War is organised insanity; it is humanity’s sickness unto death”, declares John Stoessinger, an American professor of Global Diplomacy, in his classic: “Why Nations Go to War”.
He further says that the outbreak of war and the coming of peace are separated by a road that leads from misconception to reality; implying by conjecture, that war remains the best teacher of reality, as it is also the most effective cure for war itself.
In the history of mankind, it has become a truism that war mongers will not stop until they are stopped by initiatives that attempt to save civilisation.
The crisis in the West African country of Cote d’Ivoire, which has occasioned a humanitarian catastrophe of enormous proportions, situates itself within this context.
International affairs experts say that Cote d’Ivoire, since the days of Felix Houphouet Boigny, its founding leader, had enjoyed relative political stability, while its economy prospered as world’s largest cocoa exporter.
However, since when Laurent Gbagbo came into power, things have never been the same again. The crisis bedeviling Cote d’Ivoire peaked to a crescendo last November, when Gbagbo lost the presidential election and refused to hand over to his arch political rival, Allasane Ouattara.
Gbagbo, a professor of history, had himself been a most virulent critic of Boigny, while the latter was in office. Boigny, it was said, predicted in private quarters that his country stood doomed the day people like Gbagbo became its leader. Little wonder then that some observers are now calling Boigny a “prophet”!
The failure of Gbagbo to cede power, in spite of repeated appeals by the UN, AU, ECOWAS and other members of the international community, plunged the nation into military hostilities between forces of the rival leaders. This led to loss of lives and property, as well as a complete dislocation of the nation’s economy.
On April 11, however, ground forces loyal to Ouattara, supported from the air by UN peace keepers and elite French troops, captured Gbagbo in a bunker underneath the Presidential Villa, where he was holed up.
Prof. Bola Akinterinwa, acting Director-General of the Nigerian Institute for International Affairs (NIIA), described Gbagbo’s capture as “a victory for democracy”, which should serve as a lesson to other “sit-tight leaders” in Africa.
“It is a victory for democracy, Nigeria and ECOWAS. This development will further boost Nigeria’s foreign policy, which propagates respect for the people’s will.
“As the Chair of ECOW AS, Nigeria channelled the cause for peace and stability in Cote d’ I voire; not only at the regional level but also at the AU and UN,” he stated.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while conveying the position of the U.S. government on the development, said that Gbagbo’s arrest “has sent a strong signal to dictators and tyrants”.
“They may disregard the voices of their own people but there will be consequences for those who cling to power,” Clinton said.
Observers recall that while the protracted political struggle between Gbagbo and Ouattara lasted, lots of lives had been lost, many in circumstances that hinged on criminality. The UN has said that it would investigate all the war crimes committed, with a view to bringing all the culprits to book, regardless of their factional leanings.
The UN High Commission for Human Rights. (UNHCR) said that at least 530 people had been killed in western towns of Duekoue, Guiglo, Blolequin and Bangolo in Cote d’Ivoire since the end of March.
The UN agency called on all parties to the crisis in Cote d’Ivoire to avoid reprisal attacks and work toward national reconciliation, warning that any treatment meted out to Gbagbo while in custody would send strong signals on the direction the country would go.
In the meantime, the President of the UN Human Rights Council has already named three legal experts to investigate allegations of human rights abuses in the country.
Prof. Vitit Muntabhom, a Thai, who previously served as the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in North Korea is leading the commission, while other members include Suliman Baldo, a conflict resolution expert from Sudan, and Ms Reine Alapini Gansou, a lawyer from Benin Republic.
The commission is expected to present its findings to the council at its next session in June 2011.
International affairs experts have expressed fears about Cote d’Ivoire’s future, given the acrimony that bedeviled the citizenry as a result of the civil war. They, therefore, called on all stakeholders to facilitate reconciliation in the country.
Sharing similar sentiments, several African statesmen have been calling for efforts to promote a lasting peace in the country.
For instance, Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister Odein Ajumogobia said, shortly after Gbagbo’s capture, that’ ‘the immediate challenge is to address the humanitarian crisis resulting from the war.
“In the post-conflict Cote d’Ivoire, the coming weeks and months will no doubt pose enormous and complex challenges, especially in the area of reconciliation of the people, the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country’s economy.
‘An essential element here would be for the new leadership to exercise utmost restraint and magnanimity; and to build bridges across all divides to forge a peaceful and united Ivorian nation.
