Connect with us

Focus

Why Rivers People Must Join Hands With  Gov Wike In 2021

Published

on

The year 2020 was defined by COVID-19. It was a year the entire world succumbed to the unexpected outbreak of a global pandemic that neither discriminated against colour nor creed.
The rich, middle class, poor, white, black, caucasian, aborigines; every segment of the human race felt the devastating impact of the Coronavirus pandemic that completely reprogrammed the normalcy that hitherto guided our existential norms and compelled us to embrace a new normal.
The year 2020 was a very challenging year for our country too. A centrally mismanaged national economy in recession made worse by a brutal Coronavirus pandemic, escalated insecurity, corruption and socio-political tensions which all made life, in a truly post-modern Hobbesian context, horrible for millions of struggling families and ordinary Nigerians.
Rivers State was right in the eye of the COVID-19 storm and as one of the leading oil producing states in the country, the necessary restrictions and mandated health and other operational guidelines and protocols stipulated by global health and medical authorities, created a fluid situation that  demanded rigid, unquestioning adaptability to, first protect citizens from contacting the infection and then, ultimately curb the spread of the virus in our communities.
But by an impressive combination of dedicated, firm, courageous, proactive and strategically administrative leadership regimen, which often demanded leading from the front and periodically ruffled the central authority feathers, Governor Nyesom Wike was able to contain, control and astutely adapt the COVID-19 situation to the accomplishment and delivery of some of the already laid down developmental initiatives promised Rivers people in the second tenure of his administration.
As a State, we strove and reasonably advanced our development agenda and to God be the glory, we survived 2020 and COVID-19.
As a responsive Government, committed to delivering on its promises to Rivers people, the Governor Nyesom Wike administration, already mindful of how high the infrastructural development bar has been raised and the outstanding sectoral pledges yet to be delivered, is definitely not resting on its oars.
Governor  Wike has repeatedly promised that there will be no abandoned or uncompleted project, when his tenure comes to an end in 2023.
It is against this quite challenging backdrop therefore, that the call for Rivers people to join hands with Governor  Wike to develop the State in 2021, resonates with clear and patriotic brotherhood.
Like Governor Wike  rightly espoused in his new year message to Rivers people, “Let us eschew the recriminations, turn a new page on the hatred that has kept us divided, forgive one another and together, work towards making our dear State the best place on earth to live, do business and bring up our children.”
To be sure, the statesmanship exhibited by Governor Wike in the new year address is a commendable gesture, especially in his clarion call to all well-meaning citizens to work together to overcome the road-blocks to the progress of Rivers State and the enthronement of a State that holds concrete promise of hope for the present and future generations.
The year 2020 shocked all of us into the realization that things can actually change from what we are used to, into a new normal that nobody ever anticipated and it is in recognition of this existential eye opener that we must acknowledge the call by Governor Wike for us to embrace a new chapter of cooperation, togetherness and solidarity that would unleash our potentials on the development of our State, with all seriousness and acceptance.
Governor Wike’s ultimate goal is to better the lots of our people in all sectors of the economy and his conviction that, “There’s no goal we cannot achieve if we remain united,” attest to the fact that his determination to implement the NEW Vision development blueprint in all the 23 Local Government Areas of the State, will not be compromised.
The very impressive realization that the State Government, inspite of COVID-19, initiated and completed a record number of development projects with tremendous socio-economic impact while several others, including the multi-billion naira epoch defining legacy flyovers, as well as the Mother and Child hospital, the Real Madrid Academy new buildings, the Okoro-Nu-Odo flyover, the Sakpenwa – Bori dual carriage way, the Abonnema Ring Road, the 10 kilometer Bolo internal roads, and the Eteo – Sime – Nonwa – Kira Road, are all due for inauguration from the 4th of January 2021, speaks volumes for the unwavering dedication of the administration.
This year which of course represents the midpoint of the second term, is therefore a year when the Wike admini-stration’s agenda for the State, which has been clear from the very inception and, contrary to the warped narratives of some diehard critics and refuseniks, will begin to crystalize.
The efforts already put in place to pragmatically address the critical concerns of Rivers people, which have yielded verifiable results, especially in the sustenance of peace and security, education and affordable healthcare, fixing our infrastructural deficit and driving better economic growth and social progress for our State, will be consolidated.
The achievements so far recorded have already formed the bedrock for the motivation towards greater levels of development, economic growth, better life and secured future for our people and special gratitude and appreciation must be offered to God and the teeming masses of Rivers people who not only gave us the opportunity to serve but have also reposed great faith and confidence in the ability and capacity of Governor Wike to always do what is in the best interest of the people, as exhibited in the near total compliance of our people to the sometimes stringent Executive orders, mandated health guidelines and other directives, which became necessary at the height of the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic.
It is also quite important to stress here that a second wave of COVID-19 is already upon us and the appeal is for us as a people to brace ourselves with maximum cooperation to the protocols and regulations which will be rolled out as the situation determines and most importantly, to take personal responsibility in embracing and adhering to the already mandated guidelines and COVID-19 protocols, especially the wearing of face masks and maintaining of social distancing, in our individual and collective interactions.
The call for Rivers people to join hands with Governor Wike to expand the development of the State is thus a germane and genuine admission that, as we crest the home run curve of this administration, there’s still much more to be done to realize the Rivers State of our dreams: a progressive State with fabulous infrastructures, quality education, affordable healthcare and boundless economic opportunities for all who live in it.
This year will be dedicated to focusing on the fundamental task of creating a new Rivers State through prudent, efficient and transparent management of available resources and from the programme of events already reeled out for the first quarter, which will be kick-started with the marathon commissioning of projects across seven Local Government  Areas in the state, the message that echoes loud and clear is that the State Government shall continue to upgrade and expand welfare and infrastructural services across all sectors of the polity.
One incontrovertible fact in the delivery of the NEW Rivers Vision is that traditional rulers, elder statesmen, religious leaders, party chieftains and opinion leaders are strategic partners in the development of Rivers State and the need for them to break the barriers of partisanship to build the future that many Rivers people yearn for, which is the desire of all for our State, cannot be over-emphasised.
Governor Wike  captured it succinctly in his New Year message thus: “Those who demarket our State, remain our enemies and we must resist their antics. Let us therefore start a new chapter of cooperation, togetherness and solidarity and in one accord unleash our potentials on the development of our State and better the lots of our people, for there’s no goal we cannot achieve if we remain united.
“As we say farewell to 2020, let us also eschew the recriminations, turn a new page on the hatred that has kept us divided, forgive one another and together, work towards making our dear State the best place on earth to live, do business and bring up our children.
“As we step into the New Year, let us recommit ourselves to the NEW Rivers Vision by working together under God’s guidance to make 2021 truly remarkable and fulfilling for Rivers State,” Governor Wike admonished.
Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.

