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Opinion

Our Politicians, A National Curse?

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Recently, the famous Kenyan Pan-Africanist advocate, Prof Patrick Lumumba, had this to say about African leaders, “The Africa’s politician is perhaps (with due respect to them), African’s curse. The day the African politician realises that the occupation of political office and political space is one of servant leadership, that is the day Africa will begin to move in the right direction”
Situate that speech to Nigeria and you will agree that the prof is not far from the truth. In the country today, majority of the people are in lack. There is abject poverty, insecurity, high level of unemployment, lack of infrastructure and many more. The new minimum wage of N30,000.00 is still a big issue in many states. Workers in some states are still being owed many months’ salaries and arrears. Civil servants are not being promoted. Retirees are not paid their pensions and gratuities. Stories abound about how some of them slumped and died during verification exercises to enable them collect the paltry sum.
Amidst this misery of the people, ex-governors, their deputies and other top political office holders in some states collect humongous sums of money every month in the name of pensions and allowances in addition to other unmerited privileges. After years of siphoning state funds without accountability, the ex-governors stampeded their state Assemblies to pass obnoxious and anti-people laws, enabling them to milk the states for life in the form of pension.
In Lagos State, for instance, the 2007 Pension Law states that former governors of the state are entitled to a house each in any location of their choice in Lagos and Abuja. Section 2 of the law states that, “One residential house each for the governor and the deputy governor at any location of their choice in Lagos State and one residential house in the Federal Capital Territory for the governor on two consecutive terms.” The law also provides for six new cars every three years, 100 per cent of the basic salary of the serving governor (N7.7million per annum), as well as free health care for himself and members of his family. The law also says former governors will be entitled to furniture allowance, which is 300 per cent of their annual basic salary (N23.3million); house maintenance allowance, which is 10 per cent of basic salary (N778, 296); utility allowance, which is 20 per cent of the salary (N1.5million) and car maintenance allowance, which is 30 per cent of the annual basic salary (N2.3million). Other benefits include entertainment allowance, which is 10 per cent of the basic salary (N778, 296) and a personal assistant, who will earn 25 per cent of the governor’s annual basic salary (N1.9million). A former governor will also be entitled to eight policemen and two officials of the Department of State Services for life.
The Gombe State the Executive Pension Law is said to provide monthly salary for life to all former governors and deputy governors. An ex-governor is also entitled to a 30-day paid travel expenses annually to any country of his choice alongside his wife, so also the deputy governor and his wife. They have a choice to ask for a befitting house of their choice at any location in the state, or may request that money equivalent to such house be given to them. A former governor is also entitled to two utility cars, while his deputy is entitled to one car to be replaced periodically. The governor is entitled to an employee on Salary Grade Level 12 who will be serving him, also to be paid by the state government. Both the governor, deputy governor and their wives are entitled to paid medical treatment at home or abroad. The state executive pension law also stated that a governor and his deputy serving their second term can pay themselves the housing and gratuity if they have successfully finished one term in office.
The story is not different in our state, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Kano, Sokoto, Kwara and Zamfara (before the law was repealed by the state House of Assembly few days ago). Meanwhile, most of these ex-governors are still in government either as ministers or federal lawmakers, receiving huge salaries and allowances.
So it is heartwarming to know that the court has ordered the Federal Government to recover pensions collected by former governors serving as ministers and members of the National Assembly. In judgement to a suit filed by Socio – Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), challenging the legality of pension laws in question, Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court, Okoyi, Lagos State, also reportedly directed the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN to challenge the legality of states’ pension laws permitting former governors and other ex-public officials to collect such pensions.
This landmark judgement will surely go a long way in rekindling the peoples’ dying belief in the court as the last hope of the common man. But knowing “how good our leaders, especially those at the highest level, are good at obeying court orders”, we wait to see how things will pan out. However, for a government that is interested in the good of the citizens, compliance to this order should be prioritized.
Meanwhile, while the federal government is playing her own part, State Houses of Assembly where this repugnant law is in existence should emulate their colleagues in Zamfara State by speedily repealing it. We obviously do not need laws that will permit a few priviledged people to be living as super rich and demi-gods at the detriment of the generality of the people. We are tired of selfish leaders who see political offices as an opportunity to milk the states and the nation, thereby becoming a curse to the people instead of blessing.
It is high time we had servant-leaders who will see leadership as an honour and a privilege if we must develop as a nation. In the words of Craig D. Laounsbrough, “The sacrifice ‘of’ self for the greater good is the greatest calling imaginable, and it is the bedrock of the greatest nations. The sacrifice ‘for’ self is the most pathetic calling imaginable, and it is the quicksand within which nations perish”.

