It was a gathering of who is who in the nation’s polity. Past and present political gladiators, captains of industry, actors and actresses, musicians, comedians, youths, students, the physically challenged, market women, truck pushers and ordinary people all converged on Saturday September 18,2010, at the Eagle Square, Abuja, to keep a date with history. The event was the public declaration by President Goodluck Jonathan for the ruling party, the PDP’s mandate in the 2011 Presidential Elections.
No one could ever imagine that in a land infested with ethnic and sectional politics, a man from the little town of Otueke in Bayelsa State, deep in the creek of the Niger Delta could pull such a mammoth crowd. But that people came from all the six geopolitical zones and the diasporas to Abuja all because of President Jonathan affirms a biblical saying, when the righteous rule the people rejoice. So on that eventful day, Nigerians came to feast and rejoice with President Jonathan, who in the short five months of being in-charge of the nation’s affairs has delivered the dividend of democracy and given hope to their collective aspirations.
For 50 years Nigerians have waited for a moment like this, however, it seems the longer they waited the longer they have to wait. Hence, with all the governors and leaders of the PDP, except that of Kwara State and other aspirants, who were absent for obvious reasons, leaders of 42 of the 60 registered political parties, civil societies, international observers, the world press, friends and even enemies of the President and his Vice and ordinary people were all together at the Eagle Square, Abuja, on Saturday September 18,2010, to tacitly endorse President Jonathan, and make a statement of the coming of age of our democracy and the emergence of a new generation of national leadership.
Given the intimidating support of the people for President Jonathan on that super Saturday, no one need any political fixer to tell other aspirants that they should follow the path of honour and bow out from the race, for God has spoken. As the saying goes, the voice of the people is the voice of God. Hence, by the mammoth crowd that greeted the declaration of President Jonathan, God through the people had spoken that come 2011 President Jonathan would succeed himself for another four years.
That Nigerians have massively declared their support for President Jonathan, from the southsouth, manifest their disdain for sectional politics that has hitherto hindered the country’s emergence as the giant of the black race. Moreover, in the 50 years of Nigeria’s existence as a sovereign entity, the military had ruled the country for 28 years. The consequence of this protracted military interregnum on the nation’s psyche is the complete lack of visionary and popular leadership, and the enthronement of godfatherism and blind loyalty into the polity. This is not good enough for a people in dire need of diversity of opinion for sustainable development. Hence, when President Jonathan decided to seek a fresh mandate for the office and challenged the apostles of zoning and bankrupt leadership in the PDP, Nigerians were unanimous in their support for his candidature.
It is unfortunate that some of those contesting President Jonathan’s decisions for the 2011 Presidency as unpopular and anti-democracy are people who have benefited from undemocratic politics and use of power of incumbency to feather their political nests. As these recycled leaders seek the peoples support, whether for one term or longer terms, should they succeed in stopping President Jonathan as they have vowed, the poorer the welfare of the citizens will be. This is why Nigerians must terminate the politics of recycling leaders with undemocratic tendencies in the name of being experienced, tried and tested. Under their watch, settlement and ‘chop I chop’ became our national political ethos. These leaders dislike accountability and transparency, provided security for their allies, friends and the noveau rich to amass wealth, thereby fostering corruption on the nation, and making our people poorer than they were 50 years ago. Their trademark is love for power for the sake of it, a readiness to get into power by all means, and once in power take actions to ensure their continued stay in office. As Nigeria turns 50, Nigerians must be wiser in their choice of those they support into power.
The past 50 years of the country’s existence had seen the leadership throwaway the virtues of vision and selflessness in place of personal riches and incumbents motivated by greed and gain of retaining political power in order to guarantee their discretionary control over public coffers. This period saw the promotion of political patronage as our national ideology. After 50 years of independence, as a nation are we growing or retrogressing? It is unfortunate for somebody who left office twenty years ago to still think of returning to power, not because the people wanted him for his past outstanding achievements but just because he wants to oil his political ego and greed for power.
