The Sun News » Kalu Leadership Series http://sunnewsonline.com/new - Voice of The Nation Thu, 30 Jul 2015 15:54:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.6 Can evil triumph over good? (4) http://sunnewsonline.com/new/can-evil-triumph-over-good-4/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/can-evil-triumph-over-good-4/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 23:42:06 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=128555 The story that has inundated the airwaves and pages of newspa­pers and magazines in Nigeria in the past two weeks is that President Muhammadu Buhari is too slow in delivering the dividends of democracy to the masses. For instance, they argue that the in­ability of the President to appoint min­isters underscores his weariness and bankruptcy [...]]]>

The story that has inundated the airwaves and pages of newspa­pers and magazines in Nigeria in the past two weeks is that President Muhammadu Buhari is too slow in delivering the dividends of democracy to the masses.

For instance, they argue that the in­ability of the President to appoint min­isters underscores his weariness and bankruptcy of ideas to ably pilot the af­fairs of the nation.

As if to add petrol to fire the critics have been having a feast day ever since writing and saying all kinds of things to justify their position with unceasing rabidity.

But I beg to disagree that President Buhari is to too slow. Whoever holds a contrary opinion must be suffering from jaundice of the mind or habouring un­justified ill-feeling against the present regime.

Who in Nigeria does not know that it usually takes a little time for a new government to find its feet and set out for full operation? This is not peculiar to Nigeria. It has happened in the United States under the Obama administration.

The reason is that a new government needs time to study the handover notes and do some comparisons, hold consul­tations with the permanent secretaries it inherited, lay out the operational guide­lines, assemble the team, based on what is on ground, and wait for other arms of government, such as the legislature, to find their rhythm.

If this should be the case why then do armchair critics castigate the new administration for doing what it is ex­pected to do? In the present circum­stance, we have a peculiar scenario where the new government is making efforts to clean the Augean Stable. Ac­cording to President Buhari, he needed time to tackle the numerous problems bequeathed to his by the Jonathan Ad­ministration.

I remember vividly that President Bu­hari begged Nigerians immediately after he was sworn in as President to give him more time before expecting the divi­dends of democracy to start flowing out of Aso Rock. To buttress the President’s position the chairman of his Transition Committee, Ahmed Joda, said that the last administration did not allow them access to vital information during its as­signment and that that would affect the pace at which the present administration would work initially. And he was right.

From the report of the Transition Committee it was clear that the delay in handing over important notes to it by the Jonathan government affected its work and is now indirectly affecting the overall governance of the country.

Now, what justification do the critics have for demonising President Buhari and calling him names? I have taken time to study Buhari and can state here that he is in control of governance of the country. Forget the wicked insinuations by detractors things are gradually look­ing up.

I know that Nigerians are in a hurry to see him perform but they should not lose sight of the fact that his adminis­tration inherited a huge burden from the last regime. The issue of unpaid arrears of salaries by states was a part of it. Imagine what would have happened if he had closed his eyes to the plight of workers and not bailed out the states? As a caring and empathic leader he quickly found a way round the problem. Today, the states can now breathe some fresh air and concentrate on building new opportunities to make life better for their people.

Resorting to the bailout was a very in­genious step by the Buhari government. No other way would have arrested the drift as promptly as the bailout package had done. This is why it has to be cher­ished by every Nigerian – particularly the jaundiced critics. The exciting thing is that the bailout plan is structured in such a way that none of the parties in the deal would suffer any disadvantage. States, as well as the guarantors – the Federal Government – have generous moratoria to meet its terms and condi­tions without stress.

What about a few appointments made by the President so far – from his media team to the Service Chiefs? These ap­pointments have demonstrated in a very special way the desire by the President to overhaul the system and restore san­ity to governance.

Do not forget the crises in the Nation­al Assembly, instigated by some persons to garner undue advantages and cause confusion. If not for the wisdom of the President and other stakeholders the situation would have boiled over. Such crises achieve nothing other than set the pace of governance back.

Another reason it seems the President is slow is the Boko Haram wahala. No administration would do well in the face of growing threat to peace and security. Boko Haram has been a pain in the neck of the immediate past and present gov­ernments. The six years of Jonathan’s presidency was characterised by persis­tent insecurity with little time for actual governance.

It was when it seemed things were looking up for him that he was voted out, leaving the Buhari government to grapple with the burden of dealing with the conflict. The complex nature of ter­rorism has made the fight against it look arduous. This has made many people believe that the chances of winning the war appear bleak.

Nevertheless, for the discerning ana­lysts, the approach of Buhari differs significantly from Jonathan’s. That was expected. After all, Buhari is a retired army general with international clout. His style should ordinarily be different.

The increased onslaught by Boko Haram should not create the impression in the minds of people that the govern­ment is not winning the war. What Bu­hari is doing is a combination of force and diplomacy. And the developed countries seem to be comfortable with it. No wonder the United States rolled out the red carpets to receive him!

If Buhari were slow and not perform­ing the US would not be doing all it is doing for him and Nigeria. Add this to the generous welcome he received when he attended the meeting of the G-8 in Germany in May – even before he was inaugurated.

The current disposition of the world, especially the US, towards Nigeria un­derscores the optimism that is growing among members of the global commu­nity and the triumph of good over evil. The machinations of the enemies of Ni­geria were that it would never see the light or receive anything good from the outside world. But all that has changed. Their plots have fallen through and Ni­geria is being steadily favoured.

The visit of Buhari to the United States was a huge success. It has helped immeasurably in laundering Nigeria’s image.

As for ministers: my position is that the President should take his time and choose the best for the country. Why the hurry? Selecting ministers to work with the President is a very serious assign­ment that requires meticulousness, dili­gence, proper investigation, contact and scrutiny. It is not something that is done in a hurry. Again, appointing ministers when the system is not ready to receive them is not the best thing to do.

I think the strategy of the President is to lay the foundation on which the min­isters would build their programmes is a perfect one. This foundation will enable him to monitor and evaluate closely their performances.

In any case, the restructuring of the ministries to produce a more acceptable and manageable number accounts for the delay in appointing ministers. The number of ministries under Jonathan was seen to be on the high side consid­ering the gargantuan costs of maintain­ing them. The plan under Buhari could be to trim the number as a way of cut­ting wastes and plugging all loopholes through which government resources were frittered away.

Many observers of political hap­penings in the country may not have realised that it is the intention of Bu­hari to nominate men and women of unquestionable integrity and character. Naturally, this exercise would take time as security checks and other measures would have to be carried out on them before their names are announced.

The practice in the past was for ministers to be appointed less than 48 hours after the swearing-in of the Presi­dent. But from experience this has not worked out positively. There is also the argument that the incoming administra­tion should have been ready with the list long before it came into office. Both situations cannot obtain in the present circumstance as the scenarios are quite different now.

What should concern Nigerians is the calibre of the persons to be appointed ministers and not the time it takes to appoint them. Without any disputation those opposed to what the President is doing do so for their selfish interest. They are not guided by patriotism or altruism.

I wish to drum it into the ears of those who are yet to come to reality with the reason God chose Buhari to pilot the affairs of Nigeria at this time of our national life that no amount of tirades or criticisms will make him not to suc­ceed. The state of things in our nation demands meticulous planning, personal sacrifices, patience and understanding of the citizenry. Criticism, just for the sake of it, will take us nowhere.

Why must Nigerians allow them­selves to be used to thwart the good in­tentions of our leaders? President Buha­ri has shown by the things he has done so far that he knows where he is taking the nation to. He is not a newcomer to the office. He had been there as a mili­tary Head of State. His long years of re­tirement from service and the tortuous journey he had had in politics have com­bined to make him a better civilian and, therefore, a good President.

President Buhari is sufficiently pre­pared to take up the gauntlet to lead this nation. For this reason nobody can ac­cuse him of lack of experience and pas­sion for the job. Surprisingly, nobody has accused him of highhandedness, which is what military leaders usually have penchant for. Since he was sworn in President Buhari has subjected him­self to the tenets of democracy and due process. When he appointed his first set of advisers and key staff he sought the approval of the Senate. The same thing applied to the appointment of the Ser­vice Chiefs who are now acting pending their confirmation by the Senate.

In any case, what the critics of the President have failed to appreciate is that governance has taken a completely new shape. It is not business as usual. Square pegs are now being put in square holes. There is no room for nonentities and mediocrities in this government. And I think it is these charlatans that make the most noise in the name of criticisms.

Nigeria is in a brand new era en­trusted to us by God. The years eaten by locusts are gradually being restored. For the enemies of Nigeria, it is a mira­cle that it is yet to disintegrate going by their doomsday prophecy. In the build-up to the 2015 general elections there was apprehension in the land of possible break-up. Countless articles were writ­ten by different interested persons warn­ing about the impending cataclysm.

Today – 3 months after the elections – Nigeria is still intact, marching forward with renewed energy and vigour. The broken parts of Nigeria are systemically being fixed, while the bruises are gradu­ally healing. What we need to achieve full healing and institutionalisation of new democratic principles and ethos is the support and cooperation of all Nige­rians to the new administration.

For sparing Nigeria from the brink of collapse God has given us another opportunity to repent and try again in rebuilding our nation. Our forbears sac­rificed their all to secure independence for us. Why should we now allow their efforts to be wasted on the altar of greed and ethnocentricity?

How do you think the incoming gen­eration will see us if we failed to build a sustainable future for them? Should we allow evil to triumph over good when we have all it takes to enthrone justice, equity, peace and progress in our na­tion?

The current state of things in Nigeria calls for more dedication to duty, trans­parency, honesty and development. We must make sacrifices as individuals and organisations to ensure that evildoers do not conquer our nation and continue to sow seed of discord among us.

There is no evil we cannot defeat if we worked together, bury our differ­ences and embrace peace. Evil seems to overwhelm good, because we have failed to confront it with equal zeal and vigour. We have allowed our differences politically, religiously and culturally to continue to divide us when in essence we should unite as one indivisible peo­ple.

To be continued

 

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Can evil triumph over good? (3) http://sunnewsonline.com/new/can-evil-triumph-over-good-3/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/can-evil-triumph-over-good-3/#comments Fri, 17 Jul 2015 23:36:25 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=127625 For the past two weeks I have been under intense psychologi­cal pain over the persistent loss of precious lives of our fellow compatriots to insecurity. There was no single week in the past one and half months we did not hear of one form of killing or another. It was either in the hands of [...]]]>

For the past two weeks I have been under intense psychologi­cal pain over the persistent loss of precious lives of our fellow compatriots to insecurity. There was no single week in the past one and half months we did not hear of one form of killing or another. It was either in the hands of the dreaded Islamic Sect, Boko Haram; armed robbers, assas­sins or kidnappers.

Some of the screaming headlines in the Nigerian media such as ‘14-year-old female terrorist blows self up, 5 dead’; ’82-year-old Iyaloja hacked to death’; ‘Gunmen attack Mosque, 44 killed’; and Gunmen Kill Monarch, three others in Enugu’. Are these headlines not frighten­ing? For me, they are not only frighten­ing, but dastardly.

From available media reports, over 444 persons have lost their lives to terrorism alone in the past 39 days. This comes to an average of 11 lives every day. What is really happening? When will this country experience peace, security and progress as was the case so many years ago?

Since the return of the country to civil­ian rule things have never been the same again. It has been a reign of terror and brigandage.

What makes me very worried is the ease with which these wicked killings were carried out. In each case the secu­rity agencies were caught napping. To be sincere I do not blame the security agencies, because there was no way they could have known when the next surprise attack would occur.

The truth is that we are fighting a most difficult fratricidal war, which we have comfortably branded ‘terrorism’. When the whole thing started in 2008 I expressed worry about the possibility of the initial agitation by Boko Haram esca­lating into a full-blown war. Nobody took me seriously at the time. Rather some persons branded me an alarmist. How could I be an alarmist when almost all I had predicted came to pass?

So, I have sat down to ruminate on the monumental losses in human and materi­al resources the nation has incurred since insecurity heightened in 2008. The Presi­dent Goodluck Jonathan administration seemed to have exacerbated the situation, with terrorism assuming a gruesome di­mension.

What made the Jonathan government’s fight against insecurity cumbersome was the intolerable impatience and greed of the political class coupled with endemic corruption that made it difficult for the security agencies to execute their man­dates professionally and swiftly. For in­stance, it was rumoured at some time that money earmarked for security agencies was diverted to other selfish purposes, leaving security to suffer.

What was the cause of the increased cases of mutiny in the military across the country? We heard of incidents of soldiers abandoning the battlefronts and running for dear life. Who would not have done the same thing when the en­emy you were sent to confront was more sophisticated than you.

The reports we got from the media stated that the soldiers involved in the mutiny did so out of frustration and as a way of registering their disenchantment with the laissez fait attitudes of their commanders.

Whichever way one looks at it the sim­ple truth is that something is wrong with our security apparatuses which only a thorough investigation can reveal.

From all indications, the Nigerian Military ranks among the best, at least, in Africa. Its competence is never in doubt. What I find as the major obstacle to its optimal performance is the lack of proper funding and training. I find it inexpli­cable that the military should be in this dire strait when billions of naira had been budgeted in the past for its equipping and welfare. This is why it seems not to be responding correspondingly to the chal­lenges posed by insecurity in the country.

The final days of the Jonathan Govern­ment witnessed some lull in Boko Haram operations. And this led to a glimmer of hope among Nigerians that things were looking up. They were totally wrong. Al­most immediately Jonathan exited from power the reign of terror resurged. The question that keeps cropping up is: are the bombings and killings deliberate and targeted at making governance difficult for the new helmsman, Muhammadu Bu­hari? For the feeble-minded this could be the position. But for the rational minds the answer lies in the bowels of uncer­tainty.

I knew right from the time Boko Har­am entered alliance with ISIS that the spate of terrorist attacks would heighten. And that is exactly what we have had so far. The current style of operations of Boko Haram has some semblance with that of ISIS: heartless and precise.

For how long are we going to live with this nightmare? Nobody is sure where next the sect will unleash its terror. It is this uncertainty and the heavy casualties recorded in the past 39 days that have combined to make me giddy and heavy-laden. Those who have died did not com­mit any particular sin. Even if they did, at least, they should have been tried and sentenced. But to just wake up with hope for a bright and beautiful day only to be cut down by assailant’s bullets or ma­chete is the most dishonourable way to die.

Painfully many Nigerians had died with their hopes and dreams this way. Re­call the Suleija Catholic Church bombing in which 43 worshippers were mauled by terrorists! What of the killing of 44 innocent persons who had gathered for prayer in a mosque to break their fast? These deaths are one too many. They are not a good sign for a nation with hope of emerging someday as a global super­power.

I have never stopped wondering what Boko Haram really wants. I offered to negotiate with them on behalf of the Fed­eral Government, but was shunned. Who knew if that singular gesture would have brought the conflict to a permanent end? Over 36 months after the offer the situa­tion has only succeeded in escalating. I am pained.

What I know and I have always stated in most of my writings on insecurity in the country is that injustice is the major cause of conflicts in Africa, if not the world. There is hardly any part of Africa today that is not under one form of bel­ligerency or another. In fact, the agitation for self-rule and uti posideti has contin­ued to rise. South Sudan got its independ­ence from Sudan. Despite this internal in­surrection has been the order of the day. The cause of the conflict is very defin­able: Struggle for oil.

The struggle for autonomy by the vari­ous ethnic blocks in Nigeria has also led to numerous cases of insurgency, which often threatens the peace and stability of the country. The Niger Delta conflict is a case in study. The restiveness in the area was seemingly brought under control when the late President Musa Yar’Adua’s government introduced the Amnesty Pro­gramme. Though Yar’Adua is dead the success story of the programme would not be written without his name receiving a generous mention.

Deeper research has revealed that the crises in the Niger Delta and, by exten­sion, other parts of the country are tar­geted at achieving specific objectives by the perpetrators. For example, the Niger Delta insurgency manifested when those used by politicians to prosecute the 1999 elections had nothing else to do other than engage in all kinds of criminalities to survive. Pipeline vandalism, bunker­ing, kidnapping and robbery became common features in the social life of the region. The Amnesty Programme helped immeasurably to restore a semblance of normalcy there.

It is gratifying to observe here that the Amnesty initiative led to the rehabilita­tion of many of the miscreants in the re­gion. They now engage in useful enter­prises and have become less burdensome to the states and the people of the region. Imagine what the condition of the region would have become if the programme had not been introduced.

This is why I subscribe to the idea of a negotiated settlement to the Boko Haram impasse. The Jonathan government tried something in that regard, but it was not pulled through due to one reason or an­other. For whatever reason, suspending the dialogue was a wrong political step. There is nothing wrong continuing the dialogue with the sect.

I prefer peace to war. In peace we can accomplish so much. But war retards growth and stalls the wheel of develop­ment. The countries at war around the globe have horrible tales to tell. We in Ni­geria who witnessed the war knew what we went through. War is not what I wish my worst enemy.

My heart will continue to be in turbu­lence until the day the sect and the Fed­eral Government reach a truce. I use this medium to appeal to both parties to bury their egos and embrace dialogue. Killing Boko Haram members or Federal govern­ment levying war on them does not solve any problem. Only peace can.

Let all Nigerians spare a thought for the thousands of lives lost already in the imbroglio and they will appreciate this call I make for peace. There is hardly any family in Nigeria that has not directly or indirectly been affected by the crisis.

It is wrong for anybody to assume that, after all, the activities of the sect do not directly concern him or her. But a more critical look at the situation will reveal its underbelly and many will shudder at the level of carnage that has taken place.

My fear is what future the crisis holds for our nation and how far the sect can go to unleash mayhem across the nation. Today it is happening in the North East of Nigeria. What about tomorrow? Look at the Plateau and the incalculable harm the Fulani herdsmen have inflicted on it to be able to appreciate the collateral damage they have done.

As indicated in this column last week the Federal Government did not do well to dump Boko Haram members in Ekwu­lobia Prisons. What was the rational for the action other than mischief? Distrib­uting high-risk prisoners to prisons not properly fortified is a security risk in it­self. I was outraged when I learned that a sizeable number of the inmates were children. Why dump children with adults in the same prison when the proper place to keep them is the orphanage?

I am yet to come to terms with what the government plans to achieve with the movement of the inmates to Ekwulobia. However, one thing the movement has succeeded in achieving is discontentment among the people of the state.

If I may ask: what exactly is the Buha­ri government doing to contain the high level of insecurity prevalent in the coun­try? One of the expectations of Nigerians for voting for him was that he would be able to ensure security of lives and prop­erty. Like many Nigerians, I too share their optimism.

The Buhari I know has the capacity to secure the lives and property of Ni­gerians. Though it looks as if he is be­ing overwhelmed by the enormity of the tasks facing him; nevertheless, with time he will get it right. Nigerians must appre­ciate the rot in the system when he came on the scene and bear with him.

He might have started slowly, but definitely he knows where he is head­ing. Things may be rough today; with time they will improve. One thing I am sure of is that Buhari has lofty plans for this country. His passion to turn things around, despite the intractable problems militating against his regime, is enor­mous.

I cannot fail to advise Buhari and his economic advisers to take a critical look at the problem of employment. Millions of our young, able-bodied youth loiter about when they should be busy working. Many of them who could not find any other means of livelihood resort to crimi­nality. Go to the streets of major cities in Nigeria and you will be scandalised by the number of these youth who engage in hawking.

Gambling is gradually consuming many Nigerians, especially our youth. By gambling they have resigned themselves to fate. It is at the gaming centres and other places of revelry that these youth get introduced into criminality.

I was shocked to the marrow when I saw some young men being paraded by the former Lagos State Commissioner of Police arrested for a spate of bank robber­ies in Ikorodu and environs. One of them – a timber worker – confessed that he took to robbery when his business nose-dived.

Though there is no justification for engaging in any illegitimate venture or criminality, the government should share the blame for not doing enough to keep our youth off the streets. Government should see the rehabilitation of many of our youth that have gone astray as a pri­ority. It is a good thing that President Bu­hari has expressed commitment to reviv­ing the textile and agro-allied industries as a way of creating jobs for the youth and other unemployed Nigerians.

While the nation waits impatiently for the good days to return I cannot but con­tinue in my state of disconsolation, a con­dition that has drained my strength and energy copiously.

To be continued

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Can evil triumph over good? (2) http://sunnewsonline.com/new/can-evil-triumph-over-good-2/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/can-evil-triumph-over-good-2/#comments Sat, 11 Jul 2015 00:00:09 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=126742 In the first part of this series I treat­ed the issue of the inability of states to meet their financial obligations to workers and contractors and the need to compel those governors that had expropriated the resources at their dis­posal to refund them. I also addressed the rancour and struggle for power at the National [...]]]>

In the first part of this series I treat­ed the issue of the inability of states to meet their financial obligations to workers and contractors and the need to compel those governors that had expropriated the resources at their dis­posal to refund them. I also addressed the rancour and struggle for power at the National Assembly and the need to exercise caution and decorum by our distinguished legislators.

To be sincere I am amazed at some of the utterances of our politicians especially those occupying high offices. I am yet to come to terms how a governor would tell the whole world that he had cut his salary by half as a way of cushioning the financial crisis facing his state. How much is the sal­ary of a serving governor? It is less than a million naira a month. How will half of it make a difference in the lives of the people of his state or reduce the huge wage bill of his workers.

Even if the governor donates his entire salary for one full term it will make no im­pact. In fact, it will amount to a drop of wa­ter in the ocean. Why don’t the governors and others in executive positions sacrifice half of their security votes? Imagine the im­pact 50% reduction in security vote would make on the economy of Nigeria. Let us assume the monthly security vote of each state is N600 million on the average. A 50% cut across board in the 36 states and Fed­eral Capital Territory (FCT) will amount to a gargantuan N133,200,000,000 (one hun­dred and thirty three billion, two hundred million naira) per annum.

This amount is what 36 governors and FCT Minister conservatively take home yearly as security votes.

Nobody is begrudging them at all. How­ever the point I’m making is that it is ludi­crous and insensitive for a governor to tell us he is cutting his pay by half as a way round the financial strait facing his state. Who is fooling who?

I am still waiting for that governor that would have the courage to cut his security vote by half in solidarity with the suffering workers of his state.

I recall my days as governor with nos­talgia. It was a very difficult period in the annals of our nation when the country was just returning to civilian rule after years of military interregna. I inherited three months unpaid salaries and huge local and foreign debt amounting to N8 billion and 780 mil­lion dollars respectively. Then President Obasanjo forced me to pay the 780 million US dollars as a way of punishing me for opposing his Third Term bid. Infrastructure was non-existent, while the people groaned for redemption and freedom.

Incredibly, the first allocation we re­ceived on assumption of office was not even enough to pay a month salary of workers let alone meet other pressing obli­gations. It was that bad. So, how could any­body talk about security vote here? Moved by the plight of workers and determined to make a difference we did the extraordinary by sourcing money from private sources to pay off the arrears of salary and pension and commence the construction of four new roads in Aba. By February 25, 2000 the four roads were ready for commission­ing by then President Olusegun Obasanjo. It was on that occasion he christened me the ‘Action Governor of Nigeria’.

It was a most uncommon adulation by a man who would hardly praise anybody publicly, no matter what. That recognition fired my zeal to work with unremitting commitment to deliver quality dividends of democracy to our people. It was an eventful tenure characterised by action and perfor­mance.

What was my security vote then? It hovered between N60m and N120 million. Compare this to what is obtainable today and you would appreciate the huge sacri­fices we made.

The urge to work for one’s people stems from courage and altruism. You need cour­age to take bold decisions and altruism to make personal sacrifices for the good of others. We had both. We spoke on critical national issues without fear of favour. We knew the risks and enormous sacrifices in­volved yet we did not shy away from the truth and pursuit of social justice and eq­uity.

It was courage that made me sacrifice everything to stand up against the Third Term bid of former President Olusegun Obasanjo even when many of my col­leagues backed out for fear of victimisa­tion. I would have lost almost everything I had if not for the mercy of God. Today I am branded ‘political exposure’ by the outside world because the government of that time decided to use the EFCC to hunt me down for having the audacity to speak out.

I do not regret one bit the sufferings I had undergone and the losses I had incurred for the sake of our democracy. I know that one day my God will intervene and right the wrongs done against me.

Is it not sad that most of our leaders have chosen to keep quiet when they should speak out? There are many things going wrong in our nation and our politicians have refused to speak against them.

The insurgency in the north has gone on unabated and many of our top politicians do not see anything wrong. Why have our politicians not convened a national forum to discuss the restiveness in the north and dialogue on the way forward? Or do we gloat over the thousands of lives lost in the senseless killings? Only last week some in­nocent worshippers in a mosque were killed in cold-blood by gunmen masquerading as religious freedom fighters. The same brutal killings were recorded in some communi­ties in Yobe and Borno States.

Are the killers truly justified in their ne­farious activities of maiming and killing in the name of religion? This is why I align with the position of President Buhari who spoke vehemently last week against the op­erations of the islamic sect and the reason behind their actions. The President stated unequivocally that Islam would not encour­age the massacre of innocent persons in the pretext of executing the precepts of any re­ligion or god.

The killings in the north have got to an embarrassing stage such that something drastic must to be done to bring the situ­ation under control. How many more in­nocent persons will be killed before some­thing is done to stop it?

I am pained that thousands of our fellow compatriots had died in the past 7 years since the Boko Haram onslaught began for no cause of theirs. They died because of the greed and selfishness of a few of us. What really caused the ongoing insurgency if not injustice and greed combined?

All efforts to stop the insurgency and destruction of innocent lives and properties have failed. Not because the efforts were not enough to stop the carnage. Far from it! The reason for the prolonged interne­cine war is that some persons profit from it. Otherwise I do not see why the whole thing would not have stopped long ago.

As I indicated earlier, there is an urgent need for a special stakeholders meeting to discuss the way forward. Since the insur­rection is concentrated more in the North­east geopolitical zone it will only make sense if the entire north is mobilised to find an internal settlement. Something in me tells me that the north has the capacity to restore peace to the affected areas if they show sufficient commitment and honesty in their approach.

What is going on is that some persons say something in the open and in secret they perpetrate more devilish and cruel acts.

