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AMAECHI: THE MAN AHEAD OF HIS TIME AND HIS AUDACITY (1)

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By Eze Chukwuemeka Eze

Preamble

Former Governor of Rivers State, Rt Hon Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi a Nigerian of Ikwerre extraction, an international figure of repute, a recipient of the prestigious national award of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) and an Associate Fellow of the United Nations Institute for Training & Research (UNITAR), Geneva, Switzerland; was born on May, 27, 1965; but due to exigency of his office as Federal Minister of Transportation, he was outside the country on this auspicious day of his birthday attending to issues pertaining to how to improve the nation’s transportation system. But Nigerians – particularly his political associates under the auspices of the Conscious Reformers Assembly (CRA), in collaboration with some other associations – gathered together in Port Harcourt on June 17, 2017 to honour this great son of Nigeria, whose love and zeal for his fatherland is legendary. The highlight of the occasion was the 52nd Birthday Lecture and Symposium entitled “Amaechi: The Man Ahead of His Times”.

I must confess that I was so fascinated by the arrangements for this epochal occasion that was beamed to the entire world through the Channels TV Network. The theme of the colloquium was ‘Amaechi: The Man Ahead of His Times’. The fact remains that the speakers, and those in attendance, did justice to the man, Amaechi, who is ahead of his time. But sadly most of the great views postulated by the Guest Speakers was not properly and widely published by the Organisers as expected of such a great event and as one of the authorities on the Rivers State politics particularly with biasness on the issue of who Amaechi truly is, I will be doing injustice to the world if I fail to appropriately address and present the issues that actually make Amaechi as a man ahead of his time in the proper perspective, which warranted this treatise. Apart from this, the need of this attempt becomes imperative at least to correct the erroneous impression been put across mostly by the PDP Chieftains with Governor Wike of Rivers State as the major culprit that Amaechi’s eight years as the Governor of Rivers State was totally a waste.

Amaechi’s Humble Beginnings:

The family of Amaechi in Ubima, Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State, was on May 27, 1965 blessed with the birth of a son who unbeknownst to all would become a force to reckon with in Nigeria’s political firmament even before his 52nd birthday. He was named Chibuike, which means ‘God is all Powerful’ and Rotimi, an abridged version of Oluwadurotimi, meaning ‘the Lord stands by me’, while Amaechi means ‘who knows tomorrow?’ Remember the popular phrase, what is in a name? One does not need to be a sage to know that all the meanings embedded in his name are playing out in the acts and arts of politics in Amaechi’s life.

Rising from obscurity and state imposed persecutions to Limelight – the story of Amaechi

Amaechi, as he himself has unequivocally said on several occasions, was not born into opulence. As a child his family experienced real hardship and he admits going through several challenges that have helped to shape his perception of life. His determination to ensure equal access to education for every Rivers child and bridge the gap between the privileged and underprivileged children in the state is unprecedented. Whenever the occasion demands, Amaechi would not hesitate to point out that though he came from an underprivileged background, his was a modest family that inculcated in him the virtues of honesty, humility and sheer doggedness to succeed.

To give an insight into some of the experiences he had to go through in order to be educated and which perhaps may very well be the reason behind his passion to provide free education for all children in Rivers State, rich and poor during his period as Governor of Rivers State, Amaechi said in an interview: “I grew up in Port Harcourt as a young boy, had my primary, secondary and tertiary education in Port Harcourt and so I can speak firsthand about this city. I was not from a rich home. I used to pick food from Olu Obasanjo road – ‘Man must wack’ as we called it then. I hawked at different times for my parents in this city. After God, I owe my growth to Port Harcourt. I don’t know how many people in my cabinet that could have experienced poverty like I did. I grew up at No.18, Chibu Street. I moved from there to Nnamdi Azikwe road. Later, I lived with one of my friends in one of the creek villages near Port Harcourt. And I knew that my parents suffered a lot. With tears, they were looking for money to pay for my school fees, buy me uniforms, bags and all that. When I was in the university, I used to tell the girls that ‘none of you looked at my face because I was wearing one shirt, one pair of trousers almost every day with a sandal’. On Fridays, we would wash it and we wouldn’t move out at all on Saturday to enable it dry; Sam Okah and myself. Then it would dry on Saturday, but on Sunday, we were back to life; wearing the same shirt and the same trousers. How many of those in the cabinet passed through that?” This is the pathetic story of the man that is driven by unquenchable passion for a better Rivers State and greater Nigeria.

