and since the chairmanship slot was zoned to the North East, a replacement was sought from the zone and that was how former Bauchi State governor, Alhaji Adamu Muazu was brought in to complete the tenure of Tukur. Muazu who was nicknamed the ‘Game Changer’ led PDP to its first electoral waterloo in 2015 and was also subsequently pressurized to throw in the towel.   His deputy national chairman from the south, Uche Secondus became acting chairman and Alhaji Ahmed Gulak a former presidential adviser went to court that the National Working Committee of PDP erred by making Secondus to act when the North East should have been asked to replace Muazu. Gulak won at the court and later declared himself as the new chairman of PDP. Apparently, he did not get the support of the Board of Trustee and other powerful interest groups in the party like the governors. That was how Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, who joined the party few months to the last general elections, was drafted in by some PDP governors to complete the remainder of Bamangar Tukur’s tenure. He was to hold office for three months within which he was mandated to hold an elective convention.

That was when confusion finally ‘break bone’, a la maverick musician Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Sheriff schemed to perpetuate himself in power by organising a May 21, 2016 convention in which he would have been the sole chairmanship candidate. Unfortunately for him, some party members went to court and obtained an order that no election must hold into some positions including the chairmanship. Different courts have sacked Modu Sheriff while another court said his tenure will end in 2018. Well, with the plethora of court cases tearing the soul of PDP apart, it was good that the party resolved last Wednesday in Port Harcourt to extend the tenure of Makarfi led caretaker committee for one year while attempt to reconcile different warring factions will be vigorously pursued. That is commendable. It is also laudable that PDP members are not resorting to self-help and have chosen courts to ventilate their grievances. However, I am worried at the way conflicting court orders are issued at the drop of a hat by our Federal High Courts, a court of coordinate jurisdiction. National Judicial Council should look into the rife allegations of procurement of court judgments via financial inducement of some pliable judges.  The earlier PDP resolved its internal wranglings the better for Nigerian democracy as the country is missing vibrant opposition to the APC government.

Jide is the Executive Director of OJA Development Consult.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

NHRC report on electoral fraud: Another paper tiger?

