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The Farakhan Tale

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Once upon a time, one Alhaji Louis Farakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam in the United States of America, visited Nigeria on a “fact-finding tour”. The purpose was to enable him and his co-pilgrims have an unbiased assessment of the actual situations in Nigeria, so that they could correct the distortions being sponsored by Western media. That was during the era of a military macho-man called General Sani Abacha.
Like The Canterbury Tales of many centuries ago, The Farakhan Tale had to do with pilgrimage, fact-finding tour and sharing of ideas about the state of affairs on religious, political, social and other issues that needed to be put in proper perspectives. Like Martin Luther King Jnr, Louis Farakhan led a civil rights march of black Americans over human right abuses in America. He had been on global lime-light as a Black-American activist and Islamic Macho-man.
The Farakhan Tale has little to do with Louis Farakhan personally as an individual, but it illustrates the practice of self-appointed foreign messiahs, peace-makers, negotiators and bridge-builders coming to Nigeria to mediate in national crises. These foreign friends and negotiators who come during turbulent times can hardly be said to have the interest of Nigeria at heart, more than Nigerians themselves. They give awards and praises to Nigerian leaders.
Those who really know the mind-set and attitude of the Western World towards Nigeria would hardly doubt the fact that the country is rarely taken seriously. It was a surprise that Bill Gate was able to tell Nigerian government some truth, recently, without resorting to diplomacy or flattery. Not many individuals or countries would emphasise the truth that human capital development is an issue that ranks higher than structural projects. Human capital development puts emphasis on ethical orientation, vocational skills for citizens and exemplary leadership, as national policies. Nigerian leaders are known to cherish flatteries and get jittery over criticisms.
Foreigners have been known to come to Nigeria to say and do things which would hardly be tolerated in their own countries. Some experts, humanists, adventurers or tourists, after a few days’ visits to African countries sometimes claim to have a better understanding of the culture and challenges of Africans than the indigenes themselves. Many go home to write books and reports which they offer to the people and leaders for adoption and implementation. Africans have served enough as guinea pigs!
The Farakhan Tale is a tale of how developing countries ignore what is indigenous to them, fail to identify and encourage or utilize available talents and abilities in their citizens, but go for foreign values and advice. Imitating and copying what is foreign cannot uplift or advance any nation. People can only develop and progress through upward improvement of what they already possess, and not by adopting what is borrowed or foreign to them.
It is evident that Nigeria’s current predicaments and instability can be traced to the shenanigans of our colonial masters and later-day foreign friends and advisers. The practice of looking outside rather than inward for means of addressing local challenges often result in institutionalizing mediocrity as a national culture. The history and failure of the Ajaokuta project should teach us some lessons. Foreigners are not always what they appear.
Why must we de-value and under-rate ourselves and trample upon what is within us? Although Louis Farakhan denied that his visit to Nigeria was sponsored, he and his team left Nigeria with swollen pockets. Nigerians who raised issues over the Farakhan affair were seen as enemies rather than patriots. Since then Nigerian leaders have not stopped spending money on image laundering, foreign travels, wooing of foreign investors, etc.
Unless we want to continue to play the ostrich, Nigeria’s challenges and predicaments must and can be addressed by Nigerians themselves, even without help from foreign experts. From wooing foreign friends and investors, to travelling to foreign countries for medical vacation or inviting foreign marabouts, we can do better investing on our human capital. Where local talents and abilities are undermined through a patronage system and where sinecure holders receive N13.5 million monthly as “running cost”, there can hardly evolve a zeal among citizens to serve Nigeria with patriotism, loyalty and commitment.
Nigerians are weary of various forms of deceit under the guise of patriotism and serving the interest of the masses. We must strive to evolve a culture of service and sacrifice. A part of the Farakhan Tale played out in the recent Boko-Haram terrorist affair where foreign negotiators probably made some lucrative business. National security is an important affair, and Nigerians would be happier, more patriotic and feel safer if their leaders can deal with them with more sincerity and honesty. We must not de-value ourselves, which can include image-laundering.
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer at the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