However, the emergence of Dr Goodluck Jonathan as the fifth civilian President and 14th Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria has certainly opened up the nation’s political space for emerging new thoughts. Today, what was hitherto considered a taboo in political discussions in the country in as recent as four years ago is now being freely canvassed. But attaining that position was not without some sacrifices. Many of our sons like Isaac Adaka Boro, Ken Saro- Wiwa, Moshood Abiola and many others paid the supreme price, some like Professor Tam David- West and Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha to mention a few were disgraced out of office and jailed, while our resources are being systematically looted all in the name of the unity and common good of Nigeria.
As the nation beckons on President Jonathan to contest the 2011 elections, one is not oblivious that many political jobbers and those who are against his running in the first place are not happy as his entry has demystified their taunted political supremacy. For the actualisation of JonathanSambo Presidential project, it is worthwhile to ask Nigerians that have suffered under the hegemony of these imperial political overlords to rise up and defend their mandate. The mandate is not President Jonathan’s personal estate, but the peoples. Hence, they must watch and guide their mandate jealously, else the same cabals that stole and annulled their mandate in June 1993 are still very much alive and should never be underrated, because they are evil geniuses in the act of truncating constitutionally elected governments. The day these people are completely silenced and made totally irrelevant as it is now imminent, then shall we have a stable and prosperous country.
This is why all progressive forces in the country must not relax and be carried away by the success of President Jonathan’s declaration for a fresh term. They must know that those opposed to the emergence of a transformed leadership in 2011 will stop at nothing including ganging up and fomenting crisis. These people have a very large war chest of sinister machineries, people, security and intelligence networks, and very deep pockets, and local and international connections that they can deploy at very short notice in their quest for power. They have done it before and are capable of doing same again should the people go to sleep on the euphoria of a very successful declaration by the President. Nigerians from all walks of life, just like they did at Dr Jonathan’s declaration must stand up to defend their mandate whenever it is threatened by a band of political imperialists and looters of our national treasury.
In one of the best speeches ever made in Nigeria’s recent political history by a politician, President Jonathan in an attempt to touch base with his generation, said that if he of all persons, who never had a school bag, wore one pair of uniform without shoes, never knew the colour of electricity, drank garri as ala carte and ate rice and chicken only on Christmas day, could make it in life, then the youths of today who are priviledged to have electricity though epileptic, drink pure water instead of water from streams, ride in buses instead of trekking to school and eat fried rice and chicken at will, can. So, the challenge facing him is how to transform the Nigeria’s huge potentials, human and material resources, and opportunities into making her among the 20 developed economies by the year 2020. He said this is a promise he owes the people for their massive support of his Presidency and will ‘never ever let Nigeria down’.
That Nigerians want and trust President Jonathan as the man to lead them after 50 years of wandering in the wilderness of underdevelopment as a result of the poverty of leadership is because within the short period he has been in office, he has demonstrated in unequivocal terms the capability to effectively and efficiently direct the country on the path to greatness. Even those who hate him for what they termed his non-adherence to the letters of the party zoning arrangement cannot with equanimity fault him; as they know beyond doubt that based on their past leadership records that Nigerians can not trust them with power any longer. They should tell Nigerians how many times they promised the nation and spoken on an issue and failed, compared to how many times President Jonathan has capitulated on any of his words.
Besides, why on earth do these so-called political demagogues think that a sitting President, who is not barred by the Constitution should not seek re-election because of a so called unwritten party agreement. Which should President Jonathan uphold, the nation’s Constitution or a political party unwritten agreement? Can these self seeking politicians point out where it is written in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that Dr Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan swore on May 6, 20I0 to uphold, that in the year 2011 it will be the turn of a particular section of the country or person to be the President of Nigeria. Assuming these turncoat democrats and later day apostles of power shift were in President Jonathan’s shoes, would they have voluntarily left power because of an unwritten party agreement? Let these people who want President Jonathan crucified for not abiding by the so-called zoning agreement in the PDP tell Nigerians how many times they had been in power, and if they voluntarily handed over power to another section of the country. If they don’t know, the people of the south-south and south-east, and even the southwest that one could say may have benefited from the crumbs that fell from their political tables are now wiser and will not fall for their high sounding rhetoric and cheap blackmail to reject President Jonathan.