“We will work with President Alassane Ouattara to bring relief to Cote d’Iviore and with our other neighbours in the sub-region; Liberia, Burkina Faso, Ghana and those who have had a direct impact from refugees crossing the border,” Ajumogobia said.
According to the minister, the Ivorian experience is a lesson for leaders to be responsive to the wishes of the electorate.
He urged Ouattara to now act as a statesman and refrain from anything that could hinder efforts to bring lasting peace and stability to his country.
Ajumogobia pledged Nigeria’s support to the Ouattara-led government through fruitful partnership.
On his part, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Ouattara to form a government of national unity, so as to foster the reconciliation of the country’s divisions.
The UN scribe welcomed Ouattara’s call for the immediate establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, while urging all parties to the Ivorian crises to take advantage of the historic opportunity to work for national reconciliation.
Besides, Ban urged Cote d’lvoire to ensure accountability for serious human rights violations committed during the post-election conflict.
Ouattara, no doubt, seems to be aware of the huge task of re-uniting a country shattered by civil war, by reason of his various pronouncements during the crisis, particularly after Gbagbo’ s capture.
“I call on my fellow countrymen to abstain from all forms of reprisal and violence,” Ouattara said in a speech on his TCI television, soon after Gbagbo’ s capture.
“Our country has turned a painful page in its history,” he said, urging irate youth militias to lay down their weapons, while pledging to restore security to the battered nation,” he said.
Ouattara described the times as “a new era of hope”, while pledging the fair treatment of Gbagbo, his captured arch political rival, “according to law”.
Gbagbo, on his part, looked submissive and startled after his capture, as he spoke briefly on Ouattara’s Tel television, calling on his loyalists to lay down their arms.
In what looked like a big boost to his legitimacy, Ouattara has already received the backing of Gbagbo’s former military top brass, including Gen. Philippe Mangou, Gbagbo’s former army chief of staff, and” all the generals of the ground, air and navy forces”, who all swore allegiance to Ouattara.
Analysts say that it is not clear whether pro-Gbagbo militias, who had said they would fight to the bitter end, would heed calls to lay down their arms, nor is it clear if the 46 per cent of the citizens, who voted for Gbagbo in the election, would accept his defeat in good faith.
This is because pockets of resistance still abound in parts of Abidjan up till last weekend.
Notwithstanding these little problems, however, observers express high expectations that in the course of time, peace will return to the beleaguered country.
In the meantime, support has been coming in for the Ouattara government, as several governments across the world have pledged various forms of assistance to the regime.
u.s. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said that the Obama administration would support and assist the Ouattara in efforts to “recover and rebuild” Cote d’Ivoire.
“We are ready to help Cote d’Ivoire recover and rebuild, and we will support UN efforts to carryon its important peacekeeping and humanitarian work,” she said.
Rice, nonetheless, reiterated her government’s desire for a quick return to peace in Cote d’Ivoire, stressing that the international community also shared the same expectation.
“The Ivorians deserve a government that recognises their fundamental human rights, while respecting their will. And that opportunity begins today,” she said, shortly after Gbagbo’s capture.
Rice commended the UN Operation in Cote d ‘Ivoire (UNOC!) as well as the French forces for the robust implementation of their mandate to protect civilians, in line with the UN Security Council Resolution 1975.
As part of measures to offer relief to Cote d’Ivoire, the World Food Programme has launched a life-saving operation, which involves the airlift of foods, medicines and other supplies to the displaced citizens and refugees in neigbouring countries.
“We need to open up a humanitarian lifeline to many Ivorians, who are now victims of alarming shortages of food, water and other basic needs,” WFP’s Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, said.
She added that the WFP operation was part of plans to offer 15,000 tonnes of cereals, vegetable oil and other food assistance to the needy in the areas.
“The deteriorating security situation, difficulties of moving around and the difficulty of food procurement in Cote d’Ivoire have compounded the already arduous logistics conditions which WFP has had to confront.
“Right now, an airlift is the best way forward,” Sheeran said.
While these laudable efforts are underway, observers stress the need to heed the advice of Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary of UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations, who said that the Ivorian crisis was far from over, despite Gbagbo’ s capture.
Speaking after briefing the UN Security Council in New York on Cote d’Ivoire’s situation, Le Roy noted that pockets of resistance by Gbagbo’s loyalists still’ existed in Abidjan, stressing that the major task now was how to restore law and order in the country and kick start a reconciliation process .
