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How PHC Got Appeal Court – Okocha

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The name OCJ Okocha is a household name not only in Rivers State but nationwide. His fame has gone international especially in legal profession. He is a giant and luminary in law.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and former president of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA). The man was also a Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General in the old Rivers State. A man of many parts, humble, brilliant and devoted leader.

In this Round Table Encounter, a vintage Okocha tackled various questions from The Tide Editors on a range of issues, including his person, Derivation, State Creation, Amnesty for militants and the Law. This is the first part of a long journey.

Happy reading.

We know you because of the interactions we have with you over the years but how would you want members of the public to know O.C.J. let us start with the initials O.C.J?

These are my initials. O stands for Onueze, C. stands for Chukwujinka and J stands for Joe. Joe incidentally is a family name which emanated from my father’s first name which is Jonathan. Some people make mistake sometime they call me Joseph.

I’m a lawyer based here in Port Harcourt at No. 71B Aba Road. I think that should be okay for introduction.

Let us know what these names really mean and if it has affected your life we know when people give child his name, the name must have relevance?

That is correct incidentally in my family we are always named by the eldest man and it happened that my grand father was the eldest man in Okocha family. So the name Onueze is the way Ikwerre man would say Onueze, Onu is mouth Eze is chief, but the way he explained it to me is that it means what God has said, the voice of God is what God ordained my father has had five daughters in a row and so everybody was praying for a boy to come along. When I come along, they now said oh! That this is what God has said, so I was named the voice of the king.

Chukwujinka is from my mother’s place Onitsha. I was born there. Chukwujinka God is holding this world Chukwujinka, and Joe as I said emanated from my father’s first name Jonathan his friends in the police used to call him Joe, so when I was born it was like this is Junior Joe.

People started calling me Joe. You cannot really say at this time in point how those names have affected my life. I have carried on by the special grace of God.

We will take liberty of your presence here; you will help us today with the history of how lawyers started accepting money for their services?

Well you know in the olden days going by the history of the profession in England there were two categories of the legal profession in the category of lawyers, yes generally there are two categories, the Bar and the Bench, but the lawyers are a body we know as the Bar. At the Bar, there are two groups of professionals, Barristers and Solicitors. Barristers were drawn from the rank of noblemen, gentle men of those olden days.

Their responsibility is to go before court and plead the case of their clients as advocates. They just go to court and stand as well as represent you, forward your case and your defence and try as much as possible to get the law to you.

In those days Barristers because they were noble men and gentle men never charged fees. And if you look at the Barristers gown worn by lawyers you will see something like a cord, the rope and behind, you see something that looks like a bag, is a relic of the bag which the Barrister uses to put his implements of work.

The way it came about that lawyers were now charging fees, was that they never charged fees, when you have done your beat for your client and he felt impressed, as you are leaving he would slip some money into that bag behind you. You won’t see it, you don’t discuss fees. That is the relics that you see in the Barrister’s gown that we as Barristers wear. But of course with the passage of time, it became a recognized profession and the profession as you all know is a calling which entitles you earn your living from it and so Barristers started charging fees.

Barristers considered it beneath there dignity to even discuss fees, so the solicitor is the first point of contact of anybody who has a case in the court.

Solicitor’s responsibility is to find a Barrister to represent you and in that solicitor who will discuss the fees not with the Barrister, but with the clerk of the Barrister. Every law firm has a clerk and in those days, the way it happened, you go to your chamber in the morning your clerk will just hand you briefs so somebody is appearing before the home base, somebody is appearing before the criminal court. That morning you just take your time, you glance through, you go to court and you stand and put forward the case.

So when, Barrister and Solicitors now became a recognized profession, fees became the order of the day. The fees as I said were settled between Barristers and Solicitors. But in Nigeria, the early lawyers we had in Nigeria went to England and those of them who became Barristers, but because they were the only people learned in law, they would practice as Barristers and Solicitors.

Those of them who studied as solicitors and could go to court and present cases. Solicitors don’t appear in the High Court in England but now, a solicitor can even appear and wear the gown. So the profession has come a long way, but in Nigeria once you have passed through the law school you are called to the Bar, by the Authority of the body of benchers. And as provided in the Legal Practitioners Act you are entitled to practice as a Barrister and a Solicitor. So Solicitor was the cadre that were usually office workers who take instructions from clients and prepare the cases. The Barrister is the Advocate who goes to court and pleads the cases.

Now in government, you have the Solicitor General, Attorney General, how do their job move?

Oh! these were statutorily done because the Ministries of Justice there was a time when we have Town Council in Colonial days the department that was charged of doing solicitor’s work. Writing agreements for government, preparing cases, while there was the other cadre which was mostly under the Director of Public Prosecutions the (PPP) were mainly the Barristers who went to court to plead cases.

So when the Ministries of Justice were formed, it was recognized that they still needed to be quite apart from the Attorney General, who is the head of the Ministry, a solicitor general. The Head of the Administrative arm of the Ministry of Justice, The Solicitor-General was an offshoot from the solicitor profession, who stayed in the office and prepared the case. The attorney general was the head of the ministry under the constitution as it is now, he is incharge of all matters that will link to prosecution of offenders, that is how the office is run, but they are now legislated on. There is a solicitor-general’s law which creates the office of the solicitor-generals, both at the federal and the state service.

They said before you get a SAN, you would be prepared to have bank account elsewhere?

That is not true.

What is the lowest SAN can have in the bank?

The lowest and this is in the legal practitioners Act, because we do not want a Senior Advocate to handle every case; there must be a chance for young lawyers to grow. A Senior Advocate is not expected to accept instructions from any matter the value of which is under 400 pounds. 400 pounds, you can now begin to do the conversion. Some people are using the exchange rate as stipulated by the Central Bank, some people are using the black market rate, but the stipulations in the law is that, a Senior Advocate quite apart from other restrictions on his ability to go to court, should not accept instructions in any matter the value of which is below 400 pounds.

In recent times, we have come to approximate that to be at some point N50,000, some have said N100,000.

You see before you become a QC in England as we become Senior Advocate here, Queens Counsel or Kings Counsel if the person on throne in England as at the time you are appointed is a man, what you needed to do is to reduce the number of cases making demand of your time and that is why you have to apply for it because it has added responsibility. It will decrease the number of cases you are handling. It will now make sure the cases you are handling are high value cases. Because as a Senior Advocate, as a QC, in civil matters you are obliged to appear with a junior and the way of charging is that you charge first amount, one third of that first amount is added for your junior who appeared with you. So anybody going to brief Queen counsel or King counsel or a Senior Advocate should accept that the fees you will pay will be higher than what you would ordinarily be paying is not only going to pay for the lawyer, the SAN or Queen counsel appearing. He will also in addition pay one third of what he has agreed to pay to that Senior Advocate to the junior, so he was supposed to make you exclusive in a way, so that Queen Counsel, SAN is not for all comers.

What made you read law?

I said to some other journalists, the fear of the mathematics led me to law. During the civil war we lived at a place in Umuahia near a magistrate court. I used to while away my time and go and stand in the court premises and just watch lawyers do their thing.

