Sometimes ago, I was the host of a television programme, “Wake Up Nigeria Show”, designed to discuss the challenges facing Nigeria on a daily basis. This show featured experts as guests. One feature I invested so much energy in was the disability segment titled, “breaking beyond the barriers.”
That segment showcased people with disabilities to our teeming viewers, the challenge(s) they face, how they broke the hoops on their paths to be what they were. Guests on the show provided solutions to the problems faced by special people in Nigeria.
Not one of my guests had anything positive to say about government. Theirs were cases of self-help. They achieved what they could without government support.
I have seen many with lack of faith in themselves. You wouldn’t blame them. Nigeria is not a caring society. It is one where people with disability are without significance by religious persons, who claim to know God, but make room only for those with full limbs and government policies tilted to the so-called fit people.
At a summit for people with disabilities, my path crossed that of Margaret Uko Ekanem . She gave a wonderful speech at the occasion and I invited her after to the TV program. Thankfully, she obliged and we had a good show.
I found her to be bold, with zest for life. She managed, at the time, a cosmetic company with a high turn-over of staff, many of whom were sacked because they took advantage of her visual impairment to steal many of her cosmetic products.
Margaret Uko Ekanem lost her eyes suddenly as a JSS 3 student of Federal Government Girls College, Abuloma, Port Harcourt. The school, like others, built for the able, had no facility for the blind and so she had to go to the school for the blind at Afare Uku in Umuahia, Abia State, where she was taught all she needed to know so as to cope with life as a blind girl.
She ventured out from there to Queens College, Lagos, and obtained a Diploma in Mass Communication, from Our Saviours Institute of Science, Agriculture and Technology (OSISATECH) in Enugu State.
She was happily married to a journalist with a private radio station in Port Harcourt. On my program, she mentioned her daring moves to see a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, her home state.
Both the governor and his wife were at Nsukka to be honoured by the University of Nigeria. Security was tight as usual but she hung around the arena where the vehicles of the first family were parked. Thanks to fate, she caught the attention of the governor’s wife who asked her security detail to allow her journey in a car in her convoy and thereafter introduced her to her female special assistant.
That became her waterloo as the same assistant made sure her demands never got to the governor’s wife until they left Government House. Although the governor’s wife was kind enough to give her some money at their first meeting. Helping the vulnerable, for me, goes beyond the piquant-symbolism of handing out nickels.
Margaret wasn’t looking for a human mustard-plaster. All she wanted was a job in Nigeria or scholarship to school abroad. The PA to the governor’s wife talked her out of scholarship and never gave her the opportunity to meet with her principal, save for that time she rail-roaded their convoy.
We discussed all these in 2016 and we hadn’t met each other since then, until recently. She heard my voice as a guest on a radio station and asked that I visit her which I did for the first time at her Koko-Ama residence near Marine Base in Port Harcourt.
Shockingly, I discovered that her husband had moved away from the house. He said he was no longer keen on the union. She said she went to FIDA (federation of women lawyers) to report him, and he was told to provide sustenance money for her and their daughter and pay rent for their accommodation.
I think a journalist should know better. Instead of leaving a visually-impaired person in the lurch, why not do the needful? Even though I am no saint, conscience wouldn’t allow me steal into my house, move out my belongings and take my child, who is less than six years, away from her mother and play evasive games knowing that the mother is visually-impaired. Shouldn’t a journalist know better?
As at my last visit (so far), the landlord had cut power and water from Margaret’s apartment because of her rent which was due. The landlord seems to be joining issues with Margaret instead of her husband who signed the lease-holding document. Why join issues with a visually-impaired lady who is mistreated.
There are many Margaret Uko Ekanem out there, who are not ready to be a burden to anyone but society doesn’t care about them. Can’t anyone out there give this lady a job? Akwa Ibom State where Margaret hails from, can at least give her a job.
According to George Washington, “let us therefore animate and encourage each other, and show the whole world that a freeman, contending for liberty on his own ground, is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.”
I would like to end this essay with some questions for government and society. Can there ever be a place for humour in the life of the disabled? Is there disabled friendly environment in Nigeria? Do we have barrier-free restaurants and alternative routes for the disabled? How do the disabled manage to deal with self-confidence? How do they feel when they have to ask for help? Are people with disability lawless?
