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Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode on Tuesday unveiled a 46-feet statue of Nigeria’s symbol of democracy and adjudged winner of the June 12, 1993 Presidential Election, Bashorun Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola (MKO), expressing optimism that the monument will forever crystallize what he stood for in his lifetime.

 Governor Ambode, who spoke at the unveiling of the statue at the MKO Abiola Garden in Alapere, Ketu said it was in the tradition of the State Government to recognise and remember heroes and heroines who contributed to the greatness of the nation and the State in particular, adding that MKO Abiola deserves the best from the State as Lagos was his success story.

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode (middle); his wife, Bolanle (2nd right); Chairman, June 12 Coalition, Comrade Linus Okoroji (right); wife of late Chief M.K.O Abiola, Dr. Doyinsola Abiola (2nd left); Deputy Governor, Dr. (Mrs) Oluranti Adebule (left) during the unveiling of the new Chief M.K.O Abiola Statue at the MKO Abiola Garden, Alapere, ketu, Lagos

 Alluding to the fact that a statue was previously sited at the location, the Governor said that his administration decided to erect bigger statues for MKO Abiola and late Rights Activist, Chief Gani Fawehinmi to properly situate their immense contribution to nation building.

 “There was a statue done by my predecessor, Babatunde Raji Fashola but in the divine world, some things are more glorious than what you think and so we decided at the end of 2016 that we should do bigger statues for Chief Gani Fawehinmi and MKO Abiola since almost everybody passing and entering Lagos go through this particular Ojota axis and so we started late in 2016 that we should build something bigger and so it took us about a year to do this. By the time we did the one for Gani to celebrate his posthumous birthday on April 22, we also agreed that we should unveil that of MKO Abiola today, June 12.

 “But just as if God has a way of crowning all efforts to mark the 25th Anniversary of June 12, our President, President Muhammadu Buhari has deemed it fit to give our own MKO Abiola the highest honour in the land, GCFR and that is why we believe strongly that your presence here is not just for this statue but it is also historic which we would always remember in the annals of the history and politics of this country that sooner than later, there would be one day we would mark as MKO Abiola Day.

 “We are very happy to gather here today at the MKO Abiola garden to unveil this statue, a monument that will forever crystallize his legacy, serves as a reminder to the greatness that Chief Abiola represents in our socio-political landscape,” the Governor said.

 He described MKO Abiola as a man who transcended race, tribe and religion, adding that the late philanthropist appealed to all Nigerians who voted massively for him during the 1993 Presidential election.

 “Sadly, he lost his life trying to secure his mandate. Even though he was from another State, Lagos was his home. And we recognize his contribution to our State and our democracy,” Governor Ambode said.

 Responding on behalf of the family, MKO Abiola’s son, Abdul Mumuni Abiola thanked Governor Ambode and the Lagos State Government for the honour done the Abiola family, saying the statue was indeed befitting to honour his late father. 

 “God is great. I heard about this statue six months ago and I was called to come and see it and when I got here, I saw a statue of three-storey building. This is indeed massive. The family of late MKO Abiola really appreciates this and we want to thank the Governor,” Abdul Mumuni said.

 He also appreciated President Muhammadu Buhari for posthumous award conferred on his father and declaring June 12 as the Democracy Day, as well as the National Leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for standing solidly behind the struggle.

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode (middle); his wife, Bolanle (3rd right); wife of late Chief M.K.O Abiola, Dr. Doyinsola Abiola (2nd right); former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Otunba Femi Pedro (right); Deputy Governor, Dr. (Mrs) Oluranti Adebule (3rd left); children of late Chief M.K.O Abiola, Mrs. Bola Abiola-Akande (2nd left) and Mr. Abdul Mumuni Abiola (left) during the unveiling of the new Chief M.K.O Abiola Statue at the MKO Abiola Garden, Alapere, ketu, Lagos

 “We thank the President for doing what he did. This statue was planned before the President did what he did and so we want to thank Governor Ambode for this,” he said.

