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Archive for the tag “Niger-Delta”

Okorocha, The Magician by Olusegun Adeniyi

On Monday, Governor Rochas Okorocha declared a four-day holiday for workers in Imo State. According to a statement by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Obinna Duruji, the workers are to use this week to go to their communities and partake in the take-off of the Community Council Government (CCG), which the governor recently instituted in the state. And for this extra-constitutional fourth-tier of government, Okorocha has already approved the disbursement of N5 million to each of the communities in the 27 local councils from a subvention of N3 billion.

Of course, the N3 billion is not captured in the Imo State Appropriation Bill for 2012 which has not even been passed. But then that is a small matter in a state where the governor has practically become the sole administrator, expending public money and coming up with all manner of bizarre ideas without any legislative oversight. Almost every day now, Governor Okorocha awards multi-billion Naira contracts for roads, for schools, for hospitals, for hotels, for farms etc. and you wonder where the money to fund all these projects is coming from.

Governor Okorocha is evidently a populist and there is nothing wrong with populism except that it has to be rooted in realistic expectations. Okorocha for instance tells his Imo people that his state which still depends largely on its meagre allocation from the Federation Account is very buoyant. And with minimal internally generated revenue, he has declared free education at all levels in Imo State and has even decided to be paying salaries to primary school pupils! In fulfillment of that pledge, he actually went to some schools where the pupils lined up for him to pay them N100 each.

In Imo State today, it is one day, one promise. Okorocha is going to build a megacity in Okigwe; he will build two palm oil plantations; he will construct a 25-storey hotel; he will build three universities for the state; he will construct an ecumenical centre; and he has already taken over all federal roads in the state for which he has awarded contracts without any documentation!

I was in the United States during the April 2011 elections but I followed all the drama in Imo and actually wanted Okorocha to win. So when he did, I was very happy. Unfortunately, right from his first day in office, Okorocha started giving people cause for concerns as to whether he understands his brief as governor. I recall that as early in the day as August last year, his brand of governance was a subject of discussion at our editorial board. We marveled at some of his antics and actually did an editorial to remind him of his responsibilities. “His most notable achievement to date has been to make headline news for all sorts of gaffes. From daubing himself in blood and disguising himself ala ‘Aluwe’ while pretending to be a victim of road accident just to make a point about service delivery at the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, to whimsical decisions on traditional and academic institutions, Okorocha is literally making a mockery of his office and does not seem to care what people think or say,” we wrote.

We were also worried about the unwieldy nature of his political appointments. In addition to 17 commissioners and 14 Senior Special Assistants, Okorocha had appointed a further 80 men and women as Special Assistants and members of various Mayoral Affairs Committees. For example, he has a Senior Special Assistant on Lagos Liaison office and a Special Assistant on Lagos Affairs; Senior Special Assistant, NDDC and Special Assistant on Niger Delta; and of course he appointed for the state a Chief Comedian who is also a Special Assistant! And while swearing them in, the governor said they would have to source for funds with which to run their offices thus effectively turning them to no more than executive touts.

On March 24 this year, Okorocha was in Kosovo where he signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with their government to construct housing estates, establish an agro-processing plant and build an independent power plant, all in Imo state. When completed, according to the governor, this planned power plant would supply the state with 500 megawatts of electricity! But as I watched the video clip on AIT, something struck me as odd. His host, the Deputy Prime Minister of Kosovo, Mr. Behgdey Pacconi, had spoken in Albanian, the main official language of his country thus needing an interpreter. When it was the turn of Okorocha to respond, he apparently felt he also needed an interpreter so he decided to speak in Igbo language. A former senator on his delegation now had to interpret into English for the Kosovo interpreter to now translate into Albanian. The whole episode reminded me of ‘Icheoku’, arguably one of the best television drama series in the eighties.

But Okorocha is not without redemption as he is also a passionate man. I guess that is why he wants to achieve results quickly. But he must also realize that this is a democracy where planning, transparency and processes are also important for him to leave any lasting legacy. He cannot continue to run his administration by whims as is the case right now.

There is no doubt that Governor Okorocha came to office with a popular mandate and I believe he is in haste to make a difference in his state. But to do so, he must understand that running a government requires having in place proper structures which will enable him to promote transparency and accountability. He must also align the direction and goals of his administration within the available. I sincerely want Governor Okorocha to succeed but for him to do that, he needs to sit down to reflect on the kind of legacy he wants to bequeath to his state when his tenure is done.