 

By: Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

A Ticking Time Bomb

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The prediction by the World Bank that Nigeria crucially had to create millions of jobs to avert imminent bust requires a composite approach to better the economy frantically. The release further advised the country to establish at least 30 million jobs by 2030 to prevent the unfortunate augury from being fulfilled. Don’t forget, 2030 is only 10 years away.
The implication is that the economy must generate 3 million jobs annually for 10 years. But how is that possible when statistics have revealed that about 19 million Nigerians enrolled in the labour market within the last five years while only 3.5 million jobs were created within the same period, leaving a shortfall of 15.5 million jobless Nigerians? Also, the unemployment rate has quadrupled in the last four years attaining an all-high 23 per cent.
From the foregoing, it is explicit that there have been consistent job losses. Very few manufacturing activities happened while service providers only managed to employ a few people all due to an asperous business climate. Agriculture, the largest employer of labour, has lost attraction largely because of the activities of insurgents and bandits in some parts of the north. The prolonged herdsmen/farmers’ clash never bolstered matters.
As unemployment advances, population growth edges faster. While the population grows at 2.6 per cent annually, the economy progresses at a paltry 2 per cent. With a low Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $397 billion, Nigeria’s population expansion has been projected to hit about 401.3 million by 2050.
Of course, this is portentous because it will exert enormous pressure on the economy, the job market and social infrastructure. As employment declines, extreme penury is on the rage. If the projection that unemployment figures will rise to 23.5 per cent this year is anything to go by, then we must anticipate a time bomb.
I believe the situation would have ameliorated if we operated a social welfare scheme. Rather, in the face of dwindling economy and increasing poverty, all what Nigerians can get are mere promises and at best ill-defined and rudderless social benefit schemes like “Trader Moni,” “Market Moni”, and “Farmer Moni” that disburse soft loans without collaterals.
The impact of the schemes is hardly perceptible. They have failed to prevent Nigerians from sliding into poverty every single minute of the day. Sadly, the number of extremely poor Nigerians has recently moved from 91.50 million to 94.4 million, fuelling speculations that a populist revolt may happen sooner than later.
Following the frightening figures, President Muhammadu Buhari pledged to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years. But how will he go about it when there are no sustainable policies to create massive jobs? On the other hand, State governments have never helped matters either as they have failed to reduce unemployment.
What do we expect? After all, this is what occurs when a country decides to practice a lopsided, “feeding bottle” federalism. A report by BudgIT (an NGO) stated that 33 States are heavily dependent on monthly allocations from Abuja and therefore cannot survive by themselves. Any wonder the States are unable to boost activities needed to generate employment.
While the States are irredeemably dependent, Nigeria heavily relies on other countries for survival thus financing jobs in those nations. This situation is clearly against sound economic practices. How does one explain a development where we import virtually everything including fuel that should be taken for granted by virtue of our role as a leading crude oil producer? Since oil constitutes more than 90 per cent of our exports, the economy is usually left to the vagaries of crude prices in the international market.
Truth is Nigeria can never get its economy right till it gets its political structure correctly. An economy that energises States to go cap in hand to Abuja every month cannot inspire growth and development. The present sharing system only breeds parasitism, indolence, graft, joblessness and poverty. To reverse this ugly trend, fiscal federalism is the answer to a structure that gives impetus to uncompetitiveness. Let States drive the economy, not the centre.
We must look at what has worked best in other climes to create jobs by focusing on sectors that have the highest potentials. Resolving the current power crisis is the beginning point. Then the private sector should be empowered to lead the way. Finally, we must always understand that the agricultural and manufacturing sectors hold great capacity for job creation.

 

Arnold Alalibo

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Opinion

The School Dropout Syndrome

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As education is becoming more essential and the level of illiteracy reduces globally due to technology and high demands in the job market, Nigeria’s education system is faced with increasing challenges.
There is one major challenge that is in most higher institutions. It is the fact that most students don’t complete their education and thus drop out before even graduating from school. ‘Dropout’ as the name implies, is a term that is commonly used to refer to students who for one reason or another terminate their studies before graduating.
Several reasons and causes have emerged that are believed to contribute towards students dropout of school. As we all know there is no action without consequences. There are several observable effects that do not only affect dropout, but the society at large. That is why we are looking at why many students drop out of school and how this decision affects their lives and the society at large.
Some of the reasons include poor parenting. This has been considered to be the greatest challenge that causes students to drop out. For instance, students that come from divorced and abusive parents are more likely to leave school before graduating than those that come from specially secure families.
Divorced abusive and lower class families face a high chance of failing to pay school fees and meet up the necessary requirements that are demanded and that may have a psychological effect on students. Abusive parents, on the other hand, affect their children’s performance in school by not giving them the love, trust and encouragement they need. Such children, therefore, become depressed and most of them end up running away from home to escape their parents’ bad conduct.
Peer pressure is a another factor that causes students to drop out of school. Most students in the same age bracket tend to have several things in common and will try as much as they can to share ideas both good and bad. One of the bad ideas from peers include the use of drugs. Young people who take drugs perform poorly at school as it is believed to be one of the strong factors that pull students out of school. Even though drug use is prohibited in most schools, the evil continues to thrive.
Another factor is lifestyle. As lifestyle changes with time, most students have the mentality that they are better accepted in the society when they drive expensive cars, dressed in superior clothes and display some ostentatious lives. Thus those students whose parents are incapable of meeting such standards feel misplaced and cannot stand this agony, particularly when they study with well-off students. In the long run they drop out of school.
Parental misguidance is also becoming a contributory factor towards the increasing rate of school dropouts. There are families that have lived good lives without relying on education. Such families do not accentuate the need for education for their children. When this happens, students are left to choose whether to complete or drop out of school.
Finance also causes many university students to drop out of school. Education today involves money and when the student doesn’t meet up the necessary requirement in school in terms of payment of school fees, textbooks, accommodation etc, the student may decide to work to earn more money to further their education instead of concentrating on studies. Dropouts who are concerned about their immediate, short-term financial situation may see a full time job as the best way to maintain the lifestyle they desire. Early pregnancy is also a factor that aids the school dropout syndrome.
The aforementioned reasons for students’ drop out are problems for the society and the government as well. For instance, when we have so many people living in poverty due to low income, it increases the rate of school dropouts.
It is very clear that education moulds the character of individuals and society. Where it is lacking, the results are unpalatable. They say knowledge is power. A country where students’ dropout rate is high, it indicates that all is not well with the education sector. Consequently, all manner of deviant behaviours will be noticed and no one can live in peace. Education, therefore, is the only guarantee for a better life.
Nwankwo wrote from Port Harcourt.

