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Rivers State: 2022 Heralds Worsening Condition of Governance, Says APC

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The Rivers State chapter of the All Progressives Congress said it was long expected that the very bad governance of Gov. Nyesom Wike will further slide as 2023 general elections approached, adding that what was not envisaged was the speed and how early in 2022 things would plummet leaving hapless Rivers people and residents with the short end of the stick.

The opposition party in the State recalled that, “the year began with a New Year broadcast by Gov Wike serving warning how he intended to fight illegal crude oil refiners in Rivers State. Ordinarily, the announcement was received with animated enthusiasm by all, at least, believing that the action would bring the persistent soot bedeviling our lives to an end.”

According to the APC, “in the melodrama that ensued, the governor and his men embarked on some kneejerk discovery and destruction of some refining sites and equipment. After a few days, the governor yielded the fight to the local government bosses. How well the fight is being conducted and the expected positive result appear to pale into insignificance while the soot is still ravaging our lives.”

In a statement signed by the party’s spokesman, Senibo Chris Finebone referred to the rediscovery of what the governor had earlier ‘discovered’ on assumption of office in 2015.

The statement reads: “Faced with the attraction of having a second aircraft to aid his godfather status in PDP, Gov Wike suddenly remembered that the Rivers State owned Legacy 600 aircraft sitting somewhere in Germany would be handy. He decided to create some drama around the aircraft so that Rivers people and Nigerians get talking while he sneaks the refurbished aircraft into Nigeria for the use of his party during the approaching campaigns. Thinking of himself as a smart artful dodger, he plotted that act such that we all will be thanking him for playing Mungo Park to the aircraft while his party people use it at the expense of Rivers taxpayers. But like they say, there is never a perfect crime. Gov Wike forgot that he had addressed the press on June 20, 2015 speaking extensively on the location of the two State-owned aircraft. He had said one aircraft was grounded at the Port Harcourt Airforce Base and the Legacy 600 somewhere in Germany. Then he had promised and did send someone to Germany the next day being 21st June, 2015 to confirm the status of the Legacy 600.

“Suddenly, in 2022 the governor announced seven clear years after, that he just discovered (maybe rediscovered) a state-owned aircraft spirited away to Germany by his predecessor through unexplained intelligence. But we caught him red handed! Hardly had he finished his announcement when a journalist sent a link to a publication dated 21st June, 2015 where a national newspaper reported Gov Wike’s speech on the same aircraft about a month after he was sworn in as governor in 2015. This lie by him was effectively busted!

“The governor said he had already spent over 3m Euro on the Legacy 600. But concerned Rivers people query why the governor should profligately spend such a humongous sum of money on an aircraft with very high total cost of ownership (particularly high operating cost due to age). But Rivers’ people mean nothing to the governor. He is bent on spending our common resources under his control as he pleases as long as he will use the aircraft for campaigns as against the intention of his predecessor to fix the aircraft and sell it off to stem further financial hemorrhage on the state coffers. After all, Rivers State is governed by a ‘big boy.’

“It was disheartening to be greeted on the social media this morning by a group of elderly men and women singing and praying to God for divine intervention so that Gov Wike may pay them their gratuity and pension even as many of them have already died for lack of subsistence and medical care. Many might be wondering why a state whose governor doles out hundreds of millions of Naira to faraway states has refused to pay gratuity and pensions to senior citizens of his own State who spent the best part of their lives serving the State. But it is what it is! We have watched some families that hitherto lived well, now scrounge to have one meal a day because they are not paid their due pensions.

“Meanwhile, residents of a number of waterfront communities numbering over 100,000 have been rendered homeless and destitute after one week quit notice the governor gave them. Their plight is further worsened by the fact that the action was put into effect in the very difficult month of January.

“However, most annoying is the feeble and mindless attempt by the government to liken the present ejection of those waterfront dwellers to what happened at Njemanze and Abonnema Wharf waterfronts during the administration of Wike’s predecessor. But the government is being clever by half by suppressing the fact that what happened at those two waterfronts was well structured and properly thought through in the sense that all residents and landlords were enumerated and landlords compensated well in advance before the areas were legally acquired by the government then. There was no case like that of a 90-year old woman named Madam Brown singing and placing curses on Gov Wike for rendering her homeless on earth.”

