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2020

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2020

 

 

ENDSARS COULD END MANY THINGS IN NIGERIA

By Lindsay Barrett 

The ENDsars protest that became endemic in various parts of Nigeria for several weeks in 2020 was transformed into an uprising of the younger generation of Nigerians against impunity and oppression in governance.

This transformation occurred spontaneously but it was also encouraged by critical rhetoric being voiced by some prominent and highly vocal older members of the citizenry.

However, as the government decides how to confront the consequences of the protest it must not make the mistake of blaming the critics for the actions of the protesters.

The blame must lay squarely in the actions and inactions of government itself, and it must listen carefully to the demands and recommendations being voiced by the participants in the protest.

It is only when government shows that it has the ability to listen to and understand the motivation behind the protests that the movement will achieve genuine relevance in the national discourse.

The alternative to this achievement is almost too dire to contemplate since the temper and mood of the protesters has reached boiling point.

Each day sees the expansion of the targeted anomalies in governance that are listed by the participants in the protest. Now it is not the initial objective of the protest that is the core demand of the protesters but they are seeking the end of a whole catalogue of official sins rather than the simple disbandment of a police unit.

 In embarking on the journey towards deeper protest and fundamental principles of disenchantment and wider demand the ENDsars movement has actually given the democratic order in Nigeria new life and the spirit of genuine popular deep-seated relevance. It will be particularly interesting to watch the way in which government and the legislature eventually react to the expansion of the protest.

It is the task of the legislators to represent their constituents many of whom can be counted among the ENDsars protesters. As a result of this it is imperative that legislators who are genuinely committed to the task of representation of the people assess and consider the rhetorical criticism which the protesters appear to be reacting positively to.

Among the issues that seem to be influencing their commitment to expressing disenchantment and justifying the continued adherence to the protest of a substantial number of young people the issue of the need to restructure the relationship between the states and the central government is very prominent. Unfortunately, much of the discussion around this profound topic sometimes gets entrapped in conversations about regional and ethnic rivalry. The existence of unfair imbalance in privileges dispensed by government is an impression that most of the protesters seem to hold as valid presumptions. Because of this discussions of the need for change in the way government is run have become common currency of the discourse that is responsible for the protest’s continued viability.

Many young people believe that the current leadership is beholden to methods of governance that were inherited from the past and that unless these methods are jettisoned the need for change will not be acknowledged by the authorities.

This deep-seated disbelief in the current validity and relevance of the leaderships understanding of, and empathy for, what will help the nation progress is a major force behind the rationale of the protests.

In other words, the call for the end of SARS has metamorphosed into a call for an end to systemic fallacies that can lead to the existence of official conduct that condones things like SARS.

It now appears that the full impact of the ENDsars movement has been to motivate or provoke members of the young generation of Nigerians to discuss and contemplate the form and nature of their countrys existence and governance in a sustained and provocative manner.

When members of the older generation lend their voices to this discussion and exhibit elements of disenchantment with historical events and realities such as the decision taken earlier to change Nigerias governance system from the parliamentary form inherited from colonialism to the presidential system deposited by the military the discourse takes on more profound colouration.

The importance of the movement is rooted in the fact that it has caught the imagination of a wide cross section of Nigerian young people and that it also can relate to the concerns of older citizens who wish to consider change as a possibility in the future. In grappling with the major task of nation-building which continues to confront Nigeria today these concerns remain extant and relevant for the countrys generations both younger and older as firm commitments to the cause of fulfilling their duty to build a viable nation.

It is imperative that the Government of Nigeria should realise that in the task of nation-building it is the average citizen that carries the prime burden and the ENDsars movement is a major symbol of this.

As a consequence, major challenges arise when the average citizen turns against institutions that have failed them such as the police. It becomes necessary for the government to acknowledge the peoples right to protest and accept their call for an end to irregular conduct.

If the government does not recognise this necessity in time, then this could lead to a rise in public disenchantment that justifies disobedience in the public space.

When the public feels justified in disobeying directives from the state in little or no time the fundamental principles that sustain stability and social order will break down.

The ENDsars movement is suggestive of this eventuality as the protesters have turned out to be highly committed disobedient individuals who are dedicated to the cause of refusing to obey directives from the state. In fact, they have shown themselves to be deeply committed to disowning whatever pledge or promise the authorities make in attempting to alleviate the problem that they have identified. Even when Government said it had responded to the call to disband SARS the movement responded by saying it wanted more substantive punitive action to be taken against those members of SARS whose actions had provoked and justified the protest.

What this response from, the movement indicates is that it has generated enough internal momentum of disenchantment with the conduct of affairs of state that it will disobey any directive as a matter of course, What that means is that the ENDsars movement can be  harnessed to confront a multitude of state actions.

The conversation surrounding state resources and how best to control or disburse them has become a central issue of public discourse and the young protesters will soon consider such issues relevant to their concerns. ENDsars could eventually end many things in Nigeria,

However, it is germane and imperative that we should be aware of the dangers that accompany the presence of this spirit of rebellion and disobedience in society.

Paramount among these is the danger of the movement being hijacked by thugs and advocates of destabilisation for their own purposes. It is important that government should realise that more than a half of the countrys population is made up of people who are younger than the nation.

What this means is that the majority of Nigerians are not likely to be attracted to arguments generated by the nationalism and patriotism that influenced the arguments that generated the foundation of the independence movement. As a consequence the destruction of national unity does not frighten the main advocates of the present participation in the protest movement in Nigeria and they are not afraid of the break-up of the nation. It is instructive and cautionary though for them to take heed of what has occurred in other parts of Africa and the world where the destruction of national unity has been provoked, in Sudan for example, Nigeria has established a global presence in spite of its dysfunctional national characteristics and if the movement can identify the positive fundamentals of national identity as a definite objective that may serve to restore the spirit of patriotism and nationalistic excellence as a definite achievement that the country can aspire to. It is unfortunate that so far the purpose and direction of the protest movement appears to be turning against this tide of positive nationalism. If this trend is allowed to fester and the government creates a situation in which disorder strives then the grave danger exists that the movement might provoke the end of Nigeria itself,
First published on page 30 of This Nigeria newspaper of November 2-8 2020.

 

NIGERIAS FIRST SIX DECADES: TRIUMPHING OVER TRIALS
By Lindsay Barrett


The most remarkable and yet most commonplace symbol of Nigerias resilience as a nation today is its continued existence, Whenever the political elite gathers for one form of ceremonial celebration or another, usually in Abuja, it must occur to any perceptive observer that this incredible conglomerate has managed to overcome extraordinary challenges in order to survive thus far. The greatest threat to the corporate existence of the nation emerged as a result of the militarys intervention into the polity.

If the soldiers had not intervened the Nigerian civil war and the disenchantment that brought it about might never have occurred. In spite of this the legacy of the military era has survived as the most astringent but also resilient political force in the land. The emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari as the champion of the new democratic order is the enduring witness to this fact. In spite of this endemic anomaly in the political arena of the national system Nigeria has survived with an unexpected amount of stability and regulatory order in spite of its strenuous confrontation of the political challenges that are necessary to keep the nation unified.

In its first six decades of existence Nigeria has become a crucible for the development of national cohesion, but in that task it has stumbled. However, in stumbling over this all-important task the Nigerian political establishment has largely displayed a penchant for national coherence and unity of purpose.

The standard reaction to the most devastating attacks on Nigerias national cohesion has been denial of culpability by those in power as well as denial of participation by those whose interests are threatened or betrayed. This exchange of deniability has now led after six decades to a dangerous national impasse in spite of the fact that the nation has overcome incredible moments of near fracture.

When some influential commentators such as a former head of state, and Nigerias only Nobel awardee lend their voices to the chorus of critical commentary that suggests that national disintegration is a distinct possibility then the process of political discourse that encourages national cohesion could be undermined.

However, it is imperative that such comments should be regarded as emanating from the extant political circumstances and are therefore legitimate elements of the political discourse that the nation has generated in its six-decade long process of becoming. In its sixty year existence as a work in progress Nigeria has earned a reputation as an intrinsically self-determinate entity and especially as an advocate of regional integration and unity, Unfortunately its strength as a champion of regional interests could be undermined by failures of national cohesion, Undoubtedly the nation needs leadership that understands both its regional imperative and its national necessity, The marriage of these two forces will create a specific Nigerian political characteristic that will enhance the West African global presence.

 As has been proven in the past especially when Nigeria led the region to confront instability in Liberia and Sierra Leone such an initiative can upgrade the national relevance of the nations self-assessment. Although it sometimes appears as if those moments of glory are deliberately forgotten or ignored Nigeria has had several such memorable moments in its six-decade long life and it is imperative that these should become indices of history in the narrative of national life.

For example apart from remembering General Yakubo Gowons magnanimous pronouncement of No victor, no vanquished at the end of the civil war his role in the founding of ECOWAS must be recorded as his most vital and influential act as Nigerian head of state.

The truth is that Nigeria has become an important global presence in spite of its undoubted failures of domestic policy implementation, Most of Nigerias rulers regardless of their liabilities have recognised the attention that their country attracts as the most populous black nation in the world, and Africas fastest growing economy, What they should take greater interest in is the natural and fundamental attention that the world pays to the Nigerian presence wherever it shows itself and what this means in terms of the potential for domestic economic growth and national progress.

Nigerias development was overshadowed from the beginning by the perception of regional rivalry within its national borders. Of the three founding fathers of the independent nation only Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe consistently preached nationalist unity while the Sardauna Sir Ahmadu Bello promoted Northern protectionism and Chief Obafemi Awolowo preached Western regional self-sufficiency.

The echoes of these perceptions of the Nigerian dream have survived  the six-decade long journey of the nations existence and influenced in a profoundly fundamental way the course of the nations political growth during the military era, As a consequence the development of Nigerias Federal Democracy has been deeply flawed and is in need of corrective action from the polity, It is for this reason that the voices of the dispossessed so-called minorities in Nigeria today should be heeded.

Their call for greater inclusiveness will promote the true nationalism that will enhance Nigerian self-determination and self-sufficiency to the level that was perceived as possible when the country won its independence sixty years ago. To fall short of this will lead to national disintegration and  go against the grain of the national will for survival which has prevailed so far.

It has become imperative that Nigerias leaders admit their failures and also recognise their peoples expectations.

It is only when the leadership achieves this harmony of purpose with the people that the true potential of Nigerias greatness will be realised.

Unfortunately, the opportunity for this blending of purpose which should be provided by the practice of democratic choice throughout the country appears to be being undermined by the survival of selective privilege, an inheritance from the military era, However, in recent times there have been signs of change that show that Nigerias will to overcome and survive challenges to its existence is still alive and well.

The triumph of Godwin Obaseki in the  Edo State gubernatorial contest was one such signal which has raised the hopes of those  who believe that Nigeria can survive as a truly democratic Federal entity for at least another sixty years, It is a fact however that such signals are becoming rarer and the idea of communal loyalty which enhanced Obasekis chances is being threatened by the promotion of partisan loyalty especially where such partisan loyalty is cloaked in regional garb. If there is one thing that the experience of Nigerias first sixty years should have taught us it is that the nation can survive its most dangerous threats only when the various interest groups find ways to collaborate.

The civil war was a triumph of collaboration and the survival of the democratic order so far has been the product of tolerance and cooperation by all sides.

When inordinate regional bitterness was deployed to scuttle Dr. Goodluck Jonathans tenure he graciously conceded defeat and thus saved the nation from witnessing what could have been a bloody outburst of post-election violence.

The nation witnessed many incidences of such tolerance and patience during the bleak years of the military dictatorship especially during the Abacha regime and because of this Nigeria has survived and triumphed over sixty years of extraordinary trials.
First published on page 37 of This Nigeria newspaper of 5 -11 October 2020

 

LINDSAY BARRETT

By Dele Olowu.


Iconic writer, dramatist, polemicist and man of affairs, Lindsay Barrett, has been unwell lately. He has had severe diabetes and a chronic sore developed. Only last week, his left leg was amputated at the ankle level.

LINDSAY BARRETT

This is no advocacy for charity or any such matter.
I saw him yesterday and he is well looked after by his lovely Bayelsan wife and a host of children, one of whom has typically attained critical acclaim and note. I write merely to enhance consciousness about a man who arrived our shores over 50 years ago and has made Nigeria his home.
Barrett is a peripatetic figure at home in different parts of Nigerians with kings and commoners alike. He would be 79 at the end of the month. Now prodigiously grey, he looks like a figure from the Old Testament.
But his substantive good looks shine through all the degradation inflicted by time.
This literary jewel first arrived Nigeria in 1962 for a literary festival and was inevitably trapped by the literati in Ibadan where he was charged with looking after the Mbari club, a hot house for artists and unusual minds. By the time the war broke out in 66 Baret had become a figure of great social and literary consequence.

A lot of our military elites enjoyed his company and may have regarded him as a brag item. He famously wrote Gen Danjuma's only authorized biography. He is a robust advocate of the one Nigeria vision and not surprisingly, *after Enugu was liberated by Federal troops in October 1967, Barret was chosen to join Ukpabi Asika in setting up a civic administration in the then newly created East Central State Barrett was Director of information. Biafra propaganda was nearly overwhelming at this time.

But those who followed these matters can recall that Barrett's output from Enugu served as worthy rebuttals.
I was an avid radio monger even at that time. I recall a series called "listen and Judge for Yourself" It poured scorn on secession and criticized the betrayal of ibo youths by Ojukwu's extravagant imagination.
The prose was strong, as strong as only Barrett can make it. Delivered in his unique guttural voice, the programme was often a worthy reposted to the rhetorical brags which pored out regularly from the highly successful Radio Biafra. Tjough recognized in many parts of Nigeria, Benin has been a warm home and habitat for Barrett.

He has spent many lovely years in the city spawning a web of friendships which included the mighty and the lowly. Majek Fashek as a young aspiring music figure enjoyed the patronage of this great enigma. He has lately been slowed down by age and the loss we all suffer when drivers of policy whom we know, are shed from high office and the limelight. But Lindsay Barrett hugs Abuja, his imagination as restless as ever. I read most things he writes. But no output has devastated me with its power as much as his last ditch effort to save Gen Vatsa from Babangida's guns.

Barrett’s public appeal, laden with the emotive power of friendship and mutualities is amongst the most priceless prose, it has been my honor to encounter.
Regrettably Babangida remained unmoved. Not by the arguement. Not by the beauty of the prose. But all that belongs to yesterday. Our reality is Barrett. He is alive and kicking and remains a worthy old boy of the Benin.

 

Time to call APC’s bluff – enough is enough
By DrSamaBanya
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 4 May 2019

Show of Strength! APC members of parliament wearing red berets in a display of solidarity in the House of Representatives in Freetown recently.

I have known and been associated with the leadership of the All Peoples Congress (APC) party since 1968 when they decided to hold bye-elections to fill the large number of vacancies all over the country.

The vacancies themselves arose because of the crude behaviour of a judiciary presided over by acting Chief Justice H Brown-Mark, that was all too anxious to do away with the SLPP.

It was a vendetta against former Prime Minister Sir Albert Margai whom they perceived to be anti-Creole, an accusation that had no foundation because many of Sir Albert’s very close associates were Creole – among them were: Gershon Collier, Berthan Macaulay, Wadi Williams, H E B John, R G O King, Claude Nelson-Williams and many others.Sir Albert had trodden on the toes of some men in the Judiciary, whose hostility to anything SLPP was there for all to see.Some members of the APC regime had been my contemporaries at school while many others and I became very intimate, after I had accepted President Siaka Stevens’ persistent invitation to join his party.


I will state here without fear of contradiction that the majority of those who are today making the biggest noises and threats are also among the greatest cowards among them.

They generally tease or as we say in Creole – they “opin call” but run for their lives the moment they see any sign of calling off their bluff.The thuggery and violence they have perpetrated in the past have been because they were aided and abated by the security forces, especially the likes of Siaka Steven’s SSD now renamed OSD; they included the likes of “YetieYetie” or Mohamed Turay.

In the bye elections of 1968, the APC team went around as migrant voters, created confusion and mayhem in parts of the Western area, and especially in Kono, scared the generally peace-loving inhabitants. And as the latter withdrew, they impersonated and voted in their places.

One example of this was when two thugs answered to the names of the late Paramount Chief SahrFillie Mansa Matturi and his recently demised wife Manjama.

The couple were so shocked especially when a man answered to Mrs. Matturi’s name that the poor couple simply walked away. However, when they attempted to cross the Moa River at Manowa to penetrate the Kailahun district, it became a different story altogether.


Many of the adventurers neither made it to Kailahun nor returned to Tonkolili, Bombali or to Freetown. Shocked and infuriated, Siaka Stevens declared the first public state of emergency of his administration.

The majority of the membership and supporters of the SLPP including Paramount chiefs, mainly from the South and East were rounded up countrywide and incarcerated in Mafanta prison just outside Magburaka in the Tonkolili district.

In 1970, when a breakaway faction of the APC formed the National Democratic Party whose membership included the Taqi brothers, Dr. Mohamed Fornah with Dr. John Karefa-Smart and others, the APC thugs tacked their convoy on the Waterloo Masiaka highway.

There were fierce skirmishes and again Siaka Stevens declared a state of public emergency and arrested and detained the entire leadership of the new party.The late DrSariffEasmon who had persistently criticised Sir Albert Margai, wrote a stinker in the Daily Mail newspaper against Siaka Stevens.  

As if by arrangement, I had also sent an open letter to the Prime Minister in the same Daily Mail newspaper in which I stated that by his declaration of a second state of public emergency, he had demonstrated his inability to rule the country and that he should resign forthwith.  

DrEasmon was detained and although I had packed my pyjamas, etc, I wasn’t touched that time.

Former president Koroma seen here recently in a red para-military style beret similar to that worn by his party’s members of parliament, in a show of force to the SLPP government.

Fast forward to the Presidential and Parliamentary elections of 2007, the leader of the APC opposition – Ernest Bai Koroma , wrote a letter to the United States Ambassador Dr. Thomas Walker in which he stated clearly – rather threatened, that if the ruling SLPP candidate was declared the winner he and his party would NOT ACCEPT the result and that they would make the country ungovernable.

No one touched him or any of his members.

In the 2012 election, Charles Margai the PMDC leader declared that he could mobilise a 20,000 defence force were he to be attacked, under the Koroma administration; he was detained for questioning at the Criminal Investigation Department for three days. SLPP Candidate Julius Maada Bio was threatened with arrest and detention by A I G Al-Skeik Kamara for allegedly blocking the way of President Ernest Bai Koroma’s convoy, contrary to some law.Members of the SLPP in Kenema were arrested and charged to court on the orders of A I G Karrow Kamara for celebrating their party’s independence in their office building.

When Human Rights activist went to make inquiries, he was promptly arrested and also charged to court.Pat Sow ordered his APC thugs to attack a group of SLPP supporters whose only crime was that they had honoured an invitation from the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) to participate in the funeral rites of the late Justice Tolla Thompson – the former PPRC chairman.


And now, this group of miscreants – among them – the learned Attorneys at Law, are DEMANDING the outright sacking of the current chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission because they no longer had any confidence in him.His crime is that he is not doing it their way, perhaps as Christiana Thorpe would have done. Mind you, they appointed him not the SLPP.

As for the current APC opposition Members of Parliament, who walked out on President Julius Maada Bio at the state opening of Parliament yesterday – especially when the country’s National Anthem was being played, the least said about them the better.But I hope it is not true that two of them who had been nominated to attend the Pan African Parliament in South Africa then went to collect their airline tickets.

That would be another example of their shameful attitude and lack of principle.
I have often wondered at the psyche of the APC; do they ever recall some of their past beastly behaviour?In the 1973 Parliamentary election campaign, they displayed so much violence that the opposition SLPP formally withdrew from the elections.

They were returned unopposed and attended the first session of that Parliament in identical Mao Tse Tung suites.When one takes all of those past actions of the APC into consideration, it would be clear that we are dealing with them with kid gloves.When a delegation of us held a meeting at State House with the former Vice President Sam Sumana in 2008, the APC supporters threw buckets of urine at us as we left the meeting.I do not have to remind readers of the day in 2007 when Christiana Thorpe declared Ernest Bai Koroma as the winner of the runoff election. A gang of the APC mob descended on the SLPP headquarters and inflicted much unprovoked damage to the building and manhandled those who were there including the rape of some women.The APC administration did nothing to appease us. There was not a single word of remorse from their leadership.

And here we have them again, “crying baby” about this and about that. 

My advice to the leadership of our SLPP party is that, we stand firm in the face of their unruly behaviour which is now posing a threat to the peace and stability of the country.They must now be treated with firm hands under the rule of law. Enough must be enough.


DrSamaBanya is a veteran politician who served as a Cabinet Minister under two Sierra Leonean Heads of State – SiakaProbyn Stevens and Ahmed TejanKabba.  He is a physician by profession and a prolific writer. Popularly known as Puawui (meaning grey hair or sage in his local Mende/Kissy dialects, this nonagenarian is unquestionably a living encyclopedia of Sierra Leonean politics. His deep knowledge of political machinations in Sierra Leone as seen from both sides of the parliamentary divide is more credible than most.

 

The Challenging Effects of COVID19- LindsayBarrett

Arise News "https://www.youtube.com/embed/k1I-vL0-n6U"

As billions of people around the world continue to live under some form of lockdown - with movements restricted and lives turned upside down - we'll get a snapshot of what isolation looks and feels like from the perspective of one top African Caribbean journalist, who has himself been under strict quarantine over concerns of underlying health issues...in a moment... The international journalist and Africa affairs analyst, Lindsay Barrett, was interviewed by Charles Aniagolu. Produced by Nissi Gabriel.

 

 MISINFORMATION ON GOVERNOR’S ABSENCE FROM TARABAAGGRAVATED BY FAKE NEWS TACTICS

Reports have recently appeared in some national newspapers as well as on some internet based news sites claiming that Governor of Taraba State Darius Ishaku’s extended absence from Jalingo is generating widespread public anxiety in the state. However, visitors to Taraba in recent times have remarked that government business is running smoothly and without a hitch in spite of the extended absence of the Governor. The use of the media to provoke disenchantment against the governor appears to be based on a clear strategy of spreading misinformation using fake news.

Evidence for this presumption gained credibility recently when a major newspaper in Lagos published a report on the issue of his absence supposedly for medical treatment in Abuja, and used a photograph purporting to show the Governor being attended by medical personnel.  The photograph, it turns out,is well over a year old and was taken at a health centre in Jalingo when he was observing a programme of assistance provided by Israeli doctors and health workers.

