Mr Labaran Maku, Nasarawa State governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), has called on INEC to ensure free, fair and credible 2019...
- Labaran Maku, Nasarawa state governorship candidate of APGA, has asked INEC to ensure free, fair and credible 2019 general elections in the state- The candidate made the call during a courtesy visit to the commission- Maku said only credible elections would make leaders deliver on their campaign promisesLabaran Maku, Nasarawa state governorship candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure free, fair and credible 2019 general elections in the state.Maku who made the call during a courtesy call on the commission’s office in Lafia on Friday, January 11, said INEC should not succumb to pressure from some politicians to compromise on its mandate.READ ALSO: Presidency reportedly in fresh moves to ease Magu out of EFCCHe further said that the only thing that would compel leaders to deliver on their campaign promises is credible elections.He said: “When politicians know that they cannot subvert the wish of the people by influencing the outcome of elections, they are bound to be prepared to perform.“If all of us know that the only way to get elected is through popular vote, we most work for the people.“But when INEC officials allow themselves to be used to rig elections against popular will, the country will continue to witness bad governance”The governorship candidate remarked that electoral officers who succumbed to pressure from politicians and rigged elections might benefits in the short run.He however stressed that such people would later be affected by bad health facilities and insecurity due to bad governance by dishonest declared winners of such elections.The former minister of information also called on security agencies to exhibit neutrality and avoid compromising the electoral process, in the interest of democracy in the country.In his words: “If INEC and the security agencies love this country, they should allow free, fair and credible elections”The APGA candidate promised to ensure that his supporters conducted themselves well before, during and after the polls.Uthman Ajidagba, the resident electoral commissioner in the state, expressed gratitude to the candidate for the visit.Ajidagba assured him that the commission would do its best to ensure that the general elections would be better than the previous ones.He added that with the technology employed by the commission, nobody could clone the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) for the purpose of manipulating the election.PLEASE NOTE: Read the news on Nigeria’s #1 news appMeanwhile, Legit.ng reported that following analysis of data obtained from INEC, it had been revealed that at least 13.5million Nigerians voted manually in the 2015 presidential election.The analysis of the data indicated that 75 percent of votes cast without PVCs were in states won by President Muhammadu Buhari who was the then candidate of the APC.NAIJ.com (naija.ng) -> Legit.ng We have upgraded to serve you betterBuhari, Atiku, Sowore, Ezekwesili? Who will win if election is held today? | Legit TVSource: Legit.ng
…put economic hardship behind him, optimistic despite looming uncertainty ahead of 2019By Emma Amaize (Editor, South-South), Dayo Johnson (Editor, South-West), Sam Oyandongha (Yenagoa), Festus Ahon (Asaba), Gabriel Enogholase (Benin-City), Emmanuel Unah (Calabar), Hari-Okon Emmanuel (Uyo), Chioma Onuegbu (Uyo), Emem Idio (Yenagoa), Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu (Benin-City), Ola Ajayi (Ibadan), Rotimi Ojomoyela (Ado- Ekiti) and Gbenga Olarinoye (Osogbo)MOST of the respondents, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard in the South-South and South-West, described the ever-increasing unemployment and agonizing poverty situation in the country in 2018 as staggering, declaring that the Federal Government failed Nigerians.With the benefit of hindsight, many were doubtful that 2019 will be better whereas there were those who thought government did its best under the circumstances and expressed optimism that 2019 will be healthier.Poverty rate got worse – Ekwere, businessmanIn Akwa-Ibom, Uyo –based businessman Idongesit Ekwere, a businessman, said, “From my experience, poverty rate has worsened, and the loss of jobs in 2018 is alarming, but it is still better than what we experienced in 2017.”Ekwere went on: “I am particularly saddened that the Federal Government did not meet with my expectation of providing jobs and alleviating poverty among Nigerians. And I am only hoping that things will get better next year, 2019.”Nothing good about 2018- Mrs. George, citizenA citizen, Mrs. Eunice George, asserted, “There is nothing good to say about 2018. I only thank God for keeping my family alive. There is no money. I am disappointed with the current leadership of the country. In fact, things have worsened since this government came into power.“They failed to keep the promises they made when were coming in three years ago. I am only praying to God to touch their hearts so that they will ensure that things improved next year. I want them to live up to our expectation of improved cost of living”Promises not kept – Umo, entrepreneurAn entrepreneur, Mr Michael Umo, stated, “All I can say is that government failed on its promises to the people, particularly Akwa Ibom State government. At the federal level, I can score them high in fighting corruption, but in other areas, I do not think they have performed to expectation.“For instance the Federal Government has not been able to fix electricity despite promises and assurances to Nigerians. Their effort in that sector is very poor. For the coming year, I expect them to live up to their billing, to wake up from their slumber, and try to satisfy the yearnings of Nigerians they are representing”.Cost of living went higher- Chief Udoh, public servantA public servant, who simply identified himself as Chief Udoh, lamented: “The cost of living appears to be higher this 2018 than the previous years. I think this is due to the ban on the importation of some consumable goods. That has negatively impacted on the economy.“They said Foreign Direct Investment is increasing, but there is no correlation on the cost of living, the impact is not felt by Nigerians. And you know that there has been a raging controversy over the national minimum wage, and government appears less concerned about that, it is also affecting the masses.“So I expect both state and federal governments to do something about that soon. In 2019, we expect that measures should be put in place to alleviate the suffering of the masses. From my experience, any year we experience bad conditions, the following year is always good, and brighter. So I am expecting an improved economy next year.“And, politically, as we look forward to the general elections next year, I am appealing to politicians to eschew violence to ensure that the elections are peaceful, and fair. Nigerians do not want to witness bloodletting or war. Let the polls be conducted in a transparent manner”.Life not fair – Bartholomew, security guardKennedy Bartholomew, who works with a security firm, told Sunday Vanguard: “For me, 2018 has not been fair; there has been so much hardship. All the same I thank God because once there is life, there is hope. Akwa Ibom State government to me is doing its best. It cannot satisfy everybody at the same time.“In terms of infrastructure, youth empowerment, agriculture, security, this government is trying. I have lived here for over two years and I will not say that I am satisfied with the situation of the economy but I expect better things happening in 2019. I want government to do more to better the lot of the common man. I expect them to go beyond what they have been able to achieve this year”.EKWEREMADU: What we need to explain to our Northern brothersThere’s no money- Emedion, job seekerEmedion, a graduate and job seeker, said, “I am particularly impressed with the reduced crime rate in Akwa Ibom State. The state is peaceful; development of infrastructure, especially roads even though people are lamenting that there is no money, is on course. Yes there is biting hardship, but I believe that cost of food items, especially garri, rice is fair this year unlike the past two years.“Based on what the governor is doing today, my expectation next year is that things will be better. At the federal level, I am not satisfied with the style of fighting corruption. It is a good policy, but I expect that government should be more proactive and unbiased in the fight”.PMB needs time to fix things – Azikoro, youth leaderAn artisan and youth leader in Akwa Ibom, Ben Azikoro, spoke on an optimistic note, saying: “The present administration of PMB is really doing a lot for our people. For instance, we are not experiencing fuel scarcity during this Yuletide compared to previous PDP government where fuel scarcity was the order of the day. Compared to the rot inherited from the previous administration, I think the current government needs time to fix things.“PMB has promised that he is taking us to the next level, next year. So it behoves on us, Nigerians, to rally round and give him our support so that he will deliver on his promises. I think the government is trying and, given the right atmosphere and support, they can do more.“However, there are still areas for improvement. There are grey areas that need to be attended to, and I think the President should do more in the areas of education, the economy and the Niger Delta, but, overall, they are trying and need to be commended”.We‘ve suffered enough – Udoh, vendorIn Cross River State, Nelson Udoh, a vendor, said, “The economy in 2018 was too bad and the security situation in the country was really a threat to everybody. We witnessed a lot of kidnappings, armed robberies and killings in the country. In 2019, politicians should give peace a chance. Let the elections be peaceful and there should be no use of thugs and security agents to intimidate the people who go out to vote.“Those who emerge victorious in the elections should introduce policies and programmes that would improve the lot of the ordinary people. We have suffered enough”.Too much affliction – Chief Edem Akparika, traditional rulerA traditional ruler, Chief Edem Akparika, said: “There is so much suffering in the land. Those in authority should address the issue of poverty because the ordinary man cannot afford a square meal in a day.“During the polls in 2019, the Independent National Electoral Commission should be fair and ensure credible elections to avoid plunging this country into anarchy. Because if there is crisis, the ordinary man would suffer most; as such, we reject any form of trouble coming from the outcome of the elections. Those who win should be declared winners”.Hard-hitting year – George ObotGeorge Obot, trader, said, “This year was really tough for us. We pray God should touch the hearts of our leaders to reduce the suffering in this country in 2019. They should make the economy better and provide employment for youths. I have three children, who have graduated from the university and they do not have work to do. They are still depending on me which should not be the case”.Too many troubles – Mercy Ekpe, studentMercy Ekpe, a student, said: “This country has seen a lot of troubles in recent times. The Academic Staff of Universities, ASUU, has been on strike for months now and government is doing nothing. We expect the government to negotiate with them to call off the strike and also the infrastructure in the universities should be improved upon”.2019: Archbishop of Lagos urges Nigerians to elect only credible leadersInsensitive government – Okoro, legal practitionerBonaventure Okoro, lawyer, for his part, said: “We have seen enough of the change these past years. I dare say that 2018 is one of the worst years in this country. Inflation went up, the number of unemployed youths also rose.“In 2019, we want a return to the pre –change era. We want to go back to 2015 when a bag of rice was N8, 000. This government is very insensitive and one-sided, we cannot continue like this. Imagine the killings in all parts of the country and those in power are so insensitive such that they have refused to do anything about it.“We are really tired and want a change. We have seen both sides of the coin and want to return to the past. Imagine a whole Christmas, no fireworks and even to buy a chicken is a big task. They tell us there is no fuel scarcity, but at N145 per litre, how many people can afford it. The whole place is so quiet like we are in mourning when we should be celebrating”.We’re worn-out – Nkata, traderBeauty Nkata, a trader, opened up: “We are tired of the situation in the country. There is no money. Imagine that during this Christmas, there was no rush for goods because there is no money. The fish I sell, there was no difference between Christmas and an average weekend sales. We are praying that God should help those in power so that they too can help us in 2019; if not the situation will be terrible.”Neophytes managing economy – Asu Beks, veteran journalistIn Bayelsa State, activist and veteran journalist, Asu Beks, told Sunday Vanguard: “Our priority is a free and fair electoral process. This means Mr. President must sign the new Electoral Bill presented to him by NASS. Anything short of that means he is not committed to free and fair elections in which case Nigerians would have no option than to seek self-help, a development that would not be good for our democracy.“Nigerians have this feeling that the EFCC, DSS , IGP and other security services have been conscripted to work towards the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari. The signs are there for any discerning Nigerian to see. “As for the economy, there are no signs that the present economic team are thinking outside the box to fix the economy.“There’s no one in the present government in the mould of the likes of former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, that has what it takes to fix the economy. If I were Mr President, what I will do in the New Year is to rejig the Economic Team and inject renowned experts, who would move us out as the poverty capital of world. And lastly, Mr President must sack the current Service Chiefs, including the IGP because they have all failed woefully in the fight against terrorism”.Nigerians should rise against election manipulation – Ijomene, medical doctorFejiro Ijomone, a medical doctor, said: “My expectations for the New Year concerning Nigeria are bleak considering the state of the nation. I doubt that the 2019 elections, which will hold next year, will change anything, as I suspect the will of the people might be sabotaged by INEC and the security forces that we had hoped will help Nigeria have successful elections. Nigerians must rise up and stand against the manipulation of the outcome of the elections as we witnessed in the recently concluded Osun State governorship election.”Virtual artist and entrepreneur, Paniebi Jones, who spoke in the same vein, pointed out, “2019 is an electioneering year and there are expectations that politicians will do a lot of make – believe, momentarily, to our advantage. But I think Nigerians are getting fed up with this ‘our turn syndrome’ such that the new government will have to be forced to concentrate on the economy to make life more meaningful for Nigerians. 2019 will be better than this year in terms of productivity.”Nigerians had traumatic experiences – Morris, environmentalistEnvironmentalist, Comrade Alagoa Morris, stressed: “Actually, from the grassroots to state, regional and national levels, Nigerians went through harrowing experiences. Some even committed suicide due to recession, health challenges and other economic issues. Crimes rate, unexpectedly, soared and, as attested to by Mr President, the nation experienced unprecedented deaths traceable to the violence unleashed by Boko Haram.“As we are in another period of campaign, l expect that those presenting themselves for public offices should know that Nigerians are getting wiser and should prepare themselves to work when elected; including whoever emerges as President.“The electorate too should be more alive to their responsibility as catalysts in the democratic process of getting representatives in government…because any mistake cannot be corrected until another four years”.The problem with Nigeria– Atasi, civil servantDoubara Atasi, a civil servant, said, “Despite the myriad of challenges confronting our dear country, I want to seize this opportunity to encourage my fellow compatriots never to despair. God has endowed us with virtually everything we need to overcome our socioeconomic and political problems.“I have always said that our problem is attitudinal. The moment we (leaders and followers) get our attitudes right, it is then we will have the Nigeria of our dream where there will be equity, fairness, peace, stability and appreciable development and prosperity. On the economic front, we rank among countries that have the best of plans or policies. Our problem has been that of lack of the much needed political will to follow through the sound economic policies and models we fashion out from time to time.“I, therefore, plead with those saddled with the responsibility of managing the national economy to show more patriotism by being apolitical in the implementation of the country’s macroeconomic policies. To this end, I appeal to all arms of government, particularly the legislature and executive, to sink their differences with a view to expediting work on the 2019 budget to ensure its early passage, signing and effective implementation”.Buhari doing his best- Igbapike, lawyerLegal practitioner, Osteen Igbapike, said: “Nigeria will gradually get better though I already have an earful of the disparate outcry of politicians seeking power in 2019 that the government of the day is causing hunger, tears, sorrow and death for Nigerians.“Most of these allegations are politically motivated to confuse voters, but thanks to social media. Some of these allegations are easily verifiable. At the centre, corruption is having a good fight and with oil barely at 60 dollars per barrel, it not the same thing as when it was almost 180 dollars a barrel when PDP controlled the centre.“Though there are shortcomings here and there, President Muhammadu Buhari is doing his best for Nigeria. Fuel supply is, as at today, gaining stability. The thieves of our destiny are the ones shouting most against the government of the day. The avenues for looting are currently limited and far-fetched”.Economy in bad shape – Kramar, traderDiffering with the lawyer, a trader, Mr Kramar, said: “The outgoing year has not been very well; people have not fared well basically because if you consider the economy things are not going well. The ban on importation has really affected the economy particularly the lower class, things are very difficult.“On the issue of corruption that the government is claiming to be fighting, I do not see any good thing coming out of it. So much has been realized from the so-called looters, but no tangible thing has been done with it. We in the Niger Delta we are not faring well because there is no employment.“From their past records, I cannot see any good thing coming out next year. Basically from what we have seen, we are supposed to judge from their records and, in any election year, a lot of expenditure will be made, I wonder how they are going to manage the economy for us”.People are suffering, but – Timi Usman, labourerAlso ventilating his opinion, a labourer, Mr. Timi Usman, said: “I know that the present Federal Government is trying but we are suffering. The people working with the President are making things difficult for the masses; they are sabotaging the President with their selfishness. The ministers, National Assembly members and even the governors are working against the good intentions of the Federal Government, and are deceiving the masses.“ However, I am very hopeful that PMB will reposition himself and the country, next year, things will be better by God’s grace”.FG fell short of everything – Otu, journalistMr. Dennis Otu, Chief Press Secretary to the Speaker, Delta State House of Assembly, was direct in his opinion: “I must tell you that my expectations and those of majority of Nigerians were not met in 2018 by the Federal Government. I was expecting massive creation of jobs, but this never happened. Instead more Nigerians were thrown into the labour market, leading to increase in criminal activities.“There was no improvement in power supply in the country too in the outgoing year. The year witnessed killings. The Federal Government failed to protect lives and property.“In 2019, government must do everything to meet the expectations of the people. The Federal Government must ensure credible, transparent, free and fair elections and do the needful to avert electoral fraud and violence.“Killings across the country must be addressed. The grinding poverty in the land must be tackled by government if Nigerians must know peace “.Year of missed opportunities – OvedjeA concerned citizen, Steve Ovedje intoned: “The waning year could best be described as a year of missed opportunities. The failings of the present administration abound in every sector. From the ever escalating violence in all parts of the country, to the speedy evaporation of hope on the part of the led and the disturbing ability of government to spin barefaced lies to cover their numerous failings, we are stuck.“The reasons President Buhari gave for not signing the amended Electoral Bill is not only laughable, but also clearly demonstrates the shameless degree of President Buhari’s insincerity.“How can a President who refused to honour ECOWAS Court judgment on Dasuki rely on ECOWAS Protocol as reason for not signing the amended Electoral Bill that would have significantly strengthened the electoral process? We have a huge task ahead of us”.Year of good and bad- Oguma, peasant farmerA peasant farmer in Igarra, Akoko Edo local government area of Edo State, Onobere Oguma, described 2018 as a year of good and bad experiences.He was however full of encomiums for the State Employment and Expenditure for Results (SEEFOR), a World Bank scheme which engaged him under its employment scheme for the better part of 2018.His words: “It has been a year of the good and the bad. The economy was not very buoyant. I have to dedicate more time to my farming. However, I was also lucky to have been engaged by SEEFOR through the Chief of Staff to Edo State governor and that went a long way to cushion the hardship I would have faced.”On his expectations for the New Year, Oguma said he expected the Federal Government to cushion the economic hardship of the people, adding, “We are preparing for elections in 2019, I expect that things should be better economically for the common man. “Government should do more to improve power supply which will go a long way in helping small business people.”I’m worried- Erabhor, petty traderA petty trader in Benin-City, Johnson Erabor, asserted: “I am disturbed going by what I read in newspapers everyday and what I watch on television. It is always killings in various parts of the country. Boko Haram is still terrorizing parts of the country in the North-East and, just now, we are hearing of bandits attacks in Zamfara State. The IPOB challenge in the South-East is still there and we are still witnessing cult- related killings in some states in the South-South.”My grievance is there’s no power – Flavour, barberA barber, along Erediauwa Street, off Ekenwan Road in Benin-City, who simply gave his business name as Flavour, said his major challenge is power and expected the Federal Government to do something in 2019.“We spent two straight months here without electricity and I have to resort to using generator. How much am I making that I have to spend more than half of my earnings on buying petrol before I will now pay my rent for the shop? I believe President Buhari should do something about light; otherwise those of us in small-scale business will have to close shop.“This issue of light I learnt is very bad in Edo State and not the same in other parts of the country, especially in the North, so what is BEDC doing about electricity in Edo State?”On the 2019 elections, Flavour said: “The beauty of democracy is that the people will decide who they want and that is what I expect INEC to do. I am a card – carrying member of a party and I believe that we as Nigerians should be allowed to decide who wins and our decision should be so respected.”Present govt bereft of ideas- Omaka, unemployed graduateAn unemployed graduate, Miss Chinwe Omaka, who spoke to one of our reporters in Benin-City, stated: “Government both at the federal and state levels has not met my expectations in the outgoing year, especially in the areas of unemployment, the economy, provision of stable power supply for small entrepreneurs and security of lives and property.“ As far as the present leadership in the country is unable to meet the expectations of Nigerians in the past three and half years, voting for it again will worsen the plight of Nigerians. So it is time to try another as they are bereft of ideas on how to move the country forward”.Vote out this hopeless govt- Ayokhai, media consultantMedia consultant, Dada Ayokhai, said: “The government did not meet the expectations of Nigerians in the year 2018. For 2019, my expectation is for Nigerians to vote out this ineffective government.”Dashed expectations – Ighodaro, studentVictory Ighodaro, a student, asserted: “My expectations for this year were not met by government, especially in the areas of education, power supply, cost of foodstuff, security, war against corruption, etc.“My expectations for 2019 are that a reliable government should be voted in by Nigerians, that the elections should be free, fair and credible. There should be transparency by those in government.I’m disenchanted- Obosa, activistCivil rights activist, Agho Obosa, pointed out: “My expectations from government were never met in all ramifications. I am very disappointed that the issues of insecurity, poor power supply, unemployment, cost of foodstuff and war against corruption, which has become a one- sided affair has not been resolved by government. “For 2019, I expect free, fair and credible polls and there should be transparency by those in government.”Ordinary Nigerians suffering – Foluke Osatuyi, secondary school teacherFoluke Osatuyi said, “In terms of corruption, the administration has probed the deals and activities of the last administration, especially in the area of security where billions of naira are said to have been embezzled. The administration through the EFCC is trying to prosecute corrupt officials and send a strong signal to corrupt officials in Nigeria, with the probe of various sectors. Huge amounts of monies have been recovered, though many see it as a witch-hunting claim it is one-sided, the focus on people from the opposition party. This anti-corruption war, however, has not improved Nigeria’s economy one-bit or Nigeria’s image in the international community. The ordinary Nigerian is suffering still, and the exchange rate of dollar is high, therefore, making importation difficult and expensive and even the so-called home made goods are inaccessible as there is no adequate support from government. The little support that should come to our local farmers and manufacturers are being sabotaged by those at the top meant to overseer such gestures.“The government claims it has subdued Boko Haram, but there are still bombings here and there. The government has so far shown that it cannot fully respect court orders. There are unwarranted arrests and detention of suspects without evidence. The freedom of speech enjoyed during the Jonathan administration cannot be compared to that of ‘Sai Baba’. There has been loss of lives of peaceful protesters and believers of doctrine, and this shows no care for the value of human lives, not to mention the havocs caused by herdsmen and kidnappers. The economy of the nation is falling apart, and although it is a worldwide problem, the government needs to do something about the bad economy.