Al Green Calls For Trump Impeachment, Then Receives Death Threat Calls

Congress man  Al Green (D-Texas) on Saturday said that he has been threatened with lynching following his call for President Trump’s impeachment.

The lawmaker held a town hall event and played several recorded messages left at his offices in Texas and D.C., as first reported by The Houston Chronicle.

“You’ll be hanging from a tree,” one caller said in a voicemail.

“You ain’t going to impeach nobody,” the caller added. “Try it and we will lynch all of you.”

The callers often used racial slurs and called Green the n-word for his firm position on Trump.

“We are not going to be intimidated,” Green said Saturday as reported by CBS News. “We are not going to allow this to cause us to deviate from what we believe to be the right thing to do and that is to proceed with the impeachment of President Trump.”

Nigeria’s Greatness, Beyond Rhetoric By Simon Abah

Nigeria suffers from a crisis of leadership and followership and reminds me of Julius Nyerere’s Tanzania. The Tanzania of Julius Nyerere’s era was poor and lacked capacity. Sisal, its principal export crop was cultivated by foreigners on foreign-owned plantations. And coffee by the peasantry. The level of education was so abysmal that at independence in 1961, for a country of 12 million people, there were only less than one hundred university graduates and the per capita income equals £25 annually.

Nyerere, a well-educated Tanzanian, became prime minister in 1960 and president in 1961. The Tangayika African National Union (T.A.N.U) which he led instituted reforms to free the country from massive poverty, lack of infrastructure, encourage self-reliance and freedom from total dependence on Western countries (notably Britain and West Germany of that era).

The Arusha Declaration of February 1967 even though was successful in the area of education, as school enrollment doubled, was not successful economically, because of the high level of unemployment and social instability.

The Declaration, promoted the ideology of equality and traditional values as a gateway to development, as opposed to individualism and capitalism, which encourages social stratification in western countries. The motive was to have a classless society, where every citizen can engage in community service for the good of all. A country where non-material objectives are given utmost preference over material ones.
Primary school levers were given a self-contained education after which they went to work on collective farms. Higher education stressed the need for community service rather than for self-reward. No farmer was to be a Lord, to hire the services of another (Serf), thereby eliminating the emergence of individual wealthy farmers.

To achieve this, emphasis was placed on community engagement at the rural level, to self-help away from government intervention. Schools and Ujamaa villages (joint decision making council) were saddled with the task of indoctrination. The challenge, however, was that most elite who had been educated, gained power, wealth and prestige before independence and afterwards found the Arusha Declaration not only discomfiting but caviled at it openly.

Even though, senior government ministers and civil servants took 20 per cent and 10 per cent salary cuts respectfully, and though others gave up their government-assigned Mercedes, the Arusha declaration stood on weak wicket. How can you explain away the famous quotation from Tanzania of that era, can one have socialism with one socialist? Julius Nyerere was the only socialist in Tanzania and Ujamaa failed.

Tanzania is no different from Nigeria. The lack of enthusiasm by the educated elite, legislators, from the president’s men, institutions of state, the civil service and the masses to own the fight against corruption clearly shows that the fight against corruption is on a weak wicket.

An officer in a time of war, who lives far-away from his soldiers and subordinates all of his duties to his soldiers shouldn’t expect respect from his soldiers.

Ours is a country where politicians behave like mercenaries and petty Pharaohs.

Where parties don’t groom people for elective offices unlike in the first republic. Here, we do not fight for the things that move states forward, we scramble, belly-aching over how the patrimony should be shared.

We cannot move forward without creating the chance for everyone to have accessible and affordable education, tackle unemployment, security, housing problems, and reasonable wages for all. Away from the dog-eat-dog mentality, the snarling posturing which we have put up with for decades to justify our actions against people.

Nigeria is like Tanzania, because our political parties encourage the emergence of Johnnys-come-lately, weak leaders that took us to where we are. These same people who should be angry at the level of poverty in the country, fail to shape the social process by directing thoughts properly. Since when is a country built by only one political party?

Maybe it’s time we began to set very high standards and not low standards. To engage in ferocious Chutzpah to put elected officials on their toes. It would appear that to survive has taken over the place of heroism for many of them. The political parties must do well to ensure that candidates contest electoral offices after being well-groomed and enter politics not by accident but by training, especially those who have inherited the privilege of public service. People so well-groomed never lose view of the future.

I don’t see how wearing an academic gown to a respectable parliament shows how democratically serious we are in this country. I watch clips of The Prime Minister’s questions elsewhere enough to know that we are having democratic fun in Nigeria.

If politicians lead ascetic life-styles, then it would be easy for followers to trust the statements they make. Not when we see their wives acting like Hollywood stars, when they acknowledge their presence in The Lord’s temple, taking photo-ops after Sunday Masses, guarded by fiery looking policemen in states not at war.
Until we position our political parties and the internal democracy of parties aright to the level where it counts for nothing to be faddish by joining the winning party, we would continually see people who decamp from APGA to another party even after swearing to an oath on the Holy Book to Odumegwu Ojukwu as alleged by his widow, that they wouldn’t decamp.

That day will see politicians become ideologues to fight corruption, invest in education so that more people would wrestle free from the exploitation of the few educated elite. The small things like feeding and other basic necessities would then become priorities. So also would investment of generated revenues and accruals from the central government be made in gilt-edged securities and return on investments used for critical development away from ending in contractors’ pockets. Until then, a piece from a politician strikes me as building the fortissimo for a hidden agenda.

Abah wrote from Port-Harcourt.

Ambode, the Consolidator in Time of Famine, By Idowu Ajanaku

His defining moment came when he was sworn in as the 4th democratically elected governor of Nigeria’s Centre of Excellence and Africa’s ever ebullient commercial hub, Lagos State.

That was precisely on May 29, 2015 after the two-horse, riveting race between him, the governorship flag bearer of the All Progressives Congress, and Jimi Agbaje of the Peoples Democratic Party. A lot of water, as the wise ones say, has gone under the bridge ever since. But this piece is not all about his modest achievements within a short span of two years across the spectrum of security, massive infrastructural outlay, agriculture, education, transportation, health care delivery, human capacity development and of course, entertainment and tourism.

Rather, it is a personal perception about the distinguished gentleman who fate brought me in contact with at Glover Home back in 2014. What was my first impression about him? It was that of a well-groomed, complete gentleman whose alluring persona radiates a cool, composed and calculating ambience. It was that of a man with a touch of finesse reflected in his carefully chosen clothes, wristwatch and shoes! Has that first impression dimmed?

Of course not, if not bolstered by getting closer to him at work and more significantly discovering that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s taste and touch for perfection has been extrapolated to all the solid structures his administration has brought to bear, so far. If in doubt, check out the roads, bridges, school buildings, that dot the landscape of the fast-developing megalopolis. But before then there was another enigmatic bearing about him that raised some dust.

That was when he decided to throw his Epe-grown ‘cap’ into the governorship ring back in 2014.Not a few observers then had some reservation about his capacity to deliver in the intricate art of political governance. Here was a man, who though as an accomplished auditor, has traversed 13 out of the 21 local government councils and written his name in gold as an Accountant-General. But he was no politician. He may have even become the youngest and an achieving Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance. Yet, that was a different kettle of fish. What did he know about managing erratic and ever ambitious politicians with their idiosyncrasies?

Besides, his looks and demeanour were that of a top technocrat, not carved out for the gadabout gamble of poll-i-tricks. He was too meek, too simple, too gentlemanly. He could not even shout to browbeat opponents. Simply put, he did not have the guts to delve into the murky waters of Nigerian politics and swim with the sharks! One could not blame those who held on tenaciously to this line of argument. But how wrong could they be, as one was to discover on closer observations and events over the past two years have since unveiled.

With more intimate interaction, I discovered and felt both impressed and intrigued by his deep knowledge of the city called Lagos. Throw questions on the nitty-gritty of governance and one is awed by his full and firm grasp of what it takes to run the ever ebullient city that has become home to all. He does not believe in rhetoric or beating about the bush with wishful words. He is a down-to-earth, man of action. And even before such actions are taken he must be convinced that he has had the right background information with thorough thinking through.

All these came to the fore and eventually manifested during the first governorship debate held at the Church at Ikeja. It was between him, Agbaje and other governorship hopefuls. At the end of it, the Bishop in charge confessed that if the good people of Lagos were looking for someone with a clear vision; someone who knew his onions on how to pilot the affairs of Lagos and take it to the next level, Ambode was the man to choose.