Besides, President Jonathan can be trusted to lead Nigeria better, because as Vice President to late President Umaru Yar’ Adua, he exhibited a high sense of integrity, and loved his boss in sickness and health until death do them part. He was not power hungry. If President Yar’ Adua were alive today to vie for the office, Dr Jonathan would not have gone behind him to collect forms of expression of interest in the office of President. As acting President while his boss was critically ill, Dr Jonathan did not usurp the powers of the office of President. Similarly, even when his boss was smuggled into the country under the cover of darkness without his knowing on February 25, 2010, and he was barred from seeing him for three months before he eventually died Dr Jonathan did not frown at those who orchestrated the whole episode. During those sad moments of our national history, Dr Jonathan demonstrated exemplary leadership qualities and absolute loyalty to the Presidency, which as an institution is bigger than an individual personal ambition, assuming he had one, and the office bigger than the individual occupying it, hence was loyal to his boss till he died.
Da-Wariboko resides in Port Harcourt.
Worsening Food Crisis In Nigeria
Hunger is widespread and chronic in Nigeria, and its prevalence is one phenomenon that statistics cannot fully capture, not even the Global Hunger Index (GHI), does justice to it. Statistics deals with numbers, but hunger deals with humans. Relying on quantitative data alone to assess the state of hunger in Nigeria is the worst mistake anybody could make. Quantitative data and analysis only show patterns and spread of hunger without delving into the experiences of those affected and its influences on their existence in all ramifications. Therefore, as bad as the statistics are, they are still child’s play compared to the rich information from qualitative data chronicling the dehumanising experience of many poor and hungry Nigerians. Combining quantitative and qualitative data paints a horrifying picture of Nigeria’s food crisis and hunger.Twenty five (25) million Nigerians were said by UNICEF to be at high risk of food insecurity in 2023, this was a projected increase from the estimated 17 million people who were at risk of food in 2022. Humanitarian organisations fear that more people may be affected.
Hunger is the major problem affecting the Nigerian masses now. According to the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, Mr Matthias Schmale, “the food security and nutrition situation across Nigeria is deeply concerning. “Those who visited the Nutrition Stabilisation Centres (NSC) filled with children, said “those Children fight to stay alive”. Children are the most vulnerable to food insecurity. There is a serious risk of mortality among children attributed to acute malnutrition. The number of children suffering from acute malnutrition was estimated to increase from 1.74 million in 2022 and 2 million in 2023.Worse still, it is estimated that 35 million people are currently critically facing food insecurity.The present predicament of Nigerians never seems to be real until people realised that a “Congo” of Garri now costs between N1,900 to N2,500 naira, depending on the place you are buying from and the type you have to buy.
There is a systematic downfall in the economy, and those at the receiving end of its manifestation are the masses. Well, some may say that it is too early to judge the government of President Tinubu, but when starvation becomes a point of reference, they might just make an exception for that rule.”A government is a failure if it has not been able to fulfil its primary duties and its published agenda, it is useless if its people suffer endlessly from starvation. Recently, the video of a man who was caught in agony and lamentation attracted people’s attention. He was in the market to buy a “Congo” of rice but was told that it now costs N3,500.The man started crying, lamenting the harsh condition and confused as to what he and his family would eat. He had just N1,800 with him, and only God knows how much effort he had to put together to get that amount. Some people tried to locate the man to give him some money.
Bodija market in Ibadan, Oyo State, has a reputation for cheap consumable commodities, and the cost of food products there, is considered slightly reasonable. However, this reputation is no longer possible as basic commodities now cost even more than they could be imagined. A lady lamented having bought her usual loaf of bread for 500 naira three weeks ago, and within that period, it had skyrocketed from N800 to N1, 200 and now at N1, 500 for a loaf that is as light as foam. Beans and other cheap foods that have been saving people experiencing poverty are no longer affordable. The cost of a “congo” of beans has risen to between N2,500 and N3,500 depending on the location and type. It is not only the price of the common foods that has risen, it is the same case for other staple foods. Today, a sachet of water costs around N50, and one barely see a bag of it at anything less than N300. This leaves the people to drink unclean well water or find their drinking water through other sources.