 Governor Ambode, who earlier spoke at a symposium held at the Blue Roof, Lagos Television in Ikeja to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the June 12, 1993 election, paid glowing tributes to other comrades who led the struggle from the front including Gen. Alani Akinrinade, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Ambassador Walter Carrington, Justice Dolapo Akinsanya, Chief Frank Kokori, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, Mr. Wale Oshun, Alhaji Balarabe Musa and other Nigerians and Civil Society Organisations, Trade and Labour unions.

 “We also pay glowing tribute to the beautiful memories of patriots such as Alhaja Kudirat Abiola, Pa Michael Adekunle Ajasin, Pa Abraham Adesanya, Chief Michael Enahoro, Chief Alfred Rewane, Dr Beko Ransome Kuti, General Adeyinka Adebayo and several others including innocent ordinary Nigerians, young and old who were murdered in cold blood on the streets of Lagos and in other major cities of Nigeria. Today, we declare that their sacrifice has not been in vain,” he said.

 The Governor commended Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu for being the pioneer Governor to declare public holiday on June 12 throughout his tenure in office as well as Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) for his steadfastness in upholding the tradition, saying that the occasion attests to their visionary leadership.

 Speaking on the theme: “Restructuring: Antidote For Efficient And Effective Polity,” guest lecturer, Dr. Dele Ashiru of the Department of Political Science, University of Lagos (UNILAG), called for the amendment of the Constitution to ensure removal of provisions which inhibit successful running of functional system, especially revenue sharing formula which he said must be by derivation, among others.

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode (middle); his wife, Bolanle (2nd right); wife of late Chief M.K.O Abiola, Dr. Doyinsola Abiola (right); Deputy Governor, Dr. (Mrs) Oluranti Adebule (2nd left) and Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Tunji Bello (left) during the 25th Anniversary lecture of the June 12 Presidential Election with the theme “Restructuting: Antidote for Ineffective and Inefficient Politics” at De Blue Roof, LTV 8, Agidingbi, Ikeja

 He also said considering the strategic importance of Lagos to the country, special attention must be given to the State, adding: “The Federal Government must wake up and pay Lagos adequately from the national resource so that the State can continue to play the role it had been playing in the country.”

 He described Lagos as a model and mega city not only in Africa but the world, and as such all hands must be on deck to work for its sustenance.  

Also, Chairman of June 12 Coalition, Comrade Linus Okoroji commended the Lagos State Government for sustained commitment to the June 12 struggle which had yielded fruits with the recent declaration of the day as Democracy Day in Nigeria and recognition of MKO Abiola as GCFR.  

The new Chief M.K.O Abiola Statue, unveiled by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode at Alapere, Ketu

 

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BREAKINGNEWS: Prince Charles, Duchess of Cornwall arrive in Abuja

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The Prince of Wales and heir to the British throne, Charles and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla, have arrived in Abuja, Channels TV reports.
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Shiites’ Lives also Matter

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By Jude Ndukwe

So much has been said about the growing fractious relationship between the military and the civil society. Before now, our military especially the army, had been the bastion of discipline, restraint and civility. Growing up, a lot of us fantasized about how we would join the military, and shine before our civilian mates with our neat and well ironed uniforms, shiny boots and smart looks. We fantasized and boasted about how we would defend our nation and people against any external aggression from any quarters no matter how powerful. We boasted of how we would dare fires no matter how wild, jump into them to save trapped citizens. We even boasted of how “bloody civilians” would confront us and instead of retaliating, we just laugh them off because “they do not know what they are doing”. Our dream as future military officers was to serve the people and the nation and make ourselves the envy of many through our behaviours.

We never ever thought that a time would come in our lifetime when the military would turn its guns on civilians, fellow citizens, no matter the provocation. We also never thought of a time that the mutual hatred and mistrust between the military and the civilian populace would be so toxic that a civilian band would attack and kill a retired military General the way it happened to General Idris Alkali in Jos, Plateau State. But, alas, such a time, unfortunately, is now with us!