International affairs analysts say that the Ivorian crisis and others like it aptly remind Africa that its continental and regional bodies had yet to muster the required clout to promptly and effectively resolve crises on the continent.
The highly discordant tones of the leaders over the required course of action over Cote d’Ivoire, they add, is worrisome since many spoke from both sides of the mouth.
The Libyan debacle is by the comer and is far from abating, even as the AU appears helpless, due largely to what some observers describe as the moral bankruptcy of many African leaders.
They say that many African leaders had overstayed their terms in office, thereby eroded their leverage to exercise any moral authority on their errant counterparts.
Many observers, however, hope that the capture of Gbagbo and events that follow subsequently, will offer auspicious platforms for Cote d’Ivoire to truly rediscover itself and rise up from the ashes of war.
Ohain writes for News Agency of Nigeria
Food Preservation: Time To Check Traders’ Excesses
Have you ever bought oranges, mangoes, bananas, plantain and some other agricultural produce and wondered about their taste? Were they plucked before maturity? Were they cooked or ripened with chemicals, especially calcium carbide among others? Were they washed with detergents?
Calcium carbide is a chemical compound that is industrially used in the production of calcium cyanamide for fertilizer and also in welding. When calcium carbide comes into contact with water it produces acetylene gas that hastens the ripening of several fruits such as mangoes, bananas and apples.
These are some unscrupulous practices by traders in the various major and minor markets around us that pose a big threat to human health.
Food is one of the necessities of life, besides shelter and clothing. Through food, the human body is nourished with various nutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals essential for making a person healthy.
In as much as human beings cannot survive without food, how the food is handled after harvest and during storage can be a big threat to a person’s health and general well-being.
Agriculture analysts believe that apart from the abuse of fertilizer application at various stages of planting, the use of chemicals for storage and ripening of fruits has become a huge cause for concern. So also is the washing of fruits, vegetables, nuts and root crops with detergents.
According to them, general abuse of agricultural produce, especially beans and other grains by traders in markets and vendors or retailers at different selling locations have reached an alarming stage.
It is common today to see fruits, vegetables, nuts and root crops retailers and vendors washing them with detergent. Equally disturbing is the traders’ use of carbides to ripen fruits and pesticides like Sniper on beans to prevent or remove weevils’ infestations.
Chief Akanbi Adeoye, the leader (Babaloja) of Ikosi Market, popularly known as Jakande Fruit Market, Ketu, Lagos State, blames fruits and vegetables vendors and retailers outside the major markets for such practices.
“Our information and security officers have not made complaints about such incidents in this market.
“Here, fruits and vegetables are sold on wholesale basis to traders from all parts of the state and they carry them in bulk to their various markets and selling locations,’’ he said.
Mr Adebayo Damola, a trader and wholesaler of plantain, pears, avocado, pineapples and bananas among others, says those who use carbide to ripen fruits and vegetables and wash them with detergents do it outside the major markets.
“Here, we are middlemen to farmers who entrust us with their produce which come straight from their farms.
“We sell in bulk to traders within and outside this market and they take them to places where they sell.
“However, l know that fruit and vegetable retailers and vendors use carbides to make them ripe fast.
“I know too that some wash them with detergents to remove the soil and make it clean enough for display to attract customers,’’ he said.
Damola says that in using carbide to ripen fruits, it is not sprinkled on the fruits or vegetables, but dropped at the centre after arranging the fruits in circular form and then cover with cloth.
He adds that it is the heat generated by covering it with cloth that causes the fruits and vegetables to ripen within 20 hours to 24 hours.
An agricultural engineer and retired staff of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Umudike, Umuahia in Abia State, Mr Mba Agu, says it is not the duty of traders to apply agro pesticides like Sniper on gains, especially beans.
“The application of pesticides on any agricultural produce, especially on beans and other grains, is for agriculture professionals and not traders.
“Agriculture professionals are trained to apply agro pesticides and insecticides on agricultural produces in a way that it will not be harmful when consumed.
“The problem is that people think that they can use Sniper and any other pesticides on agricultural produce without the input of those trained to do so.
“All pesticides and insecticides are bad and dangerous, at the same time still useful when used in correct proportions.
“If wrongly used, they become hazardous and dangerous for consumption and become cause for an array of health issues,’’ he said.
Sniper is one of the agricultural pesticides used to control insects and pests on grains and seeds and other wide range of produce.
