What Is The Worth Of A Nigerian Migrant’s Life? By ‘Fisayo Soyombo

In April, a former Nigerian public official lost his daughter under questionable circumstances. The young lady’s death was avoidable, and who knows, maybe her spirit is already haunting a UK hospital and another one in Nigeria. A hospital in Birmingham misdiagnosed her condition; the one in Nigeria performed surgery on her without having a life support machine. When her condition deteriorated post-surgery, the hospital could not artificially ventilate her heart. She died as a result.

I was hurt to read about that needless loss of life; anyone should. A premature death is hurtful enough, but an avoidable one is shattering. In seven months of this tragedy, the father has written two public notes on his grief. One could tell he deeply loved his daughter. In the latter, he talks of bereavement hallucination and its redemptive and therapeutic powers. It is clear that this father will not get over his daughter’s death anytime soon; it is an agony no one should experience.

In that same piece, he urges the government to “grade and classify” hospitals as “first, second and third tier, the same way banks are categorized in Nigeria”. He wants a first-tier hospital to have “an agreed high standard of medical equipment installed and top-quality personnel working there” so that “patrons can know the level of service to expect when attending any hospital based on its classification as 1st, 2nd or 3rd tier”. To rewrite his thoughts, the rich should be able to patronize truly first-class hospitals; the poor can settle for the second or third-tier. Or, who would third-tier hospitals serve? The rich? First-tier hospitals will care for first-tier lives; third-tier hospitals for third-tier lives. But this is not where I am going.

26 ‘third-tier’ lives

Two weeks ago, 26 Nigerian “third-tier” lives perished at sea while attempting to cross the Mediterranean from the north coast of Africa. All 26 were women, two of them even pregnant. This wasn’t the first time that Nigerian migrants would die, or the first time the public would gett a sniff of their travails while on the risky sail in search of green pastures. Anyone interested in knowing the grim dangers of the average migrant journey should please google ‘Europe by Desert: Tears of African Migrants’. Thank me for the link if you wish, but you should compulsorily thank Emmanuel Mayah, the writer, one of the most daring journalists to ever emerge from Africa. At great risk to his life, Mayah went undercover for 37 days with illegal migrants, traveling across seven countries in an attempt to cross the Sahara Desert. On his return, he documented the dangers involved in such journeys: rape, armed robbery, fraud, blood oaths, hunger, dehydration, death.

That was in 2009. Eight years after, very little has changed. Year on year, migrants keep dying in their thousands — from the hundreds of thousands who’d rather die than remaining on the continent. This year alone, 150,985 have arrived in southern Europe via North Africa, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM); 2,639 others died while trying to.

In May, Nigerians were among the 44 migrants to have died of thirst after their truck broke down in the Sahara Desert in northern Niger while en route to Libya, where they were to cross to Europe. Ghana was the only other nation represented in that tragedy. In August, Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO), quoting data from the IOM, said Nigerians formed the majority of the 1,500 migrants to have died in the first seven months of 2017. Both NIDO and IOM have always acknowledged that these figures are an underestimation of migration casualties; it is never easy to account for deaths in the desert, at sea, and at the various stages of an illegal trip.

Migrant casualties are literally an everyday affair, but the latest round is generating an above-usual notice for various reasons. This is one of the very few cases where Italian officials are suspecting that migrants were deliberately murdered after they had been sexually assaulted. An investigation is already ongoing and five people are in detention already. The nature of this investigation has to be harped on: Italy is investigating the death of 26 Nigerians who tried to enter Italy illegally; given the circumstances, it is under no obligation to do so. Italy also gave dignity to the migrants, organizing a burial ceremony for them, even going ahead to place a picture and an information card with copies of dental scans and a list of traits like tattoos and scars “that might someday be used to identify the victim if a family member ever comes looking”.

The migrant’s life doesn’t count

In all this, the Nigerian government was conspicuously absent. The girls were buried without Nigerian presence at the solemn ceremony. Meanwhile, the Embassy of Nigeria in Rome has been sleeping — no interest in the investigations into the cause of the deaths. On the day the 26 were buried, Geoffrey Onyema, the Foreign Affairs Minister, was quiet. Meanwhile, when Nigeria beat Argentina in a World cup friendly three days earlier, he was quick to pen a congratulatory message to the Super Eagles, announcing: “Russia, here we come!”

Okay, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, SSA to the President on Foreign Relations and Diaspora, issued a statement describing the death of the girls as “avoidable and preventable… tragic and lamentable… just not worth it ultimately”. But to know what she truly feels, look no further than her Twitter engagement with those implicitly blaming the tragedy on the government. When one person tweets that “Everybody is trying hard to blame the gov for their death as if they were sent on a mission by the gov,” Dabiri-Erewa retweets. When another berates the Federal Government for its absence at the interment, she asks if the Nigerian mission was “duly informed of the time, date and venue”. Finally, as contained in the press release, and as she generously argued on Twitter, Dabiri-Erewa believes the solution to persistent migrant deaths is to educate Nigerians about the dangers of such journeys. Absolutely not!

Talk to anyone in Edo — the state with the highest contribution to Nigeria’s migrant population — and you will hear that migrants are well-aware of the risks. The problem is that they’re in so much suffering already that they wonder if death can be any worse. There is something migrants are running away from; and unless the government addresses it, more deaths are bound to happen. What they are chasing after are the simple things of life: food, shelter, clothing, employment, dignity, a sense of belonging in their own country. Only people who have experienced the lack of these basics can understand and interpret the frustrations of migrants.

The ex-public official who lost his daughter, for example, was failed by the health system. Seven months after, he hasn’t healed. Now, consider a poor Nigerian who has been failed numerous times by the health system, uncountable times by the job industry, many times by the education system. Imagine the travails of a man who has lost his wife because he couldn’t afford first-tier healthcare, whose children are out of school because he couldn’t pay their fees, whose family has been thrown out by his landlord because he couldn’t pay his rent. Many years of multiple frustrations will convince him that there is better life abroad, and he’d rather die trying to get it than remain in penury in Nigeria.

Blood on their hands

In case Nigerian public officials do not know, many of them are culpable for the death of these migrants. By their daily abdication of their responsibility to take decisions in public interest, by filling their pockets at the expense of building the structures that could have kept the dead migrants back in the country, by constantly travelling abroad and experiencing the way normal societies work yet failing to replicate the same at home, by their blithe contempt for the life of the common man so long they and their families are sorted, so many Nigerian public office holders — not all — have blood on their hands. The migrant’s life doesn’t mean a thing to the government, but no problem; karma hasn’t stopped being a bitch!

An Accident El-Rufai Can’t Help By Azu Ishiekwene

Governor Nasir El-Rufai may have been an accidental public servant by his own account, but he may well be the sort of accident that the public service needs.

In a battle that promises to be nasty, the governor said he would fire 21,780 or two thirds of the teachers in Kaduna State who failed a competency test based on a scheme of work for primary four pupils.

Teachers in the state and the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress have promised the governor hell and actually started paving the way for that last week, with violent street protests and promises of more chaos to come.

The unions said the state government was to blame for teachers who failed the exam that their primary five pupils ought to pass, citing poor tools and funding as reasons. What’s the fuss about, anyway? Exam, the teachers said, is not a true test of knowledge.

That’s the sort of nonsense we used to say as students when we knew we deserved to fail in an exam for which we were not prepared in the first place. The teacher “gave me” poor marks was the more charitable version.

Senator Shehu Sani (from Kaduna Central) has joined the unions to argue for the retention of incompetent teachers, suggesting the students deserve more of what is already killing them.

That is very sad. He’s right to hold the governor to his pledge of returning his children to public schools but he sounded no better than the failed teachers when all he had to say in their defence was that the governor’s motive was to recruit a new set of teachers to rig the next election for him.

That was pathetic. Sani is obviously too blinded by his personal war with El-Rufai to see that it does not make sense to retain thousands of teachers who can neither help themselves nor allow help from outside to reach and improve the system.

Teachers complained they had been hung out to dry but the State Universal Basic Education Board responded that the teachers had become stale and useless, in spite of repeated efforts at great cost to help them.

Apart from a comfortable ride in the populist bandwagon, a number of those who oppose the firing of the teachers claim to do so because of the social impact of large-scale job losses.

The competency test, the board said, was an open and inclusive process, and any teacher who had a genuine complaint about their score was free to request a review. But they’re not doing that. Instead, they’re asking for the cut-off score to be lowered from 75 to 60 to accommodate as many misfits as possible.