Continue Reading

Focus

Amplitude Of Governor Wike’s NEW Rivers Vision

Published

on

Few weeks ago, the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim invited journalists to his office to intimate Rivers people about the readiness of his Ministry to commence the second phase of its advocacy campaign programme hash tagged, #OurStateOurResponsibility.
The initiative is aimed at mobilising people living and doing business in Rivers State to promote the giant strides recorded by the Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike’s administration, showcase the proud heritage of the Rivers people known for their traditional hospitality and to change the negative narrative about the state. It was first launched on July 13, 2019.
Observers allude to the fact that Rivers State under Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, in the last six years, has witnessed unprecedented developments in areas of landmark projects and social re-engineering that have brought about tremendous positive impact in every facet of life.
In executing the first phase of the campaign, the Ministry took the advocacy to the doorsteps of different media organisations, traditional rulers, various professional bodies and associations, including faith-based organisations with a clear mission to etch into the psyche of everyone living and doing business in Rivers State to know that the State belongs to them all and therefore the responsibility to uphold virtues that only portray the State in good light and to counter evil political, religious and ethnic bigots whose stock in trade is to demarket the State.
Two years down the line, reports have indicated overwhelming and massive buy-in by citizens from all walks of life resident in the State. Indeed, people from all facets of society including non-indigenes residing and or doing business in the State readily embraced and owned the message of #OurStateOurResponsibility.
The campaign received such high level of acceptance by the public as the Ministry leveraged on the glaring unprecedented achievements of the state Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike who has shown unparalleled commitment to religiously execute his deliberately mapped out NEW Rivers Vision blueprint launched shortly after he assumed office as Governor on May 29, 2015.
This motivated the Ministry to tinker on a second phase of the campaign, this time, aimed at evolving further steps to impress the message in the hearts of the citizens with deliberate intention to ensure that everyone becomes a major stakeholder in the Rivers project and to portray the State in its true positive status as the most hospitable in Nigeria. The second phase of #OurStateOurResponsibility was launched on September 1, 2021.
Rolling out the various segments of the second phase, Nsirim told the media that the advocacy campaign would stretch beyond solidarity campaign to engage residents of the State on essay writing, theme song, skits and short film competitions which would attract cash prizes.
“As an incentive, the Ministry of Information and Communications has earmarked cash prizes for the first, second and third place winners of the essay competition. There would also be consolation prizes for the fourth, fifth and sixth placed participants. In addition to the cash prizes, the winners would also be presented with memorable plaques for their efforts on October 4, 2021,” he told newsmen.
The Commissioner disclosed that the Ministry would also call for entries from members of the public, including members of the Port Harcourt chapter of the Advertisers Practitioners Council for the theme song selection, skits and short film competitions centred around the hash tag to further create more awareness that would give greater visibility to the advocacy campaign.
The essay competition is between people within ages 16 to 25 years. According to the Commissioner, the reason for this is to inculcate in the minds of the young ones the idea and ideals behind the advocacy campaign, as future drivers of the advocacy.
“Apart from the monetary incentives that would accompany the best of each category, the works would receive reviews on the media platforms of the Rivers State Ministry of Information and Communications, plaques would also be presented to the winners. Moreover, winners of the various categories would become Ambassadors of the Ministry of Information and Communications and would be specially invited in all activities of the Ministry for the quarter (three months) of their reign,” said Nsirim.
The spokesman of the Rivers State Government did not end at conveying of the message within the confines of his office, but he took a step further to engage the various state-owned media organisations on a live radio and television programmes as another avenue to elicit public conversation in advancing the advocacy to the public.