Senibo Chris Finebone

State Publicity Secretary

Rivers APC

10//2/2022

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COLUMNISTS

Three Hunchbacks: Their Case Against Peter….Femi Akintunde-Johnson

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By Femi Akintunde-Johnson

And now to the darling of Nigerian cyberspace: Peter Gregory Obi. It bears repeating that the focus of this article is located in the spine of its first edition: ‘Three Hunchbacks and Their Heavy Baggage’ (June 25, 2022). Keynote: “…Now, if the hunchbacks are saddled with extra bags and whatnots to carry from one point to another, the excruciating exercise can hardly be imagined, as you cannot fathom what it is like to be in their shoes. Such is the fate of the three major presidential flag bearers with arguably the most vociferous supportership in this current electioneering season… We hope to spend quality time reviewing the enormous “baggage” – code switch for unsavoury issues and incidents in their pedigrees they would rather wipe off; but that stand as unshakable reminders of their frailties, possible stumbling blocks, and herculean obstacles – their spin-doctors must roll up sleeves to tackle frontally. And their detractors would be joyously smacking their lips to sink their teeth into.”

Since May 24, 2022 when Obi resigned from People’s Democratic Party, PDP, his stock has grown exponentially, such that his candidature has attracted the ungarnished enthusiasm and bravura of many Nigerian youth; the hitherto sidelined and disgruntled adults whose hope for some sort of national redemption had been severely pummeled and similar discontents and “siddon-look” contemporaries.

In spite of Obi’s seemingly “unNigerian” positive pedigree and proclamations, his public civility and business acumen, there are growing fears that he is swimming against the tide, and has become fodder for lip-smacking opponents and their supporters to knock around the rustic farmlands.

Unlike his co-contestants with trailing clouds of corruption, graft and other ‘high crimes’ attached to their flowing garments, Obi’s traducers would have to dig deep into dirty archives to find some stain to paint on him. But surely, if not critically, there is something to find. He was implicated in the infamous ‘Panama Papers’ leaks of 2021 globally exposing wealthy individuals stashing funds away in safe havens and tax-free islands. The allegation: “Mr Obi is one of the individuals whose hidden business activities was (sic) thrown open by the project. Indeed, he has a number of secret business dealings and relationships that he has for years kept to his chest. These are businesses he clandestinely set up and operated overseas, including in notorious tax and secrecy havens in ways that breached Nigerian laws…

“The former governor admitted that he did not declare these companies and the funds and properties they hold in his asset declaration filings with the Code of Conduct Bureau…

“He said he was unaware that the law expected him to declare assets or companies he jointly owns with his family members or anyone else…

“However, our investigation, based on records obtained from the UK Companies House shows that Mr Obi continued to be a director of Next International (UK) Limited for 14 months after becoming the governor of Anambra State, thereby breaking Nigeria’s law. The politician resigned from the company on May 16, 2008, 14 months after he assumed duties as Anambra governor. He took office on March 17, 2006…”

Another Achilles tendon of the former Anambra governor was the charge that he is easily given to dissembling and mendacity: in other words, he cannot stop lying! On December 16, 2018, an investigative report on the Nigerian website of the International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), fact-checked about 13 “facts and statistics” churned out by Candidate Obi during the Vice Presidential debate towards the 2019 elections, and the platform declared eleven to be “false, grossly exaggerated or only partly true”.

Let us skim over some of them:

“Claim: Nigeria’s poverty rate grows at 6% per minute

Not only is this claim outrageous on the face value, but it is also not true… Data highlights from the clock, Brookings noted in June, show that “extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute”. It is possible this is how the PDP vice presidential candidate had intended to phrase his statement.

Verdict: The claim is false.

“Claim: In 2015, we attracted $21 billion in FDI, and only 12 last year …

Verdict: The (claim is) false. The FDI figures were grossly exaggerated.

“Claim: Nigeria has only 2 million vehicles, 10 per 1000.

Nigeria’s estimated vehicle population as at the second quarter of 2018 is 11,760,871, and the vehicle per population ratio was put at 0.06 (as against Obi’s 0.01)…

Verdict: The claim is false and grossly exaggerated.

“Claim: The power generation in Indonesia is 50,000 for 250 million people… Verdict: The (claim is) inaccurate and outdated.

