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Laolu Akande Reply To Pendulum Open Letter To The VP

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My dear Bob Dee!

One could have easily made up his mind not to read or respond to anything you wrote after seeing the rather unprincipled queuing up behind Senator Bukola Saraki and then abandoning him, moving on to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, and then deserting him as well.
But I felt one should respond to your attempts to create a false narrative from the very hollow lamentation of the recent elections as the “worst in our history”.

In my view, those like your good self, veteran journalists, who have built a formidable platform in the public arena must strive always to use the platform for the larger public good. There have been several interventions from you that reflect such true public spirit, but some of us stridently disagree with what at times could be perceived as a self-serving journalistic conduct. Many would seem to agree that this was obvious in your recent open letter to the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.

But first, let me thank you for your gracious words of congratulations to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Vice President, and your admiration for the VP’s commendable performance in office. I am certain that your quest for public accountability derives from that admiration.

It is important to state that a citizen’s open letter to public figures or government authority is always welcome here and not necessarily a matter of right or exclusive access. For us, such matters of access for the people to their elected leaders is of normal cause and ought not to be a matter of exclusivity nor should we make a play of it as so special.

As is typical of your propaganda machinery, it begins with an outrageous lie by the principal then the operatives like yourself repeat it ad naseum. It appears you were not in this country when foreign and local observers accepted the results.Independent Foreign Observers commended the transparency and credibility of the Presidential and National Assembly elections.

Also, the Independent ElectionMonitor group, supported by the French Embassy, concluded that “based on the analysis carried out in this document as well as the actual observations of the election activities across the country, it is Election Monitor’s considered opinion that the 2019 Presidential Election results are consistent with the will of the majority of voters who took part in the elections notwithstanding the various infractions which also occurred as they were not on a scale significant enough to affect the overall outcome of the election.

YIAGA Africa’s Parrallel Voting Tabulation, relied on by international agencies, embassies and funders also said its  “findings show that for the presidential election the All Progressive Congress (APC) should receive between 50.0 per cent and 55.8 per cent of the vote.” And that “the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) should receive between 41.2 per cent and 47.0 per cent of the vote; these figures are consistent with the official results as just announced by INEC.

“For both APC and PDP, the official results fall within the PVT estimated ranges.” That YIAGA AFRICA results statement was based on reports from 1,491 polling units which are 98.4 per cent of sampled polling units. YIAGA AFRICA’s projections were reportedly also consistent with the officially announced vote shares for the other 71 parties who contested in the presidential election. It is also believed that the group’s projections were based on the results announced in the polling units and would have detected any significant manipulation occurring during collation at the ward, local government area, State and national levels. Also, “INEC’s official results for turnout and rejected ballots were also generally consistent with YIAGA AFRICA WTV estimates.”

These are empirical facts, my dear Bob Dee, especially if you your analysis through any rigorous tests. Propaganda and falsehood only need a willing sponsor.

Yes, observers mentioned pockets of violence and some malpractices, but none felt that these were sufficient to affect the credibility of the elections or its results. Frequently cited is Ago Palace in Lagos. One unit in a city of 20 million! In any event, the real question is, how did the violence in the comparatively few places where it happened favour the President? And how come the strong allegations of foul play by the likes of Godswill Akpabio in Akwa Ibom, George Akume in Benue and Ndoma-Egba in Cross Rivers State (all APC Senatorial aspirants!) escaped your eagle eyes?

It is sometimes forgotten, and Bob Dee , you chose to forget, that for the previous 16 years before 2015, the PDP governments had conducted elections. Everyone is familiar with the incredible excesses of the elections and the election-observer reports so poignantly describe some.

In the 2003 elections which gave Atiku Abubakar and his boss a second term, Wikipedia observes that “Millions of people voted several times. The police in Lagos uncovered an electoral fraud, finding five million false ballots.”

