OSUN STAKEHOLDERS’ CONFERENCE: Participants express confidence in Aregbesola’s administration

By Rasheed Adebayo Mabayoje

**Our government is people oriented. We won’t stop school feeding, free education” – Aregbesola

It was a gathering of representatives of every spectrum of the society, including traditional rulers, prominent indigenes, present and past government officials, leaders of formal and informal business unions, market women, students union leaders, opinion leaders, religious leaders, artisans, leaders of state civil service, civil society Organisations, Labour Union Leaders and all other relevant stakeholders in the

They all spoke frantically on issues bothering their minds, relating to governance generally in the state.

Chairman of the conference who was the first Secretary to the State Government and Head of Service, Chief Moses Inaolaji Abowaba said participants at the summit came upon their belief in the seriousness and commitment of the Aregbesola government. “For once we see somebody who is passionate about the development of Osun. We are here without any sentiment but because if anybody has done well we should acknowledge it, he said.

Osun Stakeholders Conference - Governor State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Former Secretary to the Osun State Government,  and HoS Osun, Chief Aboaba, Senator Adeyeye and Senator Omoworare
Osun Stakeholders Conference – Governor State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Former Secretary to the Osun State Government, and HoS Osun, Chief Aboaba, Senator Adeyeye and Senator Omoworare

Mr Abowaba noted that governor Aregbesola demonstrated foresightedness by his action plans, through which the state reached curent level of development.

Governor Rauf Aregbesola who declared the conference open recalled that former governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola had earlier on broached the idea of a gathering where stakeholders would discuss development in the state. “That is why, when the idea was later suggested by our people from the House of Representatives I advised them to communicate with former governor Oyinlola as an adviser, Governor Aregbesola said.

He urged participants to discuss without any fear of intimidation.
He however cautioned against any fowl discussions. He added that the gathering was “another open forum where everyone should be free to say it as he sees it without any fear of intimidation.”

Summary of the deliberations was captured in a communique which was ratified by the gathering.

– That the infrastructural development of the State of Osun is essential, irrevocable and should go on without compromise within the limit of available funds.

Osun Stakeholders Confererence - Governor Rauf Aregbesola, Former Governor Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Former Deputy Gov Sooko Adeleke Adewoyin  and Speaker House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Najeem Salam
Osun Stakeholders Confererence – Governor Rauf Aregbesola, Former Governor Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Former Deputy Gov Sooko Adeleke Adewoyin and Speaker House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Najeem Salam

– Government should evolve all possible policies and programmes by which the economy, hence revenue realisable by the State of Osun could grow.

– In the face of dwindling revenue from the federation account, all Osun people must resolve to collectively ensure that there is tremendous improvement in the internally generated revenue.
– All the people and businesses in the State of Osun must patriotically pay their taxes and rates before being compelled to do so.

– Loopholes in the way revenues are collected should be blocked.

– There is an urgent need to review the cost of governance particularly to ascertain accurately the Cost of the various components, salaries, allowances and overheads encompassing recurrent expenditure of the Government of Osun.

– There should be feedback mechanism on government policies and programmes so as to evolve prudence, transparency and accountability in fund management.

– Government should consider diversification of the state economic base. There should be an improvement in the on-going efforts in the area of agriculture, mining and tourism.

– Government should embrace Public Private Partnerships (PPP) where the State has comparative advantage especially in the Areas of Agriculture, Mining and Tourism.

– There should be more efforts at ensuring that government patronises more competent and efficient local contractors so as to create more wealth within the economy of the State of Osun.

– The state Public and civil Servants should cooperate with government with a view to ensuring efficient and effective service delivery.

– In line with the objective to revisit the cost of Governance, Government should follow up with the declared readiness of Labour leaders to allow verification and audit of staff strength in the state with a view to confirm actual number of workers and the salary bill.

From left -Former Governor State of Osun, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola,Governor State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Former SSG and HoS Chief Moses Aboaba and Senator Adeyeye
From left -Former Governor State of Osun, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola,Governor State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Former SSG and HoS Chief Moses Aboaba and Senator Adeyeye

– Public servants in the state should be motivated to work efficiently as would be expected of them while reduction in the use of consultants should be exploited.

– Parents through the platform of Parents Teachers Association (PTA) should be made to contribute token to augment the laudable free education policy of the state government.

– Government is commended on its efforts on growing commercial activity within the economy of the state through the micro-financing programme through the provision of soft loans to small and medium enterprises. Government is encouraged to do more in this respect.

– Commended Government for its various youth empowerment programmes.

– The conference commends the Osun Legislators’ Forum for its effort in organising and sponsoring this conference and enjoins them to make it an annual event.

I BELONG TO NOBODY: Buhari Queries Okonjo-Iweala over diversion of $1Billion Chinese loan meant for Railway Upgrade

By Levinus Nwabughiogu

ABUJA — President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, asked the Ministry of Finance to explain why the foreign loans obtained for various key rail projects by the Federal Government were diverted elsehow under the watch of former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

The President issued the query on a day he set up a Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption headed by a prominent professor of law and rights activist, Professor Itse Sagay.

Ononjo-Iweala vs Buhari
Ononjo-Iweala vs Buhari

President Buhari also dismissed the general notion that Nigeria is a rich country, arguing that indices and parameters of evaluating a rich country such as economic advancement and improved social services are lacking in Nigeria.

The President, who spoke at the end of a presentation by the Ministry of Transport by the Permanent Secretary, Alhaji Mohammed Bashar at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said it was disappointing to find out that foreign loans obtained in line with signed agreements were moved from one project to another. According to a statement by Mallam Garba Shehu, his Senior Special Assistant on Media & Publicity, President Buhari was reacting to the specific instance of the diversion of a substantial part of the $1.005 billion loan from the Chinese Exim Bank, obtained for the construction of a standard gauge rail line linking Lagos with Kano but which was moved elsewhere.

The loans were obtained from China in 2012 under President Goodluck Jonathan, while Dr. Okonjo-Iweala served as Minister of Finance and Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy.

The Permanent Secretary had informed the President that only $400 million of that loan remained with the Ministry of Finance.

The President then warned: “I hope that due process was followed before such diversions were carried out. Taking money from one project to another has to be done properly.”

The President regretted that government had, over the years, failed to meet its counter-part funding obligation on some projects, leading to such projects being left uncompleted or abandoned.

He added that there was a clear need to streamline, harmonize, and priortize on-going projects in the transportation sector.

The Permanent Secretary also briefed the President on some challenges facing the transport and maritime sectors such as encroachment on railway land, lack of security on inland waterways and some vague agreements between the Nigeria Ports Authority and ports concessionaires.

Buhari’s directive

Speaking to State House Correspondents after meeting the president, the Permanent Secretary said that the President directed that strict adherence should be paid to terms and agreements of various loans.

“Basically, what we did was to present to the President the various programmes, projects and the reform efforts that we have been undertaking in the last couple of years, the stages of the various projects, especially the railway rehabilitation programme and development in our seaports. Also some of the regulatory issues that we sought are due for review and attention.

