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Nigeria, Still A Sick Country

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By October 1, this year, Nigeria will be exactly 50 years. Sadly, there is virtually nothing to show that we have ruled ourselves for 50 good years. Lets face it! What improvement has our education sector witnessed since independence? Incessant strike actions have led to the springing up of ill-equipped private schools. Our public schools are not functioning properly. The poor man cannot afford the fees in posh private schools. Hence, he has no alterative than to abandon his child in the so-called government or public school, “enjoying” free education. Who suffers it at the end? Of course, the children-the future hope of our country.

Let us look into another part where the country is still crying of pain. Next to the education sector is the health care. There is high rate of infant mortality and pregnancy related deaths in Nigeria. Life expectancy is sharply in the decline. Government appears not prepared to make any reasonable improvement in this sector. General hospitals and health centres are empty as doctors mind their own businesses In their private clinics, where only the favoured class can foot the bill. The poor man keeps on suffering in an ailment which continues to aggravate and finally sends him back to his ancestors. Is this the Nigeria we desired?

But that’s not all. Let us take a look at our roads, especially the Federal Government roads which remain death-traps. There is no cogent reason to satisfy the Nigeria people why the federal government abandon the East/West Road construction for the past two years” number of ghastly motor accidents that occurred in that road last year is alarming. Let me thank Governor Amaechi for his initiative in building a network of roads in Rivers State. This, we have never witnessed since the creation of the state some forty years back.

Yes, the country is sick. Poverty itself is sickness. The gap between the haves and the have nots are still widening as our Poverty Alleviation Programme has failed to address this problem. What hope is for the poor? Are they doomed to continue to waddle in the cesspool of penury, as hunger’s clenched firsts threaten to squeeze the life out of them?

A poet once lamented, “Water, water everywhere; but there is none to drink”, Over 70 per cent of the globe is covered with water. Unfortunately, six in every ten people, worldwide, have no access to potable water. In Nigeria, the situation seems to be aggravating daily, as a large number of people die yearly on diseases resulting from the consumption of bad water. In my home town, for example, people are forced to drink dirty, moldy water from wells, ponds and lakes, infested with warns, cockroaches, millipedes, centipedes and other deadly bacteria, for lack of good drinking water. The unpleasant result is incessant outbreak of cholera, diarrhea etc.

Need I talk about the plight of the Nigerian child? Obviously, it makes me weep each time I see our God-given children -the future hope of our country- roaming the street as peasant hawkers with tattered rags on their bodies and trays of wares on their heads. Many do several hard, menial works daily just to have food for the day. Some of them are at the tender age of five. The ambition of many Nigerian fathers remains too primitive. The typical Nigerian father desires to have an army of children – if possible to the size of one local government area. Children they cannot take proper care of. If we want to shape the future of Nigeria, then, we must start shaping the future of our children in order to give their lives a meaning.

According to the Bible creation story, recorded in Genesis Chapter One, Verse Three, the sovereign God created light first. The importance of light is as old as the hills. This explains why God gave first priority to light because He knows that His creatures cannot enjoy life on earth when the entire world is enveloped with darkness. But here in Nigeria, electricity is a luxury good, enjoyed only by the rich. Many towns and villages live in perpetual darkness. One of the pledges of this administration at its inception was to effectively tackle the problem of electricity to ensure that every community has light to make life more meaningful to the people. But the confidence Nigerians had on this promise died a sudden death when the federal government, last year, budgeted a whopping sum of money for government’s own steady electricity. The situation now is, if you need light, you have to buy your own generator, save money to buy fuel which is now at a cut-throat prize, maintain the generator and be prepared to face the danger of noise and air pollutions. The importance of electricity cannot be over-emphasised. Unsteady electricity is bane of business success. Armed robbers and other agents of darkness have their field days at nights when there is no light. In other words, darkness promotes criminalities.

Corruption stinks in every sector. There is corruption in government ministries, companies and schools. It is almost impossible for anyone to gain employment today without bribing those at the helm of affairs. Payment vouchers are loaded with ghost names. In our institutions of higher learning, greedy lecturers sell their conscience with a mess of porridge to award grades to dunces and dullards. In spite of the effort of the indefatigable EFCC, insane1ooting of public treasury by those at the corridor of power is still rampant. When shall all these end!

Next to corruption is the persistent wave of violent crime. With the advent of democracy, one would think that armed robbery, assassination, terrorism, kidnapping and other related bloody criminal acts, would have subsided. Unfortunately, kidnapping, for example, is steadily increasing in spite of the so-called amnesty. Last weekend, a security guard was kidnapped at a construction site. The contractor was forced to cough up N50m before the poor man was ransomed. This dastardly act is, of course, deplorable.

