Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Lessons for Nigeria from 2017 International Day of Democracy

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

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

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Leadership lessons I learnt from King Sunny Ade

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

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

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Election dispute resolutions in Nigeria and Kenya

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

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

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Nigeria’s legendary lip-service to quality education

Nigeria’s education system is in dire need of overhaul. Things are not just right in that sector. Unless something urgent is done to arrest and redress the rot in the system, the country’s future seems bleak. The leaders of tomorrow being prepared by today’s education authorities cannot sadly deliver global competitiveness. From the primary to tertiary level, the entire gamut stinks to high heavens.  Am not being uncharitable with my assessment, the deplorable situation is glaring for all to see. Strip of all pretensions and lip-service, the country’s education sector is in need of redemption.
From where do I start to analyse the rot? Have you noticed the avalanche of private schools currently operating in all nooks and crannies of Nigeria? Many of these schools operate in very unsafe, unhygienic, dilapidated structures. Many are also unlicensed and are populated by unqualified teachers who are paid pittance at every month end. In many private schools, both legal and illegal ones, there is often high turnover of staff because of the absence of good working conditions by many of the Shylock proprietors. The sad thing is that most of these schools were established primarily for pecuniary purpose.  In these schools, no teacher dare fail students. The creed is to help children to pass irrespective of whether they deserve to fail.  Where are the education inspectors who are supposed to monitor and ensure standard? In many instances, once their palms are greased, the assessment exercise is going to be predictably favourable.
There are public schools. I mean government owned educational institutions. However, the deplorable situation of most of them made parents to prefer sending their children and wards to private schools both within and outside the shores of the country. In public schools, the facilities are overstretched with more students enrolled than the carrying capacities of these institutions. Thus, it’s now common to see pupils and students learning under trees or dilapidated classrooms and lecture theatres. The teachers and lecturers are more on strike than at work. At present, the academic staff union of universities is in their third week of strike over government’s non-implementation of 2009 agreement entered into with the union as well as several other memoranda of understanding signed in-between.  
Let me cite some examples to buttress my point so that I don’t sound hyperbolic. In October 2016, a former vice chancellor of Usmanu Dan Fodiyo University, Sokoto, Professor Riskuwa Shehu disclosed that over 60 per cent of teachers in public primary and secondary schools in the state are unqualified. Shehu made the disclosure in Sokoto  at a one-day training exercise for field officers for a pilot survey on schools’ needs assessment under the State of Emergency on Education initiative. He added that more than half of the structures in the over two thousand schools across the state are also dilapidated. The good thing about the Sokoto episode is that Governor Aminu Tambuwal has declared state of emergency in the state’s education sector and  is trying frantically to clear the mess.
In February 2016, Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-Rufa’i said that over 42 per cent of teachers in the State were unqualified. He stated this at the commissioning ceremony of a 1,500-seater capacity hall named after him at the Federal College of Education, Zaria, Kaduna State. The governor however said that despite the large number of unqualified teachers, he will not sack anybody, but will want them to upgrade their knowledge. Lest you think it’s all northern affair, in April 2017, Cross Rivers State detected 758 teachers with fake National Certificate for Education on its payroll. The revelation was made by the Chairman of the Cross River State Universal Basic Education Board, Dr. Stephen Odey.   He added that: “One of the shocking revelations was the case of a head teacher who transferred his late wife’s certificates to his new wife and made her a classroom teacher, while some security men and nannies who had acquired the basic teaching qualifications were promoted to classroom teachers.” Rather than punishing these culprits, the state government granted them amnesty by asking them to go back to school and get their genuine certificates.
Nemo dat quod non habet is the Latin word which means “you cannot give what you don’t have.”  There is no way unqualified tutors can impart knowledge into their students. Any wonder there is now mass failure of students especially in external examinations? Could the students’ general poor performance be the rationale behind the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board’s low cut-off mark announced last week for the 2017/ 2018 admission into Nigerian’s tertiary institutions?  I thought I was suffering from auditory hallucination when JAMB announced that education stakeholders including university vice-chancellors, polytechnic rectors and provosts of colleges of education in Nigeria had agreed to a cut off mark of minimum of 120/400 for university admission and 100/300 for admission into polytechnics and colleges of education. I read the defence of JAMB’s Registrar, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede in last Friday’s edition of this newspaper wherein he said that Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination “is not an achievement test. It is not a qualifying examination; rather, it is a ranking examination.”
With due respect to the stakeholders who endorsed these retrogressive cut-off marks, they are not helping Nigeria’s education sector. It is better for Nigeria to revert to the pre-JAMB era when each universities set guidelines and conducts its qualifying examinations. What is the whole essence of the purported ranking examination when these tertiary institutions are still going to conduct post-JAMB examinations at a fee?  If as Oloyede said, that with 200 marks as the lowest cut-off the admission quota are not being filled, so be it. We already have too many unemployed graduates such that if we don’t produce for the next decade we would not have any shortage.
There are estimated 10.5m out-of-school children in Nigeria and in order to incentivize them to get enrolled in school, the Buhari administration last year introduced the ‘homegrown school feeding programme’. Only about 17 states had commenced the scheme. Where this has commenced there has been exponential growth in school enrolment. However, there is no corresponding expansion of school facilities including classrooms, teaching and learning aids, and teachers. If the programme were well thought through, these should have been taken care off.

