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A Vote For Unemployment Benefit

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The Tide Editorial Comment of Friday, February 12, 2021, deserves not only a serious commendation but also a follow-up. That the Federal Government of Nigeria plans to pay the sum of N729 billion to 24.3 million poor Nigerians for six months, may sound like a great patriotic policy of empathy for the Nigerian poor masses. That the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has challenged that “magnanimous” gesture of the Federal Government of Nigeria, raises hope that there are still a few Nigerians with vibrant conscience.
Not long ago, a similar magnanimous project of free food for poor Nigerian school children was undertaken by the same empathic federal government. Hitherto, there are numerous sad comments and innuendos hovering around the school free meal affair, with hardly anything said or done to clear the air with regards to accountability on the huge amount of money involved daily to feed poor Nigerian school children. Even when all schools were shut down, thanks to COVID-19 pandemic, the school meal project had no shutdown.
It would be a dangerous frame of mind for anyone to believe that the presumed docility of the average Nigerians is synonymous with stupidity, such that they are ignorant of when they are being short-changed and bamboozled. It is common knowledge among Nigerians that government policies and programmes rarely work out in the best interest of the masses; at least, not all.
Once a distrust in government policies and programmes sets in, it becomes quite difficult to win back the faith and confidence of the masses. This is why SERAP is seen and hailed by the Nigerian public as a hope that can kindle integrity. With regards to the school feeding project, hardly has any single Nigerian expressed satisfaction or faith with transparency of that programme; despite the huge sum of money purportedly spent daily to feed poor children.
Now, with the plan to pay N729 billion to 24.3 million poor Nigerians for six months, obviously many Nigerians would be quite skeptical about an accountable and honest implementation of the plan. Nigeria is not a country with accurate record-keeping culture, even with the current hue-and-cry over National Identification Number (NIN) and threat of linking it with everything that an individual needs for survival. Who determines the poorest of the poor, and who would believe that toxic politics would not infect every means of ascertaining correct facts?
According to The Tide Editorial Comment, “Endemic corruption has enriched a small elite and left many Nigerians mired in poverty despite the country being Africa’s top oil producer…” Yet, the issue of corruption is regarded as a plight of the past, rarely tolerated by the present, which claim most Nigerians would laugh away as a mere joke. Fingers would point at the handling of COVID-19 pandemic palliative measures. How fair?
There is hardly any humanitarian project, foreign aid programme or local charity that had been managed and administered properly, with integrity and satisfactory accountability. For this reason, Nigerians are justifiably wary and skeptical about the management of any free gift (be it food or money for the poor) handled by government officials. Frankly, Nigeria is not alone in unsatisfactory management of free gifts meant for the poorest of the poor in the society. Developing countries are particularly notorious in short-changing the under-privileged.
Every country has under-privileged and poor people, and poverty is rarely attributable to laziness but usually linked with a country’s political economy. While it would be quite difficult to alter a well-entrenched political economy, what nations which have disadvantaged citizens often do is to provide unemployment benefits. Nigeria is not an industrialised country but a predominantly agrarian society with old traditional system of farming. Many factors, including oil mineral exploration and herders/farmers conflicts, have undermined traditional farming in Nigeria.
To be able to identify the poorest of the poor in various parts of the country, some reliable database would have to be used, which would include unemployment records. There are many rich Nigerians who would claim to be poor and those who are self-employed who would claim to be jobless. Perhaps, it would be better to pay more attention to out-of-school children, first.
There is the necessity to engage an independent research team to find out the status of Nigerian parents, homes and children in various parts of the country. For example, the money being spent to feed poor school children can be shared such that part of it should cater for children who are not in school at all. Similarly, the N729 billion meant to be paid to 24.3 million poor Nigerians for six months, can be shared such that a part of it should be invested in unemployment benefit scheme. There are many Nigerians who have lost their jobs in the past few years and whose families are experiencing quite pathetic conditions.
When a nation has a privatised political economy, a few privileged citizens control and monopolise all the resources and opportunities in the land. Even those who are excluded from the few available opportunities usually resort to hustling, scrambling and the use of corrupt means to get what they can. It becomes difficult for anything to work effectively in such a society, neither would there be the zeal and patriotism to serve the nation whole-heartedly. A fair reward system boosts motivation.
The Federal Government means well in providing various palliative measures and succour to cater for the poor, but the problem is usually the effective handling of such measures in the process of implementation. Apart from the “poorest of the poor”, there is a large number of unemployed people as well as those who had lost their means of livelihood, and who have families to cater for. The good gestures of the government should not be allowed to become means of aiding social malpractices. Let us build up strong, reliable, corruption-free institutions!

Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

Gains Of #OurStateOurResponsibility

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As youths, all hands must be on deck to protect our dear Rivers State in all ramifications. We should be good ambassadors in defending the interest of our state, in ensuring healthy environment and shunning anti-social behaviour that are detrimental to the efforts of government in building a virile state.” – 18 -year- old Miss Sophia Awajibenem Eyitemi Oyibo.
“Our dear Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike is bequeathing a great state to us, the youths. The best we can do to appreciate him is to protect the various infrastructure that is being built and spread the news that Rivers State is safe for business so that we too can get job opportunities that come with investments.”-21-years-old Mr. Anyiam Christian Kelechukwu.
“This campaign is worthwhile because it is not only the Governor and the leaders that are living in this State. The State belongs to all those who live, work, school and do business here. We must join hands to make the State a better place and not pull it down.” – 17- year-old Miss Paago Ziga Praise.
These are excerpts from well articulated and patriotism-inspired essays of the first, second and third position winners of the just concluded first leg of the second phase advocacy campaign initiated by the Pastor Paulinus Nsirim-led Rivers State Ministry of Information and Communications, #OurStateOurResponsibility. The essay competition was limited to teenagers and youths between the ages of 16 and 25 years. It had the theme: “Rivers State, Our State Our Responsibility.”
The date was Tuesday, October 12, 2021. Venue was the conference room of the state Ministry of Information and Communications where attendant speeches of patriotism and commendations were lavished on the untiring efforts of the Rivers State Governor, NyesomWike towards placing the State on a fast lane of socio-economic development. The excitement expressed by participants, their parents, members of the media and other guests at the ceremony, was clear indications of the gains being recorded by the second phase of the #OurStateOurResponsibility advocacy campaign.
The second phase of the advocacy campaign initiative is targeted at to deliberately enlisting citizens’ conscious participation in the Governor Wike’s NEW Rivers Vision of project to make Rivers State investors’ destination of choice and the need for citizens to shun detractors whose stock in trade is to demarket Rivers State.
As an incentive, the ministry gave out cash prizes of N60,000.00, N40,000.00 and N30,000.00 to the first, second and third positions winners while three other winners received consolation prize of N10,000.00 each. In addition, plaques were presented to the first three winners. The overall winner Miss. Sophia AwajibenemOyibo became honorary commissioner for information and communications for 30 minutes and will be the face of the ministry for three months.
In an emotion laden speech, the first position winner of the competition, 18-year-old Miss Sophia Awajibenem Oyibo told the gathering that her participation was influenced by one of the numerous radio jingles of Boma Erekeosima, a renowned journalist and broadcaster of blessed memory, “Love Rivers State or leave her alone. Don’t pull her down. Think what you can do for her. Engage yourself in meaningful activities. No room for gossips. Do something meaningful.”
She recalled the zest and love her father had demonstrated in rendering service to Rivers State as a civil servant. “It is not true that civil servants are nonchalant in their service to the state. Civil servants carry out their duties to Rivers State with utmost priority. It made me to also love Rivers State.
Lending credence to the Information and Communications Commissioner, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim’s repeated call on citizens to shun those who demarket the state, Miss Sophia said the culture of pulling down Rivers State must not by encouraged to persist by anyone.
