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Opinion

Ndi’Igbo and the 2019 Question

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By Raymond Nkannebe

No sooner had the Standard bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Alhaji Abubakar Atiku announced his choice of former governor OF Anambra State─Peter Obi as his running mate in the forthcoming 2019 elections than news filtered through to the effect that certain elements in the PDP South Eastern caucus had protested the choice of the former governor on the ridiculous and outlandish grounds that they were not ‘carried along’ in the process leading to the selection. As at the time of writing, the arrowheads of this opposition namely, the governors of the region had just risen from what has been described as a deadlocked meeting where all sides agreed that a decision one way or another on the selection of Obi, should abide the return of the PDP candidate to the Country. Let me quickly say that this attitude of the governors is as despicable as it is reprehensible and in many ways puts in focus what Chinua Achebe, instructively referred to as the “Igbo Problem”.
Since this development became a cause celebre, the rumour mills have gone agog with different stories taking turns as the possible source of grievance of the governors. One of such rumours which have received widespread publicity in the last 48 hours is the Governor Nyesom Wike factor. This school of thought has it that for failure or refusal of the governors of the South East to support his preferred candidate─Alhaji Waziri Tambuwal at the recently concluded convention of the party, the Rivers State governor and a heavy weight in the party swore to take his pound of flesh by influencing who emerges the running mate to the standard bearer without any input from the governors. And this, it is said, he carried into effect by playing a key role in the eventual nomination of Peter Obi, whose choice it appears does not sit well with the governors of the region. There are other accounts that have made it to the rumour mills but so far, the Wike interventionist school of thought, if I might call it that, appears to be the most plausible and was affirmed by a leading national newspaper yesterday.

Having given the above background, it is my considered view that the reason(s) whatsoever of the grumblings by the Igbo governors, whether altruistic or parochial does not arise ab initio. Quite to the contrary, it is a contumacious excrescence on the perception of the Igbo man abroad and speaks to the political naivety of the region. This ugly reaction from a rather micro organ of the Igbo hierarchy, in many levels have once again put beyond peradventure the obvious lack of political consensus of the Igbo nation─a conflict-ridden political trait which has been fingered as the quintessential albatross to its political relevance in the odd years of Nigerian history. The attitude of these elements, particularly the governor of Ebonyi state who has been isolated to be in the headgear of this opposition in his capacity as the chairman of the South East Governors Forum, overlooks the fact that whoever emerges the running mate to his excellency Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, is not a right of the Igbo nation, and which until the nomination of Obi last week was largely contested with the South West which has a higher voting bloc as against the South East with a marginal voting demography and a well documented history of political apathy. It is against this backdrop that one would think therefore that the selection of an Igbo son would be seen as a privilege which it is, or a consolation to the region for having stuck with the party since its inception 20 years ago, and not the unhealthy resort to discordant tunes that has ruined the fan fare brought about by the nomination across the country, especially among Igbos.

Is it not rather embarrassing and awkward to the Igbo nation that despite having its closest shot at producing the second citizen of the country in the event of an Atiku victory by 2019, it is still mired in needless controversy over the circumstances of the selection of one of its own to a princely position? Or would a father who learns that his son is being garlanded in a distant country refuse to come to the party on grounds that he was not adequately informed of the son’s feat that merits his being celebrated? On Friday afternoon when the choice of Peter Obi became clearer after having being speculated to no end throughout the week, I was overwhelmed by the sheer energy and support shown by many, if not all citizens of Yoruba extraction who commented on the various social media platforms hailing the decision and describing it as a masterstroke that stood the ticket in good stead ahead of 2019. Never mind that prominent Yorubas all along were fingered as one of the possible choices to fill the position but which never became. The story is the same for many Northerners and even ardent supporters of the incumbent administration, I believe would do so even if in hush tones and in the privacy of their closets.