A recent discovery shocked me. While many states are complaining of lack of fund for education, many of them have failed woefully to provide the matching grant to enable them access the funds earmarked for them by the Universal Basic Education Commission. The fund totaling an approximately N60bn is idling away in the Commission’s account with the Central Bank of Nigeria. Ebonyi State has an unclaimed over N4bn followed by Enugu and Ondo with over N3bn each. As at March 31, 2017, only Borno and Rivers States have totally claimed their dues. What tenable excuse has the other 34 state governments and FCT have for not coming forward to collect this grant? If we’re going to get out of this morass, we need to do things differently from the way it is being done now by stop paying lip service to this all important sector. Government needs to properly fund education, curb examination malpractices and other sharp practices in the sector including admission racketeering, sex-for-marks phenomenon, fake teacher syndrome, and inconsistent policy framework.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Follow your passion

I got involved in media advocacy for development 27 years ago. Precisely in October 1990 when due to the pervasive misery in the land I took up the challenge posed by my lecturer at the University of Ibadan, Prof. OBC Nwolise to get involved in speaking out against the injustices, poverty, bad governance and underdevelopment in the country. He had challenged us in Advanced Level Extra Mural  class in 1988 that beyond the street protests, we can actually write opinions for publications in newspapers in order to ventilate our grievances. So to speak, Prof. Osisioma Nwolise nudged me into what has now given me identity; name and face recognition. My gratitude to the erudite scholar.
Twenty-seven years ago, I didn’t know I will earn my living in the development sector better known as Non-Governmental Organisation.  I didn’t even know I will one day become a development consultant. To God alone be all the glory for ordering my steps along the path that am now treading. My media advocacy and work as a consultant are mutually reinforcing. Yes, I may not have made money, stricto sensu  (a la late Professor Adekunle Amuwo)  from my media advocacy but I have gained a lot. My friend of life, Sheriff  Folarin, an Associate Professor at the  Covenant University is one of the many beautiful gifts media have given me. Our path crossed at the defunct Sketch Press in Ibadan in 1993. I have equally shared same platform with movers and shakers of Nigeria: Senators, House of Representatives members, University dons, media icons,  top security operatives including the incumbent Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim  K Idris,  and many more.

My voyage through the Nigerian media has enabled me to become an author with two books – “Nigeria, My Nigeria: Perspectives from 1990 – 2010” and “A Nation in Tow: Essays on Governance and Leadership in Nigeria”.  At present, I have over 700 published articles in about 25 print media and have made about 400 appearances in over twenty broadcast media.  What’s more, it has saved me from depression, boosted my self-confidence and self-esteem as well as my world view. My eternal gratitude to all media houses and personalities who have granted me opportunity to air my views on their programmes. Don’t get it twisted; it’s not the media that I am passionate about but knowledge impartation. Those who have been privileged to attend my numerous trainings will attest to this. Dear readers, what are you passionate about? Follow your passion; it may one day be your gateway out of unemployment and poverty and guarantee access to wealth. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Attention please, President Buhari!

Welcome back from your medical vacation dear President Muhamadu Buhari. Hearty congratulations on your miraculous recovery from your undisclosed ailment which has seen you out of the country for the better part of this year 2017. I pray that Almighty Allah will perfect your healing. Mr. President, it is heartwarming to listen to you last Monday during your official broadcast to the nation. Though am disappointed that  the much anticipated critical decisions that will energise governance  was not contained in your speech, yet it was not a vacuous statement. You did show grasp of the need to unite to solve our nagging problems inclusive of insecurity.
Since Monday, I have been guest of several media houses viz, Vision 92.1 FM, Nigerian Television Authority, Federal Radio Corporation of  Nigeria and Arise TV to mention but a few,  where on invitation, I have been analysing the importance of your homecoming, the gist of your national broadcast and agenda setting for you. Mr. President, it is just fit and proper for me to condense my thoughts into writing for posterity. First and foremost, I commend Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who as Acting President for the over hundred days of your absence held fort as a loyal, humble, conscientious and disciplined second-in-command. Prof. Osinbajo, among several other things signed the 2017 budget into law and dialogued with all major leaders of ethnic nationalities in a bid to quell the groundswell of agitation and threat to national security by some misguided elements among us. He also swore in the two newly appointed minsters and assigned them portfolios just as he appointed about 21 new permanent secretaries and assigned them to their new duty posts.
The Acting President also issued four Executive Orders aimed at facilitating ease of doing business as well as launching the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme on June 29.  At the rebound of Boko Haram insurgency, Prof. Osinbajo ordered the military high command to Borno State to take charge and contain the resurgence of the extremist group. These he did while ensuring that there is regular meetings of the Federal Executive Council and National Economic Council. Mr. President, I sincerely thank you for the trust and confidence you had in the Vice President which has ensured that there is no power vacuum while you’re away.
Now that you are back, I do hope you have convalesce well enough to fully resume duties and not getting back to work out of pressure from certain interest groups. I do know that that you have officially communicated the National Assembly about your resumption of duty in accordance with constitutional requirement. That makes me glad.    Let me now lay bare some issues that I consider need your urgent attention. As you have rightly pointed out in your national broadcast of last Monday, security remains a top priority. Aside from the rebound of Boko Haram, incidences of crime and criminality have been increasing at exponential rate. Kidnapping, armed robbery, rape, drug trafficking, ritual killings, fraud and many more have been on the rise with law enforcement agencies appearing overwhelmed. 
The other issue is the economy that is still in the doldrums. There is intolerable level of unemployment and poverty in this country. As the economy is in recess, many compatriots are slipping into depression. Suicide rate is increasing while psychiatrist hospitals are getting fuller by the day due to high incidences of mental illness plaguing the people. I stand to be corrected but the bulk of the promised social intervention programmes are yet to be implemented. Only about half of all the states in the country are currently enjoying ‘Home-grown school feeding programme’ of your government while the outstanding 300,000 graduates to be employed under the N-Power scheme are yet to be recruited two years into the noble scheme. Due to high cost of doing business arising from epileptic power supply, access to land and high interest rate on loan, not many new businesses are coming on board while many of the existing ones are folding up.  
Giving the fact that government at all level cannot absorb the teeming unemployed Nigerians, it’s important to incentivize the organised private sector through tax holidays, low interest rate on loan and provisioning of social infrastructure such as good roads, electricity, pipe-borne water, railway, etc. It is heartrending that your government celebrated two years in office without commissioning any tangible infrastructure. This should not be the case in 2018; otherwise, you and your political party may as well not bother to field a presidential candidate in 2019.
Sir, you set up the Senator Ken Nnamani Presidential Committee on Electoral Reform in October 2016. The Committee has since submitted its report to the Attorney General and Minster of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN for onward transmission to you. I doubt if he was able to present it to you before your departure to UK on medical leave. For whatever it is worth, please call for the report and do the needful on it even though the National Assembly is far gone in its constitutional and electoral act amendment effort.
It may interest you to know sir that despite several measures taken by your administration to combat bribery and corruption such as the whistleblower policy, Treasury Single Account, setting up of efficiency unit in the federal civil service and arrest and prosecution of some key government officials, the hydra-headed monster is still alive and well.  According to the 2016 Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International, Nigeria is ranked 136 out of 176 profiled countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria is ranked 28 out of about 50 countries. This is still unenviable for the giant of Africa. Just last week, a joint report by the National Bureau of Statistics and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes revealed that a total of N400bn was received in bribes by public officials within a period of one year. The NBS National Corruption Report stated that 32.3 per cent of Nigerian adults who had contact with public officials between June 2015 and May 2016 had to pay bribes to the government workers. This is very shameful and a pointer to the fact that many Nigerians are yet to imbibe the ‘Change Begins With Me’ philosophy of this administration.