Some of them were given to all mannerism so I cultivated an interest. As you may know, my father was a policeman and all that , so when I finished secondary school in 1972 in Government Comprehensive Secondary School, we were looking through the universities prospectus syllabuses and all that. I tried to choose a course and I have my difficulties with Mathematics. Happily I ended getting C5 in Mathematics. It wasn’t my worst subject, my worst subject was Physics. I had C6. Why I got a C5 I was good in Arithmetic and Trigonometry, so I was determined not to come across Mathematics again anywhere in my future career, so looking through the only courses I had that has noMathematics, is History. No Mathematics, single honours BA History.

Economics had Mathematics, I was very good in Economics, that is what I thought I should go and read. But thinking about it I spoke to my father he said, I should learn from his experience, he was a policeman with only O levels he didn’t have any profession; he said look go and study a professional course so that if government refuses to employ you, all you have to do, put up a sign board somewhere, then start working for yourself. So I looked through all the courses; medicine has Mathematics, Architecture has Mathematics, the only one that did not have Mathematics was Law. And I remembered how I used to enjoy those lawyers with their wigs and gowns at Umuahia in those days only to get to Ife and the first year, we had Mathematics 001 Mathematics 102, so it turned out that you cannot really run away from Mathematics, so it was the fear of Mathematics that actually led me to do Law and I ended up teaching logic, logic is Mathematics 102; and then symbolic logic 001, so that was how I ended up becoming a lawyer, advice of my father and the fear of Mathematics.

As time went on, I realised that there was something about law, and my genes you know in my family, my great great grand father had always been a law enforcement officer. My great great grand father was a native court judge in the old Obio District Court. My grand father followed in that same mould, because when he became the head of the family, he also went and became a member of the Obio Native Court. Those courts in the colonial days, now they are calling them customary courts. Then my father went into the police, law enforcement too, and here I am a lawyer one sister is a judge, one brother is a lawyer, one decided to follow and he inherited all my fatehr’s books. He is a Chief Superintendent of Police now.

Sir Before we go into more contemporary issues what are the true goal, factors for becoming SAN. Why is it difficult for more Rivers people to become SAN. The impression being created is that, else where, some lawyers, helped people to pay the prescribed fees of their clients to get to Supreme Court, that would qualify you, how true it is?

Well I don’t know about the truth of lawyers paying the fees for the litigation cost for their clients is professionally unethical to do so. And |I will not agree with you that Rivers people have not become Senior Advocates. We had quite a few. Indeed, the first Senior Advocate appointed in Nigeria was a Rivers man. Dr Nabo Graham Douglas, former Attorney-General of Nigeria of blessed memory.

After him, there was also Galima Peterside, Opobo man, who became SAN. He was practising in Jos. The truth of the matter let me be frank with you is that, the cost of the major qualifications required to apply to Senior Advocate of Nigeria, you need to have met some minimum number of appearances, argued minimum number of cases in the superior courts.

High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. We were not too easily or readily exposed to those other superior courts like Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. In the olden days, the Supreme Curt used to sit in circuit. It would move from one capital of one region to the other and sit there, when it was the Federal Supreme Court, even when they had The West African Court of Appeal, it would move from the capital of one country to the other and would sit like that. But when the law was passed, that created the Senior Advocate cadre. It became important that you have to practice where all these courts were within the jurisdiction.

You see the realities of the situation is that if I have a case in the Supreme Court, and Supreme Court is in Lagos, as it was in those days, someone needs to brief a lawyer in Lagos, because if I brief a lawyer in Port Harcourt and other provincial headquarters, it means to pay, not just his transport. I will pay also not just his fees, will pay his transport, also pay his hotel accommodation and so on and so forth. So those lawyers who were in the area where those courts were located are in a vantage position.

It took a long time for us to move the Court of Appeal to Port Harcourt. When the Court of Appeal was originally created, it had divisions only at the regional headquarters. Ibadan, apart from Lagos which was the capital of Nigeria, Kaduna and Enugu. Sometime I was secretary of the Bar Association here in Port Harcourt. We made very serious effort to have the Court of Appeal Division from Port \Harcourt crated and to have the court also moved to Port Harcourt. Because when the Court of Appeal Division for Port Harcourt was created, it was still sitting in Enugu. And some lawyers used to think it was greater advantage to earn transport money, to earn hotel bill and go to Enugu to do cases.

So when Wifa became chairman and I the secretary, B.M. Wifa SAN, and I secretary, we fought seriously to move that Division to Port Harcourt and immediately, Oh, virtually no year would pass without one SAN and that court came here in 1992 or there about, 1992, 1993, Graham Douglas had been appointed SAN in 1988, 1987, 1988, when the Court of Appeal was in Enugu, but when it came to Port Harcourt, it came here in 1992 as I said before. By 1994, 1995, when I became SAN two years later Dr Osanakpo, the next year, Wifa and virtually every year now, we have two or three appointed as Senior Advocates.

Informatively for you, we have 16 senior advocates. And this is even not counting our former Attorney-General Odem Ajumogobia who is now the Minister of State for Petroleum. He was the Attorney-General here when he was made SAN.

These are the reasons for the qualification, you must have minimum of ten years post call experience. Second you must be of good character; third, you must have a good law practice. These days, they actually come to inspect your office, see how many juniors you have. Look at the library and facilities you have in your office and then you must have argued a minimum number of cases in the Supreme Court as well as Court of Appeal and High Court. These three categories, Supreme Court cases is category A, two Supreme Court cases and four courts of appeal.

Second category, category one Supreme Court. Four Courts of Appeal and six High Court cases. Because people argue that you know most of the practice is in the High Court. Court of Appeal and Supreme Court are reviewed panels to look over what has been done by the High Courts and so real advocacy is at the High Curt level, so you have those three categories, and you must qualify in any of those three categories. Now they’ve also imposed a certain fee that you must pay. When I applied for SAN, I didn’t pay anything, What you have to pay, I think is N200,000.

You also have to show that you have been a good citizen, you pay your taxes as at when due, and then that at the time of your application you are not being investigated or having been convicted or liable in a case of professional misconduct. So there are the parameters by which you get appointed as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

Creation of State taskforces, are they in accordance with the constitution?

I would say is not inconsistent with democratic culture we are trying to build. Task forces by their very nature are charged with particular task so is expected that they focus their full time and attention towards the cardinals of whatever task is assigned them. The problem which ma be … is that some of the taskforces don not understand that they are naturally bound to follow due process in carrying out of any their assignment so you may have a point when you say, these taskforces are not acting in accordance wit rule of law or due process as you say. But there is nothing inconsistent with the constitution, or with democratic principles of government decides that it want to set up taskforces in view of particular problems.

