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Yar’Adua Calls For Peace In N’Delta

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President Umru Yar’Adua has advised the Niger Delta region to embrace peace and support development initiatives in the region.

The president also reaffirmed his administration’s readiness to invest in power to eradicate poverty.

President Yar’Adua, who is on an official visit to Bayelsa State, arrived the peace park, venue of the civic reception held for him by his host, Governor Timpre Sylva, in company of the Minister of Solid Minerals, Mrs. Daezani Madueke and Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, Governor of Rivers State.

However, both senators and members of House of Representatives representing the state in the National Assembly were absent. An Abuja source confided that the legislators did not accompany the president because they said they were not invited by the state government. But a top government official denied this saying they were sent letters of invitation.

Yar’Adua, who expressed his administration’s preparedness to transform the Niger Delta, urged those he described as merchants of violence to change their ways.

But to those who genuinely took up arms to draw attention to the sad situation to the region, he said, “we have heard you and we are ready to work with you to move the Niger Delta forward in the interest of its long-suffering people.

“But to those hiding under the cover of legitimate protest to feather private nests, those merchants of violence, I say to you: change your ways, the people of Niger Delta have seen through your antics and will soon expose you”.

He urged all the people to give the administration a chance to earn their trust.

The president expressed hope that soon, “the region will be transformed into a development hub not only for Nigeria but also for the West African sub-region, in a way that will surpass the recent post-conflict transformation of Angola. But this cannot happen without peace and partnership.

“This is why we are strongly committed to prompt payment of all statutory allocations due to the region and to continued support to interventionist agencies like the NDDC. This is also why we created the Ministry of Niger Delta to coordinate our holistic approach to he transformation of this region.”

He, however, noted that all these would come to naught without peace, without trust, and cooperation of stakeholders.

“Let me therefore use this opportunity to state categorically that our amnesty offer to militants is not a ruse. It is for real “he said, and stressed that the administration would continue to put in place every measure that would bring about peace.

He said the complaints of the people of the region have been noted and expressed his determination to work with them to uplift the state and the region.

Speaking on power, he said it would impact on the lives of Bayelsans.

According to him, regular supply of electricity would improve the productive capacities of Bayelsans and deepen opportunities for growth and prosperity.

The administration, according to him, believes power represents a principal pathway out of poverty for Nigerians.

“Clearly, we need to fix electricity as quick as possible”.

“This is why electricity is accorded a priority position under critical infrastructure in our 7-Point Agenda. And this is why we are not wavering in our commitment to generating and distributing 6,000 MW by the end of this year, and 10,000 MW by 2011. There are enormous challenges ahead but the targets will be met”.

Wife of the Vice President, Mrs Dame Patience Jonathan (2nd leftt) in a handshake with some dignataries  while wife of Rivers State Governor, Lady Judith Amaechi,  watches at the Port Harcourt Airport, recently. Photo: Ike Wigodo.

Wife of the Vice President, Mrs Dame Patience Jonathan (2nd leftt) in a handshake with some dignataries while wife of Rivers State Governor, Lady Judith Amaechi, watches at the Port Harcourt Airport, recently. Photo: Ike Wigodo.

