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COLUMNISTS

Kwara 2019: The shape of things to come

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By Femi Olabisi

Not so many saw it coming. Weeks before October 1st, observers and the general public had their eyes fixated elsewhere. None had thought the Kwara State PDP governorship pendulum would swing to the direction of the young, brilliant and energetic lawmaker representing Asa/Ilorin West Federal Constituency. Saraki It took many by surprise that 49-year-old Hon Razak Atunwa with an intimidating profile in private and public service emerged the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party for the 2019 governorship election.

His emergence no doubt is a testament to the believe that excellence, no matter how hidden, will surely shine above its obscurity. Atunwa is not a novice in public service, neither is he an opportunist who has come to take advantage of his youthfulness to win election at a time the nation is clamouring for the emergence of younger and intelligent political players to take over from the older generations. Even the most fervid partisans and opposition members would never deny the fact that Atunwa is a right candidate and would make a good and effective Kwara Governor.

From his antecedents, the Federal lawmaker has shown a strong command of the issues, he has demonstrated a good record of private and public service leadership, and he is seasoned in politics and governance within and outside Kwara state. After his 11-years of sterling and active law practice following his bagging of Masters Degree from the University of East London at the age of 25, Atunwa dipped his feet into the murky waters of politics at a relatively young age of 36 when he was appointed as a Commissioner for Land and Housing in Kwara state in August 2005, from there we moved to become the Commissioner for Information and Home Affairs, Commissioner for Works and Transport and Commissioner for Finance (from 2006 to 2010).

At a time when youthfulness, match with experience, exposure and capability to deliver has become the resume line to seek political power in the present dispensation, Atunwa no doubt has all that is needed in his arsenal to run his policy-centric governorship campaign. His active service in four different ministries in Kwara state and his emergence as the Speaker of the State House of Assembly (2011-2015) and his present position as a federal lawmaker where he chairs the House of Representatives Committee on Justice, have in no small measure armed him with the immense knowledge and experience needed to continue with the implementation of good Governance master plan initiated by the government of Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki in the state of harmony.

Coming into office, Atunwa will not have to waste years struggling with understanding the governance of Kwara State, he has been part of the system and he knows where to start from. This surely makes him a formidable and credible candidate to lead the next government of Kwara state. Given how exceptional Atunwa, a licensed pilot certified in Nigeria and the United Kingdom, has been in the previous and present political office he held, it is obvious that his Kwara First campaign, hinged on human capacity development for everyday Kwarans, local content development to drive inclusive growth, and massive investment on health and Education infrastructure, will transmit Kwara to the next level of development and consolidate on the progress of the past and present. Pundits have also posited that Atunwa will definitely live beyond the hype, his intimidating profile, years in the making of a formidable political player in Kwara and national politics to be a stellar leader in Kwara state. Kwara is fortunate to have Atunwa at this time, he would definitely be good at the job when he eventually wins.

Olabisi is an Ilorin based public affairs commentator

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COLUMNISTS

Buhari, Aisha and the Symphony of a Confusing Orchestra

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By Jude Ndukwe

Just like a majority of Nigerians who have come to see the APC-led government of President Muhammadu Buhari for what it is, a weak government of ineptitude coated with stark incompetence and lacking in any leadership substance as a result of which Nigeria is now the worst of many backwardness, wife of the president, Mrs Aisha Buhari, confirmed last week that only two people were holding the Buhari government down and stopping it from performing as expected.

This is not new to Nigerians only that it is being given concrete credence by the beautiful First Lady’s outburst which must have come from frustrations owing to the incontrovertibly poor performance of her husband in office contrary to the expectations of those who believed in and voted for him at the last presidential election.

Nigerians have always known that there is a powerful cabal holding the presidency down and forming a cog in its wheel of progress, that is, if there was any will in the wheel at all. The only thing Nigerians did not know until Aisha Buhari made the disclosure last week was that they were only two individuals so powerful they hold not only the president down, they hold the entire presidency down and hold the entire nation to ransom. Although Aisha did not mention the names of these individuals but whoever they are, they must have been so powerful that Nigerians were thinking that those that make up the retrogressive cabal were in their numbers. And that is because they have inflicted serious damage not only to the image of President Muhammadu Buhari whose ratings before he became president were very impressive but also to the lofty credentials APC paraded prior to the 2015 elections but which have obviously dissipated into thin air now.

