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When Blackmail Becomes A Tool…NTDC Incessant Workers’ Strike, By Olajide Unde

  • Written by Yusuf Adeoye
  • Category: Opinion
  • Hits: 56

Read more: When Blackmail Becomes A Tool…NTDC Incessant Workers’ Strike, By Olajide UndeIn sane climes, workers unions are partners in the organizations development ensuring amongst others, good working environs and welfare for members of staff. Far from

antagonism or troublemaking, Unionism is majorly to serve as a platform where workers can collectively federate their observations, opinions and suggestions and pass it through their leaders to the management which cannot because of time, situation and circumstances allow a regular convention of the management and the workers.

After several of such conventions have been exhausted; strikes, sit outs or protests are embarked upon. Note, these are legitimate tools created by law and as vistas for workers to peacefully and decently express their worries, call attention to their welfare, caution the management, make suggestions and call the attention of the management to progressive correctional issues. This right is even an internationally acceptable recognized one sanctioned by International Labour Organisation, ILO.

So it came as a shock to industry practitioners when workers of one of the parastatals under the Ministry of Information, National Orientation and Culture being superintended by Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Nigeria tourism development Corporation, NTDC, embarked on a protest that shut down the office located at the old Federal Government Secretariat, Area 1 Garki , Abuja.in the absence of the head of parastatal and without any forewarning or past dialogues with the Director General, Mr. Folorunsho Coker.

Not undermining the right of workers embarking on a protest, strike or lockout, the onus here is the motive behind such and whether it is honorable or mischievous considering the timing.

With this in mind, industry watchers are of the belief that this particular strike action smacks of blackmail, which is so sad, particularly for a Director General who has spent less than one year in office and one who understands the importance of human capital development as highlighted in the organisation’s Chief plan introduced by Coker. H is Human Capital Development.

Fastidious in pursuing this path, Coker reiterates the need of developing new ways of making tourism work by working with people that can work effectively through their expertise to bring innovative and workable ideas to grow the tourism industry.

This he is presently pursuing by making sure his members of staff are up to date with happenings in the tourism community worldwide and also what it takes to operate a tourism agency in the age of new media. No small feat but one he his doing already.

If only NTDC Union leaders realise the joke is on them, blackmailing or intimidating the management will be relegated to the backburner. What tourism generates in Nigeria is nothing compared to what fellow African countries like Seychelles, South Africa, Kenya etc generate yearly. A big shame for a country like ours.

Union leaders need to take a cue from their counterparts in other climes who are supposed clinical about their purpose, steering off sentiments and personal loyalty when it comes to union issues, welfare and condition of service.

Now, more than ever, it is important they realize, they are first employees of the organisation before being a member of the Union and the essence of their employment is to serve the organization not to play politics and know where to draw the lines between playing Union duties and being dutiful at their post of responsibility.

 

Going by these propositions, one has no tiff with the fact that the NTDC Union leaders called their members to strike. Of course they have the rights, however, going by the past trend, it has now become a sequential occurrence and modus operandi of calling sudden ‘Strikes’ as a means of blackmail and that has to STOP!

Those familiar with this trend can attest to the fact that the urge to strike reared its head immediately Mrs. Sally Mbanefo was appointed as the Director-General, NTDC in replacement of Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, a media practitioner and a rambunctious personality who has the history of fighting three tourism ministers to a standstill.

Her appointment gladdened not many hearts especially with a predecessor who worked more on the pages of the newspaper than on the job. His affection for the media through his over-the -top generosity was returned with splashes all over the media but at the expense of the industry that suffered no growth. Despite, several junkets to travel markets in almost all continents, our tourism arrivals enjoyed continuous decrease and domestic tourism was at it’d lowest ebb.

 

Also, Mbanefo appointment came at a time of economic recession leading to shrinkage of fund available to the corporation thus putting paid to access to free fund which can be employed and deployed to be a good DG either to the press, to staff in form of foreign trips and unnecessary free largesse and frivolous allowances and claims. If that wasn’t bad enough, there was bitterness arising from the abrupt sack of her predecessor who seemed to be angry that Sally lobbied him out of the job whilst nursing secret ambitions of returning to the job he was unceremoniously removed from while on assignment out of the country.

 

With constant interaction with the workers and the Union leaders who Sally inherited, the intrigue of the bitterness of a displaced DG who still has a lot of blind followers in NTDC with the union leader and workers who were not happy that things were not the same again, the era of strike crawled in. An examination of the reasons, modus operadi and demand of the workers will show that the whole strike actions being embarked in NTDC are out of tune, totally unwholesome and unethical.

Let’s read excerpts from some newspapers on the previous strike.

On February 25, 2015, National newspaper under the Headline “NTDC workers’ strike enters the second week”, ‘The workers have vowed to continue with the industrial action until the agency’s director general, Mrs. Sally Mbanefo, is removed from office.

Last week, official activities at the parastatals Abuja and zonal offices were stopped.

The workers, through their union, Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), have made several allegations against Mrs. Mbanefo.

They accused her of starving the agency of fund under the guise that the Federal Government was no longer funding the parastatal.

 

The workers accused her of “going behind to collect huge allocation from the Federal Government”.

 

The NTDC Chapel Chairman of AUPTCRE, Sam Unwuchola Okpomo, said as at July 2014, the Federal Government released N52,014,821 as capital budget and N342, 654,807 for training and other logistics to the agency.”

 

In September 3, 2015, in the Hallmark newspaper under the Headline, “Fears of sack forces NTDC boss to back down …as workers call off strike”

 

“It would be recalled that the protesting staff, led by Comrade Anthony Benjamin, in a memo obtained by Hallmark accused the DG of not properly mobilizing funds for the activities of the corporation as it relates to administrative functions.

 

They accused her of incapacitating the staff with the claim of a shortage of funds to perform the statutory functions of the corporation but overhead will be released and go out through other sources.

The staff said,” the DG does not fund the zonal offices, she will visit the zone and stop at the airport to insult the staff of the zone to their integrity by asking them to go and source for funds from affluent individuals for the running of the office. She did not even appreciate the efforts of the staff in ensuring the success of her visit to the state.

”We are tired of a DG who claims to be promoting domestic tourism but will not fund the zones offices where tourism potentials are domiciled organization but will tell the staff there in no money for official works but there is money for other fictitious travels by herself and her associates to different destinations.”

Daily Trust Sept 3 wrote

Striking NTDC workers call for DG’s removal

By Mustapha Suleiman | Publish Date: Sep 3 2015 5:47AM

‘On their demand, Comrade Kunama said: “We want her removal. She is killing the tourism sector. Except the government is not serious with tourism, but if the government wants to tap into the potentials of tourism to diversify the Nigerian economy, they have to remove her and bring in a professional that has a vision for the sector.”

The Federal government seemed to have seen through the malevolent and malicious intent of the unions or the workers and refused to pander to the unreasonable demands of the workers and refused to relief Sally of her job. Though Sally was removed in November 2016, it should be a matter of curious logic and interest that between November 2016 and May 2017 three DGs were in quick succession appointed and removed. Two of them, career officers and the other an outsider, none of them were accepted by the Union

 

And according to a presidency source, they were all removed majorly “due to the unnecessary antagonism to their appointment by the Union who was being used and manipulated and workers who engaged in writing acrimonious petition with some outsider who was willing to come back to NTDC who took solace at sponsoring media attack against the appointees’.

 

And the Federal Government brought in Coker, who has distinguished himself in the public sector, government and a memorable tenure as Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism. The problem with Coker according to an investigation commenced shows that his preference for domestic tourism as against the floundering of the meagre fund of the Corporation on foreign fair and Travel markets.

In December 1, 2017 in the Nation’s online, under the headline “Protesting workers seek sack of NTDC’s DG”

‘Activities were paralysed at the headquarters of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), on Wednesday, following a protest by workers who called for the sack of its Director General, Mr. Folorunsho Folarin Coker, for incompetence. The workers accused Coker of highhandedness, saying the DG had not improved their welfare since his appointment.

They said they were disappointed by the “ugly development” in the corporation. The workers noted that Coker illegally set up a project unit, which, they claimed, is not part of the NTDC’s line of activity. They said the unit was a conduit to siphon public funds.’

