Deja vu! We’ve been here before, over and over again.
Each time, disapproval is impossible to rein in. What should have been routine policy measures keep triggering off potshots. You know the story: JAMB reintroduces Post-UTME (many candidates’ blood pressure rise at that), and cut-off mark for admission consideration is 120 minimum (so gracious what!) That sets Nigerians off on complaining mode again.
They say it is “politics”, a way of squeezing money out of helpless admission-seekers, a ploy to increase advantage of a part of the country that lacks what it takes to compete in fair academic contest for tertiary school slots. And the hoopla goes on, not without justification, anyway. What none of the opponents is openly telling us: “hmm, my country-man, the way this country is eh, I don’t trust you, you don’t trust me, so any plan you come up with, I fear, must have been made to enrich or favour you and your people, putting me and my people at a disadvantage”. Calamity of a nation! Hence, JAMB is confused. Not because of incompetence, but the admission umpire is bombarded with demands from all sorts of interest groups in high and low places, some too powerful for them to resist.
The decision to bring back Post-UTME tests was reached at the policy meeting on plans and modalities for the conduct of admissions into tertiary institutions on August 22, 2017 at the National Judicial Institute, Abuja. To come off with clean hands, escaping the usual accusation of bias, JAMB had allowed tertiary school heads and other non-government stakeholders at the conference to decide what UTME score should be minimum requirement. The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board maintains that institutions’ senates retain the prerogative to decide their own admission scores which may be higher than this nationally-fixed minimum. The admission body also addressed concerns of candidates and private universities by creating CAPS – Central Admissions Processing System – which would make it possible for applicants rejected by their choice institutions to seek admission elsewhere. CAPS also provides a platform for schools to go in search of qualified candidates who in turn are free to reject the offer and have unlimited admission options, provided they have scored the minimum 120 in Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination.
Agreements reached at that meeting should not have raised much dust if Nigerians trusted one another. Institutions that think they are too big to take a mere 30% cut-off mark are free to set a higher requirement. Admission options can be effectively graded: high scorers get admitted in higher-standard institutions, while those with low scores find placement in less prominent schools. That’s if the claim that higher UTME score equals high academic competence holds true. Moreover, the extra admission options through CAPS should lay to rest the problem of candidates who get jammed in JAMB every year, simply because they could not find a place in their schools of first, second or third choice. But no, Nigerians must kick – they always kick – even if the kick results in stillbirth. National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) disparages the decision. NANS President, Chinonso Obasi said JAMB was lowering standards by settling for a score that is just 30% of the total 400. He claimed it is an unpopular policy that students will vehemently resist. But how does this new move impinge on the right of admission-seekers who score higher? And how does it lower the ability of universities to recruit only the best? After all, that score is not the maximum they can take. NANS is only one of the opponents, and each pressure group is shouting either merely to be heard or just protecting its own part in the deal, all the while being suspicious of others, since distrust is the norm here. Those in favour of the policy may accuse this student body of disregarding private schools’ interest since most officials and active members of NANS at state and national levels are from government-owned institutions. Other interest groups have their misgivings.
In truth, JAMB is not the problem. Distrust is the matter, while nepotism and perversion of standards fuel this state in which nothing is ever accepted as good for all. It’s no use arguing about effects rather than causes. We will not get out of this quagmire anytime soon, for it takes a long time to reset minds of people so they can believe that government and leaders of public institutions ever have good intentions. Don’t forget that leaders in more ways than one take dubious actions that erode public confidence. You cannot win citizens’ trust when, as a leader, you serve the interest of one group over another. As a consequence, people’s minds get made up to resist every decision you make. You cannot change the people’s minds, except there are changed hearts. Positively changed hearts give birth to altruistic actions and selfless leadership. As people with changed hearts act unselfishly and the thing catches on, virtue becomes the norm, then society produces leaders that can be trusted. Until then, we must live with this burden – the burden of distrust.