“This state belongs to all of us. It must not be destroyed because of personal interest. We owe it the responsibility to build and not to destroy. We should be able to tell ourselves and outsiders when we see good things happening in Rivers State because the prosperity of this state is our priority. Governor Wike is doing well and we should be able to say so all the time,” she said while addressing the media as honorary commissioner.
Elated by the initiative of the ministry, father of the third prize winner, Mr. Vizor Imabel Paago expressed delight for the initiative. He described it as a right move that would swiftly change the negative narrative of the state.
Paago, who is a director in the Board of the Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria, announced that he had secured the mandate of the governing council of the Institute to partner with the Ministry of Information and Communications by giving the six emerged winners scholarships in basic safety training at HSE levels 1 and 2 as soon as the names were made available to the Institute.
Preceding the presentation of the awards, the state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim intimated the audience that the vision first launched on July 13, 2019 was informed by the desire to propagate effectively the unprecedented developments recorded by the Governor Wike’s administration through the execution of signature projects and social reengineering that have made remarkable positive impact in the state as against the voice of vocal minority groups that are bent on demarketing the state to scare potential investors.
Nsirim expressed satisfaction that the successful completion of the first leg of the second phase with the emergence of six winners and the overall winner who has been declared the ambassador of the campaign. “With your emergence, the #OurStateOurResponsibility advocacy campaign will now push the message further into the hearts of citizens that indeed Governor Nyesom Wike has turned Rivers State to investors haven and that Rivers State is actually not a theatre of violence as being painted by detractors.”
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 Governor Wike who has come to really serve Rivers people.”
Nsirim listed the avalanche of infrastructural development initiatives of the state government in all sectors of the state economy, including education, healthcare delivery, agriculture, roads and bridges, security infrastructure, sports, social welfare development, human capacity development amongst others, saying “Governor Wike is carrying out a silent revolution.”
“I am proud to work with His Excellency, because this is a man who has made Rivers people proud. This government is carrying out a holistic agenda for our people, and I like telling people that Governor Wike is a visionary leader who is committed to building for tomorrow.
“There is no local government in Rivers State that is not feeling the impact of Wike’s administration. He is building all the sectors of the economy for people to enjoy. Rivers State Government under Governor Wike is to ensure that the interest of Rivers people is protected. Rivers State is fast becoming a haven of sort. Governor Wike has redefined governance here. He has made Rivers State the development index for Nigeria,” he emphasised.
Nsirim, who vacated the seat for the secondary school leaver for 30 minutes, said it was necessary to encourage young people, that they can become famous and earn good reputations through hard work, honesty and integrity and not just via ‘Big Brother Nigeria’.
“I got feedback that made me feel very bad about the prizes we were to give the winners. People asked, why would the prizes for an intellectual competition be N50,000, N30,000 and N20,000.
Ibim is Special Assistant (Media) to Commissioner for Information and Communications, Rivers State.