 

A few online publications graced their platforms with this news under different slants. A cursory examination and contextual synthesis of the grievances of the works or union under Sally Mbanefo and Coker extensively exposed the rut of a corporation. The sole reason is “The removal of the DG without any concrete allegation or advocacy for workers!“

 

During the tenure of Sally Mbanefo, it is shameful that none of the allegation levelled against were strong enough to convict her till date. All allegations were unfounded and malicious. The lady was never found wanting or guilty.

 

Going through the protest letter sent out in 2017 against Coker, one can see that it is not only watery but of no substance. The fault is in not in the workers being teleguided sheepishly by a Union which is being sponsored and used by some external elements who believe NTDC is their birthright but shame of the successive superintending Minister who watch as NTDC is hijacked by the Union who seems to find listening ears and cooperation of the said Minister. The fact is that NTDC needs urgent and prompt surgical operation. It is a corporation full of old doldorous pantaloons and deadwood evil servants who are loyal to persons, not the office. Some of them have no particular assignment or solids scheduled duty.

 

Any serious government will not only refuse to harken to their silly demands but will go a step further by appropriately restructuring and rightsizing the workers by separating those who want to work for the nation from the goons who want to play cheap politics and those who love to be used as agent of destabilization. NTDC should be clean and straightened up, the time to act is now.

 

However, the symbolism of the recent phenomenal changes being injected into NTDC by Folorunso Folarin Coker via the ‘Tour Nigeria’ brand which has recorded intracontinental acceptance and acknowledgement with the historic passing of the NTDC Bill by the Senate should not be truncated. Let the process of laundering the NTDC starts now. Let’s reposition it for purposeful activation

 

Let’s create the ambience for productive piloting for Folorunso Folarin Coker has within 6 months demonstrated and signposted the ability and sagacity of a reformer.

The ball is in the court of the President Muhammadu Buhari and Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

I leave you with this:

Nigeria tourism is beyond the concept of a single person. Is it not curious that NTDC to some few minds cannot be a good corporation until a certain person or persons rule the place? Or has not been okay since certain person has been removed? Why can’t we cast our minds on this observation? Can’t we think beyond our personal and selfish consideration? Why should we continue using the gullible Union leaders to rock the boat of NTDC and destroy the Industry just because the person there is not tending to our selfish demands or because the fellow there is not the person we would have loved to be there? The so-called NTDC workers are only hitting themselves below the belt because they are only calling attention of the government to the fact that the place needs a surgical operation.

Go, Mugabe, Go, By Reuben Abati

  • Written by Yusuf Adeoye
  • Category: Opinion
  • Hits: 88

Read more: Go, Mugabe, Go, By Reuben AbatiSince August, I have been the anchorperson of a programme on television called ThisDay Live, where we discuss political matters – local and global. The programme is available on Arise News TV at 6pm, 9pm and sometimes at midnight every Sunday. Two days ago, we discussed the situation in Zimbabwe, the elections in Anambra State, Nigeria’s decision to hire Malaysian experts at a cost of N485 million to figure out new pathways for Nigeria’s economic growth (with all the experts in Nigeria oh!), the proposed expansion of President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet, the burial of 26 teenage Nigerians by the Italian authorities without Nigeria showing up, the sale of Nigerians and other Africans into slavery in Libya… But our top story was Zimbabwe and the travails of a once-upon-a-time Comrade Robert Mugabe. We started the programme by joining the Arise News studio in London where our colleague Tham who has been on the Zimbabwean story provided all the updates.
He had said that he thought that the Lagos studio was a little behind on the story, because at that point, there were clear indications that Robert Mugabe had been persuaded to resign and he thought that would happen in a matter of hours, because television cameras were already being set up and Mugabe, having been expelled from the ruling party, along with his Lady Macbeth wife- the Gucci Grace, was bound to throw in the towel. I engaged Tham and my last question to him was: Is it certain that Mugabe would resign, or he would have to be impeached? I paraphrase of course. But Tham was sure, he was certain that the matter would not require impeachment proceedings, and that Mugabe was sure to resign and allow Zimbabwe to move ahead. His optimism was misplaced, and I do not blame Tham for his optimism. We all have been very optimistic that the drama of Zimbabwe had reached a certain end, but the reality is that the coup plotters of Zimbabwe are proving to be the nicest coup plotters ever in the history of that enterprise.
The more we hear about Zimbabwe, the more it appears that the military and the ZANU-PF hierarchy who want Robert Mugabe out of the way, are not really sure of what means to employ to achieve their objective. This must be the most uncertain, the most diffident bid for power ever, and it is a clear illustration of the extent of Robert Mugabe’s hold on power in that unfortunate country. Majority of the people who want Mugabe out of power may not like his wife, the typist turned mistress, turned wife, turned Lady Macbeth, turned power-seeker, but they remember Mugabe’s role in the history of their nation – he fought for independence, he defied the colonialists and the imperialists, but he then became a despot, muzzling the opposition, killing off any form of dissent, the once revered revolutionary soon became a woman-wrapper, and in his later years, a parody of his old self. Those who want him out of power are his own associates, members of a party he co-founded, not the opposition, and so they treat their elderly comrade with too much love. These coup-plotters are therefore behaving as if they are afraid to hurt Mugabe. He is so ensconced in their psyche, they would rather not hurt him, because he is so central to their collective reckoning and history.
The Zimbabwe military has been treading so carefully it does not even want to use the word “coup”. I believe that this is not necessarily out of the fear of international backlash – the international community would be glad to see Mugabe fall- all the issued statements are at best symbolic diplomatese. Mugabe is the oldest President in the world and a signal nuisance with his off-key speeches, falling spells, despotism and soporific appearances on the global stage. At 93, he has nothing to offer anymore, but the man has since declared that he is determined to remain in office till the age of 100, or interpretively, die in office. A coup against such a man would attract the usual scripted responses but the global feeling would be one of actual relief. Leaders like Mugabe sometimes put international consensus to threat. Anyhow, the characters in charge of the current situation in Zimbabwe not only put Mugabe under house arrest, they have since then been going to him to pay homage. Two days after the military announced their intervention, the leaders went to visit Mugabe at home. He later showed up at a convocation ceremony, where he showed absolutely no signs of distress. One of the graduands was in fact the wife of the Zimbabwe Chief of Defence Forces! When Mugabe addressed the nation on Sunday, he was serenaded by the same people who want him out of the way, with one of them even helping him to turn the pages of an incoherent speech.
The so-called change-agents of Zimbabwe are actually not change agents at all. What is going on in Zimbabwe is not a revolution; it is a re-arrangement of the power nexus within the ruling party. This is all at the end of the day about Grace Mugabe. The liberation veterans within the ruling party, who are aligned with the ousted former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa resent the rise to influence and power and the threat of further rise of Robert Mugabe’s wife, the 52-year old Grace Mugabe. They needed to stop the flow of her opportunism: her plan to capture the leader and capture the country with nothing more than female power. I agree that it is important and expedient to stop Grace Mugabe from turning an entire country into what is currently known in Nigeria as “the other room”. Having achieved that objective, and Robert Mugabe having reassured them, and they assuming that by taking leadership of the party from Mugabe and bringing back Mnangagwa, that the revolution has been saved, the elders of the events of the last week in Zimbabwe may end up advertising their own naivety.
The rigmarole, indeed the entertainment, has gone on for too long. The speech given by Robert Mugabe Sunday night showed that Mugabe is defiant. He is unwilling to resign or step down. He understands that the Sixth schedule of the Constitution creates its own special roadblocks if a “supposedly elected” President must be removed from office. If care is not taken, Robert Mugabe will outsmart those who want him out of power and we could have a tragic situation in that country. The old man of Zimbabwe politics is still trying to take charge, postponing the evil day and even after his removal from the leadership of the party, he wants to preside over the next meeting of the ZANU-PF. Here is Mugabe behaving like that proverbial, aged uncle in the village who keeps defying death. Each time he falls ill and the children and grandchildren begin to prepare for his funeral, he would suddenly wake up again, sometimes after his death has been announced and funeral arrangements have been made. The family got trapped in the endless funeral arrangements, until someone came up with the idea that the Oracle should be consulted to find out the mystery of the old man’s repeated Lazarus-like existence. The Oracle’s striking revelation was that the old man had a charm, a ring on the big toe of his left leg, and until and except that ring is removed, the man may never die. What the change-seekers of Zimbabwe should do is to remove that ring around Mugabe’s thumb toe on the left leg.
It is none other than the respect and sympathy that the authors of the recent process still have for Mugabe. Left to the ZANU-PF leadership and the military, they’d rather have Mugabe die in office. What they cannot stand is the impunity of his overreaching wife, the Jezebel called Grace Mugabe. The turning point came when Grace turned her gaze on the liberation veterans and began to eliminate them starting with former VP Emmerson. The liberation wing of the ZANU-PF could no longer tolerate the rise of Grace Mugabe’s G-40 and their bid for power. Grace Mugabe is Robert Mugabe’s nemesis. She is the Delilah to his Samson. When Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari told an international audience that his wife belongs to the sitting room, the kitchen and the other room, we all accused him of misogyny, but in far away Zimbabwe, Mugabe is making Buhari look like a man of wisdom. Not a few world leaders have been destroyed by their wives: Lucy Kibaki, the wife of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki was so powerful, her husband openly deferred to her in public. In Africa’s patriarchal system, a President’s wife behaving like she has her husband on a leash, is bound to ignite crisis. Grace Mugabe is said to be in a fit of hysteria. Forty-one years younger than the husband she married by stabbing another husband in the back, Grace Mugabe will never be forgotten as a case study for the anatomy of female power.
On his own, Mugabe, going through a process of anagnorisis and devastating catharsis, wants to hold on to power by all means. Sit-tight African leaders and despots never want to leave. Idi Amin of Uganda didn’t want to go. Yahya Jammeh, the most recent example, tried every possible trick to prolong his stay in office. In Egypt, it took a people’s revolution to push Hosni Mubarak out. Mugabe is going through the same course of defiance. He needs to be reminded that the people are the real Oracle of democracy. The game is up. The genie is out of the bottle. In 37 years, the ordinary people of Zimbabwe, who have majorly not known any leader other than the old man, have never gone out in protest to reject him, not even when he brutalized the opposition, not even when he killed hundreds of thousands of Ndebeles, but now the people have found their voice. They are defying Mugabe. They want him out. He has thus lost legitimacy and influence. His mystique is gone. His power is vanishing. Without power, a man of power is nothing but a shell. Mugabe has reportedly rejected every option that he has been given: resignation, a life in exile, or retirement within the country, with full immunity. He is not sure. He is trying to buy time. The truth is Mugabe has been caged. He is afraid of tomorrow. He is scared. It is good to see the hunter in the role of the hunted. He does not deserve our pity.
Hopefully, other sit-tight African leaders who imagine themselves to be monarchs rather than leaders would learn from the travails of former Comrade Robert Mugabe. In Togo, Equatorial Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Cameroon, and elsewhere in Africa, sitting Presidents are behaving like monarchs. The rings on their toes would also have to be removed by the people, in order to fully consolidate the democratic dispensation in Africa.
The international community must not allow Zimbabwe to continue to drift. The uncertainty that lingers in that country, if allowed to continue, could result in greater chaos and instability. The Military and the ZANU-PF have done apparently their best so far to push Robert Mugabe, but the man has refused to jump. The international community has the wherewithal to make him jump. It must be made clear to him in no uncertain terms that the game is up. It is over. The Zimbabwe parliament should be encouraged to impeach Robert Mugabe. Fears of a possible deluge in a Zimbabwe without Mugabe may be overstretched. Things are bad enough as they are in that country, with inflation at 50 per cent, a comatose economy and widespread hardship. Mugabe’s exit should guarantee only one outcome: an opportunity to rebuild a battered country and a traumatized citizenry. That real change may not come from a compromised ZANU-PF and so-called rent-collecting liberation veterans, but from a new beginning in which Zimbabwe frees itself from the Banquo’s ghost of Mugabe’s misrule and an entitlement class parading itself as revolutionaries.

