As Nigeria clocked 60 years of existence as a sovereign nation yesterday, the unity and security of the country appear to be the leading concern among the plethora of issues inundating the Federal Government and the generality of the citizenry. While the view of the central administration is expressed in its chosen theme, ‘Together At 60’ for the year-long celebration, individual citizens and groups at all levels have also been speaking their minds on the momentous occasion.
In this interview with our Deputy Political Editor, Opaka Dokubo, an accomplished entrepreneur, industrialist and politician, the governorship flag bearer of the Labour Party in Rivers State in the 2019 general elections, Chief Isaac Wonwu shares his thoughts.
What are your thoughts about the fact that Nigeria is 60 years old as a nation?
Well, I must congratulate this country for attaining 60 years as an independent nation and I must congratulate all of us as Nigerians, particularly, for being steadfast over time and remaining united (and) peaceful, as one nation.
I must salute the founding fathers of this independence. I must also salute the heroes of this country; our military, those that man our healthcare-the resilience of Nigerians, particularly in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Nigerians, that despite the challenges of our time, have remained with wide smiles, the Nigerians that even in the process of the hard times are resolved to move on as compared to many countries that have been enmeshed in processes of protest, demonstration, violence and other measures of expressing their frustrations in the face of the bad economy. I must commend us. Nigerians have passed through hard times and it is making us to be much better and prepared for the future.
It is my belief that the younger generation will learn lessons from our ease processes to do better for the development of this country.
How does the theme of the celebration that borders on togetherness come across to you?
Well, the unity in diversity of this country, the multi- ethnic nationalities,of reality in this country is of great concern to all of us and I think that the primary objective of every leader is how to keep the country united. And for whatever economic challenges there are, the security of lives and property in the country is key. I think that the unity of Nigerians is very very important and we must celebrate the indivisibility of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
What is your assessment of the country vis-a-vis the recent warning by former President Olusegun Obasanjo that Nigeria was becoming a failed state?
We’ve actually done well in terms of unity as a country. We’ve done well in managing our diversity; we’ve done so well in being a continuous Nigeria.
No nation, no organization exists without challenges and with our population and multi-ethnic nationalities, with our diverse interests, we are bound to have some friction.
In management, with out such challenges, it means you don’t have people who can proffer solutions. It is only when you have problems that you can identify people with capacity to trouble- shoot.
I must say that the country has been doing well despite the deficit in infrastructure or mismanagement that we have actually suffered which is as a result of what I call indiscipline, and most people call it corruption.
I think that our administrators in the past should have devised ways to re- orientate our people to be able to appreciate the importance of discipline, most importantly, in our law enforcement and various agencies of government. The system has actually created more strong individuals rather than building strong institutions and our institutions are weak because our laws are weak, our Constitution is weak.
I quite agree with those who have shared their thoughts about Nigeria as a nation but in my view, any house without a strong, solid foundation is bound to vibrate. What we are suffering today is the vibration as a result of weak institutions and agencies of government. But as soon as that is straightened out, we will remain strong.
What do you think about the proposition for Nigeria to return to a parliamentary system of government?
Yes, our laws are weak, our institutions and agencies of government are weak as well but a major problem has also been that the individuals themselves who are operating the system have not been able to obey our laws, they have not been able to have regard for the agencies of government. The law enforcement agencies are also weak and Nigerians generally have been lawless. The lawlessness has brought in a level of impunity and we have grown to a very high level of impunity that has resulted to violence and what you call corruption is characterised with a high degree of non-challance and indiscipline. And until we strengthen our institutions, we may not be able to get it right.
How do we go about strengthening the institutions in your view?
The military will have to live up to its responsibilities; the judiciary must rise above board; the law enforcement agencies must rise up to their game; the civil servant must also rise up to his expectation; over politicisation of institutions must stop; the politics must be limited to the political parties; and there must be a time to say the politics is over. As soon as we are able to do this and the judiciary stands firm, I’m sure Nigerians will have respect for the rule of law.