On the flip side however, he observed that if they were out for a sweet talker, one who could convince Lagosians to toe his political path, Agbaje fit that bill. To him therefore, Ambode stood head and shoulders above his competitors. But it was left for the electorate to make a wise choice. So, looking back today one is grateful to Lagos people for taking their destiny in their own hands. Thank God for that!

Indeed, Ambode never ceased to tell those close to him that his political ambition was directed by the ‘hand of God.’ It was a divine project. It was not too surprising therefore, to listen to him sing two of his favourite gospel songs. One is the popular line that says that: “I have a father who will never fail me. Jesus is my father and he will never fail me, rock of ages, never, never fail.”

The other, popular as well is: “Olore mi.” He would sometimes break the silence, after a hard day’s campaign with: “Olore mi, olore mi o, kini ma fi san fu en o.” He was grateful to a benefactor that he was short of words on what he could do to repay Him for his divine grace and favour.

Perhaps, it is that grateful spirit that has imbued him with the uncommon virtue of patience. Evident during the planning and take-off for the campaigns were the attributes of a patient soul, a good listener as well as a good team leader. He never for once betrayed the trait of a bossy person; of one who rams his views down the throat of others. Ideas for programmes and projects were thrown open for thoughtful debate. At the end, the decision of the majority always held sway. One admires him much for such sterling qualities of a visionary leader.

Without sentiments therefore, one is not surprised by Governor Ambode’s astounding achievements over the past two years. Name them: the veritable vision of Lagos as a destination of choice for far-sighted entrepreneurs from all over the world. And why not? There is the assurance of all-round, tight security network, courtesy of his donation of top-of-the range security gadgets to the police and all-inclusive community surveillance, across the state. The fast growing mega-city was in 2016 ranked as the 5th most robust economy on the African continent. With a population of 21 million people it accounts for 80 per cent of the maritime trade conservatively put at some N3 trillion.

In addition, the Internally Generated Revenue, which rose from N20bn in 2013 to N23bn in 2014 has under Ambode achieved a feat of N380bn in 2016-the highest ever. These are properly utilised in the massive infrastructural development of roads, bridges and clearing of waterways to facilitate journeys by sea. There is the increasing focus on the triple projects of Eko Atlantic City, the $300 Elegushi Kingdom Imperial City as well as the history-making Smart City, coming up in conjunction with Smart City LLC, Dubai being the first of its kind in Africa.

On food security, there is the adoption of all-season farming and establishment of green-houses across the state, including the recent one established at Iyaafin Vegetable Estate in Badagry. The LAKE Rice project is to be boosted with the 16 mmt per hour rice mill in the state as an upgrade on the Imota Rice Mill set up with a 20, 000 metric ton rice processing and milling plant.

On fish farming and aquaculture, the government has optimised the use of the natural endowments to develop industrial fisheries, artisanal fisheries and aquaculture facilities across Lagos. So much more can be added in other sectors of the economy.

Interestingly, the man who was not given a chance to succeed back in 2015 has surpassed the expectations of millions of Lagos people. Just like the biblical Joseph who was not thought of as a credible leader in the time of famine, he has truly confounded his critics even in the nation’s trying period .That is why many in Lagos today sing that two is greater than eight.

It is again a tribute to the political sagacity of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu that when a credible successor was being sought for, to replace Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), he pitched his tent with a financial expert, knowing that an economic recession was looming. Now, we applaud that choice.

Like the phoenix, Ambode has risen from the ashes of political backwaters to become a reference point in Nigeria’s economic development. This indeed, should be an inspiration to all.

Ajanaku, is a senior special assistant (media and strategy) to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.

Like Ambode, Like Aregbesola, By Mufutau Egberongbe

Or should I have just titled this piece: ‘Unlike Ambode, Unlike Aregbesola’ or ‘Like Ambode, Unlike Aregbesola’? I decided to pick my title to avoid mischief and set the records straight. Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola is the governor of the State of Osun while Mr Akinwunmi Ambode is the governor of Lagos state. Both Osun and Lagos are part of what is politically referred to as south-west.

Before taking a further look at these two personalities, maybe we should quickly consider their differences. At least we know that their differences would aide us into knowing their similarities and why the title was chosen.

A closer, critical look at Aregbesola shows he is not dark (we can effectively call him fair). He is slim and has remained so (ever since the days of the struggle for a better Nigeria). Ogebni, even though has become a governor of a state, still has the ‘struggle’ running in his vein and as a result, calling him a comrade should not be out of place. He was a former commissioner in Lagos state. This governor became the first opposition to take over government in the state at a time Osun was still creeping in the dark. Maybe finally, Aregbesola seems to be enjoying a God-given, people-friendly second term.

On the other hand, Ambode could well be described as chubby (forgive me Your Excellency), ever smiling (I have never seen him frown even in the face of this daunting task of taking charge of the most sophisticated and most populated state in Nigeria). Though in his first term yet, he is not a ‘comrade’ as the rights activists would want to describe themselves, but this soft-spoken man from Epe sure fought the battle for the emancipation of Lagos especially from the draconian rule of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which was at the centre when Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the national leader of the now ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), was the governor of Lagos state. He is in a state that has never tasted the PDP.

For those who may not have known it, Ambode was part of the team that helped to shore up the internally generated revenue of the state at a time President Olusegun Obasanjo placed a seal on federal allocations to Lagos. This happened for many months based on the simple fact that then Governor Tinubu decided to break the state into local council development areas. Today it is known that the Tinubu example is being replicated all over the country.

When Aregbesola took over power in the State of Osun from Olagunsoye Oyinlola after a legal tussle that seriously tested the integrity of the judiciary, the major task was that of rebuilding a state from the scratch. Nothing seemed to be working, there was a huge debt and the people of the state were disgruntled. It was a headache. But Ogbeni was resolute and determined. When Ambode took over Lagos from Babatunde Fashola, there was a challenge. Of course, Lagos earns big from internally generated revenue; that was not all that matters. There was the need to know what to do and when to do what to do.

Asiwaju Tinubu stressed the point recently: “I was worried hell when you (Ambode) took over, not about your credibility, character or capacity, but because however wise or smart a man is, if there is no resources to back the ideas, production would be zero, progress would be zero. When you (Ambode) took over, I know you inherited a burden of debt. The debt profile of Lagos was high, I was wondering how you will reengineer and face the challenges to make progress.”

Maybe we can now successfully say they both started from a point where the need to make things straight was paramount.

Immediately he hit the ground, Aregbesola declared a state of emergency on schools. His belief is that the growth and progress of any state is measured through the level of enlightenment and education of its residents. He started turning schools into gigantic structures to make learning a comfortable experience. The government under Aregbesola refurbished over 1,534 classroo

Ogbeni @ 60: The Power of Conviction, By Semiu Okanlawon

Early in the life of his administration, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola brought up a video for those he believed were going to play critical roles in the implementation of his development agenda. It was a video on Bogota, the once decrepit, dreaded slummy province of Columbia. It was a story of tearing down and building up what many had resigned to as the fate of a settlement that was beyond redemption. But Bogota was redeemed. The essence of that exercise was to inject in the veins of those who would later play critical roles in the transformation of Osun, the passion for delivery.

From that moment, those who may not have given very serious thoughts to the essence of the credo that Aregbesola subscribes to that “Power is Responsibility” must have then commenced ruminating over what lay ahead with a man that carries with him such revolutionary zeal.

In the fullness of time, Nigerians would indeed discover that the confident expression, “I am as large in Osun as I am large in Lagos” was a mellowed stamping and confirmation of a political relevance that actually transcends Osun and Lagos. The disciples of Aregbesola’s ideals in political engineering are emerging in Ondo, Kogi, Oyo, Ogun all in the South-West zone of Nigeria just as they may be mushrooming in states outside the South-West.

Is it surprising that he is large in Osun as he is large in Lagos? It’s only if we find a personality, a political figure with as much history and records of dedication, commitment and achievements in phenomenal infrastructural revolution in Lagos between 1999 and 2007 and in Osun from 2010 till date that we can begin to debate the claim.

