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For Gains Of Amnesty To Endure

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At last we are beginning to see glimpses of a blue sky over the Niger Delta region. The stormy clouds have lifted: the blinding lightening has ceased and the clattering thunder has died down. This clement condition is possible largely because of the unconditional amnesty that President Umaru Musa Yar’;Adua granted repentant militants.

It came as a big relief when the likes of Henry Okah, Ebikabowei Ben ( alias Boyloaf ), Ateke Tom. Government Ekpemupolo (a.k.a Tompolo) and other militants accepted the amnesty programme. This development is a remarkable breakthrough for the government as sceptics never gave the pacification strategy any chance of success. 

Indeed. the success that the amnesty initiative has recorded so far marks a turning point in the effort of President Yar’Adua to translate one of his seven-point agenda into reality. This much was acknowledged by the Director General of the European Union. Mr. Stefano Manservisi. while disclosing that his organisation had set aside 90 million Euros to support the post-amnesty programme. He said: “’This is indeed a very important turning point and we welcome it very much. We at the EC will urge the government of Nigeria to continue the effort of sustainable rehabilitation and reintegration of the former militants”. One cannot but agree.

The President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Mr. Ledum Mitee also captured the essence when he said that the amnesty “should be a process and not a one-off thing.” The major task now is to change the mindset of the youths who have become accustomed to using violence to achieve their goals. They must be made to appreciate the virtues of dialogue in conflict resolution. In addition, they must also recognise that there is dignity in embracing decent means of livelihood.

This cannot be achieved by giving the repentant militants red carpet reception in Aso Rock. Flying them into Abuja with presidential jets gives the impression that the government is glamourising militancy. Yes. the militants need to be appeased but it is wrong to cast them in the mould of regional role models. According to a former oil minister. Prof. Tam David-West the entire process was too razzmatazzed’ and politicised to give the profound event a real soul.

Again, we must not lose sight of the fact that amnesty is only a prelude to finding satisfactory solutions to the main cause of the crisis in the region. which is lack of’ development. It must, therefore be followed with several programmes that would rapidly and significantly transform the oil-bearing communities. The needed massive development should go alongside a well organised re-orientation. training and re­training programmes for the youths. Their bursting energies and world view should be properly channelled towards productive ventures.

The steps taken so far towards addressing the anomalous situation in the oil-rich Niger Delta seem to focus only on repentant militants or those who claim to be the ‘“kings of the creeks.” Unfortunately, this approach is defective and in fact counter­productive, as the army of unemployed youths in the rogion may be tempted to enlist into militant camps just to attract attention. Of course. they would aspire to be accorded presidential attention and royal treatment as is currently being given to the ex-militant leaders. To guard against another resurgence of militancy, there should be an all-inclusive re-orientation and empowerment of the youths irrespective of whether they were former militants or those who have always embraced the peace alternative.

Indeed, the re-orientation should not be limited to seminars and workshops in high­brow venues such as Abuja, Lagos. or other cities in the Niger Delta. To reach the youths at the grass roots, the training and re-training programmes should  be taken to the schools, churches, town hall meetings and market squares in the villages and creeks. The recent post amnesty seminar organised by the Bayelsa State Government in Kaduna. though well-intentioned. took place in a wrong location. Obviously, that event was not meant for the youths of the Niger Delta. who should constitute the target audience of such a gathering. It can best be described as an ill-advised political jamboree, mainly for political heavy-weights. especially those of northern extraction. It nevertheless provided a platform for the Speaker of the  House of Representatives. Mr. Dimeji Bankole to take swipes at Niger Delta political leaders. whom he accused of conspiring to squander the resources entrusted to them.

What the Niger Delta youths need now are programmes that would reshape them and make them better human beings., They should not just be trained and left to grope in the dark alleys of the unemployment market. The should he mentored to fully imbibe the habits of managing their own businesses successfully. This is very important as the President of National Institute of Marketing of Nigeria. Chief Lugard Airniuwu explains: “while training is just about knowledge, mentoring takes care of the total human being. It moulds and shapes the person’s beliefs and values. You use mentoring to lift the person to another level of confidence.”