Barr. O.C.J. Okocha

Barr. O.C.J. Okocha

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Mobilising Citizens For Sustainable Democracy In Nigeria: The Power Of Editors (II)

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United States America has also advanced drone technology with the capacity to go to war and shoot from self-driven drones and kill decisively without risking any human life in the field. Recently this technology was used to exterminate an Iranian General considered a huge security threat to the United States.
These discoveries underline the importance of education in National Development.
According to UNICEF, one in every five of the World’s out of school children is in Nigeria. Even though primary education is officially free and compulsory, about 10.5 million of Nigeria’s children aged 5 – 14 years are out of school.
In 1970 when the war ended and I gained admission into University of Ibadan to study economics, studying in a Nigerian University was such a pleasure. To begin with, my roommate then, Okey Ezeokeke and I lived in a two in one room apartment. The university laundered 8 clothes per week for us (trousers and shirts). In addition, two sets of bed sheets were laundered for us weekly. Our shower ran twenty four hours, our toilets flushed always. In each hall of residence we had a bar and buttery where you could have cold drinks and confectionaries at affordable prices directly from breweries and the university catering department. You were also allowed to entertain your guests at these air-conditioned lounges.
Each faculty had a library apart from the central university library. Every journal published in the world was available in our libraries within two weeks of publication. We had a university press which made publication of books by our lecturers easier and the books affordable. The university had a busy bookshop which sold text books, journals, magazines and novels. Accessibility to knowledge was guaranteed even without digital technology. Lecturers were encouraged to publish.
Because of their scholarly publications, they were demanded globally. Every year so many lecturers were engaged inprominent universities all over the world. Every year several lecturers served out their sabbatical and returned with new knowledge, new exposure, modern cars and a global and cosmopolitan saga. Many students developed ambitions to become lecturers. The first class graduates were retained as assistant lecturers to take us in tutorial classes. The tutorial classes explained the lectures, deepened our knowledge of the subject matter and took us through past question papers in order to widen our comprehension and prepare us for examinations. Suddenly all these have disappeared. Instead, handouts have taken over because they are sold for extra cash by lecturers even when they contain very little or represent copying or plagiarism!!
When you don’t buy them, class reps note you and report you to the lecturer and in some cases it is counted against you in the exams. Vice Chancellor after Vice Chancellor fight this menace but they persist because the bench mark has fallen, the incomes have fallen, the foreign lure no longer exists because our degrees have become worthless. Businessmen and Politicians as well as pretty female students get degrees without attending lectures!! If the source of knowledge is contaminated, like a contaminated water reservoir, can you get clean water? Once upon a time, a seating Governor was admitted as a student in one of our universities, he pretended to attend lectures inspite of his busy schedules, which made it impossible for him to attend all his lectures, but he was awarded a degree. Is such a degree respectable? Does this kind of practice recommend such a University as credible?
This brings me to the question of what form Nigeria will assume under a restructured arrangement and how its restructuring can be brought about. Two basic models have been canvassed for restructuring in Nigeria. A conservative model aimed at maintaining the status quo has been proposed to mean simply a shedding of some of the exclusive powers of the Federal Government, like issuing of mining licenses, permission for constructing of Federal roads and shedding of regulatory powers over investments in critical sectors of the economy like power and mineral resources. This model merely scratches the surface of the problem. It avoids the fundamental issue of devolution of powers.
The second model calls for a fundamental devolution of powers to the States as federating units and a lean Federal Government with exclusive powers for external defence, customs, immigration, foreign relations and a Federal legislature and judiciary to make and interpret laws in these exclusive areas.
This second model proposes states as the federating units with two different approaches. The first approach simply wants the States as the Federating units and a Federal Government with limited powers. It wants the states to control a percentage of revenue accruing from their areas and contribute an agreed percentage of such revenue to the federal government.
The second approach proposes the states as the federating units with a Region at each of the six geopolitical units whose constitution will be agreed to and adopted by the states in the geopolitical region. The regions will have the powers to merge existing states or create new ones. There will be regional and state legislatures and judiciary dealing with making and interpreting laws made in the respective political entities. This approach proposes a revenue sharing formulae of 15% to the Federal Government, 35% to the regional government and 50% to the State Governments.
To achieve a national consensus on this subject requires a national discussion. Regrettably, the ruling party, APC which promised restructuring in its manifesto after two years and four months in office appointed a committee to define what sort of restructuring it wants for Nigeria. The matter ended there. The Committee report after being adopted by its National Executive Committee was never implemented by the Government. To make matters worse, none of the other political parties have come up with any clear-cut route for achieving a consensus on this matter.
The National Assembly itself is a reflection of the deep ethnic divisions in the country and the Northern majority conferred on it by the military makes it highly unacceptable to Southern Nigeria. Recent resolutions made by it on devolution of powers have not helped the situation.
In the recent past, following massive disenchantment by our youths, self-determination groups have sprung up in Nigeria. The self-determination groups include IPOB, Boko Haram MASSOB, YELICOM, Arewa Youths, Niger Delta Republic and Republic of the Middle Belt.
Of all these groups IPOB and Boko Haram have been designated as terrorist organizations by the Federal Government. This development in relation to IPOB is unfortunate. Book Haram is an armed organization which has attacked and occupied Nigerian territory hoisted its flag and appointed local authority governments
It has abducted and abused Nigerian women kidnapped and imprisoned many and killed over two hundred thousand people. It is still involved in guerilla warfare against Nigeria yet the Federal Government is negotiating with them. No member of Boko Haram captured by the military is under trial, as far as I know. Members of this Federal Government are on record for condemning the previous Government for brutal murder of Boko Haram members and condemning the retired Chief of Army Staff for zealous prosecution of the anti-terror campaign. Members of the sect who confess to a change of mind have been received along with their abducted female partners in the Presidency and rehabilitated even by recruitment into the army. Today, the country is threatened by a new rise of Islamic insurgents.
The declaration of IPOB as a terrorist organization is in my view hurried, unfair, and not in conformity with the intendment of the law. Whereas I am not completely in agreement with some of the methods of IPOB like it’s inappropriate and divisive broadcast, the uncontested evidence given by the Attorney General of the Federation in an interlocutory action claiming that IPOB attempted and/or actually snatched guns from law enforcement agents are, if proven, merely criminal offences. They do not constitute enough evidence to meet international law definitions of a terrorist organization. Happily, the United States Embassy in Nigeria, sometimes ago, shared this conclusion and asserted that the United States Government does not recognize IPOB as a terrorist organization. This same unarmed IPOB that is being stigmatized by the Nigerian government had its members murdered in Asaba, Nkpor, Aba and Port Harcourt simply for having public demonstrations without the Federal Government ordering a judicial inquiry. Instead, after I called for one and Amnesty International provided evidence that 150 of them were killed, the Chief of Army Staff then, set up an inquiry composed of serving and retired army officers thus abandoning the rules of natural justice which prescribes that you cannot be a judge in your own court. The Nigerian Press should investigate these assertions and bring a peaceful resolution to this impasse.
