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IRUKERA: HOW NOT TO REWARD ALTRUISM

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*By Tunde Olusunle*

Monday January 8, 2024, Nigerians woke up to the news of the suspension of Betta Edu, who was formerly the Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation. On the same day, Babatunde Ayokunle Irukera who was for six years Executive Vice Chairman of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, (FCCPC), was relieved of his appointment. Both developments compelled an essay which I titled “On Betta Edu and Tunde Irukera.” The article was generously ventilated by the media even as I attempted to draw comparisons between two public offices with different pedigrees and also different “misdemeanours.” Evidence in the public domain attested to blatant disregard for public service rules and mammoth thievery by one of the two people I wrote about. The other public servant was uncharacteristically innovative, transparent and altruistic in his approach to work. He literally excavated a government agency in the throes of asphyxiation and obliteration, to a world class organisation, to local and international aplomb.

Much unlike me, I had, just weeks before, written about Irukera following the recognition of the agency he superintended over as “Government Agency of the Year.” This was evidence to how very closely I followed the good works of Irukera. The honour in question came from *Leadership* newspapers one of Nigeria’s most reputable tabloids. FCCPC was selected for the acclamation for “promoting fairness, regulatory stability and consumer protection within the marketplace.” My piece alluded to the uncommon-ness of Irukera’s attitude to public service which is construed by many office holders as licence for the wholesale looting and holistic decimation of departments assigned to them. Haven’t we just been told that nine officers in the Nigerian Customs Services, (NCS) were recently fingered in a N12 Billion scam?

In pronouncing the FCCPC under Irukera as an authentic public service exemplar, *Leadership* noted that since his appointment in 2017, the organisation had pursued “a transformative journey reshaping and rebranding the erstwhile Consumer Protection Council, (CPC).” Further, the newspaper noted that the organisation had been refocused as a “proactive and consumer-centric FCCPC.” Irukera’s oversight of the commission’s transformation and operationalisation beginning from January 30, 2019, *Leadership* noted had been a game-changer. Further still, the awarding newspaper said: “Following the enactment of the FCCPC Act, Irukera has demonstrated “unwavering dedication to fostering a dynamic and responsive regulatory environment.” The FCCPC under Irukera it was observed “has recorded numerous milestones across diverse sectors including healthcare, digital finance and electricity.”

According to *Leadership,* “one of the standout accomplishments of Irukera’s FCCPC is the strategic development and implementation of the Patient’s Bill of Rights.” That initiative establishes a comprehensive framework empowering patients with essential rights such as informed consent, confidentiality and unrestricted access to their medical records.” The Patient Bill of Rights, *Leadership* observed, “serves as a charter of principles delineating the rights and responsibilities of patients, healthcare providers and the regulatory body.” This is “an approach which fosters a culture of transparency, accountability and patient-centric care.”

Irukera’s leadership at the FCCPC witnessed other strategic initiatives and impactful interventions in other sectors, notably in digital finance, the power sector and in the nation’s bureaucracy. FCCPC was also catalytic in shaping Nigeria’s business environment which became more cognisant of the emplacement of fairness, consumer protection and regulatory stability. Local and foreign investors have continued to experience the transformative impact of standardised practices instituted by the FCCPC. This congruence between national and international standards, in combination with rigorous process auditing and the development of guidelines and standard operating procedures, serves as an imprimatur of quality assurance in the Nigerian marketplace. These are identified perspectives about Irukera’s exertions in public service as dispassionately enunciated by one of Nigeria’s more serious newspapers.

