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OPINION

Appointing Those Who Disappoint

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By Eugene Enahoro

Since 2015, Nigeria’s Corruption Index Ranking by Transparency International has continued to deteriorate. A recent Country Report on Nigeria by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy Human Rights and Labour states that massive, widespread, and pervasive corruption currently affects all levels of government and the security services.

In addition, a World Bank Report alluded to “staggering sums” unaccounted for as a result of sharp practices in fuel subsidy payments and other major government expenditures.

As if to confirm the veracity of these claims, the Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, has been suspended from office and detained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). He allegedly participated in fraud of about N80 billion.

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It’s instructive to note that prior to becoming Accountant-General, Idris worked in the Petroleum Trust Fund, National Poverty Eradication Programme, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development all of which have been involved in financial scandals.

There is no denying that treasury looting continues unabated. If truth be told, the most brazen and mind-boggling acts have been perpetrated by those appointed to office and shielded by the current administration.

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It’s become an annual ritual for the Auditor-General of the Federation to report the failure of Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDA’s) to render timely audited accounts, retire unspent funds; and remit revenues. He also annually reports the spending of funds over statutory limits, award of contracts without due process and even quite ludicrously payments for unexecuted contracts!

Rather than aggressively address these issues this administration prefers to place the nation further into debt by continuously borrowing. There is no escaping the truth that there is negligible effort to properly account for previous borrowing or instill probity and accountability into governance. Alas the anti-corruption war is being lost.

Nigerians have severally complained that the EFCC is far more adept at media trial of suspects than at successful prosecutions. An inordinate number of their high-profile prosecutions have been thrown out due to substandard prosecution. There are suspicions that this bungling isn’t accidental. If it isn’t intentional, then it reflects an unacceptable deficiency in comprehending the differences between what constitutes actionable evidence of financial crimes in courts of law, and what constitutes mere circumstantial speculation and suspicion.

From its inception, critics pointed out that the EFCC was poorly structured to properly investigate and successfully prosecute high-level financial crimes. Its mandate was too wide as it should be solely concerned with public funds. Its staffing should comprise accountants, quantity surveyors, computer analysts, statisticians, and legal luminaries who would specialise in asset and project valuations, accounts auditing, and successful timely prosecution of financial cases. Instead the Commission has evolved into a semi-paramilitary organisation more adept at carrying out arrests, than successfully investigating and prosecuting financial crimes which require a high level of intellect. The EFCC recently posted a message on Facebook threatening retribution to the corrupt, claiming that every looter is a wicked soul and will find no peace. Nigerians aren’t impressed, because they have heard it all before.

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In 2007 the then EFCC Chairman Nuhu Ribadu ranted and threatened to jail corrupt governors immediately they left office and their immunity expired. It turned out to be all talk and little substance.

A new approach is required if real progress is to be made in stemming corrupt practices and incessant treasury looting. The war against corruption is more likely to be won by prevention, quick detection, and expedited successful prosecution, than by raining curses! Its’ evident government needs to overhaul its feedback and control systems. With elections on the horizon, Nigerians eagerly look forward to effective leadership with zero tolerance for corruption.

It’s imperative the incoming administration addresses preventing corruption by appointing only people of social conscience. The paucity of morality and ethics in office holders appointed and reappointed since 2015 is a poor reflection of this administration’s recruitment and selection processes. Undeniably, President Buhari’s tenure will be defined not by its achievements, but by its failure to either control burgeoning insecurity, or prevent unrestrained treasury looting.

The incoming administration is not only about whoever becomes president; far more important is the appointment of the right caliber of patriotic individuals into top positions in key MDA’s. Since 2015, there have been far too many cases of allegations of high-level corruption by top level political appointees.

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Retired DIG of Police, Parry Osayande, recently called for re-integration of the EFCC back into the police force as part of the fraud squad, and creation of a new agency specifically mandated to investigate and prosecute public officers and political office holders who fail to abide by extant government financial regulations. Under the current administration, the likes of Ahmed Idris got re-appointed after the expiration of his tenure as did the former service chiefs.

Whosoever becomes the next president will obviously want to reward his supporters, but they should bear in mind that the anti-corruption war can only be won if they don’t appoint or re-appoint those who will disappoint.

