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Opinion: An Open Letter To Laolu Akande- Dele Momodu

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By Dele Momodu

My dear Pastor Laolu, let me start by saying I wonder what people eat or drink inside the Aso Rock Villa that makes some of those of your ilk, who we once admired, misbehave the way you did last night. I’ve known you for over two decades as a young, brilliant, respectful and likeable character and a dutiful, urbane journalist. And my affection for you and your good friends, including Adeolu Akande, Wale Adebanwi, Bode Opeseitan, and others, has never waned. When you travelled to America, your spirited journalistic work continued as you churned out good reports, especially in The Guardian newspaper of Nigeria. Anytime I was in the New York area or, indeed, any part of the United States, I kept in touch with you and your dear wife, as regularly as possible. We became a family.

About nine years ago, I called you from Maryland, USA, and told you I was attending the Nigerian Reunion Meet, an annual and biggest gathering of Nigerian youths in the US at any single event, at that time. You said you would like to meet me, and I was quite elated, as I have always been. When you came, we sat down over breakfast and you expressed the difficulties and vagaries of life you faced in America, and I said I understood perfectly well. I had faced similar experience in the United Kingdom during my exile years. So, we were partners-in-suffering. I told you that was why Ovation International was for me a matter of life and death.

On that visit, you expressed interest in becoming the North American Bureau Chief for Ovation International and I was glad to accept your proposal. I told our Editor to liaise with you and I moved on to deal with other issues. You got some events for coverage which we published in the magazine. At some point the Editor complained about the way you handled transactions and so on, but you and I never saw each other again after the day we met, till you got your appointment and returned to Nigeria as the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo’s spokesman. You never handed over to us at Ovation till this day. You simply abandoned a company that provided some modest income for you in America. But we never complained and made excuses for you that this was probably occasioned by the exigencies and circumstances of your appointment. On your return home, there was never the courtesy of “E ku ile…” I’m back home to any of us. Nevertheless, we were happy when your good news reached us.

We met for the first time, after your appointment, at the funeral service for Mama, Chief Mrs Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo, and I told you how unfortunate it was for you to be greeting me for the first time since your return to Nigeria. How would you have felt if someone treated you the way you treated us? No worries, I forgave your shortcomings, since none of us is perfect in life.

I have a policy of maintaining some distance from friends in power and accept whatever God has for me in other areas. I had volunteered and supported Major General Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, without being a member of APC. I campaigned to the best of my abilities without expecting anything in return but good governance. I am bemused whenever it is suggested that I have any ulterior motives in this regard. Let me tell you that if I set my heart on it, I would be offered government position of choice, but I prefer my independence and the opportunity to speak with candour even if what I say may be unpleasant to those I am addressing, at that moment.

Very early in the life of the government, I noticed and noted that many things were  going wrong and that we were working against the promises we made prior to the elections. I promptly wrote a memo to the President and was pleasantly surprised when I got an invitation to meet President Muhammadu Buhari. It remains a singular honour and privilege for me as I have a high personal regard and esteem for the President, even if I no longer agree with some of his politics and policies. I was alone with the President for enough time and the camaraderie between us was palpable. Many people, including Ministers, still wonder and ask how I got the President to relax and smile so much. I didn’t go to him for personal reasons but simply took the opportunity to tell him what the people of Nigeria expected of his government, the mistakes the Jonathan government made, and the need to learn from lessons of the past. The President seemed happy that someone was saying it as it should be. I never made any personal request since that was not my mission.

However, things went from bad to worse. Many started lamenting and complaining, including the wife of the President, Mrs Aisha Buhari. What made matters worse was the ill-health of the President, but the Vice President, Prof Osinbajo worked assiduously, smartly and loyally, to ensure the government began to give prominence to those matters which had won victory for APC and the Presidential team, for which the Vice President was commended by so many people, including me.

Thereafter, when the President returned and things appeared to slide back to the inglorious state that they were before he left, I wrote several letters to the President offering my 10 kobo advice and still continued to report his activities “formally.” Even long after I gave up on his government ever changing its fumbling and wobbly style, I continued to fulfil all righteousness. I must note that my criticism of the Buhari administration never elicited insults directly from Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, both of who are highly respected and admired professionals, except that some overzealous people who felt the job of journalists is to praise leaders and governments, endlessly did so on their behalf, but without their knowledge at times.

