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The Burden Of Poverty

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Nigeria is a paradox. It is blessed with abundant natural resources. It is the most populous country in Africa with over 140 million people offering boundless opportunities and great potential for success in the world market. Yet as rightly observed by the President, Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua shortly after his assumption of office, “the majority of Nigerians are literally going through hell in their bid to eke out a living as a result of widespread poverty”.
Regardless of the cause of poverty, poverty is poverty. It dehumanizes and tortures its victims. Poverty deprives its sufferer of honour, hope, happiness, and self-actualisation. It goes without saying that the poor subsists precariously on the edge of society. The administration of justice and police protection do not favour him. He is a weak bargainer in places where government favours are dispensed. I think it is extremely expensive to be poor. Dialectically, the powerlessness and social immobility of the masses are direct consequence of poverty. And the vulnerability of the poor people strengthen the dominance of the elite class over them whether economically, politically or physically.
In today’s environment of increasing affluence and rising expectations, the concern with poverty is the concern with social justice. It was Henry George in his book, Progress and Poverty, who said: “The association of poverty with progress is the great enigma of our times. It is the central fact from which spring industrial, social, and political difficulties that perplex the world, and with which statesmanship, philanthropy, and education grapple in vain”.
The relevant goals of any society include allocative efficiency, distributive justice, economic growth, and economic and political freedom.
So in Nigeria, what has been done, or better still, what is being done to eradicate poverty and achieve these lofty goals?
In the country, the desire of government to influence income distribution and achieve allocative efficiency is stated in the second National Development Plan documents in these words: “In a developing economy characterised by strong consumption orientation, ill-developed financial institutions and other structural defects, reliance cannot be placed on market forces to achieve equilibrium among income factors consistent with economic growth and social equity. The dynamics of incomes and prices are thus necessarily resolved through government intervention”.
At the leadership conference on “De-industrialisation of Northern Nigeria” in Abuja last year, President Umaru Yar’ Adua disclosed that his administration would soon embark on rehabilitation of institutional infrastructure in the existing 21 industrial development centres located across the country and also establish new ones in 15 other states of the federation to create jobs, raise income, expand markets, facilitate competition, and disseminate knowledge and skills. In his words: “I have no doubt that the attainment of the long term objective of social and economic transformation of Nigeria into a sustainable, competitive and prosperous economy would be achieved if all of you stakeholders display the required commitments”.
Over one year after the president’s promise, nothing significant has happened to create enough jobs for the teeming unemployed youths and adults; and nothing momentous has also happened to reduce the massiveness of poverty and general hopelessness of the people.
Strictly speaking, the poor, “the wretched of the earth”, in the words of Frantz Fanon or “the Living Dead,” borrowing from Ola Rotimi, in Nigeria is looking forward to a new deal, something different and sustainable; something that can estricate him from the anguish of poverty and transform his life fast. Because he has been watching the good things of life pass by for too long, he is tired of policies initiatives, moves, reforms, drives, efforts and so on that have never moved his life forward by an inch.
It would be recalled that the Olusegun Obasanjo administration introduced the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP). The aim was to promote economic and social development and to eradicate poverty in the land by increasing the poor’s access to education, basic health, and to enhance his ability to engage in income generating activities. Thus, NAPEP comprises all the relevant programmes and projects that are targeted towards eradicating all kinds of poverty including case and insular poverty. Case poverty arises amongst those who suffer from some personal, physical, and mental incapacity and insular poverty exists where the entire class of the work force becomes economically obsolete.
But the fact remains that in spite of these efforts, Nigeria is still rated one of the poorest and least developed countries of the world, characterized by low levels of living, low levels of productivity, high and rising level of unemployment and underemployment.
Apparently, whatever goods that have been delivered with poverty eradication approaches in the country, have generally accrued to the tiny ruling class, the power elite, managers and bureaucrats and their cronies. Basic commitments to full employment, free medical services, pension and other social security for peasants and other self-employed people, decent housing for all citizens, general rural pipe-borne water and electrification and feeder roads to benefit the poor are typically accorded low priority in the plans. It seems to me that a lot of leaders produced by the Nigerian nation have been men of human state of consciousness obsessed with the perversions of the mind: lust, greed, and vanity.
The solution to the problem of poverty in Nigeria will begin from a change in the consciousness of the leaders. Unless we have leaders of virtuous disposition, we will keep on getting what we are getting.