Enahoro is an opinion writer

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OPINION

Still on Maintaining Balance in Choice of Running Mates

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By Golu Timothy 

Last week, melting point focused on the likely choices of running mates of the different political parties after the conduct of their respective national conventions.

While the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, quickly and calculatively settled for Delta State governor, Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, Labour and other parties are said to have quietly submitted dummy names to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, subject to final decisions by the respective flag bearers in conjunction with the leadership of the parties.

Timelines have been allotted for such and all other political activities by INEC and last Friday 17th was the dateline for the submission of the names of the running mates. The Electoral Act also provided windows for replacement of names earlier submitted and therefore all the parties have opportunities for proper consultations.

That’s why the APC and LP could submit dummies to INEC and get them comfortably replaced before the dateline for replacements . But for the PDP, it’s a decision taken and sealed, ready for campaigns.

Within the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC which has produced former Lagos State governor, Senator Bola Tinubu as its presidential candidate, growing indications that former Speaker of the 8th House of representatives, Bauchi born Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara is the preferred choice of vice president, is fast gaining momentum. Everyone knows the electoral value and political reach and spread of Dogara having served as one of the best few Speakers the nation has produced. The nation has been agog in debate as to whether Tinubu should pick a Christian or muslim running mate and each religious divide is putting pressure to get the slot.

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It is very imperative to give objective consideration for the choice of a VP from a wider perspective and not from a politically inclined position. If Atiku who is a muslim northerner can pick Okowa a Christian southerner, then it is only proper for Tinubu, a southern muslim to pick a Dogara or any other northern Christian to balance the religious equation. Tinubu, a muslim, from Lagos South West Nigeria, is expected to pair with Dogara, a Christian from Bauchi, North east Nigeria. On the PDP side, Atiku, a muslim from Adamawa in North East Nigeria has already paired with Okowa, a Christian from Delta, South South region of Nigeria. The need for a balanced ticket is not out of place considering the sharp dividing lines of region, religion and ethnicity in the country. That some northern muslims are making strong case for a muslim-muslim ticket is enough for Christians to make a case for balance. Why can’t the Apc and labour tow the line of the PDP? In the submission of their dummies, Tinubu is said to have submitted the name of a fellow muslim from Katsina, Kabir Masari while LP’s Peter Obi has submitted a fellow Christian, Doyin Okupe as running mate. This to me, should be corrected in the final consideration before submission. Its not whether a muslim muslim or Christian Christian ticket can bring victory or not. The most important consideration here is the future of peace, trust, confidence and mutual respect for each other as the nation peruse the next 4 or 8 years as the case may be. As governance takes off with such sentimental affiliations, people will begin to read and define every government policy and action, not on any merit but base on who is saying them and the leadership promoting them.

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If all things being equal ,the polity is not supposed to be divided along ethnic and religious lines, but realities on ground have made it very important for such considerations to hold sway. While some people believe that competence and not where you come from should be the guiding principle, the nature of power dynamics and allocations in politics must have boundaries expressed in such sentiments. We cannot assume otherwise , but must work with the realities in our hands, and the realities are that we are a secular nation dominated by two major religious groups which requires mutual consideration and respect for mutual coexistence. Since we have separate states and constituencies across the nation, one cannot wish away such considerations which are aimed at acquiring power.

Some people keep making reference to the Abiola/ Kingibe era in which both the presidential candidate and running mate were muslim. Such can not be easily applied now in view of the glaring suspicions and differences that exist. One can imagine if Obasanjo who is a Christian had picked a fellow Christian in 1999 or that the late Yar’Adua as a muslim, could have picked another muslim as his vice instead of a Christian. Political crisis and conflicts of monumental proportions could have been created, but for the way the balancing was done, there was peace and stability in governance all through. Why then must we change from the status quo since we have enjoyed doing so in the past and even right now. Buhari could have picked Tinubu as was speculated in 2015 but everyone opposed it then for peace to reign, why now?

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Those who are opposed to such balancing now are not fair to the system. They are self serving and greedy political players who wants to use religion to get what they could not get by merit and who don’t believe in mutual respect or coexistence. If the country can share power between the north and south, why can’t it look at the composition of the two zones in order to also balance the power equation? The choice of Dogara , a Christian to deputise for Tinubu, a muslim is one of the best options of balancing for the nation. It shows he has respect for Christians who in turn will feel a strong sense of belonging in the government.