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Opinion

A Trophy Beyond Atrophy

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Trophies, in whatever form or substance, signify exploits in service to the community and advancement of human endeavour towards pushing the boundaries of knowledge, development or human enterprise; they are obtained at various levels and stages of life: at school, village, community, local government, state, national or international level, in public office, private sector, etc. Irrespective of what level or where they are obtained, trophies attest to human commitment to and achievement in development in every field and they are rarely hidden in chests or closets; rather, they are conspicuously displayed on walls of hallowed halls for passersby to see, appreciate and thereby be inspired and emulate. Generically speaking, trophies come in form of statuettes, shields, cups, etc, awarded as a mark of success in competition or for meritorious service to mark special achievements; these become keepsake, souvenir, mementos to proudly show off during one’s lifetime and even beyond by family.
A typology of trophies indicates that it is those that come in form of plaque imbedded in the concrete wall of the entrance of a building or cenotaph at some point of a social infrastructure that get the most exposure and attention. Largely, it is those that relate to the provision of basic infrastructure, especially those areas that affect the generality of the public in their everyday lives that are most relevant, most visible, most endearing to the public and, therefore, most memorable. For instance, Point Block, the tallest building in old Rivers State (Rivers and Bayelsa States), is the most conspicuous trophy of the Diete-Spiff administration; it is a memorabilia to be proud of. In this vein, September 2019 will go down the history of Rivers State as a month during which Rivers people witnessed the commissioning of an unprecedented number of completed projects in one fell swoop. Between September 9 and 27, 2019, Governor Wike commissioned fifteen projects that touch virtually every segment of the society from the educational sector through markets, entertainment, labour union, student union, housing to roads; it was really a bountiful harvest of completed projects.
Departing from the tangible ones, trophies can also be invisible, intangible and intrinsic. For instance, the generation of this author can never ever forget the robust scholarship programme of the Diete-Spiff administration. It is on record that in response to the acute dearth of manpower in the state in the immediate post-civil war period when Indians, Pakistanis, Puerto Ricans, Filipinos and people from neighbouring states manned the state’s Civil Service and taught in the schools, Diete-Spiff embarked on a liberal educational policy given which virtually every Rivers indigene with the requisition qualification and admission to study whatever and wherever on earth was given scholarship.
On Monday, November 18, 2019, the executive members of the Rivers State Government Committee on Accreditation and Approval of Private Schools (CAAPS), led by Prof Ozo-Mekuri Ndimele, submitted the final report of the 46-member Committee to Secretary to the State Government, Hon Dr. Tammy Danagogo, at the Rivers State Government Secretariat, Port Harcourt. Established by Governor Nyesom Wike and inaugurated on July 8, 2019 to evaluate the functionality of private nursery, primary and secondary schools in the State, CAAPS, which was made up of professors, bureaucrats and seasoned technocrats, physically visited, reviewed and evaluated the facilities, equipment, personnel and operations of 2,586 institutions. The Committee devolved into several subcommittees and visited schools across the state from Ndoni at the northern fringes of the state to Andoni at the Atlantic seaboard. Between these two geographical extremes, they visited schools in Aseasaga, Aggah, Utu, Uju, Omoku, Rukpokwu, Obrikom, Rumueprikom, Ebocha, Igweocha, Mgbede, Ede, Egbada, Egbeda, Elibrada, Egbema, Degema, Igwuruta, Rumuokwuta, Abuloma, Ogoloma, Bodo, Mgbodo and other communities imbued with commonalities that run deeper than the superficialities of poetic rhymes and rhythms. At the end of the exercise, 1,405 were fully accredited, 754 earned interim accreditation while 427 were denied accreditation; this reflects 54 per cent accredited, 29.2 per cent interim accreditation and 16.5 per cent denied. Further analysis of these figures belongs in a forthcoming academic endeavour and another narrative.
It has been said that a major barometer for measuring the health of a nation is through the pulse of its educational system; also, at the gate of a major university in Africa, it is written inter alia that to destroy a nation does not require utilizing nuclear bombs and long-range missiles; rather, it requires lowering the standards in its educational institutions, allowing students to cheat during examinations and letting the teachers get away with underhand practices. Setting up CAAPS was, therefore, a product of a combination of factors: (1) the patriotic fervor of Governor Wike (2) his experience as Minister of Education and (3) the realisation that decadence in the educational system spells doom for any society. The point remains that while the work of the Committee left no physical structure or edifice to behold now and in times to come, its product is the establishment of a solid foundation with unquestionable integrity on which the superstructure of education in the state will stand firm, soar and produce educationally well-rounded citizens for Rivers State and Nigeria. This constitutes an invisible edifice that will outlive physical structures, which could be brought down like the Olympia Hotel, Port Harcourt; a fate the majestic Point Block narrowly escaped.
Obviously, if the standards set and recommendations made by CAAPS are maintained and sustained by subsequent administrations in the continuum of governance in the State then that would be Governor Wike’s intangible legacy; a bequest that will outlive every superstructure and continue to impact positively on the lives and standard of living of the people of Rivers State ad infinitum. It will be Wike’s invisible plaque that would defy display on walls, halls and cenotaphs. Undoubtedly, it is a trophy beyond atrophy.
Dr Osai lectures at the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

 

By: Jason Osai

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Opinion

Our Politicians, A National Curse?