When people believe that their tribe and religion is the only good one, their minds are set to ensure that only their own group gets the best of everything. When such people are in charge of any public office, every decision is in favour of where they belong. But don’t tell me that religion is the problem of Nigeria. True religion teaches fairness to all. In James 1:27, the Bible says that “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world”. If a man holding public office withholds help from the needy and reserves it for those of his tribe and religion, he offends God. But that is what most of our leaders do, aided of course by ungodly followers, and that is why the rest of the people cannot trust them. A change of heart, not change of policies is what citizens and leaders need.
Reduction in cut-off marks will bring down the quality of higher institution products, opponents say. Really? How will people who passed their O’ level exams through a culture of irregularities suddenly become shining examples of academic excellence just because they scored high in UTME – by hook or crook. And do not tell me that the examination has been made malpractice-proof. Candidates – being true Nigerians – found ways to and actually beat computers to the game of cheating in their CBTs. The problems are deep, and a deep look into the hearts of people is required. We need a deeper conviction that comes from something bigger than the mundane.
Should one pontificate on honesty and patriotism and selflessness? You have heard of these values before, but how many Nigerians really believe in them (and why should they, when easy money, quick gain and parochial loyalty are better recognized, even more rewarded)? The change of heart we are talking about is brought about only by God, and a man wholly committed to God will overlook sectional approval to do what is just and fair. God sent Jesus his Son to die for the world, setting them free from sin and works of the flesh. Nepotism is a work of the flesh; corruption is a work of the flesh; ethnic bias is a work of the flesh. Those who believe in Jesus and surrender to him receive freedom from the flesh, thus becoming good citizens who respect the law, who love others (irrespective of religion) and who regard service in government as an opportunity to be a blessing to other people, wherever they come from.
Therefore, God’s hand is the best one to relieve policy-makers and the rest of us from this burden of distrust. I challenge anyone to put forth a better option.
Esara writes from Ritman University, Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State.
Still On Ogoni Clean-Up
For over a decade or two, the Niger Delta environment, which has suffered pollution and environmental degradation occasioned by long years of petroleum exploration and production, has been in the news for planned clean-up and remediation of its polluted environment, both vegetation, lands, water, flora and fauna, air and means of livelihood, like fishing and farming, especially in the Ogoni areas like Khana, Gokana, Tai and Eleme.
Most of these communities have long experienced pollution and environmental degradation before the United Nations (UN), through its special agency, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), undertook a study of the affected communities and locations based on its findings made recommendations for a total clean-up of the areas by both the federal government and the major oil companies.
The environment is nature and man’s greatest resource, home to plants, animals – including birds and insects. The wetlands, water bodies, micro-organisms and microbes anywhere on the planet; nature is God’s greatest resource and gift.
To all intents and purpose, the world in the 21st century is going towards cleaner energy, cleaner fuels and cleaner environment to mitigate climate change. That’s why fossil fuel or hydrocarbons are gradually being phased out in many countries of the world as an energy source or provider. To that effect, the world in general and Nigeria in particular ought to toe this line and embrace the new paradigm shift.
Amidst exploration and production being carried out by all the major international oil companies (IOCs) for over six decades in the Niger Delta and the consequent environment and air/atmosphere being polluted and degraded, nothing has been done about it.
There has been gas flaring in the Niger Delta even though the federal government and IOCs have been setting targets to end gas flaring. This practice is one of the worst forms of degradation to our environment and health. It causes health hazards such as skin lesion; causes acid rain; pollutes the air and water as well as depletes the ozone layer.
Continuous exploration and production of crude oil in these communities over the years with obsolete equipment and network of pipelines across the producing communities and Niger Delta has caused some of these equipment, platforms and pipelines to corrode. And also, due to the effect of the vagaries of weather and the salinity and alkaline nature of the terrain, be it swamp, land or rivers. All these make it easy and possible for rupture or failure of these networks of pipelines, equipment and platforms which are begging for overhaul and possible replacement.
