Category: OPINION

As Reality TV Star Tacha Launches her Natacha Akide Initiative (NAI) today

A reality star Natacha Akide who is widely known for humanitarian nature, humility, focused and business mind will be kicking off this project with Government Girls Secondary School, Rumuokwuta Port Harcourt and will extend it to every geopolitical zone in Nigeria.

According to her post made in the early hour of today 5/2/ 2020.

Natacha Akide initiative has launched a project, Pad for Every Girl (PEG). Myself and my team will be sharing sanitary pads and giving lectures on Menstrual Hygiene Management, for girls in secondary school. Today, we are starting with Government Girls Secondary School, Rumuokwuta Port Harcourt and i promise you that the journey doesn’t end here. We will continue to educate and impact on the GIRL CHILD. Please join us and extend a helping hand to our girls, they are the future of tomorrow.   NAI PEG

The aim of this project is to educate the girl child on personal hygiene especially before and after their menstrual cycle and to enlighten them on the needs to always use sanitary pad, when to change their sanitary pads, how many hours a girl should wear her sanitary pad and how to properly dispose it

The next will be the free distribution of sanitary pads which is the major reason for the visit.

We all know that the high increase of Sanitary has brought about lots of vaginal infection because so many families can no longer afford it monthly.

Nigeria is one of the many countries that tax menstrual products, putting further strain on women and girls from underprivileged communities.

Between 2015 and 2018, sanitary pads like Always Ultra rose from N250 to N400, Always Classic from N200 to N300, and Lady Care from N250 to N400. Most Tampon brand products which sold for N750 have risen to about N1200.

The reason for the price hike can be traced to the inflation in the country and the fall in the exchange value of the national currency, the naira.

Although sanitary pads are the healthiest and most convenient menstrual management products because they are comfortable and leave little or no stain, IFUNANYA BLOG research showed that many Nigerian girls and young women now use cloth napkins, cotton wools and tissue paper for economics reasons.

The NAI organization will welcome any form of support to make sure this project and more to come will be a continues success.

BRUTALIZATION OF BALLOT BOX SNATCHERS BY SECURITY OPERATIVES IS ILLEGAL

By David Ajaba; a lawyer in Abuja.

Yesterday at the national caucus meeting of the APC in Abuja, the President of Nigeria somewhat directed the brutalisation and perhaps killing of ballot paper snatcher. His words,

“Anybody who decides to snatch ballot boxes or leads thugs to disturb the process, maybe that will be the last unlawful action you will take.
We have directed the military and other security agents to be ruthless…….

Anybody who thinks he has enough influence in his locality to lead a body of thugs to snatch ballot boxes or disturbs the voting system will do so at the expense of his own life”

While this may appease the feeling of some like those clapping during the speech, it does not accord with law. First it has to be stated that besides the possibility of anarchy, the electoral process in Nigeria is not at the whims and caprices of the President. This is adequately captured in the INEC’s twitter video post of February 11, 2019 wherein the INEC clearly listed 15 electoral offences and stated emphatically thus:

“The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, the Electoral Act 2010, as amended & the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Rules and Regulations constitute the legal framework which regulates our electoral process.”

Sections 33 and 34 of the Constitution provides for the rights to life and dignity of the human person and their derogations. I dare say none of those derogations include the preparation to take inflict injury or take life as directed by Mr President.

Again of the electoral offences provided in the various sections of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) none carries a sentence of death. Moreover punishment (of imprisonment or fine) is upon “conviction” by a court of competent jurisdiction or not presidential directive.

While we most passionately advocate a free and fair election, we cannot undermine the priority of life and the importance of fair hearing. The security operatives must concentrate on and possibly confine themselves to protecting the citizens and not brutalising “offenders” which has no place in our law.

Mr President must also not vent his frustration on the Nigerian people who gave him the powers he exercise. He must prepare himself adequately for the result of the presidential election, so that should he lose he will not increase the heat we already are in or indirectly ignite a second civil war.

This definitely is neither patriotic nor sportsmanly.

AGBADA CHANGETH NOT KHAKI UNIFORM By Ken Tadaferua

The philosopher, George Santayana enunciated the evergreen truism: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Many a Nigerian seem never to remember the past. It is a penchant that results in horrible consequences.

Nigeria’s political history is replete with coup-plotting army generals who exploit corruption and seeming frustration with court and legal processes as justification for truncating democracy and contriving legitimacy for dictatorships that they impose on the country. Again and again, each dictatorship delivers worse corruption, impunity and terrible governance. Yet, some citizens, blind to these lessons of history, applaud the disdainful truncating of democratic processes, till this day.

To put this in perspective, let’s look at excerpts of two speeches made 25 years apart, by army generals – Ibrahim Babangida on June 12, 1993 and Muhammadu Buhari on January 25, 2019. Get the full speeches and take note of the generals’ references to corruption and impatience with court processes. Yet, the irony is that they exploit contrived court rulings to murder democracy.  Read and ponder:

* Excerpts from the speech by General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida on June 12, 1993 to annul the 1993 presidential election won by Chief MKO Abiola:

“It is against the foregoing background that the administration became highly concerned when these political conflicts and breaches were carried to the court. It must be acknowledged that the performance of the judiciary on this occasion was less than satisfactory. The judiciary has been the bastion of the hopes and liberties of our citizens.

“It was under this circumstance that the National Defence and Security Council decided that it is in the supreme interest of law and order, political stability and peace that the presidential election be annulled.”

 

“Therefore, when it became clear that the courts had become intimidated and subjected to the manipulation of the political process, and vested interests, then the entire political system was in clear danger. This administration could not continue to watch the various high courts carry on their long drawn out processes and contradictory decisions, while the nation slides into chaos.

“It was under this circumstance that the National Defence and Security Council decided that it is in the supreme interest of law and order, political stability and peace that the presidential election be annulled.”

* Excerpts from the speech by General Muhammadu Buhari on January 25, 2019 to suspend the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, head of one of the three arms of government:

 

“Instead, the nation has been treated to the sordid spectacle of a judicial game of wits in which the chief justice of Nigeria and his legal team have made nonsense of the efforts of the Code of Conduct Tribunal to hear the allegation on merit and conclude the trial as quickly as possible considering the nature of the times in which we live.

“It is against this background that I have received the Order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal directing me to suspend the chief justice pending final determination of the cases against him. It also explains why I am not only complying immediately, but with some degree of relief for the battered sensibilities of ordinary Nigerians whose patience must have become severely over-taxed by these anomalies.

“In line with this administration’s avowed respect for the rule of law, I have wholeheartedly obeyed the Order of the Code of Conduct Tribunal dated 23rd January 2019.

“Accordingly, I hereby suspend the Honourable Mr. Justice Walter Nkanu Samuel Onnoghen, GCON as the Chief Justice of Nigeria pending final determination of the case against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal.”

Note that both the supposed court order which annulled the 1993 presidential election and Code of Conduct Tribunal order that suspended the CJN were not given in open court but were concoctions brewed and obtained under the sulfuric stench of judicial banditry. Worse, Danladi Umar, the CCT chairman who ordered the suspension, is himself facing corruption charges in court for receiving bribes.

It is a long, long road for Nigeria. The wolf in sheep clothing is still a wolf. The tin hat who removes khaki uniform for civilian agbada is still a tin hat.

PRESIDENT GEORGE WALKER BUSH AND THE EPITOME OF PUBLIC SERVICE. By: Godknows Boladei Igali, PhD

PRESIDENT GEORGE WALKER BUSH AND THE EPITOME OF PUBLIC SERVICE.

 

By: Godknows Boladei Igali, PhD

 

As the year 2018 enters its closing day, stories of few notable individuals will spill over into the right side of human history. On 30th November, 2018, one of the most celebrated statesmen, and 41st American President, George Herbert Walker Bush passed unto glory. At that hour, he was aged 94 years and about six months, making him the longest surviving American President ever.

 

Since then, pundits, especially on contemporary history, diplomacy and international politics have dwelt much on his iconic legacy as a statesmen, which stands in a sui generis, and is clearly distinctive. His life, times and impactful patrimony on the global scene, in particular are worth proper reflection.

 

This intellectual drift is apposite because for many centuries, the study and practice of History have preoccupied themselves with narrating almost with mythological dedication stories of the lives and heroism of great men. Agreed that the discipline has experienced some evolution over time to deal with thematic issues. But, essentially, the centrality of recounting the deeds of great men, which actually goes beyond their biographies, to telling the rhythm of human  societies in which they lived and how they shaped or reshaped what they met remains its centre-point . In every generation, many men and women of candour and exceptional gifts have served their times and fundamentally advanced the common good. It is the impact of such individuals that actually becomes a subject of reckoning and historicity.

 

Of all the great names in 2018, one that stands towering is, George Bush, Snr. A man of purest refinement of human spirit, he was simply known as George Bush for most of his public life spanning about seventy years, until his son of same name became America’s 43rd President. So from 2001, when he was already in retirement, he became more referred to as “George H W Bush” or “George Bush, Senior”. Born in 1924 in Milton, Massachusetts, he was fifth in lineage of front line American nationalists, business magnates and public servants.

 

His family tree reveals a legacy of consistent and accomplished service to the common good and commitment to upliftment of the public space. The actual progenitor of the Bush dynasty, Obadiah Bush who lived from 1797 to 1851, was a very prominent entrepreneur and businessman in the days just after the Declaration of American Independence on 4th July 1776. He was great, great grandfather of Bush, Snr. Although he was an industrialist manufacturing stoves, he was also prominent and fearless abolitionist as his contemporary, Abraham Lincoln, who latter became the 16th President of the United States. Obadiah Bush even became Vice President of the American Anti-Slavery Society at the time.  A man of convictions, he protested Slave Trade and Slavery, which at the time had gone on, quite despicably for about 200 years. As a matter of fact, he is recorded to have been ready to deploy his enormous wealth, in those days to seek secession of the State of New York from the United States if slavery was not sanctioned.

