At a time when, the Educational Sector in Nigeria is still grappling with the heavy weight of the industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), there are even more disturbing signals that medical doctors may follow suit, anytime soon, unless the right things were done at the right time by the Federal Government.
The area of disagreement which, The Tide understands, spans 11 years of failed dialogue, is the special salary scale for medical practitioners, and for which the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) was to embark on an indefinite strike, early last month.
However, following the intervention of notable Nigerians and some top officials of the Federal Government, the NMA extended the planned action by 28 days, in hope that government would meet up its obligations: That ultimatum expires this month. No doubt it was to avert the planned action that government has engaged the NMA in a series of hurried dialogue, with appeals to be given two more months, within which, to streamline the procedure for implementation of agreements already reached.
Health Minister, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, after one of such meetings urged the NMA to consider the value of human casualties that a nationwide industrial action by doctors could cost the nation and assured that the Federal Government would fulfil its promise, by or before Sept 30, this year.
Even so, the NMA has vowed to go on with its plans, on grounds that the only message government needs to do the right things is threat of industrial action or outright strike, explaining that nothing meaningful had come out of the 11 years negotiations between the association and government.
NMA President, Dr. Promise Igboeli, last Monday in Abuja said that, once the 28 days elapses, medical doctors in public health institutions will join all other medical workers already on strike.
As it stands, unless government meets demands of the doctors at the time stipulated or the doctors heed government’s calls for more time, the health sector in Nigeria is no doubt headed towards the same crippling pains being suffered by the education sector.
This is indeed very worrisome. We say so because, at a time when, pushed beyond limits by the prevailing economic meltdown, countries of the world are working assiduously to manage optimally, available human and material resources for good of their peoples, it is very disturbing that the Federal Government of Nigeria appears a little less than worried by the effects of a likely strike, of the magnitude now looming.
Without doubt, the Federal Government should know that there is a limit to which any organisation could endure the deprivation of the kind that has stretched 11 years of negotiation without any meaningful headway. How, for instance, can anyone explain the situation whereby a government would treat issues bordering health and education with the kind of levity Nigerians have known over the years.
The other days, it was the Federal Government foot-dragging over signing agreement reached with ASUU, for which university teachers are still on strike with very disastrous consequences. It was only then that the Federal Government quickly increased, by 40 per cent, salaries of men of the Ivory Tower.
Today, the same Federal Government seems not to appreciate the urgency which addressing issues concerning not just the education sector, but another key sector like health requires, apparently waiting for an industrial action like the one being threatened, before doing the right thing.
Disappointing as that may be, The Tide advises the NMA to give the present Federal Government benefit of the doubt, by granting the two months period of grace required to streamline the processes of implementation of agreements already reached.
While appreciating the level of patience demonstrated by the NMA during the long period of negotiations, spanning 11 years, we still plead that the doctors continue to demonstrate the true love for humanity which their practice even emphasises, by accepting the two months period demanded of doctors by government.
What they have been able to endure for 11 years, The Tide believes, cannot totally cripple them in the next two months of grace that the Federal Government seeks.
Perhaps, now also is the right time to tell the Federal Government that its ability to keep the promise made to doctors within the period demanded, will be key to public assessments of their confidence level.
That is why The Tide calls on the Federal Government through the Ministry of Health to do anything humanly possible to avert the looming industrial action because another strike by medical doctors surely makes it one too many.
Unnecessary Furore Over #EndSARS Report
States across the federation have continued to churn out their reports on what transpired during the protest to end police brutality in Nigeria, popularly called the EndSARS protest. The EndSARS protest which was championed by Nigerian youths, including celebrities, climaxed on October 20, 2020, with the killing of more than 12 peaceful protesters at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos.
The alleged killing of the protesters brought in its wake global condemnation. The barbarity of the action by federal forces caused the international community to ask Nigeria to investigate the Lekki incident. The Federal Government had denied in 2020 the involvement of its military in the dastardly act despite video footages of the gruesome incident.