While the presidency has always insisted that there was no cabal in its fold, Nigerians have always known that there was one. Isn’t this why President Muhammadu Buhari had on several occasions claimed ignorance of weighty occurrences around the presidency even when such occurrences had a stamp of the presidency on them?

Aisha had at a time said that the president does not know 45 out of every 50 of his appointees. In other words, others make the decision for him without any input from him. She had claimed that her husband’s government had been hijacked as “Some people are sitting down in their homes folding their arms only for them to be called to come and head an agency or a ministerial position”.

When the pension fugitive Abdulrasheed Maina was recalled and promoted by presidency officials despite being on the wanted list of security agencies, there were fierce exchanges between the presidency and the civil service over who was responsible for the controversial recall and promotion. Yet, before our very eyes, when it became obvious that the bubble of Maina and his collaborators in high places had busted, he was still given a leeway to escape. The alarming thing was that some top government officials gave the impression that the president was not aware all in a bid to shield him from the mess which the saga had become.

Also, on the Benue matter, after repeated and unending attacks on the people of Benue, President Buhari had ordered the Inspector-General of Police to resume in Benue with a view to curbing the rising wave of herdsmen attacks on the people. But few weeks later, the president lamented that he was not aware that the IG did not obey his orders.

If the president were truly in charge, how could an IG of police had refused, neglected and or failed to carry out his orders as Commander-in-Chief until it became public knowledge? Does that not imply that there are people in the presidency, as Aisha publicly confirmed, who have taken charge of the government and away from President Buhari so that recalcitrant staff and aides can afford to routinely disobey him on matters of grave concern to the nation without consequences?

Does anyone still remember Babachir Lawal’s arrogant and infamous “Who is the presidency” question?

Like Aisha said on that occasion, it is quite shameful that those who are supposed to stand up for Nigeria at a time of its unimaginable obscurity caused by a rather rudderless government, those who are supposed to assist the president in saving the ship of state and rescuing it from further sinking, are the same men who go about Aso Rock, in the words of Mrs Buhari, licking the shoes of these men!

Mrs Buhari seems to have had enough. She could no longer stomach the ineffectiveness of her husband’s government and the pitiable state of the nation under him. Surely, when she was out there during the campaigns, in the trenches with her husband, doing all she could to convince the populace that her husband deserved to be president, or rather, that her husband was the best man for the job, tough enough to lead the battle against insurgents in the north, fight corruption to a standstill, and yet remain compassionate to the plight of the people, she never envisaged that her husband would become this effeminate, easily overwhelmed by the nature of the job and overpowered by overzealous aides.

Today, the nation suffers for it, and the woman cannot stand it. All attempts to confine this delectable woman to the “kitchen, the living room and the other room” has so far failed to yield its desired results as she has continued to wax strong in the defence of her husband against those who are holding him hostage.

But then time has run out on him. The damage is irredeemable. Buhari has lost enormous goodwill since he came to power. If he was the kind of leader he sold himself to be in 2015, no other candidate would have had any chance against him in 2019. But as it is today, Buhari’s support base has depleted badly. Those who worked for him in 2019 have since realized that they were sold a beautifully packaged product whose content lacked any substance or value for its users. One by one, steadily and surely, they are all leaving him and his party. Those who are left in the party are lamenting, one can no longer call them “Buharists” as it used to be. Those who are honest enough in his party are telling him the bitter truth. His children, particularly, the daughters, no longer defend their dad as they used to do. The wife has continued to sing but her voice does not seem to be in symphony with the orchestra. The choirmaster is no longer in charge of his choir. The symphony of the orchestra is confusing, the group has lost melody, and the service will soon come to an unceremonious end!

With Nigeria becoming the poverty capital of the world under Buhari, the third most terrorised nation under a man who boasted that he would fight insurgency from the front, and our soldiers who have lamented poor welfare and equipment killed at will by these same insurgents, corruption worsening under him according to Transparency International, over 7 million Nigerians becoming unemployed in just 21 months between January 2016 and September 2017 and still counting, among many other gory tales of the Buhari presidency, it is obvious that things have fallen apart in Buhari’s government and the centre can no longer hold.