On February 3, 2019, I had sent you a message of congratulations on the miracle of the Vice President and his entire team surviving the helicopter crash and suggested all of you should please see Doctors and you thanked me. “May God continue to protect you and Oga and all as you travel around. That was really shocking…” I prayed. Nothing else was expected of reasonable human beings particularly as I consider the Vice President a dear brother that I will continue to respect.

I have gone through this long preamble to prepare the ground for the shock and shocker I got from you last night. The next time I heard from you was on March 13, 2019, when you said you needed a “right of reply” to the Pendulum column I wrote last week, which was an open letter to your boss, the Vice President, a gentleman that I will continue to hold in high esteem and admiration, no matter the provocation from people like you. I instantly agreed to release that page, as is not only my personal approach, but also the Thisday tradition. I even messaged you, “Pls let me know if you need the entire space…” and you responded “Bob Dee Baba, I told them you will never block a right of reply…even if you give out the whole page. Will revert.” I immediately alerted the Editor, Yemi Adebowale, that Laolu Akande has requested for my page this week, and we both agreed that it should be given to you to respond as you wished. It was obvious from your message that there were some hawks and hounds baying for my blood, but such is life.

Pastor Laolu, as a journalist, I knew you should know about deadlines and respect it. I told you to, please, let us have your rejoinder on Thursday, March 14, 2019, and you said yes, in writing, but you never did. So, I went ahead to write a tribute to our departed colleague, Professor Pius Adesanmi. But, suddenly, you resurfaced at 15:47pm on Friday, March 15, 2019, in one word, “sent,” no apologies, just like that. Still, I immediately checked my mail but did not find your rejoinder. I called and you then sent a WhatsApp version, which I read. I always send virtually everything I write and any rejoinders to my good friend and Lawyer, Prince Adedamola Aderemi, and the only sentence we both singled out, separately, and without any consultation, was where you said “For good measure, Bob Dee, maybe we should just remind our readers that not only are you an active member of opposition, you also retain with top notchers of the PDP significant business relationships.” For us, you were entitled to your opinion and views on all other matters, just as I had expressed my views in my column, but this allegation was patently false.

I couldn’t believe those words emanated from a man who knew me well and knows my disdain for money politics. For the avoidance of doubt, I am not a member of the PDP whether card-carrying or otherwise. I have never attended any of its meetings or those of its members, and I have never been paid by the Party for any kind of work. If, by opposition you mean generally, then of course, I will admit to being a member of the National Conscience Party (NCP). As much as anyone who is my friend, you should understand how opposition politics, including supporting APC, has robbed me of the fabulous “free monies” that often litter the landscape of Nigerian politics. If, that was attractive to me, there was no way I would have ignored PDP to support APC in 2015, and there is no way I would not have continued to support APC, now. I called you and explained to you that your accusation was false and that this sentence should be expunged, and you said yes, you will do so immediately and resend. Just to delete one sentence, Pastor Laolu, I waited from around 17:01 pm till about 20:18, nothing came from you. At 20:21, you fired a message and said “No, I want to make substantial additions sir…that is why it is taking time. Wanted to proof (sic) every claim I make.” And I told you to feel free.

I sent messages to you till 21:28 but got no response, whatsoever, to say whether you still wanted the space or not. The Editor gave me a 10:00 pm deadline and I quickly got the Pius Adesanmi tribute ready for its original space. Unknown to me, you and whoever was misleading you, and goading you on, were very busy cooking more vituperative and irresponsible attacks on my person. You eventually sauntered back at 23:18 pm, for God’s sake, and you expected everyone to wait for you. The Editor had taken the decision to run Adesanmi’s tribute and run your rejoinder fully next week. But you insisted yours would be late by then and you returned my call at 00:02 am and informed me that you had been in touch with the Editor who said it was up to me.

Thereafter, you told me, verbally, that whether we use your rejoinder today or not, you will release it to other media houses and platforms. I then pointed out to you, that your new rejoinder was even far worse than the one I had complained about earlier. Obviously, your fake adviser or informant had convinced you that I was Saraki’s agent and that was eating and heating you up. You screamed Saraki’s name so much that I wondered what had suddenly possessed you. You were dripping with venom and so convinced Saraki was my Lord and saviour. Your previous reasonable and personable mien and disposition had vanished like a mirage. It was like you were pliantly succumbing to some sort of exorcism conducted by a manipulative demon. I promised to respond to this new Rejoinder, and you raised your voice against me that you will continue to respond to me. You asked if I was threatening you and I responded that it was not a threat, but my right to tell you, unequivocally, that I supported Atiku, voluntarily, the same way I supported Buhari without ever being a member of APC. Your voice was so harsh and vociferous that I was alarmed and worried about your personal health and safety, all because of power. You were rude to your older Brother and former boss.

