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Nigeria, Not Ripe For Democracy

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The word ‘democracy’ which has been mostly used, misused, confused and abused by many people for centuries and, in recent times, also badly maimed by most Nigerians in their understanding and application of it, especially since our return to it in 1999, is a concept whose understanding, as universally accepted, should ordinarily not herald any controversy.
Most people, particularly our ‘ruling leaders’ in Nigeria, and I dare say in Africa, use it in some ways only to fit their realm, idiosyncracies and the selfish, parochial end they imagined they can achieve through its practice. They sholve it down the throats of their people as if to say ‘you asked for it and here it is’ discountenancing the fact that it takes preparation and information massaged by quality institutions to make democracy and its practice possible and seamless in any country.
Democracy is not an orphaned child or a toddler that was born yesterday. As with most other concepts and human reality, it has its own history and parentage etched in known and universally acceptable minimum standards. Even though still evolving, some of these standards are sacrosanct and characteristic of what constitutes a democracy.
Democracy originated over 2,400 years ago in ancient Greece, the word “democracy” comes from two separate Greek words (‘Demos’: people and ‘Kratia’: rule); meaning ‘Rule by the people’, leadership that takes authority and legitimacy from the people.
Citizens of a democracy govern their nations through a proxy selected or chosen by them in the presence of information and working institutions to lead them.
Democracy is simply people’s power to make a choice and determine who should lead or govern them for the attainment of certain fundamentals like the protection and promotion of their rights, as well as the protection of their interests and provision of welfare for them.
Democracy is about the people and for democracy to function properly in any country, it must ask and answer the following questions in the affirmative. The proper answering of these questions would determine whether indeed such country can or should practice democracy or choose other forms of government that would best suit their peculiarities:
Are the people ‘educated’ enough to make informed decision without prevarications that are devoid of sentiments and biases such as religion, ethnicity, colour, tribe, sex and other intangibles not necessary for making informed decisions ?
Are the institutions through which choices are made calibrated to be free, fair and incorruptible enough to only reflect the choices of the people at all times in Nigeria ? Ask INEC and the process of nominating its Chairman.
Are the people equally motivated to come out in their numbers to make their choices about who would govern them without being driven by unnecessary enticements provided them to so do? Reflect on what happened in Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun States and even in the 2019 General Election.
Are the people able to make choices without poverty as the chief consideration that influences such choices?
Are the people able to collectively share or have expectations from the candidates they wish to choose or have others choose from or simply have expectations of the process? Reflect on the standard of education in Nigeria and the unwillingness of people from where majority of the votes came from to go to school.
Is there a guarantee that the process of the people making their choices would not be thwarted by the activities of state actors like the Military, the Police and other law enforcement agencies, and even cult groups and gangs whose only interest is to sabotage the will of the people? This we have continuously seen in the various and several elections that we have had in Nigeria since our return to democracy.
Does everyone who is ‘qualified’ to make this choice of who should govern them have similar or near similar levels of information, intelligence, exposures and awareness that would enable him/her rationally assess the candidates for competency to lead and administer our common wealth?
Should the court as an institution be used to usurp the people’s choice and will by always deciding for the people who to govern them through their very suspicious, frivolous and, in most cases, anti-people rulings that are based on technicalities to determine leadership for the people? It should be the people’s choice and not the choice of the court as it were in democracy. Judges must not be allowed to, as a result of political recklessness and rascality, always determine who should lead the people. Today in Nigeria, politicians no longer care about the people’s choice but bother most about judges’ choice and do all what is necessary and possible, including but not limited to giving of bribes, to secure judgement in their favour to become the people’s choice.
What really is the importance of ‘structure’ and ‘godfatherism’ in how the will and choice of the people are allowed to be?
Do all the candidates have similar levels of playing field that make it possible for them to be heard and seen so that choices can be said to be truly rationale?
When you most rationally and critically answer these questions in Nigeria and in most African countries, placing them side-by-side our recent statistics in the world as poverty capital, country with the highest illiteracy rate and out-of-school children, uneducated youths and adults, etc, you would, just like me, come to the conclusion that democracy cannot work in Nigeria today and that we should immediately seek an alternative form of government that would appeal to our peculiarities until, maybe, we mature and evolve enough for democracy tomorrow. But again, tomorrow is far yet near. Therefore, leadership now has a huge responsibility to bring the tomorrow that would make for the conditions precedent to good democratic practices guaranteeing good democracy, even closer today.
Akpotive is a Port Harcourt-based social reformer and activist.