There is no doubt that the investigation into police brutality and the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad had initially restored confidence in the government of the day by some Nigerians but what is benumbing is the blatant denial by the Federal Government of the involvement of its military in the Lekki carnage.
However, the most ignoble attempt by the authorities to cover up October 20, 2020, slaughtering of unarmed #EndSARS protesters at the Lekki toll plaza in Lagos was recently exposed in the report of the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses submitted to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
Headed by Doris Okuwobi, a retired judge, the nine-member panel found that there were 48 casualties of which nine were confirmed dead on the night soldiers stormed the toll gate and the world watched in horror the dispersal of peaceful protesters who were waving the national flag and singing the national anthem to protest police brutality and extrajudicial killings. The panel described the incident as a “massacre in context.”
The 309-page report provided graphic details of how after soldiers exited the scene, the Nigeria Police Force followed up with the killing of the protesters, shooting directly at fleeing demonstrators, who were running into shanties and the lagoon.
Officials of the Lagos State Environmental Health Monitoring Unit reportedly evacuated dead bodies and deposited them at various hospital mortuaries in the state. The report shockingly averred that some trucks with brushes underneath were brought to the Lekki toll gate in the morning of October 21, to clean up the scene and conceal evidence. This is nothing short of evil.
However, in the white paper released on the report, the Lagos State Government accepted 11 out of 32 recommendations made by the panel, rejected one outrightly, agreed on six with modifications, while 14, which it said fell outside its powers, would be forwarded to the Federal Government for consideration. It also rejected claims that nine people died at the Lekki toll plaza.
The whitepaper report is not only disappointing but also exposes how far the Lagos government and its federal collaborators can deny a known truth. But Nigerians are not deceived. Like the blood of Abel, which continued to cry to heaven until Cain’s sin was discovered, the blood of the innocent youths murdered in their prime by the Nigerian police and army for standing against oppression and intimidation, will not rest.
Shockingly, Sanwo-Olu turned a golden moment into a joke by proposing a Peace Walk to mark his commemoration of the shameful events of last year. We refuse such a march. The real date Nigerians mark the fallen victims of the state’s mishandling of a peaceful protest is October 20, 2020.
We align with the recommendations of the panel and reiterate our demands that criminal prosecution should be instituted against individuals found to have committed the massacre that happened on October 20, 2020, at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos. Until the federal and Lagos State find the courage to own up to their failures and the murders during the EndSARS protests, genuine peace and justice will be elusive.
After all, why set up a panel of inquiry in the first place if its findings would be rejected? Apparently, the state and Federal Governments were hoping for a favourable outcome but only to be startled by the courage of the panel members in insisting on the truth.
The recent arguments by legal luminaries on the legality of the EndSARS panel nationwide notwithstanding, we demand the immediate prosecution of security personnel and all those found to have been responsible for maiming and killings of unarmed protesters both on 20 October 2020 and during the entire #EndSARS protest.
While we also request the immediate release of the protesters still unjustly detained across the country, Buhari, who claims to be a democrat, must prove to the world how reformed he truly is. Justice is the basis of any democratic government. To avert another round of #EndSARS protests in the country, justice and equity must be seen to be done.
Congratulations, The Tide Is 50!
The founding fathers of Rivers State developed and nurtured a vision of the necessity of a newspaper. Being a people from a minority area of the country, these stakeholders were in desperate need of a voice for the people of the state and indeed a viable channel to educate, inform and socially engineer the people towards properly appreciating the government’s plans, projects, and actions. The challenges which occasioned the founding of The Tide 50 years ago persist to this day.
For The Tide to adequately execute its task of being the voice and caring for the interest of the people and government of Rivers State, the corporation was bolstered with a well-equipped commercial printing press to ensure that lack of finance did not prohibit it. The department continues to operate to date.
Known as the “Authoritative Voice of the Niger Delta”, The Tide, in its 50 years of existence, has progressed through rosy and challenging moments, without jeopardising its core mandate of operating as the voice of Rivers people. Being one of the earliest public newspapers in Nigeria, The Tide remains afloat despite the difficulties. However, the paper had experienced a few closures following a variety of problems. The most recent was in April 2020, when most establishments, both public and privite, were shut down to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic which ravaged the world.
