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COLUMNISTS

PENDULUM: AN OPEN LETTER TO VICE PRESIDENT YEMI OSINBAJO

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BY DELE MOMODU

“A lost nation is not one which lacks a ruler, but one that lacks law. Distortion of law does not mean there is no law. It means there is law but it is not applied.”

– Law Definition – Duhaime’s Law Dictionary

My dear Uncle Yemi, please, permit me to cut out the protocols and address you the way I always do. I have looked up to you as a big Brother for many, many years. I have the highest respect and regard for you personally and for your accomplishments as an academic, religious and political leader (please, note that I did not say politician, because I do not see you as one. You are honest, forthright and loyal unlike most politicians). I must also congratulate you on your election with President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term of office, even if I have reservations about the sloppy conduct of the election. I have never hidden my admiration for your commendable performance in office during your first term. You have been the major embellishment and strongest advocate of this government.

I know this open letter must come to you as a surprise because I have unlimited access to you on my own accord, and through family and friends. We’ve actually met a few times privately since you became Vice President. I have chosen to go public with this letter because it is not about you personally, even though it is addressed to you, but because it is about matters of a public nature that concerns you and your government. There may be lessons to be learnt by others apart from you. At those times when we have met one on one, I was able to express myself candidly to you. Our last private meeting was a secluded one, in Ikoyi, Lagos which happily was witnessed by one of your aides, Pastor Laolu Akande. At that meeting, when you and I sat and discussed for a considerable period of time, I had expressed serious reservations about the direction your government was headed, and you asked if it was that bad and I responded that it was “much worse.”

I have decided to write you today, Sir, after writing similar letters to your boss, President Muhammadu Buhari, in the past, without eliciting positive results. Our discussions have always been about our uncommon passion for Nigeria and not about anything personal. Long before you became Vice President, I had stumbled on you at Heathrow Terminal 3 one evening, and naturally, our interaction dovetailed to the State of the Nigerian nation. We were both concerned about the lack of progress and the usual sundries. By the grace of God, you are now the number two citizen of Nigeria, by virtue of your position as Vice President. I was very excited the day you were selected and even more so, the day you officially won the election. We all expected a new Nigeria, indeed. Our expectations were high.

As days climbed days and months mounted months, things began to fall apart. The last four years became a grand mirage of blame games. I watched you speak at different events and on varying platforms and could not believe how much blames you heaved on past governments without remembering that many of the called past actors are now in your party, warts and all. Things seemed to improve admirably whenever you acted as President. The sanity in the land was palpable. You took right decisions and made efforts to reach out to all Nigerians of different persuasions, tribes and tongues. Everyone praised you for your modern and cosmopolitan style of governance and the way you have embraced technology. But whenever the President resumed work, it seemed the unbridled conservatism and rigidity returned with him in full force, and with renewed vigour. Your exciting forward movement always appeared to go backwards, in reverse gear. It was as if some people were angry about your success and the relative peace and prosperity that you managed to secure.

I did not expect you to do anything other than to keep supporting your boss and espousing his policies. You’ve always been absolutely loyal and dependable since serving Prince Bolasodun Ajibola in the Attorney-General’s office, through to being Attorney-General, yourself, in the Lagos State Government of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu and up to now as Vice President to President Muhammadu Buhari. This is commendable. My worry, and main reason, for writing you publicly today is because of the recklessness of your government in the last few months in its dealings with the Nigerian people. The immediate cause of this epistle is the issue of the ongoing elections. Nigerians had looked forward to these elections with both excitement and trepidation. The energy many put into it was unbelievable. Even after the first date was postponed, many still went out, against all odds, to exercise their rightful franchise. But what did they meet out there? A simple election was turned into an act and theatre of war. Many innocent souls were killed, wasted, maimed or injured. Properties were mindlessly destroyed including those of the umpire, INEC. There were reported cases of rape of INEC officials and some were forced under duress, at gun points, to declare fake or falsified results. In Lagos, your adopted home State, many voters were disenfranchised through malevolent beatings. Ballot boxes with ballot papers were seized and smashed and scattered into the wild winds or raging inferno. Yet, the security people, with all the braggadocio of the President could do nothing more than to watch the thugs of their own masters go on rampage, unhindered. Contrary to the provisions of the electoral laws, many States voted without their PVC or the card reader machines that were meant to capture data and reduce the usual electoral malpractices and general rascality, because they were faulty or unutilised, or deliberately ignored.