Sniper contains Dichlorovinyl Dimethyphosphate (DDVP) 1000mg, Sodium Sulphate and Enzymes as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Agu says there are three methods through which pesticides can be applied on beans and other produces for storage.
According to him, the pesticides are mixed in the material at recommended doses, sprayed around the warehouse for bulk storage or surface of the material in a container.
Agu believes that it is time pest control officers leave their comfort zones and enter the markets to sanitise the abuse of pesticides application on grains, especially beans.
He says it is time too that the National Agriculture Council dispatch its seed law enforcement officers to the markets to regularly take samples of grains for laboratory test and analyses.
For Dr John Olaoye, an agriculture engineer and lecturer, Department of Agriculture, University of Ilorin, farmers are and should always be encouraged to minimise the application of pesticides on beans, grains and other produce during storage.
“This is because during the planting stage, a lot of pesticides are used at flowering stage to protect it from pests.
“At the storage stage, it is advisable to use natural materials like pepper or by exposing the produce to oxygen.
“If you must use pesticides and there are residual content on the produce still remaining, it is still harmful,’’ he said.
Olaoye notes that the properties in DDVP pesticides were such that can vaporise.
According to him, if professionally applied, by the time of cooking at a boiling point of between 75 degree centigrade and 100 degree centigrade, the material will vaporise and will not be part of what is consumed.
“However, there are herbal formulations which are natural that can be used to prevent grains and other agricultural produce from pests and insects attack that were not harmful,’’ he said.
Olaoye says that since the market is the prerogative of the local government councils, the councils should revive their community and public health officers as was the case in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and early part of 1980s.
He adds that it is not enough for the local government to collect levy and issue receipts without doing the work of sanitising what comes out from the markets and upgrading the market structures.
The Unilorin teacher says that the community and public health officials check traders, what they have in stock, how they are stored and displayed for sale to ensure they are good for consumption.
They also stamp animals before they are slaughtered for sell as meat in the markets, adding that they also visit houses and test water from public mains and boreholes from which the occupants are drinking.
According to him, it is a pity that community and public health officers are not part of our system any more. However, the sooner the community and public health workers are brought back, the better it will be for everybody. Therefore, it behoves the government, especially local government councils, to be up and doing to safeguard the health of the citizens.
Dr Ikechi Agbugba, a vegetable expert and lecturer, University of Port Harcourt, says the misuse of any chemical on agricultural produce is a killer.
“How on earth will anybody wash fruits and vegetables and any other produce with detergents? What happens to water and sponge?
“This happens because traders always prefer the easy way out.
“The government has to be proactive to be able to check the excesses of traders and food vendors by apprehending and prosecuting offenders,’’ he suggested.
According to him, it is better to wash fruits and vegetables with clean water and sponge.
Agbugba says research works have shown that traders and food vendors are ignorant of the implications of what they are doing. He notes that organising and encouraging traders to form associations and get those doing similar trading to register is the easy way to enlightening traders on this.
“The market crier is useful in reaching them and telling them how to improve on handling hygienically the wares they have for sale,’’ he said.
On the whole, the federal and state ministries of agriculture should deploy their seeds law enforcement officers and pest control officers to major markets and produce retail outlets to ensure that what they are selling is good for the body when consumed by unsuspecting consumers.
By: Chidinma Agu
Agu is of the News Agency of Nigeria.
Tackling Nigeria’s Refugee Crisis
Even as the world marked the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention this year, there have been increasing attempts lately by some governments to disregard or circumvent the principles of the Convention.
The UN adopted the convention establishing the rights of people forced to flee their home countries following the creation of UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) the previous year shortly after World War II.
However, there has been rising need for the international community to uphold the key principles of refugee protection as laid out in the Convention, including the right of someone fleeing persecution not to be sent back into the path of harm or danger, especially now that the world refugee crisis caused by conflict, poverty, war, violence, mis-governance and climate change has continued to drive more people out of their homes.
This is as some governments attempt disregarding or circumventing the Convention’s principles, through expulsions and pushbacks of refugees and asylum seekers at land and sea borders, to the proposals to forcibly transfer them to third states for processing without proper protection safeguards.
According to Article 1 of the Convention, a refugee is a person who is outside his/her country of nationality or habitual residence; has a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion; and is unable or unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution.
The Convention not only ensures that refugees get another chance at living through the recognition of their human rights, but also stresses the importance of international cooperation in tackling the problem.
Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said that the treaty is a crucial component of international human rights law and remains as relevant now as it was when it was drafted and agreed.
“The language of the Convention is clear as to the rights of refugees and remains applicable in the context of contemporary and unprecedented challenges and emergencies – such as the Covid-19 pandemic,” Grandi said.
Globally, over 82.4 million people have been forced to flee their homes and among them are about 26.4 million refugees, half of whom are under the age of 18.
According to the UNHCR flagship report for 2020, Turkey continues to host the largest number of refugees with about 4 million people, 92 percent of whom are Syrian refugees.
Mr John Mckissick, UNHCR Deputy Country Representative in Nigeria, said that one out of 95 people on Earth today had been forced to flee his or her home to either become internally displaced or crossed the border to become a refugee.
According to him, Nigerians have become refugees abroad as a result of insurgents actions, non-state armed groups and organised criminal gangs.
Violent conflicts in some regions continue to increase the occurrences of displacements, leaving citizens with no option but to become refugees or settle in Internally Displaced Persons(IDPs) camps.
Over the last decade, violent attacks of bandits and the Islamist group Boko Haram as well as communal clashes have continued to escalate in Nigeria’s North-East, North-Central and North-West regions, according to UNHCR.
To help, UNHCR says it is providing ‘protection-by-presence, in the field through strategic protection monitoring, vulnerability screening, provision of material assistance and subsequent individual protection referrals to service providers.
The Agency is also advocating for increased access to social and basic services for displaced persons, respect for the Civilian and Humanitarian character of IDPs camps and a better protection environment overall.
Dr Wole Kuniji, an international law expert, said that to combat the refugee crisis in Nigeria, there should be a focus on the “root cause approach.”
Kunuji, a lecturer in the Department of Jurisprudence and International Law, University of Lagos, emphasised that the root cause approach addresses the foundational causes of the increase in refugees.
“The refugee crisis currently all over the world is caused by conflict, poverty, war, violence, mis-governance, climate change, among others.
“Let us figure out solutions to these causes and implement them before the situation escalates,” he said.
Suffice to say that all hands must be on deck to tackle and eliminate these root causes if Nigeria will be free from the menace”, Kunuji said.
According to him, the provision of Article 33 of the Refugee Convention on the principle of ‘non-refoulement’ was the most significant and constitutes the cornerstone of the international refugee protection.
The provision refers to the practice of not forcing refugees or asylum seekers to return to a country in which they are liable to be subjected to persecution.
It asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom and is now considered a rule of customary international law.
Kunuji said that the principle of non-refoulement was also the anchor of the Nigerian Refugees Act, adding that it must be appropriately followed.
Speaking on consequences for the violation of the provisions, Kunuji added that there should be an accountability and monitoring mechanism in the act.
This, he said, would mandate the National Refugees Commission to report to a relevant committee on what has been done regarding the provision.
“It’s one thing to have provisions in place and it’s another thing to have the political will.
“One way to ensure that there is a process of accountability is for the refugees commission to present a report every year on how they’ve helped or enhanced the implementation of rights of refugees.
“The UNHCR has a duty to continue to supervise and monitor the implementation of the provision under the Convention and the Nigerian act,” he said.
On the other hand, Mrs Toyin Saraki, Founder, Wellbeing Foundation, said that research and development approach needed to be employed to tackle the refugee crisis.
Saraki, an advocate for refugees, said this could be driven by the philanthropic community in Nigeria.
According to Saraki, the philanthropic sector in Nigeria is ready and would happily partner the government in a more meaningful way, to make the lives of refugees better.
“This will allow the philanthropic sector help the government not just with funds but also at the frontline with key knowledge that can drive impact.”
She added that her foundation believed in the need to make optimum health and social care outcomes a reality for the refugee population.
“We know that every refuge deserves the right to health guaranteed in any host location, powered by health enhanced certifiable identities.
“Every refugee should have a health record and. We need the government to be able to plan to look after the health, education and care of refugees in our national budget.
“We cannot close our eyes to the infringement of the rights of refugees because any of us can be in such position tomorrow.”
“I believe that the community approach is where we need investment to be increased so that we can lift the host community and prepare for the refugee community that keeps increasing.”
“It is quite clear that every sector in Nigeria is going to have to come together to prepare for this emergency,” she said.
By: Busayo Onijala
Onijala writes for the News Agency of Nigeria.
