Ajibola Amzat’s ‘Special Falsehood’ Against Osun Governor

By Sola Fasure

Ajibola Amzat’s piece in the Guardian on Sunday of March 13, 2016 titled ‘State Of The Living Springs Gasps For Breath’ is a ‘hatchet job’ if we take the definition of the term given by Cambridge Dictionaries Online as ‘a cruel written or spoken attack on someone or something’ or dictionary.com definition as ‘a maliciously destructive critique or act’.

Amzat left no one in doubt of his intention from the beginning when he opened the piece with a categorical allegation that Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun lied in his presentation to the State House of Assembly on the state’s finances on June 2, 2015. ‘The claim by the Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, about the total revenue allocation to his state between November 2010 when he was first sworn-in and December 2014 may not be accurate after all, The Guardian has learnt’ he wrote. He also concluded on that same note.

He went ahead to compile the state’s revenues, obtained from dubious sources and came up with a damning conclusion that the governor concealed and did not account for N263.33 billion. These are made up of N3.8 billion revenue allocation funds, N1.32 billion from Internally Generated Revenue, N194.03 billion Revenue Allocation to the local governments, N61.44 billion Excess Crude Account Allocation and N2.75billion funds from Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). The insinuation and innuendo from this are that the governor misappropriated the amount. He then supported this claim with varying wild and totally false allegations of inflated projects costs, outright profligacy and unviable and abandoned white elephant projects.

osun National Executive Council retreat admas oshiomhole edo

At a time when Osun, 28 other states and the Federal Government are going through financial challenges, the publication is meant to embarrass the governor by isolating and portraying him as reckless, thereby incite the good people of the state into insurrection and destabilise the government.

The three-page special report in essence is a special falsehood concocted by defeated opposition candidates in the last governorship election in the state, signed by Amzat and passed as investigative journalism. This is not a trivial statement. His sources mainly, Elder Segun Akinwusi, the immediate past Head of Service in Osun, was a defeated candidate who did not win his ward. Amzat’s data is a replica of the paper Akinwusi presented at a failed summit himself and other disgruntled elements attended last year. Another source he quoted, Justice Folahanmi Oloyede, a serving judge in the state’s judiciary, has never hidden her determination to pull down the governor. Amzat’s article is a rehash of her failed petition to the State House of Assembly, asking for the impeachment of the governor. Another of his sources,  a two-man NGO called Civil Societies Coalition for Emancipation of Osun State, had sent a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), making the same allegations against the governor, using the same figures and data that Amzat published.

All the allegations and petitions were produced into pamphlets and compact discs and freely distributed in Osun and are therefore nothing new. When they came to our attention, we took time to explain and clear the air on every issue, and so the allegations and allegers have been thoroughly discredited. The article, ostensibly a special investigative report, is continuation of opposition warfare by other means, only that Amzat offered them the platform of The Guardian and his hand to draw the chestnut out of the fire. To claim therefore that it is investigative report sponsored by the Ford Foundation and International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) is to pass orange as apple – an outright fraudulent assertion. While it is possible that they financially supported the reporter when he approached them, they nevertheless have been consciously or unconsciously duped.

Governor Aregbesola on his own volition in the spirit of transparency and accountability laid bare the state of the state’s finances on June 2, 2015, at the State House of Assembly, while inaugurating the 6th Assembly. This was due to the prevailing circumstances arising from the financial challenges in the state at the time. He was there to inaugurate the Assembly, not to account for the state’s finances.

Fact Check on Osun finances

On a second note, even though the information given to the Assembly was materially correct in all aspects (we have checked and rechecked again and have confirmed its accuracy), it is not an audited report of the state’s account, which can only be given by the state’s Ministry of Finance and Office of the Accountant General of the State. Only an audit report can be quoted for reference and subjected to thorough analysis. The governor only attempted a summary of the state’s finances, in light of the financial challenge of the time. Even when auditors detect discrepancies, while going through an account, they first seek to clarify by issuing audit queries. This is done without any assumption until attempts have been made to close the gaps detected. This is because a noticed discrepancy may be due to unintended error. So, no inference of fraud or concealment is possible and could have been made as Amzat did so recklessly, magisterially and with relish.

I will point out below how all his facts, argument and allegations are wrong and came from a malicious intent.

  1. If this claim were true, the IGR for the state in 2013 and 2014 alone should be hovering around N38.4 billion or thereabout. Added to 12.3 billion collected between 2011 and 2012, and N600 million generated in November and December 2010, the total IGR for the state should be around N51.3 billion, and not N27.5 billion disclosed by the governor’.

The IGR figure the governor gave, N27.5 billion, remains correct. The custodians of the state’s revenues remain the Office of the Accountant General and the state’s Ministry of Finance. No other body or organisation has access to the complete records or has operated on them. It is incomprehensible how any other person, group or agency could have spoken so authoritatively on a state’s IGR, other than the aforementioned.