After all was said and done, your Party was declared winner of the controversial election by INEC. The election was rated among the most dreadful and despicable ever in the history of Nigeria. Despite this fact, I was one of the first to call on the opposition leader, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to rise above everything else and transfer the burden to your government by following the new tradition that was established by former President Goodluck Jonathan despite the fact that President Buhari had stated whether jocularly or seriously, we do not know, that he can never lose the election, so he would never have to congratulate his opponent!

Anyway. My painful and difficult request to Atiku was predicated on my good knowledge of our dear country. One. I didn’t want any violence to break out with more innocent people being killed. Two. I liked the example of former President Al Gore in America, who after fulfilling all righteousness, by calling his opponent, George W. Bush,  still went to court, even if it was more of an academic exercise. 3. I have learnt some lessons from the wisdom of the Yoruba which says when your home is invaded by an armed robber, there is no point getting killed when you can pretend to be weak before you fight back later. Also, when a lunatic invades your wedding and says he is the groom of the day, don’t argue with, please tell him he is, and guide him out gently for you to continue your ceremony. 4. There were lessons to learn from how the June 12 crisis was handled and Atiku should know that most of his supporters will soon disappear in a short while due to various reasons, sometimes due to no fault of theirs but practical expediency and self-preservation. It seems to me that no government, in recent memory, has terrorised the opposition more than yours with a fickle and skewed campaign against corruption. Many have discovered and devised a practical strategy, join them and live in peace and prosperity, and the binge continues. 5. I have read a lot of books and interventions by your grandfather-in-law, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and most of the travails and prejudices he encountered then are still very much with us.

I have no doubt that the elections were not free and fair. I must hasten to add that both sides were apparently guilty of ensuring that this was the case. Not much has changed in Nigeria in this regard. I always say that people are able to rig in areas where they have the most influence. Nobody, least of all me, expected the elections to be perfect, but this one bordered on the ridiculous and, I daresay, was arrant nonsense. My grouse, and that of many people, including local and international election observers, was about the wickedness and intimidation visited upon the opposition by the excessive use of the military and agents and forces of violence and coercion. They acted in a most irresponsible and perfidious manner. I am certain you will not have known or approved of these excesses because I refuse to think you knew and looked the other way. You are far more of a gentleman for that. I suspect that your Party may still have won a handsome victory without resorting to the apparent self-help that some of your Party chieftains chose to adopt, tragically. What you have today is unfortunately a contested victory, blemished by the violence which makes me sad for you, in particular,  since it seems many of your people are living in denial. All I can say is best of luck because you will always have my very best wishes.

On a personal note, I have chosen to hand over everything to God. Sir, you know more than me, as a Pastor, that God is the ultimate Judge of everyone, low and high. If I have been cheated and I choose not to fight, it is not because I’m stupid or squeamish but because I expect God to intervene on my behalf. Therefore, if indeed Atiku Abubakar and others have been robbed, the judgment of God will be harsher than that of the Supreme Court. But since I wasn’t the candidate, I accept whatever measures Atiku decides to take to regain his mandate (a tall order in this clime) and whatever psychological pleasure he derives from exposing the rot and corruption perpetrated by some of your operatives. It is after all his Constitutional right to challenge the result, as President Muhammadu Buhari did on three earlier occasions when it appeared that he had been short-changed. When tomorrow comes, truth will certainly come out.

Please, don’t be deceived by the deluge of greetings that you have received, and will be receiving from both well-meaning Nigerians or soldiers of fortune. Some would do it more out of protocol than sincerity. No matter how many of the revellers visit you and your government in Aso Rock Presidential villa, those visitors will never succeed in conferring legitimacy on your government until we know what actually transpired. Or maybe we will never know, as notoriously typical of our country!

Let me also plead with you to speak to your government most frankly, if anyone would listen to your admonition. President Buhari and his cronies should not over-celebrate and over-dramatise this pyrrhic victory. It is a victory littered with human blood. What you need urgently is to beg God to forgive all those who spilled innocent blood because they must remain in power. I can see that your Party’s army of occupation is still going on rampage in the South South of Nigeria, as if we are in a State of war. I read the article by the brilliant journalist, Comfort Obi, about the state of anarchy in the South South and I had tears in my eyes. Is it that there is more than this proclivity for power to control minds over matter? All parties and persons involved in this higgledy-piggledy need to sit back and remember how transient power is. What shall it profit a man who inherits the whole world but perishes in hell?

I just needed to pour out my heart to you, Sir. Instead of committing more sin by the way your government continues to pummel Atiku and his friends, I beg you to prevail on your people and the Party to be temperate and show great magnanimity in victory. The clock is ticking.

My warmest regards to you and yours, as always…

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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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