In modern times and in other climes, especially Europe, the Americas and Asia, etc, international best practices do not permit gas flaring of any sort. There’s zero tolerance for gas flaring due to its hazard to health and environment. Also, equipment, platforms and pipelines/facilities are tested routinely for integrity and replacement. Nowhere in the world do you see some of these flagrant and brazen abuses of the environment as noticed in the Niger Delta oil-producing areas.
The Ogoni clean-up which has lingered for some time, after series of postponements, has finally commenced and is ongoing. The federal government, through its agencies like HYPREP, NOSDRA and other international partners, is carrying out the campaign exercise which is described as one of the biggest and ambitious clean-up programmes in the world.
This onerous project and exercise entails reclamation process to restore the land, vegetation, water, sub-soil microbes and micro-organisms; as well as the polluted and contaminated underground water table.
For these communities and oil-producing areas and locations, most of their means of livelihood like farming, fishing, hunting and setting of traps to catch games have been destroyed due to these dastard practices and acts to the environment.
On that premise, the exercise should be detailed, thorough and effective; because the extent of damage and destruction is of gravest proportion, international best practice, standards should be applied to UN and UNEP requirements and quality. The affected communities will only see the injustice and damage to their environment, air, rivers, creeks and vegetation reversed when their environment is fully and truly restored to its original state and condition.
Experts and specialists in the environmental field have proffered solutions and recommendations as to how to curb this menace and avert future occurrence, since it is unacceptable, disgusting and very destructive to people, communities, livelihoods and the environment as a whole.
With this extent of harm and monumental damage done to the environment, occasioned by environmental degradation and pollution, making it almost impossible and very difficult to regain or restore green and cleaner environment in the affected communities, locations and most parts of the Niger Delta; both land, water, air/atmosphere and livelihoods; a perfect and thorough clean-up exercise must be carried out.
Going forward, The Federal Government, Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA), the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and other relevant regulatory bodies, should routinely conduct quality and integrity test on the IOCs’ operations and facilities; and vet not only these operations and facilities but also their contractors or third parties. Regulating and setting/maintaining standards must be in the purview of the environmental agency and the NNPC. When communities report cases or incidences of environmental pollution, prompt and immediate actions/investigations must be carried out and blame should be directed at the defaulting organisation to serve as a deterrent.
Lastly, international best practice, cleaner energy, cleaner fuels, cleaner environment should be applied as obtain in Norway, Finland, USA, Malaysia, Kuwait etc, particularly in mitigating climate change and the ozone layer depletion. Also, in a world that is becoming more complex and more interdependent coupled with globalisation, livelihoods, environmental rights and fundamental rights must be protected at all times.
By: Samson Ayooso
Ayooso wrote from Port Harcourt.
What Has Changed In LGA Administration?
In one of the editions of CATALOGUE, I challenged Local Government Administrations in Rivers state to follow the examples of Governor Wike in Project Planning and execution. Indeed, the Wike government in Rivers State has triggered off a revolution in infrastructural development to address the perennial deficit experienced over time in that sector.
This feat was not achieved by chance, it came as a result of well thought out vision and mission, articulated in a blue print tagged New Rivers Vision.
Unlike previous administrations, these vision and mission did not end up in the papers or pipeline as we commonly hear policy makers say.
In his case, Governor Wike’s Master plan for urban renewal, massive investment in Health, and tertiary education sector took off in bold strides with visible accomplishments. The programmes and projects have not been allowed to become potential miserable show pieces of abandoned projects.
The Government of today has paid more than seventy percent upfront for the execution of the entire legacy projects. As part of the planning, the State Government has been having a robust budgetary planning and implementation. Seventy percent of total budgets are usually set aside for capital expenditure. Therefore, funding of the projects has been deliberate without pretentions, to eliminate banana peels. This is in addition to the growing internal revenue generation that has been judiciously ploughed into the projects.
The flyovers, the over passes, urban and rural roads, schools, health infrastructure are either being delivered and have been delivered satisfactorily for all to see.