They said, didn’t I see how much they are getting in Big Brothers but that is a sad commentary about our country today, everything is monetised.”
Nsirim, however, said the ministry intends to inculcate the right values through the essay competition and also showcase to the world that the right values can make someone become famous and a model to others. He enjoined the youths to desire the virtues of hardwork, integrity and honesty as the hallmarks of getting to the top in society.
“Our primary objective is to use the winners of this essay competition to showcase to the world that those values of honesty, hardwork, and integrity can still earn somebody recognition and reputation in Nigeria. And that is why these six winners here are going to be ambassadors of a new Rivers State and a new Nigeria,” he said.
Also speaking, the state Commissioner for Education, Prof. Kaniye Ebeku commended the Ministry of Information and Communications for putting up such an informative and educative platform for the Nigerian youths.
He commended the ministry for adopting a rigorous and transparent selection process which resulted in the emergence of the winners describing it as well-deserved awards.
He commended the winners and urged everyone living and doing business in the state to keep a clean record and desist from demarketing the State.
In his speech, the State Commissioner for Youth Development, Prince Ohia Obi admonished youths to ensure they lead their lives making remarkable achievements for themselves and generations to come.
He said that wealth made without content and character is invalid, “take cognisance of the fact that any wealth without content and character is invalid. To develop content is to read and apply knowledge”
“But if you have this content and do not have a good character, respect for the elderly, your content is vanity because it cannot create wealth,” Ohia said.
He expressed gratitude to the State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor PaulinusNsirim and the Ministry for putting up a platform through which the young ones would realise that they could be recognised and rewarded for promoting good value system.
Both Commissioners declared their ministries endorsement of the #OurStateOurResponsibility advocacy campaign and promised to collaborate with the Ministry of Information and Communications for the execution of the project.
Mrs. Stephanie Oyibo, mother of the overall winner, gave thanks to God for the victory of her daughter as the face of the Ministry and ambassador of the #OurStateOurResponsibility advocacy campaign of the Ministry.
She expressed gratitude to the Ministry of Information and Communications for evolving a channel through which the negative narrative of the State could be changed through the propagation of the numerous achievements of the State Government.
While thanking participants, parents of the winners and others who graced the ceremony, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Mrs. Ibiwari Clapton Ogolo said that the essay competition which is geared towards inculcating in the youths the right societal values was the first stage of the second phase of the #OurStateOurResponsibity Campaign which would include, theme songs, skits and finally short films.
Master Anyaiam, Christian Kelechukwu and Miss. Paago Ziga Praise came second and third winners of the competition. Others who won consolation prizes are Jaja Tamunoimiegba Christian, 18 years old, Amarachi Chimezie, 17 years old and Orovwigho Deborah, 16 years old.