“The President quite appreciated a lot of what has been achieved so far and he has indicated his willingness to continue with a lot of projects and programmes already on ground. He has expressed his support, especially when we started talking about capacity building for individual operators in the country. He is really appreciative of the entrepreneur initiatives of Nigerians, an indication that government will continue to give its full support.

“There are issues that he thinks we should pay a lot of attention to, especially in the execution of agreements that we have entered into. He emphasized the need to adhere strictly to the terms of agreements and we are going to abide by that.

“Basically, those agreements are relating to the projects we entered into with the construction of railway, standard gauge lines and rehabilitation programmes.

“As you are aware, we have completed the Lagos-Kano and it is operational. Twice a week, people move from Lagos to Kano and back to Lagos. We have also recently commenced operation from Kano to Port Harcourt, and Port Harcourt to Gombe and from Gombe upwards we have some challenges.

“With regards to Abuja-Kaduna, track has been completely laid and we are now waiting for locomotives to arrive, which have been ordered and paid for. Our belief is that we will meet the deadline of December, 2015”, he said.

Sagay heads Advisory Committee

Meanwhile, to demonstrate his seriousness in the war against corruption, President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, set up a Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption.

His government has also supported the establishment of an Anti-Corruption and Criminal Justice Reform Fund by three international development partners, namely the Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation and Open Society Foundation with $5 million fund to assist implementation of key components of the Action Plan and the work of the Presidential Advisory Committee.

The advisory committee is to be headed by a professor of law and civil rights activist, Professor Itse Sagay.

Other members of the committee include Femi Odekunle, a Professor of Criminology from Ahmadu Bello University; Dr. Benedicta Daudu, an Associate Professor of International Law, University of Jos; E. Alemika, Professor of Sociology, University of Jos; Sadiq Radda, Professor of Criminology, Bayero University, Kano; Hadiza Bala Usman, a civil society activist and Bolaji Owasanoye of the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, who will also serve as Executive Secretary of the Committee.

The Committee’s brief is to advise the administration on the prosecution of the war against corruption and the implementation of required reforms in Nigeria’s criminal justice system.

It is also expected to develop comprehensive interventions for achieving other recommended reforms.

A statement from presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina added that the “fund will be managed by Trust Africa, an international development civil society organization with programme presence in more than 25 African countries.”

Nigeria not a rich country—Buhari

In a related development, President Muhammadu Buhari has said that Nigeria is erroneously being regarded as a rich country, stating that indices and parameters of evaluating a rich country such as economic advancement and improved social services are lacking.

He, however, enjoined the elite to be prepared to make sacrifices to rescue the country. The President spoke when he received out-going President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Donald Kaberuka and other officials of the bank.

According to him, the privileged and influential citizens clearly have to do more now than in the past to help the country deal successfully with its economic and security problems.

President Buhari also told Kaberuka that his administration will welcome more support from the AfDB for projects in versatile sectors like agriculture that can easily be explored to create more jobs for unemployed Nigerians.

He said: “With the shock of falling oil prices, lack of revenues, and insecurity, the Nigerian elite must now wake up and provide the right guidance in their communities, and also lead the economy on the right path more than they used to do.

“An impression has been erroneously created that we are a rich country but looking at the economic profile of the country today, you will see that this is not necessarily the case.

“Our social services have to be seriously rehabilitated. We need urgent attention in areas like education and health services, not only in the north-eastern part of the country, but all round the country.

“We will fall back on institutions like the AfDB for support in generating employment. We have vast potentials in the agricultural sector that can be explored to create more jobs.

“We also have small businesses that need funds for expansion.”

The outgoing AfDB President, however, told President Buhari that some development institutions like the World Bank, German Development Bank and the European Development Bank have already indicated their readiness to provide long-term loan facilities to small businesses in Nigeria.

Mr. Kaberuka assured the President that the AfDB will always support economic projects in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the former Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina will replace the outgoing AfDB President next month.

The AfDB currently has a strong capital base of 4.8 billion U S dollars.

SOURCE: VANGUARD

Aregbesola: The idealist as politician – By Owei Lakemfa

WHEN I was Acting General Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in 2011, we ordered workers’ strikes following disagreements on the implementation of the new Minimum Wage. Ogbeni Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola, Executive Governor of the State of Osun asked me for a discussion in Abuja.

The state was on its knees due to the strike and negotiations with the labour leaders had broken down, how can I assist? I advised him to increase the quantum of the funds his government was offering so that the workers can have a better payment table. In return, I offered to ask the state labour leaders to return to the negotiation table. He protested that the wage bill will be too high and that the workers ought to realise that the all-round development schemes he was implementing would reduce their financial burden.

I told him they realise this, but that the workers first priority is their survival and that of their families; that the primary concern of a bird is to eat, before flying to behold the wonders of the world. He looked disappointed, but I told him that unless he takes my advice he would need to break the workers, or they will break him. I told him I had no doubt who will be broken and that he needs to learn from one of his predecessors, the prudent Chief Bisi Akande who could hardly finish his first term as a result of his wars with workers. Aregbesola felt he had the backing of the populace, and I wished him luck. I could see he was genuinely committed to sustainable development in the state. I could also see an idealist as governor.

I can reveal that in the January 2012 General Strike and street protests over fuel price increase, he was one of two governors I know, who stood by the Nigerian people, and even provided us with much needed information. He also stoutly stood against the Jonathan Government declaring a state of emergency in the country to break the strikes. In contrast, almost all other governors including from the opposition parties, queued behind the government of the day.

This year, when the list of twenty three state governments owing workers salary and pension was published, Osun was listed as owing six months. A state like Enugu owed parastatal workers twelve months, and pensioners, five years. Ogun State had not paid pension for fifty two months while Benue State was a basket case. Despite being one of the least debtors in this roll of dishonour, the focus has been on Aregbesola with a serving judge demanding his impeachment. To some, this could be a way of getting back at Ashiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to whom he is closely identified. But I believe it might have to do with his antecedents as an activist, and peoples’ expectations.

This focus, tends to overshadow the social engineering, this mechanical engineer is carrying out. Unlike most governors whose sense of governance is to build some roads or kitchenettes, advertise them and impose huge taxes on the populace, Aregbesola, to use a trite, thinks outside the box. He makes a linkage between policy and the peoples’ interests. He does not just conceive projects, but also possible derivatives from the particular project, and how it is linked with other projects. He is like a town planner who ensures that the various development programmes are well situated for the convenience of the populace, and to enhance further development.

In tackling the mass unemployment monster, he began, in 2013, an ambitious Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (O’YES) under which 20,000 unemployed youths were engaged for two years. Tailored after Kwame Nkrumah’s Young Pioneers, beneficiaries were orientated to have loyalty to the people and serve them. Then they were taken through skill acquisition. This became a pool of educated, conscientized, skilled and empowered youths from which the state drew thousands of new recruits into its public service. The second group of 20,000 youths in the 2013-2015 batch, are rounding up their programme.