The youths of the region should be made to see achievement-oriented and honest leaders of the region as their role models. Certainly not the militant leaders. some of who have used violent means to traumatise the nation. Yes, some of the ex-militant “generals” had good intentions when they started the struggle, which is to draw attention to the neglect of their region. Even then, they don’t have to spill the blood of fellow Niger Deltans to achieve their goal.

Credit must be given to the Non-Violence Training Programme for Youths initiated by the Niger Delta  Development Commission. NDDC. in 2008. The scheme. which was introduced as part of the strategies adopted by a Think Tank on the Niger Delta is aimed at reforming the youths who may have resorted to anti-social activities as a result of unemployment.

What has been gained through the non-violence training must be sustained to ensure that the youths do not relapse into another round of violent behaviour. This can be achieved by making sure that they arc gainfully employed. There is no fulfilling the adage that the devil finds work for the idle hand.

The post-amnesty era requires a change of strategy to make sure that the gains of the struggle are sustainable so as to benefit the people in the creeks. Blowing up of pipelines inflicts more pains on the ordinary people. destroys the ecosystem and renders Niger Delta farmers and fishermen jobless as well as increase the level of diseases and other environmental hazards. It is not the kind of struggle the people bargained for. We want a struggle that will enhance the living standard of our people. a struggle that is intellectually-driven as exemplified by the late Ken Saro-Wiwa.

As has been generally acknowledged, the economic well-being of Nigeria rests squarely on the Niger Delta. President Yar’Adua puts it succinctly: “If government must succeed in its bid to secure the country, it must first secure the Niger Delta region”. And that is exactly what he has striven to do through the amnesty.

He was right when he said at a stakeholder’s forum last year that .” if the people can see that their leaders are honest they will understand,  but once they see that their leaders are in power to make money. then there will be a problem·. Now. where are these Niger Delta political leaders, who can confidently and honestly thump their chests and say “1 am in government not to make money but to serve my people?

Leaders of the Niger Delta should not only talk about selfless service but should be seen by all to truly render such. That way, the youths of the region will look up to them as leaders worthy of emulation instead of regarding ex-militant leaders as their role models in the light of the special treatment they are receiving from the President.

Mr Agbu wrotes from Port Harcourt.

 