This brings us to the current movement of some Boko Haram detainees to differ­ent prisons across the country. The one that has raised much dust is the Ekwulobia one. The secrecy behind the movement (though understandable) and the non-consultation of the Anambra State governor beforehand exacerbated the situation. It would have been more reasonable for the Federal Gov­ernment to have built a special facility for the detention of high-risk detainees such as members of the dreaded sect. That was what the United States did with the Guanta­namo Bay facility in Cuba.

The problem with Nigeria is that we hardly plan proactively. What would it have caused the government to build such a facility long before now? Now see the ten­sion we raise all over the place trying to fix the prisoners to avoid infiltration. Bringing such dangerous prisoners to a small prison yard as Ekwulobia is definitely not a solu­tion to the problem.

The solution lies in seeking a more se­cure place to keep them. Definitely not at Ekwulobia, as the many reasons already canvassed have shown. Ekwulobia, for those who do not know, is a sleeping town near Aguata in Anambra State. It is 25 minutes drive from Awka the state capital. It has a population of less than 5000 per­sons. The existing prison there was built by the colonial masters and lacks facilities of modern prisons. So, what is the wisdom in taking hardened detainees to the place?

The Federal Government should recon­sider the matter and do that which is need­ful to restore normalcy to the area.

I have implicit confidence in the capac­ity of the present federal government to stop the insurgency. I am glad they are tink­ering with the idea of a negotiated settle­ment. That would do the magic. Forget the pandering of some persons to undue senti­ments. The issue can be settled in a round­table. Former President Jonathan used this approach, though he could not achieve full result. Exploring this option will further drive the process of restoring peace.

Do not forget I offered at one time to kick-start the negotiation. This was some time in 2012. But nobody gave me a chance. Former President Olusegun Oba­sanjo embarked on a similar mission to Maiduguri. Sadly, the mission turned awry along the line. Probably, this might have dissuaded the authorities from looking in that direction.

As I have always pointed out in the nu­merous articles in this column injustice is what majorly fuels insurgency and other forms of deviance. What is the Buhari ad­ministration doing to provide jobs, restore the eroded confidence of youth in govern­ment and make life worth living for the masses? The gap between the rich and the poor has continued to widen, yet nothing concrete is being done to bridge it. This is the main cause of criminalities in the coun­try.

We have just worked out what governors take home as security vote. From the figures we have it is easy to see from where all the problems originated. Imagine what would have happened if 10% of the security vote had been deployed in youth empowerment initiatives annually in the past 10 years.

Even though there is no justification for criminality, what would you expect the hun­dreds of thousands of graduates produced by our tertiary institutions over the years without any jobs to have done? Remember that idleness is the devil’s workshop.

The various youth empowerment pro­grammes by some states are mere mirages. They were designed as a holding enterprise for the training of political thugs. Taking hundreds of millions of naira from the gov­ernment coffers every month and from it pay a few youths peanuts cannot be a solu­tion to criminality among youth. That was what happened in my state of Abia under the T.A. Orji administration. Now what will be the fate of many of the youth un­der the Ochendo Youth Empowerment Pro­gramme?

It is common knowledge that the former governor used them as political hagiog­raphers and thugs throughout his tenure. Again, the programme was a drain pipe through which the former governor and his family siphoned the financial resources of the state.

I believe that what happened in Abia State between 2007 and 2015 also hap­pened in many other states in Nigeria. It is the consequences that we witness today.

The present governors owe us a duty to discharge its duties creditably and em­pathically. They must show passion in their work and ensure that probity, transparency, accountability and good governance pre­vail. What will it profit them if they gained everything in their first term and lose their second term bid?

They have everything to gain by sacri­ficing now and leaving behind legacies for which their names will be immortalised. The Nigerian masses are the easiest to deal with. Their needs are very simple: Water, good roads, quality health care, steady elec­tricity, jobs, security and food. These needs are provided in the annual budgets of states. Unfortunately, nothing happens at the end of each year.

The masses must ask questions about how they are governed. They must express interest in what happens in their govern­ments. They era of sit down and look was over long ago. And governors and other leaders are aware that the people are wiser now more than ever before.

People of T.A. Orji’s ilk came and did their people abracadabra and went away, thinking nobody would discover their sins and condemn them. But God is watching. Whatever a man sows he shall reap. The day of reckoning will come sooner than ex­pected. It is only a matter of time.

I use this opportunity to commend Presi­dent Buhari for his fatherly care in releasing N801 billion to enable states settle arrears of salaries owed their workers. This gesture is unprecedented, and I hope the states will use the money judiciously for the purpose it is meant.

If I am asked I would advise the Presi­dent to set up a small committee to handle the disbursement and ensure strict compli­ance.

Evil, for whatever reasons, should never be allowed to overwhelm righteousness.

To be continued

 

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Can evil triumph over good? (1) http://sunnewsonline.com/new/can-evil-triumph-over-good-1/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/can-evil-triumph-over-good-1/#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 23:00:27 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=125831 I am deeply appalled by recent events in our dear nation, particularly the current inability of some states to pay salaries. And everything looks as if evil has triumphed over good. It was Edmund Burke, the British poet and statesman who said that all it would take for evil to triumph over good was for [...]]]>

I am deeply appalled by recent events in our dear nation, particularly the current inability of some states to pay salaries. And everything looks as if evil has triumphed over good. It was Edmund Burke, the British poet and statesman who said that all it would take for evil to triumph over good was for good men (and women) to do nothing. Why have all good men and women chosen to keep quiet, while our nation is systemically being consumed by evil?
I find it totally unacceptable that some states despite the huge allocations they had received over the years would have the effrontery to cry for assistance from the Federal Government.
Some states may be genuinely justified in their cry for help. That is understandable. But for some states, such calls should be viewed as treacherous and betrayal of the trust of their people. For instance, why would a state like Abia cry for assistance when the immediate past administration spent 8 years in office chasing shadows and building castle in the air?
We are all aware of the oil windfall that states shared in the past 6 years, especially in the period between 2012 and 2013, when prices of oil hovered between 100 and 115 dollars per barrel. Where has all the money gone? Did it develop wings overnight and flew away?
I cannot stop asking: Why is it that the political class has continued to operate as if this country belongs to them alone? Why is it that our politicians have consistently failed to think about the suffering masses first?
Since the rebirth of our democracy in 1999 the nation has never witnessed this level of hopelessness and decrepitude.
Even among the legislators it is still the same story of lawlessness, selfishness and egocentricity. When will our politicians place the interests of the electorate first before their clannish and parochial interests?
The whole world was treated to some dramas by our lawmakers who threw caution and their exalted positions to the dust and engaged one another in fisticuffs. It was a most humiliating sight to behold.
I think something drastic should be done to check this recurring shameful behaviour. Must legislators resort to self-help each time they are offended or disagree? It is natural for people to agree to disagree, but restraint and maturity should be brought to bear on such circumstances.
The National Assembly is a collection of men and women of diverse orientations and idiosyncrasies. Therefore, it is expected they would have altercations from time to time. But allowing their emotions to becloud them is what exacerbates the situation.
I had expected our elected representatives and any other persons that occupy positions of authority to display some decorum that such offices demand. That is why they have been entrusted with the responsibilities that come with such offices by the people who are the actual custodians of power.
Let us go back to the issue of inability of some states to pay salaries. The matter, as far as I am concerned, lacks any justification. The money states had received in the past 8 years is enough to sustain them for a very long time. But see what has happened. Painfully, some immediate past administrations cleaned up their treasuries, leaving almost nothing for their successors.
The case of Abia State is worth mentioning here. It pains me that our security agencies do not take some of the things we write in the media seriously. Otherwise why should Theodore Ahamefule Orji and others of his ilk walk the streets as free men, while innocent ones are being demonised and harangued?
It was in this column that I listed the many sins of former Governor Orji while in office. I wrote in one of the series in this column how he looted Abia State treasury and the cunning ways he had tried to manipulate the psyche of the people and evade the prying eyes of security agents. But nobody did anything to question him. It is not disputable that Abia State made huge gains financially from the federation account, yet there is nothing on ground to show for it. In contrast, what we have is decrepit infrastructure, arrears of salaries and pensions, unemployment and insecurity, etc. As a ‘reward’, the man is sitting in the hallowed chambers of the National Assembly as a Senator. Imagine!
The story of how he became Senator is well known to everybody. But one poser I would want the man himself to answer is: how does he feel sitting in the Senate Chambers when he knows deep in his heart he has usurped another man’s mandate? Does his conscience (if he has any) prick him at all that he got only two votes in his polling unit during the election in which he returned himself – working in concert with some corrupt INEC officials – as Senator?
I have asked these questions, hoping they would serve as a big moral burden on him. Nevertheless, I feel for his successor. I feel for him because of the mess his predecessor left for him. How he will navigate through it is left for him and God to decide.
The point I make is that it is morally wrong to leave the real looters of the treasury to hunt down innocent people. That is exactly what is happening in Nigeria at present. Today, I am labeled ‘political exposure’ abroad for no justifiable reason. What is my offence? Just that I refused to endorse the tenure elongation of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. This ignoble label has negatively affected my businesses globally.
Considering the enormous losses I have already incurred since 2007 when the tenure elongation project hit the rocks, I think I should be described as the most persecuted politician in the country. Take a look at some of the losses I had incurred at a glance for not supporting Obasanjo’s third term agenda: SLOK Air licence was revoked for no sound reason; Hallmark Bank licence revoked, refusal to grant licence to a new commercial bank I floated, oil bloc licence and contracts cancelled, etc.
As a principled man I chose to stand by what I believed in, not minding the price I was made to pay. I am happier today that I did not succumb to intimidation or blackmail by the government of the day then. I might have been bruised, but I am not cowed. This is the type of spirits our politicians should imbibe.
However, most of our politicians lack the courage and moral rectitude to stand by what they believe in. Rather they pander to fear and undue emotion. This is why we seem not to be growing politically.
I have never for one day regretted my travails in the hands of my traducers and persecutors. They say I misappropriated money. They cooked up all kinds of figures without any empirical facts to support them. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned me before the court on trumped up charges. It is almost eight years into the trial, yet they have not been able to prove any of the allegations against me.
Without sounding immodest, I think I have the moral stand to claim that my administration from 1999 to 2007 performed above average. We worked almost without anything from inception till 2001. The first six months was hellish with three months arrears of salaries, almost 7 years of unpaid pensions and gratuities, local and foreign debts running into billions of naira, failed infrastructure, etc hanging on our necks. These liabilities were left behind by the successive administration.
Surprising, by the time we left office in 2007 we did not leave a single kobo as debt for the incoming administration. It is also on record that our administration hit the one billion naira mark in the federal allocation for the first time in 2005. So, where was the money to expropriate?
We survived in our mission to Abia State by dint of hard work and sheer creativity. Imagine this: All we collected for the entire 8 years we were in office was N108 billion and we succeeded in transforming the state as much as we did. But my successor collected close to a trillion naira from the federation account and internally generated revenue. Despite this huge amount his administration does not have anything concrete to justify it. All the government achieved in 8 years was polarising and impoverishing the people of the state with huge debts for the new government to settle.
If any state should owe arrears of workers’ pay it is not Abia State. What a shame! Yet the former governor has found his way into the cozy chambers of the Senate without anybody asking him questions about his failed stewardship for 8 years.
There are many others like this man who ruined the economy of their states and are allowed to walk the streets free. What precedent are we setting with these people? They should have since been arrested and prosecuted for the crimes they committed against their people and states if they were in other climes.
The whole world is watching what we will do with the treasury-looters. The cooperation between Nigeria and the G-7 nations could only work if they see Nigeria leading the way in the war against corruption.
Corruption is one cankerworm that has continued to eat deep into the soul of our nation. The level corruption has got is gargantuan and threatens the foundation of our nation.
There is no sphere of our national life that is not affected. In fact, it has reached an embarrassing point such that Nigeria is treated as a nation of very corrupt people.
The shabby way our people are handled abroad is a sad reflection of this reality. So, what are the plans of President Muhammadu Buhari to deal with the situation? The expectations are really very high. Every Nigerian believes it is only President Buhari who can exterminate corruption and make it unfashionable among Nigerians. I believe so too.
The proper and just thing to do is to spread the dragnet and catch every person involved one way or another in the looting of the Nigerian treasury. Nobody should be spared, no matter how highly placed. This will serve as a deterrent to others.
Those governors who looted their states’ treasuries blind should be made to refund the money. The refunded money should be used to settle arrears of worker’s salaries and pensions and provide social amenities.
It is very worrisome that poor workers cannot get their pay at the end of the month after toiling for 30 days. Some states owe salaries as many as 11 months. What then happened to the allocations and internal revenue they collected in the past 11 months?
Agreed oil prices dropped since last year. But that is no reason for inability to pay workers their living wages. Apart from corrupt practices some states could not pay salaries because they used the money either to prosecute their elections to the Senate or second term as governors. Many of us were witnesses to how the governors and other political appointees doled out money during the elections.
This is where I blame the masses themselves. They have always cried out against the excesses of politicians yet they allow themselves to be maliciously used. There is no way politicians would perpetrate their devious acts without the involvement of the masses. From where do politicians get their supplies of thugs and other election manipulators, if not from the masses? Are the masses not the same people who collude with politicians to rig elections and cart away ballot boxes and other electoral materials?
It is high time the masses had some introspection and repented from their evil ways in order to make our nation better. Let the masses know it today that for Nigeria to be a better nation they must desistserving as accomplices to politicians in rigging elections.
It is the kind of government they vote into power that will determine what their fate would be under such a government. If they elected responsible and caring leaders, definitely the leaders would show affection in their service to them. There are no two ways about it.
I cannot understand why people should deliberately vote for their backwardness out of greed. What do you expect from politician who spends a huge amount of money to win election when he eventually steps into office? Naturally, he would first of all recoup what he had spent and then go ahead to make more money for self to the detriment of those who elected him. After all, one cannot have his cake and eats it. It is what you sow, you reap.
We must pray as a people for God to banish from our lives desperation, anger, bitterness, slander, blackmail, licentiousness, greed and other evils that characterie our politics, so that we can develop our full potentialities for the good of our nation and the betterment of its people.

To be continued.

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What a strange world! http://sunnewsonline.com/new/what-a-strange-world/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/what-a-strange-world/#comments Fri, 26 Jun 2015 23:00:31 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=124905 Strange and terrifying things happen in our world today with recurring rapidity. And people are left wondering what has ac­tually gone wrong. There is no part of the world, no matter how developed or technologically advanced, is spared these strange happenings. All kinds of diseases, tragedies and calamities afflict mankind. China, the United States, Great [...]]]>

Strange and terrifying things happen in our world today with recurring rapidity. And people are left wondering what has ac­tually gone wrong. There is no part of the world, no matter how developed or technologically advanced, is spared these strange happenings. All kinds of diseases, tragedies and calamities afflict mankind. China, the United States, Great Britain, Australia and, even, smaller countries such as Kenya and Chad (in Africa) have had their own doses of these calamities.

People are forced to ask: What is happen­ing? Who or (and) what is to blame? In all of these milieus, nobody has given any rational answer or provided any functional solution to deal with the frightening situations.

Look at China – an emerging global eco­nomic superpower – and what tragedies it has had to contend with to get to where it is today. There is no month that passes without one form of calamity or another befalling it. Yesterday, it was earthquake; today it is landslide; and tomorrow it could be mud­slide, burying thousands of people and their belongings alive. China, what a nation! In the United States, it is the same situation. Yesterday, it was Hurricane Sandy; today it is Tornado Margaret; and tomorrow, it could be bushfire razing down sprawling estates. Australia experienced a terrifying two-week bushfire that destroyed hundreds of homes, killed some innocent persons and left behind irrecoverable pain in the hearts of millions 24 months ago.

That is not all: Kenya faced a frightening terrorist attack at a highbrow shopping mall in the nation’s capital – Nairobi – leaving many dead and some wounded. This was in 2013. What of Tunisia? What of Ugan­da? What about the Xenophobic attacks in South Africa? Nigeria, too, is facing multi-dimensional challenges in all fronts – politi­cal, economic, religious and, even, cultural. Anywhere one goes, one is greeted with tales of woe. It is either Boko Haram has just massacred some innocent people or kidnap­pers have taken away one person or another to extract a ransom.

There are strange diseases everywhere. Name it: the traditional ones are amor­phously turning into something else, while unknown ones ravage the people, especial­ly the poor, with morbid animosity. I was shocked when I read of the death of a young, promising lady (age 25 years) who died of cancer last week. Now ask me: Cancer of what? Strangely, cancer of the thumb! I have never heard of that before. What is cancer of the thumb? God forbid! But it happened. Very soon, we will hear of cancer of the hair and nail.

What of the Ebola scare that almost sent all of us to early graves last year? In Rivers 70 killed by ogogoro! Now it is Mer ravag­ing Korea.

In trying to resolve these puzzling de­velopments, my mind was set to work. As usual, I began a process of deep meditative reasoning. Incidentally, the only practicable answer I could find to these strange happen­ings is abuse of the environment. Yes, envi­ronmental abuse. I say so, because the things that happen do not happen in isolation of the environment in which we reside. Man has been unkind to his environment; the same environment that provides him shelter and food. Why should humanity not be mind­ful of how they treat the environment? Why have they not yet appreciated the fact that all about life is sowing and reaping? It is what we give to the environment that it returns to us. How does anybody expect to sow whirl­wind and reap peace? If you sowed whirl­wind, definitely, you would reap fire and brimstone.

The sad thing is that almost all of us are guilty of the abuse of the environment. The abuse begins from our homes – poor dispos­al of refuse, poor personal hygiene, use of firewood for cooking, pollution of our local streams by washing and defecating in them, etc. what of our personal lifestyles? Smok­ing, eating fatty food, drinking too much alcohol, and not exercising regularly are all causative agents of diseases, especially can­cer. The abuse continues with intense pas­sion at the community level where we rep­licate what we do at home at a larger scale.

Then the national level! Here the abuse is done with impunity and treachery. We dump refuse at will wherever we choose to, not minding that the official dumping site is less than a pole away from home. Industries dispose of their wastes as they like, oblivious of the law. People plunder the vegetations in search of log for the construction industry or firewood for cooking. Painfully, nobody makes any efforts to replenish the plundered land.

One bitter truth mankind must acknowl­edge with all sincerity is that we are gradu­ally digging our own graves by the way we plunder the environment, thereby fast-track­ing the impending cataclysm. There is no nation under the sun that is free from culpa­bility. Even the so-called developed nations, as indicated above, have not done much to protect humanity from self-destruction. The level of degradation across the globe is frightening, yet nothing much is being done to arrest the worrisome situation.

Interestingly, there is no matter that has attracted as much media blitz in recent times as the environment. It has attracted greater global awareness than had been the case in the past. Indeed, the consciousness of the world about the environment has continu­ally been heightened by a combination of factors, all geared towards evolving a safer environment for humanity.

One fact we should however acknowl­edge is that humanity lives perpetually under the threat of extermination by the mindless degradation of our environment, particularly the depletion of the world eco and bio-sys­tems, compounded by overpopulation and population growth rate, especially at the ur­ban centres.

It is sad that despite the huge threat the degradation of the environment poses to hu­manity man has refused to learn any lesson in planning his environment.

Aware of the impending catastrophe the United Nations passed Resolution 2997 on December 15, 1972, aimed at encouraging the evolving of deliberate policies by all governments and organisations under its umbrella towards preserving and enhancing the environment as well as consciously cre­ating awareness campaigns on environmen­tal problems and solutions to them.

As beautiful as the resolution appears, it has not achieved much success, basically, because those who subscribed to it have not given it the desired attention. This is true of similar conventions passed by the UN. In fact, Resolution 2997 has aggravated the menace of environmental abuse much more than it had protected it. Why? The reason is simple: when you bark and don’t bite there is the tendency that nobody will ever take you seriously. The United Nations, as a global body, has recorded some success in main­taining global peace, but what has it done to enforce vital resolutions that would secure the environment and make our world safer?

Europe and Asia pose about the most grievous danger to the world with the heavy pollution from their industrial, chemical and nuclear plants. The size and population of China makes it the world’s largest and riski­est in terms of handling human and industrial wastes. It was reported of recent that China’s population is still growing at a geometric rate, which means that by 2032 the popula­tion will have increased by over 20 per cent.

The problem with this development is that China will find it somewhat herculean to manage the needs of its burgeoning popu­lation. Part of the bigger problem centres on environmental pollution. Again, China has one of the largest concentrations of nuclear plants in the world. Managing these danger­ous and delicate plants is one big headache. This fact was put to test last year when the latest Tsunami hit it – threatening a sizeable number of these plants. Indeed, apart from massive losses recorded in the maritime and aquatic sectors, many people were exposed to radiation. It is feared that the consequence of what happened would begin to show in another 10 to 15 years.

In its recent report on global pollution, CNN listed Thailand and Nigeria among the most polluted nations in the world. Baf­fling, isn’t it? But that is true. The unfortu­nate thing is that even Thailand which was listed with Nigeria has made considerable progress in managing the situation. For in­stance, it has introduced speed trains to en­hance urban mobility for its people. This re­duces air pollution by about 30%. It has also resorted to the use of bio-fuels to power its major industrial and chemical plants to re­duce dangerous emissions.

Now that Thailand has taken steps to ad­dress the notorious rating by CNN and other similar organizations, what then has Nigeria done so far to protect its own environment and citizens? Investigation has shown that not much has been achieved. Urban trans­portation is still primitive in Nigeria. It is the same old system of each person moving about in his own automobile. The conse­quences are increased vehicular fumes, traf­fic jams, and deaths. It was reported some­time ago that two persons died of exhaustion at a snarling traffic before Onitsha Head bridge. Those who had not experienced the maddening traffic jam at the Head Bridge Onitsha might not understand the severity of the problem. Thank God, however, that the traffic jam at the Bridge has been reduced drastically by the reconstruction done by the Willie Obiano government.

It is important, however, at this juncture to point out other forms of environmental degradation. They include, lead in fuel, oil pollution, massive logging which causes de­forestation, poor waste management, bush burning, desert encroachment, emission of toxic materials into the air, erosion, sand ex­cavation, etc.

I have made efforts to capture the dan­ger facing man in his environment, but former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger, painted a better picture of the challenges to mankind in his message to the celebration of World Environment Day in the past when he said, “ If we are going to leave a better planet for generations to come, we must work within a global effort to ensure the economy and the environment never become competing interests”.

I think Schwarzenegger was right, be­cause the greatest visible threat to the envi­ronment is man’s insatiability for wealth. It is, therefore, not contestable that the cases of abuse of the environment occur as a result of increasing economic activities by man, which endanger the environment. I still viv­idly recall how some wealthy businessmen were arrested in Brazil for degrading the Amazon, the world’s largest forest reserve, through illegal logging activities. They were quarantined for sin against humanity.

At one of the World Environmental Days, the UN focused on creating ‘Green Cities’ as a strategic Plan for the Planet, drawing attention to the compelling need for us to maintain the greenery of our cities. What ob­tains at present is that almost every available space in our cities is built up, leaving little or no space for the development of parks, gar­dens, planting of ornamental trees and flow­ers, and shelter belts.

This aspect of protecting the environment falls squarely on our town planners and oth­ers charged with maintaining the environ­ment.

The state ministries of Lands and Urban Planning should therefore, as a matter of ur­gent importance, liaise with the state minis­tries of environment to make it compulsory for those seeking approval for building plans to make provision for gardens or grass lawns in their homes. They should also integrate all these in their master plans for new estates.

Nevertheless, I am glad to note that some states in Nigeria have taken some deliberate and drastic measures to transform their envi­ronment to make it safer and nice to inhabit. Already, they have set up powerful task forces to tackle the problem of poor refuse disposal in their states. The task forces have been given wide powers to deal with the sit­uation and restore the lost glory of the affect­ed states. I call on all Nigerians to cooperate with the task force and shun the temptation of falling victims to the laws guiding their operations.

We must condemn the attitude of those who indiscriminately litter our cities with filling stations and boreholes, without seek­ing technical advice from the relevant min­istries, parastatal and agencies. It is unfor­tunate that some of the structures are built without Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report. Government should evaluate the situation with a view to meting out nec­essary punishments to the offenders.

The task to protect our environment is one that requires proper planning, vigilance, and creativity on the part of government, organisations, and the people. I believe that evolving some kind of interconnectivity and interdependence between man and his en­vironment, greater affinity between nations and persons in relation to the environment will foster peaceful coexistence among them, thereby making the environment safer and friendlier.

We cannot afford to continue to abuse the environment because of the avoidable con­sequences. As I indicated at the beginning, man should be careful with what he does to his environment. We will surely witness stranger diseases and incidents in the years ahead as a result of the unthinkable things we do to the environment if we did not pon­der and make amends.

World leaders must brace up to the chal­lenges posed by the abuse of the environ­ment and take measures to safeguard it. The United Nations should reorganise its house and inject more pragmatism in the way it po­lices the world in order to raise its stature in the perception of the nations that fall under its aegis.

Final warning: It is either we stand up to­day and protect our environment or we wake up one day and discover the world has sub­merged into a bottomless pit. It is a possibil­ity, but God forbid it should happen!

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Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King on my mind http://sunnewsonline.com/new/abraham-lincoln-martin-luther-king-on-my-mind/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/abraham-lincoln-martin-luther-king-on-my-mind/#comments Fri, 19 Jun 2015 23:00:37 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=124301 For the past 10 years I have made it a tradition to always remember the two icons – Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jnr. – whose contributions to the emancipa­tion of blacks in the United States would never be forgotten; at least not in the present generation. I have constantly reflected on the most [...]]]>

For the past 10 years I have made it a tradition to always remember the two icons – Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jnr. – whose contributions to the emancipa­tion of blacks in the United States would never be forgotten; at least not in the present generation.

I have constantly reflected on the most singular and courageous proclamation ever made by an American President. It was the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln, which took effect on January 1, 1863; that is 152 years ago. Each moment I pass through this mental experi­ence I am literally drained of energy.

It is particularly torturing each time I finished watching an epic documentary on the great liberationist march by some black protesters from the National Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. Inside of me, I am, figuratively speaking, usually empty and benumbed. I had just literally glided through a living history – a moving story – of a people liberated from long years of slavery by the sheer courage and vision of one man. Though this particular event hap­pened some 52 years ago, its message and plot are evergreen. It was a story that has changed the history of the black people in the United States forever.