The Wike magic has remained exemplary for other states and a towering legacy in Rives State.
This is a legacy the local government administrations have been forced to learn from. It will be right to say in the words of Sheryl Sandberg that, “The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have. Local Government administration has become the weakest link among the three levels of government.
Many point to constitutional lapses, others point to poor leadership and corruption.
Yes, there are so many factors that may have afflicted local council administrations which had led to poor performance, but the fact remains that lack of will, lack of capacity to do the right thing have been the bane of council administration especially in Rivers State.Corruption and misplaced priority had been a prevailing Achilles heels of the grass roots administrators.
The much talked about “share the allocation” syndrome was a common scenario in the past.
Another phenomenon that has changed in the system today is the penchant for creating alternative vouchers by council administrators for the so called “our boys”, who were doing nothing, rather than embarking on programmes and projects that could generate employments. Local government administrators simply created vouchers for non- employees for the council, thereby creating bloated salary vouchers. This became a drain pipe for council funds.
The local government councils were left undeveloped. What has changed today in the project implementation we see in some local councils can best be explained as the fruit of leadership by example, exemplified by the State Governor, Nyesom Wike.
A social commentator, Steve Jobs puts it succinctly, “Be a yard stick of quality, some people are not used to an environment where excellence is expected”. The towering examples set by Governor Wike have changed the narrative in local government administration in Rivers State at the level of project planning and execution.
We could recall that Governor Wike was himself a successful local government chairman in Rivers State, who became a champion in that sector. “The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example”, according to John Wooden. Let us hope that these new breed of local government chairmen who have begun to do projects will remain pace setters.
Many have been wondering where Dr Chidi Julius Lloyd of Emohua Local Government Council got the money for the implementation of road projects and very useful infrastructure that can add value to the people of his local government area.
It is in the present dispensation that we are beginning to hear and see that local government councils are building schools, primary and secondary schools in their areas.
Local councils are paying bursaries to students of tertiary institutions. Dr Samuel Wanosike of Ikwerre Local Council recently inaugurated a set of classroom blocks for a school in Aluu in Ikwerre Local Government Area,executed and completed by his administration.
A similar feat was also accomplished by Mr Obinna Anyanwu of Etche Local Government Council.
This was never the case in the past. In the same vein the Chairman of Obio/Akpor, Mr Ariolu and his Port Harcourt Local Government Area counterpart, Mr Allwell Ihunda, have demonstrated leadership in their implementation of various programmes in the area of bursaries and sanitation. There are sights and sounds of similar feat in other councils as they celebrate hundred days in office. Who woke up the sleeping giants?
The answer is simple, Governor Wike’s challenge in project policies and implementation did the magic. This is what has changed the trends in local government administration in Rivers State.
Our prayer is that the political actors at this level of government should sustain the present tempo.
By: Bon Woke
Tribute To Colin Powell
The brotherhood of man is not determined by blood relationships, but by the celestial latitudes and life-waves that human consciousness operates – Thomas Carlyle (1795 – 1881)
O’ Hare Airport, Chicago, USA, December, 1980. Visiting America from London, even with a return-ticket but with not much cash in hand, and even after a confirmation from my host, as well as my status as a post-graduate student, US Immigration personnel insisted on deporting me back to London, from O’Hare Airport. Then stepped in a tall, handsome man of awe-inspiring countenance, intervening in the situation and asking politely if I was from Barbados or Nicaragua. The man whom I told that I was a Nigerian studying in U.K, turned out, after many years, to become US Secretary of State, Colin Luther Powell.
Born April 5, 1937, Powell was reported dead, October 18, 2021. A 4-Star General of the US Army, he became a politician and served as the 65th United States Secretary of State. During the George W. Bush administration in 2008, Powell was succeeded by Ms Condoleza Rice, another African-American that did the Black race proud. He also served as the 16th US National Security Adviser (1987 – 1989) and the 12th Chairman, Joint Chief of Staff (1989 – 1993).