By: Amieyeofori Ibim

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Opinion

#EndSARS Protest In Retrospect

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October is the month to remember in Nigeria. The sudden burst of anger, outrage and reprehension that young Nigerians demonstrated one year ago in 2020, still resonates in Nigeria and beyond. Indeed the fire of ENDSARS protest in Nigeria may have died down but the smoke still hovers in the firmament.
That smoke is not the smoke of soot, a bye product of artisanal Refinery in the Niger Delta but a smoke of caution, confusion and circumspection on the part of the Nigerian Government, as a result of the ENDSARS phenomenon.
Earlier, in Nigeria’s political history, we had inherited the celebration of our independence, a celebration of political freedom, later Democracy Day. Recently Democracy Day has become June 12 rather than may 29 because of the rape of democracy that transpired in the transition to democracy on June 12, 1993.
It took this country about twenty-eight years to accept June 12 as a Democracy Day, but the political actors are yet to learn the lessons of that drama of the absurd that annulled the election of Chief M.K.O Abiola as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. That election was largely regarded as the most credible election that Nigeria has ever conducted.
In a related development, Critical minds would like to ask again if Nigerians, including the political leaders, have learnt any lesson from the ENDSARS protest of October, 2020.
Thursday October 8 2020, saw the Floodgate of a Nationwide Protest with hash tag #ENDSARS#.
Nigerians woke up in a different world of realization of what the young Nigerians are capable of doing. The uninitiated never imagined the level of Information Technology smartness among the young Nigerian under forty.
The young ones had seen viral videos of Police brutality in several parts of the country, not different from their own personal experiences. Nigeria had become a country where young ones who twisted their hair in dreadlocks were stigmatized as criminals, arrested or shot dead.
It became a common phenomenon to see young undergraduates who carried laptop bags being harassed, arrested, detained illegally or even shot point blank by the notorious SARS Squad of the Nigerian Police.
The SARS Regiment of the Nigerian Police had become a death Squad, worst than the German Gestapo of the Hitler enclave in the Second World War. This trend had denied the young ones freedom of movement and access to information as well as computer technology devices and use.
Their love for the worldwide web revolution was being threatened.
The ingenuity, their creativity, the innovative skill that was driving their entrepreneurial obsession was being killed by uniform men. A revolution was looming, ready to burst into a flood gate of wild protest.
It took weeks of networking on different New Media platforms. The social media was on fire of different content of mobilisation against a brute force in the Nigeria polity.
It did not involve much of meeting and physical sensitization. This however may have created the hiatus that led to lack of effective leadership in the movement and agitation.
The network was global in spread but Nigerian in action. When the fire of ENDSARS protest swooped unto the streets, the conflagration was beyond measure. It took everything on its trail. One thing was clear; it started as a peaceful protest with youths carrying placards all over the streets of Nigeria.
They emerged on the streets like soldier ants and crawled all over, chanting ENDSARS NOW, ENOUGH OF POLICE BRUTALITY , YOUTHS ARE NOT CRIMINALS, WE WANT JOBS etc. Unfortunately about ten per cent of their population who did not follow their ideology and mission hijacked the movement, hijacked the protest as the usual fifth columnists.
Suddenly, ENDSARS began to sing a different tone, a deadly tone, burning down shops and industrial installations in Lagos, including media houses.
The genuine 86 per cent of the protesters were thus betrayed by criminal minded Nigerians, old and young alike. The protest became a vengeance mission against Nigeria Government and Institutions, especially police installations.
It became an avenue for political vendetta. Sadly, the Lekki Toll gate debacle became the death knell that closed the protest. Something had gone wrong, the mobilisation was perfect, but it lacked leadership, it did not foresee the hands of fifth columnists. Nigeria was bigger than any group irrespective of size, tongue and religious persuasion.
However, it is important to state that the young people left a message for the political class, the government and people of Nigeria. ENDSARS protest has become an open book, a blue print for police reform in Nigeria. It has become a threshold for economic reforms and inclusion in the governance structure of Nigeria.
The youth population is about 65 per cent of the total population of over two hundred million Nigerians.
Any country that fails to plan for its youth population has failed in planning for the future. When a country denies its youth population proper education and employment, it creates a time bomb for destruction. In the same vein, a country that kills her youth population kills her future. Nigeria must learn from the ENDSARS experience now.

