First, it was the fallacious claim that “every Nigerian received COVID-19 relief materials”. Millions of people are still processing that, wondering if they are still citizens of this country since they never saw any welfare packages being shared during the lockdown not to talk of receiving it.
Then another shocker came from the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouk, last Monday. Speaking during the Presidential Task Force briefing on COVID-19 in Abuja, she said Nigerian children were fed with about N523.3 million during the lockdown against the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Hajiya Farouk in benign innocence told the media and the entire nation that a total of 124,589 households, comprising a breakdown of 29,609 households in the Federal Capital Territory; 37,589 in Lagos and 60,391 families in Ogun States benefited from the free feeding programme between May 14 and July 6 at the rate of N4,200 per take-home ration.
She further explained, “The provision of ‘Take Home Rations’, under the Modified Home Grown School Feeding programme, was not a sole initiative of the MHADMSD. “The ministry, in obeying the Presidential directive, went into consultations with state governments through the state Governor’s Forum, following which it was resolved that ‘take-home rations’ remained the most viable option for feeding children during the lockdown.
“So, it was a joint resolution of the ministry and the state governments to give out take-home rations. The stakeholders also resolved that we would start with the FCT, Lagos and Ogun States, as pilot cases. According to statistics from the NBS and CBN, a typical household in Nigeria has five to six members in its household, with three to four dependents. So, each household is assumed to have three children.
“Based on the original design of the Home Grown School Feeding programme, long before it was domiciled in the ministry, every child on the programme receives a meal a day. The meal costs N70 per child. When you take 20 school days per month, it means a child eats food worth N1,400 per month. Three children would then eat food worth N4,200 per month and that was how we arrived at the cost of the ‘take-home ration’. The agreement was that the federal government will provide the funding while the states will implement”.
The minister did an excellent job in trying to justify the huge expenditure all in the name of COVID-19 palliatives if you ask me. If she does not cover her tracts, who will do it?
But the information the young minister failed to provide was how the same government that could not provide palliative materials to parents of these children, a government that does not know the homes of these children, claim that they were feeding the children at home. How can you be feeding children that are at home under their parents? Do we even have a database of the children in the country? How many of them are covered in the so-called home Grown School Feeding Programme?
Again, what criteria were used in selecting the 124,589 households said to have benefited from the programme? Furthermore, when will other states, particularly those in the south-south and south east have a feel of this government? What has the government done for teachers of these children, especially those in private schools, who have been without salaries for several months?
Some social analysts describe what is currently going on in the country as a kind of competition of who will steal more before 2023. That may not be far from the truth. Every day we hear stories about how those at the corridors of power steal and squander public funds with impunity. Time was when stealing was regarded as a crime in our society. “Stealers” were afraid of the law. Today, people defraud the nation of billions of naira and still walk the streets shoulder high.
Some even fake fainting when asked to give an account of their stewardship. Not even those who are in charge of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, (EFCC), saddled with the responsibility of dealing with financial impropriety are free. Civil servants, uniformed men, religious leaders, lawmakers, teachers, artisans, health sector workers, gentlemen of the press, lawyers, men, women, youth, everybody steals not minding its implications on the nation and the citizens. The country bleeds from corruption.
No doubt, corruption has been a great issue in the nation long before the advent of the current administration and that was why many people gave their votes to President Muhammadu Buhari, a man reputed to be of high integrity, to take over the mantle of leadership of the country and deal squarely with corruption. Unfortunately, that is yet to be seen.
It is, therefore, high time the president gave us the impeccable leadership we have always yearned for. Starting with the alleged corrupt people all around him, let him display the willingness to deal with this problem that has held the nation bound for decades. Nigerians expect to see transparency, accountability, honesty and sincerity in all government dealings at the federal, state and local government levels.
Reports have it that a coalition, Alliance for Surviving Covid-19 And Beyond (ASCAB), has charged the Federal Government to make full public disclosure of all loans obtained by the country, vowing to drag the authorities to court if the disclosures were not made. This request should be expeditiously granted as proof of the government’s willingness to rid the nation of corruption.
Similarly, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management should back her long speech with publications of the home feeding programme just as we await state governments who were provided with the funds by the federal government to implement the programme to give us their own report. The time of taking the masses for granted is over.