“The government has not acted too poorly really but it is far from meeting my expectations with the promises of change it made during electioneering. I wish to see a government that is more proactive in delivering her campaign promises, a government that is transparent and reflects equity, a government known for integrity with economic policies that will help alleviate poverty and other policies that will ensure security of lives and property. A government that cannot provide the basic amenities of food, health care and security is no government at all”We can’t run away from restructuring — IdadaWe are going backward – Sunday Menukuro, student lawyerSunday Menukuro, a student lawyer resident in Akure, said, “Nigerians situation in the outgoing year has been the worst ever, no thanks to the government of the day, especially at the central, which has made Nigeria unbearably pathetic since it got to power. Things are from bad to worse this year because Nigerians expected that by now what those in government promised Nigerians at the time they were struggling for power in 2014/15 would have had positive effects, but unfortunately, Nigeria has gone backward almost in all spheres of life. None of their promises has come to reality. Talk of security, more innocent Nigerians have been killed by Boko Haram and killer herdsmen. Kidnappers and ritualists are on the increase, and they perpetrate their dastardly acts on daily basis.“Our military and police who are supposed to provide security have been killed by these terrorists. Fear is everywhere in Nigeria. Nobody sleeps with his two eyes closed again. When you talk of economy, most people in Nigeria have become companions of hunger as a result of the economic policy of the government of the day. Prices of commodities have gone to the roof top. No money, no job. Even those who have little amount of money to buy foodstuff, which is the basic need of human beings, would get to the market to be confronted with high price partly as a result of herdsmen whose cows have destroyed plants or the killing of farmers. Hike in the pump prices of petroleum prices does not help matters. No significant improvement in electricity supply, our roads are bad. Lecturers go on strike incessantly. All of these and many that I have not mentioned are as a result of the cluelessness of the current government. Nigeria needs a man or woman who is experienced, who understands Nigeria”.Year of the good and the bad -Michael Adeyeye, public analystMichael Adeyeye, a public analyst , said, “2018 has been one of mixed fortunes for Nigeria. One might be tempted to say it is a seemingly blend of the good and the bad. It is a known fact that there is prevailing poverty in the land and this confirms the current rating of Nigeria as the headquarters of poverty in the world. And we appear to be more divided than before.“Let me say that the expectations of Nigerians at the inception of the current government were high especially with the change agenda of this government. Nigerians are really tired of the blame game, the government must wake up to reality and take the bull by the horn to deliver on its promises rather than engage in blame trade“The year 2018 was full of crisis that threatens the unity of this nation. I don’t think we have gotten it right as expected. The technically defeated Boko Haram had suddenly resurrected and now wreaks more havoc by weakening our military through coordinated attacks. This portends a greater danger to the nation. I wonder where an ordinary citizens would go to seek refuge if our military and IDP camps can be attacked with little or no resistance.“Despite the war against corruption, the country still ranks among the most corrupt nations of the world. “Our budget performance with respect to capital budget is worrisome and nothing to write home about. With 2018 winding off and even a possible extension of the life span of the 2018 budget, it is uncertain whether much will be achieved that can guarantee a solid foundation for a better economic growth.“It is disheartening that we will be entering 2019 with the imbroglio between the Federal Government and ASUU.“On the other hand, I must commend the NNPC for a good job especially at this Yuletide period. “Nigerians are happy that the perennial fuel scarcity and long queues in our filling stations have suddenly disappeared. This is a welcome development and a good gift to the nation.“On 2019, Nigerians expect and deserve nothing but free, fair and credible elections that will be acceptable to everyone. “Government must re-strategize and possibly overhaul the current security architecture of the country. “It is an understatement to say that the prevailing security situation in the country may derail the 2019 elections if not checked. Above all, we look forward to a better and prosperous nation in 2019”.We are at a crossroad – Leke Adegbite, unionistLeke Adegbite, a unionist based in Akure, said, “In 2018, government has failed economically. Prices of products are going up daily without any policy from government to curb it. “Government increased pump prices of petroleum products two years ago with a promise that there is no more subsidy, and there was hope that they will have money for infrastructural development. But huge amount of money is still being committed to subsidy this year.“I am also disappointed that government is yet to resolve industrial crises in our tertiary institutions. As at today, ASUU and ASUP are on strike while COEASU just returned to class from a long strike.“Failure of FG and state governments to honour their agreement with the organised labour on minimum wage is another way government has not met my expectation.“Politically, internal democracy is still very far in our political parties especially the popular ones. They held terrible primaries and my expectation is that INEC, security agencies and other stakeholders will ensure credible 2019 polls while the judiciary should decide all pre-election litigations before the general elections”.Oduola Tunde Olatunde, an aggregator at Oluwabamiduro Agricultural Company, in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, said leaders displayed a high level of insincerity at all levels in the outgoing year. According to him, insecurity of lives and property was at its peak with Nigerians unsure of what next would happen. He said, as we move to election year, whoever is elected as President should ensure that lives of Nigerians are safe.Miss Mary Thomas, a Secretary at a private company, felt if the issue of unemployment is not addressed, there will be a serious pressure on the economy and this will increase insecurity.While admitting that 2018 is a challenging year which actually stretched the economy to the limit, Comrade Okon Ofonime, a marketer and maintenance operator, said the most challenging thing that actually threatened the foundation of the country is insecurity especially in the North-East.Mr Adeleke Adegoroye Witty, a farmer in Ibadan, said the most daunting challenge facing the country is inability of the leaders to provide food for its citizens. “Food is very scarce. For example, the price of rice is now N18, 000. How many people can afford that? It is not convenient for a common man to feed himself”, he said“Self employed people have no patronage because government is not paying salaries of its workers. You know most of the customers of these artisans are civil servants. “What happens when workers are not paid their salaries and entitlements? Of course the effect would spread to other sectors of the economy.“Any political party that wins the 2019 polls should improve on food production and open the borders to allow minimal importation of rice. If we want to stop importation, do we have enough to feed our people? “Government can give license to companies to import food that we are not producing enough? Then government should call farmers for town hall meetings in rural areas. “Youth Corps members serving in various states should be introduced to farming. Whatever they produce will help the economy.“Also, inmates of prisons should be made to farm. Government spends a lot of money on them. The take home pay of the members of the National Assembly should be reduced. Their allowances alone can employ several youths loitering the streets.”Deji Ogundaunsi, a final year micro biology student of the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, said the situation in 2018 was so bad such that he was a victim of kidnapping. “If the security approach of government had been excellent, vices in the country would have been curbed”, he said.“The economic policy is bad and the outcome felt everywhere”.On his expectations for 2019, he said: “We hope to see a turnaround in the economy. We expect to get foodstuff at cheaper rates and land borders should be reopened”.Ogunrinde Blessing, an unemployed graduate of industrial chemistry resident in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State, on her part, said, “2018 has been tough and rough for most families in the country, especially where the husband and wife are civil servants and salaries were not paid as and when due.“The Federal Government has too many irons in fire and no particular policy was given attention. With this approach, most of the projects in vital sector of the country suffered neglect or were haphazardly and shoddily done”“My expectations in 2019 is simple: Let the Federal Government complete all on-going projects in the transportation sector, roads and rail, complete all the power projects, give more loans to small scale industries and revive the textile and paper industries, these will create more jobs”.Babawale Afeez Olanite, a public servant in Osogbo, Osun state capital, asked government to reduce unemployment in the country.
Nigerians will not in a hurry forget the year 2018. The happenings during the year, some positive and others negative, shook the very foundation of the country in several ways.From politics to business, security to education, religion to ethnicity, the presidency to the National Assembly, Nigeria went through several storms and upheavals. The beauty of all these, however is that the country has come out better and stronger.But, one issue that is not in a hurry to run away is the apprehensions and high expectations the year has generated because it is preceding the general elections in 2019.The year 2018 which ends today at 12 midnight happened to be the eve of the 2019 general elections and this explains why like other previous ones preceding an election year, it had been packed full of political events. As the country prepares for the general polls next year, the political tempo increased in 2018, so much that the goings on in other sectors were said to be shaped by the politics of 2019.From the build-up to the elections, the party primaries held across the country and now the campaigns, 2018 has been a defining moment for Nigeria. In 2018, the country was drenched in national debates over sundry issues, ranging from restructuring, scorecards of the Buhari administration to whether the president can be trusted with another four years in office. This culminated in an intrepid confrontation between the ruling All Progressives Congress and the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP). It was the year which literally made it instructive for the Buhari presidency and its achievements – the economy, security and other key sectors. Below are some of the issues that dominated the polity in 2018.Dapchi Girls Abduction And ReleaseIn February , Nigerians woke up to the alarming news that the Boko Haram terrorists had kidnapped 110 schoolgirls in Dapchi, Yobe State, in what seemed like a repeat of the abduction of the secondary school girls in Chibok in 2014. The federal government quickly swung into action to ensure the release of the girls.President Buhari visited Dapchi where he vowed that the school girls would soon be reunited with their family.In March, Boko Haram released more than 100 of them. However, controversy reared its head when it was discovered that the only Christian girl, Leah Sharibu, was not released. The non-release of Leah beclouded the release of the other girls. Sadly, she’s still being held by the terrorists.Recognition Of June 12 As Democracy DayPresident Buhari, perhaps, scored the biggest political goal of the year by recognising MKO Abiola as the winner of the annulled June 12 presidential election. He took it a notch higher by tendering a passionate apology to the Abiola family and those who lost their loved ones during the June 12 struggle.He said: “Accordingly, on behalf of the federal government, I tender the nation’s apology to the family of the late MKO Abiola, who got the highest votes, and to those that lost their loved ones in the course of June 12 struggle.”He expressed delight that he was the one presiding over the Commemoration and Investiture marking the formal official recognition of June 12 as National Democracy Day by the federal government.According to him, the decision was not meant to be an attempt to open old wounds but to put right a national wrong.PMB Declines Assent To Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill For Fourth TimePresident Buhari declined assent to the electoral act amendment bill (2018). In a letter addressed to the leadership of the National Assembly, the president said that signing the bill into law could create uncertainty and confusion during the forthcoming elections.He said: “I am declining assent to the Bill principally because I am concerned that passing a new electoral bill this far into the electoral process for the 2019 general election which commenced under the 2015 Electoral Act, could create some uncertainty about the applicable legislation to govern the process.”PMB Declares To Run 2019 PresidencyPresident Buhari for long kept mum on his re-election bid. However, in April, he formally declared to seek re-election. Buhari made the declaration at a closed-door meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the (APC.The president said that his decision to run for a second term next year is borne out of the clamour by most Nigerians for him to re-contest, adding that he chose the meeting in order to give NEC members the honour of notifying them first.The Gang Up Against PMBAt the dawn of this year, former President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote a letter to President Buhari, asking him to retire from active politics. Blatantly, he told the president to forget about the idea of contesting in 2019, saying doing so would amount to overstretching the tolerance of Nigerians.In a 13-page open letter he wrote to the president titled: ‘The Way Out: A Clarion Call For Coalition For Nigeria Movement’, Obasanjo accused Buhari of underperformance, warning the president not to allow Nigerians to remove him the way his predecessor, former President Goodluck Jonathan was voted out.And like a well-orchestrated plan intended to rattle the president, former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, a few days after Obasanjo struck, joined in calling on President Buhari not to contest the 2019 general election, saying that Buhari’s ‘Change’ agenda has failed Nigerians.IBB, as he is fondly called, said that the kind of leader Nigeria needs in 2019 and beyond is a new breed with the capacity to manage the country’s diversity and to jump-start the country on a different path.PDP Apologises To Nigeria Over MisruleAs the party healed its post-convention wounds, it realised it had to reach out to Nigerians. And so in June, PDP, unprecedentedly and much to the astonishment of many watchers, apologised for the mistakes it made in the 16 years it held the reins of power at the federal level.PDP chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, admitted the party’s mistakes in power and asked for forgiveness from Nigerians at a public discourse on contemporary politics and governance in Nigeria, organised by the party in Abuja.INEC And Crisis-Ridden Party PrimariesVirtually all the major political parties organized disputed and in fact rejected primaries to pick their candidates for the 2019 general elections. The worse-hit were the APC and the PDP, the two dominant parties in the country.Till now, INEC is paying the prize for the controversial party elections through litigations in the law courts.At the last count, INEC has 750 cases emanating from the “unholy” primary elections filed against itThe commission has also received 302 requests for Certified True Copies (CTC) of documents, mainly their monitoring reports of party primaries and copies of personal particulars of candidates. These requests are obviously a prelude to more court actions.In addition, the commission has received 52 petitions and protests from aggrieved party aspirants across the country.Ekiti, Osun And Other PollsThe PDP suffered major electoral defeats this year. In Ekiti State, the PDP as the ruling party, was dislodged by the APC. The former governor, Ayo Fayose and the PDP candidate, Prof Kolapo Olusola, were humbled in the state. APC candidate and immediate past minister of Power and Steel, Kayode Fayemi, won the election, securing a return to the office which he vacated after Fayose defeated him in 2014.In Osun State, the APC candidate, Gboyega Oyetola, succeeded the former governor, Rauf Aregbesola, who is also of the APC. PDP’s candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke, was the first runner up in an election that was characterised by controversies. PDP has since gone to the tribunal to challenge the outcome of both elections.Similarly, the recent House of Representatives by-election held in Bauchi, Katsina and Kwara States saw the APC, not only consolidate its presence in areas it already controlled, but took control of areas it didn’t control before the polls. In Toro Federal Constituency (Bauchi), Alhaji Yusuf Nuhu of APC defeated Shehu Umar of the PDP with a difference of 9,102 votes.CUPP EmergesIn a bid to return to power at the centre, the PDP, African Democratic Congress (ADC), the Reformed All Progressives Congress (R-APC) and 36 other political parties, in July, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in a grand alliance to form a Government of National Unity in 2019.The sole agenda, according to the MoU, is to produce a joint presidential candidate capable of winning the election and enthrone a new government at the expiration of President Buhari’s tenure in 2019.Convention And PrimariesAfter weeks of intense campaign and lobbying, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, emerged PDP’s presidential candidate for the 2019 election.He emerged after a keenly contested primary held at Adokiye Amesiamaka Stadium,Port Harcourt , the Rivers State capital on October 7.Adoption Of Atiku As Consensus CandidateThe Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) adopted Atiku as its sole candidate for February 2019 presidential poll.Convener of CUPP, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, told a world press conference in Abuja that the former vice president met the criteria used in the choice of a presidential candidate for the coalition.Oyegun And Tenure Extension SagaOne of the major issues that characterised the governing APC in the year under review was whether the then national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun’s tenure should be extended to allow him oversee the party through the 2019 campaign season. In fact, at one of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party at the earlier part of the year, the session approved the extension of the tenure of Odigie -Oyegun led National Working Committee (NWC) and state executive committees of the party for any other one year with effect from June 2018. He later stepped down from the race.Oshiomhole Emerges APC ChairmanOne of the high points of the party in the year under review was the convocation of the assemblage of all organs and leaders of the party at a convention. Former Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, was confirmed as the national chairman of the APC at the party’s national convention at the Eagle Square in Abuja on Saturday, June 23, 2018.He was elected APC national chairman unopposed after all other candidates for the same position dropped their interests.Oshiomhole, Ngige Lock HornsSoon after he assumed office, Oshiomhole had a faceoff with the minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige. He threatened to sack the minister and Ngige dared him.The running battle between the chairman and the minister came to the fore allegedly over his refusal to inaugurate boards of parastatals under his ministry, several months after they were appointed by President Buhari.APC Splits As rAPC EmergesAfter months of speculations, apprehension and threats by some aggrieved members of the ruling APC, particularly, members of the new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP) exited the party and formed a splinter group called the Reformed All Progressives Congress (rAPC).The faction, which claimed to be the “authentic” APC, said that members of the nPDP, the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which had originally merged to form the APC in 2014, were members of the new bloc.DSS Invasion Of National AssemblyIn August, a group of masked men from the Department of State Security Services (DSS) shut down the National Assembly, preventing lawmakers from accessing the chambers. In a swift reaction, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who was then acting President ordered the immediate dismissal of then DG of DSS, Lawal Daura and ordered Matthew Seiyefa to take over. However, Seiyefa’s reign was brief as President Muhammadu Buhari replaced him with Yusuf Magaji Bichi.Obasanjo Agrees To Support AtikuFormer President Olusegun Obasanjo and Atiku Abubakar buried the hatchet in October when the latter sought his support for his presidential ambition.AdeosungateOne issue, which also defined 2018, was the resignation of Ms Kemi Adeosun, as Finance Minister. Adeosun resigned as finance minister, in the midst of reports that she did not participate in the mandatory one-year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) Scheme.The Ganduje’s Dollar AffairA video Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, purportedly collecting wads of dollars as bribe from a contractor, went viral.NATIONAL ASSEMBLYFor the House of Representatives, 2018 was punctuated with twists and turns which made major headlines in the media. Regardless, it appeared to have kept its eyes on the ball in ensuring good governance and development through legislations and motions just as it beamed its searchlights on some national issues through probes and interventions.PIGBAlso, the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) containing the restructuring and reformation of the nation’s oil and gas industry was passed. Highlights of the bill included unbundling of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and other bodies and the establishment of a new regulatory body like the Nigerian Petroleum Regulatory Commission, two companies, Nigeria Petroleum Assets Management Company (NPAMC) and National Petroleum Company (NPC).Also, the National Security Trust Fund Bill which seeks to provide security agencies with military and security hardware, infrastructure and technologies to aid in ensuring national security was passed.The bill will settle the issue of budget constraints and poor remuneration of security personnel, inadequate equipment, poor state of available equipment, low level of training, limited manpower and poor maintenance culture.Not-Too-Young-to-Run ActThe Not-Too-Young-to-Run Act is also a landmark bill which was not only passed by NASS in the year under review but signed into law by the President just as a Bill for an Act to amend the Public Holiday Act to be in tandem with the current realities and exigencies of the modern times and declare June 12 as Democracy Day. The bill gives legal teeth to the pronouncement made by President Buhari declaring on June 12 as new democracy day.Whistleblowing BillThe Whistleblower Bill was equally passed. According to the House Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, the bill will “provide for the manner in which individuals may, in public interest disclose information that relates to the unlawful or other illegal conduct or corrupt practices of others it will also provide the protection against victimization of persons who make these disclosures and to reward individuals who make the disclosures and encourage and facilitate whistleblowing, to regulate the receiving, investigating and otherwise dealing with disclosures by whistleblowers from reprisals and other adverse actions.”Ajaokuta SteelThe Lower House resolved to ensure that the Ajaokuta Steel Company remains an asset of the state until it is completed as such, it puts in motion modalities to prevent the concession of the Ajaokuta Steel Company and appropriate funds for the completion of the project.NHISAlso, the Green Chamber intervened in the cycle of crises which plagued the National Health Insurance Scheme from the previous year.It investigated the compliance rate of Health Management Organisations (HMOs) with the NHIS contributions and utilisation of funds by healthcare providers as well as inhuman treatment of enrollees and the suspension of the Executive Secretary, Prof. Usman Yusuf by the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Oduwole over alleged infractions. Yusuf’s suspension at that time coincided with an ongoing probe by the House wherein he accused HMOs of frustrating the agency and perpetrating fraud. The House which played a part in his reinstatement in July 2017 opined that the suspension was an attempt to intimidate Yusuf and stifle the probe back then.But the NHIS Governing Council which disclosed that it had been inundated with petitions and observed a lot of executive infractions that it could not ignore, insisted that the indefinite suspension was to allow a panel unfettered space to look into the allegations levelled against Yusuf.SEC CrisisSimilarly, the House probed the circumstances which led to the suspension of the Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mounir Gwarzo, who was accused of abusing of his office, including the approval of N104m severance package for himself while in office.After an extensive exercise, the Dogara-led House eventually endorsed the suspension of the SEC boss by former Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun.NEMAIn the same vein, the House probed the financial operations of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), after a motion on an allegation of violation of public trust in the agency was brought before it. Following the conclusion of the probe, the House advised President Buhari to sack the director-general of the agency for alleged mismanagement and embezzlement of over N33 billion.It also directed the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the police to recover about N800 million demurrage from some officers of the ministry of agriculture, ministry of budget and national planning and NEMA. And charged the ICPC and EFCC to recover N150m, being subsidized cost of 5000 metric tons of rice from the present DG, Engr. Maihaji “who claimed to have donated same to World Food Programme (WFP) when they were ready to pay for it or import same.Okoi Obono-ObloRelatedly, it also investigated the legality and modus operandi of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel (SPIP) to ensure that it is in tandem with the law and conforms with best practices. The decision to look into the activities of the