Confident of his transparent governance approach, Irukera was never shy of media engagement. On the eve of the last yuletide therefore, Irukera hosted the media where he noted that the FCCPC under him, had become a wholly self-sustaining department. According to him, the FCCPC made history in 2023 by generating N56 Billion. The feat was achieved by the simple enforcement of compliance to existing laws vis-a-vis the payment of penalties by defaulting companies. This was a novelty by any standards in a milieu where many government funded establishments overdraw their allocations, expend their internally generated revenues, (IGR) and still prospect for supplementation. Irukera noted at that media interface that the organisation hired new staff in strict adherence to service procedures. This assisted the federal government in taking off young, qualified, unemployed people from the streets.
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Perhaps if every ministry, department or agency under the thoroughly dysfunctional Muhammadu Buhari regime had transparently recruited qualified youths across board, the national despondency levels will be mitigated albeit marginally. Much of what we picked up in the media space was hush-hush recruitments into “A-grade” MDAs like the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), the Federal Inland Revenue Service, (FIRS) and so on. After addressing staff emoluments, overhead costs and capital requirements, the FCCPC, Irukera noted gifted the federal government N22 Billion by way of remittances! This was a most un-envisaged precedence by a government agency which was picked up from the backwoods and transformed into a national model, even bride.

On Wednesday February 28, 2024, the Senate of the Federal Republic under the leadership of Godswill Akpabio, rubber-stamped the request of President Tinubu to sack Irukera. He was deemed inefficient! For those who have followed the quiet yet impactful revolution which Tunde Irukera has pursued in the past six years, nothing can be more preposterous. There wouldn’t be a joke more cruel, more malevolent, more unfeeling than such a testimonial to a man who has invested so much in service to nation at testy times such as we have been in the past decade. Irukera demonstrated that government concerns can be effectively and productively run. What do we make of an organisation like the National Board for Arabic and Islamic Studies, (NBAIS), which was in September 2022 reprimanded by the legislature for unjustified spending? The Senate Committee on Finance and Appropriation queried NBAIS for spending N8.5 Billion annually, on 6000 employees to administer examinations to 500 students. No heads have rolled ever since in the Professor Muhammad Abdullahi-led organisation.

The spiteful removal of Babatunde Ayokunle Irukera from office the way it has been done is gross injustice and colossal disservice to patriotism and sacrifice. There have been unfounded suggestions to the effect that Irukera was blackmailed as one of those who “substantially” supported former Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo’s bid to contest the presidential primary of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) in 2022. This is most farfetched for a technocrat like Irukera whose gaze is almost permanently fixed to his desk treating official correspondences, receiving briefs, holding meetings. In other climes, Irukera should by now have in the bag recognitions like the “National Productivity Order of Merit,” (NPOM) as well as a minimum investiture with a national honour in the category of “Officer of the Order of the Niger,” (OON). He chose, however, not to hunt for titular aggrandisement preferring to immerse himself wholly and completely in service to fatherland.

Irukera’s mistreatment echoes the manner Damilola Ogunbiyi who was Managing Director of the Rural Electrification Agency under the Buhari government, was unjustly treated in 2019. She has since moved on to the global heights of the “Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Sustainable Energy for All.” She is also Co-Chair of UN Energy. Irukera always had a flourishing law practice in the United States before heeding the call to avail his country of his multiplex competencies and experiences. He is not a jobber like many whose only CV is “being abroad.” For as long as he remained in his job in Nigeria, he ran his family by telephone, virtually. The manner he has been treated will be a major disincentive to Nigerians out there who would otherwise be glad to come contribute their quotas to national development. In Irukera, Nigeria has a brand ambassador who should be engaged to hoist the nation’s banner across the world. He deserves to be genuinely apologised to, pacified and given his flowers.

 

*Tunde Olusunle, PhD, poet, journalist, scholar and author is a Fellow of the Association of Nigerian Authors, (ANA)

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ABEG, WHERE IS “WHITE LION”?