 

It is not surprising therefore, that his own son, James Bush, great grand father of President Bush Snr  took to the clergy and also trained as a lawyer at Yale University. From that time, Yale University, which was established in 1701 and for 300 years continues to be rated amongst the best five out of 27,000 universities in the world. It became the training ground for all members of the Bush family.  President Bush’s direct grandfather, Samuel Bush, born 1863 and lived till 1948, is considered the modern patriarch of the Bush dynasty. He was, a foremost industrialist of his time manufacturing railway parts in close partnership with the famous Rockeffeller Family. As America entered World War 1, Samuel Bush, along with other prominent business leaders of his day played various roles; he being in charge of relations with  Small Arms and Ammunition companies. He was later nominated to the post war Reconstruction Fund and actually served on Presidential Committee on Unemployment Relief.

 

President Bush’s own father, Prescott Bush was a famous Banker at a difficult period during the global economic depression, coming out relatively unscathed. Prescott Bush was known to have supported many charitable causes such as Birth Control and United Negro Fund, to advance the education of persons of colour.  He later moved on to politics, representing Connecticut in the American Senate from 1952 till 1963. He was reputed to have been the prime mover of legislations that supported President Dwight Eisenhower’s post War highway system and championed actions to mitigate the impact of floods and hurricanes.

 

Another factor of interest which had given the family a very cosmopolitan outlook to public service is its mobility. Though originally from New York in America’s northeast, it soon spread to places such as nearby New Jersey and then on to Connecticut. Thereafter, the family moved to Columbus Ohio in the country’s mid-west, and back to New England in the northeast. The family finally ended up settling in Texas around the southcentral area. Coming from the State of Texas, which is America’s 2nd largest state in terms of landmass and economy, also served as a great advantage. Indeed at about $1. 65 trillion GDP, Texas is the 10th largest economy in the world and leads in such critical areas as Agriculture, Animal husbandry, Oil and Gas and hi-tech. The generational achievements in business and industry, are other factors that broadened the family’s balanced background to public sector, as it ensured their relative understanding of the America life.

 

During the 1938-1939 period, Adolf Hitler, the German Chancellor started his marauding obscenity of attacking Austria, Poland and other neighbours. He soon succeeded in plunging the entire world into conflagration. At the time, President Bush was a seventeen year old secondary school graduate bound for Yale, like his fathers. However it was not to be as Hitler and his Japanese allies under Emperor Hirohito Hirohito attacked the American Pacific territory of Pearl Harbour in 1941. The young Bush, without the prodding of his wealthy parents, opted out of school and volunteered to serve in the war on his eighteenth birthday in June 1941. He joined the American Navy and became one of the best torpedo bomber fighter pilots of his day. For this, he received some of the most coveted military decorations from his country.

 

Further education, raising of family and business only came in the post war years. Excelling more than his forebears, but leaning on their business networks, he became very successful and affluent. With the completion of university education in 1948, he entered into oil business, becoming a millionaire before be attained the age of 40 years. He therefore, just like his father entered American politics as a very rich man. It was not always a bed of roses as Bush contested twice for American Senate to follow his father, Prescott Bush’s footsteps but he failed in all his senatorial attempts. He however, got an opportunity to go to Congress in 1966, and was re-elected in 1968.  Shortly after that, President Richard Nixon appointed him to the position of US Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York. He took over from the towering jurist, Arthur Goldberg. It is from this pedestal and his rather superlative performance at the United Nations, which earned him the position of Chairmanship of the National Republican Committee in 1973. With his able handling of American interests at the United Nations at the height of the Cold War, he carved out a niche as a top flight strategist.

 

His next assignment was as Head of Liaison Office with China. From the time of the Korean War, 1953-1955, Sino-American diplomatic relations had come to its lowest levels, with both sides pursuing rather bellicose activities in South East Asia. But China was too important to be ignored or left in comatose.  Bush, working with Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, therefore had to device strategies that re-engaged and restored relations. The quiet ‘ping-pong diplomacy’ helped build confidence leading to formalization and normalization of ties in 1975. Indeed his reassignment to head the Central Intelligence Agency, then regarded as the vortex of the rather grandiose American diplomatic activism, underpinned his chivalry status in the scheme of things.

 

The high profile national security and diplomatic career, including a stint at The US Congress and the Republican Party, placed Bush as second to none in terms of pedigree in presiding over the affairs of the world’s leading democracy. Although his candidature under the Republican Party was defeated by Ronald Reagan, who later became 40th President, George Bush was invited to join the latter, hence becoming the 45th American Vice President in 1980. Bush is regarded as one of the most dutiful and engaged Vice Presidents ever in American history. With a security background, his role in the fight against drug trafficking and drug abuse was quite pronounced.

 

After eight years as a highly rated Vice President, in 1988, it was not surprising that Bush defeated his Democratic Party rival, Michael Dukakis; even though the later also came highly favoured. In so doing, he broke a century and half record of Vice Presidents succeeding their principals. The four years of his Presidency, became Americans most impactful in foreign policy and national security. Bush’s realpolitik in a world defined by an arms race and thermonuclear rivalry still managed active engagement with Soviet leaders Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin as well as with Chinese leader, Deng Xiaoping (who succeeded Chairman Mao), which led to the breaking of the ‘Iron Curtain’ which had hitherto torn the world apart into two. For example, from one monolithic empire, the Soviet Union which had existed since 1917, became splintered into 15 independent and autonomous states without atrocious bloodletting. Other eastern bloc countries such as Poland, Hungary, Czech and Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, former Yugoslavia, also became free from the authoritarian grip of the Russians.

 

Most graphically, the Berlin Wall which symbolized the divide and stood obtuse for more than two decades gave way. Through adroit negotiations and persuasions, he got both British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher and French President, François Mitterrand, both of whom were within World War generation and still mentally alert as to the threats a united Germany could pose to acquiesce. At the same time, he got German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl to make Germany become the bulwark of military strength and capability within the North American Treaty Organization (NATO). He also garnered global alliance, in compliance with Article Seven of the United Nations Charter to embark on military expeditions in Iraq and Panama against those considered rogue regimes. He led the world with a 700, 000 strong force to expel Saddam Hussain from his territorial incursion into Kuwait, with an unprecedented global coalition. Cleverly, he convinced Saudi Arabia, Germany and Japan to pay for all the costs of the war.

 

Still on the international scene, he worked more than most other American Presidents to build more healthy and beneficial economic ties with the country’s neighbours.  He supervised the very complex and intricate negotiations with Canada in the North and the countries of South America to form the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA).  This was to build in the main, a Pan American economic bloc which could expand the American market frontier and also act as a counterpoise to both China and the European Union.

 

Domestically, President Bush left the US at peace and more united, especially with the cost of successful external military adventures paid for by taxpayers in other countries. Although his background was from the oil industry, he took it on courageously as he made major amendments to the Clean Air Act of 1963. These have continued to place greater burden on reduction of environmental footprint on the oil companies. His economic policies, were however, less successful as he was caught in the middle between his own Republican Party which was a minority in Congress and the Democrats who gave him no breathing space to undertake many reforms. In all, American rated him, one of the best ever.

 

In one of the tributes in his honour, a respected American Diplomat, Nicholas Burns asserted that “he became president, he had the world’s most extensive collection of relationships with presidents, prime ministers, monarchs and business leaders. He understood that effective diplomacy required the patient building of trust, something that often eludes leaders across national, ideological and cultural boundaries in our era.” Simply put, he understood the world and knew how to connect with its leaders to get things done.

 

A strong point for successful governance which many remember is the assemblage of one of America’s best dream team ever. This brought together such heavy weights as Secretary of State, Jim Baker III, Defence Secretary, Dick Cheney, Treasury Secretary Nick, National Security Advisor, Brent Scowcroft and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Colin Powell. Others were Bob Gates, Condoleezza Rice, Bob Blackwill, Bob Zoellick, Dennis Ross, Tom Pickering, etc.

 

Another factor of record relates to his exceptional personal discipline, humility and civility. Though born into privileged origins and upbringing, he earned great respect by hard work, President Bush goes down in history as a gentleman. He was very closely and personally connected with all his team and with all other world leaders, exuding simplicity. He was self-effacing, and at times abnegated in taking credit for achievements both at home and overseas. Hence, he made Gorbachev feel comfortable in the face of his crumbling empire.

 

World leaders, especially on the African continent, no doubt have a lot to learn from the legacies of George Walker Bush, knowing that one day, persons completely unknown to them will have to weigh the impact of their stewardship. His mortal remains took residence at his final resting place in Houston, Texas on 5th December 2018, after impressive last rites across the United States of America. He has now gone down in the annals of time, as a good man. A man who exited the scene peacefully, having lost election to the more youthful and loved Bill Clinton. But he left America united and strong, and the world, more “safe and peaceful”. Little wonder, God gave him so much length of days.

 

Dr. Godknows Boladei Igali is a Diplomat, Administrator and 2015 lifetime achievement recipient of Historical Society of Nigeria

TROUBLING THREATS TO 2019 POLL By Emmanuel Onwubiko

We are just less than few weeks to the year 2019 general election in which millions of Nigerians are expected to participate in electing sets of Nigerian office seekers to occupy for four years some strategic national and state wide offices.

 

Nigeria is not only in a Christmas mood but also in a campaign season with thousands of desperate elective office seekers traversing the entire country or their respective states canvassing for votes.

 

Political campaigns by the two major candidates for the much coveted office of the president of Nigeria have commenced particularly by the opposition presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who was for eight years the vice president of Nigeria under the presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo, who retired from the Nigerian Army as a four star General in the late 70’s.

 

In other words, all the candidates gunning for elective offices have embarked on massive marketing of their manifestoes and the developmental blueprints which they hope to use as magic wands to curry favour from the electorate in the forthcoming election.

 

However, the actual election is heavily threatened by so many troubling and unresolved matters which may undermine the integrity and sanctity of the electoral process and could mar the elections and consequently lead to chaos, anarchy and doom if the early warning signals we are getting are not sufficiently deflated and tackled by all the relevant institutions and persons.

 

By the above scenario, I mean the near total lack of independence of the national electoral management institution pejoratively known in the constitution as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

 

INEC has a hierarchy that lacks credibility and integrity going by the circumstances of their appointment by the incumbent president and even the biological nearness to president Buhari of one of the key national commissioners.