The teachers and the unions are not interested in any review, even though they have complained loudly that the process, which they were a part of, is flawed. So far, there’s not even a single reported case of wrong grading or proof of any flaw.

Apart from a comfortable ride in the populist bandwagon, a number of those who oppose the firing of the teachers claim to do so because of the social impact of large-scale job losses.

They say that firing incompetent teachers might worsen unemployment and increase the crime rate in the state, already on the brink after a string of deadly ethnic and religious crises. In any case, there’s no guarantee that recruitment under El-Rufai would be better than the scandalous process that Kaduna had become used to over the years. Why bother?

The failed teachers have Sani and the unions lining up behind them. Politicians who got the jobs for the failed teachers also have Sani and the unions as their champions. Yet, teachers who don’t know that seven follows six are ruining the lives of generations of students and there’s no one standing up for them.

According to a report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in September 2016, 158,035 students from Kaduna State took the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) between 2011 and 2015. Only 12.8 percent obtained credit passes in five subjects or more, including in English Language and Mathematics.

The Kaduna State Educational Resource Centre reported that over the same four-year period, out of 135,957 results released, only 19,137 or 14 percent passed with the required number of credits for admission to any tertiary institution.

Kaduna is not among the top ten in WASSCE results and yet it is supposed to be the North’s beacon in political sophistication and enlightenment. Isn’t it a concern for Sani and the unions that the children who are the hope of the future have been abandoned to hacks and misfits?

The argument of poor funding for education in Kaduna is hardly supported by the records, at least in the last three budgeting cycles. In 2016, for example, Kaduna budgeted N29.9 billion for education, higher than Rivers, Kano and Akwa-Ibom states for that year.

What the government owes them is to honour their contract and pay them their dues. If Sani or the NLC leader Wabba Ayuba have jobs for the misfits, they can find them places in their homes or constituencies and even offer them higher pay.

According to another report, the next year, the figure increased to N44.3 billion, making the state one of the top six biggest spenders on education, relative to its income.

In 2018, out of the N47 billion set aside for social services, education received the lion’s share of N30.2 billion. Yet Kaduna remains a laggard in the students’ national average pass rate for school certificate examinations. And there’s no guarantee it’s not going to get worse.

I’m not exactly sure what Sani and the unions want El-Rufai to do in the circumstance. To continue to pour in state resources and get little or nothing back in return?

If they have evidence that what the Kaduna State government claims it has spent on education so far is untrue or proof that El-Rufai has lowered standards to favour the new teachers, they should provide such evidence. But it doesn’t make sense to hold the state to ransom at the pleasure of misfits who have earned salaries for years for doing worse than nothing.

The shambles cannot continue.

What the government owes them is to honour their contract and pay them their dues. If Sani or the NLC leader Wabba Ayuba have jobs for the misfits, they can find them places in their homes or constituencies and even offer them higher pay.

If El-Rufai will lose the next election in Kaduna because he is determined to save poor pupils from quacks, then that’ll be an accident well worth having. We’re where we are because that sort of accident is not happening often enough.

The misfits have to go for their own good and for the good of the system. Period.

Azu Ishiekwene is the MD/Editor-In-Chief of The Interview and member of the Board of the Paris-based Global Editors Network.

Introducing The Cinema Of Femi Odugbemi By Professor Paul Ugor

It’s been more than a decade and half since Prof Jonathan Haynes introduced American culture enthusiasts to the Nigerian video film industry, now popularly known as Nollywood. And since then, although Nollywood has not become part of mainstream American popular culture, it is no longer the cultural curiosity it was two decades ago. It is quite common these days to be asked about Nollywood by strangers at a bus stop, a train, a long-haul flight or a coach station.

 

 

This consciousness in the American cultural imagination of Nollywood is traceable to the huge coverage that the industry has received in the media. Also, quite a lot has been written by American academics on the industry; courses about the Nigeria video film industry are now being taught in North American universities/colleges; and major festivals in the United States, Canada, the UK, France and other first world cultural circuits are beginning to feature Nollywood films. But this growing cultural interest in Nollywood still has something to do with the multiple ways in which the industry is perceived as a unique cultural wonder quite apart and different from what Americans know.

 

 

It is a film industry that operates without studios; doesn’t boost of the jaw-dropping budgets associated with Hollywood production; operates with very minimal technology compared to the endless technological assets of Hollywood cinema; uses mostly non-professional actors; and yet is able to produce an astounding number of films every year—1500 films. So, the continued cultural interest that Nollywood generates amongst Americans derives from the perception that it not only different but also unconnected with the American culture industry.

 

 

But historical evidence will suggest otherwise. Not only is Nollywood a product of the vast network of both formal and informal global cultural resources circulating the world today as Brian Larkin has so astutely shown in his work, Signal and Noise, it is also a direct outcome of the technical training from the West. As Jon Haynes points out in his encyclopedic history of Nollywood (2016), the first generation of mainstream Nollywood practitioners were trained by the BBC. So not only did Nollywood practitioners draw from established transnational genres like the Latin America Telenovelas that were so popular in West Africa in the early 1980s, it drew from the technical skills of metropolitan cultural producers in creating a uniquely local genre that has continued to grip the attention of its indigenous audiences.

 

 

Femi Odugbemi, the Nollywood director and producer whose films feature in this two-day event on Nollywood, also confronts us with the somewhat indirect influence that the United States has contributed, even if inadvertently, in shaping an industry that it perceives as quite different from its own film industry. Born in the early 1960s in the highly cosmopolitan city of Lagos, Nigeria, Odugbemi grew up in a young postcolonial nation that was full of excitement about independence and high optimism about its future.

 

 

It was a new nation anxious about its future, but also highly enthusiastic about reinventing itself as an independent nation state with its own national culture. But the conscious cultural engineering that was ongoing in the new nation did not mean that it closed itself to the outside world. Recognizing itself as part of larger global cultural community, especially with newfound petro-wealth in the 1970s, Nigeria was a fertile ground for transnational cross-cultural influences. There were Hollywood westerns and Bollywood films, from which Odugbemi learnt how imagery, sound, visual composition, plot, and other elements of cinema could be used in telling stories and constructing social meaning. But there was also the United State Information Service, the cultural organ of American embassies whose main role was to promote and circulate American culture abroad. It was in one of his numerous visits to USIS that he saw the admission brochure of Montana State University which had a program in Broadcast Communication with specialization in Film, Radio and Television production.

 

 

Without the knowledge and approval of his accountant father, but drawn inexorably by the cultural images of plenitude and the enchantments of American modernity, Odugbemi left Nigeria at the impressionable age of 16 to begin his studies in the United States in 1979. At MSU, Odugbemi was mentored by Dr. Rebecca Moore, the department Academic Advisor, who took incredible interest in his studies; Dr Jack Hyppa, Chair of the Department who became his trainer; Dr. Jim Carter, a close friend, and Dr. Craig Stewart, a Professor at MSU who also coached Bozeman United, the City soccer team.

 

 

These Americans didn’t just help Odugbemi integrate into the American culture, they provided him with the training that was to shape his career as a filmmaker, media consultant and political activist. Dr. Hyppa, for example, was the founder of KUSM CH9 TV station, where Odugbemi worked as an intern all through his years at MSU. It was at KUSM Channel 9TV that Odugemi honed his skills as a filmmaker. As he himself put in a personal interview with me, “I learned a lot by doing things hands-on at KUSM 9.” So, the foundational skills that Odugbemi has brought to the production of his films are clearly American. But most importantly, it was from the United States that Femi was to learn the politics of cultural production.

 

 

As a firsthand witness to the cultural power of the entertainment industry in American politics, economy and culture, it was in the United States that Femi’s artistic philosophy was shaped, recognizing himself as part of the that powerful elite group, ‘organizers of culture,’ which Antonia Gramsci insisted was responsible for directing and shaping the values of any modern society. The foundational philosophical principle that was to shape Odugbemi’s work as a filmmaker, artist, cultural philosopher and public intellectual is very much rooted in his knowledge of the ways in which the culture industry in the United States has functioned so powerfully as a crucial public organ and infrastructure with a powerful ‘index of effectivity, i.e., the power to determine things in the realm of politics, economy, culture, and the general future of the nation and its people.