The Igbos in Nigeria see the treatment of IPOB as unfair, discriminatory and overhanded. They see the move as an attempt to encourage a profiling of Igbos in the international security arena.
We know of other self-determination groups in Nigeria that are armed and have destroyed government and private sector installations and wells and have taken several Nigerians hostage that government prefers to negotiate with rather than label them as terrorist organizations.
Fulani Herdsmen otherwise called the Fulani militants have ravaged farms in Middle belt, South West, and South Eastern Nigerian killing several farmers in the process. In January 2016 they killed 500 farmers and their families in Agatu in Benue State. In Enugu State, they murdered more than 100 farmers in Ukpabi Nimbo in April 2016. Photographs depicting them with automatic rifles trend in the entire world media, yet not one of them is facing criminal charges, nor is Operation Python Dance being conducted in the areas where they ravage and kill, and the Federal Government describes them as criminals and treat them with levity notwithstanding their classification by the Global Terrorist Index as the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world (see British Independence Newspaper, 18th November 2015). The London Guardian Newspaper of 12th July 2016 indicated that Fulani Herdsmen killed one thousand people in 2014. Today the numbers reached five hundred thousand. A medium security prison was invaded in Abuja and detained terrorists allowed to escape without any resistance from our security forces.
Apart from domestic security, our economy is bleeding due to several other reasons.
On 23rd October 2022, Nduka Orjinmo writing for BBC News, Abuja reported that “In Delta State, thieves built their own 4km (2.5miles) of long pipeline through the heavily guarded creeks to the Atlantic Ocean. These barges and vessels blatantly loaded the stolen oil from a 24 feet oil pipe visible from miles on the open waters. “Crude oil is Nigeria’s main export but production and revenue, has been dwindling for years because of thieves. Authorities say, “oil production fell from 2.5 million barrels per day in 2011 to just over 1 million in July 2022, according to the regulator (making it impossible for us to meet our OPEC production quota).
Authorities also say that more than $3.3bn dollars (£2.9bn) has been lost to crude oil theft since last year and at a time when other oil producers are having a petro dollars splurge, Nigeriacan’t even meet its OPEC production quota. And it is not that the country can afford to lose money to thieves as it is gripped by widespread poverty and heavily indebted.
Nigerian’s oil industry has a documented history of corruption, from an unending fuel subsidy scheme where no one actually knows how much is imported, to the shadowy allotment of oil exploration blocks. Chief Ekpemupolo known as Tompolo is the security contractor with the responsibility of unearthing this large scale crude oil theft. Commenting on the thieves, he said in Channels TV that”many of the security people are involved because there is no way you can load a vessel without settling (bribing) the security people in that region”.(3)
Carl Milton Bernstein, an American investigative Journalist and author while a young reporter for Washington Post teamed up with Bob woodward and both of them uncovered the crimes which led to the congressional investigation of Watergate scandal that ultimately led to the resignation of Richard Nixonas President of the United States of America. This is the power of Journalists or dare I say of editors. Why have the Nigerian editors been unable to unravel the massive robbery of our oil reserves or the subsidy looters?
Nigeria’s present problems are worse than Watergate scandal. We have a total collapse of confidence in our government. When a Federal Accountant Generalis facing charges of acting in cohort of other Federal Civil Servants, consultants and representatives of the Federal Government for stealing Government funds and the case is going through such a sluggish delay but Nnamdi Kanu’s acquittal can in a few days bereversed by the Federal Court of Appeal, it simply means that ridding our country of corruption is not a priority.
Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Anthony Enaharo as journalists stood their grounds in fighting colonial rule. A fight to defend our hallowed values and the soul of our nation is the greatest act of patriotism. Your pen is of inestimable value when you use it patriotically to salvage our value slide and the rudderless movement of our state vessel. The Nigerian editor has enormous power in exercising his freedom of expression as enshrined in our constitution.
You must set the agenda for this coming election. That agenda must require our candidates to speak up on their policies regarding:-
(i) Fighting corruption
(ii) Restructuring
(iii) Transiting our country from a consumption economy to a production economy.
(iv) Stopping the brain drain occasioned by the exodus of our best brains to more promising climes
(v) The overthrow of merit, prudent management and accountability in the public services
(vi) Our overblown and over financed legislatures
(vii) A scrutiny of our Judiciary which exposes corruption and several other negative tendencies that compromise justice
(viii) The incapacity of our armed forces, previously respected in international peace-keeping operations in the Congo, Liberia and lately Gambia but now appearing to be completely overcome by Boko Haram to the extent that our School Of Infantry can be easily invaded by terrorists not to talk of our farmlands in Katsina, Kaduna and several other states
(ix) You must interrogate the failure of the Nigerian Police Force leading to the ENDSARS riots.
(x) We must interrogate the Arab Spring and its aftermath in order to avert its occurrence here.
(xi) We must examine stories of nations like Israel and USA
(xii) We must thoroughly investigate the readiness of INEC to conduct a free and fair election. Will the servers breakdown again?
Nwodo a former Minister of Information and President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide presented this paper during the 2022 All Nigerian Editors Conference in Owerri, Imo State on November 9-13, 2022.
Any leading Presidential candidate who doesn’t have well thought out policies on these issues is not fit to lead Nigeria.
We hear today of speculation regarding the health condition of our Presidential Aspirants. We have a President who has spent so many days out of his eight year tenure in foreign hospitals not to talk about the cost of treatment. This makes it a national imperative to investigate the health of Aspirants to that office.
Tobi Aworinde of the Punch Newspaper told us on August 1st, 2021 that our current President has spent a total of 201 days on foreign medical trips since his assumption of office seven years and seven months ago.(4) This figure will be updated when he returns from his present trip. In any other clime, the National Assembly would have amended the electoral laws to provide for independent medical examination for all Presidential Aspirants. It is not yet late for such an amendment to be made.
As editors, you are the authors of reforms on national values, ethics and conduct of aspirants and holders of public office. Your power is coterminous with the nature of your work. In a way you wield and sustain the conscience of the nation. You help, on the basis of your informed editorials to cultivate our values and standards for public office holders. I believe that if you conducted a careful inventory of properties of some past and present public office holders including civil servants and members of the judiciary, you would expose so much as to provoke an inquiry into how some of those assets were acquired.
To who much is given, much is expected. As editors in the public and private media you have a pivotal influence in the affairs of this country, you have the wherewithal to progressively reform our values. You can stop the disdain with which our children hold us, for destroying their collective patrimony and heritage by acts of omission or commission. You can help to rebuild their confidence in our country. Already they are in a rage which can consume us if we don’t act fast.
Remember Harold Macmillan’s words to the British in the wake of Nationalists movements in Africa. He said, on a visit to South Africa on February 3rd, 1960, in a speech to the South Africa Parliament, “We have seen the awakening of national consciousness in peoples who have for centuries lived in dependence upon some other powers… The wind of change is blowing through this continent and whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact. We must accept it as a fact and our national policies must take account of it” (5)
I like to end this speech by quoting William Shakespeare, in Julius Caesar, where he said “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”
Nigerian editors, arise and defend our country
Arise and interrogate our politicians and businessmen.
Arise and define our politics
Hesitate and be defined by history
I thank you for your kind attention.

