By Olowogboyega Oyebade
Do you love China? Whether you love China or not, do you know that you use Chinese electrical appliances, medical equipment, drugs, medicaments, vaccines, clothing, building materials, drinks, pants, condoms, needles, toiletries, pencil, ruler, biro, ink, paper, vehicles and plants, fighter jets, ships, name it? Do you know that China is currently financing infrastructure in transportation including rail, roads, air and water? Do you know that we take loans from China even for most basic things? Yeah! Do you know that it is apt to say “Happy New Year” to this faithful master? Do you know that the lunar new year 2021 in China began on Friday 12th February, 2021 and each year is represented by one of 12 animal symbols of the Chinese zodiac: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep (Goat), Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Boar (Pig)? Do you know that for 2021, it is the Ox’s turn, symbolizing diligence, persistence, and honesty? Do you know that in Chinese culture, like the ox, people born in the year of the Ox are industrious, cautious and always glad to offer help? Do you know that China’s public holiday in 2021 is February 12-17? Do you know that China does not encourage any of the Abrahamic religions and yet over one billion of its people live with themselves in peace without praying to our “God of Abraham”? Do you know that here, we bear “Abraham or Ibrahim”, “Mikhail” or “Michael” bearing the same name, worshiping the same God and still find enough hate to slit ourselves by the throat? We must save Nigeria from another (un)civil war!
Hurray! Are you aware that another celebration is here, for Valentine’s Day on 14th February? Do you know that this memorial of Saint Valentine is to celebrate the uncommon attribute of a man at his time, a Bishop of Rome who was jailed by the Emperor for performing weddings for Christian soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians persecuted under the Roman Empire in the third century? Despite that bitter experience, he reciprocated evil with good deeds as he restored sight to the blind daughter of his jailer? Do you know that the day became associated with romantic love in the 14th and 15th centuries, celebrated with flowers, gifts and bonding?
Are you a young guy out there? Do you know that on the Valentine’s Day, you can peep into the world of Kobe Bryant, an American professional basketball player, born on 23rd August, 1978 and died on 26th January, 2020 and who was great in life but greater in death? and was? Do you know that he was regarded as one of the greatest players of all time as he helped the Lakers win five NBA championships, and was an 18-time All-Star, a 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, a 12-time member of the All-Defensive Team, the 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP), and a two-time NBA Finals MVP? Do you know that Bryant also led the NBA in scoring twice, and ranks fourth on the league’s all-time regular season scoring and all-time postseason scoring lists? Do you know that your height is a raw talent you can convert to wealth? Do you know that your looks and stamina can be converted to wealth? Do you know that your voice and dancing steps to impress ladies or men can be converted to wealth? Can you believe that fans who wanted to watch Kobe Bryant’s NBA LA Lakers game in 2016 paid through their noses? Can you believe that tickets were sold for as high as $27,500, with extra $700 for the nose-bleed seats at the Staples Center in Los Angeles where Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers were hosting the Utah Jazz which was the final game before the self-described “Black Mamba” retired? Can you recall in 2013, he suffered a torn Achilles tendon at age 34, an injury that kept him unfit in the following two seasons at 37? Do you know that he retired after the 2015–16 season? Do you know that Bryant was the all-time leading scorer in Lakers franchise history? Do you know that Bryant died at age 41, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California in 2020? Do you know that after his death, many souvenirs are made in his name and millions of fans are buying them, making his bank account to swell with millions of dollars daily? What really are you up to with your raw talents? Do you know that you cannot pass the buck?
Are you a young girl out there, going for Valentine’s Day? What are you doing with your raw talents? Are you familiar with Blessing Okagbare, a track and field athlete who won a silver medal at the 2018 Beijing Olympic and also won silver and bronze in the long jump and 200 metre events respectively at the 2013 World Championships held in Moscow, Russia? Do you know that the 32-year-old had a brilliant outing at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow where she won two gold medals and a silver? Can you recall that Blessing Okagbare holds the women’s 100 metres Commonwealth Games record for the fastest time at 10.85 seconds? And now the news! Hurray! Are you aware that she is now in the Guinness Book of Records? Are you aware that on 10th February, 2021, she was recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the only athlete to have attended the Athletics Diamond Meetings 67 times? Do you know that on her Instagram handle, she credited the achievements to God and determination? The statement of the Guinness Book of World Record cuts in: “The most appearance in diamond league meetings by an athlete is 67 and was achieved by Blessing Okagbare (Nigeria) between 30 July 2010 to 31 Aug. 2018.” From her name, can you see that she was not born by Dangote or Otedola? Do you know that she was born in Sapele, Delta where she converted her athletic physique to start playing ball as a teenager and in 2004, she began to take an interest in track and field events at the national and international levels? Today, do you know that she is one of the few Nigerians in the Guinness Book of World Records for good things? What are you really doing with your life on Valentine’s Day?