Sir, I look forward to your receiving official report of the findings of the Vice President Osinbajo headed three man fact-finding committee set up to investigate the suspended Secretary to the Federal Government, Engr. David Bachair Lawal and Director General of National Intelligence Agency, Ambassador Ayo Oke. It is important for the report of the committee to be made public as it borders on anti-corruption. In closing, the on-going strike by Academic Staff Union of Universities should not be allowed to linger. Everything humanly possible should be done to address and redress the university dons grievances.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Kenya 2017 election: Lessons for Nigeria

On Tuesday, August 8, 2017, Kenya held its sixth general elections since return to multi-party democracy in 1991. Declaring the result of the presidential election last Friday in its Nairobi headquarters, the chairman of the country’s electoral management body known as Independent Electoral and Boundary Commission of Kenya, Barrister Wafula W. Chebukati said the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta of Jubilee Party had a total of 8,215,963 votes representing 54.2 per cent to defeat his arch-rival Raila Odinga of National Super Alliance/ODM   who polled 6,815,971 votes representing 44.9 per cent.  Total voters turnout was 79.4 per cent. The controversies surrounding the elections are still unfolding with the claim by Odinga that the IEBC rigged the election in support of the incumbent, President Kenyatta. Some lives have reportedly been lost to post-election conflict with international community appealing for calm and calling for caution.
I have been privileged to discuss the recent political events in Kenya on different media platforms in the last one week or so. I have featured on Global Update and news analysis on three different Nigerian Television Authority stations, African Independent Television and Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria. The more I read about the elections in the East African country, the more I understand certain similarities and marked differences between Nigeria and Kenya. 
Like Nigeria, Kenya is a multi-ethnic, plural society. Another similarity with Nigeria is that it is a British colonised territory. It gained independence from Britain in 1963 while we got ours three years earlier. Kenya was a one party state from 1982 to 1991 but has since become a multi-party state. The country is not new to electoral conflict. Since 1992, all elections held in Kenya had led to bloodletting with the exception of those conducted in 2002 and 2013. In fact, the worst electoral violence took place in Kenya in 2007 when an estimated 1,300 lives were lost and over 600,000 persons internally displaced. In the lead up to the 2017 general election, on July 27, Christopher Msando, the head of ICT Unit of IEBC of Kenya was tortured and murdered by unknown assailants.  In Nigeria, electoral violence is a common phenomenon with several hundreds of lives lost.  It would be recalled that in 2011, close to a thousand lives were lost to pre and post-election crisis. 
Kenya, like Nigeria has bicameral legislature at the centre and unicameral legislature at the state / county level. Both countries have also been adapting electoral technology to enhance credibility of their elections. In Kenya, technology is deployed in the areas of voter identification, candidate registration, result transmission and presentation as well as biometric voter registration.
Similar to what obtains in Nigeria, Kenya is plagued by endemic corruption, high unemployment and poverty rate. According to Washington Post of Friday, August 11, 2017, “One of the reasons, analysts say that Kenya’s elections are so hotly contested is that the central government has been an enormously profitable political machine, awarding contracts across a large patronage network. A report from Kenya’s auditor-general last year said that about $200 million meant for the National Youth Service had been paid to fraudulent companies, including some with connections to politicians. The United States earlier this year suspended $21 million in health funding due to corruption allegations.”  According to the 2016 Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International, Kenya is ranked 145 out of a total of 176 nations profiled while Nigeria is ranked 136. In sub-Saharan Africa, while Kenya is ranked 26, Nigeria is ranked 28. Unemployment rate in Kenya is officially put at 22.2 per cent.
Politically, out of the four past presidents of Kenya, three of them had been from Kikuyu tribe while one is Kalanjin. No Luo has ever been president in the over 50 years of the country’s nationhood. This is similar to the situation in Nigeria where out of the three major ethnic groups the Igbos are yet to be president of Nigeria. This has continually generated political tensions and is one of the bases for the strident call for restructuring of Nigeria at present.
As there are several similarities between Nigeria’s and Kenya’s political systems, so are there legion of differences.  For instance, the Kenyan Constitution requires there to be a general election on the second Tuesday in August in every fifth year. That is why the elections were held last Tuesday. In Nigeria, we not only have our general election every four years, there is latitude of five months within which our election management body i.e. Independent National Electoral Commission could fix election.  The constitution says elections into the office of the president, governors, National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) and State Houses of Assembly are to be held not earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days to the expiration of the tenure of the incumbent. 
In Kenya, unlike Nigeria, all elections are held in one day. Thus, on the eight of this month, six separate elections - president, national assembly, female representatives, governors, senate and county assemblies – were held simultaneously. No wonder there was huge voter turnout. In Kenya, there is provision for independent candidacy. Indeed, out of the eight presidential candidates that participated in the country’s 2017 election, three of them ran as independents.  In Nigeria, for executive positions such as President, Governor and Chairman of Local Government and Area Council, a candidate has to score 25 percent of votes cast in  two-third of his or her constituency as well as majority of valid votes cast while for legislative positions, a winner emerge by simple majority. However, in Kenya, a presidential candidate need 50 per cent plus one vote as well as 25 per cent of votes cast in 24 out of the 47 counties for first-round victory. Otherwise, there will be a run-off.
In Kenya, unlike Nigeria, there is affirmative action for the marginalised groups.  Out of the 349 Members of Parliament, 290 of them are directly elected while 47 seats are reserved for women to be contested for while six Youths and six Persons with Disabilities are nominated into the parliament. In the country’s 67 member Senate, 47 of them are directly elected while 20 are nominated. Out of the 20 nominees, 16 are women, two are Youths and two are PwD.  History was made last week during the country’s general election. Three Kenyan women were elected governors after beating some of the seasoned male politicians. Joyce Laboso, Anne Waiguru and Charity Ngilu made political history by becoming the first women to be elected as governors in Kenya. Previously, all 47 counties were governed by males.
IEBC of Kenya has chairman and vice chairman. While the chairman, Mr. Wafula W. Chebukati is a man, the vice, Ms. Consolata Nkatha Bucha Maina is a lady. This is called twining in political circles. Out of the eight members of the Commission, three of them are women. Also, Kipng’etich Kones, the son of a late Cabinet Minister Kipkalya Kones, who ran in the Kenyan parliamentary election lost to his mother, Beatrice Kones.  Unlike Nigeria that has 36 states, Kenya has 47 counties which is their equivalent of our state.
While Nigeria’s polling hours is between 8am – 3pm, in Kenya, it is between 6am – 5pm.  No sitting president has ever lost an election in the East African country of 48 million people. This jinx has been broken in Nigeria in 2015. In Kenya, prisoners who are not on death row or serving life sentence are allowed to vote in the presidential election. There is also provision for out-of-country or diaspora voting. In the August 8 general election, Kenyans in five African countries viz. South Africa, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda were registered to vote and approximately 7,000 of them voted in the presidential election. There is also public funding for political parties in the country. In August 2010, Kenya’s new constitution designed to limit the powers of the president and devolve power to the regions was approved in referendum.