 

The electoral commission is alleged to have registered millions of underage voters in Kano state and even when there are credible evidence seen from the last Kano state local council polls whereby kids as young as three years were seen voting, the officials of INEC in Abuja have turned the blind eyes. This goes to show that the electoral managers lack independence and reputation to hold or organize a credible election.

 

The other major threat to the smooth conduct of the election are the armed security forces and police whose heads are heavily compromised by the presidency to do the bidding of the incumbent president.

 

In the last Ekiti and Osun states elections, INEC allowed the police to allow the All Progressives Congress (APC) to openly buy up votes from the severely starving electorate who sold their consciences for peanuts. The Osun state election was worst because the police physically prevented the opposition PDP agents from accessing their polling units thereby letting the APC freely rig the process.

 

Also, the individual candidates are huge threats to the peaceful conduct of the election going by the widespread notion that most of them have already trained and equipped their armed hoodlums and are only just waiting for the election to come up so they can disrupt the process. Another threat is related to the shoddy registration of voters in which INEC registered foreigners in readiness for the manipulation of the process.

 

Even INEC made the admission that it has found out that hundreds of illegal aliens successfully got their names into the national voters register. However, as I write there is no credible proof that any of these illegal registrants have been arrested prosecuted and sanctioned.

 

Another threat to the coming election are the dare devil insecurity across the land.

 

As we write, the North East of Nigeria is facing resurgence of boko haram terror attacks with millions of Nigerians been chased into internal exile as refugees in the many decrepit internally displaced person’s camps which themselves have come under increasing violence from the armed Islamists. The Nigerian Army has also come under regular attacks.

 

Aside all these factors, the most disturbing is the clear partiality of the security forces including the Economic and Financial Crime Commission who receive direct orders from the presidency to go after opponents of the president so as to make the election a walk over for the incumbent who is accused of poor performance.

 

Two Harvard Professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt in their book “How Democracy Die” alluded to a similar scenario that is playing out in Nigeria now to reach a determination that democracy dies when the elected president becomes authoritarian.

 

There is no doubt that the current government has gone after political opponents and civil society activists with the recent clamp down by police on some notable activists like Deji Adeyanju amongst many others.

 

An important relationship exists between what those two Harvard Professors wrote in their book “How Democracy Die” and what Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is been used as the attack dog of the current president to target the financial resources of influential opposition leaders so as to cripple the largest national opposition to All Progressives Congress.

 

They wrote thus: “Elected autocrats also seek to weaken business leaders with the means to finance opposition. This was one of the keys to Putin’s consolidation of power in Russia. In July 2000, less than three months into his presidency, Putin summoned twenty-one of Russia’s wealthiest businessmen to the Kremlin, where he told them that they would be free to make money under his watch – but only if they stayed out of politics. Most of the so-called oligarchs heeded his warning. Billionaire Boris Berezovsky, the controlling shareholder of ORT television station, did not. When ORT coverage turned critical, the government revived a long-dormant fraud case and ordered Berezovsky’s arrest.”

 

“Berezovsky fled into exile, leaving his media assets in the hands of his junior partner, who “graciously put them at Putin’s disposal.” Another oligarch who ignored Putin’s warning was Mikhail Khodorkovsky, head of the giant Yukos oil company.”

 

The professors also recorded in their book thus: “Russia’s wealthiest man (worth $15 billion, according to Forbes), Khodorkovsky was believed to be untouchable. But he overplayed his hand. A liberal who disliked Putin, Khodorkovsky began to generously finance opposition parties, including the pro-Western Yabloko.”

 

“At one point, as many as one hundred Duma (parliament) members were on his payroll or receiving his support. There were rumors that he planned to seek the presidency.” Threatened, Putin had Khodorkovsky arrested in 2003 for tax evasion, embezzlement, and fraud. He was imprisoned for nearly a decade. The message to the oligarchs was clear: Stay out of politics. Nearly all of them did. Starved of resources, opposition parties weakened, many to the point of extinction.”

 

Already EFCC has gone after the key governors of the PDP who refused to play game with the president such as that of Rivers and Akwa Ibom even as members of PDP with large baggage have jumped into APC to gain soft landing from EFCC.

 

Determined to get a firsthand information about the troubles facing the 2019 poll, I detailed my research assistant Miss Grace Cliff Obilor who interviewed the deputy speaker of Abia state House of Assembly Dr. Ndukwe Cosmos. Ndukwe (Ph.D) spoke with amazing frankness.

 

At the end of the extensive and cerebral interview session, this is what Miss Obilor wrote as her findings.

 

She wrote that since the end of the military rule in 1999, this the likely to be the sixth quadrennial elections in Nigeria and for some time now there have been troubling threats to elections in Nigeria. During general elections there are possible threats which presents itself to citizens, threats like snatching ballot boxes, shooting at innocent people, buying votes and using military to intimidate the citizens and at the end of the day it will discourage the citizens from casting their votes.

 

Now, in our interview with the Deputy Speaker Abia State House of Assembly Rt.  Hon. Ndukwe Cosmos (PhD). He told us his impression about the forth coming general elections, He stated clearly that his intention is grilled with mixed feeling in the sense that the 2019 general election will be hazy and gloomy because the Electoral Act is not crystal clear, stating that he is a legislator and he understands the way bills are being read, from the first reading to the final pronouncement and at the end of the day, one man refused to sign it, thereby creating fear in the hearts of the citizens. Rt. Hon. Cosmos told us that  for  some months now ,the bill have not  been signed and he don’t know what could be the fear of the presidency that he has refused to sign the bill and if the bill is not passed there means we are  going with schizophrenic fear to the 2019 election, so majority of Nigerians are calling for a crystal clear election beyond signing the bill, they want their votes to count and once they have a feeling that their vote will count, they will come out and cast their votes.

 

Rt. Hon. Cosmos talked about the possible threats to the peaceful conduct of the elections, He told us clearly that from the formal states that conducted their elections this 2018 that we can see that a new trend came in which is known as VOTE BUYING, and it is a very big threat, interferences like using the military during election is gradually creeping in to the electoral system. He went ahead to tell us it is an offence for security to carry guns around the units, and that is to say people who are supposed to protect us are now being used to fight us during the election. He told us firmly that if the military is not removed during the election, 2019 will not be peaceful, taking Osun and Ekiti as case study, the military is a serious threat.

 

Talking about the state of preparedness of the candidates to accept a freely and transparently conducted election, the Deputy Speaker told us that the campaigns are not what they used to be like the during the past elections, the campaigns are not at its peak, when we have barely few months to the general elections and it looks as if nothing is happening , it doesn’t look as if the flag bearers are preparing for the elections maybe because of the threats and it that does not go down well, because they don’t  actually want to stress themselves, mere looking at the nation, Political activities have not kicked off as usual, candidates are not struggling, maybe they are quiet preparing forms they will use to buy vote or something else. He went ahead to say that if the Electoral Act is being signed maybe the candidates will speak up and get prepared as usual, but for now he is not seeing that usual urge from the candidates.

 

In his opinion regarding the independence of the Electoral Umpire, He stated clearly that the constitutional positions made it in a way that the INEC have to be independent but the state of the nation now is that sentiments have taken over virtually all the institutions that are supposed to be independence and right now most of the candidates from the 6 Geo-political zone suffer intimidation as a result of this.

 

Speaking of the trigger points of violence as a consequence of a manipulated or rigged election, Rt. Hon Cosmos mentioned the polling units as the foundational point because this is where votes are initiated and that is why the New Electoral Act stated that the votes should be recorded and announced in the units immediately, that is to say that the late announcement of results often leads to manipulation and at the end of the day violence.

 

The Deputy Speaker told us his impression about the poor  turnover of the women candidates in the forth coming election, he told us firmly that Nigerian politics have not come of age democratically, where by husbands feel  safe when their wives run along in politics, women are special and unique, moral pictures are adorned in our women and besides our political space is filled with violence, thuggery, rigging  and so many others, if the institutions are sure that the peoples votes will count then women would like to come out. He went further to say that women may not like to involve themselves simply because our politics is full of secrecy, and also most people see the Nigerian politics as DIRTY and any woman that dares into it is seen as DIRTY too in other words women tend to stay on their own especially married women, they wouldn’t want to leave their homes to play politics which have been tagged DIRTY , so some women who play politics are wives of politicians or single women  because here in Nigeria most women can’t do what it takes in politics.

 

In conclusion, the Deputy Speaker Abia State House of Assembly said that they are preparing for the next  general Elections, hoping that the Electoral Act will be Signed and also hoping for accurate vote counts and  free and fair elections, so that the votes will be calculated freely and Nigerians will sit at home and know the results without  fear.

 

Having heard the opinions of the Deputy Speaker Abia State House of Assembly Rt. Hon. Ndukwe Cosmos (PhD), we will have to say that the troubling threats to polling are basically the vote buying exercise, result manipulation and the military interferences. The vote buying exercise took place in Ekiti State and Osun State and at the end of the day the citizens who came out with their PVCs went home angrily because their votes didn’t count, most of them faced embarrassment and humiliation from these armed military just because they came to cast their votes and this have in turn discouraged other citizens because most people have decided to stay at home on the day of the general election in other to be safe from these threats and this is not a good story to be told about this country, the appropriate institutions should make sure that  all these threats which took place in the Ekiti, Osun election will not repeat itself in the general elections if not this possible threats will lead to violence which will in turn put innocent citizens at risk. The military and the security men should always be there to protect the interest and votes of the citizens not the other way round, if our country should continue to live in such manner, then we will be giving the neighboring countries a bad impression about us, equity and fairness should be our watch word.

 

Finally the president should try as much as possible to sign the Electoral Act for transparency in the forth coming general elections, there should be no snatching of ballot boxes, no killing of innocent citizens, no manipulation of results and there should be no interferences by armed military.

 

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is the intellectual head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and blogs @ www.emmanuelonwubiko.com; www.huriwanigeria.com; www.huriwa@blogspot.com; www.thenigerianinsidernews.com

Human Rights Milestones of Nigeria Army By Emmanuel Onwubiko

Human Rights Milestones of Nigeria Army

By Emmanuel Onwubiko

On December 10th 2018, I breezed into the expansive headquarters of the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on Yakubu Gowon way in the heart of the sprawling Maitama District in the Federal Capital Territory. That place is a like a home by the virtue of my fond association as a member of the then governing board that began and completed it whilst i served as a Federal Commissioner for five years during the President Olusegun Obasanjo’s era. So going to the commission is a sort of a pilgrimage. 

