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Internet connectivity and lessons from the undersea cable cuts

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By Sonny Aragba-Akpore

When a fall back option becomes an option, there are issues to contend with.

Nigerian Communications Satellite(NIGCOMSAT 1) was launched on May 13,2007 and deorbited on November 11,2008 as a result of Solar array power failure and confined to the graveyard.

The consequences of the failure resulted in many companies which derived their services from it suffered setbacks.

Some banks that had the misfortune of taking their decisions to connect to NIGCOMSAT became laughing stocks by their contemporary banks who were believed to be wiser to ignore the marketing powers of Timasaniyu Ahmed Rufai and his team.

The failure of NiGCOMSAT was seen as a result of the “Nigerian factor” especially when the pioneer communications satellite in Africa had no backup and seen as one risk too many.

That was its only sin because across the globe satellites fail sometimes on the launch day in the process of launching.

Satellites launches are generally laced with anxieties because anything could happen in a split of seconds.
But NIGCOMSAT 1 was in the orbit for 18 months before it had its challenges.

While many organizations licked their wounds and scampered for alternatives, Nigerian government began new moves to relaunch another satellite.

At the beginning of the deal with China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC),part of the agreement was that China through the China Exim Bank was going to fund the project and to be managed by the Chinese at the ground station in Xichang for two years before handing over to Nigeria.

Its ownership by Nigeria was strictly through counterpart funding for which Nigeria contributed $50m at that time, CGWIC paid $200m.

After all the bashings on the Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited and its management, a new satellite, NIGCOMSAT 1R was launched on December 19,2011.

But the excitement was no longer there and as the satellite with its 15-year lifespan begins its last journey, its owners and management have very little to celebrate.

And the crisis of the undersea cable cuts on Thursday March 14,2024 opened a new reality in internet connectivity and reopened the NIGCOMSAT story. The cuts took place around Cote D Ivoire and Senegalese axis.

Those millions of organizations who relied heavily on this almost foolproof technology of connectivity were jolted by the cuts as they experienced downtime that affected their businesses.

Banks and other corporate organizations that believed in the services from these undersea cables in Africa and especially in West Africa had their plans scuttled as they began to review all the options available for seamless communication access to run their networks of branches that depended solely on the undersea cables.

The danger of the cut was that the banks especially had no alternatives as the undersea cables had no back ups.
Telecommunications companies were also badly hit as they depended on the undersea cables to run their services including terrestrial and mobile phone communications.

Skeletal services for voice connections were available since the Mobile Switching Centres (MSCs) and base stations were still up.

Internet connectivity for corporate organizations and individuals were however badly disrupted and as the companies battle to redress the situation, full service restoration which were anticipated to take a while were said to have been restored as at Monday March 18,2024.

There are therefore lessons to be learnt.

Are undersea cables the answer to seamless communications or can we in all honesty completely disregard communication satellites simply because of the failure of one satellite and conclude that satellite is not it?

In the light of the crisis from the cable cuts it is fair to conclude that satellite communications is as good as undersea cables connectivity.

The only problem with NIGCOMSAT was that it had no back up.

It stands to reason that Undersea cables connectivity could be likened to one-way traffic. If they fail that is it as there are no backups too and downtime is severe and may last for days if not weeks.

But we must admit that Undersea cables are critical infrastructure for internet connectivity, carrying vast amounts of data traffic across continents. However, they are susceptible to damage, including accidental cuts, natural disasters, or technical malfunctions.

Disruptions to these cables can significantly impact businesses, government operations, and individual users.

This is not the first time a subsea cable will get damaged in the region. In 2023 alone ,two submarine cable systems, which also service the Nigerian market, suffered damage off the coast of West Africa.

According to agency reports, the West African Cable System (WACS) and the South Atlantic 3 (SAT-3) undersea cables suffered breaks between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon due to two separate rock falls in the Congo Canyon.

In 2020, WACS suffered cuts, slowing down Internet services in the country.