The price increase was expected, but it seems that the progression of price increase for food items is at a higher rate than the supposed inflation. The economy is imploding and affecting the livelihood of the Nigerian citizens.First, the excessive price of petrol within the range of N700 to N1000 across the nation has an impact on the final prices. In addition, the roads have become outrageously insecure, with different stories of kidnapping, highway attacks, terrorism, and other vices.These have jointly jacked up the calculative cost of production, and the masses are paying heavily for it. The above reasons affect business, and most importantly, the irregular supply of power has become another foundational cause of the hike in prices and yet the government is still threatening to hike electricity tariff. Today, many small and medium-scale businesses do not have access to a stable power supply, and in some cases, the tariffs are so outrageous to the detriment of the business. They, therefore, resort to generating their power, which causes another extra cost.The result is that the products keep increasing in price as the costs skyrocket.
Another factor is the decline in the value of naira to dollars. The dollar is the major currency for international trade, and many of the household items in the country are imported. This means that the prices of those commodities in Nigeria are expected to increase the more with the value of dollars, causing difficulties for the citizens. So, when a market woman insults people in the market for negotiating lower prices for her wares, it is not because she is merely disrespectful but because she believes you are ignorant of the costs of putting her products on the market. What would N30,000 minimum wage do in the current economy? There is almost no average-class individual in the country as the condition affects every social stratum. Nigeria produces about 8.4 million tons of rice, but it is still not sufficient for consumption in the country. During the past administration of President Mohamadu Buhari, policies that discouraged the importation of rice and some other products in Nigeria in a bid to encourage local production were made, and that was one of the starting points of suffering and starvation in Nigeria, because the development made the price of local rice increase by 200 percent.
It is worthy of note, that such policies were a product of hypocrisy, foreign rice is not good for the poor Nigerians but foreign medical care is good for the Nigerian political elites. Currently, the prices of local and foreign rice are not too far from each other. This is because the price gap that would have been made necessary has been reduced by other local and internal issues fighting against local productions. It means that the government must make efforts to first increase the production of local items as well as ensure that there is an unhindered channel of distribution of the same across the country. Poverty cannot be eradicated without collaborative efforts between the Federal Government and the State Governments. Agricultural schemes and strategies are not the sole work of the Federal Government, as eradication of poverty should be the watchword of every reasonable government.
State-wide agricultural strategies and blueprints that would reduce the propensity of hunger and starvation in each state are important. It is a known fact that the food insecurity in Nigeria can be traceable to the relentless wave of attacks against farmers in Nigeria by armed groups in the last decade which has hindered critical food supplies and has pushed the country deeper into a devastating hunger crisis.Increased attacks against farmers across parts of the country have led to displacement of people, market disruptions and loss of livelihoods. Armed groups killed more than 128 farmers and kidnapped 37 others across Nigeria between January and June 2023 …
To be continued.
Inabo is our regular contributor from Radio Rivers, Port Harcourt.
Candidacy Imposition Syndrome In Nigerian Politics …Bane Of Democratic Process
Democracy is commonly defined as “the government of the people, by the people and for the people”. It is instructive to observe that the emphasis in the definition of democracy is “the people”. In this regard, having any electoral process without true participation of the people being sincerely involved, makes democracy authoritarian and authoritarianism is an attribute of bad governance. It is pertinent to underscore the significance of political parties in a democratic process. Political parties are no doubt, the only vehicles of social mobilisation wherein an electoral process passes through, to have people elected into political offices. The idea of godfathers deciding who become leaders of the people is not only undemocratic but ungodly. Democratic system is a social system of government where majority carry the votes and not the reverse, where godfathers impose their stooges on the people for personal gain. It has been argued that candidate nomination at party primaries has been characterised by infractions of sorts, such as the abuse of internal party democracy. For instance, there is the privatised party structure where a candidate’s nomination is guided by a mixture of personal or factional interests, while on the other hand, candidate’s nomination is considered an addition of elected executive authorities, defined as “leader”.
