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Pendulum: Not Too Young To Run, Not Too Young To Do Business

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By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, one of the hottest slogans in our country today is “not too young to rule.” I agree absolutely. When I was approached recently by one of the exponents of this campaign, Mr Dayo Israel to be precise, I wasted no time in lending my voice, and my column to propagate what for me is the only way forward for the development of our dear nation. The reason for my excitement and willingness to contribute in my own little way towards proclaiming the message of the youths was simple. I was born in 1960, the year of our Independence. I grew up in an era when the destiny of Nigeria was controlled largely by people in their twenties and thirties. Those forty years and over, tended to take a back seat, in an avuncular or patriarchal mode and allowed the young Turks to have the field. This was because they believed that their time had passed and, that the younger generation that was to live the future, needed to be in control of that future. It was such a golden era that held out great promises to the future we all dreamt of and have been dreaming about ever since. But partly for the evil invasion of military coups, and the disastrous civil war that left our Eastern parts ravaged and devastated, I’m reasonably certain that Nigeria would have gone very far in the comity of nations by now. The same mindset that had led to those young “elders” to vacate the scene for vigorous, vibrant and vivacious young leaders would have continued to hold sway for the mutual benefit of our citizens and the country at large.

However, what has happened is that some of the young people who held sway at that time, are still very much around, ruling directly or by proxy. Their position is strengthened by the decimation of our erudite and visionary political elite by military miscreants who were only interested in feathering their nests and self-preservation. Therefore, we have a few inept and ineffectual leaders in power, who still want to govern Nigeria, when they are nearer 80 than 70. In a country of extremely gifted and undoubtedly brilliant young men and women, this should give us cause for grave concern. I’ve listened to arguments from rabid gerontocrats who tell us that the young of today have not justified their agitation for power to be handed over to them. They point fingers at some young Governors and Ministers who bungled their privileged assignments and looted the treasury dry. I agree that there are some notorious youthful leaders who have misbehaved badly! But there must be an opportunity for evolution and atonement and it is not all doom and gloom.  This is particularly more so, because it is the mediocrity, buffoonery and lack of merit of these geriatric leaders that has brought those they now accuse to the fore.

We should therefore consider the pedigree of those youthful delinquents before we burden our youths with their shame. They emerged in the first instance due to our lackadaisical attitude to politics. I believe that the lackadaisical attitude was fostered by the debilitating years of military misrule and the penchant of the soldiers for undertaken failed democratic exercises just to assuage our hunger for civilian rule. Thereafter, once upon a time, and even at this moment, many of us came to believe that politics is the exclusive preserve of nonentities and never-do-wells. Since we cannot eat our cake and still have it, we should understand that the dregs of society we throw up would ultimately be the leaders we deserve, but the rulers we deride. I believe Nigeria deserves much better and we have many youthful and upwardly mobile people around today. This was the basis of my excitement when I first encountered Mr Akinwunmi Ambode over four years ago at a location on Glover Road Ikoyi.

Mr Ambode had shared his vision with me on that occasion in the presence of Mr Idowu Ajanaku, and the first thing that struck me about him was his humility and simple mien. He demonstrated beyond doubt that he knew his onions. He discussed ideas and a vision for a Lagos State that would be the pride of the nation in the development of infrastructure, social amenities and above all communal responsibility. He was of the view that if Government delivered on its pledges to the people by providing them with social amenities and welfarist programmes, the people would eventually rise up to the challenge, and perform their civic duties by paying taxes and treating amenities and infrastructure of the State as if it was their own to be cared for and nurtured. This was probably the accountant and financial adviser in him talking from an impressive background of practical experience. Ambode’s intimidating resume was, therefore, another attraction for me. I love cosmopolitan leaders who have had the dual opportunity to school at home and abroad; well-travelled and very exposed to new ways and means of doing things. While such people need political platforms to realise their dreams and vision, politics, for them, can never be the only priority. They just want to get the job done and move on to the next project. In about three years of attaining power, even his most vociferous and acerbic critics admit, privately and, oftentimes, publicly, that Mr Ambode has shown enough verve, vigour and promise of a greater tomorrow for our country. He has made his generation proud. Since no human being is perfect, the Governor of Lagos has made his own mistakes and I’m elated that he has found the uncommon courage to retrace his steps. That is the hallmark of a true leader – the one who errs and swiftly admits the error and makes amends. There is no use stubbornly and irascibly clinging to a mistake that can easily be cured simply because you do not want people to believe that you are fallible, when fallibility is merely a human trait.