One major character magnificently fea­tured in the documentary and who trod like a colossus was Martin Luther King, Jnr. This was on August 28, 1963. I was moved to tears and joy. It was a nostalgic moment for me as I relived the epochal event.

In just three hours I had walked through a history that even time and space would not be able to erase. The benefits of the monumental sacrifices made by the pro­tagonists (King and his associates) of this historic march have been everywhere with us ever since. Within 45 years after the historic march, the United States had pro­duced its first black American President in the person of Barack Obama.

In choosing to do this piece, I had rea­soned I would be contributing my little quota to the effort to make this history per­manent and constantly relived, just as many African-Americans have been doing since January – the 152nd Anniversary of the Proclamation of Emancipation.

The Proclamation of Emancipation of January 1, 1863 and the March on Wash­ington on August 28, 1963 have some his­torical similarities. One event happened at a time America was at war (in which some states rebelled against the centre) and the other at a time of peace. In both cases cour­age was the common denominator. There was also a contrast: the protagonists were of different colours: one was an ethnic white American and the other a black. In­terestingly, both paid the supreme price for their audacity – they were assassinated in their prime.

Lincoln issued the Emancipation Procla­mation, which explicitly pronounced free­dom for the over 4 million slaves in all the Confederate States of America that did not return to Union control by January 1, 1863. The solidification of the proclamation came in December 1865, when the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified by Congress; making slavery illegal everywhere in the United States.

Though he successfully won a re-elec­tion as the 16th president of the United States, Lincoln was brutally assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on April 15, 1865 – one year into his second term. He had a humble family background and was self-educated, which substantially affected his way of life and reasoning. It would take a man of Lincoln’s courage, single-minded­ness, and selflessness to take such a monu­mental decision that later cost him his own life and altered the course of history.

His commitment to the abolition of slavery and forced labour in the U.S. is surmised in these timeless and immutable words: ”On December 31, 1862 our nation marked the end of another year of civil war. At Shiloh and Seven Lines, Harpers Ferry and Antietam, brother had fought against brother. Sister had fought against sister. Blood and bitterness had deepened the di­vide that separated North from South, erod­ing the bonds of affection that once united 34 States under a single flag. Slavery still suspended the possibility of an America where life and liberty were the birthright of all, not the province of some… On January 1, 1863, all persons held as slaves in rebel­lious areas shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”

Every word of the Emancipation Proc­lamation was beautifully articulated and crafted to underscore the gravity of the impact of slavery on the moral conscience and integrity of the United States. As antic­ipated, the proclamation quickly achieved its purpose and contributed significantly to the unification of the states.

The foundation for the equitable and sustainable democratic culture enjoyed by Americans today was laid by the Emanci­pation Proclamation. It is already over a century and half since the proclamation was made, yet it looks like something done not long ago. Successive leaders after Lincoln followed his footsteps by adding more val­ues to the ones he had already entrenched.

The beauty of the American democratic system is that it derives from justice, equity and fairness. I was reading the contributions of some notable persons – white and black alike – who played pivotal roles in the abo­lition of slavery in America and marvelled at the profundity of their objectivity, cour­age and forthrightness. Do we still have such leaders today? Look at a personality as Thaddeus Stevens – a powerful member of the American House of Representatives and an orator! He sacrificed his personal aggrandizement to see that slavery was abolished in the soil of the United States.

Stevens was a die-hard fighter for social justice and equality of races in the United States. In one of his oratorical deliveries he was quoted as saying: “I can never ac­knowledge the right of slavery. I will bow down to no deity however worshipped by professing Christians – however dignified by the name of the Goddess of Liberty, whose footstool is the crushed necks of the groaning millions, and who rejoices in the resounding of the tyrant’s lash, and the cries of his tortured victims.” This quota­tion symbolizes courage and self-denial. He had the chances to use his exalted and powerful positions to suppress the voices of the oppressed who daily toiled under the humiliating authority of their white separa­tist bosses. Nevertheless, he opted for what was right and just. I am glad posterity has not forgotten him. Even in millions of years to come the name Stevens and others of his ilk will continue to resonate in every nook and cranny of the universe whenever the issue of freedom for blacks in the United States is raised.

Working with people such as Stevens, Lincoln was able to carry through his plans to annihilate slavery in the United States.

There were other activists whose lives touched on the chord that sounded the death-knell for slavery in the United States. Such men and women included Harriet Ann Jacobs (An African-American writer and abolitionist), Horace Greely – an Ameri­can who used his newspaper, The New York Tribune – to fight slavery, Susie King Tay­lor (a black American), William Carney (an African-American), Martin Delany (first proponent of American black nationalism), and Christian Fleetwood.

It is important at this point to single out the indefatigable Harriet Tubman (a champion of women’s rights, born to slave parents and was herself a slave too, popu­larly known as the Moses of her people, because of the invaluable role she played in unchaining many slaves and giving them a new fillip). Her towering image coupled with the frenzy generated by her near-mystic stature made her the adorable and respectable global personality that she was. There have been numerous tributes to this gigantic legendary figure, but one was outstanding – It came from Abolitionist Oliver Johnson of the Anti-Slavery Soci­ety: “During the period of my official con­nection with the Anti-Slavery office in new York, I saw her frequently, when she came there with the companies of slaves, whom she had successfully piloted away from the South; and often listened with wonder to the story of her adventure and hair-breath escapes. She always told her tale with mod­esty which showed how unconscious she was of having done anything more than her simple duty. No one who listened to her could doubt her perfect truthfulness and integrity. Her shrewdness in planning the escape of slaves, her skill in avoiding ar­rest, her courage in every emergency, and her willingness to endure hardship and face any danger for the sake of her poor follow­ers was phenomenal.” Beyond referring to her as ‘Moses’, Tubman was seen by many of her admirers and detractors alike as a ‘general’ as epitomized in her command­ing leadership in conducting hundreds of slaves to freedom through the famous “Un­der Ground Railroad”.

As I indicated in the beginning of this piece, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King (Jnr.) have always inspired me. They knew that they were treading a perilous path, yet remained focused and unfazed. Why are such leaders scarce in our clime today? While Tubman and others champi­oned the cause of the liberation of slaves from bondage and forced labour, Martin Luther king (Jnr.) took it a step further by leading the great March on Washington – to fight for jobs and freedom for oppressed blacks. It was on that march, standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, that he delivered the historic speech: “I have a dream”.

Attracting over 350,000 blacks, whites and other non-minority groups, the march aroused global attention to the need to enforce the rights of blacks in the United States by providing level-playing fields for both the blacks and whites, especially in the provision of jobs and other social benefits. The protestation led to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Martin Luther King, Jnr., though the ar­rowhead of the march, did not do it alone. In fact, there were other significant figures that actually handled the logistics for the march. They included Bayard Rustin and Philip Randolph. Randolph was the presi­dent of the Negro American Labour Coun­cil, while Rustin was a Civil Rights activ­ist and the organizer of the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation, which tested America’s Supreme Court’s ruling, which banned racial discrimination at inter-state level. Randolph and Rustin were close associates of King Jnr. Working collaboratively, they were able to mobilize over 2,000 buses, 24 special trains, 12 chartered airliners and countless number of volunteer-cars for the march.

The single-mindedness and enthusiasm exhibited by the marchers are yet to be seen in recent times. It also attracted great per­sonalities that played remarkable roles in the liberation struggle. They included Rosa Parks, Gloria Richardson, John Lewis, Rabbi Joachim Prinz, Rev. Cason Blake, Archbishop Patrick O’Boyle, Camilla Williams, Walter Reuther, Roy Wilkins, Mathew Ahmann, Diane Nash, Prince E. Lee, Floyd McKissick, and Mahalia Jack­son who awed the gathering with her siz­zling performance.

It is important to mention the role played by President John F. Kennedy in the struggle. He it who met the leaders of the march on Washington and proposed the Civil Rights Bill which was later passed by Congress. He was assassinated on No­vember 22, 1963 – definitely for working to give blacks greater freedom. It has to be acknowledged that it was the Civil Rights Bill that emboldened the organizers of the march on Washington to attempt the march ab initio.

Congress later passed the bill into law and was signed by President Lyndon John­son on July 2, 1964. The major thrust of the Act was the outlawing of aggravated forms of discrimination against racial, ethnic, na­tional and religious minorities, and women. It also abolished unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public (“public accommodations”).

The process that led to the freedom and liberty enjoyed by Americans (white and black) would not have materialised if not for the personal sacrifices of Martin Luther King and his co-planners who gave up eve­rything to fight for the liberation of their people. Their courage will forever inspire people like me. The popularity and global preeminence the United States revels in to­day would not have been possible if not for the foresight and selfless sacrifices of the early freedom-fighters.

With the various struggles and legisla­tion for liberty came numerous successes. Bill Cosby became the first black person to appear in a starring role on American television, Raylawni Branch and Gwen­dolyn Elaine Armstrong broke the jinx by becoming the first Afro-Americans to gain admission into the prestigious University of Southern Mississippi, Edward Brooke became the first black man to be elected into the U.S. Senate since 1881, while Thurgood Marshall was appointed to the Supreme Court as the first black to do so.

Martin Luther King, Jnr. was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace on December 10, 1964 and assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, by James Earl Ray, marking the end of a tortuous journey to freedom for the blacks in America.

Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jnr. were two of a kind. Generations unborn will continue to appreciate their im­measurable contributions to the edification of humanity and the promotion of equality among men and women, irrespective of colour, religion or status.

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Buhari:15 days after inauguration http://sunnewsonline.com/new/buhari15-days-after-inauguration/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/buhari15-days-after-inauguration/#comments Fri, 12 Jun 2015 23:00:22 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=123073 It is exactly 15 days today since Mu­hammadu Buhari was inaugurated as Nigeria’s President. Watchers of political events in the country would attest that the 15 days he has spent in office brought temporary respite to many Nigerians. Life is beginning to return to normal, while despondency, which had been the lot of Nigerians, is [...]]]>

It is exactly 15 days today since Mu­hammadu Buhari was inaugurated as Nigeria’s President. Watchers of political events in the country would attest that the 15 days he has spent in office brought temporary respite to many Nigerians. Life is beginning to return to normal, while despondency, which had been the lot of Nigerians, is beginning to give way to hope and op­timism.

I overheard some young Nigerians a week ago discussing the developments since Buhari was sworn in. It was a very animated debate. One of them said that all might not have returned to normal but there was hope in the horizon. He made one particular point that got me thinking. He had argued that if not for Buhari the scarcity of petroleum products that had hit the nation would have completely ground the economy. According to him, it was the intervention of the new administration that averted this tragedy.

As the debate was going on another young man threw something that looked like a bombshell. He said Nigerians should be ready to pass through a very painful period before they could heave a sigh of relief. This one sounded like a prophecy of doom. From among the de­baters one man interjected: ‘Forget all the arguments Nigeria will continue to get better. Can’t you see all the signs?’

I went home thinking about all what they said. But one thing kept worrying me: when will our young men and women see the writing on the wall? When will they realise that the Nigeria of yesterday is gradually being transformed?

The order and peace that prevailed at the swearing-in of our new President un­derscored the fact that things would be better in a short time. Nigerians and non- Nigerians that graced the occasion signi­fied the eagerness on their part to contrib­ute to the quick realisation of the vision of a new Nigeria. That 51 Heads of State could gather at a place for the sake of one man showed that Nigeria still commanded respect from the global community.

The first cheery news that greeted the new administration was the election of Dr. Akinwumi Adesina (former Minister of Agriculture) as the new President of the African Development Bank (ADP). What looked impossible at first was made pos­sible by the subtle diplomacy deployed by President Buhari. The final election of Ad­esina was a way African leaders decided to show solidarity with Buhari. And it is important he reciprocates this rare gesture by building stronger ties with them. Afri­can unity is inevitable and non-negotiable for the peace and growth of the continent.

The competence of Adesina has never been in doubt. In short, he is a gift to the bank which activities have witnessed some lull in recent times. One quality he is bringing to the bank is creativity. He displayed this much as Nigeria’s Minis­ter of Agriculture. I have no doubt he will succeed. I wish him well in his new ap­pointment.

Less than two weeks into the life of the new government the President had made two remarkable visits outside the country. The first was to Chad and Niger, while the second was to the meeting of the G-7 (the most industrialised nations in the world). The warm reception accorded the President of Nigeria and the avalanche of promises to assist her overcome some of the daunting problems was unprecedent­ed, and demonstrated the new attitude of the world towards Nigeria.

A day after the President concluded his visit to the G-7 meeting something dra­matic was happening at the National As­sembly where a new brand of politics was playing out. What happened at the assem­bly on June 9 was like a thunderbolt from the blues. Contrary to the popular choices among the leadership of the All Progres­sives Congress (APC) the members voted for those they truly believed would handle their affairs successfully.

It started with the Senate where the incoming Senators voted for Senator Bu­kola Saraki as President and Senator Ike Ekweremadu as his deputy with the for­mer President of the red chambers, Sena­tor Davod Mark, clinching the prestigious and influential position of Majority Lead­er.

The three choices particularly upturned the apple cart and set the leadership of APC wondering what had happened. Let me ask: should they actually be surprised when the signs of what was to come were all over the place? The mock election conducted by the leadership of APC was a huge mistake. It ran against the tenets of modern democratic practices. What every genuine democrat had expected was an open playing field. All the candidates the party had proposed for the major offices in the Senate and House of Representa­tives lost out in the open contest.

The election of new leaders in the House of Representatives, though opposed to the choices of the leadership of APC, did not witness the radical posture we saw at the Senate. Yakubu Dogara’s emergence as Speaker and Suleiman Yusuf Lasun as deputy was simply an affirmation of the position many of the members had adopt­ed long before the actual election.

The choice of two PDP members as deputy Senate President and Majority Leader respectively was not what many people had anticipated. On the other hand it showed the new direction our politics is going. Ordinarily it would have been almost impossible for both chambers to vote the way they did without upturn­ing the system. But the elections went on smoothly.

To demonstrate his determination to drive the new democratic vision Presi­dent Buhari quickly expressed his desire to work with whoever had emerged. That was politics at its best. It was also a fulfill­ment of the pledge he made to work with whoever was chosen.

To be frank, there was nothing wrong with the choice of the two PDP Senators – Mark and Ekweramdu. I was wondering how the Senate and House of Represen­tatives were going to manage the sharing of offices to accommodate the Southeast geopolitical zone despite the way they voted. The choice of Ike Ekweremadu rested that uncertainty.

The way our politicians handle poli­tics these days, especially at the national level, is interesting. The era of pandering to the wishes of a cabal has given way to a more flexible system where the popular wishes prevail.

The success of the elections in the red and green chambers should be attributed first to the doggedness of their members to choose their leaders without interfer­ence, and second to President Buhari who had shown non-partisanship in the choic­es of those who lead the chambers. Right from his inception, the President pledged to work with whosoever was chosen.

Probably what gave vent to what hap­pened on June 9 was the drama that char­acterised the emergence of Aminu Tam­buwal (now governor of Sokoto State) as Speaker. It was the same pitfall that the leadership of APC tried to avert. Howev­er, its calculations did not quite work out. The loss of Femi Gbajabiamila by a slight margin was an affirmation of Dogara as the popular choice.

Now that the Senate and House of Reps had elected their leaders it is the respon­sibility of the people concerned with the elections to sheath their swords and em­brace peace. There is no need threatening fire and brimstone over what had hap­pened, because it would not change any­thing. Rather there should be a realign­ment of interests to promote congeniality and tranquility in the National Assembly.

I take this opportunity to congratulate all those elected to lead the Senate and House of Reps on their victory and urge them to carry everybody along in the discharge of their duties. It will not do them any good to continue to live in the past. Their duties as leaders demand they display uncommon courage and fairness towards every member. They should pro­mote transparency and accountability and avoid the mistakes of their predecessors. I wish them good luck.

Looking generally at the economy there seems to be a slight growth and stabil­ity. Things are beginning to look up. The slight lull we have experienced since May 29 was caused by the absence of a full government. Nothing would have worked out ordinarily without the proclamation of the new National Assembly by the Presi­dent. Now that that has been done it will now drive the process of governance and make things work.

Let me nonetheless express optimism that the economy would be repaired by Buhari ultimately. He has the capacity to do so. This is why the National Assem­bly is central to whatever he may do. A strong partnership with the National As­sembly will facilitate the passage of bills and stem the rancour and mistrust that usually exist between the executive and legislature.

One area I expect President Buhari to refocus his energy on is the oil sector. This is one sector that holds the key to the success of his government. There should be swift reforms to reposition the sec­tor and make it truly the mainstay of the economy. The sharp practices in the sec­tor should be curtailed if not exterminated to give room for the new growth expected in the sector. Probing the sector is time consuming, because of the shortness of time for the new administration to imple­ment its programmes. Hitting the ground running is of great importance.

There is no doubt whatsoever that there is going to be a drastic departure from the way things were done under former President Goodluck Jonathan. Both men have different ideas on how to develop Nigeria. The taciturnity and urbaneness of Buhari distinguish him from his peers. On his mind is embedded all he wants to accomplish. And he does not betray any emotions whatsoever.

The confidence Nigerians have in Bu­hari’s presidency is unprecedented. Ev­erybody sees him as the expected Mes­siah Nigeria has been waiting for. His pronouncements since assuming office are directed towards building a new and reinvigorated socio-political system that will stimulate growth and development.

The calibre of ministers he appoints will determine, to large extent, how far his government can go. Recycling dead­wood and entrenching mediocrity are two things that can diminish the integrity of any administration and place it on the wrong footing.

It is gratifying to note there has been a remarkable improvement in electricity supply across the country. Some people have reported steady supply of electricity as much as 24 hours. What this signifies is that things can be done right in our nation. I never believed that Nigeria would reach a time when it would no longer be able to provide its citizens basic necessities of life. That was where we were before this regime arrived.

The importance of Nigeria in global economy and politics is such that all other nations in Africa would be affected should anything untoward happen to Ni­geria. Apart from being the most populous country, with largest economy in Africa, Nigeria remains the choice destination for foreign investors. To achieve his dream of developing a sustainable economic base Buhari should never forget Aba. The tal­ents and ingenuity of Aba people is pro­digious. Even the World Bank acknowl­edges that much.

No reasonable government can over­look the enormous potentialities of the city. A study conducted by our adminis­tration between 2004 and 2006 showed that Aba alone can generate over 1 mil­lion jobs yearly. In fact, Aba can produce anything no matter its complexities. This is why it is called the Japan of Africa.

Painfully a visit to the city will make you weep. Decaying and dilapidated in­frastructure, insecurity, and unavailability of jobs have been the order of the day in the city. Cleaning the Augean Stable is the hugest challenge facing the current lead­ership in Abia State. It needs the coopera­tion of all of us to succeed.

I am glad that the President is coping well despite his age. He still looks strong and walks spritely without swagger. What do his detractors who referred to him as brain dead and senile have to say about this? I saw President Robert Mugabe at 92 still exuding youthfulness and gaiety as he marched to the podium during Buhari’s inauguration. He did not look his age.

Longevity is a rare gift from God. How many people live above 60 these days? Just a few! So, that Buhari is 72 and does not belie his age is a thing of gratitude to God. Thank God he is not the kind of man that worries over inanities. He is a humble and firm man whose credibility and prag­matism resonate in the farthest parts of the country.

The favourable disposition of the global community toward Buhari is something he should not take for granted. He should ensure that this relationship is cordially maintained, so that the whole country shall partake of its benefits.

I commend Buhari and members of his yet to be inaugurated team for their cour­age and readiness to make sacrifices for the interest of Nigeria.

All Nigerians should support this gov­ernment to take us out of the woods and enthrone the reign of peace, development, security, law and order, hoping by the time the administration clocks 100 days in office the doubting Thomases will have been converted.

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History made yesterday http://sunnewsonline.com/new/history-made-yesterday/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/history-made-yesterday/#comments Sat, 30 May 2015 03:11:02 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=122244 Contrary to the widely-held view of political analysts and irredentists that Nigeria was going to disintegrate after the 2015 general elections history was made yesterday when a new President and some governors successfully took the oath of allegiance, thereby qualifying them to hold the offices for the next four years. I could not believe what [...]]]>

Contrary to the widely-held view of political analysts and irredentists that Nigeria was going to disintegrate after the 2015 general elections history was made yesterday when a new President and some governors successfully took the oath of allegiance, thereby qualifying them to hold the offices for the next four years.
I could not believe what I saw yesterday as a new Federal Government was born. President Muhammadu Buhari exuded confidence, resplendency and panache as he took the oath. His face shone like a million stars, while Nigerians looked forward to happier and more fruitful years ahead.
Beneath the outward hilarity and gaiety lay gargantuan challenges that require extraordinary solutions. Nigerians are full of expectations that President Buhari is going to perform magic. Their expectations are after all not misplaced since the new administration had promised to tackle the myriads of problems confronting the nation with uncommon commitment and courage.
From what I saw Nigerians are not ready for any excuses. All they want is immediate action to deal with the critical troubles besetting Nigeria.
For those who know Nigerians very well their problems are basic and not too difficult to fix. All they want are good roads, water, jobs, steady electricity, employment and security. They do not care how much their leaders starched away in foreign banks or the magnificent properties they own. You may have all the wealth in this world they care no hoot about it provided you give them the basic necessities of life.
I have not, up till today, understood why our leaders should always abandon the voters that gave them power to chase shadow instead. No sensible leaders, I guess, would fail to pay their workers at the end of every month when there is no moral justification to do so. However, from statistics available to me, many state governments, including the federal government, failed to pay their workers arrears of their salaries before their exit, in spite of the advice by President Buhari before he was sworn in for them not to leave any arrears of salaries unpaid.
Every four years the electorate queue up to elect new leaders who do not have, by their actions, their collective interest at heart. Their actions while in office smacked of insensitivity and egoism.
The past four years had been the worst in the history of the country. The more they hoped, the more they were disappointed. It is regrettable that the last administration allowed itself to be manipulated by some persons in positions of authority in the same government. This is not the best of times to engage in frivolities. What the nation and its people need now are peace, development and love.
There is too much wickedness in our land. This makes Buhari’s assignment a bit cumbersome. But who will bell the cat? If you ask me, Buhari has the moral fortitude, intellect, courage and passion to move Nigeria forward. Some of the leaders Nigeria had had in recent times cared only about themselves and left the masses placed under their aegis to suffer and perish. But God, in His infinite mercy, has continued to cater for the needs of the masses.
The events that culminated in the successful staging of the 2015 elections showed vividly that God is with Nigeria. But do not forget that despite the palpable fear in the land over 2015 elections I had always assured Nigerians that nothing would come between it and progress. I have written in this column on a few occasions that no human force can destroy Nigeria. Our people’s faith in Nigeria is as solid as the Rock of Gilbraltar. That was why I did not betray any emotions or fears when some former foreign diplomats repeatedly warned that Nigeria was going to disintegrate in 2015.
Their allusion to self-destructive tendencies was based not on any prophecy really, but on what they had envisaged as violence that was going to erupt should Buhari or Jonathan lose. They also considered the negative consequences of corruption and the growing disenchantment among the various ethnic groups that make up Nigeria. Of particular mention here is insurgency in the north east of Nigeria and some parts of Rivers, Delta and Bayelsa. So all these added up, they had thought, would lead to the disintegration of Nigeria.
The concession of defeat by former President Goodluck Jonathan ever before the final results were tallied helped greatly to douse tension and increase the credibility the elections enjoyed.
I must state here without any equivocation that the history that was made yesterday would not have been possible without the cooperation of Nigerians. Even though the turnout of voters in the elections was a little below average it still contributed substantially to the relative peace we have enjoyed so far. That Nigerians came out to vote at all and ensured that their votes counted could not give troublemakers the opportunity they had sought to foment trouble.
Again, the insistence of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to use card readers for the accreditation of voters also broke the backbone of election riggers. The undeniable truth is that the success recorded in the elections would have been truncated if INEC had not used the card readers. Probably, those that had thought Nigeria was going to disintegrate in 2015 did not factor in the use of card readers for the elections.
Those opposed to the use of card readers and other measures introduced by the electoral body to guarantee free, fair and credible elections in 2015 had planned to rig the elections and create the magnitude of trouble that would have engulfed and destroyed our nation. If this had happened then the prophecies of the prophets of doom would have come to pass. But God in his infinite mercy thwarted their evil plots and gave us an election of which a sizeable number of Nigerians and members of the international community were proud of.
I recall with deep sense of trepidation the wicked plans of those that had wanted to balkanize Nigeria. Why has Boko Haram continued to wage war against the federal government and its agencies? The answer lies in the plot to destabilize Nigeria by some subterranean forces. What if their plans had succeeded? Where would we have been by now? Would we have witnessed the glory of what happened yesterday? Of course, no!
Boko Haram remains one singular problem facing Nigeria. Despite the military bombardments in recent weeks they have continued to unleash destruction of unimaginable levels on hapless Nigerians. The northeast geopolitical zone has continued to witness occasional bombings by Boko Haram. And this tells one that the sect is ready to do battle even if it is only one man among them is left standing. However, this does not mean the military does not have the upper hand in the fight against them.
It is worrisome that the dreaded sect was allowed to dig in deep, even to the point that uprooting them has become quite cumbersome. That the Chibok girls have not been found means that our joy will not be complete if eventually in the end the war ends without them. Each time I remember these girls my heart skips. Poor innocent girls! What have they done to deserve this kind of treatment from their fellow compatriots?
To destroy the ugly spectre of violence connected with Boko Haram is one huge challenge facing Buhari – beginning from yesterday. In fact, the whole nation believes strongly that his administration will find the girls and reunite them with their families. Nevertheless, I have my own fears. Much as Nigerians are hopeful of the eventual return of the girls they should not lose sight of the inevitable reality. And that is that the girls may not be complete in number whenever they are found. Do not forget that over 400 days had passed since they were abducted. And nobody can tell for sure under what conditions they have been kept.
I pray daily that miracle happens over the girls to show the world that our God is still alive. There is nothing impossible for Him to do. He is He that can kill and make alive again. We need to intensify prayers to see what God can do for us in this connection.
I challenge President Buhari to put his security infrastructure into proper use to forestall undue delay in tackling insecurity in the country. As he has always said without security little could be achieved in other areas of our national life. We need adequate security to attract foreign investments and make life worth living. No reasonable investor can bring in his hard-earned money to invest in an environment that is replete with crisis and instability.
It is gratifying to note that Nigerians are becoming increasingly security conscious and this will make the fight against insurgency easier, unlike in the past when only a few Nigerians showed interest in it. The fight against Boko Haram is one the new administration can handle with minimal stress considering the enormous goodwill at its disposal. It will leverage on the immense experience of Buhari who, as a GOC, gave the dreaded Maitatsine religious sect a run for their money. He sent them into oblivion and they could not muster enough courage and logistics to re-launch. The same fate will befall Boko Haram unless they have a change of heart and embrace dialogue. Unfortunately, going by the person Buhari is he may not have the patience to negotiate further with the sect. All the opportunities they had in the past to resolve the matter have been wasted. So, they should be ready for the consequences of their actions.
How Buhari plans to deal with the unpaid arrears of workers’ pay running into hundreds of billions is another problem I envisage will set the hand of the clock back a little. But I trust the wisdom and foresight of Buhari. For those who know him he is a man of ideas and indescribable courage. He is also passionate about the people he leads. This will propel him to find a lasting solution to the nagging problem of workers’ salaries.
In tackling the issue of unpaid salaries, I urge Mr. President to see what he can do about gratuities and pensions of retired workers. Many of those that retire from the service go home without their gratuities. On what are they going to live in retirement? State governors should be compelled to ensure they pay their workers as due, including pensions and gratuities. As far as I am concerned a labourer is entitles to his wages, no matter what. It is wicked and insensitive for any worker to retire without his benefits. It is only in Nigeria that such outrageous things happen.
The economy poses the hugest problem, even though some people think it is power. Both are essential nonetheless: power is as significant as human development; they complement each other.
Instructively, the three priority areas of the present administration are security, employment and economy. The three are intertwined. This is logical: provide security, attract investment and boost the economy, then people get jobs. Wealth and job creation is at the centre of modern economic trends. Divorce one from the other and you leave the country limping. There is too much poverty and want in Nigeria resulting from disparity between wealth and job creation. If Buhari can find a lasting solution to youth employment then insecurity is half-addressed. The manpower for crimes comes from idle hands, which are the devil’s working tools. Many of them abound in Nigeria.
But I was taken aback when I read recently that many of our youths are unemployable right from their days in school, ever before they gained admission into college. What this means is that no matter the efforts by Universities to ameliorate the situation it will never produce the desired result. In any case, I have a contrary view here. The decadent academic system we currently have arose from the fact that nobody really cares about what the public opinion was. From comments in the media about Nigeria’s educational system it is certain that it is long due for restructuring. The restructuring should centre on the curriculums that our primary and secondary schools use at present. They should contain those elements that drive development and foster national integration and cohesion. They should as well address the cankers such as moral decadence, cultism, drug abuse among juveniles, and corruption that have ravaged our fatherland.
The economy as it stands now is comatose – almost collapsing. Last week the nation was thrown into darkness for over a week. Thousands of passengers were seen stranded at various airports across the country – all as a result of scarcity of fuel. Abuja and Lagos airports were the worst hit. Many Radio and TV stations have abandoned their night segment as a result of scarcity of fuel. In fact, every service provider had threatened to shut down should the situation persist.
I must commend Independent Oil Marketers for calling off their strike. At least Nigerians can now heave a sigh of relief. Let me however call on President Buhari to cancel subsidy on petroleum products without delay. Subsidy is not only criminal, but it is responsible for the majority of the problems we have encountered in the oil sector.
Efforts should be made by the new administration to check scarcity of petroleum products. The resultant effect of the scarcity of petroleum products is the high cost of living. Imagine what has become the fate of the common man in this circumstance. When will the welfare of the common people in our society receive commensurate attention from government? When will Nigerians enjoy the benefits that life brings? When will the suffering in the land end? These are questions that every caring administration must provide answers to.
There is so much pressure on Buhari to deliver the goods and that is why he should stamp his feet down to ensure that the right things are done to save our nation from the real threats of disintegration.
We have survived the doomsday prophecies, no doubt, but can we survive the booboos by enemies of progress who think that Nigeria belongs to them alone?
Whatever machination they come up with in future will surely be thwarted by God in whom we place our hope of salvation.
Nigerians are elated that, at last, Buhari has successfully assumed office as President and Commander-in-Chief. Expectations are feverishly high. And by the special grace of God these expectations will be met in the months and years ahead, so that Nigeria can join the league of truly developed economies; not the current status of giant dancing naked in the sun.