Ifeatu Agbu

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Opinion

 Electoral Bill: Why Buhari Withheld Assent

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On 21st December, 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari alarmingly declined assent to the long-awaited Electoral Act Amendment Bill through a letter to the President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila. From the tone of the memo, Buhari exuberantly, largely aligned with the Act amendments except the clauses that provided for mandatory direct primaries for all political parties.
Discernibly, the president amid the rebuff acknowledged the energies, nonetheless urged the lawmakers to review the objected clauses, and also requested it be transmitted back for his assent after review. Least expected, Buhari’s major critic, Dr Samuel Ortom, Benue State governor, overtly backed the president’s decline of assent over the direct primaries.
Irrepressibly, the president’s action has continued to generate controversies in the polity with the civil society organizations (CSOs) threatening fire and brimstone and many public commentators seething over perceived mischief and insensitivity. On the whole, three categories of thoughts exist.
Whilst one backs the president against mandatory direct primaries, the second group; mostly from opposition parties, endorsed it. Then, the third category which includes Chief Nyesom Wike, Rivers State governor, admitted the flaws but argued that the assent ought to have been given, notwithstanding the defects, for a review later as Buhari handled the Petroleum Industry Bill (now PIA).
This idea isn’t bad. However, the big question is; what will be the fate if after giving assent, the anticipated review hits the brick wall? It must be carefully noted that the Electoral Act, if flawed, can set the polity ablaze unlike the PIB due to vast interests.
In the legislative zone, the experience is not different. While some accepted the development in good faith and progressively prepared for a critical review, the other side seemingly insisted on a supremacy battle to override the president’s veto. However, the leadership of the two chambers so far, astutely arrested the situation, and opted for wider consultations. Be that as it may, Section 59(4) of the 1999 Constitution, Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended provides a window to override the president by the National Assembly where he withholds assent to a bill presented to him after 30 days.
Buhari’s divergence is the clause for mandatory direct primaries for political parties citing the financial implications on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to monitor primary elections across all the wards. There are 8,809 wards in the federation. Buhari also argued that political parties must be given a free hand to determine how to elect their flagbearers within their strength, and also, that security factor must be put into consideration underlining that security agencies could be overstretched in ensuring hitch-free primaries which may overheat the polity.
Ostensibly, many frowned at Buhari’s objection — having vetoed the Bill earlier in 2018 ahead of the 2019 General Elections principally on grounds of wrong timing. In fact, a lawmaker while reacting on Channels Television fumed that a bill, overwhelmingly passed by the two chambers after legislative processes which he participated in was ‘insensitively’ rejected by the president; just one man. Logically, his concern was an ego thing, widely far from objectivity. Incidentally, that’s the rule of the game – democracy.
Besides, the oversight of the lawmakers is glaring as the reasons adduced by the president against adopting mandatory direct primary are compelling.
Possibly, the lawmakers didn’t look at it broadmindedly. For instance, if signed into law, it will require INEC to seek a larger budget on logistics and allowances to monitor primary elections across the 8,809 wards in the country for each political party to validly choose a presidential candidate. Let’s say 20 political parties plan to field presidential candidates respectively, it will require INEC’s workforce to go round all the wards for each of the registered political parties to ably elect a valid candidate which has a heavy financial implication. To conduct the 2023 General Elections alone, INEC demands a whopping N305 billion from the treasury.
Sensibly, for INEC to monitor the primaries of all the political parties across all the wards in the country, the task could push the commission’s budget up to many trillions of naira. Then, where there are security challenges that discourage public gatherings, people must notwithstanding embrace direct primaries at the risk of their lives or end up in an inconclusive primary election. In other words, failure to conduct direct primaries across all the wards may deny a political party an opportunity to field a valid candidate in any election.
Deductively, these arguments strongly suggest that mandatory direct primaries could spontaneously force smaller political parties into extinction due to financial constraints and also create unmanageable logistics and security crises.
Another strong fear is beating the time frame for primaries by political parties. As known, primary elections follow INEC’s timetable, and it is rare to find any political party that produced its candidate without internal squabbles which, most times, resulted in late primary election leaving members to resort to any possible means; direct, indirect or consensus to be able to field a candidate within time. If the law should exclusively endorse mandatory direct primaries, practically, it will lead to inconclusive primaries in virtually all political parties. Government is a team work and that’s the strong reason laws must pass through the two arms – Executive and Legislature.
In fact, the bureaucracy for INEC to mobilise workforce alone including ad-hoc staff, managerially allocate tasks can frustrate many political parties due to time. It will also put a heavier burden on the Judiciary to entertain frivolous lawsuits from wards where direct primary perchance didn’t hold by circumstances beyond the control of political parties.
Thus, primary elections should logically, remain flexible and at the discretion of political parties. To be emphatic, the financial implications on the treasury, overstretching security agencies, operability to political parties and also, overstraining the Judiciary are cogent reasons to reconsider the Bill in overriding public interest.

By: Carl Umegboro
Umegboro is a public affairs analyst.