 

POST- ELECTION STABILITY IN BAYELSA: A PRIME IMPERATIVE
By Lindsay Barrett

Douye Diri during the gubernatorial campaign,

The emergence of Senator Douye Diri, the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP’s) candidate for governorship, as the victor in the contest for the seat in Bayelsa State, through the intervention of the Supreme Courtrather than through the electoral result sanctioned by INEC, has made that state a test case for genuineexpression of the popular will of the people.

Many analysts of Nigeria’s democratic order since the transition from authoritarian military rule have expressed anxiety over the deleterious effects of dependence on court judgments to settle the conflicts that arise from electoral challenges.

Whereas the court process might be regarded as promoting equity and justice through a fair consideration of arguments the possibility of partisan interference with post-electoral challenges is a real danger under circumstances such as those that prevailed in Bayelsa State. For this reason, it is particularly important that the prime responsibility of Governor Diri’s pledge of reconciliation and cooperation with his adversaries is to ensure that the key objective of stable and harmonious conduct of public affairs is attained. Even though some of the major leaders of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the state have signaled their unwillingness to accept the finality of the Supreme Court’s verdict, as far as the public is concerned that is the reality that governance in the state will be based on for the foreseeable future.

Douye Diri is therefore saddled with the onerous task of restoring public confidence in the mandate of elected leadership in the state as his major imperative,
It is of paramount importance that the administrative team to be put in place by Governor Diri should reflect popular sentiments and expectations that have arisen as a result of the events surrounding the electoral circumstances that recently prevailed in the state. It is not a hidden fact that Douye Diri’s primary victory in the PDP was endorsed and supported by the immediate past Governor Henry Seriake Dickson, but it is also imperative to note that Diri’s antecedents in the politics of the state are more substantially rooted in political credibility. He has been known for years as an advocate of Ijaw restoration and communalwelfare, and as a dedicated member of the Ijaw National Congress, Also the virtual stranglehold that the PDP exercised on the political offices in the state for several years starting in 1999 favoured him as he served in various cabinets as an Adviser and later as a Commissioner.

As a consequence, his experience and credibility as an aspirant for higher office was far superior to that of his rival in the APC. This circumstance has caused many doubts to be raised over the credibility of the eventual declaration of the results in which for the first time in the state INEC posted a victory for the opposition APC.

However, while the PDP had openly discredited the INEC result it was a pre-election challenge to the eligibility of the APC’s Deputy Governorship aspirant that led to the annulment of the APC victory. This has therefore granted a measure of political credibility to the ascent of the PDP’s candidate, and made it unnecessary for that party to seek to overturn the election results and prove its validity as the people’s choice,
Douye Diri’s credibility as a political activist when compared to that of the APC candidate David Lyon is an advantageous asset for the PDP to use to rebuild its public image in the state.  

Unfortunately, the gubernatorial campaign provoked some dysfunctional sentiments of disenchantment in the PDP when an unprecedented number of contestants sought the ticket and fractured the party’s solidarity to an almost irreparable extent. It was this that led to a breakdown of structural formality in the various Local Government and Ward committees of the party and thus enabled the APC to use this perception of a divided party to manipulate electoral practice in some specific territories. Events that occurred in Nembe and Brass Local Governments and especially in the largest LGA of Southern Ijaw before and during the election raise serious questions about surveillance and security of the process that took place.

Governor Diri’s call, at his inauguration, for a minute’s silence to commemorate the lives of those who were killed in Nembe was a timely reminder of the reality that surrounded the process.

The element of memorial recall is an integral reminder of the true circumstances that exist under which a new government is being installed in the state. This signal sent by Governor Diri should not be ignored by the citizens as they seek to forge a relationship with his new administration.
Bayelsa State’s primary leadership figures who wield profound political influenceinclude the former President of the nation Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the present Minister of State for Petroleum Chief Timipre Sylva, the extremely popular technocrat Timi Alaibe, and the immediate past Governor Henry Seriake Dickson.

There is hardly any doubt that discussions to settle the conditions of governance and proper conduct of post-electionadministration in the state will engage them or their supporters.

This will make it imperative that Governor Diri seek to at least heed their opinions and advice.

He is already aware of the tendencies of their political views because he has interacted closely with them at various stages of their own political activity in the state.

It is important, though surprising, that he has expressed a willingness to cooperate with former Governor Sylva in spite of the fact that Sylva has made it plain that he does not consider Diri’s mandate legitimate.

It will be interesting to see how such differences of opinion and perception are resolved.
One of the most prescient consequences of the recent gubernatorial contest is the fact that the three Senate seats allocated to the state were rendered virtually impotent when all three senators sought gubernatorial or deputy gubernatorial tickets.

The Supreme Court judgment has given victory to the two Senators representing the Bayelsa Central and Western constituencies. The decision has also rendered the status of the Senator representing Bayelsa East questionable since he had been the Deputy Governorship candidate for the APC.

The resolution of this aspect of the future political shape of Senatorial representation for the people of Bayelsa will play a large part in deciding the fate of the mandate of Governor Diri at home.

The restoration of credibility to the PDP as theruling party in Bayelsa State will now be dependent to a large extent on the conduct of Douye Diri’s administration. It is actually quite likely that without the accident of irregularity in the APC Deputy Governorship candidate’s documentation the INEC approved results would have stood and PDP’s challenges to the figures allocated the parties would not have been successful.

In that event it is not unrealistic to surmise that the political profile of the state would have been changed irrevocably. However, since the Supreme Court verdict was delivered many Bayelsans have been heard to express the hope that, “Diri will be able to treat his tenure as a miraculous opportunity to restore stability to a largely unstable polity.”

First published on page 43 in The Sun newspaper of Thursday 5th  March 2020

 

DONALD TRUMP’S DYSFUNCTIONAL VICTORY
By Lindsay Barrett

Photo taken from TV by Lindsay Barrett

          It can hardly be doubted that American President Donald Trump will consider that the consequences of his most recent display of unilateral indiscipline and arrogance have been successful.

Without recourse to advice from, or collaboration with, his nation’s legislature he ordered a direct military strike in Iraq that resulted in the assassination of an Iranian official.QassemSoleimani, a General in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards occupied an important and seminal position in the Administration of the Islamic Republic.

He was not an irregular militia leader or a wild card provocateur as Trump’s propagandists claim. His role in the region was to defend the strategic interests of his nation, which have been effectively undermined and rendered virtually impotent by the actions of the USA.

While hostilities between the USA and Iran have been institutionalised for decades, according to diplomatic convention the two countries are neither at war nor even engaged as direct participants in any hostile conflicts.

Donald Trump chose to bring this diplomatic presumption to an abrupt end with the assassination of Soleimani. He has initiated a calculated effort to further destabilize the welfare of the Iranian Republic and diminish that nation’s influence as an active and legitimate partner with substantial components of neighbouring populations around the Middle East.
The circumstances that have given rise to the divisive security profile that exists in Iraq, with American support for some formations and Iranianownership of several units, all of which profess loyalty to the sovereign interests of the Iraqi state, lend themselves to Donald Trump’s penchant for using chaos and disorder as major elements of his policy implementation.

General Soleimani was visiting Iraq as a legitimate advisor to, and ally of, the Government when Trump ordered his assassination. The fundamental objectiveof this act was to destabilize and intimidate the Iranian authorities with the threat of escalating hostilities that would certainly lead to unprecedented physical destruction in Iran itself. Donald Trump’s tactics in dealing with his adversaries whether in facing volatile domestic political factors such as his impeachment, or provocative international fallout from his actions such as the withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear agreement has proven to be totally self-serving.

As he sows distress in the global community with his disturbing trade wars and expression of falsehoods presented as facts President Trump has made it very clear that his approach to diplomacy is to promote dysfunction.

Sadly, the consequence of this strategy appears to be paying off for the American leader.
The Iranian regime’s inability to rise to the occasion adequately has been illustrated by its failure to exact appropriate retaliatory revenge in its responses in the first days after the assassination of General Soleimani.

Iran failed to kill even a single American soldier when one of the primary locations occupied by the USA military in Iraq was targeted and hit directly by its missiles.

Even more devastatingly the regime was portrayed as being incompetent and totally disorganized when its security agents shot down a passenger plane that had just taken off from the country’s largest civilian airport, having mistakenly identified it as an incoming missile.

While Donald Trump crowed conceitedly about the justification for, and the consequences of, his irregular and fundamentally criminal action in targeting an official who was undertaking an official visit to a neighbouring country, Iran was saddled with the task of responding to the overwhelming attack on its stability by promising retaliation that it can hardly afford to mount. The Iranian economy has been totally broken by unfair and unilateral sanctions imposed by Donald Trump whose ability to act with impunity against his weaker foes is not confined to military adventurism.

If there is one thing in which he has maintained consistency it is his determination to be a disruptive rather than conciliatory world leader.
It has become obvious that although Trump inherited a strong economy and unprecedented military superiority from President Barack Obama and other past leaders his major impulse is to rubbish their legacy and claim that the entire source and form of American power is his creation.

The fact that this delusionaryconceit is abnormal and represents a seriously delinquent psychological deficiency in his personalcharacter can hardly be denied.

However, what is even more dysfunctional is that the diplomatic outreach of the United States as a standard bearer of democratic values and a promoter of human rights has been rendered a captive of Donald Trump’s personal political advantage. For this reason, the timing of the assassination of Soleimani should be seen as an important issue to be considered relevant to consequential discourse among major interests in the international arena. It was clear that in spite of the fact that several allies of the USA in the Middle East were placed in jeopardy by the probable consequences of the decision to strike the Iranian convoy they were neither consulted nor forewarned of the decision.

This unusual methodology implies that the unilateral stance of Donald Trump’s approach to strategic deployment of force is based on his personal political agenda rather than on the achievement of collaborative objectives, The fact that the major allies of the Americans. such as the British, French, and Germans, are now scrambling to justify the relevance of their having been ignored suggests that Trump’s dysfunctional strategy has actually triumphed.
However, what might appear to be an impulsive victory for the American President’s consistent political posturing in the Middle East will certainly create a more problematic set of diplomatic and strategic circumstances in the region in the future. While in the immediate aftermath of it the Trump strike against Iran bears the semblance of a fait accompliit is also a symptomatic act of provocation against the processes of negotiable peace and the settlement of conflict through dialogue in the world’s most volatile region.

The fall-out will provoke escalating dissent within the populations of nations where American military bases exist, and in countries that are experiencing economic hardship as a result of American unilateral arrogance.

The Strait of Hormuz might be turned into an American marine fortress but it will always be the sovereign territory of the nations that have their coastlines there.

Those who use the waterway will find their operations becomingfraught with uncertainty and therefore increasingly costly to mount on a regular basis.

In addition to such improvident consequences the threat that Donald Trump’s irregular motives, and emotional instabilityposes in the region will force major interest groups and powerful adversaries of the USA such as Russia and China to review their activities in the region in order to prevent more American military adventures, and Israel will become more militaristic thus making it more difficult to achieve peace between it and the Palestinians in Gaza, and elsewhere.

This will create a situation that will make American military intervention in the region remain imperative to American foreign policy while becoming increasingly inimical to the stability of regional interests. In the final analysis Donald Trump has only succeeded in consolidating dysfunction in the Middle East instead of achieving a genuine victory.

First published on p.38 of the Daily Trust newspaper, Sunday 19th January 2020. Also published on page 33 of The Sun newspaper, Friday 25thJanuary 2020.

 

TWELFTH EDITION OF T.Y. DANJUMA’S FESTIVAL OF PRAISE REGALES ABUJA

Report and Photos by Lindsay Barrett

The annual concert organised by a group of Christian music enthusiasts led by Prof. Jerry Gana under the rubric of the Festival of Praise has regaled audiences in Abuja for twelve years.

Financed entirely by the generousity of retired General T.Y. Danjuma the celebratory event has brought together classical musicians, ecclesiastical choirs, and choral ensembles of varying origins in Abuja each year to perform mainly carols and other religious music with gusto. 

However, the 2019 edition of the concert, which took place on the 15th of December, may go down as one of the most remarkable versions of the event ever witnessed by the inhabitants of Abuja. The International Conference Centre, which has always been the venue, was filled to near capacity for this year’s extraordinary concert.

The organisers outdid their previous years’ achievements by booking acts that provided incredible displays of expertise and virtuosity including exciting star performances from the incredible saxophonist Deejay Sax, and a wonderfully original vocal ensemble known as The Royal City Chorale from Owerri

The latest edition of the concert was a landmark event for several reasons, not least because it was performed under the direction of a world class German conductor Walter Michael Vollhardt, who is also a virtuoso cellist.

His control of both the mass choir and the superb Festival of Praise Orchestra was a revelatory experience. The string orchestra performed with such expertise that it was surprising to discover that it was a new ensemble put together for the first time only this year to replace an orchestra that used to be imported from Lagos.

This orchestra is to be maintained as a permanent part of a new music school in Abuja and will be doing monthly public performances in the near future.

This plan will enhance the cultural life of the capital to an unprecedented extent and the enthusiasm with which the audience received this year’s program promises to expand the opportunities for musical appreciation in the metropolis throughout the year.

Interestingly the concert appeared to confirm religious faith as an instrument of cultural appreciation as the opening prayer performed as a gospel chorus by a talented pastor metamorphosed into an extended chorus of audience participation.

This collective exercise was based on a spiritual that expressed the theme of the concert which was “We Will Praise HIM from Everlasting to Everlasting”.

The entire audience sang the spiritual in response to the onstage pastor’s exhortations for over fifteen minutes, and it was only after this public affirmation of faith that the concert really began.

A guest appearance by a female Turkish flautist Leiya Bayramogullari served to signal that this year’s repertoire would not be a narrow menu of familiar local content.

This was followed however by a charming sequence of traditional carols sung by a choir of blind youth which was presented as the Chorale of Special Persons.

This emotional performance generated much praise and applause from the audience and when the illustrious guests of honour led by the Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo showed their appreciation by leading standing ovations the atmosphere grew even more festive.

This festive spirit rose to celebratory heights when the Royal City Chorale from Owerri performed. This group led by a young director who displayed remarkable rhythmic sensitivity in both his conducting and his vocal lead performances brought the audience to their feet several times during a short but brilliant performance which served to set the tone for collective enjoyment of what was to follow.

The climax of the concert was a most unexpected and dynamically exciting performance by the Lagos-based saxophone improviser known as Deejay Sax.

When he took the stage after a dramatic entrance from the audience everyone took to their feet led by General Danjuma himself and the frontline guests which included former Head of State General Yakubu Gowon, Guest of Honour Vice President Osinbajo and Governor of Taraba State Darius Ishaku.

The entire audience was on its feet throughout his extended exhibition of his extraordinary talent as a spontaneous and imaginative improviser.

Photo left:  From right General T.Y. Danjuma sponsor of the festival, Vice President Osinbajo, General Gowon, and Taraba State Governor Darius Ishaku join the audience to sing. Photo right: Prof Jerry Gana moves a vote of thanks to the participants.


The sponsorship of this long-running event has become a hallmark of the genuine commitment to a faithful celebration of Christian worship by some of the most illustrious members of Nigeria’s elite.

Apart from the financial contributions that former Minister Jerry Gana never fails to thank General T.Y. Danjuma for, it is noticeable that General Gowon Nigeria’s former Commander in Chief and executor of the Civil War has not missed the event for many years now. and this year Professor Yemi Osinbajo was said to have postponed attendance at a previously scheduled official rendezvous in order to attend. Prof. Gana has now informed those who have attended the event regularly for many years that the orchestra has been transformed from a visiting one to a permanent ensemble based in Abuja with members drawn from locally based performers.

The German Government has also donatedinstruments and provided highly qualified personnel to train the members of the orchestra.

As a consequence of the success of the event the Festival Organising Committee has decided to establish a music school in Abuja and to broaden its activities to include monthly musical performances by the orchestra as a way of enhancing its public outreach. If this planned program takes off in 2020 then next year’s Festival of Praise might even surpass this year’s extraordinarily successful event.
 First published online at www.africamusiconline.com.

2019

JAMAICAN HIGH COMMISSION HOSTS SPECIAL TRIBUTE TO “MISS LOU” IN ABUJA, NIGERIA

PHOTO LEFT:The High Commissioner of Jamaica in Nigeria Hon. Esmond Reid (right) with menbers of  staff and visitors at the event. PHOTO RIGHT:Students from Springhall Secondary School in Abuja perform a Jamaican dance as part of the celebration.

On 30th October 2019, HE Esmond Reid, High Commissioner and Staff of the Jamaican High Commission in Abuja, Nigeria, hosted a special tribute in honourof thecentenary of one of Jamaica’s foremost cultural icons, the Honourable Louise Bennett Coverley, OM, OJ, MBE, popularly known as “Miss Lou”. Miss Lou was born on 7th September 1919 in Jamaica. Dubbed “An Evening with Miss Lou” the recent tribute was held at the High Commission and was attended by nearly 70 participants, comprising members of the Diplomatic Corps, students, Jamaicans in Nigeria and friends of Jamaica.

The lobby of the High Commission was transformed into a rich cultural landscape with a mix of Jamaican colours and bandana material adorning the walls and furnishings.

This provided a backdrop to the diverse programme that was presented by staff and students of the Spring Hall Secondary School and Miss Zhori Ann Clunis of the Start Rite Schools in Abuja. There were poetry readings, music and dance featuring some of Miss Lou’s signature pieces including “Colonization in Revse”, “Back to Africa” and “Dis Long Time Gal”.

There were also video presentations highlighting aspects of Miss Lou’s life and work.

PHOTO LEFT: The political ombudsman of Jamaica Hon. Donna Parchment Brown presented a spontaneous appreciation of Miss Lou’s vision and achievements to the audience. PHOTO RIGHT: Mrs. Arlene Harrison-Henry Public Defender of Jamaica and the Deputy Public Defender Mr. Herbie McKenzie were present at the event

Members of the audience were invited to participate in Jamaican ring games such as “Manuel Road” which evoked great delight and excitement from players of all ages.

A longstanding member of the Jamaican community, Lindsay Barrett, noted that this was the first time in over 50 years that he was participating in the ring game. He further demonstrated his ability to make music by blowing into an empty bottle and later shared a poem and reflections of his association with Miss Lou on stage, in the 1960s.


Honourable Donna Parchment Brown (Political Ombudsman of Jamaica), Mrs. Arlene Harrison Henry (Public Defender) and Mr. Herbert McKenzie (Deputy Public Defender) also shared in the festivities. They were in Abuja as Jamaica’s representatives at the International Ombud Expo that was held from 28-31 October 2019.

High Commissioner Reid expressed profound appreciation for the strong support and contribution of those who attended the event. He noted that Miss Lou had served as a “fierce defender of Jamaica’s cultural heritage” and had paved the way for “current and future generations of Jamaicans and Africans to embrace and celebrate their history and culture”.

The evening would not have been complete without Jamaican culinary treats such as Jerk Chicken, Curried Goat, Festival, Sweet Potato Pudding, Coconut Drops, Ginger Beer, Sorrel and Peanut Cake.


NEWS RELEASEJAMAICAN HIGH COMMISSION, ABUJANOVEMBER 4, 2019
For more information please contact: JHC, Abuja: +234 6063356; info@jhcnig.com

 

MAJOR PARTIES IN BAYELSA DEPLOY “POLITICS OF BITTERNESS”
Story & Photos By Lindsay Barrett

Photo left Senators Douye Diri (left) and Lawrence Ehwrudjakpo (right) address a PDP rally in Ogbia LGA. Photo right David Lyon APC surprise candidate has placed giant posters throughout Yenagoa.

The fall-out from the gubernatorial primaries of both the PDP and the APC in Bayelsa State has left the political fortunes of both major parties in turmoil. The selection of freshman senators DouyeDiri and Lawrence Ehwrudjakpo as Governorship and Deputy Governorship candidates respectively for the PDP has provoked an unprecedented spate of defections from the ruling party in the state. The impression has been given that Governor Dickson’s preference for his close associates was what overturned the aspiration of Ndutimi Alaibe the perennial challenger whose decision to return to the party after flirting with the APC was expected to herald the party’s continued hold on power in the state. Instead of that the Governor’s open hostility to the presumption of Alaibe’s automatic eligibility led to a situation in which the PDP was faced with a harvest of more than a score of aspirants competing for the ticket.

The eventual outcome of this unusual contest was that the continued popularity of Alaibe who came second was not in doubt but the governor’s preferred aspirant Senator Douye Diri triumphed convincingly.

Following this eventuality Alaibe went to court which signaled to a substantial portion of the older members of the party that the strategic consequence of maintaining party solidarity would not prevail. In the weeks that have followed this perception appeared to undermine the maintenance of the PDP’s conventional ascendancy in the state, and as a result an unprecedented wave of defections have hit the party’s ranks.
            On the APC side of things similar disenchantment followed the outcome of the party’s primaries in which a previously virtually unknown aspirant emerged as the victor with the clear support of his “godfather” former Governor Timipre Sylva. In this case David Lyon, a businessman and former militant activist from Southern Ijaw Local Government Areawas named as the surrogate of former Governor Sylva who withdrew his aspiration when he was appointedthe new Minister of State for Petroleum Affairs. In the follow-up to the APC primaries,in which Lyon was declared the victor,former Minister Senator Heineken Lokpobiri and Preye Aganaba, two aspirants with much more credible credentials, also went to court claiming, as Alaibe did in his own case against the state chapter of the PDP, that their party did not follow its own regulations properly in conducting its internal elections.

These challenges have served to render the contest for Governor of the state redolent with bitter intra-party sentiments rather than open to a serious discussion of issues of interest to the electorate. Instead the campaign discourses from the PDP side have been notable for arguments discrediting the credibility of the APC candidate who is reputed to be reluctant to speak in public because he is not very articulate. From the opposite side the APC appears to be convinced that abusing the incumbent Governor and portraying Diri and his deputy as simply surrogates of Dickson will undermine their effectiveness. But the truth is that neither strategy is based on the genuine interest and relevance of the voting public’s perception of what the state needs.
            The addition of freshman Senator Biobarakumo Degi from the Eastern Senatorial District to the APC ticket as Deputy Governorship aspirant means that all three Senators representing the interests of Bayelsans have absconded their mandate in search of executive office. The fact that all three have become candidates of the two major parties means that the state can be regarded as being highly under-represented for the time being in the legislative branch of the democratic order because of the peculiar circumstances that have shaped the gubernatorial contest in the state.