On its X handle, MTN Nigeria, one of the affected providers, apologised to its subscribers. “Our engineers are working to resolve these challenges as soon as possible…”

Recently, multiple fibre cuts shut out MTN Nigeria subscribers from making calls and browsing the Internet for several hours.

An official at MTN Nigeria, said, “Our customers have been experiencing challenges connecting to the network due to a major service outage caused by multiple fibre cuts, affecting voice and data services.”

Mainone ,an infrastructure company said in a statement on its website that it became necessary to declare a force majeure subsequent to testing of its cable system.

It said that data from the preliminary assessment of the cable system indicated some underwater activity was the likely cause of disruptions to the system.

It said that commercial contracts typically included such a force majeure clause which enabled service providers to suspend contractual obligations for the duration of such disruptions.

A force majeure is an unforeseeable circumstance that prevents someone from fulfilling a contract.

The unforeseen circumstances maybe natural disasters (fire, storms, floods), or governmental or societal actions (war, invasion, civil unrest, labour strikes), or infrastructure failures (transportation, energy).

“Live network data show a major disruption to Internet connectivity in and around West and Central Africa,” Internet monitoring firm NetBlocks said .

MyBroadband reports the downtime was caused by multiple outages on undersea cables near Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire.

The SAT-3/West Africa Cable System (WACS), the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE), and other cables were affected. The outage started around 12:30 on Thursday, March 14,2024.

“Multiple undersea cable failures between South Africa and Europe currently impacting South Africa’s network providers, including Vodacom,” a Vodacom spokesperson explained in a statement.

Doug Madory, director of Internet analysis at Kentik, indicated there were also issues with the MainOne subsea cable.

Microsoft is reporting network latency issues in its South Africa North and South Africa West locations.

“Starting at 10:30 UTC on Mar 14,2024, customers using Azure Services in South Africa North and South Africa West experienced increased network latency or packet drops when accessing their resources,” the company said.

“We have determined that multiple fiber cables on the West Coast of Africa — WACS, MainOne, SAT3, ACE — have been impacted which reduced total capacity supporting our Regions in South Africa,” Microsoft said in an update. “In addition to these cable impacts, the on-going cable cuts in the Red Sea — EIG, Seacom, AAE-1 — are also impacting capacity on the East Coast of Africa. This combination of incidents has impacted all Africa capacity – including other Cloud providers and public Internet as well.”

Interestingly, this is not the first time damage to undersea cables have caused internet disruptions, in 2020, MTN blamed undersea cables for Internet disruptions in West Africa.

In 2018, 10 West African countries were completely offline for 48 hours, due to damages to the African Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable.

MainOne’s 14,000 km submarine cable system also disrupted the Internet in 2017 across West Africa. This time, however, Internet troubles seem to go beyond Africa to some European countries, which could mean a more severe problem this time.

Telecommunications companies and banks in Nigeria were on that Thursday March 14,2024 hit by an internet outage as a result of damage to international undersea cables supplying them connectivity.

Industry regulator, Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), explained that the damage affected major undersea cables near Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire causing downtime across West and South African countries.

Sensing the danger of not having a backup option, many organizations have had to take the satellite Communications routes .

Strong satellite companies offering services include SES S.A. established in 1985 and located in Betzdorf, Luxembourg.

Viasst Inc another company was established in 1986 and with headquarters in California, United States.

There are also Intelsat established in 1964 and believed to be the largest and located in Virginia, United States.

Tele sat based in Canada was established 1969.

There are also General Dynamics (1952)

in New York, United States and Gilat satellite network ,Echostar ,Inmarsat and Eutelsat among others.

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As we continue the wait for 5G services

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By Sonny Aragba-Akpore

Nikolai Gogol’s “The Inspector General “ told a story many years ago that resonates today.

Apart from painting a picture of mockery in his satirical rendition, it tells us about the frailty of humanity and its foibles despite the pretences.