panel followed complaints from the public through the Attorney-General of the federation’s office alleging that it invites citizens to fill asset declaration forms which is the exclusive mandate of the Code of Bureau.The outcome of that probe was a call by the House for the sack, investigation and prosecution of the SPIP chairman, Okoi Obono-Oblo, the dissolution of the panel as well as the withdrawal of Obono-Oblo’s Law degree which according to the House, was fraudulently obtained from the University of Jos.DefectionsOn July 24, 2018, 15 senators and 37 House of Representatives members decamped mostly to the PDP. Within 24 hours even after the Senate President Bukola Saraki and the Speaker, Hon Dogara. read the letters announcing their defections, two senators retracted, leaving the list to 13 defecting senators. Apart from the lawmakers, Governors of Benue, Sokoto and Kwara states announced their defections also from the APC to PDP.On the other side, Senator Godswill Akpabio, Minority Leader of the Senate turned a full circle like twinkling star to denounce his membership of the PDP and pledged his allegiance with the APC on Wednesday August 7, 2018.In another major string of quake to hit the party, the senator representing Kano Central, Rabiu Kwankwaso, and the senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye, also defected.Other senators are Abdullahi Danbaba, Sokoto, Isa Misau, Bauchi; Suleiman Nazif; Baki Shittu, Jigawa; Monsurat Sunmmonu, Oyo; Bayero Nafada, Gombe State and Olanrewaju Tejuoso, Ogun State.BUSINESSEconomyThe tale of the Nigerian economy in 2018 is one of a mixed bag of the good and the bad. On the monetary side, the story is bright and sweet. But that cannot be said of the fiscal side of the economy that managed to grow by 1.81 per cent (year-on-year) in the third quarter of 2018, thanks to the non-oil sector which grew by 2.32% in real terms during the reference quarter after a sluggish growth rate in previous quarters. The economy recovered fully from the 2017 recession in the first quarter of the year. The economy was held together by the monetary policies and other intervention programmes of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN’s) retention of the MPR and other parameters stable to moderate inflation rate. This gave stability to the foreign exchange market.Not a few people blamed the sluggish growth of the economy on late passage of the 2018 budget. The 2018 budget estimate of N9.12 trillion was passed by the National Assembly six months after President Buhari submitted the estimates to the lawmakers, a situation many say was responsible for the poor growth recorded in the first two quarters of 2018. The late passage had negative impact on the capital releases for infrastructure building and delay in settlement of debts to contractors.Monetary PolicyAs part of its intervention in the foreign exchange market, the CBN spent over $11 billion in the forex market. The aim was to ensure stability in the market. Monetary Policy Committee of the CBN retained official interest rate at 14 per cent all through the year – for the 26th month running. The MPC retained the MPR at 14 per cent, CRR at 22.5 per cent, Liquidity Ratio at 30.00 per cent and Asymmetric corridor at +200 and -500 basis points around the MPR. The intension was to allow the existing policies to fully achieve their intended goals and objectives. On the other hand, the committee noted that the cost of capital in the economy remains high and not helpful to growth.Whereas there were calls for the monetary authorities to tighten the MPR to dowse possible pressure from 2019 election spending, the MPC said further tightening would widen the income gap, depress aggregate consumption and adversely affect credit to the real sector of the economy.In 2018, the nation’s foreign reserves decreased from about $48 billion to $43 billion in December, signaling investors’ exit from the country over uncertainties around the coming general elections and high interest rates in countries like the United States of America.TaxationThere was aggressive drive to expand the nation’s taxpayers’ data base and increase non-oil revenue by the federal government, an action that saw to the introduction of the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS). Former Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, led the tax amnesty campaign that recorded huge compliance level. Within the period of the tax amnesty scheme, a little above N30 billion was raked in, according to official figures.Beyond the financial returns of the scheme, the impact in promoting voluntary compliance was unquantifiable. One of the outcomes of the scheme, whether directly or indirectly, is the growth of the national taxpayer database from under 14 million pre 2016 number to 35 million in 2018. Apart from that, less than a month after it commenced its substitution of accounts of recalcitrant billionaire taxpayers, the federal government collected N12.66 billion in tax revenue.The Oil sectorOil And Gas MidstreamDuring the year, the NNPC commenced the Seven Critical Gas Development Projects (7CGDP) to deliver about 3.4 billion standard cubic feet of gas per day (bscfd) to bridge the foreseen medium term supply gap by 2020 on an accelerated basis.The 7CGDP is an integral leg of the gas development strategy designed by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to leverage the full potential of gas to meet the target of generating at least 15 gigawatts (GW) of electricity by 2020.Another significant achievement was the signing of front-end engineering design contract of the Train 7 of the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited, NLNG, by the NNPC, Shell, Total and Eni.The signing of the contract was done in London and the event also witnessed the repayment of $5.45bn loan for Trains 1 to 6 by the NLNG shareholders. The company had sourced the principal amount of $4.043bn from its shareholders in their respective shareholding proportions to partly fund the construction of Trains 1-6.Power SectorIn 2018, a lot of developments were recorded in the country’s power sector, both positive and negative. Through the year, there was insufficient gas supply to some thermal Gencos, especially those of the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPPs). There was also chronic illiquidity which impacts heavily on capacity expansion, as well as government’s silence on key regulatory and market decisions.BankingBy the middle of the year, the banking sector saw its first major shakeup with the revocation of the licence of Skye Bank Plc. The bank which had earlier acquired from the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria had suffered capital adequacy issues which led to its death. The revocation of the operating license of Skye Bank Plc and nationalisation of its assets through a bridge bank called Polaris Bank were the culmination of a series of poor corporate governance actions which blew away N2.2 trillion worth of banking assets over three yearsAs dust settled over the death of Skye Bank, the banking public was again thrown into dismay as rumours of a dying Diamond Bank filled the air. Initially debunked as only a rumour, the issues with Diamond Bank became clear with its eventual merger/acquisition with Access Bank. The merger which saw Diamond Bank being absorbed by Access bank is expected to be fully consummated by the end of the first quarter of 2019.ICTMTN’s $10.1bn FinesMTN entered into the crosshairs of Nigerian government at the end of August and early September, with the order by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that MTN Nigeria return back to the country $8.1 billion illegally repatriated to South Africa.The, CBN wielded the big stick against four commercial banks who helped MTN facilitate the illegal repatriation of $8.1 billion between 2007 and 2015. Standard Chartered Bank was slammed the heaviest fine of N2.47 billion while Stanbic IBTC Nigeria was fined N1.88 billion. Citibank Nigeria and Diamond Bank were also fined N1.26 billion and N250 million each for violating foreign exchange rules.In less than two weeks, the federal government, through the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mallam Abubakar Malami, demanded that MTN Nigeria refund to the government accumulated tax arrears of $2 billion owed over the last 10 years.The AGF in a letter notified MTN that his office made a high-level calculation that MTN Nigeria should have paid approximately $2 billion on import duties, value added tax (VAT) and withholding taxes on foreign imports/payments from foreign suppliers over the last 10 years and he requested MTN Nigeria to do a self-assessment of the taxes in this regard that have been actually paid. MTN sued the Nigerian authorities to court and the parties are currently seeking an out of court settlement.Although the Central Bank of Nigeria announced recently that it has resolved a dispute with Africa’s largest mobile operator, MTN Nigeria over $8.13 billion (6.96 billion euros) which it accused the company of illegally repatriating to South Africa, the issue generated a lot of concerns from within and outside the country.Africa’s biggest telecoms market Nigeria shocked MTN and foreign investors in August when it ordered it to refund the money, and fined four commercial banks involved in the transfer. The CBN claimed the South African company had not obtained approval before transferring the funds between 2007 and 2015. The row forced MTN’s shares to slump drastically.Acquisition Of 9mobileIn November, Teleology Holdings Limited, after about eight months after it made the initial $50 million non-refundable deposit to acquire 9mobile, got the final approval of No Objection from the Board of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to own the telecommunications company. The company also immediately, constituted a new board of directors to manage the affairs of the company following the disbandment of the interim board which held forth while the bid process and payment negotiations lasted.The former Etisalat Nigeria fell into crisis when it defaulted on a loan repayment scheme to the tune of $1.2 billion due to a consortium of 13 local banks, citing economic downturn and currency devaluation.New Minimum Wage SagaIn 2018, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) embarked on an indefinite nationwide warning strike to demand for increase of the monthly N18,000 minimum wage. The lingering issue has not been resolved as states insisted that they could not afford to pay N30,000 as minimum wage, while the workers are demanding an increase to about N50, 000.AviationNational Carrier ControversyThe year 2018 turned out to be the most trying times for the Nigeria Air project mooted by the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika. During the year, the preparation for a national carrier gained serious momentum and also dwindled at the same time. So far, the minister has suspended the national carrier project after promising that the airline would have taken off by December 24, 2018.
Pope Francis addresses members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, on theme of multilateral diplomacy.ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCISTO THE MEMBERS OF THE DIPLOMATIC CORPSMonday, 7 January 2019Your Excellencies,Ladies and Gentlemen,The beginning of a new year allows us to interrupt for a few moments the frenetic pace of our daily activities in order to review the events of past months and to reflect on the challenges facing us in the near future. I thank you for your numerous presence at this annual gathering, which provides a welcome opportunity for us to exchange cordial greetings and good wishes with one another. Through you, I would like to convey to the peoples whom you represent my closeness and my prayerful hope that the year just begun will bring peace and well-being to each member of the human family.I am most grateful to the Ambassador of Cyprus, His Excellency Mr George Poulides, for the gracious words of greeting he addressed to me in your name for the first time as Dean of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See. To each of you I would like to express my especial appreciation for your daily efforts to consolidate relations between your respective Countries and Organizations and the Holy See, all the more so through the signing or ratification of new accords.I think in particular of the ratification of the Framework Agreement between the Holy See and the Republic of Benin relating to the Legal Status of the Catholic Church in Benin, and the signing of the Agreement between the Holy See and the Republic of San Marino regarding the Teaching of Catholic Religion in Public Schools.In the multilateral sphere, the Holy See has also ratified the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Regional Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications in Higher Education. Last March it adhered to the Enlarged Partial Agreement on Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe, an initiative aimed at showing how culture can be at the service of peace and a means of unification between different European societies, thus fostering concord among peoples. This is a token of particular esteem for an Organization that this year celebrates the seventieth anniversary of its foundation. The Holy See has cooperated with the Council of Europe for many decades and recognizes its specific role in the promotion of human rights, democracy and legality in an area that would embrace Europe as a whole. Finally, on 30 November last, the Vatican City State was admitted to the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA).Fidelity to the spiritual mission based on the command that the Lord Jesus gave to the Apostle Peter, “Feed my lambs” (Jn 21:15), impels the Pope – and consequently the Holy See – to show concern for the whole human family and its needs, including those of the material and social order. Nonetheless, the Holy See has no intention of interfering in the life of States; it seeks instead to be an attentive listener, sensitive to issues involving humanity, out of a sincere and humble desire to be at the service of every man and woman.That concern is evident in our gathering today and inspires my encounters with the many pilgrims who visit the Vatican from throughout the world, as well as with the peoples and communities that I had the pleasure of visiting this past year during my Apostolic Journeys to Chile, Peru, Switzerland, Ireland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.That same concern leads the Church everywhere to work for the growth of peaceful and reconciled societies. Here I think in particular of beloved Nicaragua, whose situation I follow closely in prayerful hope that the various political and social groups may find in dialogue the royal road to an exchange beneficial to the entire nation.This has also been the context for the consolidation of relations between the Holy See and Vietnam, with a view to the appointment, in the near future, of a resident Papal Representative, whose presence would serve above all as a sign of the solicitude of the Successor of Peter for that local Church.So too with the signing of the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China on the Appointment of Bishops in China, which took place on 22 September last. As you know, that Agreement is the result of a lengthy and thoughtful institutional dialogue that led to the determination of certain stable elements of cooperation between the Apostolic See and the civil authorities. As I noted in my Message to the Catholics of China and to the universal Church, I had already readmitted to full ecclesial communion the remaining official bishops ordained without pontifical mandate, and urged them to work generously for the reconciliation of Chinese Catholics and for a renewed effort of evangelization. I thank the Lord that, for the first time after so many years, all the bishops in China are in full communion with the Successor of Peter and with the universal Church. A visible sign of this was the participation of two bishops from Continental China in the recent Synod on young people. It is to be hoped that further contacts regarding the application of the signed Provisional Agreement will help resolve questions that remain open and make needed room for an effective enjoyment of religious freedom.Dear Ambassadors,The year just begun contains a number of significant anniversaries, in addition to that of the Council of Europe, which I mentioned above. Among these, I would like to bring up one in particular: the hundredth anniversary of the League of Nations, established by the Treaty of Versailles, signed on 28 June 1919. Why do I mention an organization that today no longer exists? Because it represents the beginning of modern multilateral diplomacy, whereby states attempt to distance their reciprocal relations from the mentality of domination that leads to war. The experiment of the League of Nations quickly met with those well-known difficulties that exactly twenty years after its birth led to a new and more devastating conflict, the Second World War. Nevertheless, that experiment paved the way for the establishment in 1945 of the United Nations Organization. Certainly, that way remains full of difficulties and obstacles, nor is it always effective, since conflicts persist even today, yet it cannot be denied that it provides an opportunity for nations to meet and seek common solutions.An indispensable condition for the success of multilateral diplomacy is the good will and good faith of the parties, their readiness to deal with one another fairly and honestly, and their openness to accepting the inevitable compromises arising from disputes. Whenever even one of these elements is missing, the result is a search for unilateral solutions and, in the end, the domination of the powerful over the weak. The League of Nations failed for these very reasons, and one notes with regret that the same attitudes are presently threatening the stability of the major international organizations.To my mind, it is important that today too there should be no lessening of the desire for serene and constructive discussions between states. It is clear, though, that relationships within the international community, and the multilateral system as a whole, are experiencing a period of difficulty, with the resurgence of nationalistic tendencies at odds with the vocation of the international Organizations to be a setting for dialogue and encounter for all countries. This is partly due to a certain inability of the multilateral system to offer effective solutions to a number of long unresolved situations, like certain protracted conflicts, or to confront present challenges in a way satisfactory to all. It is also in part the result of the development of national policies determined more by the search for a quick partisan consensus than by the patient pursuit of the common good by providing long-term answers. It is likewise partially the outcome of the growing influence within the international Organizations of powers and interest groups that impose their own visions and ideas, sparking new forms of ideological colonization, often in disregard for the identity, dignity and sensitivities of peoples. In part too, it is a consequence of the reaction in some parts of the world to a globalization that has in some respects developed in too rapid and disorderly a manner, resulting in a tension between globalization and local realities. The global dimension has to be considered without ever losing sight of the local. As a reaction to a “spherical” notion of globalization, one that levels differences and smooths out particularities, it is easy for forms of nationalism to reemerge. Yet globalization can prove promising to the extent that it can be “polyhedric”, favouring a positive interplay between the identity of individual peoples and countries and globalization itself, in accordance with the principle that the whole is greater than the part.Some of these attitudes go back to the period between the two World Wars, when populist and nationalist demands proved more forceful than the activity of the League of Nations. The reappearance of these impulses today is progressively weakening the multilateral system, resulting in a general lack of trust, a crisis of credibility in international political life, and a gradual marginalization of the most vulnerable members of the family of nations.In his memorable Address to the United Nations – the first time a Pope addressed that Assembly – Saint Paul VI, whom I had the joy of canonizing this past year, spoke of the purpose of multilateral diplomacy, its characteristics and its responsibilities in the contemporary context, but also of its points of contact with the spiritual mission of the Pope and thus of the Holy See.The primacy of justice and lawThe first point of contact that I would mention is the primacy of justice and law. As Pope Paul told the Assembly: “You sanction the great principle that relationships between nations must be regulated by reason, justice, law, by negotiation, not by force, nor by violence, force, war, nor indeed by fear and deceit”.At present it is troubling to see the reemergence of tendencies to impose and pursue individual national interests without having recourse to the instruments provided by international law for resolving controversies and ensuring that justice is respected, also through international Courts. Such an attitude is at times the result of a reaction on the part of government leaders to growing unease among the citizens of not a few countries, who perceive the procedures and rules governing the international community as slow, abstract and ultimately far removed from their own real needs. It is fitting that political leaders listen to the voices of their constituencies and seek concrete solutions to promote their greater good. Yet this demands respect for law and justice both within their national communities and within the international community, since reactive, emotional and hasty solutions may well be able to garner short-term consensus, but they will certainly not help the solution of deeper problems; indeed, they will aggravate them.In light of this concern, I chose to devote my Message for this year’s World Day of Peace, celebrated on 1 January, to the theme: Good Politics at the Service of Peace. There is a close relationship between good politics and the peaceful coexistence of peoples and nations. Peace is never a partial good, but one that embraces the entire human race. Hence an essential aspect of good politics is the pursuit of the common good of all, insofar as it is “the good of all people and of the whole person” and a condition of society that enables all individuals and the community as a whole to achieve their proper material and spiritual well-being.Politics must be farsighted and not limited to seeking short-term solutions. A good politician should not occupy spaces but initiate processes; he or she is called to make unity prevail over conflict, based on “solidarity in its deepest and most challenging sense”. Politics thus becomes “a way of making history in a life setting where conflicts, divisions and oppositions can achieve a diversified and life-giving unity”.Such an approach takes account of the transcendent dimension of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God. Respect for the dignity of each human being is thus the indispensable premise for all truly peaceful coexistence, and law becomes the essential instrument for achieving social justice and nurturing fraternal bonds between peoples. In this context, a fundamental role is played by the human rights set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose seventieth anniversary we recently celebrated. The universal objective and rational nature of those rights ought rightly to be reaffirmed, lest there prevail partial and subjective visions of humanity that risk leading to new forms of inequality, injustice, discrimination and, in extreme cases, also new forms of violence and oppression.The defense of those most vulnerableThe second point of contact that I would mention is the defense of those who are vulnerable. In the words of Pope Paul: “We want to speak… for the poor, the disinherited, the unfortunate, and those who long for justice, a dignified life, liberty, prosperity and progress”.The Church has always been committed to helping those in need, while the Holy See itself has in recent years promoted various projects aimed at assisting the most vulnerable, projects that have also been supported by different actors on the international level. Among these, I would mention the humanitarian initiative in Ukraine on behalf of those suffering, particularly in the eastern areas of the country, from the conflict that has now lasted for almost five years and has recently seen troubling developments in the Black Sea. Thanks to the active response of the Catholic Churches of Europe and of members of the faithful elsewhere to my appeal of May 2016, an effort has been made, in collaboration with other religious confessions and international Organizations, to respond concretely to the immediate needs of those living in the territories affected. They are in fact the first victims of the war. The Church and her various institutions will pursue this mission, also in the hope of drawing greater attention to other humanitarian questions, including that of the treatment of the numerous prisoners. Through her activities and her closeness to the people involved, the Church strives to encourage, directly and indirectly, peaceful paths to the solution of the conflict, paths that are respectful of justice and law, including international law, which is the basis of security and coexistence in the entire region. To this end, the instruments that guarantee the free exercise of religious rights remain important.For its part, the international community and its agencies are called to give a voice to those who have none. Among the latter in our own time, I would mention the victims of other ongoing wars, especially that in Syria with its high death toll. Once more, I appeal to the international community to promote a political solution to a conflict that will ultimately see only a series of defeats. It is vital to put an end to violations of humanitarian law, which cause untold suffering to the civil population, especially women and children, and strike at essential structures such as hospitals, schools and refugee camps, as well as religious edifices.Nor can we forget the many displaced persons resulting from the conflict; this has created great hardship for neighbouring countries. Once more, I express my gratitude to Jordan and Lebanon for receiving in a spirit of fraternity, and not without considerable sacrifice, great numbers of people. At the same time, I express my hope that the refugees will be able to return to their homelands in safe and dignified living conditions. My thoughts also go to the various European countries that have generously offered hospitality to those in difficulty and danger.Among those affected by the instability that for years has marked the Middle East are especially the Christian communities that have dwelt in those lands from apostolic times, and down the centuries have contributed to their growth and development. It is extremely important that Christians have a place in the future of the region, and so I encourage all those who have sought refuge in other places to do everything possible to return to their homes and in any event to maintain and strengthen their ties to their communities of origin. At the same time, I express my hope that political authorities will not fail to ensure their security and all else needed for them to continue to dwell in the countries of which they are full citizens, and to contribute to their growth.Sadly, in these years Syria and more generally the whole