 

Andy Akpotive

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Opinion

Between BPP And N26.86bn

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No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves or if Police can be bought off by drug traffickers. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. – Barack Obama during a visit to Ghana, 2009.

It was a glad news, as reported in The Tide newspaper, Monday, September 9, 2019, that the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) saved the Federal Government of Nigeria more than N26.86 billion in 2018 alone, by revising down inflated contract sums by government contractors. It was reported that the highest saving of N22.22 billion was recorded from the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing. From the Ministry of Petroleum Resources the sum of N271 million was saved and other ministries included Transportation N1.37 bn, Water Resources N521m, Finance N143.72m, etc.
From the Central Bank of Nigeria’s initial request of N1.47 billion, the sum of N33.65 million was saved; from military contracts about N494.96 million was saved. What is vital about the afore-mentioned pruning down of inflated contract values for 2018 alone, is that the exercise is a credit to the federal government, via the BPP. If such pruning exercises and searchlight could continue and be extended to other years and other public sectors, the results would be quite salutary for Nigeria.
In 2009 during the visit of Mrs Hillary Clinton to Nigeria, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) presented her with a letter of requests, which she was to mention to President Umaru Yar’adua in their meeting. The issues included the following: Explain to Nigerians how the government spent recovered stolen public funds, since 1999; Ensure full compliance with the provisions of the UN Convention against corruption; Demonstrate the required political will to fight corruption in a meaningful, consistent and effective way; Monitor and track the spending of recovered stolen funds and publish the purposes the finds were used; Establish a trust fund from the recovered stolen funds, and use such funds to address urgent developmental needs, etc.
One Adetokumbo Mumuni who conveyed SERAP’s letter to Mrs. Clinton emphasized that the spending of recovered loots was characterized by secrecy and absence of transparency and accountability. As at that time, 1.9 billion dollars was said to have been recovered from a former Head of State, late Gen. Sani Abacha, N10 billion from a former Inspector-General of Police, Tafa Balogun and 1.9 million dollars from late Diepreye Alamieseigha.
SERAP’s grouse was that there were no transparency and openness in the spending of recovered stolen public funds estimated at N600 billion then, and that such funds were relooted or mismanaged. As a human rights non-governmental organization whose mandate include the promotion and protection of socio-economic rights of Nigerians, SERAP’s insistence on transparency and accountability in public and private sectors is quite commendable.
That there are public agencies such as the Bureau of Public Procurement, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) would mean that there are determined efforts to save the government from financial abuses. But the fact that government contractors can deliberately inflate contract values would also mean that such malpractices fall within the category of financial crimes.
That there are non-governmental organizations such as SERAP and other pressure groups, including the Ethnic Nationalities Movement, means that there are provisions for the protection of helpless segments of people in the society. What SERAP did in 2009 by demanding that recovered looted public funds should be accounted for properly, was commendable.
Like SERAP, the Ethnic Nationalities Movement in 2008 raised a voice of protest against statements of some highly placed Nigerians in laundering the image of late Abacha. Such advocacy and image laundering activities are nothing short of corruption as well as attempts to discourage honest Nigerians who, in spite of prevailing temptations, try to remain up-right.
It was particularly disturbing to a large number of Nigerians that three Military Generals and former Military Heads of State, Generals Buhari, Babangida and Abubakar, tried to portray their late colleague as a patriot and hero rather than a treasury looter. Such statements like: rather than malign Abacha, the later ruler deserves to be praised …”; “It is quite unfortunate and unfair to accuse the family of late Sani Abacha of looting public funds” etc, are attempts to make foul fair and fair foul.
If massive looting of public funds by highly-placed Nigerians can be defended and glossed over by friends and loyalists, then why do we demonise petty thieves? The issues of recovery of looted public funds, transparency in accounting for such recovered loots and ensuring that such lootings in various clever ways are blocked, are issues that must not be addressed by rhetoric or sanctimony, but by penalizing the culprits. Image laundering of looters is nothing short of corruption. The BPP should neither slumber nor sleep now that it is waking up to its responsibility.
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

 

Bright Amirize

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Opinion

Christianity In Africa: Fantasy Or Reality?