Party caucuses and “leaders” most often exercise power at their discretion and are unencumbered by rules, usually subverting party rules through personal directives. The imposition of candidates does not only weaken the legitimacy of candidates but also encourages the use of violence as the prevailing alternative for elections. This is because democracy ought to begin from the parties and how they choose their candidates for the election proper. If the candidates are not chosen in line with tenets of democracy, then the political space would be corrupt and no true democracy can thrive. Internal democracy is strategic to the avoidance of imposition of candidates on the party. Ideally, every candidate interested in an elective office should be given the opportunity to test his popularity within his party by a democratically conducted primary, which will produce the most popular candidate for the election proper. Any infraction to this democratic practice is injurious to democratic norms and principles.
In Nigeria, imposition of candidates on the party by some influential leaders usually called cabals and godfathers has become the rule rather than the exception. This practice has spelt doom for many political parties and even their candidates whose political ambitions had been truncated un-democratically in preference for some sacred cows. Political godfathers and party tin gods go practically low wire as they pick and chose favoured candidates and god-son at will without any concern for the good and progress of the party. Observation shows that such godfathers prefer their sorogates and criminals to popular candidates. It is worthy of note that imposition of candidates cuts across all strata of the political parties. Recent experience has shown the tendency of this evil practice to cause the disintegration of political parties and to breed bad blood and discontentment in the rank and file of the parties.
This practice is a threat to democracy as it does not give room for party members to aspire for the main election. Another dimension to the imposition syndrome is the practice whereby certain candidates who feel shortchanged in one party crossover to another party only to be given the opportunity to vie for elective posts or offered attractive jobs over and above hardworking and loyal old party members. This also breeds frustration and acrimony in the system. This development is a breach of the fundamental human rights of party members and in turn deny them the right to elect candidate of their choice. The bane of Nigeria’s party politics since 1999 is the infraction of imposition of surrogates by party godfathers which has not allowed democracy to flourish in the political parties.
The spate of imposition across Nigerian political parties destroys democratic governance. It is a practice that is capable of shaking the belief of members in their party and in its internal mechanisms. It is a direct affront to democracy which reduces the game of polities to a process of sheer selection, godfatherism, favouritism and particularism. The present development where certain politicians abandon their original political parties only to join other parties and seek governorship or other positions almost immediately is indecent. It should be completely discouraged. It is well known that the hallmark of internal democracy is that candidates should emerge from the process approved by the constitution of the party and the electoral law of our country. Whenever there is imposition, it brings about a questionable candidate and it is averse to the electoral law of Nigeria.
When imposition prevails, it would continue to scare credible people from coming into politics. This being the challenge, there would be lack of credible participants in the political space. This imposition is responsible for the sorry state of the Nigerian nation, when one looks at some of those in the parliament most times, such that those imposed are unproductive; this is why they cannot contribute meaningfully to uplift internal democracy. It is the reason many may ask; how do we expect to grow with this type of lawmakers as a nation? Such incompetent people are even found in the executive. It is possible that this class of politicians is not prepared for the task, but they love the glamour of the offices they hold and because they know how to play the dirty game, their political parties would impose them on the good ones.
Imposition should be eradicated to allow internal democracy thrive. Instead of just fostering candidates on the people, Nigerians must ensure that candidates are nominated through primaries except for cases where aspirants unanimously agree that a certain person should be their candidate. Nigerians without questionable track records should be allowed to come into leadership positions, and that is the only time the nation can see growth and development in governance. If you allow the plurality of opinions to reign, eventually someone would come out who would represent electorate better. If Nigerians, as a nation, want to enjoy the benefits of free thinking, free space, true representations and true democratic devident, then there must be room for the people’s wishes to thrive. It is proper for the umpire to provide favourable atmosphere to contest while there should be automatic ticket.