At the Radio Rivers, Nsirim was equivocal on the justification for the advocacy campaign. He told millions of listeners that the ingenuity of Governor Wike has brought about rapid infrastructural development of Rivers State, hence, the need to sell the good product.
The Commissioner described the developmental strides of Governor Wike in the last six years as unparalleled and revolutionary. “For anyone living and doing business in Rivers State, what has happened in the last six years is like a revolution.”
“Things that they least imagined would happen in the State are already happening because of the ingenuity of one man who has come to really serve his people,” he said.
Nsirim recounted the numerous infrastructural development initiatives of the state government in the various sectors, including education, healthcare delivery, agriculture, roads and bridges, security, sports, amongst others, saying that the state government is carrying out a silent revolution.
“This government is carrying out a holistic agenda for our people, and like I tell people, Governor Nyesom Wike is a visionary leader. He is building for tomorrow.
“He is building all the sectors of the economy for people to enjoy. Rivers State is supposed to be a haven of sort, and that is what Governor Wike is trying to do in redefining governance here.
“There is no local government in Rivers State that is not feeling the impact of this administration. Rivers State Government under Governor Wike is to ensure that the interest of Rivers people is protected,” Nsirim emphasised.
He said Wike has become the beautiful bride because the facts on ground had distinguished him from the crowd as a man carrying out a revolution in governance in Nigeria. “All the media houses have come to recognise that and have given him awards.”
As guest to the Garden City Radio station live programme, Nsirim told the numerous listeners that the Chief Executive of the State, Governor Wike’s vision is to place Nigeria on the path of true federalism. “The point I would want every Rivers person to understand first is, today, we have a Governor Wike, a visionary leader beyond Rivers State and beyond the shores of Nigeria.
“What you have seen with the VAT issue just clearly shows that we have a man at this time in history who has taken it upon himself to right the wrongs and place Nigeria on the path of true federalism.
Bolstered by the unprecedented achievements of Governor Wike which has made it easier for the #OurStateOurResponsibility campaign message to be sold, the Information and Communications Commissioner mocked the leadership of the opposition in the State which had earlier expressed scepticism on the success of the Wike’s government.
“Remember and I like making this point because people need to know where we are coming from. In 2015, this man was told they would see where he would see money to pay salaries and do projects
“He inherited four months’ unpaid salaries. He inherited five months’ pension arrears. This was the only administration in Nigeria that did not get a handover note from the previous administration, but look at where we are. We are in a place of glory,” he said.
Nsirim described the rapid development witnessed in the State currently as a golden era. “I also make the point that because Governor Wike is a people-oriented Governor, even the less privileged feels the impact of his administration. The Rehabilitation Centre we have at Iriebe today is the best in the country.
The Commissioner insisted that the Governor remained committed to his ultimate desire to make Rivers State the destination of choice.
Playing guest to the Rivers State Television on a live programme, Nsirim said categorically that Governor Nyesom Wike has made Rivers people proud by showing the roadmap for development and governance in Nigeria.
“That’s why it pays to have a patriotic leader at the helm of affairs. All the places we have gone to receive awards as best Governor, the story is the same. Wike has made Rivers people proud, that’s why I am proud working with him.
“You don’t need a lot of advertising, when you have a good product. Wike has become the face of democracy in Nigeria, so, you don’t need to struggle to convince people to rally around you.
“The facts on ground in the areas of infrastructure network, education, Sports, security, human capital development amongst others, speak for themselves.
“These are things you thought would never be possible. But one man who has vision, political will and the interest of Rivers people has come to redefine governance in Rivers State and Nigeria,” the Information Commissioner remarked.
Nsirim is optimistic that the second phase of the #OurStateOurResponsibility advocacy campaign will achieve it’s set goal of enlisting effective citizens participation in governance in the state.
Ibim, Special Assistant, Media, Honourable Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.