Ben Jonson,s “ Volpone” brings the story home and giggles at its consequences as capsulated by the hunchback displaying greed and pretentious lifestyle in society.

But more instructive is Gogol,s “The Inspector General “ which depicts deception in its entirety.

In 1978,Nigerian playwright, a very big example of his generation, Femi Osofisan, published
“Who is Afraid of Solarin” adapted from Gogol’s “The Inspector General “ and brought the story home painting a lurid picture of the deception that goes on in government.

Osofisan never envisaged our present state of affairs but his picture of the future was clear for all to see as we experience today.

But was he a visionary, who could predict the things to come. Perhaps so.

Solarin as a public complaints commissioner in the old western state was revered by all and his name struck awe in society as he had his eyes on integrity and so like Gogol’s character, Solarin was a change agent.

But Ofcourse many people used his name, dropped it in order to create awe on society, hoodwink the people and make them accept “defeat as fate” to quote Osofisan.

What has happened to integrity in public service and how do we situate this in telecommunications services especially with regards to poor quality of service, drop calls and data fleecing yet no one seems to care and questions not being asked and no answers in that regard.

If we have managed to live with the drudgery of poor services, how do we begin the story of fifth generation (5G) telecommunications services which allegedly entered Nigeria nearly three years ago without drawing inference from the pieces of literature highlighted above?

The materials talk about life and everyday living. So are telecommunications services because they are integral parts of everyday living and when government decided to introduce 5G into the country,those familiar with its workings saw it as promises of life abundance.

It’s nearly 30 months since its launch but the noise and euphoria that welcomed it have died down, and the people have little or nothing to show for it except government which was the biggest beneficiary having collected $273.6m each from the three licenced operators and while we await the services ,the government, indeed everyone looks elsewhere for the much hyped 5G to take proper root.

If anything at all, there are pockets of services so far, offered by the three supposed operators for the services: MTN Nigeria, Mafab Communications and Airtel Nigeria but as things stand today, it appears 5G was mere noise and hype as Nigerians await in their various corners for the much talked about 5G services that Karl Toriola, MTN Chief said will be a game changer.

Strangely too,no one is asking questions as to the existence or not of the 5G services.

Have subscribers become so complacent that they have accepted defeat as fate in the face of corporate docility?

Even the once vibrant pressure groups-Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON),Association of Licenced Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria ( ALTON) among others have lost their voices.

Are we now confined to accepting anything simply because we are afraid to face the consequences therefrom if we shout?

Everyone yearns for heaven but afraid of dying. But like Osofisan said somewhere, ”is this death so horrible that we all must compromise with injustice in order to live?”. The future is our judge.

While we agree that providing services is purely a business decision but are business people not in business in their own interests and that of society?

And no one is talking about the services yet nobody is worried or are they experiencing subdued worries until the services come or have they completely given up on the expectation of the services?

On June 19, 2023, the last of the three to acquire the 5G licence, Airtel, kicked off its fifth generation network rollout in four locations, Lagos, Ogun, Rivers and Abuja, and the firm, is targeting coverage of the entire country by the end of the current financial year.

Unsuspecting Nigerians who joined in the excitement of the alleged entry of 5G services are now unsure of their expectations.

Licences were awarded on December 21, 2021 to MTN Nigeria and a little known Mafab Communications. They had a roll out timeline of August 2022 but the regulator granted an extension of five months to Mafab Communications to get ready. Thus the regulator changed the rules in between the game thus sending the first signal that all was not well. There have been several red flags.

MTN tried to weather the storm despite the challenges (even when it will not admit it openly) and “launched” a semblance of 5G services in parts of Nigeria. But that is where the excitement stops. Airtel, a late arrival shows some promises as we wait.

And so, the hype built around 5G has left everyone including the operators and regulators speechless as there is very little tangible evidence of availability of services so far. We have now accepted our fate as the wait goes on.

Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) data show that 5G subscriptions in the country increased to 2.3 million in December 2023.