Kyari Syndrome And Nigeria’s Unity
Former President of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, was reported to have expressed regrets that efforts by past leaders to foster genuine unity in the country have not yielded ideal results so far. Obviously unity is desirable for an ideal nation, but unity does not stand alone, neither does it come by accident. It is obvious that mutual trust and confidence, fostered by social justice and fair play, are quite necessary for unity to grow. There must also be some common goals and interests to serve as unifying agenda. Many Nigerians must have pondered and asked why unity has become illusive in the country, even when it is considered desirable for a healthy nation building. While some serious-minded Nigerians were discussing this issue recently, the plight of Senator Ike Ekweremadu came up also. It was during this discussion that the “Kyari Controversies”, introduced by someone, caused two public notaries in the venue to leave. It was sensed immediately that the two gentlemen did not want to get involved in the issues being discussed.
Kyari syndrome became an alternative caption for Kyari controversies, with someone in the group requesting that the issues under discussion be expanded and made public. Almost like editorial board meeting, issues pointed out in a private discussion were vital and serious enough to be shared with the public. While Ekweremadu’s plight and Kyari controversies provided the pegs, there was nothing personal about the points made. But it was considered expedient that the public be made to share in what was discussed privately. Issues and controversies about ethnic domination, sectional hidden agenda, Islamisation and Fulanisation mission, etc, have featured in private discussions across this country for a long time. It has become needful that these issues be brought up for open and sincere discussions, with no holds barred, rather than pretend that these are no issues of mass vexation. Whether real, false or imaginary, such issues are the grounds for mutual suspicion, distrust and skepticism. The sooner the issues are accepted as real and discussed in the open, the better for the unity of this country.
Without mincing words, sour-grape syndrome accounts for a part of the jinx holding Nigeria down, whereby embittered persons try to denigrate or destroy what they lack. It goes beyond envy to seek to undermine what is noble in others, as an expression of personal deficiencies. Especially where the gap is quite wide, it gives sadistic joy to pull down what is noble, rather than strive hard to attain to such nobility. Light and darkness have little in common, neither can they blend and work together!
There is one Abba Kyari, whose extradition order to answer some criminal charges in the United States of America, has placed Nigeria in a state of controversy in the eyes of international community. There is another Mele Kyari, whose continued headship of a privatised Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, despite demands for him to quit the post, has exposed much of the shenanigans in the oil and gas industry. Then the plight of Ike Ekweremadu over organ harvest also serves as a further exposure of the intrigues playing out in Nigeria. While it may be wrong to assert that the case of Senator Ekweremadu would have been different if he were a Fulani man, a strong critic of the Buhari administration used it as a peg for comparison. It was pointed out that there are different measures or strokes for different persons, with special reference to Nigerian experiences. From rodents and termites breaking into strong-holds and eating up vouchers and documents relating to N17.1 billion, to granting of presidential pardon to looters of the nation’s treasury, there are usually different strokes and measures for different persons. Join them, if …!
It is of particular significance that Miyeti Allah, an umbrella body of cattle breeders that received a gift of N150 billion not long ago from President Buhari, should raise the issue of Biafra as a reason why Peter Obi cannot be a President of Nigeria. The same Miyeti Allah and Fulani Nationality Movement (FUNAM) have continued to use Islam and cattle as instruments of undermining unity in the country. But for vehement protests from various quarters, the antics and strategy of grazing affair as means of pursuing some sectional agenda, would have succeeded. Nigerians getting wiser! With regards to security situation in the country, it is obvious to discerning Nigerians that there is more to it than meets the eye. Do we not see evidence of double standards as well as some deliberate but clever measures to shield certain groups of persons? With acts of brazen audacity and impunity, some cattle breeders have told Nigerians by their body language, that they have a patron who would look the other way, when they are on the wrong side of the law. Southern Governors as jokers!
Nigerians are watching with keen attention and interest the slant of the Buhari administration, which is evidently sectional in nature. From political appointments to body language, a few honest Nigerians, including Rev. Matthew Kuka, have told President Buhari that the pursuit of sectional agenda is putting the unity of Nigeria in jeopardy. From the shenanigans playing out in the Abba Kyari case over his extradition to USA, to the continued headship of a privatised NNPC, by another Kyari, it is obvious that there are some hidden agenda. The law in America and England is not a respecter of persons, which is not the case in Nigeria. What act of corruption and injustice can be worse than to take the oil and gas from the Niger Delta people via the Petroleum Act and make it a national asset, and under a Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), hand it over to a few private entities? This is what is playing out in the oil and gas politics in the guise of privatisation and with Kyari as a mid-wife in some grand agenda. People of the Niger Delta may clap for themselves for giving them three per cent annual allocation of oil profit, while 30 per cent goes to Frontier Oil Exploration in the North.