LIVING FOR PUBLIC GOOD ALWAYS By Hon Segun Olulade

  • Written by Yusuf Adeoye
  • Category: Opinion
  • Hits: 133

Read more: LIVING FOR PUBLIC GOOD ALWAYS By  Hon Segun OluladeAs I was preparing to publish collection of my thoughts as a book, there came an experience am humbled to share. I chose to include it as the last chapter of this book because of the life changing lessons I feel I am indebted to share with the public. 

The scriptural recommendation that we should always be good to fellow being is as old as existence of the world itself. When the Bible says “Love your neighbour as yourself”, it implies that whatever is our wish for fellow human naturally returns back to us in a way. This is applicable to everyone irrespective of status.

The truism that we are what we sow in terms of deeds cannot be half true. A close shave encounter with death on Monday 11th September 2017 revealed the shortest length between life and death, while the help from ‘doing it right’ that placed an ambulance in the remote Ketu-Ejinrin General Hospital Epe and dividend of my humble goodwill became the saving grace.

‘Living for public good always’ is a ‘best kept secret’ meant for all to earn noble rewards but only the wise make use of it. More importantly, those who are privileged to hold positions of authority should see it as rare honour to touch lives because to whom much is given, much is expected. Public office is a trust and public office holders too are part of the public.

For me as Eleniyan nothing bothers me more than waking up in a day without a programme that will help me bring a little happiness to those who are in dire need particularly on the financial front. Without dressing anything borrowed robes, I am nicknamed Eleniyan not for the fancy of it, but because I see people as my garment each day of my life. Life is short; whatever we give to help and save others from sorrow, agony and dejection are our deposits for the eternal.

Apart from being humanitarian, it is also wise to give one’s best in any situation where service is required. Whatever helps offered in the cause of doing well, it is mere deposit for one’s safety account when the time comes. If Ketu-Ejinrin in the semi-rural part of Epe was not deemed worthy of an ambulance by Governor Ambode under his ‘health service delivery for all’ scheme, or if a bad legislation had stalked such laudable scheme, the narration herewith would have been different, a memorial commendation probably.

I survived a life threatening situation on the fateful day not because of my position or influence; practically if Ketu-Ejinrin General Hospital lacks capability for good medical service, or has no stand-by ambulance for emergency, the eventuality would have be disastrous.

In the public office arena, political and public office holders who fix public facilities to serve all class of people are only wise. Though those who take advantage of their positions to divert huge public resources think they are smarter.  Reward of goodwill is peace of mind. A former public office holder in Nigeria who was riddled with all forms of diseases but has array of estate apartments, huge shopping complexes, properties across Dubai and London and unlimited investments while her people languish in abject poverty and penury is not only wicked but cruel in its severest form.

Holder of public office is just a receiver of grace and high privilege because there are so many men and women who hold no distinctive positions but whose contribution towards the development of the society has been enormous.

We have seen viral lessons online of modest world leaders who go on public train, travelled on road without heavy security and a Prime Minister who rode on bicycle to office without hassles. We must continuously strive to make the world peaceful and habitable for all. We have also seen a poor cleaner at Nigeria’s foremost international airport returned millions of naira lost by a traveller - good will is not limited to status. Be you a clerk, office attendant, security personnel, driver or even a cleaner, you are bound to put your best as the good job you do might just be your saving grace when least expected.

To my warmest amazement, the level of care and hospitality received in the hands of our health care workers were amazing. This also has nothing to do with my status but demonstration of the fact that if adequately motivated and encouraged, our health care providers can offer equal or better services than what we seek for thousands of miles away. 

I am therefore happy that the vision of the present administration is to ensure Lagosians who live in the remotest part of the State are able to access health care facilities.

Government hospital in Ketu-Ejinrin provided emergency service to stabilise my failing health; a stand-by ambulance took over and LASUTH did the rest. Anyone can find himself in a situation where his bullet proof car will be of no use but that ambulance with a thinning conveyer stretcher while siren is blown to announce the need to save a life.

I was dressing up preparatory to my return trip to Lagos without the least sign of such health emergency scenario, but when it dawned, the car parked outside for my journey was later driven empty to Lagos while I was conveyed with the thinning stretcher inside the ambulance for intensive treatment at the LASUTH. Life is transient for whoever cares to accept the reality of it.