The saddest part of your uniformed, ill-thought and ill-judged piece was when you wrote, in your opening paragraph, that I had dumped Saraki for Atiku. I would have thought you were taught logic in school. If Saraki lost the primaries and I supported Atiku, how did I dump Saraki? If Saraki that you said I dumped was the Director General of the Atiku Presidential Campaign, how can you claim I dumped Saraki for Atiku. So that your paymaster knows, I have never worked in Saraki’s office or been mandated to act for him as a spokesperson or mouthpiece. I simply loved the passion he put into the Buhari campaign in 2015 and the way he prevented Nigeria from becoming a one-party state. My admiration for him has not diminished with time or circumstances since then. That is my view, to which I am entitled. I was the first to salute Saraki’s courage after he conceded defeat, like all democrats do. My advice to Atiku urging him to congratulate President Buhari, notwithstanding his perceived displeasure and disappointment about the conduct and outcome of the elections, was an act of statesmanship. How can you translate my innocent, peaceful advice to mean I dumped Atiku? After I said so, many eminent Nigerians have echoed my sentiments and advised Atiku in exactly the same way and words.

The truth, which you acknowledged in your rejoinder, is that I still complained about the conduct of the elections. It is up to you to support your treatise with any manner of facts and views. The public and I know the truth which may not be palatable for you to hear. My aim is not to demean the victory of APC, but to ensure that lessons are indeed learnt. The same lessons that should have been learnt from 1983!

I pray you get your mind back, like many before you, whenever you return from the gilded cage. By God’s grace, I will be here waiting to receive you with open arms.

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COLUMNISTS

OKADA RESTRICTION: SANWO-OLU’S ACTION IN THE BEST INTEREST OF LAGOS

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By Gboyega Akosile

‘’If you care about the security of Lagos State, support your Governor on the restriction of Okada and Keke.’’ This was the submission of the former Governor of Lagos State and current Minister of Works, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola at a recent interaction with newsmen in Lagos.

I have followed news reports, commentaries, opinion articles and street reactions for and against the restriction on the commercial operations of Okada and Keke by my principal, Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu in some parts of Lagos State. While some appear as balanced argument, especially along the economic line, which can’t stand as good reasons for policy reversal, several others were pure sentiment and emotional outbursts, mostly lacking in logical reasoning. A careful analysis of the subject matter has shown that there is a consensus among the protagonists and the antagonists that commercial motorcyclists and tricyclists have become a danger in Lagos; everybody knows and agrees to this red flag! In fact many of those against the Okada restriction, whether knowingly or unknowingly have called for total eradication of bicycles and tricycles in the city of Lagos.

A columnist, Bimbo Adelakun in the back page of the Punch newspaper on Thursday February 6th wrote:

‘’In principle, I am not against the ban on those vehicles themselves, but the timing and the execution of Sanwo-Olu’s decision. I believe that okadas and kekes have to go at some point. They are an urban nuisance, an ungainly sight, a blight, and an ugly blotch on Nigeria’s botched landscape. Those vehicles desecrate spaces and painfully highlight the un-citiness of our cities.”

Same with Bashorun Dele Momodu in his pendulum column at the back page of ThisDay newspaper submitted that:

”Apart from the population explosion and the stupendous traffic jams, Lagos is bedevilled by a major security conflagration. This arises from its metropolitan nature and its willingness to welcome and absorb all those who genuinely want to be a part of its miracle. The flip side of this welcoming attitude is that Lagos will also attract shady characters and nefarious elements. The recent influx of unidentifiable immigrants into Lagos is just a sample of this major headache and has further compounded the bad situation.”

There are several other writers who have taken a position either for or against this restriction. Many of them have offered what they, in their opinion think should be the best solution to the Okada menace. I see this as a good development for our fledgling democracy. However, one must remind these opinion writers that most of what they offered in their write ups were at one time or another, part of several suggestions placed before Government. One must also educate them that Government didn’t wake up to place restrictions on the commercial activities of bicycles and tricycles in parts of the city.

