Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Thursday, July 24, 2008

KOGI: As Militants take over the Confluence

A Confluence describes the meeting of two or more bodies of water. It usually refers to the point where a tributary joins a more major river, called the main stream, when that major river is also the highest order stream in the drainage basin. While countries like Germany, USA, India, Brazil and Malaysia boast of two or more confluences, Nigeria takes solace in its only confluence at Lokoja, the Kogi state capital, where Niger and Benue Rivers kiss each other in a celestial embrace enveloping into an aquatic splendour. Also, notable confluences like that of the Rhine and the Mosel in Germany, Wenatchee Confluence in Washington, the Sungai Gombak in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and the Triveni Sangam confleunce in Allahabad, India have all been transformed to tourist havens of global relevance, raking in enormous revenue for the coastal states and the central Government alike.
Sadly, the Nigerian case is far disconnected from the foregoing. Except for the miserable Confluence beach hotel in lokoja, which struggles to meet up with local demands, the Kogi confluence is everything but a source of revenue. Several brain-locked administrations in the state have found the confluence to be nothing but mere geographic happenstance and a hindrance to their rabid predilection for implanting absolute fiefdoms. Ideas and strategies of transforming the confluence into a huge foreign exchange earner for the federal allocation-dependent state through the massive exploration of its tourism potentials in collaboration with major international tourist organisations and subtle local content drives have largely remained scarce commodities and unassailable dreams of utopian heights in the state’s corridors of power where its leaders usually stumble into by mere accidents of history.
Same goes for the huge potential of transforming the state (which CBN declared as the 3rd poorest state in Nigeria) into a major global player in fisheries through a strategic cultivation of Public-Private Partnerships to boost massive fish production along the confluence for exportation and local consumption, thereby employing its intimidating army of educated and uneducated citizens who daily wander in the desolate deserts of helplessness and relentless cycle of poverty. Since nature abhors vacuum of any kind, governance imperatives in the state have found a more Mephistophelean yet ludicrous use of the confluence, transforming it into a confluence of blood!
Recent developments in the state, hitherto renowned as a peaceful enclave of a hugely industrious people, have proved bookmakers wrong about Kogi’s determined quest to rival Niger Delta states in the country’s notorious hall of fame where violence, thuggery and wanton destruction are cherished and promoted to high heavens. From the central to the eastern zones of the state, militancy appears to be the reigning fad, a money-spinner recruiting thousands, empowering the strong and daring, disintegrating families, desecrating core societal values as well as decapitating the future.
With the active connivance and facilitation of the political class both within and outside government, Kogi’s confluence of blood records killings, sporadic shootings, communal disturbances and clannish upheavals almost on daily basis. In the mad scramble for power, the political class murdered sleep by equipping thugs loyal to them with sophisticated weapons to use on their opponents. With the electoral contests over and the battle shifting to courtrooms, the political class and their relatives can no longer sleep, as the highly empowered thugs had no option than to turn their bloodthirsty visage on the defenceless citizens and travellers to sustain their now exotic lifestyles. From Idah to Okene, Adavi to Anyigba, Ankpa to Okehi, Ajaokuta to Koton karfe, the story remains the same: violence unlimited and the state’s security apparatus are rendered even more helpless and hopeless what with the availability and affordability of charms against bullet and knife penetrations to these thugs. Some of these charms go for as low as N200 in certain parts of the state and are even hawked by women!
The unenviable situation in which security agencies find themselves in Kogi state is even made worse by the tacit involvement of the state government or the imprimatur of its officials in every bloodbath on the confluence. The recent edition of the annual Italo festival, a momentous gathering of all Igalas at Anyigba which ended on a tumultuous note as a result of the sporadic shootings and wanton destruction of lives and property that greeted the decision to bar ex-Gov. Abubakar Audu and his band of militants from entering the venue of the festival by militants and forces loyal to the State Governor, Alh Ibrahim Idris, the scramble for Ebira leadership between Senator Mohammed Ohiare and the state Deputy Governor, Philip Salawu, the Government’s ill-advised creation and imposition of the Ohi chieftaincy tools in Ebira land and the widely condemned swearing-in of an occultist and thug as the caretaker chairman of Okene LGA by the Governor are all pointers to the present government’s conception of governance on the confluence. In addition to this weird concept is a governance style that empowers thugs and militants through choice contract awards and sensitive appointments as Commissioners, Special Assistants/Advisers, LG Chairmen and Board Members. Thus, militants now preponderate Kogi’s landscape both from within and outside the Lugard House.
The attendant effects are all obvious for the discerning mind. The health sector is in tatters; hospitals are being refurbished yet they struggle for prominence with local cemeteries, Health workers all resume one industrial action to another, billions are budgeted for road rehabilitation and Lokoja-Ganaja road remains an open sour that must be dressed every rainy season. Education remains an expensive luxury as thousands are being assisted into militancy at early ages. Infrastructures are decaying, N2 billion market is being constructed along a major road in Lokoja and Ajaokuta bridge remains endangered as high tension cables from Geregu power station are laid bare on the bridge. N53 billion budget is approved and N42 billion goes for recurrent expenditure!     
For a state whose current caretaker government feverishly awaits a Court of Appeal judgement to validate its electoral heist and the opposition prepares for a rerun of the elections, hope for a brighter tomorrow cannot but be a costly luxury.