Last Thursday, August 11, 2016, the National Human Rights Commission released a 284-page report indicting 66 individuals and organisations allegedly involved in electoral crimes in the 2007 and 2011 elections. They were said to have been involved in either criminal offences or administrative, judicial and professional misconduct. Among them are a former Independent National Electoral Commission chairman, Prof. Maurice Iwu; former governors Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta); Oserheimen Osunbor (Edo); Clarence Olafemi (Kogi); former Anambra State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Prof. C. E. Onukogu; Senator Hosea Ehinlanwo (Ondo); Senator Ayo Arise (Ekiti); Mukhtari Shehu Shagari and Chief Adefemi Kila.
Others are the late Maj. Gen. Abubakar Tanko Ayuba (retd.), Aminu Sule Garo and Mr. Tarzoor Terhemen. In the list also are Patrick Ashagu Ebinny; Abubakar L. Abdullahi; Felix Osaigbovo (INEC Presiding Officer); and Umar Abdullahi. A police officer, ASP Christopher Oloyede, and two lawyers, G. A. Adetola Kazeem (SAN) and the late Mr. James Ocholi (SAN). Altogether, there were 118 indictments, categorised as criminal indictment (20 cases), criminal/administrative (49), administrative (38), administrative/ judicial (4), professional (3) and judicial (7). The NHRC’s Executive Secretary, Prof. Bem Angwe, while presenting the report said the exercise, which the commission undertook under Section 5 of the NHRC Act 2010, involved an independent review of evidences of gross violations of the rights to participate in government, to effective public service and to fair trial in the country. He stated that the “Electoral Accountability/End Electoral Impunity Project” was intended “to bring to account persons indicted by the election petitions tribunals and appellate judicial bodies for infracting electoral and related laws during Nigeria’s recent election cycles.”
Angwe commented further that a committee established by the commission for the project was mandated to “review available election petition cases, extract any evidence of criminal or administrative indictments, recommend immediate and long-term measures towards curbing impunity in our electoral process.” The Chairman of the committee, Prof. Nsongurua Udombana, observed that electoral malpractices persisted in the nation’s electoral process because the Judiciary, INEC and other agencies had failed to perform their roles. He noted that where infraction of electoral laws was reported to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and INEC, they hardly acted, a development that continued to embolden politicians who see election as “a do-or-die-affair”. The NHRC therefore urged the AGF, Inspector-General of Police, INEC and other relevant institutions to punish those indicted.
On Monday, August 15, 2016, I was a guest on a morning show on Silverbird Television where a lawyer and I reviewed the NHRC report. As far as I am concerned, the report is yet another courageous attempt to deal a fatal blow to the recurring issue of electoral fraud which has been the bane of our elections from time immemorial. Lest we forget, in the aftermath of what international and local accredited election observer groups tagged the worst general election in Nigeria in 2007, President Umaru Yar’Adua set up a 22-member Justice Muhammadu Lawal Uwais-led Electoral Reform Committee which sat for 16 months and in December 2008 submitted a comprehensive report which would have completely sanitised our electoral process had it been faithfully implemented.
Unfortunately, a White Paper committee headed by the then Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice watered down considerably the critical provisions of the ERC report and at the end of the day many of the noble provisions were excised from the report. That was however not to say that nothing was achieved. Some of the Uwais committee recommendations reflected in the 2010 review of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as well as the Electoral Act 2010.   Some of those that readily comes to mind include the granting of financial and administrative autonomy to INEC by putting the commission on the first line charge of the Consolidated Revenue Fund; subjecting appointment of Resident Electoral Commissioners to Senate approval; time limit for election tribunals (180 days at the tribunals, 60 days at the Court of Appeal and 60 days at Supreme Court); reduction in the number of tribunal judges from five to three; filing of petitions within 21 days of the declaration of election result, etc.
On the flip side, recommendations on political party structure and management (establishment of the Political Party Registration and Regulatory Commission); independent candidacy; proportional representation; separation of office of Attorney General from that of Minister of Justice and democratisation of the appointment procedures for the Inspector-General of Police were all jettisoned. Most importantly, the ERC recommended the establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission. Though this was accepted and the Federal Executive Council sometime in 2012 approved the establishment, it was not implemented. It is instructive to note that the Independent National Electoral Commission which by virtue of the 2010 Electoral Act amendment was given prosecutorial power, lacks power to arrest and investigate. The Commission has never minced words saying that it does not possess the personnel and financial resources to successfully prosecute electoral offenders. It has therefore thrown its weight behind the establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission.
It is also noteworthy that after the pre-and post-2011 elections violence which claimed over a thousand lives,  President Goodluck Jonathan on May 11, 2011 inaugurated the Sheikh Ahmed Lemu-led 22-member presidential panel of inquiry to investigate the remote and immediate causes of the incidences of electoral violence during the 2011 polls. The panel submitted its findings to the President on October 10, 2011. Since then, beyond the compensation paid to some of the victims of the violence, nothing, to the best of my knowledge, has been done to the perpetrators of the violence in which property worth billions of naira were also lost.
With the benefits of hindsight, it is doubtful if the NHRC report will go beyond these indictments and naming and shaming. Already, many of those fingered in the electoral heist have come out vehemently to rubbish the report as lacking in merit since they were not given opportunity to defend themselves. What these people did not realise is that, the pronouncements of their indictment were made by election tribunals and appellate courts. The NHRC just went to distil court judgments to harvest names of those alleged to have committed electoral violence and fraud.
All hope is not yet lost since this is a government that came to power on the mantra of change. INEC, AGF, IGP and the judiciary may still pull a pleasant surprise on us by ensuring diligent prosecution of all electoral offences, especially those against the arrowheads and masterminds. This will send the right signal to purveyors of electoral malpractices who have been the brains behind the raft of inconclusive elections that is fast becoming the norms with INEC. To my own mind, punishments for electoral offences should be made more stringent to make those who came to power via electoral sharp practices to lose their seat and serve 10-year ban from public office in addition to jail term.
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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Averting the looming flood disaster in Nigeria

A war foretold does not kill a wise cripple – Yoruba proverb.