But the 2007 elections got even worse reviews: “Following the presidential election, groups monitoring the election gave it a dismal assessment. Chief European Union observer Max van den Berg reported that the handling of the polls had “fallen far short” of basic international standards, and that “the process cannot be considered to be credible”, citing “poor election organisation, lack of transparency, significant evidence of fraud, voter disenfranchisement, violence and bias.”

They described the election as “the worst they had ever seen anywhere in the world”, with “rampant vote rigging, violence, theft of ballot boxes and intimidation”).One group of observers said that at one polling station in Yenagoa, in the oil-rich South-South, where 500 people were registered to vote, more than 2,000 votes were counted.”

Your choice of words such as “theatre of war” to describe the presidential polls is not only inaccurate and questionable by and large, but also surprising considering the recent history of past presidential polls. And you have to tell us who described the elections as “the most dreadful and desperate”?

Besides this facts that you carefully chose to ignore, the contents of your letter read in part like a brief for the opposition, and, at other times, a judgment of an electoral tribunal in favour of the opposition. And such bias undermines the credibility of the author such as yourself.

It could even render the write-up confusing rather than informing the readers. For good measure, Bob Dee, maybe we should just remind our readers that not only are you an active member of the opposition, you have also benefited from significant business relationships with some in the opposition circles. And this is entirely within your right.

But that certainly discounts your assessment about the direction of our administration. It also devalues your criticism of the narratives that hold those who raped this country in the past responsible for the consequences of their corrupt activities while in government.

One also wonders whether it is your well-known personal relationship with the opposition that has beclouded you so much that you seek to assail the anti-corruption efforts which ordinary and well-meaning Nigerians have embraced.

Let me make it clear that the facts show that while some old members of the opposition have joined APC, that has not shielded those responsible for corruption and graft. In any case, even if old PDP members are now APC members, the current leadership of the country under the APC stands out as it is made up of two gentlemen with impeccable integrity.

Old PDP members and all Nigerians are welcome just like sinners are embraced in the church, Inf act, the church was opened for sinners to be converted. And what is skewed about the anti-corruption campaign when the two governors who have now been convicted for corruption are both APC?

Having said that, be rest assured that the APC as a party will articulate its defences to any allegations. For the records, it is an obvious fact and this must be reiterated that the Buhari administration has a commendable record of respecting the independence of INEC, a clear departure from what occurred under previous administrations. This government also ensures that it provides all the support INEC requires, as well as respects the independence of the judiciary and has ensured that security forces act within the ambits of law. Even international observers have made their comments accordingly and positively.

As the Buhari administration always noted, every single loss of life is sad and lamentable. And previous elections have regrettably caused even far more losses. We must achieve an electoral system that doesn’t result in any such loss of life. However, the record of improvement from the past is clear as it were.

To characterize the will of the people as Pyrrhic victory represents what exactly needs to change in and about our nation. Indeed, our privilege as elites imposes the responsibility of trustees of power, wealth, values and direction of and for a nation in the interest of the people upon us. To narrow this interest or substitute our amplified voices as the vocal minority for the silent majority is not only taking liberties a little too far, but also losing tune and touch with our national realities. As leaders, we must reflect introspectively on how we have prioritized the people, and how we must continue to do so going forward.

This is what President Muhammadu Buhari is known for and it is what played out in the elections. It is the voices of the few and the devices of the privileged that the Opposition regarded and expected to hold up. That did not happen.

We respect the right to disagree and exercise that right through the established mechanisms, but we reject any denigration and the diminishing of the electoral outcome which is the true voice and expression of the people of this country.

As you noted, the whole concept of sin in the worldly context is a violation of the law of the land, and in the spiritual context, a violation against God. That you judge either as a matter of law, or ecclesiastically when you by yourself determine that this administration is “committing sin” is a departure from what your letter identifies as its objective. Victory in an election is a nation speaking up, while the victor is the symbol of that nation’s victory.

Both life, by its temporal nature, and the Constitution, by its term limitations and periodic elections, already ensure that we all know that everything but eternity is transient, and the example of that in our nation today is the rejection of the old order four years ago, and the most recent confirmation of that rejection by preferring the new and current order, and the Next Level of our national restoration and growth.