My appearance however on this auspicious  occasion was to honour a personal invitation extended to me by one of the most phenomenal Nigerian lawyers that has once headed the over 25 year old National Human Rights Commission – Mr. Bukhari Bello.

The Kebbi born Bukhari Bello is a lawyer who recently left the service of the Federal Civil service as a top director in the Federal ministry of Finance.

During his stint as the Director General of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), yours faithfully truly saw in him a patriotic Nigerian who is deeply committed towards deepening the ideals of the universal declarations of Human Rights just as he exercised his official duties with resilience, diligence, professional competency and candour and left phenomenal marks in the sands of time. He it was who vigorously defended the independence of the National Human Rights Commission to a very dangerous extent that the then Justice minister Bayo Ojo(SAN) violated the statutory provisions setting up the commission by relieving him of his office barely a year into his second term of 5 years. Incidentally, the next government breached several provisions of the NHRC Act. Till date the Federal government still abuse the law setting up the commission by failing to constitute the governing body. Buhari Bello has however remained a prominent figure in the organised human rights in the Country. 

So it was due to his many landmarks achievements whilst in office as the executive secretary of the National Human Rights Commission that the current manager of the institution decided to immortalize him and applaud him for those salient feats. So yours faithfully was at the venue for less than splitting seconds because I considered it a top priority to be there even when I had too many competing demands with an ongoing writing contract that I am battling to complete before the deadline of December ending.

It was exactly after I stepped out of the premises of the rights commission that it occurred to me that I had just received an alert of a breaking story in which the international criminal court in the Hague Netherlands reportedly confirmed that it has established certain elements of war crimes committed by both the armed boko haram terrorists and by Nigeria’s professional soldiers. The Chief of Army staff Lieutenant  General  Tukur Yusuf Buratai  however strongly disagrees and believed that professional soldiers have died in the ongoing counter terror war in the North East of Nigeria so as to preserve the human rights of Nigerians. 

In another breath, the ICC confirmed that it was making effort to ascertain what internal steps are been adopted by Nigerian state to investigate and treat those allegations. To this, the Army said it has done a lot to redress any of the reported cases of human rights violations. 

I will return to the international criminal court’s story but let me also state that I am satisfied with the robust response the Nigerian Army has made regarding the mainstreaming of respect of human rights in internal military operations.

The chief of Army staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai established the first ever nation-wide remedial and redress institution that tackles the issues of human rights violations committed by the military.

Yours faithfully has studied the Human Rights department of the Nigerian Army and can report authoritatively that salient landmarks and phenomenal milestones in the area of promotion and protection of fundamental human rights of Nigerians have been attained under the watch of the professional soldier and General – Tukur Yusuf Buratai.

I must admit that there remain so many challenges that ought to be drastically addressed before we can relax and sing praises to the Nigerian Army as a national institution that fundamentally respects human rights. But if we must be fair and objective, General Buratai deserves some loud accolades.  

The International Criminal Court (ICC) thinks differently and says Nigerian security forces (NSF) have committed war crimes against humanity.

In a report sent to TheCable, the ICC said it has received “a total of 169 communications” from Nigeria and its assessment has shown that security forces in Nigeria have committed war crimes varying from murder, torture, and intentionally attacking the civilian population.

“Specifically, the Office found a reasonable basis to believe that the NSF committed the war crimes of murder pursuant to article 8(2)(c)(i); torture, cruel treatment pursuant to article 8(2)(c)(i); outrages upon personal dignity pursuant to article 8(2)(c)(ii); and intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population,” the ICC said.

Fatou Bensouda, the ICC prosecutor, in her annual report on preliminary examination activities (2018), also said the ICC found reasonable basis to believe that Boko Haram also committed war crimes against humanity.

“Furthermore, the Office found a reasonable basis to believe that Boko Haram committed the war crimes of murder pursuant to article 8(2)(c)(i); cruel treatment pursuant to article 8(2)(c)(i) and outrages upon personal dignity pursuant to article 8(2)(c)(ii)”.

The ICC added that Boko Haram was “intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population or against individual civilians pursuant to article 8(2)(e)(i); intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to education and to places of worship and similar institutions pursuant to article 8(2)(e)(iv); pillaging a town or place pursuant to article 8(2)(e)(v); rape, sexual slavery and sexual violence pursuant to article 8(2)(e)(vi)”.

The office of the prosecutor added that the ICC met with Abubakar Malami, Nigeria’s minister of justice and attorney general of the federation (AGF), to further investigate eight potential cases of war crimes against humanity.

ICC says several “files pertaining to alleged violations by members of the army were submitted to the Office (of the prosecutor). These files relate to a limited extent to the two potential cases identified by the Office”.

“Of the 27 files provided to the Office, 24 either lacked information to determine their relevance for the admissibility assessment or did not appear relevant.

The ICC complained that “other information specifically requested by the Office which was assessed to be potentially relevant to the admissibility assessment has yet to be provided by the Nigerian authorities”.

The criminal court added since 2017, the Nigerian authorities appear to have “taken concrete steps toward fulfilling their primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute ICC crimes”.

“While there seems to be a tangible prospect of further proceedings against members of Boko Haram, including high-level commanders, at this stage the same cannot be said of the NSF, in particular since the Nigerian authorities tend to deny any allegation against the latter.

“While acknowledging the cooperation of the Nigerian authorities in the course of the preliminary examination, the Office will require, for the purpose of expediting its complementarity assessment, further information and evidence
demonstrating that relevant national proceedings are being or intended to be conducted without delay”.

The ICC made these findings about the same time that a team of researchers from Human rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) made the following findings based on scientifically tested and proven interview process with the military General in charge of the civil and military relations department which houses the Nigerian Army’s Human rights  desk. Below are our findings in a question and answer format. Happy reading. 

QUESTION 1. What is the essence of establishing the Human Rights Desk of the Nigerian Army?

ANSWER: To discuss the essence of the Human Rights Desk of the Nigerian Army, there is need to first give a little background of the desk. The Nigerian Army Human Right Desk was established under the Army Headquarters Department of Civil Military Affairs on the 17 of February 2016 by the Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General Tukur Yusuf Buratai in response to alleged human rights violations by troops of the Nigerian Army both in Counter Terrorism/Counter Insurgency and Internal Security Operations in the country. These allegations range from extra-judicial killings, torture, unlawful arrest and detention etc. The main essence of establishing the Nigerian Army Human Rights Desk is to receive and facilitate investigations of human rights abuses against military personnel. The Desk is also required to speedily treat allegations of human rights abuses against troops and to recommend the appropriate action(s) to be taken. In addition to that, the desk is also saddled with the responsibility of facilitating greater Civil-Military Cooperation and collaboration with various stakeholders. The mission of the Human Rights Desk is to project a professionally responsive Nigerian Army through human rights collaboration with the civil populace. In essence, the desk is out to curb human rights violations and to arrive at an amicable settlement.

QUESTION 2. What impact has the office made so far and how many petitions have you handled?

ANSWER: The Human Rights Desk made a lot of positive impact since its inception in 2016 and has so far has treated over 230 complaints. The Desk as a matter of routine engages in sensitization of troops in all Nigerian Army formations and schools on human rights and humanitarian laws and the need to observe them during operations. These have drastically reduced the cases of human rights complaints recorded at the Desk. Among the over 230 petitions we have recorded, over 80 percent has been treated, about 10% was unsubstantiated and the remaining 10 percent is still under investigation. We also render progress report to the appropriate superior authority accordingly. The efforts put in place in addition to our collaboration with stakeholders such as the National Human Rights Commission, Nigerian Bar Association, etc, have led to tremendous commendations and feedback especially from numerous complainants and those affected who have also thanked the Chief of Army Staff for establishing the Human Rights Desk. It is noteworthy that our activities receive wide coverage. For instance, Army Headquarters Department of Civil-Military Affairs host a weekly programme on Army Forces Radio Service FM 107.7 called civil-military Hours every Wednesday
from 1030 – 1130 am where the audience is enlightened on the activities of the Nigerian Army especially as it affects the civil populace. Issues bordering on human rights are usually discussed during the programme. The programme also includes a phone-in calls where listeners air their views and seek answers to some pertinent questions. In addition to that, various phone and emergency line numbers through which the Desk can be reached for reporting cases of violations of human rights are usually given out to the general public during the radio programme.

QUESTION 3. Does the HRD office face any challenge in convincing Nigerians especially the civilians that it has integrity and credibility to handle their petitions?

ANSWER: It is necessary to state that we do not have any challenge in convincing civilians about our activities. This is due to the way we handle the numerous petitions we receive from them. It would interest you to know that apart from the emails sent to our office and the phone calls we receive, we also get civilians coming to our office directly at No 5 Lekki Close Garki II to report violations against them. It is also pertinent to state for the record that officers and soldiers of the NA HRD always dress in civilian attire in order to create a conducive and civilian friendly environment so that the issue of intimidation does not arise. We have handled and treated petitions successfully. So it is more like a referral and this is because of the confidence reposed on us while carrying out our tasks.

QUESTION 4. Does this office handle cases of domestic violence within your ranks?

ANSWER: The answer to that question will be in the affirmative. There are barely cases of domestic violence within our ranks but the complaints we usually receive are cases of abandonment and neglect of spouses and children as well as refusal to pay spousal support. In line with Section 211 of the Armed Forces Act, a brief has been written to the Chief of Army Staff for the approval of deductions from the erring personnel’s salary so as to cater for abandoned spouses/children. I am happy to announce that this request has been approved by the Chief of Army Staff. Currently, we have less cases of the occurrence of human rights abuses. This could be attributed to the occasional visits, seminars and workshops conducted by the Desk in various NA formations and units across the country to educate own troops on the importance of adherence to Rule of Law and the rules of engagement during operations. This is important because military personnel are subject to the doctrine of compact (meaning that in accordance with sections 114 of the Armed Forces Act, Military personnel are subjected to both civil and military laws and the need to maintain a happy home front cannot be over emphasized.