The cosmopolitan nature of Lagos might have silenced what could have been hue and cries over the Aregbesola’s ‘unusual’ ideas. It was not even his show. The Lagos affair was the show of his boss and mentor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. That was unlike Osun, the not-so-cosmopolitan enclave of 4 million highly agrarian people with little or no shock-absorbers to withstand the high wave of ‘strange’ development ideas needed to make a huge difference the state needed.

The resistances that have attended, confronted and threatened almost all his novel ideas in education, urban renewal, youths engagements, labour and wage issues, freedom of worships and others could scare the lily-livered away off the track.

In the decades to come, the novel ideas that have worked in Osun are going to provide case studies for those in search of solutions to various social, economic and political problems.

The latest statistics by the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB) in 2017 which confirms Osun as the second state after Imo on the list of its applications for varsity admissions is instructive. This only comes as addition to previous landmarks such as the state with the highest school enrollments and the state with the best template in school feeding scheme in Nigeria. All these are undoubtedly made possible because Aregbesola would not toe the beaten paths.

Based on convictions, Aregbesola has fought wars to ensure the survival of his educational policies which those rattled by such new ideas could not understand. The schools reclassification into the Elementary, Middle and High Schools in Osun met a resistance that has gone down in the history of the state as one of its most tempestuous period. The dimension of religion which was dubiously introduced into it by its antagonists threatened what was aimed at bringing out the complete new man who would be useful not to himself alone but to the society from the Osun school children.

Similarly, when the government signed on to using nine cities -Osogbo, Iwo, Ede, Ilesa, Ila, Ikirun, Ife, Ikire and Ejigbo -as models of urban renewal under the UN-Habitat Programme, development experts saw it as smart moves to achieve what the architects of modern Bogota, Dubai and other such previously slummy and rustic human settlements have done for their people.

But the naysayers of Osun never saw the opportunities cities that meet modern requirements for sustainable development and decent living could offer. The protests against removal of illegal structures to give way to the needed beautifications were more than enough to have halted the zeal to proceed.

What stand today as the enhanced cities of Osun remains product of conviction that what is good is good, no matter the cacophony of the naysaying.

t is the same dose of convictions that have led to the survival of Aregbesola’s interventions in the much needed strategies for taking idle youths off the streets of the state. Today, the Osun Youths Empowerment Scheme, (OYES) resonates well with not only the state but Nigeria. Faced with millions of idle, able-bodied young men and women, Aregbesola’s concern was more on the stability of the society in the face of a multitude that have nothing to engage them. He would not wait for the scourge (joblessness) that brought about the tragic wave of insurgency in the North-East part of Nigeria to find its way into Osun before taking the most courageous decision that has seen to the positive engagements of over 40,000 youths of the state.

But it came, not without its own price! The antagonists of the youth empowerment scheme merely saw what they called the ‘paltry’ N10,000 month stipend for volunteers whose qualifications ranged from university degrees to diplomas and other allied certificates. On the basis of this was the vociferous condemnations which were sustained over a long period; aimed at making the cadets loose self confidence and esteem. But a new re-orientation has taken place in the determination of the Aregbesla administration to instill a new culture of work ethics into the future leaders of the state and by extension, Nigeria. Apalara, the motivating, inspirational ethos which makes the Yoruba man takes hard work serious had been imbibed by the thousands of youths in the state. Today, to be absorbed into any major state employment would require a certification in the OYES pride.

The same conviction is what has gone into Aregbesola’s implementation of his other agenda which aptly illustrates his tenacious hold to the fact that nothing good comes easy.

Viewed in totality, the harvests of the Aregbesola years in Osun in spite of the enormous constraints of finance, negative attitude and opposition of naysayers and the vast areas of interventions required to make noticeable impacts, gives credence to the words of Vaclav Havel, the last President of Czechoslovakia and then first President of Czech after the split who said that “Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”

Happily enough, his experiments have turned out to be profitable, rewarding; lifting Osun to be counted among states of the federation brimming with definite hopes of survival. The state was created in 1991. Aregbesola became its Governor in 2010, 19 years after. But a measure of the landmarks of the first four years undoubtedly have compelled developments analysts to admit that the gains of 4 years under his watch far outweigh those of the first 19 years.

It would look untidy to examine Aregbesola without a look at the propelling ideologies behind his actions and thoughts. A Communist, it takes little efforts to feel the dialectical views of social transformations embedded in his policies, relationships and postulations. He is ever proud to proclaim his affinities to historical figures that have used the Marxist ideologies to change the conditions of their people. His heroes and models include Chairman Mao Tse Tong, Fidel Castro, Obafemi Awolowo and more contemporary, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and other known revolutionaries.

Small in frame but huge and robust in ideas, Aregbesola’s obvious ascetic life and one devoted to ideas that break the norms place him on the same pedestal with his heroes.

In his almost two decades of public service now, he has succeeded in demonstrating his affinities to the Awolowo and other revolutionaries’ ideals.

Open to debates to enrich his own original ideas, Aregbesola, without being pretentious has established he has no time for what Awolowo called “spending whole days and nights carousing in clubs or in the company of men of shady characters and women of easy virtues”.

This is just as the results of his engagements have equally shown that here is a leader who is “busy at my post working hard at the country’s problems and trying to find solutions to them.”

At 60, he has called to the deepest levels of the historical, revolutionary figures that have inspired him.

• Semiu Okanlawon is the Director, Bureau of Communication & Strategy, Office of the Governor, Osogbo.

The Road We Should Not Have Taken By Dan Agbese

When life in the present tense becomes difficult or outright a hard scrabble, it is both easy and tempting to wallow in the somnolence of nostalgia. And romanticise the past as the golden period of our national history. But it is difficult not to look back against the advice of the late Lt-Col Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu who said that if the almighty wanted us to look back, it would not have been beyond him to provide us with a pair of eyes in the back of our heads. This from an Oxford trained historian.

The business of history is to hold the mirror to the present tense of life and force us to see the footprints of the doers and thinkers who were here and who are, God being so kind, now lapping it up in the luxuries of the Eternal City up in the clouds. We must look into the past, not as a mirror but as a source of inspiration as we negotiate the tortuous bends of the paradigms of development.

However, our willingness or even our capacity to peep into the past runs against a formidable granite wall called military propaganda. The propaganda advises us against looking back to two important periods of our national history divided between military incursions. I refer to the First Republic, which lasted from October 1, 960 to January 15, 1966; and the Second Republic that lasted from October 1, 1979 to December 31, 1983.

Military propaganda tells us it would be foolish to be nostalgic about them. They are periods best forgotten, according to the military propaganda, because our leaders in each of those periods led us down the wrong path and thus forced the military to intervene to turn our nation back from the way to Golgotha.
This propaganda has been positively detrimental to our developmental health as a nation. When a nation swings between the good and the bad with no grey areas in between, it leads to a pronounced disconnect between the past and the present. You could not connect military doers and thinkers with civilian doers and thinkers because you would be mixing saints with sinners, for which, heaven forfend. Something is bound to give.

What gives in this case is our inability to marry the good in the military with the good in the civilian regime. This, for me, partially explains why our nation is in a perpetual swing, unable to hold on to a development paradigm deemed by thinkers to change our fortunes and free us, for instance, from our current total dependence on crude oil earnings at all levels of government. The easy money stifles creativity, hence the lack or the poorly internally generated revenue in the states. I am sure you do notice the number of abandoned projects throughout the country. Projects begun by a civilian regime are abandoned by the succeeding military regime. And, of course, projects began by one civilian governor is abandoned by his fellow civilian successor.

Someone once estimated the cost of the abandoned projects down the length and breadth of the country at five trillion Naira. This, of course, is a chicken feed in an oil rich nation. Yes, Nigerian chickens are unwisely given to gluttony. But beyond the loss of money to the public that these abandoned projects represent are the loss of hope and the despair they inflict on the people.

This is not likely to change so long as we accept that the past is a burden on the present. Why drag a burden along when, with your signature, contractors can help you embark a new set of projects destined to be abandoned sooner than later? We hail our country, as indeed, our national anthem obligates us to do.

I give three instances of pragmatic civilian thinkers in response to either the problems they confronted or as a means of giving the nation a leg up in focused development. I draw my three instances from the Second Republic, sadly tarred and feathered by military propaganda.