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Gov. Orji: Crumbling dynasty and karma http://sunnewsonline.com/new/gov-orji-crumbling-dynasty-and-karma/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/gov-orji-crumbling-dynasty-and-karma/#comments Sat, 23 May 2015 00:25:09 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=120984 I am sure many people, especially Abi­ans, are yet to come to grips with the full weight of the eight-year misrule of Governor Theodore Ahamefule Orji. For eight years he held Abia State and Abians to ransom and committed the worst financial heist ever witnessed in the annals of the Nigerian nation state. What some [...]]]>

I am sure many people, especially Abi­ans, are yet to come to grips with the full weight of the eight-year misrule of Governor Theodore Ahamefule Orji. For eight years he held Abia State and Abians to ransom and committed the worst financial heist ever witnessed in the annals of the Nigerian nation state. What some people termed as governance was just an open fraud. But the good news is that he is gradually reaping the fruit of his evil. Contrary to the popular maxim that the evil that men do lives after them the governor is already har­vesting the consequences of the evil he planted in the state.

It is an open secret that right from the very first day he was sworn in as governor he deliberately designed several ways, in collaboration with his wife and son, to milk the state dry. The first thing he did was to go borrowing. He took large sums of money as loans from commercial banks without any commensurate plans to pay back and with­out committing it into any useful ventures. It was the indiscriminate manner he was taking the loans that led to the initial conflict between us. In fact, I had approached him quietly to advise him to desist from taking loans anyhow from banks without any rea­sonable projects to commit the money into.

Initially, he lied that he did not take any loans from banks. But when confronted with facts and figures he buckled. Instead of showing remorse and retrace his steps he chose to declare war against me. Why has he refused to tell the world what he felt was the cause of the rift between us outside the reasons I had adduced in this column.

I have consistently written in this column all I know about my relationship with Chief T.A. Orji – before, during and after my ten­ure as governor. Some people may wonder why I have never ceased to use any avail­able opportunity to tell the world that the man is evil. I have done so consistently to alert the public so they would not be hood­winked into his treachery and folly.

For the 8 years he served as my chief of staff he pretended to be a good man, hid­ing his notoriety, which was why I did not believe many of the stories told me about him by those that knew him very well. For instance, somebody very close to him in the civil service told me how he cheated him in a deal they had together. Up till today he has refused to square up to the man despite the fact that the man had made several efforts to see him. The closest the man came to him was when they met at Okpara Auditorium, Umuahia at the swearing-in of new com­missioners in 2009. The governor shunned him, leaving the man distraught.

There are many others who have fallen victim of his folly and deceit. There is no gainsaying the fact that I have suffered dif­ferent kinds of deceit in the hands of this man. Up till this moment he has refused to account for some of the security votes, which he controlled for 8 years. Why he chose to keep the money to himself is what I cannot fathom.

I simply see the man as evil. And that is who he is. How else can you describe a man who has left the people who voted him into office more impoverished than they were before his coming? Visit Abia State, espe­cially Aba, and witness firsthand the despo­liation and mass looting that had been the order of the day in the state since Chief T.A. Orji became governor.

The worst part is that he is totally incorri­gible and has vowed to die in his sins. Go to any nook or cranny of Abia State and what you see will leave you speechless. The level of dilapidation of infrastructure, biting pov­erty, general underdevelopment and retro­gression is mindboggling. In short nothing is working.

Instead of settling down to work for the people the governor spends the greater part of each month in Abuja where he goes to peddle rumour, and gossip about innocent people. He has found listening ears in the first family and tells them all kinds of lies in order to curry favour and discredit me before them.

I wonder who between the governor and me has sincerely worked for our state. How much has he received in the eight years he has been in power, which runs close to one trillion naira? Compare it to what we col­lected for the eight years I was governor, which totaled N108 billion. I have called for audit of our accounts by the best audit firms in the world, which bill I am ready to pick. I gave the challenge to him since last year and up till date he is yet to utter a word concerning it. Rather what he has done is to find ways to continually evade questions about it.

Tell me: how long will he run away from the truth? He has done everything possible to destroy the truth and cover his tracks. Each time he tried, he met brick walls. One problem with him is that he has an insatia­ble propensity to expropriate public funds for personal use. It is common knowledge that he and members of his family have bought up all existing choice properties in the City of Umuahia. They have extended their acquisitive tendency to Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Enugu.

His personal residence in Umuahia, as I wrote recently in this column, is worth over N5billion. Construction of the fortress-like edifices has taken over 10 years and have not yet been completed. When then will he complete the structures in the large expanse of land built across three streets, which were closed down to accommodate them?

Chief Orji has kept acquiring wealth when some categories of workers and pen­sioners have not been paid for upwards of eight months. Where has all the money gone?

Abians are groaning under the weight of corruption that has eaten deep into the heart of the state. Resources are frittered away with reckless abandon, while the people suffer want and deprivation.

To underscore how wicked the man is: he has deliberately refused to pay contrac­tors that successfully completed their jobs for the state government. The consequence is that most of them have been selling their houses to pay banks loans they took from them to execute the projects. Man’s inhu­manity to man!

The last election was an opportunity for the people to pay the man back in his coins. Rather than allow free, fair and cred­ible elections he rigged his way all through. From where did he get the votes with which to win election into the senate when all he got at his polling booth during the national assembly election were two votes?

Everybody in Abia State, including se­curity agents would tell you that the man lost abysmally. From Ikwuano to Umuahia, Isiala Ngwa to Osisioma he fell like a pack of cards. Using the huge financial resources available to him he manipulated his way to the detriment of the wishes of the people. It was the same thing that was done by his notorious son to rig his way into the state House of Assembly.

What Chief Orji probably has forgotten is that the evil that men do live with them. He has started reaping the consequences of the evil he sowed across the state. All his current braggadocio is a vain way of trying to cover his frustration. Last Sunday he and members of his family held a thanksgiving service in Umuahia. Oh my God, this man has no shame! What did he thank God for? Was it for stealing the mandate of another man to go to the senate? Or for all the evil deeds he committed in the past eight years? Or for the hardship he inflicted on the hap­less people of God’s Own State? Why?

There is no doubt whatsoever that all he had planned to accomplish with the 2015 elections had fallen through. For instance, he had planned to make his son speaker of the State House of Assembly in order to use it to dictate the politics of the state. In fact, the earlier plot was to secure the majority of the seats in the House with members loyal to them to enable them impeach the incom­ing governor and install the son as gover­nor. But that plot has since collapsed as PDP and APGA have 12 members each in the 24-member House.

The speakership project has hit the rocks too as the boy is expected to be a guest of the Economic and Financial Crimes Com­mission (EFCC) soon. Already he has been invited for questioning over some financial sleazes involving him.

Who says God is not on the throne? Who says that evil has no expiry date? It is fool­hardy for anybody to think they can mock God. Nobody can. I believe that whatever a man sows, he shall reap. Chief Orji has mindlessly looted the resources of Abia State and committed other heinous crimes for which the full weight of the law should be brought upon him, but for the immunity he currently enjoys.

Thirteen days from today the governance engine of Gov. Orji will stop revving. He will be confronted with the reality of his de­vious actions. He has vowed never to make Abians enjoy the beauty of democracy. It is the same way that God will chastise him.

I do not envy him in any way. And the reason is simple: he has allowed his inor­dinate ambition and greed to becloud his sense of reasoning to the extent that he could square up in a wrestling match with his ‘Chi’ (God). What impudence! The trou­ble that awaits him is better imagined than seen. His cup is full and the law of retribu­tive justice is about to take its course.

Apart from the laws, which will eventu­ally catch up with him, how does he plan to face his people whom he treated like trash? There is nothing in his birthplace, Ibeku, to show that a governor came from that part of Abia State. Instead he persecuted his people and treated them like rag. In return they voted massively against him. He had to ma­nipulate the results by compelling INEC to announce him as the winner of Abia Central Senatorial election.

There is nobody in Abia State today that does not know that T.A. Orji is despised by the people. They hate him with rabidity. The only thing that can restore their confidence in the electoral system is to have all the re­sults written in favour of T.A. Orji and his son reversed by the tribunal.

The dream of the governor is to control every structure in Abia State and single handed enthrone his acolytes to sensitive elective positions. He did not consult any­body in all the appointments he made, be­cause he has succeeded in buying over their conscience with money. Interested persons have always asked if Abia State does not have elders who could call the garrulous governor to order. Certainly we have promi­nent elders who had held important elective and appointive offices, but some of them out of sheer greed and selfishness have sold their conscience for a mess of portage.

Some of these elders now follow the gov­ernor about and play subservient roles in his administration. They do not have shame any longer, and can do anything just to make money and remain relevant. Despite the fact that they sing the governor’s praise and dance to his tune, the governor still sees them as parasites and hagiographers who should be demeaned and denigrated. He does not have an atom of respect for any of them. You will shudder how he talks down on them, yet they do not have plans to save their face.

Governor T.A Orji sowed disrespect, ha­tred, anarchy and stealing from the tilt as an ideology. He will be treated in the same way in no time. All those he maltreated, humili­ated and despised will pay him back in his own coin when the time is due.

I know a number of persons the governor has sent to their early graves due to non-payment of their dues. Among them were contractors, pensioners, civil servants and, even, politicians. The case of contractors is particularly pitiful. There was this contrac­tor that has been owed for 5 years. He bor­rowed money from a bank to satisfactorily execute a road project for the government. He was forced to sell his house to offset the loan.

To worsen matters the governor had promised on over 10 occasions to pay the contractor to no avail. How would the gov­ernor want God to judge him at the end of his life on earth? Or does he think he is go­ing to live forever?

The way T.A. Orji squanders money is a portrayal of the kind of person he is. He throws money about as if he mints it. Is it not the people’s money that he recklessly spends on useless adventures? How does he think God will not discover his sin and condemn it?

The undeniable truth is that the governor has the long arm of the law to contend with, the people he misruled to face, and the law of karma to deal with soon. He might think that, after all, nobody is watching – I can do as I like. But God is watching.

The 8 years of the reign of Chief Orji were years eaten by locusts. It would have been better for Abians to stay without gov­ernor than to have the type of Chief Orji preside over their affairs. In these 8 years the people gnashed their teeth and cried to God daily for redemption. Who will bell the cat, they ask?

Much as I wish the man could change from his evil ways and embrace God, I think he is not ready to repent. It is likely he will continue to swim in his sins until it becomes too late to do something about it. For the wise, this is the right time to seek forgive­ness from the people he has offended one way or another.

It is not the wish of God that any sinner should die in his sin. It is rather His will that all of us should repent and be saved.

For all I know the political dynasty of the Orjis is beginning to crack and with time it will widen and collapse. The only thing that may save him is to return the money he loot­ed to the state coffers and plead ‘allocutus’.

If he fails to do so now, then the fate that awaits him will be very grave.

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Gov. Orji’s stewardship of pain and desolation http://sunnewsonline.com/new/gov-orjis-stewardship-of-pain-and-desolation/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/gov-orjis-stewardship-of-pain-and-desolation/#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 23:44:06 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=119810 There is something many observers of political developments in Abia State have not probably noticed and that is that the Abia State Government under the leadership of Chief T.A. Orji has never given a public account of its stewardship. Contrary to what obtained during our regime (1999- 2007) when we published the financial statements of [...]]]>

There is something many observers of political developments in Abia State have not probably noticed and that is that the Abia State Government under the leadership of Chief T.A. Orji has never given a public account of its stewardship. Contrary to what obtained during our regime (1999- 2007) when we published the financial statements of income and expenditure the government in Umuahia today has operated in secrecy for the greater part of its tenure. Everything about its financial dealings is shrouded in mystery. While the public, especially the media, have been shut out, the governor and members of his family and kitchen cabinet engage in many underhand deals, leaving the people they were elected to serve in pov­erty and penury with the entire state in desolation.

For the eight years the governor has held sway in power he has operated like the Lord of the Manor, the Lord of the Flies – Eze Onyeagwalam (the king that knows it all and takes counsel from no one). He hardly tolerates the idea of any other person raising his head, except himself. All those that at­tempted to operate independent of his opin­ion have been shoved aside. In fact anybody who is not ready to play subservient role in his government hardly ever stays beyond the first three months of his appointment. This is why he has earned notoriety in hiring and firing.

Governor Orji has rubberstamped every­body that works in his government, includ­ing the decisions they take. His adminis­tration has been deliberately designed to serve as a conduit pipe for the draining of the state’s scarce resources. That is why no single project was done by the government, which has direct bearing on alleviating the sufferings of the people. Most of the proj­ects the administration executed (particu­larly under Legacy Projects) were white el­ephants simply designed to serve as a way of shortchanging the state. The high costs of the projects coupled with endless variations that followed made them the most expensive anywhere in the world. To worsen the situa­tion, the projects are substandard.

A good example of the shabby and untidy way the administration does its things could be seen in the renovation of the offices in the State Ministry of Justice. The renovation car­ried out about three years ago and which cost the government billions of naira have started disintegrating. The same thing obtains for many of such projects. Only God knows what will happen in another three years.

The worst part is that those who work under him can hardly afford the basic ne­cessities of life. The retinue of aides who work for him is the worst remunerated in the country. What is the basic salary of his highest paid aide? It is scandalous! They are paid peanuts, and this is contrary to what the Revenue Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMFC) has approved. For years now many of his aides have been paid half of their en­titlements. The reason has always been scar­city of funds. Which scarcity of funds when the state gets its dues from the federation ac­count and generates mouthwatering revenue internally?

What of other categories of workers in the state? They have been owed for as many as 7 months. Yes, the state pays one of the highest minimum wages in the country. But that is just on paper. Workers in the state groan un­der the weight of many years of neglect, with unpaid salaries and allowances running into billions. What about pensioners? Their case is particularly pathetic. They are owed over 11 months of pension. From available re­cords hundreds of them have died fighting in vain for the release of their pensions. Those still alive are like living dead. Every month they march to Government House Umua­hia to seek the intervention of the governor. They usually leave worse than they came. No commensurate attention is paid to them.

Thousands that have retired did so without their pensions and gratuities. They are left to their fate: to suffer and die.

Among the retirees were those who were schemed out using the government’s obnox­ious administrative abracadabra. The draco­nian system was introduced by Chief Orji and targeted at some permanent secretaries and directors he did not like their faces. The policy made it compulsory for every civil servant in the state that has stayed up to eight years as director or permanent secretary to retire. Through the scheme many able-bod­ied and qualified civil servants had gone into early retirement, making the state lose vital manpower.

Local Government staff are not left out. They have been without salaries for upwards of one year, yet the Federal Government makes monthly allocations for the local gov­ernment councils at each month’s Federal Allocation Committee (FAC) meeting in Abuja. The reason for the unpaid salaries and allowances of local government staff is easily traceable. It is caused by the expro­priation of the local government funds by the governor’s son who has managed their affairs since the present administration as­sumed office.

According to recent media reports the governor’s son and the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs are allegedly wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for mismanaging the local government funds amounting to over N67 billion. Incredible!

Is it not only in a place like Abia State that such an aberration could happen with­out anybody chuckling? Is it, therefore, any wonder that the state government has not deemed it proper to organize local govern­ment elections in the 8 years of its existence?

What of those sacked four years ago for being non-indigenes in Abia State? Over three thousand workers were involved. It took the state government the same number of years before reaching a decision to recall a few of them – not up to 500 out over 5000 sacked. This was after many of them had kicked the bucket out of frustration and psy­chological trauma.

If one may ask: what happened to the bil­lions saved from this exercise? Surely they went the way of other financial resources that accrued to the state – squandered.

Now that it has been proved beyond rea­sonable doubt that the government of Gov­ernor Orji has failed abysmally in workers’ welfare and general emoluments, let us look at the provision of social amenities to see if we can justify the huge financial resources that had accrued to the state between 2007 and 2015 estimated at a trillion naira. This amount includes collectible revenue from internal sources.

Information gleaned from reliable gov­ernment sources indicate that the Abia State Governor under Governor Orji has not done anything really tangible to justify the huge money it claimed it had expended on various projects across the state. The ploy and fraud­ulent behaviour of the government were ex­posed by a group of media practitioners the state government invited to witness firsthand its performance in the past 7 years. The team was taken round the state for three days and at the end of the visit there was nothing con­crete to show the media people. Even the officials taking the team round lacked basic information about the costs of the few proj­ects they inspected. Probably they had been warned not to go to that length. And so, the officials faltered with ignominy.

The truth is that the government of Abia State has perfected ways of pulling wool over the people’s eyes. What the governor does is to use state resources to pay his way through difficult situations. Instead of em­barking on people-oriented projects he pre­fers to dole out money to media practitioners and some elders who will cover his dirty tracks. There is no doubt whatsoever that the hundreds of billions that the state govern­ment received, including local government funds, were diverted into private pockets. God have mercy!

It is no longer a hidden fact that the gov­ernor, his son and associates have bought over almost every available property in Umuahia with their filthy lucre. His resi­dence in Umuahia (for which the master plan of the state capital has been callously contravened) sits on three closed streets. The last estimates for the structures in the large expanse of land, including furnish­ings, were put at N5 billion. The project, which was started in 2001, is yet to be completed because of constant reconstruc­tion, re-equipping and re-beautification. Would anybody believe that the roofing of the houses in the large compound had been done more than three times? The practice is that once the family sees anything beautiful and spectacular elsewhere they try to rep­licate it in their own house. The result has always been the destruction or alteration of existing structures to meet the new fantasy.

Umuahia – the state capital – has not im­proved beyond where our government of 1999 to 2007 left it. There are no new roads, no new drainages, and no new amenities any­where. The only roads were the ones built by my government and the government of Dee Sam Mbakwe in the Old Imo State. Apart from the Judiciary Complex and new Sec­retariat in Umuahia delivered at outrageous costs there is no other mega project executed by Chief Orji’s administration anywhere in the City, except his private residence.

The rural areas of the state are the worst hit. Dwellers in these areas live at the mercy of God. It is as if the government has for­saken them. Abia North Senatorial District where I come from is begging for govern­ment presence. All the projects our admin­istration constructed have been left to rot or dilapidate. Naturally government is expect­ed to maintain these projects in the spirit of continuity. But unfortunately, out of political persecution and meanness, Chief Orji has al­lowed them to lie in waste.

I wept when I saw the state of some of the projects during my campaign tour of the area before the last National Assembly elec­tion. The Umunnato General Hospital, for instance, which was built and furnished by our government, has been left to waste. All the equipment have been in a state of dis­use, while rodents and reptiles have taken refuge there. Why has the state government abandoned the place? The same sad situa­tion obtains in other projects we initiated and completed such as the Abia State Teach­ing Hospital, Aba; Umunneochi, Ukwa, and Isuikwuato General Hospitals. Investigation has since revealed that the governor has ve­hemently refused to assign the necessary staffing and funding for the take off of the hospitals as a way of getting at me since the projects were executed by my administra­tion. This tells you how mean and wicked the governor could be.

However, I am sorry for him, because his wicked acts can never get at me. The only pain I nurse is that innocent people have been left to suffer for what they know noth­ing about.

For the past five years or more the gover­nor has been deliberately fomenting trouble across the state. He will be the last person to forgive an infraction or offence. During our tenure when he was my Chief of Staff he did a few things that would have earned him a sack, but I graciously overlooked them and marched on. It was the same attitude I had thought he was going to adopt. Lo and be­hold, the man is worse than a male Jezebel (if there is anything like it).

His greed and self-acquisitive tendencies are second to none anywhere in Nigeria. Some persons are known to forgive and for­get, while others forgive and may not forget. But Chief Orji belongs to none of the two as he does not forgive and does not forget as well. Once you offend him – no matter how little – be ready for long chastisement.

It is a pity that he goes about telling people how he would deal with me and render me incapacitated. When they asked him what I did to him to warrant such a grievous pun­ishment he has nothing to offer. I have asked him countless times to tell the world what­ever wrong I had done to him and I would apologise if I was wrong. On each occasion he was evasive with his answers.

I regret that I was instrumental to his choice as governor. The people trusted me and voted for him. Today he has tightened the noose around the very people that spear­headed his election. Who would believe it that after helping him to become governor he would turn against me with such feroc­ity as has never been seen before. He sees me and anyone connected to me as morbid enemies. Why?

Abians groan daily under the weight if his greed and neglect. For eight whole years he has left the people impoverished, trau­matized and imperiled. There is nothing on ground to show that a government was here for 8 years. Our schools and hospitals are among the worst in the country. The rate of maternal and infant mortality – particularly in the rural areas – is very high. These deaths would have been averted if his government had sustained our free healthcare initiative through which over 4000 persons were treat­ed. He abolished the scheme shortly after assuming office out of sheer envy and pet­tiness.

Exactly 13 days from today T.A. Orji will cease to be governor. He will then join the ranks of ex-this and ex-that. It is at that time he will realise that power is transient. I am certain he will continue to think he is still governor even after May 29, because there is nothing about him that betrays somebody planning to leave office. He also still revels in the vanities of life and is yet to reconcile with his large army of critics and haters.

He may continue to live in a fool’s para­dise for the rest of his life, for all I care. Nev­ertheless, it will do him a world of good if he begins now to mend fences with those he has offended. Otherwise he will find it extremely difficult to survive when the realities of life dawn on him.

For the people of Abia State, I render an unreserved apology for choosing him as my successor. After all, there is no art to find the mind’s construction in the face, said the liter­ary legend, Shakespeare.

 

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What probably you didn’t know about the 2015 polls http://sunnewsonline.com/new/what-probably-you-didnt-know-about-the-2015-polls/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/what-probably-you-didnt-know-about-the-2015-polls/#comments Fri, 08 May 2015 23:00:19 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=118614 There were many interesting things that happened that gave the just-concluded elections the hype it has enjoyed, particularly as it concerns the roles some persons played before, during or after it. Cu­riously, and sadly too, some of these things have been interpreted in diverse ways – depending on how each person sees or understands it. [...]]]>

There were many interesting things that happened that gave the just-concluded elections the hype it has enjoyed, particularly as it concerns the roles some persons played before, during or after it. Cu­riously, and sadly too, some of these things have been interpreted in diverse ways – depending on how each person sees or understands it. However, the interpretations given to some of these things have been twisted by politicians to suit their idiosyncrasies.