Where lies the political lessons for Nigeria? In the noble provisions highlighted above which guarantee inclusive electoral process.  

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Stemming soaring cases of mental illness in Nigeria

So many strange things are happening in Nigeria today that give goose pimples. Oftentimes, I ask myself if those who indulge in many heinous crimes reported in the country are normal. There is tendency for many people to think that only those in hospitals or invalids are sick. Indeed, there are millions of sick people who appear normal. They go to school, work and seem to be okay until when something snap in them and they commit a crime that many thought they are incapable of perpetrating. Then their true health status is revealed. Indeed, many Nigerians are mentally sick.
According to information gathered from the website of MedicineNet, ”Mental illness is any disease or condition that influences the way a person thinks, feels, behaves, and/or relates to others and to his or her surroundings. Although the symptoms of mental illness can range from mild to severe and are different depending on the type of mental illness, a person with an untreated mental illness often is unable to cope with life's daily routines and demands.” Medical researchers have revealed that mental illnesses are caused by a combination of genetic, biological, psychological, and environmental factors.
The serenity of the  town of  Ozubulu in  Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State was shattered last Sunday when a lone gunman marched into St. Philip Catholic Church in the town while the early morning mass was on. By the time the merchant of death fled the premises, he had  killed 11 worshipers and injured 18 others. Can the murderer be said to be mentally fit? Those who rape minors, I mean pedophiles, can they be said to be mentally stable? Can the fathers who are raping their daughters be said to be in full control of their senses? What about the parents that the Nigerian Army claimed are donating their daughters to insurgents as suicide bombers, are they okay?
So many things are happening all around us today that buttress the fact that we live in odd world full of lunatics in decent attires. There have been many reported cases of parents selling off their children because of hunger, people feigning their own kidnap, husbands using their wives for money rituals, servants organising kidnapping and robbery of their bosses among several other crimes.
One of the several mental disorders is depression. According to American Psychiatrist Association, depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. It causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home. Last Saturday, Federal Medical Centre Lokoja, Kogi State held its 2017 Annual General Meeting and the Scientific Conference Week of the Nigerian Medical Association of the state chapter. The theme of the conference was: “Economic Recession and The Rise of Depression”. At the event, a Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr.  Adeyemi Egbeola, decried the increasing rate of recession-associated clinical depression in Nigeria.
According to him, a significant association has been demonstrated between macroeconomic indicators in recession and clinical depression as a mental illness. He was quoted as saying that: “For every suicide committed, there is an average of 20 attempts (ratio 1:20), due to unemployment, self-rated mental health, debts, financial difficulties and other common mental health issues. Depressive disorder account for 80 per cent suicide and hopelessness is the most predictive indicator of suicide, a depressive thought pattern.
The psychiatrist asserted that “In 2015 from January to November, record show that 25, 267 patients were treated on mental health at the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba Lagos, while the number increased to 53,287 in 2016 within the same period”. That is more than 100 per cent increase. Note that these are those who came to hospitals to receive treatment. There are millions of other people suffering from mental illness that are living in denial or lack family care to support their treatment. There are several unaccounted for who are patients at many herbal homes and faith clinics with the hope of getting cured there of their mental problems.
Am sure that by next year when statistics from all our Neuro-psychiatrist hospitals would be out, the number of patients may have quadruple from the current statistics. Why? Starting from July 1, 2017, the Federal Road Safety Commission, worried by the astronomic rate of vehicle accidents in the country, has commenced referral of certain categories of traffic offenders for  psychological evaluation. According to a statement issued on behalf of FRSC Corps Marshal, Dr.  Boboye Oyeyemi by Bisi Kazeem, the FRSC Corps Public Education Officer, the test would focus on four areas of violations including use of phone while driving, traffic light and route violations as well as dangerous driving.  The move, according to him, was necessitated by continued violations in the identified four areas despite efforts by the corps to change the behaviour of motorists through education and enforcement. Truth be told, many Nigerian motorists have become incorrigible on these traffic offences. 
The step by FRSC is therefore in the right direction. However, FRSC should also encourage relevant authorities to make sure that there are properly installed road signs. Many a time, motorists are not notified about roads that are ‘one way’. Many traffic lights are also malfunctioning and in need of repairs.
The phenomenal increase in the number of people with mental illness should worry our government at all levels. This economic recession is biting hard on Nigerian masses and they need succor. There is need to reduce the high level of unemployment and poverty ravaging the land. Many people are today taking solace in crimes and criminality due to inability to meet basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter. Many have become hypertensive and suffered stroke due to these aforementioned predisposing factors. There are those who have committed suicide due to too much economic pressure from their families.