After staying unconscious for almost an hour, the splash of water over my face at a gallop returned me back to life. At that moment, my thought went to Albert Schweitzer who said “the purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.” I offered my silent prayer for the grace to do more for my people and those unknown. It was answered as I regained my consciousness partly until I got full treatment. At that point, the ambulance driver was a factor in the outcome (good or bad) of my situation…everyone is important!

The level of professionalism displayed by Doctors and staff of various departments at LASUTH were so amazing. Services were superb talking equipment and personnel.

I implore Lagosians to continue to patronise our General Hospitals because they still remain the best around. All we need to do is developed them into international model health care hospitals. It was also a thing of joy that every department I was taken to for examination, one person I never remembered I helped in the past came out to offer their best to save my life. The good relationship I maintained with people in the health sector I oversee had paid up.

We must always do well at all circumstances. Our contributions in the cause of our public services are not for anybody but invariably for ourselves. As legislators, if we did not do enough to ensure money was adequately voted for health sector, I would have become a victim of our undoing. As I was there, a senior Doctor was also admitted and operated upon, reaping dividends of his goodwill; such is life.

I want to sincerely thank the Governor, the Speaker of Lagos Assembly, all Honourable members, entire staff of ketu-Ejinrin General Hospital, CMD of LASUTH, Doctors and all staff and all law-abiding tax payers in Lagos State; we are all doing ourselves services needed for a better tomorrow. I thank my well-wishers and associates who stood by me in me low time.

Health is wealth. We need to make every life count and continue to ensure no life is lost as a result of unavailability of basic health care facility or personnel. Our society is only better and safer when we can rely on our local apparatus for saving lives. In all, we must all strive to continue to live for one another. Who knows, the next beneficiary of our goodwill might just be our own blood relation or the next door neighbour.

Olulade is a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly.

Wanted: A Restructuring Of Minds, By Femi Adesina

  • Written by Yusuf Adeoye
  • Category: Opinion
  • Hits: 233

Read more: Wanted: A Restructuring Of Minds, By Femi AdesinaHearing some Nigerians speak (whether based at home or in the Diaspora), you discern that they are “in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity”. They spew out things that give them away as “whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones”.

What happened to grace? Where did decency disappear to? Are words not to be seasoned with salt again? What has happened to us as a people? The more rotten, the better, it seems. The fouler and odoriferous the cesspit, the more attractive, followed by applause. That seems to be the philosophy of some people today, and it doesn’t matter who they are. High or low. But we cannot continue that way, if we want to be acceptable to God, and to our fellow human beings. National development does not come by a sudden flight. You work at it.

The sing-song in the country today is restructuring of the polity. We want more states. We want a return to regional structure. We want a revision of the revenue allocation formula. We want six vice presidents, one from each geopolitical zone. We want those zones to be the federating units, rather than the states. And so on, and so forth.

In fact, so loud is the cacophony of voices over restructuring that if you ask 100 people what they mean, they give you 100 different explanations. But as a country, I believe we will get there someday. And soon.

However, is political restructuring the most urgent thing Nigeria needs now? I don’t think so. For me, what is more urgent is the restructuring of the Nigerian mind. A mind that sees the country as one, that believes that we have a future and a hope, that believes that we are one people under God. But what we see now is ruinous for any country. It is hemlock, bound to poison the entire polity, and send it to a premature perdition.

On Tuesday, the National Bureau of Statistics announced that we had exited from economic recession. It was cheery news for majority of Nigerians, save for those in the gall of bitterness. They spat in the sky, and collected the spittle with their faces. Who gave Nigeria the permission to exit recession? Who gave her the audacity of hope? How can the economy attempt to rebound, when it should sink deeper and deeper into the miry clay? They were in the doldrums, unhappy because good news came for the country. In their befuddled minds, Nigeria must never see a silver lining in the sky. The ravening clouds must ever remain victorious, must forever possess the sky, simply because of primordial reasons. The party in power is not my own, so why should Nigeria make progress under it? The president in office was not the one I voted for, so why should he succeed? He does not speak my language, he is not of my religion or ethnic stock, so why must Nigeria prosper under him? They, therefore, throw all sorts of tantrums, like a child whose lollipop is taken away, and attempt to rubbish the news on exit from recession. And those same people would canvass for a restructuring of the polity. Big mistake. Wrong priority. They need to have their minds restructured first, so that they have goodwill towards their own country, and towards all men. Left to them, they wish that when NBS releases results for the next quarter, Nigeria should have gone back into recession. Filthy dreamers! Awful imaginations! They need a restructuring of their minds, and quickly, too.

Some people spend their lifetime expecting thunderstorms and hurricanes, so they never enjoy showers of blessing. Their addled minds expect negative news, so they never enjoy good tidings. They are the type that swallow poison, and then begin to hope that it will kill the person next door. Restructuring, restructuring, that is what such minds need.

Chase after him. If you catch up with him, kill him. If he outruns you, poison his footsteps. That is the chant in most parts of the country today. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Hate has become their natural language. When they speak hateful words, they speak their native language, their mother tongue. Don’t mid the elevated offices they occupy now, or which they have occupied in the past. They are in the throes, in the paroxysms of bitterness. Only a restructuring of the mind can save them. My dear senior friend, Ikemba Obosima, from Imo State, has good counsel for them, in a text message he sent to one of them recently, which he copied me: “Pain will follow him who speaks or acts with evil thoughts, as does the wheel of the foot of him who draws the cart. He is greater man who conquers self than he who kills a thousand men in war…Love will purify the heart of him who is beloved as truly as it purifies the heart of he who loves.” But will they listen? If they have not danced too far, and have not become like the dog fated to get lost, which refuses to hear the whistle of the hunter. Let them return home, to sanity.

The National Bureau of Statistics announced our descent into recession. They embraced the news, almost with sickening glee. Now, the same agency has announced exit, and they begin to question its impartiality. What kind of people are they? They want to hear only bad news? May their minds be restructured, lest bad news dog their footsteps. Malediction? Am I cursing anybody? Not at all. Just a warning, and a call to new attitude, new thoughts, new conduct. The things we expect have a way of coming upon us. Ask the biblical Job. “What I feared has come upon me. What I dreaded has happened to me (Job 3:25).”

One of the characteristics of a hateful mind is that it conjures a lot of mischief, and purveys same as truth. And the gullible laps it up. During the health challenge of our dear President, a thing common to any mortal, big or small, of high or low estate, they filled the land with evil tidings. Oh, he is on life support machine. No, he is dead and long buried. He will never return to that office, I swear. And then, God did what He knows how to do best. He showed the Deus ex machina, His Invisible Hands. Now, the reputation of those people is hanging on life support. If only men would restructure their minds!

President Muhammadu Buhari says exit from recession is cheery news, but until the life of the average Nigerian is positively touched by the economy, he doesn’t consider the job done. Very good. Even the NBS, which brought the good news, says the economy is still fragile, and the good work must continue, so that we don’t slide back. That is exactly what this government would do. That is the motive behind the Economic Reconstruction and Growth Plan. So, let nobody be filled with diabolic thoughts. Government does not feel it is there yet. Action stations! All hands on deck.

A final word for haters, wailers, purveyors of fake news, or whatever you choose to call them. Evil minds wax worse and worse. A hater would envy others unnecessarily. He would conjure evil thoughts that would poison his system. He would manifest all sorts of negative tendencies that turn him into a proper child of the Devil. And at the end of it all, his master welcomes him home with open arms. “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” (Dante’s Inferno). And there will be plenty weeping, and gnashing of teeth.

. Adesina is the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari.

NIGERIA AND THE RESTRUCTURING DEBATE, BY JIMI BENSON

  • Written by Yusuf Adeoye
  • Category: Opinion
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Read more: NIGERIA AND THE RESTRUCTURING DEBATE,  BY JIMI BENSONI have read a lot of literature by very eminent and knowledgeable citizens on the need for restructuring our practice of federalism in Nigeria. Most of these calls for restructuring cite the lopsided structure of Nigeria which is perceived as an arrangement favourable to the North, and have argued that since Nigeria was birthed by the fusion or amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates, they do not understand the basis for the northern protectorate having overwhelming advantage over the south. These advantages they say are apparent in the number of States, Legislators, and Local Governments amongst other socio-political and economic benefits that the North has over its Southern counterpart.