JOHN NNIA NWODO
OWERRI, IMO STATE NOVEMBER 2022

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Mobilising Citizens For Sustainable Democracy In Nigeria: The Power Of Editors (I)

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I am honoured to be amongst you, members of The Nigerian Guild of Editors, today and to be asked to be your guest speaker at your 2022 annual conference. The topic of my lecture today, Mobilizing Citizens for Sustainable Democracy, the Power of Editors, was chosen by you. I therefore assume that you want an opinion of one of the consumers of your production rather than one of you. Let me however disclose that even though I am a lawyer and an economist and therefore not a journalist, I have been Special Assistant to President Shehu Shagari, of blessed memory, on Information. I have also been, for about eight months, Nigerian’s Minister of Information and Culture under H.E General Abdulsalami Abubakar. I am therefore fairly abreast with working among journalists, making rules and influencing law making with regard to your profession and managing some journalists in areas where I have worked. This makes me an exceptional consumer of your product.
The following questions will need to be answered before we dwell on the topic for today’s lecture.
(i) Who is a journalist in Nigeria?
(ii) What qualifications must you have in order to practice journalism in Nigeria?
(iii) What statutes govern the professional practice of journalism?
As far as I know, unlike other professions like Medicine, Engineering and Law you basically require no particular professional qualification to be an editor. Current practices however require you to have a good knowledge of English language, knowledge of media production and communication, ability to read and communicate effectively in English, excellent written communication skills, ability to work with others, digital skills and membership of Nigerian Union of Journalists.
The danger in this lack of professional certification is that there are absolutely no possibilities of disbarring a journalist on the basis of dereliction from professional regulations except through disciplinary measures of the Nigerian Guild of Editors or the National Union of Journalists. Civil and criminal law are however awash with provisions on libel, defamation and misrepresentation that not only affect all citizens but may be more relevant in checking excesses in the practice of journalism. It is in this respect that I congratulate you for having a virile association of Nigerian Guild of Editors and the Nigerian Union of Journalists which through their internal rules can sanitize your profession of bad eggs whose demeanor may earn you unwanted bad reputation. I know that I speak the minds of many Nigerians in urging you to activate your professional organizations in codifying your rules and ethics in such a manner that public confidence can grow in your ability to uphold the truth.
Nowadays it has become habitual for notable politicians to own large media houses in order to protect themselves from media onslaught and also take on their adversaries in political propaganda.
In their book, The Elements of Journalism, Bill Korac and Tom Rosensties hold that a Journalist’s first obligation is to the truth. They wrote that, “All truths-even the laws of science – are subject to revision but we operate them in the meantime because they are necessary and they work. Journalists must seek a practical and functional forum of truth. It is not truth in the absolute or philosophical or scientific sense but rather a pursuit of the truths by which we can operate on a day to day basis”
Continuing they wrote that, “the Journalist’s truth is a process that begins with the professional discipline of assembling and verifying facts. The Journalists try to convey a fair and reliable account of their meaning, subject to further investigation. The Journalists first loyalty is to citizens. The Journalist whether a media corporation answering to advertisers and shareholders or a blogger with his own personal beliefs and priorities must show an ultimate allegiance to citizens. They must strive to put the public interest – and the truth – above their own self-interest or assumptions.”(1)
As I was preparing for this lecture it occurred to me that in mobilizing citizens for sustainable democracy in Nigeria, the editors must first of all agree on the most fundamental problems facing Nigeria before they can mobilize citizens to take informed decisions about who can deal with the fundamental problems. As I was reading through the maze of reports on the issues for determination in the forthcoming election, I received a report of views of our colonial masters at the formation of this nation and after, presented by Dele Ogun, Convener of The Fatherland Group, National Liberal Club, Whitehall, London. In his speech entitled “Nigeria And Britain After Elizabeth”, which I thought I should share with you, he said quoting
Oliver Littleton Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Chandos, who said in his 21st May 1953 contributions to Emergency Debates on Nigeria’s Constitutional future, in the House of Lords, one week to Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation
“Recent events have shown that it is not possible for the three regions of Nigeria to work together effectively in a Federation so closely knit as that provided by the present constitution. HM’s government in the UK while greatly regretting this, considered that the constitution will have to be redrawn to provide for greater regional autonomy and for the removal of power of intervention by the centre in matters which without detriment to the other regions be placed entirely with regional competence. It is at the same time necessary to ensure that the common economic and defence requirements of all regions are secured”
He also referred to
Sir Detor Smithers,Parliamentary Private Secretary, to Min of State and Secretary of State in the Colonial Office 1952 – 1959, Sec Gen Council of Europe 1964 – 69 writing in Times on July 15, 1998who said,
“During the negotiations for the Independence of Nigeria the view of the Secretary of State at that time, with which I agreed, was that in Nigeria, we should attempt to put together a large and powerful state with ample material resources which will play a leadingpart in the affairs of the continent and the world. This was attractive but it involved forcing several different ethnic and cultural groups into a single political structure
The negotiations were complex and very difficult, the chief problem as I remember, relating significantly to the control of the police and the military. In the retrospect of 40 years, it is clear that this was a great mistake which has cost many lives and would probably continue to do so. It would have been better to establish several smaller states in a free trade area.
In exculpation, it must be said that we did not then have the examples of the collapse of Yugoslavia and of the Soviet Union before our eyes. It should now be clear for all but the wilfully blind to see, that it is extremely dangerous to force diverse racial and social entities into a single rigid structure such as that which is being built upon the foundations of the Maastricht Treaty. Recent history suggests that it would be best to complete the development of the Common Market and to call a halt to political integrations in Europe that we all know about Brexit”
Concluding his speech Dele Ogun said, “I turn to the French Philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau”, “The problem is to form a forum of association which will defend and protect with the whole common force, the person and good of each association and in which each while uniting himself with all, may still obey himself alone and remain as free as before. This is the fundamental problem of which the Social Contract provides the solution for. He then called for the Orange Union in contradistinction to union of the Apple. When you peel the skin of the Orange, you will see the segments sitting comfortably side by side together making the composite whole, whilst when you peel the skin of the Apple you will see the indistinguishable mess. That Orange Union in which the ethnic groups uniting to make the whole an association in which they may obey their own priority and remain as free before. (2)”
When mobilizing citizens for sustainable democracy the most important challenge is to identify the major problems of the country. Dele Ogun identifies the structure of the country as our most fundamental problem.
Our current constitution was fashioned by the military. It is not autochthonous. In law it has no validity. It was neither a product of an elected assembly nor that of a public plebiscite. Nobody voted for it except a group of military unelected officers. Its character is based on distribution rather than production of wealth. It collapsed the pre independent agreement of the component parts of this country (represented by their elected officials) as the basis of our Federation. It relied on dependence on oil wealth as a basis for our common existence. Consequently the previous grand cotton production, the groundnut pyramids, the palm oil drums, the palm kernel pyramids, the rubber plantations, the cocoa plantations have all disappeared giving way to over dependence on oil, imports and federal dominance in wealth creationwhichhas eluded us. Local initiatives in agricultural development has given way to white elephant projects, subsidy, dead refineries, oiltheft, falling standards in education, low food production and health care.(Give examples of your childhood experience in education, health and food production)
Arising from these explanations editors must focus attention on the views of candidates on restructuring. Whenever restructuring is raised, some erroneously think that the whole essence is to regionalize the control of oil resources and deny non-oil producing areas of the revenue accruing from oil. Far from it. It was never so in the past. The Federal Government still had, in the past, a percentage of all mineral production from the regions. Besides, a model based on sharing of Government revenue must give way to a new structure that will challenge and drive productivity in different regions across the country. This new model must take into account that the factors driving productivity in today’s world are no longer driven by fossil oil but rather the proliferation of a knowledge-based economy. The restructuring of Nigeria into smaller and independent federating units and the devolution of powers to these federating units to control exclusively their human capital development, mineral resources, agriculture, and power (albeit with an obligation to contribute to the federal government) is the only way to salvage our fledging economy. Restructuring will devote attention to the new wealth areas, promote competition and productivity as the new federating units struggle to survive. It will drastically reduce corruption as the large Federal parastatals which gulp Government revenue for little or no impact dissolve and give way to smaller and viable organs in the new Federating units.
Those campaigning against restructuring in Nigeria have painted an unfortunate and untrue picture that those of us in support of restructuring are doing so in order to deny the Northern States who have not yet any proven oil reserves of the ability to survive. This is unfortunate. The new model we propose for Nigeria recognizes that revenue in the world today is promoted by two main sources namely, human capital development leveraging on technology to drive the critical sectors of the economy and agriculture. Ten years ago the top ten companies in the world were the likes of EXXON Mobil, Shell, and Total. Today the top eight companies in the world are represented by technology related companies. They include Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Amazon and lately Twitter.
The example of Netherlands in Agriculture is also relevant here. The Netherlands is the 18th largest economy in the world. It has a land area of about 33.9,000 square kilometres. Niger State, one of Nigeria’s 37 administrative units has about 74,000 square kilometres. Netherlands, four years ago had over $100 billion from agricultural exports annually, contributed mainly by vegetables and dairy. Nigeria’s oil revenue has never in any one year reached $100 billion. Northern Nigeria is the most endowed agriculturally in Nigeria. Its tomatoes, carrots, cabbages, cucumbers, tubers, grains, livestock and dairy feed the majority of Nigerians in spite of its huge reserve of unexploited export potentials. In a restructured Nigeria, Northern Nigeria with the right agricultural policies will be the richest part of Nigeria.
Our analysis here must be viewed from the background that datelines have been fixed by OECD countries and China for the cessation of production of automobiles and machines dependent on fossiloil. This development and the new technology for production of shale oil in the United States has made world dependence on Nigeria’s crude oil a rapidly declining phenomenon. All over Europe and America, electric cars are now a first preference for first time buyers.
In the face of this economic reality, the population reference Bureau predicts that Nigeria will in 2050 become the world’s fourth largest population with a population of 397 million coming after China, India and the United States of America. This is only 30 years away!!
Any other country in our situation would have declared a state of emergency long ago to plan for the day oil price will fall!!!
Saudi Arabia is investing $110 billion to develop its estimated 200 trillion cubic feet of wet gas by 2036. When completed it will provide $8.6 billion annual income and add $20 billion annually to its gross domestic product. This is apart from the production boost its economy will receive from an increased, cheaper and diversified source of energy.
Right now research has reached at an advanced stage in the United States on a new all – solid – state hybrid solar cell based on organic-inorganic metal halide called PEROVSKITE (CH3 NH3 PBX3) which using solar power technology has the capacity of turning sun light into energy and expanding the science of medical imaging in newer and more profound dimensions. The photoelectric power conversion efficiency of the Perovskite solar cells has increased from 3.8% in 2009 to 22.1% in 2016, making Perovskite solar cells the best potential candidate for the new generation of solar cells to replace traditional silicon solar cells in the future. Light absorption and photoelectric conversion has become better, more efficient and a threat to oil based economy!!
Research has also advanced in the US and Europe on 5G telecommunications which has achieved an improved quality and speed of internet communications that promotes new models of self-driven cars, better movies downloads, improved road navigation and a new medical diagnostic tool called the Tricorder. China is already deploying 5G technology through its mega telecommunication company called Huawei
A new cellphone battery called Grapheme batteries will be developed soon to replace lithium batteries. These grapheme batteries will charge in 20 minutes instead of the average 90 minutes for conventional lithium batteries. It can stand 1,500 charge cycles instead of the 300-500 cycles of lithium batteries. It isalready at trial stage
Israeli former Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has recently informed the world of his country’s new digital explorations. Apart from discovering the cure for cancer and the capacity to make life interminable, Israel can by drone technology determine the chemical deficiency of a plant in a farm without setting foot on the farm. It can also cure the deficiency by drone technology without entering the farm.
Nwodo, a former minister of information, and president general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo worldwide presented this paper during 2022 All Nigerian Editors Conference in Owerri, Imo State November 9-13.