In introducing free education, his goal was not just literacy, but complete education which included membership of the Omoluabi (virtuous) Boys and Girls Club with emphasis on citizenship and physical training. One major innovation is the provision of one balanced meal a day for all children in school. This ensures their wellbeing and encourages parents to send their children to school. As part of the linkage, the food as much as possible, is locally produced thereby ensuring a linkage with the wellbeing of farmers in the locality of the schools. Also, the uniformed cooks and their assistants are taken from the schools’ locality thereby establishing a bond between community and school.

In integrating basic education with modern information technology along the lines of India’s Kerala State, the government provided pupils with Tablets (Opon Imo)

Also in providing school uniforms for pupils in public schools, the Aregbesola administration insisted the textile contractor must establish a factory in the state and train locals to sew the uniforms. The Government also introduced a Rural Enterprise and Agriculture Scheme and put in place an emergency system with ambulances. To check insecurity, it bought armoured personnel carriers and a surveillance helicopter.

In his zeal to frog-leap an essentially agrarian society into a 21st Century industrial one, Aregbesola forgot his Achilles heel; that like other states, Osun is dependent on monthly allocation from the federation account; so when the allocation dropped from N5 Billion in February 2013, to N540 Million this April, he was like a pilot who had overshot the runway.

Aregbesola tends to be programmatic like Obafemi Awolowo, a populist similar to ‘Penkelemesi’ Adelabu Adegoke, an orator in the mold of Samuel Ladoke Akintola, with a Talakawa spirit like Aminu Kano. But in a polity controlled by APC and PDP where all birds congregate; it is difficult to differentiate doves and pigeons from hawks and vultures.

In a sense, he is an idealist, and the problem with this tribe of people which I belong, is that we do not fully understand our environment. However, while realists perpetuate the status quo, only idealists change society.

SOURCE: VANGUARD

Unpaid Salary And The Conspiracy Against Osun – By Lateef Raji

Osun State is one of the 24 states currently contending with the challenge of unpaid workers’ wages. Obviously, the state’s workers are currently on an indefinite strike action over the issue. Consequently, things are a bit more complicated for the people and government of the state. Dealing with dwindling revenue, unpaid salaries and labour unrest is certainly not what any progressive and people oriented government prays for. Forlornly, the way things currently stand, this is what the Osun State government has to contend with.

Photospeaks - Enthusiatic crowd welcome Governor Rauf Aregbesola on his way to the office in Abeere secretariat
Photospeaks – Enthusiatic crowd welcome Governor Rauf Aregbesola on his way to the office in Abeere secretariat

It is, however, rather excruciating that while the Osun State government is making constructive and strategic efforts to ensure that all issues relating to the unpaid salaries debacle are addressed (the government has actually begun the process of offsetting part of the unpaid salaries), there seems to be a politically motivated plot and a groundless campaign of calumny against the state government. From the reprehensible activities of some self styled ‘activists’ and emergency ‘friends’ of Osun, one is tempted to conclude that those that were rejected at the polls by the good people of Osun have suddenly seen an opportunity to hide behind the unpaid salary matter to cause confusion in the state. Like a bolt from the blue, some of them had suddenly found their hitherto silenced voices. And they are not just talking; they are actually singing like a Red-eyed Vireo bird which sings more than 20,000 songs a day.

In their hypocrisy and desperate pursuit of political vendetta, together with their co-travelers in the mischievous contrive to ridicule the State Government, these unprincipled elements have continued to shamelessly trade in blatant and unfounded lies against the state government. Their mission is simple: To distract the state government and confuse the good people of the state. But like it is with all dubious individuals who love to play to the gallery, it is not surprising that these men are attempting to bounce to reckoning on the platform of the current Osun workers’ salary issue. How irresponsible!

What is, perhaps, quite absurd is their proclivity for rumour mongering and peddling of falsehood. How on earth could any reasonable person accuse Ogbeni Aregbesola, whose major selling point is his integrity and sincerity of purpose, of fraud? It needs to be stressed that Ogbeni Aregbesola has run, perhaps, the most prudent and transparent government in the country, thus far. In order to save cost and get the much needed funds, which were subsequently committed into judicious use for common good of the state, the governor, for nearly a year, during his first term in office, did not constitute a cabinet. Through this astute imitative, the government was able to make a few savings that were used in uplifting public education, agriculture, job creation, road construction, culture and tourism, environmental sanitation and beautification, flood control, rural development among others.

What this self pseudo ‘activists’ and unfriendly ‘friends’ of Osun did not tell the public is that what is happening in Osun is not peculiar to the state alone. About 23 other states and, indeed, the federal government, are experiencing same harsh economic reality. For the record, Osun State, which received five billion naira as monthly allocation in February 2013, got a mere N466 million in April, 2015! This aptly captures the dire financial strait of the state and the country as a whole. But these peddlers of falsehood won’t tell their audience this. Since their intent is devilish and naughty, Osun must be singled out for constant persecution and needless ridicule.

Ironically, it was the sixteen years’ reign of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, that anti-people’s platform which these defective individuals represent, and in particular the six-year reign of former President Goodluck Jonathan that actually plunged our beloved nation into the present mess. It is common knowledge that Dr. Jonathan ran a truly clueless, visionless and most corrupt government in the history of the country. Under his watch, the nation’s foreign reserve was recklessly depleted. Like never before, corruption became the order of the day during Jonathan’s tenure. When the President of a country affirms on national television that ‘stealing is not corruption’, you don’t need to be a prophet to know that such a country is in trouble. The truth, however, is that our economy is actually in trouble courtesy the Jonathan and PDP years of gross misrule.

It must be stressed that prior to the dawn of this present national economic predicament, Osun State had faithfully discharged its responsibilities to its workers. For a period of not less than 30 months, there was no record of rancorous moment with its workers. Indeed, the state, despite its lean purse is one of the few states in the country that paid its workforce a 13th-month salary every December. The government has equally helped to develop the local economy. For instance, the uniforms of pupils and students in all public schools in the state are sourced and produced locally. This has brought about a perceptible boom in the local fabric and fashion industry in the state. Equally, local contractors have been given a great boost as they handle most of the State Government construction works. Artisans, especially at Osogbo, the capital, would readily attest to the fact that things have never been this rosy for them as a result of the unprecedented
patronage they currently enjoy from the State Government. The free meal programme for primary school pupils also offers local entrepreneurs sufficient opportunities to make ends meet.

It has, therefore, become imperative for Osun State workers to call off their strike, team up with the governor to find a lasting solution to the financial crisis bedeviling the state. Their cause is a justified one, and they deserve their wages, but the strike option would only worsen the parlous financial situation of the state. It is simply a counter-productive alternative. Since the State Government did not hide the facts concerning the finances of the state from them, the rational thing to do is to put faith in the already existing line of communication between them and the State Government.

It is important to stress that the workers are part and parcel of governance in the state and as such are in prime position (especially those that work in the state revenue board) to come up with viable strategies that would help shore up the state’s IGR. The state’s civil servants need to rise up in unison by encouraging every eligible resident of the state to fulfill his civic responsibilities of tax payment to the state. Until this is effectively done, the state workers could not be actually absolved of complicity from the current economic woes of the state.

—Raji is former Special Adviser, Information & Strategy, Lagos State.