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*By Tunde Olusunle*

There’s always the tendency to ascribe our failings and flailings in our developmental and democratic growth as a nation, to our amoeboid leadership recruitment process. I differ slightly though from this perspective. My contention is that prospective leaders must first be identified and groomed before they can be deployed to the various sectors we expect them to function. Tunji Olaopa’s 2022 essay titled “Nigerian Civil Service and the Trajectory of Public Administration” illuminates the evolution of Nigeria’s civil service which was inaugurated in 1954. He alludes in the paper to “a very strong and professional civil service regarded as perhaps the strongest of the colonial legacies bequeathed to Africa.” Olaopa speaks to the “quality of the officers who founded the civil service and the institutional quality of the public service itself.” He lists Nigeria’s “civil service pioneers” to include: Simeon Adebo, Jerome Udoji, Samuel Manuwa, Ahmed Talib, Abubakar Koko, Sule Katagum, Joseph Imoukhuede, Ojimiri Johnson and Fola Ejiwunmi. This generation of public servants Olaopa notes is what we now describe as the “golden age of the public service in Nigeria.”

The second generation of public administrators and civil servants who grazed the limelight between the 1960s to the early 1970s are those popularly described as “super permanent secretaries.” This is the generation of Allison Ayida, Sunday Awoniyi, Liman Ciroma, Philip Asiodu, Abdul Aziz Atta, Festus Adesanoye, Olu Falae, Solomon Akenzua, Francesca Emmanuel, Ahmed Joda, Gilbert Obiajulu Chikelu, Gray Longe, M.A. Ejueyitchie, among others. Olaopa reminds us that the actual core of this generation who were festooned with the broche of “super permanent secretaries” were so described because they were called up at a period of grave national emergency. It was during the Nigerian civil war and they were requested to avail the country their “administrative acumen, competencies and wisdom,” to steer Nigeria through the war and stabilise the polity thereafter.

Olaopa observes that beginning from the 1975 civil service purge by the Murtala Mohammed/Olusegun Obasanjo government and onwards to the era of the Ibrahim Babangida Structural Adjustment Programme, (SAP), a de-institutionalisation process had begun. The concomitant value-orientation of the inherited civil service had been damagingly eroded. He laments that his own generation of permanent secretaries came at an age when, according to him, the service “was already deeply embroiled in the dynamics of the bureau-pathology that had debilitated the civil service.” He laments that his generation of public servants was mentored by the icons of decades past who connected them to the ideals of the golden age “in terms of their passion, professionalism and knowledge-propelled zeal for service.” Such was the archetypal stuff the pioneering Nigerian civil service was made of.

I needed to lay this background to underscore the rigour, the exertion, the perspiration which typified the discovery and grooming of those who operated the levers of public administration in decades past. They were an integral part of the conceptualisation of government policies and also contributed largely to their actualization. I should equally remind us that the famous, now ancient, “fattening rooms” of the Kalabari, Efik and Ibibio in south south Nigeria admitted women in their puberty and prepared them for womanhood. Among others, they are grilled on marital etiquette, their culinary capacities improved upon even as they were tutored in acceptable social customs and comportment. They were usually admitted in facilities away from their families and could be so boarded for various lengths of time, the minimum being for one month.

Reports in recent weeks and months have alluded to the disappearance of Yahaya Bello, the immediate past governor of Kogi State from the prying lenses of the public and press. The initial rumour was that he had made himself a permanent guest of Lugard House, Lokoja, the government house of the intriguing state capital which sits at the confluence of Nigeria’s two largest rivers, the Niger and the Benue. Not satisfied with the eight full years of his despotic, even demonic over-lordship in Kogi State, he has chosen to encamp permanently within the same facility on an extended post-disengagement vacation. Elsewhere in the media, it has been suggested that Bello is now a permanent member of his successor, Usman Ododo’s convoy on all his travels. Ododo is his official shield from investigators on his trail.

After hectic, sweaty public service immersion over long spells, the tradition has been for public officers to embark on extended holidays and rest. Willie Obiano, immediate past governor of Anambra State, left for the United States on extended rest, immediately after he handed over to his successor Chukwuma Soludo in March 2022. Babatunde Fashola was chief of staff in Lagos State; governor of the state for eight years and minister under the Muhammadu Buhari regime for eight years. He served notice during his valedictory conversations that he wanted to return to be “president” of his home, after being a virtual absentee for 20 years! The practice of former governors pursuing “residency programmes” in the very same addresses where they operated from for years, is novel.