This, however, represents an insignificant 1.04% of the country’s total active subscriptions for telephone services, which stood at 224.7 million at the end of 2023.

International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Mobile Network Coverage facts and figures 2023 says “Since commercial deployment began in 2019, 5G coverage has increased to reach 40 per cent of the world population in 2023.

Distribution, however, remains very uneven. While 89 per cent of the population in high-income countries is covered by a 5G network, coverage remains limited in low-income countries. Europe boasts the most extensive 5G coverage, with 68 per cent of the population covered, followed by the Americas region (59 per cent) and the Asia-Pacific region (42 per cent). Coverage reaches 12 per cent of the population in the Arab States region and less than 10 per cent in the CIS region (8 per cent) and Africa region (6 per cent).

Ninety per cent of the world population is covered by 4G, and where 5G is not available, this remains a very good alternative. However, 55 per cent of people without access to 4G live in low-income countries. Whereas 95 per cent of the population in high-income and middle-income countries is covered by 4G or above, the proportion drops to 39 per cent in low-income countries, where 3G remains the dominant technology, and often the only technology available to connect to the Internet.”

The overall pace of 5G growth in the country remains sluggish, underscoring the complexities associated with transitioning to next-generation networks.

However, the data showed that 2G subscriptions continued to dominate, representing 57.78 per cent of connections in January 2024.

The ITU recently revealed that Africa maintained the lowest 5G coverage rate globally, standing at only 6 per cent as of December 2023.

It attributed the low 5G coverage rate on the continent to the ongoing significance of older mobile technologies, particularly 2G and 3G networks.

The ITU report highlighted the persistent reliance on 2G and 3G networks in many African countries, including Nigeria, where those technologies offer a cost-effective means of delivering essential mobile services, especially in regions lacking access to 4G and 5G networks.

In 2022, around one tenth of all connections worldwide used 5G technology, with this share set to surpass one half by the end of the decade. However, regional disparity is expected to persist, with the availability of 5G infrastructure, high costs imposed by network operators, and the availability of 5G handsets continuing to impact consumer uptake.

The North America, Developed Asia Pacific, and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) regions are set to have surpassed 90 percent adoption by 2030, while adoption in Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to remain below 20 percent.

However, it has been suggested that 5G could play a key role in bridging the digital divide in the form of fixed wireless access (FWA).

5G FWA services use 5G networks to deliver high speed broadband internet in regions without fixed broadband infrastructure. As of 2023, almost a third of service providers in the Middle East and Africa offered a 5G FWA service.

The Global System Mobile Association (GSMA) says by 2025, 5G networks are likely to cover one-third of the world’s population. The impact on the mobile industry and its customers will be profound.

5G is more than a new generation of technologies; it denotes a new era in which connectivity will become increasingly fluid and flexible.

5G Networks will adapt to applications and performance will be tailored precisely to the needs of the user.

Working closely with the mobile operators pioneering 5G, the GSMA is engaging with governments, vertical industries including automotive, financial services, healthcare providers, transport operators, utilities and other industry sectors to develop business cases for 5G.

5G remains an exciting new technology that consumers and service providers are bracing up for.

5G statistics reveal projected volume growth for 5G smartphones as well as for revenue for 5G chipsets. Leading original equipment manufacturers are also beefing up 5G patents in a bid to be first in the 5G wars.

There are currently hundreds of millions of 5G global subscriptions. Subscriptions are forecast to reach three billion by 2025. (5G Americas and Omdia, 2021)

As of April 2021, there were 683 total 5G and Long Term Evolution (LTE) deployments made worldwide. (5G Americas and Omdia, 2021)

There are currently 135 5G networks around the world that comply with 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standards. (5G Americas, 2020)

5G smartphone shipments comprised 40% of global volume by 2021. This is expected to grow to 69% in 2025. (IDC, 2021)

In 2021, there were 89.5 million 5G smartphone units shipped to the United States. 5G smartphone shipments will reach 153.3 million units in 2025, at a CAGR of 35.6%.