 

 

Whether it was the explosive activism led by youth in the 1960s that was to change the cultural and political landscape of the United States, the media vigilance of the 1970s that brought down President Nixon, or the vociferous resistance mounted by cultural producers to Reganism and its pursuit of unbridled neo-liberal economics, Odugbemi saw firsthand how the American culture industry changed the course of a nation’s history, ensuring always that social justice and equity were never privileges to be bought and sold by the high and mighty.

 

 

So, it is no wonder, then, that Femi Odugbemi’s politics as a filmmaker is quite unique from many of his Nollywood contemporaries. He belongs to a generation of Nollywood directors who see themselves not only as adapting the new global media resources, especially digital technologies, in creating unique cultural texts that capture the particular national histories, daily individual struggles and collective coping strategies of ordinary people in a postcolonial nation whose leaders have sold their souls to the devil, but also as crucial interventionists whose cultural work represent a certain kind of radical cultural politics and thought for progressive creative work in a time of massive social and cultural transformations.

 

 

So, although Odugbemi sees himself first as a filmmaker, he also frames his films as part of activist work, which explains why a filmmaker who earns enormous income mainly from making popular Television serials and cutting TV ads and other media promos for huge multinationals such as Guinness, Nestle Foods, Coca-Cola, Shell, MTN, and other such multinational companies, will plow back his profits into the making of documentaries. As an artist, Odugbemi is very much aware of the power of his medium. In an interview with Chuks Nwanne of the Guardian Newspaper published on May 29, 2016, he noted, “…everybody listens to a rich man, everybody listens to political leaders, but a filmmaker invades the thought of the viewer by the power of his art. Just like a writer would, just like an architect might, but the power of the filmmaker is that today, more people watch films than read books. So, the filmmaker has even become more powerful; it becomes such an incredible drill in the hands of someone who is an artiste.”

 

 

This not the rhetoric of a conventional Nollywood director driven by commercial instincts. In fact, this is the stuff one heard from traditional African cinema director such as Ousmane Sembene, Haile Gerima, Med Hondo and other pioneers driven by pan-Africanist ideological pursuits. It is also reminiscent of the creative philosophy expounded by the early modern African literary giants such as Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ngugi Wa Thiongo and other leading writers and ‘organic intellectuals’ from the continent who saw themselves as educators and the voice of vision for the African continent. It is no wonder that Odugbemi shot that documentary on Ibadan, chronicling the unique legacy of the old city of Ibadan as the hub of intellectual work that was to shape the continent. But not only does Odugbemi know the power of cinema as a cultural medium of mass communication, he is aware of his role as a voice of change, especially in a nation experiencing stagnation and a chronic decline.

 

 

Although very much a product of American education and culture, Odugbemi insists that Nollywood must chart its own path: “If your art is not saying anything; if all you keep doing is referencing things that were done in America; if it’s not addressing the imbalances, if it’s not talking about the imperatives of leadership; if it’s not issue driven; if you are not using that time with the audience in such a way as to impact them, to cause them to think, to cause them to have the vision of possibilities that can affect your community for the better, then you’ve got a noisy drill.” This is clearly an artist who is acutely aware of himself both as a visual historian or archivist and an activist.

 

 

One of the ways in which he has pursued his activism through film production has been the extensive attention he pays to the urban space. It is almost as though the organization of the urban space functions as a mirror for the larger culture and society. Repeatedly, his films turn to urban injustice, especially through the unequal ways in which access to urban space is restricted to some and opened to others. In his film, Maroko, we see a visual account of the devastating effects of the forcible evacuation of 300,000 inhabitants of Maroko, a slum neighborhood in Lagos that was gentrified in the 1990s.

 

 

What Maroko reveals is a powerful visual portrait of the militarization of the urban space in the Nigeria and elsewhere in the African post-colony where, as Merrifield and Swyngedouw argue, “the rich and powerful can decant and steer the poor into clearly demarcated zones in the city, where implicit and explicit forms of social control keep them in place” (11)]. In Makoko, Odugemi turns his lens again to the politics of urban spatiality, showing us how 180, 000 Nigerian citizens are trapped in a cycle of poverty and uncertainty. Located only a few miles from Victorian Island, perhaps the wealthiest suburb of Lagos, and tucked under the sprawling Lagos mainland bridge, what Makoko discloses is a sickening account of how the poor and marginalized not only live in the valley of the shadow of death, but also how they are left to float aimlessly without support and direction. It is a harrowing account of how a sick nation led by leaders without conscience can become a threat to its own citizens. But if Odugemi focuses a lot on urban injustice in Maroko and Makoko, he is not unaware of the incredible accomplishments of young people who work daily to squeeze out beauty from the guts of privation. It is that alternative narrative of the resilience of those abandoned by their nation that he offers us in Bariga Boy.

 

 

The story of Segun Adefila, a young Nigerian choreographer and theatre practitioner whose creative exceptionalism has captured the attention of both local and international audiences, is a testimony to the creativity and ingenuity of a young generation that has found alternative routes out of poverty and unconventional strategies to survive and make meaning of their lives when the traditional approaches to securing a stable future have failed.

 

 

My whole point, then, is that we are gathered here not only to showcase the work of a man who has made a name for himself as a visual historian of contemporary life in Nigeria, but also to remind ourselves of the subtle ways in which America has been an active participant in shaping one of the most vibrant popular art forms to come from Africa.

Attorney General As Atanni Je By Louis Odion

We thought we had seen the worst mutation of fawning depravity in Michael Aondoakaa, the pathetically loquacious character who, as Justice Minister and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), strove tirelessly to pervert justice by openly putting the law at the service of shady political players during the Umar Yar’Adua administration, thereby dragging the nation’s jurisprudence into utter disrepute.

 

 

So embarrassed was the legal establishment that it barely waited for the earliest opportunity to publicly disrobe the buccaneering fellow as SAN after his removal from office in February 2010. For want of what to do thereafter, he retreated to his native Benue and resorted to rice farming. Under Aondoakaa, the rule of law was perverted to the ruse of law.

 

 

Today, Abubakar Malami is increasingly proving to be in a class of his own in professional misjudgment, if not worse. His role in “Mainagate” that unraveled last week seems to have, at last, helped drag into the national spotlight what could only be termed a culture of zig-zag sprouting in the Ministry of Justice since 2015 and, more significantly, underscore in cold, bold print the grave danger a society faces ultimately having a Lilliputian in such big chair.

 

 

From the facts now known, Malami undoubtedly diminished the integrity of that lofty office by repeatedly providing false interpretation of court judgments for the sole benefit of a common fugitive. Worse still, rather than hiding his head in shame and immersing himself in ashes and sackcloth in penitence, Malami was still arguing last week that he had acted in “public interest” by availing the pension fraud suspect, Abdulrasheed Maina, the legal equivalent of bulletproof jacket.

 

 

A man already being sniffed at by the entire community as a prime suspect did not seem to see the folly in flaunting a little he-goat around.  In drafting the three vile letters seeking to launder Maina before the Head of Service a few months ago and smooth his way through the Interior Ministry, crafty Malami resorted to a poor imitation of what is called “imaginative omission” in literary theory. He harped, harped and harped on the 2013 judgment of an Abuja court which purportedly vacated the arrest warrant against Maina, as if that was enough to override the charge of absenteeism as the actual basis for his dismissal from the service in 2013 or to blot out the memory of the substantive criminal case against him over the looting of pensioners’ billions.

 

 

The emergency legal alchemist must have prayed fervently that no one also remembered that Interpol was still on Maina’s trail. Of course, his ramshackle letters paved the way for slimy Maina to not only return to office but also reap a triple bonanza: receipt of a whopping N21m in back pay, double promotion to Grade Level 16 and a chance to sit for further promotion exam.

Never in recent history has official collision in gross illegality been this audacious and the full weight of the state so vigorously thrown behind open criminality.  What confounds is not just that Malami’s actions violates logic and decency; more shameful is that someone who occupies such very high office still does not appear to have the commonsense after the fact and seems too inured by the shimmering ambience of power to figure that something was ever amiss.

 

 

Yet, in the eye of the law, that office is deemed the next ranking after the President and Vice President in the Federal Executive Council; not even the position of the self-preening Chief of Staff to the President comes close. For the ease of reference and maybe reverence for the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, many have over the years formed the habit of addressing occupant simply as Attorney Gen. But on account of the foregoing case of duplicity entered against Malami, I can almost bet that those now left disillusioned in, say, Yoruba-speaking South-West, are likely to discountenance the acronym Attorney Gen literally as “Atanni Je” (the deceiver) henceforth.