As part of the good efforts of Governor Adegboyega Oyetola and in further spirit of love and commitment, bond certificates which include:47 retired Primary School Teachers with a total amount of N304,735,099.53, 27 retired local government workers with a total amount of N149,511,431.00 and 69 retired civil servants and officers in parastatals of Government with a total amount of N509,000,000 will be distributed? Do you know that the celebration comes up on Tuesday 16th February, 2021?
Are you aware that the Federal is showing love at this season? Can you recall that on 17th September, 2020, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, at the annual conference of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) revealed that President Buhari approved the establishment of a Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) led Infrastructure Company to enable the use of private and public capital to support infrastructure investments that will have a multiplier effect on growth across critical sectors? Do you know that the infrastructure company is expected to raise funds for this responsibility from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), Pension Funds, as well as local and foreign private sector development financiers? In the spirit of the season of Valentine’s Day, are you aware that on 12th February, 2021, President Buhari approved the establishment of Infra-Co with an initial seed capital of N1 trillion? According to a statement issued by Bashir Ahmad, Personal Assistant on New Media to President Buhari, do you know that the styled Infrastructure Company, wholly focused on critical infrastructure investments in Nigeria will be set up under a Public-Private Partnership with an initial seed capital of N1 trillion? While leveraging innovative financial strategies to pull in private sector investment, do you know that the entity is envisaged to grow to N15 trillion in assets and capital, over time? Do you know that the infrastructure company is expected to facilitate the development of critical infrastructure across the country, a move to bridge the nation’s infrastructure deficit, and provide a firm core for increasing national economic productivity and infrastructure growth? Are you aware that the entity was developed with concept designs from the National Economic Council (NEC)?
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day celebration, are you aware that on Friday 12th February, 2021, it was announced that African Development Bank (AfDB) is joining hands with African Guarantee Fund (AGF) to unlock $1.3 to $2 billion in loans that would benefit women entrepreneurs in Africa through a concerted partnership with financial institutions? According to studies, do you know that African women face a $42 billion financing gap, which AFAWA aims to bridge, closely tied to a lack of access to collateral in the form of land and property as well as to knowledge, mentorship, and networks to grow their businesses, which are typically in the informal sector? Do you know that we must empower women, if really we want to get out of abject poverty in the spirit of Valentine’s Day? The press release on the website of AfDB cuts in: “The move signals the launch of AFAWA’s Guarantee for Growth (G4G) program, which aims to make available up to $3 billion in financing for women entrepreneurs….”
The voice of Jules Ngankam, African Guarantee Fund’s Group CEO cuts in:
“As the implementing partner of AFAWA’s Guarantee for Growth program, we are already observing an increased appetite from banks for this innovative product that seeks to support women entrepreneurs… “
Just in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, do you know that on Friday 12th February, 2021, the United Kingdom Supreme Court ruled that polluted Nigerian communities can take legal actions against oil giant Shell in English Courts? Do you know that the verdict by the Supreme Court, which overturns a court of appeal ruling, is seen as a victory for the communities in the Niger Delta of Nigeria, after a 5-year battle? According to the report, do you know that the judgement by the Supreme Court, UK’s final appeal court for civil cases, ruled that the cases brought by the Bille community and the Ogale people of Ogoniland against Royal Dutch Shell were arguable and could proceed in the English courts? In the matter, do you know that the Niger Delta communities said decades of pollution have severely impacted their lives, health, and the local environment and Shell in its defence had argued that it was only a holding company for a firm that should be judged under Nigerian law? Do you know that the law firm, Leigh Day, which represented the communities, argued that Shell owed a common law duty of care to individuals who had suffered serious harm as a result of the systemic health, safety and environmental hazards caused by one of its overseas subsidiaries? Can you recall that this is coming barely a few weeks after a Dutch court had ruled in a case brought by some Nigerian farmers and backed the Netherland arm of environment group, Friends of the Earth, that Shell was liable to pay the farmers in the Niger Delta compensation for oil spillage in their communities?