SOURCE: P.M. NEWS

Goodbye Awo, welcome Buhari – By Gboyega Amoboye

The late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and President Muhammadu Buhari might have lived at different times but, like identical twins, possess many things in common-dynamism, pragmatism, integrity, self- discipline, vision and passion-to make Nigeria work. The impeccable past of these tested leaders has proved that the bane of the country’s slow development since independence has been lack of purposeful leadership.

Buhari-and-AwoUnlike the reluctant leaders who had been imposed on us, Awolowo and Buhari, both armed with impeccable records of performance, the former as Premier of the old Western Region as well as Vice Chairman of the Federal Executive Council in the regime of Gen. Yakubu Gowon, and the latter, as a military Head of State, etc, adequately prepared for the leadership of Nigeria. Three times were each unsuccessful- Awolowo in 1959, 1979, 1983 and President Buhari in 2003, 2007 and 20011.

BUHARI and AWOLOWO
BUHARI and AWOLOWO

Their paths might have crossed in one form or the other, that may been the unseen hand of God in their lives preparatory to the task ahead that :”You Obafemi Awolowo is my Moses and you Muhammadu Buhari, my Joshua, for the libration of your people from the ‘rats and mosquitoes’ of your country”. Or could it be by sheer coincidence that, for the first time since independence, both the North and the South West are in effective political alliance? The Thomas’s may continue to doubt.

Like the Nostradamus that he was, Awolowo, in a paper delivered in Kano in 1970,had proposed a seven- point agenda which he called national objectives that should be implemented simultaneously in all the states of the federation for the rapid and even development of the country. He explained that the revenue allocation formula should be based on the implementation of the seven objectives and, by so doing, put an end to the “endless search for the appropriate allocation formula”. He was speaking in a paper titled, Revenue Allocation Must be Based on Even Progress and Needs, delivered in his capacity as the Federal Commissioner of Finance, to the annual conference of state commissioners of finance.

As if confirming the link between these great national heroes, Buhari recently implemented item seven of the Awolowo’s seven- point objectives for national development of 45 years ago and, by so doing, been praised for “bailing” out states that could not pay workers salaries. The late sage had said under this item that it was imperative to put the federal government in sufficient funds to enable it not only to perform its allotted functions but also to come readily to the aid of any state in need while arguing: “But perchance any state falls on evil day, it would be the duty of the federal government, acting as an accredited agent of all the states, to come to the aid of such a needy state without delay…

Before leaving this topic , one may ask Buhari’s critics where they were when former President Goodluck Jonathan granted some members of the private sector a bail out. For instance, Arik Airline got 600m dollars, Aero -200m dollars, Air Nigeria-225.8mdollars, Chachangi-55m dollars etc.(AMCON) in addition to an attempt to buy aircrafts for them but for adverse public opinion.

Revisiting the Awo agenda

If one of Awolowo’s seven objectives has been considered well enough for implementation, the remaining six, which may equally be as good, are therefore presented though in abridged form, for consideration by Mr. President. They are-full employment, free education at all levels and free health services for all, modernisation of agriculture and rural development, rapid industrialization of each state and rapid development of system of transportation. Owing to the relevance of Awolowo’s paper to the Nigeria of today, I had, at the formation of the All Progressive Party (APC), dropped a copy of it for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu at his office, Freedom House, Victoria Island, for possible incorporation into the APC manifesto.

Discussing full employment, Awolowo called for full exploitation and efficient utilization of minerals resources as well as modernization of agriculture explaining that the country’s capability for phenomenal growth was tremendous and colossal. He warned that anything short of full employment which could only be provided by exploitation of mineral resources and agriculture, would be an admission of failure on the part of Nigerian leaders “ that they are not equal to their admittedly difficult but at the same time inspiring and manageable assignment”.

Whenever we talk of merely reducing employment and not stamping it out he said, “The question which I always ask myself is- who are the unfortunate victims we are planning to keep on the unemployment market?”Like Awolowo, bailing out distressed states could be regarded as Buhari’s demonstration of love for workers too.

On modernization of agriculture, and industrialization, the sage, supporting his argument with characteristic statistics, said to achieve any of the ambitious projection, the country’s agriculture must be modernized and mechanized in a bold and massive manner. “We shall need to invest heavily in tractors, mechanical ploughs and riggers, fertilizers, pest control, irrigation, research into high yielding grains and cattle ranches, fishing trawlers, etc”. Awolowo, however, cautioned that none of the states could alone afford the level of investment involved without the intervention of the federal government acting in concert simultaneously with all the states.

As for industrialisation, he argued, that a properly developed agriculture in every state would lead to development of agro- allied industries automatically as well as manufacturing industries and consequently, disappearance of uneven location of industries. He however warned that between agriculture and industries, the choice should be agriculture to eradicate unemployment explaining that while industries if properly managed could provide employment for 220,000 workers in the next 12 years, agriculture would provide employment for six million within five years. Seeing 2015 way back in 1970, Chief Awolowo warned that “if it is the ardent and burning desire of those of us in the vanguard of public life to serve our age and the next generation faithfully, our area of concentration must ipso facto be agriculture.”

Concern

But how could uneducated and unhealthy population be productive? This was the concern of Awolowo as he canvassed as ever, for free education at all levels and free medical services for all, arguing: “Man is the alpha and omega of production and therefore indispensable to rapid economic progress, political stability and social harmony. The more educated and healthy he becomes the more productive he becomes as an economic agent and more effective as a member of the society”. He dismissed the fear that money would be the problem but adequate manpower and called for immediate planning.

On development of system of transportation, Awolowo said, “While the northern and riverine areas of the country, for social and economic reasons, lag behind in transportation development and should be therefore given a special attention henceforth, the crucial point of convergence for most transportation activities were those adjacent to the ports of Port-Harcourt, Calabar, Sapele, Warri, Escravos, Lagos and Apapa. It follows from this fact that the development of those roads within the areas of the Mid-West, Eastern, Western and Lagos Region which give access to the ports, is of concern to all of the states in the federation.” Predicting the chaotic situations of the roads witnessed today, Awolowo warned: “Any transportation difficulties in these areas are bound to constitute time-wasting bottle-necks of the worst order.”

The question may be asked, of what relevance is the vision of 1970 to 2015? The answer may be found in the reality that Nigeria has not been blessed with a visionary and patriotic leader since the Gowon era of 1970,who could harness the common wealth for the benefit of all her citizens as Chief Awolowo did for his people as the Premier of the Western Region. The metaphysical and psychological relationship between Awolowo and Buhari has shown that for the country to attain its potentials, there is an urgent need for another visionary, competent and honest leader like Awolowo, who Nigerians have found in Buhari, a man who came to power with tons of ‘universally acknowledged’ credibility that was uncommon with his fore runners.

Apparently in tandem with Awolowo, Buhari has already indicated that he would continue from where the sage stopped. Apart from”bailing” out distressed states, the President told the Nigerian community during his four-day visit to the United States: “The All Progressives Congress administration would fulfil its three-pronged campaign manifesto of providing security, turning around the economy with major focus on youth employment and fighting corruption.” He said agriculture and mining would receive priority as a faster job- creating avenues for the teeming unemployed youths.