Odilism As Leadership Philosophy In Nigeria
A pithy Nigerian aphorism declares that when we praise the woman that prepares the red beans porridge (akidi), she will cook another. This piece is an attempt at acknowledging a deserving and worthy akidi cooking son of Rivers State, whose trailblazing leadership philosophy and style brought mirth and joie de vivre to many in Rivers State, Nigeria and the world. This Rivers son is His Excellency, Sir (Dr) Peter Otunuya Odili, former Governor of Rivers State. This piece explores and conceptualises his leadership style, philosophy and achievements as a way of celebrating his 73rd birthday.
By Odilism, we mean a governing philosophy that empathically brought about qualitative, robust and wholesome development to the people via the summation of innovative insights and ideas gleaned from the public sphere. In this governing philosophy, factual and evidence-based discussions are crucial. Odilism understands that the danger in throwing the baby with the bathwater is that it clouds one’s ability to robustly discuss a given policy idea with the seriousness that it deserves as even one’s detractors can proffer innovative solutions. Thus, oppositional viewpoints were respected and courted. Odilism knew that contesting a viewpoint cum policy is the bedrock of deliberative democracy. This leadership philosophy recognised that such policy debates are the genuine means of producing superior public policy.
Inherent in this governing philosophy is the belief that elected leaders need to engage with one another. Odilism does not believe that contestation of ideas always connotes disputatious behaviour. Rather, it understands that such deliberations help sharpen leaders thoughts, aid resolve their issues and produce superior public policy. Odilism knows that these levels of engagement are needed for significant development in the state or country. Here, engagement is encouraged and not frowned at. This is because public policy debate is the refining point of the policy. When the refining is done properly, it produces delicious policies that obviates societal problems while an unrefined and under-debated public policy decapitates the economy and exacerbates poverty in the place.
Odilism smartly communicates its promises to the people. It enters into a social contract with the voters during electioneering campaigns and systematically completes the policies it promised. The vision, mission and governing ideals are explicitly stated in Odilism. For example, in May of 1998, Odili clearly delineated his vision for Rivers State and computed how his vision would be achieved in his manifesto written and distributed to notable Rivers sons and daughters. In the letter-like manifesto, Dr Odili envisioned a state “where communication, transportation, healthcare, accommodation, drinkable water and electricity will cease to be desires and will become available to all our people no matter where they are in the state”. He further noted that he foresees a state, “where every man who qualified for a job gets one without tears”. These lofty ideals and promises were aggressively pursued by the Odili, government.
One of the key ingredients in Odilism is the enthronement of God into the affairs of state. Like Dr Odili would say, “when the righteous rule, the people rejoice”. This faith-based leadership helped Dr Odili, a man of faith, to lead with empathy and love that is unrivalled in the annals of Rivers politics. It also helped him develop the largeness of heart that is peerless in the Nigerian body polity. He was so generous and free-spirited in giving that he was dubbed, “Donatus”. He was a giver and the people’s Governor.
Odilism is bold, innovative thinking and flawlessly creative. It produced innumerable positive projects and insights in Rivers State. It went to places and initiated projects others were too myopic to venture. Among the projects and policies of the Odili-led government were the construction and rehabilitation of schools in Rivers State, including the rehabilitation of my alma mater, Community Secondary School, Egberu-Ndoki, in Oyigbo Local Government Area of Rivers State. I was in Junior Secondary School Two (JSS 2) in May of 1999 when the Odili government was inaugurated in Port Harcourt. Other projects include: building of roads, flyovers, skill acquisition training, water supply and numerous gifts to Rivers women.
The most novel and innovative projects and programs of the Odili government were in power, education and health. The government, through the governing philosophy of Odilism, conceived and implemented state-changing and poverty alleviating programs in these three sectors. For power, the Odili-led government was the first and only state government that had a bite at independent power generation in Nigeria. His government conceived and built gas turbines for power generation in Rivers State. This novel and iconic program still produces hundreds of megawatts of electricity into the national grid and is a source of income to the Government of Rivers State.