Finally, thank you for declaring your belief that the APC “would have won” a handsome victory because that was exactly what happened! It is your equivocation about Atiku’s loss expressed in the same letter where you said you expected an APC “handsome victory” that left me and other readers confounded. What are we to believe?

Again, thank you for your open letter. Be rest assured that the Vice President and the President would continue working for the good of all Nigerians in the Next Level.

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COLUMNISTS

Leah Sharibu: The Prisoner of Conscience

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Anikulapo Macmillan

 

Her story has been like the story of Daniel in the den of terror. In the face of captivity her captors kept her just because she refused to call another faith. She is the mercurial of her own conscience. One of the first in the history that never denies her religion and She is Leah; but powerful than her co-mate in the scripture.

Leah Sharibu is our daughter. One of the girls that have brought our country to her kneels. Not just a martyr of faith but a girl whose spirit has driven us all to her struggle since she was abducted in Dapchi. And that abduction was historic.

It is seemingly a thought of a cohesive expression to the government. I see her than the way Nigerians see her. She is the girl that has made us to understand that religion is fate and faith is faith— in time of obstacle. Someone who doesn’t compromise her principle rather beseech in the spirit of prayer. That voice of Leah begins to come to us than it echoes to her captors. Meanwhile, she is supposed to be in school.

While some of her colleagues are intensely studying for the school certificate exam but she is here dying to be rescued. And Prof. Wole Soyinka has compared her to the late apartheid fighter, Nelson Mandela. In Soyinka’s poem titled: ‘’ Mandela’s Earth’’ the poem has a conjectural meaning that Mandela reverted to those who jailed him. ‘’ NO! He said’’

These particular words came out to Leah Sharibu as well. When she said— No! And perhaps in Wole Soyinka’s poem: ‘’ I am the rock, this Island. I toiled’’ this is what our own Leah stands for. However, the poem says: ‘’ in and out of time wrap, I am that rock/ in the black hole of the sky’’ truly, Sharibu has become the rock of human.

She has made us to understand that her release is important to us. That her struggle is to end bigotry and fanaticism in our country and perhaps to let everybody has the right to believe in faith. To have been in captivity for this time is terribly bad for a sixteen years old girl in her own country.

Recently, she celebrated her sixteen years birthday. In the den of terror, just because she is not ready to deny her own faith— meanwhile, if Jesus were to be alive he would have seen that Leah Sharibu loves him than her own life. And this means a lot for sacrifice. To a girl who has hope for her beloved country.

Probably, had it been her mother knew that such would happen, she would have been like the character in Toni Morrison’s novel: ‘’ Beloved’’ where the mother kills her own daughter because she doesn’t want her to face racism. Is this not a religion manhunt? — For Leah’s mother to cry helplessly for her beloved daughter to be released.

And I believed that the day she was abducted in her school with her other abductors, she would have recited the national anthem and pledge. That she was serving Nigeria with all her strength and now; is Nigeria serving her back? Or has the government forgotten that Leah is a citizen?

This means her life matters to every single Nigeria. And it is the duty of President Buhari to let her come back to her parent. Still, her life is not enmeshed, with wrong faith rather she has been the quintessential girl that knows how to identify her own right. Her life means a lot to all of us. Not that she is just a mere girl child, she is our daughter.

Therefore, it is the ability of the government to provide for her needs in captivity. To rescue her is even the major concern of all Nigerians. What is the point to the military if she can’t be rescued? Is it that our military are scared to fight the insurgency? All I know is that if Leah Sharibu is not being rescued that means her parent will lose hope in Buhari’s Administration.

However, she is the prisoner of conscience. She is the prisoner that has not failed to know her God.  She has indeed believed in her faith like one of the character in James Joyce’s short story, Dubliners. And, still her colleagues were released but she was held back because she refused to deny her faith. This is a simple meaning of a cultured girl. And she strongly believes in the article of faith.