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Recently, the famous Kenyan Pan-Africanist advocate, Prof Patrick Lumumba, had this to say about African leaders, “The Africa’s politician is perhaps (with due respect to them), African’s curse. The day the African politician realises that the occupation of political office and political space is one of servant leadership, that is the day Africa will begin to move in the right direction”
Situate that speech to Nigeria and you will agree that the prof is not far from the truth. In the country today, majority of the people are in lack. There is abject poverty, insecurity, high level of unemployment, lack of infrastructure and many more. The new minimum wage of N30,000.00 is still a big issue in many states. Workers in some states are still being owed many months’ salaries and arrears. Civil servants are not being promoted. Retirees are not paid their pensions and gratuities. Stories abound about how some of them slumped and died during verification exercises to enable them collect the paltry sum.
Amidst this misery of the people, ex-governors, their deputies and other top political office holders in some states collect humongous sums of money every month in the name of pensions and allowances in addition to other unmerited privileges. After years of siphoning state funds without accountability, the ex-governors stampeded their state Assemblies to pass obnoxious and anti-people laws, enabling them to milk the states for life in the form of pension.
In Lagos State, for instance, the 2007 Pension Law states that former governors of the state are entitled to a house each in any location of their choice in Lagos and Abuja. Section 2 of the law states that, “One residential house each for the governor and the deputy governor at any location of their choice in Lagos State and one residential house in the Federal Capital Territory for the governor on two consecutive terms.” The law also provides for six new cars every three years, 100 per cent of the basic salary of the serving governor (N7.7million per annum), as well as free health care for himself and members of his family. The law also says former governors will be entitled to furniture allowance, which is 300 per cent of their annual basic salary (N23.3million); house maintenance allowance, which is 10 per cent of basic salary (N778, 296); utility allowance, which is 20 per cent of the salary (N1.5million) and car maintenance allowance, which is 30 per cent of the annual basic salary (N2.3million). Other benefits include entertainment allowance, which is 10 per cent of the basic salary (N778, 296) and a personal assistant, who will earn 25 per cent of the governor’s annual basic salary (N1.9million). A former governor will also be entitled to eight policemen and two officials of the Department of State Services for life.
The Gombe State the Executive Pension Law is said to provide monthly salary for life to all former governors and deputy governors. An ex-governor is also entitled to a 30-day paid travel expenses annually to any country of his choice alongside his wife, so also the deputy governor and his wife. They have a choice to ask for a befitting house of their choice at any location in the state, or may request that money equivalent to such house be given to them. A former governor is also entitled to two utility cars, while his deputy is entitled to one car to be replaced periodically. The governor is entitled to an employee on Salary Grade Level 12 who will be serving him, also to be paid by the state government. Both the governor, deputy governor and their wives are entitled to paid medical treatment at home or abroad. The state executive pension law also stated that a governor and his deputy serving their second term can pay themselves the housing and gratuity if they have successfully finished one term in office.
The story is not different in our state, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Kano, Sokoto, Kwara and Zamfara (before the law was repealed by the state House of Assembly few days ago). Meanwhile, most of these ex-governors are still in government either as ministers or federal lawmakers, receiving huge salaries and allowances.
So it is heartwarming to know that the court has ordered the Federal Government to recover pensions collected by former governors serving as ministers and members of the National Assembly. In judgement to a suit filed by Socio – Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), challenging the legality of pension laws in question, Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court, Okoyi, Lagos State, also reportedly directed the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN to challenge the legality of states’ pension laws permitting former governors and other ex-public officials to collect such pensions.
This landmark judgement will surely go a long way in rekindling the peoples’ dying belief in the court as the last hope of the common man. But knowing “how good our leaders, especially those at the highest level, are good at obeying court orders”, we wait to see how things will pan out. However, for a government that is interested in the good of the citizens, compliance to this order should be prioritized.
Meanwhile, while the federal government is playing her own part, State Houses of Assembly where this repugnant law is in existence should emulate their colleagues in Zamfara State by speedily repealing it. We obviously do not need laws that will permit a few priviledged people to be living as super rich and demi-gods at the detriment of the generality of the people. We are tired of selfish leaders who see political offices as an opportunity to milk the states and the nation, thereby becoming a curse to the people instead of blessing.
It is high time we had servant-leaders who will see leadership as an honour and a privilege if we must develop as a nation. In the words of Craig D. Laounsbrough, “The sacrifice ‘of’ self for the greater good is the greatest calling imaginable, and it is the bedrock of the greatest nations. The sacrifice ‘for’ self is the most pathetic calling imaginable, and it is the quicksand within which nations perish”.