 

USA has also advanced drone technology with the capacity to go to war and shoot from self-driven drones and kill decisively without risking any human life in the field. Recently this technology was used to exterminate an Iranian General considered a huge security threat to the United States.
These discoveries underline the importance of education in National Development.
According to UNICEF, one in every five of the World’s out of school children is in Nigeria. Even though primary education is officially free and compulsory, about 10.5 million of Nigeria’s children aged 5 – 14 years are out of school.
In 1970 when the war ended and I gained admission into University of Ibadan to study economics, studying in a Nigerian University was such a pleasure. To begin with, my roommate then, Okey Ezeokeke and I lived in a two in one room apartment. The university laundered 8 clothes per week for us (trousers and shirts). In addition, two sets of bed sheets were laundered for us weekly. Our shower ran twenty four hours, our toilets flushed always. In each hall of residence we had a bar and buttery where you could have cold drinks and confectionaries at affordable prices directly from breweries and the university catering department. You were also allowed to entertain your guests at these air-conditioned lounges.
Each faculty had a library apart from the central university library. Every journal published in the world was available in our libraries within two weeks of publication. We had a university press which made publication of books by our lecturers easier and the books affordable. The university had a busy bookshop which sold text books, journals, magazines and novels. Accessibility to knowledge was guaranteed even without digital technology. Lecturers were encouraged to publish.
Because of their scholarly publications, they were demanded globally. Every year so many lecturers were engaged inprominent universities all over the world. Every year several lecturers served out their sabbatical and returned with new knowledge, new exposure, modern cars and a global and cosmopolitan saga. Many students developed ambitions to become lecturers. The first class graduates were retained as assistant lecturers to take us in tutorial classes. The tutorial classes explained the lectures, deepened our knowledge of the subject matter and took us through past question papers in order to widen our comprehension and prepare us for examinations. Suddenly all these have disappeared. Instead, handouts have taken over because they are sold for extra cash by lecturers even when they contain very little or represent copying or plagiarism!!