Amaechi: The Man Ahead of His Time and His Audacity

Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi a humanist, administrator par excellence, visionary, egalitarian, radical, respected, a pragmatist and exemplary leader is an alumnus of the University of Port Harcourt in Rivers State. He was the Rivers State Speaker of the State House of Assembly from 1999-2007; Chairman, conference of speakers of State Houses of Assembly in Nigeria (1999 – 2000), Governor of Rivers State (2007 – 2015), two time Chairman of the Governors’ Forum in Nigeria from 2011 to 2015. A winner of several awards including the Commander of the Order of the Niger, CON and is currently the Minister of Transportation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. These feats alone put him ahead of his time but read on to see other facts that truly mark him as a man ahead of his time.

What Men Who Were Ahead of their Times said about Amaechi:

Men like Amaechi, who conquered their past and rose from obscurity to limelight, always survive to live their lives ahead of their times. This special specie of creatures have one common principle in life – selflessness in their services to humanity. This was expounded by former President of United States of America, John F Kennedy, in his famous quote, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Another great child of this world, D. Suresh, made a statement that was not too far from Kennedy’s. He said: Don’t expect the government to find solutions for you. Assist the government in finding solutions.” In line with these patriotic statements by these great men who probably had Amaechi of Nigeria in  mind and the role he is to play in the political life of the nation, based on the fact that at a period Nigeria was at a crossroad, as regards her future in the hands of corrupt and visionless leaders and when it was risky to challenge the status-quo or the government of the day on any issue, Amaechi risked his life to team up with some other great leaders to rescue Nigeria from the dungeon she was, under the then PDP leadership. The pivotal role he played in bringing about the current political dispensation in Nigeria and the patriotic zeal and willingness to sacrifice his blood for a better and greater Nigeria, puts him among men who truly were/are ahead of their times.

Another man that lived ahead of his time was Booker T Washington. According to this great leader of leaders, with Amaechi in mind, he postulated: “I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed.” Like Amaechi who overcame rough and challenging obstacles to become what he is by today, Washington on the other hand was able to successfully rise above slavery to become a renowned educator, activist and Black America’s first power-broker. Although once a highly controversial figure, he was the most influential black leader of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Another man who lived ahead of his time was the former President of the Republic of Zambia, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda and during his visit to Rivers State described the leadership of Amaechi as the Governor of Rivers State as a focused one. Dr. Kaunda noted that with the focused leadership of Governor Amaechi, Rivers State would continue to be of service to humanity for many years to come.

The Deputy Speaker of Ugandan Parliament and Chairperson of CWP, Hon Rebecca Kadaga, lauded the developmental efforts and policies of Governor Amaechi, especially those geared towards improving the lot of children and women, saying that the issues already canvassed confirm that what the CWP was set to achieve are already in place in Rivers State.

Another great mind who commented on what makes Amaechi as a man ahead of his time was the former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert and according to him: “The impression that I always get when I come to Africa is that these countries have enormous potential and your country and your State (Rivers) have enormous potential and I think that you happen to have at this time in history also, a dynamic, energetic and capable leadership that can make the dreams of building up the State into a reality of life for the 5.1 million residents in Rivers State that want their lives to be of much higher and greater quality.”

While to the then United States Consul General in Lagos, Mr. Jeffrey Hawkins, while exchanging ideas with some journalists stated, “I must commend Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State for embarking on numerous people-oriented projects and showing enthusiasm on Niger Delta issues. We are very appreciative of all that Amaechi has done. We are quite clear that addressing the issues of the Niger Delta, the challenges require focusing on things like education development, agriculture, health, all sorts of issues, and the governor was kind enough to show us”.

Some of the few landmark cases that truly put Amaechi as a man ahead of his time.

  1. The Judiciary and His most celebrated Supreme Court ruling

I must reiterate that the issue that actually catapulted Amaechi into the national limelight and marked him not only as an institution in the politics of Nigeria but one whose inputs can’t be swept off the carpet was when he encountered his major political challenge after convincingly winning the PDP Rivers State gubernatorial ticket in 2007 but was denied to fly the flag of the party for the 2007 general elections under a very controversial circumstance of the K-leg episode. This again afforded him the opportunity to demonstrate why he is a man ahead of his time.