A presidency that cannot manage its presidency cannot manage Nigeria! There is hunger in the land; it is so palpable that the hand can feel it. No matter how the choirmaster tries to organize his orchestra now, the symphony has gone coarse, and irrecoverably so!

It is on this note that patriotic citizens must commend the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, for taking the bull by the horn and speaking out when men who are supposed to do so are busy lining up to lick the shoes of some two retrogressive elements holding the nation to ransom.

Will Aisha Buhari likely have partners from their circle in this mission of extricating Nigeria from the shackles of strong men? Only time will tell. For now, history will surely be fair to her!

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COLUMNISTS

LASPOTECH: GIANT STRIDES AT 40

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By: Morenike Adetunji

Life, as it is generally espoused begins at 40. As such, Lagos Sate Polytechnic Aloft At Forty celebration could best be described as a new beginning for this citadel of excellence.
Looking back through the years, the institution has grown to higher heights in several areas; from acquiring a permanent site in Ikorodu to producing over 220,000 graduates, offering 67 programmes at National Diploma and Higher National Diploma Levels, and against all odds, curbing cult activities on campus.
LASPOTECH commenced classes at the temporary site, (Isolo Campus), early January 1978, and in seven years (1985), the permanent site was moved to Ikorodu. Just recently, department of Business Administration, one of the three departments outside the main campus, was moved to Ikorodu campus in a bid to have all departments domiciled in Ikorodu.
At inception, lecture started at the institution with 287 students in five departments: Accountancy and Finance, Management and Business Studies, Insurance, Secretarial Studies and Basics Studies, and over the years, more than 220,000 students had graduated from the institution.
The school has as its mission statement, “to produce skilled manpower for commerce and industry using modern facilities and competent personnel for benefit of all”, and as such has been able to produce individuals who hold high positions in various sectors of the nation.
Few of these alumni are: Immediate Past Managing Director of First Bank of Nigeria Plc (FBN), Mr. Bisi Onasanya; Ex-managing Director of Cornerstone Insurance Plc, Mrs Funmilayo Babington-Ashaye; Current Deputy Governor of Ogun State, Mrs Yetunde Onanuga, Movie Icon, Kunle Afolayan; Mr. Rotimi Edu, Chairman, Quicklink Insurance; the Late Thespian, Aishat Mohammed; Music Star, Adekunle Kosoko known as Adekunle Gold; Winner of African Movie Viewers’ Choice Award (AMVCA), Tunji Afolayan and Award Winning Investigative Reporter, Head of Crime Desk at The Nation Newspaper, Olukunle Akinrinade among others.
Omoshalewa Babalola a student of Science Laboratory Technology in 2014/2015 Academic Session graduated with a Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 4.0. Also, Ejire Adedolapo Abdulazez graduated with a CGPA of 3.83 in 2015/2016 Academic Session.
The 10-day celebration saw several events put in place to commemorate LASPOTECH Aloft at forty. These include; Community Relations Programme, Novelty Match, Interdenominational service, Walk for Life, Students Marathon race, Laspotech Students’ Talent Show, LSTS, Dinner night, the anniversary grand finale and many other events.
In 40 years, several landmark achievements had positioned the polytechnic among other high ranking polytechnics in Nigeria; The institution’s department of Mass Communication was designated as Center of reference for Journalism training by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The establishment of LASPOTECH 101.1fm as well as construction of Centre for Entrepreneurship Skills Acquisition, among many others.
With all these outstanding achievements, it is imperative that the Institution must not rest on her oars, but do more in order to remain a pathmaker for other institutions.
However, an area of concern is the fact that an institution with such status and achievement cannot boast of having a hostel accommodation for her students. The rector, Mr. Olayinka Sogunro, has however promised that before his tenure elapses, he will ensure that hostels are built for the polytechnic’s students. We, for the sake of the incoming students do hope that this promise will be fulfilled.
At 40, LASPOTECH has achieved so much and for this reason, the management indeed deserves some accolades. Looking into the future, this landmark anniversary without doubt is only a stepping stone as the institution continues to journey into greatness.