As it is now, the nation is warming up for the most critical elections in the political history of the people, especially as the country confronts a transition from the outgoing Buhari administration to a new one. Nigerians of all shades and opinions, most especially those at the leadership levels should not divide this country by promoting unpopular and divisive tendencies of Muslim -muslim or Christian- Christian tickets for whatever reasons. While we appreciate PDP’s Atiku for setting the pace, we urge Tinubu, Obi, Kwankwaso and other presidential candidates to, in the same spirit of mutual respect and understanding, balance themselves for the sake of God and a peaceful country. We must look at the nation beyond our personal prisms and calculations. We must know that diaris God oh.

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OPINION

The Evolving Peter Obi Phenomenon

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By Femi Mimiko 

As a political scientist, I am conversant enough with how a momentum similar to the one that is building up behind Peter Obi today propelled hitherto unknown political qualities into high office… The fundamental condition for this type of seismic movement is mass anger and public trust deficit, which are aplenty in Nigeria today… So, let no one underestimate the unfolding Obi phenomenon.

It’s certainly not the case that the piece, “The Peter Obi Tsunami…”, by Farooq Kperogi is a mere stuff for entertainment, as it has been suggested. Far from it! Indeed, the writer has done very well to interrogate the context within which Obi emerged, the forces driving the Obi ‘tsunami’, the limitations thereto, and the upset the candidate may cause in 2023. I associate very well with this broad outline. We should recall that a few days ago, I actually gave vent to my hunch recently that Obi may come off in the 2023 election as a very strong first runner-up, if he does not win.

I guess it’s a similar conclusion Farooq has reached in his piece.

I also fancy the writer’s sensitivity to the fact that Obi tends to embellish his presentations, I add, almost to the point of dancing on the sharp edges separating truth and untruths. Yet, it is absolutely correct that the Labour Party candidate looks far ahead of both Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu in the promise of a better governed Nigeria, which he represents. My four major concerns with, and about his candidature are these: first, Peter Obi doesn’t seem to appreciate that Nigeria of today needs much more than a relatively more efficient, less wasteful, and less corrupt government.

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The primacy of a structural recasting of the country cannot be overemphasised! Obi doesn’t seem to share this concern; or if he does, hasn’t demonstrated any evidence that he knows how to go about addressing it. If extant governance structures are not recast, in the direction of a more functional federal system that would deepen the possibilities for autochthonous development, no matter how much efficiency an Obi brings to governance, the fundamentals of Nigeria’s crises would still be firmly in place.

…while Obi is quite adept as highlighting the challenges of bad governance that Nigeria epitomises, he is not really quite profound in terms of the practicalities of addressing the same. Recounting the difficulties of the country in such an eloquent manner as Obi does it, is good to the ears. The task, however, is what, in precise terms, you need to deliver a qualitative alternative. Obi can still do much better on this.

Secondly, Obi doesn’t come across as tough enough to confront all of the evil forces, and human and institutional principalities that have held Nigeria down for so long. He doesn’t come with a touch of ‘rascality’ that is needful for sorting out this ‘congregation of evil’ that is Nigeria’s rapacious and unconscionable political class. Thirdly, while Obi is quite adept as highlighting the challenges of bad governance that Nigeria epitomises, he is not really quite profound in terms of the practicalities of addressing the same. Recounting the difficulties of the country in such an eloquent manner as Obi does it, is good to the ears. The task, however, is what, in precise terms, you need to deliver a qualitative alternative. Obi can still do much better on this.

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Fourthly, I have this uncomfortable feeling that an Obi presidency could mean greater tension over Lagos, vis-a-vis the thinly veiled ownership claims – or in the least, a sense of entitlement – of his own ethnic nation, on the former federal capital. It would require all the dexterity of an Obi presidency in ensuring this lingering tension does not snowball into a major inter-ethnic inferno. If and when Obi and his handlers are able to persuasively address these issues, so many stakeholders, who are genuinely concerned about the direction in which Nigeria seems again to be headed, may not hesitate to move into his corner.

