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Pendulum: The Positive Steps Nigeria Must Take To Develop

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By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, if you are a regular follower and frequent reader of my column, you would, in the past few weeks, have encountered the serialisation of the great lessons’ life has taught me in the last 59 years of inhabiting this planet. But I have decided to take a break from my biographical narration in deference to the recent June 12 celebration as a national holiday and our new Democracy Day in Nigeria replacing May 29 which is now effectively merely Inauguration Day. It is right that June 12 should be Democracy Day given the utmost import of that day in the annals of our democratic history and especially in the realisation and actualisation of democracy that we now call the Fourth Republic. You will therefore understand, and appreciate, in a jiffy why it was expedient for me to write about June 12, although in a sense it is an integral part of my life’s experience.

Let me start by raising a toast to President Muhammadu Buhari on the smart decision to acknowledge the importance and significance of that day Nigerians united to vote for one man without ethnic and religious considerations or colouration. It is also noteworthy, and remarkable, that President Buhari chose to honour some of the notable figures in the struggle for the fulfilment and revalidation of the June 12, 1993, Presidential mandate, which was freely and overwhelmingly given to Chief Moshood Abiola by Nigerians. This is probably the biggest and best goal scored so far by President Buhari since his return to power in 2015. Nothing, and no one, can rob or deprive him of the plaudits and applause that are ascribed to this particularly delightful gesture with pleasure. Thank you, Mr President, from the bottom of my heart. I was and remain overwhelmed by your generosity of spirit particularly because you did not have to do it. Others who had better reasons to do it, spectacularly failed to do so and they were not crucified for it. Instead Nigerians shrugged and moved on. Building on your great spirit of atonement, you have further endeared yourself to me by naming the National Stadium in Abuja after MKO Abiola. What more can one ask of you? As I wrote when the announcement was first made about June 12 becoming Democracy Day, and the actual ceremony came up in the Presidential villa in Abuja, it matters not to me if there were political undertones to these kind and gracious gifts. People will read politics and ulterior motives into anything, but one must always appreciate and celebrate humaness and humanity, and this is one of such occasions. And so, as for me and my house, God used President Buhari to make what seemed impossible possible, and that should suffice for now if not for ever.

Have you noticed how, suddenly everyone is now an apostle of June 12! What is worse is the revisionist history which is being espoused and churned out by several people, mostly in order to cleanse or whitewash themselves because of the nefarious roles that they placed in the truncation of the Dream. Some are mere charlatans who seek to jump on the bandwagon with the hope of feathering their nests. Those who know the truth, know, and it is my fervent hope that before too long we will start seeing accurate memoirs from those who seek nothing more than truth and justice. We owe this to the memory of MKO.

Having said that, let’s now get down to the very serious business of the day. It is not enough celebrating the date June 12 or naming the Abuja National Stadium or any other edifice or institution after Chief Abiola. The spirit of June 12 must also be absorbed and imbibed. That is what can make sense and achieve the desired purpose eventually. Making a fetish, ritual or routine of the date alone is of no substance, if Nigeria and Nigerians have nothing concrete to benefit from it. And what can we gain?

One, Nigeria needs another Abiola, or a fair replica of him or any of our avowed nationalists and patriots that travelled the space called Nigeria before him. I have always maintained that the monumental victory recorded by Abiola on June 12, 1993, was not an accident or a fluke. It was a reward for the phenomenal life of hard work, sacrifice, dedication, generosity and uncommon love for mankind that Abiola demonstrated and evinced. Abiola was not interested in where you came from or what religion you practiced, he was more concerned about your performance and service delivery. Nigeria desperately needs another completely detribalised, secular and worldly man or woman, at the very top of our political stratosphere. On this score, I doubt if Buhari is willing or able to make the substantial effort necessary given his age and antecedents. However, if he tries this second term around, he may still go on to become a global statesman and a leader whose story will be told and retold in Nigerian folklore.

Two, Nigeria requires a leader who knows how to spot talent, like Abiola, and nurture it. Chief Abiola surrounded himself with the best brains in every endeavour that he undertook, be it religion, social life, business, sport or politics. There are too many of such people and space will not permit me to name them individually, but rest assured that in their respective fields, they are like a list of Who is Who. What they also had was diligence and integrity, although some of them later became compromised for a variety of reasons which is not the subject of this discourse. What the Buhari government needs to demonstrate, very glaringly and urgently, is the ability to reward and embrace talent and merit. It must target and bring on board the very best that Nigeria has to offer. Unfortunately, this has not been the case thus far, and it is Nigeria and her people that has suffered badly.