Consumer electronics and automotive applications are forecast to both have a 21.7% share of the 5G infrastructure by 2025. Meanwhile, industrial apps will have a 20.1% share while energy and utilities will have a 15.7% share. (Statista, 2020)

The 5G chipset market reached $3.55 billion in 2021 and $22.86 billion by 2027, at a CAGR of 41%. (Statista, The Insight Partners)

Samsung has a 74% market share of the 5G smartphone market in the US. This is followed by LG at 15% and OnePlus at 11%.

Huawei has a 15.39% share of 5G families with patents. Huawei is followed by Qualcomm (11.24%), ZTE (9.81%), and Samsung (6.7%).

Data presented by Bankr indicates that the 5G technology global coverage will grow by 253.84% in the next five years. By 2025, about 53% of the global population at 4.14 billion will have access to the technology.

Few regions are driving 5G technology uptake
In 2021, the network coverage reached an estimated 1.95 billion people representing about 25% of the global population. In the last two years, the network access progressed to 32% of the global population at 2.5 billion.

In 2023, 5G network reached about 39% of the global population at 3.05 billion people. By 2024, an estimated 46% of the global population at 3.6 billion will be using the network.

According to the research report: “The over one billion access to 5G coverage in 2020 is a culmination of a joint clear consensus on the 5G network by major players in recent years. The coverage is significant however, it is being driven by a select few regions in Asia, the US, and Europe.

Other regions are still building the infrastructure to accommodate the technology. Notably, Asia is a current leader in 5G after undergoing a rapid migration in mobile broadband networks and smartphones setting the perfect ground for 5G adoption.”

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The Police And Akpabio’s Sermon On The Mount

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By Hon Eseme Eyiboh

84-year-old renowned Belgian painter and writer, Erik Pervernagie, says: “People die from lack of shared empathy and affinity. By establishing social connectedness, we give hope a chance and the other can become heaven (“Le ciel c’est l’autre”).

No institution has been so disparaged and stigmatised as the Nigeria Police. It is treated with so much contempt and neither appreciated nor celebrated. Rather, anything bad or despicable is attributed to the police. An average policeman is held in utmost and never enjoys any empathy or affinity from most Nigerians. Although the police are the friend of the people, the mutual reciprocity from the people is seemingly non-existent. The compensation is abysmal while the motivation is infinitesimal.

That is why in its years of existence, no one has remembered to honour its men and officers who have excelled in their professional outings until the coming of IGP Olukayode Egbetokun. Hence, the maiden edition of the Nigeria Police Awards and Commendations Ceremony held in Abuja last Monday was long overdue and an emotion-laden event. This was the first time the Nigeria Police celebrated itself by recognising gallantry, rewarding excellence and professionalism, thereby boosting the morale of officers and men, which has over the decades been at an all-time low.

By this maiden award, the present Inspector General of Police has jump-started a new Nigeria Police Force whose personnel are ethically compliant, professionally focused, and stable with a strong reward culture and post-service incentives. The IGP has also, through this event, instituted a reward system and reputation management process that will ultimately change the general perception our people hold about the Nigeria Police. Going forward, the men and officers of the force will be motivated and energised to give their all in spite of the negative reception from the public and compete to be recognised and honoured.

Putting the icing on the cake was the effervescent President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio, CON, who stole the show. It was, however, devoid of an elaborate sense of humour or trademark jokes nor hilarious laughter. It was the underpin of the inspirational remarks by the number one Legislator in Nigeria.

In a delivery reminiscent of the oratory of a Barrack Obama, Luther King, William Churchill or Nelson Mandela, Akpabio’s speech evinced the feelings of empathy and affinity. Call it Sermon on the Mount, and you will be damn right! Because he gave the Nigeria Police Force a thump-up for the timely, strategic, and innovative strategies it has adopted in the cutting-edge reputation management of the organisation and the morale-boosting initiative adopted to foster professionalism, innovations, competition, and courage amongst its workforce.