  1. ‘Governor Aregbesola said the use of Information and Communications Technology in all government transactions has increased his state’s IGR to N1.6 billion monthly. Therefore, it is either the governor presented to the public an exaggerated figure of N1.6 billion as monthly internal revenue since 2013, or a substantial part of the revenue was left unaccounted for’

State’s Internally Generated Revenue stream is not fixed. It comes everyday in bits and pieces through taxes, levies, rates, fines and dues. There cannot be any guarantee of regularity and this is why it is called recurrent revenue. When Ogbeni Aregbesola became Governor, the IGR was N300 million monthly average and it was ICT that was used to increase the IGR to N600 million average when the government began e-payment and directed that no individual or agency should henceforth collect cash on behalf of the state but all revenues due to the government should be paid directly into government accounts at the banks.

The fact is that the N1.6 billion collection was a peak figure and not an average and it occurred at a particular month as a “one-off” IGR, during the period. ICT application was used to collect the back-duty taxes and charges on the telecom right of ways related to past period but collected at this particular month. At the particular time the governor spoke, IGR was N1.6 billion. This was due mainly to the fact that a lot of accumulated debts were being aggressively pursued and many debtors were paying. ICT, the governor explained, only pushed IGR from N300 million to N600 million, not N1.6 billion.

How could it have been reasonably conjectured that because the governor claimed the state’s IGR peaked at N1.6 billion in a particular month, it then automatically meant that the state was realising this amount consistently every month and then allege that he under-disclosed any difference in the figure he made available after?

  1. ‘In addition, according to Federal Ministry of Finance, Osun State received N61.4 billion from Excess Crude Account between 2011 and 2014, as well as grants worth of N2.7 billion from Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) between 2011 and 2013 and an unverified amount from the sure-p scheme’

The Excess Crude Allocation (ECA) due to the state within this period was N17.14 billion and not N61.4 billion. This is already included in the total figure of N176.5 billion revenues that accrued to the state from the federation account. Funds from the ECA are not shared separately. They are included in the distributable pool to be shared with the regular allocation in a particular month. Therefore, the ECA of N61.33 billion alleged to be undeclared is dubious, false and totally unfounded. It is, again, another case of dabbling into accounting matter by a dilettante. Also, mentioning it as a separate revenue line is another mischievous attempt to expand the fussy mathematics to get to a conclusion that N263.33 billion is missing.

Governor State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola atop his vehicle, acknowledging cheers from muslim faithful, during the Jumat Prayers at Ja'amat Otakiti Central Mosque, Osogbo, on Friday 11-03-2016.
Governor State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola atop his vehicle, acknowledging cheers from muslim faithful, during the Jumat Prayers at Ja’amat Otakiti Central Mosque, Osogbo, on Friday 11-03-2016.

While Amzat claimed that UBEC funds received by Osun is N2.75 billion, our records for the same period indicate N3.38 billion. However, UBEC fund is even a different kettle of fish. It is a 50-50 joint contribution by the state and the Federal Government. To qualify for it, a state must have already made its own equal contribution available. This is why 22 states or thereabout cannot access their UBEC funds till date. It therefore cannot be included in the recurrent revenues of the state because it is a capital receipt from the Federal Government that is tied to direct implementation of the FGN UBEC projects. The Governor cannot be blamed for not including this capital receipts in the revenue since he has not included its corresponding expenditure, when he was explaining that the recurrent revenue from federation account does not cover the recurrent expenditures.

  1. ‘Further, the record of the Federal Ministry of Finance also revealed that the state government received a total of N194 billion on behalf of the 30 local government councils since governor Aregbesola assumed office in November 2010… But the governor also was silent on these earnings while giving an account of his stewardship to the representatives of the people of Osun State, and the latter let it slip’

State account is different from local governments’ accounts. It is therefore totally wrong for anybody to lump state government allocation with that of the local governments.  Local government’s allocation is distinct and separate from state’s allocation, which means that both tiers of government run parallel accounts with different signatories. ​To be sure, it is on record that the total allocation to the Local Governments within the years in review (2010 – 2014) was N191billion; inclusive of  N10.7 billion Excess Crude Allocation to local governments and not N194 billion as alleged by Amzat.

Would it have meant that because the governor did not mention the amount received for local governments, there were no separate budgets for local governments, no salaries were paid in the local governments; no projects were executed in four years and no capital or recurrent expenditure incurred in the local government in the period under consideration? So how N194billion belonging to local governments could have disappeared from the state as alleged by Amzat beats the imagination.

End of part 1.

 

Union Bank Unveils Branches With Improved Technology

In line with its resolve to ensure and exceed customer satisfaction, Union Bank Nigeria Plc has unveiled two more improved branches in Lagos with new technology and superior product offerings.

The new branches, Itire Road, Lawanson branch and Western Avenue branch, both located in Surulere, Lagos, showcased improved technology and superior product offerings aimed at making banking more accessible, simpler and smarter to customers and prospects of the bank.

Speaking at the event, the Transformation Director, Union Bank, Mr Joe Mbulu, said the essence of the transformation was to show how far the bank cares for its customers, adding that the transformation of the bank began two years ago.

“For us in Union Bank, our transformation is different, in that, it has more depth and more substance. What we’re doing today is just a celebration of what we commenced two years ago.“

“Basically, we have looked at the technology; we have a new core banking application, our data centre is new, we have a back-up that is live, and there are not many banks that can tell you that, when they have failure, their current data can switch over. We can do that seamlessly.