Bright Amirize

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Opinion

Toeing The Path Of Welfarism

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In this era of globalization, market economy, hyper competition and rapid changing environment, every employer of labour expects an increase in productivity, a surge in quality service delivery as well as critical thinking in workplaces. Unfortunately, not all understand the Human Resource philosophy which states that “employees are an important business resource that must be managed carefully in order to maximize return on investment and achieve business objectives”.
Instead, many employers tend to portray their employees as a folk privileged to have a paltry sum on a regular basis. Of course, the unprecedented surge in the labour market has not helped matters, as workers are forced by their economic situation to see their employers as lords, in whose grace they have found solace. This mentality has not only led the country into serious brain-drain of its workforce, it has affected the overall attitude to work and, by extension, the overall productivity.
This is not different from what is being observed as the battle for the full implementation of the New National Minimum Wage for workers, moved to the various states of the federation.
Upon the Federal Government’s conclusion of negotiations on consequential adjustments of salaries of higher income earners with the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC), as a result of the new minimum wage of N30,000, expectations were that respective state governors would see reason to implement same immediately, considering the length of time it took for the negotiations to be concluded.
Ordinarily, 182 days after President Muhammadu Buhari signed the new minimum wage bill into law, before the consequential adjustment was achieved, should have been time enough for a welfare-conscious leader to know that the concerned workers’ patience had been overstretched, and so, needed no further stretching.
No doubt, salivating Nigerian workers had been very anxious for the new salary which they hope would shore up their purchasing power, given the current economic realities. The more optimistic among them had already calculated the possible new earnings and had possibly started looking forward to when they would start enjoying the jumbo pay.
After all, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) that ratified the deal, had directed “…that the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission and the Ministry of Labour and Employment should send the consequential adjustments table down to the state and local governments as an advisory document for their information and guidance for their National Joint Public Service status in their respective states because the national minimum wage is a national law.”,
On the contrary, most state workers are yet to know their fate, a situation that isn’t palatable at all. Not even are the state governors moved by the directive to the ministries, agencies and departments to ensure that arrears of the new wage regime from April when the Act came into effect be cleared before the end of December.
This blattant display of reluctance towards the implementation of this federal law (minimum wage), with the required urgency, by the various state governors, does not only express the height of the latter’s insensitivity to the plight of their subjects, it is an indication of a lack of love for those whose wellbeing they swore to protect.
It is on this note that the action of the Lagos State Government under the leadership of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, at not only being the first state to pay the minimum wage, but also raising the bar by paying more than the N30, 000 agreement which organized labour reached with the Federal Government, is highly commendable.
According to Jeddy Omisore, a journalist, “with this singular action, Gov Sanwo-Olu has painted his self portrait as a welfarist leader. He has proved that it is possible to be in power and still remember the downtrodden. He has, no doubt, written his name in gold as a foremost civil servants-friendly governor”.
Right now, there are reports that pensioners are also getting a review on their earnings, just as the state continues to pay them as at when due. Lagos State is generally applauded as one of the few states that do not make pensioners groan, grumble or cry before they collect their pension.
Sanwo-Olu may have been able to achieve this feat due to his belief in collectivism and his understanding of the fact that the next person also has a right to fair treatment for a harmonious co-existence, especially when productivity is expected from the latter.
Nothing can be more reinforcing than this laudable action of the governor. It is now imperative on the public servants to reciprocate with more hard work, dedication and selfless service. As they say, unto whom much is given, much is required. The onus now lies on the public servants in the state to roll up their sleeves, with their hand to the till, their back to the wall and nose to the grindstone and work smarter and harder than before.
In both private and public sectors, while every other measure may count, employees’ performances remain an essential requirement for any organization to maintain its efforts towards the realization of predetermined goals. Those who have come to terms with this principle would affirm that regular welfare packages remain a known catalyst for this expected improved performance, and so, it is not optional.
Many employers have failed because they chose to undermine their workers’ welfare; the catalyst of improved performance in the workplace. In fact, in this age and era, it is almost impossible to operate an organization without offering basic benefits for employees’ welfare. This is due to the realization that a healthy and stress-free worker is a major asset.
Thus, regular upward review of workers’ remunerations is one welfare facility known to basically keep employees’ motivation levels high. Besides, it is merely a social responsibility on organizations for those who work for them. The very logic behind providing welfare schemes, apart from being the workers’ right, is to increase a healthy employer/employee relationship as well as the productivity of the organization. It is also to create an efficient and satisfied labour force, thereby maintaining industrial peace. It should not be seen as a grant given to some undeserving elements of the society.