Continue Reading

Focus

Wike: Setting Agenda For True Federalism

Published

on

The agitation for true Federalism was taken a definitive step further on Thursday, August 19, 2021, when Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, signed the Rivers State Value Added Tax Bill, 2021 into law at the Government House, Port Harcourt. 
The Law vests the Rivers State Government with power and authority to impose, charge, demand and collect Value  Added Tax on taxable goods and services within the jurisdiction of the State except otherwise exempt under the law. By the tenor of the said Law, the Federal Government through the FIRS ceases to have the taxing competence to impose, demand and collect Value Added Tax ( VAT) within Rivers State.
The decision of the Rivers State Government to enact the Rivers State Value Added Tax Law, No. 4 of 2021 was informed by the judgment of the Federal High Court Port Harcourt Division (coram Hon. Justice Stephen D. Pam, J.,) delivered in Suit No. FHC/PH/CS/149/2020 (Attorney General Rivers State v. Federal Inland Revenue Service &Anor) on 9th August, 2021 upholding the constitutional authority and competence of the Rivers State Government to impose, charge, demand and collect VAT on taxable goods and services within Rivers State and declaring that the Federal Government through the FIRS has no power to impose and collect VAT within the State.
The court also issued an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Federal Inland Revenue Service and the Attorney-General of the Federation, both first and second defendants in the suit, from collecting, demanding, threatening and intimidating residents of Rivers State to pay to FIRS, Personnel lncome Tax (PIT) and Value Added Tax (VAT).
As to be expected, the FIRS, not only quickly challenged the ruling at the same Federal High Court, on August 15, 2021 by seeking a stay of execution of the Judgment in order to stop the Rivers State Government from commencing collection of Value Added Tax but further approached the Court of Appeal and in the interim, went about bullying corporate bodies and business entities from paying the VAT to the Rivers State Government even when they knew that an appeal does not serve as a stay neither was there anything to stay in a declaratory judgement such as the one delivered by the Honourable Court in the instant suit. 
Convinced that Rivers State was constitutionally empowerd to collect PIT and VAT, Governor NyesomWike followed all the established and appropriate mechanisms of Legislative due process which culminated in the signing of the Bill into Law and in the true spirit of a law abiding Government, stayed action on the commencement of collection of VAT until the application for stay of execution filed by the defendants had been determined at the Federal High Court.
On Monday, September 6, 2021, Justice Stephen Dalyop Pam dismissed the Application by the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, seeking to stop the Rivers State Government from commencing collection of Value Added Tax (VAT) and ruled that granting the application would negate the principle of equity.
Ruling further, Justice Pam noted that the Rivers State Government has duly enacted the Rivers State Value Added Tax No. 4, 2021, which makes it a legitimate right of the state to collect VAT and that the said law  remains valid until set aside by a court of competent jurisdiction.
According to learned trial Judge, granting the prayers of FIRS would amount to the court reversing its judgment which the court cannot do and accordingly dismissed the application. 
It was therefore against this backdrop of judicial interpretation and constitutional clarity, that we must appraise the Statewide Broadcast of Govenor Nyesom Wike ordering the immediate enforcement of the State Value Added Tax Law, No. 4 of 2021 and the resumption of VAT collection across the entire state, following the rejection of the application  to stay the earlier judgment and dismissal of the stay of execution application filed by FIRS.
It is important to point out here that, contrary to the confrontational spin often woven around his interface with the Federal Government on specific issues, Governor  Wike has always and rightly too, opted to test his convictions before the law and more often than not has emerged victorious thus affirming his determination to operate within the delineated competencies spelt out in the 1999 Constitution (as amended). 
There is no gainsaying the fact that the Federal Government has seemingly appeared to be  at war with the states, with most of its agencies riding roughshod and wielding powers over State Governments with the tacit support of the federal government without any constructional justification. 
This negates and undermines the spirit of true Federalism, which Nigeria, as a country of federating states is constitutionally enjoined  to practice.
As a mere agency of the Federal Government without any political authority, the effrontery and impunity exhibited by the FIRS against the Rivers State Government was ill-advised and highly provocative.
The crux of the matter in this VAT saga, as rightly expounded by the Court is that, other than the taxes and duties specifically reserved for the Federal Government under item Nos. 58 and 59 of Part 1 of the Second Schedule of the 1999 constitution as amended, it is the state and not FIRS that is constitutionally entitled to impose taxes enforceable or collectable in its territory of the nature of consumption or sales tax, VAT, education and other taxes or levies.