QUESTION 5. Does the NA HRD office plan to set up sexual violations offenders register?

ANSWER:  I want to say that we already have in existence a sexual violation offenders’ register. Based on this, I can categorically tell you that from the breakdown of alleged human rights violations and the percentage of crimes from inception, sexual harassment and other related matters were 6 percent. This is because we often have few cases of sexual harassment. To be honest with you, since I took over the Human Rights Desk Office in August 2018, we have not had cases of sexual harassment and other related matters, so the 6 percent was recorded and treated before I took over the office. The cases that have high percentage are assault (17 per cent), extortion, trespass on property and unlawful arrest (12 per cent). The sexual violations offenders register enable us to monitor the names in order to checkmate or ascertain it a name appears more than once and to treat accordingly.

QUESTION 7.  Do you handle cases of human trafficking if they do occur within the barracks?

ANSWER:  It is important to highlight the nature of the cases that we often receive. Apart from those highlighted above, other cases include murder, impersonation, financial crime, unlawful arrest and enforced disappearance. Others are unpaid salary/allowance or gratuity and pension, unlawful seizure, breach of contract, unlawful dismissal, torture and extra judicial killing. However, we have never had cases of human trafficking and I doubt if such occurs in the barracks. The military is a highly organized body which is based on discipline and regimentation. It would be difficult for human trafficking to take place and I doubt if such occurs in the barracks.

QUESTION 8. What are the aspirations and projections of the NA HRD in the next five years?

ANSWER:   Our aspirations and projections in the next years and beyond are numerous, I would mention but a few. We aspire to be bigger and better by continually improving or enhancing our performance. We also want to ensure that cases are reduced to barest minimum. We also hope to expand our mandate which is to protect human rights by ensuring its spread worldwide. To that end, we intend to equip the Desk with modern reference materials and to upgrade capacity and competences of the staff of the Desk in terms of training and re-training especially in area of conciliation, mediation and conflict prevention among others.

QUESTION 9. Finally, how many partnership agreements have you entered with stakeholders in the human rights organized community?

ANSWER:  We have entered into a lot of partnership in form of collaborations and cooperation with various non-governmental organizations, international organizations, civil society organizations and a host of others and these are unwritten. For instance, we deal closely with the National Human Rights Commission, CLEEN Foundation, the Nigerian Bar Association and a host of other stakeholders. We collaborate with these agencies and organizations to ensure effective tackling of human rights violations and abuses. We intend to further expand the scope of our partnership and collaboration with other related agencies and association such as the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), the Legal Aid Council and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF). 

With over two decades behind  me as a professional journalist at the highest level and a manager of a civil society platform for twelve years now i can rate the Nigerian Army above 70% performance in the area of respect for human rights.  

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and blogs @www.emmanuelonwubiko.comwww.huriwanigeria.comwww.thenigerianinsidernews.comwww.huriwa.blogspot.com.

REMARKS BY THE SPEAKER, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, RT. HON. YAKUBU DOGARA, AT THE OPENING OF A PUBLIC HEARING ON VOTE-BUYING AND IMPROVING THE ELECTORAL PROCESSES BY THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY JOINT COMMITTEE ON INEC AND ELECTORAL AND POLITICAL PARTIES MATTERS, AT THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY COMPLEX, ABUJA, MONDAY, 10TH DECEMBER, 2018.

Protocols:

I am greatly delighted to address you at this Public Hearing on Vote-Buying and Improving the Electoral Processes in Nigeria, organized by the National Assembly Joint Committee on INEC and Political Parties Matters.  This is one of the most topical issues of the moment which should be addressed before the conduct of 2019 general elections.

2.  Elections are so attractive that even pretentious democracies lay claim to holding elections just in order to confer some aura of legitimacy on their rule.  But not all elections are democratic elections. It has been said that for elections to qualify as democratic, they must be competitive, periodic, inclusive and definitive. Free, fair, credible and transparent elections therefore, is the very basis for translating the consent of the governed into governmental authority. It is democratic elections that have propelled true democracies since the 17th Century.

3.Indeed the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in our Constitution envisages that Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of Democracy and that sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria, through which government derives its authority, powers and legitimacy.  Therefore, any form of contrivance by any person or authority to unduly influence the choice of the voter is condemnable as it is patently an assault on this constitutional guarantee.

4. Undue influence of voters have always existed in different forms all over the world. However the recent phenomenon of direct pricing and buying of votes as if in a market square is very disturbing. It is one of the highest forms of corruption.

5. The high prevalence of vote-buying in the electoral system of the country is, without any doubt, of great concern to all Nigerians and members of the global community who truly love democracy.  It is disheartening that this absurd phenomenon has assumed alarming proportions in recent times. As citizens, we must not surrender to this criminality as we cannot do so and still expect honour. When political office holders defy the law and corruptly assume office, they will always operate as if they are above the law.

6.Vote buying and other sundry criminal manipulation of the electoral process in Nigeria have left our citizens in a state of unmitigated disaster. As a result, we have been married off to a mob. A mob that rules us by the example of their power nor by the dictates of law. A mob that rules by fear as an inalienable tool rather than by courage. A mob that accepts the status quo rather than challenge it. Mobs don’t grow others, they only destroy others in order to grow themselves. We follow the Mob because we must, not because we are receiving any sense of significance for our own lives from  them. Our democracy has stagnated and will sadly remain so until we eliminate all sham elections which have the effect of throwing up the worst of us to lead the best of us. I hope we can now see why today’s event is compellingly urgent.

7. It is instructive to note that the Electoral Act anticipated and captured most forms of electoral fraud including inducement and vote buying. I hope we will have the courage at this event to address the distribution of cash to the public very close to general elections by public officials. I am afraid that such endeavors no matter how noble the intentions behind them may fall within the all encompassing provisions of  S. 124 (1)(a);(b);(c); and S.(124)(2)(4)(5) and S. 130 of the Electoral Act. Although penalties are not stringent, there is also lack of political will to implement the laws as it is even if it were to offer feeble deterrence to violators. Arrest are hardly made and even where arrests are made, prosecutions are unheard of.

8.  A more worrisome dimension to vote buying is the alleged use of the officials of the electoral umpire, INEC, and officers of security agencies to induce, or intimidate and coerce voters to vote for particular candidates.  Such absurdities have been widely reported in the media and confirmed by some local and international observers in respect of the recently concluded governorship elections in Osun State.  As expected, all lovers of democracy worldwide rose to condemn these despicable incidents. Condemnation is not enough, it will amount to hypocrisy, if we don’t take the bull by the horn by taking concrete steps to eliminate these evils that make mockery of our hard worn democracy.

9.  The essence of this Public Hearing, therefore, is to enable all of us interrogate these issues and proffer the way out.  We must not leave here before we have proffered practical steps to be taken in order to ensure that each vote counts in our elections and our elections henceforth will qualify as democratic elections not the kind of sham elections usually organized by totalitarian regimes.

10.  Let me seize this opportunity to call on all people of goodwill in our country to rise in condemnation and denunciation of vote-buying and all forms of electoral malpractices.  Indeed, electoral fraud is one of the worst forms of corruption, and should be treated as such.  This is the only way we can guarantee the stability and growth of our democracy.

11.  At this juncture, I want to urge all of us present here to freely express our views and proffer solutions to curtail this menace.  We expect that recommendations from this hearing will assist in the entrenchment of globally acceptable electoral processes in Nigeria and procure the confidence of all our citizens in our electoral process.  I wish us all very successful deliberations.

12 .  Thank you all. God bless you and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Prostitution is Capitalism on Campus

         Emmanuel Onwubiko

Prostitution is Capitalism on Campus

By Emmanuel Onwubiko

 

With just few weeks to Nigeria’s most critical election, the major contenders who began their campaigns for the coveted number one political job in Nigeria which is the office of the President have so far not adequately addressed the critical issue of right to education.

Going through the various ramifications and segments of the nation’s highest law which is the constitution, it is unambiguous that the right to qualitative education opens the door to the enjoyment of all other fundamental right provisions espoused in chapter four of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 (as amended).

For instance, in section 17 subsection (3), the constitution stipulates that the state shall direct its policy towards ensuring that (a) all citizens, without discrimination on any group whatsoever, have the opportunity for securing adequate means of livelihoods as well as adequate opportunity to secure suitable employment.

There is no doubt that the clearest way of obtaining suitable employment is the capacity building and/or manpower educational empowerment of the citizenry.

Section 18 (3) of the grund norm emphasized that “government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy, and to this end government shall as and when practicable provide (a)free compulsory and universal primary education; (b) free university education; and (c) free adult literacy programme.

The above mentioned objectives of state policy are never implemented because as I write, the educational sector is amongst the most marginalized even as the provision of the constitution which absolutely prohibits discrimination is not respected by top government functionaries who have continuously underdeveloped the public educational sector whilst diverting public fund towards providing the most competitive educational training for their own children in some of the best Ivy league universities in the advanced Western economies.

The neglect of the public educational sector got to a deteriorated extent that most parents have decided to cough out huge cash to be able to send their children to foreign jurisdictions for educational trainings. The public school system in Nigeria suffers from the twin evil of corruption by the management staff and criminal marginalization in terms of funding by all levels of government in Nigeria. Most public schools are at the different stages of collapse.

The focus of this piece today is not on the peremial neglect of the public educational sector but rather one of the most critical offshoots of these neglect and corruption that are weighing down the public educational institutions. This problem is the fact that most girls from disadvantaged homes in Nigeria who are in public tertiary institutions are forced to become sex workers so as to train themselves in those schools that have kept hiking tuition fees but without commensurate upgrade of standards.

This issue is a debilitating factor all around the globe but the Nigerian dimension is uniquely satanic. This is because unlike in some western societies whereby there are facilities from which students can borrow to pay for their very expensive university education and gradually pays off these debts when they begin to work, in Nigeria, the poor students have no form of scholarship funding nor any educational funding banks to borrow. They then resort to engaging in all forms of social crime so that they can pay their ways through school.