All manner of ideas and suggestions are available to a leader. More often than not, not all government advisers share the vision of their principal. As a matter of fact, different people go into politics with different motives and mind-sets. A good leader would have to sift the wheat from the chaff, and swim or perish. Governor Ambode like a supersonic jet has entered his fair share of turbulence. The most raging, and mother of all, controversies, in Lagos right now, is the appointment of a company called Visionscape to take over a substantial chunk of waste management in Lagos State. Both Ambode and the waste managers have almost been wasted by those vehemently opposed to Visionscape and, possibly, Ambode himself. If anybody thought it was a joke that would soon blow over, they were wrong in underrating the determination, and total opposition, of those who felt short-changed by the new deal.

On a personal note, I experienced their fury after I posted an innocuous endorsement of Governor Ambode for a second term on my Instagram page. In this season of intolerance and cheap blackmail, the voltrons, as we call them, descended upon my page to throw darts , barbs and even missiles at Ambode and his supposed friend, Mr Adeniyi Makanjuola. I read that the whole of Lagos State has been taken over by garbage and filth. Some of the comments forced me to search other sites and I looked for any available information about this company they called unprintable names. What I unearthed was quite depressing. In fact, it scared me about what the future holds for our dear beloved country. It seems we have lost our ability to dialogue and understand each other forever. The unsubstantiated and unjustified ferocious attack on Adeniyi and his company made me to shudder with trepidation. I will tell you why.

I had read that Visionscape was a cheap company that lacks the capacity to handle the magnitude of the filth that a megacity like Lagos would generally generate. I doubt if anyone cared to probe further because my findings reveal otherwise. Unfortunately, social media thrives largely on self-help publications, imaginary and sometimes illusionary artificial and virtual reality. You need no education, exposure, job experience, known address or any advanced publishing technology to disseminate your drivel, jibes and even falsehoods. Your smartphone and sufficient data would achieve what all newspapers would never be able to distribute these days. And the more salacious the stories, the quicker they go viral.

Our youths who want to lead Nigeria should find pride, without prejudice, in Adeniyi Makanjuola of Visionscape. I have no doubt that whatever the challenges he may be facing today, he has a very bright future ahead. He comes from a background of serial investments, ranging from aviation to oil & gas, energy, finance and environmental utilities. Before returning to Nigeria at the age of 23, Adeniyi had completed his degree in Financial Economics from the University of Essex and obtained an M.Sc. in Urban Planning and Development from the University College London. On his return, he dabbled into aviation after discovering a lacuna in the onshore helicopter services business. What started like a hobby soon blossomed into a major player in the market place. Caverton Helicopters boasts of probably the single largest fleet of ultramodern helicopters in sub-Saharan Africa. Adeniyi has his fingers in many pies. His dream is to surpass the Dangotes, Adenugas and Elumelus of Africa. His foray into business has been passionate, rapid, remarkable and audacious.

Adeniyi and Harry Ackerman have worked closely in mining, oil & gas exploration in West Africa and the Middle East. The duo became partners as far back as 2009 after the latter suffered an excruciating injury in his fledgling rugby career. State-led strategies and privatisation of public utilities inspired Adeniyi to venture into familiar territories in Africa. Lagos being one of the 26 mega cities in the world is a natural place to be. The duo teamed up with local Emirati, Ali Ahli and led Visionscape Group, an environmental utility company, into the market to tackle the herculean task of cleaning up what was previously described as one of the dirtiest cities in the world. These ambitious entrepreneurs are poised to employ over 30,000 employees now, and much more later. It is not a joke. The anticipated turnover runs into billions, and naturally, there must be a lot of keen and vested interest as well as corporate disenchantment and envy. Indeed, it has been a battle of wits since they came into the high-wired deal that they agreed with the Lagos State Government.