Abah writes from Port Harcourt.
Need To Maintain Our Institutions
Nigeria is a sovereign nation and all hands must be on deck to maintain its sovereignty. To achieve this, a number of infrastructural developement must be put in place. The ideology of sovereignty of any nation is to make things possible for the citizens. Since Independence till date there has been slow pace of development in the country. This is as a result of nonchalant attitude of the leaders in government and some citizens when projects are awarded for execution. Often times, when it comes to solving problems for the masses what you hear is that there is no political will to enforce the policy. One wonders the kind of political will our leaders need before things are put in place. The deposit of mineral resources in the land of Nigeria is a good omen for national development.
The education sector has been drifting from its original aims and objectives. This is because the system is no longer meeting the expectations of the nation. In any sovereign nation, education is the door way of achieving purposeful development. Through research works in education, other sectors are managed effectively and efficiently. The falling standard of education caused by neglect of the sector has caused emigration of Nigerian students to neighbouring nations, thereby, denying our educational institutions funds to upgrade their facilities. Today, most of the leaders and well-to-do in Nigeria send their children and wards to Ghana, the US and the UK for university education.
It is true that no nation is an island. But that does not mean we should abandon our country for foreign facilities.
Indeed, the power or energy sector is one of the sectors begging for massive improvement and upgrading of facilities. The federal government has said so much about improvement of power in the country. Yet no meaningful achievement has been recorded. And if the government is ready to improve power in Nigeria, there is no need for the federal government to budget for generators for Aso Rock or government buildings. That is suspicious! In Nigeria, generators have taken over the power sector. And so each time generators are mentioned in the budget there is need for doubt. Over the years, Nigerians have been complaining of poor power supply in the country. And to many the cry against epileptic electricity supply is waste of time. All the processing and manufacturing industries use electricity from generators to power their machines. But in some countries of the world there is constant supply for decades. No wonder some companies are relocating to neighboring countries where electricity supply is relatively constant. Recently, there was bidding for electricity facilities in the country. There is no need for further delay in ensuring efficiency in the power sector. Therefore, power should not be toyed with, if Nigeria wants to be one of the biggest economies in the world. Everyone needs electricity in Nigeria.
Nigeria has been known as a developing nation for many years now and has not achieved tangible development, due to some nefarious activities of some persons in government and outside government. Nigeria has a wide road network but yet the roads in the country are in deplorable state, which gives room for questions. Nigerians enjoy pot holes-free roads in UK, the US and other nations of the world. But when road projects are awarded to some of them to construct as it is done in foreign nations, some siphon the funds or use poor quality materials to construct roads in the country. Today our federal roads are begging for reconstruction and rehabilitation, because they are very bad. And those who do the shoddy jobs are applauded and more multimillion projects are awarded to them to continue the bad jobs. Something has to be done to stop the ugly trend of events in the country. Because the roads are bad, motorists take the opportunity to charge commuters heavily. This also has led to high cost of commodities and has weakened the purchasing power of many Nigerians . Indeed, most of the staple foods we eat in the country are imported from foreign nations. For instance, Nigeria depends on imported rice till date when there are arable lands for rice farming in the country. Abakaliki rice is still under peasant farming system till today because government has not taken any proactive measure to improve rice farming in the country. There is need for concerted effort by all to change the state of things in the country.
Health for all has been a long time slogan which no one wants to sing or recite again because of the inability of the government to deliver health services to the people. It is still very sad to hear that Nigerians can only get better medical treatment abroad. Why? Nigeria has the resources that could make her health system the best in the world. Today, cancer screening machine is rare to come by in the country. Few months ago there was outbreak of Lassa fever in some states of the nation. And it was a difficult task to get treatment, because the machine to screen a victim’s blood sample is only in Benin. And it was reported that Lassa fever was first noticed before independence of our dear nation.
Indeed, today we fund foreign health system and they keep on growing faster than ours. Almost every government functionary receives his or her medical check up abroad. That is why our health sector is dying even when we have professionals to make it work. It is high time our leaders pondered anew to change some things. The national and state assemblies should enact laws that should make the government to improve its facilities. Over dependence on foreign institutions when we need to improve and develop the ones we have is a serious threat to democracy. Therefore, there is need for government at all levels to embark on an aggressive campaign on infrastructural development in the nation. Nigerians can enjoy the best if there is honesty and selfless service to humanity.