Those who could not see yet any difference in electricity supply in the past two months may equally not find the correlation between Awolowo’s economic road map and that of Buhari. The sad news however is that if the projection of 1970 is still relevant in2015, it means the past 45 years has been that of the locusts and caterpillars due to bad governance. It is therefore not a surprise that Nigerians have unanimously voted for a statesman they could trust to remake the country. Good-bye Awo, welcome Buhari.

Source: VANGUARD

Osun Cocoa association lauds Aregbesola’s agric initiatives distributes chemicals

The Cocoa Association of Nigeria, Osun state chapter in its bid to match up with other cocoa growing states in Nigeria, has commenced the distribution of chemicals to boost cocoa production millions of Naira across the state.

The Association, in a release signed by its Deputy Chairman Board of Trustees and Zonal ‎Secretary Oyo/Osun zones, Dr. Bola Otunla and Hon. John Alalade, respectively directed the procurement and the distribution of chemicals to cocoa farmers.

Otunla noted that the gesture was borne out of the association’s support for the government of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola who has been rendering yearly support to cocoa farmers in the state.

Cocoa
Cocoa

He stressed that the Association felt that the time to reciprocate the Governor’s yearly gesture is by coming to the aid of the state by ensuring that the assistance to farmers continue unabated in the face of the financial challenges of the state.

According to him, “It gives me great pleasure to inform you that the state chapter of the Cocoa Association of Nigeria has started the distribution of fungicide and insecticide to cocoa farmers in Osun with effect from the first week of July, 2015.

The initial consignment has come and been distributed and it will continue until the end of the rainy season in 2015.

“This is to ensure that we match up with other cocoa growing states in the South-West, especially our competitor in Ondo state”.

He urged farmers in the state to put in their best in the area of cocoa production, sayin‎g all hands must be on deck for the state to realise it’s full potentials in agriculture and specifically in the area of cocoa production in Nigeria.

NGO urges Aregbesola to intensify efforts on pro-people policies *says school feeding programme has great impact

The State of Osun has bagged another recognition on account of its highly celebrated school feeding program for schools children, tagged OMEAL.

This time around, it was the turn of an Abuja-based international non governmental organization, Voice of African Women for for Human Dignity which showered encomia on Governor Rauf Aregbesola over the highly successful programme.

Osun feeds over 250 elementary school pupils every school days with nutritious meals a programme that also has impacts on agriculture and other value chains.

Other programms of the Aregbesola administration that also attracted the attention of the organisation include the special welfare programme for the elderly and vulnerable, Agba Osun, as well as that for widows in the state.

Speaking on behalf of the body in Abuja, Barrister Julie Doule who represented the President, Hajia Amina Idris, disclosed that the board of the organization also found Governor Aregbesola worthy of the emulation for his commitment to child education as well as incentives for the disabled in the society.

They further commended Ogbeni Aregbesola for his resolve to use his programmes to better the lives of the downtrodden through poverty alleviation.

She said, “this Award of Excellence is in recognition of your immense contributions to the survival of human dignity. The free meal Program for school children in Osun State which has become a benchmark on how to increase child education and the incentive programs for the disables, widows and the aged are laudable programs that are worthy of commendations. ” Hajia Amina Idris said the non governmental organization concluded that the humility of Aregbesola, his compassionate disposition in the conduct of both private and public as well as efforts towards building a society where human dignity is held paramount must not go unnoticed.

Happy Kids empowered by O MEAL
Happy Kids empowered by O MEAL

“Your resolve to remove a vast majority of people living below poverty line in the midst of plenty in the country and integrate them into wealth through sustainable creation of various avenues are worthy of commendations,” the Voice of African Women for Human Dignity boss noted.

In his remarks, Governor State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, who said he decided to go into politics with sole aim of empowering the populace, bemoaned policies that are anti-people and pro-elite.

He said foremost responsibilities of any responsible administration is to use the commonwealth to bring about just, fair and peaceful society noting that economic challenges remain the cause of insurgency in the North-East of Nigeria.

“I commend and urge you to support all initiatives directed at empowering the people as well as efforts of governments at mobilizing and motivating for genuine development of the society” Gov Aregbesola stated.

According to the Governor, any contribution no matter how small to the society will remove some class of people from being poor, thereby improving the society, and contribute to human civilization.

“It is not going to be easy offering yourselves for this task of removing people from shackles of poverty. Be prepared to further face several challenges including spiritual. However, your determination will help in improving the society, reduction in the number of poor people, effects of poverty will be eliminated thereby contributing your quota to human civilization,” the governor stated

Osun, Aregbesola and the Price of Commitment – By Sylvester Akhaine

David Runciman in his Confidence Trap, an interesting analysis of democracy’s toil through the prism of de Tocqueville’s reading of America’s democracy in the 19th century, underlines the views of Tocqueville on the advantage of democracy over autocracy. According to him “…the long-term advantages of democracy are not readily apparent. They can’t be grasped in the moment. They need time to reveal themselves.” In its crisis mode he noted that “Democracies are caught between their impulse to precipitate action and their instinct to wait. There is no equilibrium between these states of mind.”

JUBILATIONS AS AREGBESOLA DEFEATS OMISORE AT GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION PETITION TRIBUNAL
JUBILATIONS AS AREGBESOLA DEFEATS OMISORE AT GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION PETITION TRIBUNAL

The state of Osun under the leadership of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola between 2010 and now approximates Tocqueville’s appreciation of democracy in America. Today, there are few governors in Nigeria well-loved by his people like Ogbeni. I was fortunate to witness his first inauguration and could vividly recall the ecstasy and frenzy of the day in Oshogbo. For the people of Osun, Ipinle Omoluabi, it was a new dawn. The bond between the governor and his people was massively displayed in his re-election. The election was a test of strength of people united behind their leader and irredentist central government. In that re-election exercise, over 700,000 voters turned out, amounting to about 54 per cent of the total registered voters, the highest recorded in elections in the country at the time and about 55 percent of the valid votes sealed the mandate of the incumbent. Never in our history has a state election excited so much interest. It was a contest between good and evil but of course the people triumphed.

Ogbeni’s re-election took place against a background of a dip in the price of oil in the international market and for a country solely reliant on a mono product from which it merely extract rents, it was a matter of time that the entire economy would reveal its structural weakness. With a paltry internally generated revenue and with over 50 percent cut in accruals from oil revenue, the chicken came home to roost. The distributable pool in the federation account could barely pay the salaries of workers across states of the federation. At the last count over twenty states were unable to settle their wage bills, some, for upwards of eight months and even the central government with its buffers owned workers in many agencies and institutions of government.