It has been said repeatedly that Nigeria is at a threshold of witnessing another flood disaster comparable to, if not worse than, what the country experienced in 2012. On Monday, August 8, 2016, Nigerian Meteorological Agency in its latest flood alert said “After thorough analyses of rainfall data from our observatories nationwide for June and July, we wish to provide the following information and advisories to the public, especially those in the affected areas. Soil moisture has either reached saturation, or near saturation levels due to cumulative high intensity rainfall in some parts of the country in June and July. The affected states include Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Kaduna, Kwara, Nasarawa, Yobe and Zamfara. This means that floods should be expected in these areas because the soil is no longer able to absorb more rainwater in the coming weeks which coincide with the peak of the rainy season.”

Two days earlier, precisely on Saturday, August 6, 2016, the National Emergency Management Agency announced that flood alerts from the Republic of Niger, on the rise in the water level of its river, had shown that any time from now, Nigeria might suffer severe floods. It stated that research had shown that the looming floods might be similar to what was experienced in many states in 2012, which began in July that year and killed 363 people, while over 2.1 million others were displaced. NEMA described the 2012 floods as the worst in 40 years, as it affected an estimated total of seven million people while the damages and losses caused by the floods were put at N2.6tn.

In the opinion of the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency, “The floods are already here as River Niger, River Benue, Kainji Dam and the confluence of water bodies in Lokoja have all overflowed their various banks.” According to the agency, the above mentioned water bodies overflowed their banks on Monday, August 8, 2016, adding that various agencies were currently struggling to impound the floods, which in a matter of days shall be felt in many more locations across the country. In a circular with reference number MWR/NIHSA/EH/S/1/37, signed by its Director-General, Moses Beckley, NIHSA made it clear that the flooding situations at the upper reach of the River Niger portended imminent danger for Nigeria in the coming weeks and months.

Indeed, the floods are here. They hit six local government areas of Kano State last week where over 5, 300 houses were destroyed.  Alhaji Aliyu Bashir, the Executive Secretary of the State Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation Agency disclosed this in an interview in Kano on Monday, August 8. He said the affected local government areas include Bebeji, Dawakin Kudu, Kiru, Shanono, Bagwai and Garun-Malam. “In Dawakin Kudu alone more than 2, 300 houses were affected, while more than 600 houses in each of the remaining five areas were destroyed by the flood,” he said. Three persons reportedly lost their lives while food and cash crops worth millions of Naira were washed away after a heavy down pour at Hayin Gwarmai village in Bebeji Local Government Area of the state.

There is no gainsaying that things can progressively move from bad to worse if urgent steps are not taken by people and government to salvage the situation. Different government agencies have warned and we have seen the onset of flooding, shall we stand akimbo and watch helplessly? What can we do to address the situation? NiMet has advised governments, communities and individuals in these vulnerable parts of the country to take proactive actions such as clearing water channels and drainages, and avoiding activities that block the free flow of flood water. It has further advised that relevant agencies should perfect their emergency evacuation plans and activate them as soon as necessary.

Worthy counsel you would say, however, going by our legendary tardiness and fire brigade approach to issues, I would not be surprised if at the end of this raining season we still count hundreds of lives lost and trillions of Naira properties destroyed by flood. It’s just in our character to ignore early warning disaster forecast.  Sad, so very sad!  Most of our problems are not caused by nature but self-inflicted. When people build on water channels, block drainages with solid waste and fail to clean their environment, is it not common sense that those are recipe for flood disaster? I know we are very religious people. A praying nation.  Highly superstitious and always blaming every misfortune on devil and his army of evil-wreckers. We love to bind and cast out demons even when the situation simply calls for proactive action.  Before we go to prayer mountain to avert the impending flood, let’s first clean up our environment. Let’s clear water channels of debris. Let’s move away from our abode at the river banks. These are simple precautionary measures urgently needed. Nothing however stops us from backing up the aforementioned actions with prayers, if we so wish. However, prayer alone will not give us desired result in this matter.