No doubt the incursion of the military into Nigeria's political space caused serious harm. Even though a product of a military school, I am an unrepentant democrat and strongly believe in the principles of true federalism, ironically ingrained by a Soldier-Teacher, Mr Afuwape, who played a major role in developing his students’ interest in democratic norms.

The Restructuring Debate

In simple corporate parlance, restructuring means “the re-organisation of a company with a view to achieving greater efficiency and profit or to adapt to a changing market.

The above definition can be used to illustrate the current narratives making the rounds in the country today. If you look at Nigeria as a Corporate entity, which in real sense can be seen as such, you will agree with me that our nation urgently requires a re-organisation with a view to achieving greater efficiency and productivity and without this re-organisation the agitation we are currently experiencing, God forbid, might make us become a failed state.

What federalism connotes is a system of government that proportionately divides power between the central authority and its subordinating states with definite constitutional roles that permits for economic control over resources beneath their soil.  It was James Madison who asserted, that in a Federal structure, the state and central government "are in fact but different agents and trustees of the people, constituted with different powers." The bane of our  nation today is that we practise a deceptive form of federalism which in real sense is a unitary system of government, where every month the states go cap in hand to receive hand-outs from the central government. Federalism envisages a situation where the States ought to control their resources and give returns to the centre not the other way round.

It will interest you to know that the Philippines, (which practices a unitary system of government is proposing a change in its system of governance from its current unitary arrangement to a federal system of government, where the states/regions generate income and keep 70% of such income for their own use and send the remaining - 30% to central government, to address the problem of unitary form of government that has established an unfair distribution of funds between the regional government and national government in the country. This change is being spearheaded by the country’s President Rodrigo Duterte. 
Even though some Nigerians dispute the ability of states in the current pseudo-federalism to independently handle themselves without hand-outs from the Federal Government, and the likes of Governor Nasir El-Rufai have labeled those calling for restructuring as political opportunists and irresponsible, I believe that a change in responsibilities and structure will encourage fiscal reforms in states.

It is time for Nigeria to adopt a system that works and solves problems while understanding the peculiarities of respective regions thereby giving states the independence to govern and manage their resources. This will create a more conducive environment to drive economic growth and sustenance, instead of concentrating power at the Centre while potentials that should be maximized are allowed to waste in the regions.

Can the Federating States Be Viable?

Emphatically Yes! The federating states can be viable if they are empowered to tap into their mineral and natural resources and also retain a sizeable portion of its proceeds. Most States in Nigeria have become aggressive in their tax drive, so as to boost their Internally Generated Revenues (IGR) and collections, to shore up their dwindling allocations from the Federal Government.  It is common knowledge that the current structure of Nigeria’s quasi-federalism is not only parasitic but also redundant in the face of global demands for citizen-driven governance. There is no gainsaying that each state in Nigeria has its own comparative advantage in some sphere of endeavour, which has been and remains beclouded by the lucre of collecting monthly hand-outs from Abuja.

Records prove that there are huge economic opportunities that States have refused to explore. A report by the Nigerian Extractive Industries and Transparency Initiative, NEITI in 2015 revealed that there are about 40 different kinds of solid minerals and precious metals of commercial quantity in the Northern and some Southern part of the country waiting to be exploited. The value for the abandoned minerals tends to run into hundreds of trillions of dollars.

 

Restructuring - Fear of the Unknown

Fears that restructuring could erode the powers of the Federal government are unfounded as the benefits of a nimble and efficient Federal government far outweighs its demerits.

Those opposing restructuring can only be said to have a tunnel vision of what federalism means and the opportunities inherent in it. When a country decides to delve into a fiscal federal system, it tends to guarantee for itself protection; the capacity to negotiate on shared values; more direct access to domestic markets and above all, higher standard of living since the state apparatus can decide the minimum welfare packages based on its earned resources.

The Exclusive legislative list (contained in the second schedule of our constitution), as it presently stands gives the federal government unfettered and overbearing powers over the federating units (states).  I imagine an Exclusive List which is devoid of major items such as: Power, Railways, Police, Labour and Mineral Resources (just to mention a few) to be transferred to the Concurrent Legislative List (the list where items that can be legislated on by both Federal and State Government are contained) to encourage state efficiency, boost and stimulate true federalism and enhance the autonomy of the state. You will be amazed at how light the Exclusive list is in India and the United States. In these jurisdictions, the exclusive list only bothers with issues like defence, banking and currency, foreign affairs, other items such as police, commerce and the like are in the residual and concurrent list. Imagine, how this will unlock the dead assets we have in Nigeria and how this will curb urban migration, create employment and prosperity.

In the United States, the power to regulate and enforce compliance is domiciled with FG while leaving the states and private entities to handle implementation. For example, the local police in the US get their certifications from the Federal Regulatory agency that monitors Police Conduct.  They have State, City, County, College, Post Office and Airport Police to name a few; but each of these Police Formations has to recertify its competencies every year with a Federal Regulatory Unit called Internal Affairs.  They investigate local Police for misconduct and human right abuses.

The call for restructuring has been gaining momentum in the light of agitations from different quarters and as rightly posited by Former Military President and Elder Statesman, General Ibrahim Babangida (Rtd), “We cannot be detained by those fears and allow civilization to leave us behind. We must as a people with one destiny and common agenda take decisions for the sake of posterity in our shared commitment to launch our country on the path of development and growth. Policing has become so sophisticated that we cannot continue to operate our old methods and expect different results.”

Across the geopolitical zones, the singsong hinges on the need to find a new bearing; with the All Progressives Congress (APC) South West caucus also wading into the debate for restructuring. In a communiqué issued on the heels of their conference held in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, months ago, the party posited that “meaningful progress and socio-economic development of the Nigerian nation is unattainable without restructuring the extant, largely Unitarian geo-political arrangement. It is by such re-arrangement, leading to genuine fiscal and political federalism that the innate energies of the people of Nigeria can be realized and new vistas of human development opened up.”

Who is afraid of Restructuring?

Is it the Northern Oligarchy? Is it for economic reasons or fear of losing political dominance?

In 2012 Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu said challenges facing the country will be resolved when it adopts the practice of constitutional democracy and fiscal federalism.
Recently former Vice President Atiku Abubakar picked up courage by talking about restructuring the Nation, something most Northerners have been afraid to talk about. This should be the agenda of our government going forward and all hands must be on deck to make it a reality.

Surprisingly, the narrative over the years has always been that the North is obsessed with the free money coming from oil and does not want restructuring for selfish reasons, but two of our last three presidents have been Southerners who ought to have spearheaded the campaign to restructure the country.

I recently read an article by Chief Duro Onabule, titled “Restructuring: Who lopsided Nigeria in the first place? He opined that Nigeria under Tafawa Balewa practiced fiscal federalism with a very robust federal constitution which encouraged financial autonomy, competiveness, operational revenue allocation. He stated that this was however cut short by the General Agunyi Irons i’s Government which introduced the unitary system of Government that reduced the powers of the region and added more to the federal Government, which action gave birth to the imbalance or lop-sidedness we are currently confronted with.

While President Goodluck Jonathan had no definite stand on federalism, political elites are comfortable to keep the federating units subservient to the federal government. Against this background, it can be deduced that the real reason why we have not practiced Federalism in its fiscal form lies in the fact that we had elected Presidents who lack the political will and insight to make restructuring a priority and reality. It is apparent that they have been skeptical about the outcome of restructuring on the federal budget, the economy and their political party. It behoves the current administration to correct past wrongs and toe the line of public good by initiating the process for the much desired economic and political restructuring.

Youths and Restructuring

Gauging the mood of the youths across the country, it is obvious they want restructuring because of its inherent benefits. The United Nation warns that the 15 million unemployed Youths in Nigeria is a ticking time bomb and a disaster waiting to happen.

The President of Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Alhaji Yerima Shettima, stated in the wake of the 2014 National Confab that the youth do not support the anti-federalism position of northern delegates at the national confab, since the “northern youths wanted fiscal federalism and regional autonomy”. Truth be told, the Nigerian youths are getting disenchanted with Nigeria, they believe there is gross injustice in the polity and have been speaking loud enough for the discerning elders to hear.