The states affected are Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Benue, Cross River, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Enugu Imo, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kogi, Kebbi, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Yobe and Zamfara. Only about 14 states have been able to pay salaries up-to-date. These states include Anambra, Adamawa, Bayelsa, Borno, Delta, Edo, the FCT, Gombe, Kaduna, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Sokoto and Taraba. As at 2014, the domestic debt of states was put collectively at about N1.7 trillion by the Debt Management Office (DMO). The case of Benue states was so bad that the Governor Suswan was overwhelmingly voted out in his bid for the senate in the last general elections. Cross River, Edo, Kaduna, Lagos and Ogun have the biggest external debt profile. Currently, Osun states own its workers up to five months salary arrears. As Olusegun Adeniyi has observed in his ‘States of Emergency’, Ogbeni was the only governor of the lot to admit so. Sincerity ought to be a distinguishing character of democracy as Tocqueville found out in the case of America.

At this point, the pertinent question is why the disproportionate focus on Osun state? Recently, the Osun State House of Assembly has inaugurated a seven-man committee to probe the alleged financial recklessness of the governor. Indeed, the commonplace narrative is that the governors mismanaged state resources. Whereas this may be true of some states, there are other objective factors that we ought to relate with, they are in the main developmental and go to lengths to explain the Osun dilemma. They flow from the commitment of the governor of the state to his state and his people whose price he is currently paying as the butt of sometimes extremely uncomplimentary remarks coming from grossly ill-informed and bellyaching commentators. Again, this is the beauty of democracy. The governor comes from the most oppositional crust of the Nigerian polity and we cherish that value. Amidst the chaos of the babel, the truth must find its way and that is the providence in democracy. I shall present in what follows concrete development steps which Osun state governor has embarked upon since 2010 when he assumed leadership of the state

Upon his inauguration, Ogbeni provided jobs for 20,000 of our youths within the first 100 days in office under the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES), a social welfare programme in which the youths are involved in community service as well as capacity building that costs the state about N8.8 billion so far. This has been acclaimed by the World Bank and other multilateral institutions. The governor introduced a school feeding scheme for about 252000 school children at a yearly cost of about N3.5 billion. Over 3000 community caterers and sundry commercial farmers benefit from this scheme. The education development also include Opon Imo, an electronic Learning tablet provisioned for about 150,000 high school students gulping about N1.67 billion, the development of model school infrastructure, teacher training School, uniform harmonization which has stimulated he largest garment factory in West Africa. The state’s pathway to diversification of agriculture led to investment in agri-business which resulted in the development of one of the largest poultry producers in the country while the cocoa factory in Ede are equally being restored. Oshogbo town is undergoing one of the most ambitious urban renewal project in the country with the development of road infrastructure.

It is pure miracle that Ogbeni could make this mileage with the state paltry fiscal profile. Resources from Federal Allocation Account (FAAC) between November 2010 and April 2015 was about N121.4 billion. Personnel cost alone gulped about 121.4 billion between November 2010 and November 2014. Internally generated revenue, capital receipts as well as proceeds from bonds went into recurrent expenditure and capital projects. It is clear beyond doubt that that Ogbeni is paying the price of commitment to his people. He may have made some mistakes inadvertently. He means well for his state. The democratic instinct to wait will justify the Osun project and elevate the status of Ogbeni in the service of his people.

Dr. Akhaine is a visiting member of the Guardian Editorial Board.

Osun Salary Crisis: State Insolvency And True Federalism – By Michael Popoola Ajayi

The embarrassing wages quagmire that has engulfed the country is quite unfortunate, most especially as the Governor of the State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has been singled out and made the symbol of this monstrous national calamity by political hawks and their capricious-minded agents in the state. That these antagonists are hell-bent on destroying Aregbesola, his government and by extension his political party is most worrisome. And their angst is not being driven by any shred of altruism. They simply ache because he denied them the seat of power in the state at the August 9, 2014 election, an opportunity they always sought since Abaca’s inglorious and ignominious transition programme with just one agenda –corner state resources. Secondly, Ogbeni Aregbesola, in the last four years, has judiciously applied the meager resources of the state towards putting the state on the course of monumental human capital and infrastructural development, at a dimension their parochialism could not imagine.

Having carefully followed all the vituperations, aspersions and arguments against the financial management style of the Governor, the keen observer cannot but note that they range from total ignorance of current issues, to ludicrousness and wackiness by incurably self-centered Labour “leaders,” individuals and (most bothersome) certain wrongheaded Rights Activists in and outside the state.

Against this backdrop of misinformation and distortions, one is persuaded to add his voice to these issues that will continue to dominate public discourse because no one seems to be thinking about lasting solution to this humongous problem. My intervention aims to scratch beyond the surface of the problem as we currently have. This is because a fundamental problem militating against the growth and development of the country has to do with the failure to accept the fact of the pervasive culture of corruption, pursuit of vain glory and the nature of our political structure.

The current travail of Ogbeni Aregbesola is unfortunate because he is one person who strives to follow the Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo both in ideological and philosophical outlook, as well as demonstrating genuine concern and willingness to uplift the economic capacity and wellbeing of the masses.

Like the late sage Awolowo, Ogbeni incurred a heavy capital outlay as a result of his welfarist programmes for the people in education, health, good conditions of service for the workforce,etc. The only difference is that Awolowo was fully aware that there was no Federal Government father-figure anywhere to give him money; therefore he looked inward by first of all designing programmes to expand the economic base and capacity of the people who were mere peasant farmers, village-square artisans and traders. Awo made huge investments in agriculture, infrastructure and education.

The result of his investment reflected in increased output, which meant increase in taxable incomes and profits from the sale of agricultural produce. These were in turn invested in hotels and tourism, estates, industries, etc. through the Oodua Investment Company, a conglomerate that became the first in Africa and formed a template quickly adopted by the highly revered SirAhmadu Bello for the Northern Region.

The point being made is that, it is just impossible for any state to continue to rely on the Federal Government for a purposeful development agenda. For this reason, I have never been persuaded by neo-liberal economic evangelists, whose article of faith is a shift of economic factors from the public sector to private sector. These ones preach free market/trade, privatization, minimal or zero-engagement in business by states, almost zero public expenditure on social services like education, etc. Adoption of this gospel has foisted governments without responsibility and accountability on Nigerians since the ‘Maradonic’ regime of Ibrahim Babangida. I have aligned myself with the argument for state-driven economy. The reason is that it has the capacity to combine the commercial and social objectives of the state in a manner that the private concern would not, because, while profit is the sole objective of the private concern, the state-owned enterprise could achieve profitability without losing sight of the social objectives of the state. For example, the state could deliberately invest in an industry because of the peculiarity of the people of a certain section of the state, region or community to generate employment opportunities and set a standard for workers’ working condition.

The idea here is that, states in Nigeria cannot continue to spend money without viable investment options that will make them less dependent on Abuja for their sustainability. They must necessarily move away from the present situation where they are reduced to rent and commission takers in the name of monthly revenue allocation, a fact that has brewed laziness and parasitism on the part of handlers of many states who embrace indolence because they are certain of collecting their own share of revenue allocation every month.

However, for states in Nigeria to become viable economic and political units, as it was during the days of Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello and Michael Okpara, there must be a fundamental and critical interrogation of the current state of national orientation, and socio-political structures.

The starting point in the cause of national rebirth is for all and sundry to encourage and support the current anti-corruption efforts. We must, as a of matter urgency, wage serious, sincere and genuine war against the pervasive culture of corruption in the land. To lead this crusade is not just President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo alone, but state governors who wear the stereotype of profligacy and licentiousness.