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day and mood to make sound economic planning a quick reality in this time of recession, are you aware that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) at its meeting on 10th February, 2021, approved a new Medium-Term Debt Management Strategy for Nigeria, for the period 2020-2023? Do you know that the Medium-Term Debt Management Strategy (MTDS) is a policy document that provides a guide to the borrowing activities of a Government in the medium-term, usually four (4) years? Do you know that it is recognized as one of the best practices in public debt management and is recommended by the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to ensure that public debt management is driven by a well-articulated Strategy that is structured to meet a country’s broader macroeconomic and public debt management objectives? Do you know that the new Strategy had to be re-worked to reflect the global and local economic impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic and incorporates data from the revised 2020 Appropriation Act and the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework 2021-2023? Do you know that the new MTDS adequately reflects the current economic realities and the projected trends? Do you know that the preparation of the MTDS usually involves the consideration of alternative funding strategies available to Government, as it seeks to meet its financing needs, taking into consideration the cost of borrowing and the associated risks, while ensuring debt sustainability in the medium to long-term? Can you recall that the 2016-2019 MTDS included some Debt Management Targets? Do you know that based on the current Public Debt Stock, Government’s borrowing needs in the medium-term as stated in the 2021 Appropriation Act, MTEF, 2021- 2023, as well as future global trends, Nigeria’s 2020-2023 MTDS show that borrowing will be from domestic and external sources but a larger proportion of new borrowing will be from domestic sources using long-term instruments while for External Borrowing, concessional funding from multilateral and bilateral sources will be prioritised”? Do you know that this will give a new meaning to economic development as we sail in this ship?
As a prelude to this year’s Valentine’s day, are you aware that on 10th February, 2021, the House of Representatives reiterated its resolve to improve ease of doing business in the country? Do you know that Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, in a resumption address for the 2021 legislative session assured that the lower legislative chamber will deliberate on bills and motions aimed at unlocking economic potential in the country by stripping away restrictive regulation and ending predatory regulatory practices that deprive young people the opportunity to conquer new frontiers? Do you know that he assured that the House will leave no stone unturned to ensure that Nigerians live in a just society free from abuse of power and protected by a justice system built on fairness and the rule of law? Do you know that he assured that the House will begin consideration of bills to amend the Administration of Criminal Justice Act as well as the review of the Trafficking In Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement And Administration Act and other legislation that seek to deliver a justice system that works for all? Do you know that he enjoined those entrusted with the governance of the country should set aside their tribal and religious differences to nip in the bud the challenges of insurgency and banditry, communal violence in the country? His voice cuts in:
“In this age of technology and innovation, of daring and enterprise, we cannot risk implementing policies that handicap our ability as a nation to participate in new markets and profit from emerging industries. The forces that threaten our lives and property, our sovereignty and nationhood, do not make any exceptions based on the God we pray to or the language of our native tongue. From every region and state, citizens of every tribe and religion have suffered and will continue to suffer the pain of death and the grief of loss until we put an end once and for all to the terrors of banditry, insurgency and malignant crime in all forms. Here in the National Assembly, we do not command any armies or control the police. Command and control of our nation’s security infrastructure is an exclusively executive responsibility. Yet it is to us that our constituents look to when the forces of darkness descend to disrupt their lives, often irreparably. We have to reconcile the obligations we owe to our people with the constitutional limitations under which we operate. But we will not shrink from our role as advocates for the forgotten voices, and we will continue to exercise the appropriation and oversight authority vested in us to hold to account those who bear direct responsibility for the protection of all our nation’s people.”
In the prelude to Valentine’s Day, are you aware that on Tuesday 9th February, 2021, President Buhari defended the decision of his administration to construct a rail line to link Nigeria with the Niger Republic, despite public outcry against the announcement of the plan? The voice of the President cuts in:
“This vital infrastructure line will establish an end-to-end logistic supply chain in railway transport services between Northern and Southern regions of the country, reaching Nigerian southern ports of Lagos and Warri. The entire route encompasses territory inhabited by close to 80 million people across 10 States of the country. This project has a branch line to Dutse the capital of Jigawa State to open up this corridor which is endowed with vast resources. The Kano – Maradi rail line has been identified as a viable line that will significantly enhance the movement of passengers and freight to the hinterland, especially raw materials from both agricultural and mineral resources for our industries. The project, when completed, would serve import and export of goods for the Niger Republic and other countries in the sub-region through Nigerian ports. The country would earn revenue through expansion of trade and commerce, while the people of the Niger Republic will benefit from the ease of transportation logistics at an affordable cost in their import and export business. The connection to the Niger Republic through rail will also foster trans-Sahara trade and contribute to the expected gains in the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement.”
