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Message For Myopic Leaders

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Leaders are those who undertake the task of guiding others and showing them the way, by going before and directing the followers on most appropriate things to do and strive to build up in them a culture of initiative and self-help. Political leaders are only one spectrum in the wide sphere of leadership, except that the tasks and responsibilities of political leaders are enormous, involving a large and expansive population. Myopic leaders are those who undertake such task without an adequate and thorough understanding of the implications of such responsibility. Being myopic would imply having a short-sighted perception of what responsibilities that the task entails, not immediately but more importantly on a far-reaching dimension.
Taking up a leader’s position as a means of earning a living involves personal choices or decision, with attendant responsibility. The kind of enthusiasm and zeal expended in hustling for political leadership give the impression that it is a rat-race affair, whose motives are more of gains in terms of money and power, rather than service delivery. Obviously political leadership is an enormous task, whose success or failure would go beyond the leadership itself, but cuts into the life and affairs of a large number of people, immediately and in the distant future.
The concept of deferred gratification which demands making some personal sacrifices now for a better future, is a relevant principle in public leadership. Unfortunately, in Nigeria as a developing country, that concept or principle is usually wrongly applied, making the masses to make all the sacrifices while leaders live in obscene opulence and extravagance. From the enjoyment of immunity, to having everything necessary for maximum comfort and security, key political leaders have everything provided as perquisite, free.
It does not matter that over 80 percent of the citizens groan in hunger, agony and poverty, political leaders would not shift grounds with regards to official perquisites; rather, it sacrifices must be made then the masses must bear such brunts. This feature of Nigerian political leadership, put together by departing military regime, will not make for a sustainable political economy. Neither can it be said that political leaders themselves are not aware of the precariousness of the situation. Apart from there being no sincere political will to change the status quo, anything attempted in that direction would be mere window-dressing.
The vital message for political leaders arises from issues which can rarely be recognized immediately, neith er can the consequences be quantified in material terms. Any activity undertaken by anyone, whose results impinge on other human beings, carry enormous implications and responsibility for the one engaged in such activity. Such implications and responsibility become more serious in leadership positions undertaken by personal choice and decision. Thus the concept of social contract in politics makes it clear that contractual obligations cannot be breached without attendant penalties. Also the concept of accountability goes beyond mere lip services.
Political office holders and key political leaders are subject to the concepts of social contract and accountability. Apart from expectations which must be met in the social contract principle, accountability makes leaders answerable to the masses and some higher authority. With cunning and blusters political leaders can intimidate and cajole the masses and make false claims about their performances. But the mark of good leadership expresses in the level of happiness, satisfaction and productivity of the masses, arising from the stable and conducive state of the nation.
If Nigerian political leaders have a true knowledge of what the masses think and say about them, many of such leaders would dismiss their opinions and feelings as wrong. In social services theories there is what is known as Blaming the victim, involving placing all the responsibility, criticism and failures on the helpless and disadvantaged masses for the conditions that led to their plight. Thus real politics seeks to pass the buck on someone else when things go wrong, and then take maximum praises when the going is good. It is obvious that Nigerian masses are groaning currently.
Let it be said that leadership is a grave task whose immediate and long-term responsibility and accountability are rarely taken into consideration by politicians. It is not enough to make money, wield power and enjoy fame and honour by engaging in politics, there is also a need to look at wider implication of political leadership. Leaders in all spheres of activities can mislead followers, plunging their future and life-chances into jeopardy. We must also admit that there are blind but ambitious shepherds who lead their followers into desolate wilderness and perdition. Adolf Hitler, Rev. Jim Jones, among several others, did lead their followers astray.
Whether charismatic or tyrannical and obtuse, leaders and the position of leadership command mass influence which can have positive or negative effects. We cannot decry the fact that some leaders turn out to become locusts, oppressors or even scorpions, whereby the masses groan under their heavy burdens. Historically, some harsh and tyrannical leaders did play the role of compelling indolent, docile and myopic masses to make fast progress in development, by the use of whips and forced labour. The masses can also be myopic.
Specifically, myopic leaders are usually ambitious ones who see leadership not as giving services, raising the level of awareness and living standards of the masses, but a means of primitive accumulation of wealth and power. A Nigerian politician once told us many years ago that there were half a dozen Nigerians who had more money than the entire Nigerian nation. There may be nothing wrong with individuals having enormous wealth, but there is truth in the saying that behind every great wealth, there is usually a crime. Myopic money bags!
Influence of leadership goes beyond personal wealth, power and fame, but leaders usually set the tone and standard of orientation of the masses. Through unexemplary leadership, installation of a corrupt system in a society, abuse of power and gross mis-management of national resources, leaders incur such burdens  of guilt whose atonement would take several incarnations, accompanied by pathetic suffering and sad experiences. Curses which groaning citizens lay upon bad leaders who are concerned only with their own personal welfare and those of their cronies, do not fail to affect such leaders in a way that they rarely imagine.
What such bad leaders often do is to give huge donations to religions bodies, with a wrong notion that such gifts, arising from ill-gotten money, can reduce their burdens of guilt. To put the lives of unsuspecting citizens in jeopardy through inability to provide security, and the future of the masses in uncertainties through faulty polices, often arise from myopic leadership. Far-seeing leaders make personal sacrifices for the sake of the masses as a means of advancing their own ascent to glorious realms of existence. Myopic leaders remain earth-bound for a very long time!