It has been observed that any time candidates are imposed, they end up being self destructive because the people you either rigged out or rigged in to do your bidding may not live up to the mark you set for them. For those who impose candidates with the aim of using them to collect money or for other less noble purposes, when they break out, you have to part ways. It is pertinent to place on record that those who have the privilege of occupying leadership positions today will one day give account of their stewardship to man and God, one cannot be man and God at the same time. Democracy thrives only when people choose their leaders by themselves. That is why Section 87 of the Electoral Act makes provisions for direct or indirect primaries; that is with a view to entrenching internal democracy and restoring power to the people.
Section 87 of the Electoral Act from sub section 1 to sub section 11 states thus; “(1) A political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections under this Act shall hold primaries for aspirants to all elective positions.(2) The procedure for the nomination of candidates by political parties for the various elective positions shall be by direct or indirect primaries. (3) A political party that adopts the direct primaries procedure shall ensure that all aspirants are given equal opportunity of being voted for by members of the party.(4) A political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate shall adopt the procedure outlined below: (a) In the case of nominations to the position of President, a political party shall, (i) hold special conventions in each of the 36 States of the Federation and FCT, where delegates shall vote for each of the aspirants at designated centres in each state capital on specified dates.
(ii) a National Convention shall be held for the ratification of the candidate with the highest number of votes. (iii) the aspirant with the highest number of votes at the end of voting in the 36 states of the federation and FCT, shall be declared the winner of the presidential primaries of the political party and the aspirant’s name shall be forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the candidate of the party after ratification by the national convention. (b) In the case of nominations to the position of governor, a political party shall, where they intend to sponsor candidates: (i) hold special congress in each of the local government areas of the states with delegates voting for each of the aspirants at the congress to be held in designated centres on specified dates.
(ii) The aspirant with the highest number of votes at the end of voting shall be declared the winner of the primaries of the party and aspirant’s name shall be forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the candidate of the party, for the particular state. (c) In the case of nominations to the position of a senator, House of Representatives and State House of Assembly, a political party shall, where they intend to sponsor candidates: (i) hold special congresses in the senatorial district, federal constituency and the state assembly constituency respectively, with delegates voting for each of the aspirants in designated centres on specified dates. (ii) The aspirant with the highest number of votes at the end of voting shall be declared the winner of the primaries of the party and the aspirant’s name shall be forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the candidate of the party.
(d) In the case of the position of a chairman of an area council, a political party shall, where they intend to sponsor candidates: (i) hold special congresses in the area council with delegates voting for each of the aspirants at designated centres on a specified date. (ii) The aspirant with the highest number of votes at the end of voting shall be declared the winner of the primaries of the party and the aspirant’s name shall be forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the candidate of the party. (5) In the case of a councillorship candidate, the procedure for the nomination of the candidate shall be by direct primaries in the ward and the name of the candidate with the highest number of votes shall be submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the candidate of the party.
(6) Where there is only one aspirant in a political party for any of the elective positions mentioned in sub section (4)(a), (b), (c) and (d), the party shall convene a special convention or congress at a designated centre on a specified date for the confirmation of such aspirant and the name of the aspirant shall be forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the candidate of the party. (7) A political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate shall clearly outline in its constitution and rules the procedure for the democratic election of delegates to vote at the convention, congress or meeting.(8) No political appointee at any level shall be a voting delegate at the Convention or Congress of any political party for the purpose of nomination of candidates for any election.
(9) Where a political party fails to comply with the provisions of this Act in the conduct of its primaries, its candidate for election shall not be included in the election for the particular position in issue. (10) Notwithstanding the provisions of the Act or rules of a political party, an aspirant who complains that any of the provisions of this Act and the guidelines of a political party has not been complied with in the selection or nomination of a candidate of a political party for election, may apply to the Federal High Court or the High Court of a State, for redress. (11) Nothing in this section shall empower the courts to stop the holding of primaries or general election under this Act pending the determination of the suit.” Under direct primary, people vote for aspirants of their choice from ward, local government areas and state levels to determine the candidate of the party.