Another major flooding in this ‘technically’ recessed economy is one thing this fragile country can ill afford. I sincerely do not wish to have any addition to millions of already internally displaced persons as a result of insurgency in North East Nigeria. I pray against avoidable loss of human lives and properties. I wish all and sundry will proactively act to avert the looming flood disaster. It’s in our national interest to do so. It makes no sense to use lean resources meant for infrastructure development to cater for IDPs and compensate flood victims when we could have averted it ab-initio.  Prevention, it is said, is better than cure and a stitch in time saves nine. We can jointly work to avert the flood and that should be our topmost priority now.

Jide is the Executive Director of OJA Development Consult.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Ogun state as gateway to heaven

In my column on this page on Wednesday, July 3, 2013, I wrote about the ‘Unique features of Ogun State.’ In that piece,  I x-rayed the immense  contributions of the state to the political economy of the South West geo-political zone as well as Nigeria in general. I also mentioned a number of first prizes the state has won in the annals of Nigerian history. I said inter alia that: “Ogun State indigenes have scored a number of firsts in Nigeria. The first Premier of the old Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo is from Ikenne in Ogun State. The first woman credited to have driven a car in Nigeria, late Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome Kuti is from the state.   The first Nobel Laureate for Literature in Black Africa, Prof. Wole Soyinka also hails from Ogun State. The first indigenous Chief Justice of Nigeria, Chief Ademola Adetokunbo;

The first western trained psychiatrist in Africa, Professor 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 Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo (1976-1979; 1999-2007) are all from Ogun State. Though Yorubas generally love to party, however, the Ijebu people of Ogun State are unrivalled when it comes to elaborate partying popularly called ‘Owanbe’. Ogun State it is where 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.” In addition, Ogun State is the home of the incumbent vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo who is also a cleric (Senior Pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church of God).

There was a great omission in my 2013 piece on Ogun State. That is what I have returned to highlight. The gateway state as Ogun is nicknamed is not a misnomer. This is because as it is the door to other parts of Nigeria and indeed the West African countries through Benin Republic, Ogun State is also the ‘Gateway to Heaven’. How? Ogun arguably is the spiritual headquarters of Nigeria. The state is replete with religious camps some of which have become cities. It was reported that there are over thirty of such religious camps in the state with many of them located along the Lagos – Ibadan expressway.

The most prominent ones among the religious camps are the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Prayer City; the Cherubim and Seraphim religious camp at Ogere; the Celestial City at Imeko; the 50,000 capacity Living Faith Church aka Winners Chapel at Ota which also housed the Covenant University and ‘the father of them all’ the Redemption Camp of the Redeemed Christian Church of God located at Kilometer 46, Lagos -Ibadan Expressway. The last two mentioned here have become towns on their own due to the large size and facilities on these religious camps. The NASFAT camp is also along the expressway.  

These religious camps have brought development to Ogun State and Nigeria. I recall that before the advent of Redemption Camp, the Ibafo, Mowe, Magboro and even Ogere area were sparsely populated and traveling through those areas was a nightmare as there were a lot of armed robbery incidents along the expressway. Today, many housing estates have sprung up in those areas largely due to the influence of the Redemption Camp. Even on the Camp itself, many members of the church have been allotted land and have built homes on the ‘holy site’. While some of the home owners use it during the church conventions and monthly programmes, there are many others who have taken permanent residency in their houses on the Camp.

 On the camp are also facilities like banks, clinics, schools, hostels, fuel stations, police stations, transport services, hotels, Bible Colleges, etcetera.  Until its recent relocation to its permanent site in Ede, Osun State, the temporary site of Redeemer University was on the Redemption Camp. Similar development has taken place at the Living Faith Church headquarters at Ota. As earlier pointed out, the church has invested heavily in education from primary to tertiary level. It has Kingdom Heritage and Faith Academy for the primary and secondary education and Covenant University. The Mountain of Fire and Miracles church in addition to establishing a University has also floated a football club, MFM Football Club currently playing in the first division of Nigeria Premier League.

Apart from physical infrastructure that these religious camps have attracted to Ogun State, they have also jointly enhanced tourism in Nigeria. These churches have contributed immensely to religious tourism. Every year hundreds of thousands of church members in Diaspora and even those who are not members but have heard of the signs and wonders (miracles) taking place at these religious camps troop to attend their annual conventions and monthly programmes.  Nigerian presidents and even presidents of other African countries have visited and worshipped at some of these religious camps. Among them are former President Olusegun Obasanjo and ex-President Goodluck Jonathan. As these foreign visitors travel from different parts of the world to attend the Power Must Change Hand monthly programme of the Mountain of Fire and Miracles or the annual Shiloh of the Living Faith Church or the RCCG Holy Ghost Congress and annual convention; they bring in the much needed foreign exchange as they have to pay for hotel accommodation, feeding, travel and souvenirs.