Leah is an affable girl that knows that her right is to be freed from the thraldom of dooms. In a society of ours, because what she has done do not deserve this kind of maltreatment she is receiving. If truly, we have a government that understands the people— the Leah Sharibu of our time won’t spend these hours and days in captivity.

To make the system function, let us all know that, what happens to Leah Sharibu, could affect anybody. And prior to her abduction, we knew the Chibok girls’ story. Yet, the government has not found measure to liaise with the insurgent. And what I expect the government should have done is to take the military serious than ever. And the military needs to deploy tactics and strategy because this is like a fratricide.

For every life, it matters to us that, we should never forget to know that Leah Sharibu is still a piquant subject that can never be forgotten. Thus, her abduction is cumbersome. Perhaps, I expect the government to know that Nigerians want Leah Sharibu alive.

Her parent has cried for too long; to the extent that, they talked like the English poet, Andrew Marvel, in his poem: To His Coy Mistress, which says: ‘’Had we but world enough and time/ this coyness, lady, were no crime.’’ With truism, she has no crime. But, if Buhari forgets to do the needful, Leah Sharibu’s spirit won’t make Nigeria rest just because she is innocent.

Let us know that a sixteen years old girl has decided to hold on to her faith; and this makes her to be the prisoner of conscience. Even with a conscience heart, we pray for release.

@Babatunde_Mac

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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COLUMNISTS

EXPERTS UNDERSCORES IMPORTANCE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IN FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT

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Information Technology (IT) has been identified as a vital element to achieve maximum productivity, efficient and effective service delivery, with faster communication in Public Financial Management (PFM).

The Head, Management Information Unit, of the Office of Accountant General/State Treasury in Ogun State, Mr. Abdulfattah Odusanya stated this while presenting a paper at a 2-day Training on Public Financial Management held at Itori in Ewekoro Local Government Area of the State.

The programme was organized by the Ogun State Government (OGSG) through its Project Support Unit, Ministry of Budget and Planning, in collaboration with the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President (OSSAP) on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), for Financial Managers in selected Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), as well as those in Local Government Areas (LGAs).

Odusanya, while speaking on a paper titled “Information Technology: An Enhancement to Public Financial Management” said IT is a network of networks that has brought unprecedented change and redefined methods of communication, work, study, education, interaction, health, entertainment and commerce across the globe.

“Investment in IT system and infrastructure has become a key element in productivity and effective Public Financial Management.  Increased investment in IT-Capital has accelerated growth and development”, he said.

Speaking further on PFM enhancement through IT in Ogun State, Odusanya suggested integration of the State payroll with, Pension system for seamless transfer of retiring employee information, Biometric Time and Attendance Management software, seamless Online payment solution for salaries, pensions and vendors payments, all electronic revenue collection platforms for on-line real time monitoring and comprehensive reporting in the Treasury departments among others.

In her closing remark, the Director of Planning in the Ministry and the State Focal Person, Mrs. Yetunde Olatubosun urged participants to ensure that the knowledge gained from the training reflected in their professional conducts.

In their separate responses, the Head of Account Unit, Rural Water Supply and Sanitation, Mr. Adewale Adesanya and the Treasurer, Ifo LGA, Mrs. Hassan Enitan, described the training as impactful, assuring that knowledge acquired would enhance their performances as financial managers in the State and also enable them operate in line with best global practices.