Today we face a housing crisis throughout the country. The sight of fellow Nigerians sleeping under bridges and uncompleted buildings in our towns and cities could be pleasing only to sadists. President Shehu Shagari saw it coming. He initiated a low cost housing project in each of the then 19 states. It was a proper and pragmatic response to what would likely give rise to a national scandal. Sadly, it was politicised. The late Chief Bola Ige, governor of old Oyo State, would not even give the president land in the state for the project. The triumph of politics has never been, and never will be, healthy for national development.

These houses were completed in some of the states but they were abandoned in many other states. The military never even bothered to give a thought to reviving and sustaining the housing projects. They most certainly accounted the housing projects as an act of folly or corruption by the civilian regime. I say no more.

Go-slow was a major problem in the Lagos metropolis in the seventies. It is not as bad now but still bad enough. Governors before Alhaji Lateef Jakande had tried all sort of solutions, including park-and-ride and even numbers and odd numbers, all of which made no discernable impression on the traffic bottleneck in the city. Alhaji Jakande, the action governor of Lagos State in the Second Republic, thought hard about this and came up with a novel idea to address the worsening traffic congestion. His preferred solution was an underground railway system. He borrowed a leaf or two from other major cities in the world such as London and New York that show the wisdom of an underground rail system.

An underground rail system is cheap and fast. Jakande contracted a French company to build the underground rail system. The company was hard at work on it when the military abandoned the barracks once more for the government house. The first thing the new military governor, Group Captain Mudashiru did was to cancel the project. Why sustain a well-thought out project such as this conceived by a civilian governor?

Then come with me to my state, Benue. Mr. Aper Aku, was our governor in the Second Republic. Let me add that I served that government for 17 months. But this is not about romanticising the past. I am telling it as it was.

The Tiv area of Benue State is the largest producer of soya beans in the country. Much of it was exported or sold in other parts of the country with minimal earning for the farmers. Aku decided it would be more helpful to the farmers and the internally-generated revenue of the state if he turned the soya bean into raw materials for an agro-industry. The state government went into partnership with a Swiss company, I believe, and set up the Taraku Oil Mills. It was a very good agro-industrial project. The soya beans farmers had a good and ready market. It encouraged them to produce more and earn more money.

Again, the succeeding military government accounted it a foolish act. The Oil Mill has since been abandoned. The farmers lost; the state lost and the hundreds of distributors and transporters of the product lost. It closed the door to other possible agro-industrial projects using readily available raw materials in the state.

I have given these three examples to show that the colours of the clothes we wear have nothing to do with wisdom or foolishness. Thinking, pragmatic thinking, is a function of the grey matter, not the rustling of khaki or agbada. Let me add, on a final note, that a disconnect between the past and the present is no way to build or develop a country. It is a wrong road and one we should not have taken.

Buhari’s Mid-term Report: So Far, so Good By Louis Okoroma

As President Muhammadu Buhari clocks two years in office, it is pertinent to take an X-ray of the regime in terms of its performance in the critical areas of its campaign promises and in those areas that Nigerians wanted action taken.

The three critical areas where the nation had problems which needed fixing, were in the areas of national security, fight against corruption and revitalising a non-performing economy whose future was hanging in the balance because of the twin problems of dependence on one revenue-earning product, crude oil and the more important fact that the price of that commodity, crude oil, had fallen very low in the world market.

The task before President Buhari was daunting and he even confessed to the media that when he realised the enormity of the problems confronting the nation notably the paucity of revenue to pursue much-needed development programmes, he considered at times to throw in the towel!

Buhari, however, only thought of throwing in the towel. The soldier in him of course made giving up, a non-option and he moved on doggedly, confronting the national problems head-on assisted by a cabinet in which he had confidence and a supportive Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Though Nigeria is still battling economic difficulties, the time for applause is coming slowly but surely as the nation commences the laborious march out of recession.

The administration of PMB has performed fairly well in dealing with the insecurity problem that once loomed large on the national horizon. PMB got the nation’s armed forces to rout the Boko Haram, degrading the latter from a confident and rampaging band of insurgents to a rag-tag nuisance that now seek to ambush and throw bombs at the gallant soldiers of the Nigeria Army. Boko Haram can no longer stand and fight as in the days when they held sway. Today, they have lost the nerve and initiative to stand in battle and life in general is coming back to the troubled North east zone of the country.

The icing on the cake in the area of security, which is a good anniversary package for millions of Nigerians and the people of the troubled North east, is the release into freedom of 82 additional girls hitherto kidnapped from the Government Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State. Freedom for this large number of girls is a source of great joy to anyone who comes from a family or community bearing in mind the long period of their captivity.

Given the fact that there cannot be a hundred per cent situation of security in any human environment, the security situation in the country today, is quite tolerable and is one in which meaningful life can take place. No more is the nation going around cap in hand asking for help from our foreign partners for security assistance and arms. The situation has fairly stabilised and the nation’s military have entered a phase of consolidation of the security situation.

In the area of anti-corruption, it is a boom! Never before have the anti-corruption agencies in the country exposed so much graft, so much greed, so much wickedness and so much lack of compassion among the nation’s elite. It is a sort of bonanza. Everyone, including the ordinary citizen now know those who betrayed them, stole their patrimony, leaving the nation prostrate and incapable of providing them the basic means of existence, jobs, salaries and their meagre pension benefits. The Whistleblower policy activated by the Buhari administration to enable citizen participation in the anti-corruption war, is the single most important catalyst now driving the war against corruption and given it a life of its own.

The issue of concern to many Nigerians are, what kind of sanctions to mete out to the growing list of national robbers and looters so as to discourage others from towing similar path and prevent the poor and desperate citizens including the young, from holding up thieves as role models.

The prevailing position is that forfeiture of stolen assets to the State, is not sufficient punishment for the looters. It is recommended that the government working with the nation’s judiciary, should ensure compulsory jail terms of not less than 20 years for those who contributed to the nation’s adversity, poverty and unemployment of the people through stealing of public funds, as well as banning such dubious persons from seeking for office.

To his credit, the administration of PMB is battling recession and the good news is that the country will come out victorious the time most policies being put in place today, start to germinate.

First, under the Social Investment Programme (SIP) of the PMB government, thousands of indigent Nigerians across the country have been receiving the five thousand naira stipend promised by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) during the campaign for the 2015 elections. While this does not amount to much in view of the high inflation in the economy, at least it gives confidence and promise of better days for these class of Nigerians who were never for once considered by the evil and rapacious former ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Second, thousands of unemployed graduates who would have remained a pain in the neck of their families have been massively employed under the emergency teacher’s programme of the present administration. These class of educated Nigerians would have the self-esteem of earning a salary with the expectation that as the economy improves in the nearest future and the nation exits recession, according to the skills and knowledge of these young and educated, they would be absorbed into other critical areas of the economy. This is the popular N-Power job scheme of PMB which as we are told, would be expanded in 2017, to accommodate a total of 350,000 young and educated persons of different grades.

Perhaps, most revolutionary in the effort to revamp the economy and create employment is the steady and successful diversification of the economy. Agriculture and food production has taken the lead here.

The administration of PMB has put in place the Anchor Borrowers Scheme under which farmers across the country are able to borrow money and improve their activities. So far, millionaires in large numbers have been created in a number of States across the country in the area of rice production. Rice farmers in Nigeria are not only becoming wealthy, they are able to provide employment to willing hands on the farms as they increase the acreage under cultivation. The magic that is happening here is that with the ban on rice imports, national revenue being used in the past to import the commodity are being conserved while steadily Nigerians have started to export the same commodity and earn foreign exchange while millions of Nigerians now eat locally-produced rice, which nutritionists tell us is healthier for the body.
The determination of the government to ensure that Nigerians can feed themselves gives hope. Most States in the country are now going seriously into agricultural production taking cognizance of their comparative advantage in certain areas.

In view of the mess which PMB found in place in May 2015, the government is doing well so far on the economy. As more sectors are brought within the radar of government support, as envisaged under the recently-released economic blueprint, the Economic Reform and Growth Plan (EGRP), the new development agenda for Niger Delta and the new guidelines on ease of doing business, among others, at both the national and state levels, it is certain that by the end of 2017, the present harsh economic climate would to a large degree have run its course, paving way for visible recovery of the economy.

Okoroma is a political Analyst and lives in Abuja.