Without being obstructive, it seems the leaders are disconnected from the aspirations of the youths.  I have sampled the opinions of a great number of youth and restructuring is all on their lips. The Nigerian youths are only wondering why the presumed giant as it is currently positioned is not economically viable or politically dependable.

Nigeria no longer belongs to the old brigade; it belongs to the youths who represent over 70% of its population. They should be listened to and it is their ideas that should shape the future of Nigeria. Only a handful of current leaders (elders) listen to this generation.

The best gift that CHANGE can birth is a restructured polity, a truly federal system that has been identified to have more advantages than disadvantages.

As the representative of my constituency at the House of Representative, I must admit that the cry for Justice by constituents in our polity has been overwhelming and failure to lend my voice in favour of holistic restructuring will be a disservice to them and the future wellbeing of my dearly beloved country. I must also add that as a member of the House of Representatives Special Adhoc Committee on the Review of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, representing Lagos State, a good number of the divergent positions on restructuring have been accommodated in the Committee’s extensive engagements across the country.  

BABAJIMI BENSON, MEMBER REPRESENTING IKORODU FEDERAL CONSTITUENCY   WRITES FROM LAGOS  

Buhari and the Hausa Language - By Reuben Abati

  • Written by Yusuf Adeoye
  • Category: Opinion
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Read more: Buhari and the Hausa Language - By Reuben AbatiFormer Presidential Special Adviser on Media and Publicity who is a columnist for The Guardian, has written yet another interesting piece on the President Buhari's latest message to Nigerians where he spoke only in Hausa. It's a must read
 
“Baba just fall my hand! Ha, wetin.”
 
“Which Baba?”
 
“Baba Bubu, the President of all Nigeria.”
 
“In the spirit of this season, may Almighty Allah (SAW) grant him good health and quick recovery. It is part of our duty to pray for our leaders. Only infidels pray for evil.”
 
“My friend, the fasting season has ended. Stop fasting after Ramadan. I am saying something serious. Was it right for the President of Nigeria to address the Nigerian people in Hausa? “
 
“Hausa? Me no hear am oh. Have they changed the country’s official language?”
 
“Yes. Hausa.”
 
“Baba just enter radio begin speak Hausa to over 400 Nigerian ethnic nationalities”
 
“In the spirit of this season, my brother, we must thank God for everything”
 
“You have started.”
 
“Do you know if there is a medical reason? Suppose Baba’s diagnosis is that he can only speak Hausa from now on, what if something has happened to his English language?  Impairment of the ability to speak English.”
 
“Are you okay? Some yeye people said Baba was suffering from speech impairment and that he would no longer be able to speak. They didn’t say anything affected his ability to speak English.”
 
“So, they organized a national broadcast in Hausa to convince us that the President of Nigeria can still speak. But by making him speak Hausa, they simply confirmed the speech impairment. They have just told us that the President can no longer speak the country’s official language.”
 
“So?”
 
“No. Well, I don’t think so. Hausa is actually an official language of Nigeria.”
 
“You have started. I say you have started. Even one of their aides said the whole thing could have been handled better.”
 
“I don’t believe that”
 
“That’s what I heard”
 
“He didn’t know his boss was going to speak Hausa?”
 
“Dey there.”
 
“But no problem. Section 55 of the Nigerian Constitution actually says when the business of Nigeria cannot be conducted in English, you can speak three other languages: Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo.”
 
“The Constitution of Nigeria says that? I don’t believe that.”
 
“Yes, you don’t ever believe anything.”
 
“Does it also say that when a President is on medical vacation abroad, he can choose to address Nigerians in his mother tongue?”
 
“The thing is you never know. Some illnesses manifest in certain ways.  There is a way you will feel sick, and the best way out is to speak in vernacular. We as Nigerians should show some understanding. Some people will fall sick now and they will do strange and unique things. That is the way I see it.”
 
“I hope the day will never come when a Nigerian President will speak Igbo on my television set. I swear, I will carry that TV set and smash it on the ground.”
 
“You see your problem? Are you saying Igbo is not a constitutionally recognized Nigerian language? You are an Igbo-hater, you this guy. One of those people Nnamdi Kanu refers to as idiots. So, if tomorrow a Nigerian leader decides to speak Fulfulde, what will you do? You will hang yourself? ”
 
“I have said my own.”
 
“You have not said anything. If language is your problem, then ask your ngbati brother in the Villa, to also start speaking Yoruba at Federal Executive meetings and other state functions. If he likes, let him speak Ijebu-Remo dialect. It is,  I keep telling you, constitutional.”
 
“What are we running then? Some kind of linguistic zoo where anyone that gets to Aso Rock can speak in tongues?”
 
“Not in tongues. Three languages. Hausa, Yoruba and Hausa. And for your information, someone that I know once said that there is a spiritual side to that seat of power. You can’t ever predict how the spirit moves people in that place. We should just thank God for everything. We are talking about change. When you vote for change, you don’t know how God will change things. Our God works in mysterious ways. He speaks all languages, and he can do his miracles in any language he chooses.”
 
“But I don’t speak Hausa.”
 
“There is actually a transcript of the Presidential message. It is nothing harmful in any way.”
 
“After almost 50 days of absence?”
 
“Medical vacation. Try and be humane, this man.”
 
“Hausa language? At a time Hausa youths are telling Igbos to get lost and get out of Nigeria.”
 
“Don’t worry. We should just keep praying to God.”
 
“This is not about God. This is about us. Why will my President speak to me in a language that I don’t understand?”
 
“Everything is about God. Go and sit down and stop forming. Is English your language? Do you understand English? You are better off learning Hausa, if I may say so. See as you are losing sweat over the President speaking a constitutionally recognized Nigerian language”
 
“What of my own language, my own mother tongue? Is it also in the Nigerian constitution? This is about my identity, my Nigerian-ness, my sense of belonging. You don’t get it.”
 
“I get it. I say stop forming. If your language is not there, then your local government must be there. That is what you need, afterall, it is not everybody in your clan that speaks English”
 
“We don’t speak Hausa either, and I am sure that I have the right to ask that I should be addressed in a language that I understand as a bona-fide Nigerian citizen.”
 
“It’s okay. This is not a big deal. I’ll get you a transcript of what the President said.”
 
“In my local Ejagham language, with a broadcast in my people’s voice.”
 
“This man, what is your problem? It is people like you who want to break up Nigeria. How many of you are in that your Ejagham village sef, that you are making wahala like this?”
 
“Why must the President speak sef? The acting President has been speaking English to various groups in Nigeria. I was in fact hoping that he will get round to some of us and invite us to Aso Villa, and now from nowhere, the President releases a message that makes nonsense of the Acting President’s efforts at promoting unity in the country.”
 
“The Acting President is what Yoruba people call Adele, get it right, he cannot be the Baale, the village head, when the village head is alive. Adele is Adele. Baale is Baale.”
 
“We don’t have such a stupid saying in my village.  Good for you Yoruba people who speak from all sides of the mouth. You will see the truth korokoro like this, you will start speaking from all sides of the mouth.”
 
“Why korokoro?”
 
“ I speak small Yoruba.”
 
“I will ask Senator Musiliu Obanikoro then to sue you for using that phrase koro koro. This one that everybody is likely to start speaking in mother tongue, you better watch what you say. Stick to your own mother tongue.”
 
“Isn’t that what some people want in any case? They want to turn our country into a Tower of Babel. Let everybody speak his or her mother tongue.”
 
“Your interpretation. Whatever language the President speaks, should not be a problem.”
 
“Fine. Donald Trump should also start speaking German then since his ancestors are from Germany, and the Windsors in England should start speaking French.”
 
“It is not the same thing. We are dealing with a peculiar situation here. What if the President is going through a special kind of therapy? New things are being discovered in the field of medicine everyday.  This may be one of those cutting edge things. In the spirit of the season, you and other Nigerians should just chill.”
 
“You are just talking. I think at some point, we just have to restructure this country and get certain things right. There is something called protocol in governance.”
 