Categorically, it is a newspaper with a pervasive reach in the Niger Delta, complemented by the most sophisticated international readership through the website — www.thetidenewsonline.com and an operational email — email@example.com.
The management and staff of the corporation must take advantage of this rare opportunity to relish the livelihood of the newspaper and recognise God for His grace through the years. The corporation and specifically the Rivers State Government must seize this time to re-equip and turn around the newspaper for the future and betterment of the state.
Although quite some persons and organisations have been collaborating with the tabloid from its inception, The Tide would need to draw courage and inspiration from the solidarity of a fore-sighted state government which has sustained it all this while.
There are several reasons why the government and the people of the state should celebrate this state-owned stable. It is reassuring that, so far, the state newspaper is the most decisive voice in the South-South region and one of the main African newspapers on the Internet. As well, it may be the first Nigerian press to provide a strong Internet archiving capability.
Bearing a motto: “A Commitment To Truth”, The Tide has, besides keeping faith with its mandate, facilitated the training of high-level manpower in the media industry, including students of higher institutions on industrial attachment. This is the first government newspaper to be colour-coded daily. The paper excels despite clear inhibitions and has operated for many years without a rotary machine.
Perhaps, one area the stable desires to be always appreciated is it serves as the link between the government and the governed, on the one hand, the people and the rest of the world. This tabloid has made a significant contribution to good governance by providing advice, promoting government programmes and policies, advancing the interest of the state, and holding the authorities to account.
It is again indulging that very many institutions, corporate bodies and individuals mostly patronise the paper and consider it as their first preference. The spread of information through appropriate and factual news, opinion articles, business, sports, press interviews, commercials, editorials, among others, has invariably kept the newspaper’s doors open. We dare assert that we serve the menu hot and fresh in these areas.
That The Tide still flows and keeps afloat is a testimonial to the flexibility, hard work, focus, never-say-die spirit and industry of the staff and management on one hand, and the support of successive governments on the other. It, therefore, requires all the support it can get to carry on.
On this 50th Anniversary of the Rivers State newspaper, the questions are: what is the plan of the government for the tabloid? What does the government think of this newspaper, which has been promoting its programmes and policies diligently over the past 50 years? The universal truth is for any newspaper, private or public, to get through, it must be well-capitalised and professionalised.
That is why there is every reason to reposition The Tide that has demonstrated a valuable resource to the state by furnishing the corporation with functional machines, computers, generating plants, printing machines, additional staff, circulation vans, and replace all decaying infrastructure to enable it function better and be able to withstand future challenges. The profitable business of exercise book production needs to be brought back as well.
Fortunately, early last year, the Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, graciously announced plans for an extensive renovation of The Tide Newspaper premises to give it a more modern outlook and provide state-of-the-art printing machines. We dare say that with the pragmatic and paternal disposition of our governor, this will inevitably come about soon.
At 50, The Tide is a full-fledged grown-up and no longer a youngster; its network, experience and even service have multiplied by a thousand. Its plan for the future has become indeed more tasking. This is one issue the anniversary will shape and colour in the real interest of the least Rivers’ person.
As we have seen, The Tide family needs to adulate obsequiously the Almighty God and thank the government and people of Rivers State for keeping the publication alive. This is a prospect for the stable to commemorate itself. Thus, all staff of the corporation (past and present) and those who have sprinted on the pages of this eminent newspaper, must be grateful to God and remain more positive than ever.
To The Tide newspaper, it is bravo and bon voyage!
Yes, at 50, The Tide still flows…even stronger.
Lessons From PDP Convention
After weeks of uncertainty and apprehension, the coast became clear for Nigeria’s leading opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to hold its national convention on October 30 and 31. The Court of Appeal had a day before the event dismissed a suit filed by the embattled National Chairman of the party, Uche Secondus, challenging his suspension months ago. The court likewise declined to halt the conduct of the convention.