The admonition of Senator Akpabio falls within the prism of constructive stakeholders’ engagement and an urgent demand to integrate the force into a citizen-police cubicle. Drawing allusions from the Holy Books (the Bible and Koran) to drive home his message, Akpabio said, “I see hope in today’s event. The story is told of how Prophet Elijah (known in the Koran as Ilyās), after three and a half years of drought, asked his attendant to go and look for a rain cloud. After seven attempts, the assistant came back and told him that he had seen a small cloud, the size of a man’s hand. Not minding the size of the cloud, Elijah declared that a torrential downpour was impending”.

Continuing, the Senate President was eclectic: “In this country we have had a deficit of heroes. Not because Nigerians are not heroic but because we do not celebrate our heroes. Yet heroes play a vital role in society through the provision of inspiration, motivation, hope and serving as representations of values and character. Celebrating heroes could bring the much-needed change we need in the fabric of our society and make our country a better place.

“So today, I can see in this award ceremony a small rain cloud, the size of the hand of a man. But I declare, like Elijah, that out of this event shall come a mighty downpour of recognition of heroes and heroines in all sectors of the public service, law enforcement and allied service”.

Delving into the literary world, Akpabio navigated the thoughts of one America’s finest naturalist, essayist, poet and philosopher, Henry David Thoreau. He said, “It is apt that the police should set the ball rolling for us in this hero’s recognition affair. Many have sought to hang the police to dry for all our many vices. But the truth of the matter is that the police are all members of our society. Down the ages the popular philosophical thinking was that man could not be better than the society because the society makes the man, socialises man, and orients him with a sense of right and wrong. But Henry David Thoreau came with a counter narrative that man can surpass societal limitations, and rise above societal norms and expectations”.

According to Akpabio, “This is what the police are trying to do with this event under the current leadership. This leadership understands that the role of the police in a democracy cannot be overstated. They are the custodians of law and order, and they ensure the safety and security of the citizens.“

In a democratic society, it is imperative that the police uphold the highest ethical standards in carrying out their duties. They are entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the rights and liberties of the people, while maintaining law and order.

“Once again, I commend the police for this maiden effort in organising this awards ceremony. It is a testament to IGP Egbetokun’s commitment to giving honour to whom it is due. By recognising the gallant, selfless, and patriotic contributions of individual officers, will not only motivate them for higher performance but also reinforce the new policing agenda of the force. This agenda focuses on internal ethical regeneration, restoration of professional standards, and the enhancement of the anti-corruption drive”.

He left some words of admonition: “However, let us not ignore the challenges faced by the police in Nigeria. The ever-evolving landscape of crime and the increasing sophistication of criminal gangs pose significant obstacles. More so, as we honour the good officers, let us weed out the bad ones because a chain is as strong as its weakest link. We must address these issues and work together to find solutions. The police need the support and cooperation of all stakeholders, to overcome these challenges and build a stronger and more effective police force.

“I congratulate the awardees who have excelled in their respective fields of policing. Their dedication, bravery, and integrity have set them apart and made them deserving of this recognition. I commend every one of them for their outstanding performance and commitment to the service of our nation. I urge them to remember that to whom much is given, much is expected.“

As the leader of the National Assembly, I pledge our full cooperation and support for the better policing of Nigeria. We recognize the importance of a well-equipped and motivated police force in ensuring the security and well-being of our citizens. We will continue to work tirelessly to provide the necessary legislative framework and resources to enable the police to carry out their duties effectively”.

This is what our institutions need now, this is the quality Nigeria is looking for and the leaders that deserve to be at the helm of affairs. Senator Akpabio was generous in the act and in the heart of his personal support to the families of the posthumous awardees.

Hon Eseme Eyiboh is the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity and the official Spokesperson to the President of the Senate.

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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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