Am also in agreement with the suggestions of Dr. Egbeola that government should also provide cheap, but effective medications while individuals are enjoined to live  healthy lifestyle, take adequate sleep, exercise, eat nourishing balanced diet, avoid smoking and consume alcohol moderately. Above all, there is need for family and friends to help those perceived to have mental illness by taking them to hospital for treatment while not stigmatising them. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

NASS potential failed constitution amendment bid

‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
                                                                                                   – George Santayana
The most trendy news last week, aside the visit of some governors to our ailing president in London, was the fourth amendment of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria by the National Assembly. On Wednesday, July 26, Nigeria’s Senate amended a total of 28 items among the 32 listed for alteration while a day after the House of Representatives amended 21 out of 30 clauses voted on. Since that epochal event took place, I have been privileged to discuss it on some media platforms among them are the Nigerian Television Authority and Silverbird Television.
It has been mixed reactions to the amendment. While some commends the federal lawmakers, many others have condemned them.  Those in the latter category did so on the basis that the two chambers failed to agree to pass the clause on Devolution of Powers from the Exclusive Legislative list to the Concurrent list  and Affirmative Action for Women.  The Gbagyi people who are the indigene of the Federal Capital Territory are also unhappy that their bid to have a minister of their extraction in the Federal Cabinet was aborted by the House of Representatives. In total, about ten items which either of the two chambers of the federal parliament could not pass will not make the list that will be sent to the 36 State Houses of Assembly to vote on.
By my estimation, the items that failed in either chambers apart from the three aforementioned  include the bid to separate office of Attorney General of the Federation and State  from that of  Minister or Commissioner  of Justice; a bill for state creation and boundary adjustment to remove the ambiguity associated with the procedures; the citizenship and indigeneship bill for married women;  a bill that provide for a change in the names of some local government councils; a bill to amend the constitution to allow INEC conduct local government elections in states and the bill to remove certain Acts including the National Youth Service Corps, Land Use Act  and  national security agencies and the Public Complaints Commission from the constitution.
A number of things worry me about this onerous national assignment. My concern stems from some of the constitution amendment bills passed. In April 2015, the four year effort of the National Assembly to alter the Constitution for the fourth time was aborted by President Goodluck Jonathan who refused to sign the amendment bill due to what he called “irregularities and an attempt by the lawmakers to violate the doctrine of Separation of Powers”.  Jonathan in a seven-page letter listed about 13 reasons why he withheld assent to the amendment.  Unfortunately, the National Assembly was unable to exercise the power vested in them to override the veto of the president as stipulated in section 58 (5) of the Constitution.  Though I know that there has been leadership change both at the executive and legislative arm, I do hope NASS has taken cognisance of the concerns raised by the immediate past president and are ensuring that the extant attempt is in full compliance with section 9 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended in 2010. That section enunciated the provision for altering the Constitution.
Let me be more specific. NASS last week passed Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, (Fourth Alteration) Bill, No. 2, 2017 (Authorisation of Expenditure)  which seeks to alter sections 82 and 122 of the Constitution to reduce the period within which the President or Governor of a state may authorise the withdrawal of monies from the consolidated revenue fund in the absence of an appropriation act from 6 months to 3 months.”  President Jonathan raised objection when this bill was passed in the 7th National Assembly as part of Constitution alteration. He said:  “I am of the view that this provision has the potential of occasioning financial hardships and unintended shut-down of government business, particularly where for unforeseen reasons and other exigencies in the polity; the National Assembly is unable to pass the Appropriation Act timeously. Our recent experiences with the process of passing the Appropriation Act do not justify the reduction of six-month time limit in the Constitution”. The former president was spot on! Recall that this year’s budget was only signed into law on June 12, 2017. Thus I foresee a situation where President Buhari may also object to this amendment. 
The passage of Bill No. 17 seeking to alter section 84 of the Constitution to establish the office of the Accountant-General of the Federal Government separate from the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation was also one of the bills passed by the seventh National Assembly but objected to by President Jonathan. His concern then was that it did not address the funding requirements for establishment of the office. “It is necessary to clarify, for instance, who staffs and funds the office of Accountant-General of the Federation and from whose budget he will be paid since he serves the three tiers of government,” he opined.
I also foresee President Buhari and indeed governors picking hole with the passage of Bill No. 10 which seeks to alter sections 58, 59 and 100 to resolve the impasse where the President or Governor neglects to signify his/her assent to a bill from the National Assembly or withhold such assent as well as Bill No. 24 dealing with Procedure for overriding Presidential veto in Constitutional Alteration. The Bill seeks to among other things provide the procedure for passing a Constitution Alteration Bill where the President withholds assent. It will be recalled that these bills were passed in the last constitution alteration exercise and was kicked against by ex-President Jonathan on the basis that they were not passed by four/fifth of each chamber of the National Assembly. Jonathan had further noted that “However, assuming without conceding that the necessary thresholds were met by the National Assembly, there are a number of provisions in the Act that altogether constitute flagrant violation of the doctrine of separation of powers enshrined in the 1999 Constitution and an unjustified whittling down of the executive powers of the federation vested in the President by virtue of Section 5(1) of the 1999 Constitution.”
I sincerely do hope that our lawmakers in passing the new alterations to the Constitution did reckon with the principle of separation of power as well as checks and balances among the three arms of government and among the three tiers of government. I am raising this red flag early in this exercise so that all the noble efforts of the lawmakers do not turn out to be a wild goose chase like the last one turned out to be with huge financial resources squandered. It will be recalled that in the recent past there have been altercations between the executive and legislature over the right interpretation of sections  171 and 69 of the Constitution over the appointment of chairman of Economic *and Financial Crimes Commission as well as recall of Senator Dino Melaye respectively.