It is to set the records straight that I have decided to do this piece.

Let me quickly state that I think I am one of the single most misunderstood persons as far as Nigeria’s politics is concerned. Though this is for some inexplicable rea­sons! I am certain many Nigerians did not know some of the things I have mentioned here. Nevertheless, I decided to reveal them in order to correct some erroneous and malicious imputations some mischief-makers have made to achieve cheap politi­cal points.

Some people have even asked why I de­cided to stick to the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) when I knew that the party was likely to lose the 2015 elections. They make this allusion referring to the report of a nationwide consultative tour I embarked upon long before the 2015 general elec­tions, which has raised much dust since it was released. There was also another issue bothering on the illogicality and lack of wisdom of the decision of PDP to throw its weight behind some candidates whose in­tegrity and capacity to deliver were clearly in doubt.

I will treat each one of these points in de­tail shortly. But permit me to quickly state, though unequivocally, that the PDP lost the 2015 elections out of sheer greed and lack of maturity and teamwork. Anybody who has been reading the articles in this column will attest to the fact that I had always ex­pressed indignation over the way the party was being administered, especially after its contentious primaries. I am certain I drew attention to the daylight robbery that took place in Abia State where it was evident that the governor, Chief T.A. Orji, had lost every credibility, integrity and trust among the people of the state. Even within PDP in Abia State he is seen largely as a destroyer, and not a builder, because of the hatred and division he has stirred in the party.

I have always given reasons the gover­nor would likely lead the party to doom in his morbid desire to control the party for his selfish interest. Forget all the shenani­gans involving the governor and his son, PDP was doomed in Abia State, if not the entire South east geopolitical zone, many months before the general elections. This is a matter for detailed discussion in future.

Let me state at this juncture, that contrary to the insinuations in some quarters, I nev­er conducted the nationwide tour I referred above on behalf of any political party, in­dividual or any business organization, for that matter. The tour was strictly commis­sioned by a US based Non-Governmental Organization {(NGO) which name I would not want to mention here}, which advises the government of the United States, the President of the United States, the US State Department and several other agen­cies connected to it.

The tour in question opened my eyes to some of the complexities of our socio-political system, including the challenges the various political parties in the country faced in the 2015 general elections. In the report, it was clearly stated that the PDP was going to lose the general elections and that President Goodluck Jonathan, if at all he was going to win, would do so with a very slim margin. The report also identi­fied those states PDP was going to lose. They included Ogun, Osun, Lagos, and almost all the states in the north, etc. For Ondo, I declared that PDP was going to fight the battle of its life to win it. And that was what happened.

Some of the reasons adduced by the re­port for the likely abysmal performance of PDP included lack of internal democracy, disenchantment among many Nigerians who were unmistakably desirous of change and the half-hearted attitude of some lead­ing PDP stalwarts who said one thing and did exactly another.

The report, which was submitted to the Presidency, the leaderships of PDP and APC, was shabbily treated by its recipi­ents. Why they behaved the way they did was best known to them. For me, I thought I was discharging my patriotic duty by drawing attention to the calamity that lay ahead. In fact, the leadership of PDP in­terpreted the report as confrontational and in bad taste. Some of them questioned my loyalty as they had expected me to state in the report that PDP was going to sweep the polls when it was evident it lacked the co­hesion and solidarity to do so. This proba­bly accounted for their gang-up against me to deny me the ticket in my quest for the Abia North Senatorial seat under PDP. It was after their ill-treatment that I opted to switch to PPA in the eleventh hour.

Let me point out, however, that there has never been any remarkable difference be­tween PDP and PPA in every ramification. This accounted for the unanimous decision of the party to adopt President Goodluck Jonathan as its sole presidential candi­date. And there are no regrets for doing so. Therefore, those who misinterpreted my intentions to stand for elections in PPA did so either out of malice or sheer ignorance.

It was painful that instead of the leader­ship of PDP using the report I gave to them to work to change the tide they embarked on unnecessary rigmarole and witch-hunt, which cost it the elections.

The decision to stick to PDP despite the ominous signs that hovered around its head was borne out of principle. For those who know me very well, I am a man of my words. I do not run from one party to another. Check it out: since we formed PDP in 1998 I have remained in the party. I left the party momentarily in 2006 to found the PPA out of sheer inevitability. What did anybody expect me to do when former President Olusegun Obasanjo, without any plausible reason, deregistered me, alongside other eminent Nigerians. We had no other choice than to seek ref­uge in other political parties to realise our political aspirations.

The decision to form the PPA later paid off with the winning of the governorship seats in Abia and Imo. We also won sev­eral seats in some State Houses of Assem­bly, Senate and House of Representatives. The fortunes of the party nevertheless nosedived when those we spent our hard-earned money, energy, time and ingenuity to deliver decided to stab us in the back. There is nobody alive in Nigeria today and who was of age in 2007 that did not witness the betrayal we suffered in the hands of Governor T.A. Orji and his co-travellers.

Today Governor Orji is doing every­thing humanly possible to destroy me, but the God I serve has always scuttled his wicked designs against me. Who does not know that Governor Orji is evil? He told President Jonathan all kinds of lies against me to curry favour. The President being the kind of man he is trusted him. In the end he (TA) betrayed and failed him.

Any time the names of those that con­tributed to the loss of PDP in the 2015 presidential elections are being compiled Governor Orji’s name would occupy a place of notoriety. This is a man whose only interest was how to deliver himself, his son and his entire family during the elections. He cared little about the suc­cess of President Goodluck Jonathan, yet he made the loudest noise about his ability to deliver him. From the result of the elections Governor T.A. Orji got only two votes in his polling booth. The two votes came from his deputy chief of staff and his wife. The rest of his Ibeku people voted massively against him. So, from where did he get the votes to deliver the President?

If truth should told Governor Orji con­tributed to the failure of President Jona­than. We worked out hearts out trying to convince the people to vote for Jonathan. Many Abia voters were against Jonathan because of the non-performance of Gov­ernor Orji.

The outcome of the petitions at the on­going tribunals will open a can of worms about what transpired during the 2015 general elections as the PDP is going to lose more seats in the south east. At least, I am sure that Governor T.A. Orji and his son did not win their elections to the Sen­ate and House of Assembly respectively. They are simply impostors and usurpers who, with time, will be stripped of the mandates they falsely and ignobly parade.

I wonder how Chief T.A. Orji would have the temerity to go about parading himself as a Senator-elect when what he stole belongs to another person. I know his conscience will torment him every day of his life until he abdicates the stolen mandate.

It is a thing of joy that President Jona­than has now realized who his real friends and enemies are. And Governor T.A Orji is definitely one of his morbid foes.

What I expect the shameless governor to do is to bear his cross alone and not drag other people along as he faces the recompense of his actions. The elections in Abia State had been won and lost. It is, therefore, wrong for the governor to create the impression that he was behind anybody’s victory and therefore they must tow his line. My take on the matter is that anybody who felt he won any election in Abia State should chart his own course, and not allow himself to be tied to the apron string of anybody else.

I feel appalled by the blame game go­ing on in PDP currently. Instead of taking stock of its performance in the elections to see areas of improvement it dissipates energy on inanities. Blaming one anoth­er will not solve any problem. Instead it will widen the gap among party members and create animosity between its leader­ship and the various interest groups in the party.

My decision to stick to PDP, as I stated earlier in this piece, even when it was clear the party was going to lose the 2015 general elections was borne out of princi­ple and in obedience to the instruction of Ohaneze Ndigbo that Igbo should support the re-election of President Goodluck Jon­athan. You could recall that the leadership of Ohaneze led by Chief Gary Ighariwey approached me one and half years before the 2015 elections to drop my presidential ambition in support of the re-election of President Jonathan. I gave them my word to obey their directive, and I did. I do not have any regrets for my action.

I have never had any other reason be­ing in politics other than to champion the cause of my people and millions of other Nigerians who are oppressed, and have no voice. I am not in politics for any pecuni­ary gains. It was the same reason that pro­pelled me to seek to represent the people of Abia North in the Senate. It is wicked and malicious, therefore, for anybody to allude to anything in the contrary.

Only God knows when our nation’s pol­ity would be manned by people of integri­ty, whose selflessness and candour cannot be questioned.

The undeniable truth is there was noth­ing PDP could have done to avert defeat in the 2015 general elections since the majority of the people wanted outright change. It is sad that our party bungled the many opportunities that came its way to control the political space of Nigeria for as long as it wished. But they allowed greed and tactlessness to overwhelm them.

The days and months ahead will be rough and bumpy for PDP unless it wears its thinking cap and re-jigs its future. Ni­geria’s socio-political environment gets sophisticated by the day. And this calls for tact and diplomacy.

It has never been my intention to ra­tionalize why certain things that ought to have been done were not done. My atti­tude to life has always been to take each day as it comes. As humans we are bound to make mistakes. That is not a problem in itself. The problem lies in the failure to learn a lesson whenever we falter.

The victory of APC in the elections was purely divine and it is only God that could give such victories. Instead of antagoniz­ing the party or making things difficult for it our party should give it maximum support to enable it to transit smoothly to power.

From east to west, north to south we are all one. Even the differences in tongue and culture should not pose any barrier to our avowed commitment to build a more united and indivisible nation.

Those that fan the members of hate and promote clannishness and religious bigotry should bear in mind that there is strength in unity. The challenges of the 21st Century world demand creativity, togetherness and consensual and strate­gic partnership to build strong institutions on which the continued existence of our country will be predicated.

As an individual I will continue to give my best to the peace, development and progress of Nigeria no matter the price I am made to pay. My little contribution to the political development of our fatherland through the thorough survey I conducted before the elections was one way I felt I could strengthen our political culture and fortify our democracy. Democracy can­not function well in the absence of strong institutions. It is the emergence of these institutions that should be the focus of the political actors and actresses in our nation; not the pandering to sectionalism and eth­nic jingoism that has been the order of the day.

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Now elections are over, what next? http://sunnewsonline.com/new/now-elections-are-over-what-next/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/now-elections-are-over-what-next/#comments Fri, 01 May 2015 23:00:52 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=117398 What looked ostensibly insur­mountable at the onset has now come to a successful end. Yes after all the hul­labaloo, media blitz, electioneering, elec­tions and supplementary elections we can now have some calm and quiet. The air­waves are once again sane. But my worry has always been: after the elections, what follows? For the one-year active [...]]]>

What looked ostensibly insur­mountable at the onset has now come to a successful end. Yes after all the hul­labaloo, media blitz, electioneering, elec­tions and supplementary elections we can now have some calm and quiet. The air­waves are once again sane. But my worry has always been: after the elections, what follows?

For the one-year active campaigns lasted the gladiators – politicians and their support­ers – never had any rest –traversing every nook and cranny of their areas of jurisdiction, canvassing for votes. They took one another to task, calling themselves all kinds of names, and threw brickbats and tantrums at one an­other as if the nation was at war.

In fact, it got to a stage that some people became apprehensive of what the actual elec­tions would bring. The international commu­nity was not left out: They expressed fears over the utterances and aggressive disposi­tions of the political class, causing them to embark on extraordinary measures to ensure that the elections were not marred by vio­lence: they brought in their funds and techni­cal support. The Independent National Elec­toral Commission (INEC) was not left out as well. It mobilized its machinery to reach out to politicians, particularly the contestants, on the need to maintain peace and avoid violence before, during or after the elections.

The situation came to a hilt when news started flying all over the place that some subterranean forces were bent on postpon­ing the elections to suit their idiosyncrasies. The National Council of States even held an extraordinary session too to find a way round the impending constitutional crisis.

As this was panning out war against ter­ror in the northeast was raging. The Security Chiefs met and told INEC in an unmistakable language that they would not be able to guar­antee security at the polls if it would hold on February 14. This threw a spanner into the ar­rangements by INEC to hold the Presidential/ National Assembly elections as earlier sched­uled.

After wide consultations with stakeholders by INEC the elections due to commence on Valentine Day – February 14 – was shifted by 6 weeks. The postponement led to public outrage and acerbic criticisms against INEC.

Eventually the Presidential/Elections held on March 28. Contrary to the fears in the land over the likely violence that was to trail the announcement of the results by INEC ev­erything went smoothly. Though there were a few hiccups here and there, but they were not grave enough to affect the outcomes of the elections.

The most gladdening incident that lay to rest the impending ogre of violence was the concession of defeat by President Goodluck Jonathan ever before the final result was an­nounced. This doused whatever tension that was building up. It was a most surprising thing that had never happened in our polity.

Understanding the workings of Nigeria’s political system would reveal that what the President did was novel, unNigerian and pa­triotic. He has by this singular action set a new template for our politicians on how to accept defeat without rancour. Imagine what would have happened if he had done otherwise. We would have been singing another melody by now, probably.

I must confess that what the President did was what I had been advocating over the years. I have always believed that politics is a game and should be seen as such. Resort to violence and other clandestine activities to suppress the wishes of the people is the grav­est sin a politician would commit against his people and the nation.

The last elections, even though it came to a successful conclusion, witnessed all kinds of impunities by our politicians. Many of them threw caution to the dogs and resorted to bra­zen manipulation of the results to suit their self-aggrandizement. Who did not witness the open rape of the will of the people that took place in Abia North Senatorial Zone? I have never seen a thing like that all my life. What would have happened if I had not restrained my supporters from resorting to violence to express their indignation and anger over the way the election to the Senate in Abia North, in which I was a participant, went?

As you read this piece the result of the election of Abia North Senatorial District has not been formally announced. The so-called result that was announced by INEC in Umua­hia was doctored and openly mutilated, con­trary to the intendment of the Electoral Act (as amended). The provisions of the act are very clear on who announces the result of an election into the Senate and where such a re­sult should be announced. But in the extant case the result was rejected by the Returning Officer for what he called ‘mindless mal­practices’. He is the only person recognized by the act to announce valid result as far as the senate election is concerned. The act also requires the returning officer to announce the result at the senatorial collation centre, in this case, Arochukwu Local Government Council Headquarters. Allowing the results to be tak­en to Umuahia for announcement and decla­ration of winner by a director in the commis­sion was absolutely a breach of the Electoral Act as amended.

I know there could be other people with worse case scenarios than mine, but how they hope to handle it and get justice is a differ­ent ballgame. For me, I will still follow due process to retrieve the mandate freely given to me by my people.

It is unpardonably wicked for somebody who knew deep in heart that he did not win an election to usurp what is meant for another person. This was rampant in the just-con­cluded elections. And I am sure our laws and INEC did not envisage this kind of situation. I agree the tribunals are there to remedy the situation, but it is a problem that could have been nipped in the bud. Why allow the situa­tion to obtain in the first place when measures could have been taken to forestall it?

The introduction of the card readers was one of the ways INEC had planned to solve the problem of vote manipulation. Though it helped appreciably to make the elections free and fair, however, it did not tackle the problem of ballot-box snatching and stuffing, illegal thumb-printing, and other forms of ir­regularities associated with elections.

So, now the elections are over, what hap­pens next? There is no questioning the fact that some aggrieved persons would like to seek redress in the tribunals – which is the proper thing to do, instead of resorting to self-help. Sadly, information reaching me indicates that some candidates find it dif­ficult to assess some of the necessary INEC documents required to file their cases at the tribunals within the 21 days allowed by the Electoral Act.

It behooves INEC, therefore, to ensure that all its offices across the country comply with the requests by candidates to assess the nec­essary documents. Those that fail to comply accordingly should be sanctioned.

Having successfully prosecuted the elec­tions the battle shifts to the tribunals. How the tribunals will handle the numerous cases that would be brought before them is of great con­cern to all Nigerians. By resorting to the tribu­nals candidates have shown deep confidence in the judiciary, which is the last hope of the common man and those who seek justice. It will amount to double tragedy if justice is also miscarried at this level.

By handling the cases before them meticu­lously and justly the tribunals will only have succeeded in elevating its stature before the people and enthroning a regime of fairness, justice and equity. It will do the judiciary a great good if it did not allow itself to be ca­joled and manipulated by greedy and con­scienceless politicians whose stock-in-trade is circumventing and jeopardizing the course of justice.

The tribunals and the courts must ensure strict compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act and the Constitution (whichever applies) in handling the cases before it irre­spective of who is involved. How justiciably and speedily it deals with the cases brought before it will go a long way in dissuading politicians from engaging in electoral mal­practice and other crimes capable of short­changing the electorate and endangering our nascent democracy.

For the politicians and their legal teams there is a need not to play to the gallery. They must apply themselves to the provisions of the Electoral Act and avoid unnecessary procras­tination, endless requests for adjournments, and seeking bogus and unrealistic reliefs.

Now let us assess what role the various statutory institutions played in the success or failure of the 2015 elections. First to come under my klieg lights is INEC itself. It is gen­erally believed that INEC performed above average. I concur. This year’s elections could be adjudged the best we have had so far as a nation. It was far much better than the 2011 general elections for many reasons. I hope to discuss this in detail some other time. Never­theless, there is room for improvement. The conduct of some INEC staff during the elec­tions was below average. Some of them were found wanting when it mattered most.

The misconduct of some of INEC staff (es­pecially the ad hoc ones), I am certain, was not intended by the commission. You know, as a human institution, INEC is bound to have its own dose of misfits and errant staff – whose actions bring the reputation of the commis­sion to opprobrium. To curtail the prepon­derance of queries over the conduct of some INEC staff in future elections the commission must deploy new measures to properly assess those it engages to perform sensitive duties at elections. A situation where every Dick, Tom and Harry is labeled INEC staff and assigned sensitive responsibilities should stop. Only those whose character and demeanour the commission can strongly vouch for should be engaged. Again, the members of staff found guilty of any offence (s) should be dealt with in accordance with the law to serve as a deter­rent to others.

I think INEC can do better if it continues with its internal reform mechanisms, which gave birth to such commendable innovations as the card readers. The little sanity that ob­tained during the elections could be attributed to the deployment of the card readers. Initial opposition to the use of the card readers was sponsored by some politicians that felt they would not be able to rig their way through with the cards. The insistence by INEC to use the card readers aborted, at the embryonic stage, the plots of some politicians to compro­mise the elections.

What I think INEC should do is to fine-tune the functions of the card readers to avoid some of the problems that were encountered during the 2015 elections. The inability of the card readers to function properly did not sub­stantially affect the outcome of the elections, though. Rather it helped to checkmate the ac­tivities of vote thieves and other questionable characters that had perfected the act of rigging the elections. I believe that further consulta­tions with reputable IT operators globally will help to resolve these minor operational problems.

Prosecution of election offenders should be given top priority by the incoming adminis­tration to make it almost impossible for any­body to manipulate our electoral process for selfish purposes. Strengthening the current laws will be quite helpful.

Is it not yet time for our nation to experi­ment the electronic voting system as obtains in other climes? The electronic voting system will not only safeguard the integrity of the elections but also afford Nigerians abroad the opportunity to cast their votes.

Now the security agencies: Honestly speaking they performed better this time than they did in 2011. This does not necessarily mean that all of them performed creditably. Far from it! A few of them misbehaved and conducted themselves in an untoward man­ner. There were instances where they were used by politicians to serve devious and ret­rogressive purposes. In such cases they left their imprimatur on the psyche of the trauma­tized electorate. For instance, in my Senato­rial Zone during the elections to the senate, some of them were used to ferry fake results to Umuahia where they were wrongfully de­clared.

I urge the High Military Command to see what can be done to reassess the performance of the various arms of the military in election duties. This has become necessary to deal with the increasing complaints trailing some of the unsavoury activities involving their men.

Thank God the federal troops are winning the war against terror. Security of lives and properties are central to the effort to achieve free and fair polls in our country.

Let me nonetheless advise all parties con­cerned to set machinery in motion for the smooth conduct of the 2019 elections. We should not wait until 2018 to commence se­rious planning for the elections. Government should not hesitate to release funds to INEC early enough to enable it to do what is needed to make the 2019 elections successful. If it fancies the idea of experimenting the elec­tronic voting system this is the right time to do so.

Electronic voting is a very complex but achievable mechanism that requires diligent and proactive planning. Those that will make it happen should take a trip to the countries that have successfully deployed the technolo­gy to see areas we can learn one or two things from them.

As I indicated in the beginning of this essay, the elections have come and gone. We need to start fence-mending and restructuring. Very soon the new administration will take the centre-stage to steer the ship of state for the next four years. They need all the prayers and good will they can garner from us all. This is not the time to cry over spilt milk or continue with animosity against one another. This is the time for national and individual reconcili­ation to build a stronger nation in which ev­erybody will be free, secure and happy.

I congratulate both the winners and losers and wish everybody good luck and buhari luck, whichever you choose.

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Memo to President-elect Buhari (2) http://sunnewsonline.com/new/memo-to-president-elect-buhari-2/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/memo-to-president-elect-buhari-2/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 23:44:33 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=116269 In the first part of this memo two weeks ago, I raised a number of issues that included such critical areas as se­curity, corruption and elections. I had planned to publish the second and con­cluding part of the series last week when a matter of urgent importance cropped up and displaced it. I sincerely apologise [...]]]>

In the first part of this memo two weeks ago, I raised a number of issues that included such critical areas as se­curity, corruption and elections. I had planned to publish the second and con­cluding part of the series last week when a matter of urgent importance cropped up and displaced it. I sincerely apologise if you had looked forward to seeing the second part.

This week I hope to raise new issues in the second and concluding part of the memo and, at the same time, treat some of the issues I had raised two weeks ago elaborately.

First, I humbly request we take a cur­sory look at the Petroleum industry where you once held sway. As a one-time Federal Commissioner for Petroleum Resources, during which period various reforms were implemented, Nigerians expect more from you. The sharp practices in the sector, which have caused the nation enormous losses in revenue, should be addressed swiftly to create a new impetus for global best practices to thrive in the sector. We ex­pect brand new refineries and the resort to the old system of Nigeria refining its crude locally for consumption and export.

It does not make sense at all for a nation renowned for its rich oil deposits to import petroleum products when such nations as Angola and Venezuela produce sufficient quantity for local consumption and export.

My position does not necessarily mean calling for a probe of the sector. Rather what I advocate is the sanitization of the oil sector and the streamlining of its opera­tions to make it more result-oriented.

You should pay special attention to van­dalization of oil pipelines, which has been a big obstacle to the effort by the govern­ment to maximize opportunities in the sector. Nigeria currently loses a sizeable chunk of its revenue from oil to thefts and other forms of sharp practices.

I wish to place on record your wisdom in undertaking the construction of oil pipe­lines during your tenure as Oil Minister. I look forward to similar or, even, better in­novations in the sector under your aegis.

Permit me Your Excellency to go back briefly to our electoral system. The 2015 elections have proved that conducting free and fair (and credible) elections in Nige­ria is possible. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) demonstrat­ed rare courage in introducing far-reaching measures that helped greatly in making the elections the success they have become. The open expression of satisfaction over the conduct of the elections by foreign monitors and Nigerians is an attestation to the new vista that has opened in our na­tional life. It would not have been possible for INEC to succeed if its chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega, and his team were not cre­ative, bold and patriotic.

The success of the card-readers and the deployment of top-class academics as elec­toral officers (despite the misbehavior of a few of them) went a long way in contribut­ing to the success of the elections. I think there is still an urgent need to go a step fur­ther in fine-tuning the process in order to deal with the issue of rigging and violence. Despite the card-readers politicians still engaged in rigging, using willing INEC of­ficials and, in some cases, security agents, who threw caution to the wind, to meet the expectations of their paymasters.

The situation in my home state, Abia, was quite unfortunate. The rigging, mas­terminded by the state governor and some of his aides, was mindboggling. Today, he parades himself as a Senator-elect when deep in his heart, he knows he did not win the election. He was roundly beaten, yet he was the person to whom the certificate of return for Umuahia Central Senato­rial Zone was presented. Such a charade should not be allowed to stand under your watch.

I am aware what happened in Abia State took place in different places across the country. To achieve near-perfect elec­tions, as INEC has striven over the years to accomplish, is possible. But we need the will power and patriotism to do so. This is where your wealth of experience, courage and candour come to play.

For me, there is nothing absolutely wrong with electronic voting. It is possible to accredit a voter with the card-reader and he or she goes ahead to vote electronically at the same time. What the process needs is diligent planning and sufficient voter-education.

The importance of getting it right at elec­tions is a serious matter. Apart from help­ing voters to choose leaders of their choice it also elevates the stature of our country before the international community. We cannot isolate ourselves from the global best practices and expect the world to re­spect us. We must demonstrate a strong commitment to make our nation better.

I am glad that you assumed office at the right time in the history of our country. I state without any equivocation that no oth­er person would have been more morally and mentally equipped to tackle the rot in our electoral system now than you. I ex­pect you to commence the reform of our electoral system as soon as you are sworn in. The 2019 elections may appear still far away, but they are around the corner. The independence of INEC as implied in its name must be made to count. It is absurd for the commission that is deemed to be independent to go cap in hand begging for funding.

What Nigerians need is a transparent, functional and credible system for election conduct and management. Anything short of it is a total negation of the objective for which many Nigerians voted you into power.

Now enter our security forces. This is directly under your purview as a retired general. The politicization of our secu­rity agencies is something of great worry. You should as a matter of national emer­gency introduce serious reforms to restore the prestige of our security agencies. The Military has contributed immensely to the institutionalization of our democratic process and the consolidation thereof. If I am asked, the Military should be made to face squarely its constitutional role of defending the territorial integrity of Nige­ria, while the police and ancillary security agencies should be strengthened to per­form their duties without undue influence.

In tune with modern demands there is an urgent need to assess the military to know the areas to reequip it. I did not find the al­legation by the opposition during the cam­paigns that your government between 1983 and 1985 did not equip the military funny. You must prove everybody wrong by mak­ing it a top priority of your government. When the military is adequately equipped it boosts their morale and fighting capac­ity. You should not underestimate the strength of our neighbours’ military as the world has gone sophisticated. The ongoing fight against Boko Haram has exposed the weaknesses of our military and brought to the fore the need to be prepared at all times against enemy incursion.