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Opinion

G5 And PDP’s Second Crisis

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Barely seven years after the first intra-party crisis that rocked the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which culminated in the loss of the 2015 Presidential Elections, a second one is afoot; but one name remains constant – Atiku Abubakar. In 2015, the ‘New’ PDP with a very strong northern complexion led by former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, faught against former President Jonathan’s second tenure ambition. The first shot of that fight was heard when Atiku Abubakar, seven northern governors of the PDP, lawmakers, and their supporters staged a walkout during the party’s national convention in August 2013. Then, there were a plethora of challenges within the party and the then President Jonathan’s administration, but the battle line was marked by two key issues; the high-handedness of the National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, and the eligibility of Jonathan. Eventually, the Tukur gave way to Alhaji Ahmadu Adamu Mu’azu, former Governor of Bauchi State. But it wasn’t enough to appease Atiku’s gang.Those who were not bold enough to fight in the open, remained in the party while working at cross purposes against the party and its presidential candidate, and Jonathan was ousted. The underlining sentiment at the time was that it was the turn of the north.

In retrospect, and in comparison with the current crisis, the same forces are at work.The seed of the second PDP crisis was sown when it became apparent, early in the year that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was angling for the party’s presidential ticket. Even though there was nothing wrong with his ambition to gun for the highest office in the land, there were ethical and moral issues surrounding his candidacy, given that the current president was from the North. He knew from the outset that he was going against the grain of political equity, fairness, and justice. He also knew that his move was equal to turning his party’s constitution on its head. Because, PDP’s constitution states clearly in Chapter 1, Section 7 (3)(c) states that “in pursuant of equity, justice, and fairness, the party shall adhere to the policy of rotation and zoning of party and elective offices, and it shall be enforced by the appropriate Executive Committees at all levels.” Evidently, Atiku’s ambition and subsequent declaration as the party’s standard bearer in the 2023 presidential election set the PDP on the road to perdition.

But Atiku Abubakar, being a veteran politician, and a serial presidential candidate (1993, 2007, 2011, 2015, and 2019) was not deterred; rather, he unleashed his political wizardry, and deftly cornered the National Chairman of the PDP. And he made his move, even when Governor Samuel Ortom’s Zoning Committee was yet to submit their report; he became the first Presidential aspirant to purchase the expression of interest form. One of Atiku’s spokesmen recently alleged that Governor Wike defeated micro-zoning in the party. He claimed that his principal had promised to step down his ambition if the party zones its presidential ticket to the South East. Nothing could be further from truth; because in August 2021, during the party’s 94th National Executive Council meeting in Abuja, Atiku categorically stated that “where the president comes from has never been the problem of Nigeria neither will it be the solution. There is no such thing as the president from Southern Nigeria or president from Northern Nigeria. There is only one president from Nigeria, by Nigeria and for Nigeria.” What he idealized in 2021, he has actualized in 2022; but the marathon has just begun.

After two disastrous 4-year tenures that crowned Nigeria as the poverty capital of the world, turned the Naira into a tissue of paper relative to its value as of May 29, 2015, polarised and transformed every part of the country into a killing field, power will change hands on May 29, 2023. However, going by the crisis in PDP, the main opposition party, chances are that APC; the incumbent party, or Labour Party might carry the day. Initially, there were only pockets of grievances within the party, howbeit, after all was said and done with the Presidential Primaries, and the selection of a running mate, it was then time for the promises made behind closed doors to be fulfilled in the open. But nothing happened. Senator Iyorchia Ayu has reneged on his promise to vacate the office of the National Chairman of the party in the event that a northerner emerged as the presidential candidate. On his part, Atiku Abubakar has either refused or is unwilling to impress on the embattled chairman to resign in order to pave the way for a national chairman of Southern extraction to emerge.