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COLUMNISTS

Nigerian Pastors and Private Jets: The Future of the Gospel

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By Adebayo Raphael
As is often the case in Nigeria, each week has its own peculiar national issue around which the public discourse for the week is formed. And, this week has not been any different, specifically because, once again – like many times in the past – the issue of Internet Fraud in Nigeria reappears on the desk of public discourse. The argument had always been about whether Internet Fraud is right or wrong. But this time, it was in reaction to a public statement by a budding musician who said Internet Fraud in Nigeria is what’s keeping Nigeria’s economy afloat.
While I am unopposed to the fact that there is no justification for whatsoever crime a person commits, and one deemed blameworthy of any type of crime must be punished in accordance with the law, I am ideologically and practically inclined to believe, vehemently, that Internet Fraud is not the main problem in our society, but a symptom of a bigger problem which is the erasure of our value system.
Beyond this, I am dissatisfied by how the frenzied reactions to the ‘Yahoo-Yahoo’ discourse has somewhat rendered inconspicuous, another issue of note concerning the General Overseer of the Omega Fire Ministries, Apostle Johnson Suleiman, who is said to have purchased a new private jet, joining a disconcerting list of other high-taste pastors like Bishop David Oyedepo of the Living Faith Bible Church; Prophet T.B. Joshua of the Synagogue Church of All Nations; Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor (former president of Christian Association of Nigeria); Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God and others in their vainglorious gusto for luxury.
Before I proceed, however, I must establish that the urge to write this piece was specifically inflamed by the manner in which those who are called ‘Servants of God,’ ‘Messengers of God,’ ‘Men of God’ and others who ceremoniously answer such names, have recently developed a repugnant penchant for luxury and wealth, at the expense of their religious congregations. This costly penchant for opulence among Pastors, or leaders of different churches – which strikes one as though the purpose for which Christianity has become a widely-accepted religion is being turned upside down and sacrificed on the altar of fanfaronade and presumptuousness – indicates a very disturbing trend that must be nipped in the bud before it transmogrifies into a noxious epidemic, lest the entire Christian world and our dear nation be consumed by it.
I must also establish, that this piece has been written in a comparative manner, specifically drawing comparisons between Pastors and Elected Public Officials. This is so, because, there are some basic similarities between Pastors and Elected Officials – with some peculiar traits in the Nigerian context of the similarities – which makes them almost identical. For, on the one hand, the Pastors and Elected Officials benefit from the right of citizens to make choices. And, on the other hand, the success or failure of their respective endeavours, will be largely determined by the level of acceptability of their actions, by the people whose choices made them.
While, of course, the Elected Officials are easily grilled and excoriated by their constituents and the citizens at large; the Pastors enjoy a glorified system of deification, which makes them almost totally immune from questioning. In addition, just as elected officials are immune from prosecution during their time in public office; the pastors, too, enjoy different types of immunity from both the government and their ardent followers. However, an equally shared trait between the Pastors and Elected Officials, is their unabashed tendency to be unaccountable to the people whose mandate enabled them to be leaders.
To be clear, I admit that the traits ascribed to pastors above are equally shared by leaders of other religious groups. Nonetheless, I have chosen to leave out their names because the matter at hand is primarily about the Pastors. And, in all fairness, we can conveniently exclude leaders of other religious groups from matters of luxurious cravings because there is hardly any evidence of these leaders engaging in such wanton promiscuity. To avoid all doubts, I must warn that it would be a foolish thing to do; to compare these Pastors and their voracious tastes for luxury, with individuals who hold no elective positions or religious leadership positions.
Having established the aforementioned, I will proceed with a few points:
Firstly, it is no longer news that Nigeria; the country with the highest Christian population in Africa, is the Extreme Poverty Capital of the world – where more than 80Million of her citizens live in abject penury and below one dollar per day. Among the 80Million living in abject penury, at least, half of them (about 40Million) are Christians. Of this half, at least 50% of them are compelled by the damning messages of their Pastors and ‘Spiritual Leaders’ in their respective churches; to pay tithes, offerings, and other such monies weekly. And, despite the fact that the majority of their congregations live in penury, these pastors still exact tithes and other monetary commitments from them. These tithes and offerings, and other monetary commitments from Church members are monies for the Church – not monies for Pastors. However, these monies are susceptible to abuse because there is no established system of accountability to the congregation. To be clear, just as Elected Officials are accountable to the people, Pastors (and religious leaders in general) ought to be accountable to their congregations. The absence of a system of accountability makes abuse the norm and a luxurious life for Pastors its inevitable concomitant.