In other words, the constitutional power of the Federal Government to impose taxes and duties is only limited to the taxes listed in items 58 and 59 of Part 1 of the second schedule of the 1999 constitution as amended.
The Rivers State Government had also urged the court to declare that, by virtue of the provisions of items 7 and 8 of the Part II (Concurrent Legislative List) of the Second Schedule of the constitution, the power of the Federal Government to delegate the collection of taxes can only be exercised by the State Government or other authority of the state and no other person.
Simply put, any exercise of legislative powers by the Federal Government which is inconsistent with or in excess of the powers to impose tax and duties, as prescribed by items 58 and 59 of the Part I of the Second Schedule of the 1999 constitution, or inconsistent with the power to delegate the duty of collection of taxes, as contained in items 7 and 8 of Part II of the Second Schedule of the Constitution, is unconstitutional, null and void.
Indeed, Governor NyesomWike had in several media fora after the Port Harcourt Federal  High Court judgment, emphasized it loud and clear, that in addition to ensuring that the states are not short changed in collecting what is supposed to accrue to them via VAT and other taxes, the more important objective of the case, was to establish and bring to public notice and awareness, the constitutional illegality of the action of FIRS in collecting VAT in the states.
Like the Governor rightly pointed out in his statewide broadcast, “It is important to reiterate the fact that we did no wrong in exercising our legal right under our constitutional democracy to stop the continuing breach, denial and curtailment of the constitutional right of States to lawfully impose and collect value added and other related taxes within jurisdiction to the exclusion of the Federal Government.
“And in doing so our singular and progressive objective was to contribute to the advancement of fiscal federalism by enabling the federating States to explore and exploit their potential and capacity for generating greater internal revenues with which to fund their development goals and reduce the outdated over-reliance on pitiable Federal allocation and other handouts.”
It is worthy of note therefore that the very first state that embraced the earlier  Port Harcourt Federal High Court Judgment granting states the authority to collect VAT, was none other than Lagos State, which has already started collecting the requisite taxes accordingly and other states have not only applauded the brave and courageous decision by GovenorWike to expand the fiscal Federalism frontier they have also indicated willingness to embrace the Court Judgment too.
Meanwhile, FIRS has already gone to the appellate Court to ventilate its perceived  grievances against the decision of the court since it feels that the judgment should have gone in its favour. In spite of the appeal, the FIRS has concurred that, “The natural consequences of the ruling is that the Rivers State Government will be collecting the VAT”
The fact remains that while this is just one Judgment in a plethora of so many yet to be litigated constitutional anomalies, the monumental leap and height it has scaled in the long drawn advocacy for true Federalism and indeed resource control and management by federating states in the country cannot be quantified.
Governor Wike, who recognized the natural option of some States with presently low economic activities and ethically restrictive social policies with economic implications to resist the Court Judgment, however pointed out that, despite the inherent fears, “fiscal federalism still remains the right path to economic self-reliance and sustainability for all our States and the benefits derivable from this case by all the States in the long run far outweigh the immediate revenue loss that some States may presently suffer. 
“It is therefore very unfortunate that some State Governors are vainly conspiring to truncate this progressive reality in favour of the inequitable status quo so that the Federal Government can continue to rob Peter to pay Paul as the nation’s self-imposed tax master-general,” he declared.  
Sounding a stern warning that the Rivers State Government is fully in charge of the State and will not tolerate any further attempt by the FIRS to sabotage or undermine its authority to freely administer the tax and other related laws in our own State, Governor Wike declared that, “Those who play with fire risks having their fingers burnt. Enough of the shenanigans”.
While assuring the states that “All that is required is for all of us to wear our thinking caps as elected Governors to collectively fight for the greater devolution of resources, responsibilities and powers to the federating States” Governor Wike pledged to Rivers people that his administration shall as usual make effective use of the expected proceeds from this tax to accelerate the development of our State and improve the wellbeing of everyone. 
“For us in Rivers State, we will continue to ensure and project our constitutional rights to access all possible resources we can take hold both within and outside our geographical boundaries to advance the progress of our State,” he said.