Talks about a political structure, or shortage thereof, which the anti-Obi forces are drumming up, are valid, but not insurmountable. As a political scientist, I am conversant enough with how a momentum similar to the one that is building up behind Peter Obi today propelled hitherto unknown political qualities into high office. A recent example was Tunisia in 1999, where such a momentum swept Kais Saied, a professor, into the presidential palace. The fundamental condition for this type of seismic movement is mass anger and public trust deficit, which are aplenty in Nigeria today. The Nigerian state is in the throes of what elsewhere I characterised as a ‘creeping failure,’ the evidence of which is out there for any patriotic mind to track. So, let no one underestimate the unfolding Obi phenomenon. Putting him away with a wave of the hand isn’t in any way scientific.

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Femi Mimiko is a professor of Political Science at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, and a member of the National Institute (MNI). 

E-mail: femi.mimiko@gmail.com; Twitter: @FemiMimiko

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OPINION

Zamfara: A Look at Matawalle’s Enviable Strides in Three Years

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By Jamil M. Jamil Gusau

The administration of Bello Matawallen Maradun Barden Kasar Hausa and Shatiman Daular Usmaniya is three years old as at 29th May 2022 and as rightly expected by many people and as the tradition, people have been expecting the usual heavy celebration such as commissioning of development projects as part of the fulfillment of the development agenda of the government.

As citizen of Zamfara, I am part of those with similar expectations, but I did not allow such outrageous expectations to take away my conscience, especially about the true situation of the state in terms of the re-emerging security challenges confronting it and its people.Basically, however, I am among those that have always demonstrated their concern and extend goodwill to the government of Bello Matawalle especially, considering the good take-off the Governor had, since inception in 2019.

But we should not also ignore the challenges faced by the administration at its infancy stage, from litigations to political crises and masterminded insecurity by  opponents of the administration.

Before the beginning of this fiscal year, 2022, we are all living witnesses to the genuine aspiration of transforming the state as demonstrated by Governor Bello Matawalle in education, healthcare sector, security management, infrastructure as well as human capital development.

We cannot under-estimate the impact of the lingering political crises deliberately caused by the opposition to distract the much needed attention of the government. Evidently before the beginning of the year 2022, the Governor  started on an excellent note by off-setting the outstanding matching grants to the UBEC National Headquarters, Abuja which assisted the state in accessing additional funds that were used in renovating over one thousand blocks of classrooms and an additional funding for the training and retraining of teachers and also okayed the reinstatement of the abandoned (500) school teachers earlier recruited by his predecessor.

He also ordered for the reinstatement of the aggrieved 1,400 civil servants also recruited by his predecessor but were neglected with an order for the payment of all their outstanding entitlements. He also championed the payment of the annual leave grant, which was not paid throughout the eight year term of his predecessor.

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The government of Bello Matawalle ordered the state Ministry for Health to also recruit additional 200 health personnel into the state civil service and within the year, also approved the recruitment of another set of 500 health workers into the service of the state. He has embarked on the renovation and upgrading of the abandoned Talatar Mafara General Hospital and also awarded the renovation of General Hospitals Gummi and Tsafe. This is beside ongoing total reconstruction of Farida General Hospital and King Fahad General Hospital all in Gusau.

Though the completion of Shinkafi referral hospital is at its peak, the administration of Matawalle saw to the renovation and upgrading of General Hospital Birnin Magaji  and that of Kagara in Talatar Mafara.

His celebrated 142 primary health care centers constructed across the political wards in the state are the first unique projects in the entire Northern Nigeria since the return to democracy in 1999. The volume of the road network provided by the administration of Bello Matawalle is significant enough to speak about the foresight of the administration toward infrastructural development.

In Gusau alone, there are over fifteen of these township roads including the most yearned for Kantin Daji road which had hitherto assumed the position of dead trap before the Matawalle magic touched it in 2019. In education for instance, the administration of Bello Matawalle undertook the renovation, rehabilitation, and the supply of furniture at Government Science Secondary School, Shinkafi at the cost of N911,790,250.

In his persistent effort to settle the backlog of WAEC, NECO and other examination bodies which were not paid by the past administration, Governor Matawalle released the sum of N170,000,000 to both WAEC and NECO to facilitate the writing of the 2021 school leaving examinations by our students in the year under review.