To prepare for a smooth Valentine’s Day, are you aware that on Thursday 11th February, 2021, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria mandated its Banking Committee to invite the Governor of the Central Bank (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, and the Director General of the Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission, Lamido Yuguda, to appear at a time to be determined and explain the opportunities and threats of cryptocurrency? Can you recall that last week’s CBN directive caused an uproar on social media, while local crypto advocates wrote to the bank asking for clarification on the order? Do you know that in response, the CBN published a five-page statement that included a pledge to protect Nigerian citizens from the risks of cryptocurrencies? The statement cuts in: “The CBN will continue to do all within its regulatory powers to educate Nigerians to desist from its use and protect our financial system from activities of fraudsters and speculators.”
Can you believe that Nigerian crypto users particularly the youth seemed largely undeterred after the CBN directive took effect, turning to peer-to-peer exchange platforms to continue trading, exchange platforms that soared past two of Africa’s largest crypto markets, Kenya and South Africa, since the announcement? Do you know that a number of Senators opposed the CBN move and an outright ban on crypto, though they spoke in favor of regulating the industry? The voice of Sen. Bassey Akpan cuts in: “The next level is cryptocurrency and we can’t run away from it. It is CBN’s responsibility to bring Nigerians to the next level, not discouraging it. It is the simplest way of exchange.”
What is a cryptocurrency? Do you know that it does not exist in physical form like paper money and is not issued by a Central Bank? Do you know that individual coin ownership records are stored in a ledger existing in a form of computerized database using strong cryptography to secure transaction records, to control the creation of additional coins, and to verify the transfer of coin ownership? Do you know that each cryptocurrency works through distributed ledger technology, typically a blockchain, that serves as a public financial transaction database? Do you know that Bitcoin, first released as open-source software in 2009, is the first decentralized cryptocurrency? Do you know that since the release of bitcoin, other cryptocurrencies have been created? Do you know that within a cryptocurrency system, the safety, integrity and balance of ledgers is maintained by a community of mutually distrustful parties referred to as miners: who use their computers to help validate and timestamp transactions, adding them to the ledger in accordance with a particular timestamping scheme? Do you know that compared with ordinary currencies held by financial institutions or kept as cash on hand, cryptocurrencies can be more difficult for seizure by law enforcement? Do you know that it relies on data and as of July 2019, bitcoin’s electricity consumption was estimated to about 7 gigawatts, 0.2% of the global total, or equivalent to that of Switzerland? Do you know that cryptocurrencies are used primarily outside existing banking and governmental institutions and are exchanged over the Internet? Do you know that the legal status of cryptocurrencies varies substantially from country to country and is still undefined or changing in many of them? Do you know that while some countries have explicitly allowed their use and trade, others have banned or restricted it? Do you know that an “absolute ban” on trading or using cryptocurrencies applies in eight countries: Algeria, Bolivia, Egypt, Iraq, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates? Do you know that an “implicit ban” applies in another 15 countries, which include Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Iran, Kuwait, Lesotho, Lithuania, Macau, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan? Do you know that in Russia, though cryptocurrencies are legal, it is illegal to actually purchase goods with any currency other than the Russian ruble? Do you know that Cryptocurrencies are a potential tool to evade economic sanctions for example against Russia, Iran, or Venezuela? Do you know that Cryptocurrency advertisements were temporarily banned on Facebook, Google, Twitter, Bing, Snapchat, LinkedIn and MailChimp?