Therefore, the Kyari syndrome represents a pre-dilection of a government to use double standards to address issues rather than the use of social justice. Shakespeare’s Measure For Measure would tell us that “Thieves for their robbery have authority when judges steal themselves”. This would mean that “when law can do no right, let it be lawful that law bar no wrong”
By: Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.
2023: The Frenzy, Hopes Of Common Men
The tension is palpable, regardless of the rancour, as candidates intensify their consultations. Although vigorous campaigns are about to start, they provide snippets of what they have in stock on policies and programmes. While some are inspiring, there is little to cheer in others. In the same vein, while some, outside the political class, watch the unfolding events with vague interest, others do so in despondence and outright disdain. Without mincing words, the political leaders, to whom so much had been entrusted, made it so. There is no doubt that the increasing frenzy has rekindled some measure of interest in the populace. The existing despair provoked by the general state of affairs has given way to a new hope, come 2023. In time past, seasons like this elicited communal excitement, across all strata of society. Expectations were high, as the standard bearers, during campaigns, provided assuring glimpses on policies and programmes they intended to pursue if elected.
They raised and addressed issues that touched on the common good. They were colourful, within and outside, and far more selfless than their imperial successors today. It was an era when ideas, not might or ego dominated political discourse. They .were driven by a rare passion for genuine change. In their time, political campaigns were a delight to watch, as the candidates struggled to out do each other in grandiloquence, rhetorics and oratory. The grandstanding had little room for defamation. It was a golden era. The Fourth Republic promised better deal after decades of uncouth military dictatorship. Regrettably, more than two decades after inception, the reality on ground, given the performance of the actors, has little to cheer. And brazenly they continue to hold sway, with little or no interest in what matters most. From the North to the South, East to West of the country, the story is the same, at least for now. The economy, according to the experts is in tatters, with no visible or tangible sign of a rebound.’ In present day Nigeria, even the fit, finds it difficult to survive, while the masses live in dejection and palpable misery. Meanwhile, insecurity walks on all fours, as terrorists and other allied criminals become more daring and bold each passing day. The impact of their obnoxious activities on the economy and general life of the common man, in a dispensation that promised “change”, is huge.
Beside these, the disaffection and widespread apathy, triggered by unfulfilled promises by some leaders is immeasurable. The people feel betrayed, abused and taken for granted. To Bishop Mathew Hasan Kukah, the Diocesan Bishop Sokoto, “this is the worst phase in the history of our Nation”. Only a few in the pack have tried to give meaning to leadership.
But be that as it may, the common man in Nigeria, with uncommon survival instincts, will not cease to hope for the best and a better tomorrow; at least for himself and his immediate family.
In the words of Bishop Kukah, “We cannot survive another phase of this death in installment”. As the candidates junket, expand and intensify consultations, the common man in 2023 looks forward to quality leadership, that will guarantee “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as we find in American. In simple terms, he desires and deserves selfless and committed leaders, who are driven by ideas, and with the capacity to translate them.
Nigerians need leaders who will rise above primordial sentiments, including the ability to promote communal bond; they desire leaders, who will fix the dearth and the rot in almost all facets of our national life. In particular, is the prostrate economy and insecurity that keeps worsening the living condition of the common man.
In the social sector, an effective and efficient system that well ensure his offspring attend public schools uninterrupted, including unhindered access to health and functional facilities is desired. Above all, they crave for leaders with the fear of God in their actions and dealings with fellow man.
As the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) prepares for the elections, irrespective of the obvious challenges, it is our hope that the elections will be peaceful and transparent. Given previous ugly experiences, it is very necessary for the electoral body-to initiate and put in place good measures that will check impunity and brigandage of overzealous party faithful and agents. In 2023, we all hope for the best.
By: Tonye Ezekiel – Janewari
Ezekiel-Jenewari is a retired Director in the Rivers State Civil Service.
Buhari’s Vault Face
Since the end of the ruling party’s presidential primaries, and the selection of a Muslim running mate by the party’s standard bearer, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the voice of the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara, has been the loudest and the most critical, even though he is a member of the ruling party. He has posited that fielding a Muslim – Muslim ticket is an anathema in a multi-religious country like ours and a marked departure from nation-building. The former speaker is fully aware of the delicate balancing of geopolitical, tribal, and religious interests for the purpose of national cohesion and unity.