It would be naïve for anyone to ignore the reality of the restoration of the fortunes of the APC that recent events illustrate. Although David Lyon might be regarded as being a comparatively inexperienced political novice the nature of cronyism that has become the acceptable base of political endorsement in the state has ensured that his attraction as a candidate is enhanced by the perception that his victory would reinstate Sylva’s influence as a power broker both regionally and nationally. This might be the real reason why so many of the defectors from the PDP have taken the decision that they have. 

As a result, Seriake Dickson’s loyalists and others who have remained in the PDP have now made the theme of opportunism on the part of the defectors the central focus of the PDP campaign assertions. According to the state Chairman Cleophas Moses during a huge rally in Ogbia Local Government Area. “Those who have defected have benefited enormously from the party over the years. Let them go away and make space for the new members to benefit as well. We are a party for the grassroots.” With such sentiments coming increasingly to the fore as the election draws near the battle appears to be growing more bitter day by day.

First published on page 16 of Daily Trust on Sunday 3rd November 2019 in Abuja.

 

LINDSAY BARRETT ANSWERS QUESTIONS POSED BY ANOTE AJELUOROU
In a special Independence interview the Guardian reporter engages the Jamaican born Nigerian commentator on pertinent issues.

 

  1. 59 years of Nigeria's independence, how far would you rate it?

Nigeria has developed a signature identity over the last six decades that many observers consider to be strong on self-determination and regional cooperation, but somehow weak on national unity and propriety in governance. I believe the true measure of Nigeria’s success as an independent nation has been its survival so far but there are serious threats to this achievement arising from misplaced priorities in government, and the mismanagement of internal security. We need to acknowledge these and find ways to overcome them in the immediate future in order to avoid possible disintegration. I believe Nigeria has achieved enormous strides in helping the rest of the continent. However, it deserves more recognition as a leader of the post-colonial world than its present political condition reflects.

2. 20/21 years of democracy. How has the country fared? Has democracy worked? If not, why not & what ways forward?

While ordinary Nigerians have exhibited a profound desire to accept and adhere to the ideals of representative government the political elite have tended to display a penchant for enjoying the privileges of office to a greater extent than they have shown any wish to provide service to the people. This duality of perception threatens to destroy the value chain of the political system and bring about a situation in which the leaders are largely regarded as parasites by the masses. The breakdown of trust in the electoral system which has become endemic over the last two decades is now becoming a dangerous reality at each election and this threatens to undermine democratic progress. Nigeria needs to reverse the breakdown of electoral probity if the democratic process is to provide genuine representation for the majority of the people.

3. What is your take on governance & democratic ideals, etc. so far?

I think my answer to the lastquestion should give you an idea of what I really think about this issue, but I believe that Nigerians should consider one incredible fact, which is that democracy for a large and diverse nation such as ours is bound to be a very expensive undertaking. By now we must have realised that thecost of representative governance is far in excess of the authoritarian usurpation of the people’s rights. That does not of course mean that the latter form of government, which was represented in Nigeria for decades by military rule is better or more desirable, but the fact that military rule costs less is something that the political leadership must not overlook when considering the rationale for the maintenance of the democratic process. The people must be convinced that the extra cost of representation is worth it if they are to defend democracy and sustain its development.

4. Has presidential system worked or should Nigeria look the way of parliamentary where Nigeria started?

The presidential system has worked but it also needs to be refined. I do not believe that a return to the old parliamentary system after nearly six decades of regional transformation of the Nigerian territorial formula will be either feasible or advisable. In fact, I believe that any attempt to restore that system will amount to an attempt to re-impose errors of colonial territorial hegemony and reverse progressive efforts to create true Federal autonomy that reflect historical ethnic and cultural values. What Nigeria needs is a genuine fine tuning of its historical realities in keeping with contemporary formulae for the development of a national entity based on honest governance and equitable utilisation of resources.

5. Has Nigeria's policy towards blacks of African descent like your brother's & sisters who are still outside the continent been the best? Why should Nigeria replicate the Ghana model, for instance?

Nigeria is a hospitable country. The average Nigerian receives all visitors with open arms, and in history most Nigerian communities have a tradition of interaction with foreigners or their neighbours as integral elements of their cultural customs. That is why the propagation of religious beliefs especially of the Islamic and Christian varieties has taken profound root in the nation’s cosmogony. However, the relationship between the Nigerian perception of the existential reality of its national philosophy and the perception of the global African diaspora as being relevant to its national objectives has not been codified into a legal formula of state policy. This has been achieved in Ghana because right from the founding of that nation this relationship has been considered important. Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah the implementer of that nation’s independence was deeply influenced and inspired by the philosophy and advocacy of Jamaica’s Marcus Garvey and believed that collaboration with the diaspora would open up the economic and educational horizons of Africa. It has taken more than six decades for the full realization of his dream to take root in Ghana’s formulation of policy so Nigeria is not late. I believe that eventually the black world’s most populous nation will recognize the need for formal policies of integration and cooperation with communities of people whose historical origins are emotionally tied to Africa. Nigeria must recognize that it is regarded as a leading nation by many people not only in Africa but throughout the world.

6. What is Nigeria losing for not pursuing a vigorous integration policy of black diaspora?

I would not define the lack of a policy of formal integration of diaspora in terms of loss but rather in terms of unfinished business. In the process of nation-building Nigeria is a work-in-progress and its relationship with the rest of the world is still undergoing transformation from its under-development as a colonial entity through its period of experimental growth as a military dictatorship to its present status as a buoyant but turbulent democratic leader in Africa. We cannot ignore Nigeria in African trade nor can we deny its importance as a guarantor of stability in the West African sub-region. It will be an improvement in the resilience of the Nigerian entity if the diaspora becomes an integral collaborator in the nation’s development but it is necessary for the democratic order to be fully consolidated before such a profound decision can be taken.

7. When you look back to your arrival in Nigeria in the 1960s, what memory does it invoke in you & how has that memory lingered or been trashed?

I came to Nigeria because I admired the dynamism of its people who I had met abroad. I still admire them and feel more at home in most parts of the country than I have ever managed to feel anywhere in the world. I have had disappointments in both my personal life and in my presumptions of achievements that I believe the nation has missed but I am devoted to the hope that Nigeria’s determined optimism will someday triumph. After 53 years I find it hard to give up on the hope that the sacrifices of the past will not be betrayed. If I have any regrets, it is that I sometimes feel that the contributions I tried to make to develop my adopted homeland have been rendered redundant by subsequent mismanagement of the governance process, but I realise that many native born Nigerians were also involved with these eventualities. I cannot therefore put these disappointments down to my being a stranger. After five and a half decades I will never be less than a true Nigerian.

8. What lessons should the country learn from SA's xenophobic attacks in building a liveable space?

Nigeria should realise that the world does not always recognize its good intentions for what they are but also that its image is larger than life in the African space. As for the South Africans who are behind the attacks we must recognise that they are betrayers of a wider cause and hope that the country will heal its own wounds. Nigeria’s official reaction should be aimed at helping that country to overcome its deficient internal confidence, even while insisting on appropriate compensation and restitution for its affected citizens. At the same time, we hopeour country will become more effective as a destination for growth in the next few decades rather than a place from which our dynamic people emigrate to build up others. 
First published in Lagos on page A12 of a special Guardian pull-out marking Nigeria’s 59th Independence Anniversary on Tuesday 1st October 2019

 

PRESIDENT MAADA-BIO STEPS UP ANTI-CORRUPTION STANCE
By Lindsay Barrett

President Julius Maada-Bio (photo left) at opening of Commission of Inquiry.

Members of the public (photo right) demonstrate support for the governments stand against corruption.


            Retired Brigadier General Julius Maada-Bio of Sierra Leone is fast becoming recognized as the exemplary symbol of a new generation of African leaders. He is one of the few (if not the only) African Presidents to have been born after his country became independent and although he initiated a coup when he was a military man the express purpose for that takeover was to enable the return to representative government.

This was an unusually altruistic motive for a military coup at the time and when General Bio lived up to his pledge to hand over power and withdraw quietly into retirement from public office for several years he set an example that many young Sierra Leoneans regarded as being worthy of emulation. In the period of his retirement he became a dedicated student and improved his understanding of public administration noticeably.

He produced several carefully thought-out papers on issues of development and governance during that period and then after more than a decade of quiet academic concentration he returned to the political arena.


            His decision to join Sierra Leone’s oldest political party the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) and seek its Presidential ticket signaled a seminal change of the political discourse in Sierra Leonean society. Instead of focusing on regional loyalties and promoting the personalities of charismatic leaders Maada Bio sought to encourage the populace to consider the issues of honesty and efficiency in government as being the paramount concern for electoral choice.

This stance placed him in serious conflict with the incumbent Administration led by the All Peoples Congress (APC) of President Ernest Bai Koroma as investigative reports unveiled a host of irregularities in the conduct of the government, which he promised to correct if he was chosen as leader.Since the historic victory at the polls that he recorded a little over a year ago, Maada Bio’s government has been preoccupied with the task of rehabilitating the extensively damaged economy, which he inherited.

However, he decided that an important element of this task must be the prevention of activities that could perpetuate the impunity in official profligacy that he had protested against, and which he largely blamed for the dire economic condition that he inherited.


            Soon after he took office he instituted a Commission of Inquiry, headed by highly respected judges from both international and domestic judiciaries, the mandate of which was to collect evidence of the irregular transactions that had undermined the principles of probity and accountability in government.

When he announced this initiative the members of the defeated APC mounted a spirited challenge based on the claim that he was instituting a political witch hunt against his opponents and that he was simply being vindictive.

However, once it was made clear that the intention was to expose genuine incidents of official looting and ensure that those who had engaged in such practices would be made to answer for their actions popular support for the initiative was manifested throughout Sierra Leone.After the sittings of the Commission of Inquiry began, especially those headed by a Nigerian, Justice Biobele Georgewill, which were broadcast live, the process gained further public approval. As a result, the Maada-Bio Government’s signature asset has become its commitment to honesty and accountability in its conduct of public affairs.
            This perception of the SLPP government’s real commitment has now been enhanced by recent developments that show that President Maada-Bio is personally committed to ensuring that a new order of absolute integrity takes hold in his administration.  In the most recent incident the President has dismissed his Chief of Protocol after she appeared on a TV programme sponsored by a Nigerian religious leader where she revealed that she had been able to complete a palatial luxury home only a few months after her appointment.

President Maada-Bio wasted no time. He immediately removed her from office and instructed the law enforcement agencies of the country to institute investigations into her financial dealings and especially into the difference if any between her official declaration of assets and the real status of her assets. In addition to this the President has also ordered a comprehensive review and overhaul of the security and law enforcement institutions that he has inherited from the past regime.The need for this was made manifest a few months ago when Justice Georgewill’s residence was burgled and his laptop spirited away with vital information from the Commission of inquiry contained in its hard drive. President Maada-Bio has signaled his readiness to confront deeply entrenched attitudes and elements of corruption in the national psyche as he sets out to repair Sierra Leone’s devastated economic circumstances.

First published in The Sun newspaper of Friday 20th September 2019 in Lagos, Nigeria.

 

DARAH POSITIONS LITERATURE AT THE HEART OF CIVILISATION
Story and Photos By Lindsay Barrett

Photo left Prof. G.G Darah. Photo right panoramic view of the University of Africa Campus, Toru Orua.

Prof. G.G Darah is regarded as something of an institution on his own as he traverses the lecture circuit throughout Nigeria delivering erudite and often stimulating and controversial guest lectures at prestigious occasions. For example, in late July he delivered an exciting address to the Annual Conference of the Nigerian Library Association in Effurun, Delta State, in which he asserted firmly that the creation of libraries originated, and was developed as a central imperative of civilised societies, in Africa. His presumption in making this assertion was based on a catalogue of facts gleaned from historical data that he recited ex-tempore about ancient Egypt in a convincing display of esoteric knowledge. This performance by the celebrated Professor of Oral Literature and Folklore, and one-time Guardian Editorial Board Chairman, held scores of librarians spellbound for more than an hour and ended with a standing ovation. The applause was also in recognition of the fact that he announced that he had just undergone an eye operation and was unable to read. He therefore delivered his lecture without reference to notes.


While public celebrations of knowledge are appropriate venues for the display of Darah’s particular attributes his ability to turn the classroom intoa forum of public discourse made him a very popular teacher in his early career. Students who experienced his regular forays into innovative pedagogy at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife and Delta State University in Abrakasay that he has influenced their lives profoundly beyond their academic interests. Although his retirement from active teaching was announced a few years ago he has re-engaged with university education in various capacities throughout Nigeria and abroad. One of his most important roles in this capacity is that of a contract Professor and Academic Adviser to the University of Africa established in Governor Seriake Dickson’s hometown of Toru Orua in Bayelsa State. It was in this role that we recently witnessed one of the most stimulating examples of his ability to inspire students.


Professor Darah presented the second in a series of faculty colloquiums chaired by Professor DemolaJolayemi Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Education of the institution. The topic of his lecture was “Why Literature Always Matters; An Afrocentric Perspective”. He announced at the onset of the lecture that the subject was especially dear to him because all his life the love of literature had been a personal obsession. Once again he deployed a comprehensive list of historical facts to prove that the original impulse of literary endeavor is to be found in the African continent and specifically in Egypt. The development of literature apart from being the basis for a special relationship between the human attribute of expressive language and the thirst for knowledge, Prof. Darah insisted, had also unified humanity by enabling different communities to learn about and explore each other’s deepest sentiments.  He gave examples of memorable phrases from Shakespearean and other literary works, which some members of the audience, including both students and staff members, were able to recite in order to prove that literary influences remained extant throughout one’s life.


In his characteristic manner Prof. Darah’s presentation was dramatic and enlightening. He summarised his findings with metaphoric phraseology that captured the imagination of the audience by employing familiar images and elements of knowledge. As he developed the thematic roots of his lecture he brought in issues of religious and political presumption as aspects of the appreciation and comprehension of literary works. He eventually built an argument for the central importance of literary appreciation not merely as a subject for academic study and research but as an imperative of human existence.

He encouraged the students to embark on the reading of literary works as a practice of life enhancement rather than just for passing exams and extolled literature as the repository of all aspects of human endeavor and therefore much more than an academic discipline. Once again his erudition provoked a standing ovation.

First published in the Guardian on Sunday 15th September 2019 in Lagos, Nigeria.

 

 

BAYELSA GUBERNATORIAL CONTEST; A HARVEST OF ASPIRANTS
By Lindsay Barrett

Banners at PDP national HQ in Abuja proclaim the aspirations of two of Bayelsa State's illustrious hopefuls and (centre) Deputy Governor retired Vice Admiral Jonah turned up to collect the form for governorship.


            The approach of the unseasonal gubernatorial contest in Bayelsa State that is scheduled to take place towards the end of this year has thrown the political arena in the state into turmoil.

This is especially noticeable in the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as a plethora of aspirants have announced their intention to seek the party's ticket. As a consequence the party'sprimary election due in September is shaping up to be a harvest festival of multiple aspirants of various hues and levels of eligibility.

If there is one thing that the political arena in that state has been noted for so far it is the surprisingvariety and quality of aspirants that emerge from all parts of the state in spite of its diminutive size each time that the contest for governorship comes around.

Even though the issue of regional zoning is often raised as an important criteria of the selection process it must be acknowledged that in every contest the universality of choice has been a factor as contestants from almost every one of the eight local governments in the state have thrown their hats into the ring.

This element of political contestation has caused profound acrimony and hostility among contestants during campaigns for the leadership of this small but vitally important Nigerian state.


            Of the four elected Governors who have held office in Bayelsa since establishment of the democratic order in 1999 only the present incumbent Henry Seriake Dickson will have served a full constitutional eight-year term when he steps down, after the November election, next February.

In addition to this Dickson's tenure has been unique because for most of his term he led a party in opposition while both he and his predecessors all came to power when the PDP controlled Federal authority at the centre.

The Governor has been very outspoken in interpreting the consequences of this circumstance in the light of the need for stable succession of leadership in the state.

He has decried the emergence of ambitious political aspirants whose qualifications are based on the expectation of support from the powerful centre and has sought to change the mindset of the political class in the state.

This process has led to a situation in which a large number of aspirants who consider themselves eligible for the office of governor have expressed their desire to contest for the ticket of the Governor's party.

Governor Dickson's refusal to endorse or even indicate a preferred candidate over a long period prior to the party primary election, which is due to take place in September, has encouraged several aspirants to make their own ambitions known.


            When the Governor opened up on the issue of gubernatorial succession in the month of May he advised the members of his government as well as the general public to fast and pray in order to seek divine intervention to reveal the most suitable candidate to replace him.

This advice took on the guise of official policy when the Administration sponsored a regular series of meetings that were touted as being sessions for the public recognition of the divine mandate of leadership in the state.

Eventually when the Governor denied that he would support any particular candidate and announced that only God could appoint the next Governor he seemed to be suggesting that all those who felt qualified to run were free to contest.

This assumption flew in the face of conventions of regional zoning and established new parameters of choice for the electorate. Dickson's constant allusion to the change of circumstance accorded by the status of his government as being based on commitment to the peoples’ welfare rather than on political balancing suggested that the selection process would now be based on ability rather than on regional origin.

As a consequence, the announcement that the cost of picking up the nomination form for the PDP would now be a prohibitive 21 million naira was considered to have been a means to limit the number of aspirants likely to enter the race.

Photo left: Governor Dickson (3rd right) in consultation with two close aides Fred Agbedi and Deputy Gov. Jonah at an event in Yenagoa. Photo left: Chief Timi Alaibe (in white shirt) joins other party strongmen to celebrate his return to the PDP.


            However, if this was so the actual consequence seems to be the exact opposite.

Within a period of one week at the beginning of July ten aspirants stormed the PDP headquarters in Abuja to collect the forms for Bayelsa primaries and there were rumours of even more considering doing so in the near future.

This circumstance has raised the profile of Bayelsa State as a bellwether of the political climate of the nation as a whole at this point in time. The All Progressives Congress (APC) had not been able to make vital inroads into the support base of the electorate in that state during the earlier period when the PDP held power at the centre.

However, it has begun to show its teeth having won a seat in the House of Representatives from the important Southern Ijaw LGA as well as a hotly contested Senatorial slot from the Eastern Senatorial District.

In spite of this apparent upsurge in public viability of the APC most of those who have expressed genuine interest in seeking the leadership of the state have emerged within the PDP.

In fact, serious contenders for power in the APC have been heard to speculate that their chances of success will be enhanced only when the PDP implodes as a result of the competitive rivalry of multiple aspirants.

Listening to some knowledgeable analysts of the politics of the state one gets the impression that this contest will be a watershed event in the electoral history of the entire South-South Zone.


            The APC having been firmly rebuffed in its attempt to seize power in the Rivers State at the last gubernatorial poll is regarding the Bayelsa contest as an opportunity to make waves in the heart of the oil-bearing Niger Delta.

However, the PDP's consistent stance as the protector of the best interests of minority aspirations nationally, as symbolised by the unprecedented ascendancy of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to the Presidency continues to reverberate in the arena of political credibility in the ex-President's home state.

When Governor Dickson delayed the announcement of the PDP's endorsement or support forpopular contenders as had usually been the practice in the past many people in the state looked to the former President for guidance.

When he too remained silent on the matter the proliferation of ambitious contenders became even more pronounced as time passed and the eventual rush to collect PDP forms appears to reflect nothing so much as a conviction on the part of major stakeholders in the state that the PDP will still sweep the polls in spite of the APC's calculations and claim of Federal supremacy. 

The list of those who have invested in the hope of success through acquiring the PDP form is largely a catalogue of genuine talent and experience and speaks volumes about the availability of truly able political aspirants to guide the fortunes of Bayelsa State when the Dickson era ends.


            Perennial contestant Chief Timi Alaibe was one of the first to pick the form but there is a pervasive public perception that his relationship with the Governor is deficient.

This impression has gained ground since his celebrated public return to the party after he had flirted with membership of the APC and actually sought to challenge former Governor Timipre Sylva for the ticket of that party.

Alaibe is certainly a popular figure and a major part of his appeal is based on the assumption that his LGA Kolokuma/Opokuma is one of the four LGA's that has not produced a Governor so far, The conventions of regional zoning also suggest that having circulated among the three Senatorial Districts the post of Governor should now be returned to the Central Senatorial district in which Kolokuma/Opokuma LGA is situated and which was the premier District from which the gubernatorial zoning was introduced. However many observers allege that Governor Dickson's strictures against allowing aspirants who have been dependent on patronage from the centre to control the fortunes of the state in the foreseeable future is aimed at undermining Chief Alaibe's well-known antecedents and strategies and as a consequence they say his relevance in the new PDP structure in opposition has been damaged, In spite of this Chief Alaibe has put together a formidable team of supporters and strategic co-ordinators who are determined to restore his relevance and overcome any gubernatorial resistance to his ambitions.


            Unfortunately, this circumstance may provoke a lot of friction between the ascendant incumbent administration and the popular will in the party.

This likelihood and the search for a compromise has led to some surprising strategic responses that has brought out aspirants of extraordinary eligibility.

Probably the most prominent among these is Hon. Fredrick Yeitiemone Agbedi the three-time member of the House of Representatives from Ekeremor LGA, Hon. Fred Agbedi was once the most notable politician supporting Chief Timi Alaibe's earlier efforts to contest for Governorship and was actually punished for this support at a time when he wasstate PDP Chairman during the Governorship of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.

Although he was suspended as Chairman then, he was later reinstated in time to lead two successful campaigns for the party to install Timipre Sylva as Governor and Goodluck Jonathan as Vice President.

He is also regarded as the architect of both of Dickson's landslide victories against brutal APC challenges and is widely known and respected as a true mobiliser of grassroots support throughout the state.

Agbedi served as Dickson's political adviser in his first term and having decided to return to the House of Representatives where he had served in the aborted Third Republic government he has become a stalwart of the PDP's rebuilding of itself as a viable opposition party.

Although he is from the same Senatorial District as the Governor he has championed the idea that a new formula of selection must take hold.

This he says will take into consideration whether the LGA has produced a Governor before as well as the role in the party's affairs played by the individual who is seeking office in its transformation from a ruling party to an opposition party.