 

 

If faith were lost in the chief law officer, in whom shall the common man trust? So, let it be recognized that, with the nation’s supposed legal czar mired in such noxious sewage, what is left of the credibility of President Buhari’s anti-corruption agenda only gets further eroded.  Worse still, while indulging in the orgy of self-righteousness now, Malami hardly seems bothered by the monumental global shame his perfidious act has certainly brought the nation, nor the contempt with which bodies like Interpol (earlier pressed into worldwide manhunt for Maina) are now likely to view the country.

 

 

Indeed, if public anger is stoked to boiling point over the Maina scandal, it is partly because of the memory of how the monster had evolved. He was invited President Jonathan to plug the leakage in the pension scheme. Like a typical rogue plumber, he ended up making matters worse. True, he recovered some loot and unmasked the rats. But he soon became the replacement for the swines displaced. Because he already knew their tricks, he was more savage in his own pillage. Unlike the principle Mobutu Sese Seko preached, Maina gobbled too much for the owner not to notice.

 

 

By one account, the Grade Level 14 civil servant, whose known wage was less than N250,000 monthly, suddenly had enough to shell out staggering $2m cash on a property in an upscale Abuja neighborhood in 2012. So, just as the now late Zairean kleptocrat-in-chief already forewarned in the circumstance, the whole town and the Interpol were soon in a hot pursuit of Maina. But Malami and the conniving Interior Minister soon hatched a counter-plot with the apparent blessing of the shadowy enforcer at the DSS.

 

 

Of course, their hearts were too deadened to feeling.. Otherwise, they would have been enraged that what Maina is accused of stealing is actually blood money, being what was either stolen from senior citizens who died in unspeakable pain or those left to stew in abject penury at old age. Malami’s knack for poor judgment was also very much in evidence in the Misau-IG affair. The senator from Bauchi had leveled sundry weighty charges against the no 1 cop including allegation of inseminating serving female officers, thus insinuating that the title, Inspector General, could perhaps now be rightly taken as “Inspector Genital”.

 

 

Documents tendered by Senator Misau exposed the IG’s profligacy. The First Lady’s staff requested operational passenger vehicles. But Father Xmas IG chose instead to bless them with two hefty SUVs, even when his men on the field do not have vehicles to chase criminals. A calculating fellow, the IG obviously acted with the expectation that the tale of his generosity would, at least, reach Madam’s ears. Malami’s response? He rushed to the court to press grave charges against Misau.

 

 

It is perhaps a reflection of the AGF’s cluelessness that, under him, the justice ministry has been unable to secure any conviction in all the high-profile cases.  Yet, like all deluded power-mongers, Malami seeks to acquire more; to perform more magic, maybe. He wants to bring the far more aggressive EFFC under his infirm thumb. In the final analysis, only an AGF unworthy of his title will not feel diminished by Aso Rock developing the infernal habit of disobeying court judgments as illustrated by the Dasuki and El Zakzaky cases.

 

 

Even where the government appeared to have a good case, he plays the spoiler by throwing a spanner in the works. At least, we saw his bungling hand in the graft case brought by ICPC against Godsday Orubebe. The reason the multi-billionaire Malabu case is also stalled.  Again, we saw his wrecking hand in the case of alleged theft of N2.1b against a certain Ahmed Saleh. The independent prosecutor was about to deliver the killer punch when Malami suddenly appeared and filed a nolle.

 

 

Initially, they cited “conflict of interest” against Adeogun Phillips, the lead prosecution counsel. If that was the only reason, how come the matter was not sustained after he withdrew? Curiously, Saleh, against whom the weighty charge of complicity in the diversion of N2.1b as the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court was entered, would almost immediately be ushered into the more sensitive office of the Secretary of the National Judicial Council (NJC).

 

 

One would think that, being the custodian of juridical values and therefore emblematic of jurisprudential integrity, only men and women squeakily untainted would be accorded the rare honor and privilege of sitting at that supreme council.  So, if the public loses faith in the AGF, whom shall we trust then?

Lessons From The Ongoing Maina Affair

Even by Nigeria’s very low standards, the ongoing Maina saga is shocking. It remains unclear why so many levers of government were pulled for a seemingly random guy. No matter the explanation you come up with, it does not make enough sense. A guy with plenty of corruption charges on his neck was smuggled back into the civil service quite literally in the dead of night. Why?

 

 

But there’s another angle to all of this. I consider myself reasonably well informed when it comes to matters about Nigeria yet, once again, I realised I didn’t know as much as I thought I did about the way the Nigerian bureaucracy works. By the time all the denials started flying between the minister and the various civil servants, I was humbled – all of them were ‘technically’ correct as they hid behind one procedure or the other.

 

 

Beyond being utterly unfit for purpose, a civil service is a place where you can hide all sorts of bad things and the public will be none the wiser. It’s an interesting place for a country to find itself and in the case of Nigeria, it is not clear how we can get out of this mess.

 

 

Whenever Nigeria finds itself in possession of a windfall from high oil prices, the fastest thing to expand in the country is usually the government. Between 1969 and 1977, the price of oil quadrupled in real terms. As a result, the government’s revenues went from $4.9bn to $21.5bn. In that time, government spending went from 10% to more than 25% of the economy. In other words, the Nigerian government was growing much quicker than the Nigerian economy. When we say the Nigerian government is ‘growing’ or ‘expanding,’ we must understand this to mean new ministries, departments, agencies, task forces and so on.

 

 

Unfortunately, while it is very easy to create a new arm of government when the going is good, it is incredibly difficult to get rid of it when it is no longer needed or affordable. As such, now that oil prices have crashed, Nigeria is going around looking like a man who has lost 50kg of weight but is still wearing his old clothes – a ridiculous sight if you can imagine it. Today, Nigeria has two different space agencies, both of them set up when the oil money was flowing. It is not that Nigeria had any particular need to go to space, it was just one of the many directions in which government expanded.

 

 

This is why it is incredibly difficult for even well-informed Nigerians to understand how their government works. As such, the civil servants can generate as many excuses as they wish and hide behind them all day. Worse, it is practically impossible to have a firm control over the Nigerian government even if you elect a 35-year-old president who is full of energy. The Maina scandal has captured the public imagination because the whole sordid affair comes across as incredibly reckless. But surely this is not the only case of people being smuggled into the civil service? It must be happening even as you read this.

 

 

The Nigerian government is completely out of control. A recent report showed that while the government planned to spend N1.08trn on salaries in the first 6 months of this year, it somehow managed to spend N1.4trn. You don’t know what is going on in the government. I don’t know what is going on in the government. The government does not know what is going on in the government. And yet, all government revenues are spent on ‘running’ this same government before anything else can be done. The workings of the government remain a mystery to the people it purports to serve.

 

 

What can we do about all this? When it was time to bring Maina back, they simply found a spot for him and even promoted him. Whether or not there was work for him to do was a secondary consideration. We must not make the mistake of focusing on this only because the person in question has a corruption case to answer. Loading the civil service with idle hands and deadwood costs Nigeria orders of magnitude more than whatever Maina is alleged to have stolen.

 

 

It is time to consider legally capping the amount of money the government can spend on running itself as a percentage of its revenues. Without this, the danger is that the current government is creating serious problems that even the government that will be elected in 2031 will still be grappling with. Capping government spending will be the first step to bringing some kind of control over the civil service and the machinery of government. There is no need to spend so much of the country’s scarce resources on the civil service – we now know that without oil it is unable to do much of anything. It turns out that it is the tail wagging the dog.

 

 

The ease with which the civil service expanded to welcome back a man with corruption charges on his neck should worry any Nigerian. It is the story of why the country cannot make the capital investments that will ensure that tomorrow is better than today. It shows why the cost of running the government has taken the vast majority of Nigeria’s financial resources hostage. There is no bulwark against this small part of the country colonising the people’s commonwealth.

 

 

This has been the biggest lesson from Maina for me. That the place tasked with delivering the things that people vote in politicians for is just a thoroughfare. And an incredibly expensive one too. Nigeria is really pushing its luck – can a country continue like this without serious reform and just hoping for the best? Maybe,  Maybe not.

 

More On Teachers Failing While Their Students “Pass” Exams By Jibrin Ibrahim

Today, I continue with my discussions from last week about the paradox of students passing exams while even their teachers cannot pass the same exams. I started with the just conducted competency tests administered on all 33,000 primary school teachers in Kaduna State. The result of the tests indicated that 21,780 of them, or two-thirds, failed to score 75 percent or higher on assessments usually given to their primary school pupils. To address this problem, the governor is going to hire new teachers with sufficient skills to teach and get rid of the failures. The quality of the teachers is just one dimension of the crisis.