The current administration has also released the sum of N186,699,600 as full payment for 67 medical and para-medical students currently in their second year of studies in Sudan. There is also the payment of N24,500,000 for 23 students in India and N56,463,440 92  for students studying in Cyprus, in addition to 19 students studying online in China institutions. The government again released N41,200,000 as part of payment of the backlog of debt inherited and owed Al-Hikmat University, Ilorin and the Crescent University, Abeokuta, respectively.

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Based on the realization of the pivotal role of early childhood education as the foundation of all learning endeavors, Governor Bello Matawalle has been able to maintain a modest effort of giving full support to the Universal Basic Education in the State. Accordingly, the administration  released N1.5 billion naira counterpart funds to UBE, which made it possible for the board to draw matching grants and execute various projects under the fiscal year. Some projects executed include 966 classrooms across the 14 Local Government Areas, 54 classrooms of a story building, 1 Administrative Block and Library, and 11 well furnished blocks of ICT centers.

Others carried out by the Matawalle government include the construction of offices for Education Secretaries and 1 Block of 200 Capacity Students’ Hostel, Perimeter Wall Fence in 31 Schools, and 95 Cells of 32 Blocks of VIP Latrine. Similarly, 520 classrooms were renovated, and 33,246 seats provided. Moreover, 1,372 Teachers’ Tables and Chairs were supplied.

Judges, Emirs and District Heads are also beneficiaries of the gesture of Governor Bello Matawalle. They were given brand-new vehicles to help in reviving their statuses as the royal fathers and learned jurists whose contributions to the development of the state are acknowledged with esteemed regard.

One cannot ignore the significance of the ongoing Cargo Airport to the development of the state. Though criticism have trailed the entire exercise, it is evident that there is no better time Zamfara needed the airport more than now, considering the immense economic opportunities Matawalle has been canvassing through foreign direct investment.

Within the past three years, the administration of Bello Matawalle has made the Ministry of Commerce and Investment more active than ever before. Within the past one year, the present Commissioner for Commerce, Yazeed Danfulani has succeeded in the transformation of the ministry through tour of various countries to canvass for investment opportunities in areas where Zamfara State has comparative opportunities.

On the area of security management, the government invested hugely in the provision of operational vehicles and payment of monthly allowances to security operatives on special duties. He did not stop there but championed the establishment of Nigeria/Niger inter-regional security network where he succeeded in bringing on board, the Governors of the neighboring Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi and Jigawa states to fashion out ways of strengthening transborder security management.

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The administration has also renovated and upgraded its liaison offices at Abuja and Kaduna and also constructed a well befitting Presidential lodge in Gusau, the state capital. In 2021 alone, the administration of Bello Matawalle completed 12 township roads in Gusau, the state capital while eight others are at various levels of completion.

The construction of the Deputy Governor’s office is ongoing, construction of Gusau International Airport, which was awarded at the inception of this government is also ongoing. The most prominent among the projects completed by the administration of Governor Bello Matawalle in three years are summarized below:Supply of 200 Toyota Hilux to Security Agencies, Supply of Prado Jeeps to Sole Adminstrators, supply of Toyota Camry 2019 model to Vice Chairmen and Councilors as well as supply of 200 Tri cycle ambulance to 147 wards across the State.

Other projects included construction of 147 PHCs across all the political wards, construction of three WCWC to each of the senatorial districts, construction of (47) kilometers Danmarke-Kadaddab and Kanoma link road  construction of Gusau township roads which include Stadium junction-Kasuwar Danjuma-Tashar Magami road, Zawiyya-Kanwuri road, Kasuwar Danjuma Dan Mai Kyau ginnerry road, Gusau Hotel- Tashar Magami road, Kantin Daji road, Kanwuri-Kantin Sauki road among others.

Other projects include construction of RUGA, construction of (17) kilometer Maradun, Magami to Faru road ongoing, construction of (42) kilometer Tsafe to Yankuzo road ongoing, construction of Mada to Lilo road as well as construction of Janyau ta Gabas road.

The administration of Matawalle also constructed (14) units of local government lodges, constructed Yar Dantsi Bridge and facilitate the release of cash assistance of N50,000 each to thousands of mini-traders. The administration has also renovated  Zamfara State House of Assembly as well as constructed Garba Nadama Multi-purpose Hall amongst others.

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