The Powell family moved to USA from Jamaica when Colin was young and then attended the New York City Public School and the City College where he had a bachelor’s degree in geology. He was a professional soldier for 35 years and held the highest military position in the Department of Defence, during which time he oversaw 28 crises, including the invasion of Panama in 1989. Also Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf War against Iraq (1990 – 91) .
What is known as the ‘Powell Doctrine’ was a US military policy which limited American military activities within the framework of American national security interests. Especially vital in that policy is the provision of conditions of ‘Overwhelming force and widespread public support’. His tenure as the 65th US Secretary of State was controversial because of inaccurate justification from America’s Iraq War in 2003.
My American Journey is the title of Powell’s autobiography (1995). As a prolific writer, despite his busy schedule and activities, Powell wrote other books: It Worked for Me … being lessons which he learned practically in life, and Leadership (2012). In line with the political philosophy of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Powell shares the truth that: “A country that allows its rulers to revel with impunity and reckless abandon in the worst form of corruption and misrule, cannot hope to be blessed with the grace of light”. Light shuns dark places!
Nigerian retired Generals should, like Colin Powell, invest in writing motivational books on how to build up their country, rather than building hotels in each of the state capitals. One retired General Jibril Musa Sarki, in his Born to Rule, threw some light into the lifestyle of the top hierarchy of the Nigerian military. What great differences, reading Powell’s books!
After retirement from public services, Powell pursued a career as a public speaker, addressing and motivating diverse audiences across America and other places across the globe. His mission was to spread the philosophy of how to turn personal adversities and liabilities into rewarding assets and legacies. As Chairman of America’s Promise — the Alliance for Youths, that non-profit organisation is dedicated to mobilising people to build up noble character and personal competence. No idleness!
Rather than sponsor and finance gangs of bandits who cause mayhem across the country, let retired Nigerian Generals emulate the life-after-retirement of General Powell. What men do, especially in old age, is usually a reflection of the values and ideals which they stand for and cherish. No matter how a man may have lived in the past, there is nothing more demeaning in old age than to pander to narrow, mean, ethnic and clandestine interests. Especially when such agenda do not add value to the status of collective humanity, then such project cannot be a worthy or ideal legacy to foster.
Retired General Powell is so popular, especially among the American masses, that even when he did not seek to contest an election in 2016, he received votes from Washington D.C. for the Office of President of the United States. He received numerous awards and decorations in the military circle, both in America and foreign countries, as well as civilian awards, including Presidential Medal of Freedom, Congressional Gold Medal, Presidential Citizens’ Medal, etc.
Powell was such a role model that students in schools and universities would invite him to come to give inspiring lectures in campuses. Hence, several schools and universities honoured him across the country. Neither did he look back on his Jamaican root, but inspired and encouraged struggling youths, except that he would not condone hashish or any form of gangsterism or hooliganism. Naturally, with age, the human body begins to degenerate towards feebleness. Powell was treated for blood cancer, and died October 18, 2021, from complications of COVID-19, close to 84 years of age.
No human is perfect; neither does it pay to wear the garment of sanctimony. It is also true that “Men’s evil manners live in brass; their virtues we write in water”. But Powell’s virtues would live in brass and gold, largely because of his concern for those that the establishment seek to oppress. Powell was neither an Immigration officer nor an advocate, but a ‘busy-body’ who played an advocacy role for a distraught student at O’Hare Airport in Chicago, USA, in 1980.
The pride of USA lies in picking and using the best, no matter where found, but the plight of Nigeria, in the words of one Abagba Ndubuisi: “Mediocres who otherwise should hide away in shame now become not only leaders, but cynosures and political fulcrums… We should come out of our lethargy rather than watch apathetically from the side while a few gluttons glibly talk us into another war, with their seemingly arrogant and trenchant dispositions” (Daily Sunray of 1/9/94). Colin Luther Powell, please stride on in the hereafter as you did here on Earth – boldly!
By: Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer in the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
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