By: Paulinus Nsirim
Nsirim is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.

Continue Reading

Focus

‘Towards A New Nigerian Federal System Of Miyetti Allah, NBA And #End SARS’

Published

on

From the on-going debate on Nigeria’s future, you learn a lot about what is wrong with us as Nigerians.
Seems many of us don’t understand what we support with much enthusiasm, nor do we understand what we oppose with great show of emotion!
Even worse, the oppressed majority tends to sit and murmur while allowing our country to repeat the same negative inclination that has worsened our conditions over the years.
I argue in this discussion that we should highlight new ideas about our social condition and boldly reject the lies behind our repeated failures.
Here I wish to show how the prominent voices of Miyetti Allah, NBA (Nigerian Bar Association) and “#End Sars” protest, are the only new developments that hold any meaningful hope of Nigeria’s emergence as a better nation. Our country can make our citizens proud again and on a higher scale. But it will only happen when citizen groups work to pursue by collective action the urgent task to regain the great destiny of our nation and restore her capacity to be competitive and exemplary, in order to lead the Black World to sustainable dignity and respect for the African on a global scale.
This discussion is coming as an alternative view to what is emerging as a national chorus. It is the loud cry for what people call “restructuring”.
When you ask what is restructuring and what do we want it for?
The usual answer is let us return to old regional structure and more devolution of powers from the centre. But these things will not turn Nigeria to greatness.
We should not allow ourselves and others to be conned into accepting that lie .
We had a regional structure before and it led us to progressive chaos and finally a Civil War.
Over 2 million died during the war, as some people claim. But nobody has bothered to imagine or count even at the smallest unit of government how many Nigerians suffered a life of misery and avoidable death due to bad government at Local government, regional or federal levels in the 20 years between 1946 -1966!
How many didn’t go to college because they couldn’t afford to?
How many didnt get a decent job to be able to live well?
How many were sent to jail or left there one day longer than should have been the case because they couldn’t afford legal services or where identified by the ruling party as opponents?
In typical Nigerian manner, we do not count citizens who become victims of our misgovernance.
They don’t count.
Even the living don’t count too.
You wouldn’t think that the stakeholders that dominated
Nigeria’s political landscape from 1946-1966 when bad things happened to many Nigerian Citizens will be increasingly squeezed out of circulation.
But it is not true.
From 1999 every election cycle has witnessed the emergence of same pattern of prominence for ethnic- based stakeholder groups. Their role had been to stampede Nigerian citizens into political decisions that either seemed to support what was the status quo or led the nation further backwards.
It is either Arewa Yoths or Northern Elders Forum, Oduduwa Movement or Yoruba Leaders of Thought,
Umunna Igbo or Oha- Ne -Eze.
You find the rapid -fire manufacture of “Associations” of various ethnic minorities such as Akweya, Annang, Bini, Edo, Efik, Etche, Idoma, Ijaw, Ikwerre, Ibibio, Itsekiri, Ogoni and Tiv, who claim to speak for themselves or for their notional “region”.
The religious associations are not too far behind.
But these kinds of stakeholders have not helped Nigeria in the past 21 years to focus energy on building a budget culture to promote productivity and industrial competitiveness at national or state level.
As reflected in three eras of quantum crash in exchange rate of Naira to US Dollar, arising from each new federal administration in 1999-2021, the pattern of stakeholder role on the nation’s political landscape as suggested above, seem to have encouraged Nigeria’s progressive economic decline ie from 1999-2006 ( N100= $1), 2007-2014 ( N150=$1),and 2015-2021 ( N350-N500=$1).
But why do such stakeholder groups hold sway?
It is because they tend to operate largely as their “Master’s voice,” in line with old grammaphone records of old that had HMV printed on them.
That was until Miyetti Allah surfaced. They are the first stakeholder group to represent the interest of a productive sector of the economy on the political landscape.
