In 2015, when President Muhammadu Buhari was elected for his first term in office, the president took six months to make public the names of ministerial nominees and not a few Nigerians were taken aback by that action, which some described as lack of preparedness for the office, for a man who had contested elections to that office and only won at his fourth attempt.
And so, when he was elected for a second term in February 2019, the expectation was that whatever problem it was that caused the initial delay may have been fixed and so it will take a shorter period to put together a team.In fact, the expectation in many quarters was that the president will reveal the names of nominees immediately after taking the oath of office on May 29, but that was not be.
Last week, five clear months after his election for a second term and two months after taking his oath of office, President Buhari finally sent the ministerial nominee list to the Senate. Even this took a reminder from the leadership of the Senate that if the list did not reach the Senate before July 26, members would be proceeding on a long recess to resume in September.
The president had stated at a meeting with the National Assembly leadership that even though he was under severe pressure to reveal those he would be working with, he was being careful and more thorough this time, to avoid a repeat of the situation in his first term when people not known to him were foisted on him by his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and some individuals. He assured that this time, he would pick only those personally known to him, whose competence and suitability for the job he could vouch for.
It is for this reason that the list, as finally released, left not a few people wondering what the long wait was all about, as the list is populated with returning ministers from his first term, people who have been in public service and those who held political positions previously. In fact, it is perceived as an assemblage of election losers for compensation.
With the delay in coming up with a team to initiate and implement development polices, there is the tendency to imagine that there is some rocket science behind this but no. In the United Kingdom, only last week, the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, assembled his cabinet shortly after having declared in his speech that “Today, the campaign is over and the work begins.” Johnson was reported to have spent the 24 hours after his emergence, locked away with aides gathering a cabinet that will help him deliver the promises on which he campaigned. That is how a man prepared for the onerous task of leadership approaches his job.
It is the position of this newspaper that the myriad challenges Nigeria faces, especially with the economy was enough impetus for the president to come up with a crack team that would help in actualising the policies and programmes he has outlined in his Next Level agenda for the country.
Nigeria, more than ever before, is in need of leadership that can midwife the process of returning the country, which economy is struggling, having pulled out of a recession not too long ago with warnings of a relapse from the Central Bank, back to prosperity.
According to reports, the economy contracted by 43 per cent in 2018 to foreign direct investment, government divestment from businesses, and reform of the corruption-infested oil sector. This is in addition to IMF’s low growth rate forecast of 2.3 per cent for the year and 11.4 per cent inflation.
Wealth creation and jobs is what the country needs to change the trajectory of the economy and what needs to be done to achieve this is to first of all, have leaders who have the required competence, egghead technocrats with proven track record of performance, across party lines, to drive the process.
Beyond the less than inspiring team of ministerial nominees, the manner of screening of the nominees by the Senate leaves so much to be desired. The screening of the nominees by the Senate was a total sham and elevation of the absurd, as nearly every nominee was simply asked to “take a bow and go.”
A serious Senate would thoroughly grill the nominees, especially the returning ministers on their past performance but this wasn’t the case. It is unimaginable that past holders of public office, some of whom have cases of alleged corruption with the anti-corruption agencies were not questioned about those by the Senate in that poor show it put up.
What the Senate did was just a hollow ritual, which goes to prove public assertions that it is a rubber stamp legislature.
It remains to be seen how this team assembled by the president can move Nigeria to the much touted “Next Level,” in the hope that the ministers would be inaugurated with the same speed at which their screening was conducted, so that they can hit the ground running with the business of governance.
Sexual Harassment in Nigeria’s Tertiary Institutions
A constant and consistent war is being waged against sexual abuse globally, due to its blistering impact on society. Regrettably, this demeaning phenomenon has permeated the fabrics of most tertiary institutions in Nigeria, leaving innocent female students at the mercy of immoral lecturers, whose stock in trade is to sexually harass and abuse students, young enough to be their daughters and granddaughters.
Even though regulations and measures to curtail the scourge abound, it has become hydra headed and more prevalent by the day, to the chagrin of university authorities.
Latest findings show that the commonest form of sexual abuse being experienced by female undergraduates, is grabbing of sensitive body parts by these ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’, at every given opportunity within and without the premises of tertiary institutions across the the country.
And as the prevalence of abuse is disturbingly becoming greatly alarming, concerned Nigerians insist that there is a serious need to develop appropriate prevention strategies by universities and tertiary institutions to put an end to the moral decadence.
Penultimate week, electronic and print media were awash with the news of a public protest by students of the University of Calabar (UNICAL), in a sustained effort to put an end to what they called ‘a protracted ongoing sexual abuse and harassment by the university’s Law Faculty Dean’, Professor Cyril Ndifon.