“Claim: Buhari on March 26, 2015… said he should be removed if he doesn’t deliver.

There is no record of Buhari delivering a reported speech on this day.

Verdict: The claim is false and could not be substantiated….”

Obi has been accused of progressively growing more prolific and less accurate, over the years – a predilection scantily diagnosed by ThisDay columnist, Simon Kolawole in his backpage column of June 26, 2022, while also highlighting his other weighty baggage: “Obi himself, it has to be said, also has issues with his statistics and claims and has become a nightmare for fact checkers, but my assumption is always that this is mostly because of memory lapse on his part rather than a genuine attempt to mislead or misinform.”

On Obi’s other debilitating baggage, Kolawole writes: “His strength is becoming his weakness: the fan base. His followership has clearly caught fire and is spreading not just on social media but also on the streets in many parts of the country. But some of his overzealous supporters are so unruly that this is turning out to be a baggage for him. It is putting off a lot of people. It is a bit of a bitter-sweet phenomenon: he is gaining more supporters partly because of the aggressiveness of his diehard fans but this aggression is now going overboard and becoming nauseating to even some of his admirers.

“First, some of them are using religion to promote him. They are proposing that the structure of the Catholic Church in Nigeria, to which he belongs, should be used as his political machinery. This is supposed to be a response to concerns that Obi needs a structure to reach the grassroots to be able to win the presidential election. There is also the subtext that he is the only Christian among the top candidates and Christians should rally around him. This is absolutely silly… In a multi-cultural society like ours, we need to be careful with this kind of campaign….”

With a few clicks, you may come across the ogres that Obi’s haters would want you to behold: efforts to conscript him as the Igbo candidate; rhetoric that isolates him as tolerant, if not fearful, of South East based secessionist group, IPOB; innuendos that suggest indiscretions and abuse of office in the financial deployment of state funds as Anambra governor between 2006 and 2014; the Anambra’s ‘wakapass’ N250 million cash loitering allegedly in front of his Apapa, Lagos company office (Next) in 2009; the admittedly self-indicting lampoons that portray him as stingy wIth a craving for unprofitable parsimony… a trait his supporters flaunt as industrious frugality, in a nation that callously celebrates sleaze and impunity.

Of course, the internet is also littered with memes and mementoes of Obi’s alleged sundry lies and ‘misyarns’, fueled by his affection for buttressing his sweet-and -sour narratives with condiments of facts and statistics from across the world – especially the Asian variety. Surely, Obi and his supporters who dream of upending the status quo are poised for the toughest fight of their lives.

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Pendulum: I Said A Prayer for President Talon

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BY Dele Momodu

Fellow Africans, please lend me your eyes and ears. I have just experienced a pleasant surprise in a place I least expected, Bénin Republic, just a stone throw from Nigeria. Believe me, I actually said a word of prayer for President Patrice Guillaume Athanase Talon, the 63 year old President of Bénin, his wife, Madame Claudine Gbenagnon, their children, Karen and Lionel, and their unborn generations, for making Africa proud by their spectacular performance in power. I’m prouder that President Talon is a Taurean like me, also born in May and about two years older than me.

I’m sure you all know how difficult it is to find African leaders worthy of adulations talk less of prayers. The last time I found one was in 2016 when President John Dramani Mahama wowed me with his extraordinary projects in Ghana. I had screamed his names on the rooftops and many politicians got angry and jittery and jealous and envious. I didn’t mind because the color of truth is always constant. I thought it would be difficult to find another Mahama in West Africa except President Macky Sall of Senegal, a country I first discovered in 1992, during an unforgettable trip to Goree Island with Chief Moshood Abiola. Lately, though a Nigeria, I saw a brilliant in Port Harcourt, where Governor Nyesom Wike has scattered everywhere with monumental projects.

Let me confess that my curiosity about President Talon had been aroused by my very dear Brother, Wole Omoboriowo, sometime last year. He had regaled me with tales of how President Talon is transforming Bénin at the speed of light. It sounded too good to be true and I must have subconsciously felt Wole was just being hyperbolic. Where would Bénin find such resources from, I had soliloquised quietly! If Nigeria with all its natural resources and mountains of debts has nothing tangible to show, I reasoned Bénin would be the most unlikely of places to witness such sporadic developments.