Deaths were being recorded on a daily basis as a result of the reckless nature of Okada riders. Security of lives was threatened, as Okada became the easiest form of mobility for criminals. Recklessness, disorderliness and total disregard to the traffic rules reigned supreme among the Okada and Keke riders.

Their behaviour has taken a toll on the social and environmental well-being of the people.

Government has a responsibility to protect the lives and property of its citizens. As Governor Sanwo-Olu said during the flag off of the commercial operations of Lagos Ferry services, his administration deemed it necessary to restrict the operation of commercial motorcycles and tricycles in some parts of the State, especially in six Local Governments, nine Local Council Development Areas (LCDA), 16 major highways and 41 bridges, where there have been records of security breaches, disobedience to traffic rules, accidents and untimely deaths caused by motorcycle and tricycle riders. The decision of the government is definitely in line with what he promised over 22 million Lagosians during his inauguration on May 29, 2019.

“We intend to make history by making for ourselves and our children a better future…Let us vow to ourselves, and to posterity that we shall not just dream of a Greater Lagos. Let us agree this day that we shall collectively rise up to build the Lagos of our dreams.

“My administration will ensure that we walk the talk as far as transparency, the rule of law and fiscal discipline are concerned. We will make sure that we create the right environment in which security and safety of lives and property are guaranteed…On this day, I vow as your Governor that I will serve the public cause with my utmost ability and commitment,” Governor Sanwo promised while delivering his inaugural address titled ‘Awakening a Greater Lagos’ on May 29, 2019 at Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), Lagos.

Therefore, as a man who is passionate about pursuing his dream of a Greater Lagos, it is expected of him to do the needful in protecting the citizens of the state who trooped out en masse during the March 9, 2019 governorship poll to elect him as the Chief Executive of the commercial capital of Nigeria.

There is also a need to remind these commentators that one of the rare qualities of a leader is his ability to make tough decisions especially in the best interest of the people. As a great leader, Governor Sanwo-Olu believes in the greatest good for the greatest number. On the strength of this, Mr. Governor has said his decision to restrict the movements of Okada and Keke in the publicized locations is irreversible because it was made in the best interest of the residents.

Governor Sanwo-Olu, while launching eight locally manufactured speedboats of the Lagos State Ferry Services, LAGFERRY held at Badore Ferry Terminal, Ajah, reiterated that the decision was for security and safety reasons.

His said: “We will sustain the restriction on Okada and tricycles, mainly because of security and safety reasons. The security and safety of citizens are paramount to any government. As a responsible government, we will not fold our arms and allow any security breach in the state.

“We will continue to ensure the safety of our people on all fronts. There have been reports of serious security breaches and safety concerns in areas where these operators ply. We had to respond to these concerns because lives and safety matter to this government.”

Reports from different quarters have shown clearly that more people, including opposition parties in the state are fully in support of the step taken by the Government. None has outrightly disagreed with the restriction policy but many of them have raised concerns about provision of alternative for commuters and riders who were affected by the order.

In answering the above question, less than 24 hours after the enforcement of the restriction, Governor Sanwo-Olu ordered the release of 65 buses to immediately begin operations. There are plans for additional 550 buses for the feeder roads. This is to ameliorate the challenge being faced by the residents. Also, the continuation of massive rehabilitation of roads across the state is part of efforts by the government to give the residents a great lease of life.

Corroborating the Governor’s position, the National Publicity Secretary of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), Mr. Adejare Adeoye, in a press statement he signed and issued on Monday said: “Sanitising Lagos State and getting rid of these lawless miscreants that have been invading Lagos in droves for many years is a welcome development and good step in the right direction. Many of them hide under the pretense of riding Okada and Keke during the day, while they strategically distribute themselves in inner and exterior parts of Lagos State committing all manners of crimes and untold hardship on residents.

“Security of lives and properties in any part of Nigeria is a business of all citizens of Nigeria, so, undocumented invaders, should not be allowed in any part of the country, as there is serious need for vigilance due to the growing rate of terrorism, banditry, kidnapping, thuggery, mindless killings and other criminal activities.

“Many of these guys are invaders, who must be checked and be sent back to wherever they came from. At least, on two occasions, they have shown their true colors, when they went to attack Ejigbo Police Station in Oshodi-Isolo, around 11pm at night, which caused panic in the area. At another time, they went to attack a local government, because a task force official of the local council demanded for the normal levy, which they refused to pay, hence their bike got confiscated, instead of following lawful ways to get the issue resolved, they resulted to lawless act by setting the local government council on fire. This is brutal, crude, mindless, and must be stopped.