By these criteria Agbedi is not only eminently qualified but can also lay claim to a unique position as an unalloyed party loyalist and a strong advocate of the restoration agenda of the Dickson years while maintaining strong links with the grassroots membership of the partyboth nationally and within the state.

In fact, Agbedi is one aspirant who under normal circumstances might have been expected to be the party's favourite son rather than an embattled contestant.


            While Fred Agbedi's aspiration sets a high standard of political affiliation and involvement as the measure of eligibility for contesting the governorship there is widespread public sentiment in favour of the emergence of a candidate whose professional experience and administrative record is impeccable.

Ambassador Godknows Boladei Igali and retired Vice Admiral Gboribiogha John Jonah, present Deputy Governor, two of the most prominent of those who have picked the PDP form, are certainly qualified to meet these expectations.

Ambassador Igali is particularly well remembered for his short but effective service as Secretary to the State Government under Goodluck Jonathan.

Apart from that his global reach is unmatched among most of those seeking office because of his long service as a professional diplomat, He has also kept close ties with community leaders throughout the Niger Delta and has been a strong supporter and advocate of regional autonomy within the Federal system for decades, As a result his ability to provide strategic leadership for a transformative government is undoubted but his regional origins being based in Southern Ijaw LGA, which was the home of Alamieyeseigha, might arguably be used to question his eligibility.

However, the fact that Alamieyeseigha was hounded out of office before serving out his full tenure is sufficient reason to consider any qualified aspirant from that LGA to be eligible to contest and Igali's high profile record of performance makes him a very desirable champion of the PDP's effort to remain relevant in the state.


            The Deputy Governor's emergence is more surprising than most because while he has been a major asset in maintaining stability in Dickson's administration the Governor gave no indication that he would support his Deputy's aspiration at any time. He had a sterling professional record as a member of the Nigerian Navy and while he was not associated with politics prior to his surprise emergence as Dickson's running mate his performance as a loyal Deputy has earned him effective popularity from the general public.

He hails from Nembe one of the LGA's that has not produced a Governor and the major argument being offered in favour of his selection is the need for continuity and consolidation of the projects and policies of the restoration agenda ofthe Dickson Administration.

In spite of this the Deputy Governor's entry into the race has been presented as an independent decision taken by him but when he appeared at the PDP Headquarters to pick the form he was accompanied by an interesting crowd of supporters that included some of the most prominent stakeholders of the state's political elite.

The Senior Political Adviser to the Governor Hon. Fineman Wilson was there, as was Chairman of the Bayelsa Elders Forum, Chief Francis Doukpolagha. Chief T.K.O Okorotie a long-time political activist and highly respected party elder was present as was Chief Martin Agbede a prominent community leader and former adviser to the cabinet in previous Administrations,and Hon. Mrs. Marie Ebikake an important woman leader from the Brass LGA.

The presence of this array of political heavyweights seemed to indicate that the Deputy Governor's entry into the race was based on very deep and profound political calculations supported by some key stakeholders in the state who have probably decided that in the end continuity will be the engine of victory for the party.

Anthony George-Ikoli SAN (left) was upbeat as he arrived at PDP National HQ in Abuja while freshman Senator Douye Diri’s presence (right) is most noticeable among posters that have flooded Yenagoa since the campaigns began.

 

            While the aforementioned aspirants might be regarded as the "A team" of the contest so far based on their stature and antecedents they are by no means assured of an easy race as the additional contestants who have emerged have proven to be determined and accomplished individuals in their own right.

One of the most exciting outings of the aspirants was provided by the display put on by supporters that accompanied Keniebi Okoko, the son of Prof.  Kimse Okoko the former President of the Ijaw National Congress. Okoko is a businessman whose appeal is to the younger generation of ambitious entrepreneurs in the state and after his display at the party headquarters the rumours started flying that he was spending substantial sums of foreign exchange for his campaign.

In the same vein a young one-time militant activist Joshua McIver also announced his intention to seek the office of Governor and showed up with several young and highly vocal supporters to stake his claim.

However, the more substantive and credible appearances that have followed came from three officials who have been defined on social media as being the chosen flag-bearers of the Dickson Administration.

These are Senator Douye Diri, Secretary to the State Government, Kemela Okara, and the Chief of Staff at Government House Hon. Talford Ongolo.


            Of these three freshman Senator Douye Diri is the most definitively experienced local politician at least as far as the current politics of the state is concerned.  

Although he had risen to the top of the pile as leader of PDP affairs in Kolokuma/ Opokuma LGA, many observers query why he would give up his only recently won Senate seat to contest a primary that is sure to be acrimonious given the fact that he, like Agbedi,was also one of Timi Alaibe's most visible allies in earlier contests.

However, the issue that we alluded to before of the Governor's reluctance to endorse or express personal preference for any individual aspirant is central to thedecision made by loyalists of his to stand on the ticket of his party.

Diri has become one of the most vocal advocates and promoters of the achievements of Governor Dickson and his emergence as a gubernatorial candidate is widely attributed to his determination to ensure that the legacy of the Restoration Agenda is reflected in the succeeding regime. Kemela Okara the Secretary to the State Government might also attribute his objectives to the same desire.

However, he has run before on the ticket of another party and even ran against Dickson in the past. It is more than likely that his real objective is attributable to a deep desire to hold office and serve the people of his state rather than any wish to preserve the legacy of the current administration.

His service during this Administration has shown him to be an extremely competent administrator and a prudent and experienced manager of resources.

Talford Ongolo the Chief of Staff has faced some of the most vehement and uncharitable commentaries on social media ever since his own name was mooted but in spite of this he has paid for the form indicating that he probably believes that he has a substantial measure of support from some elements within the state.

Ongolo's challenges include the fact that in the past when he was speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly before the founding of Bayelsa State in 1996 he faced impeachment proceedings.

With this and other issues being raised in the polity to question the emergence of the three so-called chosen representatives of the Restoration Caucus the Governor's subsequent announcement that their emergence should not preclude the efforts of independent candidates who wish to pick his party's ticket has thrown the field open to as many independent aspirants as may wish to contest.

The response has been to say the least, dynamic.


            Among the more independent, and some would describe them as adventurous. aspirants there is a sense of sacrifice andcommitment that is accurately captured in a statement made to me by George Ikoli SAN, the grandson of Ernest Ikoli the nationalist hero from Brass.

The Lagos-based lawyer served in Timipre Sylva's government as Attorney General of the state and is regarded as an outsider by many of the power brokerson the local scene.

However his service was one of the more positive aspects of the Sylva Administration's record, He upgraded the Ministry of Justice by providing it with improved office accommodation and a standard legal library and worked hard and successfully to establish a law schoolin Yenagoa, Since then he has continued to strive to be  politically relevant in his ancestral state and his expression of interest in the Governorship while surprising to many is typical of his continued show of concern for the affairs of the state, When asked why he was seeking to participate in what could be an exercise in futility for him he said "Only the dead stop trying".


            The appearance in the race of two of the state's most accomplished technocrats Architect Reuben Okoya from Yenagoa LGA and Dr. Franklyn Erepamo Osaisai from the Southern Ijaw LGA is among the most unlikely but also, under the circumstances most welcome developments.

Both are highly accomplished professionals who have served in sensitive roles at both the state and federal levels.

While their political attachment to the state apparatus might be questioned their competence and qualification for managing development is notin doubt and their willingness to offer themselves for service speaks volumes about their commitment to serving the people.

However knowledgeable observers give both of them no more than an outside chance of victory and that only if their cause is supported openly by some influential backers such as President Goodluck Jonathan. From our reading of the real situation on the ground this seems to be an unlikely prospect. Instead these fine gentlemen candidates appear to be knocking their heads against a tough wall of local political intrigue that the Governor has virtually unleashed by his silence at first and now by his utterances on the process.

Some fringe contestants such as former state assembly Speaker Rt. Hon Friday Konbowei Benson, and a one tine Information Commissioner Hon. Benson Agadaga have also thrown their hats into the ring. The intent of Konbowei Benson who lost his effort to move to the National Assembly to a freshman APC candidate in Southern Ijaw is difficult to fathom, while some observers say aspirants like himself and Agadaga may be jostling for recognition or even for the number two slot on the eventual ticket. In the later stages of the process aspirants continued to appear, and the form was collected by some interesting contestants at the last possible moment.

These include the technocrat and public relations expert David Alagoa and the three-term Senator from Yenagoa Hon. Emmanuel Paulker,


            The contestation in the Bayelsa PDP has enriched the party's coffers exponentially and as a consequence the importance of its victory in the general election is of paramount interest to the national leadership. The APC hierarchy in the state is fully aware of this and the calculations of aspirants from that side include the eventual implosion of the PDP's stability as a consequence of the proliferation of aspirants as being imperative to give them an advantage.

A major battle has been provoked between junior Minister Heineken Lokpobiri who hails from Ekeremor LGA and former Governor Chief Timipre Sylva who hails from Brass LGA for the ticket of the APC and both sides are hopeful that the PDP will self-destruct after the September primary election.

Even now when Chief Sylva has been proposed as a Minister knowledgeable observers say he will not support Senator Lokpobiri’s ambition to be Governor.

It is instructive to note that the APC plan for contesting the governorship of the state is almost entirely dependent on the collapse of the internal structure of the PDP.

This is what drives the APC"s major strategy even though the harvest of qualified aspirants generated by the process in the PDP has shown that Bayelsa has a plethora of citizens who are eminently qualified to be Governor and almost all of those are allied to the PDP.  This circumstance has exposed the APC structure in the state as being deficient in organisational credibility and adherent to personal privilege rather than collective viability.

The contest for the next Governor of Bayelsa State is therefore shaping up to be one that the PDP has all the opportunity to win and only itself to blame if it loses.

First published in The Sun newspaper on Thursday 1st August 2019

 

OBASEKI SETS DISCIPLINED TONE FOR THE POLITICAL FUTURE OF EDO STATE
By Lindsay Barrett

The three stalwarts of APC ascendancy in Edo State politics from left, Oshiomhole, Obaseki and Odigie-Oyegun.


In recent weeks there have been numerous reports about some issues of contention arising in  the All Progressives Congress (APC) revealing that profound differences in the perception of the ideals of conduct in office have arisen between the party's Chairman and some influential members. Among the most prominent of Chairman Oshiomhole's adversaries mentioned in these reports have been his predecessor Chief John Odigie-Oyegun. and the current Governor of Edo State His Excellency Godwin Obaseki. This circumstance is of particular interest since all three of these gentlemen have one peculiar attribute  in common. which is that each one of them has held the position of Governor of Edo State at one time or another and under vastly dissimilar political situations.

Odigie-Oyegun's tenure as governor was short and dramatic as it was aborted by circumstances generated by the infamous June 12th annulment in 1993. However in his short and largely introductory tenure many observers adjudged that he  tried to  install a transformative regime in which regulatory discipline was the watchword. It has been argued that the leadership of the state has often been entrusted to privileged overlords rather than to disciplined and cautious leaders. Although Odigie-Oyegun was national chairman of the APC when the one-time labour leader Oshiomhole triumphed on that ticket for a second term he seemed to be sidelined by his party's victorious champion throughout his tenure. This presumption appeared to be confirmed later when in the battle for control of the APC in the run up to the 2019 elections, Oshiomhole allied himself to forces that conspired to overthrow the Odigie-Oyegun led executive and emerged as the new Chairman.


The Oshiomhole years are now widely regarded as having been illustrative of the overlord's style of governance. The emergence of Godwin Obaseki as his successor came with both tacit and direct support from Oshiomhole. Obaseki had not been a highly visible member of the political machinery in the state before his emergence as a contender for the Governorship and so his aspiration was widely touted as having been crafted by the Governor and an inner circle of friends and supporters. However the special qualities of experience and achievement that Obaseki , a superb manager of finance and a successful technocrat, could lay claim to, convinced a broad cross section of the electorate that he would provide satisfactory and competent service. This combination of circumstances led him to a comfortable victory.  

Edo State the homeland of the historic Benin Empire is uniquely placed in Nigeria's South-South geo-political zone as a plausible investment destination. Apart from its substantive potential as a tourist destination, it  is also richly endowed with fertile agricultural territory producing both industrial raw material such as timber, rubber and palm produce as well as abundant domestic foodstuff . In addition to these attributes Edo State's populace is made up of people who are reputed to have exhibited an early penchant for Western education in pre-colonial times and whose ethnic characteristics are said to include an adventurous nature. As a consequence governance in the state must contend with an outspoken and critical public and an electorate that can place improbable obstacles in the way of the leadership especially when it is time to select new leaders, and electoral contestation in Edo can be very volatile and even hostile.


The campaigns that have accompanied the contests in the current democratic dispensation in Edo State exhibited these proclivities to an extraordinary extent, The commencement of the decay of the PDP's ironclad hold on  national power was effectively signalled when Oshiomhole challenged the result of the gubernatorial poll in his first outing on the ticket of the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in 2007 and was successful in 2008. This success appears to have influenced his approach to operational decision-making and governance throughout his two term tenure to the extent that many observers described his style as being "school-masterish". In other words he was often accused of being dictatorial and authoritarian but it was generally alleged that when compared to his PDP predecessor his performance was superior and so his style was tolerated.


However the change of the baton from Oshiomhole to Obaseki has served to unveil substantial deficiencies in the former's record of performance and it is being widely canvassed by the vocal and volatile Edo State electorate that in spite of a much more humble and accommodating style of administration Obaseki has surpassed his supposed mentor's record exponentially. This perception might even be playing a major role in provoking the disenchantment that has been widely reported as characterising the latest state of relationships between them. An  important factor in this entire imbroglio is the fact that popular opinion in Edo State has  gradually but steadily adopted a posture of public approbation in support of Obaseki's stance of delivering service to the people first before satisfying the desires and appetites of his political cronies. It is now accepted as an adage throughout Edo State that the governor's main objective is to work for the people first even though some political figures accuse him of ignoring obligations that he owes to those who helped him come to office.


It is becoming increasingly clear that Obaseki has won the support of the  average citizen over and above that of  some elements of the professional political class. The reasons for this are not hard to discern. When I asked a group of young persons in Edo State  to  explain why they were supporting him in his  conflict with his predecessor they put forward the list of achievements below as evidence of his good faith.
1- The Obaseki administration has done a significant job of road development and maintenance focusing on link roads across Benin city, connecting many homes and creating access to many constituents that have been living with poor road infrastructure. Most road projects are about 70 percent complete.


2- He has been able to address one of the major challenges the previous government faced of delays in paying pensioners allowances by clearing backlogs and reorganising  the  payment system.


3- The non-payment of salaries of  local government workers was also a major problem for the previous government, but these are now being paid regularly.


4-  Obaseki's government has also initiated a programme to encourage entrepreneurship by building a centre for artisans that will have 24hr power supply.


5- A unique approach has also been introduced to address the issue of power shortage in the state. The Government has acquired the license to establish its own power distribution company that would purchase power for distribution to all government establishments,  thus freeing up a substantial percentage of the power supplied by the private distribution company to the public.
6- The state Secretariat, a project commenced by late Governor Ogbemudia and abandoned for over forty years is almost complete. All state government MDAs will be located in a central location for ease of governance and cost reduction.


7- Obaseki's approach to governance is symbolic of his belief in building bridges between the people and government. This has been most evident in his appointment of Special Assistants (S.A's)


He has been able to transform a process that was an avenue for settling political interests rather than serve its purpose of providing a channel for direct communication with constituents. Rather than appoint people selected by key party leaders, he left the selection to the wards, allowing them to pick those they considered most competent and who would be able to articulate the needs of their constituencies.


8- One of Obaseki's most significant achievements is his success in eliminating touting in the state's revenue collection system. The state's revenue collection in the transport sector was withdrawn from individuals who had previously been handpicked by the previous government with an agreement that saw these individuals receive huge percentages from these revenues. The arrangement also established these individuals as major political cronies of the previous government. The funds made them wealthy and gave them impunity from the law.  The state lost huge revenues through this process. The situation is now reversed.


9- Another challenge that the government has been able to address is the state's precarious land acquisition system that encouraged encroachments and deceptive land sales. Obaseki set up a committee that now addresses all land disputes and takes steps to ameliorate the complaints. Obaseki's initiatives have not only changed a system of political settlements that sidelined the vast majority of the people but he has made the government accessible to many. While his critics can argue that he has left out a number of party faithful in the process, very few would deny the virtues behind the rationale of the initiatives.


The achievements outlined in the above list indicate the priority placed on a sense of discipline and service delivery by Governor Obaseki to an extent that suggests that in the  future he might well be able to appeal to a multi-partisan audience to support his policies and programmes in the overall interest of the development and progress of the state.

First published in The Sun newspaper on Friday 21 June 2019

 

 UNFINISHED NDU PROJECT A CHALLENGE TO BRAMBAIFA
By Lindsay Barrett Reporting from Amassoma

Prof, Nelson Brambaifa

Site of the unfinished hostels at NDU campus, Amassoma.

The recent appointment of Professor of Pharmacology Dr. Nelson Brambaifa as Acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission came at a time of serious controversy and speculation over the continued efficacy of the Commission's ability to fulfil its mandate.

Reports of deficiencies in the  Commission's performance in meeting targets for the completion of major projects in the past were widespread prior to the appointment of the new Board and many stakeholders in the Niger Delta have grown doubtful over the NDDC's continued relevance as an intervention agency. Prof. Brambaifa is therefore saddled with the difficult and thankless task of ensuring that many of the NDDC's commitments that preceded his tenure are not further abandoned and that some of the key projects embarked upon by his predecessors are eventually brought to a successful conclusion. One of such major unfinished projects that should be  of particular importance for the new head of the Commission is situated on the campus of the Niger Delta University (NDU) at Amassoma.  Prof. Brambaifa headed the Committee that established the Medical College at NDU when the University was founded. He is also regarded as one of the Niger Delta's foremost academics and most experienced educational administrators.


            A typical example of the kind of problems that have confronted him since he assumed office at the NDDC is one that must be of particular resonance for him. The construction of a cluster of residential hostels for NDU was embarked upon by the NDDC nearly a decade and a half ago but in spite of laudable efforts by the contractors to meet the implementation targets stipulated in the contract the projects remain unfinished. An investigation of the circumstances surrounding this particular project reveals a number of anomalies that have bedevilled attempts to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of success for many NDDC objectives. Prof Brambaifa must confront these difficulties with urgency as his appointment is being regarded by the majority of the people of the Niger Delta as being meant to correct past mistakes. He has made it plain since his assumption of office that his priority is to ensure that the endeavours of his predecessors will not be abandoned. His close associates over the decades that he has served in the academic community say that they are not surprised that he would take such a stand since he is noted for his good natured style of leadership as well as for the thoroughness with which he manages project planning. His achievement in establishing the medical college at NDU was a signal success and thus raises the hope that he will be able to overcome any obstacles in the way of completing the hostels.


            According to knowledgeable observers of the NDDC's record of performance a major factor delaying completion of the hostel projects is deficient early planning on the part of the client. Prof. Brambaifa will therefore be tasked with ensuring that the execution of this seminal project. is restored and completed as a symbol  of the NDDC's commitment to  serving the best  interests of the people of the Niger Delta regardless of political affiliation. Some critics of the NDDC's policy thrust have suggested that where projects are meant to support state institutions the Federal intervention agency might be reluctant to make serious commitments. In recent years the issue of political differences arising between state governments led by the PDP and the APC rulers at the federal level has been the central obstacle militating against the development of partnerships between the intervention agency and state government projects.

Prof. Brambaifa will be hard pressed to overcome this perception of political opportunism being a major factor in decision-making for the commission and his approach to the issue of the NDU hostels will provide him with the ideal opportunity to do so. The contractors have shown their ability and willingness to carry out the projects to the highest standard if given the necessary assistance.  


            An added  incentive for the completion of this project has arisen as the Bayelsa State Government under Seriake Dickson has established an additional university in the state where infrastructural objectives that set a high exemplary standard  have been met.  The establishment of the University of Africa in the Governor's hometown of Toru Orua gave rise to controversial arguments among some educational and political analysts in the state who argue that the Governor should have concentrated on developing the existing campus at Amassoma rather than establishing a new one. However supporters of the Governor's initiative have pointed out that such projects as the hostels at NDU were delayed not by the Bayelsa State Government's lack of support but rather because commitments entered into by the Federal Government to support the NDU have been undermined. They believe that collaboration between the institutions in the state will grow from strength to strength in the future once the infrastructural challenges are overcome.

Many Bayelsans now believe  that the strategic focus of educational expansion encouraged by Governor Dickson will be a major element of the state's future growth and that services provided for the improvement of the existing institutions will be paramount among objectives for the overall enhancement of development for the entire Niger Delta. Prof. Brambaifa's-special attributes as an educator and administrator as well as his reputation as an apolitical advocate of the best interests of the people will serve him in good stead as he faces the challenges that confront him over these issues.

First Published in The Sun Wednesday 15th May 2019

 

JONATHAN SUPPORTS LIBRARY RENEWAL IN BAYELSA

Dr. Goodluck Jonathan (second left) in one of the reading rooms at the Gabriel Okara Library with Board Chairman Seiyifa Koroye (left) and some Board members and Library staff.

Nigeria's former President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has pledged his support for the renewal of library services in Bayelsa State as part of the expansion and improvement of the educational sector in the state which has been initiated by Governor Seriake Dickson. Dr. Jonathan made this known when he paid a private visit to the State Library Board Headquarters at the Gabriel Okara Library in Yenagoa, He was received by the Chairman of the Board Chief Seiyifa Koroye and some members of the Board and conducted on a comprehensive tour of the building.
          Dr Jonathan who promoted a major campaign for the restoration of reading culture known as the Bring Back the Book Campaign when he was President said he decided to visit the state library because he wished to collaborate with the board in any way he could to help provide sources of historical information for the people of the state, "This is an important and necessary component of general education and even though I am establishing a presidential library I will also collaborate with the public library system to ensure that Bayelsans have access to proper documentation about our role in the history of the nation," Dr. Jonathan said.
          The Chairman of the Board thanked the former President for his kind gesture and promised to keep him informed of the progress of the Board's efforts to renew library services throughout the state, He said that the members of the Board were willing and ready to work closely with the former President's team to develop world class library services in the State in fulfilment of the mandate handed to them by Governor Dickson.

