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Kwankwaso and the Arrogance of Entitlement

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By Jude Opara

It is no longer news that the alliance talks between the Labour Party (LP) and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) have collapsed. The two opposition parties had muted the idea of working together so as to be able to confront the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the forthcoming 2023 general elections.

The bone of contention that led to the outright collapse was the question of who between the presidential candidates of the two parties that should become the running mate. While the LP believed that their candidate, Mr. Peter Obi should be the presidential candidate, his counterpart, Sen. Rabiu Kwankwaso insisted he should be the flag bearer. The discussion actually went on for some time until last week when the NNPP group began going public with comments that suggested that it was not going to work.

Following the collapse of the merger talks, Peter Obi has already named Sen. Datti Baba-Ahmed as his running mate. The LP candidate last Friday in Abuja unveiled the economist and educationist as the man that will pair with him in the presidential contest. 

Kwankwaso himself was the first to fire the first salvo when he told a television station that he was offering Peter Obi the golden opportunity to become his running mate.

Speaking in Gombe State during the inauguration of the state office of NNPP his political profile built over the years and his wealth of experience having served in various capacities in the country had helped in bringing NNPP to the limelight within a short time.

Kwankwaso confirmed that his party had been in talks with the Labour Party for a possible merger but the main issue of who becomes the presidential candidate hindered a further progress.

“From the discussion with Labour Party, the main issue was who becomes the president if the parties merge.

“At the end of the day, some of our representatives thought that there should be criteria in terms of age, qualification, offices held, performance and so on.

“Of course, the other side wouldn’t want that. Most of the people from there believe that the presidency has to go there (South East).

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 “If now I decide to be a vice presidential candidate to anybody in this country; NNPP will collapse because the party is based on what we have built in the last 30 years.

“I served for 17 years as a civil servant; we are talking of 47 years of very serious hard work; that is what is rarely holding NNPP now,” he said.

Kwankwaso said he was not against the presidency going to any part of the country but it must be done based on “strategy, political calculation and equation.”

He went on to say that the South-Easterners are good in business and are well talented but they should learn politics; “in politics, they are at the bottom line.”

He stated that the zone had lost out on the presidential and vice-presidential candidates of both All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) but had a chance with the NNPP.

He stated that those saying “even if my friend (Peter Obi) wants to accept vice presidential candidate, some people in the South-East will not accept, that is not strategic.”

He said Bola Tinubu was strategic to have supported the APC in 2015 and “today he is the presidential candidate of the APC.”

According to Kwankwaso, the best option for the South-East was for the zone to partner with NNPP, “this is a golden opportunity, if they lose it, it will be a disaster.”

He added, “We have options in the NNPP in the South to pick a good vice president and one of them is the Labour Party man you are talking about.”

The above statement made by Kwankawso only exposed his level of arrogance and sense of entitlement. He claimed he should be the candidate because he is older, more educated and with huge working experience. He spoke as if the most intelligent people are always the eldest. And talking about of education, he was also among those who installed the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 despite the fact that many issues had been raised about his educational qualifications. But he chose to support him against Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.

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The whole reason for his actions then in 2015 and his claim today is nothing but a reinforcement of the belief that power should always remain in his part of the country because they have the population. If not why will Kwankwaso who is from Kano state be angling to take over from President Buhari who is from next door, Katsina state?

In 2015, one of the reasons adduced by Kwankwaso who had to dump the PDP for the APC was that power should return to the North. Recall that after the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua in May 2010, his Vice, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan took over. Jonathan was to contest and win the election in 2011 but by 2015, many people from the North argued that power should return to the region. Their argument was that since 1999 when the country returned to constitutional democracy, President Olusegun Obasanjo from the South did eight years; Yar’Adua only did about two years before dying while Jonathan had done about six years. So they were vehement in claiming that powers should return to the region.       

In his futile attempt to justify the unjustifiable, Kwankwaso inadvertently made some condescending comments on the South East region when he described them as only good business but always at the bottom of politics. Yes, the region may be at the bottom of politics because of the attitude of people like Kwankwaso who have started pretending that the issue of zoning should not matter because the table has changed. In 2015, he was among those shouting zoning.