As governor of Kogi State, Bello hailed and serenaded himself, by himself with his own *oriki* whenever he had a microphone. He introduced himself with flourish as “His Excellency, Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello, CON, the Executive Governor of Kogi State.” Humility, civility and restraint had no place in his thesaurus. He beaded himself with the moniker of “white lion” and rechristened Government House, Lokoja the “lion’s den.” Yahaya Bello apologists and boot-lickers defaced the public space with billboards celebrating their idol, throwing him in the face of a populace so mercilessly trampled upon by him. He never left people in doubt about his limitless powers as a governor cum demigod who could do whatever he wanted and get away with it.

Bello cast a permanent pall on the people of Kogi State. Mentions of his name were in cover-mouthed whispers. Remember the depiction of the former Ugandan carnivore, Idi Amin Dada in the film titled *The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin.* The character, Maliya Mungu was his undisguised hitman. Bello reportedly recruited spies in various WhatsApp groups who reported the direction of discourse to him and fed him with the names of his critics. He mutilated the payrolls of hapless civil servants and paid them preposterous percentages. Workers and pensioners dropped dead like flies during his reign, unable to cater for the basic needs of their families. By its very characteristic the economy of Kogi State is fuelled by the civil service. Staccato remittances of workers salaries was therefore going to affect the burgeoning business community in the state.

Elections were weaponised in the vilest of fashions. Bello’s goons were condemned to win every and any election “by force, by fire.” There were mortal consequences for failure. His aides moved around on election days with platoons of vagrants and policemen, scaring voters with gunshots, seizing ballot boxes and rewriting poll results. For dissenting with poll riggers in her unit, hapless woman politician, Salome Abuh was on November 18, 2019, burnt to death in her home in Ochadamu. Bello’s men reportedly dug trenches around Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan’s community, Ihima, all in a bid to disenfranchise her during the February 2023 senatorial election which she contested. Yahaya Bello indeed corroborated the action saying he was helping to build a security hedge around her during the election.

Yahaya Bello is the first governor I ever heard about, who launched a post-disengagement media and public relations salvage project. Some officials and members of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, (NGE), about a month ago honoured an invitation to visit Kogi State to tour some of Bello’s so-called legacies. Curiously, for all the time the team led by the President of the NGE, Eze Anaba spent in the state, the most senior state official they encountered was the Kogi State information commissioner. They could neither meet Bello at whose instance they visited, nor his successor, Usman Ododo. I sent private notes to some of our colleagues who went on the needless voyage asking them a few questions: Apart from being herded through so-called Yahaya Bello’s achievements, did you go to the streets to find out the last time civil servants and pensioners were paid their monthly entitlements 100%? Did you check about the last time workers were promoted after writing promotion exams? Did you find out how many Permanent Secretaries own official vehicles? Did you try to obtain contract award documents about Yahaya Bello’s so-called “legacy projects?” Did you endeavour to compare with the costs of similar projects elsewhere? Did you ask for example to be driven through the “State Secretariat/House of Assembly/DSS road”? Do you know that all through his years in office, Yahaya Bello didn’t rehabilitate that all-important road?

Bello is validating the title of a classic novel by the legendary American thriller writer, James Hadley Chase. Back in 1957, Chase wrote *The Guilty Are Afraid* a blockbuster which gained global appeal and readership in its days. This is the same Bello who was showcasing his boxing skills to the world on social media, virtually calling for a match with Anthony Joshua. We have seen him working out on the treadmills too, thumping his chest as he reminded us that he will flatten Mike Tyson in a fitness contest. So why wouldn’t Bello move around freely, “flex” as we say in contemporary Nigerian lingo, the way his former contemporaries are free birds? It is uncharacteristic for the lion, king of the wild to be mirrored cringing beneath the bed of his successor.