Last week, we witnessed the avoidable clashes between the army and members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN). I can confirm from my personal experience and interaction with the Shiites that IMN is never a violent group as some would want us to believe. And they are hardly discriminatory in their operations. I delivered a paper at the group’s 3rd International Quds Conference which held in Abuja on July 29, 2017. Apart from the fact that I am not only a Christian, I wish to emphasise that I am also a knighted Catholic.

There were also other Christians at the event. I am also aware that there are several other Christians who have become part and parcel of this annual conference. So, the narrative being created by some government officials about the Shiites as violent people full of hate for others is not only wrong but also misleading and mischievous. The truth is that unlike other Islamic denominations, the Shiites have no record of any act of willful violence against the nation nor can anyone tag them as terrorists, yet, they are an Islamic group some government officials love to hate, malign and calumniate.

In a government report following a public inquiry into the massacre of the Shiites in December 2015, it was said that 347 Shia Muslims were killed by men of the Nigerian Army and their corpses dumped in a mass grave in the northern city of Kaduna. The report also demanded that all those involved in the killings be arrested and prosecuted. But up till now, nothing has been heard about it. Those indicted are rather praised and become emboldened to continue the wanton killing of fellow citizens, they are trained to protect, even at little or no provocation.

This vicious cycle has continued unabated. Citizens have become endangered species in the hands of the military. The military has turned itself to a uniformed emperor that must not be questioned, that must not be criticized and not even complimented. Is this our dream military?

The other day, video of a lady military officer who led a group of other military officers to viciously assault a civilian simply for complimenting her for her beauty, went viral. That was the height of military bestiality and excess show of hate for the civilian populace, and this has increased over time as culprits are either covered up or allowed to go scot free by those who are supposed to punish such erring officers. To make matters worse, the army keeps needlessly engaging Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in exchanges over matters in which they are clearly in breach of common sense, law and civility.

The other day, a soldier attached to Operation Safe Haven, shot dead an unarmed security personnel and injured two others attached to Diamond Bank in Jos over an innocuous argument about a parking space. That was a citizen, probably someone’s father and husband, with other loved ones, who had life snuffed out of him just like that as if he did not matter or his life was of no importance.

These and many other gruesome examples show that the issue is not just about the Shiites and the label of recalcitrance imposed upon them by those who take joy in mowing them down hiding behind such labels, it is about the loss of discipline and professionalism in the Nigerian army.

Let us even assume without conceding that the Shiites were wrong the first time when they were said to have “blocked” a consignment of ammunition in transit, resulting in they being fatally shot, what about the one that happened in Abuja shortly afterwards? Was there another consignment being blocked?

I read what some military officer said that they would not allow the Shiites to breach the rights of other citizens, the question is this, when has it become the primary duty and responsibility of the military to guarantee the rights of citizens in peace time? What then is the function of the police and their different specialized arms trained to deal with such issues as it should be?

With the way it is now, the Shiites have become endangered species who must not exercise their rights as citizens, they must not assemble, they must not associate and they must not express themselves freely despite the fact that their leader, Sheikh El Zakzaky and his wife, have been in illegal detention and unlawful custody of government going to three years now. This surely is a recipe for continued breach of the peace. And it is not only the Shiites that have become endangered species in the hands of the military, we all have.

While military sources have given six as number of casualties at both incidents in Zuba and Abuja, the Shiites have since released names of the victims numbering 34. Viral videos of the two incidents in both Zuba and Abuja show fleeing Shiites being shot at; even after they had been dispersed, they were still pursued by gun wielding officers. Their offence was that they had stones and catapults as “weapons”, and the army would have none of it, yet, in this same country, former president Goodluck Jonathan had his convoy stoned by some mischievous and misguided youths in Bauchi and he gave a stern instruction to his security personnel not to open fire. He was rather ferried away amidst the hail of stones. That was the Commander-in-Chief.