Ogwuonuonu wrote in from Port Harcourt.
2023 And Chrismus Stuff
A former secretary of the political committee of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Alhaji Mohammed Abdulrahman, was quoted recently as saying that “a Muslim Yoruba can be president of Nigeria, but Tinubu is a Chrismus …” He went on to say that a “Chrismus” means “Somebody who is a Christian and a Muslim”. One would have thought that it would be a great honour if an individual would embrace and practice the two great religions.
What Abdulrahman really meant, in his own words, it that: “A Southern Christian cannot be president of Nigeria..” For a vital member of the Arewa Consultative Forum to utter such a statement in a secular polity as Nigeria, reveals a peculiar mindset, depictive of some hidden agenda. By what statistical computation can anyone come up with such assertion that a Southern Christian cannot win presidential election in a democracy?
Perhaps, without meaning to offend, Abdulrahman’s statement is a hate and inciting speech, in a nation where “the Federal Government sponsored Ruga projects for Fulani herdsmen across the country.” With a senior official of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development saying that the Ruga project, generally, is “a policy conceived by the Federal Government to cover the entire country”, then was Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo wrong in raising an alarm about Fulanisation and Islamisation agenda?
What is “political undertone” in an obviously economic-religious-political policy that is being foisted upon unsuspecting communities? Someone is expressing surprise why “a group from Benue State staged a protest that government wants to invade their lands.” Why is a private agricultural business undertaken by individual cattle breeders being sponsored and funded by the federal government as a national “Ruga” project?
Yet, the states being lured to embrace the Ruga project for a fee, can be told that “a Southern Christian cannot be president of Nigeria”? Obviously, the impression which Abdulrahman and those he speaks for create is that Nigeria is not operating a democracy but an oligarch with a religious undertone. What impression does Abdulrahman’s statement make in the minds of Nigerians that “the South and North issue has to do with religion”?
In TELL magazine of April 10, 2000 (p.3) Dare Babarinsa said that “What is at stake is not religion, but power and the future of the Nigerian State”. This would mean that power-holders and political gamblers often use religion as a ready means for political ends. Babarinsa went on to say that: “The Fulani ruling class, rootless and without any cohesive political ideology or nationalist and cultural interest, has clung to Islam as a political weapon”.
It would not be hard for any analyst to see a logical link between “Ruga project” and what Obasanjo said about Fulanisation and Islamisation agenda. Without allowing religion to bring animosity and disunity in Nigeria, it is needful that those who have a narrow view about religion must not be allowed to sow the seed of animosity. Similarly, the issue about settlement for nomadic Fulani herdsmen should not be allowed to take the pattern of the settlement of the Jews after the World Wars.
A programme of Nomadic Education for Fulani herdsmen many years back turned out to be a failure, with huge sums of money voted for that programme ending in fraudulent practices. Much vexation across the country resulted in a clamour for the establishment of a programme of education for Migrant fishermen. Since there were migrant Nomadic herdsmen and migrant fishermen in other parts of the country, it was considered right and proper that the “National Cake” be shared in a just manner, via federal projects.
Obviously, there were references that the revenue fuelling the nation’s economy came primarily from the southern part of the country. While a debate about this issue was going on many years ago, some group of youths raised a song about “monkey working and baboon chopping..” It took the intervention of the Police to disperse the youths. Today, Federal Government sponsorship of Ruga projects would likely lead to a demand for a parallel one applicable to and suitable for problems peculiar to the South.
Agitation and instability often arise as a result of one-sidedness and use of double-standards in addressing demands for justice. The statement of Alhaji Abdulrahman gives the impression that some Nigerians are more Nigerian or more equal than others. Why must religion and ethnicity become determinants of who becomes a president. Was Buhari misquoted when he said that “Muslims should only vote those who will promote Islam”?
From the dislodgement of former President Goodluck Jonathan, to the intrigues of the 2019 elections, the statement of Abdulrahman that “Buhari will still be president” is ominous. When added to his assertion: “2023: Why Christian, Tinubu’ll never be Nigeria’s President” then there is the possibility of some hidden agenda! We would not want to have careless talkers like late Wada Nas!