“And we have transformed the way our people engage the customers. Our customer service is different and testimonials today attest to that point. So, we have looked at the culture of the bank also; we used to be known as an old people’s bank, but I can challenge any customer out there today to come to Union Bank, they will be awed by the service,” the bank Director assured.

According to Mbulu, Union Bank now has products that address customers ‘needs. Furthermore, he said the bank’s governance structure has improved significantly, saying that presently at Union Bank things are done faster and more efficiently.

“So, there is a new culture, a new bank, a new way of doing banking which is simple and smarter,” he added.

Giving more insight into some of the new technological improvements in the bank, the Head of Operations and Technology, Union Bank, Mr Lucky Jayaratne, said beyond the transformation of its physical branches, all the bank’s electronic channels have been upgraded.  “We have a new system now, which is much more efficient and simpler to operate. It is capable of doing round the clock and we will not be having any down time. And the same is applicable to our ATMS and PoS machines and also our online banking system,” Jayaratne said.

Customers present at the event attested to the improved banking system at Union Bank.

For instance, the Proprietor, Jolibuks School, Lawanson, Mr. Edward Ola, commended the management of Union Bank for their drive towards improved efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Also, the Managing Director, Patedy Print Edge Limited, Mr. Pat Uba, assured the bank of continuous patronage, even as he urged members of the public to come onboard in order to enjoy, the simpler and smarter processes at Union Bank. In the same vein, the Managing Director, Agenda Pharmacy Limited, Mr. Ayo Badejoko, commended the management for the innovation and drive to improve the bank.

Established in 1917 and listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange in 1971, Union Bank of Nigeria Plc is one of Nigeria’s long-standing and most respected financial institutions. The Bank is a trusted and recognizable brand, with an extensive network of over 320 branches across Nigeria.

In 2012, a new Board of Directors and Executive Management team were appointed to Union Bank and in 2013 the Bank embarked upon a Transformation Programme designed to re-establish it firmly as a respected provider of quality financial services in Nigeria.

The Bank currently offers a variety of banking services to both individual, commercial and corporate clients including Current, Savings and Deposit Account services, Funds Transfer, Foreign Currency Domiciliation, Loans, Overdrafts, Equipment Leasing and Trade Finance. The Bank also offers its customers convenient electronic banking channels and products including Online Banking, Mobile Banking, Bank Cards, ATMs and POS Systems.

INEC Rubbishes PDP Claims Of Bias

The Deputy Director, Voter Education and Publicity of the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, Nick Dazang, has denied claims by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, that the commission is under the control of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.

Debunking the claim by the Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus, who said the commission did the biddings of the ruling party with regards to the re-run election in Rivers State, he said the election was stopped for many reasons.

Dazang said, “As of the time of the suspension of further action by the commission, the exercise was at different stages.

“For example, the elections had been concluded in some constituencies with the declaration of results and return of winners by the respective Returning Officers; results declared and/or returns made under duress or by unauthorised persons; collation had been concluded but no declaration or return made; voting had been concluded and collation was ongoing but yet to be concluded; voting concluded but collation yet to commence; and /or no voting at all or voting commenced but was disrupted before conclusion.”

Dazang, while describing the PDP as a formidable opposition urged the party to stop spreading unfounded claims.

Osun Combats Water-Borne Diseases With Ceramic Filters

Osun State government has unveiled plan to roll out Ceramic Water Filters as part of measures to stem the tide of water-borne diseases in the state The Director-General, Office of Economic Development and Partnership, OEDP, Dr. Charles Akinola, disclosed this during an inspection tour of facilities at the Atamora Ceramic Water Filter Factory at Atamora via Ikire. Akinola, who was accompanied by former Senior Special Adviser to the Governor on Water Resources and Rural Development, Mr. Kunle Ige and others, stated that efforts were being made to use potters to produce water filters. The ceramic water filter project, christened “Amu Osun”, which he said began three years ago as an initiative of Mr. Rauf Aregbesola-led government, is set for formal launching.

Ceramic water filter is a globally-acknowledged effective innovative technology that filters dirt and bacteria from impure water, thus providing clean drinking water. Akinola stated that through the project, the state was now leading the way in deploying indigenous technology to combat the ravaging tide of water-borne diseases, which is known to be the cause of over 60 percent diseases in the sub-Saharan region. He assured that with the level of readiness seen at the factory during the tour and the certification of the effectiveness of the filter christened Amu Osun by the state’s ministries of health and water resources, the filters will soon be rolled out.

Akinola equally disclosed that the project which had enjoyed grant from the American Embassy and the goodwill of the renowned American ceramist, Professors Richard Wukich, is on the verge of brokering partnerships with Rotary International alongside three American universities. According to him, the partnerships would cover training for women and youth and as well provide ceramic training and research centres to develop the pottery potentials of the state and the country in general. Curator of the project and the master potter, Atamora Pottery, Mr. Ibukunoluwa Ayoola, said with the government’s support, the initiative would not only fight water born-diseases among rural dwellers, but also reduce unemployment significantly in the nation.

National Mirror

Aregbesola Seeks More Financial Allocation To States

In order to cushion the effect of the harsh economic situation in the country, Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, has called for the review of the current revenue sharing formula to push more resources to the states.

Aregbesola made the call during his presentation at the economic retreat organised by the National Economic Council on Monday and Tuesday last week.