It is in this context that the bad energy flowing from Umahi and his friends, who by the way do not have the ears of the Igbo nation, nay Nigerians merits every condemnation. To be clear, nowhere is it pre-conditioned that a standard bearer of a political party must nominate his or her running mate upon a retreat with the political leaders of the nominee’s region. On the contrary, it is the leaders of the regions that lobby for the position on behalf of any of its son or daughter. At best the standard bearer only have to consult with the leadership of the party to have an all inside view of his preferred candidate vis-à-vis it’s electoral chances for the party at the general election. Whatever choice that is made at the end of the day behoves the region that produces the preferred candidate to rally round their son and deliver the needed votes to enhance his or her chances in becoming the second citizen. And if for any reason anybody should be aggrieved, it should be from regions who lost out in the political calculation, and not from those whose son emerged victorious as is the ugly scenerio before us.

And our political history lends credence to this: In 1979, Alhaji Shehu Shagari did not hold a conference with the Igbo nation before electing late Chief Alex Ekwueme as his running mate under the platform of the defunct NPN. In 1999, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo didn’t hold a conclave with the North East caucus of the PDP before choosing Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as his running mate. All those were dispensed with at the party level. Ditto in 2007, Chief Good luck Ebele Jonathan did not emerge as Yar Adua’s running mate after consultation with the Ijaw nation. After Chief Peter Odili was edged out by the establishment at the time, the Ijaw nation rallied round Jonathan and showed their support through their visibility on Election Day. In 2011, the choice of Namadi Sambo was not wrought by a fiat of the North West caucus of the PDP either. And neither Afenifere nor OPC were consulted before the learned silk, Professor Yemi Osibanjo was nominated as the running mate of the Candidate Muhammad Buhari at the time. Don’t get me wrong, no one says high wired political schemings aren’t at play before this choices are made. But the point is, irrespective of how it goes, it is unheard of elements within a region producing the second citizen querrelling bitterly about the choice, to the extent of calling for another meeting with the standard bearer. What does this say about us as Ndi Igbo? But more instructively as a people who have taken protests as far as Buckingham palace and 10 Downing Street, for perceived marginalisation at the hands of the North and her south west political cousins and asking for a romantic republic called Biafra.

It is good to know however that the Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo led by the inimitable Chief John Nnia Nwodo has called the bluff of these few Igbo elements seeking attention while behaving like outcasts unlike Peter Obi whom they have described as one. 48 years since after the civil war ended, to the great discount of the Igbo nation; and 35 years after the region produced the second citizen of the country, providence, it appears looks set to smile at her again politically when one factors the high chances of Atiku emerging the 6th democratically elected President of Nigeria by 2019 if my guaging of the pulse of the nation is right. Whether that would come to be however would depend on how the discordant tunes making the rounds around the choice of Obi as Atiku’s running mate is managed by the region as that would inform the extent of support other regions would give to the ticket as this writer sees it.

But it bears pointing out that if there was ever a time the Igbo nation needed to shed her self-defeating and individualistic political character, it is now. In 2015 when the North wanted a return of power to the region, we saw the campaign it led against the Jonathan administration at the time despite the proven accommodation of the region in the programmes and activities of that. Performance nay, governance apparently was out of the question. And the entire region rallied around that project aided by the alliance with the South West and which was enough to retire the Jonathan administration. I think Ndi Igbo has a lot to learn from that if it must produce the vice president of the Republic in 2019. To this end, what is expected of the South East PDP governors crying wolf is to devise ways to deliver the bloc votes expected from their region to actualise its long dream of being represented at one of the highest levels of our political hierarchy. The current energy dissipated over the circumstances of Obi’s emergence is needless and must therefore be forgone at once.

In 2017, the incumbent governor of Anambra state, Dr. Willie Obiano ran a campaign around the Nke a Bu Nke Anyi political philosophy which cast the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) as an Igbo party and from which it profited immensely by sweeping the entire 21 local government areas in the State. By way of extrapolation, I think the Igbo nation; especially the governors of the region should see the choice of Obi in that light in so far as the overall interest of the Igbo is in question. A deft move expected from these governors would be to reconcile the rift between Peter Obi and the incumbent governor of Anambra state, whom I understand is heavily opposed to his emergence, even though not being a member of the PDP.

To be sure, the choice of Obi has being widely received across the spectrum of the country on account of his intimidating qualifications both in the public and private sector. And so there is no question of his not being fit for the job. Indeed with a relatively younger age; a clean corruption bill of health; an impressive record in Anambra state for eight years; a good knowledge of political economy and what not, there couldn’t have been a better nominee from the entire region who would be received by Nigerians as he have been since his nomination all things considered.