 

WORLD BANK COMMITS US $325 MILLION TO INCREASED SUPPORT FOR SIERRA LEONE

"President Bio’s agenda will guarantee his legacy and place in history” Kristalina Georgieva, World Bank Group Interim President

“We are impressed with your performance just 10 months in Office. So we are ready to support your government” Hafez Ghanem, World Bank vice President for Africa Region

H.E. Julius Maada Bio, President of Sierra Leone

Washington, DC, Tuesday, March 12, 2019 –
            The World Bank Group has committed US $325 million to increase financial support in Sierra Leone during a meeting held in Washington on Monday 11th March 2019 between His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio and the World Bank Group Interim President Kristalina Georgieva. President Georgieva commended President Bio for his bold economic reforms and added that she recognized the President’s aspiration for the dignity of a nation and standing in the world. She said “President Bio’s agenda will guarantee his legacy and place in history.”

            Also commending President Bio, the World Bank Vice President for Africa Region, Hafez Ghanem said “we are impressed with your performance just 10 months in Office. So we are ready to support your government.” The meeting discussed a range of issues from increased World Bank Support to Sierra Leone under IDA-18 (US$ 325m); progress on the new Extended Credit Facility (US$ 172m) under the program with the International Monetary Fund; fiscal consolidation efforts by the Government of Sierra Leone; plans on debt restructuring and arrears clearance (US$ 1.4 billion) and prospects for financing the gap of US$1.5 billion under the country’s new Medium-term National Development Plan (2019–2023).


            President Bio expressed appreciation to the World Bank for the support to his new government and Sierra Leone. He stated that the new development paradigm in Sierra Leone has ensured strategic shifts toward (i) Human Capital Development for national development (ii) Science, Technology and Innovation and (iii) greater Private Sector Participation to address the country’s vast infrastructure needs and support its growth prospects. He also spoke about his determination to fight corruption. The meeting included discussions on Sierra Leone’s new Medium-term National Development Plan (2019–2023) and the strategic alignment with the World Bank’s Country Partnership Framework (CPF).


            The meeting concluded with agreements on the following: a World Bank’s support to the energy sector through additional financing for electricity generation, distribution and transmission; a proposed roundtable discussion on Energy in April 2019 during the World Bank/IMF Spring meetings; commitment to rural electrification and solar energy; support to women and girls through women’s empowerment, addressing high maternal mortality, addressing girls education and incentives to keep girls in school and support to reproductive health services; support to the private sector growth; increased access to internet; increased budgetary assistance and the additional support for social safety nets for vulnerable groups, women, and youth, including people living with disabilities.


            The increased financial support to President Bio coinciding with his first year anniversary in office demonstrates the international economic credibility President has restored in Sierra Leone. He inherited a country which the International Monetary Fund had suspended its Extended Credit Facility in 2017 because of economic mismanagement by the previous government. President Bio has also shown sterling leadership by investing in Human Capital Development and earned the confidence of donors and international community. It can be recalled that the World Bank has also recognized Sierra Leone as an “Early Adopter” of the Global Human Capital Development Project because of government’s commitment to human capital development.


            Other senior management officials from the World Bank in attendance at the meeting with President Julius Maada Bio were Hafez Ghanem (Vice President for Africa Region), Annette Dixon (Vice President for Human Development), Henry Kerali (Country Director for Sierra Leone) and Gayle Martin (Country Manager for Sierra Leone). High ranking officials from the Government of Sierra Leone included Professor David Francis (Chief Minister), Ambassador Sidique Abou-Bakarr Wai (Sierra Leone Ambassador to the US), Patricia Laverley (Deputy Minister of Finance), Dr Moinina David Sengeh (Director, Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation) and Sahr Jusu (Financial Secretary).  The Technical teams on both sides will work together to develop a more robust pipeline of transformative projects to deliver in Sierra Leone.

PRESS RELEASE FROM GOVERNMENT OF SIERRA LEONE STATE HOUSE OFFICE OF THE PRESS SECRETARY AND PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESMAN

 

POSTPONEMENT OF THE 2019 ELECTIONS
INEC has compromised its right as an independent and trustworthy arbiter, writes Lindsay Barrett

THISDAY: 18th February, 2019

Four years of preparation, billions of naira expended, and loud assurances of preparedness notwithstanding Nigeria’s prime organiser of the proposed 2019 polls has displayed an incredible level of strategic impunity as far as its responsibility to the interests of the public is concerned. Its decision to announce postponement of the elections barely four hours before they were due to commence indicates that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) considers its basic commitment to ensure that voters are enabled to exercise their rights to be an expendable objective.

If this was not so the organisation would have considered the consequences of its action on the confidence of the electorate totally imperative and absolutely important. In that case once the final hours had approached before the date that had been set for months INEC should have recognised public expectation and assumptions as being the core principles that needed to be preserved and respected. In such a circumstance postponement would have been recognised as being the most unnecessary and unlikely decision that could be taken after the President of the country had delivered a major address pledging that the poll would be free, fair, and proper. For the organisation to allow the public to reach the peak of its anticipation before suddenly halting the process is nothing short of official recklessness of an unprecedented level.


Among the issues that the action has provoked the prognosis that public anxiety will be exacerbated and the question of whether the INEC officials who took the decision actually planned to provoke this anxiety is an important consideration. I am not usually a promoter or supporter of the allegations and sensational assertions that often appear on social media but a list that appeared on my WhatsApp platform intrigued me greatly. It simply listed some of the consequences of the preparation for elections. Here it is;.


“List of losses: School boarders were sent home and midterm holidays were declared in almost all schools.
Airlines shut down business. No aircraft on ground for next day service.
Weddings and social events were postponed; some to 23rd Feb, which is the new date fixed for Presidential election. Borders closed. Huge revenue lost to import and export. INEC staff and paramilitary personnel posted to different parts of country for elections.


Large numbers of the electorate travelled to their respective homes to fulfil electoral obligations. Some can’t even be reached by phone.


Some surgeries and medical procedures might have been shifted because of today’s planned election. The list goes on and on…”


The simplicity and lack of posturing and judgmental bias that the contributor of this list exhibits in his or her anthologising of problems caused by the postponement represents the common sense position that any concerned stakeholder would be expected to adopt in considering the consequences of INEC’s decision. The major issue that INEC should have been considering in the last hours before scheduled voting is what effect its operations would have on the public’s perception of the credibility and representative acceptability of the elections result.

The excuse that elections have been postponed before is disingenuous to say the least. When weeks or even days before a poll, reasons are given for its postponement the public have time to absorb such reasons. In addition any such decision should be made before the electorate has been primed to the point at which their normal mode of everyday conduct has been irredeemably inconvenienced. Obviously in this latest circumstance this was not the case. It is unforgiveable for officials who have not complained of logistic deficiencies before to offer such excuses only four hours before voting is scheduled to start. This is especially disingenuous after they have observed the electorate doing all that it takes to meet the conditions that they claim to have put in place for the proper conduct of the polls. In such a circumstance it will be truly difficult for any objective analyst to blame those who read political mischief into the motivation behind the INEC decision.


Even if we give INEC the benefit of the doubt, since the Chief Electoral Commissioner Prof. Mahmood Yakubu explained the absolute necessity for the decision in a press conference that came several hours after the early morning announcement, the nature and timing of the announcement cannot be forgiven. Democracy is at all times dependent to a large extent on perception and once President Buhari had given his Presidential address and travelled to his hometown to vote the signal went out to the whole nation that voting would take place as and when scheduled. INEC’s own perception of its responsibility to the people of Nigeria should have been driven by this simple reality.

By failing to take this obligation to manage public perception into consideration at such a crucial point in the run-up to the polls INEC has compromised its right to be regarded as an independent and trustworthy arbiter. The loss of credibility emanating from this most dangerous and ill-timed event will reverberate through all subsequent voting in the 2019 edition of Nigeria’s electoral process.

**********************

 

NOTE: This report by a young Nigerian reporter is a very fine example of contemporary comment and reportage that gives us the hope that the new generation of Nigerian media practitioners includes fine and dedicated professionals whose work will help to build meaningful and comprehensive democratic analysis now and in the future. One might disagree, as I do, with his opinion that the so-called incompetence is not deliberate but the young author has marshalled his arguments very convincingly.

Lindsay Barrett

Pulse Opinion: INEC's incompetence should never again deny Nigerians their rights to vote
Samson Toromade Today at 7:43 AM Tell your friends

 

Some Nigerians won't be able to participate in the 2019 general elections because INEC has systematically disenfranchised them with an inefficient system
When Samuel defied the early morning rainfall to hurry to the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Surulere, Lagos, before 9am on Friday, February 8, he met dozens of other Nigerians like him dripping wet from the rain or clutching their umbrellas.


Friday had initially been scheduled to be the final day for the collection of permanent voters' cards (PVC) ahead of the 2019 elections scheduled for February 16 and March 2.
At 8:45am, 15 minutes before the official commencement of the distribution of cards, there were already at least 100 Nigerians at the INEC office eager to collect the cards that would empower them to vote their candidates starting with the Presidential and National Assembly elections on Saturday, February 16.
When the distribution of the cards commenced on Friday, the rain didn't stop those at the centre from queuing to get their cards before the exercise would be suspended until after the elections.

Nigerians excitedly queued at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office in Surulere, Lagos State to collect their permanent voters' cards (PVC) despite the rain that threatened to discourage them early on Friday, February 8


When it was Samuel's turn to get his card, he got five magic words, "Your card is not ready."
Samuel had had to take half the day off from work to make it to the centre on Friday morning, and it was his third time attempting to get the card he first registered for on August 4, 2018.


Deflated about his disenfranchisement, Samuel made his way to his office across the city, only to hear an announcement by INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, that the collection deadline had been extended until Monday, February 11.
With the extension also covering Saturday and Sunday, Yakubu charged all INEC state offices to review the procedure for the collection of PVCs and dedicate all the staff of the Local Government offices to the collection process.
With renewed hope, Samuel went back to the centre on Sunday, February 10, only to be told those five magic words, again, followed by, "Come back after the elections."


Still willing to take one last shot, Samuel returned to INEC's Surulere office on Monday only to be told those five magic words he had come to detest, "Your card is not ready."


With Monday being the final day of collection, Samuel will not be able to vote in the 2019 general elections due to no fault of his own. And he's not alone.

A signboard of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in front of its office in Surulere, Lagos State. Samuel came here five different times only to be finally told on Monday his card won't be available until after the 2019 general elections


21-year-old Abdul-Lateef, a student, had registered at the same INEC centre on August 1, 2018, but he was told his PVC was not ready yet and directed to come back after the elections. He expressed dismay at his inability to vote due to what he considered INEC's incompetence that means his card was not printed five months after he registered.
Aishat, 24, also faced the same problem as she left the centre in anger most especially at the time she wasted on the queue before she discovered her card was not ready.


Deborah, a middle-aged trader, also cursed at an INEC officer who informed her that her PVC will not be ready until after the elections are over. She told Pulse she had relocated to the Surulere area last year and requested a transfer from her former polling unit in another area of Lagos. Her card was still not ready on Monday.
This isn't limited to voters in Lagos. Pulse also spoke to Nigerians in Abuja, Ekiti, Delta, Kaduna and Ogun who had similar PVC problems. Many others also took to social media to air their frustrations with INEC.
Prof Yakubu announced in December 2018 that INEC had printed PVCs for all newly-registered voters who registered between April 27, 2017 and August 31, 2018, and for all those who requested replacements and relocation of their cards ahead of the 2019 general elections.


"These will be delivered immediately after the Christmas break. So we are happy to say that all 14.5 million or so newly-registered voters have their cards printed and delivered to the states. So we are good to go on that," he had said.
When he announced the deadline extension on Friday, Yakubu said that the commission was taking urgent steps to address complaints of unavailability of the PVCs of some registered voters and promised to rectify the situation before the end of the Monday deadline.


He reassured Nigerians the commission would take every necessary step to ensure that no registered voter was disenfranchised from participating in the 2019 elections on account of non-collection of PVCs.
However, on evidence of the complaints from Nigerians like Samuel, Abdul-Lateef, Aishat, and Deborah, the INEC chairman has failed in his promise to make sure all willing Nigerians are able to exercise their voting rights as enshrined in the nation's laws.

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has some explanations to make and some major improvements to implement when the dust settles on the 2019 general elections


The waiting period between Samuel's registration for his PVC and the final moment he was told it wasn't available for him to vote was five months. If you take the gravity of the situation into account, that should be enough time to process, print and deliver cards into the hands of the electorate to exercise their rights.


While there's very little to be done about dozens or potentially thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions of Nigerians who'll be denied their rights to vote in a few days simply because of INEC's failure to deliver their cards in a timely fashion, it should be a catalyst for a fresh look at the process.


The current process which involves wasting productive hours on queues to register for cards and then return at a future date to once again queue up to collect cards is already facing criticism of being a very archaic method in these very modern times.
This PVC collection setback should be enough failure to trigger the need for a review, as urgently as possible, to avoid a recurrence of a situation that's completely unacceptable. You cannot hope to inspire the electorate to go out to vote during elections and then also systematically deny some the liberty to express their voting rights and leave the window open for apathy to set in.

The voter turnout in 2015 dropped by 10 million people (from the turnout in 2011) but there are efforts to get more Nigerians to show up at the polls in 2019


If a complete overhaul is impossible in the immediate future, whatever part of the process that has made this current mess a possibility should be reviewed and improved upon going forward and there's great hope that this can happen as INEC has shown incredible willingness to improve its operations.


It must still be clearly stated that INEC's latest dereliction of duty is inexcusable especially as it has given more fuel to allegations that the commission is colluding with the current government to keep PVCs out of the hands of people likely to vote for the opposition.


While there's no doubt that anyone can find isolated scenarios to 'prove' these unfounded theories if they look hard enough, there's also enough to prove that it's simply a matter of inefficient operations and not a deliberate political sabotage of the electorate.


The most efficient way to avoid these unfortunate rumblings altogether is to implement a system that ensures that everyone who expresses a willingness to vote (and is of the right voting age, of course) can do so without being handicapped by the very agency that's supposed to help them express that right.
With Nigerians like Samuel, Abdul-Lateef, Aishat and others paying for INEC's ineptitude this election cycle, efforts should be made to ensure it never happens again.


Every single vote is as important as the next one and every single voice deserves to be heard.
Editor's note: Pulse reached out to Prof. Yakubu's Chief Press Secretary, Rotimi Oyekanmi, to explain why INEC failed to provide all the PVCs before the deadline, but one email message and two follow-up text messages went unreplied for over 24 hours and a call placed to his phone was neither answered nor returned at the time of publishing the story. Source: Pulse Nigeria
#ELECTIONS-2019 #NIGERIA-ELECTIONS-2019

Samson Toromade

 

SIERRA LEONE PRESS FOCUSES ON COMMISSIONS OF INQUIRY

          The popular press of Sierra Leone, which is noted for its sensational coverage of politics and public affairs, has been invigorated by the commencement of sittings of the Commissions of Inquiry into financial  dealings carried out by the former Government. The three Commissions of Inquiry presided over by highly experienced judges from Ghana, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone commenced sitting on the 4th of February even though challenges to their legitimacy have been raised mainly by lawyers engaged by the All Peoples Congress (APC), the former ruling party. Several of the local newspapers and radio stations have published and broadcast editorial opinions on the subject of these challenges with a clear majority of these being in support of the government's determination to investigate allegations of corrupt enrichment among the former cabinet ministers and other holders of high office in the former Administration.


          A list of witnesses who will be called has been released by the Commission's secretariat in Freetown with former President Ernest Bai Koroma being the most prominent figure named. However thus far those actually summoned to appear have not been publicly announced. Many Sierra Leoneans have been speculating that when witnesses are summoned many of the more prominent figures will decline to appear and this might then lead to legal confrontations in the courts.  Key Sierra Leonean media experts are anxiously awaiting this eventuality in order to comment further on the progress of what they describe as the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) Government's "unprecedented" anti-corruption initiative.

 

NIGERIA 2019: WILL THE PEOPLES VOTES COUNT?
By Lindsay Barrett

Nigerian voters participate in a primary exercise.

            There can hardly be any argument offered in the annals of African public and political affairs against the relevance and desirability of the democratisation of  Nigerian governance. The history of our remarkably diverse homeland is replete with tragic errors and missteps as well as with extraordinary instances of recovery and survival. While the saga of Nigeria's unfortunate fraternal conflict, the war against Biafran secession of the late sixties, is arguably the most frightening of our national mishaps since independence it is the story of the abortive attempts at representative governance and the military interventions that overturned them that continues to reverberate and demean the hopeful narrative of Nigerian progress. This narrative has increasingly become a saga of deep distrust and popular disenchantment especially in reaction to the events emanating from the nation's longest and so far most resilient experiment with democracy. Eventually the nearest thing to true competitive electoral contestation that has been invoked by the democratic experience between 1999 and now is the hostile exchange of sentiment and abuse between the two giant parties the All Progressive Congress  (APC). and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The forthcoming contest will actually serve as an institutionalised commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the new democratic order and thus as a celebration of the existence and survival of the PDP whether it wins or loses.


            It is noteworthy that the process of building a form of government representation based on the peoples' will rather than on institutional privilege has been the basic motivation claimed by most, if not all, of the participants in this experiment. However the record of practical example since the installation of the democratic order in 1999 has served to undermine popular confidence in the credibility of this assertion on the part of the leaders who have emerged as the main beneficiaries of the new order. In fact the key factors of leadership that have been promoted as a consequence of the Nigerian democratisation agenda have so far been based on elitist selection rather than popular acclamation. As a consequence while the emergence of Umaru YarÁdua and Goodluck Jonathan was brokered by a former military leader retired General Obasanjo, the most remarkable event yet to occur as a consequence of the handover of power from the authoritarian military elite was the defeat of Goodluck Jonathan, the incumbent, in 2015 by  retired General Muhammadu Buhari a former military leader who had first come to power by overthrowing a democratic government.. The fact that it was  still considered relevant to look to a former military ruler to provide credible leadership for the nation, after the  first attempt at installing a slate of fully civilian leaders through the ballot in this dispensation was an unfortunate, not to say incredible, phenomenon.


            It has become absolutely and categorically obvious that the rhetoric that accompanied retired General Buhari's restoration was replete with unreal anticipation. The mantra of change in the conduct of governance was largely based on a set of illusory assumptions. The climate of corrupt and privileged regional entitlement which has often been attributed to military paternalism in office has emerged as still being a part of the fundamental nature of the government that was put in place by the new party after an unconscionable delay. In addition it became clear that economic and social principles for the correction of what the APC declared was the PDP's sixteen year record of profligacy had neither been effectively prepared for nor aptly identified. As a consequence the successor government led by an undoubtedly popular (at least in some parts of the country) former military leader was foisted onto the electorate by a combination of electoral chicanery and simple deployment of threats and irregular operational flaws. The introduction of card readers, a substantial proportion of which did not work on polling day for example, turned out to be a profoundly erroneous decision that threw a major shadow of doubt over large sections of the exercise. Also in huge states in the North especially Kano, Jigawa, Sokoto, and Borno verifiable complaints of irregular distribution of Permanent Voters Cards (PVC's) to under-age voters and even some suspected batteries of aliens went largely un-investigated. The truth is that the election of 2015 ushered in a scale of impunity and tolerance of irregularity that has tainted the expectations of large numbers of Nigeria's potential voters.


            In spite of this dire prognosis it is noteworthy that a growing body of Nigerians from all around the country have begun to express themselves impressively on the subject of representation and accountability in their increasingly public conversations about governance. This phenomenon is most noticeable on the innumerable social media platforms that have become virtually commonplace for communication among urban youth. What this prescient development indicates is that in spite of the dire experiences of anti-democratic conduct that has been fostered by the institutionalisation of privileged leadership right from the start of the new order the average citizen has continued to nurse the hope that real democracy and truly representative stewardship of the affairs of the nation will eventually evolve from the system of governance that has been put in place. The opportunity for that eventuality to take root is what is offered by each bout of electioneering and this time around it appears that  this desire for genuine public responsibility and accountability to the demands of  the voting public has become more relevant to the contest than ever before.


            Whether this impression  emanates from disenchantment with the performance of the Buhari-led Administration or is actually inspired by a critical attachment to a desire for genuine service by those who will be elected into office the prime imperative is that this time around the reaction of the people to the results that are eventually announced might be based on increased consciousness of the methodology and data deployed during the exercise than has been the case in the past. It is of paramount importance that those who are monitoring these polls whether as neutral officials or as partisan watchdogs, should remain vigilant and conscious of the need for genuine participatory equanimity in the exercise of their right to choose. Interference in the process might be concealed but the organisers of this contest should be aware that this time around the exercise of the public right to choose might very well herald the end of  authoritarian usurpation of the rights of the people, or the consolidation of the failure to prevent this usurpation from parading as the result of a popular vote. The former outcome will be hailed as a triumph for the people while the latter will be  enshrined in future history as a victory for the enemies of the popular will. Unfortunately for the former triumph to be achieved popular sentiment must overcome a strong sense of disenchantment not with the ruling APC but with the heavily discredited PDP. The oldest party in the arena must embody the spirit of renewal and attract the support of the younger generation to an unprecedented extent if the 2019 polls is to bring about the  genuine change, which the younger APC promised but failed to deliver.


            This is the crux of the crisis of confidence in democratisation that bids fair to make the forthcoming election, especially the Presidential race, the most complex and challenging tournament since 1999. Whereas the spectre of Northern hegemonic circling of the wagons was a profound and undeniable factor in the  2015 contest, this time around the two champions are both scions of the Northern Fulani elite. The contrast between them is based on their professional antecedents as well as on their personality rather than on their regional proclivities. It can hardly be doubted that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar will seek to protect the privileges and special entitlements that have accrued to his ethnic constituency over the decades of Nigeria's existence both in the colonial era and since independence. However he has shown himself to be a bridge builder and an advocate of partnership with other occupants of Nigeria to an extent that has been missing in the sentimental arsenal of the  Buhari-led APC Administration. It is this sentimental contrast that the PDP is hoping to deploy as a national asset in confronting the severe and austere image of the retired General and former military usurper of the democratic mandate in the forthcoming contest. It is  once again a time of trial for our beloved and dynamic nation and the gauntlet has been thrown down for the people to overcome. What remains to be seen is whether once again votes will be counted by the faceless denizens of privileged officialdom or whether  in the true sense of representative emotion the peoples' votes will count.

First published in This Day newspaper on Friday 8th February 2019

 

SIERRA LEONE'S ANTI CORRUPTION INITIATIVE: POPULAR DISENCHANTMENT VERSUS ELITE ANXIETY
By Lindsay Barrett in Freetown

Demonstrators outside of the venue during the inauguration.