Atâyi Babs
atayibabs@yahoo.com 2008 ©

How to Stop Hostage-Taking in Niger Delta

From a hitherto exclusive Mephistophelean pastime in turbulent climes, hostage-taking has burst forth on our shores with a sneeze that is reminiscent of the asthmatic Baboons in virgin forests. Its advent on our shores is no doubt an effusion of anger, provocation and unrestrained emotions at our swelling failures and inadequacies in nation-building as well as the age-long distinctive contradictions in the Nigerian State.

The cumulative cost of quasi-military resistance by the Niger Delta youths has been enormous in terms of human, financial and economic sacrifices. The impact of hostage-taking, which has come to be regarded as a national malady, afflicting the soul of the nation’s economy can only be hazarded as the nation’s oil output is the worse hit with the loss of 600, 000 barrels per day (BPD) and even more as at last year. It was initially 556, 000 bpd, but with an addition of 75, 000 down, Nigeria’s daily oil revenue loss for 2006 was a whopping $700, 000,000!  With the incidences of hostage-taking recorded this year already, it is expected that the national budget is already running short of $1 billon.

These huge losses will definitely translate into another occurrence of needless deficit budgeting with a snowballing effect on the already empty stomach of the common man. This scenario will in turn, provide our Leaders with an omnibus excuse not to fund our educational aspirations, provide social security, transform our ‘consulting clinics’ to apex referral hospitals, provide infrastructures, roads and incentives that will engender societal transformation through agro-allied activities, and translate the Nigerian nightmare to the Nigeria of our dreams.

Hostage-taking, for all it has come to represent, must not be allowed to continue as we cannot afford a sustained bonfire of our hopes and aspirations to greatness on the altar of youth recklessness and Governmental insensitivity. We, the people of Nigeria must arise and speak anew in boldness and courage to the people of the Niger Delta who live in depravation, that inasmuch as we will neither ignore your oppression nor excuse your oppressors, we can only stand up for your liberty and stand with you in an atmosphere devoid of reckless exuberance, mindless violence and inarticulate posturing.  

In the same vein, Nigerians must also rise and put their Government to task on proffering lasting and workable solutions to the seemingly intractable Niger Delta question as previous and current interventionist attempts at providing lasting and meaningful solutions to the restiveness and general instability in the region have come to oscillate between taking two steps forward and three steps backward. We should make our Leaders to understand that a genuine effort by the Federal Government of Nigeria in directly intervening in the Niger Delta region with a view to giving them a sense of belonging and partnership in the Nigerian Project remains the most cogent and penetrative panacea to the problems of the beleaguered region.

Such an effort must encompass a complex whole of strategies and steps that when implemented fully, will assuredly address the decades of neglect, exclusion and abandonment experienced by the inhabitants of the region and it will also restore hope and impart a sense of collective fulfilment. As an important overture, Government should as a matter of necessity embrace the time-tested ideals of genuine dialogue which are sincerity of purpose, sense of collective importance, patient listening, readiness to implement decisions, faithfulness and focal commitment to progress and not rely on the current Aso Rock choir of cheerleaders of Niger Delta extraction which has since become as potent as a dialogue with the deaf. 

For a meaningful dialogue to hold, Government should cease further hostilities against the Niger Delta people by the Armed Forces in order to create conditions necessary for genuine dialogue aimed at addressing the underlying factors for violence in the region. The planned use of chemical and aerial bombardments of positions believed to be occupied by the militants should be denounced for what it is: anachronistic and unproductive.

With 2007 as an electoral year, Government should commence the full implementation of the recommendations of the Lt. Gen. Alexander Ogomudia-led Special Security Committee on Oil Producing Areas. The committee which was inaugurated on the 8th of November 2001 had all the then service chiefs I.G of Police, SSS DG, NSA, Representatives of Niger Delta States Oil Companies and Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) as members and it submitted its report to the President on the 19th of February 2002. 

Among the key recommendations which are very germane to the resolution of the present impasse in the region are: upward review of the minimum 13% derivation to not less than 50%; Training of Niger Delta indigenes for employment in oil companies; Provision of infrastructures such as electricity, water, roads, e.t.c, Repeal of the Land Use Act, Petroleum Act, Gas Re-injection Act and other laws which dispossesses oil producing areas of their land; and the full industrialisation of the Niger Delta region.

The above recommendations, to say the least, are very realistic just as they are attainable looking at the long years of neglect of the Niger Delta vis-à-vis Government’s knack for implementing far-reaching reforms which taste like bitter pills today but solve the problems in the long run. Moreover, for the cynics of the Government to be proved wrong that the “ongoing reform programme” is not just an esoteric swansong for witch-hunting, societal dislocation and self-serving actions, Government must adopt the same mentality of reforms that presently oils the wheels of governance in adopting the eight democratic proclamations by the peoples of the Niger Delta with regards to claims of ownership, resource access and control, environmental justice and clamour for true federalism. 