 

I had also raised the issue of the “infamous” school with more pupils than they can be expected to teach. I decided to travel to Kaduna to see the school for myself. I was shocked by what I found in LEA Primary School, Lokoja Road, Rigasa, Kaduna. First, I asked one of the school administrators whether the reports in the media that they had over 22,000 pupils were true. I was told that the current number was even higher because school feeding, which had been stopped for some time, had been reintroduced, and when there is food the numbers spike by the thousands. To know the exact numbers of students in the school, they are planning to carry out a census because they had been directed to document the exact number of students they have. I went round some of the classes. Each class had between 280 and 300 pupils, with a few seated on benches but most of them on the floor. In any case, there wasn’t enough space in the classroom to put benches to sit all the pupils, who were in any case forced to sit on each other. There was no way any learning could occur in such classes which had ten times the maximum amount of pupils that should be in a class. The pupils had no exercise books or any material and they simply chant whatever the teacher says.

 

I asked a teacher how many of their 71 teachers had passed the competency test recently administered. She appeared very upset by my question. Teachers, she argued, should be assessed on how they are teaching and the conditions under which they are teaching, and not by an exam. She added that should all of them fail and new teachers get appointed, who have no experience trying to teach a class of 300 pupils, what magic can they deliver? I could not but agree with her. It was indeed true that the conditions for learning simply do not exist in that school, so bringing in new teachers cannot address the crisis.

 

The larger question raised by others is: Why should we expect primary school teachers to be competent when increasing the quality and standards in our universities are becoming poorer? We need to fix our universities so that they can produce good quality teachers for our primary and secondary schools. The State Government is making an effort to address the problem. They have compulsorily acquired houses in the neighbourhood of the school, demolished them and are going to build additional classroom blocks, which would help a bit. The problem is, however, huge because a class is supposed to have about 30 pupils, so if you have 300 in a class, then you have to build ten new classrooms for each existing one.

 

The additional space is simply too small to make any difference in numbers. I also worry about the health risk. There are eight toilets for about 25,000 pupils, and I did not have the courage to peep into the toilets to see their conditions. I am not a specialist in education but what is clear is that a multipronged approach is needed to begin to address the situation, with many more teachers, teaching aids, books for the kids and a new pedagogical approach of splitting the students into smaller groups. I call on the governor of Kaduna State to make LGEA Primary School, Lokoja Road, Rigasa, a case study of how to solve a deep crisis and bring in the experts to develop approaches that can work. I next visited LEA Primary School Mashi Gwari also in Rigasa and was “relieved” to see that they had “only” 13,600 pupils and their classes had an average of “only” about 150 pupils per class.

 

The irony is that Rigasa produced a massive amount of votes for the APC and that is where some of the most fanatical supporters of President Buhari and Governor El Rufai reside. Let APC governance have to mean for APC supporters and indeed all others. A lot of the responses I got to my column last week questioned the objectives and appropriateness of the competency tests administered on teachers in Kaduna State. Why were they asked questions such as, ‘write the full name of – the Executive Governor of Kaduna State, the current President of the United States of America, the current Minister of Education in Nigeria, the full name of the Executive Chairman of SUBEB?’ ‘What does knowing these names tell us about the knowledge they have?’ ‘Maybe there is something in it, after all, I was taught similar things when I was in primary school’.

 

Nonetheless, I do think that some of those criticising the test itself has a point in terms of what the said “competency” to teach in primary schools is about. A friend who is a professor in the United States wrote asking me: “What is the pedagogic value of such knowledge and how would it contribute to the educational development of students? How many primary school teachers in Montana know the name of “the current President of [Nigeria]”? And, why should they care? Why do we in the 21st century continue to fill our children’s heads with stupid, non-reflective, non-critical thinking knowledge?”

 

The larger question raised by others is: Why should we expect primary school teachers to be competent when increasing the quality and standards in our universities are becoming poorer? We need to fix our universities so that they can produce good quality teachers for our primary and secondary schools. As I argued last week, the core issue is that we are simply not investing enough in the education of the children of the masses because almost the entire elite has withdrawn their children from public schools.

Celebrating The Egghead That Wears The Crown By Shola Oshunkeye

It is neither an accident nor mere happenstance that my subject for today became not only one of the most powerful monarchs in Nigeria but also the most learned; perhaps.

 

As a blue blood, an heir apparent to one of the most powerful thrones in Yorubaland, the young prince knew that he may be king one day. He dreamed the dream. He knew what he saw in the dream. And he was happy living in the world of his dream. Even though some thinkers believe that a man is no better than his dreams, the prince knew that what he saw in the dreamscape was none of those fantasy stuff that many dreams are made of. He was convinced that though noble birth confers great honour and privileges on members of an eminent family, it is neither a warranty nor collateral for merit or competence or expertise.

 

As a young man, Prince Gabriel Adekunle Aromolaran knew quite early that, truly, royalty brings instant recognition and puts the beneficiary in that echelon where money, women and influence reign. But he refused to be carried away by any of those in the knowledge that though some of those things may make you one of the most sought-after men around, what secures the future for the royal is his strength of character, personal convictions and the goals he sets for himself. With these at the back of his mind, the young Aromolaran brushed aside all princely fantasies and tastes and upped the ante for himself. He desired more than the traditional stool. He aimed for the sky. He resolved to be king in a different kingdom – the academia. However, if providence ever permitted him to sit on the throne of his forefathers, he wanted to do so with a PhD in his bag. He wanted to be an academic of an uncommon hue, the first PhD monarch in Nigeria.

 

“Education is life,” he once told me in an exclusive interview I had with him in his palace in Ilesa shortly before my appointment as Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of The Sun Publishing Ghana Limited in November 2013. “Education is light. It dispels all darkness.”

 

As the last born of his mother, the probability of Adekunle becoming king seemed like 40:60. Like the Biblical David, who was the last of Jesse’s sons, Prince Gabriel Adekunle Aromolaran was the last of the children born to his mother, Olori Tinuola Aromolaran, for his father, Oba Oduyomade Aromolaran I. The elder Aromolaran ruled Ijesaland in present day Osun State, from July 1920 to July 31, 1942. Like David, the shepherd boy, who Prophet Samuel, acting on God’s instruction, anointed to be king over Israel, God Almighty favoured and chose Prince Adekunle Aromolaran, in the goodness of time, to be Owa Obokun Adimula of Ijesaland.

 

Also, like the Biblical Joseph, the dreamer, the prince followed his dream. He resolved that if he was ever chosen by God to rule his people, he would want his name specially emblazoned in the Royals’ Hall of Fame for his good deeds, not only for his native Ijesaland but also the entire Yorubaland. And he lived the dream. He burnt the midnight oil and scored big.

 

By the time he was chosen to succeed Oba Peter Adeniran Olatunji Agunlejika II, who joined his ancestors on September 26, 1981, having ruled from September 24, 1966, Oba Gabriel Adekunle Aromolaran II had not only bagged some degrees in Economics, he had also become a publisher of repute in Africa. He had written dozens of books on economics and government, and become a millionaire publisher.

 

As a student in Ilesa Grammar School, between 1970 and 1974, I read two of his books, Economics for West Africa (published in 1968) and Revision Notes in Government. That was before my first love, the sciences, separated me from both subjects. In Ghana, where I have sojourned since December 2013, the name Adekunle Aromolaran still rings a bell in the consciousness of those who read his books for their ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels examinations in Economics and Government in the 1970s. Nigerians of that era, who studied those subjects, have the same nostalgic feelings about this great author and his products.

 

One of such men is another great mind and my very good friend, Oba Adedokun Abolarin, the Òràngún of Òkè-Ìlá in the Ifedayo Local Government Area of Osun State. Before ascending the throne, Oba Abolarin, an accomplished lawyer, had been the former legal adviser to Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, during his tenure as Senate president. The monarch once told me that he read Oba Aromolaran’s books while preparing for his ‘A’ level examinations in Economics and Government. Such are the fruits of Oba Aromolaran’s fertile mind and intellectual acuity.

 

Born on October 13, 1937, Oba Gabriel Adekunle Aromolaran II received a B.Sc in Economics from the University of Ibadan in 1964. With that, he enlisted in the old Western State Civil Service and was sent on several courses abroad. His unquenchable thirst for knowledge would see him enrol for a management course at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA). Later, he got his Masters in Development Economics.