Middle East have become a battleground for many conflicting interests. In addition to those of a chiefly political and military nature, we should not overlook attempts to foment hostility between Muslims and Christians. Even though “over the centuries many quarrels and dissensions have arisen between Christians and Muslims”, in different areas of the Middle East they have long lived together in peace. In the near future, I will have occasion to visit two predominantly Muslim countries, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates. These represent two important opportunities to advance interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding between the followers of both religions, in this year that marks the eight-hundredth anniversary of the historic meeting between Saint Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al-Kāmil.Among the vulnerable of our time that the international community is called to defend are not only refugees but also migrants. Once again, I appeal to governments to provide assistance to all those forced to emigrate on account of the scourge of poverty and various forms of violence and persecution, as well as natural catastrophes and climatic disturbances, and to facilitate measures aimed at permitting their social integration in the receiving countries. Efforts also need to be made to prevent individuals from being constrained to abandon their families and countries, and to allow them to return safely and with full respect for their dignity and human rights. All human beings long for a better and more prosperous life, and the challenge of migration cannot be met with a mindset of violence and indifference, nor by offering merely partial solutions.Consequently, I cannot fail to express my appreciation for the efforts of all those governments and institutions that, moved by a generous sense of solidarity and Christian charity, cooperate in a spirit of fraternity for the benefit of migrants. Among these, I would like to mention Colombia which, together with other countries of the continent, has welcomed in recent months a vast influx of people coming from Venezuela. At the same time, I realize that the waves of migration in recent years have caused diffidence and concern among people in many countries, particularly in Europe and North America, and this has led various governments to severely restrict the number of new entries, even of those in transit. Nonetheless, I do not believe that partial solutions can exist for so universal an issue. Recent events have shown the need for a common, concerted response by all countries, without exception and with respect for every legitimate aspiration, whether of states or of migrants and refugees themselves.In this regard, the Holy See has actively participated in the negotiations and supported the adoption of the two Global Compacts on Refugees and on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. In particular, the migration Compact represents an important step forward for the international community, which now, in the context of the United Nations is for the first time dealing on a multilateral level with this theme in a document of such importance. Despite the fact that they are not legally binding, and that some governments were absent from the recent United Nations Conference in Marrakesh, these two Compacts will serve as important points of reference for political commitment and concrete action on the part of international organizations, legislators and politicians, as well as all those working for a more responsible, coordinated and safe management of situations involving refugees and migrants of various kinds. In the case of both Compacts, the Holy See appreciates their intention and their character, which facilitates their implementation; at the same time, it has expressed reservations regarding the documents appealed to by the Compact on migration that contain terminology and guidelines inconsistent with its own principles on life and on the rights of persons.Among others who are vulnerable, Paul VI went on to say that: “We speak for… the younger generation of today, who are moving ahead trustfully, with every right to expect a better mankind”. Young people, who often feel bewildered and uncertain about the future, were the subject of the fifteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. They will also be at the forefront of the Apostolic Journey that I will make to Panama in a few days for the thirty-fourth World Youth Day. Young people are our future, and the task of politics is to pave the way for the future. For this reason, it is urgently necessary to invest in initiatives that can enable coming generations to shape their future, with the possibility of finding employment, forming a family and raising children.Together with young people, particular attention needs to be paid to children, especially in this year that marks the thirtieth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This is a good occasion for serious reflection on the steps taken to protect the welfare of our little ones and their social and intellectual development, as well as their physical, psychological and spiritual growth. Here I cannot refrain from speaking of one of the plagues of our time, which sadly has also involved some members of the clergy. The abuse of minors is one of the vilest and most heinous crimes conceivable. Such abuse inexorably sweeps away the best of what human life holds out for innocent children, and causes irreparable and lifelong damage. The Holy See and the Church as a whole are working to combat and prevent these crimes and their concealment, in order to ascertain the truth of the facts involving ecclesiastics and to render justice to minors who have suffered sexual violence aggravated by the abuse of power and conscience. My meeting with the episcopates of the entire world next February is meant to be a further step in the Church’s efforts to shed full light on the facts and to alleviate the wounds caused by such crimes.It is painful to note that in our societies, so often marked by fragile family situations, we see an increase of violence also with regard to women, whose dignity was emphasized by the Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem, published thirty years ago by Pope Saint John Paul II. Faced with the bane of physical and psychological abuse of women, there is an urgent need to recover correct and balanced forms of relationship, based on respect and mutual recognition, wherein each person can express in an authentic way his or her own identity. At the same time, the promotion of certain forms of non-differentiation between the genders risks distorting the very essence of manhood and womanhood.Concern for those who are most vulnerable impels us also to reflect on another serious problem of our time, namely the condition of workers. Unless adequately protected, work ceases to be a means of human self-realization and becomes a modern form of slavery. A hundred years ago saw the establishment of the International Labour Organization, which has sought to promote suitable working conditions and to increase the dignity of workers themselves. Faced with the challenges of our own time, first of all increased technological growth, which eliminates jobs, and the weakening of economic and social guarantees for workers, I express my hope that the International Labour Organization will continue to be, beyond partisan interests, an example of dialogue and concerted effort to achieve its lofty objectives. In this mission, it too is called, together with other agencies of the international community, to confront the evil of child labour and new forms of slavery, as well as a progressive decrease in the value of wages, especially in developed countries, and continued discrimination against women in the workplace.To be a bridge between peoples and builders of peaceIn his address before the United Nations, Saint Paul VI clearly indicated the primary goal of that international Organization. In his words: “You are working to unite nations, to associate states… to bring them together. You are a bridge between peoples... It is enough to recall that the blood of millions, countless unheard-of sufferings, useless massacres and frightening ruins have sanctioned the agreement that unites you with an oath that ought to change the future history of the world: never again war! Never again war! It is peace, peace, that has to guide the destiny of the nations of all mankind! [And] as you well know, peace is not built merely by means of politics and a balance of power and interests. It is built with the mind, with ideas, with works of peace”.In the course of the past year, there have been some significant signs of peace, starting with the historic agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which puts an end to twenty years of conflict and restores diplomatic relations between the two countries. Also, the agreement signed by the leaders of South Sudan, enabling the resumption of civil coexistence and the renewed functioning of national institutions, represents a sign of hope for the African continent, where grave tensions and widespread poverty persist. I follow with special concern the developing situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and I express my hope that the country can regain the reconciliation it has long awaited and undertake a decisive journey towards development, thus ending the ongoing state of insecurity affecting millions of people, including many children. To that end, respect for the result of the electoral process is a determining factor for a sustainable peace. I likewise express my closeness to all those suffering from fundamentalist violence, especially in Mali, Niger and Nigeria, and from continued internal tensions in Cameroon, which not rarely sow death even among civilians.Overall, we should note that Africa, beyond such dramatic situations, also shows great positive potential, grounded in its ancient culture and its traditional spirit of hospitality. An example of practical solidarity between nations is seen in the opening of their frontiers by different countries, in order generously to receive refugees and displaced persons. Appreciation should be shown for the fact that in many states we see the growth of peaceful coexistence between the followers of different religions and the promotion of joint initiatives of solidarity. In addition, the implementation of inclusive policies and the progress of democratic processes are proving effective in many regions for combating absolute poverty and promoting social justice. As a result, the support of the international community becomes all the more urgent for favouring the development of infrastructures, the growth of prospects for future generations, and the emancipation of the most vulnerable sectors of society.Positive signs are arriving from the Korean Peninsula. The Holy See regards favourably the dialogues in course and expresses the hope that they can also deal with the more complex issues in a constructive attitude and thus lead to shared and lasting solutions capable of ensuring a future of development and cooperation for the whole Korean people and for the entire region.I express a similar hope for beloved Venezuela, that peaceful institutional means can be found to provide solutions to the ongoing political, social and economic crisis, means that can make it possible to help all those suffering from the tensions of recent years, and to offer all the Venezuelan people a horizon of hope and peace.The Holy See expresses the hope too that dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians will resume, so that an agreement at last can be reached and a response given to the legitimate aspirations of both peoples by ensuring the coexistence of two states and the attainment of a long awaited and desired peace. A united commitment on the part of the international community is extremely important and necessary for attaining this goal, as also for promoting peace in the entire region, particularly in Yemen and Iraq, while at the same time ensuring that necessary humanitarian assistance is provided to all those in need.Rethinking our common destinyFinally, I would mention a fourth feature of multilateral diplomacy: it invites us to rethink our common destiny. Paul VI put it in these terms: “We have to get used to a new way of thinking… about man’s community life and about the pathways of history and the destinies of the world… The hour has come… to think back over our common origin, our history, our common destiny. The appeal to the moral conscience of man has never been as necessary as it is today, in an age marked by such great human progress. For the danger comes neither from progress nor from science… The real danger comes from man, who has at his disposal ever more powerful instruments that are as well fitted to bring about ruin as they are to achieve lofty conquests”.In the context of that time, the Pope was referring essentially to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. “Arms, especially the terrible arms that modern science has provided you, engender bad dreams, feed evil sentiments, create nightmares, hostilities and dark resolutions, even before they cause any victims and ruins. They call for enormous expenses. They interrupt projects of solidarity and of useful labour. They warp the outlook of nations”.It is painful to note that not only does the arms trade seem unstoppable, but that there is in fact a widespread and growing resort to arms, on the part both of individuals and states. Of particular concern is the fact that nuclear disarmament, generally called for and partially pursued in recent decades is now yielding to the search for new and increasingly sophisticated and destructive weapons. Here I want to reiterate firmly that “we cannot fail to be genuinely concerned by the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects of any employment of nuclear devices. If we also take into account the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned. For they exist in the service of a mentality of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict but the entire human race. International relations cannot be held captive to military force, mutual intimidation, and the parading of stockpiles of arms. Weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security. They cannot constitute the basis for peaceful coexistence between members of the human family, which must rather be inspired by an ethics of solidarity”.Rethinking our common destiny in the present context also involves rethinking our relationship with our planet. This year too, immense distress and suffering caused by heavy rains, flooding, fires, earthquakes and drought have struck the inhabitants of different regions of the Americas and Southeast Asia. Hence, among the issues urgently calling for an agreement within the international community are care for the environment and climate change. In this regard, also in the light of the consensus reached at the recent international Conference on Climate Change (COP24) held in Katowice, I express my hope for a more decisive commitment on the part of states to strengthening cooperation for urgently combating the worrisome phenomenon of global warming. The earth belongs to everyone, and the consequences of its exploitation affect all the peoples of the world, even if certain regions feel those consequences more dramatically. Among the latter is the Amazon region, which will be at the centre of the forthcoming Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to be held in the Vatican next October. While chiefly discussing paths of evangelization for the people of God, it will certainly deal with environmental issues in the context of their social repercussions.Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,On 9 November 1989 the Berlin Wall fell. Within a few months, an end would come to the last legacy of the Second World War: the painful division of Europe decided at Yalta and the Cold War. The countries east of the Iron Curtain recovered freedom after decades of oppression, and many of them set out on the path that would lead to membership in the European Union. In the present climate, marked by new centrifugal tendencies and the temptation to erect new curtains, may Europe not lose its awareness of the benefits – the first of which is peace – ushered in by the journey of friendship and rapprochement between peoples begun in the postwar period.Finally, I would like to mention yet another anniversary. On 11 February ninety years ago, the Vatican City State came into being as a result of the signing of the Lateran Pacts between the Holy See and Italy. This concluded the lengthy period of the “Roman Question” that followed the taking of Rome and the end of the Papal States. With the Lateran Treaty, the Holy See was able to have at its use “that small portion of material territory indispensable for the exercise of the spiritual power entrusted to men for the sake of mankind”, as Pius XI stated. With the Concordat, the Church was once more able to contribute fully to the spiritual and material growth of Rome and Italy as a whole, a country rich in history, art and culture, which Christianity had contributed to building. On this anniversary, I assure the Italian people of a special prayer, so that, in fidelity to their proper traditions, they may keep alive the spirit of fraternal solidarity that has long distinguished them.To you, dear Ambassadors and distinguished guests here present, and to your countries, I offer cordial good wishes that the New Year will see a strengthening of the bonds of friendship uniting us and renewed efforts to promote that peace to which our world aspires.Thank you!
AdvertisementBY AYISHA OSORI AND CHRIS NGWODOIn Nigeria, elections have become synonymous with democracy and vice-versa. The danger of this conflation is two-fold. One, regular elections do not make a democracy and the socio-economic realities of citizens with shrinking civic spaces, restrictions on rights, intense insecurity and the increasing disconnect between officialdom and citizens is a testament, ostensibly, to our democracy’s inability to deliver sustained development. Two, elections have a well-documented history of being instruments of authoritarian control and manipulation because as Andreas Schedler puts it, in The Menu of Manipulation, “the desire of those who manipulate elections is to enjoy the fruits of electoral legitimacy without running the risk of democratic uncertainty”.This desire to mitigate democratic uncertainty creates the tension that Nigerian elections are known for and the 2019 election is no different. Except, the stakes are higher. Discredited elections would be disastrous at a time when Nigeria is buffeted by a range of anti-state threats – a terrorist insurgency in the North-East, separatism in the South-East, militant resource micronationalism in the Niger Delta, banditry and nascent insurrection in the North-West and the Middle Belt and the proliferation of armed non-state actors. Subverted elections produce illegitimate administrations that emerge dead on arrival lacking the moral authority and political capital (and will) to govern effectively. As Nigerians migrate in droves and unemployment and poverty rates rise, rigged elections will deepen an already pervasive sense that formal political institutions are illegitimate and ineffective thus strengthening the various armed insurgent forces fraying the fabric of not just democracy but our national existence. Therefore, guaranteeing the credibility and integrity of the electoral process is extremely important.Over the years we have seen variations of vote buying, state security agents instigating violence, ballot box stuffing, ballot box snatching, voter intimidation, the disenfranchisement of voters in opposition areas, generating fake results, collation opacity, community rigging, failure of technology, legally excluding candidates and the manipulation of the voters register. It is precisely because of this history – worldwide and in Nigeria that it is important to continuously improve on the legitimacy of election results.What has improved since 2015?On the foundation of reforms which started in earnest in 2011, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has since 2015 improved continuous voter registration and executed 195 different elections including 7 gubernatorial elections with only a handful of resulting court cases. For perspective, 1527 election petitions were lodged after the 2007 elections.Specifically on the credibility of electoral process and legitimacy of election results, there are a few improvements that are worthy of note.The first is the reported enhancement of the smart card readers (SCR) for the authentication and verification of permanent voters’ cards (PVCs) to reduce the risk of disenfranchisement due to high rates of accreditation failure. INEC reports that failure to accredit is now negligible and as a result incident forms will no longer be used where PVCs cannot be authenticated. This is important because in recent past elections since the introduction of the SCR technology, those interested in mitigating the “risk of democratic uncertainty” would ensure that the SCR failed more often than it worked allowing for the required number of ballots to be marked with support from incident forms.The second improvement is to the results collation process, a glaring black hole in the electoral process. With the introduction of the polling unit result sheet (Form 60E) which captures the certified results and is available to everyone with a camera, the collation process is democratised and enables parallel vote tabulation, which acts as a check against INEC’s collation. This process worked encouragingly during the Osun elections of September 22 allowing the collation of votes to benefit from a thousand eyes checking and rechecking published results against Forms 60E. In addition, the SCR can now transmit results – providing the collation centres and INEC’s National Situation Room with an additional check on the manual result sheets (EC8A) it receives in real time.These two improvements are extremely important but by no means all that is required to check the well-documented propensity for election rigging.What needs further improvement?A simple, low hanging fix for improving the credibility of elections is public knowledge about the rules and guidelines concerning accreditation, vote collation and calling reruns. The last is particularly important considering the divergence in practice between off-cycle elections in Anambra, Kogi and Osun. INEC needs to publish the rules for making this decision to ensure that there will be consistency in application during the 2019 elections. Such clarity will prevent political actors from seizing upon any perceived inconsistency as a pretext for discrediting the process.The next is to continue improvement of the use of technology in our elections understanding that with every new introduction there will be a learning curve. This is where electoral law reform and policy innovation from INEC is important. INEC can do more to generate and provide election related data to enhance institutional knowledge management, quality control and the continuous improvement of its processes as well as to provide fodder for independent forensic analysis of polls. There is presently a dearth of substantial information that could deepen our understanding of voter behaviour, for example, as well as the factors that drive voter turnout in some places but not others. Such data will help craft a science of credible elections.Historically, governments in power have used foul means including the abuse of security agencies to seize electoral victories. Violence by state security actors in previous elections have been documented by organizations such as Human Rights Watch and the National Human Rights Commission. The police, prior to and during elections, have used violence and intimidation to thwart voters and disrupt the vote collation process. The compromise of security agencies has been established in gubernatorial elections in Ekiti (2014) and Osun (2016). Former Inspector General of Police, Suleiman Abba alleges that the Jonathan administration asked him to deploy police officers to aid the PDP in the 2014 Osun state gubernatorial polls. In his book, On A Platter of Gold: How Jonathan won and lost Nigeria, Bolaji Abdullahi details how leaders of the security agencies and the armed forces plotted to use security assets to lend an illicit advantage to the ruling party.As INEC and stakeholders work on improving the credibility of the technical aspects of elections, the delegitimizing role of security agents in elections needs to be addressed. The directive principle guiding the conduct of security agencies should be Section 29 of the Electoral Act which grants INEC primacy over the deployment of security personnel with regard to securing the distribution and delivery of election materials and the protection of election officials. However, ensuring the neutrality of the police is beyond INEC’s remit and will take the concerted efforts of citizens, civil society, donors and political parties. While legislative amendments can secure the independence of the police from the presidency and other political actors, the reintroduction of guidelines for the conduct of security agents during elections published and discussed with security officers prior to the polls could deter misconduct and encourage good behaviour.Like leading candidates, frequently prevailed upon to sign peace accords, the security agencies should sign pacts of neutrality prior to elections, accepting their roles and acknowledging what their limitations to disrupting and influencing the process will be. Where security agents disrupt elections and compromise the integrity of results, they must be held accountable and prosecuted.There are multiple dangers with not consistently protecting the credibility of elections and strengthening the legitimacy of those who win elections. Those who do not want to subject themselves and their leadership track records to the ballot are constantly innovating on ways to subvert elections. When they succeed, government accountability is weak and this in turn increases voter apathy as meaningful improvements to life and welfare of the citizens fail to happen despite the regularity and high cost of elections. A deep malaise develops, and the symptoms include increased yearning for authoritarian, undemocratic rule as a counter to the growing belief that democracy is messy and slow.Civil society must begin to plan for the improvement elections from the beginning of each cycle, e.g., May 29 2019 and work with INEC and other stakeholders to develop short, medium and long term plans to guide the improvement process instead of waking up 12-6 months prior to elections to drive reform. Election rigging and subversion plans typically start long before the elections and we must start thinking ahead with anticipation and scenario planning and leading, instead of merely reacting.Finally, there will be no outside saviours of our democracy. The task of furthering democratization is not one we can outsource to the international community. Democracy is under threat in many countries including those we traditionally partner with in improving ours. Historically these partners – liberal democracies though they are – have often relied on authoritarians of the soft or hard variety whenever it has suited their interests and will encourage the deepening of democracy only in so far as the end results are consonant with their own strategic goals. It will serve us well – citizens, politicians and CSOs to accept that if democracy is important to us, we will have to be its champions. And what better way than consistently improving the legitimacy of elections.Ayisha Osori is a writer and Chris Ngwodo is a writer, analyst and consultant.