Do you know that on 25th March 2014, the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) ruled that bitcoin will be treated as property for tax purposes, meaning that bitcoin will be subject to capital gains tax? Do you know that as the popularity of and demand for online currencies soared since the inception of bitcoin in 2009, so have concerns that such an unregulated person to person global economy that cryptocurrencies offer may become a threat to society, particularly that altcoins may become tools for anonymous web criminals who seek to evade taxes and launder money? Do you know that this is possible as the use and exchange of these altcoins are independent from formal banking systems, and therefore can make tax evasion simpler for individuals? Do you know that in March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, cryptocurrency exchange experienced an 83% increase in the number of account signups? Do you know that in August 2020, MicroStrategy invested $250 million in bitcoin as a treasury reserve asset, followed by other big companies such as Square, Inc., PayPal to mention but a few? Do you know that on 19th January 2021 Elon Musk, the richest man on earth now placed #Bitcoin in his Twitter profile and on 8th February 2021, Tesla announced that it had purchased $1.5 billion in bitcoin and planned to start accepting bitcoin as payment for vehicles, an announcement that pushed the bitcoin price to an all time high of $44,141? Do you know that as from this February 2021, the Canton of Zug (in Switzerland) has started to accept tax payments in bitcoin? Do you know that the use of bitcoin by criminals has attracted the attention of financial regulators, legislative bodies, law enforcement, and the media? Do you know that the U.S. government claimed that bitcoin was used to facilitate payments related to Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections? Do you know that some observers asserted that bitcoins can be used to purchase illegal goods or its anonymity encourages money laundering and other crimes? Do you know that in 2021, Abkhazia placed a ban on Bitcoin but the ban was not very successful? In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, many youth are involved in the trade and unbanning it will not be a bad idea? Do you know that the CBN should just put the necessary legal framework in place as the popularity of Cryptocurrency is too large and sophisticated to be banned in Nigeria?
In the spirit of the season of Valentine’s Day, are you aware that on Wednesday 10th February, 2021, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja ordered Nigeria’s Central Bank to unfreeze the bank accounts of 20 #EndSARS protesters? Do you know that the judge, Ahmed Mohammed, gave the order after counsel to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the legal representative of the protesters agreed to end the case? Do you know that Mohammed set aside the order it made on 4th November, 2020, freezing accounts linked with some promoters of the #EndSARS protests? Can you recall that the CBN froze the bank accounts in the heat of the #EndSARS campaign, as many of those affected were prominent during the protests, which attracted global attention as thousands of people campaigned for an end to police brutality in major Nigerian cities? Can you recall that the demonstrations came to a head-on on 20th October, 2020 when security forces opened fire at unarmed protesters in Lagos at the Lekki toll gate?
As we are preparing for a joyous Valentine’s Day celebration this year, are you aware that clashes between Yoruba and Hausa communities were reported in the vicinity of Sasa market in Ibadan on Friday 12th February, 2021? Do you know that increased security and related disruptions are witnessed in different theatres of violence in the country? Do you know that our communities need us more to preach peace and tolerance more in this season? As leaders, which positions do you occupy? Do you know that we have to mentor all the young people around us to save this nation from (un)civil war in these days of youth bulge?
Have you ruminated on the popular phrase that says: ‘The buck stops here’? Do you know that it means you have to take responsibility for something and not try to pass the responsibility on to someone else? Have you read “The Scapegoat” by William Holman Hunt (1854)? Do you know that buck passing involves sometimes playing the blame game, just attributing to another person one’s own responsibility? Do you play Poker? Are you aware that the expression originated from poker in which a marker or counter was used to indicate the person whose turn it was to deal? Do you know that if the player did not wish to deal he could pass the responsibility by passing the “buck” to the next player to deal, thus buck-passing? Are you aware that the phrase has crept secretly into International Relations theory? Do you know that in International Relations, is all about the tendency of a nation-state to refuse to confront a growing threat in the hope that another state will as was witnessed with the Munich Agreement in which France and the United Kingdom avoided armed confrontation with erring Germany, passing the buck to the then Soviet Union now Russia? Can you recall that the Soviet Union equally passed the buck back to the western powers by signing the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact? Do you know that this tendency eventually led to the Second World War?
Have you read about President Harry Truman of the United States? Do you know that his administration began on 12th April, 1945, when he became President of the United States upon the death of Franklin Roosevelt, and ended on 20th January, 1953? Do you know that “The buck stops here” is a phrase that was popularized by him as he kept a sign with that phrase on his desk in the Oval Office telling the world that he was responsible for all things? Can you believe that President Jimmy Carter arranged to borrow the sign from the Harry Truman Presidential Library and Museum to put on his table as President of the United States at his time? And now the truth! Do you know that this is the time that all Nigerian leaders including the President need to borrow this sign from any available Presidential Library with the phrase “”The buck stops here” as far as security is concerned? Do you know that buck-passing is a strategy in power politics whereby a state tries to get another state to deter or fight an aggressor state while it remains on the sidelines? Do you know that as we celebrate this Valentine’s Day, we must all borrow the sign and the phrase into our lives to make a difference? Why? You care? Come along.