 

By: Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi

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Opinion

Is Our Democracy Improving?

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With what is happening in the country today, one “is compelled to ask is our democracy moving ahead?” In a nation like ours that question will draw protesters and a public symposium. In short, there will be those who will take up pages of newspapers to list the good things we have gained since Nigeria re-embraced civilian rule in 1999. By the time they finish to enumerate the gains of democracy and its so-called dividends one is won’t to become a democracy ambassador.
The good side is that I am able to write this because democracy has given me the right to do so. There is so much freedom that one can move around the country without any passport. Democracy is such a good thing that one can reside in any part, except in the so-called “herdsmen colonies”.
One may even ask, “what about the right to vote and be voted for?” Of course that is one of the biggest gains we have gotten as ordinary citizens since the military boys threw away their khaki uniforms and made themselves senators and lawmakers, including governors and presidents. The constitution provides that if one is tired of wearing khaki, he can scrap his uniform and take up mufty. With that, one is guaranteed absolute freedom to force himself on the people indirectly by being the only candidate that emerges at the primaries. And, if you don’t succeed that way, you ask some boys to shoot at the polling booth to scare away civilians and stuff the box with ballot papers.
We have moved from Option A4 to Secret Ballot system, where only a voter can decide to cast his vote by himself and not by proxy. The former Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) has transformed to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Before now, they were tied to the apron strings by the federal government, but now they are so independent they can announce figures even when the elections are over.
To further make them more independent those old-school teachers who cannot add ordinary figures have now been replaced with very erudite professors and doctorate degree holders of the Chike Obi class, who can calculate the two-thirds of Nigerian voters in five minutes. It’s so simple these days to just look at the voters register and predict who will win in the next elections.
The media is also doing well; there are lots of media houses now. As the fourth estate of the realm, they are saddled with spreading every government propaganda and those who cannot are either shut down or sued for breaching the peace. Journalists are having a field day in their duties because it’s easier to get jailed for false information than before. Those unprofessional ones are gradually being weeded out of the field.
The social media has emerged to give voice to the voiceless; a responsibility the traditional media has failed to do in the past 20 years. With Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp one can mobilise millions of Nigerians to do what the government says. That is why the GSM companies are expanding base everyday and cost of android phones has gone down drastically.
So with a phone in your hands you can even overthrow the government and make our politicians accountable. This new social media regulatory bill is god-sent to save the nation from anarchy. How can everybody be speaking at the same time? There is need to streamline the media space by ensuring that nobody tries to paint our democracy black.
There is much improvement in our legal system such that the lawyers are smiling to the courts. There is so much cases to be defended, even if one tries to cause insurrection against the government. As at today, the lawyers have improved in defending human rights. One cannot stay in the police and DSS custody for more than 24 hours. Anywhere such happens, the best lawyers are ready to give their services “Pro-bono”.
The women have become more involved in governance; they are no more in the kitchen or in the “other room”. This democracy has brought out the best in them that even our former speaker at the House of Representatives was able to beat her female counterpart and won. Some of them have the privilege to cry at the floor of the House if their male colleagues fail to heed to their debate. Foreign countries can now see our women are very emotional about the democracy of the nation. They want to see more women in government positions since it will bring the dividends closer to the people. Empowering more women will mean that lots of them will leave their shops and markets or government creates more position for them.
The youths are the most advantaged now. Not fewer than 50 percent of the appointments go to them. The octogenarians are gradually being pushed out of the system. The country is witnessing more young hands driving government policies and programmes, the problem is that most of them love cars, houses and holidays.
To make sure that this democracy works, there is need for a third term. Eight years is not enough for a sitting governor or president to succeed. Such term is too short to deliver on electoral promises. The country needs to amend its constitution so that a president will have to stay enough to complete his visions and programmes.
This democracy is good because opposition are the real enemies of the people. They should stop destabilising the peace that we have. The best way to play opposition is to align or jump to the ruling party and enjoy the dividends. Why should there be an opposition in our young democracy? Even in advanced countries the opposition joins hands in transforming their country.

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Opinion

A Trophy Beyond Atrophy

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

 

By: Jason Osai

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