 

In 1965, he obtained a Graduate Diploma in Public Administration at the then University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University. Not too long after that, he started his PhD programme at the University of London but later transferred to his alma mater, the University of Ibadan. He became the first Nigerian monarch to hold a PhD. His work was supervised by Prof. Olajuwon Olaide, a former vice chancellor of the University.

 

A worthy recipient of the national honour of the Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR), Oba Dr Aromolaran II has been honoured with several doctorate degrees. These include an LL.D (honoris causa) by the Federal University of Technology, Yola, Adamawa State, where he served as chancellor between 2002 and 2012. A trained teacher, prolific writer, and erudite scholar, Oba Aromolaran II, resigned from the Western State Civil Service in 1971 and plunged into private business. He established the highly successful Aromolaran Publishing Company Limited, Ibadan. He published about 100 books, most of them selected as the official titles for the West African Examination Council’s ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels examinations.

 

Although Ilesa, the headquarters of Ijesaland, has witnessed some progress since Oba Aromolaran ascended the throne in 1982, many believe there is a lot of room for improvement. Many of the citizens would like the highly revered monarch to collaborate more with the Government of the State of Osun in attracting investments to the town.

 

In case you didn’t know, the Ijesa, a generic name for the people of Ilesa, Ibokun, Esa-Oke, Ijebu-Jesa, Ipetu-Ijesa, Osu, and Ilase-Ijesa, among others, are honest, hard-working and highly principled people. The Ijesas place an optimum premium on education. An average Ijesa family would sacrifice anything and everything to get its children educated. The Ijesas is also widely acclaimed for their vigorous agrarian culture and unique business urbanity and tact; an attribute that earned them the sobriquet, Osomaalo. Transliterated, Osomaalo means waiting patiently to get paid for merchandise earlier supplied, or waiting to claim your right which is being denied you or being trampled. No matter how hard you try to frustrate them, they would wait.

 

As recalled by Arambara of Telifisan Moluabi, on its Facebook page, “Ilesa, the traditional headquarter of Ijesaland, is the capital of the first local council in Nigeria, the Ijesa/Ekiti Parapo Council.” The council “was established by the British Colonial Administration on June 21, 1900, and comprises of the present Ondo and Ekiti states. Ilesa was officially named by Owaluse, the warrior grandson of Ajibogun Ajaka, the Owa Obokun Onida arara, the most accomplished son of Oduduwa, the progenitor of the Yoruba race of Southwest Nigeria and the Benin Republic.”

 

Ilesa, the hometown of the performing but grossly misunderstood incumbent governor of The State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, is home to the wave-making International Breweries, and Ilesa Grammar School; an institution that has produced many giants in commerce and industry, politics and governance, academia and religion, just to mention a few.

 

Some of the school’s products include: Alhaji Lateef Kayode Jakande, former governor of Lagos State popularly known as LKJ; Dr. Abel Goubadia, former INEC Chairman; Chief Philip Umeadi (Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s running mate in the 1979 and 1983 general elections); Prince Adesuyi Haastrup and Erelu Olusola Obada, both former deputy governors of Osun State; Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God Worldwide; and the late Rev. Alexander Abiodun Adebayo Bada, the second pastor of the Celestial Church of Christ (CCC) worldwide, who succeeded the founder, Pastor Samuel Biléhou Joseph Oschoffa.

 

Ilesa Grammar School also produced some superstars in the temple of Justice. They include: Justice Alfa Belgore, former chief justice of Nigeria; Justice Emmanuel Olayinka Ayoola, former chief justice of the Gambia, ex-president, Seychelles Court of Appeal, erstwhile judge of the Appeals Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and former chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission (ICPC); Justice Kayode Esho, former justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria; Justice Oye Agbaje-Williams; Wole Olanipekun, S.A.N; and Chief Mrs. Funmilayo Awomolo, S.A.N. (my classmate).

 

Still, there are more. They include: Alhaji Wahab Folawiyo, a business tycoon; Prof. Femi Odekunle, Africa’s first professor of Criminology, and former chief of staff to ex-chief of general staff, General Oladipo Diya; Prof. Wale Omole, former vice chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife; Prof. Oye Ibidapo-Obe, former vice-chancellor, University of Lagos; Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole, former vice-chancellor, University of Ibadan, now Minister of Health (he was four years my senior at Ilesa Grammar School); and Prof. Idowu Olayinka, current vice chancellor of the University of Ibadan, also my classmate. These are just to mention a few.

 

Aside from producing billionaire-business magnates like the late Chief Lawrence Omole, the late Chief Ajanaku, the late Chief Ladejola Oginni, the late Chief S.B. Bakare, and the great Chief Ibidapo Obe, Ilesa is abundantly blessed with an honest, energetic and highly resilient populace. The land of fire-spitting ancient warriors is endowed with a great climate and excellent soil for an agrarian revolution. Its land brims with large deposits of world-class quality gold and allied solid minerals.

 

Although these minerals are legally and illegally mined, there is not much in the social and economic life of Ilesa, and indeed, Ijesaland, that commensurates with what is taken from its soil. Many Ijesas earnestly yearn for the Government of the State of Osun and the local authorities, working in tandem with the federal government, to ensure that Ilesa, indeed Ijesaland as a whole, benefits immensely from the blessings beneath their soil.

 

It is believed that if the town, whose indigenes are noted for commerce and dynamic marketing, and which contributes enormously to the economies of the South-West and Nigeria, is given accelerated development, the terrible scourge of youth unemployment now plaguing Ilesa would be history. The massive population of jobless youth turning to Yahoo Plus (a euphemism for money rituals) and land grabbing, prowling the place, and making life miserable for compatriots and prospective investors, would reduce. And once that is achieved, peace would reign. Inhabitants would sleep with their two eyes closed. And everybody would live happily thereafter.

 

I end this tribute by joining other Ijesas, at home and in the diaspora, to congratulate our worthy and progressive Oba at 80. I pray God Almighty, who has been Kabiyesi’s help in ages past and his hope for the future, will fill his days with joy and peace; keep him in sound mind and good health, and further fortify him to lead Ijesaland to unprecedented growth and immeasurable prosperity. I also pray I will be there to felicitate with the paramount ruler when he celebrates his centennial anniversary, and beyond. Happy birthday, Kabiyesi Oba Alase, Igba Keji Orisa.

Zuma’s Apotheosis By Kayode Idowu

It was a giddy leap to sainthood for South African President Jacob Zuma in Nigeria penultimate weekend. His country is Nigeria’s power peer in sub-Sahara Africa, if presumptuous to rule in the entire continent. But Zuma came calling, not as a state guest of his Nigerian counterpart, but in quasi-private capacity on the fare of Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha. He came unheralded on a visit that has since been duly explained was to sign a memorandum of understanding between his Zuma Foundation and Okorocha’s Rochas Foundation College for Africa.

 

Zuma arrived in town amidst controversy as had dogged his eight-year-long presidency, during which he has survived eight no-confidence votes in the South African parliament. His trip was not made public in Pretoria until he was nearly airborne, and neither was there much hype of imminent ingress of a personage like him in Nigeria – at least, not enough for the public to be expectant.

 

Besides, the South African leader hit the skies en route the Okorocha rendezvous barely as his country’s supreme court pronounced a unanimous verdict binding him to trial for 783 corruption charges that were spuriously pulled by the National Prosecuting Agency (NPA) in April 2009 to pave the way for his presidential run. A South African high court had last year ruled the agency’s decision to pull the charges “irrational” and ordered that they be reinstated, and those were exact conclusions reached by the supreme court in its ruling on appeals brought by both Zuma and the NPA against the trial court.

 

Zuma’s scheduling of the Nigerian trip must have been long before the supreme court verdict, so I do not share the umbrage at Okorocha for not barring him on that score. Actually, I would wager that the last minute change was made in the plans to keep the Buhari presidency out of reception formalities. Thus, the South African leader flew directly into Sam Mbakwe Airport in Owerri, where the Imo governor in company with former President Olusegun Obasanjo received him. Others in the welcoming party included former Jigawa State Governor Saminu Turaki and former Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman Maurice Iwu.

 

By the norms of diplomacy, it is unlikely the president originally planned to avoid Zuma on this trip; because President Muhammadu Buhari twice visited South Africa for different reasons in 2015, and he had the audience on both occasions with his South African counterpart. Though Zuma had himself undertaken a state visit to Nigeria in 2016, diplomatic conventions would prescribe he schedules a tangential audience with Buhari even on this occasion. Only a last minute rejig of programming could have eliminated that.