“I am not against restructuring, but restructuring for me is not about secession, break up or hate speech. Restructuring means making this country work for all of us, a country of great potentials where the aggregate of our country, resources, people, talents and diversity can put us on the world map. We are a blessed country. We just have to get things right, yes.”
 
“We do well as individuals, take Evans, the kidnapper, but not as a country because we are not yet a nation.”
 
“You can’t say some people are doing well like Evans. We can’t define our country with negativity. Evans is a kidnapper who made millions of dollars from making other people unhappy. We are a country in search of good role models and standards. By the way, Evans’ father says he needs to be taken to a spiritual home for deliverance, but I think he should have his day in court.”
 
“The truth is that we are actually a country of kidnappers. Right now, I feel as if I have been kidnapped in this country of my birth. They told me change begins with me, but I actually feel as if I have been kidnapped.”
 
“My friend, stop that drama. Don’t be a drama king. Be a positive citizen. Your mates are winning  international prizes and doing well on the international stage, promoting Nigeria and Africa, you are here whining about village issues, my friend, you got to wake up. This is what we mean when we say change begins with you.”
 
“Which of my mates has won international prize?”
 
“Akinwumi Adesina, President of the Africa Development Bank, Nigeria’s former Minister of Agriculture. Something big. Really big. The Nobel Prize of Agriculture.”
 
“Nobel Prize?”
 
“It is called the World Food Prize. It is the biggest thing in Agriculture.”
 
“Adesina. He did it as Minister of Agriculture. He has done it again globally. Up school!”
 
“Hel–looo. What is that?”
 
“Up school! Great of the greatest Ife! Ife gbogbo! Ife gbagba! Gre-at Ife!”
 
“You see yourself? You just must reduce everything to the level of the village and yet you complain about someone else speaking a local language.”
 
“Adesina is a product of the University of Ife, Obafemi Awolowo University.”
 
“Sorry, the World Food Prize is not about the university that you and Adesina attended, it is something bigger, it is about his accomplishments in promoting food security and by extension global security, his life-long distinction in the field of agriculture.”
 
“What I am saying is that this is Great Ife’s achievement.”
 
“It’s an achievement for Nigeria, for Africa, for the world. The security of the world is tied to the security of food. The point is clear: if the people of the world are hungry, the world cannot be safe.”
 
“Correct point, there. When I am hungry, I cannot guarantee that I will be a good person.”
 
“I hope you have eaten today.”
 
“It has been a very dry Sallah, my brother.  I visited a friend of mine who usually slaughters a cow at a season like this. The man, this year had only fish, chicken and turkey. For a moment, I thought it was Christmas.”
 
“May be you are mixing up things. Muslims don’t usually slaughter rams after Ramadan. They do so during the main Sallah, the eid-el-kabir.”
 
“My own Muslim friends slaughter rams and cows all the time, but I see that this year, things are different, very very different. Recession palaver, I think.”
 
“You too should learn to give your friends rams and cows, instead of going from house to house to eat free meat, so stop complaining my friend.”
 
“Am I a Muslim? When it is Christmas, you can come to my house to eat turkey and chicken”
 
“We are all children of God, indivisible under the umbrella of God, that is all that matters.”
 
“I hope some people know that in the spirit of the season. I wish they knew.”
 

In defence of Titilayo Momoh, by Reuben Abati

  • Written by Yusuf Adeoye
  • Category: Opinion
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Read more: In defence of Titilayo Momoh, by Reuben AbatiOn March 24, one Ms Taiwo Titilayo Momoh, attempted suicide at the Third Mainland Bridge, Lagos. Both the police and concerned citizens rescued her from killing herself. The said Ms Momoh was arraigned on April 21, at the Ebute Meta Chief Magistrate Court on a one-count charge to wit: “That you, Titilayo Momoh on the 24th day of March 2017 at about 10.00 hours at the Third Mainland Bridge, Lagos did attempt to commit suicide by jumping into the river and thereby committed an offence under Section 235 C.17, Vol. 3 of the Criminal law of Lagos State 2015.” The accused person has since been granted bail in the sum of N500, 000, with two sureties in like sum. She is also required to undergo psychiatric evaluation. Her case has been adjourned till June 2017.
The Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Lagos State is hereby invited to take special notice of this case and to enter a nolle prosequi to ensure its discontinuance. The exercise of the power of nolle prosequi as spelled out in Sections 174(1) and 211 of the 1999 Constitution has been a subject of much debate. This is in spite of the Supreme Court’s position in The State vs Ilori, due to the tendency of some AGs to abuse such powers. But there is not a scintilla of doubt in my mind that by discontinuing the Titilayo Momoh case, the AG Lagos would have acted “in the public interest, the interests of justice and the need to prevent the abuse of legal process.” I state this with due regard to the right of the court to be seized of the matter in question, attempted suicide being an offence in the statutes. The key issue, nonetheless, is that there are related matters of public interest, beyond legalism.
Section 235 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State under which Ms Titilayo Momoh has been charged for non-fatal suicidal behaviour is in pari materia with Section 326 and 327 of the Penal Code and Criminal Codes respectively. The Criminal Code states expressly: “Any person who attempts to kill himself is guilty of a misdemeanor, and is liable to imprisonment for one year.” Thus in letter and spirit, the extant law on pari-suicide in Nigeria criminalizes the act. The only problem is that the law sounds like the law that is applied to the act of coup making.
If you plot a coup and you succeed, you get away with it, but if you make the mistake of failing, you find yourself in very serious trouble. The extant law on suicide deals with you if you fail, but the same law is helpless if you succeed. The only difference is that whereas a coup is an act of treason against the state, suicide is a coup against the self. Government exists because there is a society composed of people, living people who are happy to be alive and contribute their own quota to society. When people begin to kill themselves at will, and at the slightest provocation, the responsibility of government should be to inquire into the causes of such demolition of the right to life, and therefore make amends – so the cause of being-ness and the welfare of the people can be better addressed.
For this reason, the Nigerian legislature, including the State Houses of Assembly, should take a second look at the extant law on attempted suicide. In truth, the law has been rarely applied, the last publicized application being the case instituted against certain persons by the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) in 2013, persons who had formed the habit of travelling on the rooftop of trains, instead of buying tickets and taking proper seats. The NRC took some of those persons to court for attempting suicide. They ended up getting a slap on the wrist, they were asked to pay fines. It must have been obvious to the court that these were not suicidal cases, but persons who just wanted a free ride on the train, and could only do so from the roof.
The arraignment of Titilayo Momoh is however a serious matter. If she goes to trial, she could in fact be convicted, since hers is a clearly straightforward case. She had confessed with her own mouth that she wanted to die because she had too many financial debts to pay, a Bureau de Change also swindled her, she sought help from everywhere, including her church but nobody was willing to help her, and so, she decided to end it all. When she was rescued from jumping into the Lagoon, everyone sympathized with her. She suddenly got the help that society had previously denied her. She returned to her textile shop, and was beginning to pick up the pieces of her life again, only for the police to invoke the law and take her to court.
Her arraignment exposes the problems with the law. She now probably wishes she had actually committed suicide. The legal matter she is now battling with, could throw her into even greater debt: paying lawyers, sorting out logistics, and as the wheel of law still grinds slowly, she could experience worse depression. The same travails that drove her to the edge of the cliff have not been made any lighter. The other thing to note is that the relevant statutes in gender terms refer to “himself”. Can we possibly interpret the law strictly and literally and insist that the law on suicide only has the male gender in mind? So why is Titilayo, “herself”, being charged when the law says “himself”? I know what the canons of the rule of interpretation say, and how gender-insensitive the phrasing of the law is, so, may be I need not stretch this further. But another reasonable response by a common man to the Titilayo Momoh case would be to ask why she is the only one being targeted.
In the first quarter of 2017 alone, there were more attempted suicide and suicide cases than there were in the whole of 2016, and the figures keep increasing. Ms Momoh was rescued the same week alongside one Abigail Ogunyinka, who actually jumped into the Lagoon and was fished out by divers. In Mazamaza another woman, Emerald, was also rescued after she had jumped. Much earlier, Tiwa Savage’s husband, Tee Billz, was dissuaded by friends and concerned persons from jumping into the Lagoon. There have also been persons who succeeded in their suicide efforts and can no longer be reached by the long arms of the arm. There was Dr Allwell Oji, and reported cases from Ogun state (25), Ebonyi (10), Delta (4), Oyo (4), Kano (6), the latest case being that of a University of Lagos young undergraduate who killed herself after she was accused of stealing make up kit worth N2, 000 (the current equivalent of $5 or $6!).
The court of law is not under any strict obligation to embark on a hunting expedition for cases by itself and it is no defence in law to play the victim by asking why the neighbor who committed the same offence has not been charged to court: the court deals only with what is duly brought before it. But even if there is a case to answer, Ms Momoh, the accused in the present case is likely to wonder why she is the only special target for litigation. Research on para-suicide informs us that persons who failed in the first attempt are at a high risk of a second attempt. By seeking to put failed suicide attempters to trial, is government encouraging all such persons to succeed by all means? The shaming and trial of such persons may even drive them underground, away from public places where the attempt may be noticed and stopped.
It is partly for this and other reasons, principally the recognition that persons who attempt suicide need help rather than vilification, and that prevention is better than cure, that many countries of the world have de-criminalized suicide attempts. The latest country to do so is India. In 1961, the British who offered us the common law origin of our own law on suicide attempts de-criminalized non-fatal suicidal behaviour. Other countries where suicide attempt is no longer a crime include Egypt, Botswana, Cameroon, Angola, South Africa, Eritrea, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The World Health Organization recognizes depression as the leading cause of suicide in the world. Globally, more than 300 million people are suffering from depression and related disability. The Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) has also disclosed that 90% of reported suicide cases in Nigeria are traceable to depression. At the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, 10% of all referrals are attempted suicides. This year, WHO chose as the theme for the World Health Day on April 7: “Depression, let’s talk”. Persons suffering from depression are advised and encouraged to talk about their problems within the community and seek help from existing institutions and from professional counselors including psychologists, psychiatrists, mental hospitals and sociologists. Depression is a form of mental psychosis, attributed to such existential issues as drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sadness, low self-esteem, poverty, marital crisis, indebtedness, loss of a loved one, and so on.
In Nigeria and other African countries where mental ill-health is regarded as lunacy simpliciter, most persons who are depressed find it difficult to talk about it. Any form of mental ill-health in Nigeria is still covered by the colonial law, called the Lunacy Act, 1958. That law dehumanizes anybody that requires mental healthcare. A Mental Health Policy 1991 has tried to state the basic principles in line with international conventions, but the Act of 1958 remains the enabling law. Since 2003, three attempts have been made to introduce a Mental Health Bill, but each time it was tabled, the National Assembly did not consider it important enough.
Further, there are just about eight mental health hospitals in Nigeria, some psychiatric units in major hospitals, and less than 150 professional psychiatrists to a population of nearly 200 million. Similarly there are no enough psychiatric nurses or professional counselors. Out of the few psychiatrists we have in the country, some have since left the profession to go into politics. The hospitals are poorly staffed, poorly equipped and poorly referenced in popular culture and conversation. And at the few mental hospitals that we even have, those who are expected to help other people are busy fighting among themselves – the internal politics at the Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital in Uselu, Benin City for example is worse than the politics of Nigeria! As it were, anybody who is depressed in Nigeria is at the risk of suicide. “Lunacy” is a taboo subject, and yet the people face more problems daily that require mental health counseling.
The sudden increase in attempted suicide cases in our country should provide the needed impetus for review and introspection, not the vilification of persons who are already society’s victims. It is even surprising that The Lagos State Police Command will choose to scapegoat Titilayo Momoh and take her to court. In 2016, Ms Dolapo Badmos, the Lagos State Police PRO (as she then was) had announced that the police was not interested in taking any person who attempted suicide to court out of the recognition that such persons needed help. In line with this, the Lagos Police Command set up a special unit to patrol the bridges in Lagos, to prevent people from jumping into the rivers.
The Lagos State Government also set up an Aquatic Rescue Unit, and it is this unit that helped in rescuing at least two reported cases between January and March 2017. Two hotlines have also since been announced to assist persons in need of urgent help (08062106493, 08092106493). Is it likely that the Lagos State Government in collaboration with the police, and civil society groups has taken these preventive and emergency rescue steps in order to capture persons who attempt suicide so the courts can have cases to handle? If true, it is ill-advised because this will neither reduce cases of suicide, nor prevent people from committing suicide. Governments at all levels should “talk about depression” and help the people – through good governance – to reduce the number of people seeking to die at the slightest emotional provocation.
Titilayo Momoh’s place is not in the court-room. She should be set free and assisted. The extant laws on attempted suicide should be revised. Para-suicide should be de-criminalized and de-penalized. I do not include in this appeal however, all such attempted suicides related to terrorism or incidental to other expressly criminal activities.