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Opinion

Stop This Begging Attitude

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Are Nigerians all turning to beggars? What is going on? At every institution, many public places, you see well-dressed men and women subtly begging for money. I went to a shopping mall for a business transaction recently and at the gate was a well-dressed, cheerful security guard who zealously ushered me into the compound. I wanted to park my car at one end of the compound but he insisted that I should go another direction which truly was more spacious. And in my mind I was like, “what a dutiful staff?”
He was not done yet. As soon as I switched off my car ignition and was about to open the door to come out, he rushed and did it, smiling from one side of his mouth to the other, offering unsolicited information and a guide on my whereabouts in the facility. I sincerely thanked him, hoping all the VIP treatment will not be a subtle way of begging for gratuity.
Behold, I was wrong. As I made to step into the building, he whispered “Madam, no forget the favour way l do you oo”. I had just encountered another corporate beggar. A day before, I had a bitter encounter with one, a pump attendant, at a petrol station who called me names for refusing to part with my hard-earned money. Having enquired about the well-being of my family, admired my car and showered all unasked encomium on me, he expected a monetary appreciation which was not forthcoming and the next thing I heard was “stingy woman”.
They are everywhere. At petrol stations, banks, offices, both public and private hotels, you see a lot of people begging while on duty. At the airport, train station and in practically all-important offices in the country, “anything for the boys, your boys dey loyal oo”, seems to have become part of the official language.
Of course, this shameful attitude did not start today but it has taken a more serious, disturbing dimension in recent times. Many people, particularly the security personnel, front desk officers, customer relations officers have turned their duty posts to begging offices. They would always blame the current economic downturn for their unbecoming attitude which cannot be totally true because, at least, they are working and earning salaries, no matter how little.
What about the millions of people who are jobless and have no means of livelihood? Have they all taken to the streets to beg?
One thinks it is a social malaise which has a lot to do with our ethical values. A lot of people in the country value money and other material things far and above integrity, self-respect and self-dignity. And so, they will do anything, no matter how shameful, to acquire them.
A teacher once made an analogy of two families, one has four members and the other was a family of 11 people. Both families were given N200,000 each to spend for a month. According to her, half way into the month, the family of four almost exhausted their money and could hardly pull through till the end while the other family of nine comfortably made do with the amount they had and even had some balance. What was their secret? Prioritisation and prudent management.
Therefore, it is not so much about how much we make through our salaries, begging and other means but how we manage the money. There is hardly anybody in the country today that is not feeling the economic bite and the only thing that will help everybody both the low- and high-income earners is to set their priorities right and learn how to live within their income instead of hoping on tips from some “big men and women” and doing all kinds of ridiculous things to attract their attention and the crumb. And we forget that the so-called big men most times also have loads of financial responsibilities.
On the national level, we also have to consider the damaging impact of official begging and do something about it. Obviously, taking little tips from people would make officials skimp on their responsibilities, thereby making some unscrupulous elements have their way, exposing the country to avoidable vulnerability.
It is, therefore, imperative we must begin to build a new ethos that places emphasis on self-respect and dignity of labour. As part of the country’s 60th Independence celebration, the National Ethics and Integrity Policy was launched. It contains the nation’s core values of Human Dignity, Voice and Participation, Patriotism, Personal Responsibilities, Integrity, National Unity and Professionalism. All these values and how they will be practised to make for a better country and more cordial relationship among the citizens are thoroughly spelt out.
For instance, section 4.5.2.5, talks about Honour under Integrity states, “We shall at all times maintain uprightness of character, personal integrity and pride in ourselves as individuals, as one community, and as one nation. Therefore, in all spheres of life, we shall do what is demanded by our common values and laws that we hold to be true, in accordance with our national identity and in accordance with the values enshrined in our national laws and practices as one country. As Nigerians, we shall stand up to challenge those vices that impede the pursuit of our existence with uprightness. We shall celebrate those Nigerians who are upright”.
But then the big questions are: how many Nigerians are aware of this policy? What efforts are being made to educate the citizens on these core values? We have the National Orientation Agency, the Ministry of Information at various tiers of government, what are they doing to educate people about this code of conduct so that the people internalise it and make it a true guide for the citizens,
It is not enough that time, energy and resources were spent in packaging the booklet, let adequate sensitisation be carried out, using the media, both conventional and social media and other means of communication to reach to people at every nook and cranny of the country because many Nigerians are losing it when it comes to integrity and the time to get them back on the right track is now.