For avoidance of doubt, despite Amaechi’s landslide victory at the primaries, where he clinched 6,527 of the 6,575 possible votes while seven other aspirants that included political heavyweights like Hon Chief Austin Okpara, a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, late Senator Martin Yellowe, Pawariso Horsfall and Mr. Chris Orji shared the remaining 48 votes among themselves. Amaechi’s name was subsequently forwarded to the INEC on December 14, 2006 in compliance with Section 32(1) & (2) of the Electoral Act 2006. INEC, thereafter, duly published Amaechi’s name as the gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in Rivers State.  The story, however, took a different turn when, speaking at the presentation of the party flag to its gubernatorial candidates at the Liberation Stadium, Port Harcourt, former President, Gen Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd), declared that Amaechi’s candidacy had ‘k-leg. Amaechi after this sought legal redress for his travails. Suffice to say, Amaechi went on self-exile to Ghana, and the powers that be further showed their contempt for him by selecting his cousin, Sir Celestine Omehia, who neither purchased nor filled a form, as PDP flag-bearer in his stead.

Amaechi’s vindication came with the October 25, 2007 landmark ruling by the Nigerian Supreme Court, declaring him as not only the authentic flag-bearer of PDP but also ordered that he be sworn-in immediately to replace Omehia, who had previously been sworn-in on May 29, 2007 as the Governor of Rivers State. Thus, Amaechi became the first and only person to occupy the office of governor in Nigeria without standing for election. In explaining the ruling, the Supreme Court has since stated that it is the party that contests elections and that the PDP won the gubernatorial elections, and that, consequently, Amaechi, being the rightful candidate, should assume power as the governor of Rivers State.

Explaining this great feat better  my good friend, Ken O.Olumati a legal counsel based in Port Harcourt in an article he titled, ‘Ameachi’s Debt to the Law’ captured what Amaechi has done to improve the judiciary in Nigeria. He stated that, “It is noteworthy that the various decisions of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal in Governor Amaechi’s case were reported in Parts 1040 and 1065 of the Nigeria Weekly Law Reports. In Part 1065 alone contains six decisions on Amaechi’s case; three by the Supreme Court and three by the Court of Appeal. This in itself underscores the significance of Amaechi’s battles through the courts. Few cases have enjoyed similar attention in the annals of Nigeria’s legal institution. Some of them include the case between Amodu Tijani V Secretary, Southern Nigeria, and the late Oba Oyekan’s legal battle for the Obaship of Lagos in the 1950’s, which went as far as Her Majesty’s Privy Council before a clear winner was installed. In recent memory, the case of the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi against the Nigeria Bar Association as well as his numerous court battles against the Military Government of former President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida are cases that can be compared to that of Amaechi”.

If this feat alone doesn’t put Amaechi as a man ahead of his time then I wonder what else is expected of a man to gain ascendance to this special class of people.

  1. The Greater Port Harcourt City

Another area that marks Amaechi as a man ahead of his time was the bold step his administration took to initiate and build a new brand and mega City that has one of the best modern stadiums and other edifices only obtainable in modern cities of Europe after every effort to rebuild some of the creeks and shanties in Port Harcourt proved abortive. This man who was ahead of his time on assumption of office as the Governor of Rivers State saw the challenges of congestion in Port Harcourt and in 2009, ensured that a law was passed by the Rivers State House of Assembly so that his administration can spread development to the surrounding communities as part of the effort to decongest the Port Harcourt metropolis that was founded in 1912 by Frederick Lugard the then Governor of Northern Nigeria Protectorate and Southern Nigeria protectorate name after the then British Secretary State for the colonies, Lewis Harcourt.

After the discovery of crude oil in Oloibiri in 1956, Port Harcourt exported the first shipload from Nigeria in 1958. Port Harcourt became the centre of the Nigerian oil economy and it subsequently reaped benefits of its associations with the petroleum industry by undergoing modernisation and urbanisation. Port Harcourt’s growth is further due to its position as the commercial centre and foremost industrial city of the former Eastern Region ; its position in the Niger Delta; and its importance as the centre of social and economic life in Rivers State. Thus, to minimize consequences of rapid development, a master plan for Port Harcourt was produced with the primary task of providing the framework for physical planning, roads, housing, water system, electricity, drainage amongst others. Realising that the success of physical planning depends, to a very large measure, on the human factor, policies on health, welfare and productivity of its population were formulated ultimately for the development of the city’s total resources, as well as the country’s.

Amaechi’s Greater Port Harcourt was to spread to eight local government areas that include Port Harcourt, Okrika , Obio-Akpor , Ikwerre, Oyigbo, Ogu–Bolo, Etche and Eleme with total population estimated at 2,000,000 as of 2009, making it one of the largest metropolitan areas in Nigeria.

Let us listen to what Amaechi said about his dream mega city; “The Mega City, also known as the Greater Port Harcourt City is one of the biggest most single construction project in this part of the country. The Greater Port Harcourt City dream is now real, despite slowing down due to dwindling revenue.