State governors and other political leaders must reduce the cost of running government bureaucracies. I am not talking about mere salary cuts here, but a radical reviewing of the cost of maintaining government houses, the cost and maintenance of vehicles in their convoys, travel expenses, etc. In this regard, the governing APC must make real its commitment to Nigerians to “end all private jet and first-class foreign travels for all government employees and end immunity from prosecution for sitting politicians,” as stated in the party’s manifesto. Also, a strict budget monitoring and implementation mechanism must be put in place to guide against diversion of public funds for private and pecuniary usages. The governors must necessarily imbibe the culture of modesty in both their private and public conducts as against the present situation whereby some of them want to be treated as demigods.

My worry about the war against corruption is that, eradication of corrupt practices in our polity may continue to be a mirage so long as we continue to place a high premium on material success as a people. I also fear that, it will be impossible to tackle this canker-worm, so long as we continue to make our electoral process very expensive. Electioneering is heavily monetized today and political offices highly attractive. If we really want to make headway in the fight against corruption, we must thoroughly interrogate these issues in order to reverse the prevailing trend arising from the failure of politicians to view politics as a lifetime opportunity to serve the people by judiciously applying state resource for the maximum benefit of people. Rather, participation in politics is viewed as the most lucrative business venture that promises the highest and unequal returns anyone can get from other sectors of our economic engagements.

One way to a permanent solution lies in looking at our political structure. It is high time we face the objective realities of our socio-economic and cultural context, to put in place an enduring political structure that will redefine power relations among the country’s federating units, that is, the states as presently constituted. This will happen through constitutional reengineering.

As a matter of fact, one can safely conclude that the adoption of the presidential system of government in 1979 and beyond permitted persistent and unbridled corruption, recklessness and impunity being exhibited by the Nigerian political class. It is quite unfortunate that the drafters of the 1979 Constitution were naïve to think that unity among the peoples of Nigeria could be achieved mechanically by adopting the American system. They forgot that our history and culture (Nigeria and America’s) are not in any way identical, therefore our realities cannot be the same. The advantages of the 1963 Constitution and the Westminster system over whatever Constitution we have been given since the 1979 presidential system of government will be discussed later.

Back to the issue at hand, besides being wasteful and expensive to maintain, the present system gives too much power, responsibilities and resources to the Centre, turning it into what Dr. Olu Onagoruwa calls a Leviathan, so powerful as to be dictating the heartbeat of the states. For instance, the Centre decides what amount a state should pay its workers, like the recent eighteen thousand naira minimum wage that has become a maximum problem to many states, as well as remunerations to political office-holders. This makes one wonder why oil-producing Delta and Bayelsa governors or councillors should be on the same pedestal as those of zero-oil Ekiti, Osun and Zamfara states.

There is no better time than now to consider putting in place a constitutional mechanism that will engender Fiscal Federalism in our Constitution. It has been said times without number by pro-restructuring and true Federalism advocates that there are many items on the Exclusive List of our present Constitution that actually should be on the Residual List.

All these provide President Buhari a golden opportunity of becoming the father of modernNigeria. He must go beyond the provisions of power devolution enumerated in the APC manifesto, his bold fight against corruption foisted on the country by the extant Constitution and the pervading “quick money” culture. He must move towards establishing a mechanism that willlead to a Constitution that will guarantee devolution of powers to the federating units as obtained in the First Republic. This way, we can diffuse the tension being generated by over-concentration of power and resources at the Centre, and give enterprising Governors like Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola the opportunity to adequately harness his state’s resources for planning its development agenda at its own.

Centre for Democracy ànd Socio-Economic Rights, Lagos

08033543010

[email protected]

Celebrating Soyinka In A Recession – By Soyombo Opeyemi

There is intellectual recession in Nigeria. It is high time we conducted an intellectual audit of tutors in our higher institutions of learning. Is it refutable, as someone recently argued, that ‘half-baked’ graduates are produced by ‘half-baked’ lecturers; that a mango seed can only produce a mango fruit, certainly not an orange? When you have a system where a lecturer appears at the beginning of a semester, dumps the scheme of work or course outline in the class and reappears about a week or two to the semester examination to give ‘areas of concentration’ to the students or allow cash and sex to determine their grades, then you are bound to have ‘half-baked’ graduates.

Should the practice of intellectual tyranny – where the teacher plays God or determines who should or should not graduate – continue or should the students themselves be involved in the assessment of their lecturers, as it is the case abroad and in some private institutions in Nigeria? How do we end the current intellectual sterility and circle of substandard learning, even when the limited funds deployed to these institutions and their internally generated revenues (IGRs) are generally mismanaged? What salary structure is appropriate for our academics so that we can end the yearly ritual of going on strike for months and then coming back to collect salaries for the period of the industrial action? Should the government, in the Nigerian context, continue to superintend public tertiary institutions of learning or should we turn them over to private hands in order to extirpate these endemic and systemic cultures?

Prof Wole Soyinka in a chat with Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola
Prof Wole Soyinka in a chat with Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola

Is it time we converted the polytechnics to universities, like Britain did? Since the majority of those who go to polytechnics are as good as their counterparts in the universities, should we convert all polytechnics to universities or turn them to satellites of contiguous universities in order to accommodate majority of our teeming youths seeking varsity education every year? And how much destruction has the take-over of public schools in the 1970s by governments done to our educational system?

The Sunday Post of October 29, 1967 carried a press release by Anthony Enahoro, the Federal Commissioner for Information, announcing the detention of Soyinka by the Federal Military Government. The very first paragraph of that release is intriguing: “A famous Nigerian playwright, Head of Drama and Lecturer in English of the Lagos University, Mr Wole Soyinka, has been detained…”

What exactly made a lecturer with seven or nine years of experience famous? How could a man with only a Bachelor’s degree become the Head of Department of English, Head of Drama, in less than seven years of taking up a university appointment? I believe the answer would be located, mostly, in the fact that Soyinka is both a teacher and practitioner – or is more of a practitioner than a teacher, to underscore the point here. Even as a fresh graduate, his play, ‘The Invention’, was premiered at Royal Court Theatre, London, where he worked for two years before returning to Nigeria. While in school, his presentation on ‘Tipping’ won an oratory contest. He told stories on BBC and staged a play at the Students’ Drama Festival – all a rare feat for a Nigerian at that time.

The way a theatre practitioner will impart knowledge to students will be different from the way a mere teacher of Theatre will do. In the same way, a practising lawyer will affect the students better than a mere textbook teacher of Law. A civil engineer with many years of field experience will achieve better results with his wards than a classroom civil engineer. What we have in our tertiary schools are essentially classroom teachers, not practitioners. No matter how good you are as a Professor of Mass Communication, a ‘media practitioner’ of the same number of years or less, who can also teach, will affect the students far better than you do. Sure, a practising Agriculture lecturer will know so much through experience and achieve far better results with learners than a textbook lecturer.