Even more noteworthy were the cumulative programs targeting education in Rivers State under Sir Odili. His government paid for Senior Secondary School Three (SSS 3) students’ examination registration fees. In 2003, I benefitted from this policy as both my National Examination Council (NECO) and West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) registration fees were paid by the Rivers State Government. This policy was a life changing one for those at the lower demographic spectrum like myself, as it gave our parents the needed break in fees payment. Furthermore, the Odili led government introduced a “Free School” bus system that was unheard of and one that has not been replicated anywhere in Nigeria. During his tenure, Dr Odili introduced a free school bus that dutifully conveyed students to school and transported them back from school. During this period, all a student need is to wear a school uniform, and such a student will be safely taken to school and back. The drivers were employed by the State Government with thorough background check conducted. The drivers and the conductors were polite, and gracious – a huge customer service experience in a government-funded program in Nigeria. The free school bus provided a safe commuting hub for students all over Rivers State while also providing the students with the collegiality to learn more, debate and solve academic problems. It was a hugely successful program.
The government also subsidized university school fees. As at September of 2004 when I gained admission into the then Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST) and now Rivers State University (RSU), our annual school fee was capped at N8,800 (Eight Thousand, Eight Hundred Naira). That was significantly lower than that of the University of Port Harcourt, a Federal University. When we pay Dr Odili’s government will pay us through bursary, N9,800 (Nine Thousand, Eight Hundred Naira). Practically, we went to the university for free. There were scholarships and other education grants that the government embarked on. These empathy-filled, people-oriented educational policies enabled those who were socio-economically and politically disadvantaged to attend, not just secondary school, but also to bag university degrees. These policies were life-altering for many.
Dr Odili’s government also introduced one of the best health care policies of our time. The free healthcare policy for the elderly saved lives. For example, my wife’s maternal grandfather, late Chief Amadi Wosu of Oduoha in Emohua Local Government Area of Rivers State, was a beneficiary of this fantastic policy. In early 2000, he had a surgery at the then Braithwaite Memorial Hospital (BMH) Port Harcourt for free. Like many aged people, he was discharged without paying a dime. This is an example of how Dr Odili and his government touched lives in Rivers State during his time at the helm.
Sir (Dr) Peter Odili was born on August 15, 1948, in Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area (ONELGA) of Rivers State to late Chief Philip Celestine and Princess Janet Okwei Odili. He epitomises hard work and doggedness that is rare today. His hard work paid off both in his academic and political lives when he not only became a renowned medical doctor and an entrepreneur but also the Governor of Rivers State. His hard work and resolute spirit are infectious. He was so successful as a governor that lofty responsibilities and higher offices awaited him in 2007 but for the “great gang up”.
Dr Odili is one of the most remarkable and curious sons of Rivers State. A man of profound humility, and always willing to engage with others irrespective of their placement in the demographic continuum. He is blessed with an elevated analytical acuity and robustly sagacious. As Governor of Rivers State, he closed the window of aristocratic behaviour and divorced Rivers State of political oligarchs. He returned the ship of state to its rightful owners, the people of River State. Dr Odili delicately demolished the moneyed hoity-toity political class in Rivers State. During his tenure, the quality of his thoughts and governing philosophy was outstandingly sophisticated and people-centred that he was asked to continue almost unchallenged in 2003.
Dr Odili is composed, poised, respectable, blessed with the gift of the gab and has style. His carriage and gait are presidential. He is classy and resourceful but not highfalutin. He never went on a namby-pamby weirdo grimy rant like some. He understood that not all places are for fatuous, flippant would be humorous inanities. Unlike those that are clownishly egotistical and who display humility laced with arrogance, Dr Odili served with gusto and loved the people of Rivers State. All these were done with finesse and simplicity that gladdens the mind.
His reign was so fruitful with rural and urban expansion that it is unmatched in the history of the state. Due to the quality of his leadership, he was asked to “Carry-Go” during his second term bid, thereby, giving birth to Carry-Goism as a political concept. While germane and nice with a right. Candidate, the concept has been abused in a farce of self-interest, masturbatory self-indulgence, fame seeking and leaders with run-of-the-mill qualities. Unlike Dr Odili, each of them is manifestly unfit to hold any type of public responsibility. He led Rivers State with dignity, empathy and competence. This is why the heartbreaking underhand and incestuous wickedness meted to him in 2007 is almost unforgivable. Its stupidity, venality and malice occurred at a moment of maximum danger in Nigeria. The ‘cabal’ reigned supreme but failed Nigeria and her people. However, the people of Rivers State will forever appreciate Peter Odili and his government for their priceless service and competent leadership.
Dr Uwalaka is a research associate at the University of Canberra in Australian.
By: Temple Uwalaka
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