President Buhari must regard and welcome every Nigerian as a part of one big and united family. The biggest problem facing us is the lack of unity and cohesion, borne partly from the suspicion that mediocrity is crowned whilst merit is demoted. This is responsible for the spate of killings all over Nigeria. True love has taken flight and what is left is concentrated bitterness. Chief Abiola felt at home in every nook and cranny of Nigeria and he was welcomed with open arms. There should be a method to our madness. President Buhari should put the past behind and whatever informed his seeming aloofness and nonchalance. Leadership must inspire, it must rouse the people from their deep slumber. What I see in Buhari is a President who has turned taciturnity into an art. This makes it difficult for Nigerians to read his mind or know the direction he is facing. It makes for stilted and struggling nation building and development. It is a recipe for deep stagnation in our social and political life.

Three, Nigeria is a secular State and its secularity should be maintained decidedly and decisively. The tension about religion is borne out of the decision of our leaders to dabble into matters  which ordinarily should remain a personal matter between man and his God. Whosoever wants to serve his God fervently should work very hard to raise the funds needed and necessary. Nigeria can no longer afford to waste resources on personal projects that should never be of interest or concern to the State. Our infrastructure deficit is way too high for us to continue our profligate lifestyle. When we de-emphasise matters of religion in State policies, individuals would be encouraged to invest directly in their faith and religion, as they should. Everyone knew Chief Abiola as a devout Muslim, but they also knew him as a liberal who tolerated other religions within his group of companies and could be trusted enough if he makes appointments that seemed lopsided. It was for that singular reason that he was able to get away with the Muslim-Muslim ticket of Abiola and Kingibe, just like he would have done had it been his preferred ticket of Abiola and Atiku. Buhari’s trajectory and seemingly fundamentalist speeches in the past have come back to haunt and dog his every move. A large chunk of Nigerians tends to see him as someone who favours his religion and his tribe above others and who may even go the extra mile to stifle other faiths and tribes. Whereas, on the other hand, Chief Abiola invested in churches and mosques all over the federation with his personal funds and brought people of different tribes and ethnicity into his magic circle.

I vividly remember an encounter between Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe and I in 1993. Kingibe was the Vice-Presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party. As soon as Chief Abiola returned to Lagos from the Jos Primaries which he won by the whiskers, I was at his house to remind him of his promise to attend the Grand House Reception at Guv’nor Ken Calebs Olumese’s Niteshift, on Opebi Road, Lagos, which was easily the most prestigious nightclub in Lagos at the time. Kola Abiola had whisked his Dad away for a couple of hours’ rest, but Chief Abiola still made it to the club where he mingled and danced with everyone, whether saints or sinners. After that big night, the Guv’nor of Niteshift requested me to help invite Alhaji Kingibe and I went to his house and a deal was sealed. But close to the date, Kingibe developed cold feet and said he wasn’t going to attend again because some members of his faith might  misconstrue his motives and motivation and accuse him of interacting with men and women of low morals which could easily get him into trouble. I understood but it was difficult to back out at that stage because the preparations had gone too  far. So, I approached Chief Abiola for his intervention and fortunately Alhaji Kingibe was coming to see him. When Kingibe arrived, Chief asked why he would rather disappoint those who wanted to host and honour him. Kingibe expressed his apprehension to Abiola who responded with a powerful salvo, “you are not more Muslim than me, if I can enter the nightclub, there’s no reason you cannot enter…” That did the magic and Kingibe agreed to attend and we all had great fun. And that was one of the things that endeared their joint ticket to those who were not overtly religious. The Abiola/Kingibe disposition would easily douse the kind of volatility of religious conflagration in Nigeria today.