By their effort Nigeria’s Federal Government has offered to invest ( please mark the word invest) billions of Naira to create RUGA or cattle settlement in target states. Now each settlement is expected to accommodate livestock and Fulani herdsmen as well as likely “unknown gun men” who are largely reported to be giving innocent and much abused peasant Fulani labourers, a nation-wide bad name, since 2015.
Miyetti Allah or those who claim to speak for them have also gone ahead to confront state governments to make provisions for cattle readers and their livestock.
This could be one President Buhari’s legacy to Nigeria’s policy dialogue.
Imagine if every productive labour group came forward to demand that states and Federal governments make adequate budget arrangements to modernise production in their respective sectors to meet commercial scale?
If Obasanjo’s era had encouraged such productivity-based stakeholder role even if they were led by Yoruba Cocoa farmers, those who produce yam, millet, rice, beans, Maize and soybean would have secured an increasing percentage of national budget as annual investment in expanding the agro Sector and supply chain.
Nigeria could have become a competitive participant , in the $29b annual global Maize market!
So imagine that Jonathan’s era also anticipated the Miyetti Allah playbook, even if led by Ijaw fishermen and Native Gin traders.
Nigeria could have invested in commercializing sea food processing and manufacturing of local gin for the export market.
Kentucky State is said to own a huge chunk of the global gin market ( Bourbon) which raises about $15b a year in the US alone.
Can you imagine the quality of life of Niger Delta people if they invested in business with a global market that generates for each state a percentage of $15b?
Add another percentage from $9b annual market sales of Lobster and prawns shipment to Asia. This can easily come from Sea food processing business in Niger Delta.
See why we must learn from Miyetti Allah to pressure governments in Nigeria to become engaged with productivity -driven stakeholder groups such as business groups and professional associations on budget development each year?
Now look at NBA. It is the only professional body that has taken action each time to defend its purpose in society along with the Constitution of our country.
Imagine if other professional bodies followed the Miyetti Allah and NBA way: by working together to identify and propose reasonable alternatives to existing unproductive policy directions, organizations such as Nigerian Society of Engineers ( NSE), Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) NUJ ( Nigerian Union of Journalists) ASUU ( Academic Staff Union of Universities) and NIPR ( Nigerian Institute of Public Relations) can change Nigeria.
Why does “#End SARS” qualify for mention?
It is because Nigerian citizens stood up to say enough was enough. It was sad that the protest was misunderstood by law enforcement agencies leading to unnecessary and oppressive bloodshed.
But like George Floyd did in the United States, the blood of our heroes should make those of us living to reject the option of letting the National and State Assemblies remain an expensive auditorium for “sleeping dogs”!
No we should peacefully but strongly mobilizer to occupy those places that have betrayed the Nigerian people and made us poorer.
Now let us discuss some falsehoods about the call for restructuring that seeks to send us back to regional or Parliamentary system.
First, the Parliamentary system evolved in Nigeria gradually ( 1920s, 1946, 1951 & 1958-63).
Each constitution that emerged and its practice, became a glaring failure. That was why each constitution was replaced, even at “baby step” stage.
We should stop pretending that the Parliamentary constitutions & regional governments were success stories.
No, they were often social disasters.
For instance from 1946 the tendency for ethnic domination had become prominent in each region. Prof Eyo Ita who was elected by Eastern Region Parliament as Leader of Govt Business (ie the Premier), was pressured to surrender leadership of Eastern Region to Zik by what was seen as an Igbo drive to dominate the region. When he refused to do so, a new election was organised to favour certain ethnic interests, in the name of party politics.
In preparation for 1951, Zik and National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) went to contest to win Lagos and the Western Region. So Prof Eyo Ita was elected to run the Eastern Region since Zik and NCNC expected victory in the West, in order to make Zik the Leader of the Federal Parliament under the new constitution. When Awo’s Action Group (AG) won in the West and Lagos, the NCNC turned around to ask Prof Eyo Ita to hand over to Zik in the East. This was seen as an Igbo decision, not a party resolution.