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The Holy Bible makes us understand that in the beginning of creation; the whole universe -was filled and enveloped with pitch and utter darkness until God imperatively said, “let there be light”,- and there was light. An Invisible omnipotent hand of the Omnipotent God which separated the light from the forces of nature and gross darkness by ‘which and through which the day and the night came to stay. A combination of physical and spiritual display of the supernatural. No mortal man did it or can do it.
Literally, the early Christians or missionaries visual perception and belief was that “Africa is a dark continent.” It is against this backdrop that they took the bull by the horns and embarked on a perilous “Civilizing mission”, to spread Christianity to all parts of Africa and to liberate the Africans from the shackles and fetters of backwardness, paganism, fetish practices and ignorance.
Besides, the crusade wars of eleventh to thirteenth centuries fought by Christian Armies trying to take or wrest Palestine from the Muslims were still fresh in their memory. Consequent upon this, the spread of Christianity in the dark continent – Africa became speedy, feverish and intoxicating. The main thrust, however, was to bring a check to the expansion of Islam and moreover train Africans as catechists, interpreters, Bible readers and so on.
As in other parts of Africa and rural hinterlands, the European missionaries who made their debut and religious escapades known and felt in Nigeria at this wee hour and period of gestation were the following priests, David Hinderer, his wife Anna Hinderer and Henry Townsend of the Church Missionary Society aka the Anglican Church today. A few years later, Hope Waddell and the dead-but-living legend vice consul, customary court Judge and lady with the lamp, Mary Slessor of the Church of Scotland Mission, conspicuously appeared on the scene.
It would be relevant and pertinent to state that the seamless implantation of these Christian orthodox church paved the way for a profound and widespread missionary activities in Nigeria and ·before anyone could say Jack Robinson, other : Christian churches like the Methodist Mission; the Roman Catholic Mission, the Baptist Mission to mention but a few, had put down their roots.
Remember this, their mission was not only to civilize Africans but also to liberate Africans from the firm iron grip and shackles of ignorance. But did they do it? Your surmise, conjecture or answer to this question is as good as mine. Ignorance, simply put, is lack of knowledge or information about something. In Nigeria, for example, the iron lady-Slessor, the Hinderers and Townsend deserve kudos for their painstaking efforts and attention paid to the teething problems of the people while trying to launch their missionary campaign in and across the country. No lip service, no pretence, no lies and hypocrisy, no television or radio rhetorics. No sugar-coated prosperity message or preaching. Their message was raw and undiluted.
Slessor travelled all the way from Scotland to Calabar, settled with the people and began her season and missionary exploits in a blaze of glory. It did not take her much imagination to understand the grief and problems of the people. She quickly learnt the Efik language to ease and facilitate her missionary activities. Her knowledge of the language undoubtedly aided her to spread Christianity in Calabar and its environs. The Ekpe-a secret society synonymous and similar to Ogboni cult and fraternity in Yoruba land passed a law that twins should be killed and their mothers banished from home because they were regarded as a taboo and a bad omen. She started appealing to their psyche, preaching the gospel message of repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and God crowned her efforts with success. The killing of twin babies stopped, and the practice of human sacrifices also came to an abrupt end as a result.
Goaded and animated by her earlier successes and landmark achievements, this missionary icon, colossus and Aphrodite did not rest on her oars. She took care of the orphans, helped the poor and needy people, improved the sanitation of the people by encouraging them to live in a healthy environment, taught the people to cook their food under hygienic conditions and crowned it all by using the hurricane lamp to visit the sick at night-a rare feat that earned her the appellation. Doctors, nurses, Christian workers in Nigeria, did you get that? It is life first not money first.
To add another feather to her cap, Slessor encouraged the spread of Western civilization. How? With the help rendered by a naturally ebullient Hope Waddell and the home mission, she planted a school at “Itu” for the training of girls and women, taught them how to sow, wash and do other domestic or house chores. Suffice it to say that it was through her practical Christianity, love and care for the people she ministered to, many Efiks turned to Christ and became Christians over night, otherwise, those souls she won for Christ would have been lost forever.
Mary Slessor forgot her family, home in the United Kingdom for the sake of the gospel and humanity and died in Calabar and was buried in Calabar. What a missionary! Lagos and Badagry-two axis of evil and commercial hubs of the notorious and illicit trade in human trafficking to America and the West Indies or the new world came to focus of attention at this period. Like their counterparts in Calabar, Gollmer and Henry Townsend were instrumental in the expansion and rapid spread of Christianity in these areas under review. They started agitating against the selling and buying of human beings as slaves, and at the acme of these agitations, a Christian association known as the Quakers Society was born. Simultaneously followed by Wesleyan “society” which of course was headed by the foremost and astute crusader – John Wesley himself.
Vexed by the incongruous situation and the thoughtless inconsiderability of the innocent men and women created in the image and likeness of God seen and treated as slaves and living a sub-human existence on planet Earth, the “Quakers society” and the Wesleyan Society became vocal, snippy and launched into a tirade against it. Of course, we know “old habits die hard”, however, the slave trade persisted for a long time after it had been legally abolished due to a number of common but complex factors-political, economic and social factors. But to God be the glory because, “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven”, the sage tells us. Graciously and joyfully the illicit trade slipped, sank and was consigned into oblivion and it was time to laugh, time to embrace, time to plant and time to build.
To be continued.
Owhorji wrote in from Port Harcourt.