This should be done with a view to implementing the relevant aspects that do not run contrary to the spirit and letter of the 1999 constitution. These proclamations include that of the Ogonis, (a bill of rights), Ijaws (Kaiama declaration), Ikwerre (charter of demands), Urhobo (resolutions of the Urhobo Economic Summit) Isoko (charter of demands), Oron (bill of rights) Egi (Aklaka declaration),  and Warri ( Warri accord).

2007 should also see Government at all levels taking concrete steps in ensuring that oil companies protect environment, monitor and verify oil companies’ contributions to community development with a view to plugging observed leakages and arresting senile excesses of Niger Delta Elders, embark on a comprehensive road network to open up the isolated region, establish specialist Health institutions throughout the region, make the Niger Delta “Liberation Project” unattractive and less lucrative by providing jobs for the vast army of youths, provide scholarship for training in oil industry-related skills, full implementation of the NDDC masterplan as mandated by the Mr. President and increased funding for NDDC which presently subsists in tokenism.

However, Government must be commended for the seven major policy decisions it has implemented in the region within the past seven years. These are the implementation of the 13% derivation; setting up of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC); constitution of the Ogomudia Committee; constitution of the James Ibori Presidential Standing Committee on the Niger Delta; the NNPC-Niger Delta Youths Standing Committee, constitution of the Major Gen. Mohammed Presidential Committee on Peace and Reconciliation in the Niger Delta; and The Niger Delta Peace and Security Strategy (PASS).

Also worth commending is the appointment of worthy Niger Delta sons into commanding heights of the Oil and Gas sector with particular reference to Dr. Edmund Daukarou OPEC President and Energy Minister. Equally worth commending is the involvement and recognition of Youths in the Government’s quest for peace and development in the Niger Delta as evidenced in the recent appointment of Mr. Maxwell Oko, the former central zone Chairman of Ijaw Youth Council, Field Coordinator of the Niger Delta Peace and Security Strategy (PASS) and the National Coordinator of the Ijaw House, as the Special Assistant to the Energy Minister. With this appointment, there is no gainsaying the fact that Government recognises the unassailable role of the youths in stemming the tide of hostage-taking and other violent acts as Maxwell Oko’s tenure as IYC Chairman saw to the facilitation of a harmonious working environment for oil companies as well as the active involvement of Ijaw Youths in vocational trainings, entrepreneurship and investment management programmes.  

It is hoped that these steps will go a long way in dousing the angst in the Niger Delta and terminate the reign of hostage-taking on our shores as they will decisively and positively address the foundational raisons d’être for this unfortunate tide in our nation’s history with a view to permanently correcting and eliminating same.

Atâyi Babs 

Cultism and Nigerian Campuses: The Way Out

The question has often been asked by various groups and people: what is a secret cult? A cult can be said to emanate from great and excessive admiration or belief in a person or idea. This could be manifested in rituals, praise songs, chants and worship. It is an unquestionable practice that may be difficult to dislodge even with superior argument.

Secret cult could therefore be defined as a set of practices, belief system or idea whose essence is known only to the inner members and excessively admired and defended even to the point of laying down one’s life. 

It is this doggedness and strong conviction demonstrated by members that reinforce the importance of and awe for the group especially among non-members. Renown Secret cults in Nigeria include: The Reformed Ogboni Fraternity, Oboni Society (in Ikwerre land), Ekpo Society (in Cross River State), The Odumu Masquerade (in Okrika Land), The Akujane Society (in Igala land), The Ejalekwu Society (in Idoma land),The Eyo Society (in Lagos), to mention but a few.

Chinwe Obaji and the Legacy of Post-UME Test

It was Confucius who once said that “the man who does not take far views, will have near troubles”. This became a verified truism in the circumstances in which Nigeria’s Education Minister found herself enmeshed in following the approval given by to Universities to conduct Post – UME tests. Given the unprecedented gamut of general discontent, uncouth distortions of facts and conspiratorial silence from even those who ordinarily shouldn’t have feigned ignorance of what the issues are; it would be apposite to once again enrich the avalanche of literary exercise and opinions that already abound.

Chinwe Obaji (Mrs), Nigeria’s first female substantive Minister of Education since 1958, decided in her own wisdom and with Presidential approval, to curb the problem of the absence of correlation between JAMB scores and the actual performance of candidates by directing individual Universities to further screen candidates seeking admission after obtaining their JAMB results. She went further to add in a recent publication that “the screening exercise will take care of all kinds of ills in the Universities as it will make sure that it is only those Students who are ready to learn that are given admission.” Upon implementation of the directive by the nation’s Universities, widespread condemnation and discontentment reverberated far across the land, thus leading to a nullification of the directive and an order to return to the status quo ante coming from the Federal House of Representatives.

The above scenario is a symptomatic revelation of the diseased state of education in the country which has continued to elicit ceaseless genuine and most times, spurious and obtuse solutions from persons whose mental capacities are way below the average demands of the sector but are being chaotically foisted on the beleaguered sector as Heads and Stakeholders. Year after year, the education sector continues to wobble and fumble, held hostage by intellectual Lilliputians whose legacy lies in the phenomenal rise in brain drain and the pride of place occupied by the country in the list of countries with high illiteracy rate. Their impact exist comfortably in their anti – intellectual pontifications and predictably antagonistic disposition to the acquisition of true liberal education, the type that enables us to think and to reason and to compare and to discriminate and to analyse, one that refines our taste, enlighten our judgement, and sharpens our vision.