Clearly those that have championed the campaign of calumny against Visionscape and Ambode know what they are doing and what they seek to achieve.  They have been able to find support in people of like minds who can see no good in whatever others do to develop their environment and space.  However, what they fail to realise is that for those for whom progress is the watchword, the sky can only be the limit. The venom of detractors only serves as an impetus to propel them to greater heights. I am not an apologist for Ambode and Visionscape but it seems to me that where great vision and courage has been shown, our duty is to give those involved a chance rather than condemn them form the outset.

Ambode and Visionscape should be content in the knowledge that those that have had eureka moments have never really been recognised and honoured in their own time. As the saying goes, time will tell!

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You’ve Nothing to Offer Nigerians, Only Insults, Akwa Ibom Gov Slams Tinubu

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Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel, on Monday, replied the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, saying that he (Tinubu) always resorts to abusing and insulting people during campaigns because he has nothing to bring to the table for Nigerians.

He also said that despite being insulted by the former Lagos State Governor, he would prefer to allow peace to reign by ignoring him and focusing on helping install good governance to rescue Nigerians from their present woes.

Emmanuel spoke on Monday evening at Government House, Uyo while inaugurating newly appointed Permanent Secretaries, Chairmen and Members of Boards and Commissions, as well as a Transition Committee to ensure the smooth transition of power to the next administration.

Recall that Tinubu had during his rally in Uyo Monday afternoon, reportedly said, “Akwa Ibom, that boy wey bring Atiku here, wey de call himself Governor, tell him enough is enough! He lives in my backyard in Lagos, If no be say we be one, I would have driven him home. You see that mansion he is living, I would just use lizards, pigeons and scorpions to put him inside.“

But reacting few hours later, the Akwa Ibom State Governor said, “for the country to remain in peace, one party must ‘play saint’ and that is why he would refrain from replying Tinubu.

Emmanuel who is the Chairman of the PDP presidential campaigns said, “I also go to other states, and if you watch our campaigns, my principal (Atiku Abubakar) has never spoken about any Governor, he has never spoken openly about Asiwaju before.”

He added that it was unfortunate that Tinubu, who was granted state-owned facilities such as the airport, security, stadium, and a good atmosphere to come in and sell his manifesto, ended up coming to insult the integrity of over 7.9 million Akwa Ibom people.

The Governor wondered if it is possible for any Akwa Ibomite to go to Lagos that Tinubu stays or the actual state that he hails from, to insult Tinubu in like manner and still be allowed to safely return home, “but here our people at the stadium including some state governors just laughed and applauded him.”

“What makes him think he will govern Nigeria? If I reply him now, people will call me and say, haba oga you are not like that. But I will reply him one day. There is nothing like ‘emilokan’ (it is my turn) here, Nigeria is in God’s hands.”

He maintained further that despite being the highest revenue contributor to the federation account, Akwa Ibom State has not gotten a single kilometre of road from the APC-led Federal Government for nearly 8 years adding that the poor response from the Federal Government also caused the delayed commencement of the seaport in the state.

Meanwhile, the governor thanked the newly appointed Permanent Secretaries for accepting the onerous task of service, and urged them to see themselves as ambassadors and work towards raising the bar of leadership which would encourage productivity and promote good working relationship with subordinates in the service.

“This is one thing I promised Akwa Ibom people that appointment of Permanent Secretaries shall be totally on merit and not by mercy, let those that can do the work be given the opportunity. Permanent Secretary is not a promotion, it is an appointment on merit.

Governor Emmanuel also reiterated his commitments towards enhancing efficiency within Civil Service, noting that during his administration civil servants have been promoted on yearly basis.

He assured that before he exits office more Permanent Secretaries would be appointed into the service to fill vacant positions left by the ones who retired.

Addressing Chairmen of Boards and Commissions, Governor Emmanuel who described them as pillars in government, acknowledged their commitment particularly, Chairman, Akwa Ibom State Environmental Protection & Waste Management Agency, Prince Akpan Ikim, for winning laurels for the state through his outstanding performance in keeping and making the state the cleanest in Nigeria for five consecutive years from 2018 through 2022, and tasked others to create an impact that will stand them out.

In the same vein, the Transition Committee members were handed the task of ensuring a seamless transition of government to an incoming administration, and also verify all projects executed by the present administration.