Last week when I visited most states in the South East of Nigeria whereby tertiary education is an attractive sector for most young persons, I came face to face with the existence of what can be called capitalism on campus which is another way of describing commercial sex activities by female students of these universities. Capitalism on campus is a menace all around educational faculties around the Country. Public and private universities are very busy commercializing honorary doctorate awards to the highest bidders and are engaged in different fields of businesses to boost their revenue generation, but nothing is done to ameliorate the untold and despicable hardships that most students go through. Moreover, nearly 60 percent of female students in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions are their own educational sponsors. This is why in such places like University of Lagos amongst several others, there is the problem associated with what we call ARISTOS. This word is coined from the capitalist term ARISTOCRATS which means rich patron who deploy their wealth to obtain sexual gratification from female or even male students. There are also those that are pejoratively termed as RUNS GIRLS. 

The sad thing about it is that the school management have never really appreciated this issue as a fundamental stumbling block to the holistic training and the educational formation of the young persons.

As I write, the academic communities are on shut down due to needless industrial action occasioned by the consistent willful neglect of the funding of public university system by both the national and sub-national governmental administrations.

The academic staff union of universities embarked on strike for nearly a month now. Of course the academic and non-academic staffs are worried about how to make their wages big but the welfare of their students is never in their calculations.

Sadly, the student union bodies have for over two decades become a cash-and-carry contraption for never-do-wells who impose themselves as students union leaders only so they can use their positions to fleece and extort politicians and play the role of praise singers. 

There is really no concerted effort to address this issue of students prostitution on campus. This is compounded by the fact that some of the lecturers are even guilty of demanding for sexual gratifications from their students in exchange for marks.

However, my search for the main underlying reason behind the expanding spectre of commercial sex activities or mercantilism on Nigerian campuses led me to a scholarly work done on this issue by Dr. Ron Roberts, identified as Jamaica based university professor.

This university teacher is known to have researched into the menace and to have published a book he called “Capitalism on Campus: Sex work, academic freedom and the market.”

My reading of a recent book review on the above work done by Russell Whitehouse shows that virtually the entire factors he observed in that book are significantly present in most tertiary educational institutions in Nigeria in both public and private sectors.

In the review, he wrote that sex and student debt are viewed as two inevitable facets of university-student life. Kingston University’s Dr. Ron Roberts writes about the disturbing connections between these two and the state of academia as a whole in Capitalism on Campus.

Dr. Roberts writes about the growing phenomenon of uni students partaking in sex work (mainly stripping, camming & prostitution). The book cites multiple UK surveys conducted between 2012-2017 which, found that between 5-6% of students were engaging in sex work. Furthermore, many of these admitted sex workers came from middle-class backgrounds. Another survey found that 30% of students personally knew of another student(s) engaged in sex work, while another found that 16% of students were considering entering the adult industry.

These, figures, the reviewer affirmed, have reliably been rising in tandem with UK tuition hikes that started under New Labour in the late 90s. Such a trend hasn’t been isolated to the UK, of course. American rappers like Jay-Z and Juicy J and the Canadian Drake have been rapping about women stripping to pay their tuition for decades. Across much of the West, college has become exponentially more expensive. Young people in both the US and UK are shouldering total student loan debts in excess of $1 trillion.

This debt explosion,  according to the book reviewer combined with poor job prospects for “inexperienced workers,” soaring urban housing costs and the remnants of the recession have compelled many young women (and surprisingly high numbers of men) to take up sex work. Rather than addressing this crisis, schools, by and large, have chosen to ignore it. Worse, many universities and academic associations actively try to whitewash research and reporting about student sex work. Dr. Roberts cites personal experiences, as well as the experiences of other academics, of being stonewalled and threatened by administrators for daring to try to study the issue.

Universities, he observed, are obsessed with maintaining a façade. Ever since universities went from being a public utility to a privatized cash cow, schools have felt the need to sell themselves as a product. Dr. Roberts writes that, “The largely uncritical domestic support offered by university vice-chancellors to tuition fee increases and marketization suggests not merely a lack of vision and subservience, but a propensity to keep one eye on the huge salary and another on possible rewards from the honours system.” This prioritization of bringing in money over student welfare means an obsession with public imaging and maintaining a high rating in places like the U.S News and World Report Best Colleges Rankings and The Princeton Review.

The writer also stated that much of the weight for these rankings comes from student surveys. Several university teachers and administrators have been caught telling students to give disingenuous good reviews on such surveys. The exponentially rising tuition rates at these school means that front offices are largely beholden to prospective parents of students and donors. Thus, the administrator line of thinking goes: What parent or affluent donor is going to want donate to or to send their precious child to a school that’s been exposed for having loads of students who sell their bodies just to get by? Uni students who have to resort to such means are consequently not just deprived of help by administrators, but often threatened with disciplinary action.

The reviewer affirmed and rightly so that society foists upon its future workers not just serf-like levels of debt, but substantial psychological baggage, as well. 

The reviewer also asserted that the soaring rates of depression, anxiety and suicide among Western youth is, according to Dr. Roberts, better understood not as an index of personal failure, but as a consequence of the brutal circumstances which have seen cuts in investment, training and job opportunities for young people, low wages, exorbitant student loans and tuition fees, cuts to mental health and welfare services, as well as a savage primary and secondary school system where endemic testing has become the norm.” 

Worried about the lacuna in any form of legal frameworks to check the menace as highlighted above, I then checked nuc.edu.ng and found out that the National Universities Commission was established in 1962 as an advisory agency in the Cabinet Office. However in 1974, it became a statutory body and the first Executive Secretary, in the person of Prof. Jibril Aminu was then appointed.

The National Universities Commission (NUC) is a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Education (FME). The Commission has a Governing Council, its Executive Secretary is Prof. Abubakar Adamu Rasheed mni, MFR, who assumed office on August 3, 2016.

Over the years, the Commission has transformed from a small office in the cabinet office to an important arm of government in the area of development and management of university education in Nigeria.

The main functions of the Commission are outlined as follows:

Granting approval for all academic programmes run in Nigerian universities; Granting approval for the establishment of all higher educational institutions offering degree programmes in Nigerian universities; Ensure quality assurance of all academic programmes offered in Nigerian universities; and Channel for all external support to the Nigerian universities.

The Commission has twelve Directorates; Directorate of Academic Planning, Directorate of Inspection and Monitoring, Directorate of Management Support Services, Directorate of the Establishment of Private Universities, Directorate of Students Support Services, Directorate of Research, Innovations & Information Technology, Directorate of Finance and Accounts, Directorate of Accreditation, Directorate of Open and Distance Education, Directorate of Liaison Services and International Cooperation, Directorate of Corporate Communications,  and the Directorate of the Executive Secretary’s Office. Each of the Directorates is headed by a Director.

As a coordinating body, the Commission ensures it discharges its responsibilities by recruiting adequate and relevant man power and appeals to the Universities for their sustained support and understanding. The Commission also relies on support from the Federal Government, State Governments and other stakeholders in its bid to improve on the quality of tertiary education and graduates of the nation’s university system.

From what we have seen above regarding the functions and duties of the main regulatory body that coordinates standardization of the educational sector of the tertiary level, it would seem that the welfare of the students are not adequately captured. NUC has failed substantially to bridge this gap between the high tuition fees and the social demands and pressures on students to meet up with these different aspects funding requirements whilst they are in the higher institutions. 

The only faint approach towards the eradication of the social malaise of sexual abuses of students is the infinitesimal cases that the independent corrupt practices and other offences commission has instituted against randy lecturers.

I will therefore charge the candidates of the main national parties seeking for office of the President of Nigeria to tell Nigerians how each of them intends to tackle the menace of prostitution on campus.

The next president must look at the way to adopt strategies to assist students to be able to study without tears. The next president must work collectively with the national legislature and state legislatures to operationalize modalities for stopping the rising cases of prostitution on the Nigerian educational campuses.

The need to sanitize the educational sector in Nigeria and check the proliferation of all kinds of commercial sex work by students is anchored on the provision of the Nigerian constitution in chapter four and specifically section 34 (1) which states that: “Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly :- no person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment; no person shall be held in slavery or servitude; and no person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.”

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and blogs @www.emmanuelonwubiko.comwww.huriwanigeria.comwww.huriwa.blogspot.com.

 

In NYSC, Buhari has excelled

In NYSC, Buhari has excelled

By Emmanuel Onwubiko

Nations around the globe that want to become advanced in the twenty first century and beyond, usually place the highest premium on the capacity development of their young populations. This is obviously for the reason that such political entities do not wish that their national heritage go extinct.

Another obvious explanation for devoting substantial chunk of the national wealth of the forward looking nations towards the development of the young population is because of the statistical status of the younger members of these respective sovereign entities.

Nigeria is no exception. First, Nigeria is made up of over fifty percent of the younger populations even as it is beyond debate that the youth of Nigeria have attained phenomenal heights in the diverse fields of human endeavours. Perhaps, the only sector in which the youth is yet to dominate is the field of politics.

The above statical facts then bring us to the topic of analysis in this piece which is basically a forensic analysis of the legacies that the current president Muhammadu Buhari has pragmatically made towards the sustenance of one of the few remaining institutions created over many years – the National Youth Service Corp Scheme (NYSC). This uniquely impactful scheme has gone through the good, bad and ugly times but perhaps the present period could be adjudged as one of the best in terms of prioritization of the funding mechanisms provided for it by the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. This may not necessarily be called the golden age of National Youth Service Scheme(NYSC), nevertheless the sustainable investments made so far by the current administration towards keeping the NYSC’s legacies alive can as well be termed as a glorious era. We are indeed beginning to witness a turnaround in the management of the NYSC that has become the significant unifying national institution.

Prior to 2015, there were already calls from a lot of quarters for the abrogation of the NYSC scheme but the coming to power of the current president brought stability and respectability to the scheme. A possible reason could be that the man at the helms of affairs in Nigeria is a man that has seen it all going by his antecedents.

Little wonder that he took his time to pick a serving military General who has fortunately kept to the goals, aspirations, visions and objectives that president Buhari has also hoped that the National Youth Service Scheme plays.

There is no doubt that Brigadier General Suleiman Kazaure has brought style, panache and professional commitments towards piloting affairs at the NYSC.