Secondus had asked the appellate court to nullify his suspension, indicating that Section 59 (3) of the PDP Constitution affirmed that the ward or the state executive committee of any state has no authority to suspend any national officer of the party. He repeatedly requested that he be obliged to conclude his tenure on December 9, 2021, having been elected for a four-year term.
He also asked the court to set aside the orders of the Rivers and Cross River High Courts, which had earlier restrained him to stop parading himself as the national chairman. But a three-member panel of justices of the Appeal Court headed by Haruna Tsammani said it found no merit in Secondus’ appeal, maintaining he renounced his position since he did not challenge his removal at ward and local government levels.
Amidst its nagging legal conundrums, the PDP headquarters, until recently, was divided, with some members calling for the outright exit of the embattled chairman while others backed him to lead the party into the convention. Undoubtedly, some party organs were split over Secondus’ fate.
With the legal hurdle cleared not fewer than 3,600 delegates of the party assembled at the Eagle Square in Abuja to elect new members into the National Working Committee (NWC). Before the beginning of the convention, the Chairman of the National Convention Organising, Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa State, had blustered that the opposition party was bracing for the occasion and promised that it would be the best-organised convention in the country.
Indeed, the convention was hitch-free and memorable for the PDP, as all or most of the officers emerged via consensus. Consensus is part of the democratic process and we expect the opposition party to use the new officers who emerged through the process to stabilise the party. The new leadership will assume duties on December 9 to enable the outgoing NWC members to conclude their four-year tenure, which began on December 9, 2017.
The convention was a display of intrigues and power play, which saw the governors in the party growing up as an effective team against the veterans who have been calling the shots in the past. Obvious from the outcome of the convention is that governors now have unrestricted domination of the party. The event was again a pathway for the presidential aspirants to proclaim their plans, as they all displayed posters and banners to let the members know that they were coming out for the primaries of the party.
The machinery put up by the elders and presidential hopefuls, like the erstwhile Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, former Senate President Bukola Saraki and others, to make Oyinlola and Ciroma emerge, failed as the governors had their way. Atiku, Saraki, Lamido and others had wanted Ciroma and Oyinlola to diminish the prevailing influence of the governors.
Though the October PDP national convention has come and gone, there are many lessons it demonstrates. First, we must applaud the PDP for holding a rancour-free convention that saw 19 of the 21 available positions won by consensus. That three of the candidates persuaded to step down for a favoured candidate by the powerful governors refused to do so, helped to legitimise the consensus arrangement, as it suggested that it was arrived at through persuasions and negotiations and not through fiat. This is recommended as a standard for political parties in Nigeria.
Second, despite all the pre-convention fears and nervousness stemming from the grim effort of Secondus to scurry the exercise, the main opposition party stood united and came out of Eagle Square unscathed. This has entrenched it in a position to salvage Nigeria from the maladministration of the All Progressives Congress (APC) government. This is again illuminating.
A further lesson to pick up from the convention is the crisis management mechanism of the PDP, which turned out to be more efficient than those of other political parties. The dominant opposition party has always overcome its challenges because perhaps the party has the most sophisticated people. For crushing the leadership crisis which would have blighted the last convention, the former ruling party has confirmed to Nigerians that if trusted again, it will do even better than before.
As the PDP basks in the splendour of a magnificent exercise, it has become indeed more sanguine to put the APC on notice that it is coming for its positions in 2023. This could be a manifestation that the key opposition party is fully back on stream. With a successful convention, the PDP may have challenged the APC with 92 chairmen in 36 state chapters to accomplish a comparable performance in their elusive convention.
Given the manner the opposition party handled its recent national convention and leadership crisis, not a few watchers of the nation’s democracy believe it has the potential to put up an excellent battle in the 2023 elections. However, while the hurdle of its leadership situation may have so far been managed from imploding by its governors, the challenge of holding the centre until the next general elections and wooing back its key players lost to the APC lately remains ambiguous.
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