The aforesaid Ministerial line of thought that the “the Post – UME tests will eliminate all forms of ills in the Universities as it will make sure that it is only those Students who are ready to learn that are given admission” is one of such disgracefully adrift pontifications that unearths a colossal absence of a clear atmosphere of thought and recourse to pedestrianism on the part of our leadership. The school of thought that postulates Post – UME test as an elixir of sorts, to the problems confronting tertiary education in Nigeria smacks of an anaemic intellectual culture which according to John Henry Cardinal Newmann, is the Achilles heels of intellectualism. A true intellect, according to the renown proponent and staunch defender of the University as a place for the teaching of universal knowledge, is “one which takes a connected view of old and new, past and present, far and near, and which has an insight into the influence of all these on one another, without which there is no whole, and no center. It possesses the knowledge, not only of things, but also of their mutual true relations, knowledge not merely considered as an acquirement, but as philosophy.”

The obvious fact still remains that education in Nigeria, has become an expensive charade, an empty stultifying ritual for raw or half–baked graduates inflicted on Nigerian society for the dissemination of crass ignorance and the perpetuation of gloom. “The finished products” of our educational system cannot serve themselves well, needless to mention the country; they cannot justify the country’s investment in their education. Their teachers, who are mandated to make bricks without straw, are compelled to watch helplessly as cherished academic standards run utterly to seed, and the country takes its “quantum leap” into illiteracy and darkness. They are disabled by poverty, low morale, inadequate teaching tools, and they find no joy and satisfaction in the job they do. Regrettably, the Government on whose fat shoulders lie the onerous responsibility of yanking of Nigeria’s name from the burgeoning list of nations with low literacy level by putting education in the front burner of budgetary relevance, keeping faith with the spirit and letter of UNESCO benchmark, Dakar Framework for Action on Education (EFA Goals), the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and matching words with action on agreements signed with major stakeholders in the educational sector like ASUU, ASUP, SSANU, NASU and NUT, has rather, elected to promote illiteracy and ignorance through less than 7% budgetary allocation to education, choice of misfits as leaders in the sector, engaging in battles of wits with Lecturers, and employment of crude and myopic tactics, strategies and policies in the running of the sector.

It must be unequivocally stated at this point that the Post – UME test policy is not only one of such myopic and crude policies foisted on Nigeria’s educational sector but also one that is totally otiose and practically nugatory. An incisive peep into the directive brings to the fore, its high level of meretriciousness and supine illogicality. To think that a Post – UME test will ensure good and qualitative intakes for our Universities is to say the least, a bad argument bordering on mental aridity and crass ignorance of the true position of things in our tertiary education system. It is an established fact that our Universities are overflowing with a large number of people who for all intents and purposes, are not University materials but are masquerading themselves as Students and are being indiscriminately enrolled at the direction of those with either political or economic power who see Universities as another patronage disbursing machine. The admission of these unmeritorious candidates, which is always not hinged on their JAMB scores, is facilitated through the instrumentality of phoney mechanisms and pseudonyms like Vice Chancellor’s list, Addendum to VC list, Addendum to Supplementary admission list, e.t.c.

Those who cannot penetrate through the above find their way in through ethnic considerations and connections, quota and catchment area basis. Expectedly, such unmeritorious intakes will not keep to the demanding tradition of learning, character moulding and ethics. They would rather be Cult members than join intellectually based societies and bodies, they would rather be thieves or armed robbers or sex hawkers than engage in worthy ventures that will take care of their needs while schooling, they would rather attend parties, picnics and bonfires than attend departmental seminars, presentations and symposia designed to deepen their intellectual capacity, they would rather organise mindless ‘Alutas’ than resort to dialogue based on logic, common sense and rational reasoning, or they would rather be exam cheats than do well in their studies and emerge as individuals refined both in character and learning.

The issue of ethnic consideration is so pervasive in our University system that nearly all our federal Universities are manned by indigenes of the host communities who are brought into the office of the Vice Chancellor to enhance and protect the interests of his ethnic group as well as that of the State he represents. The indigenisation policy that is in force in all the nation’s universities is such that both Lecturers and Workers are recruited to fill dubious ethnic quotas and are given fraudulent promotions to positions within the academic community that are way beyond their capacity. This set of ethnic ‘foot soldiers’ in academia are responsible for the admission of unmeritorious intakes on the ersatz basis of educationally less disadvantaged areas!   

With this ruinously comatose situation, many with real good grades without the appropriate ‘connections’ cannot but be denied admission while only a few get admitted on the basis of merit. The admission of a few on the basis of merit is even made possible by the existence of an independent body called JAMB and  I make bold to state that the introduction of another screening examination to be conducted by the same Universities that are increasingly finding it difficult to curtail mercenary writers and malpractices in their semester examinations, will further give the Universities, the much sought-after omnibus excuse to deal with meritorious candidates as well as the leeway to perpetrate and elevate admission racketeering to the next level, seeing that a merit in JAMB will not manifestly translate into admission except with another merit in the Post – UME test. This is not to say that JAMB is not fraught with irregularities but to surmise that a well funded JAMB with reinforced security from the nation’s security and anti – corruption agencies will constitute a strong bulwark against problem of poor quality of intakes.