Our correspondent exclusively obtained a copy of the paper on Sunday, which was presented behind closed doors at the two-day event with the theme “Nigerian states: Multiple centres of prosperity.”

The governor regretted that the nation’s economy had increasingly worsened over the last three years.

This, he said, was caused by dwindling crude oil revenue globally.

He noted that the inflow of global wealth into oil-producing countries fell from $1.2tn in 2013 to N400bn in 2015.

“All the three tiers of government are affected. We are facing a national financial crisis,” the governor said.

In offering solutions to the current challenges, Aregbesola listed three perspectives to be considered. They included what he termed inter-governmental relations, interstate relations and regional competitiveness.

Under inter-governmental relations, the governor called for a “review of the current revenue sharing formula to push more resources to states; federal-state governments collaboration on infrastructure; prompt repayment of states for federal roads; Federal Government-led public sector reforms which include reduction of cost of government and optimisation of civil service.”

He noted that Osun State was currently being owed over N5bn in Back Duty Taxes.

Under interstate relations, Aregbesola called for economic collaboration among contiguous states with socio-cultural affinities and similarities.

He said such states could explore economies of scale, regional optimisation of assets and endowments as well as mitigation of afflictions and troubles.

The governor listed areas of collaboration to include transport infrastructure, education, market development, human capacity building as well as security and intelligence sharing.

On regional competitiveness, the governor said monopoly should be discouraged to enhance national economy and shared prosperity.

Also in tackling the current economic realities, Aregbesola stressed the need to demonstrate courage, character and leadership.

He added that there was the need for adequate mass mobilisation of Nigerians towards national economic recovery.

Punch

Workers’ Salaries: ‘Aregbesola Has Nothing To Hide’

Governor Rauf Aregbesola has been  transparent enough on issues bothering on payment of workers’ salaries in Osun State since the emergence of economic crunch.

Fielding questions from newsmen in Osogbo, the immediate past commissioner for information and strategy, Hon. Sunday Akere said the governor has since last year set up a labour-government joint committee to oversee the sharing of allocation accruing to the state and its internally generated revenue for the payment of salaries and pensions.

He disclosed that the committee, chaired by a veteran labour leader, had since last July taken charge of sharing allocation and had not at any point in time subjected to any pressure from the governor.

According to him, labour leaders and government representatives get all the figures from Abuja and the one from the IGR, which, he said was to a large extent responsible for the understanding the labour leaders showed the government because there is no secret in the whole process.

Akere berated the opposition for the rumour orchestrated that government would not meet its obligation to the workforce because of the N6m allocation accrued to it for the month of January.

He said that  when the state had a deficit of N24m in November last year it still met its obligation to the workforce.

The former commissioner disclosed that the state was ‘‘clean’’ with declaring it debt profile, which was the reason its commitment is being deducted from the source unlike other states that hide their debt profile and still cannot meet their obligations to their workers.

“Many of the state which receive huge sums of monies on papers still owed workers salary for six, seven, eight months because they have to pay their debt first after which they could not pay their workers.

Osun only owes its workforce three months salaries in line with its agreement with the labour union and payment for January is billed to commence this week, this is an attestation that the state government is seriously concerned with the situation”, he added.

He commended the state workforce for the understanding it showed the state government since the beginning of the economic meltdown, saying as soon as the financial situation in the country improves, the workers would also enjoy the due benefits.

He also called on the opposition parties in the state to jettisoned bitter politics and embark on constructive criticism in a bid to develop the state.

Leadership

Nigeria To Lose Its United Nations REDD+ Status Over Cross River Super Highway

Nigeria will lose its United Nations REDD+ status over the 6 lane wide super highway being built by the Cross River state government, Heinrich Böll Foundation, a non-government organisation focused on protecting the earth has said.

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development.

Bulldozers have entered the Ekuri-Eyeyeng, Etara and Okuni areas; clearing and falling trees.
Bulldozers have entered the Ekuri-Eyeyeng, Etara and Okuni areas; clearing and falling trees.

“REDD+” goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

In a press statement sent to Osun Defender, Heinrich Böll Foundation which released a fact sheet today, stated that Ekuri Forest, which lies entirely within the 20km corridor of land where all rights of occupancy have been revoked by Cross River government has 33,600 hectares of primary, intact rainforest.

The Ekuri Forest also holds over 500 trees per each 50 hectares. The forest traps more than 7,000 metric tonnes of carbon per annum. The UN’s REDD+ programme for Cross River State forests is worth 4 million US dollars and till date, more than 2 million dollars have been provided to protect forests as important carbon sinks in more than 80 communities in Akamkpa, Boki, Akpabuyo, Obubra and Etung LGA.

Cross River Super Highway
This is the alternative road to the Cross River Super Highway. As seen in the image, it is in good condition.

It also stated that watersheds inside Ekuri forest supply water to over 200,000 people. As custodian of original bio-diversity and forest life, the Ekuri forest community earned the United Nations 2004 Equator Award for Earth. The forest provides tourism value and resulting revenues to Cross River.

The foundation in its fact sheet also stated that the Cross River forests are home to more than 1,500 plant species, of which more than 120 are endangered including medicinal plants and over 100 wildlife animal species (conservative figure).