The Tinubu Factor in Yoruba and Nigerian Affairs By Tunji Olaopa

An article like this necessarily must commence with a caveat. There is a usual angst when it comes to writing about public figures, and especially when these figures are politicians who are caught in the eye of the storm. If there is any political figure whose reputation has always hung in the balance, it is Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. There is therefore the likely expectation that one would be expected to toe the line of the regular Tinubu-bashing that has become the pastime of political commentators in Nigeria. My commentary will be more reclamatory than condemnatory. The leadership problematic in Nigeria requires that we pay adequate attention to rescuing what is given to us in terms of leaders and those who can be forced to achieve what is needed for the task of nation building. And all this becomes imperative despite their human frailty.

Tinubu’s significance straddles not only Yoruba affairs but also the postcolonial fate of Nigeria. He began as an activist-politician whose democratic audacity, together with the tenacious agitation of NADECO, caught the attention and hearts of Nigerians at the height of the aborted June 12 democratic saga in Nigeria. The significance of June 12, in my reckoning, goes beyond the truncation of the electoral victory of Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola. On the contrary, and like almost every political issue in Nigeria, it goes to the very heart of Nigerian national integration which lies at the heart of the national project. It was a crisis that almost consumed the soul of Nigeria. Its reverberation is still at the heart of party politics in Nigeria and the diversity of the political anomalies that ails us. It stands to reason therefore that those who fought the war of liberation, as it were, deserves a trajectory analysis that attempts to cumulate their contribution to the larger issue of the salvaging of the Nigerian nation.

Tinubu is no hero. On the contrary, he is a politician who cannot be understood within the regular understanding of politicking in Nigeria. I concede that he is a master of political gambit which is required if anyone ever hopes to survive the complex minefields of political intrigues that characterize Nigeria’s realpolitik. But it seems to me that calling Tinubu a political realist is the most consummate compliment one can ever hope to give him. And this is all the more so within the context of the complex relationship that links the governance of the Yoruba with the future of Nigeria. Whether we like it or not, the existence of the Yoruba nation, as well as any other nation within the Nigerian plural context of nationhood, is significant for the survival of Nigeria as we want it to be. If this is correct, then it stands to reason that we need a concept of leadership that has the capacity to hold Nigeria together in its plurality.

Asiwaju Tinubu is one leader out of many who has been involved in the turbulence of making Nigeria work. He is unique not only because, like other politicians, he is concerned with the dynamics of power and power play. On the contrary, Tinubu’s political gambit is usually tied in with the political fate of the Southwest within the overall development of Nigeria. Let us begin with the successful governance story of Lagos State. I suspect that any attempt at narrating the turning point of the governance story that transformed Lagos would have to factor the Tinubu governorship years into the Lagos governance history. But that is not imaginative in the sense that the development dynamics of Nigeria in itself requires sustainability if any governance creativity of one governor is to have any positive and continuing effects on the lives of the citizens of any state. Thus, Tinubu did not just end his tenure as governor and then retired to savour his wealth and goodwill. His political gambit was to further that legacy of good governance through a calculated political engineering that brought in Babatunde Raji Fashola, and then recently Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. If godfathers exist to perpetuate good governance, then I am for Tinubu as a godfather. Lagos State therefore play host to a significant governance story which I have argued should be replicated throughout the Southwest as a critical response to the challenges of restructuring and anomalous fiscal federalism in Nigeria.

However, the Tinubu factor in politics is not just a Southwest brand alone. It is to his credit that a credible opposition could be mustered to dislodge a sit-tight political party with a slogan of ruling Nigeria for many years rather than empowering millions of poverty-stricken Nigerians who voted the party into power. Does this political clout for ideological politics in the midst of a pandemic of insane self-aggrandizement count for anything when considering the future of Nigeria? I have always been a student of leadership dynamics not only within the organizational framework or as a managerial necessity. Chinua Achebe’s lamentation about the absence of leadership in Nigeria strikes a deep core in me. Leadership is the most cogent factor in any reform effort either at the organisational or national level. However, the search for this reform factor must be as realistic as the context within which the search is taking place. It will be an irresponsible expectation to think that Nigeria can ever throw up a saint or savior without sin who will take us to the Promise Land.

The fundamental question for me is: What can be done with or gained from Tinubu’s political capital as a significant dynamics come 2019? The type of political capital Nigeria requires for a significant national reform is definitely not one that deploys charisma for the purpose of dumb electoral victory. On the contrary, there is the need for an ideological arrowhead that could serve as the rallying point for a progressive recalibration of politics around which we can redefine democratic governance in Nigeria. With his Lagos governance success, Asiwaju Tinubu displays many political virtues that (a) speaks to the fact that he is his own person; and (b) ideology matters in good governance.

A leader that moves with the tides of political maneuvers is definitely one without a backbone required to move ideas to practice. I see this clearly in Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s political character. Yet he became a toast of not only the Southwest but of the North. Tinubu himself is far from a politician that is subject to the self-interested will of others. And leadership, for me, is first and foremost, self-evident will power. More significantly, leadership requires an ideological fuel that ought to become the source of ideas and ideals that can motivate policy conceptions and implementations.

Nigeria’s present season of anomie and the manifestation of obscene corruption reveal that ideology dies within the dense atmosphere of political greed. Is it possible to extricate Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu from the rubric of corrupt politicking? That is a question we must wait for time and chance to reveal. But it seems to me that there is more to the Tinubu factor than achieving a grim certainty that he is a corrupt politician. Of more interest is the need to delimit a sphere of progressive politics in Nigeria—the kind of thinking that led to the evolution of Alliance for Democracy and later the APC—that will accommodate all democratic and patriotic minded politicians and patriots around the possibility of making Nigeria a democratically viable and developed country. Thus, can Nigerians see the forest for the trees? Is it not time for us to commence reclamation of those who possess the political wherewithal to lead a silent revolution of leadership in Nigeria? Can Tinubu’s ethnic commitment be excavated into a national development dynamic? In what sense can politicians and national figures like Tinubu and OBJ become the central discursive point in a leadership theory in Nigeria which speaks to a pragmatic understanding of politics as determined by flawed characters?
With Tinubu, we have an opportunity to commence an articulation of a Nigerian leadership theory that commences from where Nigeria is at the moment and then moves on to what possible progress we can achieve with what we have in terms of people and capitals. “Leadership,” Robin Sharma tells us, “is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work…” If we can get beyond the present disillusionment we now have with the crop of politicians who raid our votes and destroy the commonwealth, we may actually begin to find a means of rethinking a framework of political leadership which, however flawed it may be, provides the most available juncture from which we can move forward as a nation. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, I argue, provides a good starting point in that reflection.

Dr. Olaopa is executive vice chairman, Ibadan School of Government & Public Policy (ISGPP).

Horrible Lives of Nigerian Girls Trafficked to Italy, By Maggie Neil

Disheveled, barefoot and bleary-eyed, the Nigerian girls are some of the first to walk off the boats. A dream realised; they arrive in Europe — though the scene is anything but romantic.

Caskets are carried off, carrying those who didn’t survive the two-day journey across the Mediterranean, from Libya to the Sicilian port of Palermo. Babies wail and those sick and burned from the effects of the gasoline mixed with saltwater stumble towards the medical tent.

The Nigerian girls are given a plastic bag containing a litre of water, a piece of fruit and a sandwich. They’re ushered to a vinyl tent for “vulnerabili” — the vulnerable ones.

For at least 30 years, Nigerian women have been trafficked into Europe for sex work, but numbers have spiked recently. In 2014, the trickle of a few hundred women a year grew to nearly 1,500. The following year, it increased again to 5,600. In 2016, at least 11,009 Nigerian women and girls arrived on Italian shores.

These women used to arrive on planes with visas. Now, they come the “back way” — the smuggling route that has developed across Africa to bring hundreds of thousands of Africans to Europe.

Women make up a smaller percentage of total African arrivals to Europe, and aid response for them has been slow and misguided. Although the International Organization of Migration estimates that 80 percent of Nigerian females coming to Europe are trafficked, aid workers have no way of telling those seeking opportunity from those forced against their will. They hand out flyers warning against trafficking.

Time is of the essence: If officials can establish trust, girls who have not been trafficked may be less likely to become ensnared in sex work once they are in Europe. And those who were trafficked are more likely to supply details that reveal that they have been trafficked, allowing the IOM to refer them to Italy’s national anti-trafficking network, or local prosecutors, who can help them get international protection.