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Pendulum: Why Many Nigerians are Scared of the Year 2019

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www.securenigeria365.com

BY DELE MOMODU 

Fellow Nigerians, this is usually a festive period when most people look forward to the New Year, with high hopes and great expectations. But not anymore. I don’t know if you have noticed, wherever two or three Nigerians are gathered these days, the subject of discussion is Nigeria’s elections, especially the Presidential election, coming up next February. And many analysts talk with trepidation, out of the fear that the APC government appears desperate and may not wish to relinquish power, voluntarily, without putting up a fight. “Buhari was a military dictator, unlike Jonathan, and it would be difficult for you guys to chase him away like you did to Jonathan,” a prominent Nigerian told me recently. I then asked, “do you mean Buhari will refuse to hand over power even if he glaringly loses the election?” His response was chillingly cold-blooded “mark my word, Buhari’s people are ready for war…” he quipped.

Though the tell-tale signs are there, considering the unusual electoral malpractices in Ekiti, Osun, Kwara and other places where voters have allegedly been brazenly intimidated, disenfranchised and disillusioned. It is generally believed that the security forces, especially the Police have been largely compromised and that they are unashamedly doing the Government’s bidding, even if it means that the very tenets of democracy are being eroded with the attendant calamitous consequences that may befall our beloved country as a result. The Government has not helped matters much on this issue because people wonder why such use of humongous force can be strategically organised and positioned for elections, which should otherwise be peaceful events, when such force cannot be used against our insurgents who appear to be back with a bang and slowly, steadily and surely eroding our territory and our sovereignty. The Government’s claim that its aim in dealing with elections in this way is to protect democracy and ensure the fairness of those elections seems false given the allegations of intimidation and violence made against the security forces.

That is not all. It is being widely debated as to whether or not the government is busy throwing money around as a way of suborning the electorates under the guise of empowering the masses through its Trader Moni and Npower schemes.

The Trader Moni scheme aims to start of petty traders with small interest free loans starting from N10,000 and rising incrementally on repayment to N100,000. The Government says that the Bank of Industry co-ordinated scheme hopes to assist petty traders who would not otherwise have access to affordable bank loans to grow their businesses. Detractors question the timing of the scheme and the amount of money that beneficiaries of the scheme are being paid. It is almost as if they are being paid this initial N10,000 in order to buy their votes and this was magnified by the unfounded rumours that was circulated that PVC’s were a requirement to obtain the loan. As the Government stresses in promoting the scheme, this is an empowerment programme which is not associated with any vote-buying scheme. One thing is clear though, the petty traders who are recipients of this interest free loan are smiling all the way to the bank and appreciate the Government’s gesture. The turnout and visible smiles on the face of market women where ever the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, has visited in promotion of this scheme speaks volumes about its acceptance amongst those it intends to benefit. Whether there is an ulterior motive will soon be revealed especially when the period for the incremental increase dawns and the elections are over.

The other scheme which traducers of the Government claim is merely a vote-buying gimmick is Npower. The scheme aims at eventually providing everyday skills which can be usefully deployed by the millions of unemployed youths in the Country. Those lucky to benefit from the scheme get paid a stipend which the opposition considers is a mere bribe to secure the votes and support of the jobless, frustrated youths.

It is a mark of the times that we are in, and the impoverishment of the people, that these two schemes with the miserly amounts involved can catch the attention of the populace. Their intendment and effect have been likened to the welfare system which operates in most welfare countries, with Government protagonists calling it a form of the “dole” which operates in the United Kingdom. Those who oppose both schemes say that these are corrupted versions of the benefit system being propagated to suit a corrupt purpose by a government which corrupts everything including its so-called seminal fight against corruption.

What is also scary for neutral observers of the polity is the fact cyberbullying has been on the rise in dramatic fashion. Everywhere you turn on social media, there are rabid Buhari supporters, in particular, who treat their idol like God, such that any form of criticism attracts instant vitriolic and acerbic attack. On a WhatsApp group I was till yesterday, a querulous and garrulous young man who seems to defend every action of APC and Buhari went completely berserk saying anyone who supports Atiku Abubakar must be mentally deranged and requires urgent psychiatric attention, perhaps. Another one of them said Omoyele Sowore must be sick because of certain utterances he made recently. I couldn’t take the intolerance again and told the attacker to change his attitude “in the name of God.”