It is right and proper that the Federal Government has withdrawn the Ruga settlement project for now. But, considering the nature, might and caliber of cattle owners in Nigeria, there is the possibility of the issue being reintroduced under a different guise later. A home settlement for nomadic herdsmen is the key issue.
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer at the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
Wike’s 100 Days: A Score Card
When in 2015, Chief Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, the then outgoing Minister of State for Education, contested and won the governorship election in Rivers State, not many believed he would remain in office to complete his four-year term.
At that time, many, especially those from the opposition, preferred to call him all sorts of unpalatable and unprintable names.
Some called him caretaker Governor, others called him temporary Governor while some called him Acting Governor.
These names were based on their strong conviction that Nyesom Wike, coming from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a party that is not in control of the Federal Government would be removed by the Election Petitions Tribunal.
Surprisingly, his victory was validated by the Supreme Court which ultimately consolidated his position as Executive Governor of Rivers State.
Nyesom Wike has since completed his first tenure and also contested and won his second tenure as Governor of Rivers State.
Although the experiences of the election were not a pleasant one, it is gratifying to note that the event has come and gone and Rivers people are thankful to God for the victory of Nyesom Wike at the polls.
As a demonstration of their thankfulness many Christian denominations across the state held services to thank God for the victory of Governor Nyesom Wike at the polls, considering the peculiar environment in which the election was held.
With the unprecedented level of military involvement in the election, a development never witnessed in the nation’s political history and experience, not many hoped that the incumbent had any chance of winning.
That was why the thanksgiving that heralded his second-term victory was worth the while.
What is most interesting is that the man who was nicknamed caretaker Governor has not only completed his first term in office but also celebrated 100 days in his second tenure.
This is why the celebration that greeted the first 100 days into the second tenure of Governor Nyesom Wike was expedient, especially given the impression that most governors normally do not do well in their second tenure.
With the array of projects inaugurated in the areas of roads, schools, markets and housing, Governor Wike has left no one in doubt that he prepared himself for the task of governance.
He has also changed the notion that most second-tenure governors do not do well in projects delivery.
Just within 100 days in office, Governor Nyesom Wike, according to critical observers, has surpassed the performance of some governors in four years.
According to them, the high impact projects commissioned during the 100 days anniversary have shown that the governor is developing the state for the future.
It also shows the extent to which the governor is committed to meeting the human capital, social, educational, and infrastructural needs of the people of the state.
His interest in the development of sports in the state culminated in the establishment of the Real Madrid Academy while the commissioning of Civil Servants quarters and the Labour House are another mind boggling achievements and a clear demonstration of Governor Wike’s labour-friendly disposition.
No doubt the Real Madrid Academy will boost sports development in the state and consequently take young boys and girls off the streets, while the NLC House would provide favourable environment for labour leaders to articulate labour related issues.
The focus the state Chief Executive has placed on football development in the state is born out of the knowledge that football is a big money spinner.
The likes of Joseph Yobo, Taribo West, Adokiye Amiesimaka, Peter Rufai to mention but a few grew to stardom and attained international recognition through football.
No doubt the introduction of the Real Madrid Football Academy would groom football talents that would step into the shoes of former football stars of Rivers extraction.
To showcase his worker-friendly disposition, the state governor also embarked on the construction of Civil Servants quarters.
While we appeal to the state government to ensure that the houses are allocated to genuine civil servants, we also advised would-be occupants of the quarter to adopt high maintenance standards so that other workers in the state can also benefit when they leave the service.
Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike needs to be highly commended for initiating these laudable projects within the first 100 days of his second tenure in office.
To state the obvious, Rivers people are very happy with the achievements of the Governor in just 100 days in office.
It is also their expectation that the labour-friendly governor will extend this good gesture to the welfare of civil servants through promotion of deserving staff and payment of promotion benefits as well as payment of gratuities and pensions to retired staff who are yet to be paid their entitlements.
In all, Governor Wike’s second-tenure 100 days in office is a celebration of excellence in governance.
It has also sent a clear message to Rivers people that there will be no dull moment in the state in project execution and inauguration during the governor’s second term in office.
What he needs, therefore, is our collective support and encouragement, not vilification.
Deeyah is of Radio Rivers FM.
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