Courtsey – Thisday

#Nigeria : How “religion, land and population” under-develops the North By Muhammad Jameel Yusha’u

Muhammad Jameel Yusha’u

Exploitation of religion has become the norm, religious leaders are happy to manipulate their followers to earn government favour or even extort the congregation to satisfy their personal needs


The title of this piece is not mine. It is the product of a discussion in Boston, United States when, by coincidence, I met a former Nigerian military General on March 11, 2012 as I visited my friends in the city. As usual with every meeting of Nigerians, nothing attracts attention more than the affairs of our country. While we were having this conversation, this military General remained quiet. However after about two hours, he finally intervened in our discussion. He said as youths you have to think about the future of Nigeria , and for those of you from the north three things stand out and he mentioned “religion, land and population”.

According to him, in the north we have the largest population in Nigeria , we have the most fertile land that can almost feed Africa , yet we still live in poverty, and our population is becoming a problem to us because we refuse to turn it into an asset for economic development. Religion is no longer taught by the scholars who have a versatile knowledge; rather, to both Muslims and Christians, becoming an Imam and a Pastor is so easy that people can just develop an army of followers even if they don’t have sufficient knowledge to guide the people. This actually reminded me of a discussion I heard recently with one of the leading Islamic Scholars in Nigeria who said that in Ramadan, with just little understanding of the Arabic language, without a deep understanding of the expertise needed to provide exegesis of the Qur’an, people just start giving Tafseer (interpretation of the Qur’an) in various Mosques. Similarly a teacher of mine once expressed concern on how some of his former students abandoned their studies and decided to become Pastors. I hope in the nearest future this General will find time to write in detail what he meant by his thesis of ‘religion, land and population’ as I believe he is more than intellectually equipped to do so.

However this piece is a minor contribution on what in my opinion should constitute why we should think critically on how to utilize religion which defines our identity, land which can sustain the economy and population which should turn the two around.  A review of the economic development of China in the last thirty years suggests that the vision of its leaders to utilize their population and land to boost agriculture led to industrialization and urbanization, and today China is the second largest economy in the world, and in the nearest future it will overtake the United States as the strongest economy in the world to be followed by India, another country where population has become an asset rather than a burden, despite the challenges it is facing. You only need to look at the fields of medicine and information technology to know how India utilized its population to become a source of strength, not for India alone, but the entire world.

How did the population of northern Nigeria become a burden, religion mismanaged, and land under utilized? Possibly, the answers could be found in five key issues; colonial legacy, the curse of oil, lack of respect for the dignity of labour, exploitation of religion and the selfishness of northern elites.

Since the conquest of northern Nigeria by Frederick Lugard and the colonial policies that followed in the region, northern Nigeria has not recovered. Muslims in particular were the heavy casualties of this conquest as expertise in religion and knowledge of other fields of knowledge studied in Arabic or ajami (writing in local language using Arabic letters) was no longer considered a skill that provides employment. The ajami script was substituted with roman script thereby rendering the largest segment of the population illiterate as the knowledge they acquired in Arabic doesn’t provide employment except for few individuals whose services are required to serve as judges, school teachers etc. This was further complicated by the perception of the people in the region that Western education is meant for proselytisation rather than economic development. The effect of this is still being felt.

While the effect of this was still biting, the discovery of oil did not help the population of northern Nigeria as the land used for agricultural production, which was sustaining the region and contributing to the federal government was abandoned. The same population that has been robbed of its intellectual capacity has now lost its economic strength because its population decided to engage in rural-urban migration in search of easy money. Neglecting agriculture is not exclusive to northern Nigeria ; it’s the problem of the entire country. The example of United Arab Emirates will be relevant here. When oil was discovered the leaders of the country came together and assembled their intellectuals to advise them on what to do with it. They were advised that they have two potentials, the Sun and the Sea; what that meant is they have two great assets that can be used for trade and tourism, and the oil money was used to develop these two sectors. Today UAE can survive without oil. Think of northern Nigeria , how can the population of the region be transformed into what India and China have done with their people, and for the UAE parable what can the region do with the Sun and  its abundant land? Perhaps when there is 100 per cent resource control, the region will sit up. And I am not joking, I heard a deputy governor from the Niger-Delta region talking about it at a business summit in London the other day.

Lack of respect for the dignity of labour is a major issue that every reasonable person in northern Nigeria should be concerned about. People are happy to sit for ages under the shade of a tree gossiping for hours and dreaming to become millionaires, yet they are happy to laugh at a neighbour who used his energy in manual labour to earn a living. A university graduate is happy to sleep at home waiting for the job that suits his ego while his friend from the South has saved part of his NYSC allowance and has already started transporting food items produced in the same north to his home town without waiting for anybody to employ him.

Exploitation of religion has become the norm, religious leaders are happy to manipulate their followers to earn government favour or in extreme circumstances even extort the congregation to satisfy their personal needs. So why should the average person not acquire the basic literacy to become an Imam or a Pastor?  And finally, our leaders have to remember that the children of the poor are also human beings who deserve a decent life. If they fail to uplift their condition somebody will recruit them to make life unbearable for everyone.


Courtesy – Premium Times

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