So, in such situations, particularly the unwarranted killing of the Shiites in Abuja, the army has other options to neutralize the protesting Shiites, that is, if they must be involved. Or else, deploying anti-riot policemen to such a scene would have made more sense than directly engaging youths exercising their rights of assembly, movement and association over government flagrant disobedience to valid court orders granting their leader bail.

Just few days ago, on TV, the army spokesman, John agim, was quoted to have said that “Several times, those people were arrested and they were released without any sanction. We have a country where nobody is sanctioned for doing something wrong. Evans, the kingpin kidnapper, he came out confessing. Over one year now, what has happened?”

When you have a military with this mindset of meting out immediate punishment and inflicting death as punishment to offenders because it does not believe in the judiciary, then the nation is in deep trouble. When an army spokesperson thinks that self-confession is enough to conclude a criminal matter in a jiffy and declare an offender guilty by force and not by law, it becomes a monumental security challenge that requires an aggressive reorientation of our military high command to bring them at par with best civil practices all over the world in military/civilian relationship. It is such beliefs as that of Agim that have reduced our military once envied for its discipline and professionalism to that feared rather than respected by citizens.

However, there is hope.

The military just handed 13 people suspected to be responsible for the murder of General Idris Alkali to the police after a painstaking investigation, for further investigation and prosecution. Based on the worrying trend which is the crux of this piece, those suspects handed over to the police for prosecution would probably have been treated more differently, the military way! That they were handed over for the law to take its course rather than take the law into their own hands themselves is a way forward.

The Shiites are not just citizens, they are a religious group that is aggrieved, and genuinely so. Rather than treat them as a leprous part of the society that must be exorcised and excised by all means possible, they can actually be meaningfully engaged and all areas of differences resolved to the satisfaction of all parties, with respect for the rule of law as a guiding principle.

This way, the needless confrontations between citizens and security agencies are reduced to the barest minimum and the needless loss of lives arising from there is avoided. We cannot continue to cut short the lives of citizens in numbers the way we are currently doing.

Nigeria is not a jungle, and no person or group of persons should reduce it to such.

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U.S. Consulate Supports Robotics Workshop For 303 Teachers,187 Students

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By: Segun Lawal

For the second consecutive year, the United States Consulate General in collaboration with RoboRave International, a U.S.-based tech academy, has concluded a week-long robotics workshop for 303 teachers and 187 students.

The participating students and teachers were from 29 public and private schools across Lagos, Ogun, and Edo states as well as the Federal Capital Territory.

RoboRAVE International Director of Global Programs Russ Fisher-Ives and RoboRAVE North America Director Brian Montoya facilitated the series of workshops in Benin, Lagos, and Abuja from October 21-27.

Throughout the training, students were taught the basics of programming a robot to perform various tasks while teachers learned various aspects of implementing an integrated approach to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education.

Speaking at the grand finale of the workshop held at the Zone Tech Park in Gbagada, Lagos, U.S. Consulate Public Affairs Officer, Mr. Russell Brooks, explained that the workshop was designed to stimulate the interest of the participating students in math and science, as well as careers in the STEM fields.

Mr. Brooks discussed the importance of STEM education to Nigeria’s future prosperity and economic competitiveness. According to him, developing robotics skills can place students on a track to future careers in computer science and artificial intelligence.

“The U.S. Mission in Nigeria is committed to supporting programs that provide youth with access to quality technological learning opportunities. We are also passionate about building teacher confidence and capabilities in the areas of robotics and STEM,” Brooks said.

The robotics workshop supports the U.S. Mission’s goal of promoting STEM education in Nigeria as a driver of sustainable economic growth.

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RoboRAVE International Director of Global Programs Russ Fisher-Ives during a workshop with teachers at the Vivian Fowler Memorial College for Girls, Lagos.

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RoboRAVE North America Director Brian Montoya during a workshop with teachers at the Vivian Fowler Memorial College for Girls, Lagos.

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U.S. Consulate Public Affairs Officer Russell Brooks interacting with students of Deeper Life High School during the RoboRave Africa Competition in Lagos.

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A cross section of the students at the robotics workshop in Lagos.

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