 

Christian Owhorji

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Opinion

The Insanity Of Abia Cynics

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The Bahanian musical group of early 2000, I am sure, did not consider the virulent opposition elements in Abia State when they released the evergreen classic, “Who Let the Dogs Out,” written by Anslem Douglas.
It seems, however, that something awry has lately beckoned on the cynics to unleash venomous but hollow tantrums against the Victor Okezie Ikpeazu-led government. The effects of the unguided vituperations are as devastatingly repulsive as they are abysmally collosal. While the content negates the basic tenets of professionalism, its context is simply preposterous.
It started with the mad man theory of the absurd, then the  campaign of calumny and lately the justification of mediocrity. The target is well known; vilify Victor, discredit Ikpeazu, distract Okezie! Thank God, Dr Ikpeazu has remained impervious to outlandish theatrics of the Abia “third force.”
I am yet to come to terms with the disastrous strategy of paying a young gullible vagabond to play the mad man in “Ekeoha” market just to denigrate the person and the government of Dr Ikpeazu. My simple conclusion on the matter is that the intentions of the perpetrators are ludicrous.They meant to incite the public against the government, an act that is not just libelous, but treacherous, wicked and utterly inimical to all known principles of objective criticism. The law, therefore, should take it’s cause.
The position of Governor Ikpeazu’s administration towards strengthening fiscal policies are well known. Expectedly, the state executive council, rising from it’s meeting in April 2019, validated the review panel report submitted by the management of Abia State Polytechnic, Aba. The restructuring exercise, which is in line with the agenda of Governor Ikpeazu’s administration would engender the much needed repositioning of the school and restore the lost values. Everyone welcomed the development and quietly prayed for the courage to implement it. The  implementation has finally come to be and the review report on staff verification exercise is being implemented.
Owing to the reform, 258 members of staff who fell short of the expectations of the panel chaired by Comrade Okoro, the state Chairman of the joint council of NLC, were recommended for disengagement with full severance package as provided in the condition of service.
Surprisingly, for reasons best known to them, the Abia ‘third force,’ comprising of some leaders of the factional opposition parties and recruited media hirelings, have been shouting hoax and threatening thunder and brimstone should the culprits of the review panel be sacked. They have deployed unconventional means to arouse sentiment against the government and the Abiapoly management.
Where on earth is mediocrity, pervasion of law and order tolerated? Tell me why any responsible government should continue to pay salaries to persons who are alleged to have either falsified their certificates or are guilty of one misconduct or another.
Instead of applauding the uncommon will demonstrated by the government, detractors have gone to town peddling unsavoury rumours against the government. The deliberate strategy to distract the government is already dead on arrival. They would have preferred an Abiapoly with deterorating infrastructure, reterogressive academic records, dubious workforce and unmitigated debt burden. Ashi kwa (It is a lie)!
The degeneration of Abia politics to savagery is quite disturbing. It is also alien to the familiar convivial narrative we are all used to. The antagonists of Ikpeazu’s government are becoming more malicious and restless. Theirs is an addition to the 21st Century lexicon. I call it politwixt. It is new and defies all known ethical and moral standard.It negates objectivity and undermines decorum and civility.
Because malice beclouds commonsense, the Ikpeazu critics do not realize that the disengagement of the alleged disgruntled Abiapoly staff will restore the confidence of parents to enroll their children and wards in the school. May be, from the all-time low 10,000 students, the school’s enrollment may increase to 25,000 as was previously obtainable.
Moreover, it is estimated that the disengagement of the indicted staff will also reduce the monthly wage bill of about N170 million per month (the highest in East of the Niger) and boost the revenue of the school. In the long run, academic performance will be enhanced, while the culture of discipline and morality will be re-established.
Prompt payment of the workers’ salaries, too, will become possible since the drain pipes are blocked.
What the affected staff members need now is an encouragement to move on. In fact they should appreciate the government and management of the institution for not raising legal charges against them. They should pick their pieces and find ways to redress their misdeeds. They should also patiently wait for the settlement of their salary arrears, after all, they were part of the contraptions that almost brought the school to an impetuous end.
Abia State is on track, detractors can cry wolf but the onward journey to the redemption of the state will go undetered.
Onyenma is a public affairs analyst.

 

Kennedy Onyenma

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