 

But while Okorocha could not have upturned the long-scheduled visit by Zuma, it was entirely his call what the two-day reception programme involved. And we have seen it involved unveiling a giant bronze statue of the South African leader in Imo’s capital city, to which a N520million price tag has been attached in reports. Instructively, the Imo government has not controverted that cost line even once.

 

An official account of the visit said Zuma also picked the Imo Merit Award – an honor kept for persons who’ve made a difference in developing their community and humanity; and as well the traditional title of ‘Ochiagha Imo’ conferred by the chairman of Imo State Council of Traditional Rulers, Eze Samuel Ohiri. For icing, he also had a road named after him in Owerri.

 

The account cited Zuma saying he had not expected that level of recognition. “With what the leadership and good people of Imo has done, I feel that what I have done for my people is ‘yes’ and ‘correct.’ I was an ordinary freedom fighter who struggled to liberate South Africa…,” he stated. Okorocha, for his part, described Zuma as a unique man with a heart of gold, and a dogged freedom fighter who means well for his people. “We honor you because of your love for education so that our unborn children will read about it and be motivated by your life of doggedness…,” he said.

 

The two men could well have spoken from a virgin planet named Illusion, because Nigerians and no less, zestfully South Africans were swift in taking down Zuma and his host for the gratuitous honors. That response follows from the sheer circumstances. Zuma is a charismatic politician with reputed antecedents in his country’s liberation struggle against apartheid rule, but his presidency stank of sleaze from Day One – both in his public and private lives. Besides the corruption charges linked to a 30billion rand arms deal in the 1990s that were lately reinstated by the supreme court, he fell under the judicial hammer in 2016 when the apex court ruled that he broke the law by failing to reimburse the public treasury monies used to upgrade his private country home in Nkandla. He has since repaid.

 

Also this year, South Africa’s ombudsman demanded a judge-led inquiry into allegations that Zuma profiteered from ties with the wealthy Gupta family. He denies the charges, as have the Guptas, and no inquiry has yet been raised. But British public relations giant Bell Pottinger, ace auditor KPMG, and frontline consultancy McKinsey have bit the dust on account of their links with both. That isn’t mentioning the economic hara-kiri in Zuma’s ouster of Pravin Gordhan as finance minister in March, which tipped the country’s credit ratings into ‘junk’ territory.

 

Neither is Zuma exactly a moral beacon. Having married six wives – two since becoming president in 2009 – he was tried but acquitted of raping an HIV-positive family friend in 2006. The catch is: he was blameless on the rape charge because he stated during the trial that he had unprotected sex with the woman and showered thereafter to avoid possible infection. Four years later, he admitted having a baby with the daughter of another family friend. Meanwhile, his populist touch hasn’t translated into economic empowerment for most black South Africans, with his hold and that of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) on the power lever rapidly slipping. In effect, the unveiling of a Zuma statue earlier this month in Groot Marico, northwest South Africa, was met with protests.

 

On the other hand, Okorocha is famed for withholding arrears to pensioners in Imo State, and it is moot that salaries and allowances for serving workers are up to date. Yet, to have spend N520million of the state’s lean resources on Zuma’s statue! The probity of that stated costline is one thing, while the economic sense of the expenditure is another; and neither helps the anti-corruption crusade of the Buhari presidency whose party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), has Okorocha as chairman of its Governors Forum. Besides, the value judgment is curious, with repeated xenophobic attacks in Zuma’s country that have claimed the lives of many Nigerians – one of them as recent as few days before the Imo spectacle.

 

But the biggest tragedy is the partisan mode into which Okorocha and the APC have retreated. APC helmsman John Odigie-Oyegun was reported last week to have endorsed the Zuma event, praising Okorocha for his “feat in bringing…significant figures on the African continent.” Okorocha, for his part, lashed at the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which it accused of sponsoring the criticisms. “If all we need do to attract good things or investments to Imo is erecting statues…we owe no one apology,” he was reported saying.

 

With show fests like, we saw in Imo, and the uppity endorsement of these by the ruling party, the Buhari government’s anti-graft war is unravelling. Watch out for that indication in the next outing by Transparency International with its Corruption Perception Index (CPI).

Dele Giwa: Not Yet Uhuru For Nigerian Journalists By Israel Ebije

It is already 31 years since one of the fiercest, tenacious, patriotic journalist in Nigeria history, Sumonu Oladele Giwa was cut down by a parcel bomb. The death ofMr. Giwa was not only a loss to the profession, but a loss for Nigerians craving for people based investigative journalism. He blazed from all cylinders in an attempt to tame governments of his day. He was relentless even as pioneer editor-in-chief of Newswatch, a paper he founded. In the era of the Giwa’s, journalism was honorable, the institution was impregnable and practitioners were noble in the discharge of their social responsibility to educate, inform and entertain.

 

It is instructive at this point to recall that pre and post-independence media organizations owned by regions in our geographical entity were largely cleavage based, it is instructive to intimate that they served interests of the regions for the greater good of the country. To illustrate how the early press in Nigeria was based on regional ideology was not meant to last forever, most of them fizzled out after satisfying their relevance, which were largely for agitations. The point I am trying to present is, politicians, bigots, regional warriors have taken over ownership of media organizations in Nigeria, crafting editorials along bias instead of working towards a patriotic agenda. Sadly, the media has become politicized, taking sides along ethno-religious underpinnings.

 

Responsible journalism has faded off, and that is not akin to untrained hands-on social media platforms alone. While those who control the media are driving their agenda to suit interests, reporters working the wheel of news production are constantly shackled in slavery. Dele Giwa was killed to satisfy interests, today journalists are destined to suffer psychological deaths to satisfy institutions interested in promoting parochial interests instead of holistic national agenda. With no hope for job anywhere, many journalism graduates hold tenaciously to their jobs, where they are forced to work without salaries and report unprofessionally. It is no longer news to find media organizations who only give reporters identity cards instead of pay slips. It is no longer news several media organizations have stopped payment of salaries to staff for more than two years.

 

Just like the silenced voice of Giwa whose pen was drained of its ink before his time, many journalists are alive today but dead. They see the truth, cant say it based on puerile house interests. They have facts about prominent newsmakers they cannot publish to avoid hurting their benefactors. It is instructive to intimate that many journalists survive on the goodwill of people. Interestingly, their judgment is compromised based on the unfortunate brown envelope syndrome – which by the way is not restricted to journalists alone but many media organizations who do theirs on a large scale with government and corporate institutions.

 

The dearth of professionalism and humanity in media organizations today has promoted hate journalism, ferried along social platforms to fragmented citizen reporters under payrolls of their masters. A look at reports across mainstream media organizations shows how fragmented the media itself is within itself. Front pages are crafted based on underpinnings, hence ridiculing the prestigious profession. In the era of the Dele Giwa’s, it was firebrand journalism, programmed to tame beastly leadership. Today, we can identify media organizations along political party interests. Just like the pre and post-independence media organizations, the trend is to protect and promote agenda. While the earlier media worked towards a national freedom from their divergent trenches, politicized media of today only have narrow-minded interests.

 

An average journalist is made to believe he or she is nothing outside the confines of the media organization they work for. That may not be true but many practitioners are scared to explore newer frontiers. There are so many cases media organizations abandon their reporters to swim in litigations alone. Most media organizations do not take responsibility when it comes to legal issues even when it is glaring editorial additions unconnected to the journalists impute are responsible for the legal actions.

 

It is indeed instructive for media practitioners to imbibe the proper spirit of comradeship. For some, unionism starts and ends with sharing formula of gifts from governments, organizations, and individuals they are expected to be reporting. After devouring whatever their beats have to offer, the relationship ends until next feast. Most times, practitioners do not close ranks to defend themselves. Yes, journalists are vulnerable and endangered. Most with little or no education have no second-hand value. The less fortunate succumb to deaths, which their poor financial status cannot maintain.

For Dele, it was a parcel, for many other practitioners it’s ideological bomb. It is time for journalists to unite against mental slavery. The profession must be sanitized of quarks and crooks. Unions managing journalism in Nigeria must defend members in trouble. Until journalists are well paid, allowed to be independent minded and treated with respect, the profession will not have its pride of place and many will continue to die emotionally and psychologically.