          The inauguration of three Commissions of Inquiry into financial transactions undertaken by the former government of the All Peoples Congress (APC) led by Ernest Bai Koroma in Sierra Leone has provoked conflicting reactions in that nation. It was immediately obvious that the incumbent Government of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) led by former Brigadier Gen. Julius Maada Bio has touched a popular nerve in the community when demonstrators representing various aggrieved interest groups gathered outside the venue to advocate support for the initiative. Almost as soon as the ceremonies were concluded the APC issued a release challenging the legitimacy of the Commissions and vowing to resist cooperating with them unless certain legal strictures that they wanted were observed. Judging from comments in the local press and social media the issues at stake for most Sierra Leoneans have been distilled into support for calling their leaders to account for their stewardship of the nation's resources on the one hand and allowing evidence of the looting of government coffers to go unpunished or even unchallenged on the other. This division of viewpoints  has become the main talking point in Sierra Leone itself as well as among the country's vast diaspora ever since the swearing in of the three judges from Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone as chairmen of the three panels.


           The Sierra Leone Bar Association has taken issue with the country's Attorney General Ms. Priscilla Schwartz following her speech at the inauguration in which she appealed to the members of the law profession to desist from litigious challenges to the Commissions' existence. which she characterised as being against the spirit of the times, The Bar Association's contention is that there are challenges in Court that might be considered sub judice and therefore not appropriate subject for comment by anyone least of all the Chief Lawyer of the Administration. However some observers have called this response "disingenuous", saying that there is no evidence that the AG's appeal referred to any of the cases in court and that she simply sought to encourage the law profession to support the process of free and fair investigations to go ahead without unnecessary obstacles being placed in the way of full disclosure,

The high table at the inauguration, President Bio and wife (4th and 3rd from left) are flanked by Attorney Genersl Schwartz and speaker Abass Bundu (1st and 2nd left) and on the right Chief Justice Babatunde Edwards and the Judges from Nigeria Sierra Leone and Ghana who will Chair the Commissions of Inquiry.

          This assumption is based on the basic principles that motivated the government's decision to establish the Commissions. These were articulated in an earlier statement issued by the Rt, Hon Dr. Abass Bundu Speaker of the Sierra Leone Parliament who is regarded as one of Sierra Leone's most erudite and knowledgeable legal luminaries. Dr. Bundu who was once the Executive Secretary of ECOWAS is remembered for among other things overseeing the establishment and deployment of ECOMOG, West Africa's pioneering peace keeping force. His utterances on the conduct of governance in West Africa carry the weight not only of his vast experience but also of his role as one of the most outspoken advocates of the transition from authoritarian governments to democratic administrations in the region. He insisted that the constitutional provisions for parliament to promulgate a law establishing the Commissions of Inquiry would be followed to the letter, The debate and deliberations on the issue were subjected to a tedious process that took well over two months to complete and the eventual vote in favour of government's resolve was victorious in spite of the fact that APC has more seats in parliament than the SLPP. In his statement on the main objective of the initiative he asserted that government's main purpose is  to find out the truth about allegations tabled by a high-powered committee that handled the transition  but more importantly he insisted they were to set the parameters for honest and dedicated service by public officers, He warned that those who are in office now should take note of the fact that they too could one day be called to account as the process is not meant to be either partisan or biased. Bundu has in fact posited that the successful performance of the Commissions will enhance the nation's potential as an investment destination.


          President Bio's keynote speech at the inauguration was short and to the point. After reminding the audience of his own inaugural Presidential address in which he promised to wage war on indiscipline corruption and poverty he declared, "Corruption remains the single most critical deterrent to the development of Sierra Leone. It impedes human capital development which is the most critical driver of development in every country.

He followed this categorical declaration by recounting a catalogue of the malpractices of past officials who stole resources meant for the welfare and development of the people and then declared his stand in the following memorable words,

"And we must also be very clear that when people who occupy public offices steal public monies or engage in other forms of corruption, they do not do so on behalf of their tribe, their region or their political party. Rather, they do so as individuals or a group of individuals and they must be held accountable. Corruption is a threat to our national development and national security. Corruption is a clear and present danger to the life of every Sierra Leonean and a threat to our existence as a nation. We must confront corruption head on. We must be bold and resolute. We must fight and win this war on corruption."


          After he set the tone with this direct declaration of commitment President Bio's supporters in the audience and outside among the demonstrators uttered loud approbation and support reflecting a mood that has permeated the public space ever since the initiative was announced by the Government. The threats uttered by some erstwhile politicians and their supporters to refuse to cooperate with the Commissions of Inquiry have generated much discussion locally and most commentators so far have shown a clear  inclination to regard such threats as the product of  culpable anxiety meant to delay the presentation of verifiable evidence of irregular conduct on the part of some erstwhile elite beneficiaries of privilege from the past administration. President Bio warned that such obfuscation might very well result in dire legal consequences for the individuals rather than for his government.

First published in This Day newspaper of 6th February 2019.

 

NIGERIA'S PRESIDENCY 2019: WHERE I STAND!
  PROF. IYORWUESE HAGHER

The 2019 presidential election is like no other election Nigerians have had in the past. The Nigerian voter has been slapped hard in the face to make the most difficult choice of the presidential candidates of the APC or the PDP. These two parties have dragged the nation down since the return to democracy in 1999 with a leadership that is elite based, resource consuming and critically lacking in nation building attributes necessary to make Nigeria a great nation.
            With only two weeks of campaigns left, it is folly to wish away these two, as the dire choices Nigerians are left with.  There are scores of other registered parties who may have more and better-qualified presidential candidates, to provide the kind of leadership required by Nigeria in the 21st Century. These are flag-bearers too and their party symbols would appear on the ballot. But for pragmatic reasons it is better to see them as mere blank spaces in a multiple test question paper. Only one of these two political parties, the APC and the PDP are the unfortunate options for winning the presidential elections!
            I entered the presidential race on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), a party founded with strong ideological commitment for the downtrodden and social justice in Nigeria. I spent huge amounts of my personal resources and those given by volunteers, family, friends and youth advocates; traversing the country; consulting, campaigning and learning from the citizens for fourteen months. I had hoped that my vision, education, experience and passion to make a difference, were sufficient to give me a ticket in the keenly contested SDP party primaries. This did not happen! I lost! My party, the Social Democratic Party has since then been hounded down by external hegemons and internal demons inhabiting the nervous system of the party. Intra-party clashes; feuds, recriminations and legal barriers have been overwhelming!
            Some of the SDP presidential candidates, defeated like me at the primaries, moved out and became flag-bearers of these other parties and joined the team of smart, highly articulate and brilliant candidates and flag bearers, where there were no other aspirants. Their party primaries were merely boutique consensual affairs. One of the defeated SDP candidates went to court and further polarized the party, winning at the High Court level and losing to the original winner at the Court of Appeal. I did not go to court nor leave the party. Instead I resolved to forge on to make the SDP the real third force and provide a viable alternative for the Nigerian voter, as the Campaign Director General. I had to resign from this position soon after the inauguration, for personal reasons! The SDP has been systematically bludgeoned by teething problems and is not able to match the APC nor PDP campaign reach. It can therefore not position itself as the third force political party capable of defeating the APC nor PDP presidential candidates. The party is also unwilling to be subsumed under the wings of the PDP as a junior partner or a concubine, which must be seen but not heard!
            This is why it has become necessary for me to inform my party men, friends, sponsors and supporters across the country and in the diaspora of where I stand politically. Fellow compatriots, we need to make a stand in the ensuing dilemma of whether to vote the APC or the PDP. Followers of my writings and postings on the social media and my campaign team “The Revolution of hope” could easily mistake me for being a hater of Buhari, especially in my previous admonitions of the president for his lack of empathy and aloofness from the genocidal tragedies taking place in the Middle-Belt of Nigeria and other places.


            Many identify me with the viral post on Facebook, a year ago advising the president not to contest the election but to concentrate on leaving a legacy of peace. Some Buhari supporters, sheepishly snub me, fearing I may have been infected by Buhariphobia. They are wrong. I am clean. On the contrary, I love Buhari and his commitment to serve the nation despite monumental odds. I admire his guts, his resilience and his mystique. In fact in my private and public character I am known to sympathize with the underdog. President Buhari is the underdog in this election where if it was to be a referendum on his four-year tenure he deserves to lose hugely. Security is a major concern still!! Yet, my heart goes out to him as a victim of capricious forces of nature and human greed beyond his control. His sickness and its aftermath and the ridiculing of a sick but highly accomplished national icon affect my deep sense of decency and respect for elders. The mocking of President Buhari as a Sudanese imposter are jokes in very bad taste. This is why I am tempted to side with him when the principalities and powers of Nigeria the Military-Political- Clerical Complex that has ruled Nigeria since 1966 is avowedly against him. But…   


             The ruling party the APC has floundered and squandered goodwill by breaking all campaign promises of 2015. Security is a major concern still. Corruption is on the upsurge and the economy is comatose. The president’s inner circle is a rotten core of insidious corruption. They gloat as they perform the worst form of corruption, political corruption, which is now threatening our democracy. The APC must win at all costs! Having desecrated the institutions of state- the police, the army and other security services, they are now destroying the Judiciary. They did not stop there. They had stomped the political terrain in Ekiti and Oshun States rehearsing, how the 2019 elections could be won without popular mandates.  They, rather than pity an ailing and elderly Muhammadu Buhari, who should have been retired to spend time looking after his health with his family, have captured the president as a vote catching machine with which they intend to bludgeon the electoral process. Watching president Buhari publicly televised, repeatedly falling on the campaign trail, or attempting to debate in an incoherent babble at TV events is a painful thing to me. His puppeteers are unconscionable if not outright diabolical.  It is horrific Elder Abuse. Buhari does not deserve this! He is obviously suffering from an existing ailment or a new infection. His ill-health, ominously held as a sacred state secret is so obvious! His pitiless handlers are cruel and heartless. If INEC is a good referee; they should postpone this elections now and send for the full medical report of the ailing president. An Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU) is not out of place. A new timetable could be announced, and fresh elections could be conducted. Nigerians are sick and tired; of electing presidents who end up in Air Ambulances and Hospital beds in foreign lands instead of providing leadership at home! 

 
            On the other side, the PDP that recklessly abused power during its reign and threw away its mandate in 2015 to the APC, is made up of some of the most vicious and greedy parasites this country has produced.  Some principal characters of this dramatic party have no social conscience. They have no allegiance to God, man, or country. I know them up close because I was also a card-carrying member. Throughout most of the PDP reign in 1999-2015, it appeared that the PDP had made a conscious choice against nation building. Instead they developed crony capitalism and distilled from the dregs of Western neo-liberal economy the cruel designs of an avaricious and pitiless market that swallowed resources meant for nation building and left out investment for critical infrastructure, education, agriculture and health! They sold out critical national assets to themselves and their friends and cronies and created global billionaires. The Nigerian politicians and business friends became unbelievably rich while the citizens grew poorer. And even today the citizens grow poorer as the political class is feeding fat.  The legislative houses are bazaars for unearned wealth while State Governments leak with virulent corruption, impunity and arrogance of unlimited power. 


            The PDP candidate Atiku Abubakar like Buhari is Fulani, but unlike Buhari he served in the Customs instead of the Army and is more civil more likeable and emphatic. As Vice- president he was his own man. During the Zaki Biam massacre, I enjoyed working with him and other brothers to establish peace between the Tiv and the Jukun. He was able to take an unflinching stand for peace and bridge the divide between the warring parties. I can never forget accompanying Atiku in a helicopter with the State Governor Mr. George Akume to Zaki Biam the day after his PDP government mowed down hundreds of civilians in the infamous Zaki-Biam massacre. Atiku condemned his own government and said “two wrongs don’t make a right”. He is a consummate politician who knows the power of intellectual content to governance. He is quick to surround himself with the best brains at short notice and is loyal to his friends whom he promises to enrich when he becomes president.


            But if I consider Atiku Abubakar as being a better candidate than president Buhari in the presidential election, his party campaigns strike fear in the mind of some of us.  We had hoped in vain that the nation needed now to focus on nation building through the elimination of corruption, ethnic and religious bigotry, then rebuild the country through education, infrastructure, health and agriculture. Nigeria needs political, social and economic restructuring one block after the other. I don’t seem to hear these manifested from the PDP campaigns. Even the Atiku restructuring mantra is now only a hoarse inaudible whimper.  All I hear are insults piled upon insults, flung like feaces into the face of an elderly ailing man who should be pitied and retired gracefully like the Zimbabweans did to President Mugabe who was in sounder health status than Buhari. The PDP candidate brags that he will sell the NNPC to individuals even if it costs him his life? Wow!! There is no worse testimony of impunity in a liberal democracy where checks and balances circumscribe presidential power. Where would the legislature be? What of the Judiciary?  Are we expecting more of the same seizure and sale of national assets to friends and cronies as had taken place in the PDP governments of the past? Has the Wazirin Adamawa learnt or remembered anything from the abortive election experiences of the Turakin Adamawa?


            I failed to emerge as my party’s candidate.  My party’s symbol might appear on the presidential election ballot despite the legal acrobatics going on. It will not create a ripple in the results! My party is a political token now. I am an optimist but not a fool. The SDP is a party for tomorrow. We must therefore make a choice from what we have on the ground between the incumbent ailing and elderly President, Muhammadu Buhari or the Former Vice- President Atiku Abubakar. The choice is between the APC bloodshed and a pre-colonial feudal outlook on the one hand or the PDP a party that is weak on policy and altruism but heavy on conspicuous consumption crony capitalism and seems to condone corruption.


            I, Iyorwuese Hagher, an erstwhile SDP presidential aspirant, and firm believer in the greatness of Nigeria, hereby ask my party supporters and the Nigerian voters, to exercise their conscience and civic rights. I encourage you to vote for whosoever you are inclined to by conscience, as president. As for me, I will toss up a coin and see on which face there is sunlight. If you then still ask me where I stand?

I stand with the downtrodden Nigerian people who deserve better choices than these.
Prof. Iyorwuese Hagher
Erstwhile SDP Presidential Aspirant

 

NIGERIAN JUDGE HEADS ONE OF THREE SIERRA LEONE PROBE COMMISSIONS

Justice Biobele Abraham Georgewill

            A judge of Nigeria's Appeal Court Justice Biobele Abraham Georgewill has been appointed by the Sierra Leone Government to head one of three Commissions of Inquiry into financial deals carried out before it came to power. The other two Commissions will be headed by Justice William Anaam Atuguba of Ghana and Justice Bankole Thompson of Sierra Leone. This is in response to a number of allegedly irregular financial activities that  were uncovered by a transitional committee that was put in place to manage the handover from the past administration. The decision to establish the judicial commissions to investigate the allegations was tabled in the Sierra Leone parliament shortly after the new government was inaugurated last year and became law when the legislature ratified the proposal after twenty one days. The Commissions are expected to commence sitting in Freetown after being inaugurated by President Julius Maada Bio on the 29th of January 2019.


            The Commissions will be empowered to investigate and call for evidence over financial transactions that were approved by the past government but which have been characterised as being irregular and inimical to the best interests of the Sierra Leonean people. Supporters of the decision to appoint non-nationals to head two of the commissions describe the decision as "a sound example of interregional co-operation based on a desire for the fair and impartial deliverance of justice." Some legal experts in West Africa have also said that Justice Georgewill "is a judge of impeccable character with wide experience of the operational methods of commissions of inquiry in Nigeria."


            Some members of the opposition party the All Peoples Congress (APC) have accused the Government of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) of establishing the Commissions to settle partisan and tribal scores but the Speaker of the Parliament Rt. Hon Dr. Abass Bundu has denied this allegation. He asserted that political office holders from the past as well as those in the present administration must be aware that they will be held accountable for their stewardship at all times. For this reason he said the judges chosen to head the Commissions  were selected for their impartiality and experience.

Report from  Freetown

 

Statement by the Speaker of the Parliament of Sierra Leone Rt. Hon. Dr. Abass Bundu on the Adoption by Parliament of  Instruments establishing the Commissions of Inquiry

Despite the vigorous challenge mounted by the main Opposition All Peoples’ Congress (APC) in the hung Parliament of Sierra Leone, in which they had 68 seats as against 49 for the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) out of a total of 146 seats, Parliament passed into law the seminal Instruments establishing three Commissions of Inquiry on 22 October 2018. The APC failed to garner the two-thirds majority required to annul the Instruments and prevent them from maturing into law as provided for by sub-section 7 of Section 170 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991, Act No. 6 of 1991.


            The Commissions of Inquiry were set up by the New Direction of President Maada Bio to inquire into alleged unprecedented egregious corruption of the erstwhile government of President Ernest Bai Koroma who had governed Sierra Leone from 2007 to 2018. The three judge-led Commissions are headed by senior Judges drawn from Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone and will sit concurrently starting from January 2019.


            Speaking in Parliament after the adoption of the Instruments, the Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Dr. Abass Bundu, said that the passing of the Instruments setting up the three Commissions of Inquiry signalled a new beginning as well as an essential continuity. First, it points to the serious determination of the New Direction Government of President Julius Maada Bio to stamp out corruption   which had stifled and bedevilled governance in Sierra Leone especially in the recent past. More particularly, it underscores the axiom that there can never be meaningful development in the country if those entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring good governance conduct themselves in ways that are prima facie corrupt and do so with absolute impunity.  


            Second, in consonance with the hallowed mantra of what goes around comes around, the Commissions by their establishment sound a trumpet for those presently exercising the reins of power to be aware of the fact that it could be their turn to take the dock tomorrow after they would have relinquished office to give full account of their stewardship. Such should be seen as an incident of democratic accountability.


            Third, by their establishment the Commissions also herald the restoration of Sierra Leone amongst the enviable club of countries in Africa which are open for genuine foreign business and investment. Unexceptionally, no country in which corruption is rife can be an attractive destination of honest businessmen; on the contrary it will always serve as a magnet and a safe haven for dubious fly-by-night business acolytes who prey on the gullible, shady and dishonest elements of society.


Report Prepared in the Office of Dr. Abass Bundu Rt. Hon. Speaker of the Parliament of Sierra Leone

 

FORMER VP ENDORSES S. LEONE COMMISSIONS OF INQUIRY
Lindsay Barrett in Freetown

Hon Victor Foh one-time Vice President in the Government of former President Ernest Bai Koromah in Sierra Leone has supported the establishment of three Commissions of Inquiry to investigate financial deals entered into by that government. Hon Foh while speaking to a correspondent on the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation radio programme Morning Coffee  said that the allegations by some members of his party who accused the new government of tribal bias in setting up the Commissions of Inquiry were without merit. Instead he was of the opinion that by setting up the Commissions to determine the truth behind some of the past government's financial deals President Maada Bio's new Administration was on the right path to establishing accountability and  credibility in governance.


          Hon. Foh, a veteran member of the All Peoples Congress (APC) the former ruling party, said that his party had been confronted with a major crisis at the time that he became Vice President. He also said that while he was prevented from becoming the party's Presidential ticket bearer during the last elections he would not  abandon it even though he had retired from participation in active politics. According to him the new government's desire to find out the truth behind some of the actions taken by its predecessor would work for the good of the entire nation, and help to nurture the  democratic process in the country. For that reason if for no other Hon. Foh said he supported the establishment of the Commissions of Inquiry. The three Commissions are each headed by judges from Ghana, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone and were established by act of parliament late last year, They will begin sitting later this month in Freetown.

 

FLOOD IN YENAGOA: THE CONSEQUENCES OF HISTORIC NEGLECT
Story & Photos By Lindsay Barrett

Photo left- Negotiating a "monkey bridge" in the heart of Yenagoa in 2012 young Bayelsans illustrate their ability to adapt to the perennial flood. Photo right- The committee of Bayelsan experts led by Engr. Charles Dorgu (in hat) inspects the environment during their tour of the territory,

Yenagoa the capital of Bayelsa State is an old town but a new city. When the state was created in 1996 the area that comprises the present metropolis was a rural backwater with a population of barely a few thousand people who were mostly natives of the small local villages. These are the same communities that now house well over three hundred thousand cosmopolitan inhabitants. To develop such an urban space in the terrain that exists there and especially in such a short span of time is both costly and difficult, constraints which should have occurred to the Federal authorities when they decided to create the state.

When the development of new states is being considered the fact that the Federal authorities must bear some responsibility for ensuring their economic and infrastructural viability is often overlooked. This deficiency has been most noticeable in the states that are located in, or on the periphery of, the Niger Delta, from which territory the nation has extracted enormous wealth over the past six decades. Yenagoa is capital of the state in which oil was first produced in commercially viable quantities in Nigeria in 1957 and this fact alone should inspire the Federal Government to take an interest in the formal processes of development and infrastructural expansion of the metropolis. Sadly that has not been the case as the recurrent incidences, and destructive effects, of seasonal flooding have indicated. In fact the replay of disastrous consequences arising from the arrival of the flood season raises important fundamental questions about what both the Federal authorities and the state governments have been doing to adapt their development objectives to the reality of environmental circumstance.


The combination of minimal political influence at the centre of the ethnic groups from the communities of the Niger Delta and the relative proportional disadvantage of their population when compared to the so-called majority ethnic groups has served to undermine what should have been the automatic, and extensive, socio-economic growth of the territory ever since Nigerian Independence. In recent years however this particular symptom of post-colonial failure has rattled the Nigerian polity and the founding of Bayelsa State is just one of many endeavours that have emerged from attempts to reverse the trend.

The fact that the state also produced Dr. Goodluck Jonathan the first elected President from the Southern Minority ethnic groups was another major milestone in this manifestation of Nigeria's nation-building efforts. However there are several other symptoms of the nation's failure to acknowledge the national debt owed to the territory and its people. The continued delay in providing adequate protection against seasonal environmental disasters is one of the most persistent symptoms of the Federal government's abdication of its responsibility to assist states in environmentally challenged terrain to achieve effective environmental and infrastructural stability as the foundation of their economic viability.

This is a fundamental obligation of the federal system of governance, especially as the central authorities have sequestered revenue earned from the exploitation of regionally domiciled mineral resources. However it is germane that we should observe and acknowledge that the Federal government maintains a special ecological fund that is shared and distributed to the states according to certain official criteria. When issues of environmental management are being discussed each state should be held accountable for the disbursement of this fund for the appropriate purpose for which it is disbursed.