The 6 lane wide super highway  eing built by the Government of Cross River according to plan that will lead from the – yet to be built – deep sea port in Calabar all the way to Benue state, passing through Ikom and Ankampa towns in Cross River State. As announced by the Cross River State Government, the super highway, which is 260km long, will have a 10km right-of-way on both sides of the highway, meaning that a total of 20km wide land corridor along the superhighway route falls under the land being revoked by the state Government. This means that all 185+ communities within the affected land corridor are subject to displacement and loss of access to their land.

According to the fact sheet released by HBS Nigeria, Cross River State is host to the largest remaining rain forests in Nigeria, which provides livelihood for over 600,000 indigenous people living within and around the forests.  It is home to highly threatened animal species including the Cross River gorilla, Nigeria – Cameroon chimpanzees, drill monkeys and many more.

Although bulldozers have entered the Ekuri-Eyeyeng, Etara and Okuni areas; clearing and felling trees, yet (until mid March 2016) there has being no publication of any Environmental Impact Assessment as mandated by the Nigerian constitution before the commencement of such a project.

According to environmentalists and scientists, the already existing highways from Calabar to Benue State, if refurbished, could fulfill development needs without loss of any forests, and at a much lower cost.

The Ekuri Forest where the Cross River state government is building its Super Highway
The Ekuri Forest where the Cross River state government is building its Super Highway

The existing highways have an established system of feeder roads, linking communities to the trade route.

The proposed super highway would likely cause the construction of its own network of feeder roads, and thus cut a grid of smaller roads into what is left of the rainforest.

This slicing up of intact ecosystems would severely affect animal migration, and the gross loss of habitat would further threaten their survival. Sustainable human use of non-timber forest products in many areas would be eliminated and Nigeria would lose its REDD+ status.

Photos courtesy of Heinrich Böll Foundation.

Photonews: Ogbeni Aregbesola, Other Governors At The Just Concluded NEC Retreat In Abuja

Find photos of Governor of the state of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Governors Ibikunle Amosun, Adams Oshiomhole and Nasir Elrufai of Ogun, Edo and Kaduna respectively during the recently concluded National Executive Council (NEC) retreat which held in Abuja between 21st to 22nd of March, 2016.

Find photos from the event below:

osun National Executive Council retreat nasir elrufai kaduna osun National Executive Council retreat admas oshiomhole edo osun National Executive Council retreat ogbeni rauf aregbesola2 osun National Executive Council retreat ogbeni rauf aregbesola3 osun National Executive Council retreat ibikunle amosun ogun osun National Executive Council retreat ogbeni rauf aregbesola4 osun National Executive Council retreat ogbeni rauf aregbesola5 osun National Executive Council retreat ogbeni rauf aregbesola6 osun National Executive Council retreat ogbeni rauf aregbesola osun National Executive Council retreat ogbeni rauf aregbesola1 Osun's Aregbesola at National Executive Council (NEC) Meeting3 Osun's Aregbesola at National Executive Council (NEC) Meeting2 Osun's Aregbesola at National Executive Council (NEC) Meeting1 Osun's Aregbesola at National Executive Council (NEC) Meeting

Easter Holiday: Osun Again Offers Free Train Ride

As part of its continued commitment to the welfare and well-being of the people, the Government of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola of Osun has announced this year’s free train ride for the Easter celebration.

In a statement by the Ministry of Commerce, Cooperative, Industry and Empowerment on Wednesday, the free train ride would convey people coming for the Easter festival from Lagos to Osogbo on Friday 25 by 10am.

A return train will depart Osogbo to Lagos on Monday, March 28 by 11 am.

The statement noted that the government did this to ease movements of the people during period of the festivity.

The Government therefore enjoined indigenes of the state to maximise the advantage the free train ride offers them to visit home and enjoy the celebration.

The statement said: “This tradition of free train ride as introduced by the Aregbesola government about five years ago is aimed at facilitating the easy movement of the citizenry wherever they are.

“And this programme takes care of both Islamic and Christian festivities. Since its commencement, we can say confidently that it has been a boost to the economy of the state.

“It is this ease during festival periods that informed the introduction of the scheme by Governor Aregbesola.

“Therefore, it is the wish of government that our people from Lagos, Ogun and Oyo States would seize this window of opportunity by Aregbesola’s government to visit home and celebrate with their relatives.”

The Journey To Change Has Started – Tinubu

National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, said yesterday that Nigeria has already begun the process of re-inventing itself under President Muhammadu Buhari.

He said that after “many years of mis-governance and its myriad consequences,” the country has a fresh opportunity to reshape its future.

Tinubu spoke in Sokoto while responding on behalf of honorary doctorate degree awardees of the Usuman Dan Fodiyo University at the Joint 32nd, 33rd and 34th Convocation and 40th Anniversary of the institution.

Reviewing the polity before and since the assumption of office by President Buhari last May, the former Lagos State governor said: “We were led down a path in which bad was deemed good and good was deemed inconvenient. We were handed a way of governance in which anything goes and too much went – as if gone with the wind.

“Our present was squandered and future mortgaged. A few people took as their own what God intended to belong to all Nigerians.”

This, according to him, was not in tandem with the principle of “Conscience is an open wound, only truth can heal it” preached by the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate Usmanu Dan Fodiyo.