Consequently, pockets of grievances have morphed into the G5, or what is now known as the Integrity Group. The G5 led by Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State was recently referred to as Atiku Abubarker’s nemesis by the Pan Igbo cultural group, Ohaneze Ndigbo. According to Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, Secretary-General of Ohaneze Ndigbo Worldwide, Atiku was a victim of nemesis; he was reaping the fruit of the seed he cultivated in 2015. He said: Nemesis has caught up with Atiku Abubakar after he treacherously hijacked some governors in 2015 to provide the opposition for the re-election of former President Goodluck Jonathan and succeeded in forming alliances with then ACN, led by Bola Tinubu, CPC led by Muhammadu Buhari, ANPP led by Ogbonnaya Onu, a faction of APGA led by Rochas Okorocha and the then New PDP, which he led.

He was able to lead former Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers, former Governor Rabiu Kwankwanso of Kano, former Governor Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto, former Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara, and former Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa against their own party, the PDP.”
“Now nature has finally come up against him and he is reaping the reward; let him stop wasting his time and resources. Whatever Atiku had sowed in 2015; he is now reaping in 2023. He and the same gang members that destroyed Jonathan’s chances in 2015 have also undermined the PDP zoning formula that favours the Southeast.” It is clear that major interest groups and the voting public are fully aware of the ongoing crisis within the PDP.

And, while others are assiduously working to find common ground, some other groups have deemed the actions of G5 praiseworthy. And, from what could be deduced from the campaign so far, the wind seems to be in the sail of the APC in spite of their sacrilegious Muslim – Muslim ticket. Like the ongoing Ukrainian war, where the strongman of the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin, in spite of great losses and national humiliation has continued to send minimally trained and ill-equipped recruits to the slaughter, Atiku Abubakar, and Senator Ayu have also refused to shift ground.

They have advanced various theories to the effect that the removal of the party’s national chairman would create constitutional issues that could mar the party’s chances at the polls come February 2023. But this is an issue of integrity, whereby, a man’s word should be his bond. On the other hand, Governor Wike, and the other governors that make up the five are Samuel Ortom of Benue, Seyi Makinde of Oyo, Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia, and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu. have made it clear that he was not backing down so long as Senator Iyorchia Ayu remains the national chairman of the PDP. He has also said on several occasions that the PDP cannot win the presidential election next year without him, a sentiment that was shared by the New Nigeria Peoples Party’s presidential flag bearer, Rabiu Kwankwaso, during the commissioning of a project in Rivers State. According to him, there is no part to electoral victory in a presidential election without Kano State, Lagos, and Rivers.

Somehow, the mathematical impossibility of winning the 2023 Presidential Election without any two aforementioned key states is lost on the planners in the PDP war room. At least, going by the utterances of Senator Ayu, there is an assurance that the PDP can do without Governor Wike, or Rivers voters. Maybe, the embattled chairman is counting on the general sentiment of the North to perpetually retain power; and the hope that aggrieved Northern Christian APC members, led by former Speaker Yakubu Dogara might pitch their tent with the Former Vice President. How this would pan out is any ones guess at the moment. For the untrained eye, everything is in flux, but great mathematicians ply their trade in unrolling patterns in seemingly chaotic situations. Unfortunately, I am no great mathematician, but a keen observer of the goings on in our polity. And what I see is that the PDP’s second crisis might end up in favour of ordinary Nigerians.