Photo left- The heart if the new city is inundated through lack of adequate drainage when the rains come. Photo right- Epie Creek a major environmental feature that used to be regarded as a reserved area for farming is now being encroached upon by new occupants of the city.

Perennial flooding is neither new nor unexpected in the riverside communities of the Niger Delta, and in traditional perception neither is it always characterised as a disaster. Indeed the cultural premonition of the communal memory of those territories more often regard the flood as a blessing rather than a curse since it heralds the arrival of an abundance of marine food stuff such as fish and shrimps and crayfish, and when it eventually recedes it deposits sediment that increases the fertility of the soil.

However in a circumstance where the traditional demands of the community must co-exist with the competing demands of modernisation what might have been a boon in the past can become a liability in the present. This is the unfortunate condition in which Bayelsa State as a whole, and Yenagoa in particular is caught up as the annual flood season ravages the built up areas. In the year 2012 the annual flood was particularly severe in its encroachment on built-up as well as traditionally vulnerable communities throughout Nigeria. In that year too Yenagoa and its surroundings experienced extraordinary levels of watery intrusion into newly constructed parts of the city and the damage to infrastructure depleted public coffers and reversed the momentum of development, The metropolitan demands of development have changed the character of the communities irrevocably but if this trend is to be successfully achieved in a sustainable manner there must be effective intervention by agencies that can improve and maintain infrastructure at a level that exceeds the expectations of the rustic communities that own the territory.


At the start of the expansion of the metropolitan centre that is Yenagoa today the major infrastructural projects embarked upon by government were housing estates for government workers as well as for private citizens who quickly began to flock to the new state. Very early on some of these projects were adversely affected by the peculiar environmental problems of the territory. For example the Azikoro Housing Estate, a major project of over two hundred units, had its initial stages of construction overwhelmed by flooding. It had to be halted and a complete reconfiguration of the project was undertaken.

This occurred in 2001 at which time major infrastructural expansion were hardly more than conceptual proposals in government files. The chance to develop guidelines and policies of cooperation between the state government and those Federal agencies that could implement basic structural solutions to the most likely problems that would arise in the future was still a possibility but judging from the evidence that now exists this was not an integral part of the early planning.

Since then the perennial floods have exposed major flaws in the system of environmental management for the city and as new areas are opened up with newly constructed edifices the arrival of the seasonal rains bring increasingly dire consequences.. So far the year 2012 has been regarded as a watershed year for the negative consequences of flooding through the state. However this year's flooding in the capital Yenagoa has shown up the problematic nature of urban development that is not based on imaginative and innovative anticipation of environmental eventualities.

Photo left- Flood control is needed to relieve the hardships suffered by the ordinary people. Photo right- Regulatory discipline will halt developments in sections of the city that should serve as natural courses of flow and evacuation.

Yenagoa is situated on the banks of two mighty waterways that are part of the system of tributaries and estuaries of the mighty Niger. The river called Ikoli by the indigenes runs into River Nun at that location. This is also the site of the outlet of the Epie Creek a channel that has always served the people of the area as a source of rich sedimentary soil for agricultural purposes. The banks of the Epie creek used to be prime seasonal farmland utilised especially to produce abundant harvests of yams, plantains, coco-yams, and other traditional crops such as peppers and local spices.

However that channel is today the main run-off channel for waste-water from the expanding metropolis and urban planners who have studied the needs of the new city have all recommended that it be dredged and deepened and turned into a perennial marine thoroughfare.

Already the nature and provenance of the Epie creek's surroundings have changed irrevocably as property developers have encroached on what used to be a seasonal flood plain along its banks. However since it has neither been dredged or deepened the locations along its banks are now among the most adversely affected properties during the flood, According to Barrister Esuene Kikile, former Commissioner of Information and now an official of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), "The places beside the creek where we fished, played, and tended our families' crops when I was a child are now people's backyards. Clearly there is need for serious environmental management intervention to regulate the use of such vulnerable areas, but even more than that there is a dire need for assistance from major agencies of intervention both national and international to alleviate the problem in a sustainable manner."


It is not that Bayelsa State lacks people who have the knowledge and the vision to propose and even to implement solutions to this critical environmental problem. After the 2012 floods Governor Seriake Dickson called on local experts to study the problem. A committee of indigenous engineers and other relevant professionals led by Engineer Charles Dorgu, former Executive Secretary of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) was inaugurated. It undertook a comprehensive tour of the surrounding areas and studied the causes and nature of the perennial flooding.

The team eventually produced a master-plan for flood alleviation and a general citywide drainage system and presented it to the state government. This comprehensive document that has emerged from the Dorgu Committee report and the project proposals, which this writer has seen. are extremely complex and the system will, if constructed, be one of the best examples of such urban infrastructure ever to have been installed anywhere in Africa. Given the importance of the Niger Delta to Nigeria's interaction with the global economy as well as the territory's unique ecology and its value to the welfare and condition of the global climate the proper development of Yenagoa as a major population centre must be considered as being of more than local importance.

As a consequence the major imperative for the state government in undertaking the task of environmental protection must be to enlighten the global community over the dilemma that it faces on a seasonal basis as well as its commitment to overcome the peculiar challenges that this natural phenomenon brings.


In the light of the above imperative the state government should be willing to take bold steps to contain the effects of perennial flooding as a central tenet of its policy of cooperation with the Federal authorities. The establishment of the Dorgu Committee by the Dickson Administration in 2012 appeared to be a step in this direction, but the lack of forward movement towards the implementation of the resultant report and proposals, and the replay of critical consequences emanating from this year's floods seem to suggest that such cooperation is still more of a pipe dream rather than a possibility. Engineer Dorgu himself has said that collaboration with the Federal government to overcome environmental challenges should form the central core of ecological policies for the Niger Delta and although he is now considered something of an elder statesman he is still contributing his considerable wealth of experience and vast technological expertise to serving this cause. According to him, "While I believe it is important for the people of the region to seek solutions for the development and protection of their environment, under the circumstances in which we are working today it cannot be left to the state governments alone to provide a comprehensive solution.

Investment in environmental protection is a major cornerstone for helping the Niger Delta region to attain its optimum potential and the whole world will benefit when this is achieved. It is therefore necessary to keep all official endeavours focused. We must insist that accountable practices and policies are maintained at all levels of governance to ensure that environmental management is both effective and sustainable. It is only when this circumstance exists that the natural phenomenon that is our perennial flood will once again be seen as a blessing rather than a disaster. THIS REPORT FIRST APPEARED ON PAGES 8 & 9 OF THE GUARDIAN ON SUNDAY FOR 21 OCTOBER 2018.

 

KEY APC LEADERS JUMP SHIP IN BAYELSA STATE

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Administration led by Governor Seriake Dickson in Bayelsa State has scored a notable success in its battle to remain the unassailable leader of governance in the state. This was recorded recently when several key opposition figures defected from the All Progressive Congress and pledged their support for the state government at a huge rally at the marine stadium located at Ox Bow Lake in the state capital Yenagoa.

The group led by the former State Chairman of the APC Chief Timipa Tiwei Orunimighe was received with fanfare by Governor Dickson and his cabinet and members of the state executive of the PDP, as well as by a huge turnout of ordinary members of the party. Speaking on their decision to transfer their support Chief Tiwei the erstwhile APC Chairman said that while they had joined the APC in good faith hoping to participate in a truly competitive multi-party democracy they had encountered dictatorial leadership and a lack of commitment to true public interest in that party. Those defecting to PDP include a serving lawmaker representing Brass 2 Constituency in the House of Assembly, Hon. Alfred Watson, President Buhari’s Representative in Ogbia Local Government Area in the 2015 elections, Chief Orifie Ene, and the Chairman of Bayelsa Waterways, a popular former militant leader Mr. Africanus Akparasia, widely known as "General Africa" as well as 98 party leaders from communities around the state

The Chairman of the Bayelsa State Chapter of the PDP, Hon. Moses Cleopas declared that the defecting APC members were simply returning to their original home since most of the leaders including Chief Tiwei had been prominent and effective members of the PDP in the past. When the former APC Chairman called for a show of hands from those in the audience who were defecting to the PDP with him several hundred people carrying brooms raised their hands in the air. Then in a dramatic and symbolic gesture they dashed their brooms to the ground and stamped on them to loud cheers from the massive crowd.. Report from Lindsay Barrett in Yenagoa Read More!

 

THE STRUGGLE TO  ENTRENCH INTERNAL DEMOCRACY IN APC

By Lindsay Barrett

However it soon became obvious that a powerful movement mounted by adversaries of this position had been initiated. Unfortunately the strategists of this movement appear to be much better at mounting a scurrilous media campaign against their opponents than at maintaining internal harmony in the party that they wish to control.
            The Odigie-Oyegun strategy of party management was apparently based on the presumption that the successful conduct of the party's affairs under the watch of its incumbent National Executive Committee (NEC) should be sustained up to the conclusion of the first tenure of the administration's existence. In defence of this strategy it was argued that instead of  changing a winning team in the middle of the course it would make sense to allow those whose experience and performance served to install a successful and triumphant regime for its first term should have been left in place to monitor and implement the party's program for sustaining its strategic stability. Opponents of the incumbent NEC asserted, however, that the strictures defined by the party's constitution demand that the opportunity for other aspirants to seek to be elected into the body  is time-bound and must be adhered to before the next season of elections. When these contentions were taken before the party for a general discussion the prognosis attributed to the incumbent Chairman's supporters was recognised as being worthy of consideration. In response the President who was present at the formal meeting where this conversation was held supported the provision of a waiver to enable the members of the NEC to contest. This decision was apparently taken in order to provide the party with an opportunity to conduct internal elections which would be less acrimonious than they would be in a situation where the main contestants were unknown and untried aspirants.


            However a few days after this meeting the waiver provision appeared to have been forgotten as opponents of the incumbent NEC's members mounted a vehement press campaign in which personal attacks and falsehoods against Chief Odigie-Oyegun were prominently displayed. In addition to this it soon became clear that the group working to support the aspirations of those who have been characterised as being Senator Tinubu's supporters were laying siege to President Buhari's loyalists as well as to the President himself. Less than a fortnight  later it emerged that their overtures had been successful when it was reliably reported that the President had announced his support for a slate of  aspirants headed by former Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole, who has been touted as the replacement for Chief Odigie-Oyegun. Following this the conduct of the preparatory congresses undertaken by the APC in a situation where the waiver compromise appears to have been jettisoned by the very leaders who had first suggested and then embraced it has vindicated the Odigie-Oyegun faction's fears. The overwhelming impression given so far is that the party is replete with divisions and indiscipline at its grassroots, and even though Odigie-Oyegun has exhibited exemplary discipline and equanimity in his effort to supervise preparations for the party convention his detractors have continued to publish negative and unsubstantiated allegations against him in the pages of some national newspapers. This suggests that the problems within the APC at this time might actually be symptomatic of an attempt to install a powerful element of god-fatherism in the contest for a new NEC to the detriment of the entrenchment of equity and internal democracy in the party's selection process. First published in The Vanguard of Saturday 12th May 2018 READ MORE!

 

REMEMBERING M.D. YUSUFU FROM MANY POINTS OF VIEW
Report by A Special Correspondent; Photos by Jewel Barrett

A cross section of guests on the high table at the event honouring late Alhaji M.D. Yusufu.

The Abdullahi Smith Historical Research Centre, which is based in Zaria, was a special beneficiary of the generosity and commitment to social credibility and  academic rigour that characterised the life of Alhaji M.D. Yusufu, one time Inspector General of Police and  Federal Minister of Internal Affairs. The centre recently hosted a symposium in memory of its late benefactor at the YarÁdua Centre in Abuja  The event was the occasion for the presentation of two books that recall the period in Nigeria's political history when Alhaji Yusufu mounted a campaign to seek the presidency of the nation. It also served as an occasion for  the  exhibition of the remarkable universality of Alhaji Yusufu's friendships and the uniqueness of his personal vision of service to his beloved Nigeria. The high table  at the event was populated by a cross section of those who had interacted with Alhaji Yusuf in his professional career as well as some persons who had related with him in the unusual circumstances that his highly informal and humble lifestyle generated.

Photo left: Former IGP Alhaji A.I Attah and former pioneer Director General of NIA Chief Albert Horsfall; photo right Alhaji Ahmed Jodah presents the books at the event.

The Chairman of the occasion was the retired "super" Permanent Secretary Alhaji Ahmed Jodah who can be counted among the former top officials who had enjoyed close personal relationships with him. Other major figures from past Administrations who paid their respects at this event were former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Alhaji Aliyu Attah, former National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. Aliyu Gusau, the pioneer Director General of NIA Chief Albert Horsfall and the one time, and only female Director General of EFCC Alhaja  Farida Waziri. In a display of the unusual spread of M.D. Yusufu's close associates and friends,  those gracing the high table also included, Dr. Haroun Adamu the veteran newspaper columnist and radical editor,  Chief Ayo Opadokun, a former NADECO Chieftain and human rights activist who has authored a biographical study of Alhaji Yusufu, Senator Ben Obi who revealed that his father and uncle had been colleagues of Alhaji Yusufu in the police force and that he considered himself a part of the family, Alhaji Ishiaku Ibrahim a popular businessman and major political figure in the Second Republic, and Lindsay Barrett the Jamaican-born journalist, and writer, who revealed that his decision to remain in Nigeria and become a Nigerian citizen was largely influenced by his meeting with Alhaji Yusufu in the very first months after his arrival in the country in 1966.
            As each of those seated at the high table were called to speak about their memories of Alhaji M.D.'s life they recalled anecdotes that illustrated his deep commitment to justice and equity in society and his  belief in honest service to the nation. Alhaji Jodah described the nature of Alhaji Yusufu's behaviour both in and out of service as being guided by a profound decision to always remain discreet in the conduct of all his affairs. The ex IGP Alhaji Attah remembered that apart from his personal family links with Alhaji M.D. his career choices were guided by the advice and example of his friend's conduct of his own career. He remembered that Alhaji M.D. was particularly focussed in his desire to keep the police disciplined and efficient during the military era and that he was extraordinarily brave and outspoken when defending the interests and objectivity of the force. Chief A.K. Horsfall and Alhaja Waziri both narrated how Alhaji M.D. intervened to help shape their careers at an early stage in their long service. He remained a mentor to both of them to the end of his life and Chief Horsfall recalled that he was always curious about finding ways to improve the security profile and performance of the national police. For Alhaja Waziri he was the most tolerant boss that one could ever wish to have and he was never overbearing in his relations with subordinates.

Abdul Okwechime, former media aide to Alhaji M.D. Yusufu

Two books, entitled. The Right to Choose, The M.D. Yusufu Presidential Campaign Campaign  Against General Sani Abacha 1997-1998, and Democracy and Corruption in Nigeria, Selected Papers and Campaign Documents of M.D. Yusufu-1997-2010 were presented to the audience by Prof. Alkasum Abbah the former political secretary to M.D. Yusufu's campaign organisation and  Alhaji Abdul Okwechime the former media director of the organisation. They were joint editors of the first volume and Prof. Abbah is also one of the editors of the second volume.  Abdul Okwechime a Lagos-based journalist recounted how he was virtually recruited into the campaign from his job as a media assistant in Nigerian Airways because of his connection with Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, the controversial musical star whom Alhaji M.D. befriended even when the administration in which he was a top official was engaged in virtually suppressing his freedom. Okwechime whose elder brother had been a key instrumental soloist in Fela's band asserted that Alhaji M.D. never condoned and always criticised the oppression of the late musician and remained one of Fela's most trusted friends throughout the duration of both their lives. READ MORE!

 

THE HOMEVIEW

Lindsay Barrett

AMNESTY OR CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY?

The celebration sponsored by the Imo State Executive Governor recently in which miscreants who openly confessed to having perpetrated atrocious acts of brigandage in Rivers State were accorded what appeared to be a hero’s welcome and granted supposed amnestyis one of the most unforgiveable displays of official impunity that we have ever witnessed. It would have been surprising if Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike had not responded with the vehemence and impeccable sense of indignation that he did. The action announcedby the Governor of Imo State constitutes a slap in the face of his neighbour and should be grounds for disciplinary action to be taken by a serious federal system of justice. If the Attorney General of the Federation does not query the Governor over this, then the abdication ofhis responsibility will also constitute grounds for the assumption of conspiratorial collaboration between the Federal authorities and the state. As a consequence theissues raised by this announcement might reverberate with unprecedented import in the annals of the legalhistory of Nigeria for some time to come.


            The handing over of arms by an army of desperadoes in Owerri was without a doubt a dramatic exhibition of Governor Okorocha’s ability to orchestrate a public spectacle,but the deeper implications of the action might have escaped the attention of those who advised him to mount the show. The major participants who brought their weapons to the field were described as having been members of a notorious armed gang based in Rivers State, and which was suspected of being culpable in the massacre of more than a score of innocent souls on New Year’s Day this year. The investigation of that dastardly event is still open and the perpetrators have been declared wanted by the Nigerian Police Force. The Rivers State Government has also declared them wanted and offered a substantial award for information leading to their arrest. In addition to this members of the gang in question are suspected of being the killers of a large number of robbery victims who have gone missing in the border territories between the two states over the last few years. These include the son of a close family friend of this writer.


With such distressing suspicions resonating around the confessed actions of the recipients of the Imo State Governor’s act of mercy it could hardly havebeen doubted that this action would provoke a confrontation between the administrators of justice in the two states. The Rivers State government is determined to search for justice for the victims of aberrant criminality in its territory. It is difficult for anyone to fault such an objective and one wonders why the governor of Imo State would knowingly take a decision that violates the principles of decency and good neighbourliness in such a flagrant manner. Some observers have suggested that there are elements of political rivalry involved in the motivation behind the Governor’s decision. If this is true then the action is even more irresponsible than we assumed at first because political irresponsibility is more dangerous than simple ignorance. The action in Imo State might indicate that there are negative factors in the relationship existing between border communities that have not been openly divulged before. For example some observers have even suggested that the brutal criminal acts attributed to the pardoned miscreants might have been ordered to be perpetrated by powerful persons in the state where they have now been given sanctuary. While we hesitate to accept any such suggestion as factual the Governor’s decision does give us reason to wonder.


So what is the way forward from this unfortunate display of crass gubernatorial irresponsibility? One hesitates to recommend what might actually be the most positive response, which would be for the Rivers State Ministry of Justice to go to court to seek the arrest and handover of the confessed miscreants to the courts in the state for prosecution. Murder and kidnapping are major crimes that should be tried in Federal High Courts and so it seems to us that this is one issue on which the Federal Ministry of Justice should take a stand and call for the reversal of the so-called pardon and demand the arrest of the alleged criminals. This action might provoke some anger in the criminal community but it would also send a positive signal to the vast majority of law-abiding Nigerians that there is no partisan sympathy being offered to perpetrators of crime. The Imo Governor’s action has tended to give the impression that because those whom he claimed to have pardoned committed their atrocious acts in territory controlled by a member of a rival party they can expect to be allowed to go free. This would be an irregular and unforgiveable violation of the norms and principles of decency in governance. It would represent not an amnesty but criminal conspiracy as an act of political promotion. READ MORE AMNESTY OR CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY?

 

MY JOURNEY TO KULA KINGDOM-LINDSAY BARRETT

The veteran Jamaican-Nigerian journalist who wrote the special feature on a protest in a Niger Delta community in the Rivers State that appeared in the Nigerian Guardian of Sunday 8th March 2018- (PAGE 34 “Belema: a Story of Resilience and Victory), explains the dramatic circumstances that led him toinvestigate what was really going on.

Photo left: Lindsay Barrett (left) and King Bordillion Oko at the palace of the king in Kula/ Photo Right: the altar at the Oko family ancestral shrine in Kula

His Royal Majesty King Bordillon Oko XXVIII, Amanyanabo of Kula Kingdom in Rivers State faces many challenges in his ancient fiefdom, which is one of the oldest communities occupied by people of the Kalabari ethnic nationality. Although experts in Nigeria’s ancient history hold various viewson the true age of the coastal kingdom the traditional mythology kept alive bythe family of the founder maintains that the people have occupied the territory for nearly a thousand years.

The legitimacy of the present holder’s claim on the title of the ancient throne has been challenged in court by some of his own subjectsbut no one denies that he is a descendant of the founder. It was my interest in the story of the founding of the kingdom that first drew my attention to the territory but getting there was not easy. At first I was told that I would have to be willing to travel for several hours by boat through some of the remotest riverine routes in the Niger Delta if I really wanted to get to what might be the most isolated city in Nigeria. READ MORE!

 

THE BELEMA STORY: SHELL VS THE MILITANT MONARCH
By Lindsay Barrett

Visitors arriving in Belema today will find it difficult to believe that Shell has extracted billions of dollars from the territory over nearly forty years of operations there.

Belema community indigenes protest against Shell on the helipad at the location of OML 25 flow station.

Photo left: King Oko the 28th Amanyanabo of Kula (left) visits the water treatment plant that Belema Oil has provided for Kula town while one of his Chiefs, Engineer Fiala Oko-Ye Davis drinks a sample of the water. Photo right;the surface well in Belema which is said to have supplied the drinking water for the community for about five hundred years.

The ancient kingdom of Kula is located in a remote coastal enclave of the Niger Delta. It boasts a long and profoundly spiritual history that is kept alive by a custodian who bears the title of His Royal Majesty King Bourdillon Oko the 28th. The king professes his allegiance to his royal ancestors constantly by observing rites and ceremonies regularly and religiously. While King Oko’s legitimacy is widely accepted by a substantial proportion of the indigenes of Kula some members of the community have gone to court to challenge his authority. In spite of this his ancestry as a direct descendant of the founder of the kingdom is well documented and can hardly be questioned.  As a consequence he was one of the two original signatories of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that granted Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) the right to establish a major oil installation registered as OML 25 in Belema community, one of the fourteen traditionalsettlements that comprise the kingdom, in 1980...... READ MORE!

 

DDI’S GRASSROOTS HOLIDAY OUTREACH IN TARABA
A Special Report by Lindsay Barrett

Governor Darius Ishaku (seated wearing face cap) meets with community leaders at Kashimbilla Dam

(see spillway on the right).

The Kashimbilla Hydro-Electric Dam project in Takum LGA of Taraba State is one of West Africa’s most ambitious energy sector infrastructural developments. Interestingly the incumbent Governor of the State Architect Darius Dickson Ishaku (popularly known as DDI throughout the state) took a particular interest in this project when he was Minister of State in the Ministry of Power more than six years ago.