By: Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

Shape Of Things To Come

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In monitoring and surveillance activities, there are two abbreviations that are given priority attention, namely: STC and DEWS, which stand for Shape of Things to Come and Distant Early Warning Signs. From aviation, to health and security industries, shape of things to come and distant early warning system are taken seriously, with appropriate precautionary measures sought and put in place immediately such alert features. Whatever may be the nature of issues concerned, various activities and organisations put precautionary measures in place, and people given some orientation on how to respond to alert.
The Tide, Friday, January 7, 2022, Opinion: Page 9, “That Buhari’s Interview”, by Calista Ezeaku, contained more information than an average reader would grasp. A President’s interview with a television house is obviously not a domestic affair, hence there was a detection and comment about “a close-minded approach to serious national issues”. It was not enough also that someone would say: “From the economy, to insecurity, killings of innocent farmers by terrorists … and other sundry issues, President Buhari honoured his calling as a president who has nothing new to offer”.
It is needful to add that the task of managing affairs that affect millions of people demands that when such a manager has nothing new to offer, what would follow should be an honourable resignation from the task. With regards to the tenure and performance of Buhari, distant early warning signals had long been ignored, denied or distorted, such that one man’s interests can override and become more important than those of millions of people who must bear the brunts of political amnesia.
Management failures do not always arise from wrong decisions and policies, but more often from the intrigues and shenanigans hatched and padded into a management system by a cabal or sapiental authority are not answerable to the masses but always cause great harms for which they are rarely held accountable, nor would the big boss have the courage to dismiss or detach himself from such political parasites. The result of this system of political administration is the installation of weak institutions and structures.
This is why a public analyst would observe and say that “all the abuses of powers by the governors are possible because of the flawed electoral system in the country”. From the refusal to allow for a state police as a complement to the federal police, to the lethargy involved in introducing a fraud-free electoral process, there are parallel forces in government that would not allow leakages and flaws in the system to be closed or checked effectively.
When “administrative banditry” becomes institutionalised, the result would be the situation which we experience currently in Nigeria. Since this anomalous situation had been going on, long enough for more and more Nigerians to know the tricks, it would not be hard to predict the nature of mass reaction to the malpractices. Especially when each federating unit which should be independent and able to have state police and manage indigenous resources cannot be allowed to do so, it is easy to see the shape of things to come in the near future.
For the information of obtuse members of the Nigerian ruling elite and the groups or institutions that shield and protect them in their malpractices, there are glaring signals that the Nigerian masses are wiser now. Even if new tricks are introduced to create a semblance of change from the old system, that would not be enough to avert the shape of things to come. There was a distant early warning signal that the movement of cattle and herders Southwards was a ploy to pursue some hidden agenda.
To quote Mrs Ezeaku again: “It is also worrisome that in this age, the president still believes that establishment of grazing routes would solve the persistent problem of farmers-herders clashes in the country”. Rather than admit that there was a definite hostility against farming communities in Southern parts of Nigeria by herdsmen, President Buhari told American audience that the issue was a cultural one, rather than acts of terrorism. Check all the antics and shenanigans, from Ruga to the quest for allocation of land and huge donations to patrons of cattle business in Nigeria by the federal government, it is easy for anyone to see and read the “handwriting on the wall”.
To have a mindset that all Nigerians can be fooled and bamboozled all the time, would be to cultivate “a close-minded approach to serious national issues. The worsening state of insecurity in Nigeria requires a more broad-minded approach to address the challenge. Not a few Nigerians suspect a possible re-enactment of the Afghan/Taliban experience in Nigeria, whereby a section of our security forces can be described as complicit. General T. Y. Danjuma raised such alarm long ago.
Recently, a Nigerian professor was quoted as picking holes with the observance of New Year on the ground that it is associated with Christian calendar. The idea is that since Islam has a different calendar and new year, the Julian Calendar introduced in 46 B.C. by Julius Caesar, with 365 days in the year, should cease to be. The other alternative would be to recognise and observe the Islamic calendar alongside. Already, there is a similar move to make Friday a work-free day, like Sunday.
There are a few zealots and fanatics carrying these issues too far, to the extent of sponsoring terrorism as an act of proselytism, with recognition and implementation of Sharia law as a mission. This is where the influence of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) needs to be examined, to ensure that democracy and secularism are not placed in jeopardy.
There are glaring pitfalls which Nigeria must strive to avoid, if the nation must survive current challenges. There is a need to re-organise the security and intelligence organs of the nation, revisit the issue of the true federalism and ensure that no ethnic group or power bloc boasts of being Born to Rule. There is more to the glib talks about corruption than what we put emphasis on. To allow current imbalances and inequities to continue would be chaotic!

By: Bright Amirize

Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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