A careful analysis of the infamous Gombe statement clearly shows that kwankwaso was either knowingly or unknowingly taking a bashing on the entire South East region. He was gleefully explaining how the PDP and the APC had dumped the region and the only opportunity left for them to be part of governance of their own country was for Obi to accept to be his running mate; so that after his presidency “may be,” they would be considered. He also concluded that it would be a disaster for the region if they miss the “golden opportunity” he was offering them.

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If not for the arrogance and a false sense of entitlement, how would Kwankwaso believe that the presidency should come to him before the entire South East region that was yet to have the opportunity for decades? How would he believe that the NNPP which was formed just few months ago would be more acceptable to Nigerians than the LP that has been in existence for several years?

Yes, it is true that power is never given but when it appears that there is a consensus among some segments of the country to share it between them, it may take extra divine grace for another region to have it, and that is why the two main political parties handled their presidential primaries the way they did. While the PDP jettisoned the zoning formula which is even enshrined in their own constitution, the APC who managed to zone their to the South refused to micro zone it to the South East with the flimsy excuse that the party is not well entrenched in the region, but they ignored the fact that they control two states in the region just like the PDP.        

It could only be imagined how the likes of Kwankwaso who could not bear another four years of Jonathan serving as president that he defected to the APC to ensure that power returned to the North would have taken it if any Southern politician would have been eying the presidency after another had done eight straight years.

Well, Peter Obi and the Labour Party have moved on and we expect Kwankwaso to still demonstrate that love and interest he has in the South East by appointing another person from there as his running mate, after all with him as the presidential candidate of the NNPP, the party is almost sure of victory.

Anything short of that will only show that he only wanted to ride of the soaring popularity of Peter Obi to the presidency. Because of the sense of entitlement, he wanted to be the candidate despite the fact that he does not command the acceptability which Obi currently commands especially among Nigerian youths.

FEATURES

The World is Burning; We Need  Renewables Revolution

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By António Guterres

As we wean ourselves off fossil fuels, the benefits will be vast, and not just to the climate. Energy prices will be lower and more predictable, with positive knock-on effects for food and economic security. When energy prices rise, so do the costs of food and all the goods we rely on. So, let us all agree that a rapid renewables revolution is necessary and stop fiddling while our future burns.

The only true path to energy security, stable power prices, prosperity and a livable planet lies in abandoning polluting fossil fuels and accelerating the renewables-based energy transition.

Nero was famously accused of fiddling while Rome burned. Today, some leaders are doing worse. They are throwing fuel on the fire. Literally. As the fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ripples across the globe, the response of some nations to the growing energy crisis has been to double down on fossil fuels – pouring billions of dollars more into coal, oil and gas that are driving our deepening climate emergency.

Meanwhile, all the climate indicators continue to break records, forecasting a future of ferocious storms, floods, droughts, wildfires and unlivable temperatures in vast swathes of the planet. Our world faces climate chaos. New funding for fossil fuel exploration and production infrastructure is delusional. Fossil fuels are not the answer, nor will they ever be. We can see the damage that we are doing to the planet and our societies. It is in the news every day, and no one is immune.

Fossil fuels are the cause of the climate crisis. Renewable energy is the answer – to limit climate disruption and boost energy security. Had we invested earlier and massively in renewable energy, we would not find ourselves, once again, at the mercy of unstable fossil fuel markets. Renewables are the peace plan of the 21st century. But the battle for a rapid and just energy transition is not being fought on a level field. Investors are still backing fossil fuels, and governments still hand out billions in subsidies for coal, oil and gas – some $11 million every minute.

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There is a word for favouring short-term relief over long-term well-being. Addiction. We are still addicted to fossil fuels. For the health of our societies and planet, we need to quit. Now. The only true path to energy security, stable power prices, prosperity and a livable planet lies in abandoning polluting fossil fuels and accelerating the renewables-based energy transition.

…we must make renewable energy technology a global public good, including removing intellectual property barriers to technology transfer. Second, we must improve global access to supply chains for the components and raw materials of renewable energy technologies.