What was more? I had tried to establish the French version of Ovation International magazine in Bénin in 2006 but the country became too small for our dreams. We couldn’t make money and we had to be subsidizing our operations, as if the subsidy syndrome had followed us from Nigeria. Most painfully, we had to shut down our beautiful and magnificent waterfront office at the Marina. As a pan-Africanist under the influence of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Walter Rodney, W. E. B. Du Bois, The Nwalimu Julius Nyerere, Leopold Sedar Senghor, Amilcar Cabral and others, my dream had always been about how to unite African economies. This utopic ambition has burnt my fingers several times in different parts of Africa but I remain undaunted and unbowed.

The Cotonou I returned to was just too refreshingly different. I took extensive drive around the city and could almost not recognize most parts. My God, please, continue to imbue your son President Talon with vision and wisdom and courage to do what is needed and right for his people. I was dazed like a kindergarten baby seeing Father Christmas for the first time. I can confidently confirm that Nigerian leaders should be ashamed of the backwardness in our own country. Lest I forget, the road from Lagos to Cotonou remains under perpetual reconstruction and painfully rough, undulating and dangerous. Once we crossed the Seme border into Cotonou, it was a totally smooth ride till we came back. We did not see a single checkpoint manned by desperately greedy officers and their accomplices who looked more like ghommids out of D. O. Fagunwa’s Forest of a Thousand Daemons (Wole Soyinka’s translation of Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Irunmole). Without exaggerating, the Nigerian side must have had over 20 checkpoints with all of them openly extorting money from their helpless and hapless victims. This nonsense and eyesore must be scrapped urgently. And by the way, the same extortion continues in leaps and bounds at Murtala Muhammed International Airport.

President Talon became President in April 2016 when he sprung a major upset by winning election as an independent candidate, a rarity in most parts of the world. His emergence and remarkable performance confirms my long held belief and theory that it is difficult for full time career politicians to develop a nation. My thesis is simply that power should always be handed to mostly those who have had records of personal accomplishments. No leader can give what he does not have. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Dakar and barely missed attending the National School of Aviation in Paris after failing his medical test. But God must have had other fantastic plans for this wonderful child of Destiny.

Rather than allow this setback to his dream weigh him down, Talon moved on with equanimity and forayed into trading, packaging and agricultural products. He planted his Intercontinental Distribution Company, Societe Distribution Intercontinentale, suppliers of cotton products. He later established cotton factories in Bénin. Before ascending the seat of power, he was listed as one of the top 20 richest Africans.

His audacious move into politics did not appear feasible or promising to many onlookers but he shocked the world when he came second in the first round of the elections against then Prime Minister, Lionel Zinsou but Talon miraculously won the second round with a whopping 65% of the votes cast and interestingly the Prime Minister conceded defeat. It was the beginning of a new lease of life for the people of Bénin, formerly known as Dahomey.

Talon had hit the ground running from the moment he was sworn in. The business acumen in him was instantly on display. He announced the composition of his government same day he was sworn in, an impossibility in most governments of Africa and he did the uncommon by appointing two of the co-contestants , Pascal Koupaki and Abdulakeem Bio-Tchane, who had backed him in the second round, to key positions… This was how he succeeded a government of national unity, in principle. After serving his first term in office, he sought re-election and won by a landslide of 86% of the votes, almost as good as unopposed.

Since no human is perfect, opposition leaders have accused him of dictatorial tendencies. His war against corruption has been smolderingly merciless. But his supporters insist he would have failed like most African leaders if he treated issues of corruption with kids’ gloves. They support him unconditionally and he’s reported to have built a new and expansive prison for criminals and “saboteurs.” According to my good friend Alberto Koumagnon, aka Alberto Dinero, an unrepentant fan of President Talon, “this is the best President we’ve ever had in Bénin no matter what anyone says.” We drove round the city and I could not believe my eyes, like a victim of optical illusions. I could see a palpable look of national pride in my friend who could have easily passed for the Minister of Information the way and manner he reeled out endless stories about the plans of Talon to transform Bénin into a modern wonder. For example, the national airline being contemplated and the newly expanded airport in Cotonou are just truly admirable.