From the background of a constructive critic and a human rights activist who speaks truth to power, there is no doubt in my mind that humanly speaking, the choice of General Kazaure to head the NYSC is amongst the most distinguished choices made by the president of Nigeria who should be proud of the salient achievements his appointee has made but aided by a great management team. As it is stated, better soup na money cook am… it is also true that when a Director General is succeeding, it depicts the caliber and qualitative attributes of his lieutenants. More than at any other times, the NYSC has received accolades from mainstream leaders of the society and the young population of contemporary Nigeria. One of the most revered traditional rulers in modern day is the Ooni of Ife. He recently applauded the leadership style of the current management. He spoke with a team of editors from a reputable institutional magazine.

The Ooni of Ile-Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi in responding to a question requesting him to assess the NYSC as it is now said “You (NYSC) are fully on the right path and I am a living example. I am from Osun State and was posted to Benue for my youth service. My mother of blessed memory took me to the Car Park at 6 o’clock in the morning. I was inside the vehicle for 16 hours before we got to Benue. It was a very refreshing experience for me. If there was no youth service I may not have gone to Benue state. So, it is a programme that needs to be funded the more and government should patronize it.”

The high profile traditional ruler who was amongst the few custodians of the diverse Nigerian traditions that were nominated by the Nigerian government to receive Prince Charles of England during a recent State visit to Nigeria by the British Monarch also affirmed as follows about the NYSC: “It is one of the programmes cementing our relationship in Nigeria. Some participants fall in love during the programme. I recall sitting with General Gowon who established the Scheme – he was very passionate about NYSC as one of his achievements – and some of the first set of Corps Members. One of them said to General Gowon, ‘Sir it was the programme you started after the Civil War that made me what I am today. Because my parents did not want me to go, you were the one that provided a government plane to carry all of us. I started my life there in Kaduna, I lived there and I became one of the most successful men in Kaduna today’. And he is from South-West, so I want to continue to wish you well and to wish you the very best and a happy anniversary.”

Queen Onwughalu is an Abuja – based blogger and a young lady entrepreneur who only recently served in the office of the Minister of Women Affairs Abuja for her one year compulsory national youth service. She told me that her stay as a Corper was a wonderful experience. She said that the Director General showed tremendous love and passion about the welfare and wellbeing of the participants of the NYSC.

Similarly, Obilor Cliff Grace who would be doing NYSC soon wrote as follows:

“NYSC which is known as National Youth Service Corps was founded in Nigeria in the year 1973 for graduates of universities and graduates of polytechnics later joined.

NYSC scheme is set up by the Nigerian Government to involve Nigerian graduates in building and developing the country. Before the government start posting them to different states, they undergo a kind of orientation which is basically controlled by the military, this orientation lasts for just three weeks, at the end of three weeks, they are being posted to their PLACES OF PRIMARY ASSIGNMENT which is popularly known as  “PPA” During this service these young graduates are being posted to different parts of the country, so that they can mix up with other people, learn new cultures and also use their knowledge to develop the places which they have been posted to and every month end these Corp members receive a token from the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Am looking up to service in the NYSC for so many wonderful reasons, although most of these young people have lost their lives as a result of Religious, Ethnic and Political problems, but NYSC has a lot of benefits which can make a young person look up to service. Service in NYSC helps to build the moral life of a young person and also teach on how to be independent and self-reliance. Am looking forward to this service so as to acquire new skills and also share the ones I know, serving in the NYSC promotes unity of the nation, it gives us a sense of belonging, it encourages youths when they see the performance of other young people, service will go a long way in helping us contribute to the ongoing growth and development of the national economy and whenever these young people are assigned to any state ,they are not just there for themselves rather they are representing our country Nigeria, during these service year. These young people tend to see different kinds of religion, so they are expected to tolerate any kind of religion. I look up greatly to this service because currently in our society if that certificate is not acquired, a graduate finds it very difficult to acquire a reasonable job and also considered ineligible to work in government firms and most private firms.

In conclusion, I look up to this service because judging from the recent events about NYSC CERTIFICATE SAGA in our top government offices, without the NYSC certificate most positions as regards to politics in our country will be very difficult for the an individual to attain, because for you to start talking about some positions in Nigeria as regards to politics you must make sure that you have an NYSC certificate or an exemption letter from the NYSC office. Exemptions are considered when the Graduate is above 30 years of age. In as much as am hoping and aspiring to be in a good position in our Country, I strongly look up to service in NYSC so as to acquire the certificate for future purposes.”

Miss Obilor’s statement brings us to how significant NYSC has become in the current dispensation to an extent that the scheme has continued to churn out qualitatively trained youth in their high numbers compared to what used to be obtainable prior to the coming of the current administration.

Under his watch, General Kazaure, through deepening of the existing partnerships between the Scheme and the private sector, expedited the building of integrated skills acquisition centres in the six geopolitical zones of the country to facilitate post-camp skills training.

This writer learnt authoritatively that two of them in Ekiti and Gombe states have been completed, while that of Delta State is ongoing. He went ahead to stage the NYSC SAED Festival aimed at creating a platform for Corps members to showcase their business and vocational skills to investors and other stakeholders to attract funding and material support as well as greater networking with the business community. The current management at the NYSC further facilitated the provision of credit facilities for corps members through collaboration with banks and the launching of Job Portal as well as SAED connect platforms which have expanded opportunities and created alternative platforms for training and mentorship of corps members nationwide.

Described by those who work with him as a good manager of human resource, General Kazaure’s belief that motivation of staff, through enhancement of welfare provisions, is the surest way to get the best out of them apparently informed his unwavering commitment to evolving confidence building measures aimed at engendering industrial harmony.

There is no doubt that It is on record that on assumption of duty he immediately cleared the backlog of unpaid staff entitlements and restored other statutory staff allowances. In addition, a greater percentage of staff of the Scheme that sat for promotion exam in the past two years was promoted. Importantly, the venues of writing the promotion examinations reflected the geopolitical spread of the institution of NYSC and created a sense of belonging for all participants.

Apart from these, General Kazaure upgraded the NYSC staff Clinic with the procurement of state of the art equipments, added an optometry unit and gave the Directorate Headquarters a face lift. These measures have raised the morale of the staff to new heights and engendered a harmonious relationship between Management and the staff of the Scheme.

Structurally, the NYSC has equally fared better in the past two years in the area of infrastructural development. Facilities in many NYSC Camps needed to be upgraded when Kazaure took over the leadership of the Scheme.

In view of the fact that statutorily it is the primary responsibility of State Governments to build and maintain Orientation Camps, Kazaure embarked on advocacy visits to State Governors to appeal to them to renovate and upgrade their Orientation Camps. Dividends of these visits are already reflecting in the increased provision and expansion of facilities in NYSC Orientation Camps by a good number of State Governments as enshrined in the NYSC Act.

While courting State Chief Executives to be alive to their responsibilities, Kazaure, despite paucity of funds launched an intervention programme which saw many Camps like Zamfara and Enugu confronted by perennial water scarcity getting boreholes while Kano, Kwara, Bayelsa and Benue States got power generators.

Impeccable sources with considerable amount of verifiable information told this writer that many NYSC Camps have equally benefitted from the provision of water tankers, double bunk beds, mattresses, renovation of accommodation facilities and other projects aimed at upgrading facilities to make the Camps more conducive for Corps members and Camp officials during Orientation exercises. In addition, ambulances, Hilux vans and 166 motor bikes have also been procured and distributed to State Secretariats of NYSC to aid effective supervision and monitoring of Corps members.

Relatedly, the great managerial acumen in  General Kazaure has made him to visualize and practically deliver some giant strides in the deployment of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in solving and addressing not only issues of Corps administration but the entire operations of the Scheme.

Kazaure has reportedly fast tracked the implementation of biometric system of pay-rolling Corps members for their monthly allowance to check truancy and eliminate sharp practices among them. The strategy involves the use of finger prints to confirm the true identity of Corps members appearing for clearance.

Asked to assess the salient achievements of the NYSC in the current dispensation, a senior staff of the agency told me as follows: “An area of innovative feat is the success of the NYSC-JAMB collaboration which is attested to as one of the success stories of the deployment of IT solution in the operation of the Scheme. Indeed the expansion of ICT infrastructure has greatly enhanced efficiency, transparency and accountability in the operations of the Scheme. This development has facilitated the ease of doing business between the Scheme and its various publics. As a result of this, the NYSC recently received award as the best E-Governance compliant public organization during the 2016 NITDA-NIHILENT E-Governance award ceremony.”

Before putting pen to paper, this writer took a month to gather evidence in real terms of the milestones recorded in the current dispensation in the management of NYSC.

Here is what one of the most remarkable resource persons I met stated about the current status of the NYSC.

“The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), an initiative of the Federal Government, of Nigeria began with the mission to promote 7 strategic objectives amongst which are national unity and integrated, dignity of labour and self-reliance. The scheme was borne out of the exigencies and dynamics of national development and widespread clamour to give the Nigerian youth a definite role in national development.”

“NYSC as an organization is strategically positioned to lead interventions in many socio-economic and poverty reduction initiatives because of its prominent role in mobilizing youths for national development. It should be borne in mind that these youth under reference are highly skilled, well educated, entrepreneurial minded and have the capacity to effectively engage other categories of youths already identified in the national youth policy for positive outcomes.”

“NYSC today commands the biggest concentration of educated youths working with, in and for communities (rural and urban) nationwide. It has since inception mobilized and deployed over three million (3,000,000) educated youths, male and female, from diverse religious, cultural, and that define Nigeria’s plurality. The NYSC scheme is also one of the best available entry points for reaching hard to reach areas and indigent grass root people in any field of endeavor or program at the most minimal cost.”

“The scheme through the deployment of its highly skilled manpower has been performing strategic national assignments when called upon to do so. These assignments require neutrality, numerical strength, geographical spread and appreciable level of intellect such as National Census, Immunization programmed, Voters Registration and National Elections among others.”

This writer discovered that one credible feat of the current management of NYSC is on the area of promoting entrepreneurship training, employment generation, and workplace readiness programme.

As learnt recently, an impressive number of a total of 971,272 Corps Members comprising 546,254 Males and 425,018 Females have gained this knowledge and skill empowerment. Out of this, 476,879 Corps Members completed the post training during the service year and over 7,000 are proud owners of their businesses.