To that end, I have called on the G20 governments to dismantle the coal infrastructure, with a full phase-out by 2030 for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and 2040 for all others. I have urged financial actors to abandon fossil fuel finance and invest in renewable energy. And I have proposed a five-point plan to boost renewable energy round the world.

First, we must make renewable energy technology a global public good, including removing intellectual property barriers to technology transfer. Second, we must improve global access to supply chains for the components and raw materials of renewable energy technologies.

In 2020, the world installed five gigawatts of battery storage. We need 600 gigawatts of storage capacity by 2030. Clearly, we need a global coalition to get there. Shipping bottlenecks and supply-chain constraints, as well as higher costs for lithium and other battery metals, are hurting the deployment of such technologies and materials, just as we need them most.

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Third, we must cut the red tape that holds up solar and wind projects. We need to fast-track approvals and put in more efforts to modernise electricity grids. In the European Union, it takes eight years to approve a wind farm, and 10 years in the United States. In the Republic of Korea, onshore wind projects need 22 permits from eight different ministries.

Fourth, the world must shift energy subsidies from fossil fuels to protect vulnerable people from energy shocks and invest in a just transition to a sustainable future.

And fifth, we need to triple investments in renewables. This includes multilateral development banks and development finance institutions, as well as commercial banks. All must step up and dramatically boost investments in renewables.

There is no excuse for anyone to reject a renewables revolution. While oil and gas prices have reached record price levels, renewables are getting cheaper all the time. The cost of solar energy and batteries has plummeted 85 per cent over the past decade. The cost of wind power fell by 55 per cent. And investment in renewables creates three times more jobs than fossil fuels.

We need more urgency from all global leaders. We are already perilously close to hitting the 1.5°C limit that science tells us is the maximum level of warming to avoid the worst climate impacts. To keep 1.5 alive, we must reduce emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and reach net zero emissions by mid-century. But current national commitments will lead to an increase of almost 14 per cent this decade. That spells catastrophe.

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The answer lies in renewables – for climate action, for energy security, and for providing clean electricity to the hundreds of millions of people who currently lack it. Renewables are a triple win.

There is no excuse for anyone to reject a renewables revolution. While oil and gas prices have reached record price levels, renewables are getting cheaper all the time. The cost of solar energy and batteries has plummeted 85 per cent over the past decade. The cost of wind power fell by 55 per cent. And investment in renewables creates three times more jobs than fossil fuels.

Of course, renewables are not the only answer to the climate crisis. Nature-based solutions, such as reversing deforestation and land degradation, are essential. So too are efforts to promote energy efficiency. But a rapid renewable energy transition must be our ambition.

As we wean ourselves off fossil fuels, the benefits will be vast, and not just to the climate. Energy prices will be lower and more predictable, with positive knock-on effects for food and economic security. When energy prices rise, so do the costs of food and all the goods we rely on. So, let us all agree that a rapid renewables revolution is necessary and stop fiddling while our future burns.

António Guterres is the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

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OPINION

The Cost of Living Crisis has a Global Toll

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By Garba Shehu

Last week,  thousands marched in the streets of London to protest the soaring cost of living in Britain and demand the government do more. The story was the same in Italy, in Israel, in Australia, in Germany – where workers are on strike, demanding the government ‘Stop the Inflation Monster’.

Nigeria is no exception.

As the horrors of Covid-19 started to recede, our globally connected world has been hit with a new pandemic: the cost-of-living crisis. The price of staples such as cooking oil and maize flour is rising sharply at a time of heightened global demand and increased shortages due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine; the effects of drought and flooding; and the sky-high costs of fuel and energy.

Inflation is surging in countries around the world, from the United States, where the US Central Bank is determined to bring prices down but warns that goal ‘depends on factors we don’t control’; to India, where inflation is having a disastrous effect on the tiny budgets of families already on the breadline as they seek to recover from the economic effects of Covid as well as the recent record-breaking heatwave.

India, producer of a third of the world’s wheat supplies, has had to block exports in the face of domestic food shortages.