Suffice it to say conclusively that once again, the Igbo nation is at a political crossroad with her destiny in her hands. And the options before her are twofold: whether to rally round one of its own in the finest traditions of Igbo lore, or to behave like the lizard in the proverb that ruined its mother’s funeral.

Raymond Nkannebe, a legal practitioner and public affairs analyst writes from Lagos and can be reached through raymondnkannebe@gmail.com.

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Opinion

Hailing the Supreme Court on LG Allocation Judgment

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Prof Mike Ozekhome SAN, CON, OFR

The supreme court judgement today, July 11, 2024, directing the Federal Government to pay allocations due to Local Government Areas directly to their account thereby abolishing the old practices of State-Local Government Joint Account, is timely and courageous.

What the judgement has done is more like interpreting section 162 of the Constitution, which provides for a joint State-Local Government Account. In which case, money is normally paid to state governors’ accounts and then for them to disburse to the local governments for them to share. But what has been happening is that, as I noted in 2020,over three years ago, the state governors, have been behaving like ”bandits”, waylaing local governments funds along the way and thus impoverishing them leaving them with nothing to work, just a little for salary. And nothing to actually work for the people whom they represent.
I agree totally with the judgement of the supreme court to grant full financial autonomy so that money is released and paid directly to the 774 local government councils which constitute the third-tier of government,to develop their places because the LGAs are grassrooted and nearest to the people. Rather than allow overbearing state governors throw their weight around and muzzle the local governments and seize their purse,they will now allow LGs breath some air of freedom.

If you take a look at our situation, Nigeria is operating a very lopsided federation,more like a unitary system of government. Where the federal government is supposed to be a small government,it is controlling 67 items on the exclusive legislative list. That is why the federal government gets the lion share of the federation account , the lion share of the money that comes to the federation account to the tune of 52.68%. The states get 26.72% while the entire 774 local government councils in Nigeria get just 20.60% of the monthly allocation by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RLASMC.

The question is, what is the federal government doing with almost 53% of the national income? That is because it is a government that is behemoth.That is elephantine. A government that intrudes and intervenes in areas that should not concern it at all. What is the federal government’s business with licensing cars and trucks for states? What is its business with the Marriage Act, dealing with how people marry and wed in Nigeria and how they live together as husband and wife and separate or divorce? What is the federal government’s business with unity schools? A whole FG operating secondary schools? What is their business? Why is the FG not allowing states generate their own power, operate their own railway stations, if they have the capacity? Why should the federal government not allow states have their own police force? Even for the local governments to have their own police force as we have in the United States and other advanced countries of the world where even tertiary institutions have their own police?

The truth is that the federal government is overbloated and overpampered. That is why it is using too much money and make the centre become too attractive,eating deep into funds that ought to be meant for the states and local government areas. The states take not only that which belongs to the states, but also waylays at source that which is meant for the local government areas. No Nation grows that way.

So, I see this judgment as epochal,having far-reaching effect because money will now be made available directly to the local government areas who will no longer be subservient, like fawning slaves to state governors. In fact, the judgement even went further to say that no state government has the power henceforth to dissolve local government areas. This is because we have been seeing cases where inspite of the provisions of section 7 of the 1999 constitution that give autonomy to local government areas, states normally go ahead and dissolve local government areas ND appoint caretaker committees for them.This is whimsical and capricious.The Supreme Court has said this can no longer go on and that henceforth, no state government should ever be able to dissolve any local government area in Nigeria for any reason whatsoever and howsoever.

The judgement is salutary, timely and regenerative. It should be upheld by all governments and people in Nigeria for better democratic dividends.I see this as victory for our wobbling democracy, even if we are far removed from true fiscal federalism where the federating units control and utilize their God-given resources while paying royalty or tax to the central government. This case is one big plus for tested court room gladiator, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, the Attorney General of the Federation, who initiated the case at the apex court, invoking its original jurisdiction.Surely,to jaw-jaw is better than to war-war. God bless Nigeria.

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Opinion

Telling the Nigerian and African Food Story to a Global Audience

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By Lydia Enyidiya Eke

Nigeria as the most populous black nation on earth is located in the heart of Africa and as a great country with unique culinary traditions, this great nation is known for her diverse and vibrant culture and people.