Bénin is home to a huge of population with Nigerian ancestry, especially members the Yoruba race, who continue to worship their traditional religion and deity in its pristine form. There’s even a national declaration of holiday for the Orisha. Sango is one of the most popular of the deities, the reason the Grammy Awards winner, Angelique Kidjo’s popular song was dedicated to Sango. In an interview she granted me in London about 25 years ago, she confirmed her fascination for the Yoruba gods.

I’m excited to witness and feel the progress Bénin has made under the leadership of the visionary President next door to us while we continue to wallow in primordial politics. I pray God would open our eyes to see the need for fresh leadership with great ideas and the determination to succeed where others failed…

A SEASON OF COUPS IN WEST AFRICA

Only God knows what’s going on in different parts of the West African subregion but it is obvious that coup d’etats are back in vogue. While I do not want to bore you with details of countries that have recently succumbed to the jackboots of ambition solders, I must however note some of the reasons for this return to the madness of the past, POOR LEADERSHIP. African leaders have consistently punished their people out of greed and selfishness. They’ve been largely corrupt and irresponsibly reckless.

For me, it is a sad development and a potential descent into anarchism. Africa is already too far behind in the comity of nations. We may be heading towards a cataclysmic Armageddon if do not apply the brakes as soon as possible….

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Rivers Aircraft: Amaechi Refutes abandoning State’s aircraft in Germany

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The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi , has refuted claims from Governor Nyesom Wike, that he dumped an aircraft owned by Rivers State government in Germany.

Speaking on behalf of the former Rivers governor, Tolofari George, a former Commissioner of Transport, in a statement titled “Rivers Aircraft: Again Wike Lied against Amaechi” on Wednesday 26 January, 2022 said that it is not possible that a plane that was properly documented in the handover notes of the State ministry of transport to the incoming administration in 2015, can be said to have been abandoned

The statement reads: “Once again, in his characteristic mischievous style, Rivers state Governor, Nyesom Wike has sought to malign and attack his predecessor and erstwhile benefactor, the Minister of Transportation, Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi by making false allegations.

“This time the governor claims that his predecessor secretly abandoned an aircraft belonging to the Rivers state government in Germany.

“The lie in the Rivers State Government rant is so obvious. It is simply not possible that a plane that was properly documented in the handover notes of the State ministry of transport (which I supervised as Commissioner) to the incoming administration in 2015 can be said to be secretly abandoned? How?

“When we got the new aircraft that the current government is using now, the  older Legacy aircraft was sent to Germany for repairs and refurbishment and then to be sold to generate revenue for critical infrastructural projects in the state. To the Previous administration, there was no economic sense to keep and maintain two State planes. The cost was just too prohibitive, so the plan was to sell off the older Legacy plane.

“The plane was still in Germany at the time we handed over to the incoming administration. Everything was in the handover notes of the ministry of transport.

“In 2015 when the new administration took over, they claimed the same aircraft had been stolen. Today, they are now saying again that the aircraft was secretly abandoned.

“We can now all see that the issue is purely political and vindictive, hurling false allegations on the previous administration. That the Legacy aircraft was in RUAG, Germany was written in my handover notes that is in the custody of the Rivers state government.

“In 2015 when they made an issue of Rivers state having two aircrafts, and that one has been stolen, I issued a press release which reiterated that the aircraft was in Germany.

“Sometime last year, a staff of Rivers State government got in touch with me, asking questions about the aircraft. I clearly told him where it was. So, I just don’t understand what this current fuss is about?

“We couldn’t have taken an aircraft to Germany and just dump it there and walk away without proper and formal documentation. Is RUAG, Germany a dumping ground?

“I recalled that Rivers State government had made an issue of the new aircraft currently in use, having a United States registration number, accusing the past government of wanting to steal the aircraft.

“They accused us of doing an N registration for the sole purpose of wanting to steal the aircraft. They made so much fuss at the time. But till date, which is nearly 7 years after taking possession of the aircraft, they are still using the the same foreign registration. Why haven’t they changed it to Nigerian registration?

“The whole information about that aircraft – the Legacy plane, was in the handover notes prepared by the ministry for the incoming administration in 2015, including the fact that the plane was to be sold, because it was more economical to sell it off.”

Tolofari George

Former Rivers State Commissioner of Transport (2007-2015)

January 26, 2022

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