The current management as aforementioned successfully recorded the establishment of Skill Centres just as the NYSC has witnessed the presentation of cheques by CBN to 310 Corps Beneficiaries in the NYSC/CBN/Heritage Bank YEDP on Thursday 20th October 2016.

The current team at the NYSC also successfully signed an MOU with the Skill and VMLEARN on the establishment of SAED connects-an electronic platform to enhance training of Corps Members.

Significantly, there is statistical evidence to show that a  total of 1032 serving and ex-Corps Members have been trained in the NYSC/CBN/Heritage Bank YEDP programme in seven centres. This public/private sector partnership that has become extensively acclaimed has also resulted in the signing of MOU with Honour Ventures on electric tricycle transportation Scheme for Corps Members.

The production and distribution of social workbook, certificates and operational manual for SAED training programme has attained tremendous status in the current dispensation and the younger population of Nigeria who are the immediate beneficiaries will hopefully become creators of wealth in the Country.

Participants of the NYSC have benefitted from the Provision and distribution of microwave, wireless PAS, Laptop Computers and printers, sewing machines such as zigzag, weaving knitting, embroidery, stitching, welding and welding accessories, aluminum cutting milling and drilling, Gas cookers and cylinders, industrial pressing Irons barbing clippers for SAED training to states; and the management team has successfully conducted the NYSC Maiden SAED Festival in Abuja. This is a step in the right direction towards the attainment of cultural integration amongst Nigerians of diverse cultural and traditional affiliations.

Above all else, the current administration has endeavoured to give opportunities to all eligible graduates to serve unlike how it used to be before 2015 whereby some graduates were made to wait for as long as two years before been called upon for mobilization and deployment.

The Muhammadu Buhari’s administration deserves all the accolades for attaining lofty heights and for escalating tremendous milestones in the NYSC scheme. It is the conviction of this writer that these investments made in the sustenance of NYSC will profoundly shape a great and better future for millions of our younger persons. Nigeria needs to sustain the tremendous investments towards keeping the aspirations of NYSC alive.

*Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and blogs @ www.emmanuelonwubiko.com;www.huriwanigeria.comwww.huriwa.blogspot.com.

Defacing Identity or a ‘Recolonisation’ of Southern Kaduna (Nerzit) People? By Philip Hayab (Ph.D)..

For some personal reasons, I have refrained from commenting on the programmes of the current administration in Kaduna State. However, after careful observation of the ploy to ‘rename’ or ‘change the nomenclature’ of traditional institutions in Kaduna State by fiat, I cannot turn a blind eye to the matter given the imminent disaster such a move could bring, now or in the future.

 

Even though I am NOT a historian by training, providence had afforded me access to a wide range of literature, about the area which is now ‘Nigeria,’ and can emphatically say much about the history of the current population of Kaduna State spanning about 600 years (1400 to date). Consequently, I dare to say that the creation of Chiefdoms or the elevation of Chiefs should follow a verifiable historical social organisation obtained both in oral/written history and archives but not the opinions of politicians.

 

Accordingly, Kaduna State government’s masked strategy to ”change of nomenclature” for the traditional institutions in the southern part of the state is an act which amounts to a deliberate attempt at ”defacing southern Kaduna people’s identity and in a way a recolonisation project.” Such an act should be condemned by civil societies, minority rights’ advocates and the International Community since the move was against UNESCO’s Charter for the preservation/protection of endangered heritage.

 

What one expects from the government of the day is to ‘correct’ the names of such Chiefdoms as ‘Jaba’ to read as HAM, ‘Moro’a’ to SHOLIO, ‘Kagoro’ to OEGWOROK, ‘Kaninkon,’ to NIKYOP, ‘Numana’ to ANIMWEN, ‘Koro’ to ASHE & WACI, etc., but not attempting to ‘erase history’ by politicising a cultural and historical matter. Besides, since the state has experts who are vast in history and the social organisation of the demography of its inhabitants, expert advice should guide such a nerve-touching agenda.

 

Moreover, the current Honourable Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, being a Professor of Political Science, should know better than pretending that the ‘change of nomenclature’ was the right thing to do thereby only postponing the dooms’ day.

 

To my mind, in order to avert the current and future crisis, the government should constitute a group of experts/academics, critically minded, and of worthy character, to brainstorm for her and fashion out a workable blueprint by way of a referendum establishing what the people feel regarding traditional institutions. Accordingly, since we claim that democracy was about the people, let the government allow the people define the way they wish to be identified.

 

For the records, the peopling of the existing geography call ‘Kaduna State,’ before 1908 when Kaduna began attracting the Europeans leading to its growth to a mega city, is made up of three main blocks.

 

The groups were mainly the Zazzagawa (Hausa) in the north, a few Fulbe (Fulani), who settled in the area in 1800s after Dan-Fodio’s jihad, now in every part of the state in search of grazing lands, and then a conglomerate of 63 ethnic nationalities (by my counting), currently referred to as the ‘Southern Kaduna,’ who share cultural and linguistic affinities and must have lived in their current location for centuries.

 

Manifestly, while the Hausa and Fulbe (Fulani) groups are distinct groups, gradually merging because of intermarriages propelled by religious affinity from 1804 upwards, the remaining 63 groups had little or no history of cultural and linguistic affinities with the Hausa and Fulbe (Fulani) until the British Colonial project foisted the Sarauta system on them (1903 to date).

 

The preceding point reveals that the 3 blocks had nothing in common regarding the social organisation of their people. For instance, while the Fulbe were, strictly speaking, nomads, the Hausa of Zazzau lived in an organised feudal state, and the people in the south lived under a consolidated council of elders’ led by a Chief Priest (Kpop Ku/Agwam Obwai, in Hyam & Jju, for instance), what the traditional Chiefs of Southern Kaduna have come to replace.

 

Consequently, the people in the south, ”Southern Zaria” in colonial records, practised a theocratic system, where the Chief Priest (Agwam Obwai/Kpop Ku) was a religious and civil leader advised by a council of elders who represent clans/moieties. Due to their peculiar structure, for one to be allowed into a shrine, say in Kajju, one needed to hail from Kajju, that is, one must be Bajju by origin or one with proven affiliation to the group.

 

The above-illustrated set up was widespread in the locality of contemporary Southern Kaduna and must have been so in almost, if not, all the groups. The point is that the non-Hausa groups of Kaduna State derive a sense of belonging from an ethnic affinity and not a place of settlement. That is to say that for one to be recognised as Ham, Bajju, Gwong, Atyap, Akurmi, Kuvori, Adara, Bekulu, Gbagyi, Agbiri, Abin, Ninzo, Animwen, etc, one needed a proven ancestral link to the said ethnic group.

 

By implication, even if one had lived in an area for donkey years, such couldn’t be considered a member of the ethnic group but a neighbour, except by public declaration or a willingness to be absorbed into the groups. Little wonder, the Fulani and Hausa groups of Jamma’a Daroro (1810 circa), despite being in ‘southern Zaria’ for 208 years now, retain their Fulbe and Hausa identity with little or no interference from the host communities.

 

For the purpose of illustrating the points raised so far, if the Government insists on changing the title of, say, the Kpop Ham to ‘Kpop Kwain’ (Kpop of Kwoi), the colossal damage would be that other Ham people outside of Kwain (Kwoi) would have every right not to consider ‘Kpop Kwain’ as their Chief, an act which could shrink the domain of the current Kpop. The fact is that while every Ham person is believed to be related by descent, they do have boundaries of settlements which are taken into account in almost every aspect of their sociopolitical and cultural lives.

 

The import of the above illustration is that while it is possible for a person of Hausa origin to think of themselves as Ba-Zazzagi, Ba-Kane, Ba-Katsine, Ba-Gobiri, Birame, Ba-Rane, and Dan-Daura (identity derived from names of old Hausa States), the non-Hausa people acquire their link through the lineages of their forebears.

 

Therefore, a non-Hausa person is first a member of their ethnic group, before the town/settlement they hail from. Consequently, a Gbagyi who is not from Chikun LGA does not have a strong affiliation to an ”Esu of Chikun” as the government of the day would have the Gbagyi of Kaduna to think. The same is the issue with ‘Agom Kachia.’

 

For the records, the Adara have a population in Kachia, Kajuru, Chikun, Kagarko LGAs and in parts of Niger State. Now, how then does the government want the Adara outside of ‘Kachia’ to hold allegiance to an Agom named after a town? The way things are is faultless as an Agom Adara represents not just the Adara in Kachia but everyone with Adara ancestry, even those in the diaspora, hence, Agom Adara is a unification strand for tradition, culture, and history. Same for Sa Gbagyi for the Gbagyi of Kaduna State.

 

Nonetheless, should the government insists on ‘changing’ the nomenclature of traditional institutions, the all-important questions which would beg for urgent and honest answers should be:

 

i. Is Kaduna State government ready to give every township/settlement a traditional Chief of equal status with the existing ones or how is the structure going to be?

 

ii. What is the long-term goal of ”changing” the nomenclature of Chiefdoms and adjusting ethnic/traditional domains?

 

ii. Isn’t the government attempting to deface and recolonise the identified 63 ethnic groups in the other parts of the state coercing them to abandon their ancestral pattern of the organisation by adopting the Dan-Fodio’s established structure by fiat?

Conclusion

 

My candid opinion is that, for the indisputable facts of history and self-worth, the Government of Kaduna State should revisit the idea of renaming traditionally based institutions for it is through the existing structure that they derive legitimacy. The undeniable fact is that a leopard may appear as a cat but the two are different but such a ‘difference’ adds colour to life.

 

Without mincing words, the social organisation of the Hausa, which the Fulbe Caliphate is now identified with, differs from that of the other ethnic groups, hence, naming Chiefs after towns won’t work in the south of the state, however the amount of force the government engages.

 

Culture is a strong fossil difficult to erase, however long a colonial project lasts. In fact, the outcome of the kind of experiment Kaduna State now engages has never worked elsewhere, rather it had fueled the embers of suspicion leading to a sustained ethnic crisis in Bosnia, Rwanda, and recently in Myanmar, etc.

 

A stitch in time saves nine.

 

©2018

Philip Hayab, PhD (Stellenbosch)