The protesting students had accused Ndifon of sexually harassing them and threatening to deny them graduation, if his demands for sexual ransom were not met. It is on record that this same professor was suspended in 2016 for allegedly raping a law student in his office. However, he sought redress in the court of law and was eventually reinstated. Ndifon is again in the eye of the storm and this time around the aggrieved students are demanding that he must go for sanity to be restored in the faculty.
Consequently, the University of Calabar has since set up an investigation panel to look into the law students’ weighty allegations bordering on sexual harassment, lack of accountability and abuse of office by an embattled Ndifon, who has since been suspended pending the outcome of investigation.
The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calabar, Professor Florence Obi, had hinted that “management, after observing that the Dean of the Faculty of Law was at centre of all the complaints and aberrations, issued the Dean with a 10-point query to responded to within 24 hours. This was to give him a good opportunity to effectively refute the allegations or state why management should not take the allegations of the students seriously. When responded, his submissions were thoroughly weak and not convincing”.
Another vexing issue affecting the nation’s tertiary institutions is what has come to be known as “sex for grade”, which is an integral part of sexual harassment, wherein sex is exchanged for grades not merited. This anti-social and unethical behaviour orchestrated and perpetuated by corrupt lecturers has stubbornly become one of the contributing factors to the falling standards of education in the country.
Worse still, it is not only sex that is offered in exchange for grades, students who can afford it buy their way through and come out with ‘superlative results’. It is any wonder that some of these graduates are half-baked; unemployable and lack the qualities and qualifications to hold their own.
This does not in any way imply that the rot in the university system is total, because there are exceptions. Such exceptions are institutions, which stand out by insisting on doing the right thing. For instance, they have appearance (dress) code for their students. They insist that skirts and gowns worn for lectures must be below the knee as well as encouraging minimal jewelries. Wearing of sleeveless shirts, blouse, gowns and crop tops, miniskirts, micro miniskirts, tight fitting trousers and skirts are prohibited. These measures are in place to prevent temptation during and after lectures.
DAILY ASSET strongly believes that the primary objective of any tertiary institution worth its salt, is to nurture students to be the best they can be and should ultimately be able to impact positively not only on their immediate environment but also on the larger society, because academic competence and personal qualities are at best meant to imbibe the spirit resourcefulness, hard work and excellence, for the overall good of the society. These qualities and qualifications cannot be attained in an atmosphere of oppression and subjugation where sexual harassment and violence reign supreme.
For sanity to be restored in our citadels of learning, randy lecturers must be shown the way out!
Nigeria’s Olympic Eagles
Nigerians, especially the country’s football followers have been expressing concern over the dwindling fortunes of the country’s Men’s Olympic soccer team, usually referred to as the Dream Team or the Under-23 Eagles. It was another disappointing moment for the country when Nigeria failed to qualify for 2024 Olympics holding in Paris after suffering defeat to Guinea on March 28, 2023.
Morocco qualified automatically as hosts. The following eight teams qualified for the main tournament: Morocco (hosts), Egypt, Congo, Gabon; Ghana, Guinea Mali and Niger. For most Nigerians, August 3rd 1996 would be etched forever in the memory of African football custodian and even more so for soccer-loving Nigerian fans who celebrated with glee the country and indeed the continent’s historic first soccer gold medal win at the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta. Prior to the feat of the West Africans at the quadrennial games in Atlanta, African teams had laboured to win any kind of medals dating back to 1920 when Egypt were the first to represent the continent in the Olympic Football Tournament (OFT).The Pharaohs lost the third-place classification to the then East Germany at the 1964 Games in Tokyo while other notable headlines included that of Zambia which hammered Italy 4-0 with a famous hat trick scored Kalusha Bwalya in one of their preliminary group matches at the1998 Games in Seoul; and there was also a historic Bronze medal for the Black Meteors of Ghana at the Barcelona 1992 Olympics Games.
Four years after Ghana’s feat in Spain, Nigeria went inches further when her national Under -23 team, proudly tagged the Dream Team, in reference to the assemblage of some talented players by Dutch coach Jo Bonfrere won the soccer gold medal with spectacular success in Atlanta, USA.In their memorable outing in Atlanta, the Nigerians’ game against the South Americans, Brazil, in the semi-final was regarded as the final-before-final and by 78th minute, the peerless Brazilian complete with the like of Ronaldo, Bebeto were leading Nigeria by 3-1. But the West Africans had other ideas as they turned the tide with barely quarter of an hour left of regulation time. But why have the successive Nigerian teams not able to meet up or reenact the spectacular successes of their predecessors, especially the 1996 side under the guidance of Coach Jo Bonfrere and the 2006 under Coach Samson Siasia. The answer is not far-fetched. The Nigerian Football Federation [ NFF] of those times were very committed to ensuring the success of the national teams .The players’ welfare, organization of friendly matches and above all the appointment of reputable coaches were given utmost priority. These, unfortunately are not the case with the present NFF, especially with the poor leadership exhibited by the Amaju Pinnick regime the high point of it was the failure of Nigeria to qualify for Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup, among other failings. We are therefore enjoining the present NFF under the leadership of Ibrahim Musa Gusau to x-ray some of the problems facing the team, as well as other squads under their stable to make the country’s football regain its pre-eminence in continental and world football.