On the negative side, many travellers have been caught in traffic gridlock occasioned by improper management of the traffic during these religious meetings.  Motorists and commuters who have been at the receiving end of this logjam have constantly called for the relocation of these religious camps or better management of the traffic situation. There seems to be some improvement in the recent past as the churches have had to engage the services of men of the Federal Road Safety Corps and other ancillary road traffic management agencies to assist in the enhancement of free flow of traffic.  Not too long ago, the Ogun State government had to repair the bad portions of the expressway which actually is a federal road in order to ease traffic.

However, one thing the state government can do is the provision of light rail to service these religious camps especially those who have been attracting huge human traffic like the Redemption Camp and Winners chapel. This can be done in partnership with the federal government and churches involved.  This will reduce considerably vehicular traffic on the expressway and make the road to last longer. Ogun state government must also ensure that it is involved in the physical planning of these religious camps so that proper and standard facilities are built on the camps. The government should learn from what happened at the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Ikotun, Lagos a couple of years ago when the hostel being built by the church collapsed and killed over hundred people many of whom are South Africans.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Nigeria’s shoddy preparations for 2016 Rio Olympics

The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well. - Pierre de Coubertin.

The 2016 Rio Summer Olympics holding in Brazil is underway having officially commenced on August 5, 2016. Although, the games unofficially opened on Wednesday. August 3 with women football matches.  Over 11,000 athletes from 206 countries will be participating in 306 events in 28 sports at the quadrennial games. Since Nigeria made her debut in 1952, the country’s athletes have appeared in every edition of the Summer Olympics Games, except that of 1976 in Montreal, Canada because of the African boycott. President Muhammadu Buhari  on July 19, 2016 ‎ at the official handover of Team Nigeria to the Nigeria Olympic Committee and his investiture as the Grand Patron of the body said  “Nigeria has 49 qualified male athletes and 29 female athletes, giving us a total of 78 athletes in 10 sport disciplines.” The country will be competing in football, canoeing, basketball, table-tennis, athletics (track and field), wrestling, boxing, weightlifting, swimming and rowing.   

Nigerian athletes, Wikipedia records, have won a total of 23 (3 Gold, 8 Silver and 12 Bronze) medals, mostly in athletics and boxing. The national football team won the gold medal in 1996. Same year, the country, through Policewoman, Chioma Ajunwa also grabbed gold medal in women’s long jump. In 2008, following the International Olympic Committee's decision to strip the American 4 × 400 metre relay team of their medals after Antonio Pettigrew confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs, their Nigerian rivals were awarded the gold medal.  Nigeria also won a medal in the heavyweight division of taekwondo at the 1992 Summer Olympics; as this was only a demonstration sport, Emmanuel Oghenejobo's silver did not count as an official win.

In the 2012 Summer Olympics held in London, Nigerian contingent did not win any medal making people to jest that they went to look and count the London Bridges and see the Queen. The country may be heading for another disgraceful outing in Rio de Janeiro. When serious nations were preparing since the last Olympics ended, Nigerian sporting federations went to sleep. Barely six months to the start-off date, they commenced camping and training tours. In fact, many of Nigeria’s teams could not win the qualifying tickets to go to the current Olympics. Those who qualified for Rio did not have optimal preparations that would enable them compete favourably at the games.

Take for instance the Nigerian U-23 male football contingent (Dream Team VI) who were stranded in Atlanta, USA and could only get to Manaus, Brazil few hours before their first match against Japan. A source close to the Nigeria Football Federation reportedly told the British Broadcasting Corporation that: “The Nigerian government [sports ministry] is responsible for booking the tickets for the team to travel but we heard there is a logistical mix-up with payments. The money paid by the ministry for the charter flight did not hit airline’s account on Tuesday so they refused to fly the team to Brazil. The hitch in the transfer of funds is being blamed on currency conversions via various bank accounts. It is a cumbersome exercise but they should have started the process much earlier, which NFF was pointing out.” For God’s sake logistics is not a rocket science which should be too tasking. News report has it that Nigeria football team became a butt of joke in United States. What a national embarrassment!