This project was planned an eight-year rolling budget knowing that the mega city is capable of growing the state’s economy by three per cent (GDP) through massive infrastructural projects such as the New Stadium, New UST, major roads, bulk infrastructure, sewage system, water, power, and housing amongst others.

Already, construction of the all-important M10 Road expected to be an economic highway from the Port Harcourt International Airport in Omagwa to Onne seaport which houses the world’s fastest growing oil and gas free zone. There is also the M1 Road expected to open the new city to the south. There are different housing schemes going on there including the 2500 unit housing estate as well as the 1080 Mixed Use Housing Units”.

Again, if this feat doesn’t put Amaechi in the class of men ahead of their times then we are not being fair to him.

  1. The making of Port Harcourt Book Festival

Another feat that marks Amaechi ahead of his peers was the making of Port Harcourt Book Festival, formerly known as Garden City Literary Festival remains one of the city’s most important and popular events since its inception in 2008. Established by the government of Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, the yearly gathering improves local literacy levels, promotes reading habits among denizens, and benefits exhibitors seeking wider audience. Throughout its annual run, Port Harcourt Book Festival has hosted renowned publishers such as Heinemann, Learn Africa Plc, Africana First Publishers and EPP Books Services. The festival currently continues to draw writers, literary connoisseurs, booksellers and publishers from every walk of life to the city. In July 2012, UNESCO, IPA, IBF and IFLA named Port Harcourt the
World Book Capital for the year 2014, making her the 14th city in the world to be selected as World Book Capital and the first in Black Africa.

  1. PORT HARCOURT AS UNESCO WORLD BOOK CAPITAL 2014

Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State of Nigeria under the tenure of Amaechi, played a historic role when it hosted the US-Nigeria Bilateral Commission on October 16 and 17, 2012, thereby becoming the first city outside the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to do so. This event is a top bill in international rating and the strategic relevance of the Gulf of Guinea area makes the meeting in Port Harcourt even more important. The United States Deputy Secretary of State and two Assistant Secretaries led the US delegation. On the side of Nigeria, the US-Nigeria Bilateral Commission is viewed with seriousness, especially by the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) led by Amaechi.

It would be recalled that UNESCO, moved by the revolutionary feats of Amaechi in the education sector, crowned Port Harcourt the 2014 World Book Capital City in April 2014, beating ten other great cities that include Oxford in England and Moscow in Russia. For this to be achieved against all odds and challenges simply demonstrates that Amaechi was a visionary and focused leader who has received accolades in this regard by world leaders. His administration has, in addition, promoted overall United Nations activities in the South-South geo-political zone, through the provision of an outstanding facility that can house over 15 UN agencies in Port Harcourt. As a result, there are five UN agencies in Rivers State at the moment; and more are expected to follow in due course.

Port Harcourt’s reign as World Book Capital 2014 began with the handover by Bangkok at an impressive ceremony at Hotel Presidential in the Rivers State capital. Dignitaries at the event included former Governor Amaechi, former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar; Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka; UNESCO Director-General, Ms Irina Bokova; former World Bank Vice-President, Africa, Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili; wife of the former Governor, Dame Judith Amaechi; Engr Tele Ikuru, former Deputy Governor of Rivers State; Rt Hon O.D Amaechree, then speaker of State House of Assembly, members of Rivers State Executive Council, senators and members of the House of Representatives from the state. This feat by Port Harcourt in becoming the very first African city south of the Sahara chosen as World Book Capital based on public voting, beating ten other great cities that include Oxford in England and Moscow in Russia, is not only commendable but puts Amaechi as a man ahead of his time.

The remaining part of the feats that put Amaechi ahead of his peers will be listed in the concluding section two of this treatise to be released within the week.

Eze Chukwuemeka Eze is a Media Consultant based in Port Harcourt and can be reached throughezemediaconcept2020@gmail.com

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EDITORIAL

EDITORIAL: Healthcare Reforms in Nigeria; A Mere Political Statement Lacking Commitment