 

Anita Nwankwo

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Opinion

Securing Our Artifacts

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Culture consists of the beliefs, way of life, art and customs that are shared and accepted by people in a particular society; the attitudes and beliefs about things that are shared by a particular group of people. In another definition, Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, the living dictionary, defines culture as activities that are related to art, music, literature and a society that existed at a particular time in history. Culture is an old as history. History cannot be complete without the culture of a people.
The African continent was known to be the home of culture. So many ancient art works in Africa had illicitly been taken away to other continents of the world. Illicit trafficking of cultural materials from Africa is because of non-documentation of art works produced by Africans. So many artifacts were illegally taken away by the colonial masters who colonized the African continent. Some artifacts of cultural value were forcefully transported out of Africa without the consent of the sculptors, artists or even the native communities.
Museum setting and management is a major problem in preserving the ancient art works produced some centuries ago. According to Binkat Manji Jennifer, a well-documented collection can never be achieved without important activities such as numberings. Since the aim of any museum documentation system is to attain a standardized format that would assist in safe-guarding and tracing collections then the aspect of numbering is inevitable.
The National Commission for Museums and Monuments should step up to its functions in protecting and preserving cultural materials or artifacts by Nigerian artists. There were so many art works in the Niger Delta and other parts of the country without documentation and this has caused extinction of cultural materials in some well-known cultures in the country.
Cultural materials, in some cases, are not preserved by the people who use them. Today, the orientation and preservation of cultural materials are given prompt attention. And that is why many Nigerian artists are not celebrated in the country.
It is important for museums to know where the objects are at every given point in time as well as who has them. Cultural materials are trafficked to every part of the world without control. It is sad. There is no proper control or preservation of cultural materials in Nigeria.
The illicit trafficking of artifacts from Africa to the Western world has been on the increase, especially in this 21st Century. One of the reasons for trafficking of cultural materials to other parts of the world without traces is because the materials have no historical ownership.
For instance, the Last Supper Painting of Jesus Christ and his disciples is credited to a world class painter, Leonard Da Vinci, because of documentation carried out at that time. It is obvious that most of the sculptural pieces and paintings in Africa were not assigned or credited to certain artists.
The works of the Nok Culture, Ife Art, Benin Art and Igbo Ukwu did not have specific artists attached to them. Rather, they are seen as general art works of particular groups. But in Europe, most of the artifacts can be traced to the artists who did them. This is the problem of historical non-documentation in African society.
Examples of bad conditions on objects indeed, missing art objects appear incomplete due to areas that have been broken off, probably in the course of excavation of pottery items or broken while in transit. Some parts of objects that have broken off must not be thrown away in the course of exhibition; these parts can equally be displayed. Every part of an art work is important to the artist.
Last year, the Last Supper Painting of Da Vinci was auctioned in Europe for millions of dollars.
The federal, state and the local governments in Nigeria should protect and promote artworks made in the country. A situation where cultural materials are illegally taken away at the mercy of the artists should be discouraged.
Most countries in the world preserve their ancient relics in their national museums. Museums in France can boast of artifacts that have existed for more than one thousand years. Nigerian artists should be empowered by government to give them a sense of belonging.
Indeed, there is no ethnic group without cultural materials. But today, some ethic groups cannot identify or see their cultural material in real life. Some had been taken to foreign lands where their origin cannot be traced. Say no to illicit trafficking of cultural artifacts.
Ogwuonuonu wrote from Port Harcourt.

 

Frank Ogwuonuonu

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