Dogara’s position is right on point, and he continues to espouse it boldly, even to the vitiation of his political capital. Unfortunately, Tinubu’s decision to choose a fellow Muslim was nothing new, rather it was a reenactment of what President Buhari started in 2015.
Since May 29, 2015, Nigeria as a country stopped making any significant effort toward nation-building. He might have exuded a frail visage, but his appointments were bold and telling. From the outset, his policies clearly signalled a Northern agenda. In hindsight, it is clear that President Buhari was lying in his inauguration speech, when he said, “I belong to no one, I belong to everyone”.
We know better today. At no time in our history has this country been so close to the precipice. Armed men with more sophisticated weapons than the Nigerian Army have flooded our country, ravaging lives, destroying farmlands, raping our women, kidnapping for ransom, and impoverishing our people. As if that was not enough, we were recently ranked as the second most terrorised country in the world. Buhari’s government has repeatedly told Nigerians that Boko Haram has been technically defeated. They have been lying all along, and they know it. They also know that we know that they are lying. Sadly, that is the ministry of Lai Muhammed. Even the Nigerian economy is on the brink of collapse, and the exchange rate of $1 for N1000 is at hand.
Nigerians already know that we are operating phony federalism system. They are aware that our oneness as a nation has a certain uniqueness to it. For instance, the penal code is the judicial system in the North, while the South operates the criminal code. It is so seamless that most Nigerians are unaware of it. Is it bad? No. In fact, it makes for inclusivity, and it accommodates our diversity. However, the issue of insecurity, terrorism, and banditry is an entirely different kettle of fish. Since 2015, the clamour for state police has increased tremendously, sadly, the North heavy (borrowing the words of Governor Wike) National Assembly had hindered the debate from gaining traction. Even President Buhari’s comments and body language on the issue have not helped matters. Fortunately, on January 9, 2020, the governors of the South West forced the issue by setting up a regional security outfit tagged the Amotekun Corps to develop indigenous solutions to local security challenges. However, Amotekun Corps was denied the licence to carry arms.
Interestingly, the viral training video of a similar outfit set up by the home state of the president is about to change all that. In the video, Kastina State Vigilante recruits were seen parading the same AK-47 rifles that the federal government has refused Amotekun, even though the North West and the South West are facing the same existential threats. In his response to the viral video, Governor Rotimi Akeredulo of Ondo State accused Buhari’s administration of running one country with two systems. According to him “the video making the rounds showing the equivalence of the Western Nigeria Security Network (Amotekun Corps) in Katsina obtaining Federal Government approval to bear arms is fraught with great dangers,” “Denying Amotekun the urgently needed rights to legitimately bear arms is a repudiation of the basis of true federalism, which we have been clamouring for. That Katsina was able to arm its state security force with the display of an AK-47 means we are pursuing a one-country, two-system solution to the national question.
In his effort to extricate the police from any connections with the State Vigilante outfit, Isah unwittingly confirmed the obvious, because he said the vigilante in the state was not licensed to carry AK-47s, but they were only trained to use them. The follow-up question should have been, trained by who? Who has been licensed by the federal government to train people in the use of such sophisticated weapons? Further comments by the spokesperson made it difficult to believe neither the police IG, nor the federal government was not involved. In his words, “The Vigilantes were trained on other arms and combat maneuvers. It is not that they were given a licence or that the federal government has approved that they should use AK-47 Riffles. They were just trained on how to defend themselves. And to be categorically clear, there is no member of vigilante in Katsina that is using that kind of weapon. It wasn’t issued to them by the Federal Government or State Government. They were just trained on how to defend themselves.
“It wasn’t the police that trained them, the police were not there when they were trained, we didn’t participate in the training, but what I know is what I am telling you. They were not issued with AK-47 riffles, but they were trained on how to defend themselves because bandits and terrorists are using AK-47 riffles.”
There was another viral video last week, this time from the terrorist group known as ISWAP. The content of the video portends danger for the people of the South West. The video showed ISWAP celebrating the attack on a police vehicle at Ipele in Owo Local Government Area of Ondo State. The video was in fact a statement by ISWAP signalling their presence in the South West. The video has given credence, and urgency to the demands of the Governor of Ondo State to arm the Amotekun Corps. As a governor, his first primary duty is the protection of lives and property; and with the freshness of the Owo massacre of June 5, 2022, in our memory, no one can question the audacity of his next line of action. We are in cusps of a showdown between Ondo State Government and the FG, and the fallout might answer the state police question once and for all.
By: Raphael Pepple
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