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Opinion

Schools And Need For Quality Education

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The demand to acquire higher education is increasing by the day. Parents agitate for quality education for their children just as the children crave to be like their mates irrespective of the fact that quality education is expensive. This is so, because of the fact that everyone wants to meet up the standard of education in our society. With this trend, parents and children wouldn’t mind the location in which the school is situated. As an asset, effective academic effort requires human and material resources and study facilities. Human resources begin from students, teachers, principals and other officers. Material resources include accommodation, library and its support services, textbooks and supplementary reading materials. As human investments, parents, teachers, government and society place a high value and premium on education of the children and youths since they are the future leaders. But, it is sad that our rural schools lack these educational facilities. That is, both human and material resources which are the hallmark of a standard school.
Apart from this, the academic performance of the students should also be considered for instance, the performances of the students who are taught in an unconducive environment cannot be compared with the performances of the students who learn in a conducive environment. A number of studies have shown that many schools, particularly those in rural areas are characterised or plagued by decaying buildings that threaten the health, safety and learning opportunities of the students. As a result, the performances of these students tends to be below standard. Although the location of a school has a big role to play on the educational achievement of the students. Immediate environment of a child plays a major role on his socialisation. Therefore, the area in which a school is located can affect the educational achievement of such a child. For example, a school in the heart of the Government Reserved Area (G.R.A) or housing estate cannot be compared with a school located in an unsuitable place found around motor park, main street, near to the market and rural areas.
However, the establishment of good schools is not a criterion for a specific environment. Rather, the basic amenities make up the school environment. The amenities include, buildings, classrooms, desks, libraries, laboratories, and instructional services. Therefore, the adequate provision of necessary facilities in a school could lead to a better performance of students compared to the ones that are not well-provided for. Following the negative effects and consequences of lack of educational facilities on the academic performances of the students in rural areas, it behoves government and all meaningful Nigerians to care for the rural dwellers who do not benefit from basic amenities by providing adequate and relevant materials to the rural schools so as to ensure better academic performances of the students. The government should also make a policy to ensure that rural schools are well equipped with qualified teachers, and students assign to their respective areas or fields of specialisation. This is more so as most of these schools do not have qualified teachers and some have few teachers.
One wonders how a school without English or Mathematics teachers, or instructional materials could provide quality education for her students? Instructional materials serve as a channel through which messages, information, ideas and knowledge are better disseminated and easily too. They can therefore, be manipulated, seen, heard, felt or talked about. Instructional materials are educational inputs vital to the successful implementation of any curriculum. Relevant and appropriate textbooks, visual and audio-visual materials like globes, charts, maps, tapes, slides etc are of paramount necessities in the teaching and learning process. In the same vein, Audio-visual materials supplement and consolidate on the gains of what is read in textbooks and journals. They facilitate or enhance the acquisition and evaluation of knowledge skills, attitudes, morals and values.

By: Florence Ujile
Ujile resides in PortHarcourt.

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Opinion

Democracy In Nigeria: What Hope For Women?