For lack of time and space, I cannot harp on other calamities plaguing our dear country, Nigeria – the Giant of Africa. The Bible tells us that the people will rejoice when the righteous rule. Africa’s foremost Novelist, Prof Chinua Achebe, also in one of his inspiring books, “The Problem With Nigeria” stated categorically in the opening sentence of the book that the problem with Nigeria is LEADERSHIP. If our Leaders should have the fear of God, they will be in the right part to the land of wisdom. It is only then that they can judiciously utilise the tax payers’ money for the benefit of every citizen of Nigeria and transform the country to an enviable land. It is never too late to effect a positive change. Let us reason together.

Constance wrote from Rumuji Town, Rivers State.

 

Constance O. Igwe

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Opinion

Plague Of Micro Corruption

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In 2009, late President Umar Yar ‘Adua launched the rebranding campaign for Nigeria. The rebranding called us to move beyond the hitherto giant of African slogan to a brand that codifies our aspirations of “good people, great nation”. The branding was not about where we were as a people, but about where we could be, if only we could embrace the vision and allow it to consume us on a national scale. Sadly, this laudable vision is only alive in the realms of aspiration. Since independence, we have not had the good fortune of being led by completely honest leaders. We are not unique in this regard, after all, corruption is a global phenomenon. However, almost 62 years after our independence, instead of building stronger institutions and providing basic public service, we have allowed corruption to become a way of life. In fact, it is estimated that between 1960 and 1999, as much as $400 billion has been lost to corruption in Nigeria; and with the current crop of politicians since our return to democracy, the amount is unimaginable. In the past three years, Nigeria has been dropping points in the global corruption perception index (CPI) published by Transparency International (TI). According to their 2021 report, Nigeria scored only 24 points out of 100 points – ranking 154 out of 180 countries.

In 2019 Nigeria scored 26 points, but dropped down to 25 in 2021, implying that corruption is on the increase in the country. According to TI, corruption is defined “as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain”. It further notes that corruption can take many forms, including the demand for money or favours by public servants in order to render services, and misuse of public money by politicians among other things. From the view of TI, we can therefore infer that there are two strands of corruption in the public sphere, namely: corruption by politicians and corruption by administrators or civil servants; as evidenced in bribery, nepotism, favouritism, over-invoicing, various forms of indiscipline, and abuse of office.

The corruption of politicians is always grand in scale, whereas the corruption by civil servants is petty, or at the micro-level. While the thievery of political big wigs denied us needed infrastructure, the leeching tendencies of public operators in government agencies, in consonance with various kinds of middlemen place a heavy burden on the citizenry.In 2014, a businessman, Arthur Eze, described Nigerian politicians as morally bankrupt and selfish. In his words, “our politicians don’t care, they are criminals and they are greedy.” It is really sad that even those we might otherwise view as saints and call honourable, are also morally bankrupt and undistinguished when observed at close quarters. These men and women, aside from using their privileged position to enrich themselves, they also steal public property.

During an interview conducted by Zakaria M.B and Button M. in 2021, a senior official of the Code of Conduct Bureau, who was a respondent painted a picture that aptly describes the state of corruption in Nigeria, he said, ” We are in a situation whereby now corruption is pervasive, humongous, institutionalised to the extent that corruption is rewarded…Where in many circumstances one is even required to be corrupt; one will not get his license to do anything if done through the normal process, it is more difficult than if one just bribes, which means it is required. If one needs to get electric meter, it is easier if one bribes than if the normal process is followed, which means it is required. Therefore, corruption is rewarded and even required in many instances of public functions”. A while ago, someone correctly noted that “if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill us”.

The prevalence of a culture of corruption affects everybody, including the generations unborn. And the blending of corruption into our cultural fabric has sentenced us to a vicious cycle, such that there is scarcely any one who can be trusted so long as he or she is one of us. We are already at Golgotha The pervasiveness of micro corruption in Nigeria is only second to the air that we breathe; and it is one of the major drivers of unemployment, which is now around 33 per cent MSMEs are dying because of the activities of staff, and prospective entrepreneurs are apprehensive due to the reportage on employee theft and sabotage. The level of dishonesty and underhanded activities associated with staff at small businesses across the country is mind bugling. They shortchange customers, driving them away; this, in turn, leads to declining revenue and eventual collapse.

We are really in trouble because even domestic staff are even involved, according to a story I heard from a laundry business owner. According to him, the domestic staff of a particular customer moved his job to another laundry because he refused to connive with them to inflate the invoice of their boss. It was a rude awakening to me to know that this plague is alive in our houses. The World Economic Forum estimates that as much as 25 per cent of the cost of procurement is lost to corruption. But as Nigerians, we are aware that the figure might be as much as 100 per cent in so many cases. In fact, that is the singular reason for the elephant project phenomenon; and the result is poor or dilapidated infrastructure. But at a micro-level, it is one of the major reasons why almost every activity that supports life in Nigerians is becoming almost unaffordable.