We are indeed talking here about a “white lion,” a very rare *albinoid* species native to the *Timbavati* region in South Africa. Public discourse in recent weeks has thrown up the thesis about Bello evading arrest by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) for the monumental heist his regime committed against Kogi State during his reign as *King Herod.* The weekend edition of *Aljazirah* newspaper of April 6 and 7, 2024, had Bello’s photograph and that of the EFCC chairman, Ola Olukoyede with the headline: *Ex-Gov Yahaya Bello Seeks Safety in Kogi Govt House.* Bello is said to be reaching out to former first lady, Aisha Buhari, even as the EFCC is hot on his trail. The President, Bola Tinubu is said to have distanced himself from Bello’s plea to be given a soft landing in his matter.

Yahaya Bello is a very good example of the post-1975 degeneration of the public service to which Olaopa alluded. He was neither scouted for leadership nor was he trained for the job. He was reportedly an anonymous personnel of the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission, (RMFAC). He reportedly made good for himself ostensibly through corrupt enrichment and floated a transport company, *Fairplus Transport* with a handful of mini vans. With this, he sold the impression of a nouveau riche to delegates to the 2015 gubernatorial primary of the All Progressives Congress, (APC). Bello emerged second behind the late governor Abubakar Audu in that contest. He was hoisted to the gubernatorial high stool courtesy of some unprecedented judicial interpretation of the constitution, upon Audu’s mysterious death before the results of the governorship election! We must revert to the leadership grooming process of the pre-independence era and its immediate aftermath to begin the sanitisation of governance and leadership. And beyond the EFCC, Bello should have his day in court to defend his appalling human rights record during his eight year sojourn in Government House, Lokoja. Hopefully, victims of his queer and insensitive governance model will have the last laugh.

*Tunde Olusunle, PhD, is a Fellow of the Association of Nigerian Authors, (FANA)*

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TRACKING NYESOM WIKE’S “KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS” IN NIGERIA’S CAPITAL CITY

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BY NONSO CHIBUZOR

Barrister Nyesom Wike, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, (FCTA), is a politician who hugs the limelight effortlessly. Unlike most politicians occupying public office who struggle, and most times conjure imaginary scenarios to be noticed, Wike, by his performances, actions, and comments is always in the news. Though this inclination sometimes soaked him in controversies but he has standout as one of the notable politicians in the fourth republic. He is a performer, great one at that. Some people complain about his style and comportment but one very enduring trait about him is that, you know where he stands on any, every issue. Unlike many politicians who reprobate and approbate in their bid to be “good men” in the eyes and minds of Nigerians, Wike speaks and act from the heart; raw and undiluted. In doing this, he never shies away from political fights and battles where and when necessary. He may be loquacious but remains uninhibited, excitable, bold, courageous, and assertive.

As Governor of Rivers state between 2015 and 2023, Wike through his record-breaking performances, controversies, and all brought the “Treasure Base” to the zenith of states in Nigeria. He knew how to hold his audience – admirers and adversaries spell bound with his superlative achievements in critical sectors of the economy. From roads and bridges construction to healthcare facilities, education, security, and many others it was absolutely difficult not to recognize and applaud him. For eight years, he never gave his political adversaries and opponents the opportunity to accuse him of non-performance. On one of his visits to Rivers, impressed by the quality and depth of infrastructural development he saw and commissioned, former Vice President Yemi Osinbajo eulogised Wike and called him “Mr. Project” – a sobriquet that was undeniable. Realizing that many notable Nigerians; across political divides, religion, and ethnicity always commend Wike on his performances, the Buhari-led administration recognized and awarded him a prestigious award on projects and infrastructural development.

Following his appointment as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) by President Bola Tinubu, many Nigerians were excited and expectant that Wike will perform the “Rivers magic” in the capital city. A school of thought postulated that given the multiplicity of developmental challenges in the FCT, Tinubu requires a man with proven capacity, experience, and exposure; such as Wike to turn the tide. Another school of thought outrightly predicted that Wike would go the way of his predecessors because of high stake politicking, interplay of centrifugal forces, class and power struggle, and monumental development deficits.