As the constitution amendment exercise moves to the State Houses of Assembly, I plead that the state lawmakers will be guided by patriotic zeal and not the dictate of their respective governors. The entire constitution amendment process should be concluded before the end of this year in order to pave way for early implementation of the provisions which has to do with election such as timelines for pre-election dispute resolution, reduction in the age qualification for the offices of the president, governor, House of Representatives and State House of Assembly, increase in the number of days for conduct of by-election, independent candidature, de-registration of political parties, as well as ensuring that the court does not impose anyone who has not participated in all the electoral process as winner. Timely conclusion of this constitution and electoral act amendment will assist INEC immeasurably to effectively plan for the next general elections already scheduled for February 16 and March 2, 2019. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Flooding in Nigeria, a danger foretold!

The rains are here and in torrents, we are indeed at the peak period of the season. There is now widespread flooding across many states. This newspaper on Monday, July 24, 2017 published pictures of flooding in states like Rivers, Delta, Lagos, and Ogun. In Niger State, about 25 persons were reported dead as a result of flooding. A young man, whose name was given simply as Izuchukwu purportedly died in a flood at West End Road area of  Owerri  last Saturday  while a  member of the All Progressives Congress, Alhaji Lateef Ajikanle, was also allegedly  electrocuted when he mistakenly touched live electricity wire while trying to clear debris from the flood in his compound  on Bolaji Omupo Street, Somolu, Lagos State, also last Saturday.
On June 11, 2017 as a result of heavy flooding the bridge in Tatabu, Mokwa Local Government Area of Niger State collapsed. The bridge links Northern and Western parts of the country. Since then, more pressure has been put on Okene-Lokoja-Abuja road which is the alternative to the Mokwa-Bida-Abuja axis. As a result of heavy downpour, the Local Council election of last Saturday, July 22 could not commence as scheduled. Election materials and personnel were soaked in many Polling Stations while the turnout of voters was extremely poor. Early this month, most part of the highbrow residence of Lekki, Victoria Island, Ikoyi, and Ajah in Lagos were submerged in waer after hours of heavy downpour. Roads were closed, lights cut off and property worth billions of Naira lost to these flooding.
The bitter truth is that the worst is not yet over. Heavy rains will still be experienced till about December especially in coastal cities. How did I know?  In March this year, Nigeria Meteorological Agency better known as NiMET published its 2017 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction. It was quite revealing.  According to its Director-General, Prof. Sani Machi, cessation dates of the rains in 2017 are predicted to start from October 4 in the extreme north and reach the coastal states around December 25. “Extended rains of three to eight days are predicted for areas in and around Adamawa, Ogun, Edo, Niger Delta and low-lying areas such as Lagos. The cessation dates of the growing season are predicted to extend well into December over most coastal states of the Niger Delta”. There you are!
“A war foretold does not kill a clever and wise cripple”, so says an old adage. In the case of Nigeria, it is a case of “none so deaf as those who will not hear”. Yearly, NiMET publishes Seasonal Rainfall Prediction; unfortunately both the government and we the people largely ignore the weatherman’s prediction. We carry on lackadaisically. Take for instance the recurring flooding from the Ogunpa River in Ibadan. According to Wikipedia, in 1960, more than 1,000 residents were rendered homeless when the Ogunpa River  exceeded its banks. More than 500 houses were damaged in 1963 when the river again flooded the city. In 1978, official record confirmed that 32 bodies were retrieved from the ruins of the flood even as more than 100 houses were destroyed. It was the flood of 1980 that however gave "Ogunpa" a national and international notoriety. After about 10 hours of heavy, the city was virtually left in ruins. More than 100 bodies were retrieved from the debris of collapsed houses and vehicles washed away by the deluge.
In 2011, precisely Friday, August 26 another flood seized the Oyo State capital after a seven hour torrential rain. Death toll in the Ibadan flood was conservatively put by Red Cross at over 100 while properties worth billions of Naira were also lost to the ‘tsunami’. University of Ibadan alone claimed to have lost over N10 billion worth of assets.  News reports on Wednesday, August 31, 2011 quoted the then Vice Chancellor of University of Ibadan, Professor Isaac Adewole, as having said that: “The major calamity suffered by the university include the washing away of the Fish Farm with different species of fish valued at about N300 million, flooding of the Zoological Garden leading to the death of animals, extensive damage of the Teaching and Research Farm and the destruction of books estimated to the tune of N2bn. Besides, many gigantic buildings, laboratories and expensive equipment were destroyed by the flood which equally pulled down the university fence and 13 electricity poles, thereby compounding the hitherto poor electricity supply to the institution.” Corroborating the V.C, Head of Department of Fishery, Dr Bamidele Omitoye, said that special species of fish such as claias gariepinus, heterobranchus bidorsalis, oreochromis niloticus and parachana obscura were swept away.
Has anything been done differently to prevent further flooding in Oyo State or Nigeria since that time. I sincerely doubt. Water channels are still being blocked by refuse dumps from many homes. People are still building on riverbanks and waterways. Though environmental sanitation is called for every last Saturday of the month, many residents only use the time to relax in their homes since there will be restriction of movements. It is high time government takes proactive steps to prevent further flooding than already experienced this year. Environmental Health Officers better known as Sanitary Inspectors need to go out to mobilise residents to clear water channels and drainages. Those who build on waterways should be given quit notice, relocated to safer environment while their illegal structures should be demolished.
Furthermore, town planning authorities should go round communities and carry out stress test on residential structures, Any dilapidated buildings, even if not on waterways should be pulled down in a controlled manner so that flood will not pull such houses down in a manner that can constitute danger to adjoining buildings. A lot of public enlightenments also need to be sustainably carried out on the dangers of blocking water channels with solid wastes.  I also advise that anytime there is heavy downpour electricity distribution companies should take a proactive measure to cut off light until when it is sure that the rains had stopped and that there is no complaint of any fallen electric poles or snapped cables which can constitute danger to residents. Electricity companies should also take preemptive step by ensuring that electric poles in their areas of operations are standing well and that there is no fallen electricity cable that can constitute danger to members of the public. There is no gainsaying that many people have been electrocuted during flooding.
Government at all levels should also put their disaster management agencies on high alert. With the best of efforts, there could still be flood. However, prompt response from agencies like the Emergency Management Agencies as well as Fire Service can mitigate the potential damage and destruction. Internally Displaced Camps should be readied to accommodate victims of flood disaster.  In addition to NIMET’s nationwide weather forecast, I enjoin each state government to also commission localised meteorological studies of their own for a more accurate and in-depth weather forecast. A stich in time saves nine!
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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wanted: Agrarian revolution for economic development