“We cannot afford to open our eyes, while these aliens take over the entire Lagos, because if not quickly arrested, we won’t all be able to sleep, as another type of insurgents might spring up, and will be troubling everyone of us in the State. When our lives is threatened by invaders, we must learn to eschew politics of bitterness and stand by the truth.”

Also speaking on the issue, a security expert and President of Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria, Dr. Ona Ekhomu, said the restriction was necessary to bring sanity back to Lagos roads.

He disclosed this during an interview published on Saturday, February 1 edition of The Punch Newspaper.

Ekhomu said, “The ban on okada and keke on some routes in Lagos has some advantages. I think the government has done well in a civil manner by listing the roads where they are to stop plying. Any commercial motorcycle or tricycle rider that is affected should simply look for other routes to ply because it is good to have sanity on the road.

“Those that used to ply Ikorodu road around the Ketu and Mile 12 axis had hitherto constituted nuisance. A society without rules and regulations is a lawless society, so, I think that they should abide by it.”

A governorship candidate in the 2019 governorship election in Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Gbadamosi, without any iota of doubt is a passionate Lagosian who wants the best for Lagos State and this is the reason he contested to govern the State on three occasions. Despite the political differences between him and Governor Sanwo-Olu, Gbadamosi hailed Lagos State government for taking a bold step to restrict the operation of the commercial motorcycles.

“There is no doubt in my mind that something needed to be done about the clear and present danger that many Okada & Keke operators had come to constitute to the lives and limbs of Lagosians, as well as their safety and security, with the invasion of Ajeromi-Ifelodun LGA HQ still fresh in our minds, as well as several recently reported incidents of attempted lynchings by mobs of Okada riders over traffic incidents. To that extent, one must commend the government for making some kind of decision,” he stated in a Facebook post titled “Transport for Lagos PT 2” on Tuesday, February 4.

The icing on the cake is the support by the ruling political party, the All Progressives Congress. Commenting on the restriction, the State Publicity Secretary of the party, Hon. Seye Oladejo, said people remained the focal point of Governor Sanwo-Olu’s administration.

His words: “Let me recall that the law being implemented has been in place for over six years after painstaking efforts by the Lagos State house of assembly to incorporate in-puts from all stakeholders. The gradual implementation of the law is a reflection of the thoughtfulness of the government not to create a shock in the polity.

“While he noted the reasons for the partial ban, it was convenient not to acknowledge the measures put in place by government to stem the impact. May I use this medium to acknowledge and appreciate the voluntary compliance of some operators in line with the laws of the state. We also wish to encourage the riders to take advantage of opportunities offered by the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, the Lagos State Vocational Training Institutes, the ministry of women affairs and poverty alleviation, civic engagement etc. The people remain the focal point of the Sanwo-Olu administration while not losing sight of its onerous responsibility to ensure the safety of lives and property of the citizenry.”

Reading through the views of many people, it is clear to me that this action taken by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration is in the best interest of Lagos State and all the residents.

It should however be noted that this is not the first time that Lagos State government will be restricting the operation of commercial motorcycles in the State. Former Governor Babatunde Fashola’s administration in 2012 banned Okada in some parts of Lagos due to increase in crimes and high records of accident victims in government hospitals, a move that saw a drastic reduction in crime rate and Okada-related hospital enrolments.

 

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COLUMNISTS

NIGERIA DEMOCRACY, YOUTH RESTIVENESS AND DRUG ABUSE

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BY: Ademola Orunbon

          It is the belief of many that democracy should guarantee people good life. A stable democracy piloted by visionary leaders who possess the intellectual clouts to see issues at their broader and more complex perspectives should ensure a strong, stable, vibrant, virile economy with an enabling peaceful and stable political environment. Under a condition like this, the citizens can benefits maximally and fullest from democracy – good living condition, employment generation, security of lives, property and equal opportunities for self-actualization.

It must be the quest for a society where every individual can pursue his or her own aspiration using his or her God given potentials to the fullest that made many Nigerians take the battle for democracy with seriousness it deserved. But our democracy had been bastardized through bad leadership and non-challant of our leaders that tends to stay in power for the rest of their life, although Africa countries has trends of ‘sit tight’ syndromes.