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Australia has seen rising fuel, energy and food prices after recent floods ruined crops and the price of fertilizer rose 120% since 2020. A bleak winter is on the horizon for them as power prices soar and increase inflationary pressure.

In the Philippines, workers can no longer afford the fuel to get to work and steep food prices mean many are going hungry.

In the United States, businesses and consumers tell the same stories – pandemic-related supply shortages, rising gas prices and soaring demand have collided with the impact of the war on Ukraine and weather-related issues to create a real crisis for the ordinary man.

The pain suffered by people here today is not local to Nigeria, it is a pain suffered by all people across the world whether their governments are left or right, democracies like ours or dictatorships, whether they are the world’s richest economy or one of the poorest. Citizens of the world are struggling today to pay for the bare essentials as we rebound from the humanitarian and economic devastation of the pandemic.

This global systems failure is hard for the average man, or woman, in the street to grasp. As they struggle to feed their children, put fuel in their car, keep their businesses solvent and their hopes and dreams on track, it is easy to look to local government leaders as the cause of their pain and anger and seek to blame them for the current situation.

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However, just as no country was immune to the coronavirus, in the 21st century, no country is immune to this new global cost-of-living pandemic.

Nevertheless, there is cause for optimism, as the world came together to defeat Covid, so we will come together to forge a way out of the current crisis, through cooperation with our close neighbours, with the Commonwealth and the newly strengthened allegiances with our traditional western allies and international partners.

But resolution also depends on strong actions at home: Nigeria’s ambitious infrastructure developments will help set the country on strong foundations for sustainable and equitable growth. We have faced international criticism in recent years for our focus on boosting domestic manufacturing and production. Yet today, all countries are thinking again about the importance of their energy and food independence and security.

Nigerian initiatives to protect our farmers against unfair competition from subsidized imports have boosted our rice production to the point where imports are near zero. And more is still to be achieved. We still struggle against the protectionist policies of blocs such as the European Union which undermine Africa’s self-sufficiency – but the EU, as they close the door on Putin’s Russian gas, will need to step up and end their hypocrisy on green energy policy. Africa’s abundant energy resources offer a clear solution: with UK and EU investment, our planned 4,000 km pipeline will bring Nigerian gas to Europe.

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Here at home, we have recently voted through a bill that will allow state governments to generate and transmit their own electricity. We are also decentralizing the national grid through renewable driven mini-grids.

Despite calls from the IMF and World Bank to remove the fuel subsidy, Nigeria has resisted a move that would double the price for citizens overnight with untenable human consequences. Instead, a focus in boosting our refinery capacity will ramp up in the next 24 months as new companies come on board.

These upticks in domestic food and fuel production will both help diminish the threat of inflation, and our transport infrastructure developments in road and rail will alleviate many of the difficulties of food distribution.

The coming months will be hard – for the world not just Nigeria – as the cost-of-living crisis exacts a global toll.

Garba Shehu is Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity.

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OPINION

The Birthplace of Disunity

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By Richard Ikiebe

The genesis of organised politics in Nigeria is steeped in and the direct result of press agitation. At every stage in the evolution of the Nigerian state, the role of the media has been prominent. Very early in organised politics in Nigeria, newspapers took the front row positions of influence. Erudite media historian, Alfred Omu, tells us that the publisher of the Weekly Record, Thomas Jackson and Herbert Macaulay, publisher of Lagos News were the initiators and promoters of the first and most prominent political party – the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP).

The Clifford Constitution of 1922 enabled organised electoral politics; as a result, the NNDP was formed, and two new newspapers, the Nigerian Spectator and the Nigerian Advocate emerged, purposely as what Omu called, “electioneering newspapers”.

Today, after 100 years since the nation’s very first stroppy experiment with elective democracy in 1922, it would not be entirely correct to say nothing much has changed.

We have gone from tolerable experimentation to something far worse: we now have a firmly established pseudo-democratic political culture (the “neither bird nor fish” type), most of it curated through the media by the selfish political elite.