As far as these people are concerned, everyone who has any form of sympathy for PDP or its Presidential candidate is automatically a rogue and looter. Yet the same so-called “looters and rogues” are welcomed with open arms whenever a member of PDP saunters across to APC so that his sins can be forgiven instantly, and he can become a ‘saint’ in the eyes of these unreasonable and illogical fanatics. It is true that the PDP has created a long list of looters and perceived looters, but the same has always been true of APC. That is why the corruption fight has never really gotten off the ground and it is why the Government may eventually lose the war because of its concentration on this one issue while failing to realise that the people want economic and social emancipation first and foremost. For them, corruption is ultimately only at best a distraction which will be relegated to the background when the reality of the pervading hunger biting at them strikes home.

Many are wondering how some could be so brainwashed into seeing the sins of one Party and its members but are completely blind to the sins of others who are members of the ruling party. Blaming the problems of Nigeria on the 16 years of PDP is no longer ingenious now that APC is busy attracting and accepting the same demons into their fold, indiscriminately. I do not understand the audacity that makes APC feel it can continue to use those lines of calling others thieves when there have been too many instances of similar recklessness within its circle. Those with discernment recall that it is not all of the 16 PDP years that can be described as a period of profligacy and reckless plundering. In any event apart from possibly some of the antics of the Petroleum Ministry and the NNPC, few knew about the pillaging that was occurring under the Jonathan Government until the Government fell. Some argue that the same fate awaits the present administration and that people will be amazed at the level of brigandage and damage done to our collective commonwealth by a cabal within this government and a few other senior Ministers. The claim is that Dasukigate is child’s play, but that we shall only know the truth whenever the government is dethroned. I cannot personally vouch for the authenticity of these claims, but I hear the strident pleas of the First Lady, Aisha Buhari about the need to expose a cabal which is making the Presidency unable to fulfil the Change that it promised.

Also, whenever they call the PDP Presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, a corrupt man, I often wonder if Atiku was ever more than a Vice President and if he wielded more influence than the President. Moreover, the only basis for this continues to be the fact that his Boss, President Obasanjo, said so in the past, and an American Congressional investigation seemingly indicted him on some transactions as a result of which his visa application was turned down. What I fail to understand is why these two matters would continue to be an issue when the Boss, President Obasanjo has wholeheartedly embraced the candidature of Atiku, warts and all, and the American law enforcement agencies have never indicted him, and the Government of that country now appears prepared to issue him a visa. In my view, those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. A lot of respect has been accorded the President whose dignity and integrity has generally been protected by the military and political class and the fourth estate of the realm. This is understandably so, because we must not denigrate our leaders or soil their reputations if this can be avoided. Nevertheless, I think it is about time that the Administration starts trumpeting its successes in the economic and social infrastructure sector as well as security.  The government does have laudable and stellar achievements it can point to. The Government should also focus on its plans for the future. If the President allows his team to trawl the gutter in the allegations they are making against the former Vice-President of the country, a time may come when all the gloves go off and fisticuffs or roforofo fight becomes the order of the day with everybody besmeared and besmirched.

It is the unrelenting smear campaign against the PDP Presidential candidate Atiku, without any real regard to the issues which are paramount for the masses that is ultimately the biggest fear factor. If the APC has nothing good to tell us about what it proposes to do for the country if it wins, beyond saying that Nigerians must not vote for a looter, then the presumption is that they will take all steps to ensure that their rhetoric succeeds by hook and by crook. The logic is that the APC is so desperate to cling on to power even though it does not know what to do with it and accordingly, out of that desperation it will subvert the will of the electorate by foisting itself on the people with the might of the security forces at its behest and disposal. We may not need to get to this stage if APC realises that it can campaign on the issues, and change its ways, so that winning the elections is no longer in doubt. I fear however, that the ship has long since sailed in that regard and the major protagonists on the APC are hawkish warmongers who do not want to go back into the political wilderness that they had been consigned to before the all-conquering APC was birthed.

It is the hope of the generality of Nigerians that the Nigerian security forces will in the end shun partisanship and live to the true spirit of their oath to defend Nigeria and not any individual or Party. Soldier come, Soldier go! The will of the people must always be allowed to prevail and if this means another Party gaining power so be it. This has happened in the recent past and it will happen again. That is the beauty of democracy which our security forces have sworn to protect!

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