Can you see that this year’s Valentine’s Day is preluded by strange issues and weird comments that equally call on us to stop the blame-game and buck-passing? As a prelude to Valentine’s Day, have you heard that no fewer than two persons reportedly lost their lives when some suspected herdsmen attacked the Sanusi Village in the Owo Local Government Area of Ondo State? Do you know that it was reported that the operational motorcycles and vehicle of the Ondo State Security Network Agency also known as Amotekun Corps were also reportedly set ablaze by the bandits? Do you know that it was reported that the attack occurred when the Amotekun men and other security agents were carrying out the order of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu to flush out the herdsmen who are illegally occupying the forest reserves in the State?
As a prelude to Valentine’s Day, have you heard of Gov Ortom of recent in his latest press briefing on Thursday, 11th February, 2021 where he asked President Buhari to declare a state of emergency on security? Do you know that the Governor stated that those carrying out attacks on communities in Nigeria are not Nigerians but foreign Fulani herdsmen, who he said took advantage of the country’s porous borders to gain entry? As part of his recommendations on how to deal with the crises, do you know that Governor Ortom asked the President to develop a National Ranching Policy in line with global best practices, direct the Nigeria Police Force and other security agencies to enforce Prohibition of Open Grazing Laws passed by various States of the federation including Benue, ensure that justice, fairness, and equity are evident in all issues relating to public safety and security?
Can you recall that on 8th March, 2018 the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom expressed concern that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Protocol on free Movement of ECOWAS citizens across member States has become more of security threat than the economic benefits it was established and therefore urged for its immediate review in line with modern day realities? According to him, do you know that serious clashes between farmers and herdsmen resulting in high number of deaths including many children and women were provoked by herdsmen from neighbouring countries? Do you know that he urged that the procedures for trans-human movement by member countries should be strictly abided with and that the provisions for quarantine services for livestock and prohibition of movement of armed herders should be enforced for improved security in the country? Can you believe that the governor challenged the immigration authorities to check movement of persons and herds into the country? His voice cuts in: “If the ECOWAS protocol has become a cog in the wheel of progress of Nigeria, it is high time we reviewed it.”
As a prelude to Valentine’s Day, are you aware that on Thursday 11th February, 2021, the Governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom called on President Buhari again to push for a review of the ECOWAS protocol for movement of persons, goods and services within the sub-region at a media briefing as he noted that foreign herders were taking undue advantage of the protocol to fuel insecurity in Nigeria? The voice of the Governor cuts in: “In neighbouring countries like Ghana and Benin, people are properly profiled before they are allowed into the county. People coming into Nigeria have to be properly profiled before they are allowed in. It is there in the ECOWAS protocol, I have studied it, I have my lawyers to also study it. Most of the herdsmen killing our people are not even Nigerians, even the president himself said this during his visit to the United Arab Emirates. The legislation we have in place in Benue is responsible for the relative peace we are enjoying. We have arrested and prosecuted over 400 herdsmen since the law came into effect. We have had 150 convictions. Some convicts were fined and released, others are still in Makurdi Correctional Centre.”
As a prelude to Valentine’s Day, are you aware that on Wednesday 10th February, 2021, the Presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, who made an appearance on a live television programme was reacting to recent comments made by Benue State Governor, Mr. Samuel Ortom reiterated that President Buhari’s position on the issue of killer herdsmen is that anyone caught with illegal arms should be arrested and tried? The voice of Femi Adesina cuts in: “If the governor would say he hasn’t heard the president speak on that matter, that’s what he should make clear; it’s not that the President hasn’t spoken. Because the number of times the President has spoken on that issue . . . and his position has always been the same: Anybody, whoever he is, that carries arms unlawfully should be arrested and prosecuted. The President has said it countless times. He does not have to; it was just an idea being proffered. It should be looked into and then if it is a consensus, it should be adopted. But it is not as one idea comes the President speaks on it, another idea comes, the President speaks on it, such must be a talkative President. Nigeria is a peculiar country where the federal government has no land. And if states say they have no land for ranches, then another solution has to be found. So we need to discuss these things and appraise them critically until we can get to what we can call ‘the’ solution.”