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By  Manny Ita

Nigeria has since her independence in 1960 had a very robust verbiage or policies by successive gobernments on health reforms but with very little progress or success recorded in what might well be a lack of political will in reforming the health sector.
Over 90% of the Nigerian population are without health insurance coverage. The inability to effectively address the country’s numerous public health challenges has contributed to the persistent and high level of poverty and weakness of the health system.
Political instability, corruption, limited institutional capacity and an unstable economy have also been major factors responsible for the poor development of health services in Nigeria. Households and individuals in Nigeria bear the burden of a dysfunctional and inequitable health system – delaying or not seeking health care and having to pay out of pocket for health care services that are not affordable.
The health challenges of the country include:
National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS),
National Immunisation Coverage Scheme (NICS),
Midwives Service Scheme (MSS)
Nigerian Pay for Performance scheme
After many attempts at implementing legislation on health insurance since 1960, NHIS, although established in 1999, was eventually launched only in 2005 with the goals to ensure access to quality health care services, provide financial risk protection, reduce rising costs of health care services and ensure efficiency in health care through programmes such as the: Formal Sector Social Health Insurance Programme (FSSHIP), Mobile Health, Voluntary Contributors Social Health Insurance Programme (VCSHIP), Tertiary Institution Social Health Insurance Programme (TISHIP), Community Based Social Health Insurance Programme (CBSHIP), Public Primary Pupils Social Health Insurance Programme (PPPSHIP), and the provision of health care services for children under 5 years, prison inmates, disabled persons, retirees and the elderly.
The NHIS was expected to provide social and financial risk protection by reducing the cost of health care and providing equitable access to basic health services with the most vulnerable populations in Nigeria including children, pregnant women, people living with disabilities, elderly, displaced, unemployed, retirees and the sick.
Free health care services and exemption mechanisms are expected to provide financial risk protection for the most vulnerable populations but evidence suggest that they are ineffective and have failed to achieve this aim.
The maternal mortality ratio for Nigeria remain quite high at 814 per 100000 live births according to 2016 World Health Statistics. Across the country, pregnant women and children under five years are generally charged fees when accessing health care services, despite the federal government’s declaration of free health for pregnant women and children under five years in 2005.
The Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole in 2016 announced the Federal Government’s plan to provide free health services to 100 million Nigerians in the next two years. Under this new health agenda, pregnant women across Nigeria are expected to enjoy free maternal and delivery services at the primary health care (PHC) level.
Unfortunately, Free health care services and exemption mechanisms often arise as campaign promises of political actors to the electorate and fall short in meeting the health needs of the most vulnerable populations. According to Nigeria Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) in 2013, over 60% of pregnant women aged 15-49 deliver their babies at home without any antenatal care visits. In rural areas, this value reaches 76.9%. The situation is critical in North East and North West regions of Nigeria where over 79% of pregnant women age 15-49 deliver their babies at home. Over 60% of pregnant women in Bayelsa, Plateau and Niger deliver at home rather than a health facility.
The cost of health care and the low quality of care by the public have been argued to be the reason for the poor utilisation of maternal and child health services in Nigeria.
In addition, health spending in Nigeria is low and this is responsible for the over-reliance on out of pocket payments for health care services.
Despite its launch in 2005, NHIS covers less than 10% of the Nigerian population leaving the most vulnerable populations at the mercy of health care services that are not affordable. This means the most vulnerable populations in Nigeria are not provided with social and financial risk protection. Poor people constitutes about 70% of the Nigerian population. They lack access to basic health services, which social and financial risk protection should provide, because they cannot afford it.
CBSHIP was expected to meet their health needs as well as provide social and financial risk protection to this group, which mostly reside in rural areas. As evidenced in the high rate of out of pocket payments for health care services , poor people financially contribute more to health care than official care and funds programmes in Nigeria. Out of pocket payments for health care services limit the poor from accessing and utilising basic health care services.
The quality of health care services delivered is poor and remains a huge source of concern. Most of the PHC facilities that are supposed to meet the health needs of the poor and rural dwellers are in a poor state due to poor budgetary allocation.
In trying to solve these issues, healthcare in the country must be tackled headlong in order to stem the detyeriorating development therein, which could portend grave danger for citizens of the country in the no-ditant future.
Policy makers and political actors need to devise health care reforms to address the lack of social and financial protection for the poor and vulnerable populations. Part of this reform is the expansion of the NHIS. States should be mandated to provide health insurance coverage to all residents. Making health insurance optional for states over the years has affected the ability of the NHIS to increase the level of coverage for the people.
While the mandatory CBHI scheme is being scaled-up as a supplementary measure, state governments should enrol poor residents in a private health insurance plan and bear the responsibility of paying the monthly premium per person to Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs). It is not enough to have a national health insurance policy, it is important to ensure that health insurance coverage is provided to the poor and most vulnerable populations as a matter of the human right to health.
Although the NHIS Act made provision for children, who constitute the largest population in Nigeria, many children still have to pay for health care services in spite of being born into poor families that do not have the ability to pay for health care services and suffer financial hardship as a consequence. The free health policies and exemption mechanisms provided by some states, targeted at children, pregnant women and the elderly, are not social and financial risk protection policies, as these groups are largely responsible for the cost of health care with the free health care programme barely covering their basic health care services.
Another way of providing social and financial risk protection for poor and vulnerable populations is by establishing a legislative framework for a UHC scheme and setting aside funds for it. Evidence from Thailand has shown the effect of UHC schemes through PHC on expanding access to health care for the poor and vulnerable populations.
Political actors, policy makers and all stakeholders in the health sector should establish a government funded social and financial risk protection scheme through a general tax financing system for the poor and vulnerable, and invest in basic infrastructure for health care in rural areas for quality health care service delivery. UHC schemes are important in addressing the problem of poor coverage, limited access to health care, and poor quality of health care services.
Nigeria is yet to adopt innovative ways to protect the poor and vulnerable populations against financial risk of ill health. It is important to guarantee by law the right to health care of all citizens in Nigeria. Although the National Health Act (NHA) that was signed into law in 2014 stated that all Nigerians are entitled to basic minimum package of health care services, it is not clear if the provisions made in the NHA are capable of achieving UHC in Nigeria. In addition, the NHA is yet to be implemented over two years after its signage into law.
Some low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) have been able to provide social and financial risk protection schemes for poor and vulnerable populations as a matter of the human right to health. Therefore, there is a need to provide social health protection schemes targeted at these groups in Nigeria. The poor and vulnerable populations should not become impoverished because of failure to obtain much needed health care services. Governments must reduce out of pocket payments for health care services by households through the adoption of a tax financed non-contributory UHC scheme.