When you don’t buy them, class reps note you and report you to the lecturer and in some cases it is counted against you in the exams. Vice Chancellor after Vice Chancellor fight this menace but they persist because the bench mark has fallen, the incomes have fallen, the foreign lure no longer exists because our degrees have become worthless. Businessmen and Politicians as well as pretty female students get degrees without attending lectures!! If the source of knowledge is contaminated, like a contaminated water reservoir, can you get clean water? Once upon a time, a seating Governor was admitted as a student in one of our universities, he pretended to attend lectures inspite of his busy schedules, which made it impossible for him to attend all his lectures, but he was awarded a degree. Is such a degree respectable? Does this kind of practice recommend such a University as credible?
This brings me to the question of what form Nigeria will assume under a restructured arrangement and how its restructuring can be brought about. Two basic models have been canvassed for restructuring in Nigeria. A conservative model aimed at maintaining the status quo has been proposed to mean simply a shedding of some of the exclusive powers of the Federal Government, like issuing of mining licenses, permission for constructing of Federal roads and shedding of regulatory powers over investments in critical sectors of the economy like power and mineral resources. This model merely scratches the surface of the problem. It avoids the fundamental issue of devolution of powers.
The second model calls for a fundamental devolution of powers to the States as federating units and a lean Federal Government with exclusive powers for external defence, customs, immigration, foreign relations and a Federal legislature and judiciary to make and interpret laws in these exclusive areas.
This second model proposes states as the federating units with two different approaches. The first approach simply wants the States as the Federating units and a Federal Government with limited powers. It wants the states to control a percentage of revenue accruing from their areas and contribute an agreed percentage of such revenue to the federal government.
The second approach proposes the states as the federating units with a Region at each of the six geopolitical units whose constitution will be agreed to and adopted by the states in the geopolitical region. The regions will have the powers to merge existing states or create new ones. There will be regional and state legislatures and judiciary dealing with making and interpreting laws made in the respective political entities. This approach proposes a revenue sharing formulae of 15% to the Federal Government, 35% to the regional government and 50% to the State Governments.
To achieve a national consensus on this subject requires a national discussion. Regrettably, the ruling party, APC which promised restructuring in its manifesto after two years and four months in office appointed a committee to define what sort of restructuring it wants for Nigeria. The matter ended there. The Committee report after being adopted by its National Executive Committee was never implemented by the Government. To make matters worse, none of the other political parties have come up with any clear-cut route for achieving a consensus on this matter.
The National Assembly itself is a reflection of the deep ethnic divisions in the country and the Northern majority conferred on it by the military makes it highly unacceptable to Southern Nigeria. Recent resolutions made by it on devolution of powers have not helped the situation.
In the recent past, following massive disenchantment by our youths, self-determination groups have sprung up in Nigeria. The self-determination groups include IPOB, Boko Haram MASSOB, YELICOM, Arewa Youths, Niger Delta Republic and Republic of the Middle Belt.
Of all these groups IPOB and Boko Haram have been designated as terrorist organizations by the Federal Government. This development in relation to IPOB is unfortunate. Book Haram is an armed organization which has attacked and occupied Nigerian territory hoisted its flag and appointed local authority governments
It has abducted and abused Nigerian women kidnapped and imprisoned many and killed over two hundred thousand people. It is still involved in guerilla warfare against Nigeria yet the Federal Government is negotiating with them. No member of Boko Haram captured by the military is under trial, as far as I know. Members of this Federal Government are on record for condemning the previous Government for brutal murder of Boko Haram members and condemning the retired Chief of Army Staff for zealous prosecution of the anti-terror campaign. Members of the sect who confess to a change of mind have been received along with their abducted female partners in the Presidency and rehabilitated even by recruitment into the army. Today, the country is threatened by a new rise of Islamic insurgents.
The declaration of IPOB as a terrorist organization is in my view hurried, unfair, and not in conformity with the intendment of the law. Whereas I am not completely in agreement with some of the methods of IPOB like it’s inappropriate and divisive broadcast, the uncontested evidence given by the Attorney General of the Federation in an interlocutory action claiming that IPOB attempted and/or actually snatched guns from law enforcement agents are, if proven, merely criminal offences. They do not constitute enough evidence to meet international law definitions of a terrorist organization. Happily, the United States Embassy in Nigeria, sometimes ago, shared this conclusion and asserted that the United States Government does not recognize IPOB as a terrorist organization. This same unarmed IPOB that is being stigmatized by the Nigerian government had its members murdered in Asaba, Nkpor, Aba and Port Harcourt simply for having public demonstrations without the Federal Government ordering a judicial inquiry. Instead, after I called for one and Amnesty International provided evidence that 150 of them were killed, the Chief of Army Staff then, set up an inquiry composed of serving and retired army officers thus abandoning the rules of natural justice which prescribes that you cannot be a judge in your own court. The Nigerian Press should investigate these assertions and bring a peaceful resolution to this impasse.
The Igbos in Nigeria see the treatment of IPOB as unfair, discriminatory and overhanded. They see the move as an attempt to encourage a profiling of Igbos in the international security arena.
We know of other self-determination groups in Nigeria that are armed and have destroyed government and private sector installations and wells and have taken several Nigerians hostage that government prefers to negotiate with rather than label them as terrorist organizations.
Fulani Herdsmen otherwise called the Fulani militants have ravaged farms in Middle belt, South West, and South Eastern Nigerian killing several farmers in the process. In January 2016 they killed 500 farmers and their families in Agatu in Benue State. In Enugu State, they murdered more than 100 farmers in Ukpabi Nimbo in April 2016. Photographs depicting them with automatic rifles trend in the entire world media, yet not one of them is facing criminal charges, nor is Operation Python Dance being conducted in the areas where they ravage and kill, and the Federal Government describes them as criminals and treat them with levity notwithstanding their classification by the Global Terrorist Index as the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world (see British Independence Newspaper, 18th November 2015). The London Guardian Newspaper of 12th July 2016 indicated that Fulani Herdsmen killed one thousand people in 2014. Today the numbers reached five hundred thousand. A medium security prison was invaded in Abuja and detained terrorists allowed to escape without any resistance from our security forces.
Apart from domestic security, our economy is bleeding due to several other reasons.

On 23rd October 2022, Nduka Orjinmo writing for BBC News, Abuja reported that “In Delta State, thieves built their own 4km (2.5miles) of long pipeline through the heavily guarded creeks to the Atlantic Ocean. These barges and vessels blatantly loaded the stolen oil from a 24 feet oil pipe visible from miles on the open waters. “Crude oil is Nigeria’s main export but production and revenue, has been dwindling for years because of thieves. Authorities say, “oil production fell from 2.5 million barrels per day in 2011 to just over 1 million in July 2022, according to the regulator (making it impossible for us to meet our OPEC production quota).
Authorities also say that more than $3.3bn dollars (£2.9bn) has been lost to crude oil theft since last year and at a time when other oil producers are having a petro dollars splurge, Nigeriacan’t even meet its OPEC production quota. And it is not that the country can afford to lose money to thieves as it is gripped by widespread poverty and heavily indebted.
Nigerian’s oil industry has a documented history of corruption, from an unending fuel subsidy scheme where no one actually knows how much is imported, to the shadowy allotment of oil exploration blocks. Chief Ekpemupolo known as Tompolo is the security contractor with the responsibility of unearthing this large scale crude oil theft. Commenting on the thieves, he said in Channels TV that”many of the security people are involved because there is no way you can load a vessel without settling (bribing) the security people in that region”.(3)
Carl Milton Bernstein, an American investigative Journalist and author while a young reporter for Washington Post teamed up with Bob woodward and both of them uncovered the crimes which led to the congressional investigation of Watergate scandal that ultimately led to the resignation of Richard Nixonas President of the United States of America. This is the power of Journalists or dare I say of editors. Why have the Nigerian editors been unable to unravel the massive robbery of our oil reserves or the subsidy looters?
Nigeria’s present problems are worse than Watergate scandal. We have a total collapse of confidence in our government. When a Federal Accountant Generalis facing charges of acting in cohort of other Federal Civil Servants, consultants and representatives of the Federal Government for stealing Government funds and the case is going through such a sluggish delay but Nnamdi Kanu’s acquittal can in a few days bereversed by the Federal Court of Appeal, it simply means that ridding our country of corruption is not a priority.
Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Anthony Enaharo as journalists stood their grounds in fighting colonial rule. A fight to defend our hallowed values and the soul of our nation is the greatest act of patriotism. Your pen is of inestimable value when you use it patriotically to salvage our value slide and the rudderless movement of our state vessel. The Nigerian editor has enormous power in exercising his freedom of expression as enshrined in our constitution.
You must set the agenda for this coming election. That agenda must require our candidates to speak up on their policies regarding:-
(i) Fighting corruption
(ii) Restructuring
(iii) Transiting our country from a consumption economy to a production economy.
(iv) Stopping the brain drain occasioned by the exodus of our best brains to more promising climes
(v) The overthrow of merit, prudent management and accountability in the public services
(vi) Our overblown and over financed legislatures
(vii) A scrutiny of our Judiciary which exposes corruption and several other negative tendencies that compromise justice
(viii) The incapacity of our armed forces, previously respected in international peace-keeping operations in the Congo, Liberia and lately Gambia but now appearing to be completely overcome by Boko Haram to the extent that our School Of Infantry can be easily invaded by terrorists not to talk of our farmlands in Katsina, Kaduna and several other states
(ix) You must interrogate the failure of the Nigerian Police Force leading to the ENDSARS riots.
(x) We must interrogate the Arab Spring and its aftermath in order to avert its occurrence here.
(xi) We must examine stories of nations like Israel and USA
(xii) We must thoroughly investigate the readiness of INEC to conduct a free and fair election. Will the servers breakdown again?
Any leading Presidential candidate who doesn’t have well thought out policies on these issues is not fit to lead Nigeria.
We hear today of speculation regarding the health condition of our Presidential Aspirants. We have a President who has spent so many days out of his eight year tenure in foreign hospitals not to talk about the cost of treatment. This makes it a national imperative to investigate the health of Aspirants to that office.
Tobi Aworinde of the Punch Newspaper told us on August 1st, 2021 that our current President has spent a total of 201 days on foreign medical trips since his assumption of office seven years and seven months ago.(4) This figure will be updated when he returns from his present trip. In any other clime, the National Assembly would have amended the electoral laws to provide for independent medical examination for all Presidential Aspirants. It is not yet late for such an amendment to be made.
As editors, you are the authors of reforms on national values, ethics and conduct of aspirants and holders of public office. Your power is coterminous with the nature of your work. In a way you wield and sustain the conscience of the nation. You help, on the basis of your informed editorials to cultivate our values and standards for public office holders. I believe that if you conducted a careful inventory of properties of some past and present public office holders including civil servants and members of the judiciary, you would expose so much as to provoke an inquiry into how some of those assets were acquired.
To who much is given, much is expected. As editors in the public and private media you have a pivotal influence in the affairs of this country, you have the wherewithal to progressively reform our values. You can stop the disdain with which our children hold us, for destroying their collective patrimony and heritage by acts of omission or commission. You can help to rebuild their confidence in our country. Already they are in a rage which can consume us if we don’t act fast.
Remember Harold Macmillan’s words to the British in the wake of Nationalists movements in Africa. He said, on a visit to South Africa on February 3rd, 1960, in a speech to the South Africa Parliament, “We have seen the awakening of national consciousness in peoples who have for centuries lived in dependence upon some other powers… The wind of change is blowing through this continent and whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact. We must accept it as a fact and our national policies must take account of it” (5)
I like to end this speech by quoting William Shakespeare, in Julius Caesar, where he said “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”
Nigerian editors, arise and defend our country
Arise and interrogate our politicians and businessmen.
Arise and define our politics
Hesitate and be defined by history
I thank you for your kind attention.