By: Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer, Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

Professional Banditry

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Banditry has become such a hypocritical concept that some authorities would utilise it in order to hide away something more sinister than banditry. The uniqueness about banditry as different from other groups of criminals, is that bandits are hooligans who, in their frolicsome engagements, attack travellers to steal away what to eat. Are bandits terrorists? It would require following due process of law to be able to determine that!
From the perspectives of history, there are three species of bandits, namely: attackers of travellers; avengers, and then enigmatic highway men. Two old story books about Robin Hood and Ali Baba and his gang of 40 thieves, provide details about the first species of bandits who engage in frolicsome criminal activities. This first group of bandits often operate with some lighthearted principle of sharing their loots and booties with some needy persons or a patron god-father. For example, in 1961, a British woman married to an Urhobo man wrote an open letter to ‘dear thieves of Surulere’ who robbed her home, to return her wedding ring, which was among the items stolen. Four days after, the wedding ring was returned.
As part of their frolicsome mischief, the thieves of Surulere addressed a letter to Mrs Urhobo advising her that a wedding ring is meant to be worn on the finger and not kept carelessly. Yes, bandits of the first species can be humorous, capable of advising their victims to learn to lock their doors properly. Recently in Nigeria, this species of bandits who can also be called hungry thieves, specialise in hooking away smartphones and laptops from charging sockets in people’s homes. All kinds of devices are used for this nefarious purpose.
The second species of bandits – the avengers – can be vicious, with the purpose of passing a message to individuals and groups that abuse power with impunity and arrogance. Historically, the Red Indians, original owners of the American land and the Aborigines of Australia, suffered unspeakable abuses by early colonialists and armed invaders who dispossessed them of their ancestral lands. African slaves suffered similar acts of inhumanity in the American continent, while the Boer War dealt humiliating blows on the original owners of Transvaal and Orange Free State in South Africa.
The founding of Hispaniola in West Indies by Black slaves who broke free from their slave masters, with Haiti as seat of Black power (misnamed Voodoo) serve as ideal examples that oppressed people can develop some unique power. Similarly, labourers who were used during the construction of Panama and Suez Canals, were not only poorly paid but, like gold miners in South Africa, contracted some ailments that rendered them useless in life. Thus, slave masters, tyrannical labour masters and others who exploit, use and then dump those who worked to build up their economy, can face the wrath of such aggrieved labourers who can be misnamed as bandits.
In more recent times, poor, idle and helpless people have been unjustly exploited, used and then dumped by some political power gamesters to serve their political purposes. Such purposes range from inflating of census figures, rigging of elections, to carrying out of some acts of mayhem in the services of dark ends. It is common that jobless, poor but desperate youths can be hired, fed, trained and sent out to carry out some unethical activities, oftentimes under oath not to reveal their sponsors. Many die in such missions.
Some members of these exploited and abused youths who become aware of the exploitations and abuses that they suffer, turn around to become avengers, who can be misnamed as bandits. Many of such unsuspecting youths often confess that they did not know or bargain for the kind of engagement that they unwittingly found themselves participating in. There are recruiting agents who lure unsuspecting young men and women into various unethical engagements, taking undue advantage of the level of poverty and ignorance in the country. In the 1950s, some Nigerians were lured into job recruitment projects of working in Equatorial Guinea, also known as Panya. Many returned destitute and demented!
The third species of professional bandits, the enigmatic highway men, are not only very dangerous, but they are not themselves. In the psychic sense there are people, men and women, who can be said to have renounced their humanity, arising from various reasons which can hardly be examined here. Such renunciation follows drinking of the ‘Water of Usachi’, which is like going into a partnership with the forces of darkness. This water, like an aphrodisiac, places those who drink of it in the hands of dark agents, on a warfare with human beings striving for nobility.
Therefore, this species of professional bandits can be rightly called spiritual highway men and women. They include the witches that many weak people fear or talk about, the wizard of the desert and all those who perform various psychic acrobatics which lovers of miracles and wonders patronise. Their principal duty is to waylay and distract those seeking the path of light and truth. Often posing as agents of light and truth, this species of bandits operates largely in ecclesiastical circles.
Can we deny the truth that there are bandits in the ecclesiastical circles? Why should miracles, wonders, acrobatic performances and prosperity antics become ready means to lure seekers into the path of light and truth? Is truth no longer what should lead seekers into freedom? Should freedom not include maturing and growing above being lured away by the antics of spiritual highway men, and attaining the height of being guided intuitively, in the midst of perplexities? Why do many people jump from one belief system to another with little or no deep personal conviction?
Like the politics of stomach infrastructure which has become the order of the day, has religion not degenerated to a similar status, whereby bandits and highway men confuse many unsuspecting ones? Surely, the situation in the country currently demands that individuals should do things out of personal conviction and commitment. Such personal conviction can only come from a free and uninfluenced search and recognition of the truth. Those who float about, capable of being abducted by bandits and highway men, are hardly ready for the task of facing life on its own terms.
Similarly, the politics of banditry should teach discerning Nigerians the antics of surviving in a hostile environment. The inability to differentiate terrorists from bandits is an idiom whose significance would demand reading this article twice. The third species of bandits discussed here are in the league of those who terrorise people for the purpose of confusing and distracting them while something more sinister is being perfected. Many have taken the Water of Usachi!

Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer in the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

That Education Grant For DELGA Students

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Wednesday, 28 September was a date students, parents, indigenes of Degema Local Government Area, who appreciate human capacity development, will never forget. On that date, about 350 students  from Degema Local Government Area in universities across the country received a total of N17,500,000 as Education grant from the Local Government administration under the chairmanship of Hon. John Michael Williams.
In an euphoric and unprecedented season,  each student adjudged eligible,  after a dispassionate, transparent and objective  pre-qualification screening process, had his or her volunteered account credited on-the-spot with N50,000. Nothing can elicit greater joy in the recipients at a time when Nigeria’s depressed economy is biting hard on parents and students. Some students and parents have resorted to menial economic activities to put food on the table and body and soul together. Fifty thousand naira for a student at an austere economic period is  quite a good way of giving them a sense of belonging.
The Chairman of Degema Local Government Area, Hon. Michael Williams, deserves commendation for opting to give such largesse to at least 17 undergraduates from each of the seventeen wards that comprise nine autonomous communities of the Local Government Area.  The chairman is a hero for taking the bull by the horn to put smiles on the faces of indigenes of the local government area, when some local government area chairmen are struggling with payment of staff salaries, not because they do not have the financial capacity and capability to pay, but because they are considering the extra pecuniary benefits that would accrue to them at the end of every month.
Hon. Michael’s decision is novel, a path less taken at a time when stewardship is subsumed under inordinate quest for materialism even at the expense of the people whose resources should be held in trust by the Local Government Area Chairmen. Michael Williams has not only proven to be a rare breed of the  21st century politicians but has also lent credibility to the fact, even through his pedigree, that he has a passion to serve and deliver on his mandate. Leadership is not just about what to get from office,  but how to affect people’s lives, carving a niche for oneself by delivering the dividends of office attendant on good governance. Leadership is a function of  strong will, this trait the chairman of Degema Local Government Area has amply demonstrated. He came, he saw and he conquered in the area, his predecessor failed and lost credibility and integrity of students and the people. It would be recalled that in  a six- page paid advertorial titled: Beneficiaries of Free Higher Institutions Scholarship, published in the Monday August 26, 2019 edition of  The Tide  pages 16-19, the then  chairman of Degema Local Government Area had awarded Scholarship to 492 undergraduates which was not substantiated with payment. No purported beneficiary of that scheme received a kobo. It ended up a media hype and mere political gimmick to lull the people of the local government area to accepting a government that was inept, clueless and  failed the people.
For less discerning , selfish minds who disdain value system, Michael William’s meritorious initiative was a flagrant folly because, for them success is measured by how much public money you stole while in office.  Little did they realise that in keeping with Lao Russel’s human capacity development theory, “in vain you build the city if you did not first build the man”. When human capacity is developed, infrastructural development will be seamless and society will breathe the air of freedom from anti-social and deviant behaviours that presently pervade our societal. Human capacity development is the bedrock for society growth and a foremost parameter to determine the level of Human Development Index. Leaders who treat human capacity development as second fiddle, to say the least, have lost touch with reality. People are the greatest project of any government because government exists for the people and every government derives its legitimacy from the people. So, when programmes are not people-oriented, that government is headed to inevitable failure.
I commend the present chairman of Degema Local Government Area for not speaking from both sides of the mouth but trod  the path of honour and integrity by fulfilling his promise through a flawless, transparent and non-partisan process. I salute such administrative ingenuity. Hon. Michael Williams’ feat is reminiscent of the ingenuity of the Hon. Macjaja Robinson Amachree, who in three months remodelled the Degema Local Government secretariat into a storey building, brought life into a lifeless local government service, demystified leadership and demonstrated that there is dignity in labour, by giving incentives to regular staff, prompt payment of salaries and entitlements of workers, thus inspired enhanced productivity. Macjaja Robinson Amachree endeared himself to workers and people of Degema Local Government Area within four months as caretaker committee chairman of the Local Government Area.
I urge Michael Williams to sustain this project. The results will not be immediate but must certainly count for him with time.