If you cannot feed the world, feed yourself!  
- Dr. David Oyedepo, Chancellor, Landmark University, Omu Aran, Kwara State.
It was a great privilege and honour to be the guest of Landmark University during her just concluded 4th Convocation Ceremony held last week from Wednesday, July 12 to Sunday, July 16, 2017. Though I was not there for all the time but the two full days I spent in that citadel of learning was an eye opener for me.  I learnt a lot from some of the wisdom nuggets shared by Bishop David Oyedepo as well as the convocation lecture delivered by Mr. Mezuo Nwuneli as well as the keynote address by Professor Suleiman Elias Bogoro. Since then, I have come to realise the full import of agriculture both for food security as well as economic development.
Erroneously, many of us look at agriculture as mere cultivation for food production, sales and consumption. It is more than that.  At Landmark, I learnt about agribusiness and agripreneurship.  It is noteworthy that all students in the university irrespective of their course of study had to learn about agriculture. The school is also the only one in Nigeria offering Certificate and Diploma in Agripreneurship. Did you know that there is no home in the world that does not contain agricultural products or by-products? Here I am not talking of food which is compulsory and is found in every home. What about the flowers, the trees, the furniture, the shoes, the bags, the belts, the clothes, the books, the newspapers, tissue papers, cartons, the drugs, cigars, cigarettes,  tobacco, wines, fruit juice, soft drinks  and several other daily needs at home? They are all agricultural produce and by-products.
Last Thursday, Mr. Mezuo Nwuneli who presented the convocation lecture spoke on “The Business of Agriculture: Benchmarking and Attaining New Frontiers  in Agricultural Development for Africa”.  In an illuminating speech, the guest lecturer spoke of business of agriculture. According to him Agribusiness encompasses the interlinked set of activities from the farm to the fork. It includes four key segments: Agricultural Input Industry for increasing agricultural productivity, such as agricultural machinery, equipment and tools; fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides; and irrigation systems and related equipment.
There is also Production and Processing for Agro-industry. Here he spoke about food and beverages; tobacco products, leather and leather products; textile; footwear and garments; wood and wood products; rubber products; as well as construction industry products based on agricultural materials.  Mention was also made of Agricultural Processing Equipment which includes machinery (cleaning, sorting and grading, milling, blending, packaging}, cooling technology, tools and spare parts. Lastly are the support services such as transportation logistics, marketing, and distribution, storage facilities (silos, cold room, warehouses); information technology services; and packaging materials.
Nwuneli reeled out a lot of statistics, graphs and survey reports to demonstrate the numerous challenges and solutions to Nigeria’s attainment of agrarian revolution. He noted inter alia that an average Nigerian spends 50 per cent of his or her earnings on food and that the country imports over 45 per cent of its food needs. He stated also that over the past 10 years, there has been a gradual increase in agribusiness investments in Nigeria. The ‘agripreneur’ noted that there are broad range of opportunities in agricultural production, processing, storage and distribution, financing, and inputs. He went into details of opportunities in cassava and tomato processing as well as integrated poultry.
The keynote speaker, Professor Suleiman Elias Bogoro made his own presentation during the main convocation event last Friday, July 14, 2017. He spoke on the topic “Revolutionizing Agriculture: A Catalyst for Up scaling Development and Transformation in Africa”. In the well-researched paper, Bogoro, a renowned Professor of Animal Science from Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University in Bauchi who is also the immediate past Executive Secretary of Tertiary Education Trust Fund delved into the various government initiatives aimed at revolutionizing agriculture in Nigeria, their successes and challenges, as well as the roles of different stakeholders in the attainment of agrarian revolution in Nigeria, nay Africa.  
For instance he did an overview of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s administration under the immediate past Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina. According to the erudite scholar, “The overarching objectives of the ATA are to boost agricultural output, encourage private sector engagement, and create 3.5m new jobs in the farming sector. The ATA aims to boost farmers’ incomes by N300bn ($1.5bn) by increasing productivity, securing greater market access, and strengthening value chains. At the heart of ATA is the idea that agriculture should be a business rather than a development activity and that efforts to grow the sector require strategic direction rather than the pursuit of piecemeal disconnected projects.”. The speaker said ATA has achieved limited success with many of the objectives yet to be fully realized. Bogoro observed that the main policy thrust of the incumbent Buhari administration is “to embark on a massive and comprehensive reorganisation and revolutionalisation of the agricultural sector” 
The university don listed six actions required to spur transformational growth in Nigeria’s agricultural sector. They are: Consistence and high level policy attention. To him, “Agricultural reform and transformation will require policy stability and continuity that builds and improves on the progress already made. He also called for more investment in agriculture. In his view, Nigeria has not come close to meeting the African Union’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme guideline for African countries to spend at least 10 per cent of their budgets on agriculture. He challenged all tiers of government to get involved in the transformation agenda and that efforts should be made to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the three tiers of government for agricultural policy and delivery.
Bogoro called for more emphasis to be placed on research and development. He observed that Nigeria is home to 15 national agricultural research institutes and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture. Unfortunately, spending on these institutes has been very inadequate. Yet, there is need for greater emphasis on developing research that provides practical solutions to the problems faced by farmers.  He also called for the active engagement of smallholder as well as young farmers.   He equally stated that value addition on our agricultural commodities hold the key to increased incomes and reducing the huge post-harvest losses. To attain self-sufficiency in food production and processing, he opined that it is important to have infrastructure that will support production and accessibility to markets such as dams, irrigation facilities and silos.
The keynote speaker observed the preference of Nigerian policy maker for the crop subsector with little attention given to livestock and fisheries subsectors. This, he observed, is at variance with the practice in developed countries. He challenged Landmark University to develop Agro-technology Park similar to the popular Research Triangle of North Carolina in USA. The academic also lend his support to the proposed Agricultural Trust Fund.
Since I listened to the soul steering paper presentations of the two guest speakers, I have been having introspection of how to get involved in the agriculture value chain. I never knew there are boundless opportunities in that sector as I have been made to see. Even the elementary aspect which is food production is a money spinner. Like Bishop David Oyedepo said at LMU convocation last week, “Until life ceases to be, food will remain relevant. Food market will forever remain open. Get involved!”  
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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Osinbajo’s noble advice to African leaders