Yes, I’m aware of the Industrial Attachment scheme for students, sabbatical for lecturers, etc.; these are not enough to produce well-rounded graduates, especially in this age. So what is the kernel of the argument here?

I know a few lecturers who are practitioners of what they teach (despite the limitation of time). They attest to the huge impact of the practical experience on their fields of study, and consequently, on their charges. What we need on our campuses now are more of trainers than classroom teachers. There is need to make our education functional – a tool for national development. Our academics should no longer live in ivory towers. The essence of knowledge is its use to advance human cause. Knowledge that has no utilitarian application outside the school system is of no value. In the context of the marriage between the ‘Town’ and the ‘Gown’, Soyinka is the archetypal lecturer needed for our tertiary education. What a huge impact have his works, in print and on stage, made on our society. Prof. Barth Nnaji is on the same pedestal with Soyinka in this regard. His theoretical as well as practical works in the field of power speak volumes.

While encouraging our dons to practice, there is need to draw teachers (instructors or trainers) from outside the college or school system and evolve a system where students will have 35 per cent of their classes (scheme of work) with the practitioners, who have the ability to teach, while teachers within the school system retain 65 per cent contact. In other words, the practitioners will be employed to teach on a part-time basis while the school teachers are, of course, on full-time. This should constitute a major concept of the marriage between the ‘Town’ and the ‘Gown’.

I observe this in the academic community in Nigeria. Rather than ask about your work, the question is usually, “What did you study?” It is always about certificate, not necessarily what you can do or your track record. If Bill Gates had applied to teach a course in Computer Studies in any tertiary institution in Nigeria, he would have been asked how many degrees he secured in Computer Studies!

The rule, of course, is that you must teach what you studied in the college. But there are always exceptions. The academic community in Nigeria is closed and stuck in a time warp. This is to its own disadvantage. Imagine a hypothetical case of a Chuka Momah being turned down from taking a course in Journalism or Physical Education just because he studied Microbiology! The two books unveiled in 2014 by Momah, according to Anthony Akaeze, “have been hailed by many critics as invaluable works that sportsmen, sport education instructors… will find useful because of their richness and the diversity of subjects treated.” (TELL, April 21, 2014)

C’don Adinuba, by virtue of the depth and breadth of his public offerings, has no business being completely outside the academic milieu. Students under the tutelage of his likes in Journalism, Political Science, English Studies, etc. cannot but come out as well-grounded graduates. C’don had to abandon his post-graduate studies because he was not getting any value for the time and money. If he were to apply today for a teaching appointment, he would be asked if he had a PhD, yet he ought to be training PhD students! Thank God our erudite scholar, the trainer of trainers and teacher of teachers, Prof. Soyinka, neither has an MA nor a PhD! I am here putting Convention on trial. I expect witnesses just as I anticipate a robust defence.

Yes, government must take the ultimate responsibility for the recession but everything is not about government. Prof. Babatunde Munir Ogunsanwo once spoke about “academic ‘dead-woods’ who remain in the system for decades without self-improvement” and those who indulge in attending to their lectures “a week or two before the commencement of an examination.” Prof. Ogunsanwo spoke then in 2009 during his inaugural lecture at the Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago-Iwoye. With the reforms and innovations going on now at OOU, which have resulted in the institution emerging the best state university in Nigeria within a short space of three years (2012 – 2015), perhaps the solution to revamping our educational system does not necessarily lie in turning them over to private hands. These reforms should now spread to other public higher institutions in Nigeria. The President, state governors and other stakeholders in the education sector must insist on cast-iron discipline and accountability on our campuses. There must be efficiency and excellence. A system should also be put in place to distinguish and reward the academics and support staff that labour day and night to nurture a great future for Nigeria.

These are among the issues that should engage our attention as we celebrate our literary icon, the teacher and trainer, my intellectual avatar, Wole Soyinka, now in the early evening of his life…!

Soyombo is an author and public affairs commentator, you can contact him through [email protected]

Jonathan’s Ministers stole one million barrels of crude oil per day – Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari Tuesday in the United States vowed that his administration would trace the accounts of individuals who stashed away ill-gotten oil money, freeze and recover the loot and prosecute the culprits.

Reacting to questions from members of Nigerians In Diaspora Organization (NIDO) in the United States and Canada at the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC on the third day of his visit, the President lamented that “Corruption in Nigeria has virtually developed into a culture where honest people are abused.”

According to him, “250,000 barrels per day of Nigerian crude are being stolen and people sell and put the money into individual accounts,” adding that the United States and other developed countries “are helping us to trace such accounts now.

POTUS Obama n Prez Buhari in heart-to-heart talks
POTUS Obama n Prez Buhari in heart-to-heart talks

We will ask that such accounts be frozen and prosecute the persons. The amount involved is mind-boggling. Some former ministers were selling about one million barrels per day. I assure you that we will trace and repatriate such money and use the documents to prosecute them. A lot of damage has been done to the integrity of Nigeria with individuals and institutions already compromised.”

Citing the example of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), President Buhari said unlike what obtained during his tenure as Federal Commissioner for Petroleum under military regime when the NNPC had only two traceable accounts before paying oil proceeds into the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), “now everybody is doing anyhow.”

The President, who expressed skepticism on the existence of oil subsidy, said if subsidy was removed, transport, housing and food prices would go out of control and the average worker would suffer untold hardship.

While agreeing that the “economy is in an extremely bad shape,” following 16 years of bad government by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which ran down the oil refineries and had the “treasury in their pockets,” he said the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led administration would fulfill its three-pronged campaign manifesto of providing security, turning around the economy with a major focus on youth employment and fighting corruption. According to him, agriculture and mining would receive priority attention as faster job-creation avenues for the teeming unemployed youth, adding that some foreign investors had agreed to take advantage of the immense business opportunities in Nigeria.

President Buhari when asked if the Federal Government (FG) would agree to negotiate with the Boko Haram insurgent and terrorist organization to pave way for the release of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls, replied that the FG would only negotiate if genuine and confirmed leaders of the militant sect came forward and convinced the FG of the current conditions of the girls, their location and the sect’s willingness to negotiate. “Our objective is that we want the girls back, alive and returned to their families and rehabilitated. We are working with neighbouring countries if they will help,” he said.

On when he would form his cabinet, the President, who observed jokingly that the question was chasing him around the world even to the point that at home he had been nicknamed, “Baba Go Slow!”, noted that not even the PDP during all the years it ruled the country ever never formed a cabinet within the first four months. “I am going to go slow and steady,” he assured, as he called for patience to allow the new administration “put some sense into governance and deal with corruption.”

President Buhari promised that his administration would at the right time tap into the enormous talents available amongst members of NIDO especially as consultants while their requests for voting right in 2019, a Diaspora Commission and opening of new consulates in parts of the United States and Canada would be looked into.

The President had earlier met at the same venue with a group of young professionals in the United States and assured them of his government’s resolve to fight corruption, remain steadfast and invest heavily in education which he said was the answer to taking the youth out of poverty and ignorance. The youth in their huge numbers took turns to express their best wishes for the President and the country.

GARBA SHEHU
Senior Special Assistant to the President
(Media & Publicity)

July 22, 2015