Earlier, there was controversy over an e-mail purportedly sent to athletes to buy their own flight tickets to Brazil for a later day reimbursement. Some of our athletes have to take to social media to seek for financial support. Can you beat that?  There have been so much hues and cry over insufficient funding and late release of funds. If we do not have money to bankroll our participation in Rio, we simply could have done the honourable thing by withdrawing rather than soiling our national image with negative news that makes us look like sub-humans or dimwitted people who cannot do anything right. It is not the first time this is happening in our sports. It has indeed been a recurring decimal. Imagine the recent global opprobrium Nigeria Football Federation   got Nigeria into over the botched appointment of Chief Technical Adviser for Nigeria’s male national football team, Super Eagles. How can NFF announce the appointment of Paul Le Guen when it has not fully agreed with him on terms and condition of engagement? Only in Nigeria!

There are so many things Nigeria can gain if our sports are well managed. Sports are tools for international diplomacy. There are a lot of economic rewards in sports. The athletes, the coaching and technical crews as well as the country stand to benefit monetarily from sports. The value chain includes sports equipment manufacturing companies and those trading in them. Nigeria indeed needs to harness the great potentials inherent in sports. Our games administrators need to get their acts together and think outside the box. Over dependence on government funding for sports has been counter-productive. Unfortunately, lack of transparency and accountability by our sports administrators have made the private sector hesitant to robustly support games financing through various sponsorship deals, endorsements and advertisements.

Anyway, am gladdened by some sound bites from PMB’s meeting with Team Nigeria on July 19.  The president emphasised the need for our contingent to keep the integrity of our nation intact by competing clean and fair at the Olympic Games. He was quoted as saying: “Please bring as many medals back home as a result of your efforts and endeavour. But remember it is more important to compete and acquit your country as a fair sporting nation than to bring a pack of medals as a result of bending the rules and denying the Games of fair competition.”

PMB reportedly also said: “We are all aware of our nation’s dwindling revenue and the current global economic challenges. It is therefore imperative that funds provided for the games are utilised judiciously. In this regard, any official who has no business at the games should stay at home to cheer the team from here and if they must travel to the Olympics, they should do so at their own expense.” Very right decision Mr. President! No more jamborees!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Threats to food security in Nigeria