In the best-case scenario, they are placed in a safe house run by nuns or an NGO, which is supposed to house them for up to three years and try to integrate them into European life with school and job training, with the goal of becoming independent.

That’s the ideal scenario — but it rarely happens. Safe houses are built for a dozen women — there aren’t nearly enough to take in the thousands of women arriving.

Traffickers know this.

Before leaving for Italy, Nigerian traffickers give the girls and women a phone number for a madam, and tell them to call as soon as they arrive. Madams are older Nigerian women, sometimes former prostitutes themselves, who have climbed the organisational ranks. A younger male is also involved, working for the madam by following, watching and accompanying the young women.

After arriving, the Nigerian women are taken with other asylum-seekers to facilities around Italy, built to house them as they await their documents. Teeming with people from Nigeria, The Gambia, Eritrea and elsewhere, many of whom have been there more than a year, they’re allowed to come and go, and use cell phones.

“Madams actually recruit inside the big immigration centres,” explains Tiziana Bianchini, who works for Lotta Contro l’Emarginazione, a Milan-based organisation with an anti-trafficking mission. This means that girls who may not have been trafficked run the risk of falling into criminal networks once they are in Italy.

Peace is one teen girl who, in 2013 at the age of 17, migrated by boat to Sicily and was brought to CARA of Mineo, the largest refugee camp in Europe. Located in Sicily’s eastern province of Catania, the centre, once an American military base, houses more than 3,000 men and women. It has become notorious for its dubious finances and for giving residents cigarettes instead of the payments they are entitled to under Italian law.

While she still lived in the camp, Peace stopped a Nigerian man on a street nearby, and asked to borrow his phone. She dialled the number she had been told to, and spoke to the Nigerian woman on the other line. Within days she was a sex worker. “Once you make the call, you’re off. You never go back to the camp,” she says.

I met her earlier this year in a small room in Sicily where church services are held, several months after she left the street.

She’s an energetic, fast-talking, smiley young woman, whose youthful stature is nonetheless marked by a distinct confidence. She wears her hair up high, with a long braid hanging down her back, bouncing as she walks and talks in the glaring Sicilian sunlight.

Peace isn’t her real name — it’s an alias we agreed to use because she still lives in fear of her traffickers, or that she’ll be deported. Or of repercussions for her family because she didn’t finish repaying her debt.

Trafficking officials would call her a typical victim: She grew up in Benin City, in the heart of Nigeria’s poor, rural southwestern Edo State, a major source of trafficked sex workers in Europe. She’s the eldest girl from a large family — and older girls are the most likely to be trafficked. Her mother died when Peace was 16, and her father “was not caring.”

She decided to leave, feeling the pressure of needing to help her family financially, and escaping from a situation that was hurting her.

When a woman approached her, telling her she was beautiful and asking if she wanted to go to Europe, Peace agreed. She knew she’d have to work on the street, and she knew she would need to pay the woman 30,000 euros once she arrived in Europe. She completed what Nigerians call the “juju oath,” an animist, spiritual contract in which the girl agrees to be brought to Europe, and binds herself to her debt with bits of her pubic hair and blood.

The ritual is taken extremely seriously — and violation is considered justification for murder of a girl or her family.

“Back then, I just thought, f*** it,” said Peace.

Languishing in the camps

The lax oversight at these migrant centres has led to calls for a different response to migrant arrivals in Italy. The centres, which Italians call “welcome homes” and the people inside call “camps,” were Italy’s stop-gap solution to provide recent arrivals with housing as they awaited their documents or the result of their applications for international protection.

A process that was supposed to take a couple of months now lasts years, while applicants languish in overcrowded centres, often in the middle of nowhere.

“Italy was completely unable to create a national program to deal with the arrivals from Africa,” said Bianchini, explaining that the responsibility lies with understaffed and underfunded local governments, who end up outsourcing the oversight of these camps to private organisations, “making contracts with whoever.”

This means there is little oversight or transparency. Much of the staff operating these centres speak little to no English (nor French nor Arabic for that matter), the centres are overcrowded, and the people inside of them tend to be given little access to information on Italy’s legal system.

When I visited one centre, many people asked me if they should try to get to France. Rumour has it that it’s increasingly tough to cross the borders out of Italy.

“The Italian system of housing asylum-seekers is completely inadequate for victims of trafficking,” Bianchini added, noting that women in general, but especially victims of trafficking, require specific psychological and educational support that these centres are unable to provide.

Every so often, law enforcement officials in Italy decide it’s time for a sweep and deport Nigerian women back to Nigeria, where they run the risk of being re-trafficked.

“Forcibly returning the girls to Nigeria would be another heavy violence against them,” explains Sister Valeria Gandini, a missionary nun who eight years ago founded Palermo’s Street Unity, a group of lay and religious volunteers who visit the women on the street each week. “Sooner or later, they will meet the same people who betrayed them and brought them to Europe the first time around.”

Deportation rumours often spur more women to run away.

Impossible to pay

Another young Nigerian woman who ran away from her camp, only to wind up on the street, is Favour — again, not her real name. When I met her, she had a big, warm smile beneath a fashionable knit cap.

Like Peace, Favour is from Edo State, though from the more rural area, outside of the city. Before she agreed to seal the oath, Favour asked the woman who approached her if she was going to Europe to “do prostitution.” It was only once the woman assured her that she would be working in a shop that Favour agreed.

She was told the money would be easy to come by once she was in Europe.

When she first arrived at the madam’s house, Favour was exhausted. She slept for two days. On the third day, the woman said it was time to go to work.

In addition to the 30,000 euros she had to pay off, she would have to pay 80 euros a week for food, 250 euros a month for the rent, as well as the gas and electric bills. Favour was ready: OK, no problem. Just show me the shop, she said.

First, the woman took her shopping. They bought clothes that Favour says she “didn’t understand.” A few days later, the woman said she was ready for work. They took bus after bus, and then they walked. She found herself in the “bush,” standing on the side of the road. She was told to put on different clothes, clothes she had bought earlier with the woman, and that were now tucked inside the bag she had brought.

When it finally dawned on her what she would have to do, Favour cried. She cried all day, and for many days she refused to work. When she went home with nothing, the woman would beat her. After some time, she felt she had no choice, and she gave in.

In Palermo, women and underage girls like Peace and Favour work the streets among the trees lining the busy road of La Favorita, or along the trash- and urine-ridden streets around the port.

They are there six nights, or days, a week, depending on their shifts. As the months get warmer, the clothes get skimpier: see-through tights that reveal a lacy thong, shirts open to reveal naked breasts. They wear wigs directly from Nigeria that cost 20 euros each. Blessing (not her real name), a woman of tiny stature and boundless energy who works on a Palermo street, shows off her fake eyelashes, which can stay on for several weeks

Peace now shares an apartment with an Italian woman whom she helps around the house. In her room, she brushes her hair, smiles often and laughs a lot. She is candid but guarded about her experience working on the street.

“It all depends on the client,” she says. “Sometimes, those clients don’t even want sex so much as they want company, and with them, you try to be jovial, you make them laugh. But then there are the clients who don’t want to pay you, the clients who are aggressive. Those are the bad clients.” Peace can talk about it without showing too much emotion, but she is reluctant to go too deep. She would like to go back to Nigeria eventually, but for now, she feels pressure to make money, either for herself or her family — she wasn’t clear.

Favour’s experiences were worse. Once, a client knifed her. Another time, two men who approached her gave her a bad feeling. “Via,” she told them. “I’m not working tonight.” “You must,” they replied, before slapping her and dragging her into a room in a local train station. She cried a lot as she told her story. When she came to, she said she asked the first person she found to bring her to the hospital.

After that, she decided to get out.

Getting out

The Street Unity group in the town where she was working had been asking her for months if she wanted out. Street Unity groups, like that established by Sister Valeria in Palermo, approach the girls offering medical support, and in the case of the religious groups, prayer.

The Nigerian women are extremely religious (there is no one in Nigeria, Peace once said, who can honestly say that they don’t believe in God), and prayer is often a source of bonding. Once the connections have been established, the groups can be a way off of the street — a difficult and uneasy step.

Sicily has a 22-percent unemployment rate, high even by Italian standards. The only jobs available to Nigerian women are in cleaning or taking care of the elderly or children. But these jobs require Italian language skills, and they don’t come with guarantees of good payment or treatment.