What do you think about the clamour for political power to be rotated to the South-East come 2023?
I am of a different school of thought. I subscribe to democracy, I accept democracy and I want to practise democracy and if Nigerians are to practise democracy, we must allow the democratic process to uphold itself.
I condemn the view of anybody that thinks that power must shift because power shift will more or less weaken the system, democracy must take its course and democracy must be about the will of the people and if we allow the will of the people to prevail, we may not actually mind who becomes the president. What should concern you and I is the dividends of democracy, the provision of basic amenities, the infrastructure, the education, the healthcare.
With 60 years gone, where do you see Nigeria in the next 40 years?
Unfortunately, the nation has not talked about building for tomorrow, we have only built for today and until we begin to come up with a clear vision that will be able to sustain the next generation, we’ve not actually grown. When I was growing up, I heard about Vision 2020. I was actually wondering whether I would live up to the year 2020. Here I am in the year2020 (and ) first I was hit by the pandemic and I thank God for surviving it. But in terms of socio-economic amenities, in terms of infrastructural development, we have not done enough. So, we’re believing that the next leadership will be able to get the track right in investing in basic infrastructure that will bring the country to a pride of place among the comity of nations. The world is actually on a fast track. The world has become an environment where countries are competing vigorously and I think Nigeria also needs to key in.
As a state within the region that sustains the country, would you say that Rivers State has had a fair deal within the 60 years of Nigeria’s independence?
It depends on what you call a fair deal in this country called Nigeria for a state or the Niger Delta region but I think that with the resources we have; with the infrastructure we have on the ground, even if a lot more money was given, I’m not sure we would have actually done much more than we have done. We have seen more people dabble into politics just to loot funds and what has continued to unite us as a people today is our ability to compromise in corruption.
And until this indisciplinary act is minimised, we may not be able to justify our level of development going by the amount of resources we’ve got.
If you look at the history of the amount of money being looted in this country, you may be surprised that one Nigerian civil servant is stealing about a billion naira a day and you begin to wonder how much time he puts into service. So, we continue to hear about more billions of naira being looted and thousands being ulitised for projects. If you look at what we have on ground in the Niger Delta, it can not justify the amount of money that has come into the region. Only a few persons have carted away the resources as palliatives for themselves while the vast majority of the people are wallowing in abject poverty and dying. We have not done well if out of 10 million people only few have had something.
Obi: You Can’t Speak For Afenifere, Tinubu Campaign Slams Adebanjo
The All Progressives Congress APC Presidential Campaign Council has slammed Afenifere leader, Pa Ayo Adebanjo for attempting to turn the pan-Yoruba sociocultural association into his personal estate and using same to canvass support for the Labour Party LP presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi.
Director, Media and Publicity of the council, Mr Bayo Onanuga in a statement on Saturday titled “Our Reaction to Baba Ayo Adebanjo and his new Ohanifere Venture”, said “Papa Adebanjo does not speak for Afenifere”.
According to the council, Pa Adebanjo is free as an individual to support anyone he likes, in furtherance of his democratic rights.
“We know for a fact that Baba has turned Afenifere into his personal estate as Acting Leader. We are also certain that there was nowhere Afenifere, as we know it, met and took a decision to adopt Mr. Peter Obi as a candidate for 2023 presidential election.
“We respect the age of Baba Adebanjo but he can not turn Afenifere into his personal franchise for any political alliance.
“We are very much aware that Baba Reuben Fasoranti, the real leader of Afenifere had stated clearly that Pa Adebanjo has always been speaking for himself on many national issues using the name of the group.
“It is our well considered position that Pa Adebanjo cannot appropriate Afenifere. Baba is just an individual who is free to support any politician of his choice. As an individual, he cannot equate himself with the socio-cultural and socio-political organisation”, the council stated.
2023 Polls: IPC Begins Training Of Media Monitors
The International Press Council (IPC), last Friday began the training of 12 Media monitors in Lagos to prepare them for the monitoring of the coverage and reportage of the electoral processes and the 2023 elections by the print and online media.