The newly appointed Permanent Secretaries are; Mfon Inuaesiet Edemekong Esq., Dr. Stephen Effiong, Atim Chelly Okoko, Iquo Okon Abia Esq., Uwem Sunday Andrew-Essien, Isaiah Robson Ntekim and Emaeyak Nyong Akpan as Auditor-General for Local Government.

The Transition Committee has Mrs. Ekereobong Umoh -Chairman, Uko Udom SAN, Prof Augustine Umoh, Dr. Ini Adiakpan, Mrs. Nsemeke Daniel, Dr. Nathaniel Adiakpan, Mr Elijah Udoiyak, Mrs. Esther Inyang, Pastor Uwem Andrew-Essien, Mr. Isaiah Ntekim, Mr. Effiong Ekpenyong and Mrs. Bella Akpanya as members.

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PDP Condemns Attack on Buhari in Kano, Blames Tinubu, Ganduje

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The Peoples Democratic Party Presidential Campaign Council, has blamed the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and the governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, for the attacks on the convoy of President Muhammadu Buhari, during a visit to the state on Monday.

The spokesperson of the campaign council, Dino Melaye, who shared one of the videos from the reported attack, wrote, “The fight between Tinubu and Buhari is entering a new dimension. The attack in Kano was properly coordinated and funded allegedly by Asiwaju.

“The meeting to push Buhari to submission or face sponsored attack in the north was said to be hatched in Bourdillon. Me, I am busy with Atiku.”

A political activist, Deji Adeyanju, who shared another video of the reported attack, said, “They are showing Buhari and APC Shege in Kano and many northern states.”

Similarly, the PDP in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, on Monday also blamed Tinubu and the Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, for the attack.

According to the party, the attack was designed to undermine the Presidency, cause confusion, trigger violence in the country, disrupt the conduct of the 2023 general elections “and derail our democracy having realised that he cannot win in a peaceful, free and fair electoral process.”

The statement read in part, “The PDP invites Nigerians to note how Governor Abdullahi Ganduje attempted to abridge President Buhari’s movement and even tried to stop him from visiting Kano State.

“More disquieting is the fact that the APC Presidential Campaign sought to humiliate and harm President Buhari while performing his official duties in Kano.

“It should be noted that the APC presidential candidate has been displaying open aversion and making inciting statements against President Buhari since Mr President’s declaration, in line with democratic best practice all over the world that Nigerians should freely vote for any candidate and party of their choice in the 2023 general elections.

“The apparent frustration of Asiwaju Tinubu to resort to encourage or condone violence is fueled by his entitlement mentality, that it is his turn to be President, despite his numerous ineligibility and disability baggage.”

Ologunagba reminded Nigerians about Tinubu’s infamous statement in London where he declared to his supporters that “political power is not going to be served in a restaurant, it is not served a la carte.”

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Organ Harvesting: Ekweremadu Battles for Freedom, Appears in Court Tuesday

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A former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, will on Tuesday appear again in court in the United Kingdom where he has been accused of human trafficking.

The lawmaker was in June 2022 arrested at Heathrow Airport in London after Staines Police Station received a report from a young man claiming to have been trafficked into the UK.

The young man, who made the report shortly after arriving in the UK from Nigeria, also alleged that he was made to undergo some medical tests, none of which he consented to.

Ekweremadu was immediately arraigned before a Magistrate’s Court for bringing a child into the UK to harvest his organs.

While the lawmaker had been in custody since June 23, his wife, Beatrice, who was arrested with him, was granted bail by a criminal court in London shortly after their arrest.

Monday (today) makes it 221 days since Ekweremadu was placed in the custody of UK authorities.

The case against the lawmaker which had been slated for May was later scheduled for January 31.

The 60-year-old, who denied the allegations against him, will again appear before High Court Judge, Mr Justice Johnson.

His daughter, Sonia, had on November 7, 2022, appeared in court to defend the accusation of trafficking a homeless man into the UK to harvest his organs for herself.

According to Daily Mail, the 25-year-old, who is battling a kidney-related illness, pleaded not guilty to the charge level against her when she appeared again in court on January 13.

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