Nigeria, as one of the 54 countries in Africa is well known for her rich history and myriad ethnic groups, and equally known for her culinary strength.

These divers’ culinary strength offers a gastronomic tapestry that remains largely untapped by the global audience.

Since globalization fosters a growing interest in diverse food cultures, it is high time the world embraced the flavours of Nigeria.

A Culinary Mosaic

Nigerian cuisine is a reflection of its vast cultural diversity. Each ethnic group brings its unique ingredients, cooking techniques, culinary textures and flavour profiles to the table, creating a culinary mosaic that is both rich and complex.

From the spicy and oily soups, stews and sauces of the Yoruba in the southwest to the savoury soups of the Igbo in the southeast, and the aromatic dishes of the Hausa-Fulani in the north, and of course the seafood and vegetable delight of the south south as well as the lovely relishes of the middle belt, Nigerian food is a journey through the country’s cultural landscape.

Staples like jollof rice, with its tantalizing blend of tomatoes, peppers, and spices, have already started making waves internationally.

The same applies to the well-known dishes and a plethora of lesser-known culinary treasures waiting to be discovered.

These covers the 36 states of the federation. The popularly known egusi soup, also known as unity soup is a hearty melon seed soup that is eaten across the nation and continent.

What about the pepper soup and their spices, the same applies to the herbs, condiments and flavourings of bitter leaf soup, oha soup, groundnut soup, beans soup and many more.

Suya is another spicy grilled meat skewers, which equally offer a glimpse into the depth of Nigerian culinary artistry.

The Need for Global Recognition
Despite its richness, Nigerian cuisine remains underrepresented and basically under reported on the global stage.

This lack of recognition can be attributed to several factors, including limited exposure and the dominance of other culinary traditions in international media. However, the tide is changing. With the rise of social media and the global trend towards exploring new and authentic food experiences, Nigerian cuisine is poised for a renaissance.

Championing Nigerian Food through Digital Platforms

One of the most effective ways to bring the knowledge of Nigerian cuisine to the global audience is through digital platforms. These platforms are now diverse. They range from YouTube, to Instagram, Facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Snapchat amongst others . Also included are food blogs, food websites and vlogs.

YouTube, in particular, has emerged as a powerful tool for sharing culinary traditions with a wide audience. Channels dedicated to Nigerian cooking, like the one I run, are playing a crucial role in this movement. By offering step-by-step DIY tutorials, we are not only teaching people how to cook Nigerian food but also sharing the stories and cultural significance behind each dish.

These digital platforms offer an interactive and engaging way to learn about Nigerian cuisine. Viewers from around the world can watch, comment, and even share their attempts at cooking these dishes, fostering a global community of Nigerian food enthusiasts.

Preserving Cultural Heritage
For many Nigerians living abroad, cooking traditional dishes is a way to stay connected to their roots. It is an act of preserving cultural heritage and passing it down to the next generation. By teaching the younger generation how to cook Nigerian food, we are ensuring that these culinary traditions are not lost in the face of globalization.
Moreover, sharing these recipes and stories with a global audience promotes cultural understanding and appreciation. Food, after all, is a universal language that brings people together. By inviting others to experience Nigerian cuisine, we are fostering a sense of unity and cultural exchange.

The Future of Nigerian Cuisine
The future of Nigerian cuisine on the global stage looks promising. With increasing interest in authentic and diverse food experiences, Nigerian food has the potential to become a beloved part of the world’s culinary repertoire. However, this will require continued effort in promoting and sharing these rich culinary traditions.
Initiatives such as food festivals, cultural exchange programs, and collaborations with international chefs can further boost the visibility of Nigerian cuisine. Additionally, support from the Nigerian government and private sector in promoting food tourism can open new avenues for showcasing the country’s culinary wealth.

As we look towards a future where cultures and cuisines are celebrated for their uniqueness and richness, Nigerian food stands as a testament to the country’s vibrant heritage. By telling the story of Nigerian cuisine to a global audience, we are not only sharing delicious food but also promoting cultural understanding and appreciation. Let us embrace the flavors of Nigeria and celebrate its place in the global culinary landscape.