There is no gainsaying that Nigeria is seriously challenged. It is obvious, isn’t it? However, the greatest threat to national stability today is food security. By way of definition, food security is the state of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. The family menu is fast disappearing. Juju music icon, Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey, in one of his classic albums released in the late 1980s said Nigerians were using formula to eat. He sang about various eating formula such as 0-0-1, 0-1-0, 1-0-0, 1-0-1 and many others. The 1 in those numerals represents the meals families eat per day out of the three they are supposed to eat. True, in many homes, particularly, among the majority poor Nigerians, hardly will one see those who are having 1-1-1 which represents three square meals per day. Food is a serious matter. It is said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Hunger and starvation had precipitated revolution in many countries. History has it that one of the causes of the French Revolution (1789 – 1790) was as a result of the increase in the price of bread.
I have been very worried about the increasing food insecurity in Nigeria. Workers are not being paid as and when due, both in the public and private sectors. High inflation, (now at 16.5 per cent), downsizing and rightsizing of workforce are now rife, so also is non-absorption of teeming unemployed youths in any meaningful and gainful employment. Upon all, food prices have hit the rooftop. Expectedly, there is an exponential increase in crime rates. These are all threats to national security.
More directly, our agricultural sector which is primarily responsible for putting food on our table has been in the doldrums since the discovery of black gold which is crude oil in Oloibiri in the present day Bayelsa State about 1956. All the initiatives such as Operation Feed the Nation by the Olusegun Obasanjo military regime; the Green Revolution initiative of President Shehu Shagari, and similar ones by successive administrations have been more of lip service. As things stand, our choices are very limited as the crude oil which has been our mainstay since the 60s is no longer a money spinner as it used to be. This is because of the low price the commodity now commands in the international market. Despite that, the sabotage on oil and gas pipelines by vandals and militants in the Niger Delta has ensured that our 2.2mbpd OPEC quota upon which the 2016 national budget is based can no longer be met. This has gone a long way to threaten the full implementation of the 2016 Appropriation Act.
The fiendish activities of the pipeline vandals apart from being an economic sabotage are also a menace to food security. This is because of the environmental degradation such acts engendered. The eco-system is destroyed as the water gets polluted by the toxic crude oil spill. Concomitantly, the fishes, crabs, prawns and other aquatic lives get destroyed. Even the farmlands affected by oil spills become degraded and sterile for any agricultural cultivation. That is why I have been appealing to militant groups such as the Niger Delta Avengers to stop cutting their nose in order to spite their faces. While it is true that by blowing up oil and gas pipelines, government will lose revenue, however, they are further impoverishing their kith and kins who are engaged in agric- business as they will also suffer collateral damage of losing their means of livelihood. They should imagine how long it took the Federal Government to kick-start the clean-up of the devastated Ogoniland.
Another potent threat to food security is the desertification being experienced in Northern Nigeria. Hundreds of kilometres of landmass have been lost to desert encroachment, largely as a result of draught and other human factor such as indiscriminate felling of trees. This phenomenon largely precipitated the exodus of cattle herders from the core north to the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria where they could get grass and water for their cattle. That migration has been a major source of conflict between farmers and cattle herders.  There have been accusations and counter-accusations that cattle herders have been shepherding their cattle to graze on farmlands, a move the farmers have stoutly resisted. Disagreement over this issue has led to hundreds of deaths and destruction of property worth Billions of Naira in places like Benue and Enugu states. The point being made here is that the face-off between these two groups of people constitutes a big threat to food security in Nigeria. Both farmers and cattle herders are food producers and a fight between the two groups does not augur well for the country.
Flooding is another threat to food security. In 2012, Nigeria witnessed flooding despite the early warning by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency. Available records show that 2012 flooding directly affected 30 states, killed 363 citizens, injured 5,851 and displaced 3,871,053 persons. The total value of destroyed physical and durable assets caused by the floods in the most affected states was estimated to have reached N1.48tn. This year, NIMET had through its Seasonal Rainfall Prediction said about 16 states faced the danger of flooding in 2016. What are we doing to forestall that from happening? If we allow it through our accustomed negligence and nonchalant attitude, we should be rest assured that it will pose threat to food security as many farmlands will be washed off and farmers who are displaced will not be able to nurture their plants.
The activities of terrorist Boko Haram in the North-East have since 2009 posed a major threat to food production and security in Nigeria. As the group embarked on their destructive missions, many farmers have been killed and those who manage to escape have had to abandon their farmlands to live as Internally Displaced Persons in camps and host communities. I recall that some years ago, some traders who sold foodstuffs at Bodija market in Ibadan were slaughtered by this insurgent group on their way to Borno State to buy farm produce.
I may have painted a gory picture about the food security situation in Nigeria. However, it is not a hopeless case. I have listened to the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, at different fora and he sounds very convincing about how to deal with the daunting challenges being a practising farmer himself. Just on July 20, 2016, the Federal Executive Council met and approved the Agriculture Promotion Policy (2016-2019). According to Ogbeh, the policy outlined all that needed to be done to achieve self-sufficiency in agriculture.  He said: “The document is entitled, ‘The Green Alternative’ and it outlines virtually everything we need to do, every policy we need to undertake to achieve self-sufficiency in agriculture and also to become a major exporter of agricultural products.”
It is imperative we all know that we are stakeholders in tackling the issue of food security.  We can be smallholder farmers planting vegetables and fruits in our backyards. We can engage in small scale animal husbandry and poultry in our homes. We can also provide an enabling environment so that those who want to engage in agriculture can practise without fear of molestation. It is gratifying that the Imo State Government has declared Thursday and Friday as farming days for its work force. I do hope the government will provide the needed incentives for the workers to engage in farming. Food security is the best security because, as the saying goes, an hungry man is an angry man.