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Protest Rocks Alausa Over Supreme Court Verdict On Agidingbi Community

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Scores of community leaders and residents of Agidingbi area of Ikeja on Thursday embarked on peaceful protest against the judgment of Supreme Court which awarded ownership of 398 acres of landed property in the community to a traditional land-owning family, Akinole-Oshiun.

The possession order is said to cover a large section of the Lateef Jakande Road, Acme Road, Fagba Close, and other streets around the area, totaling over 2000 buildings.

The protesters, who marched from Agidingbi to House of Assembly complex in Alausa, said Akinole-Oshiun family, which is the judgment-creditor in the case, had already given them seven days ultimatum to vacate their houses, urging the government to quickly intervene to avert bloodshed.

They displayed placard of various inscriptions such as “There is no ancestral link between Akinole and Agidingbi Land, Land Grabbers are enemies of Lagos State,” among others.

Leader of Ojodu Legislative Arm, Hon Wasiu Bolaji-Seidu who is also a community leader in Agidingbi said the news of the possession order came to the community as a big surprise as nobody from the area was served with the court process that led to the judgment.

He said: “On Friday, they (judgment-creditor) brought a judgment and placed it on our houses and said they have taken over the entire Agidingbi land. The issue is Agidingbi was not mentioned in the judgment; nobody from Agidingbi was part of the case and I don’t know how you will enforce a judgment against a person that was never part of the case.

“Agidingbi has been in existence for over 200 years ago. I was born and bred in Agidingbi; my forefathers were born and bred in Agidingbi and I don’t see any reason why somebody will just wake up and say they are the owner of the community.

“I am over 50 years; my father lived for over 90 years in this community before he died; my great grand-father died at the age of 150 years and I don’t know where Akinole is coming from and we have people like Habibatu Mogaji who was the Yeye-Oba of Agidingbi; we have Femi Okunnu who is our father in the community and we don’t know where Akin-ole came from.”

He particularly urged the State Government to activate the provisions of the Anti-Land Grabbing Law of the State, and prevent the matter from degenerating into a full blown crisis.

“To the best of my knowledge, I know that Lagos State has enacted a law duly signed by the Governor prohibiting land grabbing in the State because this is a clear example of such case. That is why we are here to call on the Lagos State House of Assembly to look into it and find a lasting solution, failure of which there will be bloodshed,” Bolaji-Seidu said.

Also speaking, Baale of Agidingbi, Chief Ganiyu Ayinde Haruna, said they were embarking on the peaceful protest to call the attention of government to the silent crisis that is brewing in the community.

Narrating how it all began, Haruna said: “On Friday last week, we woke up to see people posting possession order on our property and we don’t know these people. We have been living here for several years and the issue is we don’t know this family that is laying claim to ownership of our land.