No doubt, the press led in the fight against the British Colonial Government for independence. But as Omu tells us, quite early in the political history of Nigeria, newspapers became “outlets for electoral policies and propaganda”. The Lagos Daily News, for example, became Macaulay’s “stormy mouthpiece”, and for the better part of 25 years, the NNDP and its leader, Macaulay, almost singularly dominated the Nigerian press and political scenes.

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Politicians succeeded in stealthily dragging the media with them into ethno-partisan politics to fight real or imagined political opponents became apparent in the mid-1940s. Later, after the nation’s long romance with militarism, a shadowy political elite also prodded the media to revolt against the military rule; they did it as if with one voice for the return of the country to democracy.

In 1906, Lagos (which became a Colony of Britain in 1861), and Oil River Protectorate with headquarters in Calabar, were joined to become the Southern Protectorate. Eight years later in 1914, the patched work merged the contiguous British colonial Northern and Southern Protectorates – on paper. Thus, Nigeria is a geopolitical construct of the British by fiat through amalgamation in name only.

Professor James Coleman, in his 1958 book on the background to Nigeria’s nationalism stated that the nation was birthed from “Three separate, independent, and uncoordinated forces”. Ever since, the nation has behaved more like cobbled patches of ethnic nationalities, and barely the image of one united nation. As such, forces that fostered geo-political cleavages that would define Nigeria’s political structural contentions should not have surprised anyone; the surprise is that the entities have remained somewhat together, a perpetually unresolved problem.

The press in politics:

The decade between the 1920s and 1940s marked a significant era in the history of the media in Nigeria. Several momentous political occurrences in the period defined the character of the Nigerian media and the nature of her politics, in the period leading to independence. A decade and a half earlier, media power had gradually begun to shift from the old and established elite – descendants of freed slaves – to the emerging young, indigenous, educated elite. What the new leaders lacked by way of experience, said Omu, they made up for in their unbridled zeal and adept use of the press to insistently demand for self-rule. The media of this period began to have a stronger influence on public discourse. Its influence and confidence grew beyond a small circle of the urban elite to include a growing number of ordinary literate Nigerians; it was the beginning of what could have been a populist press.

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It was during this period that Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and his newspaper, the West African Pilot, arrived from the United States of America by the way of the then Gold Coast (now Ghana) to set a new tone for the press and politics, redefining both. Chief Bola Ige in his political masterpiece said that Azikiwe and the West African Pilot infused the Nigerian press with an American brand of journalism, with vibrancy and colour in style, urgency in tone and assertive language, along with new production techniques.

In Prof. Alfred Omu’s impressive industry study of the early Nigerian press, which spans the first six decades, he called Nigeria’s early press a political press that played a crucial role in “cultural nationalism and in resistance to imperialism”. According to him, this early press “Attracted many people of intellectual competence and quality”, and it “Provided the most distinguished intellectual forum in Nigerian history”. They “Laid a good foundation for the new epoch of nationalism”. Sadly, their brand of promoted nationalism quickly derailed; it benefited the emerging Nigerian nation-state. Their specialty was the promotion of ethnic or regional nationalism, for which the press was a veritable tool.

In the immediate post-independent Nigeria (leading to 1966), true professionalism seemed to have vanished from most newsrooms of press organisations. The few that remained steadfast were torn between serving their ethnic groups or regions and serving the larger nascent nation-state. They were also torn between intersectional conflicts of allegiance: loyalty to the profession or to ethnic politicians who owned and used the press as stepping-stones to national political relevance and prominence.

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According to Dayo Sobowale, the majority “promoted inter-ethnic hatred as well as inter-ethnic distrust and acrimony that eventually led to the collapse of the first republic” And Dare concurs, noting that through crude and overzealous partisanship, journalists transformed opponents of ruling parties into dissidents. Outside the commonly acknowledged but limiting role of the press in agitating for independence, the problem that the press may have contributed in the more fundamental manner to the forging of a dysfunctional post-colonial identity and character that modern Nigerian state currently has.

Dr. Ikiebe, who is the Chairman of the Board of Businessday, is an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Pan-Atlantic University, Ibeju Lekki, Lagos.

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