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Who was not distressed at the news of the assassination of the Kaduna State Labour Party Women leader, Victoria Chintex? The vibrant women leader in Kaura Local Government Area of the state, was reportedly killed on Monday after gunmen invaded her residence in Kaura and shot her. Not even the offer of money by her husband could make the criminals change their minds. Instead, they got the man wounded as well.
How could people be so wicked to waste such a precious life, a beautiful, loving woman whose only “crime” was her participating in politics and identifying with a political party? For how long shall this act of desperate and depraved mind continue in Nigeria? For how long shall women be suppressed, intimidated and murdered for venturing in to politics and participating in the decision making that affects their lives, their children, families and communities?
We have not forgotten how the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) women leader, Salome Abuh, was shot and set ablaze at her residence in the Ofu Local Government Area of Kogi State three years ago. One Ocholi Edicha, had long been convicted to 12 years and six months in prison for culpable homicide by the court.
Many other women in our rural communities who have dared to venture into the “male terrain” of politics especially when they choose to belong to political parties different from the ruling parties in their states, have similar ugly tales to tell. At a political gathering recently, some women narrated how they are daily threatened and cajoled for participating actively in politics and being very vocal about their support of various presidential candidates. One particular woman who said she regularly calls during phone -in political programmes on the radio, said she had received several anonymous phone calls, demanding that she should stop participating in the radio programme and promoting a particular presidential candidate or else her family “will be visited”. Pre/post-election violence still pretty much characterises elections in Nigeria. Meanwhile, the percentage of women in politics in the country is low and there have been efforts to encourage more women to be more active in politics. How can this be achieved when the life-threatening barriers to active and substantive participation of women in the Nigerian political system are not addressed? Elections in the country are most often characterised by violence, thuggery, rigging, acrimony, blackmail and outright disregard for decency which is supposed to be the key element of leadership. Again, there are a lot of obstacles on the ways of women who want to delve into politics in the country – gender-based discrimination, indigeneship, culture and religious restriction, poor financial base, lack of education and a lot more.
The various political parties in the country are not even doing enough to address this challenge. Some political parties still considered women to be suitable only for the post of women leaders. Some place the prices of their nomination and expression of interest forms far beyond the reach of many women as was seen in the recently conducted party primaries. We have also seen situations where some women, despite meeting all the parties’ requirements, were asked to step down for the men, probably because they did not pay as high as the men.
All over the world, there is an increasing number of women who are serving in elected and appointed political positions. Nigeria’s case should not be different. Rwanda always comes to mind when talking of where more female involvement in politics and leadership is paying off. The county’s deliberate effort at balancing power between the genders by enforcing the 50 per cent affirmative action policy has led to the rapid development of the country, peaceful coexistence of the citizens and a more decent society At this point in our national history where the country seems to have lost direction and hopelessness looms everywhere, should not women, known for their expertise in strategic planning, human and situation management, be encouraged to come on board to rescue our sinking ship of a nation? Should not there be deliberate efforts towards implementing the 35per cent affirmative action both within political parties and in the larger political and leadership space in the country so as to ensure more women contributing to the affairs of the country?
Is it not high time something was done about political assasination of both men and women in the country? Yes, we were told that in the case of Ruth’s killing, Ocholi was convicted of the crime and sent to prison. But how about the person(s) who must have commissioned him to carry out the criminal act? What about other conspirators to the crime? How about other political assasination cases in many parts of the country? The truth is that unless Nigeria deals with crime as it ought to, ensuring that perpetrators and sponsors of crime, no matter how highly placed, are properly dealt with in accordance with the law, criminals will continue to have a field day in the country. And this is very dangerous for our democracy. People should be free to belong to any political party of their choice and support any candidate they like. There is no law in Nigeria that says that every indigene or residents of a state must toe the same political line with the state governor or the local government chairman, as the case may be.
Members of opposition political parties have equal rights with those of the ruling parties. They have the right to hold their political meetings and other political activities without the fear of molestation and intimidation. Husband and wife, parents and children, employer and employee, brothers and sisters should be at liberty to belong to opposing political parties and still dine on the same table. Is not that the beauty of democracy? One sincerely hopes that Victoria’s killing, the burning of INEC offices in the South East and other parts of the country whether by known or unknown gunmen, the increasing molestation and intimidation of members of some political parties, frightening as they are, will not deter Nigerians, particularly the women, from participating in the next general elections. The stakes at the general elections are too high for them to be left to a few selfish, desperate politicians. Nigerian women and indeed all Nigerians cannot afford to stay aside and watch a few greedy individuals who have run the nation aground, to continue to have their way. Nigeria belongs to all of us and we must be ready to make all the necessary sacrifices to make it work.
It is imperative that sincere measures are taken to curtail the spate of politically induced crime and violence as the election dates approach so as to enable women to freely take part in elections. President Mohammadu Buhari has repeatedly assured Nigerians that the 2023 elections will be free, fair, transparent and credible. Nigerians will like to see the president walk the talk by ensuring that measures are taken by the police and other security agencies to ensure peace in the country both before, during and after the elections. An election cannot be credible when the electorate cannot freely participate in the electoral process due to fear of being killed or maimed, when electorate are forced to abide by the whims and caprices of the governors and other political big weights in their communities and states. President Buhari, the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai and the police should see to it that the killers and anybody that has anything to do with the death of Victoria are caught and punished accordingly. This case should not go the way of others where people wasted the lives of others and disappeared into the thin air. Nigerians are hoping and praying that the death of this woman will not be in vain. That her blood and the blood of other Nigerians spilled for political reasons will bring an end to political violence, insecurity, killings in the country and bring about a better Nigeria.

By: Calista Ezeaku

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