For further about some Nigerian recipes and cooking tutorials, visit GOURMET GUIDE234 on YouTube, and the food blog GOURMETGUIDE234.COM where you can embark on a culinary journey through Nigeria’s diverse and colourful food traditions.

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Opinion

Of June 12, 2024 Democracy Day Dinner and the President’s Speech

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By Dipo H. Aka-Bashorun

“The lizard that jumped from a high Iroko tree to the ground said he would praise himself if no one else did” – Chinua Achebe

On October 1, 2005, our father, Alao Aka-Bashorun, passed away at his home in Gbagada, Lagos. He would have turned 75 years old in December later that year. Shortly after his passing was made public, tributes began pouring in from across the country and beyond. One of the first calls of condolences my mother received was from His excellency, the Governor of Lagos, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He followed it with a public tribute and the condolence book was signed thus:
“You were a source of inspiration to your generation, you were a dogged fighter for TRUTH, JUSTICE, FAIRNESS and EQUALITY in your nation. You shall be sorely missed”
– Bola A. Tinubu Lagos State Governor

He didn’t stop there. At the condolence visit to my mother, he was alarmed at the poor state of the road leading to the house and felt it would discourage visitors from coming to the house to pay their condolences. He promised to do something about it. The next day saw workers begin road repairs of all roads from the highway leading to the house.

At the Old man’s Lying in state, held at the Nigeria Law School, I gave the Vote of Thanks for the family. Our father had been sick for several years, the onset of which was traced to that fateful day in 1996. I thanked everyone I could remember and those I couldn’t for supporting him and the family throughout those difficult years for the family. One of the special mentions was that of the Governor’s unwavering support for my father’s medical expenses, at home and abroad. 1st class Flights for my parents to seek medical treatment from specialists in London, Frankfurt and New York City. All expenses paid, out of the public eye.

When the family requested that we should respond to the absence of his name during the President’s June 12 dinner speech, it was not because we were lacking in recognition of our father’s contribution to the actualization of Democracy in Nigeria and June 12, in particular. He wouldn’t have wanted us to seek recognition but he would have wanted us to set the record straight with anything attached to his name. And June 12, my fellow Nigerians, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, like so many notable noble Nigerians, is inextricably connected to his name. To list his contributions and commitments to democracy and June 12 will take more time and space for my allotted time and space for this essay and medium.

Where to start? His conviction of G.O.K Ajayi SAN, to join him and mount the legal defense of Chief M.K.O Abiola, the widely acclaimed winner of June 12, at his trial for treason? His public warnings to the Nation and to foreign governments, years prior to the elections, that the Babangida Junta government were not the purported mid-wife to democracy in Nigeria and there was a “Hidden Agenda” afoot to manipulate the elections?

How about his years in exile ? Having had to leave Nigeria with a passport issued by the United Nations after the People’s Chambers (his law office) had been raided, sealed off and his Nigerian passport seized? His role as a leading member of the Human Rights movement to take the case of Nigeria’s human rights abuses to The United Kingdom and the United States?

September 6, 1990? A day that should have its rightful place in the history of Nigeria’s democratic infamy. The date should go down as the first attempt to strive for better, coherent national debate through national conferences. It was the date the Sovereign National conference was to kickoff at the National Theatre after he had successfully campaigned and organized civil societies in 1989 to establish a National conference. Unfortunately, the conference was disrupted by the Babangida junta.

His unwavering support of Mrs Kudirat Abiola’s resolve, commitment and determination to see the actualization of her husband’s mandate?

The omission of his name at a dinner speech notwithstanding, history has been kind to his legacy. Associations like the Ikeja Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association who have held a widely acclaimed annual lecture since April 29, 2010, in his name as Bar leader and incomparable activist have lived up to the creed; “the labour of our heroes past, shall never be in vain” and are doing their part so his name and achievements are not overlooked at the dinner table.

On June 4, 1996, Alao Aka-Bashorun was one of the first people to see Kudirat Abiola’s bullet-ridden body at the hospital. She had been on her way to pick him up for a meeting. The shock was too much to bear and he broke down at the scene and would never fully recover his memory again. Such was the price of Democracy, his price to pay for Democracy, in our beloved country, Nigeria.

Dipo H. Aka-Bashorun writes from Lawrenceville, New Jersey

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