…Express their fears and expectations in 2019By Anayo Okoli, Umuahia; Vincent Ujumadu, Awka; Samuel Oyadongha, Yenagoa; Dayo Johnson, Akure; Umar Yusuf, Yola; Bala Ajiya, Yobe; Gabriel Enogholase, Benin; By Egufe Yafugborhi & Davies Iheamnachor, Rivers; Marie-Therese Nanlong, Jos; Peter Duru, Makurdi; Ola Ajayi, Ibadan; Chidi Nkwopara, Owerri; Rotimi Ojomoyela, EkitiThe year 2018 has been a very challenging one for most Nigerians as virtually no one was immuned from the economic malaise that befell the nation. It was lamentation from every quarter in the country.Saturday Vanguard spoke with Nigerians across the country on their assessment of the outgoing year and their expectations for the incoming year. Some of the respondents prayed never to go into the new year with what they went through in 2018. Others were pessimistic that things will be better in 2019 especially with the present crop of politicians in the country.A new Nigeria is coming, says Fela Durotoye, ANN presidential candidateABIAMrs Catherine Onuoha, petty trader: The outgoing year has been a very hard one for us. The survival of my family of four children and the husband, a daily paid labourer was miraculous. There were days when the family was unable to have a meal. I hope 2019 will be a better year because “if we go through this type of suffering next year, thousands of Nigerians will die.Senate asks CBN to increase maximum ATM withdrawal to N40k per transactionMr. Dike Uche Isaiah, a civil servant: Life in 2018 was simply hell. The workers, traders and businessmen are going through a lot. Those of us who are civil servants were owed several months of salary arrears and if we are not paid the traders would not sell. So it has a multiplier effect. It will be suicidal to go with 2018 ugly experience into 2019.Miss Chinemrem Glory, student: This year presented a harrowing experience for students in Nigeria. Except for students from rich homes, those from poor and average homes are going through much stress. Some of the students would go hungry for two days because their parents, especially the civil servants who are owed by the state government, could not meet up in paying their school fees let alone giving them upkeep allowance. The cost of living in the country is also high bu we hope that next year will be better for students and Nigeria as a whole.ANAMBRAMrs Grace Obidinma, school principal: I have fears that 2019 will be very tough for Nigerians because the politicians will try to channel most of the funds towards winning election by all means, thereby making things difficult for the common man. The fact that elections will take place barely one month after resumption of schools is already causing fears especially as many state governments are not paying salaries as at when due.Mr Ignatius Nwadikwa: I expect harder times in 2019 since the budget is no longer implemented in such a way that it could help alleviate the suffering of the masses. Unless the class distinction is bridged, the people will continue to complain about the gap between the lifestyle of politicians and the rest of the people.Most Reverend Paulinus Ezeokafor, Catholic Bishop of Awka: Unless the leaders show good example by discouraging anything that might lead to electoral malpractice, the stability of the country might be in doubt next year.BAYELSAIniuro Wills, President, Ijaw Professionals Association (IPA Homeland chapter): The lot of Nigerians in 2019 and beyond will depend largely on the electoral choices we make in the 2019 general elections. The current situation is extremely bleak. It will remain so or grow worse unless the electorate vote in qualitative leaders at all levels who can convert our age-long potentials to actual economic prosperity and social harmony through systematic and sustained strategies. There’s no other art beyond that to forecast the way our polity and economy will go.Eric Omare, President, Ijaw Youth Council: It is true that the past 12 months just like the past three and half year have been very challenging for Nigerians and Nigeria. I do not see things to be better for Nigeria with the present status quo. I think that whether things would get better in respect of the massive killings, kidnapping, economic hardship and other challenges to a large extent would be determined by the outcome of the 2019 general elections. If the present national leadership retains power, I do not think that things would get better but if there is change of leadership, may be, there would be a new beginining and things may get better.However, generally my expectation is for whoever is in charge of the national leadership to tackle the issue of security all over the country especially the northern part and the current economic hardship seriously. We must not play politics with the present insecurity and economic hardship.Charles Tambou, veteran journalist: 2018 was a year Nigerians saw pain and blood. With the elections at hand and the hardening of heart by do or die politicians, Nigerians should be ready for more pains, except the elections bring about a new government.The new regime may bring some window dressing to cool the nerves of Nigerians. The fact remains that if a new government takes over power, it will amount to old wine in new bottle, except drastic and practical steps are taken to overhaul the entire system.Amaebi Clarkson, minority rights activist: Security has been most challenging in the country this year and I do not see it getting better in 2019 being an election year. I reasonabllly think there will be more security breaches next year. The only panacea to the impending doom will be a change of government and probably the restructuring of the country as being convassed by concerned Nigerians.When people judge you by your mistakes, correcting it is a waste – SimiONDOBosun Adedeji: The last 12 months have been hell on earth for Nigerians, nothing had worked in the country. Our leaders are only interested in getting to power and amass wealth for themselves and their family members. Since next year is an election year we want a total overhaul of the political system. Let there be another change but this time positive change. Our economy is in comatose, there is insecurity everywhere, living standard has dropped abysmally. Let us try another leader and if he also misbehaves we can change him. No stable electricity, poor road network, no jobs, minimum wage cannot last a week not to talk of a month. Is it corruption that they are fighting that will bring food on the table of the common man. Let us have a positive change in all sectors of the economy.Ahmed Oladehinde: The economy under this administration has collapsed. There is fear across the country because of insecurity. Job loss had caused young people to go into various crimes, infrastructures had collapsed. We need a leader who has foresight and ready to work. Enough of this selective fight on corruption. Is that all that a government needs to do for four years?.Let us have a government that works not a vindictive government that still behaves like an opposition party even while at the helm of affairs.All this government does is a blame game. We need a positive change, a government that will make things work, revamp the economy, halt all these killings and criminalities across the country and make Nigeria a safe place for us and investors.Bolanle Owadasa: This government is trying except that some cabals have hijacked governance. Corruption has reduced and Nigerians are more careful with public funds. The economy is improving but the area I think our leaders need to work more is the insecurity in some areas especially in the North. They also need experts to have a critical look at the economy. The power sector needs improvement, the roads should be attended to, jobs should be provided for our graduates and living standards of Nigerians should improve.Balaji Akindeko: Nigeria is not working. Our leaders have failed us. There is no sector of the economy that’s working. Al we hear is the fight against corruption. Other critical sectors have been abandoned.The common man cannot even eat two square meals a day, salaries are not paid, no jobs, our graduates have taken to crimes to survive, no good roads, hospital bills have made the people to patronise quacks and they are dying daily. We need a total turn around in all sectors. We need a new leader that is younger and more vibrant.Enough of all these old retired politicians, they are spent bullets, they have nothing again to offer. Our economy needs to be worked on, employment opportunities should be provided for our youths, our roads and hospitals should be fixed. We need a change in governance.ADAMAWAIbrahim Bappa Wiziri, former Chaiman, Congress for Progressive Change, CPC: I am optimistic that better days lie ahead in the New Year for Nigerians because of the economic blueprint put in place in the next budget proposal before the National Assembly. To achieve the desired transformation, peace is the pre requisite for any meaningful development, and for Nigeria to archive the desired developmental stride we should learn to live in peace with one anther irrespective of our political, religious, ethnic or other divides.Bayelsa East seat: Why I’m in the race – WillsHajiya Fatimah Ornah, Former Acting Secretary, PDP: We should expect better change for Nigeria if the right persons are voted into power. The right persons are in all the political parties and I urge Nigerians to vote for the right candidates devoid of partisan of party affiliations .Mr Abdul Alikali, Artisan: The change Nigerians need now can not be realized from the present crop of politicians in the country because politics has been taken as a do or die affair and the only quickest way of making money. The National Assemlby and other legislative houses should be run on part time basis to make them non attractive.EDOFrancis Onoiribholo, Journalist: Next year is an election year and I expect all stakeholders, that is, the electorate, security agents, religious institutions, etc to play their roles in the conduct of the election. I expect them to vote for candidate(s) that have the capacity and capability of moving the country toward and with this, the country will once again enjoy peace and progress.Miss Doreen Benjamin, unemployed graduate: The Federal and state governments failed woefully in the provision of the basic necessities of life to the people in the outgoing year. All we saw were promises that were never fulfilled. The year 2019 is an election year and the budget of that year had just been submitted to the National Assembly. My expectation for next year is for Nigerians to vote out this incompetent government for one that will provide jobs for us among others.Miss Rachel Ogiemwonyi, business woman: I see the year 2019 as a year of success and patronages for businessmen and women. As an election year, my prayer is that Nigerians should vote for a President that will make life meaningful for them. I also appeal to all Nigerians to play their respective roles in ensuring that the election is successful and peaceful because I do not see crisis during the election.Mrs Imelda Osayande (Vice – Chairman Edo NUJ): Our prayer is that the year 2019 should be better than the outgoing year in all ramifications especially in the provisions of the essentials of life and a reduction in the prices of food stuff. I want to see a year where the workers will be paid a living wage, a wage that can take them home. I also pray for a successful election and I enjoin the political class to co-ordinate themselves very well and abstain from thuggery and anything that will derail the election.YOBEBitrus Yohanna, business man: We thank God for the peace we have been enjoying in Damaturu in the last three years but we want the government to look into the price of food items that is too expensive in the market .Hajiya Bilkisu Adamu: We want the Federal Government to improve the living condition of most Nigerians who cannot afford three square meals per day and control the price of commodities in the market in the next year. Everybody is talking about peace and security but they have forgotten that all these will be achieved when a poor man can afford to feed himself and save his family from hunger.Buhari’s second tenure’ll end youth unemployment, says NgigeSalisu Ibrahim, a civil servant: The government should fulfil the agreement reached with labour by implementing the 30,000 naira minimum wage next year in order to cushion the effect of hike in price of food stuff.RIVERSAzubuike Ogechi, Student: My expectations were not met in 2018. The Federal Executive didn’t do well in education. As a student of the University of Port Harcourt, I have been at home for the past four months over strike by lecturers. I expect government and its agencies to carry out the right engagements with stakeholders at ensuring free, fair and peaceful elections. Government must avoid rigging. We are insulting ourselves by allowing vote buying, rigging or violence.Greg Mohammed, Cab operator: In 2018, the government didn’t meet my expectation because the high confidence we reposed in President Mohammadu Buhari was met with high disappointment for majority of the people. People still say he remains a man of integrity and credibility. People are not happy because hardly has anything changed for the common man under this government. In 2019, I expect any government of the day to improve the living condition of the common man. Right now, that is not happening. The government of the day is improving lives on paper while the ordinary man is suffering.Styvn Obodoekwe, Human rights activist: I never expected anything good from the federal government because I knew ab initio that Buhari and his team have nothing good to offer. Rather than focusing on governance, the federal government was more interested in pursuing opposition and indulged in blame game while the economy continued to deteriorate, bringing untold hardships on the masses. As we move into 2019, our expectation is for government to listen to the cries of the suffering masses.Charity Emeriewen, Manicurist: I expect the government to end Boko Haram and herdsmen menace. I want safer Nigeria. I also expect free and fair election to usher in a government that will improve the life of the comman man.PLATEAUEzekiel Ntiem: Every reasonable person would want things to be better in 2019, my hope is not in any political party or leader but in God. Those standing for elections next year should deliver on the promises they are making to avoid the wrath of God. Politicians should be truthful and honest in dealing with the people.Thomas Mandong: With the level of change witnessed in 2018, it will be worse if the current crop of leaders are allowed to return to power. We welcome this change in 2014 and voted for them in 2015 but personally, I really regret voting these people so I have decided to vote them out.Abdulsalam Inusa: Things were not really rosy in 2018 but it will definitely be better in 2019 because the foundation for a better Nigeria is taking shape. Gradually, the change we want will be here, all we need is patience. This government is trying to correct the many wrongs in the system, they need our support and encouragement, once this government returns to power, things will turn around for the better.Yuletide: NANS hails FG for nationwide stable power supplyDaniel Auta: A better Nigeria will continue to be an illusion until our leaders stop the pull me down syndrome and offer maximum support to whoever is in power irrespective of tribe or religion. If we have access to uninterrupted power supply, small businesses will grow and Nigerians in diaspora will bring their wealth of experience and grow the economy but as it is, I can not see that coming any time soon.Margaret Dodo: I expect a better year but it will only be possible if Nigerians will see themselves first as Nigerians before seeing themselves from diverse tribes and do away with trivial divisive issues such as religion and sectionalism and join hands with whoever emerges as our leader so that this country can move forward.BENUEUche Nnorom, Journalist: My expectation politically is that the coming election should be credible, free and fair. In the area of security government should do more by being pragmatic and not resort to propaganda. Funds meant for the purchase of arms to fight insurgency in the country should be judiciously applied. I want to see a robust economy with a growth in the GDP. Nigeria is currently ranked one of the poorest economies of the world, we want to see government making decisive policies that will check the drift in our economy so that the ordinary man would have every reason to smile.Ter Ajanto, artisan: For me, my number one expectation is that we must have a credible election next year. I strongly believe that if we have the right people in positions of authority it will be the beginning of good things to come to the country. I also expect that government will avail security agencies better funding to ensure proper security of our country, because it is key to our country moving forward and making progress.Osom Desmond, student: 2018 was not a good one for majority of Nigerians because of the economic crunch. Many could not meet their needs. Government should do more to tackle the economic challenges facing the country because the ordinary man is suffering. As a student I want to see the federal government resolve its differences with ASUU as soon as possible because students cannot continue to remain at home indefinitely in a country that is so blessed by God and we all know the implication of leaving students at home.Andy Andera, student: My expectation is that government should provide social ameneties. Security should be given more attention. We have challenges of herdsmen killings especially in Benue state. We have a law in the state that prohibits open grazing but herdsmen do not want to obey the law. We want to see the Federal Government coming out to declare support for the law and security agencies should enforce the law so as to put an end to the farmer/herders crisis to enable our people engage in their farming activities and improve their livelihood.PDP ‘not an option’ in 2019 presidential election–OshiomholeAdole Paul, student: As a nation we have not done very well in the last few years especially in the area of empowerment of our youths. Government must make it a top priority to empower our youths to get them engaged in meaningful ventures. Attention should be given to issues of sports because it is another way growing an economy. Apart from growing the economy, it also keeps our youths busy and prevent them from getting into anti social vices.OYODr. Olapade Agoro, National Chairman/ former Presidential Candidate, National Action Council ( NAC), With the nation wallowing in endemic corruption, insecurity of lives and property, Boko Haram insurgency, deadly Fulani herdsmen attacks which have left about 2,000 people dead, our leaders should take proactive steps to curtail these. I also want factories that are working under capacity utilization and power generation producing at abysmal low level as well as mounting debts to foreign creditors should be improved in 2019. Government should equally fix most federal roads that are due for repairs and reduce unemployment and our hospitals to be well equipped.Elder Taiye Ayorinde, traditional ruler: Government should ensure there is tremendous improvement in economy, bring killings in the country to an end and slash the salaries of members of the National Assembly. If the take home pay of the legislators is reduced considerably, there will be no need to embark on any strike because the country can afford the minimum wage being demanded by the Nigerian workers. Also, suspects who were caught with arms and ammunition should be prosecuted, and Fulani herdsmen must be treated as terrorists.Toye Adebesin, student: Supply of electricity leaves much to be desired, the government should increase power generation as well as improve on infrastructure like road and easy transportation system to ease traffic gridlock on the highways.Miss Praise Oluwafunmilayo Ajayi: Irregularity in payment of salaries should not be treated with kid gloves as it happened in most states in 2018. Also, killings and kidnappings should be reduced so as to make Nigerians more secured.IMOMazi Damian Nze: The business environment in Imo State, in the passing year, was anything but good. 2018 can pass as the most unfavourable year for citizens, since the return of democratic engineering in Nigeria. Virtually all the sectors of the economy has remained comatose in the past four years. Our schools, hospitals, roads, public service and the local government administration, are in very bad shape. What is most worrisome in our circumstance is that government officials tell blatant lies to justify their ineptitude.Cartels responsible for Zamfara killingsMr. Joe Chikere: Some government properties have, through the instrumentality of the present state administration, been converted to private use. In 2019, all government property either stolen, appropriated for personal use or misappropriated, should be fully recovered from those concerned. The citizens are looking forward to having functional health, education and civil service operations.Our dead local government councils should be revived. Pensioners, who gave their youthful years to the state, should be catered for.EKITIDeji Ogundaunsi, student: The security approach in 2018 was bad, I was a victim of kidnap and the economic policy was even worse. In 2019, we hope to see a turn around in the economy of the country. We expect to get food stuff at cheaper prices while the land borders that were closed should be reopened.Akin Akomolafe, Contractor: The economic policy of the present government has not been impressive. People who are knowledgeable about the economy are not part of the decision making, and it is affecting Nigerians. Though, security is a global problem but more needs to be done on the part of the government. We also expect a change of attitude from the government because the expectations of Nigerians are high”.Ogunrinde Blessing, unemployed graduate: 2018 has been tough and rough for most families in the country, especially where the husband and wife are civil servants. Salaries were not paid as at when due, most of our leaders are more interested in enriching themselves and the welfare of the citizenry does not make any sense to them. My expectation in 2019 is simple, the Federal government should complete all on going projects in the transportation sector, roads and rail, complete and commission all the power projects, give more loans to small scale industries and revive the textile and paper industries, which will create more jobs”
Related NewsSadiq Umar is the Kwara North senatorial candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) for the 2019 general elections. A pharmacist, he has worked for many years in the health development sector under DFID and USAID. In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Umar explains why he is leaving his career in the sector to seek a seat in the Senate.PT- Can you tell us a little about what you were doing before coming into politics?I am a pharmacist by profession but as far as career is concerned, I have been in the development sector, where I have worked with DFID and USAID. We are interested in maternal and child health, malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDs.What I have always done in the past 20 years is managing projects to see how we can help people and the vulnerable. That was what I was doing before my constituents said I should come and serve them or represent them in the red chamber of the National Assembly and I accepted and here I am. I won the primaries of the APC for Kwara North senatorial district.PT- Is it the people who called you? Are your hands not already full in your current engagement in the health sector?Umar – It is my career and I got to almost the peak of my career, so it is by what they know about me and what I have been doing where I am working, that is why they said they needed a candidate that understands the developmental challenges of our region and that they need a good candidate that can represent them very well.With pressure, I agreed. Instead of just serving at that limited angle, I can come and serve at the political level because the key reasons why there are gaps in our health sector, why donors have to come into the country to support the country, is basically because of poor governance.If we have good policies, we have good governance that responds to the health challenges, why should anybody come into your country to come and start carrying out interventions in malaria, HIV/AIDs, maternal and child health? That will not be necessary. I think that what I am doing now is basically to serve that gap. If I get to governance, it’s easier to serve more, not only my constituency but the whole country.PT- APC primaries across the country were tumultuous, especially in Kwara State. How did the one at your district go?Umar– I can tell you that I am one of the luckiest persons in this primaries because my candidature is almost the single candidature that did not call for any controversy. That is because all the elders agreed and all the local governments agreed that I am the candidate of their choice. So it was a direct primary and I had an overwhelming majority of the votes, over and above the other four candidates. So there was no controversy in my own constituency.PT- There are five local governments in the district, what is your own local government?Umar– I am from Kaiama Local Government. Incidentally, there is an understanding of zonal arrangement in the senatorial district – (Kwara North Senatorial District). The understanding is that Baruten, Kaiama constituency produce the Senate this time around and it is zeroed in on Kaiama specifically. Almost all the other local governments agreed that it is Kaiama that will produce the senator. That also made it easier because all the stakeholders have accepted that Kaiama should produce the senator for this year.PT- Your opponent from PDP (Zakari Mohammed of the House of Representatives), who is considered your major opponent, which local government area is he from?Umar– He is from Baruten. That is because the PDP has chosen to zone theirs to Baruten. I am talking of APC.PT- How do you feel about facing someone who has been winning elections in the area (Mr Mohammed has been in the House since 2011)? He has vast experience in politicking and legislation.Umar– I feel excited. First, it is going to be an interesting contest because like you said, he has been around for a long time. But do not forget that the election is going to be about the people. It is the people that will take the decision of who they are going to vote. Like