He added: “This was not the way of Usmanu Dan Fodio. This was not the way to build the nation we seek. It was the way to lay waste to our dreams and to jettison all the lessons that heroes such as Usmanu Dan Fodiyo and our forefathers taught us.

“Yet, human nature is such that it cannot exist for long without true and justice. For a period, darkness may descend and a lie may rule. But not forever, society needs justice and fairness as much as the body needs food and water.

“With last year’s election, the national conscience awoke. The people rejected the distorted arrangements of past governments in order to make room for a better future. They had once again found the courage that Usmanu Dan Fodiyo had bequeathed them. They had rediscovered their way and their right to pursue it.

“Today we all participate in an epic struggle. We seek to undo many years of mis-governance and its myriad consequences. The process is hard because good is always harder to achieve than evil. Creation is always more difficult than destruction. Greed is easier than greatness.

“Yet Nigeria has begun the process of turning to its better self. The government of President Buhari is cleaning out the rot of years of galloping corruption and avarice. This government is also moving to pursue policies that will spark development and bring prosperity to long oppressed Nigerians.”

But he warned that the process of re-building is not going to be a tea party.

His words: “Be reminded that this will be a battle. No battle is easy. We must be firm in our resolve to reform this nation. We must have the courage to stand fast in the times of difficulty, having faith that the rightfulness of our cause will see us through to the success of our collective efforts and yearnings.

“The truth today is that Nigeria has the greatest opportunity to get it right with a leader like Mr. Muhammadu Buhari.

“Another truth is that Nigeria and Nigerians are suffering under the yoke of corruption. The economy is based on a model no longer sustainable given the realities of today’s markets and global trends.

“There is much to fix. President Buhari is committed to fixing them. But he needs your support and patience. He cannot do it all alone. We must stand beside him or else we may be knocked down and not stand at all.

“Thus, let us be resolved to see reform and change that will make Nigeria rise as the nation it should be.”

He paid tribute to the great Islamic scholar for his “courage in the face of open danger; Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State who, he said, “represents the new hope of a new progressive political era”; and the Oba of Lagos and Chancellor of the institution, Rilwanu Akiolu, whose appointment, he said, “represents the best of Nigeria and signposts the promotion of unity, peace, harmony and better understanding.”

He expressed happiness for the honour done him and other awardees by the university and urged it to “strive to be the best and produce students who think as much of this nation as they do themselves.

“That is how this revered institution may do honour to the name it bears. This is how this institution may ensure that the ethics and principles of Usmanu Dan Fodiyo continue to have life and continue to breathe life into the progress of this nation.”

Tinubu was honoured with Doctor of Business Administration D.BA-Honoris Causa,

Also conferred with honorary doctorate degrees at the ceremony were : Sultan Abubakar (Doctor of Law-LLD- Honoris Causa) Oba Akiolu (Doctor of Law-LLD- Honoris Causa); former Defence Minister, Lt.-Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd), Doctor of Science -DSC-Honoris Causa) and the Executive Director, Public Sector, First Bank Nigeria Ltd., Dauda Suleiman (Doctor of Business Administration-D.BA-Honoris Causa),

Three retired eminent public officers were conferred with Emeritus appointments.

They are Prof. Shehu Galadanchi and Prof. Mahdi Adamu, first and second Vice Chancellors of the institution, respectively, who were appointed as Vice Chancellors Emeritus.

Prof. A.T. Suleiman was appointed as Professor Emeritus.

Governors Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto); Bello Masari (Katsina); Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara); Akinwunmi Ambode (Lagos) and Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi) witnessed the ceremony.

Former Cross River governor, Donald Duke; former deputy governor of Niger State, Musa Ibeto and former Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Nuhu Ribadu also graced the occasion.

The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III; Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi and Emir of Kano, Lamido Sanusi led other prominent traditional rulers to the occasion.

The Nation

Against The Odds, A 40-Year Old Yoruba Village In The U.S. Has Thrived

By Molly McArdle MARCH 16, 2016

Oyotunji's front gate, which is decorative rather than practical. No walls surround the 25-acre village. (Photo: Molly McArdle)
Oyotunji’s front gate, which is decorative rather than practical. No walls surround the 25-acre village. (Photo: Molly McArdle)

The road to Oyotunji turns off State Highway 17, less than 10 minutes away from Interstate 95 and under an hour from Charleston and Hilton Head. Highway 17 unspools along the coastline from Savannah to Myrtle Beach and further up into North Carolina, but this stretch—a tall corridor of green even in winter—is unhurried. There is a convenience store with no ATM and, a bit down the road, a gas station with a broken one. (The next closest option is in Yemassee, a half hour drive away.) The drive through the woods is a short one, but it’s enough to feel transformative. The signage helps too, one side in Yoruba and the other in English:

NOTICE

You are leaving the U.S.

Oba Adejuyigbe Adefunmi II wearing a traditional crown. (Photo: Courtesy Oyotunji)
Oba Adejuyigbe Adefunmi II wearing a traditional crown. (Photo: Courtesy Oyotunji)

You are entering the Yoruba Kingdom.
“Kabo sile wa,” the sign says, decorated in flags and a crown. “Welcome to our land.”