In the spirit of celebration of Valentine’s Day, do you know that Kano State Governor, Dr. Umar Ganduje, recently suggested that ranching was the solution to the phenomenon of herdsmen moving across the country with cattle? In another development similar to that, do you know that Governor Obaseki cautioned: “I call on the President to declare a state of emergency on security so that all resources and all strengths will be channeled towards ensuring that we have security for lives and properties in this country. “Because, for now, everything is in disarray and without security, there can be no meaningful development. “The president must come out and take steps that would redeem his image. President Buhari served this country as a military head of state and Nigerians appreciated him for he was and that was why overwhelmingly he was voted into power in 2015. “But what is happening now, the body language, shows clearly that he is not the president who is supposed to be the president of everybody and for nobody. “It is clear to me that the president is the president for everybody and for some people.”
Are you aware that on Monday 8th February, 2021 the Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) was hit by the reality that open grazing is no longer fashionable in modern society in the meeting presided over by the NSGF chairman, Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State? Do you know that the forum condemned every form of criminality whether from herders, hunters or farmers occupying forest reserves illegally? Do you know that with the security of the region and the country atop the agenda, the meeting noted with concern the growing wave of insecurity in the country, the tension generated by the eviction order issued to criminal herdsmen in some parts of the country, with threats of reprisals, which the Northern governors were working assiduously to contain? Do you know that it resolved to sensitise herders on the need to adopt new methods of herding, either by ranching or other acceptable modern methods and appealed to the Federal Government to support States with grants to directly undertake pilot projects of modern livestock production that would serve as a springboard for the full implementation of new methods of livestock production? Do you know that the governors called on political leaders to isolate criminality and social groups in their domains with a view to treating criminals like criminals? Do you know that the forum stressed the urgent need for the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) to meet and discuss the issue holistically, to resolve all areas of misunderstanding and conflict arising from threats and suspicion, for the sake of national unity? The communiqué issued by the forum after the virtual meeting, cuts in: “The current system of herding mainly through open grazing is no longer sustainable, in view of growing urbanisation and population of the country.”
As a prelude to Valentine’s Day, are you aware that the Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed on Thursday, 11th February, 2021, said herdsmen are not to be blamed for bearing firearms and that they are only protecting themselves against cattle rustlers who attack, kill and take away their possessions? Do you know that he alleged that his counterpart in Benue State, Mr. Samuel Ortom, started the herdsmen’s crisis by not accommodating the herders? Do you know that he also accused the southern Governors of mishandling herdsmen’s crisis, insisting that all forests belong to Nigeria and that the Nigerian Constitution guarantees all Nigerians to settle in any place of their choice? Do you know that he faulted the quit notice given to the Fulani herders in some southern states, particularly in Ondo State, pointing out that the move of the “Southern governors are wrong”. According to him, the herdsmen have the right to live anywhere as Nigerians, adding the forests where they graze their cows belong to nobody? His voice cuts in: “The west doesn’t want to accommodate other tribes but we are accommodating your tribe in Bauchi. We have Yorubas who have stayed in Bauchi for over 150 years, some of them have been made permanent secretaries in Gombe, Bauchi and Borno. But because the Fulani man is practising the tradition of transhumans, pastoralism, he has been exposed to cattle rustlers who carry a gun, kill him and take away his cows he has no option to carry AK 47 because the government and the society are not protecting him. It’s the fault of the government. Nobody owns any forests in Nigeria, it’s owned by Nigeria. Under section 23, 24 and 25 of the Constitution, every Nigerian is free to stay anywhere. Anybody can speak how but we are only exercising restraint. But the person that is most wrong is the Governor of Benue State, my brother and my colleague, Governor (Samuel) Ortom, he started all these. If you don’t accommodate other tribes, we are also accommodating your people in Bauchi and other places. We have so many Tiv people working and farming in Alkaleri, farming in Tafawa Balewa, farming in Bogoro Local Government areas of Bauchi, has anyone asked them to go? We have not, because it is their constitutional right to be there. We have Yoruba people in Bauchi for over 150 years, even before the birth of Nigeria. Nobody has told them to go, some of them have risen to become permanent secretaries in Bauchi, Gombe, and Borno. Nobody owns any forests; the forests are owned by Nigeria. And now, the Fulani man is practicing the tradition of pastoralism, he has been exposed to the dangers of the forests, the animals, and now, the cattle rustlers, who carry guns, kill him and take away his commonwealth, his cows, he had no option than to defend himself because the society and the government are not protecting him. It is not his fault, it is the fault of the government and the people, you don’t criminalise all of them because in every tribe there are criminals. You should be very sensitive.”