By: Igbiki Benibo

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Opinion

A Lesson From Kenya

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The electoral body in Kenya conducted presidential election which was keenly contested by the incumbent vice president, Willam Ruto and the longest living opposition leader, Raila Odinga. The presidential election took place on Tuesday 9th August, 2022, across the length and breadth of Kenya. Voters elected the president, members of national assembly and senate, governors of Kenya and members of the 47 county Assemblies of Kenya as reported by Wikipedia.
Willam Ruto of UDA party with his running mate Rigathi, polled 7, 176,141 of votes cast while Raila Odinga of the ODM with his running mate Marth Karua, polled 6,941,930, votes cast. Willam Ruto, polled 50.49 per cent while Raila Odinga polled 48.85 per cent of the total vote cast.
It is worthy to note that general elections are held every five years. This is the third general election and the fourth presidential one since the promotion of the 2010 constitution. The incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta was not eligible for the third term, nor were two – term County governors as stated by the country’s laws. The 2022 election saw the lowest number of presidential candidates cleared since the multi – party system was implemented in 1992.
Indeed, the constitution of Kenya requires that a general election of members of parliament be held on the second Tuesday of August on every fifth year, which meant that the general election was scheduled for 9th August 2022. If Kenya is at war, the election can be delayed if a resolution is passed in each House of Parliament by at least two — thirds of all the members of the House. Such a resolution can delay the election by up to six months, and may be passed multiple times provided that the delays do not cumulatively exceed 12 months.  Ruto initially fought alongside Odinga in 2007 when police crackdowns on protesters and clashes that turned into ethnic attacks killed more than 1,000 people in post – election violence, eventually promoting a new constitution to devolve power. Ruto teamed up with Kenyatta in 2013. Both Kenyatta and Ruto had been indicted by the International Criminal Court on crimes against humanity charges for their alleged role in orchestrating the post – election violence.
The cases later collapsed, with former ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. In March 2018, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his former rival for the presidency, Raila Odinga, stunned the public when they shook hands and declared a truce after post – election violence in 2017 left dozens of people dead.   Clifford Machoka was, appointed to organise the presidential and deputy presidential debates ahead of 9th August- 2022 polls. The debates were scheduled to run on the 11, 19 and 26 of July 2022 at Catholic University of Eastern Africa; and they were broadcast live across most television and radio stations, and their online platforms. The campaign season officially kicked off in May 2022 as clearance of electoral candidates continued. Although the presidential race was considered a two – horse, with two main opponents, Raila Odinga and William Ruto, George Wajackoyah of Roots Party of Kenya gained significant popularity among the electorate due to his radical measures to quell the ballooning public debt. Kenya Kwanza alliance led by Ruto held true to their initial campaign strategy by self-proclaiming themselves ‘as “hustlers” Calling Odinga a dynasty and a project of the outgoing government.
Odinga of Azimio – one Kenya Alliance branded Kenya Kwanza as an alliance of corrupiont since most of the leaders in the coalition are suspected accused, or convicted of corruption and other integrity issues. Odinga billed himself and his running mate, Martha Karue, as liberators, who fought for multiparty system, campaigned for the new regime in. 2002, and were proponents of 2010 constitutional dispensation.
On 28 July 2022, Ruto’s presidential running mate, Rigathi Gachague, was ordered by the Anti – Corruption Court to forfeit KSH202 million to the state, after it was determined the funds were proceeds of corruption. On 6 August, 2022, all candidates across all elective seats, made their final submission on different parts of the country.
By the end of clearance, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission {lEBC) gazetted a total of 16,098 candidates contesting 1, 882 elective slots. The results were announced at 6pm by the IEBC chairman, Watula Chebukati. All the candidates except Ralia Odinga appeared at the announcement; Odinga’s chief agent Saitabao Ole Kanchory announced that Odinga would not appear until his campaign could verify the results.  Indeed, Odinga  rejected the result and went to the Supreme Court to challenge the Presidential result which was in favour of William Ruto. Despite some major challenges, the electorate were conscious of the presidential election and participated actively in the election. At least for the first time, Post – election violence was not noticed as observed in the past. Thus, the Independent and Boundaries Commission of Kenya was able to work with network operators for smooth transmission of results. Therefore, in Nigeria let INEC be unbiased with its duties in terms of conducting free and fair elections. Nigerian electorate should also wake up and participate in the coming election in 2023.

By: Frank  Ogwuonuonu
Ogwuonuonu resides in Port Harcourt.

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