Under the indirect mode, party members are supposed to elect delegates to represent them from the ward level up. A political party does not belong to any individual or clique of individuals. That is why imposition robs the people of the right to freely choose. That is why bad governance is common in the polity. Political godfathers continue to thrive in their business of determining who rules and worse still, who does not rule. In Rivers State, for instance, it is now a known fact that it is one godfather that determines what happens. The question therefore is; why must most powerful politicians in the party want to hijack the structure? The reason for hijacking the party structures is because they know that the election will not be free and fair and if the primaries are not free and fair, one could be rest assured that the main election cannot be free and fair because people are desperate to grab power and loot the treasury.
In Rivers State for instance, there is a faction which belongs to certain power brokers who have produced all the candidates for different elective positions and still want to remain perpetual oracles that must be consulted before anything can happen; but this is undemocratic. Politic is meant to be the social engineering for development but has rather turned out to be conduit pipe for embezzlement of public fund at the expense of the electorate without any form of accountability. The reason there are unpatriotic politicians who do not care about development of their people and locality is traceable to the single fact that they are not the choice of the people but were imposed by their god fathers for personal gain. Imposition of candidates on the electoral process must stop, if democracy must grow. The time to act is now.
Inabo is a regular contributor from Radio Rivers.
Wigwe: One Death Too Many For Rivers
Death is inevitable. The Bible’s King David described it as “the way of all humans”. It is the way everyone will go through. It is gateway to eternal life either in heaven or hell. Death, in the words of the erudite and literary scholar, Williams Shakespeare, “is a necessary end that will come when it will come”. It is non discriminating, favours no person and works at its pace. So the occurrence of death is no more news. It is only news when it happens in an unfortunate and dastardly circumstances and least expectancy which more often causes devastation and trauma to the bereaved. Such as the transition of Dr. Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe. Dr. Herbert Wigwe reportedly died on the night of Friday, February 9, 2024 when the helicopter he boarded crashed near the border city between Neveda and California en route to Las Vegas.
The Late Wigwe who hails from Isiokpo in Ikwerre Local Government Area of oil-rich Rivers State, Nigeria, was born on August 15, 1966. Until his uneventful demise on that Black Friday, Dr. Wigwe was Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of Access Holdings Plc. Facts gleaned from his biography revealed that the Rivers’ successful business mogul had a degree in Accountancy from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State. He also bagged a Master of Arts in Banking and Finance from the University College of North Wales (now Bangor), and a Master of Science (MSc) in Financial Economics from the University of London. The late Wigwe was a philanthropist and exceptionally diligent in his career. He started his career at Coopers & Lybrand, Lagos, as a management consultant, and later qualified as a Chartered Accountant. After a stint at Capital Bank, he joined Guaranty Trust Bank where he spent over a decade working in corporate and institutional banking, rising to become the Executive Director in charge of Institutional Banking.
He also served as the Chairman of Access Bank Ghana Limited, Access Investment & Securities Limited, Central Securities and Clearing System (CSCS). He was the Chairman of Access Bank (UK) Limited until his demise. In 2016, in recognition of “his exemplary role in the society and contributions to youth development”, the Boys’ Brigade (BB) inaugurated Herbert Wigwe as State Patron for Lagos State Council. The diligence and sterling entrepreneurship qualities of the late Wigwe earned him several meritorious awards. In same 2016, he was named Banker of The Year, separately, by The Sun and Vanguard newspapers.
That same year, he founded The HOW Foundation, a non-profit organisation. In October 2022, in recognition of his enormous contributions to the socio-economic development of Nigeria, Former President Muhammadu Buhari conferred on him, a national honour of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON).