I told you, my candidature is driven by the people more than my personal ambition. So if that much should be there, it means the people are with me and I can tell you that in Kwara State today, APC is ahead of PDP and it is even more so in my senatorial region.So, I am excited that we going to win with a landslide actually because the people who are going to vote are with me and APC is grounded in Kwara and more so in Kwara North. So I have nothing to be scared ofPT- Most people will tend to disagree with that assertion, given that APC in Kwara State is driven by the well-oiled structure of the Sarakis and we have known that for a long time they have always won elections in the state. How can you then make such assertions about APC in Kwara?Umar – That is what brings about the concept of change. As they say, the only thing constant in life is change. That change is here now. It is true like you said, but the change is here now and without making much noise about it, we just concluded a by-election in Kwara South in one of the federal constituencies and APC won and of course PDP had a candidate. If that is anything to go by, you do not need to be told that other elections will still follow that pattern.PT – What is your legislative agenda when elected into office? Because most politicians come out and say they want to do something but they do not have the plan or well written out blueprint on how to go about it.Umar – Thank you very much for that question. Let me say first and foremost, I hope to be a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It means my primary responsibility will be making laws for the good governance of the whole country, appropriation, over-sighting and so on. My first agenda is to go and do those well – promote bills that will ensure good governance for the whole country, support bills from any member and from the Executive that will fit into my dream of seeing Nigeria become a developed country.Having said that, I am also representing my people and I know the problems of my people and I have been engaging them during the campaigns and I have continued to do that to understand clearly what their priorities are. So far, what I can see in my region is very poor infrastructure. Our road network is terrible. For those who are used to Kwara North, from Moro to Edu to Patigi to Kaiama, Baruten, we have very bad roads and of course, you know the implication of that. The economy and the activities of our area have been impeded because of the very bad road network. And my people are essentially farmers – you know what that means. We do not have roads to transport farm produce, we have wastages, the high cost of all of that. So infrastructure will be the primary focus for me as what my region will be interested in. All the networking that is required, lobbying that is required, case making with evidence that I will do to ensure that we get the best share of federal infrastructural allocation.Again poverty is very high in my area and poverty is as a result of poor educational services. We do not have good education facilities in our area and there are poor health services. Those two translate to poverty that is affecting my area. We intend to be able to lift as many people as possible out of poverty and to do that means focusing on improving health and educational services in our area.When you do that, what is next is opportunities for people who acquire education might have to fight for more opportunities because my people do not have opportunities in Kwara not to talk of the federal government. That will be an interest to me, to make sure our people are positioned to enjoy the opportunities available at the state level and at the federal level.Again, the youth, who incidentally are the most important group of people in the society because they are the future. For our youth right now, it is a very sorry situation so we have to find a way of empowering them. Our women, the same thing. And we are interested in the women because they are the bedrock of the family and if we are able to empower our women, they will be able to support both the children, the youth and in fact the men.So our cardinal interest is in youth and women. The poor, the vulnerable, the weak are also of interest to us, they would be supported. But for the women and the youth, they need to be empowered. And in empowering them, they have to be categorised. There are those who have education, all we need is to be able to have skill acquisition programmes for them. Give them basic skills to be able to do something for themselves and little money that they can be able to take care of their children and husbands.The youth, most of them with education we will consider what we can do to be able to place them for them to be gainfully employed and those that have capacity and interest in entrepreneurship we need to create and open that opportunity for them. When they do, they will be able to employ other youth to work for them. That is the way we intend fighting poverty.In the final analysis, I am saying we have to fight poverty in my region, which is a number one enemy. And to do that, we need to have improved infrastructure, we need to empower the youth and the women, we need to improve our education and health services so that we have citizens who are healthy, strong and motivated to be productive.PT- How as a legislator do you think you can achieve all of these?Umar– That is an interesting one, because when I say all these people say ‘you are going to be a legislator in Abuja in the Senate’. But that is true; my understanding about leadership is not about staying in your cocoon doing what you need to do. It means opening up and relating with other tiers of government, you need to relate with other leaders in your region and in your state.So what I am saying is, most of all these things will be done at the state level, some will be done at the local government level, and where in a way, probably as the most senior political office holder in my senatorial region, I hope to give leadership along that chain. So I am interested in whatever is happening in my state, to work with the state governor and the Executive to see the best we can do for our people in relationship with those programmes I have mentioned.The local governments are actually key in this because they are the closest to the people. I am looking forward to an era where local government chairmen can just go in there and do whatever they like and go away will be over. I hope to engage them and give them some level of leadership and we collaborate together on the way forward. In the federal level, what my team members are doing, in the state level and the local government are doing, so we have an integrated common agenda with programmes that we will be working together to perform a synergy with a singular goal. We all have clear objectives and programmes of what we want to achieve for our people. I hope we will be able to do these in a very serious manner that we can have targets with milestones that this is what we need to do and the number of people we need to get out of poverty within a stipulated time and how we are going to be able to do that. And we will draw our programme on who is going to be responsible on what level, local state and federal and we compare notes, we engage ourselves, we score ourselves, we assess ourselves on what we are doing.By the way, we are going to do an assessment to know how bad our situation is. I have an idea but we have to do this scientifically. That is the baseline and where we want to go to in a year, four years, eight years, and 20 and in 50 years. We have to programme all of that and work together to achieve it. I am clear it is not me that is going to do all of these, but it is by working together. The era of everybody holding his office and doing what he feels he should do will be over very soon by the grace of God.PT- You mentioned road infrastructure in your area, there was a road project in 2005, Chikanda-Kosubosu road linking your part of the state with other parts of the state. What is the state of that project?Umar – Thank you very much. The state government did some job from that axis from Ilorin down to Chikanda, that was a very good effort, but it wasn’t a very good job. That road is already compromised; there are portholes. But relatively, that is a fair road that we have enjoyed in my region. From Kosubosu to Kaiama, which is a very short distance, in less than an hour you can link Kaiama from Baruten. That has been abandoned for decades. It’s actually not motorable any longer. That road has to be fixed if you really want to improve the socio-economic situation of our people in that region.There is another road from Kaiama to Bode Saadu, about a 100 kilometres, that will link Baruten and Kaiama with the whole of Kwara North and link Ilorin easily. That road, you know about it, several decades ago it was conceptualised, they started some work but it has been abandoned for decades. That road has to be opened because that is the only way you will link the whole of Kwara North and that is the only way we people in Kaiama and Baruten can go to the state capital within one and a half hours to two hours. Right now, we have to start going through Oyo, we go round before we can get to our state capital and it is terrible and unacceptable.PT – Campaign has officially started. What campaign strategy are you employing to let your people know your plans for them and get them to vote for you? Because it is a different thing to have plans for people and getting them to vote you to office.Umar – Interestingly you know I am lucky that the world has changed. We live in a global village driven by technology. Within a second you can send out information that can pass across what you want to say. That we have been doing. We are also using regular media and having interviews. We are talking to the people and the people are getting the information except, of course, that the number of people that have access to social media and mainstream media is still limited especially in our area where the opportunities are limited.Aside from doing the regular, using the social media, using radios, television and so on, we are also moving down to the grassroots to meet the people and that is actually at the centre of my campaign. Get to the people, meet them, anywhere they are and talk to them. We are going to the local governments, wards, and in fact, we are getting to the polling units were voting will take place. We have mapped that out; we have our agents, our campaign teams, banners, all of those matters.We need to get to the people and I intend to also move and get to the people, not just campaigning to them to vote for us, but let me really have a hands-on assessment of how bad their situation is, and what they really consider as priorities in their lives so that I have the required data before even winning the election. We will be clear from the beginning what we want to do. Our approach to politics is just the same approach I am used to as a development worker. We have to be clear, we need data, we need to know where we are coming from, where we want to go and how we will get there. That is my approach even for the campaign.PT- There is the trend of vote buying that is going on in the country. How do you think you can face the menace of vote buying?Umar – Voting buying is a new phase in our political development. Anybody that does not seem to understand it or appreciate it does not know what is happening. Some of us are happy about it to some extent. Because with PVCs and card readers, it means the people have been empowered; they have to give you their support, unlike before where political merchants can collect millions and billions of naira and just write results. That has been restricted.That is why politicians are running to the people to buy their votes because that is the only way you can get their votes. Having said that, let me also say that as a development worker, much as I am worried about that, because that makes a mess of the principles of democracy, but then maybe it is wealth redistribution. People are waiting for the opportunity of having some stipends to empower them during election. Much as it is bad, it is an opportunity for people to have access to some people who have stolen their money.How are we going to address that? I am not worried about it at all because the people are wiser and we are also communicating to the people that this election is not about collecting stipends and voting for whoever gives you money. It is about voting the right candidate to be able to secure your future and that of your children. I can assure you, no matter any amount somebody is bringing to Kwara and particularly my senatorial region, thank you for coming to empower the people by sharing money for them but the people would vote their conscience and the right candidate because they know the party that is going to work for them, they know the candidate that have their interest at heart and they are going to do that. So I am not worried about vote buying because my people are empowered, informed, mobilised and they are sensitised about this.PT- Coming with your wealth of experience with the health sector background, how do intend translating this into law-making, especially knowing that we have a lot of health Acts that are just redundant on the shelves and not looked into. And do you intend following up for better implementation?Umar – For me, aside from my constituency challenges I have highlighted earlier, the health sector is going to be another area of interested for me. In both cases, I will be co-sponsoring bills with other people in the house, including those outside the house, working with development organisations that I have worked with before to look at the health sector and identify where those weak areas are, where those gaps are and what is missing, what laws we need to pass to strengthen policies that make health services qualitative, accessible and affordable for our people. It is a priority for me.The laws are there, implementation in most cases becomes the problem. Some laws are obsolete, some have challenges of access to funds from both federal level down to local government level. You know health is on the concurrent list as it cuts across all. For me, my attitude will be who we need to work with to ensure that laws are passed that will make healthcare services affordable, accessible and qualitative.By the way, I am also thinking we need to get radical about the health sector because health and education are the priorities that move the country forward. That is get them functional education and not like the ones we see this days, skills, good health, they will be productive and can do something for themselves.We are going to take that serious to the extent that we are thinking of a need to set aside, apart from what has been set aside for the National Health Insurance Scheme right now, we also think the government needs to pick interest in the activities of the development partners which has been very helpful in the country. I am looking forward to seeing Nigeria government leaving a certain percentage of national resources in carrying out special items in the health sector.PT- In Kaiama, which is your local government, health services have been termed poor. The general hospital and primary health care centres seem to have some of the necessary equipment for basic health care services but they lack health personnel, meaning most cases of maternal, infant and child mortalities could have been prevented. How do you intend tackling this if elected?Umar – Let me correct an impression. If I go home, I go to the general hospital. The general hospital is functioning, I can tell you. There are two doctors there, very hard working young men and they are doing their best possible. But like you said, it is true, there are equipment but they are not functional because they are not manned. They need personnel to carry out the required tests.Interestingly, what most people don’t know is that development is a cycle, everything is linked together. There is no way you can ensure that the required health personnel stay in a town like Kaiama where you have not addressed infrastructure. The road network in and out of Kaiama from all direction is terrible. A young doctor will not be interested in staying in that type of environment because he wants to pull a link. So if you address road network, address poverty and this community becomes very comfortable, you can easily attract health professionals to work in that environment.So what am I going to do, in the short term, medium term and long term, and I have started for the short term. All those doctors I met there I have encouraged them that they should please not run away the way others ran away; that I am coming, they should be there and I will be with them, support them with anything they need and I have started.When I go to the general hospital, if I see a little gap or when they are sourcing for resources to work with I come in. I tell them when I get to the red chamber there will be a lot more I can do to make them comfortable and make their work comfortable and enjoyable and as fast as I can.I am also considering the opportunities of training and seminars which would encourage them. By the way it is not only Kaiama we are talking about, we are giving Kaiama as an example. That is applicable to almost everywhere in Kwara North, it is the same thing. So we will look at all of that and encourage them in the short term. For the medium and long-term plans, we will address all the issues that are linked with that: infrastructure, equipment, training, motivation and all of that. That way, you can ensure that human resources for health is met.The challenge is all over the country, human resources for health are always a challenge; from my experience, that is a gap. But for me, I will do whatever I can to ensure that we retain those who are there by giving them a conducive environment. We will make sure we attract more people to come and to do that means putting in place things that will make them have access to training, having the right equipment and the right skillful people are there and make sure that they are happy. By the way, all these places are very natural areas. If you make that place comfortable people will rather stay there than being in the city with all the noise.PT- Nigeria is largely dependent on international donors to fund health and most of its health interventions. As a former development person, why do you think that is the case and what can we do to reposition the health care to serve Nigerians better, especially with the dwindling international funds?Umar – The funding has been dwindling and it has started. I can tell you that donor funding is drying up slowly. That I can tell you and policies are changing, especially in the United States of America with President Trump’s policies of country first and so on.It can only get worse; that I can tell you. And we need to start thinking and start getting independent-minded. We need to start thinking of self-sustainability and all the donors by the way in almost 10 years now from my experience have been preaching sustainability- what are you doing, counterpart funding and so on. For me, I think that one area that will be my agenda too. And I mentioned it is time for the Nigerian government to say ‘what is the value we have been getting from these donors in the last 30 years, for example?’ And the value is high. The data is there; you can see how much DFID, USAID have invested and what intervention they are doing and the results. Let’s look at it and see what is the total cost of these. It is huge money, a lot of dollars in billion. Are we that poor as a country? I do not think we are that poor. What can we do? It is time for the Nigerian government to start setting aside funding to serve as a transition. While the donors are planning to slow down and pull out, Nigeria government should be increasing its interest in taking up this responsibility, after all, it is our responsibility in the first place so that we have a clear-cut policy. I think we need to run a national health programme that is related to what donors are running now. That is programmes slightly different from what the core ministry is doing.We need to have that transition and model, we need to agree that those donors have done this much in so years. They are planning to leave or really need to leave. I think they will leave either we like it or not. Funds will dry up; Nigerian government can step up and have a model after all what the projects governed, controlled and operated by independent civil society groups.Let us separate it from the ministry first. When we see the success of that, we know what the cost which is available is, and then we can start thinking of integrating into the core national health programme.PT- The National Health Act is at long last in operation. But the implementation has been dragging. Do you think if fully implemented the Act can bring a significant improvement to health care services in Nigeria?Umar – Yes, I think it will I have always believed in the Act and yes, there might be little gaps here and there, nothing is static; that can be looked at. All the areas people have challenges with can be reviewed and ensured that in the final analysis, Nigeria has an Act that will get to the last mile in the society to ensure that everybody has access to health care services that are affordable and qualitative enoughPT – As a pharmacist, what is your take on the regulation of the sales of over-the-counter drugs (OTC) or non-prescribed drugs, which has not been effective in the country? What do you think you can do to improve regulations when you get to the “red chamber”?Umar – That is an agenda for me as a professional. Of course, I have my own professional agenda as a pharmacist; I am interested in working for the pharmacy profession and I can tell you that in Nigeria today, it is so sad that the amount of counterfeit drugs in circulation if people really know, people will cry for this country.People will deliberately go to import drugs that are not the genuine drugs, the excipients – the quantity of what should be there as an active principle – they compromise it and tell the manufacturers to halve it or put just a quarter of what is required to reduce the drug’s cost, it is everywhere! It is a porous system that we are running and everyone is involved. Professionals, non-professionals, charlatans are all involved. There is still the same lawlessness that is so predominant in this country. I think we need to strengthen the security, we need to be sure that those who are manning agencies that are responsible for control are the right people. We have square pegs in round holes and we are unable to make people pay for their wrongdoings- that is the problem.If anything goes wrong, whoever is responsible must face the law. We must enforce the law. And by the way, all this is interagency-related. Not only NAFDAC, SON, it’s at every level. Where all these things come in up to the manufacturing companies and countries of origin, there is a need to link it back. Why should a country allow an export commodity leave its country in collaboration with those companies to our country?We need to have bilateral relations with other countries around the world; mainly India, China and Indonesia where many of our drugs come from. We need to get it right by being strong. And it has to be a legal issue. We have to make clear-cut laws and engage these countries. We need to tell the governments of these countries to have some responsibility for what is leaving their countries and coming into our country.We need to get serious about it; especially the small ones where people carry antibiotics on the street. It is not okay for citizens. The citizens have a role to play too. We need to sensitise the citizens on the danger. They need to know it is wrong to buy drugs from such people. We need to get serious as a country because drugs are like poison and they can be used in any form. They can be injurious as anything you can think of and we need to take that very seriously and I am interested in our laws that govern drugs in this country.PT- There is a poor public perception of legislators in Nigeria, people see them as parasites. How do you feel about that perception?Umar – I think it is a 50/50 thing. The first 50, the people are not wrong by what they see, they will talk of what they can see. What value are you adding to them as a society? They want to see that and they see legislators as people who just go in there and allocate allowances for themselves when the poor people do not have much to earn or survive on.The other 50 part is that citizens also need to sympathise with the legislators because when you are representing five LGAs, I can tell you it is a tough business to do. You have to go to that five LGAs, wards’ people and they see you as the government. Their poverty, their problems, it is you they expect to solve. Meanwhile, you are not the government and where do they expect you to get all the money to do that is a challenge. The people are poor because there is no good governance, no appropriate policies, and laws to make life easy for them and they have to look for who can solve things for them and they think their political leaders are and come after you. Meanwhile, they are the same set of people who will complain you are getting a big salary! So it is a national challenge and we need to correct that as much as possible. Let’s get politicians who are willing to develop the society and Nigerians will see the difference.PT- The last time Kwara had a governor from Kwara North was 25 years ago. What is the feeling of the people of the area about being overlooked for the governorship race in 2019, especially by both the two major parties?Umar – People are disappointed. In Kwara North, we believe it is our turn to produce the next governor of Kwara State and the two major parties did not pick candidates from Kwara North. But we should remember two things: one, it is a democracy; so people vote regardless of what the region is. Yes, you can talk about zoning, but it is a democracy. What you get is what you get, those who emerge, emerge. Aside from that, there are other political expediencies and strategic considerations why the two parties tend to lean towards the region they lean to. But what I can tell you is that Kwara North people are decent and God-fearing people and we are hopeful people. Much as we are disappointed, we stick to it in good faith and believe in our various political parties. At least, I can speak for APC; no matter what happens, what is important is for our party to win the election so that we will be able to implement the programmes we want to implement which everybody will benefit from.
Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, who handed over the reins of power to the late Alhaji Shehu Shagari, in his book, Not My Will, said Shagari was pushed into power by those who wanted to use him “and he was unfortunately too weak, and somewhat ill-prepared for the trappings of political power to check the abuses of his power by those who made use of him”. Africa Today Publisher KAYODE SOYINKA, in this special piece for The Nation, examines the Shagari Presidency.FROM THE ONSET, ALHAJI SHEHU SHAGARI, who won the 1979 Presidential election, although the verdict was controversial, never gave the impression of being a man who had clear idea of what government was all about. If anything, he appeared to be the reincarnation of Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa: purposeless, weak, and even to some, lazy – characteristics not surprising in a man who, after all, had never courted power and wanted only to be a senator.In the way he operated and performed as president of Nigeria, it was clear that what President Shagari found most attractive was the pomp and pageantry that came with leadership. General Olusegun Obasanjo, who handed over the reins of power to him, said of him, in his book, Not My Will: “He was pushed into power by those who wanted to make use of him and he was unfortunately too weak, and somewhat ill-prepared for the trappings of political power to check the abuses of his power by those who made use of him”. Shagari himself later demonstrated his lack of confidence in government when he made his famous remark to the effect that, in reality, there were only two major political parties in Nigeria during the Second Republic: the civilians on the one hand and the military on the other.Because he inherited a healthy economy and because, like former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, the oil boom really was a real boon for him, Shagari saw his problem not as earning money for the country, but as not knowing what to do with it.When he came to power October 1, 1979, the price of oil was $40 per barrel on average and the production level was two million barrels per day throughout 1980 and the beginning of 1981. The price of oil had jumped from about $14 per barrel in the third quarter of 1979 to $40 per barrel in the first quarter of 1980. In 1979/80 Nigeria’s revenue was estimated at N12.272 billion (about £9 billion), to which oil contributed about N9.489 billion (£7.6 billion).Politically, in the first two years of his administration, Shagari enjoyed reasonable amount of goodwill. His ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN), which called for a government of national unity, succeeded in getting Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe’s Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) to join it to form a government. This relative support and goodwill, which Shagari received from the electorate, despite legal arguments in court about the validity of his victory at the poll, was partly due to the Nigerian people being genuinely fed up with the military rule of the past 13 years and wanting to give civilian rule a chance. Unfortunately, it turned out that Shagari, despite all the years he had spent in the country’s public service, both as a senior politician and in government, with several key ministerial feathers in his cap, really had little inkling of modern politics and economics.Lacking a sense of history or of Nigeria’s destiny, the Shagari government threw overboard the cost-cutting measures of its predecessor and began to wallow in profligacy. “The financial recklessness of federal and state governments inevitably resulted in the depletion of an already low revenue (resulting from a fall in oil production and price of crude), high debts, inflation, unemployment, factory shut-downs, food scarcity and general disenchantment,” wrote Nigerian commentator Ray Ekpu in the October 1984 edition of Africa Now.In short, Shagari’s NPN government of October 1, 1979, to December 31, 1983, was the epitome of political and economic mismanagement in Nigeria of that era – a government that had killed the country’s economy and politics in its first four-year term. What made matters totally hopeless was that the government engineered an incredible elections fraud in 1983 to ensure his re-election.It was no surprise therefore when Nigerians woke up on the last day of the year 1983 to discover that Shagari’s government had been swept away, there were few mourners. The new military government of General Muhammadu Buhari needed no great oratory to convince Nigerians that the fallen government had been a monumental disaster; almost everyone, except for a few party faithful who profited from the decadence, had felt the rottenness of the government in his bones. As the soldiers broke open warehouses and stores of essential commodities, rice, milk, sugar, cooking oil came tumbling out in large quantities and Nigerians began to dance in the hope that an era had come when such commodities would be both available and affordable.Even in the last period of his reign, luck was still on Shagari’s side. It had been said that a certain section of the military actually contemplated removing his government as early as March 1980, but that wiser counsel prevailed, namely that the 1983 elections should be allowed to go ahead. What happened during those elections finally provided enough justification for the removal of the government. In his second coming, Shagari provided further evidence of his lack of will and direction. To say that the massive corruption by members of his party and government was the reason for the New Year coup is to miss the point; that was just the symptoms of the cancer that was killing the country. Shagari was just an inept leader and uninformed.Wrote Dr Ibrahim Gambari, Nigeria’s Foreign Minister under General Buhari: “The issue of large-scale corruption severely damaged the reputation of the operators of the political system. Although this was not a new issue in Nigeria, the nature of the new presidential system and the increase in oil-based revenue accruing to the federal and state governments, especially in the early 1980s, helped to elevate corruption to new heights. Corrupt practices became pervasive at local, state and federal levels, especially in the award of contracts and the manipulation of the import-licensing system. When these practices continued without much regard to declining government revenue, they poisoned the social and political climate, since ever fewer funds were made available to maintain, let alone develop, social services and related institutions. It was not long before essential medical services and the educational systems degenerated and were on the verge of collapse. Social tensions were heightened and antisocial behaviour of the underclass increased very rapidly.”Dr Gambari, in his book, Theory and Reality in Foreign Policy Making: Nigeria After the Second Republic, maintained: “The elections of 1983 were not conducted in an atmosphere of freedom or with fairness. On the contrary, they were accompanied by serious abuses, blatant malpractices and communal violence. In view of the ethnic pattern of support and voting by the general public, the claims of ‘victory’ by one party in the traditional strongholds of the others stretched credibility to the limit and led to outbreaks of violence. The resulting bloodshed and confusion damaged the reputation not only of the law enforcement agencies, which were often part of the problem, but also of the federal government and politicians in general.”This was the situation in Nigeria when, on the eve of the New Year 1983, there was another military coup d’état that removed the Shagari government. It was the fourth successful military takeover in Black Africa’s most dominant power. However, unlike the ones before it, this coup did not come totally as a shock. It was one coup that was self-evident.The decision of the military to govern again on the eve of 1984 was ostensibly a patriotic and altruistic one: to save the country from what they perceived as the monumental scale of corruption and economic depravity in the civilian administration. Even allowing for some measure of sincerity in these intentions, it does not rule out another motivation, rooted in the historical trends, political development, ambitions, and fears extant in post-independence Nigeria: in short, in the on-going North/South geo-ethnic rivalry.One result of the 1967-70 civil war was the de facto establishment of the Northern hegemony within the army’s corps of senior officers who aimed at ensuring that this would be maintained even during a civilian administration. However, the dominance of the North both as a united political entity and, increasingly, over the economy during the military administrations from 1966-79 was being seriously challenged from the South under the civil administration of Shehu Shagari (Northerner though he was).When the 1983 election result gave Shagari both a second term of office and made his NPN the pre-eminent party, not only in the North but in majority of the Southern states as well, the worst fears of these top-ranking officers were confirmed. They could foresee that in the next presidential elections in four years time, the NPN would fulfil what was written into the party’s constitution, namely: the selection of a presidential candidate from among the faithful in the South. Indeed, the NPN’s Southerners made no attempt to conceal this aim and immediately after the 1983 elections jockeyed for federal positions in Shagari’s new government.Shagari had consolidated the Northern officer hegemony by encouraging Moslem Hausa/Fulani promotions (in preference to Southerners and Christian Northerners) by making appointments to coveted commands and awards of lucrative contracts to retiring officers of the same ilk. Despite this, a ruthless, single-minded cabal of Northern officers decided that the danger of their power base being eroded by a Southern-dominated administration with mass popular support (probably including that of the junior officers and rank-and-file in the armed forces) far outweighed any loyalty they owed to President Shagari. These were the more compelling reasons why Major-Generals Buhari and Babangida, with nine other senor army and air force officers, laid their plans stealthily and efficiently for the successful coup of December 31, 1983.Successful though the actual coup undoubtedly was, in order to gain legitimacy, the generals depended heavily on whatever support they could coax from the people. One of the numerous ways they went about this was to arrest former civilian politicians and lock them all up in different jails around the country. Show trials were staged before military tribunals at which they faced charges of corruption – an attempt by the regime to retrieve the ill-gotten gains the politicians had acquired when in government.The Buhari regime put the main blame on the politicians for the ravages on Nigeria’s treasury and on one man in particular: UMARU DIKKO.FAILED ATTEMPT TO FIGHT CORRUPTIONWhen Shagari’s victory at the polls in the 1983 Presidential election had been declared, it was widely expected that he would do something about corruption under his administration. From the beautiful plateau holiday resort, the Yankari Games Reserve, in northern Nigeria where he had been in retreat, Shagari made a speech strongly condemning corruption. The speech came to be known as Shagari’s “Sermon on the Plateau” and it was widely thought that some heads would have to roll among his ministers. All eyes were particularly on Dikko who had by then gained notoriety for his presumed corruption. But only lightweight ministers were eventually sacked from the cabinet. Dikko not only remained in the cabinet, he retained his very powerful political influence, authority and power on the Presidency and government. The New Nigeria, with a characteristically slick paraphrase of a cliché, dubbed the sacking as “The Night of the Short Knives”.Shagari had set up a Code of Conduct Bureau to, in his own words, “maintain high standards of probity in the conduct of public officials;” he had appointed a special Tribunal of Enquiry into the alleged misappropriation of N2.8 billion from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) under the Obasanjo regime. But, for all his good intentions, perhaps he should have paid more attention to a famous Islamic reformer of the early 19th century who founded and lived in his own hometown and state of Sokoto and with whose works he was certainly familiar. This was Uthman Dan Fodio whose advice to any Caliph (high in the ruling hierarchy) included: “It is quite likely that it is about his officials that people wish to complain: he must therefore listen to them. If he doesn’t then he can be compared to a herdsman who, rather than guarding his herd, holds the cow (in this case, the people) by the horns to help the thief (his officials) steal the milk (his people’s wealth.)”Shagari never believed all the accusations of corruption levelled against Dikko or, for that matter, against any of his top ministers. For him to have acted decisively against any minister, he needed cast-iron evidence of that minister’s corruption, which nobody was able to produce. Despite the fact that a minister like Dikko had become increasingly unpopular in the eyes of the people, Shagari found it difficult to drop him from his cabinet. President Shagari trusted his ministers as surely as he trusted his own integrity. As President, his own honesty was never in doubt. He could be compared with Sir Milton Margai, the late Prime Minister of Sierra Leone who, when he died in 1964, owed money to the bank – he left an overdraft. Indeed, as Commissioner for Finance under General Gowon, Shagari himself had sought and obtained an overdraft. The bank manager had actually written asking him when he intended becoming solvent again. If a Nigerian Federal Commissioner for Finance, at the time his country was enjoying an unprecedented oil boom, had incurred an overdraft, which he was having difficulty in settling, surely he must have been an honest man.But Shagari, while he was President, was deluded into trusting people whom others viewed as dishonest. His tragedy was that, had he survived his second term of office, he might have proved that he was his own man instead of being the prisoner of his party, as he undoubtedly was during his first term.But Dikko, his campaign manager in the Presidential election of 1983, is one man who would defend the former president till the last. “Whatever any Nigerian may say, no matter how biased he is, one thing he would have to admit is that Shagari is a good person. He was not a dictator. He is a fair-minded man who meant well for Nigeria. Under his regime, whether or not you voted for him, you were not denied your entitlement as a Nigerian. He did not win in all the states of Nigeria but, despite that, there is no state where they can say they were totally excluded from the affairs of the country. Under Shagari we had the greatest chance in Nigeria, the best opportunity that ever came to us, to be welded into a nation, where you don’t think of yourself as a Yoruba or as Hausa/Fulani or as an Ibo; where you think in terms of belonging to this or that party. That is called advancement, politically. That was the road on which Shagari put Nigeria, only to be treated the way he was treated,” Dikko told me in an interview while in exile in London.
…said it was too bigBy Charles Kumolu, Deputy Features EditorAt a road intersection linking Emir Yahaya Road, Rijiya Dorowa and Kofar Atiku in Sokoto, is a narrow way popularly called Lungu in Hausa Language.On both sides of this obscure road, are old houses made of mud but plastered with cement.From that side of Sokoto metropolis, the old Post Office, popular Marina Police Station, prison and even the Sultan Palace could be accessed.Virtually all the buildings on the lane have rustic charm, revealing that the area is part of the old Sokoto city, populated by natives.Of the property in the countrified scenery, only a storey building looks different.That the house is somewhat striking, does not imply that it is an architectural masterpiece.Of course, it is the only storey building on the street, but only the regular presence of policemen at the frontage makes one curious.Opposite the house is an old-fashioned house formerly made of mud, which was the first property, former President Shehu Shagari built in Sokoto, before erecting the storey building. Yes, a house made of mud!But the structure on Shehu Shagari Crescent Road, which is also known as Gidan Shagari, among the local folk, is regarded as the only property built by Nigeria’s first Executive President.Knowing the self-enrichment legacy of African leaders, it is indeed, pleasantly shocking.Shagari had been a lawmaker, minister, and Chairman of Peugeot Automobile Limited, before becoming President at the age of 54, but Sunday Vanguard believes he didn’t have the legacy of greed and impunity. That didn’t make him look onto wealthy people as corrupt any way!To paraphrase his eldest child, Capt Bala Shagari, rtd, who was detained, and retired by the Major-General Muhammadu Buhari regime, “he is never greedy and he is a person who never solicits anything or position, only gets it purely on merit.”Sunday Vanguard learned that the former President resided at the property until 1995, when the government of the late Head of State, Gen Sani Abacha, rtd, built a befitting home for him in an upscale area, Sama Road.Gentle mannered and principled, Shagari exemplified modesty while in government and outside government.Just the way these virtues are not lost to Nigerians, they are considered priceless by family members.Photos: Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s body in SokotoFor instance, when Sunday Vanguard sought comments from his grandson, President of Nigerian Youth Council, Bello Shagari, his response simply captured the former President’s simplicity.“When he was sworn in as the President, he decided to take the Vice President’s residence instead of the one meant for him because he felt the residence meant for the President was too luxurious for him and his family,” he said at 9:35 am, yesterday, amid preparations for a flight to Sokoto.Though not a follower of the late leader of the Talakawa political ideology, Alhaji Aminu Kano, the former President cared less about comfort or luxury.That was why in January 1986, he was cleared of any personal involvement in corrupt practices, despite being accused by the Buhari regime of being corrupt.Sunday Vanguard recalls that the regime which toppled Shagari had alleged that government officials conspired to collect about $22 million in kickbacks on a $333 million contract with a French construction company, Feugerolle Nigeria Ltd.But the Justice Samson Uwaifo review panel, declared that Shagari was unaware of the bribes.Instructively, the panel, which was instituted by the then Military President, Ibrahim Babangida, dismissed the argument that Shagari should be held accountable for offenses committed by his aides.At the time, the former President had been detained in a government guest house in Lagos for two years.Opinions may be divided on how well Nigeria fared during his stewardship, but there is a consensus that he was an incorruptible leader.Like Abraham Lincoln, who in a speech to the US Congress, said: “we cannot escape history; the fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation.”Sunday Vanguard believes history would not dishonour but honour Shagari’s contented life.Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari: The bridge builderBy Clifford NdujiheALTHOUGH he died at a ripe old age of 93, the demise of Nigeria’s first civilian President, Alhaji Usman Aliyu Shagari, last Friday, took many by surprise. Arguably, he was Nigeria’s most humble, unassuming, selfless, experienced, and less-controversial former head of state.His reconciliatory and permissive nature, and bridge-building propensity marked him out as an exemplary leader. The elder statesman drew a lot of strength from humble background, teaching profession, philanthropic gestures, and public service cutting across education, economy, finance, and internal affairs among others.Since his administration was toppled by the military regime of Major General Muhammadu Buhari on December 31, 1983, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, was never in the news for negative or controversial reasons apart from the early days of the Buhari military government when the just-toppled political leadership was tarred with brush of graft.Born in May 1925 at Shagari Village, Sokoto State as the sixth child of the polygamous Aliyu Shagari’s family, the late former president was prepared for a leadership of accommodation and concession early.His humble, unassuming, accommodating, bridge-building disposition and experience paved the way for his emergence as the presidential candidate of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, in 1979, of which he went on to win the election proper to become the first civilian president of the country. He repeated the feat in 1983 with a wider margin amid allegations of rigging by opposition political parties.Before the 1979 presidential poll, Shagari’s desire was to go to the Senate. But NPN leaders, his supporters and most Nigerians disagreed, and handed him the nation’s topmost job.As one of those who fought for Nigeria’s independence, Shagari was desirous of accelerating the socio-economic development of the country.This was one of the reasons he elected to pick a technocrat, late Dr Alex Ekwueme (an architect, town-planner and lawyer) as his running mate in 1979 and 1983. He side-stepped a host of leading politicians including late Chief K.O Mbadiwe in his choice of a running mate, and the move caused a stir in the polity then but he had the last laugh to the betterment of the polity.Ekwueme would later go on to play critical roles in the affairs of the country especially at the 1994 National Constitutional Conference, where his suggestion for the creation of the six geo-political zones gained ground and currency.His support for Chief Meredith Adisa Akinloye ensured that the latter remained the national chairman of the NPN in 1983 at a time some southern Turks angled for power-shift to the South.Shagari started his education in a Quranic school before heading for Yabo elementary school (1931-1935), Middle School, Sokoto (1936-1940), he went to Sokoto for middle school, and Kaduna College (1941-1944). Between 1944 and 1952, Shehu Shagari matriculated at the Teachers Training College Zaria, Kaduna.Showing early interest to be a science teacher, he later took an administrative course at Bauchi Teachers College and in the United Kingdom under the sponsorship of the British Council.From 1953-1958, Shagari got a job as a visiting teacher at Sokoto Province. He was also a member of the Federal Scholarship Board from 1954-1958.In spite of his interest in teaching, Shagari’s interest in politics became manifest in 1945 when he organised a youth social circle which mobilised youth against British imperialism. Thereafter, he became a founding-member of the Northern Peoples’ Congress, NPC. He was to take part in all the conferences that gave birth to the Richard and Mcpherson’s Constitutions at both federal and regional levels.Shehu Shagari: Death of a humble but remarkable political leaderHis political activism bore fruits with his election to represent Sokoto West in the Federal House of Representatives in 1954. His other political accomplishments appointments included: member, Federal Scholarship Board (1954 to 1958); in the same 1958, he attended a parliamentary course at Westminster, London which enabled him to obtain a certificate in parliamentary procedure; upon his return to Nigeria, he was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister.Other appointments: Re-election into the Federal parliament in 1959; first Federal Minister of Economic Development; Minister of Establishment and Training and was credited for making great efforts to Nigerianise the civil service. After the 1966 coup, he returned to education and established a voluntary organisation known as the Sokoto Province Development Fund, which was reputed to have within two years, built 110 primary schools and three secondary schools.The General Yakubu Gowon military regime identified Shagari’s qualities and from 1968 to 1970, appointed him state Commissioner for Establishment and later as State Commissioner for Education in the then North West states.In June 1970, Shagari joined the Federal Cabinet as Federal Commissioner for Economic Development, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation. It was in this capacity that he supervised the rehabilitation and reconstruction activities of Nigeria after the bloody and destructive civil war that lasted three years. As if that was not enough, in 1971, he was appointed the Federal Commissioner for Finance, and in this capacity, he was a governor of the African Development Bank, a Director of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and a member of the Commiittee of 20 of the IMF.Shehu Shagari was again forced to return to Sokoto following the military coup of 1975 and the Sokoto State government in 1976 appointed him chairman of the Sokoto Urban Development Board. The same year, the Federal Government appointed him Chairman of Peugeot Automobile Limited. It was also the same year he won the local elections into Yabo Local government council and in 1977, was elected to the Constituent Assembly. Thereafter, he became a founding-member of the National Movement of Nigeria, which later developed into a political party, the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, on which platform he won the 1979 presidential election.PASSAGE OF SHAGARI: Emulate his bridge-building attribute, IBB charges politicians•Ambode, Okowa, Ortom, Ishaku, Falae extol his virtuesFormer Military President, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, has admonished politicians to emulate the bridge-building attribute of late, first elected, Executive President of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, GCFR. The former President passed-on late Friday.He was laid to rest yesterday.More condolence messages have been pouring in since Friday from many quartersIBB, as Babangida is fondly called, in a “condolence to the nation on the passing of President Shehu Usman Aliyu Shari, GCFR, said:“With deep heart and sympathies I wish to express my heartfelt condolences to the Family of the first civilian Executive President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Turakin Sokoto, Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, GCFR who passed on today, Friday, 28 December 2018 at the National Hospital after protracted illness.“My heart and prayers go to his Family, the government and people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Sokoto Caliphate and Sokoto State.“Nigeria and indeed Africa has lost a statesman and democrat whose wisdom, counsel, presence and experience and his sterling qualities of honesty and transparency are needed in these very trying moments of our national life. President Shehu Shagari was a great patriotic leader and an accomplished gentleman, at first a teacher, an administrator, a technocrat and an honest decent unassuming simple Nigerian Leader.“He will be remembered for his tolerance and politics of peace without bitterness. President Shehu Shagari was a nationalist who never showed any discrimination due to ethnicity or religion and was a very dependable bridge builder. To keep his memory alive Nigerian politicians and indeed all fellow Nigerians must put to practice all his ideals of peace and party politics without rancour, irrespective of any form of provocation. I urge all persons vying for political office to emulate him and keep alive the political principles of the late Turakin Sokoto, Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari, the quintessential public servant who was “Beckoned to Serve”.“I pray for the repose of his soul in Jannatul Firdaus. I pray that the entire nation, his Family, Sokoto State and indeed the Sokoto Caliphate will accept his passing with equanimity”.He was a man of rare exemplary character -LalongPlateau State governor, Simon Lalong, in his message to the Shagari family and his Sokoto State counterpart, Aminu Tambuwal, urged the government and people of Sokoto State and the Shagari family and community to take solace in the fact that all mortals must experience death at God’s appointed time.In a statement signed by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mark Longyen, the Governor said the late First Executive President of Nigeria was a man of rare exemplary character, who epitomized patriotism, integrity, humility and maturity, whose wise counsel will be missed by the nation.The statement read: “I received the news of the death of former President Shehu Shagari with deep shock and sadness. The late First Executive President of Nigeria was a man of rare exemplary character who epitomized patriotism, integrity, humility and maturity.“Shagari’s death has indeed robbed Nigeria of a great nationalist and uncommon elder statesman, whose wise counsel will be missed by the nation, especially in this critical epoch of her nation-building efforts”.Nigeria Has Lost A Rare Gem – IshakuTaraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku described the death of Shagari as a colossal loss at a time the nation was gearing up for the 2019 general elections.Ishaku in a condolence message by his senior special assistant on media and publicity, Bala Dan Abu, stressed that death had robbed the nation of a rare gem whose counsel is most crucial.According to the statement, “the Green Revolution programme of the late Shagari’s administration succeeded in sensitizing Nigerians on the need to pay more attention to farming” which according to him has reduced the country’s dependence on food imports.Shagari was a democrat subdued by a dictator, says CUPPThe Coalition of United Political Parties, CUPP, in a statement by its spokesman, Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, described Shagari’s demise as a hugeloss to Nigeria.“We commiserate with the Shagari family, the Sokoto State Government and indeed all Nigerians on such a huge loss of a nationalist and elder statesman per excellence particularly at these very challenging times. We also pray God to grant the family the fortitude to bear the loss.“President Shagari was a democrat who believed in the supremacy of the power of the people and only succumbed to the barrel of the gun of people who did not and still do not believe in the tenets of democracy and the supremacy of the rule of law.“We however urge President Muhammadu Buhari not to attempt to pen any tributes in honour of Alhaji Shehu Shagari who even in death President Buhari was insensitive enough to use as an example to justify his tyranny and crass performance and who all through his life has relished using Alhaji Shehu Shagari to massage his ego”.Ex-President Lived Exemplary Life, Used Power To Serve HumanityLagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, expressed sadness over the demise of the first executive President of Nigeria and elder statesman, Alhaji Shehu Shagari.Governor Ambode, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Habib Aruna, described the late Shagari as a complete gentleman, a thorough bred democrat and philanthropist per excellence who contributed immensely to Nigeria’s growth and development.“The late President lived an exemplary life; he was a democrat and a fine gentle man whose idea of power was that of being a tool to serve his fatherland and humanity. He was an elder statesman in the true sense of the word.“He was also a detribalized Nigerian who was committed to the course of a united, indivisible and prosperous Nigeria. He believed so much in all inclusive governance and was one of those patriotic Nigerians who contributed in laying the foundation of a sustainable democracy in Nigeria,” Governor Ambode said.While commiserating with the family of the late elder statesman, the Governor urged them to uphold the ideals he stood for, saying that the nation will continue to draw inspiration from his life and times.He was a pillar of Nigeria’s democracy – OrtomBenue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, joined millions of other Nigerians in mourning the death of the former President of the country.He described him as a pillar of Nigeria’s democracy.Governor Ortom in a statement through his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, described the late former President as a true patriot who worked hard for the unity of the country.He stated that “Alhaji Shehu Shagari played a key role in the development of the country as its first Executive President and remained a pillar of our democracy till his death.”The Governor consoled members of the former President’s family in particular and the people of Sokoto State in general and prayed God to grant the departed Nigerian leader eternal rest.Okowa extols his commitment to Nigeria’s unityDELTA State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, yesterday said former President Shehu Shagari’s unwavering commitment to the unity of Nigeria had been a major encouragement to many governments, recalling the personal sacrifices he made in helping to lay the foundation for sustainable democracy in Nigeria before he was overthrown in 1983.Okowa in a condolence message by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Charles Aniagwu, to Nigerians, and to the Government and people of Sokoto State, on the death of the former President, described his death as a big loss to the country.He commiserated with the entire Shagari village, the Sokoto Caliphate, and the Shagari family, over the loss of the former President, noting that the deceased’s regular counsels on national issues and mediations for peaceful co-existence would be sorely missed.“On behalf of my family, the government and people of Delta State, I join the entire nation and the people of Sokoto State to mourn the passing of former President, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, who was President in the Second Republic.“Governor Ifeanyi Okowa believes Alhaji Shagari worked assiduously to improve the livelihood of many poor and underprivileged people through the Green Revolution where he embarked on the distribution of seed and fertilliser to farmers to increase nationwide productivity in farming, adding that “Shagari was a legendary public servant; who dedicated his life to the service of our nation in several capacities as minister, legislator and finally President.“The Governor affirms that Shagari’s unwavering commitment to the unity of Nigeria had been a major encouragement to many governments, recalling the personal sacrifices he made in helping to lay the foundation for sustainable democracy in Nigeria before he was overthrown in 1983″.Falae: Shagari ruled without nepotism, tribal, religious sentimentsTHE National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, Chief Olu Falae, in a statement yesterday, said he received the death of the former Nigerian leader with huge shock,added that Nigeria had lost yet another great leader it had ever produced.He described Shagari as a president who led an examplary lifestlye that eschewed all forms of discrimination, ethnic, tribal and religious sentiments.The statement said “it was with a heavy heart that I received yesterday, the sad and shocking news of the death of yet another eminent personality, elder statesman and former President of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Shagari whose demise occurred on Friday in Abuja after a short illness“It grieves my heart that Nigeria has lost yet another most outstanding leaders this country has ever produced.“On behalf of the SDP family, I wish to express our heart felt sympathy to the entire family of the deceased and the country at large for this monumental lose.“As an elder statesman, the Late Shagari during his life time, led an examplary lifestlye that eschewed all forms of discrimination, ethnic, tribal and religious sentiment.“This was reflected in the great role he played in the emancipation of Zimbabwe and the fight against apartheid in South Africa decades ago.His death is painful – Jimi AgbajeThe PDP governorship candidate for Lagos State commiserated with the government and people of Sokoto State over the death of ShagariAgbaje said Shagari’s demise at this time was painful.Describing Shagari as one of the country’s most historical personalities, Agbaje said he would be remembered for being a humble and unassuming politician.According to the PDP candidate, it was a pity that following the four years that Shagari ruled Nigeria and the aborting of his regime in 1983, the country’s fortunes had been on the downward spiral.Nigerian students mourn ShagariPDP mourns second republic President, urges FG to immortalise himBy Dirisu YakubuThe Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has expressed deep sadness over the passing of foremost nationalist and former President of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Othman Shagari describing it as a national tragedy.The party described the late Second Republic President of Nigeria as a man of peace, an exceptionally honest Nigerian, outstanding leader, quintessential administrator and a symbol of national unity, who made immeasurable sacrifices for the development, unity and stability of the nation.In a condolence message signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, the PDP said “Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s excellent performance as political party administrator, member of the House of Representatives, Parliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, variously as minister of Commerce and Industries; Economic Development, Pensions, Works and then Finance; in addition to his service as a governor of the World Bank and member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) committee of 20, all stood him out for the Presidency in 1979.“Despite the challenges that faced the Second Republic, President Shagari remained dedicated in putting our nation on the path of national unity, economic growth and political stability, which was however, scuttled by the military coup staged by then Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd).“That coup was a great disservice to our dear nation, as it reversed all the gains of the Shagari’s democratic rule and plunged us into serious national challenges, from which our nation has been struggling to recover.“The PDP is therefore, deeply sorrowful that President Shehu Shagari took his bow at the time our nation needs his wealth of experience the most, particularly in the quest to restore good governance, national cohesion and economic prosperity that have eluded us in almost four years.“In all, President Shehu Shagari remains a political colossus and the PDP urges the National Assembly to further immortalize him, by mandating the federal government to name a foremost national institution after this great patriot.“The PDP commiserates with the Shagari family, the government and people of Sokoto state, the Council of State and the entire nation for this irreparable loss and prays the Almighty Allah to grant him eternal rest.”The former President passed on to the great beyond on Friday night in Abuja at the age of 93.