It forced ethnic minorities in the Eastern Parliament to form a minority movement against Igbo domination that was doing enjoying a robust “press up” and outing under the guise of NCNC.
Secondly, the practice of the independence and Republican constitutions 1959- 1963, produced a national crisis with Agbekoya riots in the West and Tiv riots in the North.
The toxic relationship between politicians who were fighting to dominate their regions as a premise to negotiate political power and attendant positions at the Federal centre, left Nigeria in tension from regional hot spots as follows :
Awo and his top AG supporters landed in jail, convicted for Treasonable Felony.
Aminu Kano and his Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) supporters, found themselves under arbitrary arrests in Kano and other Hausa parts of the North as allegedly directed by the Northern Peoples’ Congress (NPC) in charge of the region.
Joseph Tarka leader of United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC) and his supporters, were on the run in the Middle Belt.
At the same time Harold Dappa Biriye’s Niger Delta agitation and those behind Calabar- Ogoja -Rivers (COR State) Movement, became unofficially “persona non grata” in Eastern Region from 1958.
Thirdly, it took only two years 1963-1965 for the explosive situation from Nigeria’s Parliamentary consitutions and serial constitutional malpractices, to lead Nigerians to the first military coup in Jan 1966, a counter coup that was a raging Sea of blood backed by revenge killings and mass pogrom of Southerners in the North in 1966. Finally we were dragged into Civil War in July 1967.
More fundamentally, Nigerians seem to forget that the Parliamentary constitutions from 1946 came into being by a large dose of colonial imposition designed for a primitive population.
Just like the present era since 1999 which treats our diaspora population with suspicion, if not outright exclusion, the Parliamentary constitutions from 1946-66 didn’t have room for citizen participation outside political parties. It was a democracy that subjected citizens to the dictatorship of the political party.
Today there is strictly speaking no party system. Most states run as one party states.
The National Assembly is a place where the ruling party swaggers around because it faces only Senator Enyinna Abaribe as the national Opposition.
Our politicians don’t take their party identity seriously because there are really no ethical or operational differences between them.
Since 1999 political parties have become the private property of those who can pay. Any leading politician can vie for governorship ticket of one political party on Friday and get the Governorship flag of another party on Monday!
If I’m the primaries is holding in Port Harcourt you only require a trusted taxi driver who knows Niger Street to courier enough dollars and change them to Naira over the weekend.
We seem to forget something about our first time with regional structure.
We came close to being sent to jail because your Premier or his agents suspected that you as a corporate executive, showed no “total loyalty” to the half- baked party leader in your village.
It was a crime!
Another point, is about indirect voting in the Parliamentary constitution. It made a Prime Minister or Premier to emerge from the party majority at the Federal or regional level, by the choice of the party caucus in Parliament and not the general electorate.
In addition the Prime Minister or Premier could keep office indefinitely as long as he or she could raise a majority in Parliament.
This was rejected by Nigerians and replaced with the 1979 Constitution that adopted an amended version of the American Presidential System.
It empowers Nigerians to choose their national leader at each election cycle by direct voting and no LG Chairman, Governor or President can do more than two terms.
Another issue that has been thrown into contention is Federalism.
Contrary to what Nigerians are told, we do not have anything like “true federalism” in the world.
We have many federal systems of government across the world. From the American, to Russian, Canadian, Australian, German, Brazil, India, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan and Ethiopia among over 20 federal countries.
No one has the same constitution with another.
Every Federal constitution reflects the preference of political agitators and other stakehokder groups in a particular country as to how power sharing is conducted by different levels of government.
So what should Nigerians be focused on at this point in 2021?
This is a question politicians do not want us to address. It is because they want to retain benefits of the present system.
We must recognise what is wrong with our politics and society.
The injury is felt not only in the relationship between Federal and States. But also between States and Local Governments. But it is not every citizen that suffers. There are those who enjoy while others are suffering.
There are two key things about present Nigerian society.
First is that we run a Feudal System that rewards unproductivity because the system itself is unproductive and logicially cannot invest to make the citizens competitive .
This is happening in LGAs and states, not only Federal government.
The system wants to share what is available ( ie revenue from resources that it does invest to grow or expand).
So it does not encourage the citizenry to be more productive and to create more public wealth.
As a matter of fact and business reality here, those who try to stay in production are punished by the system with high and multiple taxation along with a few thugs messing with you, if you are not jumping high enough to salute the Master!
All the attention is for a few to take what is available. They use all tricks and often deploy open force to achieve what they want, whenever tricks don’t work.
Secondly, the Feudal System puts the monopoly of public revenue and opportunities in the hands of a few who have political power. They indulge in private accumumation of wealth, instead of public wealth creation.
At the same time, the overwhelming population of the masses and middle class, are gradually but steadily impoverished by the Feudal System through lack of investment of public wealth in industrialization, competitive education, health care and democratisation of access to investment capital and opportunities.
So we end up with a “democracy” that creates dictators and a political process where only one Strong man is on top in each state, surrounded by cronies.
Those who have power also have public revenue to quickly make themselves “Masters” at LGA, State and Federal levels, while the rest of the people are reduced to Slaves to obey every directive of the “Masters”.
To change Nigeria we need to dismantle the Feudal System at LG, State and Federal levels of government. Every level of government must commit to producing more public wealth. This will make our society more competitive and place integration of all ethnic groups as priority. Each budget to be announced must declare what percentage of increase to public wealth is to be the target for the year and in what Sectors and locations.
Nigeria is among the backward countries where States read budgets but do not show what Sectors would be made more productive or announce new target of public wealth to be achieved each year. In South Africa and Ghana, even LGAs announce what productivity targets they want to meet in each Sector!
Now to dismantle present Feudal System, we also need Nigerian governments to announce milestone of democratising access to investment funds and target opportunities in every budget proposal as well as equal access for public participation in developing the budget. Also we must demand eqaul access to justice and fairness to all ethnic groups and relevant business Sectors in policy focus and implementation .
In addition we can take away monopoly power of those who hold political offices at LG, State and Federal levels of government by stating specific improvement in services and quality of life that citizens must expect in each LGA and State as well as the Federal Government, by business, professional and ethnic groups that must participate in budget discussion each year.
We must also insist that citizens be accorded dignity by implementation of rules to show that all citizens have equal rights for career building , equal pay for equal work, duty of care for quality education and health, equal opportunity and respect for ethnic identity.
Brown is former National President, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations.

By: Amaopusenibo Bobo Sofiri Brown

Continue Reading

Trending