As Sister Valeria sees it, “the women who are victims of trafficking, who have been forced into sex work for years, who are in the end destroyed, physically and psychologically — what future can they have here?”

Against all odds, Peace one day decided she would leave. It was a scary decision, because of the juju oath she had made back in Nigeria. Article 18 of Italy’s Consolidated Immigration Act provides protection and temporary residence permits to victims of trafficking who denounce their traffickers or madams, or who show visible signs of being in immediate psychological or physical danger.

But Peace, like many of these women, refused to take this route. Denouncing her madam or her trafficker would be the biggest violation of her oath. “I’m protected, in Europe,” she explains, “but I have to think about my family.”

Back in Nigeria, it would be easy for them to be killed or badly hurt. And, there is the fear of going crazy. She talks about her friend, Mary, who convinced a whole group of girls to denounce their madam. Mary has since gone “totally wacko” — a problem, Peace explains, that is not psychological but spiritual, linked directly to the effects of the juju oath.

Peace and Favour are moving on with their lives. Peace attends classes in Italian, sewing and cooking. She sings in her town gospel choir, and helps organise meetings in her church’s community, where she leads discussions about work opportunities and community empowerment.

Favour lives in a safe house in northern Italy. She is also taking Italian classes, and the operators taking care of her are working hard to find her job opportunities so she can be independent one day. Peace says she’s thankful for her experiences. She feels she has grown, and says it’s for this reason that she does not think of herself as a victim (though she admits that she can say this only because she is no longer on the street).

Favour, for her part, calls herself “a very big victim,” but she is looking forward, too.

* Maggie Neil is a writer and researcher based in Italy, focusing on trafficking and migration thanks to a Fulbright research grant. She reported this story with the assistance of The Fuller Project for International Reporting.

Royal Rumble: Who Will Save Sanusi? By Emmanuel Eziken

Emir Sanusi had almost always lived at the top. The grandson of a famed emir, a product of some of the best schools in the country, Kings College, Lagos, ABU Zaria; the first Northern CEO of Nigeria’s First Bank, a banker of bankers with a respectable pedigree in Islamic knowledge and postulations; his enthronement as monarch should not have agitated anyone. So, why is His Royal Highness in trouble?

THE decision of the Kano State House of Assembly to investigate allegations of impropriety against the Emir of Kano, His Royal Highness, Muhammadu Sanusi II, again throws up another captivating vista of politics in conflict with the palace.

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the Emir of Kano The king’s subjects in Kano have constituted themselves into a panel to try the king. The unfolding situation in Kano is seen as the comeuppance from the political class for the emir’s chastisement of the Northern establishment for its crass opportunism and oppression of the common man.

Serikin Kano had stirred the hornet’s nest during the recent Kaduna State investment summit hosted by his long-time friend, Governor Nasir El-Rufai when he flayed claims by the governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari that the recent meningitis epidemic that led to the death of more than 300 lives in his state was God’s punishment for the sins of the people.

However, that was not the first time that the radical emir would raise a stir among the Northern establishment. He had even taken his criticisms to the national level with his chastisement of the economic policies of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.

Speaking at an economic conference last September, the emir who was himself a harsh critic of the Goodluck Jonathan administration had warned that Buhari could end up like the Jonathan if he did not change his style.

“If this government continues to behave the way the last government behaved, we will end up where Jonathan ended. You may not like it, but that is the truth. You have to listen. “You don’t have to be an economist to know that any system that allows you to sit in your garden, and with a telephone call, make one billion naira without investing a kobo, that system is wrong. It is unsustainable. Of course, dissent had not been a too distant character of the Emirs of Kano in post-independence Nigeria. In fact, all three Emirs of Kano since 1960 have had brushes with the respective political authorities over Kano.

Emir Muhammad Sanusi I, who was Emir of Kano between 1954 and 1963, had a presence that rubbed negatively with the then equally powerful premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello who was a distant cousin. Emir Sanusi I who hosted Her Royal Majesty, the Queen of England in 1956 was a man of political grace and grandeur. He was indeed, at one time a pal of Sir Bello and a major political player in the Northern People’s Congress, NPC until rivalry separated the two men.

As emir of the most economically vibrant town in Northern Nigeria which made by far the greatest contribution to the economic well-being of the North, Emir Sanusi, even though the fourth in rank among northern traditional rulers saw himself as only comparable with the Sultan of Sokoto. Over a period, the premier initiated moves to humble the emir. One humble pie served on the emir was the appointment of one Alhaji Aliyu, who was Magajin Gari of Sokoto as the provincial commissioner or administrative head of Kano. For Emir Sanusi, the action of the premier appointing someone from his hometown of Sokoto as the provincial commissioner was not the real insult; the insult was that the Magajin Gari was supposedly a descendant of royal slaves in Sokoto!

It was an insult that so pained the emir, but he certainly could do nothing about it. Emir Sanusi, however, remained unbowed as he continued his royal duties with grace refusing to be cowed by the prince from Sokoto. There were insinuations that the Sardauna was also peeved by the effrontery of the emir arriving after him at ceremonies allowing him to steal the show! There were different clashes between the premier and the emir up till 1962 when the Northern House of Assembly commenced an investigation into allegations of financial malpractices against the emir which culminated in his deposition in 1963.

Emir Sanusi chose to relocate to Azare in Bauchi province after his deposition, and his request was not opposed by his one-time ally and friend, Sir Bello who perhaps did not see him again till he died in the January 15, 1966, coup. Emir Sanusi was succeeded by Emir Ado Bayero who also had his challenges with Governor Abubakar Rimi in the period between 1979 and 1983. Governor Rimi initially won popular approval with the talakawa when he abolished the poll tax and taxes on cattle which were entitlements of the palace.

However, a query issued the emir preparatory to a deposition, however, ignited a popular revolt in Kano leading to a three-day riot that paralysed Kano. Emir Bayero also had his brushes with General Muhammadu Buhari who as head of state in 1984 disciplined him and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Sijuwade and banned them from leaving their traditional domains for six months after they made a trip to Israel. Bayero was succeeded by Emir Sanusi II in 2014 in a transition etched in much political drama.

There were claims that Emir Sanusi II’s candidacy for the royal throne of Kano was seriously opposed by the Federal Government headed by President Goodluck Jonathan. The reason for the Jonathan crowd opposing Sanusi’s emergence was not difficult to fathom. Sanusi had been removed by Jonathan from his position as governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN in February 2014 following an audit report that alleged “financial recklessness and misconduct,” on the part of the Sanusi-led management of the bank.

Sanusi’s sack was laced with its drama as government officials openly complained that his allegations of missing money from the sale of oil was ammunition for the administration’s enemies in the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC. His closeness to top APC officials including Mallam Nasir El-Rufai was of no comfort to the administration. However, backed by the powerful APC machine and the fact that Kano State at that time had fallen into the hands of the APC through Governor Rabiu Kwankwanso, Sanusi prevailed over the competition to emerge emir.

Emir Sanusi II since his enthronement has, however, embarrassed his former political allies in the APC with savage attacks on the party’s policies and programmes at federal and at state levels. Just as his grandfather was shoved out through an investigation of the palace purse, Emir Sanusi II is also being attacked through the same channel in a probe that no one, for now, can presently direct its course. Unlike the situation in 1963 when Emir Sanusi I was humbled by Bello, the prince from Sokoto, Emir Sanusi II’s traducers are from within Kano, even if they are instigated from outside. The relegation of traditional authorities to political powers was evident penultimate weekend when Speaker Yakubu Dogara visited his home state, Bauchi.

The local emirs fearing for their thrones ran away from their domains allegedly because they didn’t want to be associated with the speaker, a declared political rival of Governor Mohammed Abubakar. That is how far traditional rulers have gone under their political masters!

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Ivory Tower in the Throes of Corruption Scandals By Iyabo Lawal

I have decided to resign my appointment as pro-chancellor and chairman of council, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB) with immediate effect. This is due to personal reasons.

“I sincerely thank the Federal Government for giving me the opportunity to serve. Government should please accept the assurances of my best regards,” he had said in a sombre voice, in the fall of November 2016.

As a politician, former minister of works, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, is no stranger to controversy. He was a prominent figure in the administration of erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan.