His avowed commitment and determination to replicate his entrepreneurship prowess in the younger generation and drive sustainable development of the Nigeria’s economy within the sphere of his influence informed his decision to add value to the Nigeria’s rducational system. The deceased is the mastermind of the establishment of the Wigwe University located at Isiokpo, Rivers State. The university is expected to kick off in September 2024. Following the demise of Wigwe which is adjudged a colossal loss to Ikwerre Ethnic nationality, Rivers State, Nigeria and the business community in the United States, the Isiokpo Ancient Kingdom has announced eight days mourning period for the death of the Late Bank Chief, Herbert Wigwe. A statement by by his Royal Majesty, King Blessing A.N Wagor , the Wagidi XL,Nye Nwe Ali Isiokpo Ancient Kingdom, “ has directed eight days of mourning period” for their illustrious son whose tragic death occurred along with his wife and son in the United States of America on Friday night.
According to the statement, the eight days mourning period begins on Wednesday 14 to Wednesday 21 February 2024. All shops in the area are to be closed from 8am – 4pm during the period of mourning. The statement added.
For his part, Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara expressed shock and sadness at the news of the demise of Dr. Herbert Wigwe, his wife Chizoba, son and others, describing the incident as a monumental disaster. Governor Fubara, on behalf of his family, the State Government and people of Rivers State commiserated with the Wigwe’s family over this unfortunate incident, urging them to be comforted by God’s assurances of His love and outpouring of global sympathy on this deep pain and loss.In a statement by Boniface Onyedi, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Rivers State on Media, the Governor said “there are no words to convey how terrible these losses are, and the state and indeed Nigeria will miss an unassuming, iconic and accomplished illustrious son of Isiokpo in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State.
“Rivers State and the Nation are in tears because it would be extremely difficult to understand this sweeping loss of a family involving a strong pillar, accomplished banker and philanthropist with tentacles in the education sector”, the Governor said, noting that the prestigious Wigwe University which he pioneered must not be allowed to die.”Dr. Herbert Wigwe rose to become one of the most outstanding African financial sector leaders and global figure who superintended over the impressive growth of the Access Bank Group, and also established the Wigwe University in Isiokpo, the headquarters of Ikwerre Local Government Area with a 60 per cent local and 40 per cent expatriate faculty population” the statement said. Miffed by the sudden death of one of its illustrious sons, the President General of Ogbakor Ikwerre Cultural Organization Worldwide, Eze (Barr.) Godspower Onuekwa, has urged the United States Government to unravel and explain to Ikwerre people in particular and Nigerians, the actual cause of the death of Mr. Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe.
Speaking at the palace of HRM Blessing Wagor, the paramount ruler and Nye Nwe Ali Isiokpo, the President-General assured Isiokpo people that Ogbakor Ikwerre was behind them. He said there must be an autopsy to verify the actual cause of his death and that Ikwerre people will not sleep until the cause of his death is made known. Eze Onuekwa was quoted as saying that a day will be fixed for all Ikwerre sons and daughters to march the streets of Ikwerre land with black clothes, with all shops and offices closed. He stated that after that, Ikwerre people will visit the governor of Rivers State and ask him the next line of action before writing to President Ahmed Bola Tinubu. The President-General of the Ogbakor Ikwerre delegation to Isiokpo include, members of the National Executive Committee of Ogbakor Ikwerre, among others.
Recalling his meeting with Wigwe, Nigerian billionaire businessman, Femi Otedola, expressed shock over the death of Wigwe, and said “Wigwe hosted me and Aliko Dangote”.
Otedola, in a post on his verified X handle on Sunday, February 11, 2024, recalled how the Rivers-born prominent banker hosted him and Aliko Dangote in his new house in Lagos. He said : “I am shocked and saddened to hear of the loss of a banking genius, Herbert Wigwe, his dear wife Chizoba and first son Chizi. Exactly two weeks ago Herbie and his wife hosted myself and Aliko to dinner at his newly built home in Lagos. I will cherish and fondly remember my memories of time spent together with him over the years. Herbie, we will all miss you. Your legacy will live on forever.”
My heartfelt condolences go out to his children Tochi, Hannah and David. I pray God comforts them during this tragic time. No doubt the vacuum the death of Wigwe has created in the banking industry, economic and education sectors cannot be easily filled up. But God is All- Knowing yet offers no explanation for his actions. We will understand it better when we see him.
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