Related NewsKola Shittu did not match the picture the reporter expected to see. It was the second day of the new year and the Kwara State chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was calm and all smiles as he ushered party officials into and out of his office in his expansive home in the old GRA, Ilorin.Could Mr Shittu be unaware of the higher-than-usual excitement in the state over the coming general elections, driven by the resurgence of the opposition in the state? At street junctions and on almost every wall in Ilorin, even around Mr Shittu’s house, bright billboards and posters screamed the message: Oto Ge! meaning “Enough is Enough” in Yoruba.It is the battle cry of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and it is echoing even in the most unexpected places in Ilorin and other parts of Kwara. It refers to the long dominance of the politics of the 51-year-old state by the Saraki family.“Place a table by the roadside anywhere in Ilorin, shout Oto Ge! and see the reaction of people,” Iyiola Oyedepo told PREMIUM TIMES.Mr Oyedepo was the state chairman of the PDP until last July when he fled to the APC to avoid sharing the same camp with Bukola Saraki, the Senate president.Mr Saraki, the current “leader” of the Saraki political family, had that month made a grand return to the PDP from the APC, followed by the state governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, and all the elected office holders from the state.When Mr Saraki moved from the PDP in a similar fashion in 2014, he flipped the state to the APC, which went on to win every election there in 2015. But Mr Oyedepo said the tide has turned.“The people are resolute that enough is enough and you can feel it in the air everywhere in Kwara,” he said.Ilorin on knife’s edgeTwo recent events in the state give an indication of a changing political canvass.Usually on Christmas Day, the predominantly Muslim indigenes gathered under their umbrella, Ilorin Emirate Descendants Progressive Union at the palace of their revered emir. At the gathering, they would raise fund for the development of the emirate and review public issues that affect the people within and outside Kwara. It was a key event in the socio-political calendar of the people and everyone turned up gaily dressed. In 2017, the Senate President as the chief donor announced a donation of N10 million.At the event, however, last December, the unusual happened. As Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, the APC governorship candidate, was called to the podium, a band of rednecks sprang to their feet chanting “Sai Bukky,” the slogan of supporters of the Senate President in the state. They were immediately countered with chants of “Oto Ge!”The ensuing commotion overwhelmed the organisers who called an end to the event after the emir, Sulu-Gambari, hurried out of the scene in embarrassment. The next day, the president of the IEDPU announced his resignation.The PDP supporters accused the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, of orchestrating the tumult at the event, alleging it was the reason he had the NTA broadcast the event live.Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed [Photo: Daily Trust]Mr Mohammed, an indigene of Oro about 100 kilometres away in the southern senatorial district of the state, denied the allegation. He said he had no foreknowledge of the event and could not have arranged its coverage by national television. Still, it was significant that a group would stand toe to toe against Mr Saraki’s supporters at such a grand event in the very heart of Ilorin, his hometown.Political FortressThe Sarakis control the politics of Kwara from their political fortress in Ilorin and buttress their hold by using it for negotiation at the federal level. This means that they not only control the resources of the state, but also those accruing from Abuja, including political and public service appointments.The emirate, covering the entirety of Kwara Central Senatorial District and a small part of Kwara North, has about 55 per cent of the voting population of the state.Because the Sarakis have always enjoyed solid support in Ilorin, other parts of the state consider it politically suicidal to stand against them in the Nigerian winner takes all politics where 50.01 percent is equal to 100 percent. Thus, any support the Sarakis draw from outside their home fortress has been based on the pragmatism of the giver. A substantial erosion of the support in Ilorin is thus nunc dimitis to the hegemony.But in the last eight years, Mr Saraki has faced a rising opposition in Ilorin, indicated especially by the desertion of key allies. Some of these include Gani Cook-Olododo, Yinka Aluko and Moshood Mustapha who served him either as chief of staff, commissioner or special adviser when he was governor and were commanders of the foot soldiers at elections.Abdulraheem Oba, a professor and former vice chancellor of the University of Ilorin, is also an influential indigene of Ilorin who has deserted the Saraki camp. Other young Turks never beholden to the Sarakis are also emerging and marking out turfs across the emirate. The fact is that Mr Saraki has not managed to win the adulation his father enjoyed among the Ilorin people.In other parts of Kwara too, many old allies have jumped ship. Many of these are in Kwara South, but there are prominent cases like Ibrahim Bio, a former member of the House of Representatives, speaker of the State House of Assembly and minister; and Ahmed Ahmed, a former senator from Kwara North.One reason that he Sarakis have survived all seasons is because they are adept at forecasting the political weather of Nigeria. In 2003, their timely movement into the PDP helped them in kicking out Governor Lawal of the then ANPP, an indigene of Ilorin who had a strong base there. They enjoyed that advantage of federal might until 2015 when they took a ride on the Buhari train.President Muhammadu BuhariBut now that he is shorn of federal might and has no big sentiment to cling to, Mr Saraki for the first time has to run solely on his own steam. Mr Oyedepo said that steam will not take him far.“We long realized that you no longer need the Sarakis to win an election in Kwara. But each time I said this to our leaders in our former party (the PDP) in Abuja, they looked at me as if I were some clown,” he said.The opposition are scenting blood especially after their victory at last year’s by-election in Kwara South senatorial district.Funke Adedoyin, a member of the House of Representatives, died shortly after following Mr Saraki from APC to PDP. In the by-election at the Irepodun/Isin/Ekiti/Oke-Ero Federal Constituency in Kwara South to fill her seat, the candidate of the APC was returned as the winner. It was the first time that Mr Saraki would lead a party to defeat in Kwara. His political family had made a clean sweep of every general election in the state since 1999, under three different parties. And the winning streak extended much further back.Of the six governors the state has elected since 1979, only one was not handpicked by a Saraki. Even in that odd case in 1983, Cornelius Adebayo of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria got a helping hand from Olusola Saraki to breast the tape.That time, the father of the current Senate President was the Senate Leader. He had fallen out with Adamu Attah, the first elected governor of the state who he installed in 1979. When their ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) sided with the governor and renominated him, Mr Saraki vowed to unhorse him anyway.He asked a protégé to run on the ticket of the Nigerian People’s Party but soon realised that it would take the combined force of the opposition in the state to stop the federal might of the NPN from returning Mr Attah. He then asked his supporters to vote Mr Adebayo.The Second Republic quickly ended with the military coup of December 1983. But the 13 years military interregnum that followed did not weaken the hold of Mr Saraki on Kwara politics. In the short-lived Third Republic, he installed Shaaba Lafiagi, now a senator, as governor. When the Fourth Republic arrived in 1999, he again handpicked Mohammed Lawal, a former Navy admiral, as governor on the platform of the now defunct All Peoples Party.After his incubus of falling out with his anointed king made a reappearance, Mr Saraki decided to put himself up for governor but was advised by his new suitors in the PDP to instead field his then 40-year-old son, Bukola, a medical doctor who had run the family’s now defunct Societe Generale Bank.The younger Saraki would become the first governor to be reelected in the state. But by the end of his second term in 2011, he too was at odds with his father. This time, it was over the father’s insistence on his daughter, Gbemisola, succeeding his son as governor.The face-off with his son ended the political career of the patriarch with a comprehensive defeat in the 2011 elections. He had taken Gbemisola to the fringe National Congress Party of Nigeria. She not only returned a distant third in the governorship election, none of the candidates Mr Saraki put up for other seats across the state fared better.Gbemisola Saraki. [Photo credit: Facebook page of Gbemisola Saraki]Unlike his father, Bukola has managed to retain the loyalty of the governor he installed, Abdulfatah Ahmed, through two terms. However, the new kingmaker has developed a dangerous passion of his own – fighting his friends at the federal level where he became a star player.After leading a rebellion in the then ruling PDP in 2014 as a first time senator, he defected to the newly formed APC. Last July, he returned to the PDP as Senate President after three years of cat and mouse game in the party he helped push to power. Again, the governor, all federal lawmakers from Kwara and all but one of the 24 members of the State House of Assembly were in his tow.However, the current buzz even in Ilorin and the result of the by-election in Kwara South suggest Mr Saraki has on his hands a tougher battle than in 2015 to keep Kwara under the umbrella of the party he has returned to.But Mr Shittu urged against attaching too much significance to the outcome of the by-election.“One, that election was not democratic enough because the true result of the election was not allowed to come out,” he said. “There was rigging in that election where APC used the force of incumbency to change electoral figures and to thumbprint at collation centres. … PDP actually won that election.”But to APC supporters in the state, the by-election result is credible and is a harbinger of what will come at the general elections.“People have realised that development cannot come to the state until it is freed from dynastic rule,” Mr Oyedepo said. “Kwarans now want to elect their leaders based on merit, not by attachment to a godfather.”According to the opposition and other critics, the development of the state has been arrested under the Sarakis’ suzerainty, especially in the last 16 years when the Senate President served two terms as governor and handed over to his protégé, Mr Ahmed, who is completing his own second term next May. They cite alleged rampant corruption and privatization of state resources, the poor network of roads in the state, collapse of public water works, poor and irregular salaries of teachers as well as state and local government workers, neglect of pensioners and the poor states of the health and education sectors in the state.But Mr Saraki’s supporters say the critics are unfair, citing to his credit the reform of the revenue system of the state and projects such as the Shonga Commercial Farm under which Mr Saraki in 2004 brought in 13 White Zimbabwean farmers to establish large farms in the state, Kwara State University, Kwara College of Aviation, Kwara Diagnostic Centre, Kwara Vocational Centre (established in Ajasse-Ipo by the succeeding administration of Governor Ahmed), and the attraction into the state of big businesses such as Shoprite and the Dangote Flour Mill.According to the unflappable Mr Shittu, the PDP is so proud of the record of the Saraki leadership of Kwara that it built its message to the voters on it.“Our central message is continuity – we want the development of the state to continue uninterrupted, in line with the continuity we have run since the Bukola Saraki governorship,” he said.Flying that flag of continuity as the PDP governorship candidate is Razak Atunwa, a Britain-trained lawyer who since returning to Kwara in 2005 has held several cabinet positions under Mr Saraki, served as Speaker of the State House of Assembly from 2011 to 2015 and is currently a member of the House of Representatives.Razak Atunwa.“Our chances are very bright; in fact, we intend to win all the elections in the state – the presidential, governorship, all the National Assembly and State House of Assembly seats. Everything,” Mr Shittu said.Game of SubterfugeMr Shittu, understandably, would not disclose how his party plans to neutralise the ”federal might” and the “Oto Ge!” storm behind the sail of the APC in the state. But it is clear from other things playing out that both protagonists and antagonists consider all, including subterfuge, to be fair in war.The APC was firmly under the control of Mr Saraki until he moved out of the party last year. He had installed a long time follower from Ilorin, Ishola Balogun-Fulani, as the state chairman and picked all the members of the state executive committee. In July, Mr Balogun-Fulani told journalists at a press conference in Ilorin that the leaders and members of the APC in the state wanted Mr Saraki to take them into another party, in protest over his alleged maltreatment by the President Buhari administration and the national leadership of the APC.Ostensibly heeding his followers’ call, Mr Saraki a few days later moved back into the PDP. However, Mr Balogun-Fulani and members of his exco curiously decided to stay put in the APC and retain their positions. The national secretariat of the party swiftly expelled Mr Balogun-Fulani and replaced the state exco with a caretaker committee before announcing a new exco headed by Bashir Bolarinwa. Mr Balogun-Fulani reacted by heading to court.On December 19, Justice T.S Umar of the Kwara State High Court in Ilorin delivered judgment on Mr Balogun-Fulani’s application and granted all the reliefs sought by the claimants.One of the 13 reliefs Mr Umar granted states: “A declaration be and it is hereby made that the claimants as the duly elected and duly constituted members of the Kwara State Committee of the 3rd defendant (The APC) in Kwara State are entitled to exercise all the powers and functions specified for members of the State Executive Committee of the 3rd defendant in the Constitution, Guidelines and Regulations of the 3rddefendant pertaining to the conduct of primary elections or other processes for the nomination of candidates to occupy party posts or contest elections for the posts of Local Government Council Chairman and Councillors, State House of Assembly, House of Representatives, Senate, Governors and President on the platform of the 3rd defendant from Kwara State during the four (4) years tenure of the claimants as a members (sic) of the Kwara State Executive Committee commencing from 6th day of June, 2018.”By this declaration of the court, the nominees of the Balogun-Fulani exco, will be on the ballot as candidates of the APC for the general elections, including Abdulwahab Omotose, a former Majority Leader of the State House of Assembly, as the governorship candidate.Mr Omotose was one of the representatives from Kwara at the formal introduction in Abuja of the Buba Galadima-led Reformed APC (R-APC) formed by those who would the following month in July leave the APC for the PDP. He was, in fact, announced at that event as the interim National Treasurer of the R-APC.Did Mr Balogun-Fulani have a Damascus road conversion that led to his abrupt decision to stay put in the APC after encouraging those who took him there to leave?“It is true that I called on him to go to another party. But specifically, I did not mention which party. When they defected to PDP, it did not go down well with me and my executives. So, I decided to stay with APC. And I wish to refer you to other people who had done same thing like myself, including Senator Shehu Sani,” Mr Balogun-Fulani explained the curious development.The APC described Mr Balogun-Fulani’s action and the court’s judgment he obtained as “the hand of Esau but the voice of Jacob.”According to Mr Oyedepo, “Ishola Balogun-Fulani is a tool in the hand of Saraki to disrupt the process of APC in Kwara State. He is a lackey always at Saraki’s becks and calls. It is clear to everyone that he was left behind to disturb us and cause confusion.“Saraki wants to have the two major parties in the state in his pocket in Kwara. But fortunately, the National Working Committee of the APC was smarter by dissolving the Balogun-Fulani Exco on July 39, 2018. He was also expelled from the party.“A lot has taken place after his expulsion. Another registration of members was done and it was the new register that was used for the congresses. People like us who moved in from the PDP were not in the register with Balogun-Fulani.“We did a direct primary to elect our candidates. The electoral officers came from Abuja to conduct the primaries. It was not a delegates-based election where the party leaders would have elected the candidates, party members across the state elected the candidates.”Mr Oyedepo, who is a lawyer, said the APC has appealed and also asked the Court of Appeal to arrest the court judgment. “By and large, we are confident that Balogun-Fulani and those who sent him on errand are wasting their time.”But Mr Shittu of the PDP saw nothing strange in Mr Balogun-Fulani’s flip-flop.“In politics, 24 hours is a long time. Somebody can take a decision today and change it tomorrow. It is not strange. May be as a Fulani man, he wants to stay with his fellow Fulani, Buhari (President Muhammadu, who is the APC presidential candidate).”However, he agreed that the development and the court judgment are playing out in favour of his party.“As of today, you are aware that the faction of Lai Mohammed APC led by Bolarinwa has no candidates to field for the elections from the court judgment,” he said to underscore his optimism over his party’s chances in the general elections. “It is the faction of Balogun-Fulani that has candidates to field, and that is another thing. They are already in disarray now. They will end up like Rivers and Zamfara states ended up. They will have no candidates to field. All these things are working in our favour.”Mr Saraki is a political strategist and dogged fighter. He demonstrated this on the national stage when he outwitted the APC leadership to seize the Senate presidency, the source of his woes in the party. Since the defeat at the Kwara South by-election, he has taken steps to improve his fortunes in the area. The governor, Mr Ahmed, sacrificed his senatorial ticket so that the incumbent, Rafiu Ibrahim, can seek reelection. Mr Ibrahim is from Ojoku in Oyun Local Government and can draw votes away from Lola Ashiru, an indigene of Offa who is running on the ticket of the APC.Due to a series of developments climaxed by the bank robbery last year, Offa is virtually a no-go for Mr Saraki and his party. But with votes from Oyun and if Mr Ahmed can help draw votes from his Ifelodun Local Government Area, the PDP may not need to write off its chances in Kwara South.The state government has also upgraded many chiefs in the area, apparently to historically temper hostility in the area.What is clear is that the next two months will be very interesting in this multi-ethnic and multi-religious state of about 3 million people that has always punched above its weight in the politics of Nigeria.