At its founding in 1970, Oyotunji African Village never promised its residents a perfect way of life. But it did offer them an idea equally radical: a world without Europe, a space outside white supremacy. A tiny village in South Carolina whose population has waxed and waned from as many as 200 to as few as 25 residents, it has since transformed from a bustling separatist community to a smaller and more-focused religious one.

The entrance to Oyotunji African Village from South Carolina' State Highway 17. (Photo: Molly McArdle)
The entrance to Oyotunji African Village from South Carolina’ State Highway 17. (Photo: Molly McArdle)

Oba Adejuyigbe Adefunmi II was born in Oyotunji. At 39, he’s been the leader of this small community for over 10 years. He is a handsome, charismatic man. Ritual marks, three lines, run parallel across each cheekbone and perpendicular down his forehead. The garment he wears, white and embroidered, is beautiful and billowing. One woman, Oyotunji resident Ofun Laiye Adesoji, brings him a glass of water covered by a napkin. Another woman, visitor Ase Jones, moves in and out of the courtyard where he sits, periodically stopping to listen to the Oba, or leader.

“Oyotunji, this was built on old planation land,” he says. “The Tomotley plantation is right through the woods over there. You can go straight through the woods, less than 200, 300 feet away,” he says. “Africans worked all of this.”

Visitors enter Oyotunji through an imposing gate, painted red and khaki, with a crenelated top. It’s decorative rather than practical; no walls surround the 25-acre village. A child’s bike leans against a low-slung building, and behind that rise pines and oaks, strung with moss. The village is residential compounds, a café and marketplace, public spaces, and religious ones. There are small garden plots, ancestral altars, above-ground tombs, and at least eight temples dedicated to separate orishas—deities in the Yoruban pantheon that can be described as aspects of a single god, a conceptual framework not unfamiliar to Hinduism or Catholicism. The physical reality of this place is explicitly African. Its commanding entryway looks Hausa. Its flag takes its design partly from Ethiopia (the colors red, gold, green) and partly from Egypt (the ankh). Its afin, or palace, is modeled after Ile Ife’s, in Nigeria. The village’s name, referencing the Yoruban empire that dominated southwestern Nigeria between the 15th and the 19th centuries, means “Oyo rises again.”

The foreignness of the place has made for heated local gossip. “There are many rumors about what we do here,” says Adesoji, who gives me a tour of the grounds. “We cook people. We eat dogs. If you go in, you never come out.”

Both Yoruban and English are featured on Oyotunji's bilingual welcome sign. (Photo: Molly McArdle)
Both Yoruban and English are featured on Oyotunji’s bilingual welcome sign. (Photo: Molly McArdle)

Coverage from predominantly white media outlets, too, has ranged from skeptical to lurid to mocking. In 2015, Oyotunji was included on a list called “Here Are the 13 Weirdest Places You Can Possibly Go in South Carolina.” It’s similarly been included in books, 2008’s Weird U.S. and 2007’s Weird Carolinas. In 2009, British travel presenter Alan Whicker, though he selected a visit to the village as his “ultimate travel experience” for The Guardian, describes Oyotunji as “some ridiculous Disney fantasy.” Its leader, he says, dressed in “the exotic robes of some imagined” (and so fake) “tribal deity” and has the “penetrating eyes of an ambulance-chasing lawyer.” An Orlando Sentinel article from 1987, titled “S. Carolina ‘Voudou’ Colony Unsettles Local Whites,” vividly describes the ritual slaughter of a chicken. “King or Con Man, the Controversial Ruler of Yoruba, SC, Is Really Just Walter from Detroit,” from a 1981 issue of People speaks of sacrificial altars and bathing in blood.

Even farther back, a 1971 story from Charleston’s News & Courier reports with restrained glee, just one year after Oyotunji’s founding, that “the village shows that black man [sic] can function without the man around. Life without ‘the man’ does not, however, exclude his food stamps.”

Oyotunji’s rejoinder appeared shortly thereafter as a News & Courier editorial response by its founder, titled “Pay for Slavery”:

“You could have reminded all Americans that having gotten something for nothing, it’s time to pay back,” he writes, “also that an honorable people, rather than hide behind guilty welfare programs, would be paying the blacks unconditional reparations in cash, land, technology, and material. For indeed, if true justice prevailed, some 15 million white Americans and their offspring in perpetuity should be committed to work free for blacks until the year 2221.”
Oyotunji is not a victim of bad press because it’s not a victim—the approval of white people is something Oyotunji was designed not to need. Oyotunji speaks for itself.

Ofuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi I, the current Oba’s father, founded Oyotunji in 1970. Adefunmi I’s parents, followers of Marcus Garvey, gave him the name Walter Eugene King in Detroit in 1928. He was raised a Baptist, but from a young age he questioned why the religious figures his family worshiped did not look like them. Adesoji repeats the story during the tour. “He asked, ‘Why is it that we don’t have any African gods?’ The pastor told him that’s because we have none. That kind of infuriated him.”

The young King went on to become a commercial artist and modern dancer. As a member of Katherine Dunham’s groundbreaking modern dance troupe (one that would help launch the careers of Alvin Ailey and Eartha Kitt), he traveled all over the world. “When he got to Haiti he saw Yoruba culture in its full glory,” Adesoji says. “He ate the food, he saw the clothes, he also saw the community come together for the orisha, something he never saw people do in America.”