You should take another look at the mo­tivation package for the military and the police to see areas of improvement. Our security men and women cannot perform impressively if poorly equipped or moti­vated. Some of the barracks in which they live are an eyesore. Despite that many of them are dilapidated they also lack func­tional amenities to make life pleasurable for their occupants.

What about our fallen heroes? Their dependants suffer all kinds of humilia­tion and avoidable neglect. It is not good to forget the families of those who lost their lives in the service of our fatherland. Rather government should devise a means of paying them adequate compensations as soon as they are due, while making further arrangements to cater to the other needs of the families they left behind.

This is the only way to convince their colleagues still alive to make the same sac­rifices whenever the need arises, and give their best to the service of the nation.

Agriculture is another vital sector you should pencil down as a priority sector. The Jonathan Administration has made a bold statement with agriculture as part of its transformation agenda. Though the im­pact of the reform in agriculture is yet to take root there is significant improvement in the way farmers approach their business. In addition, many corporate organizations have resorted to mechanized agriculture to boost food production and provide materi­als for their industries.

What I expect your government to do is to study what President Jonathan’s admin­istration has done, see areas of strength, and integrate it into your own master plan. Continuity in government programmes and policies is of paramount importance at this time of global recession.

Then education: Our educational system has been adjudged as one of the worst in Africa. The ranking of our tertiary institu­tions in the comity of universities has been of great concern to stakeholders in the sec­tor. Despite the huge resources committed to education very little has been achieved. The licensing of more universities has not helped much in advancing the performance of the sector. The quality of graduates pro­duced by our tertiary institutions is still an issue. Many of the graduates are not em­ployable, because they lack the basic skills their vocations demand.

I expect your government to do a sur­gical operation of the sector to cure it of the debilitating malaise that has troubled it over the years. Education remains the bedrock of any nation’s economy, and Nigeria is not an exception. Therefore, it must be accorded its rightful place in na­tional development. To further achieve this objective your government should appoint a renowned, sound and passionate educa­tionist to head the Ministry of Education. Appointing somebody who lacks the pedi­gree is like putting a square peg in a round hole.

Introducing a new national policy on education has become imperative, consid­ering the fact that the last time such a pol­icy was formulated has been quite long. A review of the entire curriculum is of great necessity too.

Nigeria’s foreign image has received some knocks of recent, especially during civilian administrations. To correct the er­roneous impressions created about Nige­ria there is an urgent need to review our foreign policy framework to strengthen our resolve to remain the giant of Africa. Our peace-keeping initiatives and other humanitarian activities should be reviewed to attract more benefits to our country and boost our image abroad.

I expect your administration to take a more dispassionate look at the welfare of Nigerians abroad. Recent feelers reaching me show that many Nigerians are languish­ing in prisons in foreign countries. Some of them are innocent of the crimes for which they are being persecuted, while a few of them have been killed unjustly in the past for the simple reason that nobody was there to speak for them. This is why I think your Foreign Affairs minister (s), whosoever they may be, should work harder to reposi­tion Nigeria before the global community and enthrone a more methodical process of laundering our image abroad.

As a ruling party you should ensure jus­tice is done in the distribution of the na­tional cake. Every part of this country is an integral part of the Nigerian nation and should not be treated shabbily. The wealth of the country is the wealth of all irrespec­tive of party, religious or ethnic affiliation. I have seen how your party plans to dis­tribute key political offices. By accom­modating the South East and South-South, though many of their states did not vote for you has shown the large-heartedness of your person. I urge you to do more justice when you appoint ministers. Cutting down on the number of ministries is not a bad idea. The current large number of ministers is not good for our economy.

I was elated when I read what you wrote that your administration would encour­age the cutting down on the costs of run­ning government. What we have at pres­ent is simply bloated and not sustainable. How could we allocate 80% of our annual budget to recurrent expenditure instead of capital? It is ludicrous. We need to make those holding political offices realise that their choice to hold such offices is a privi­lege, and not a right. As such they should be selfless and demonstrate more care in the discharge of their duties.

I have concentrated on a few of the is­sues because there is no need listing the issues I know your administration may not have all the time to address. What I would want you to do is choose specifically the key areas your government can handle and concentrate on them. There is no need bit­ing more than you can chew. I understand the pressure on you to perform will be very high. But I am confident you have the wisdom and moral capacity to tackle the myriads of problems facing this nation the much your strength can carry you.

I am also confident Nigerians will give you all the cooperation you may require to deliver on your mandate. What is left is for you to do what is right at every point to take our nation to a new height of de­velopment.

In my view, the challenges before you are just three: security, electricity and job and wealth creation. If you can succeed in achieving these then you have scored a pass mark, and whoever will succeed you will embark on the other areas of need.

I wish you God’s speed as you take over the mantle of leadership from our amiable President Goodluck Jonathan in a few weeks from now.

Concluded.

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Daylight robbery in Abia State http://sunnewsonline.com/new/daylight-robbery-in-abia-state/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/daylight-robbery-in-abia-state/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 23:00:40 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=115132 What happened on Satur­day, April 11, 2015, in Abia State in the name of election was a broad-day robbery, a charade, perpetrated by Governor Theodore Orji and his polit­ical thugs. I have never seen anything of that magnitude all my life. When I drew the attention of Inde­pendent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies [...]]]>

What happened on Satur­day, April 11, 2015, in Abia State in the name of election was a broad-day robbery, a charade, perpetrated by Governor Theodore Orji and his polit­ical thugs. I have never seen anything of that magnitude all my life.

When I drew the attention of Inde­pendent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies to what transpired on March 28, 2015 during the Presidential/National Assembly elections little did any other person know what lay ahead was more serious. But for me I knew that the governor was desperate to achieve his devious aim of foisting him­self on the unwilling people of Abia State whom he has misruled and chastised for 8 whole years.

I am certain that only a few persons knew that Governor T.A. Orji and his son had perfected plans to brazenly rig the April 11 elections on a large scale.

What people saw on television was a glimpse of a larger fraud, committed by the governor and his son, in collaboration with corrupt INEC officials. Innocent vot­ers were intimidated, harassed and beaten up in most cases. From Umunneochi to Arochukwu, Umuahia to Ossioma Ngwa, Obingwa to Aba, and Ugwunagbo to Ukwa the story was the same: reckless display of power, carting away and stuff­ing of ballot boxes, open bribery of gull­ible electoral officers and the voters, dis­tribution of fake ballot papers and result sheets to polling stations, etc.

The worst part of it all was that the governor and his son recruited thugs and armed them with dangerous weapons such as machetes, guns, and cudgels, to unleash mayhem on the state. The gover­nor knew that under normal atmosphere he would not be able to win any election in Abia State. So, he must rig to survive.

The thugs moved about in unbranded buses unmolested, unchecked. In short, they had a field day. And it got to a point that people stated wondering if there were no more security agents in Abia State. Only the security agents themselves could explain their indifference.

The flagrant display of raw power and cash was the worst I had seen in my entire life. Underage boys were also involved in the show of shame of April 11. Another shocker was that their select men went about with wads of crisp naira notes, which they willingly handed over to any voter that was ready to be compromised. They openly canvassed votes and paid anybody willing to play ball. It was that bad.

In areas where the governor sensed he would not be able to achieve his nefarious aim he instigated crises, which led to elec­tions not holding in such places. The case of Osisioma was very peculiar. There was no election whatsoever there, but results were turned in for his candidates.

The prelude to the charade of April 11 began with the appointment of new Tran­sition Committee Chairmen to man the local government councils in the state. The purpose for selecting them was to use them to rig elections. It has to be noted at this point that Abia State under Governor T.A. Orji is yet to conduct elections into the local government councils.

So, each transition committee chair­man was mandated to personally devise means of rigging the elections at all costs. To achieve the objective the Transition Committee chairmen used part of their monthly allocation given to them by the governor’s son (who superintends over the affairs of the local government coun­cils in the state) to recruit thugs, procure dangerous weapons and other logistics for the evil assignment. They do all these without thinking about thousands of local government workers who have not been paid in the state in the past 8 months.

Each chairman was mandated to deliver his council, no matter the costs and risks. They were told in an unmistakable lan­guage that they must deliver or face the music.

And so, they barred their fangs on March 28 elections when they unleashed terror on the people of the state. It was like a scene from a sci-fi movie. Those local government chairmen that were not able to deliver their councils were summarily dismissed. They included the TC chairmen for Aba North, Aba South, Umuahia North and Umuahia South. They were promptly replaced with new helmsmen.

In tandem with the mandate given to them by the governor (led by his son) the council chairmen went berserk, kill­ing and maiming innocent citizens. The brutality and open bribery of voters that took place in Abia State on April 11 were unprecedented in the history of the state. The governor’s foot-soldiers and other cohorts went about throwing money at voters and openly inducing them and INEC ad hoc staff, with the police and other paramilitary agents looking on helplessly.

I have never stopped wondering why Governor Orji and his acolytes believe so much in circumventing due process in every election. Must he rig to ‘win’ elec­tions? There is nobody who witnessed the show of shame that took place on March 28 and April 11 that was not outraged and scandalized.

We have abundant evidence of the gov­ernor’s boys going about bribing voters. There was a case of a female electoral of­ficer who got an alert for N10m on her phone. Amazed by the discovery she alerted the police who traced the source of the money to the governor’s son. Imag­ine how many other electoral officers had been so compromised in a similar man­ner. Yet nobody has called the governor or his son to question.

In some local government councils, there was virtually no election. Results were written in the houses of some promi­nent people. The same situation obtained in Osisioma, Ugwunagbo and Isiala Ngwa Local Government Councils. When the fake results reached INEC collation centres they were promptly rejected and cancelled by the returning officer. Every­body was shocked to the marrow when the governor, in company with some top government officials and party loyalists, stormed INEC Headquarters in Umuahia where results were being compiled to at­tempt to force the electoral officer to ac­cept the results earlier cancelled, quoting orders from above. This led to the current logjam we have experienced in the an­nouncement of results.

The action of the governor was in to­tal contravention of the Electoral Act and should be treated as such. If I may ask: who gave the orders that cancelled re­sults should be readmitted and for what purpose? What transpired between the governor and the electoral officer on that visit? Abians would like to know. Who­ever gave the orders (if the allegation was true) that the rejected results be readmit­ted committed a grievous offence against the law of this land and an affront on the collective psyche of the people of Abia State.

As far as I am concerned, nobody should take Abia people for granted any longer. The people voted en masse for candidates of their choice and their votes must be allowed to count.

I was a victim of the March 28 brou­haha in Abia State. In the Abia North Senatorial District, where I contested for a slot in the Senate, the governor and his agents displayed the same brazen show of power by hijacking the election results and taking the same to Umuahia to be an­nounced by a director in INEC, contrary to the Electoral Act 2014 as Amended. The Electoral Officer for Abia North Senatorial District, a professor, refused to endorse the result because it was fake and manipulated. Up till date, the man is still running for his dear live. Results col­lated from each polling unit in the district showed that I overwhelmingly won the election.

Since the miscarriage of justice was done against me we, as peace-loving peo­ple, have maintained studied silence hop­ing the relevant authorities would do the needful. The more patience we exercise the more they expropriate what belongs to us. For how long will the people be shod­dily treated by the governor and his gar­rulous son before commonsense prevails?

I knew what I did to douse the tension that arose as a result of what transpired on March 28 in my Senatorial Zone. An­gry mobs had built up to march to burn down INEC offices and then proceed to the Government House, Umuahia. But I had to dissuade them from towing that line as it was primitive, undemocratic and defeatist.

Nevertheless, there is a limit to what the people can tolerate. Probably, what emboldens the governor to engage in all these atrocities is that he always gets away with them. Abians have resolved never again to tolerate his excesses.

Some people do not believe me when I say Governor T.A. Orji is wicked and selfish. He knows only about himself – nobody else matters. He demonstrated his selfishness in the just concluded Presidential/National Assembly elections when the votes he allotted to himself were marginally higher than what he allotted to the President. For him, he cares no hoot whether the President won or not. What was paramount to him was that he should become Senator to find a safe haven to hide himself from the justice that awaits him.

A pall of grief and melancholy has en­veloped our state since Sunday when the news of the open robbery of the people’s mandate filtered to town. Our people are sad and agitated. And there is no limit to how much they can endure.

Governor Orji has shown a flagrant ob­stinacy and insensitivity to the sensibili­ties of Abia people and should be called to order. His plot to enthrone himself senator and his son speaker in order to continue the looting of our common pat­rimony must not stand.

The corruption that has taken place in Abia State since Governor Orji assumed office is mindboggling. There is no ac­countability let alone honesty in the gov­ernance structure of the state. The gover­nor runs the state like his private estate. Think about this: the governor’s son has been in charge of the allocations to the 17 local government councils in the state in the past 8 years that no election has been conducted into the councils. The last council election was the one superin­tended by my administration in 2004. The governor has not deemed it auspicious to conduct another ever since, because he uses the funds accruing to the councils for his personal aggrandizement.

Where did he get all the money he is throwing about, if not from the govern­ment till? His greed knows no bounds and his insensitivity bottomless. Think about the sufferings of our civil servants, pensioners, and even the general citi­zenry, who have not been paid for several months, you will weep for Abia State. Yet the governor is building a fortress in Umuahia and buying up every available house anywhere it exists.

I have written here many times that one of the ways elections are rigged in Nige­ria is through the local government coun­cil offices. It is there that the rigging is cooked, garnished and served. The local government council chairmen, especially the Transition ones, are the major culprits of election manipulation in Abia State, if not the whole federation. To arrest this ugly situation INEC should move colla­tion centres to schools to be manned by soldiers. This will cut off the undue ad­vantage conferred on the council chair­men to compromise elections.

Another issue that worries me is the notoriety the Southeast and South-South have assumed in election rigging in re­cent times. The situation gets worse by the day. When will the people of the two geopolitical zones put their acts together and carve a new image for themselves?

What happened in Abian State on March 28 and April 11 should not be al­lowed to repeat in future elections. When rules are made they ought to be obeyed and implemented. Why should vehicles and people move about freely on an elec­tion day when it is outlawed? Nobody would believe there was a no-movement order in Abai State on April 11 as nobody called the errant persons to order.

The way things are going Abia State is headed for the precipice. Our people are tired of Governor Orji and his retinue of praise-singers and hagiographers. They disturb our peace, steal our money and our votes, kill and maim us. Instead of ar­resting them for their crimes they are of­fered cover by the authorities to continue with their nefarious activities.

There is a limit to what the people can tolerate. The nonsense going on in our state should stop. We are equal stakehold­ers in the Abia Project. Therefore our lives and properties must be protected.

I would like to make the governor un­derstand that evil has an expiry date and that all the atrocities he has committed against the good people of Abia State will not go unpunished. In due course he will pay for his sins.

The second and concluding part of Memo to President-elect, Muham­madu Buhari will be published next week.

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Memo to President-elect Buhari (1) http://sunnewsonline.com/new/memo-to-president-elect-buhari-1/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/memo-to-president-elect-buhari-1/#comments Fri, 10 Apr 2015 23:09:01 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=113807 I am certain you have not shaken off the fatigue brought to bear on you by the strenuousness of campaigns. Traversing every nook and cranny of our great country is no mean task. And for you, this is the fourth time you have done it. The first was in 2003, the second 2007, the third [...]]]>

I am certain you have not shaken off the fatigue brought to bear on you by the strenuousness of campaigns. Traversing every nook and cranny of our great country is no mean task. And for you, this is the fourth time you have done it. The first was in 2003, the second 2007, the third 2011 and the fourth 2015. I am sure in all your travels you bore one thing in mind: the eagerness to witness firsthand the sufferings of Nigerians, which had been the major propeller of your presidential aspiration. Contrary to the negative press you proved your detractors wrong by pulling through the rigours of electioneering without disap­pointment.

You could recall I passed the same way in 2007 when I ran for the presidency. I knew what I saw and experienced. Nigeria indeed is a very huge country in every respect. Those who refer to it as the most populous black nation in the world are absolutely right. Nigeria is larger than many people had estimated. It is a very expansive, beauti­ful and rich country in all ramifications. Its weather is almost clement all through the year, with an excellent soil for cropping – in season and out of season. Going round the country and interacting with its peoples gave me enormous relief, and unburdened my heart of some of the prejudices I had always harboured.

I know you feel exactly the way I do, though there could be some variances here and there.

The results showed that I came third in that election (in terms of majority votes polled and states won). I have never regret­ted ever embarking on the adventure in the first place, because it has made me a better Nigerian, more compassionate and realistic about the sufferings of the rural people.

Let me make it very clear that the reason I threw my hat into the ring for the presiden­tial race in 2007 was borne out of a burn­ing desire to right the wrongs of our nation and build a society in which every Nigerian would be free to express himself, live in any part of the country without let or hin­drance, get justice without prejudice, experi­ence equality in the distribution of national wealth and be protected.

The era between 1999 and 2015 would go down in history as the most dramatic for Nigerians. It was a period characterised by mixed fortunes. Despite the efforts of subsequent administrations to address the many ills of our country not much has been achieved, except for a few giant strides made by the Goodluck Jonathan Administration.

To be honest with you, many Nigerians received the news of your emergence as the presidential candidate of the All Progres­sives’ Congress (APC) with apprehension as a result of the information fed to them about you on the social media. But those of us who knew you very well knew that you were not exactly what the media painted you. I know that you are a martinet, no-nonsense general, with a stickling appetite for excellence.

I have not forgotten how flexible and firm you could be. You exhibited this much when I brokered a peace meeting between you and former President Ibrahim Baban­gida and now late General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu in my Igbere country home during my tenure as the governor of Abia State. That meeting, which lasted two days, showed your real person. You were down-to-earth, dispassionate, articulate, and sagacious. Even when the situation be­came somewhat misty you were calm and calculated. You had your eyes fixed on the achievement of the purpose for the get-to­gether. In the end everybody was happy and satisfied.

Though we have not seen too many times thereafter your personality and generosity of heart still loom large in my sub –conscious­ness. Without any equivocation, I wish to state that I had been praying silently in my heart that God would one day bring a man like you to sit in the saddle and steer the ship of state. The prayer has nothing to do with party affiliation or any primordial sen­timents. It was borne purely out of personal conviction that a man of your stature and character is who we need at this critical time.

When the APC held its national conven­tion to elect its presidential standard-bearer the fight was strictly between you and Atiku Abubakar. Many of my associates in your party preferred you to other candidates and told me so. But deep in my heart I was won­dering how your choice as candidate would affect the chances of our party’s candidate Goodluck Jonathan in the elections. That was when my apprehension grew.

Your style of campaign and the tacitur­nity you showed while it lasted were vintage you. I must confess that only a few other Ni­gerians could have maintained their cool in the face of mounting hate campaigns such as were staged against you. It got to a point that I started asking if at all you had a strong media team and, if at all you had one, why it was not returning fire for fire. Neverthe­less, beneath the veil, I saw the sagacity and urbaneness of a man ready to move Nigeria to another level by leading by example. All the beautiful things people have said about you would have been counterproductive if you had run your campaigns the same way the opposing camp did.

If not for your diplomacy and tact, the pol­ity would have ordinarily been overheated. So, if I am asked I would say you were the first to demonstrate a sincere desire to make peace reign before, during and after the elec­tions. The Abuja accord and other peace ini­tiatives would not have produced any posi­tive results if you had not disposed yourself favourbaly to them.

I watched very diligently your campaigns. You never for one day abused anybody or used foul language against anybody for that matter. Another strong point of your cam­paigns was issues you raised which bothered on the continued survival of Nigeria. You harped on security, job and wealth creation, agriculture and fight against corruption as the main thrust of your campaigns. All these must have influenced the choice that Nigeri­ans made on March 28.

Now that you have been overwhelmingly elected by Nigerians as our next President the heat has now turned from President Jon­athan to you. Nigerians are impatiently wait­ing for May-29-handover-date to start expe­riencing the new life you promised them.

Nonetheless, I do not think it is going to be that easy. In fact, it will be a Herculean task. You know what it means and takes to clean the Augean Stable! The decay in our social system is not a task that can be accom­plished in one day, not even a year. There is too much corruption, laxity and indiscipline among Nigerians. Probably you foresaw the huge damage corruption and indisci­pline would inflict on our national psyche when you championed the War Against In­discipline (WAI) in your first coming. The national orientation strategy worked like magic, while orderliness became the order of life in our nation. And things seemed to be working.

I still believe we need something like WAI if you can reenact the magic that made it work in 1983-85. However, I still believe nothing can work in Nigeria until indisci­pline is uprooted. Even the fight against cor­ruption takes its root in discipline. A disci­plined person is orderly, humane, polished, and a stickler for excellence. So, if you could succeed in making a majority of Nigerians disciplined then you would have solved 40% of our national malaises.

It is indiscipline that breeds dishonesty, garrulity, tendency to steal, deviance, and other forms of anti-social behaviours. Those more vulnerable to these ills are the youths who are easily influenced by their environ­ment. This is why there is the need to intro­duce WAI brigades and other paramilitary organizations to complement the efforts of the existing ones in the fight against immo­rality and crimes in our society. Don’t mind those that would want to discourage you from towing this path. In any case, I know how single-minded and emotional you could be when matters relating to the development, peace and stability of Nigeria are concerned. This will make it almost impossible for any­body to attempt to ill-advise you.

I read where you were quoted as having denied that you promised to deal with insur­gency in two months. I give it to you: you never at any time gave a timeline on when insurgency would be defeated. All you said was that Boko Haram would be a thing of the past soon. But I have to advise you to work extra hard to achieve this goal as soon as possible. Let nobody deceive you, Nige­rians expect too much from you, because of the myth that has been built about your ability to tackle Nigeria’s socio-economic problems.

In my consideration, you will become an automatic hero once you can solve the problem of security within 180 days of your presidency. Already President Jonathan’s government has started the fight in a very convincing manner. The communities re­covered by our troops in recent weeks point to the veracity of this fact. You can swiftly build on what he has put in place, applying your military background to deal with the matter more clinically and tactically.

I am glad to note that you attributed one of the causes of the emergence of Boko Haram to poverty in one of your recent interviews. I agree with you totally. However, I wish to add that injustice also played a negative role in heightening the insurgency. The death of President Musa Yar’Adua and the poor han­dling of the succession to his position could have a part to play in the emergence of Boko Haram.

The existence of Nigeria is predicated on the need to continually maintain equity, jus­tice and fair-play at all times. The heteroge­neous nature of Nigeria makes it suicidal to alter the tripod on which it stands. The un­official rotation of the presidency between the north and south could be said to be one of the smartest and most practicable ways of sustaining national cohesion and unity. Because of the mutual mistrust that exists among the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria there is the need to be perpetually vigilant to ward off the activities of political ideologues and mischief-makers bent on truncating our fragile democracy. To deal with the detrac­tors requires additional wisdom and acuity.

I believe that you have sufficient experi­ence to deal with insurgency, no matter the coloration it may assume. I recall with nos­talgia your days as the General Officer Com­manding Third Armoured Division, Jos. It was in the heydays of the dreaded Maitasine Sect. You dealt them a cruel blow to the ex­tent that they could not regroup ever since.

This brings us to the issue of corruption. As you read this memo Nigeria is haemor­rhaging as a result of corruption. Unless corruption is crushed we cannot make any headway in development. Corruption has gone deep into our social system to the point that it now threatens our nation. The recent national assembly elections exposed the rot in the system.

You must have read about how INEC of­ficials colluded with moneybags and corrupt politicians to doctor the results of elections in Abia North Senatorial District. Unfortu­nately, the same sordid situation obtained in some other senatorial zones in Abia State where election results were brazenly altered with the active connivance of corrupt INEC officials. Though we have vowed to seek redress in the tribunals it would have been better not to allow the national disgrace to occur in the first place. Nigeria has come of age, such that it should be able to conduct untainted elections.

I must not fail to bring to the attention of Your Excellency the disgraceful activities of security men who openly worked with some politicians and INEC officials to change the result of an election in which a clear winner had emerged. Results collated from the field showed I won the election convincingly. Why INEC substituted my name with that of somebody that lost still beats my imagi­nation.

You should as a matter of urgency set up a panel to advise you on how to make elections in Nigeria less controversial and burdensome. If possible you can dust up the report of the Justice Uwais Presidential Panel on Electoral Reform. It is painful that the report of the panel, adjudged as well-ar­ticulated, should be allowed to gather dust in the file cabinet. Many other similar reports should be given the same treatment.

The economy is one area some of your acerbic critics express fears. This may be due to the fact that your first coming did not address many serious economic mat­ters. Your focus then was on indiscipline and corruption. This time round the global community and Nigerians expect you to fashion out functional economic policies that will address grinding poverty, instabil­ity in exchange rates, unemployment and communicable diseases. You cannot afford not to tackle the economy and in less than three months bring down the exchange rate of the naira and boost other indices that de­termine growth.

The restoration of the economy will be achieved more easily with a frontal war against corruption. Chances of rapid eco­nomic growth are possible under your ae­gis if you put round pegs in round holes. One of the identifiable problems in the past was the over-politicization of ap­pointments to various political offices, often leading to favouritism and nepotism in making choices. You require men and women with the right attitude and experi­ence to help you to reengineer our socio-economic system.

I will raise other issues with you in the second part of this memo. Meanwhile, rest assured of the support of all Nigerians behind your visionary leadership. We are very optimistic that things will work out for the better, provided you stick to those promises for which majority of Nigerians gave you their votes.

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Abians, watch out! Evil on the prowl http://sunnewsonline.com/new/abians-watch-out-evil-on-the-prowl/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/abians-watch-out-evil-on-the-prowl/#comments Fri, 03 Apr 2015 23:01:41 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=112673 There is no question any longer that our dear state, Abia, is under spell, cast upon it by the evil forces en­gineered by Governor T.A. Orji. I have written in this column numerous times about the need for our people to open their eyes to the evil machinations of T.A. Orji. The more I expose [...]]]>

There is no question any longer that our dear state, Abia, is under spell, cast upon it by the evil forces en­gineered by Governor T.A. Orji. I have written in this column numerous times about the need for our people to open their eyes to the evil machinations of T.A. Orji. The more I expose his un­derhand, wicked and callous machina­tions the more atrocities he commits. As you read this piece the governor with his evil gang has concluded plans on how to thwart the will of the people on April 11 – during the Governorship/House of As­sembly elections. The activities of this man make him a very dangerous evil, prowling every nook and cranny of our state, seeking whom to devour.