On Lagos’ New Lease Of Life For Education By Adesegun Ogundeji

According to famous American scientist, George Washington Carver, ‘education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom’. Really, education is critical to the growth and development of any society. It empowers the individual with necessary knowledge and set of skills to actualize potential and maximize opportunities in life.  It is for this reason that governments across the world devote a good chunk of available resources to the development of the educational sector.

In Nigeria, Lagos is unarguably the State with the highest number of public schools, students and teachers. It has consistently been churning out the highest number of candidates for public examinations in Nigeria since 1967.  As a melting point with a burgeoning population in excess of 20 million, provision of qualitative education in Lagos State has been a daunting task.

The current administration in the state clearly understands that the task of making Lagos State “the model of excellence in the provision of education in Africa” requires meticulous attention. To this end, the sum of 92.4 billion naira, representing 11.37 percent was allocated to the education sector in the State budget for 2017.

Government has directed the policy toward ensuring equal educational opportunity in the State, encourage parents who might otherwise neglect their children’s education to send their children to school and making education affordable for everyone. So, within the halftime of the administration’s tenure, the wheels of what is mutating to be a historic education revolution in Lagos were rolled off with an aggressive rehabilitation of public schools throughout the length and breadth of the state.  Several hundreds of classroom blocks have been built and renovated while thousands of students and teachers furniture supplied to various primary and secondary schools.

In line with the commitment of the present administration to expand access to knowledge for Lagosians, the State’ science laboratories are now better equipped and the enthusiasm of students to be science inclined has become very high with a lot of success recorded. Equally, the state government has completed the renovation and upgrade of public libraries in eighteen secondary schools across the State with top-class facilities. Lagos Digital Library, an online repository of education content, is ready and will as well be launched in February 2017.

The Lagos state government appreciates that as much as physical infrastructure is important, adequate and quality teachers in schools are as important.  Thus, as part of measures to bridge the gap in the teacher/pupil ratio in the state, the government recruited one thousand, three hundred (1,300) teachers for primary schools while another 1000 teachers were recruited for public secondary schools in 2016. Similarly, the government has been paying attention to teachers’ welfare.

Also, since April 2017, Code Lagos centres have been launched in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions (private and public) across the State, as well as in all public libraries and ICT spaces. The ultimate goal is for one million students in the state to have access to the coding system by the year 2019.

Cheeringly, the dividend of the state’s investment in education is paying off. For instance, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode was declared the “Teachers Most Friendly Governor” by the Nigeria Union of Teachers during the celebration of the last World Teachers’ Day in Abuja. The same day, President Muhammadu Buhari rewarded the hard work, high performance and high productivity of three Lagos State School teachers and administrator with the “President’s Teachers and Schools Excellence Award”. Nominees of the State clinched three out of the nine categories of award available to contestants from 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

The awardees, Mrs. Lufadeju Dolapo Olufunke received the Best School Award on behalf of Ojodu Junior Grammar School, Ikeja. The “Best School Administrator Award” (Senior Secondary School category) went to Mrs. Oluderu Bilikisu Oluwaseyi of Magbon Alade Senior Grammar School while Mrs. Adelegan Moronike Sarat of Civil Service Junior Model College, Igbogbo was selected as the First Runner up, Best Administrator of the Year 2017.

Earlier, five students of Lagos State public secondary schools had excelled at the Y2017 National Robot Olympiad and qualified to represent Nigeria at the World Robot Olympiad to be held in Costa Rica. It is worthy of note that Lagos State has been representing Nigeria in this competition since 2015.

On September 22nd, 2017, Oluwasegun Durojaiye of Lagos State Model College, Igbokuta qualified to represent the South-West Zone at the National Finals of the NNPC Science Quiz Competition and Atabo Ufedejo of Model College, Kankon emerged one of the best students at the national finals of the 2017 Oluwole Awokoya Chemistry Competition held in Kaduna from 17th to 22nd September, 2017.

Lagos State took the first position in the National Free Choice (Senior) Project presented by the students of Government Technical College, Agidingbi at the 2017 National Junior Engineers, Technicians and Scientists (JETS) competition in March, 2017. The State won 10 trophies and 10 medals at the event and 7 of the trophies won went to State public schools students.

Also, Seven Students/Teachers from the State Public Schools were awarded medals and Certificates at the 2017 edition of National Mathematics and Science Olympiad award ceremony organized by the National Mathematical Centre, Abuja.

The Key Performance Indices of the Education Sector is not limited to competition awards as the State has made tremendous progress in external examinations since Y2015. The result of the States performance at the 2017 WASSCE is put at 66% pass in at least 5 subjects including English and Mathematics, compared to the 50.41% in 2016, 37.27% in 2015 and 21.22% in 2014.

The question that comes to mind from the above is this: Is there a nexus among these various achievements? The answer, of course, is yes! Teachers’ training and staff welfare have been given priority attention with teachers’ salary being consistently paid regularly on the 23rd day of every month.

It is also on record that all eligible teachers since 2015 to date have been promoted as at when due while 2,320 (Two Thousand Three Hundred And Twenty) Officers were trained between May 2016-17 and much more has been done thereafter.

Car loans were awarded to 425 beneficiaries to the tune of N30, 302, 252.75k, N30 million Housing Loan was approved for 55 (fifty-five) beneficiaries in the teaching service and 4601 pensioners on the payroll of the Teachers Establishment and Pensions Office were paid regularly.

To further encourage service delivery, Education Merit Award is organized annually in honour of outstanding performers in the various categories of Award in the Education Sector of Lagos State. More than 100 Education Merit Awards are given out with the Star prize being a brand new car awarded to the Best Teacher in both the Primary-Secondary School Categories.

Apart from improved teachers’ welfare, the state government’s huge investment in education infrastructure contributed immensely to the improved status of education in the State. Fortunately, the state government isn’t resting on its oars as it is poised to do more in the months ahead.

Tracking Your Heart Rate By Bunmi George

Your heart rate is super important when it comes to physical activity. 
Your heart rate will increase as your activity level rises, but there is a healthy range for your heart rate, and anything outside of that may be an indicator of a heart condition. Learning how to calculate your heart rate ranges can be a valuable tool not only for monitoring your health, but also ensuring you get the most out of your workouts.

If you find that you are short of breath, are in pain or can’t work out as long as you’d planned, your exercise intensity is probably higher than your fitness level allows. It is probably a good idea to slow down a bit and build intensity gradually. Beware of pushing yourself too hard too often.

I am sure you are wondering how to gauge your heart rate. The easiest way these days is by using a fitness smart watch which tracks calories, time, steps, speed, intensity, including your heart rate. Training with one offers many benefits – it ensures your workouts are intense enough, that you’re taking adequate rest between exercises/circuits, helps you train in different zones of intensity, and enables you to track your fitness progress over time.

Another way to gauge your exercise intensity is to see how hard your heart is beating during physical activity. What you want to do is first figure out your maximum heart rate, the upper limit of what your cardiovascular system can handle during physical activity.

The basic way to calculate your maximum heart rate is to subtract your age from 220. For example, if you’re 45 years old, subtract 45 from 220 to get a maximum heart rate of 175. This is the maximum number of times your heart should beat per minute during exercise. Once you know your maximum heart rate, you can calculate your desired target heart rate zone, the level at which your heart is being exercised and conditioned but not overworked.

These are the general recommendation of target heart rate:
Moderate exercise intensity: 50 to about 70 percent of your maximum heart rate
Vigorous exercise intensity: 70 to about 85 percent of your maximum heart rate

If you’re not fit or you’re new to working out, it is best for you to aim for the lower end of your target zone. Then, gradually build up the intensity. If you’re already used to an intense exercise regimen, you can opt for the higher end of the target zone. A quicker medium is to use an online calculator to determine your desired target heart rate zone or, you can calculate it yourself:

Subtract your age from 220 to get your maximum heart rate.
Calculate your resting heart rate by counting your heart beats per minute when you are at rest, such as first thing in the morning. It’s usually somewhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute for the average adult. Calculate your heart rate reserve (HRR) by subtracting your resting heart rate from your maximum heart rate. Multiply your HRR by 0.7 (70 percent). Add your resting heart rate to this number. Multiply your HRR by 0.85 (85 percent). Add your resting heart rate to this number. These two numbers are your training zone heart rate. Your heart rate during exercise should be between these two numbers.

It’s important to note that maximum heart rate is just a guide. You may have a higher or lower maximum heart rate, sometimes by as much as 15 to 20 beats per minute. If you want a more definitive range, consider discussing your target heart rate zone with an exercise physiologist or a personal trainer.