Indeed, I don’t see any concrete reason why youths of nowadays will be canvassing people to vote for a 70 years and above old man into power, as they did in the last year general elections, while the youths of 40 plus roaming around the streets without job opportunities and which could not even have access to ordinary State House of Assemble ticket, instead of National House of Assembly due to the high cost of nomination forms and financial constraint to pursue his/her political carriers.

Imagine after Fifteen (15) years of uninterrupted military misrule during which the most cherished values of Nigerians were destroyed, with cavalier arrogance, by a band of ruthless, atavistic and self-seeking soldiers, the hunger of Nigerians for good governance can be understood. For fifteen (15) years, we all watched helplessly, albeit painfully, the systematic denigration of all decent norms and the deliberate pauperization of the citizens of this country. But for the pursuing of good governance and government of the people by the people and for the people ‘Democracy’ which ushered in our present transition that people earnestly eagering/aspiring for but the reverse is the case as we all watch without any rebuff, our activists had gone to sleep in the present of draconian legislation and military mentality/junta of the present administration.

Presently, no activists, group of people dare challenge the government, if they dare mobilize for protest or anything else, they will be framed up and end up in questioning by the Economic Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) or Department Of State Security (DSS) for unknown reasons. People now opt to keep mum instead of reacting to their style of governance. When are we going to put enough to all these maladministration, witch hunting of innocent people of this country for goodness sake? After all, the era of military junta is over and our constitution entrench everyone free of association and expression which we are now depriving of.

Now, the consequence, of course, were devastating; hunger, disease and ignorance became the lot of Nigerians. Life became a thing to endure rather than enjoy. But with the birth of the democratic dispensation, in 1999, millions of Nigerians were imbued with hope, hopes that at last, beautiful things were about to happen to the country that their sorrows and distress would soon be the thing of the past and come to an end totally. What with the avalanche of promises made to the people by the democratically elected leaders! But after twenty-one (21) years of transition programme, the democratically leaders are yet to make the people see the difference between this civilian regime and the plundering military junta that for long held the nation hostage.

Although, it is commonly said that the worst civilian regime is much better than the best military administration, Nigerian will want to see this betterment in very concrete terms and forms. Nigerians will wants to see food on their tables, have access to effective health care delivery system, good roads, potable water etc. There must be a remarkable difference manifestable in the quality of life of the citizens of this country. The life become harder for the people, people are committing suicide by jumping into the rivers and hanging themselves for the fact that they cannot meet up with the present situation of the Nigeria’s economy, no more middle class, it is either you rich or you poor, corporate beggars become the order of the days, no one is now feeling shy to beg for money. Please, what sort of democracy are we practicing?

We surely know that the problems of this country are too numerous to be solved even within the short period of any administration irrespective of any political parties. But one would have expected that after twenty-one (21) years of civilian administration, any serious government should have laid the foundation for finding lasting solutions to these problems. Regrettable, however, our politicians have been busy chasing shadows. All we have been hearing are ganging-ups impeachments, combat between governors and his deputy, accusations and counter accusation of corruption both real and imagined – while the social problems of the people have been neglected. When will the politicians stop pursing all these fruitless ventures and for once start working to make life better for those who elected them into office or will they allow the hope of Nigerians to die off?

Imagine from obscurity, oil boom catapulted Nigeria into global economic limelight in the 60s and 70s, and the doom of a profligate nation was held in abeyance by time. Very soon, corruption came knocking, but boom wedged its foot against the door ajar, inquiring who the intrusive visitor was. Corruption is an albatross who never travels alone. Ethnicity, impunity, nepotism, arrogance, disunity and unimaginable leadership were on its entourage. Corruption shoved down boom out of the doorway, tearing down the door for his entourage to march in. Ever since, Nigeria has battled corruption, its entourage and other forms of evil without success.

Of all the evils bedeviling the country, however, none is as frightening and as potentially calamitous as the evil of drug abuse afflicting her youths. Not corruption. Not defections. Drug abuse is the very Sword of Damocles dangling high above the heart of Nigeria. Drug abuse has scaled the fence of higher institutions and entered into churches and mosques, the holy of holies. Indeed, the drug abuse has been on the increase, but I never knew it has entered into places of worship. Imagine the viral video of a young cultist girl in hijab then, who confessed of killing several people.