The essence of the 18-month monitoring that will commence on October 1, 2023, is to assess the level of compliance with professional and ethical standards by newspapers, including online ones, being selected for the exercise.
Among others, the monitoring will be done within the context of the expectation of the Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage, which spells out the responsibilities expected of journalists and other media professionals at elections.
The Media Election Code was endorsed by umbrella media professional bodies and associations, and close to 300 individual media outlets in 2018.
It enumerates what journalists and media management should do to ensure social responsibility and integrity; equitable access for parties and candidates; media access for disadvantaged groups including women, persons with disability and youths; conflict sensitivity and the avoidance of hate speech.
The training of the monitors is one of the activities under component 4 (Support to media) of the European Union Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria-Phase 2 (EUSDGN II) project, being implemented by IPC, along with its partner, the Institute for Media and Society.
The overall goal of the media component is to “Support the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria with the media (broadcast, print and online media) helping to facilitate the key ingredient of credible elections through engagement and professionalism in coverage and reportage of the electoral processes.”
The specific objective is to ensure that, “The Media, including New and Social Media, provides fair, accurate, ethical and inclusive coverage of the Electoral Process.”
The two-day training , the first day of which was facilitated by Mr. Edetaen Ojo, Executive Director of Media Rights Agenda (MRA) and Mr. Sanmi Falobi, Project Manager of IPC, aimed to build the skill of the monitors on the processes and methodologies of media monitoring.
“Against the background of the prevalence of misinformation and disinformation especially by political actors, all we are seeking to achieve is for the Nigerian media to contribute to the credibility of electoral information before, during and after the 2023 elections”, said the Executive Director of IPC, Mr. Lanre Arogundade.
2023: ‘Same-Faith Ticket, Blunder Laced With Hidden Agenda’
The Christian Awareness Initiative of Nigeria, CAIN, last Saturday night, said no amount of blackmail would stop a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, and an erstwhile Secretary to Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, from publicly condemning the decision of the All Progressives Congress, APC, for fielding a same-faith presidential ticket.
The Spokesman of CAIN, Yusuf Kanhu, who said this in a statement he personally signed accused supporters of the APC of hiring mercenaries to tarnish the image of the duo.
Kanhu in the statement made available to journalists in Abuja described the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC as a “blunder”laced with “hidden agenda”
He explained: “The decision by Nigerian Christians through the umbrella Association to reject the same faith ticket was not against any particular party but advice to all political parties. Sadly the presidential candidate of APC ignored the advice and picked his vice from the same faith.
“The Christian Umbrella body came out in the first place to reject the idea and challenge Christians in APC to tell their party and Candidate to do what is right and good for the unity of the country.
“Hon Yakubu Dogara and Babachir Lawal respected the call of their leaders and proved that they are not going to betray the position of CAN just to satisfy their belle.
“Interestingly, the APC candidate and some of his supporters instead of making an honest effort to convince Christians and especially those Christians in their party about the reason for their action have chosen to recruit faceless people and are creating unknown groups with funny names to castigate the Christian body and the courageous Christians from their party that are telling them the danger and implication of their ill advised decision.
“We wish to inform the APC candidate that blackmail will not stop Dogara, Babachir, and others from telling them the truth.
“Nigerian Christians know the difference between fake Christian groups from genuine groups such as Northern Christians Youth Initiative with her faceless coordinator Hon. Mike Msuaan Msuaan.
“We can go on to name many hungry people who have not attended any church service in the last 10 years but are cashing on the desperation of the APC candidate to show that he has Christians’ support to start none existing Christian groups to enable them to get their share of the cake in circulation.
“The church in Nigeria and especially in the North knows the voices and names of their genuine leaders fighting for justice which is different from the newly born and newly introduced names that are only speaking to get money from their sponsors.
“Sponsoring fake people and groups to insult others will not correct your big blunder and will only make more Christians accept the fact that the decision has a hidden agenda.”
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