 

By: Calista Ezeaku

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Issues

Sale-Of-State Syndrome

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Not many Nigerian elite became aware when Nigerian politics became a gangsterist affair and what accounted for that peculiar feature, and whose interest such development was meant to serve. Similarly, not many Nigerians had an opportunity to read an online posting by The Times, April 9, 2008. Its title was: The New Scramble for Africa Begins: Modern Imperialism on the Resource-Rich Continent will be less Benign than old Colonialism. Its author was one Matthew Parris, making reference to “Black gangster governments” emerging under the guise of democracy.
It is quite unfortunate that the docile and myopic nature of the Nigerian masses should be exploited to such an extent that people can be induced to sell and enslave themselves. For example, how many people took note or reflected on the following statement of a governor: “Anything that will promote the interest of Rivers State is what I will do. You can be my sister state, if you want to take what belongs to Rivers State, I will not agree. I will not sell Rivers State”. (The Tide 25/11/19 – page 39).
With reference to the controversies over the recent elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States, there was a phone call from a Kenyan research fellows, saying that what is happening in Nigeria is “not an exclusively Nigerian affair”. He did not want to go for. Knowing him for his level of articulateness and deep degree of perception, it was not difficult to grasp the message of the Kenyan diplomat.
Commenting on the same recent elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, made statements that Nigerians should think about seriously. He said “President Buhari by now ought to have summoned his service chiefs and ordered a presidential investigation into the violence and observed infractions in the elections, including the deployment of a police helicopter to teargas voters”. He went on to add that “it is clear that he is more interested in the survival of the APC than the survival of democracy”.
The aforementioned online posting of April 19, 2008, did talk about “raping” of African countries by self-interested Asian or Western powers” who sponsor “Black gangster governments”. While such foreign powers do not need to administer or visit the territory, the strategy is to “buy your own gang” and “give it support munitions, bribes and protection to keep the roads and airports open”. What is the vital issue at stake? Matthew Parris said it is oil!
The fact that allocation of oil blocks in Nigeria is shrouded in secrecy and chicanery also goes with the fact that those given such allocations merely become rent collectors. Without the technical wherewithal, they sell the allocations to foreign partners, who should rightly be called buccaneers perhaps, these foreign buccaneers or middlemen, are those who “buy and sponsor Black gangster governments”, for their own business purposes.
The perennial state of instability, insecurity, corruption and social injustices involved in a “do-or-die” system of politics and governance, may not be unconnected with the Matthew Parris theory of “Black gangster governments”. If that is not the case, then why is democracy being subverted and undermined under the guise of election? Why are the security and armed forces involved in the way they are in electoral process?
While there are many glib talks and explanations about the unstable state of developing countries, not much is known about foreign influences fuelling such state of instability. If no other fact can be pointed out, the issue of arms proliferation can suffice to support the theory of foreign collaboration.
Common weapons used by heartless economic interests to maintain the status quo include arms, money, power, intimidation, violence, corruption, poverty, mendacity, hypocrisy etc.
Unfortunately, members of the security and armed forces, wittingly or unwittingly become participants or partners in this sad mission. It is a well-known fact that global capitalism operates at its worst in the oil and gas sector, of which Nigeria is a playing field. When the military handed over power to civilian politicians in 1999, details of the constitution were not made open.
The fact that elected members of the National Assembly were showered with lots of money as allowances and benefits, was meant to provide a safe landing for the military and their collaborators. It is also a fact that a major part of oil block allocations was done by the military and more in favour of their collaborators. Therefore, there is a close relationship between oil politics and the military, such that who holds power matters a lot.
We cannot deny the fact that it takes gangsterism to subvert and dethrone a democracy in such a nasty way that elections can become a warfare. Why are voters being intimidated, bought over with money or burnt alive because of what party they belong? Obviously, there is more to the gangsterist nature of Nigerian politics than what meets the4 eyes.
Not only voters are being subjected to anti-democratic assaults, but efforts are being deliberately made to expand and consolidate power, just like PDP once boasted that it would remain in power for 50 years without being dislodged. Is that democracy?

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