If you can recall then, when some Abia state University students beheaded fellow students and used their heads as goalposts, the federal and state government didn’t see drug abuse as a predisposing factor. When armed robbers killed over 50 persons in a bank robbery in Offa, Kwara state years back, the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), didn’t see drug abuse as a factor. Government  didn’t see drug abuse in the squishing of countless victims’ head by Badoo Boys in Ikorodu, and the ritual killings by Yahoo-Yahoo Boys. Oh Allah, where are we going in this country. We hardly govern ourselves successfully. Shall we call for emissary to do so? if we couldn’t do it then.

The Presidency and National Assembly are lost about redeeming Nigeria’s drugs-crazed youths, but are very much alive political pettiness. Cultism doesn’t reside in tertiary institutions and secondary schools anymore, it has moved into primary schools, mechanic workshops, hairdressing salons, butchers’ association, viewing centres, eateries and beer parlours. No family is immune; the threat is real. There are times when parents must maintain eternal vigilance on their children. While the children of the rich do cocaine, heroin, amphetamine etc, those of the poor sniff gum, human and lizard faeces, urine and gulp Tramadol. Marijuana is now like peppermints to our future generation.

Orunbon, a journalist and public affairs analyst, writes from Abeokuta, Ogun State.

Can be reached via: orunbonibrahimademola@gmail.com, or 08034493944 and 08029301122

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COLUMNISTS

Amotekun and why Oranmiyan should stay in its grove

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By Dare Babarinsa

It is not too surprising that the Amotekun security initiatives of the South-West is creating a flurry in many quarters. The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami sees it as a challenge to the exclusive powers of the Federal Government as far as security is concerned. The irony is lost on Malami, a lawyer of great education but limited understanding, that it is the consistent failure of his masters that made the case for Amotekun and similar outfits in the federation so compelling.

The governors of the Yoruba heartland have not shied away from defending their position. Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State who is the chairman of the Nigeria’s Governors Forum, affirm that the governors are only doing their duty to their people. Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, a lawyer of national stature and former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, reminded Malami that the Attorney-General of the Federation is not a judge. Only the court, according to the 1999 Constitution, can interprete the laws of Nigeria. In an interview, Ishola Williams, a retired major-general, said Malami must be suffering from Strategic Thinking Deficit, STD.

It is good that the governors and the people of the South-West are united in their support for the Amotekun initiative. Often in the past, it has always been difficult for the governors to seat together and hold regular meetings. Now something pressing is compelling them to understand the old dictum that unity is strength. Not everyone would agree to the strategies and tactics being used for this Amotekun. First what is delaying the bill for its establishment from being presented to the six Houses of Assembly? Why are Kogi and Kwara States not invited as strategic partners in this project knowing the importance of these two states with substantial Yoruba population and as gateways to the South-West? What are the structures and other modalities for its operations? We have seen the vehicles. We are eager to see it in action.

There has been rumblings from certain quarters over the true implication of all these moves. Aare Afe Babalola, the legal titan and founder of Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, Abuad, said the laws and the Constitution permits the governors to take the initiative. “The Amotekun outfit is a protective and supportive outfit established by the governors of the Southwest,” Babalola said. “It has its roots in the 1999 Constitution and the previous Constitutions before it – 1960 and 1963.”

What I find strange is that some people who believe fervently that unity is good for Nigeria do not believe that unity is good for Yorubaland. Indeed, for the past 200 years, disunity has been the lot of Yorubaland where every little disagreement is allowed to develop into a millennia battle. The Action Group Party of Chief Obafemi Awolowo was able to bring a semblance of unity to Yoruba land when most of the Yoruba people found themselves under one government, the government of Western Region. Alas! It was not to last. By 1962, three years after Awolowo left the premiership, a rebel faction had ruptured the unity of the party and the effect lingers till today.

Nothing could show the weakness of the Yoruba more than the needless 100-years Civil Wars of the 19th Century which was ignited by the rise of the military class. Afonja, the Aare Ona Kakanfo, the commander-in-chief of Oyo Imperial Army, had rebelled against his overlord, the Alaafin and proclaimed the independence of Ilorin, the provincial town where he was based. The Alaafin tried to rally round the other commanders against the rebels but failed and that began the devastation of almost the entire Yoruba country. Other generals, perhaps envying the temporary success of Afonja in Ilorin, used the opportunity to seize the initiatives and in most places, the kings ruling in most of the kingdoms became nominal heads.