“The tragic consequences of wars and conflicts in Africa are self-evident. The millions killed and maimed, the millions displaced, children out of school, set us back decades economically and socially. Our resolve to end wars and conflicts in Africa is therefore our vote for a future of real growth and development for our continent.”
– Acting President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo on July 3, 2017 at the 29th AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Africa Union held its 29th Summit last week and it was another rainbow coalition of leaders from the 54 African countries.  They   jaw-jawed once again to find lasting solutions to the myriads of challenges confronting the continent.  Nigeria’s delegate to the summit was ably led by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo.  Incidentally, Nigeria, this July, officially assumed the one-month rotational chairmanship of the African Union Peace and Security Council. Nigeria's Permanent Representative to the AU, Mr. Bankole Adeoye, took over from Mr. Susan Sikaneta, the Permanent Representative of Zambia, who held the Presidency for the month of June.
It is important to state that “the Peace and Security Council is the standing organ of the AU for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts.  The PSC was established to be a collective security and ‘early warning’ arrangement with the ability to facilitate timely and efficient responses to conflict and crisis situations. The PSC’s core functions are to conduct early warning and preventive diplomacy, facilitate peace-making, establish peace-support operations and, in certain circumstances, recommend intervention in Member States to promote peace, security and stability. The PSC also works in support of peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction as well as humanitarian action and disaster management.”
Professor Osinbajo was at his eloquent and articulate best when he delivered his address on Peace and Security in Africa. Apart from the opening quote of this article which is an excerpt from the Acting President’s speech, he also said, inter alia, that: “We have no choice; peace, security and stability are fundamental to the realisation of sustainable development and to assure our people of decent and happy lives. As we move towards silencing the guns by 2020, our collective resolve must remain solid and steadfast to effectively tackle conflicts, terrorism, violent extremism and the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.” My president, you’re indeed spot on!
Africa’s growth and development have been stunted and retarded as a result of plethora of senseless conflicts and wars. From the fratricidal hostilities in Somalia, South Sudan, Guinea Bissau, Libya, DR Congo and Central African Republic to the Xenophobic attacks in South Africa. The continent is also being plagued with terrorism and violent extremism in Sinai Peninsula of Egypt as well as the North Eastern Nigeria and parts of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Mali where Boko Haram insurgency is raging.  In the 1990s Nigeria deployed huge human and material resources under the ECOWAS Military Operations better known as ECOMOG in order to quell uprisings in Liberia and Sierra Leone. 
In all these bloodlettings, millions of lives were lost, many were maimed, huge refugee and internally displaced persons emerged and on many occasions, United Nations has to step in when AU cannot mobilise sufficient resources for its peace keeping operations. Out of the 16 Peace Keeping Missions currently being undertaken all over the world, nine of them are taking place in Africa alone. They are in Western Sahara, Liberia, Dafur, Mali, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Cote D’Ivoire, DR Congo and Abyei. That is to let you know the burden Africa has become to the rest of the world.
Due to the youth bulge in the continent, the frequent conflicts has led to the ugly phenomenon of child soldering where very young boys are conscripted to fight in a war that they do not understand the basis. As earlier mentioned, these conflicts have led to significant increase in the number of IDPs, refugees, out-of-school children as well as famine. The Acting President was on point  when he advised that as a first step, AU must ensure the full implementation of the African Peace and Security Architecture, especially the operationalisation of the African Standby Force and the Peace Fund.
It is unfortunate that since 1963 when Organisation for African Unity was formed before its metamorphosis into   African Union, the continent has no standby force. Funding has equally remained a potent challenge as the continental body continues to be starved of financial resources by member countries who failed to pay their annual dues.  Southern African Legal Information Institute research shows that five countries -- Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, and South Africa --cover at least 66 per cent of the member states' share of the budget. However, for years most of the AU's budgets and programmes have been financed by foreign donors, including the European Union, the US, China, the World Bank and the United Kingdom, according to available financial statements. While the AU's budget grew from $278.2 million in 2013 to $393.4 million in 2015, external financing also rose from 56 per cent to 61.7per cent in the corresponding years.
Hear our Acting President again, “We must redouble our efforts, and without equivocation avail the necessary resources, in order to successfully achieve the goals set out in Agenda 2063. We need to rekindle our political will and determination not to bequeath to the next generation of Africans the burden of wars, poverty and misery. It is therefore necessary for the Assembly to reaffirm the overriding importance of holistically addressing the root causes of violent conflicts in our countries.” One of the seven aspirations of Agenda 2063 which was developed in 2013 when AU celebrated its 50th anniversary is to have ‘a peaceful and secure Africa’.  Part of the milestones set under this aspiration is to ‘silence the guns by 2020’.  Is that feasible?
It is indeed a noble aspiration. However, barely three years to the attainment of that target, we’re still faced with the challenge of proliferation of small arms and light weapons which are smuggled into many of the armed conflict zones in Africa. These unlicensed weapons are difficult to mop up due to the porous international borders of many African countries coupled with lack of political will to act. Last Thursday, I was on Silverbird Television to discuss this issue and the moderator asked me how to address the root causes of conflicts in Africa.

My answer was that these have been well documented from many commissioned researches of African Union itself and those conducted by academics in ivory towers as well as civil society organisations working with regional and continental bodies like AU. They range from ‘sit-tightism’ by some African leaders to flawed elections, injustices, poverty, external influence (regime change policy of some Western countries), marginalisation, distrust, discriminations and lack of constitutionalism. What is to be done to address all these identified triggers of conflict? Good governance. QED.