Education is the greatest leveller between the rich and the poor anywhere in the world. Abiola was inspired by his own background and experiences. Had it not been for education, he would never have attained the heights he did. It was education that gave him the exposure he had. To show his appreciation and his understanding of how education could lead to social, economic and political emancipation and integration, Chief Abiola invested heavily in education not only via scholarships to indigent students nationwide but also by contributing to educational infrastructure in all parts of the country. In what was regarded as the biggest single donation ever to higher institutions at the time, Chief Abiola gave out about 30 million Naira to all Nigerian universities. Beyond that, he built libraries for many schools. He also made books available and affordable for students by establishing Abiola Bookshops which became a haven and succour to many students and lecturers. Abiola was committed to devoting a large part of his personal fortune to the education of the people. I am sure that he would have done the same in government by allocating a substantial part of the country’s budget to education. I know that under Abiola the intractable problems between the government and staff of our tertiary institutions would have been a thing of the past. He would have accommodated and provided for them, no matter what.

Abiola knew that food was a critical necessity in everyone’s life and that attracted his attention. He established Abiola Farms in Ogun, Kwara and Taraba States. Long before local rice production became the vogue in Nigeria, he had invested in rice mills and massive silos in Daka. He also owned Banuso Fisheries. His Wonder Bakeries Limited was built to international standards and I was a happy distributor of Wonderloaf at a point in 1991 after I resigned from my celebrated job as Editor of Classique magazine. Just imagine the spiralling effect of Abiola’s investments. He used to tell anyone who cared to listen that only entrepreneurs like him could know how to create employment and job opportunities. Abiola was a serial investor who touched lives everywhere in Nigeria and beyond. In his private life he was already doing the business that he knew public life would demand of him.

It behoves a government determined to successfully govern for its people to demonstrate its preparedness to attain the next level by sincerely nurturing talent, shunning ethnicity and religion, fostering education, engendering food production and promoting job creation. That was Abiola’s way. It is my hope and prayer that Democracy Day will be seen as a day when the nation’s leaders renew their vows to govern for Nigeria in the essence epitomised by our gloriously appointed and anointed leaders such as MKO Abiola.

Democracy Day must not just be celebratory and ceremonial. It must be much more. It must be Liberation Day, with freedom from the shackles of deprivation, poverty, diseases and insecurity of all shades and form.

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Atiku Hails Judgment on Full Financial Autonomy for LGs, Says It’s a Win for Nigerian People

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The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 general elections, and a former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has hailed the judgment of the Supreme Court, ordering that henceforth local government allocations be paid direct into various local government accounts, saying it is a win for the people of Nigeria.

The Waziri Adamawa made his views public via his social media handle, saying categorically that “I align with the decision of the Supreme Court that the structure of the Nigerian government is portioned in three layers, and of these, the local governments should be centres of development.”

He wrote:

The judgment of the Supreme Court earlier today affirming fiscal autonomy to local government councils in the country is a win for the people of Nigeria.

The court’s ruling is a step in the right direction and a major corrective action in greasing the wheels of national development across the country.

The decision by the Federal Government to consolidate disbursements of local councils’ revenues into the state government accounts was a decision that was borne out of politics of hasty compromise.

I align with the decision of the Supreme Court that the structure of the Nigerian government is portioned in three layers, and of these, the local governments should be centres of development.

I also share the belief that fiscal autonomy to the local governments should not be limited to revenues from the Federation Accounts, but indeed, should apply to Internally Generated Revenue from the respective local government authorities.

Many of our states, especially those in the ultra urban areas with high density economic activities, have become notorious in muscling local councils from generating revenue on items that border on motor parks, outdoor advertising, rents and many more.

The verdict of the court is in tandem with the core functions of the Supreme Court as an arbitration court between and among governments. -AA

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Supreme Court Grants LGAs Full Financial Autonomy

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The Supreme Court of Nigeria has ruled that the 774 local government areas (LGAs) be given a full financial autonomy across the federation.

A seven-man panel of Supreme Court Justices led by Justice Garba Lawal delivered the ruling on Thursday, July 11, 2024.

The apex Court initially heard the suit between the Federal and State government on the autonomy of local government on June 13 and reserved judgment.

The suit marked SC/CV/343/2024 was filed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), and it sought full autonomy and direct fund allocation to the 774 local government areas (LGAs) in the country.

Fagbemi requested the Supreme Court to order that funds for LGAs managed by caretaker committees appointed by governors, rather than elected chairmen and councillors, be withheld.

However, the 36 state governors, represented by their attorneys general, oppose the suit on various grounds, including their argument that the Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case.

In its ruliing on Thursday (today), the Supreme Court ordered that full financial autonomy be granted to the LGAs, recognizing them as an independent segment of the federation.