“We have never heard any relationship with this Akinole family and so it is surprising to us. Nobody knew anything about the court case. I mean how can you enforce court judgment against a party that was never part of the case?  We are peaceful people and we are urging the Lagos State Government especially Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and the House of Assembly to intervene urgently in this matter because we don’t want bloodshed in our community.”

Also speaking, an 83-year old resident and Iyalode of Agidingbi, Evang Dorcas Faworaja said her great grand-parents were born in the area, therefore the claimant cannot just come from anywhere and lay claim to the community.

Receiving the protesters, Deputy Majority Leader of the Assembly, Hon Olumuyiwa Jimoh commended them for conducting themselves peacefully, assuring that the House would look into their case.

“Let me assure you that we are going to look into your petition without any fear or favour and I can assure you also that you will receive judgment at the end of the day,” Jimoh said.

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Agidingbi Community leaders presents their petition on the Supreme Court judgement to the Deputy Majority Leader, Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Jimoh Olumuyiwa Wahab (2nd right) on Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

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Agidingbi residents and community leaders protest against a Supreme Court judgement on their properties at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa on Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

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Agidingbi residents and community leaders protest against a Supreme Court judgement on their properties at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa on Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

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Agidingbi residents and community leaders protest against a Supreme Court judgement on their properties at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa on Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

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Agidingbi residents and community leaders protest against a Supreme Court judgement on their properties at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa on Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

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Abia 2019: Why Ikpeazu Won with a Landslide

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By Jude Ndukwe

The March 9 governorship poll has come and gone in Abia, and the people have since moved into post-election mood and activities. They have also since resumed their normal businesses after the rigours of what was an intense campaign period for some and simply a test of popularity for others.

The final result as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is as follows: PDP: 261,127; APC: 99,574; APGA: 64,366

The good news about the governorship election in Abia is that while some other States are still at it, grappling with needless violent deaths of not few Nigerians starting from when campaigns were flagged off last year, the conduct in Abia recorded no violence.

The free, fair, transparent, credible and violence-free conduct of the election in Abia State can be attributed to the peaceful and gentlemanly nature of the governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, who does not see any election as a Do-or-Die affair but simply the exercise of the people’s rights to freely choose their leaders. Despite all the shenanigans of his opponents, the bitterness of their campaigns, their twisting of facts to suit their warped narratives, their belligerent posturing etc, the governor never replied in kind. He was rather busy telling the people what he had done and the need to reelect him so as to continue to take Abia on the path of irreversible prosperity.

Abians are peace loving people. That is why the State has remained one of the most peaceful States in Nigeria under Ikpeazu, and it showed during the election, so that no matter how good one’s manifesto is, belligerent posturing put them off. After their ugly experiences in the past, there was no way Abians were going to elect anyone of bellicose nature to lead them and cause bitter divisions among them based on party and or tribal lines, entrench crime and criminalities and turn the state to a breeding ground for hoodlums. So, it was only natural that they queued behind Dr Okezie Ikpeazu who has been able to restore Abia to a State of peace which Abians earnestly craved for before the coming of the incumbent.

It is instructive to note at this point that in a report  by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), for election-related killings between November 16, 2018 to March 10, 2019, while neighbouring States like Imo, Enugu, Anambra, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, recorded 2, 1, 8, 55, 4 and 2, respectively, Abia recorded no single casualty.

The massive infrastructural development taking place in Abia is another factor that got Ikpeazu an easy reelection. With 74 road projects completed and over 90 others of strategic importance to the people and the State ongoing, Abians knew that they have never had it so good and reelecting Ikpeazu based on this was a no brainer.

Having constructed 4 new Model Schools, 359 new classroom blocks, and renovated about 70 of them across the three senatorial zones of the State, the educational sector of Abia received a massive boost under the governor to the extent that the State sits with pride atop all other States of the federation in WASCE in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and still counting, and could not be dislodged by others no matter their resources.

Abia has remained the only State throughout the federation where all her primary school pupils are fed in school every school day. While the federal government feeds children of Primary 1 – 3 nationwide, Abia feeds her pupils from Primary 4 – 6, despite her lean resources, thereby making her the only State of the federation where all her primary school pupils are fed every school day.

The result of this massive investments keep showing in the result the State posts every year in WASCE and other external exams.

This investment has also seen the State owned university, Abia State University, Uturu (ABSU), improve massively in the National Universities Commission (NUC) ranking, from 96th when Ikpeazu assumed office in 2015 to currently being in the first 10.

The revolution in agriculture where over 4 million high yielding tenera palm seedlings have been distributed to farmers is another factor that has endeared the governor to Abians of all status. Government-supported mushroom farming, poultry clusters and local rice production have all empowered many Abians.