The widespread and insidious nature of corruption is already killing Nigerians in their millions. We are the poverty capital of the world, and there is no crystal ball to see when our fortunes would change, considering the fact that the foundations of this current quagmire have long been laid. The former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, once commented that “the money stolen through corruption every year is able to feed the world’s hungry 80 times, it denies them the right to food, and in some cases, their right to life. Corruption kills, especially when it undermines our ability to live a normal life”.

Corruption is the biggest challenge we have in Nigeria, and if we do not extricate ourselves from its deadly claws we might not survive. We can start by changing our perception of the disease. We must remember that one accepts a disease because his neighbour has it. In the same manner, we must view corruption in the same light; we should face it with the same abhorrence we had for the COVID-19 pandemic. We could also start by asking the simple question – what would my son say if he sees me taking or giving this bribe
Our future is bright even now, but if we continue to allow corruption to thrive, our first-world aspirations would remain only as reflections from a distant land.

By: Raphael Pepple

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Opinion

OSI: What Hope For Younger Nigerians?

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Dropping out of school is not a very wise thing to do, However, days seem to be gone when parents and administrators lost their sleep over the case of out of school children. Their initial headache though was borne out of fears that school drop outs never do well and so attract reproach to their parents and governments . But the eventual outcome of the likes of Bill Gates , Mark Zuckerberg, Julian Assange and Michael Dell, to mention a few, has proved such school of thought wrong.
Given that circumstantial factors such as bad influence, family and socioeconomic needs and health-related challenges could force a child out of school, many have come to the realisation that such a child if given a second chance in life could either be at par with his colleagues who are opportuned to be in school, or even outshine them.
Suffice it to say that an outright abandonment of an out of school child does not bring the best in the child, instead, it suffocates their destiny and highlight the ugly side of man. The Senate president, Ahmad Lawan, captured this fear when he said, “the increasing number of out-of-school children would continue to be a burden and a source of insecurity to Nigeria”.
His words; “Education is compulsory for every child and the government must do its best to see that it is accomplished”, speak volume of the need to give the child the needed educational attention, be it formal or informal, in school or out of school, until the child is fulfilled
This understanding was demonstrated a couple of year ago, as Nigeria, through the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Commonwealth of Learning, Canada, on Open Schooling Initiative (OSI).The move became imperative to address the alarming increase in the rate of out of school children. Yes, Nigeria piloted the Open Schooling programme to address the needs of out-of-school children in six northern states.
Across the globe, study has shown that about 60 million children of primary school age do not go to school. Approximately 1.2 million kids drop out of high school every year in the US. Surprisingly, one in every five of the world’s out-of-school children is in Nigeria.
More startling is the report that even where primary education is officially free and compulsory, only 61 percent of 6-11 year-olds regularly attend primary school and only 35.6 percent of children aged 36-59 months receive early childhood education, and about 10.5 million of the country’s children aged 5-14 years still do not consider school a place to be. Nigeria is reputed to have the highest number of out-of-school children in the world.
The Nigerian situation was made worse by the insurgency in the north which did not spare the educational institutions in that part of the country, making school children develope serious phobia and aparthy on education while parents chose to place more premium on the safety of their wards and children than their education.
The purported school feeding programme of the political administration at the centre, would have been ideal enough to tackle this out-of-school monster, as it could have discouraged pupils and students from dropping out of school while serving to lure the already out-of-school back to school.
The UBEC’s decision to start an Open Schooling Programme in the 36 states of the federation by July 2019, was considered a welcome development as it was expected to provide a broader opportunity to Nigerian children.
There are testimonies that 25 out of the 53 Commonwealth countries have implemented open schooling with remarkable result. It is likely that those who might opt for the open schooling system here in Nigeria may be more technology savvy at the end of the day than those who even attend conventional school.
According to the President of the Commonwealth of Learning, Professor Asha Kanwar, the organisation has found over the years that open schooling or alternative schooling is the answer to the problem of Out -of School-children. This is so because, “Children will only learn what is relevant to them, and not to learn number counting or literacy .Depending on the prevailing need of the time, they could be taught how to make nets, how to do fishing, how to mend boats or any form of craft and they would be happy to be back to school because they would see it as a curriculum relevant to them. Luckily, the open school initiative aims at a flexible learning experience where children can also study without going to school. The system provides education to remote areas under the motive to increase literacy.This was a strategy designed to increase school enrollment in the country.
Knowledge they say, is one lifelong process and should be presented in the same manner. With open school, the learning never stops. Children study as per their wish . They follow their own timetable and deadlines, which in turn makes them better at prioritising their needs. From the time Open Schooling Innitiative was launched in Nigeria, till date, one has witnessed pockets of housing structures, with the inscription ” Open University”, littered in some state capitals, but nothing or simply put, not much has been observed in the area of primary and secondary education.
Much as we applaud this initiative with all the potential it possesses in helping the child fulfil his dream in life, the writer craves the indulgence of the proponents of the initiative to let it capture the younger generation.

By: Sylvia ThankGod-Amadi

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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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