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Wike vs Ireti Kingibe: Time to Stop the Bully

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By Eric Elezuo

It is an understatement to say that there’s no love lost between the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mr. Nyesom Wike, and the Senator representing the FCT, Mrs. Ireti Kingibe. Their relationship has turned more soured than the proverbial cat and rat. In fact, both cannot see eye to eye, in as much as they are saddled with the same responsibility of promoting and developing the FCT.

While Kingibe, one of the four female senators in the Senate, is operating on the mandate of the people, having been duly elected under the Labour Party in a well contested election in the 2023 General Elections, Wike is an appointee of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

No one has been able to explain the origin of the beef between the two political figures, but source close to The Boss, has said that differences in political affiliation may have triggered the initial animosity before it blossomed into full time hatred and cross verbal attacks, leading to the bullying of the Senator.

Senator Kingibe had complained earlier in the life of the administration that the FCT has shun all her approaches to synergise for the benefit of the Abuja residents, since she’s a direct interface of the people as an elected representative. But Wike, in his response tackled the Abuja Senator, asking her to stay away from him that he does not wish to be friends with her.

Wike had lambasted the Senator, accusing her of blackmailing him instead of communicating her problems through the right channels or better still focusing on her oversight functions.

He stated this in an interview with journalists in Abuja, stating that the lawmaker is aggrieved because the Senate President snubbed her for the position of the Senate Committee on FCT.

“I don’t want to be personal…she’s the Senator for FCT. She went around saying ‘oh, oh Wike is busy scraping roads…I should leave the roads till when the potholes come?” Wike said.

“Somebody wants to be your friend and you say ‘I don’t want to be your friend. Is it by force?’ The problem is that she wanted to be Chairman, Senate Committee on FCT and the Senate President said ‘I’m not giving you’.

‘What are you going to supervise me? You cannot supervise me. What is her interest, that I must see her? If I have a problem I’ll go and see her. I don’t have a problem. Nobody can intimidate me. Look, I was a Minister before. I became a governor of one of the most important states in Nigeria and she thinks that the only way you can bring me down is to go to Channels, TVC, saying the Minister is not carrying me along.

“I don’t have the back to carry. It’s not about blackmailing. Do the right thing. You know her problem? She ran election with my friend Philip Aduda and she sees me taking Philip everywhere instead of her being the Senator. Should I abandon my friend because he failed election?” Wike queried.

However, while the Senator has refused to stay bullied, Nigerians have said that time is now to tame the bully, and save the bullied from any further acts of disrespect.

Kingibe has made it clear however, that she is not in any interested in the friendship of Wike, who she only knows from a distance, but in working together to answer to the needs of the FCT residents, whom both of them have been mandated to serve at the moment.

Speaking on Arise News interview, the Senator reviewed as follows, taking into cognizance that Wike addresses her as one, who claims her senatorial role:

“That’s what he says. I am the senator, but he said in interviews that I claim that I am the senator of the FCT, and he is not obliged to deal with me. But I am saying that by sections 122 and 124 of the Evidence Act, he is bound by the judicial notice of the occupier of the seat of the senator of the FCT.

“I am also saying that section 24 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, imbues on him a duty, that is, the honourable minister, (I am not calling any names because anybody who is the minister is bound by those same laws and duties) to abide by the constitution, to respect all its ideals, institutions and legitimate authorities entirely.

“So just the same way that some Nigerians would have voted for the president, and some would not have, but as soon as he is declared the president, he becomes the president for everybody, and nobody can pick and choose who would rather be the president. And therefore, same applies to all offices regardless of party or any other position.”

She added, “Please what constitutes friendship between two people who have never met each other? I have never sat in the same room with the minister except in the senate committee. So how does friendship arise? Why would I want to be the friend of somebody I do not know?

“The truth of the matter is that the minister refuses to speak or communicate in any way with the senator representing the Federal Capital Territory. So, how are the wishes and the needs of the people to be communicated to him? Please tell me if you know a way.”

Responding while inaugurating the construction of Mabushi Bus Terminal, Phase I, in Abuja, came hard on the senator for her remarks threatening to unseat her as a serving senator in the next election.

Referring to her as a nameless person, Wike asked her to go hug the transformer, in a most derogatory attempt to inform that she does not matter in the scheme of activities in the FCT.