The infrastructural development of the state and the peace she is enjoying under Ikpeazu have also given massive boost to the governor’s objective of attracting foreign investors to the state. The Enyimba Economic City, EEC, which is the governor’s prime investment creation and already labeled the “Dubai of Africa” by global investors has already attracted massive foreign direct investment to the extent that the World Bank rated Abia as the third most preferred investment destination for foreign investors after Abuja and Lagos in that order, for the last quarter of 2018.

The deliberate policies put in place by the Ikpeazu administration for Ease of Doing Business have also earned the state a rating as the fifth best state in that area, hence, giving the State the needed edge above others for investors.

Also, Dr Ikpeazu’s commitment to SME development in the State has earned him several awards including one from the federal government even though he is of a different party from the government at the centre. He has been aggressively leading the “Made in Aba” campaign to a huge success to the extent that the military and some paramilitary organisations have ordered for thousands of pairs of booths from Aba entrepreneurs. This is in addition to the fact that the government of Ikpeazu sponsored thirty of the Aba shoe and other leather works manufacturers to China to enhance their skills and acquire the requisite modern technological know-how to improve both quality and quantity of their works. The thirty young entrepreneurs have since returned and are in the process of cascading down their newly acquired knowledge to others back home. This is more so as the governor has acquired the needed advanced shoemaking machines for their use.

There have been revolutions also in the health sector where medical facilities are now easily accessible to all citizens of the State just at the dial of a number in the Dial-a-Doc Telehealth Initiative. This is particularly beneficial to the aged who might not have the strength to visit a health facility and are either attended to via telephone or visited by the mobile medical staff of the state. These are all in addition to 4 new General Hospitals built by the governor and strategically located in different parts of the State in addition to the already existing ones.

There is hardly any sector or population group in Abia State that the governor has not touched directly. It is therefore not surprising that long before the March 9 governorship election, Dr Ikpeazu had received a gale of endorsements from notable groups including political blocs, religious groups, traditional rulers, civil servants, artisans, traders, entrepreneurs, professional bodies, student and youth groups, women groups etc.

Among all the contenders, it was only Dr Okezie Ikpeazu who ran a comprehensive and energy sapping campaign that took him round all the 17 local government areas of the state despite his extremely tight schedule as governor. His wife, Deaconess Nkechi Ikpeazu also took to the streets vigorously campaigning for her husband from one local government to the other. While all these were on, the other candidates locked up and made themselves comfortable within the confines of their air conditioned campaign offices without reaching out to the people even if in, at least, five local governments of the 17 in the State. Throughout the campaign, a majority of Abians could not reach nor interact with them in person. They cordoned themselves off from the people and only made feeble attempts to reach out to the electorate through the media and social media which, most rural people where the bulk of votes come from, do not even have easy access to. While Ikpeazu was busy selling himself, his programmes and projects to the people in person, and even featured several times on all the radio stations in Abia State in no holds barred phone-in programmes, others were relying on “federal might” and “red eyes” for magic! Tragic!

From the foregoing, no objective political observer would be surprised at Ikpeazu’s landslide victory at the last governorship poll.

His case was even made easier by the Charter of Equity as bequeathed by Abia’s founding fathers which stipulates that, for the sake of fairness and peace, the Abia State governorship should be rotated among the three senatorial zones of Abia North, Abia Central and Abia South. Having taken their own turns from 1999 – 2007 (Abia North through Orji Uzor Kalu), and from 2007 – 2015 (Abia Central through Senator T.A. Orji), it was only fair and just that the people of Abia South where Ikpeazu hails from be allowed to complete their own eight years of two tenures as did his predecessors. This is more so given the achievements of the incumbent which have more than justified the Charter.

There was no way Abians were going to jettison the Charter just to satisfy the selfish yearnings of few politicians who hail from the same senatorial zones that had already taken their turn at the governorship in the past. That would have been a recipe for disaster in the State. To avoid such a political catastrophe, Abians overwhelmingly rejected the other contenders and stuck with Ikpeazu in order to preserve the sanctity of the Charter of Equity that has been an effective template for the peaceful transition of power from one administration to the other in the state, hence, Ikpeazu’s landslide victory at the polls had long been foretold by political historians and scientists, and unfolded as expected based on the variables enumerated above and even more!

An attempt by anyone to challenge this people-oriented election in court will court the people’s anger against such a person and will further diminish the little of what is left of the person’s image before the people.

jrndukwe@yaho.co.uk; Twitter: @stjudendukwe

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