Today the Kashimbillaproject is regarded as one of the most effective examples of natural resource utilization being implemented anywhere in Nigeria. Governor Ishaku’s pride in its success was made manifest when he chose it as the venue for a series of meetings with stakeholders and interest groups from local communities during the holiday season. Read more!

 

LIBERIA: MOB SENTIMENT FUELS WEAH’S ASCENT
By Lindsay Barrett

George Weah (left) and Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (right) wielding ceremonial spades perform the ground-breaking ceremony for a new highway in Liberia’s Lofa County.

Analysts and observers on the ground in Liberia are predicting that former European footballer of the year George Opong Weah might win a landslide victory in the run-off of the country’s Presidential elections slated for Tuesday 26th December. They base their predictions on the turn-out of large and excitable crowds of young followers of the sports celebrity in the final phase of campaigning over the last fortnight. The sentiments expressed by those leading these crowds appear to have gained credencefollowing controversial decisions of the Liberian Supreme Court in response to challenges to the first results announced by the Electoral Commission. Although the court appeared to question the competence of the Commission’s handling of the first round of the polls it instructed the body to go ahead with the run-off in order to fulfill constitutional requirements that are time-bound. As a result the Weah organisation has mounted a plethora of street marches and public rallies touting the slogan “It Is Time for Change” throughout the country..Read More!

 

TYD @ 80: DANJUMA’S LONGEVITY CELEBRATED WITH HISTORIC RESONANCE
Report and Photos by Lindsay Barrett

Front row of Christchurch Cathedral during the Danjuma service included from left Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the celebrant, his wife Daisy, General Yakubu Gowon, and his wife Victoria.

Ceremonies to celebrate retired Chief of Army Staff and one-time Minister of DefenceGeneral Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma’s 80th birthday were at the top of the Lagossocial scene last Saturday. Commencing with a crowded thanksgiving service held in Christchurch Cathedral at the Marina and culminating with a lavish open air reception at the Eko AtlanticCity construction site at Bar Beach the event served not only to celebrate the General’s longevity but also to recollect his central role in Nigeria’s post-independence history. Former Head of State General Yakubu Gowon and his wife Victoria were clearly regarded as the seminal guests of the celebrant throughout the day as they joinedGeneral Danjumaand his wife Daisy on the front row in church along with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. This might have served to remind many observers of the initial intervention that brought both of these men to prominence in Nigeria’s history in July 1966. T.Y. Danjuma was then a newly promoted Captain and played a key role in the second coup that brought the then Lt. Col Gowon to power. Their association from that timeuntil now has been replete with symptoms of mutual respect in spite of the vagaries of power politics which have seen General Danjuma serve as a key figure in various governments including the one that overthrew the Gowon Administration in 1976..Read More!

 

PHOTO STORIES

PHOTO BY LINDSAY BARRETT

 

PARTISAN DISENCHANTMENT RAISE CHALLENGES FOR HISTORIC LIBERIAN RUN-OFF
By Lindsay Barrett

George Weah (left) and Vice President Jospeh Boakai (right) opponents in Liberia’s second round run-off.

The approach of Liberia’s historic second round of voting in the recently contested presidential election, in which ex-soccer star George Opong Weah laid claim to a seemingly unassailable ten percent lead over incumbent Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai at the end of the first round, has now been challenged by several participants in the race. The most surprising aspect of the challenges presented before Liberia’s Supreme Court is the fact that a major complainant is the Unity Party, the party on whose ticket President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf won two terms in office.

The party fielded the sitting Vice President as its flag-bearer but surprisingly while Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf vocally pledged her support for his aspiration she took no part in the campaign. Her own explanation for this stance is that she wished the process to be seen as free of official interference but over the weeks leading up to the voting and increasingly since then several commentators in the Liberian press and on social media have accused her of abandoning her party’s Presidential objective. The major issue on which this accusation was based in opinions voiced by some notable observers of the Liberian political arena was the assumption that Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf wished to undermine her Vice President because of some internal disagreements. During the campaign the Vice President’s supporters denied this allegation vehemently and insisted that Madam Johnson Sirleaf was fully in support of their candidate, but since the outcome of the first round most of them have changed their tune. READ MORE!

 

LIBERIA ON THE BRINK OF HISTORY AGAIN
By Lindsay Barrett

Photo left-Vice President Joseph Boakai; photo right- George Weah

The result of the first round of the recent Liberian presidential election has set the stage for what many observers have described as that nation’s most challenging choice of leadership in its history. The outcome of the poll has left George Weah the former world soccer star with what appears to be the unassailable advantage of a near ten-percent lead over Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai. However this result has been attributed not merely to Weah’s glamorous image and attraction for young voters but also to his alliance with elements of the imprisoned former warlord Charles Taylor’s supporters, This aspect of the Liberian exercise has taken many political analysts in the West African sub-region and beyond by surprise, because while the popularity of the former soccer star is not in doubt his alliance with the remnants ofa movement that brought war and devastation to Africa’s oldest republic for more than two decades was unexpected. The demographic profile of Liberia contains a major youth bulge in which nearly 80% of the electorate is under fifty years of age and about 65% of that bulge is estimated to be between 18 and 40 years of age. As a consequence many of those on whom the eventual result will rely are young people who, many observers say, may very well make decisions based on sentiment rather than on careful and reasoned concern. READ MORE!

 

BAYELSA AT 21: CONFRONTING THE CHALLENGE OF ADULTHOOD
Story and photos by Lindsay Barrett

Gov. Dickson lays a foundation stone at the new Boro Town Kolokuma-OpokumaLGA(left).  Part of the Western Senatorial District Highway leading to Ekeremor LGA one of the most remote areas of the Niger Delta (left).
           

Although Bayelsa State has just achieved its coming of age the saga of its existence over the last twenty-one years is replete with political echoes which suggest that the territory that it occupies has a level of importance in the national arena that belies its youth. Apart from the fact that the birthplace of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry is located there its emergence as the birthplace of the first person of Southern Minority origin to become President of the nation has thrown the young state even more prominently into the spotlight of public opinion.

This is especially so because the governors who have held power in the statesince the advent of democratic rule in 1990, are individuals whose impact on the political scenehas been noticeably controversial. The late D.S.P Alamieyeseigha, who designated himself the “Governor General of the Ijaw Nation” and openly espoused the cause of resource control as a central pillar of his policy thrust, set the tenor of representative governance of the state when he built the first major highway to traverse the core swamp terrain of the heartland of the Niger Delta leading to his hometown of Amassoma.

Until then common wisdom expressed by most developers from other parts of Nigeria held that it would be too difficult and prohibitively expensive to access the riverine communities of the Niger Delta by road. In spite of this,foreign companies and the Federal Authorities have spent huge sums to access these areas in order to exploit the natural resources and earn humongous returns for the national coffers and a few privileged private individuals. As a consequence although Bayelsa State occupies a territory that has contributed trillions of dollars for the national treasury since oil was discovered and first exported from the Öloibiri pioneer oil well in 1957, the impact on the welfare and development of the communities in the territory remained symptomatic of this neglect throughout the period from then until the state was created in 1996.

READ MORE!

 

LIBERIAN ELECTION:VP BOAKAI IN SURPRISE POPULAR SURGE
From Lindsay Barrett

Vice President Joseph NyumaBoakai (right) and (left) a section of the huge crowd that attended his mega-rally in mid-September

As the twelve-year long two-term tenure of Africa’s first popularly elected woman President, Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, draws to a close with elections scheduled for later this weekthe peaceful transition through the ballot from one leader to another in Africa’s oldest republic for the first time since 1943 is the historic objective that most observers are hoping for. However while Mrs. Johnson Sirleaf has been vocal in support of her Vice President Joseph Boakai, an old hand in the Liberian political arena, several commentators in the Liberian media have questioned her commitment to his candidacy and suggested that she is only paying lip-service to his aspirations while secretly supporting the ambitions of either the ex-footballer George OpongWeah, or the lawyer Charles Brumskine a perennial aspirant who has contested twice before. In recent weeks these allegations have gained increasing currency in commentaries in both traditional media, and new-style social media focused on the forthcoming polls. However the public response to this twist in Liberia’s complex political arena has apparently unleashed reactionsin favour of the modest and unassuming Vice President from a substantial proportion of the electorate. Thousands of excited supporters turned out for a special rally to pledge support for his candidacy in mid-September and since then several influential institutions and individuals in Liberia have publicly endorsed him..READ MORE!

 

LIBERIAN ELECTIONS: VICE PRESIDENT BOAKAI IS THE MAN TO BEAT
From Lindsay Barrett: Just back from Monrovia

The “Big Three” in Liberian politics , (left) Vice President Joseph NyumaBoakai, (centre) Africa’s first Lady President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and (right) ex-soccer superstar and Presidential aspirant George OpongWeah.

Liberia’s Presidential polls that will commence on Tuesday this week will very likely be among the most important of such exercises to take place anywhere in West Africa in recent times. As Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s constitutional tenure of two six-year terms draws to a close the region is watching the outcome with bated breath as it will test the resilience of the peace and stability that the regional community made enormous sacrifices to install during and after the long and brutal civil war that raged in Africa’s oldest republic from the early 1990’s until 2003. The revision and reform of the fundamental nature of the national polity that resulted out of the crisis and its resolution has created a new leadership paradigm in the nation. This has made it imperative that leaders throughout Africa take cognizance of the true values of the participants.... READ MORE!

 

JAMAICA/ GHANA TIES STRENGTHENED BY ACTIONS OF ISLAND NATION’S REPRESENTATIVE IN ABUJA
From Lindsay Barrett in Abuja

The historic connection of the Caribbean island of Jamaica with the ancestry of many of its people in the ethnic communities of modern-day Ghana is well known. Many of the national heroes of Jamaica’s history especially among the resistance fighters of the slave era bear names redolent with the cultural identity of Ghanaian origin. These include Nanny, Cudjoe, Quacoe and Koffi, leaders of the Maroon Rebellions of the 18th century, which led to the establishment of autonomous enclaves of freedom in the island. In addition to this the founding father of Ghanaian Independence, Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah openly expressed his debt of gratitude to the Jamaican Black Nationalist Marcus Garvey whose life and actions inspired the Ghanaian leader’s vision of self-determination for all Africans. These historic echoes appeared to take on new and more contemporary relevance recently when Her Excellency Mrs. Ann Scott, the Jamaican High Commissioner in Nigeria (who is also accredited to Ghana) hosted two events that emphasised the fraternal empathy existing between the two nations.

H.E. Mrs. Ann Scott (left) High Commissioner of Jamaica in Nigeria & Ghana speaks at a reception bidding farewell to H.E. William AzumahAwinador-Kanyirege (right) outgoing High Commissioner of Ghana in Nigeria

The first of these was a low-key reception to bid farewell to H.E. William AzumahAwinador-Kanyirege High Commissioner of Ghana in Nigeria, who was leaving to a new posting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The reception, which was heldat the residence of the Jamaican High Commissioner,was attended by a small gathering of African Ambassadors with Nigeria’s highly respected diplomatic expert, and one-time Foreign Minister and former Under-Secretary General of the UN Dr. Ibrahim Gambari as a Special Guest. Many speakers paid tribute to the expertise and hospitable attributes of the Ghanaian diplomat and Mrs, Scott spoke with gratitude of his fraternal assistance to her at all times since they met. READ MORE!

 

LIBERIA’S DEMOCRATIC TOURNAMENT HEATS UP EARLY
By Lindsay Barrett

(Left) The road to Ganta: Chinese built highway is one of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s great legacies of renewal.

As soon as the West African Heads of State and Government concluded their historic Summit in Monrovia earlier this month Liberians were hardly given time to savour the reverberations of what turned out to be one of the most controversial regional meetingsin recent years. By the end of the week in which the Summit took place at the new five-star Farmington River Hotel, situated at the famous Robertsfield International Airport, activities surrounding the commencement of the race to inherit the mantle of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as President of Africa’s oldest republic had diverted domestic attention from issues arising from the international event. While the rest of West Africa queried whether the unprecedented attendance of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address the regional meeting was responsible for the equally unprecedented absence of Nigeria’s sitting Head of State (in this case Acting President Yemi Osinbajo) at the Summit, Liberians were much more interested in the flag-off of party conventions to select aspirants for the exalted office. READ MORE!

 

RIVERS @ FIFTY:
CELEBRATING A NEW ORDER OF HOPE & CHALLENGE
By Lindsay Barrett

The recognition of past heroes of Rivers State autonomy and acknowledgement of Retired Navy Commander Alfred Diete-Spiff’s (right) near legendary status as the first Governor of the state set the tone for the celebrations.

Prof. Godini Darah (left) delivered a well-received and exciting lecture at which ex-President Goodluck Jonathan (right with Governor Wike) was received with a standing ovation by the crowd.

Although the golden jubilee celebrations that have just ended in Nigeria’s Rivers State recalled memories of a glorious past the hopes and challenges of the future were also kept in profound perspective. The honour and gratitude expressed by the present governor Nyesom Wike for the work of his predecessors beginning with the first state Governor Retired Navy Commander Alfred Diete-Spiff who was prominently visible in many events, set a tone of respect for the historic role of the state in Nigeria’s national reality.  This concern was prominently exhibited at the seminal anniversary lecture delivered by Delta State’s Professor Godini G. Darah. The lecture entitled Democracy and Development in Nigeria: The Case of Rivers State was an exciting and comprehensive examination of the historic provenance of the state and especially of its role as a regional economic powerhouse that has truly served as the “treasure base” of the entire nation. Prof. Darah’s presentation threw light on the original purpose for which the amalgamation of Nigeria in the colonial era was crafted. The origin of this structural transformation of Britain’s colonial intent in West Africa was traced to Lord Lewis Harcourt, a Colonial Secretary who was eventually to be granted historical recognition when the city of Port Harcourt was named after him. Professor Darah related this to the eventual transformation of the colonial structure from regional hegemony to state autonomy and proposed the ongoing fine tuning of this trend in the future as the best way forward for Nigeria if it was to remain a truly equitable and united nation. This exhortation drew increased relevance from the presence at the lecture of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan former President who was welcomed with a loud ovation on his appearance from the huge crowd of mostly young people. READ MORE!

 

RIVERS AT FIFTY: A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY TO PROMOTE REGIONAL COHESION
By Lindsay Barrett

Old Rivers State as it was when first created in May 1967.

Of the twelve states that were created as a result of the initial transformation from the colonial structure of regional administration in Nigeria in May 1967 the creation of the Rivers State, which was carved out of the Eastern Region, generated the most acrimony and resistance among those who opposed the initiative in the regions. This was because Port Harcourt in particular was regarded as a major commercial and industrial centre that members of the Ibo majority in the region had worked hard to develop, control, and manage while members of the indigenous ethnic groups that were the original owners of the territory had agitated for greater autonomy and territorial independence for decades. This latter sentiment was widespread among all the so-called minority ethnic groups throughout Nigeria at the time but the response on the part of the so-called major tribes had not resulted in any notable success for their aspirations except in the Western Region from which the Mid-Western Region had been carved out in 1963. General Yakubu Gowon’s decision to make states rather than large regions the basis for communal governance addressed this concern, but it was regarded at the time as a strategy for military victory rather than for the strengthening of the political relevance of the diverse regional communities of the nation. However after the civil war was won by the Federal Forces the socio-political relevance of this decisive move became ascendant in the concerns of the leaders of opinion in the new states and issues of concern arose over allegations of marginalisation of some minority ethnic groups and domination by more populous groups. READ MORE!

 

THE ORIGIN OF STATES CREATION IN NIGERIA: CONFRONTING THE FUTURE AT FIFTY
By: LINDSAY BARRETT

The founding of twelve Nigerian states was one of the most daring and historic initiatives implemented by the government of then Col. Yakubu Gowon when he announced it in May 1967. This decision was actually symbolic of the desire of Nigeria’s peoples to gain greater autonomy and self-determination in the administration of their regional affairs. However because the crisis of trust in the military that was eventually to provoke the Nigerian Civil War was the most prescient national concern of the period the fact that the decision to create states and close down the four large regional governments was taken by a military government has led many analysts to assume that states creation was actually a tactic aimed at increasing the Federal Government’s likelihood of victory in the conflict. While this might be true to a certain extent the effect of the change in the basic formula of governance that it brought about served a more far-reaching purpose than that of military opportunism. In fact it can be argued that the effect of the change in the regional formula was far more transformational in the Northern region where many more people were affected than in the Western Region where the division into the Western and Lagos states appeared to strengthen and consolidate the regional autonomy of Yoruba self-government. However, even though the number of people affected was far less the political impact of the decision had an equally profound consequence in the Eastern Region. There the consolidation of minority autonomy in the South-Eastern and Rivers States served to undercut what many leaders of minority communities alleged to be the ethnic hegemony of the Ibo-speaking majority in the region. The Ibo territories were then confined to the new East Central State It is this latter fact that has engaged the attention of observers who have continued to attribute the creation of states out of the old regional structure to military necessity rather than to the more positive motive of administrative convenience and the enhancement of communal development, factors which have become the driving forces of the process of state creation over the last five decades. READ MORE!

 

VETERAN JOURNALIST RECEIVES UNIPORT LITERARY AWARD

Lindsay Barrett (left) is presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by Professor Julie Umukoro (centre) and Prof. Ibitamuno Amenigo (right-back to camera) at the University of Port Harcourt during the Gabriel Okara Festival...

Lindsay Barrett, one of the most prolific and respected freelance contributors of feature articles to the Nigerian media has been given a Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in creative writing by the Institute of Arts and Culture at the University of Port Harcourt. Barrett was one of several awardees honoured at the recent Gabriel Okara Literary Festival, which was mounted to pay tribute to Nigeria’s great lyric poet and novelist Okara as he clocked 96 years of age. Below is the citation on Barrett’s achievement which was produced by the institute for the occasion.

 
“Carlton Lindsay Barrett, also known as Eseoghene (born 15 September 1941), is a Jamaican-born Nigerian poet, novelist, essayist, playwright, journalist and photographer who since 1966 has lived in Nigeria, of which country he became a citizen in the mid-1980s. He initially drew critical attention for his debut novel, Song for Mumu, which on publication in 1967 was favourably noticed by such reviewers as Edward Baugh and Marina Maxwell (who respectively described it as “remarkable” and “significant”); more recently it has been commended for its “pervading passion, intensity, and energy”, referred to as a classic, and features on “must-read” lists of Jamaican books. Particularly during the 1960s and 1970s, Barrett was well known as an experimental and progressive essayist, his work being concerned with issues of black identity and dispossession, the African Diaspora, and the survival of descendants of black Africans, now dispersed around the world.
READ MORE...

 

MA MARY PASSES ON
Liberian Peace and Civil Rights Heroine Dies At 88

By: Lindsay Barrett

Popular Liberian singer/broadcaster Miatta Fahnbulleh (left) interviews her mother the famous educationist and human rights advocate Ma Mary Brownell.

Even though she had reached the ripe old age of eighty-eight years many people who met Mary Brownell at her always open and welcoming home on Ashmun Street in Monrovia, Liberia, never believed she was about to transit from this world. To the end she seemed indestructible and her advocacy of women’s rights and the relevance of disciplined motherhood never waned. Ma Mary, as she was known by all, was a striking figure. Tall and graceful in her younger days, as she aged she retained an incredible sense of intellectual energy that made it seem that she would go on living forever. READ MORE!

 

Education and Politics: An African Story
By: Lindsay Barrett

Prof. Okello Oculi (left) introduces Prof. Mwesiga Baregu (right) and Dr. Wole Olaoye moderator of the event  (centre) to the audience

Photo left: Prof. Baregu. Photo right: The “leaders” : students of Anglican Girls Grammar School, Apo, chatter onstage as African leaders at the AU.

In November of last year we witnessed an impressive, although inadequately publicised, encounter between the generations when Professor Mwesiga Baregu, a brilliant septuagenarian academician from Tanzania presented a lecture to a small audience at the Nigerian Labour Congress Auditorium in Abuja. The majority of those present were senior students of the Anglican Girls Grammar School, Apo. While the Professor distilled a key lecture of his that had been presented earlier at the National War College into an informal address, the young ladies presented a dramatic rendition of simulated speechmaking by African leaders at a summit of the African Union based on the work of the Ugandan writer and teacher Okello Oculi. READ MORE!

 

OSINBAJO AND THE COMMON SENSE AGENDA
By: Lindsay Barrett

Recent events in the Nigerian polity have created unprecedented opportunities for analysts to pontificate about, and assess the performance of, the first government to have been elected to unseat an incumbent Administration in the nation’s post-colonial existence. In addition to the uniqueness of its origin the Buhari-led government has been forced to confront a set of economic challenges that appear to have hardly any precedent in the national narrative. The high cost of governance in Nigeria is a seemingly irreversible factor given the existence of thirty six State Assemblies, over seven hundred Local Government Councils, and a two-chamber National Assembly whose members have become accustomed to a luxurious allowance-driven lifestyle. For the Executive leadership headed by the President to manage and control the economic distress that both global and internal domestic exigencies have placed on its shoulders calls for a level-headed common-sense approach to some highly volatile political and social issues, which can easily be exacerbated by economic debility.READ MORE...

 

LIBERIA AND SIERRA LEONE: NEW TESTS FOR ECOWAS DEMOCRACY
By: Lindsay Barrett

As Adama Barrow the new president of Gambia takes charge in Banjul the reverberations from the military intervention by ECOWAS that secured his mandate will echo loudly throughout the sub-region. Major elections are scheduled for two countries in the West African community in the next year and as campaigning for the election to choose the President of Liberia, later this year, and Sierra Leone, at the end of February 2018, heats up there are signs that the contests will be both acrimonious and closely contested. As a consequence it is not unlikely that the eventual results could be rejected or at least queried by the losers especially if these turn out to be the candidates endorsed by the ruling establishments. .... READ MORE!

 

 

HARASSING JONATHAN: A GROWING TREND IN ONLINE MEDIA
By: Lindsay Barrett

In recent weeks there has been a notable increase in stories appearing on the web alleging that Nigeria’s immediate past President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan might have been implicated in acts of corrupt enrichment while he held office. It is particularly noticeable that many of these stories appear first in outlets of the so-called social media on the internet often authored by faceless anonymous reporters before being picked up and given greater credibility by the traditional media. As a consequence many of them have been regarded by Dr. Jonathan and his supporters as being unworthy of response or denial. READ MORE!

 

 

 

 

 

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