By: Bon Woke

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Opinion

Power Structure As A Monster

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Politics becomes a “dirty game” when it serves a power structure, rather than people, the masses; in which case the “game” or activity becomes one-sided, demonic and monstrous. Bon Woke (The Tide 6/10/2021) would tell us that “Nigeria stood on a Tripod of North, dominated by Hausa/Fulani, West, the Yoruba and the Eastern Region dominated by the Igbo”. He went on to say: “It was indeed sad that every group only struggled to grab power for the benefit of their region …”
A power structure is comparable to an impersonal energy-reservoir, kept for use as a weapon of self-perpetuation in power and for attack against other contenders and opponents. Thus, such power, rather than be an instrument of service to people generally, becomes a monster programmed to identify, attack and destroy those who seek to grab or steal it away from its custodians. In a monarchy such power is represented in the person of the monarch, while in a pseudo-democracy the power is held in trust by a cabal, for selective benefit of a few people.
In the case of Nigeria, the military and state security agencies were co-opted into the game of power monopoly, whereby those who must serve the power structure must pass through the eye of the needle, via screening process. Agencies for such screening purposes are the awful guardians of the realm of power. Thanks to the process of gathering and keeping personal dossiers of radical elements who are capable of spoiling or undermining the game of monopoly. Power conservation can be guaranteed. Besides, state spin-doctors can handle others who make noise for settlement purposes.
The Catalogue of Mr. Woke contains a good deal of history of Nigerian politics of power, but one is not sure that Woke had personal experiences of the evolution of sapiental authority and power in Nigeria. When dark smokes began to gather prior to 1965, the Eastern Region of Nigeria was marked out as the last stumbling block to deal with, “after Yoruba land”, because of “their arrogant stubbornness”. Obviously Woke would not know such top-secret security issues!
Please, let nobody live under the illusion that the intrigues and power game which gave rise to the first military intervention in Nigerian politics in 1965 became a global combat of economic interests. Like Afghanistan, religion was coopted as a handy tool or instrument in the game of power, thus creating a nebulous power structure that has become a monster. The monster would apply its deadly claws on whoever would have the audacity to alter the power structure.
To be able to have a glimpse into the mindset and temperament of the guardians and gate keepers of the power structure requires special ability. In the Wednesday, October 6, 2021 edition of The Tide newspaper, readers are urged to revisit the following news headlines: “Prosecute Lawmaker Identified As Secessionists’ Sponsor, Reps Task Buhari”, “FG Not Treating Bandits With Kid Gloves” (Page 2) and ‘We’ve Over 30 Separatist Groups In S’East, Abaribe Admits” – Page 7. Buhari was quoted as saying in his 61st Independence Day anniversary speech: “We are vigorously pursuing these financiers including one identified as a serving member of the National Assembly”.
The President was making reference to “the recent arrests of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Adeyemo” and ongoing investigations being conducted which enabled the government to identify sponsors of the secessionist groups. In a reaction to the President’s allusion to “serving member of the National Assembly”, a lawmaker on behalf of his colleagues, said: “The president in his speech, noted that one of us is sponsoring terrorism. That means we are prime suspects. He didn’t name that person”.
Then in a reaction to bandits allegedly being treated with kid gloves, the Minister for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said that “banditry is criminality with no basis on religion or ideology”. The groups of criminals that Nigerian authorities decided to classify as bandits are not different from Boko Haram brigands whose activities bear obvious religious ideological body language. What is the “fallacy” or “fake news”, “misinformation” or “divisive rhetoric” being promoted by those who say that the Nigerian authorities show obvious leniency towards bandits?
The one-sidedness becomes more glaring in the declaration of IPOB as a terrorist group, whose agitation arises from a discomfort with a power structure that is considered monstrous. In the case of bandits, Boko Haram and Miyetti Allah cattle merchants whose activities are obviously hostile to peace and security, nothing is seen as terrifying! Who actually are sponsoring divisive rhetorics: those who agitate against a monstrous power structure, or those who hide under such structure to commit acts of banditry? It should be recalled that another separatist agitation reared its head from Bayelsa State, seeking some advice from British authority recently.
Add all these spates of agitations to the sound and fury from Southern and Middle Belt Alliance (SAMBA), then what becomes obvious is that the Nigerian structure needs urgent attention. Such urgent attention should be seen as needful where there is sincerity, rather than a situation where the deadly teeth and claws of a monster would become instruments of threats and intimidation. Niccolo Machiavelli, the classical consultant on power politics, did warn against possible backlash when the power game is taken too far, especially when the monster becomes a soulless zombie.
A clergy man warned Nigerians about a possible food crisis in the country and advised the people to stockpile food stuff in preparation for the crisis. Not even 60 per cent of Nigerians would have enough money to buy food for the next six months. But in power politics morals have no place in the permutations, rather, what matters most is the retention of power. In such do-or-die enterprise, consulting the wizard of the desert, Anhaki, is a handy option when agitations mount high. Another consultant in power politics, Robert Greene, would warn, in his 47th law: “In victory, learn when to stop”. Nigerians would cherish such respite.
If Nigerian authorities are not aware of it yet, agitations are mounting high since retired General and former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, gave a hint about “Islamisation and Fulanisation” agenda. Those who did not take that “alert” seriously before, are beginning to have a second thought. The use of cattle as harbinger in that enterprise is not lost to many discerning Nigerians. What of a report that indicted two ex-Governors, 10 military officers, 15 Emirs over banditry?

Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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