Despite the pressing danger to their independence, the Yoruba would not unite. Even after the Ibadan forces devastated the Ilorin hordes at the battle of Osogbo in 1840, the Yoruba could not press the advantage. The Fulani and their Yoruba supporters held on to Ilorin and later they took Offa and many towns in the Ibolo District. So much was the division in Yorubaland that when the Oba of Lagos, King Dosumu, sent emissaries to the Ooni, the Alaafin and the Awujale, to help him in his confrontation with the British, they were too busy to respond and it was easy, after a few artillery barrage, for the British to annex Lagos and turn it into their colony in 1861.

Though the Yoruba had 500,000 men under arms by the end of the 19th Century, the British seized Yorubaland and make it part of their Nigeria experiment. They quickly built the Agodi Prison in Ibadan and when some of the old commanders, including Ogedengbe of Ilesha, were reluctant to cooperate, they simply threw them into prison. Note that most of the towns destroyed and devastated in the 19th Century wars; Owu, Igbon, Iresa, Ikoyi, Ijaiye and others, met their fate in the hands of Yoruba soldiery and not their enemies.

It is good to learn now at this early stage that the enemy within is more dangerous. That is what should worry those who are in charge of this new initiative. In recent years, the Federal Government has shown disturbing incapacity to rein-in the terror gangs of kidnappers, robbers and sundry merchants of death. There is no doubt that the police have made tremendous progress especially with the special unit of the Inspector-General of Police, but a lot still needs to be done. It is good now that the governors are doing something.

The challenge would not only come from the Federal Government and those who fear that the Amotekun initiative is a ploy to break the country. The governors need to do the needful quickly and get the law passed in the Houses of Assembly. One ridiculous man always in funny headgear who called himself a professor was reported to have said that Amotekun was a ploy to oppress Muslims. How many Nigerians can recognize a Yoruba Muslim from a Yoruba Christian and one who is an Ifa devotee? There are many who navigates between the three!

The truth is that Yoruba don’t care too much about religious differences. It is of very little consequence or relevance to them. In his heydays as the Father of Nigerian Nationalism, Herbert Macaulay’s strongest support base were the Muslims of Lagos. So influential was he that he got one of his supporters elected the Chief Imam of Lagos. Alhaji Azeez Arisekola Alao, the late Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland contributed in building many churches across Yorubaland. My friend, Prince Bisi Olatilo, a staunch Christian, contributed in building a mosque in memory of his father-in-law in Ibadan. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, a Baptist Christian, led others to raise money to build a mosque as part of the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library complex in Abeokuta. Therefore, we need to watch out for this funny professor who may be serving the interest of foreign masters who are not necessarily in love with Yorubaland or Nigeria.

Amotekun is here to stay. The genie is out of the bottle. This initiative would serve as inspiration to other geo-political zones to come up with ideas about how to safeguard the Nigerian Commonwealth. It is also a pointer to us that we need to look at the grassroots for the Constitutional changes that people like Aare Babalola are advocating for. It is no good expecting the President and the Federal Government to take all the initiatives. What is important is that whatever is done must take into account the good of the majority of our people.

Amotekun has simply put paid to any attempt at self-help as some people have been advocating earlier especially after the brutal murder of Papa Reuben Fasoranti’s daughter by suspected rogue Fulani herdsmen. In 1969, peasant farmers, fed up with what they alleged was punishing taxation, organized a revolt against the government of Western State. The Agbekoya Revolt was a serious challenge to the Federal Government of General Yakubu Gowon who was then pre-occupied by the Nigerian Civil War. To bring peace, Chief Awolowo, who was now the Vice-Chairman of the Federal Executive Council, volunteered to meet the Agbekoya High Command.

The meeting took place at Akanran village near Ibadan. Members of the Agbekoya High Command, led by a gangly old man, Chief Tafa Adeoye, wore the old purple uniform of the traditional Yoruba officers corps (the ordinary soldiers wore indigo blue). They had with them the Apete Oranmiyan (Oranmiyan Standard) which were only brought out in times of war. The last general to take it to war was Aare Latoosa who died at the Igbajo camp during the Ekiti Parapo campaign. After negotiation was concluded, Awolowo persuaded them to return the standard to its groove.
Every Yoruba should work hard to keep the Oranmiyan Standard in its grove for war and upheaval cannot benefit anybody. Amotekun should be used to keep that peace so that everyone living in Yorubaland should feel safe and secure no matter his or her roots or ethnic background. That is what the ancestors would want. That is what would keep the Oranmiyan Standard in its resting place.

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