Celebrating Our Class Captain at 59 By Adedayo Adeneye

  • Written by Yusuf Adeoye
  • Category: Opinion
  • Hits: 430
Read more: Celebrating Our Class Captain at 59  By Adedayo AdeneyeLike a good sports captain, Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle CON, FCA,  has not only exhibited courage but also consistency in governance as well leadership of the State Executive Council. 
He has demonstrated dedication and zeal to seeing to the success of the programmes and policies of his government, which kicked off on May 29, 2011 and currently in its second term.
On assumption of office, the governor in his inaugural address at the MKO Abiola International Stadium, Kuto, Abeokuta charted a course for his administration, which he was confident, like a visionary leader, would change the fortunes and story of the state for the better.
"The expectations of the people from their government are great. The readiness of our people to be part of the rebuilding mission is overwhelming. It humbles me, it is sobering and I am eternally indebted. I will not squander this goodwill and confidence reposed in me", Senator Amosun  stated.
There was no doubt that he was set,  aware for the challenges ahead but determined to revive the then comatose state into a strong, revitalised and economically prosperous one. 
Insecurity, unresolved political killings and moribund industries had all become the only stories that emanated from the state, which then had become a shadow of itself. 
No wonder, the governor immediately packaged a five point cardinal programme, encompassing Affordable Qualitative Education; Efficient Health Care Delivery; Agriculture Production and Industrialisation; Affordable Housing and Urban Renewal as well as Rural and Infrastructural Development/Employment Generation.  
The focus, “a Mission to Rebuild Ogun State”. 
Not long after, as is expected from leaders, he assembled a crop of indigenes, made up of technocrats, from  private practice and politics, to join in accomplishing this mission. 
Courageously, the government took some decisions, such as the concept of six-lane roads and flyovers, which was then considered daring, due to the number of structures that will have to pave way for it.
Fearlessly , he led the team to  confront the undesirable elements and men of the underworld, who had then overwhelmed and somehow overpowered the security agencies. This was done with heavy investment in security implements, such as Armour Personnel Carriers (APC) and patrol vans and ammunition donated by the government to the Police and other security agencies present in the state, knowing fully well that apart from protecting lives and property, this step would also create the conducive environment for willing investors to come to the state.
Confident of the positive result of this decision, the government went on to organise series of investors' fora, with the third held last year.
With an exceptional team spirit, Governor Amosun, at every stage, assembled his team, both in his first term in office and the ongoing second term, to explain to the good people of the state at regular intervals,  his dreams and attentively note inputs and criticisms he uses to marshal government programmes and policies. 
He is noted to convene State Executive Council meetings, apart from those statutorily held every Monday, at any time or day, just to brain storm and seek ways to move the state forward. 
It may not be convenient, but the leadership style and values demonstrated by the governor at every stage, has been a morale booster, which can not but attract the sacrifices of all always. 
This devotion to duty, which is worthy of emulation by other leaders, has indeed seen the state catapult in fortune, wealth and fame in just about six years.
This new picture of Ogun State can be summarised with the massive influx of people and investors into the state. 
The restoration of security, unprecedented infrastructural development, improved educational and health standards, coupled with the responsive and responsible leadership exhibited by Senator Ibikunle Amosun  have all restored the lost glory of Ogun state. 
With this, it is not out of place to roll out the drums and celebrate a statesman and " uncommon rebuilder" Senator Ibikunle Amosun, CON, FCA, class captain, as he turns 59 years old today. 
 
Adeneye is the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Ogun state.

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