Furthermore, the idea of the Post – UME test seems to be part of Government’s determined efforts to up the stakes in tertiary education acquisition in the country following the predictable bastardisation of the policy by ‘University Dons’ who openly demanded and traded marks in the Post – UME test for various sums of money ranging from N70, 000 and above, and depending on the candidates’ choice of course. A perfect redistribution of fork and knife by the Government to pathetic jobbers and entrepreneurial sellers of conscience in academic gowns to fleece Nigerian Parents/Guardians of their hard earned money. In addition to promoting avenues for graft, is the psychological trauma and sometimes, physical pain being inflicted on hapless candidates who have to traverse the length and breadth of the country, plying the death-hole-filled roads or in the case of the privileged few, the flying coffins we boast of in our aviation industry, all in the name of going to write a Post – UME test whose results in the long run, will be subject to willy-nilly manipulation in the hands of the University Senate, VC, HOD or even the supervising Lecturer. The fate that befell over 50 Students of Loyola Jesuit College in the Sosoliso crash is a pointer to the many more disasters that the Post – UME test will engender.

One amazing discovery about the gibberish talk of Post – UME test is Government’s uncanny ability and propensity to concoct, facilitate and disseminate ignorance to its citizenry. Many were rushed to believe that JAMB should be held responsible for the poor quality of undergraduates in the country while in actual fact, JAMB is only responsible for less than 50% of undergraduate admissions in the country! More than 50% of undergraduate admissions in the nation’s Universities today are gotten through the ubiquitous and less – scholastic pre – degree programmes being run with rapacious impunity by Universities without proper accountability and transparency. The proliferation of these programmes (Remedial and Diploma) which are regarded as money-spinning in nearly all the nation’s Universities makes it imperative on the Universities to offer unmerited undergraduate admissions to these Students who are largely unacademic in all standards. The worthy ideals of University autonomy shouldn’t be sacrificed on the altar of poisonous internally generated drive whose income is not reflective on structures and programmes in the University community.

Another amazing thing about the Post – UME test is the ostensible castigation of our Universities’ ability to rid itself of misfits. A University is endowed legally, with the exclusive powers to deal with academic misfits and poor performance through internal mechanisms such as inter or intra – departmental/faculty transfer, involuntary withdrawal of admission, and outright expulsion. These mechanisms can be strengthened by the Universities if their scathing criticism of JAMB is not to be seen as a smokescreen for their tacit approval of academic immorality.

To further expose Government’s insincerity and ignorance is the inescapable fact that these so – called unmeritorious intakes are products of the nation’s primary and post – primary educational systems which the Government has continued to pay lip service to its total overhaul and repositioning for efficiency. A University is basically a Receiving – Finishing institution with a greater objective of raising the intellectual tone of the society, at cultivating the public mind, at purifying the national taste, at supplying true principles to popular enthusiasm and fixed aims to popular aspirations, at giving enlargement and sobriety to the ideas of the age, at facilitating the exercise of political power, and refining the intercourse of private life. The dictates of common sense in the above assertion is that our Universities receive what our primary and post – primary educational systems produce. Thus for an effort to be considered genuine and far-reaching, such an effort must have as its fulcrum, the total reformation of the primary and post–primary sub–sectors and not the reckless disbursement of party patronage and executive pilfering that have become totemic icons of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) today. This is very instructive as no “academic building” can stand the test of time with a poor foundation just as it is impossible and would be akin to courting an architectural fiasco for one to attempt building a house from the top!          

Adding to the aforementioned, is the question of legality or otherwise of the Post – UME directive given by the Minister. The law establishing JAMB states expressly that “for the avoidance of doubt, the board shall be responsible for determining matriculation requirements and conducting examinations leading to undergraduate admissions and also for National Diploma and the Nigeria Certificate in Education course, but shall not be responsible for examinations or any other selective process for postgraduate courses and any other course offered by tertiary institutions.” For emphasis sake, this law confers on JAMB the sole power to consider, determine and conduct examinations that will ultimately lead to undergraduate admission and matriculation. Therefore, any directive that is beside, behind or after this law and does not accentuate the key provisions is not only ultra vires but an abhorrent display of disregard for the civil society as well as a daring assault on the collective integrity of Nigerians. In other saner climes, this assault will not go unpunished as a retraction, public apology and subsequent resignation will only help in dousing the angst of a people so assaulted by a public officer.

By this, one is not referring to the lame duck reaction of the Federal House of Representatives which summoned the Minister and later nullified the Post – UME test directive. Their action, which seemed laudatory and a clear departure from the past years of legislative docility and disfunctionality, was dismissed with a wave of hand. It was accorded a high degree of flippancy by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) which justified the Minister’s illegal directive as part of the “ongoing reforms in sectors of our national life” (the latest esoteric swansong for failure, witch-hunting and systematic destruction of national ethos). The Universities carried on with a brazen display of business as usual as the Federal University of Technology Yola (FUTY) went a step further by going on air (network time) to announce its own date and requirements for the Post – UME test which included two (2) passports, writing materials and the non – refundable sum of N1, 000 for security and logistic reasons! In all these, the House of Representatives, not the Senate, must be commending for taking sides with the people at least for once, even though their well–intentioned intervention which smacked of a loathsome legislative impotence was later squandered on the alter of credibility flaw flowing from the bribe-for-budget scandal between the House Committee on Education and the immediate past Minister of Education.