For the records, Wike took office when everything was wrong with the capital city and area councils. From security to infrastructure and other sectors, it was the same negative narratives. At the time he assumed office, terrorists and people of inordinate violence had run rings round the FCT, plucking residents, who were easy targets; so routinely and striking grave fear and worries in the hearts of everyone. Deploying his experience on similar security challenges in Rivers, Wike faced it headlong. Recall we noted earlier that he relishes to fight and fights to overcome and dominate. He had countless and consistent interface with all the security structures to ascertain the problems, and how to tackle it. Through this strategy, Wike was able to break every bureaucracy, ensure effective and efficient synergies among all security agencies, and elevated monitoring and evaluation processes. What has changed in the FCT?

In few months of rigorous planning, improved provision of facilities, and sustained operations, the agents of insecurity now realized that they are contending with a different, result-driven security apparatus under a new sheriff in the FCT. The metropolis, area councils and other suburbs are better protected. Cases of one-chance, kidnapping, and other security challenges are gradually going down. Residents and visitors celebrated the Easter session and Eid-el-Fitri holidays without any major negative incident.

Having served as Minister of state, Education, and supervisory Minister of Education in President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, Wike has brought his past experiences to bear in FCTA. Realizing that the problems of education in the FCTA centred around decrepit structures; widening divides between education opportunities and technological tools; skills challenge; inspectorate gaps; lack of capacity building; poor staffing and negligible remunerations, Wike rolled up his sleeves to engage the “education monster.” Among the bold steps taken to re-envision education in the FCTA includes reconstruction of 19 secondary schools with 20 more to follow in 2024; scholarship awards to over 130,000 indigent students in low and abject poverty communities; created a training and re-training scheme for teachers; mass promotion of teaching and non-teaching staff along well drawn benchmarks; payments of long-forgotten emoluments and allowances; and many other initiatives.

For a sector that rarely featured among the priority interests of many of his predecessors, Wike has re-invigorated the education sector. A senior member of the FCTA Education Secretariat who pleaded anonymity describes the education transformation as, “extremely encouraging and inspiring because within few months, Wike and the Minister of state have shown that with the right political will and sincerity of purpose things can be done. The wave of programmes and projects in the education has been surprising and gratifying.”

Prior to his deployment, the FCTA which was conceived to run as a state was structured as a ministry. It has been a misnomer and surprisingly, subsequent governments carried on like that. Wike noticed this glaring misalignment in fusing public servants of the FCTA into the scheme of the Federal Civil Service Commission. Backed with presidential approval and legislative endorsement, Wike announced the creation of the FCTA Civil Service Commission. Subsequently, with Tinubu’s approval, he announced the appointments of Chairman and Members of the FCTA Civil Service Commission; Head of Service; and 10 Permanent Secretaries. These positive developments was welcomed by the entire staff of the FCTA and Area Councils, as they now have opportunities for career growth. In addition, some staff who had suffered stunted, and delayed progression benefitted from the recent approval for promotions. To encourage staff welfare, backlog of arrears and allowances have been paid. There are plans for consistent, intensive and extensive capacity building programmes for staff in the coming months. Similarly, Wike having discovered procedural error in the composition of Mandate Secretaries, established the “Women Secretariat” to ensure an all-inclusive bureaucracy.

That the capital city has suffered infrastructural decay, particularly in the past eight years is very obvious. From roads to water, health, and transport Abuja appeared to have experienced deliberate and systemic failures. Expectedly, Wike has embarked on aggressive, and determined re-work of infrastructure in the capital city and area councils. In few months, Wike has turned Abuja to a construction sight. Driving through districts and highways within the city, one cannot miss the levels of on-going construction works. Is it the Wuse-Wuye link road; Berger-AYA Road; AYA-CBD Road; Southern Inner Road; Northern Inner Road and more? How about the re-surfacing of over 135 inner-city roads; on-going construction of roads in the area councils; construction of bridges; opening-up and expansion of facilities in Guzape and other districts and more?