Oyotunji's main thoroughfare. "When I came home, a lot of things needed to be rebuilt," the Oba says. "We had to jack stuff up and dig stuff down, it was like a historical preservation board." (Photo: Molly McArdle)
Oyotunji’s main thoroughfare. “When I came home, a lot of things needed to be rebuilt,” the Oba says. “We had to jack stuff up and dig stuff down, it was like a historical preservation board.” (Photo: Molly McArdle)

The experience changed him. In 1959, he went on to study Santería in Matanzas, Cuba, where he became the first American initiate to the priesthood of Obatala, the orisha responsible for creating humankind. He returned to Harlem and began organizing. He helped found first the Shango Temple and then, on his own, the Yoruba Temple. He took the name Nana Oseijeman, which later expanded to Ofuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi. “The first Oba’s mission,” Adesoji says, was “to make sure that no one would ever have to go through what he went through as a child, trying to find where he came from.”

King Adefunmi I sitting in state during festival. (Photo: Courtesy Oyotunji)
King Adefunmi I sitting in state during festival. (Photo: Courtesy Oyotunji)

Adefunmi I stayed in New York through the end of the decade, continuing to expand and promote his interpretation of Yoruban culture and religion, which moved steadily away from the syncretic (a blend of religious and social cultures, including colonial) framework of Cuban Santería. “Lighter skinned deities had a higher place on the hierarchy,” says Kenja McCray, a history PhD candidate at Georgia State University who wrote her master’s thesis on Oyotunji.

Adefunmi I was also moving in black nationalist circles, founding a political party that encouraged the creation of an independent African state on American soil, and (as Oyotunji’s website claims) popularizing the dashiki. University of Houston sociologist Mary Curry, in her 1997 book Making the Gods in New York, charts Adefunmi I’s widening influence during this period. “A number of black Americans received their African names from Adefunmi I,” she says, “and some of these began to wear African dress whether they converted to the Yoruba religion or not.” Amiri Baraka, though not a member of the Yoruba Temple, had Adefunmi I officiate his wedding ceremony. (Later on, he would go on to criticize Oyotunji in a condescending 1978 New Republic story.)

By 1969, Adefunmi I had begun to receive death threats. Mama Keke, an Osun priestess from Barbados and one of the founding members of Adefunmi I’s Yoruba Temple, offered him some advice. “Mama Keke had to let him know if you really want to do something for Africans that are living in America, you have to establish land.” Adesoji gestures to the woods around her. “This is our way of sticking it to the man, to be able to come back to the very land where our ancestors were bought and sold.”

And so Adefunmi I went south.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day; Oyotunji wasn’t either,” Adefunmi I reflected to Davidson professor Tracey Hucks at the end of his reign. Hucks spoke with him extensively for her 2012 book, Yoruba Traditions & African American Religious Nationalism, which is as much a biography of Oyotunji as it is a social, religious, and political history. “We never intended to go back to 16th century Nigeria,” he told her. “We began this way out of necessity and to learn how to survive.”

All residents of Oyotunji must start and maintain their own ancestor shrine, which includes bringing the ancestors fresh water every morning. (Photo: Molly McArdle)
All residents of Oyotunji must start and maintain their own ancestor shrine, which includes bringing the ancestors fresh water every morning. (Photo: Molly McArdle)

His son, the current Oba, acts and speaks with a mixture of formality and informality, sometimes even performing two different versions of the same action. When we first meet, he says something in Yoruban—a greeting—and waves his irukere, a handle with white horse’s tail hair and a traditional symbol of royalty, over me. Then he smiles and says in English, hello, and shakes my hand. He moves between goofy jokes, anecdotes animated by dramatic voices, stories of his father that mix criticism and respect, and rhetoric about Oyotunji’s national, global, historical importance. These aren’t necessarily contradictions.

He tells the story of how Oyotunji came here, to the spot we sit on. “My father purchased this land from a local, Mr. Smalls,” he says. “That family obviously got this land from the Civil War allotment, the 40 acres. The mule was made up.” (General Sherman did in fact try to resettle slaves in this area.) He smiles, and the two women watch us laugh.

People who moved to Oyotunji opted into, for as long as they decided to remain, a profoundly different life. It wasn’t simply that they lived in an all-black community. After all, those had existed in America since the invention of race (think Eatonville, Florida; Nicodemus, Kansas; the Gullah/Geechee-dominated Sea Islands in South Carolina; the antebellum south’s many maroon communities). They lived in a place stripped, as much as possible, of European cultural artifacts and traditions.

Residents taught themselves Yoruban and wore African clothes. (Exceptions were made for rain and winter wear.) They also had adjust to life within a highly hierarchical structure: a kingdom, complete with a king. Daily life had to be newly organized around orisha and ancestor worship as well as dokpwe, required communal work such as building or gardening. Years and lives were measured with a Yoruban, rather than Christian, schedule of annual festivals and rites of passage. And moving to the village up until the ‘80s also meant moving to a place without electricity or running water.

King Adefunmi I dances before the village. (Photo: Courtesy Oyotunji)
King Adefunmi I dances before the village. (Photo: Courtesy Oyotunji)

 

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