One salient thing that calls to circumspect, the Minister’s role in the illegal business of Post – UME test, is her barefaced denial of the directive at the hearing organised by the Federal House of Representatives. She stated that what she did was merely to “convey approval for individual Universities to further screen candidates recommended to them by JAMB based on the agreed cut – off marks.” The Minister tried to convince the Honourable Members that the decision to carry out Post – UME test wasn’t in conformity with her directive to “further screen” candidates recommended by JAMB”. What then is the difference between test and screening? How else can a candidate be screened in a University without being examined or tested academically? The Minister’s volte face which is an astonishing act of unwisdom and sheer cowardice subsisted until the Federal Executive Council rose to justify and defend the directive.

In the final analysis, the ultimate question is that which borders on the type of legacy which our first female substantive Minister of Education will want to leave. As an Animal Scientist, it is believed that she is not unaware of the inexorability of time and power as they are both classified in humanistic and animalistic realms as inexorable and ephemeral phenomena. Would she want to be remembered as one the several Ministers of Education who came, saw the plight of education in Nigeria and decidedly toed the line of her predecessors who refused to hold aloft the illuminating banner of good and qualitative education, or an Education Minister whose legacy will remain confined in the Post – UME test conundrum. The choice is obviously hers.
Atâyi Babs 

The Niger Delta Master Plan: Another View

Amidst usual banters and self-righteous pontifications, the President launched the most-awaited Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan (NDRDMP) recently. The master plan, which was facilitated by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in collaboration with local stakeholders and international development agencies, 
is geared towards achieving orderly and accelerated socio-economic transformation of the Niger Delta. With an implementation timeframe of 15 years (2005-2020) in the first instance, the master plan is divided into five areas, like economic growth, under which wealth is expected to be generated in order to reduce poverty, support better living standards, diffuse social tension, and regenerate urban areas. Human and community needs will address the welfare of individuals; the natural environment aspect aims to conserve bio-diversity resources, remediate and restore environmentally impacted sites and degraded resources, and set standards for regulation and control.

At a cursory look, the above which according to its authors, is "unique and represents the veritable road map for concrete development of the region", appears to manage the magic of proffering a comprehensive and pragmatic solution to the Niger Delta conundrum.  But for a region that comprises nine states (all under PDP control for 7½ years), 185 local government areas and over 13, 000 communities, and is at the same time home to the livewire of the nation's largely undiversified economy, the plan is not only ill-timed, it sure stinks of socio-economic masturbation and tokenism.

Let’s state the fact in unmistakable terms. Niger Delta today has become a perfect picture of stupefaction with neglect and violence as totemic icons of fluctuating existentialism. Blessed with one of the biggest oil reserves on the planet and with over 34 billion of black gold tucked under its voluptuous belly, the region still shamefacedly flaunts itself as the habitation of some of Africa’s poorest people and probably the region with the worst environmental destruction and degradation on earth. It continues to attract quantum of attention in national and international discourse due to the fact that whilst other regions in Nigeria share the benefits of enhanced national revenue accrued from oil and gas, only the impoverished people of the Niger Delta bear the burden of hosting the black gold that sustains the nation and at same time lubricates the fantasies of her rulers. Expectedly, the colossal indifference of successive Governments to redress these anomalies and promote national harmony, peace, justice and fairness in a pluralistic society like ours has created the present situation of disruptive restiveness in the region occasioned by an ever-increasing army of militant Youths with a rabid predilection for violence. This has been manifested through kidnapping of oil workers and expatriates, vandalising oil installations, general insecurity of lives and property, and many other vices.


The dictates of the above behove on any Government worth its salt to tackle these issues firmly, objectively and with all sincerity of purpose by putting first things first as well matching words with action, and not merely adulating in rhetoric and self-derided notion of progress. The act itself, of launching a master plan, rulebook or strategy whose birthday postdates the existence of an act of parliament that legislated its implementer into being smacks of putting the cart before the horse. Moreover, the Niger Delta is today where it is, not because of the absence of well-articulated plans, strategies and governmental apparatus to serve as veritable engine rooms of growth but because of our seemingly hereditary inability to right historical wrongs, hold aloft the banner of truth and justice, promote equality and fairness to all men, place good of the State of over self, and internalise the mechanisms of ‘Social Contract’ as postulated by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. 