Have you met or read about Niyi Osundare, a leading African poet, dramatist, linguist, and literary critic? Do you know that the drums of the sean have invited him to dance on the issue? Do you know that the melody and the dancing steps should be critically observed and never condemned? Do you know that this literary giant was born on 12th March, 1947 in Ikere-Ekiti and his writings depict him as a political activist and social critic who enjoys the generous attention of international audience and influence? Do you know that he is the recipient of numerous prizes, including the Noma Award (Africa’s most prestigious book award), the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Poetry Prize, the Commonwealth Poetry Prize, the Tchicaya U Tam’si Poetry Prize, the ANA/Cadbury Poetry Prize (twice), and the Fonlon/Nichols Award, which he received in 1998 for “excellence in literary creativity combined with significant contributions to Human Rights in Africa”? Do you know that in 2014, Osundare was admitted to the National Order of Merit for intellectual distinction and was a Distinguished Professor of English at the University of New Orleans? Do you know that it is not wise to joke with the grains in the comment of this special caste of people? Do you know that on Friday 12th February, 2021, this literary giant and elder statesman, Prof Niyi Osundare, puts all what is happening in Nigeria at the door of Mr President, euphemistically saying “the buck stops here” as he described available attention of the matter as “amateurish, pedestrian and dangerously incompetent”.
In a letter titled, “Nigeria and the Cow Problem: Another letter to President Buhari” by Niyi Osundare cuts in: “This letter, my second to you in five months, will begin with a very, very absurd question: Mr. President, will Nigeria drift into another civil war under your watch simply because the ‘Giant of Africa’ does not know how to manage its cows? Yes, absurd: for, absurdity is the faithful cohort of the grotesque and irrational, the conspicuously invisible and falsely true. No war has ever taken place without a potent dose of the absurd in its mix of causes. Mr. President, the country over which you preside is burning in all its flanks: kidnapping on the highways, kidnapping on village roads, kidnapping on township streets, kidnapping in the homestead, kidnapping on the farmlands. Nigeria has never had it so bad. The notorious perpetrators of these crimes are widely called ‘bandits’ and/or ‘Fulani herdsmen’, depending upon the speaker’s degree of sensitivity or political correctness.
The ethnic origination and/or attribution of these crimes is my object of worry – and should be to anyone who cares for the stability of Nigeria and its survival as a corporate entity. Yes, the cow, that four-legged, two-horned, long-tailed, absolutely innocent animal, has become Nigeria’s casus belli , the moo-ing metaphor of a planless, dysfunctional country, waiting for another bout of absurdity to push her beyond the brink, and plunge us all into avoidable catastrophe. Mr. President, war drums are already sounding in some parts of the country, provoked by a question as dangerously absurd as this: when you and a herd of cows meet on the road, who/which should have the right of way? When you, a struggling farmer, get to your farm and find a herd of cows making a meal of the crops which are the lifeline for you and your family, should you take a bow as you shout bon appetite to the bovine bunch? When your only child is kidnapped and tortured and murdered, even after the payment of a hefty ransom, will you ask your neighbours to join you in the singing of the national anthem?
To say the least the federal government’s handling of the herdsmen crisis has been amateurish, pedestrian, and dangerously incompetent. Tell me: Is someone in Aso Rock trifling away while the Nigeria house is burning? Say something, President Buhari. Do something. Concerning the young men and boys now famously known as ‘herdsmen’, put them in school; put their feet on the road to a worthy life. Let their rich and powerful masters/patrons (all over Nigeria!) treat them the way they treat their own children. Science, not superstition, purposive reality, not bovine absurdity, that’s the magic. “Time to wake up, Mr. President. Time to wake up. The thinking, working world has left us behind. The whole wide world is appalled by Nigeria’s ostensibly incurable delinquency. Say something, Mr. President. Do something. Let us save Nigeria from another (un)civil war,” .
As we celebrate this year’s Valentine’s Day, we must save Nigeria from another (un)civil war. We thank Governor Adegboyega Oyetola for promoting peace and mutual coexistence in the State of Osun, paying salaries and pensions promptly with equal strength. We must encourage him with prayers and support. Happy Valentine’s Day, Comrades!