Flood: Where Federal Government Dropped the Ball
About 31 states of the federation are currently affected by flood. In the list are: Abia, Imo, Rivers, Bayelsa, Kebbi, Adamawa, Anambra, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kogi, Niger, Ekiti, Enugu, Delta, Benue, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, Sokoto, Kaduna, Kano, Kwara, Lagos, Taraba, Yobe, Nasarawa and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
In the front row of the devastation are Bayelsa, which is almost totally inundated, given its low lying topography, so also Rivers, Nasarawa, Kogi and Benue.While it is estimated that over 700 Nigerians, mostly women and children have drowned in the flood, Nigeria’s Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, through its Permanent Secretary, Nasir Sani-Gwarzo, while announcing federal government’ flood mitigation action plan, mid last month, put the human casualty estimate at more than 500, with 1,500 injured and about 1.4 million displaced.
He acknowledged that the disaster had impacted farmlands across the 31 affected states, making the 2012 flood incident pale in weight and significance and the present one worst in annals, at least as far as the memories of the victims can take them.
On her part, Sani-Gwarzo’s supervising minister, Sadiya Umar Farouq says approximately 2,776 persons have been injured and 612 persons dead across the country due to the devastating effects of the floods. Putting more numbers to havoc, Farouq said that 181,600 houses have been partially damaged and 123,807, damaged totally. In addition, 176,852 hectares of farmlands she disclosed have been partially damaged while 392,399 hectares are damaged totally.
With the damage, all the crops in the farmlands in the flooded areas of the affected states have all perished, heightening the fear of increased food shortages in the country. In Nasarawa State for instance, the over $15 million worth of Olam Rice Farm, covering 4,500 hectares of land was destroyed alongside some physical farm infrastructure such as dykes, canals and drainage worth $8 million.
In all of these, Sani-Garzo revealed that the interventionist ministry has only been able to reach out to about 300,000 of the victims with food and non-food items. This figure, Farouq clarified, spread across 31 states of the federation.
This is paltry by every measure for a disaster which well-meaning Nigerians have called that it should be designated a national emergency by the federal government or at least that the government sets up a presidential relief committee for the victims’ support.
While no such far-reaching drastic measures was considered, it became rather agonizing seeing that the responses of the national government to the widespread disaster, lacked life and spirit. While federal government’s palliatives are manifestly sparring and slow in coming, the three months period within which President Buhari wants the Minister of Water Resources and his Transportation counterpart alongside state governments to afford him a Comprehensive Plan of Action for Preventing Flood Disaster in Nigeria could be anything but urgent in the face of the deaths and devastation.
Some states at the moment have as many as 12 temporary displaced peoples camps, spread in school premises and worship centres, all crawling with people whose bedrooms can now only be accessed with canoe.
Even a visit to any of the worst-hit states by President Muhammadu Buhari could have sent a signal of empathy to the affected being the leader of the nation. But we saw none of it. Not even to Nasarawa and Kogi-states which are contiguous to the federal seat of power-much less the far-flung Bayelsa, Delta, Anambra, Imo, Kano, Adamawa, Rivers and Benue. This is even as nearby Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, was cut off from the rest of the country by the flood for two long weeks, triggering fuel scarcity and cost additions to the runaway food price inflation in the FCT.
Buhari’s disinterest to empathize with the citizens with a visit ran counter to calls by different groups and tendencies in the country on him to go and fraternize with the broken and bereaved citizens. The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) which wanted him to come to any of the states of Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers states, to see for himself the level of damage and destruction caused by the flood noted that such aligned with the practice of other national leaders when natural disasters strike their countries and citizens.
DAILY ASSET strongly feels that the federal government underestimated the carnage caused by the flood or perhaps initially felt unconcerned about it, given that Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) gave early warning about the flood, by pointing to increased rainfall this year and release of water by Cameroonian authorities in its Lagdo Dam which usually inundates River Benue and its tributaries and communities along its flood plains. It needs to be pointed out, however, that no circumstance or reason can excuse a government for leaving its citizens in the lurch or to stew in their own juice.
Apart from the early warning, what was the next proactive measure the federal government took in trying to protect the lives and properties of the citizens in flood endangered communities? The answer is none!
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