For a region that wears the toga of poverty and violence like a crown, a master plan that is supposedly meant to raise the standard of living above the poverty line, and go beyond that to create favourable conditions for social stability, greater productivity and economic prosperity in the rural and urban Niger Delta cannot be said to be a "clearly defined and people-oriented, multi-stakeholder development strategy for the region" as the peoples’ views, hopes and legitimate aspirations as contained in their bill of rights, declarations, and charter of demands which the government continues to treat with utter contempt, were totally disregarded. Furthermore, the master plan’s capacity to mitigate violence and stop the tide of hostage-taking in the region can only be situated in the fate that befell the much-lauded report of the Ogomodia Special Security Committee on Oil Producing Areas which is presently occupying a pride of place on the shelves of Government, gathering dust! One wonders the propriety of launching a master plan in 2007 when Government has not commenced the full implementation of the recommendations of the Lt. Gen. Alexander Ogomudia-led Special Security Committee on Oil Producing Areas which submitted its report to the President on the 19th of February 2002.


Another intriguing thing about this master plan is its distended shyness of the key recommendations of the panel which are: upward review of the minimum 13% derivation to not less than 50%; Training of Niger Delta indigenes for employment in oil companies; Provision of infrastructures such as electricity, water, roads, e.t.c, Repeal of the Land Use Act, Petroleum Act, Gas Re-injection Act and other laws which dispossesses oil producing areas of their land; and the full industrialisation of the Niger Delta region? Posers on Government’s intrinsic incapacitation to translate into tangible reality, the recommendations of the James Ibori Presidential Standing Committee on the Niger Delta; the NNPC-Niger Delta Youths Standing Committee, the Major Gen. Mohammed Presidential Committee on Peace and Reconciliation in the Niger Delta; and The Niger Delta Peace and Security Strategy (PASS) will further give us a prophetic insight into the expected destination of this master plan: the recycle bin. It might even suffer a shoddier fate with the coming of the next Government (even if it’s a PDP-controlled one), which may not be under any moral suasion to implement the twilight plan of an administration that had 8 years to cure a national malady.


Hopes that a shared understanding of the plan would go a long way to secure and sustain public faith and participation throughout the plan implementation period as well as help the stakeholders, especially oil companies and international organisations make informed contributions that will enrich the plan can be said to be a hopeless hope as long as the people are shut out from relevance. Relevance in this case pertains to recognising and accommodating all local interest groups and communal assemblies in any plan that aspires to add meaning to their existence. And at the moment, there is no overstating the unassailable fact that the prolonged mindless incarceration of Asari Dokubo for treasonable felony (which the master plan obviously evaded) constitutes a daring assault on the collective integrity of every Niger Deltan as well as an abhorrent normalisation of selective justice against a people so oppressed. The aggregate opinions in the region points to a speedy and expeditious trial/release for the NDPVF leader as precursor to any further intervention in the Niger Delta.

Also, glorifying and recognising oil companies and organisations as drivers of effective delivery of the master plan negates outrightly, the antecedents and contributions of these bodies in the degradation of the region as well in other parts of the world where there is always an intricate nexus between civil wars and natural resource ownership. It is a well known fact internationally that wherever there are resources to be plundered we find foreign companies ready to cooperate; often there is the World Bank, Shell, Chevron, Texaco or ExxonMobile to put a smiley face on these atrocities, claiming things would be worse if they did not supervise the corruption and pay a blind eye to the despoliation of the environment.    

Similarly, expecting State governments that stashed away monies and other resources accruable to Niger Delta States way in hidden bank vaults and used same to service personal fantasies and phoney presidential ambitions to now “come in through ecological funds and professional funds management in order to ensure improved revenue generation, encourage public-private sector partnership, and special projects” can as well be likened to praying wishes to be horses for beggars to ride. Leopards are not yet known to be chameleonic, at least not in the Niger Delta.

This is hoping that the authors of this plan will look into the aforementioned drawbacks with a view to correcting same as a Niger Delta where peace, prosperity and progress walk on all fours is the wish of every true Nigerian!

Atâyi Babs 

atayibabs@yahoo.com  2006 © 

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Constitutional Amendment and the Igala Conundrum