To state that Abia State is underdeveloped is to put it mildly. The most appropriate words to capture the helpless state of things in the state are “incalculable tragedy”. The eight-year tenure of the man is an unmiti­gated disaster. And the only thing that can appease our people is to ensure that he or anybody sponsored by him does not win any election in the state. What justification, for goodness sake, does T.A. Orji have to seek another political position or sponsor anybody for that matter to such position(s) after the pain and agony he shamelessly inflicted on our people?

The just-held Presidential/National As­sembly election has exposed his evil plots and inherent desire to destroy the founda­tion of democracy in Abia State. Ask any­body that witnessed the elections, they were peaceful, orderly; and the people turned out enmasse to vote, because they wanted change desperately. Painfully, in the end, the will of the people was subverted in Abia State. What transpired at INEC local govern­ment election collation centres in Abia State was shameful and disgraceful. Take for in­stance, Abia Central Senatorial Zone where the governor contested as a PDP candidate. He lost all round, including in his ward at Ugba na Nkata, Umuahia-Ibeku. Results from the polling booths showed that he lost in Umuahia North and South, Isiala Ngwa North and South and Osisioma Local Gov­ernment Councils that make up the senato­rial district. So from where did he garner the 65,000 plus votes that were credited to him?

Reports we gathered from our agents in the various polling booths show that the peo­ple overwhelmingly rejected the governor. Imagine this: his own people (Ibeku) openly campaigned against him, urging voters not to cast their votes for him. Even the non-indi­genes, whom he has spited on a number of occasions, mobilized against his candidacy. In fact, the opposition was massive and po­tent. It got to a point that his foot-soldiers started sharing money openly to voters to sway them. All these gimmicks did not even­tually work as the people stuck to their gun and voted massively against him.

Immediately after voting on Saturday the whole state was agog with jubilation when news of his disgrace in his ward filtered into the rural areas. In churches across the state the following day – Sunday – the story of his likely loss was the major topic being discussed as people gathered in groups after service.

One could feel the people’s anger against a man that had brought untold hardship on them in the past 8 years. It was palpable. And so, when news of his declaration as the even­tual winner of the election by the state INEC spread the people became agitated, pained and melancholic. Immediately my phone started ringing endlessly as people called to confirm the story they heard.

From my interaction with the callers it was easy to perceive their disappointment and aghast. One particular man told me he would kill himself if T.A. Orji should win. If the young man carried out his threat then Abia State is in real trouble.

Among those that voted against the gover­nor were youths, traders, artisans, traditional rulers, men and women, the aged, and even the sick and disabled. It was a mass move­ment against the aspiration of the governor.

We started to hear rumour about the des­peration of the governor to alter the results as early as Sunday morning. According to my sources, the governor sent many of his aides and other top government functionar­ies to ‘see’ what could be done to change the will of the people. Initially I dismissed it with a wave of the hand since INEC had assured us that nobody would be able to rig the elec­tions. When the rumour became too strong to ignore I set machinery in motion to unravel the truth.

Let me state it categorically that the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner for Abia State is a woman of integrity. She resisted all the overtures made to her to compromise. It was when they found her impregnable that they resorted to the local government coun­cils, where some of them were bought over. It was at the Osisioma Centre that the dam­age was done.

Now to my own Senatorial Zone, where the situation was made worse by the overt ac­quiescence of persons that collaborated with some INEC officials to steal my mandate. Those that witnessed the elections knew I won overwhelmingly. I campaigned vigor­ously and my people were delighted that I of­fered to serve them in the senate. They came out in large numbers as early as 6 am flaunt­ing their PVCs.

The results from the polling booths showed without any modicum of doubt that I won the election. How the results changed at the Local Government collation centres in Bende, Isuochi, Isuikwuato, Ohafia and Arochukwu beat my imagination. I was told by my agents that figures were manipulated and allotted to the PDP candidate in a brazen manner. For me, that was atrocious and inex­cusable. I beat my closest rival convincingly. How could any sane person turn round to say that I lost?

It was all part of the governor’s ploy to hu­miliate me. But he can never intimidate me since I have not done anything against him to warrant that.

What I know deep in my heart is that T.A. Orji has vowed to destroy me and anybody related to me. He has since stopped doing his official duties as governor. All he does these days is exploring avenues of smearing my integrity and harassing people related to me.

One thing I can assure him is that every evil he plans against me will fall on his head. Let him learn useful lessons from the lives of fallen despots who plotted other people’s destruction but got themselves destroyed in­stead. The good people of Abia State have suffered like no other. Despite their suffer­ings they have continued to persevere, hop­ing that someday soon God would liberate them from the evil clutches of T.A. Orji.

Which one will I recount and leave the other when we look at the evils of this man called T.A. Orji. He pulled down the sources of livelihood of many innocent Abians for no justifiable reason. Thousands of traders whose shops were destroyed at the Umuahia Main Market and Timber Industrial Market are today living in poverty and penury. He destroyed their stalls and did not have the humanity to offer them replacements. Rather the few stalls the government built in the out­skirts of the City of Umuahia were allotted to his aides and other well-placed persons who in turn resold them at exorbitant prices to some of the hapless traders. Unfortunately, there is no week that passes two or more of these traders do not die out of frustration. What kind of man would do these evils to his own people?

Three years ago, the governor woke up from his slumber and ordered the sacking of thousands of workers called non-indigenes. Many of these workers were born and bred in Abia State and have contributed meaning­fully to its development over the years. What was their sin? Their parents did not come from Abia State. How could the governor do such an unconscionable and abominable thing in a Nigeria of the 21st Century? But he did it and nobody else could call him to order.

I have said on a number of occasions too that I have never seen a man as treacherous, wicked and vindictive as T.A. Orji. I use this medium to reiterate this position. What man would bite the finger that fed with so much venom and contempt? The office of governor is one of the most important political offices any bona fide Nigerian can aspire to. Many people had died with their dream of becom­ing one yet to no avail. But here is T.A. Orji becoming governor while in person with­out spending a dime. The only way he has deemed it fit to say thank you is to declare ‘war’ against me. He thought by antagoniz­ing me and estranging himself from me he would be able to control the resources of Abia State all to himself.

But he got it all wrong. He needn’t an­tagonize me to achieve all that, because I am quite a different person. He can attest to it by himself that I have never bothered him for anything since he was sworn in as governor. To tell you how wicked the man is he set up a panel to probe the purchase of printing ma­chines for the Abia State Printing and Pub­lishing Company (Publishers of the Ambas­sador Newspaper). The underlying reason for the setting up of the panel was to find out if the resources of government were used in establishing the Sun newspapers. Curiously, up till date, the panel could not establish any­thing against anybody. In fact, the panel is comatose.

Now look at these: serving workers in the state are being owed several months of sala­ries. Even pensioners are not left out. They are being owed 10 months arrears of pension. And there is no hope that they would be paid any time soon. In the midst of all these the governor has preoccupied himself with pur­chasing more and more properties within and outside the state.

Where does he think he is going with all the wealth he has been amassing? Though he uses part of it to perpetrate evils across the state, it will not ultimately take him to any­where good. He has forgotten so easily that life is transitory. How old is he now and how much longer will he live to enjoy his loot? Nonetheless, the cries of the people he sup­presses on a daily basis have continued to beckon to heaven to intervene.

The evils the man is planning in the days ahead are monumental. For instance, he has concluded plans with his son to rig the forth­coming governorship election in the state. They are sewing fake army and police uni­forms and hiring thugs – all in an effort to intimidate voters and manipulate the election of April 11. But I wish to assure him that his plans will fall through. The scenario we had last Saturday will be quite different from what is to obtain on April 11.

Let me warn the governor not to take his luck too far on April 11. The people are to­tally disenchanted with his performance and have vowed to vote him and his stooges out. Any attempt to subvert the will of the people will be stoutly resisted. INEC, in particular its local government staff, should resist the temptation of allowing themselves to be used as tools to cause confusion in our state.

The change mantra in Abia State is occa­sioned by the unconscionable manner Chief Orji has piloted the affairs of the state. He has led the state and its people like his per­sonal estate. He does not have any respect for anybody, least those he sees as his enemies. There is nothing on ground in the state to justify the nearly N1trillion he has collected from the Federation Account and other sun­dry sources. This governor has not done any single mega project in any of the rural parts of the state. A few Legacy Projects he did are concentrated in the state capital, leaving the rural areas heavily and mindlessly underde­veloped.

There is no state in Nigeria that is not bet­ter than Abia State in infrastructural develop­ment. The roads in Umuahia were built by the administrations of Dee Sam Mbakwe and me. None other has been built by the present administration.

I must not fail to call on INEC and the se­curity agencies to investigate what transpired in the state during the Senatorial election. They need to investigate all the results and I am sure what they will find out will make them shudder.

T.A Orji, out of his unquenchable appe­tite to cheat, made nonsense of all the ar­rangements INEC put in place to make the elections free, fair and credible. Couldn’t he have allowed the will of the people to pre­vail as his counterpart in Niger State, Bau­chi, Kebbi and other states of the federation did? Must he rig before he could be elected? All that he cared about was for the names of all his candidates to be written as having won. No more, no less. It does not bother him if the state catches fire so long as he becomes Senator. Senator without integrity, one may say.

I wish to let the governor know that all the results he manipulated to make INEC declare the wrong persons as winners of a keenly contested election will be reversed soon. We cannot fold our arms and watch him destroy our beloved state.

The will of the people surpasses our per­sonal, parochial interests. We shall all die some day, but Abia State will remain. For what shall we be remembered when earth’s journey ends? Is it as looters or builders of the economy?

I plead our people to remain calm and watchful. They should not be lethargic in this struggle or lose hope as the days of reckoning are almost here. When that day comes, the like of T.A. Orji and his co-treasury-looters will weep and gnash their teeth.

As for my stolen mandate, I will do ev­erything within my powers and the limits of law to recover it.

Congratulations

President-elect Buhari

I wish to most sincerely congratulate Gen­eral Muhammadu Buhari on his election as the next President of Nigeria. It was an elec­tion keenly won and lost.

I also salute the statesmanship and civility of President Goodluck Jonathan for conced­ing defeat without promptly.

Working together we can move Nigeria forward.

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At last, the long-awaited hour has come! http://sunnewsonline.com/new/at-last-the-long-awaited-hour-has-come/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/at-last-the-long-awaited-hour-has-come/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 23:00:58 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=111315 Today about 57 million Nigerians, representing about 82.5 per cent of registered voters with the new Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs), will troop out to choose a president who will preside over their affairs for another four years. All is set to ensure that this exercise runs smoothly. Despite the major postponement of the elections and [...]]]>

Today about 57 million Nigerians, representing about 82.5 per cent of registered voters with the new Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs), will troop out to choose a president who will preside over their affairs for another four years. All is set to ensure that this exercise runs smoothly.

Despite the major postponement of the elections and the brickbats and innuendoes that had characterised electioneering to­day’s elections are expected to go down as the most tense and critical. The reason is simple: Nigerians and, indeed, the global community have had their attention fix­ated on these elections because of Nige­ria’s strategic importance in world affairs. It is believed that Nigeria – as the largest economy in Africa – should get it right in these elections if democracy in Africa must thrive. The thinking also is that if any­thing untoward should happen to Nigeria it would have far-reaching repercussions on other countries – not only in Africa, but the world at large.

For this singular reason, the elections have attracted more than a cursory interest from the entire world. The United States, in particular, is in the forefront of the mobili­zation to ensure that the elections go well. In fact, the United Nations and its agencies have continued to offer all forms of assis­tance, including sending its personnel, to assist the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the organization of the elections.

Interestingly, security, which was at the centre of the postponement of the elections from February 14 to March 28, has now reasonably been addressed, paving the way for elections to hold even in the hotspot of the current insurgency – northeast geopo­litical zone.

With the establishment of some sem­blance of security in the zone, the elections can now go ahead despite the initial skep­ticisms and opposition. Those opposed to the staging of the elections on February 14 were quite right, because the extra time has afforded INEC the opportunity to put its house in order. It also eliminated the bad blood that would have arisen if the elec­tions had been allowed to go on as planned.

It is therefore very absurd to hear some people refer to the shift in date as a political ploy to favour some persons and a particu­lar political party. How mean could some people be? Must they sow seeds of discord before they can find solace in their hearts? Why must Nigerian politicians supplant the truth to gain cheap political points? There was no way, considering the precarious state of insecurity in the northeast zone, the elections would have held on February 14. Doing so would have amounted to sheer suicide.

Again, the forces of destruction, waiting in the wings, would have capitalized on the situation to foment trouble and truncate our fledgling democracy. So, it was the proper thing to do when the security chiefs sum­moned courage to ask for the shift.

It is also gratifying to note that the shift allowed the military fighting insurgency in the north east the opportunity to restock their armoury and take the fight to the in­surgents. Contrary to the initial inertia that greeted the operations in the areas under emergency rule, there has been a renewed vigour among the soldiers and other secu­rity forces to prove their mettle. The past three weeks have seen the military gaining more grounds and recovering some towns and communities earlier lost to the Boko Haram sect.

The consequence of the present develop­ments, in terms of security in the northeast zone, is a safer environment for voters to discharge their constitutional duty of vot­ing and be voted for. This is why I expect the elections in the zone to be unique. Al­ready there are speculations that despite the insurgency residents came out in large numbers to register. The Internally Dis­placed Persons (IDPs) are not left out in the frenzy to vote.

Across the country, those that have just attained eighteen years and slightly above are gearing up to make an impact. Because they are voting for the first time, there is some enthusiasm on their part to vote and contribute to the advancement of democ­racy in Nigeria. The high concentration of persons in these age brackets makes them a very important factor in this election.

Even the youths generally, have always been known to make meaningful impacts on any election. This is why politicians have been courting them. I am quite sure that they will wield the same influence in today’s elections. From my own assess­ment they hold the ace in the elections. I arrived at this position having deeply con­sidered the role the more elderly voters had played in elections. It is not controvertible that many of those who grace the television screens and speak big grammar are not the real voters. The real voters are the youth and the rural poor. The rich and mighty lock themselves up in the comfort of their luxurious homes for fear of violence and, even, death. But the youth, ever beaming with energy and vitality, take the bull by the horns to come out and vote.

It is for this reason that I have always supported any programmes that will in­spire the youth and save them from un­necessary dangers and afflictions. The Nigerian youth have shown a rare sense of dignity and courage, especially in the face of endless adversity. And I am confident they will demonstrate these valiant and pa­triotic qualities in today’s election.

For those that hole themselves up in their rooms until elections are over, I admonish them to shake off their lethargy and come out and vote. Voting in today’s election is the greatest service any Nigerian of voting age can do to our nation. It will amount to a tragedy of epic proportion if anybody opts not to come out and vote. Imagine what would happen if everybody refused to come out and vote. Who will make things happen then?

No matter on which side of the divide any of us may choose to be, what is para­mount at this time is to move Nigeria for­ward. The interest of Nigeria supersedes our selfish, parochial interests. We have reached a very critical stage in our national life – a point of no return – when all hands should be on the plough to save Nigeria from the doomsday prophecies of some people.

The days of politicking, casting asper­sions on one another, placing salacious and rapacious television and radio advertise­ments are over. What we have on our hands is a very sensitive national assignment of electing the President, Senators and mem­bers of the House of Representatives. I see this assignment as a noble cause that demands the active participation of every Nigerian of voting age.

For the political class, I call specially on them to guide their loins and work for peace and tranquility. We must shun vio­lence in any form by ensuring that we play the game according to the rules. The rules of the game have already been outlined by INEC. It is our duty to educate our support­ers on the need to embrace peace, and vote according to the dictates of our conscience. We must desist from fanning the embers of hate, and constantly bear in mind that we have no other country except Nigeria. If we vote in accordance with the rules and guidelines then we are working in tandem with the vision of our forbears who sacri­ficed everything to make Nigeria the envy of the global world.

It will be a big shame if we, politicians and voters alike, allowed our narrow politi­cal interests to jeopardise the growth and development of Nigeria. The violent dis­position of some politicians has continued to threaten the peace and stability of this great nation. I wish to advise those politi­cians that have perfected the act of rigging in today’s election to perish the idea, be­cause it will amount to an exercise in futil­ity to attempt to do so. Nigeria has reached a stage in her life that rigging and similar ills should no longer be condoned. INEC has worked rigorously and painstakingly to organize today’s elections to meet in­ternational standards. We should not allow greed and desperation to taint it.

It is our duty as Nigerians to enlighten one another on what should be done to en­sure hitch-free elections today. From what I was able to glean from INEC’s publicity materials accreditation of voters will com­mence as early as 8 am and last till 1 pm, after which actual voting will follow. Ac­creditation will be done with the help of the card readers, which have been deployed across the country. Each polling unit will have two card readers in case of malfunc­tioning of one. There are also extra batter­ies to back them up. Each voter is expected to present his permanent voter’s card for verification. If the card passes the authen­ticity test (which also requires the voter to place his thumb on the card reader) then the voter’s name is checked in the voters’ register. If his or her name is found in the register, he or she is then cleared to vote.

At 1 pm (after the close of accreditation) each cleared voter is issued three ballot pa­pers to cast his vote. One ballot is for the President, the second one is for the Sena­tor and the third is for the House of Rep­resentatives. After thumb-printing each of the three ballot papers the voter now turns them into the 3 ballot boxes – one at a time for each of the three positions being voted for. There will be an assistant electoral of­ficer at each polling booth whose duty it is to guide the voter, especially the not-too-literate, on which ballot box to place each of the ballot papers. This will be done in the full glare of the other voters.

I have heard the arguments about wheth­er it is proper for a voter to cast his vote and wait for the ballots to be counted. I wonder why anybody should kick against this. It is not only proper to vote and wait for your vote to be counted it is the surest way to do away with any doubts and suspicion. I will never advise any voter to cast his vote and go home. You should cast your vote and ensure your vote counts in this election. Let nobody intimidate you to do otherwise. What probably the security agents should be concerned about is the security of each of the polling units and the voters. They should also not forget that the presence of voters is an added security.

What about the use of soldiers on the day of election? I have nothing against that. What I am vehemently against is the use of any security man or woman to intimidate voters or do things that run contrary to the laws guiding the elections. I was a victim of soldiers’ intimidation during the 2011 National Assembly elections, when the en­trance to my country home was barricaded with armoured cars by solders. I have im­plicit confidence in the current leadership of the army. I am convinced they would not repeat such a disgraceful act.

It will be totally unacceptable to Nigeri­ans should anybody use the security forces in such a way as to confer an undue advan­tage on him. The security agents should be given the latitude to discharge their duties without let or hindrance. Abia State pres­ents a very curious case maybe because of the notoriety it enjoys currently. This is one state INEC and security agents should watch very closely. I am aware that some politicians in the state have shown morbid desperation in recent times, which poses a threat to the peace and security of voters in today’s election. But there is nothing to worry about as adequate measures have been taken to forestall any disruption of the elections or intimidation of any voter.

The Nigerian voters have a duty to vote wisely and courageously. It is needless end­lessly complaining about bad leadership. This is an opportunity to vote out anybody that has not performed. For those that have performed it is morally obligatory that we vote for them to continue the good works they are doing.

The recent tour of my Senatorial Zone has opened my eyes to the rot in the sys­tem and the urgent need to work to redress it. There are boundless opportunities in the zone, but nothing has been done of recent to develop the zone. I saw some able-bod­ied youth and men whiling away their time playing draft, snooker and other forms of games when they should be busy working. I find this intolerable. We must harness the rich potentialities of the zone and its people and integrate them into the global economy for the betterment of our nation and state.

The much we did as a government some eight years ago is all they have been living on. There is hope for better days ahead if they would do the needful to turn their fate around.

On the part of INEC, I urge it to stick to its gun and not change the post in the middle of the match. They must conduct the elections in accordance with the ar­rangements it had put in place. There is no doubt that it is under intense pressure by politicians and other subterranean forces bent on manipulating the system for their self-aggrandizement. They must not give in to their threats and offer of filthy lucre. The interest of Nigeria surpasses the inter­ests of a few disgruntled elements.

The outcome of these elections will make or mar our nation. It will also give credence or not to the doomsday prophe­cies that the days of Nigeria as a united nation are numbered. Nobody else can de­termine the fate of Nigeria other than Nige­rians themselves.

This is why we have to conduct our­selves decorously and avoid any act ca­pable of breaching the peace and stability of our nation.

I thank God for the gift of one another and the grace to continue to exist as one, indivisible nation in spite of our manifest differences.

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SEEING ABIA’S AGONY, PAIN, RUINS, I WEPT http://sunnewsonline.com/new/seeing-abias-agony-pain-ruins-i-wept/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/seeing-abias-agony-pain-ruins-i-wept/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 23:00:46 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=110045 I must confess straight away that I was not emotionally prepared for what I ex­perienced last Saturday as our convoy went through major streets in Umua­hia en route Igbere my hometown – from the Sam Mbakwe Airport, Owerri. It was nothing planned – just a routine visit to Igbere. But alighting at the Owerri Air­port [...]]]>

I must confess straight away that I was not emotionally prepared for what I ex­perienced last Saturday as our convoy went through major streets in Umua­hia en route Igbere my hometown – from the Sam Mbakwe Airport, Owerri. It was nothing planned – just a routine visit to Igbere. But alighting at the Owerri Air­port and seeing the mammoth crowd that had assembled to receive me changed the whole configuration of a, hitherto, quiet visit home.

As our convoy approached the Abia Tower (gateway into the city) the atmosphere was charged as traders and other onlookers trooped towards the convoy singing, dancing and hailing. It was a scene better seen than imagined.

One thing was, however, noticeable: in their faces was written agony, anger, frustration, despondency and dimmed hope. The situation got out of hand when we approached the famous Okpara Square – as more people joined – turning the whole thing into a carnival of sort.

I was riding in a Hummer bus – which has been the tradition since I was governor – but I could no longer stay embedded in the bus. So, I had to stand by the door of the bus to acknowledge cheers from my people. They were singing and dancing and jubilating. Some of them – very old and wearied by poverty and neglect in the hands of Governor T.A. Orji’s insensitive government – still found strength to join the crowd in jubilation.

They openly expressed frustration with the current administration in the state and cried out for redemption. To drive home the level of frustration some people in the jubilant crowd handed over pieces of paper itemising their woes and sufferings under the regime of Governor Orji. The notes were hurriedly scribbled. One of the notes read: “Please Sir, save us from the hand of Emperor T.A. Orji.”

Because of the sentiments and outflow of emotions from the surging crowd the convoy was forced to make a detour into major streets in the city where people had already lined up to catch a glimpse of me. There was a particular woman – she should be about 80 years of age – who was among the crowd. She struggled just like every other person to touch me. I was moved to tears as I asked the convoy to break so that I could touch her too. She told me something that tore my heart. She said and I quote her verbatim (she spoke in Igbo but I have paraphrased it in English): “All I wish to tell you, my son, is try and redeem this state from the wicked hands of the evil people. I was shocked.” It was at this point that I broke down. I could no longer control my emotions, which were running riot.

What the old woman said captured the mood in the state: despair and disillusionment.

The story continues: by the time we got to Isi Gate (the centre of the city that once housed the Umuahia Main Market) the crowd had tripled, making it difficult to control them. We were able to manage the crowds, because they were peaceful and orderly. All of them kept shouting: Liberate us! Liberate us!

By the time we left Umuahia to continue our journey to Igbere – my hometown – word reached us that more crowds were building up at designated points along the major road leading to Igbere. Driving through Uzuakoli to Akara was something else. The crowd was dancing and jubilating. In short at Akara (a prominent junction on the Umuahia-Arochukwu Road) our convoy was forced to a stop, with the crowd urging me to walk instead of driving to the palace of their traditional ruler for a courtesy call. I had to come down from the bus and we all trekked to the palace of the traditional ruler, His Royal Majesty Eze Ozo Ukandu, where we were warmly received.

Other traditional rulers were not left out of the jubilation. They turned out in large numbers to receive us. Needless stating that the crowd waiting at my country home was something out of this world.

I have given this brief account to underscore the pain and agony that pervade every nook and cranny of Abia State. I have been imagining what would have happened if this scenario had played out in Aba. I know it would have been almost impossible to control the Aba crowd. The situation of life in Aba is grave. In fact, Aba has been turned upside down by the insensitivity of the government of Governor Orji. I wept when a television station in Lagos was showing pictures of decayed infrastructure in the city last week. I saw human beings and vehicles struggling for right of way on mountains of refuse and water-logged roads. It was a very gory sight.

I wish to ask Governor Orji why he has allowed a beautiful state I handed over to him in 2007 turn into a jungle? The whole place looks like there had never been a government since the state was created. If he had a modicum of conscience he should not have allowed the state (Aba in particular) to be in its present sorry state. Where did all the revenue that had accrued to our state – running into close to a trillion naira – gone to? Even the internally generated revenue of which Aba is a major contributor could not even be deployed in the development of the state! I am shell-shocked.

Governor Orji has shown by his actions and inactions since he assumed office that he was not mentally and morally equipped to become governor. Why then did he create the impression and pretended that he was ready to work for our people when inside him he had a different agenda? I find his attitude offensive, irrational, wicked, and a betrayal. I have understood now why he opted to fight me for offering him advice to work for our people. He had always wanted to distance himself from everybody that worked for his victory as governor so that he could do as he wished.

Up till date, he has not told the world what I did to him to warrant all the antagonisms and vituperations he pours on my person on a daily basis. He estranges himself from anybody who has anything to do with me – all in a futile effort to cover his dirty tracks. This is one man who detests the truth and is ready to fight whoever that promotes it.

Since I returned to Abia State last week to galvanize support for the re-election of President Goodluck Jonathan I have been inundated with all kinds of stories and complaints from victims of Governor Orji’s misrule. It has reached a level that the people no longer care about what happens to them – whether they are killed or left to live. All along they had lived in fear, not sure what would happen to them if they spoke up. There were also different accounts from the victims of how they were arrested and detained for airing their views on issues concerning the way the state is governed. According to them the governor and his son have thugs that go round popular joints in the state with the aim of harassing and intimidating innocent citizens, especially those seemingly opposed to the governor or his son.