In February 2013, he was appointed as the pro-chancellor of the Federal FUNNAB, by Jonathan but in less than three years, Ogunlewe was embroiled in an alleged N800m financial scandal along with the institution’s vice chancellor, Prof. Olusola Oyewole and the Bursar, Mr. Moses Ilesanmi – all facing 18-count charges bordering on conspiracy, stealing, obtaining money by false pretences and abuse of office.
Elsewhere in Ondo State, precisely, the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), the institution’s vice chancellor, Prof. Adebiyi Daramola – who is due for retirement this month – and bursar, Mr. Emmanuel Oresegun, were charged with allegation of corruption, fraud, and stealing of funds of the university totalling N156m.The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is prosecuting the accused persons although they have all denied the allegations levelled against them.

However, in the view of chairman of the Committee of Deans of FUTA, Prof. Shadrack Akindele, the trial is an embarrassment.“The ongoing trial of the VC, to those of us in the academics, is largely an embarrassment in the sense that we are fully aware of what led to the spurious allegations against the VC. Everything has been discussed at the university level and we are surprised that anyone could make those things as issues to have warranted inviting the EFCC for anything of such,” Akindele had said.

Just last week, the Federal Government, perhaps in a bid to ensure probity and transparency, announced the suspension of Oyewole and Daramola.A letter signed by the acting permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Dr. Hussaini Adamu, noted that the duo were suspended in connection with their ongoing lawsuits. They were instructed to hand over to the most senior deputy vice chancellors of their respective institutions.

Earlier in March this year, the Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), a coalition of over 150 anti-corruption organisations, had urged the ministry of education to intervene in issues arising from the ongoing corruption trials of the embattled FUTA and FUNAAB vice chancellors.

In a petition addressed to the minister of education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, CSNAC had pointed out that the continued involvement of the duo in the activities of their institutions might make a mockery of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s dedication to fight corruption.

“In view of the above, we are calling for the intervention of the federal ministry of education in order to avoid a total breakdown of law and order in FUTA and FUNAAB, and also to ensure that the provisions of the civil service rules and regulation on the handling of corruption issues/allegations by public officers and due process in respect of same is strictly adhered to.

“You will recollect the resignation of senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, former pro-chancellor of FUNAAB, in observance of the public service rule on this subject matter. We hereby demand for the ministry’s intervention at ensuring the immediate, urgent and indefinite suspension of the two embattled vice chancellors, pursuant to the requirements of extant laws regulating conducts of public officers,” the petition had said.

But FUNAAB and FUTA are not alone in corruption scandals rocking Nigeria’s tertiary institutions.In August last year, the University of Calabar (UNICAL) suspended its bursar, Peter Agi, because of alleged fraudulent acts, forgery and threat to life.

The investigation panel set up by the university to look into the allegation came up with a resolution that Agi should stay away from the institution for a while.

In a letter of suspension signed by the registrar, Moses Abang, the management of the institution said the bursar was guilty of impersonating UNICAL’s vice chancellor on an e-payment platform of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), among other issues.

But the beleaguered bursar would not take that verdict lying down.He had appealed his suspension – which he lost – at the National Industrial Court (NIC) in Calabar, Cross River State.

Not one to easily give up on a fight, Agi filed another application against his suspension at the Industrial Court in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state.Meanwhile, the Nigeria police has begun investigating allegations of financial frauds against Agi.

Similar story is being heard at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile Ife where an incumbent vice chancellor, Anthony Elujoba and his predecessor, Bamitale Omole, have the unenviable task of convincing the EFCC that they have always been above board.

In February, Omole received an unsettling invitation from the anti-corruption agency over allegations of fraud levelled against him by academic staff of the university.In 2016, a budget monitoring committee of the local chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) had accused the management of OAU under Omole of mismanaging N3.5bn intervention fund released to the university for upgrade of facilities.

ASUU had accused the management of the institution then of spending the said sum on hostel renovation and construction of new lecture theatres without observing due process and transparency.
The funds were part of the N100bn released by the federal government in 2013 to universities in response to agitations by ASUU for upgrade of facilities at federal tertiary institutions in the country.

But prior to the former vice chancellor’s invitation, Elujoba, and the university’s bursar, Aderonke Akeredolu, had been invited for questioning by the EFCC for allegedly diverting N1.4bn.This new wave of corruption in the nation’s ivory tower has raised questions about the status of our universities as being truly citadel of learning. Perhaps because of the huge funds available to university administrators, which are rarely subjected to public scrutiny, most academics abandoned their primary assignment of teaching to pursue political offices. Appointment into offices, ranging from the highest position of vice chancellor to deputy vice chancellors, deans of faculties and head of departments is highly politicised.

Besides, corruption is not only about the misuse of power or any position of authority by university personnel for personal gain but also centres on abuse of academic integrity, including compromised accreditation of programmes; examination malpractices; plagiarism; sale of handouts and often substandard texts authored by the lecturers; a compromised promotion system; and the sale of university certificates and diplomas.

In the last two decades, these malpractices have magnified in the universities, paralleling the decay in the larger society. Although a few cases of these malpractices are reported, many others go on unreported in various universities across the country. As a result, we have focused much less on corruption in the universities than on political corruption.

Because of these ills in our tertiary institutions, the quality of learning and teaching has reduced drastically putting a question mark on the credibility and competency of university teachers. A public analyst, Niyi Akinnaso in one of his write-ups wondered why and how our universities lose their role modelling function in society to the extent that university pro and vice chancellors are paraded in court like criminals.

He said, “The answer seems to lie in one word: corruption. Its persistence has been aided by poor quality control, including delayed audit (if any) of university finances. Besides, there seems to be no independent system in place for evaluating university management and governance quality or of protecting whistle-blowers, a role often performed by the unions.

“Unfortunately, the certificate craze in the country, which makes parents beg for favour for their children; the general belief in the country that access to public goods depends more on one’s network than on qualifications or merit; and the financial strain on the universities and their personnel, all provide an environment for corruption. Without a doubt, the erosion of values in the larger society and the political culture of corruption have crept into the universities. Yet, the universities have been left out of the ongoing fight against corruption.”

“The negative practices now going on in Nigerian universities have been rampant in Romania for quite some time. As a result, that country has been stagnating for years without skilled labour. This led the Romanian Academic Society, an education think tank, to form the Coalition for Clean Universities, drawing participants from university unions, students, journalists and other stakeholders. An evaluation team, consisting of both faculty and students, periodically performs a governance audit of public universities, basing its evaluation on four major criteria, namely, transparency and responsiveness; academic integrity; governance quality and financial management. Since the first evaluation in 2009, Romanian universities have improved significantly in the four categories assessed. It is high time a similar system of evaluation was developed in Nigeria.”

Apparently inundated with increased cases of financial rot in the country’s tertiary educational system, the federal government in December 2015 set up committees to investigate petitions against some administrators in our institutions.

The investigations, the education minister said, was to “get to the root of the matter and ensure that justice is done”, and that it is seen to be done.
“The ministry decided to set up these 10 ad hoc fact-finding committees in response to petitions received from different stakeholders, within and outside the institutions, with variety of allegations bordering on irregularities, abuse of due process, mismanagement, immorality, fraud and corruption among others.

“I am sure you are all, no doubt, aware that some of the allegations and counter-claims made against the governing councils and managements of some of our institutions have created mistrust and hostility and hindered the smooth conduct of academic activities to the detriment of students,” Adamu had said.

In further show of intent to address misappropriation of funds in the sector, , President Muhammadu Buhari, in February this year ordered the stoppage of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund’s (TETFund) special intervention money given to the institutions across the country due to past abuses.

The Executive Secretary of TETFund, Abdullahi Baffa, said abuses of the funds had become rampant.“In 2015, over N200bn was recklessly disbursed as special interventions to some few beneficiary institutions, while N50bn was shared among all institutions as normal interventions,” Baffa told journalists.

He added, “The funds were recklessly abused and begging to be saved because the priorities were inverted – it was turned upside down. We can’t afford to allow those who are entrusted with the business of keeping the funds to be the ones abusing the funds mercilessly.
So far, the Federal Government has been able to recover N74bn from the N200bn disbursed as special intervention funds and investigation into the disbursement would soon commence. The special intervention funds were excluded in the 2017 intervention budget.

The ongoing cleansing in the institutions is yet to produce its first victim but things are no longer at ease for those who may be involved in one corruption case or the other in the country’s higher institutions.