Very recently, the two chambers of the National Assembly passed a resolution, setting up a 74-member committee to revisit the constitutional amendment process which was abandoned by the last National Assembly following the surreptitious and illegal attempt by the failed Obasanjo administration to remain in office beyond its mandate. The committee comprises a senator and House member from each of the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
In the next few days, the committee, which is chaired by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, will be inaugurated to commence action on the review of the 1999 Constitution which is widely adjudged to be anachronistic, with several incongruent and conflicting provisions. Given the structural weakness of the constitution, which has manifested in the last nine years that the constitution has been in operation, a review of the constitution to ensure that it satisfies the growing needs and aspirations of the Nigerian people, has become an urgent national imperative.
A national consensus already exists on the desirability of a constitutional review. The current effort, once more provides the nation another opportunity to get it right. The 74-member committee on whose auspices is trusted this enormous responsibility has a date to keep with history. On their shoulders lie a historic burden to give Nigeria a seamless and workable constitution that would reasonably address the fears of the minorities and the concerns of the majorities; a constitution that would endure with time.
The contentious issues are already known. And going by the account of the work of the Political Reform Conference moderated by Justice Niki Tobi, national consensus has been reached on some of these issues including the creation of an additional state in the South East, increased percentage to derivation principle in revenue allocation, removal of immunity clause, power rotation, devolution of power to the federating units, constitutional role for traditional institutions etc.
Other areas the committee will take a hard look at include local government administration, political representation in the National Assembly and the vexatious question of citizenship rights. Should the issue of the creation of local government areas be a matter under the Exclusive Legislative List or Concurrent Legislative List or Residual Legislative List? What should be the basis of representation in the National Assembly? Should representation be on the basis of the existing local governments and states that were arbitrarily created by the successive military administrations in the past? Who is a citizen under the constitution? What are the rights and obligations of the citizen under the law? Who is an indigene? Who is not? Should a Nigerian citizen be discriminated against on the basis of indigene ship?
Already, the Senate President has set a number of criteria, to wit: cognate experience and seniority in the Senate would be considered by the selection committee in the composition of the JCCR, the three senators from each state have, as a prelude to the intervention of the selection committee, been asked to agree among themselves on who should represent their states on the committee. Reports have it that a consensus was easily reached in many of the states, but in others, there has been bickering over the filling of their slots.
There are also indications that the leaderships of the senate and, in fact, the House of Representatives, attach great importance to the membership of the JCCR as part of an agenda to push through certain positions into the report that would encapsulate the proposed amendments for debate on the floors of the National Assembly.
It was learnt in the senate that some states where there is bickering, the development stemmed from alleged deliberate instigation by the leadership of its preferred choice against the consensus of the majority senators in the particular state. in Kogi, our dear State, where Senator Nicholas Ugbane is the most experienced senator, he should, ordinarily, represent the state on the JCCR. But Senators Smart Adeyemi and Otaru Ohize, according to reports, connived and pushed the selection of Adeyemi into the JCRR leaving Senator Ugbane helpless.
Even though the House of Representatives is yet to constitute theirs, there is no indication that Hon. Atai Aidoko who is the oldest Member of the House from Kogi State will eventually make it when it is finally constituted.
The foregoing leaves Igala land and all her aspirations for equitable and effective representation in the Nigerian Federalism in a very precarious and seemingly helpless situation. The all-important but vexatious issue of Local Government creation is very pivotal to the realisation of these aspirations as it is a common consensus that Igala land, with a bogus Nine LGA structure, still remains largely unrepresented in the national scheme of things as we are made to share equally all allocations/federal positions to our state with our less endowed neighbours.
Judging from the intense scheming and lobbying for membership of this constitutional review committee by NASS members, there is no gainsaying the inescapable fact that the JCCR membership will not only advertently confer serious privileges on its members but also on their constituencies as each constituency in Nigeria is looking forward to the committee to recommend favourable amendments like state creation, LGA creation, delineation, increased revenue allocation, e.t.c
It has thus become painfully manifest that Igala land has yet lost the battle for supremacy, competitive edge and relevance in the comity of tribes that make up our beleaguered federation with the wily-nily exclusion ( or is it outsmarting?) of our only Senator from his due privilege.
And with the monumental docility and legislative impotence munificently displayed by our three Representatives in the House (Atai, Positive ihaibe & Napoleon Idachaba), one wont be surprised that they will all be excluded when the House finally sends it own list to the Senate because they will either be in Igala land attending one pointless launching, burial or merry-making, or in Lokoja lobbying Lugard House for one contract or pushing a godson for appointment in the state EXCO, or better still in one corner of Abuja (Specifically Romy Hotel, Garki II, Ibro Hotel, Wuse zone 5 or Rita Lori Hotel, Area 8, where ladies are made to entertain them in nudity) lavishing their legislative hours on inanities, profanities and other fantasies with telling consequences on Igala land's future.
In line with my professional calling, i have had cause to be at one these debased joints where debauchery and foolery are elevated to Mephistophelean heights by our Honourable(?) Representatives. The height of wastage of Constituency Development funds in the midst of an astonishing absence of an organised thought process for Igala's future put on rabid display by these men can best be imagined than seen as it has the capacity to instigate righteous and unrestrained indignation at our collective misery even among the proudest Igalas alive!
Having said this much, the questions that we must all collectively find the answers to are these:
§ How do we put Igala land on the front-burner of national discourse?
§ How do we ensure a strong igala voice even in our National Assembly? (Ask any Public Affairs Commentator in Nigeria about Kogi's representation in the National Assembly and you will be told that Senator Adeyemi Smart is so far the only Member of the National Assembly from Kogi state.
§ How do we strengthen the legislative instruments of representation constitutionally granted to us as a people?
§ How do we ensure that our proposals/desires for the creation of a minimum of 3 LGAs from the present Dekina LGA receives favourable attention from a JCCR that cannot boast of a Representative from the 9th largest tribe in the country?
§ How do we make Senator Ugbane and Hon Positive Ihaibe realize that the on-going schism between them over their naked ambition to succeed Gov. Idris in 2012 is affecting the quality of representation they were elected to offer to Igala land?
§ How do we impress it on Ugbane, Ihiabe, Aidoko and other pretender-contenders posturing for Lugard House come 2012 that the success of their ambition is dependent on the level of their contributions to the realisation of Igala aspirations by the JCCR?
§ How do we ensure a proper delineation of constituencies to accurately represent our 54% population strength in Kogi State?
§ How do we make Igala land work again?

Atâyi Babs ©