Instructively, other sectors are experiencing the “Wike magic.” There are concerted effort to improve the provision and expansion of quality, potable water in the capital city through the “Greater Abuja Water Supply” scheme that is on-going. Residents and visitors to Gwarimpa, Kado, Life Camp and other locations are witnesses to the water project where site-men and labourers work even weekends to meet the deadline for completion of the project. With the passage of the 2014 Budget of the FCTA, attention will be on massive upgrade, and provision of facilities at the Wuse, Gwarimpa, and other General Hospitals. The Utako General Hospital, which was a Public Private Partnership but witnessed decade-long contractual infractions has been reviewed, and construction works would start before the end of 2024.

For now, like or loathe him, Wike has distinguished himself as one of the brilliant contributors to the realization of Tinubu’s “Renewed Hope” agenda. His choice and masterful deliveries has further confirmed Tinubu’s status as one who knows how to identify and pick talents for excellence in public service. Not minding the shameless efforts of political opponents, adversaries and haters, the vast majority of Abuja residents, visitors and many Nigerians are impressed with Wike’s transformation initiatives for the FCT; the seat of power. That he few months, Wike and his team have being able to record strides that previous ministers were unable to do requires commendation not criticism; applause not jeers; good wishes not negative thoughts; prayers not curses.

Like the popular dictum, “reward for hard work is more work” one hopes that Wike will not relent and slow-down in the impressive works he is doing. He should realise that the prayers and good wishes of apolitical Nigerians, who are majority are always with him. Without sounding political, Wike being the first southerner, in about five decades to occupy the office should do everything humanly possible to write his name in “quadruple gold” after his tour of duty as the FCTA Minister.

* NONSO CHIBUZOR, is an Abuja based public policy analyst

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY; PA AYO ADEBANJO; NIGERIA CELEBRATES YOU

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By Dr West-Idahosa, SAN

Ayo Adebanjo is a national icon. He is a Trojan of progressive politics. An unrepentant follower of one of the greatest men that ever lived under the sun in the nation known as Nigeria, Chief Obafemi Jeremiah Oyeniyi Awolowo ( may his soul rest in peace). Mentored by AWO as he was fondly known, Adebanjo has been clothed by the blanket of equity, fairness and justice.The ideals upon which AFENIFERE was founded about 73 years ago. Many of his ilks have passed on to eternal life, but papa is not just alive, he still at the forefront of the battle to create State Police for more efficient security in our land. He is still committed to the return of our political structure to the good old proto type of natural confederacy where real powers reside in the region with a center that is assigned with limited responsibilities. He believes that every Nigerian, regardless of tribe, religion or creed should have the chance to govern Nigeria in a rotational system anchored on meritocracy, not mediocrity. Perhaps , Adebanjo and the Awolowo school of politics are right after all. Where has the strange federalism unemperically introduced by previous military regimes landed our country? The answer is known to all. We are in a cesspool of developmental, economic, social and educational throwbackism. We now operate federalism in profligacy. Our politics is full of sloganeering, while the indices of all round growth lie in paralysis.

I greet Pa Adebanjo as he turns 96 years of age. Papa is not just 96, but has lived 96 solid and meaningful years. I admire the old man with firm muscles and his made to measure suits. I like is passionate communication style. I envy his tenacity. I commend these attributes to all of us, old and young alike. We have so much to learn from him in pursuit of our national egalitarianism.

May God in his infinite magnanimity continue to bless Pa Adebanjo with many more years, good health and inestimable wisdom so that our country men and women can truly learn and emulate Pa Adebanjo’s uncommon commitment to the ideals of equity, fairness and justice.

Happy birthday to a wonderful elder-statesman and apostle of humanity. May God be with you for the rest of your life. Amen.

Dr. West-Idahosa, SAN.

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