Wike said: “I overheard somebody in Arise this morning. Unfortunately, I hear the person is a member of National Assembly and it is unfortunate I say so. With all due respect, what you don’t know, you don’t know, what you know you know, and the good thing for you is to tell people you don’t when you don’t know, then people will educate you.

“The Honorable Minister of State and my humble self have not been in office for more than 11 months and the person is angry that they are praising us. If you don’t want to or you are angry about that, go and hand yourself in a transformer. If we have done well, we have done well. If we haven’t done well, we haven’t done well. I’m proud to say that in the short time that Mr. President has appointed us, we have done well.

“You said there are no hospitals and there are no hospitals. You, as a legislator, what have you done? How many bills have you sponsored for us to improve our education and health sector?

“I challenge that legislator. If you are very popular, 2027 come and run under Abuja, we will fail you. Do you think that what happened last time, will happen again? It will not happen again. Luckily for me, I am the FCT Minister now. So that is my territory and I’m not afraid.

“So, People should be able to come out and be able to accept the truth. We are not begging for anybody to become our friend, we have so many friends that we cannot even carry along. So how can we go and beg people to become our friends? We are not interested in that.

“If you are angry that people are praising us, by next year your BP level will go very high because the praises you would see would be too much.”

Many legislators were at the event, and they clapped for the minister at the remarks.

In another commissioning activity, the Senate President was on hand to deliver a speech, but ended up talking down on his colleague.

“I saw one of the legislators on television talking about you (Wike) and mentioning the fact that she was not carried along.

“Well, she is a member of the Senate. Once a decision is taken, she is bound by the decision. So, please ignore every distraction (from her) and be rest assured that no matter what you do, not everyone will praise you. Others will still try to find faults,” Mr Akpabio told Mr Wike, who was beaming with smiles.

Many other Senators were present at the event.

But Nigerians have come hard on the FCT Minister for his unguided utterances against an elected public officer, who is also a septugenarian, accusing him of lacking respect and playing God in the affairs of men.

In their response, the Labour Party, FCT branch, accused Wike of falling out of line, saying that Kingibe did nothing  y calling his attention to main needs of the Abuja residents.

The FCT chairman of the party, Comrade Diugwu Chukwuemeka, said by Wike’s outburst, he showed that he is not at home with the peculiarities of the FCT, nothing that the area is a conglomeration of different persons from across the length and breadth of the country.

“Does he not know that he is a tenant in FCT merely appointed by  the president and  if Mr. President decides to remove him, he will be removed without any ceremony,” the LP chairman queried.

On his part, the National Chairman of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Dr Ajuji Ahmed, described Wike’s attack on Senator Kingibe as verbal violence.

He said that Wike does not have the power to stop other politicians’ re-election because he is not the one that brought such politicians to the office in the first instance.

“That (the attack) amounts to verbal violence because there is no reason why he (Wike) should do that. He is not in the LP. It was LP that elected her. He has nothing to do with LP and he is not the entire electorate of the FCT. There is no way somebody can stop someone from being re-elected in three years time. It’s not a savoury statement.”

Also speaking, a Chieftain of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA), Chief Chekwas Okorie, also described the verbal exchange between Wike and the FCT as bad.

He appealed to the two public officers to sheathe swords and collaborate for the overall progress of the FCT.

“For me, it is all politics. But it is unfortunate that they allowed their political differences to affect their service to the people.

“The senator representing FCT represents all Abuja and the entire Abuja has one FCT minister.

“It is the National Assembly that presides over Abuja. One would have expected the two to work together. But it is bad that they are fighting each other,” he said.

However, in total condemnation of Wike’s bullish approach to the administration of the FCT and attacks on Kingibe, the women of Abuja have held a protest, asking that Wike be checkmate in his untoward utterances against Kingibe.

“We, the Concerned Women of FCT, Abuja, are therefore calling on all women in Abuja to rise against Wike’s antics,” the women noted.

While Nigerians expect the legislators to come to the rescue and support of their colleague, the contrary is playing out, encouraging Wike’s bullish attitude. But Nigerians are stepping out of their comfort zone to curb the menace.

Nigerians also understand that Wike’s bullish stance extends to his Rivera State primary constituency, where he is slugging it out with the incumbent governor of the state, Mr. Siminalayi Fubara, over the control of the state. The state has,  in recent months, been a subject of political intrigues and violence as the parties fight for supremacy.

But time will tell.

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