By: John Nnia Nwodo

JOHN NNIA NWODO
OWERRI, IMO STATE NOVEMBER 2022

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Wike: Translucent Political Enigma And Harbinger Of 2023 Presidential Race

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Loved at the centre and by majority of its constituent units and endeared by the opposition party, actors in Nigerian governance in persons of President Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, his counterpart have at different times and fora glued him to one sobriquet. While Vice president nicknamed him “Mr. Project”, the Governor of Oyo state tagged him “Mr. Quality Project” and President Buhari capped it all with a distinguished award for Infrastructural Delivery. At the dinner party held in honour of the awardee, his predecessor, Dr Peter Odili did not mince words to acknowledge him as “a governor whose achievements have surpassed all his predecessors. Without much colouration, aesthetics and fanciful prescriptions, the man at the centre of the discourse is Chief Nyesom Wike.
Upon assumption of office in May 29, 2015, Governor Wike introduced a synergistic approach that intertwined the executive, legislative and judicial functions in Rivers State to fast track the wheel of governance. He ensured that other arms of government, residential and official premises were befitting of their status and personalities. Little wonder, he gained a checkered history of attracting Nigerian Law School to the Treasure Base of the nation. He engaged himself with capital projects that awarded 14 flyovers with giant strides in roads constructions and rehabilitation. Nine flyovers have been completed and it is projected that 12 will be completed and commissioned by January 2023. His achievements in delivering the dividends of democracy to his people also cut across education, agriculture, sports and youth empowerment.
At a period when his party seems to be lying in “comatose”, Governor Wike sustained opposition through dispassionate, critical constructive criticism with the grandeur of esoteric rhetorics and with the firm belief that no situation is insurmountable.
As a rugged and dogged political gladiator full of energy and vibes with ample street wisdom, he further dared the political firmament of the presidential race under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Understanding the dynamics of South-South politics and his brother Governors being politicians that are amenable and susceptible to being windy, ambivalent and selfish to their lucrative selfish interest other than their collective interest, he chased his political clout to the North where he mopped-up high chunk of delegates to himself and nearly clinched the Presidential ticket but for the dead hour tribal political gymnastic of the northern politics which saw his political bosom friend disappointing him in the last hour of dire need.
But suffice it to say that Governor Wike has been reckoned with who is who in Obio/Akpor, who is who in Rivers State, who is who in Nigeria and he is eminently and ebulliently part of those who profess what happens in the Nigerian political firmament.
As an ardent party man, Governor Wike still exhibited political maturity and statesmanship by sticking to his party after the party’s primaries even with obvious humongous evidence to challenge the primaries in court. The National Chairman of PDP, Dr Iyorcha Ayu added a bitter pill to the whole episode when he could not betray his emotions by openly revealing his body language for his preference for Atiku Abubakar as he described Governor Aminu Tambuwal as the hero of the convention which eventually earned him the campaign Director General of Atiku.
Power play having conferred the Presidential ticket to the North, the campaign D-G to the North, Governor Wike propelled by humane impulse and inclination towards equity, fairness and justice with much gusto insisted that the national chairman position should go to the South irrespective of the region and that has been PDP’s worst anxiety and conundrum. The national chairman also insisted on relenting in his oars to jettison the plea urging him to resign since his tenure is spiced by legal flavour. Atiku has also refused to hearken to the voice of reason to admonish him to resign, instead, he has aligned himself with spent forces in Rivers State to prosecute his election. By this move, the political battle line was drawn. Cynics have posited that Wike is being selfish. Yours sincerely thinks not so. Ambition should be made of a sterner stuff.
Governor Wike is not asking the chairman to be zoned to South-South but to any part of the South. Governor Wike did not double-chance his political ambition like his counterparts having failed presidential primaries would summersault back to their senatorial zone.
Governor Wike did not project any of his kinsmen from Ikwerre to succeed him but went as far as Opobo/Nkpro Local Government Area to pick Siminialayi Fubura inspite of the numerical strength of his people to deliver any candidate from his area. Having not found him wanting, his traducers are now accusing him of anti-party activities because he endorsed Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Governor of Lagos State of the All Progressive Congress (APC) extraction. It seems to me that the moth of anti-party activities is on the eye of PDP. Senator Ifeanyi Ararume bought nomination form, cleared by INEC, contested and won Gubernatorial ticket, only for PDP to tag him a leper. He went to court and the court ruled in his favour that he cannot be substituted without cogent and verifiable reason. PDP immediately rallied around the PPA candidate, Ikedi Ohakim and gave him victory at the polls. The hullabaloo in PDP now has placed Governor Wike as the most handsome groom sought by different bridal political parties and the last card in the 2023 presidential race.

By: Nkem Oputa
Barrister Oputa wrote from Port Harcourt.

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