Those whose shops were demolished at the Umuahia Main Market and Timber Industrial Market without compensation three years ago have also visited me asking for resettlement. Their stories are heartrending. Now read what one of them told me: I am 82 years old. I owned one sawmill at the Umuahia Industrial Market. I retired a few years ago, handed over the mill to my son, and relocated to the village. That shop is the only source of livelihood for me and my son and our families. We woke up one morning to hear that the government had demolished the market against all entreaties to allow us some time to find an alternative accommodation. Painfully, we did not retrieve a single pin from the shop. As I speak to you government has not said a word to us. Now they have turned the former Timber Market into a private estate of the governor and his son.

There were worse cases than the preceding one. But what I was able to gather from all the tales of woe that had been told me since my return is: our people are suffering and need a redeemer.

In fact, my house in Igbere has turned into a Mecca of sort since last Saturday, with thousands of people streaming in and out.

I have also traversed the entire Abia North Senatorial Zone (my own zone) since I returned and what I saw made me shed tears. Our people are dying in silence. There is nothing on ground in the zone to show the presence of government. There are no roads, no potable water, no medical facilities, and no electricity. The people live under unbearable conditions, yet they have a government that superintends over their affairs. As impoverished as the people are the government and its agents still collect taxes and rates from them.

I could not believe my eyes as we waded through the bad roads. No single new road had been built in the zone by the administration of Governor Orji since 2007. The only available roads were those we managed to construct or rehabilitate between 1999 -2007. Now they need to be properly maintained.

One is compelled to ask what then has Governor Orji done since he came into power? His attention is focused on a few legacy projects he is executing and through which he has siphoned billions of naira. Why has he failed to embark on people-oriented projects that would add value to our people’s lives, instead of wasting scarce resources on white elephants?

For the 8 years he has been in the saddle he has spent 80% of it chasing shadows and fighting perceived enemies. Who told Governor Orji I am his enemy? I could not have been his enemy, because nothing in my character has portrayed that. How could I have been his enemy when I made enormous sacrifices to make him governor? Without God, our people and me there was no way T.A. Orji would have become governor.

The only grouse I had ever had about the governor was that I asked him to stop beating about the bush and work for our people. He took offence at my advice and drew the battle line. If there is any other thing let him then make it known to whole the world. I have kept making this assertion because I have wondered endlessly what could be behind his animosity towards me. He pays out huge sums of money to media hirelings to attack my character.

I have come back to personally lead President Jonathan’s reelection campaigns. Left to the lacklustre government of Chief Orji nothing concrete can come out of it. I know in his usual inanity he would be banking on cutting corners to win election. The era for that has passed. The only thing that can win election for anybody today is hard work, honesty and record of achievements. Regrettably, Governor Orji has none to showcase. How then does he hope to deliver himself, let alone President Jonathan?

There are thousands of people who had made up their minds not to vote for Jonathan before now because of the excesses of Governor Orji. After persuading them and reassuring them that things would change very soon their anger was appeased.

The governor lives on propaganda. He goes to Abuja to gossip whereas back home he is not worth anything in terms of character and performance. Nobody in his right senses in Abia State today would tell you the governor has performed. Those who sing his praise are his acolytes and hatchet men. No more, no less!

One identified problem of the governor is his unmatchable greed and acquisitive tendency. He wants to acquire the entire Abia State as his personal estate. He has bought, in the midst of grinding poverty of his people, almost every available space in Umuahia with his filthy lucre. What a shame!

Governor Orji knows deep inside him that he has lost favour with the people. They are waiting for March 28 to vote him out. If he likes let him apply all kinds of brute force, spend all the money in this world, and threaten fire and brimstone, he will still lose.

The frustration, agony and pain of our people are palpable and can be felt anywhere one goes. The people have compared our two administrations and returned a vote of no confidence in Chief Orji’s government. They recall with fond memories my days as governor – when everything worked. We did not have as much financial resources as the present government, but we managed the little with had to bring succour and hope to our people. We worked for the people, we empowered them and we motivated them. Our government began with the people and ended with the people. We did not allow anything to come between us and the welfare of the people.

It gives me immense joy, therefore, that, at last, we have been vindicated. All the plots of the governor to turn the people against me have failed flat. Instead of antagonism what we receive from the people are accolades and encomiums – all to his chagrin.

I am motivated by the people’s show of love and solidarity since I returned to the state last Saturday. It has been electrifying. I wish to reassure them of my continued support and determination to work for their good. As long as I have breath in me I will never cease defending them against the forces of darkness and exploitation.

Let me, however, urge them to guard their loins and let us work collectively and vigilantly for our emancipation. Abians can only be liberated if they got their PVCs and used the same to vote for the candidates of their choice and defend their votes. As believers in the rule of law and constitutionality, I advise them to remain law-abiding and shun violence.

Let me quickly remind the governor of the two challenges I threw to him, which he is yet to respond to. The first is for us to secure the services of the best audit firms in the world to audit our two administrations to determine which of them had stolen Abia people’s money. And the second is for me and him to walk throughout the streets of Aba to see who will be stoned and pelted with sachet water.

I expect him to accept these challenges as soon as possible or hide his face in shame forever.

 

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Orji’s legacy projects: Cover for fraud http://sunnewsonline.com/new/orjis-legacy-projects-cover-for-fraud/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/orjis-legacy-projects-cover-for-fraud/#comments Fri, 13 Mar 2015 23:00:17 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=109017 When the paired word ‘Legacy Projects’ cropped up in the political lexicon of Abia State a few years ago, many people thought it was conceived by Governor T.A. Orji for the genuine development of the state. However, little did they realize at the time that it was an ingenious scheme designed by Governor Orji to [...]]]>

When the paired word ‘Legacy Projects’ cropped up in the political lexicon of Abia State a few years ago, many people thought it was conceived by Governor T.A. Orji for the genuine development of the state. However, little did they realize at the time that it was an ingenious scheme designed by Governor Orji to pull wool over their eyes! And that was what it exactly turned to be – a drainpipe, a calculated design to deceive the people.

But my instinct told me instantly, when I heard about the ‘Legacy Projects’ that the idea behind it was not wholly genuine. I knew the governor very well, and knew he had something up his sleeves. And so, I kept my ears to the ground, with eyes wide open, to know what tricks the governor was going to play next on the gullible and helpless people of God’s Own State.

The reason for my alertness was occasioned by the desperation exhibited by the governor as soon as he mounted the saddle of leadership in the state, particularly since he did not take kindly to the innocuous advice I offered him to sit up and perform according to the expectations of the people who elected him. You could recall that before the introduction of the legacy projects the governor had secured loans running into hundreds of millions of naira from banks without any projects on ground to justify the huge borrowings.

So, information started filtering out from the banks that the governor was borrowing huge amounts without any veritable repayment plan. Alarmed by the reports I opted to conduct a private investigation. The outcome was positive.

I approached the governor with the information, but surprisingly he denied it. And instead of making amends and taking steps to ameliorate the situation he took to the trenches, declaring a total war against me and anybody connected to me in any way.

Surprisingly, he has sustained the onslaught against me for the simple reason that he sees me as the only obstacle to his looting agenda in Abia State. I have written about my relationship with him and how I sacrificed everything to make him governor. As such, I would not want to bore you with the story again.

But one thing is certain: Governor Orji has done a great disservice to our people. He has made promises he has not bothered to keep. The Legacy Projects were never a part of his original plan for the development of Abia State. As I indicated from the onset the scheme was put together as an emergency measure to hide the thieving plot of the governor and offer justification for the billions of naira looted by him, his family and their cronies.

It has never been in doubt that the first four years of the governor was used by him to chase shadow – fighting imaginary enemies and perfecting his plot to pillage the resources of our state.

The plot came to the fore when he chose to jump ship and pitch tent with PDP. He had reasoned that his malfeasant activities would better be protected in the party. However, unknown to him the searchlight will still catch him wherever he runs to.

Because of the wasted first four years of his tenure the governor conceived the legacy projects to cover his tracks and justify the huge borrowings from the banks and the allocations from the federation account – a substantial part of which is diverted monthly to other self-centred purposes. I have challenged the governor on a number of occasions in this column to justify the huge allocations the state has received from Abuja since 2007 when he assumed office as governor – running into hundreds of billions of naira.  Up till the time of writing this piece, he is yet to respond to that challenge.

The state of things in Abia State gets worse by the day. Workers are not paid. Those paid are not paid regularly. Pensioners have not been paid in the past 10 months. The same is the case with primary and secondary school teachers – many of whom drop dead like chickens for lack of salaries.

Now wait for this: there is no single project, including the Legacy Projects, worth up to N1billion in the entire Abia State. I challenge the governor to publish the financial involvement of each of the projects, especially those in the Legacy Projects tranche.

The fraud that the legacy projects became manifest when the government of Abia State, with the express consent of the governor, invited some media bloggers, select journalists and social media commentators to the state to see ‘things ‘for themselves. In the governor’s estimation, the visit would enable the government to buy its way into the hearts of the media team and, by so doing, influence their reports. Unfortunately, that plot boomeranged as many of those that made the team to the state wrote exactly what they saw. From their reports it was clear that the so-called legacy projects were a ruse – a well-orchestrated scheme to milk the state dry.

I have personally read some of these reports and still have them in my library. One of the reports openly challenged the governor to tell the whole world what each of the legacy projects costs. The same challenge I had posed to the governor on a number of occasions, to no avail.

In fact, it was a thug-of-war between the media team and the governor’s aides who accompanied them on the verification tour as the aides were reluctant to answer questions posed to them with regard to the costs of the ‘legacy projects’. Embarrassingly, each time the question was asked it was rebuffed and the team curiously referred to the governor for appropriate answers. If the legacy projects were not designed to defraud the state why then are their costs a hidden matter? Why has the state government not found it worthwhile to publish the list of the projects and what they cost Abia State taxpayers?

There are more questions than answers. Let us continue. Why has the government of Abia State refused every request to give the costs of the projects if indeed its hands are clean? The worst part is that the governor has been very evasive on the matter. In all of the publications by his administration on its performance none contains any information about the costs of the legacy projects.

But from what I have been able to glean all the legacy projects put together are not worth over N5 billion.

The concentration of all the legacy projects in Umuahia – the state capital – and ancestral home of the governor – makes the whole thing look tardy and suspicious. Almost 60 per cent of the legacy projects were renovated structures. For instance, one of the structures in the new state secretariat complex was actually an existing structure that was reroofed and repainted. It is even on record that our own administration did some renovation in the same complex when some of its pillars were found to be collapsing.

What of the Amachara General Hospital – another Legacy Project? The hospital has been there since the creation of the state. Even our administration (1999-2000) carried out some renovation works on the hospital. What the present administration did, in the name of legacy projects, was to carry out some renovations and get the whole place repainted, and its signboard mounted. There is nothing wonderful about it. I regret to state here that the things one sees outsider do not portray what is inside. What one finds inside is a totally different story all together.

The Mecure Specialist Diagnostic Centre in Umuahia, which the government of Governor Orji flaunts as a legacy project once housed the Alaoma Hospital – a private hospital owned by Dr. Anagha Ezeikpe, which he sold to the state government. The structures in the complex were simply repainted and their roofs replaced. The same situation obtains at the State’s Customary Court of Appeal located in Umuahia. The entire complex was renovated, reroofed and repainted. There is no single new structure on the premises. The first renovation works on the premises were executed by our administration (1999-2000). What the outgoing government in Umuahia did was to renovate it further to look as if it were a new project to hoodwink unsuspecting members of the public.

What about the Commissioners’ Quarters? Who in Abia State does not know that the project was executed by our administration (1999-2007)? Shamelessly, the governor contracted a firm to repaint the whole structures and place a signboard as if the project was done by his government. What a fraud!

From available records, it is clear that the government of Chief Orji is laying claims to the 1000-units Ehimiri Housing Estate. How on earth could the governor be so unabashed as to lay claims to a project he did not even start let alone complete? Our government (1999-2007) constructed the Ehimiri Housing Estate, completed and allocated it to the beneficiaries – many of whom are civil servants. Imagine what would have happened if we had not had the wisdom to start and complete the housing estate considering the perennial shortage of decent accommodation in the state? I was travelling to Uyo some time ago and saw a huge signboard with the governor’s photograph adorning the entrance to the estate.

To be fair to the governor there are a few projects he started under the legacy projects scheme, which, for I know, do not have any relevance to the pressing needs of the people. In fact, they are not people-oriented projects, but were started to serve as conduit-pipes to fritter away the state’s financial resources. Some of these projects are the new International Conference Centre, Mega Events Centre, Obani Main Market (which replaced the demolished Umuahia Central Market), the new industrial market, and the new Government House. Out of the five projects only the Obani and Industrial Markets had been partially completed. The other two are less than 30% completed. It is important to state here that the Obani Market situated on the outskirts of the state capital has not served any useful purpose to traders since it was commissioned about two years ago. They see it as a curse rather blessing.

It is a pity watching traders stay from morning till night without any serious patronage as nobody would risk doing a 10-kilometer journey everyday to go and shop when one can easily access smaller markets in the city and  its environs or better still patronize the Onu-Imo Market in Imo State, which is closer.

Obani market was hurriedly built and this made it lack some basic amenities such as water, toilets, and health centre, etc which should have made life a bit comfortable for the traders. There are provisions for these amenities, quite all right, but up till the time of writing this report their absence has caused the traders untold hardships. What sense did it make to Governor Orji to build a market that does not serve any useful purpose for the people of our state?

The mega events centre, which is under construction, is not a priority project. What purpose will such a utopian project serve the people who daily groan under the weight of excess taxation; unpaid salaries and pensions, and dearth of basic infrastructure such as roads, pipe borne water, decent accommodation. Now when completed, can an average Abian who is impoverished by the eight years of waste under Governor Orji afford the luxury of such a high-class event centre?

Experience has shown that such projects do not thrive in poverty-stricken places like Abia State. When we were in office as governor we offered many Abians opportunities to develop themselves cognitively and materially. In fact, no administration before or after us has made life as worth-living as we had done. We took government to the doorsteps of every Abian and made every resident – indigene or non-indigene – feel at home. Security was provided all year-round with salaries of workers paid as due. Ask anybody in Abia State who lived in the state from 1999 to 2007 to compare and contrast our two governments. He will tell you the difference is clear. Even the governor himself can acknowledge this fact if he can be truthful to himself.

It was because of the tempo of development and the enviable strides we made that skewed the tide in favour of Chief Orji to succeed me. We had reasoned that as an insider he would be able to sustain our collective vision and work with increased vigour to develop our state. But the reverse turned out to be the case.

I find it offensive and the height of insensitivity that Governor Orji would dump a well-designed manifesto of 2007 to chase shadow. The script he is acting was written without my knowledge or the knowledge of any member of our team. His own script is self-centred, insensitive, purposeless and without clear-cut vision. As indicated earlier it was designed to hoodwink the people and bring fortunes to the T.A. Orji Dynasty.

His desperation to install a puppet, go to the Senate, and his son, the state House of Assembly, is all part of the grand design to perpetuate the dynasty. When I was governor I was accused of ‘mamatocracy’ (even when this allegation was untrue). But what will the governor who made his son the de facto governor and his wife one of the henchmen of his administration? We can call this one, ‘familiocracy’.

The long and short of it is that all the arm-twisting tactics, media blitzkrieg, antagonism and hatred by the governor are all part of a grand design to cover his tracks and shield himself from possible prosecution over the fraud that the so-called Legacy Projects have been.

But time will expose his evil deeds and bring him to justice.

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Gov. Orji riding the tiger’s back http://sunnewsonline.com/new/gov-orji-riding-the-tigers-back/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/gov-orji-riding-the-tigers-back/#comments Fri, 06 Mar 2015 23:00:34 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=107984 Strange things happen in Abia State where Chief Theodore Orji strides like the Lord of the Manor and carries himself with such haughtiness as if the state belongs to him and his family. He has refused to turn a new leaf despite all entreaties for him to do so. He prefers beating about the bush [...]]]>

Strange things happen in Abia State where Chief Theodore Orji strides like the Lord of the Manor and carries himself with such haughtiness as if the state belongs to him and his family. He has refused to turn a new leaf despite all entreaties for him to do so. He prefers beating about the bush to accepting the wise counsels of concerned persons who have repeatedly drawn his attention to the perilous path he is treading. He sees nothing wrong in his reckless actions and utterances but prefers to pander to praise-singing and cult-worship.

Truth to him is like a bitter pill, which must be avoided at all costs. His best friends are those who massage his ego and sing his praise to high heavens; but those who criticize or advise him wisely have been demonized and left in the lurch.

Because he loves praise-singing he has surrounded himself with many praise-sing­ers. Many of his so-called advisers instead of wasting their time and talents offering him useful advice on how to develop the state, which he will never accept in good faith, they have chosen to buy airtime in the state-owned broadcast station to sing his praise from morning till night every blessed day. You hardly hear any quality news from the station. All one hears on a daily basis, per second per second, is “Ochendo Global did this, Ochendo Glob­al did that’, without anything on ground to show for it. It is like a circus display: the more you look the less you see – abraca­dabra.

There is no single day you open a news­paper in Nigeria without finding a disheart­ening story about Abia State. It is needless recounting some of the purulent and gory tales oozing out of our ill-fated state, be­cause the list is endless. But one undeni­able fact is that Abia State is steadily on the march to perdition. The only saving grace is that the so-called obnoxious Ochendo era will end soon. It is just a matter of two months before the people sing the real lib­eration song.

When I witness what is happening in Abia State and the decrepit level it has sunk in the past 8 years my heart is mel­ancholic. The level of corruption the state has witnessed under Governor Orji is mindboggling and indescribably embar­rassing. Imagine a state that has earned an average of N5 billion monthly, excluding internally-generated revenue, since 2007, without anything tangible to show for it! The state is run like the private property of the governor and his family. They call the shots and decide who gets what. Does this translate to true democracy?

The people of Abia State constantly live in fear: nobody dares to speak out or he will face the music in the hands of the governor’s ruthless thugs or those of his ‘mighty’ son – seen everywhere he goes as the de facto governor. If anybody dis­putes this position let him now tell me why the governor, despite his abysmal perfor­mance, should have the effrontery to offer himself up for Senate and his son, House of Assembly. They should have completed the circle by offering his wife the seat to the Umuahia/Ikwuano Federal Constitu­ency. What a shame!

The selfishness of Governor Orji and his ambition are pathologically vaulting. Everything he thinks about is himself and his family. While the state is the goose that lays the golden eggs, the people are his footstools. And there is no end in sight to his insensitivity and misadministration.

I receive hundreds of text messages every week from some of our agonized people back home in Abia State, complain­ing about the draconian and uncaring ad­ministration of the governor. They ask for solution, they cry for redemption. One of the text messages actually provoked me to write this piece. The writer complained about how her shop at the former Umua­hia Main Market was demolished without the government offering her a lifeline. Ac­cording to her, she has spent all her savings since the market was relocated to Obani, outskirts of Umuahia, because she was not allotted a shop in the new market. There are thousands of others like this woman whose shops were demolished, and up till today have not been given any replace­ment.

It is very sad that the stalls in the new market were shared out to the governor’s cronies, hangers-on, family members, po­litical associates and friends, who in turn resold them at exorbitant prices. This is why many of the displaced traders could not secure a space in the new market.

Another tragedy is that traders relocat­ed to the new market and who were able to secure new shops idle away every day for lack of patronage. Many of them have closed shop and now stay at home, instead of spending the little money at their dis­posal transporting themselves to the new market, which is about 10 kilometers away.

Some of the texts also drew attention to the lack of basic amenities such as water, electricity, roads, etc across the state. In­terestingly, a sizeable number of the texts came from the City of Aba, which is in a state of total collapse. When I was gov­ernor of the state from 1999 to 2007, our administration ensured that the city was well-catered to. We rehabilitated almost all the bad roads in the city and provided other amenities that made life pleasurable for the people. We were able to rebuild Aba de­spite our lean resources, because of its stra­tegic importance as the economic livewire of the state.

I find it inexplicable that Governor Orji could allow Aba to degenerate to its pres­ent pitiful state, when his administration collects huge revenue from there in form of taxes. This is the height of wickedness!

Residents of Aba are very bitter and frustrated with the governor. They have al­ways wanted a way to vent their anger for a very long time. So, what happened last Friday at the burial of our beloved Bishop Valentine Ezeonyia, where the governor was thoroughly embarrassed by the people of the city, was unfortunate and generally avoidable!

Probably, the governor underestimated the capacity of the people to react the way they did. He personally courted the wrath of the people and now is seeking a scape­goat in another person. To clone my phone number and purport a message to have been written by me apologizing to the gov­ernor over the incident of last Friday was a show of shame by the governor and his cohorts. Why should anybody clone my phone number to serve his self-centred agenda?

The cause of the rift between me and the governor was that I advised him to gear up and work for the people. I had told him pointblank in 2008 – after 12 months in of­fice as governor – that the people were not happy with his performance. I also advised him to stop taking loans indiscriminately from banks as that would be detrimental to his administration on the long run. Instead of taking my advice in good faith and mak­ing amends he opted to antagonize me.

Thereafter, he nicknamed himself ‘Ochendo Global’ and started reveling in debauchery. His acolytes and band of praise-singers sweet-talk him and this makes his head swell. His sense of reason­ing, having been beclouded by vainglory, leaves him power-drunk and drenched with myopia. His actions in turn become anti-people and irrational. This is the lot of the man in the saddle in Abia State.

It is on record that since we went our separate ways I have taken the back seat and allowed him to run the show as he so desires. But one thing I have vowed not to do is to see evil and not speak up against it. So long I have breath in me I will continue to condemn evil in whatever ramification it rears its ugly head.

Our elders and other stakeholders have unfortunately lost their manhood. They prefer to gallivant with the governor for the crumbs from his table. Some of them are captains of industry, retired military men, and intellectuals who should ordinarily show exemplary leadership to the young ones. The misadministration of Abia State under the watch of the governor has been bolstered by the tacit support he gets from these shameless people. Today Abia State is a Pariah State, despised by many.

There is nothing anywhere in the state to show the true presence of government. What greet a first-time visitor to the state are mountainous heaps of refuse, dilapi­dated roads, and poverty written in the faces of the people. There is no state capi­tal in Nigeria, except Umuahia, that does not wear a new look. When the attention of the governor is drawn to the develop­mental strides made by neighbouring states such as Akwa Ibom State he cites dispar­ity in federal allocation collectible by the two states as a reason. Nobody compares Abia State to Akwa Ibom, but at least there should be signs of government presence in Abia State based on what it has collected so far from Abuja.

Conservatively, Abia State has received close to a trillion naira from the federation account and internally-generated revenue since 2007. Despite this huge sum received the state is still very poor and backward. The only evidence of development was the accomplishments recorded by the admin­istrations of Sam Mbakwe and Orji Kalu. Where then has all the money gone?

Business Mogul Arthur Eze visited Abia State on the invitation of the governor re­cently and left a very sad man. What he said about the poor state of infrastructure in the state is in the public domain. Unfor­tunately, in spite of the berating by Dr. Eze the governor has carried on as usual. And this makes him a very incorrigible person. What on earth would cause a governor to continue in his evil ways when he has the opportunity to repent? If somebody had told me in 1999 that Chief Theodore Orji was going to behave in the manner he does at present I would not have believed him.

I trusted him with the destiny of Abia State by supporting him to become gover­nor, not knowing that the mien he exhib­ited throughout the period he served as my chief of staff was fake and pretentious. You the reader may not appreciate what I am saying until you have encountered this sly man. He laughs with you but deep in his heart he harbours evil.

For Governor Orji, misrule, corrup­tion and greed are the same thing and ten pence. He cannot spot any difference among them. For if he could spot the dif­ference then he would know that they are evils and should be avoided. There is no person in Abia State who has not tasted the bitter pill served by the governor and his family. From the poor to the mighty, the powerful to the weak, it is the same tales of woes.

The people cry daily for redemption. They pray ceaseless that the burden placed upon them by the misdeeds of the governor be taken away by God without further de­lay. Anger and frustration have enveloped our people. They have sworn never to have any dealings with the governor or his fam­ily again. Even among the kinsmen of the governor the story is the same. They also want change. They allege that their son has forsaken them and has not done anything to better their lot since he assumed the of­fice of governor.

The anti-Theodore Orji sentiments have been on geometric rise, particularly after the controversial PDP primaries in which he foisted himself and his son on the party as their senatorial and House of Assem­bly candidates respectively. It is not an exaggeration to state that from what is on ground there is no way the governor could win any election anywhere in Abia State again. The people, whom he has taken for a ride, are ready to pay him back in his own coin.

I challenge anybody in doubt to under­take a tour of Abia State to feel the pulse of the people. A few persons who profit from the governor’s purposeless leadership may run ring round him, prodding him to go on with his recklessness and insensitivity – but that will not avert the judgement of the people that is about to befall him. I know he still recalls what I always told him while serving as my chief of staff – that evil has an expiry date. Whatever anyone does in life – good or bad, right or wrong – has a reward.

For Governor Orji he has wasted all the goodwill he had, including the opportunity to worm him back into the masses’ hearts. The only worry I have is the liabilities he is going to leave behind as he races out of Government House Umuahia come May 29. I am aware that the level of indebted­ness of his government to the banks, differ­ent categories of workers, pensioners, and contractors is frightening. This was exactly what our administration avoided as we pre­pared to leave office in 2007. We ensured that we left no debts – local or foreign – so that the incoming administration would not be bogged down by carry-over liabilities.

Lest we forget: I threw a challenge to Governor Orji last year for us to seek the services of the best audit firm in the world to audit the accounts of our governments to see who among us has misappropriated and plundered the financial resources of our beloved state. I even offered to de­fray the cost of the audit whenever it takes place. Sadly, six months after the challenge he is yet to respond to it. The simple de­duction to make from his deliberate silence is that he has something to hide. Otherwise he would have accepted the challenge long ago.

In conclusion, I wish to state that I have nothing personal against Governor Orji, even though he has disappointed me and the good people of Abia State who believed in me and voted him into power while in prison. I have only drawn attention to the realities that await him, in case he has for­gotten that after thunder comes calm. He should come down from his high horse and seek the face of God and reconcile himself with Him and the people before it becomes too late.

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