Secondly, I must mention that for as long as Pastors remain ‘messengers’ of the Gospel – as they would have us believe, they have absolutely no need to acquire private jets – not at this time – not in today’s Nigeria. Also, Biblically and morally, it is incontestably wrong, for Pastors to own properties as expensive as Private Jets or its equivalence, and quirkily defend such impropriety as a necessity in the propagation of the Gospel. For it is too much luxury, for Pastors to own luxurious cars, mansions and so on, in proportions only similar to a swarm of bees, while their congregations suffer in penury.
During his days, the Bible did not record Jesus as one with wanton desires for the acquisition of luxury and wealth. In fact, Biblical records show that he traversed many places mostly on foot – covering about 3000 miles during his missionary adventures. Even specific parts of the Bible like Matthew 19:21; Luke 12:33; Acts of the Apostles 4:32-35 and so on, enjoins Christians on how to manage personal and collective properties. It is, therefore, inexcusable, that in this day and age of widely affordable mediums of transportation and communication, those who traverse the face of the earth supposedly continuing the work of Jesus, are given to needless flamboyance and showiness, with a special knack for joining the propertied class, while their congregations are mostly urged to live modestly and cast their thoughts away from the things of the world.
Even morally, it is unthinkable, that leaders who lead many congregations and benefit from their hard-earned weekly donations, would consider the acquisition of Private Jets and other luxurious properties to be more important than the elevation of those congregations from abject penury. And, to be precise, what I mean by ‘elevation’ is the existence of deliberate and effective programs designed to uplift their congregations from penury – not tokenism in the form of occasional reach-out where people are given devotional materials and a handful of food to last barely a week.
In comparison with the Elected Officials, many of these Pastors are no different. In fact, one can easily conclude that they share the same modus operandi as far as the management of resources is concerned. For most elected officials in Nigeria are also given to vainglory and the acquisition of luxurious properties, depriving their constituents and citizens the comfort and good life they deserve.
Apparently, the aspirations of Nigeria’s Elected Officials are now similar to the aspirations of Nigerian Pastors: They all aspire to travel in luxurious comfort, live in luxurious mansions, drive luxurious cars, acquire luxurious properties and probably even die a luxurious death. They would rather be surrounded by bootlickers than be surrounded by frank and honest advisers. They consider their privileged positions as empires that must be protected by all means necessary and handed over to their offsprings. They are basically self-driven, not service-driven.
Thirdly, we must carefully observe how anomalies percolate through the length and breadth of different societies before becoming the norm: wherein it begins among a clique, it subsequently spreads to a larger group, and eventually becomes the sole aspiration of the whole society. Presently, we have only a handful of pastors purchasing private jets; but in no distant time, if we fail to nip this monstrous trend in the bud, it will become the aspiration of other religious leaders and eventually become the norm. When such a time comes, there will likely be more impoverished people to cater for (according to the projection of experts), and a remedy may be farther from reach than now.
Regardless of how this issue is viewed, we must, as a nation, urgently consider reforms for our religious organisations. We must question this untamed knack of pastors for ostentation and flamboyance. We must question how leaders of religious organisations (non-profit organisations) – are able to acquire properties worth millions of dollars without any explanation as to how these properties were acquired. We must ascertain the sources of these luxurious acquisitions, to avoid a situation where pastors unscrupulously use the funds of their churches for themselves, or, even worse; use their churches to siphon stolen public wealth through their unholy alliances with politicians. Perhaps, when the latitude for abuse is considerably minimal in religious organisations, the ostentatious desires and lifestyles of their leaders will also reduce.
Before it is too late, Christians must begin to demand transparency and accountability from their Pastors and General Overseers; the same way we all demand transparency and accountability from elected officials. The Nigerian government, also, must review its sacred-cow treatment of religious organisations; for it makes no sense, that while these churches are enjoying exemption from paying taxes, their religious heads are busy accumulating wealth and luxurious properties. Our nation suffers deficits in numerous areas, and we can’t have people accruing wealth and living boisterously under false pretences while citizens continue to suffer.
Adebayo Raphael is a Human Rights Activist and Development Consultant. He writes from Abuja and can be reached on Twitter via @Asorosobioro.
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