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AS ATIKU FILLS IN FOR A MALFUNCTIONAL OPPOSITION

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*By Tunde Olusunle*

Doubts aside, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, (PDP), is yet to recover from its loss to the All Progressives Congress, (APC), at the 2015 polls. The PDP lost the presidency and also had its numerical strength shrunken in government houses, national parliament and state assemblies across the nation. For a party which was on a smooth sail during the first 16 years of the Fourth Republic, operating from the trenches of opposition was a tough job. Olisa Metuh the ebullient attorney who had held several important positions within the hierarchies of the PDP gave a voice to the party in its earlier months until he was arrested by the APC government. Kola Ologbondiyan stretched the frontiers of opposition spokesmanship within the limits of his capabilities when he took over Metuh’s brief late 2017, until the end of his tenure of office. Ologbondiyan’s successor, Debo Ologunagba a barrister like Metuh, however, has not as yet approximated the noise decibels of some of his predecessors.

Ologunagba may, to some extent, be excused though. There are suggestions to the effect that some of his colleagues in the National Working Committee, (NWC) treat Ologunagba as an “outsider” to the establishment. Fiscal support for the running of the bureaucracy, engagements and activities of the PDP are said to be slow in coming from governors elected on the platform of the party. Extant practice was for governors elected on the platform of the party to pool resources for the sustenance of the entity. It is not unlikely, however, that the grabbist proclivity of previous leaderships of the party, the festering opacity and lack of accountability might have dissuaded PDP governors from aggregating resources for the upkeep of the party. Who would have imagined that PDP would be in prostrate penury today with the billions of naira realised from the sale of nomination forms ahead of the 2023 general elections? There were indeed expectations to the effect that the strategically located, purpose-built secretariat in the heart of the Abuja would be completed and occupied by the party’s officials.

The onus lies on Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State and his colleague Siminalayi Fubara of Rivers, chair and co-chair of the PDP governors forum to rally their colleagues to mitigate the party’s descent into the abyss. Why won’t they sacrifice a fraction of their humongous “security votes” to ensure uninterrupted oxygen supply to the platform which catapulted them to their present pedestals? A political party with 13 sitting governors should not be a pushover. What was the spread of the political parties which coalesced to birth APC in 2013? The recent interactions between Nasir El Rufai, immediate past governor of Kaduna State; the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, (LP) Peter Obi and the Social Democratic Party, (SDP), must also be deeply concerning for the PDP. The Labour Party has been engulfed in a hydra of leadership combustion and indeed ownership even as the courts recently reassigned the ownership of the party to the Nigerian Labour Congress, (NLC). It will be shameful and catastrophic if PDP finds itself clutching at the straws behind yet another possibly brewing “coalition.”

Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria’s former Vice President is ever mindful of the adage to the effect that “a woman cannot deliver her pregnancy in tethers in the marketplace when an elder is present.” This, more than a proclivity to bring down the establishment, propels his activism and vocal audibility in the public domain. Robbed time and again of his evident electoral triumphs, he has refused to give up on his birthplace. Even in his 70s, he took time off to study for a masters degree at the prestigious Anglia Ruskin University in the United Kingdom in his eternal quest for self-development and indeed redevelopment. It would seem that the Olusegun Obasanjo/Atiku Abubakar combination are irrepressible knowledge questers. Obasanjo also returned to school, the National Open University of Nigeria, (NOUN), where he studied biblical theology, going all the way to earning a doctorate!

Sadly, the good works of the Obasanjo/Atiku tag team which represents the most glorious times of Nigeria’s all-round boisterousness, was painfully reversed less than a decade after they exited office. Nigeria’s immediate past President, Muhammadu Buhari could not as much as present a West African Examination Council, (WAEC) ordinary school leaving certificate all through his eight years in office. The whole world acknowledges Nigeria as a nation abundantly blessed with multidimensional competence and intellectual capital. Many Nigerian technocrats are holding their own in the global arena. Curiously, Nigeria is also one country where a first rate academic, a professor of law who is also Senior Advocate of Nigeria, (SAN) to wit, was subjugated under a President without basic credentials!

Atiku desires to keep apace with contemporary dimensions in world politics and economy to help him build informed perspectives on a wide spectrum of issues. He believes this country has the wherewithal to reinvent itself for the benefit and convenience of all and sundry. He is pained by the slurs, the avoidable failings, flailings, foibles which has characterised statecraft, particularly in the last decade. “Change” was the horseback on which Buhari rode into office in 2015. His two terms of four years each in office, however, principally impacted retrogression to pristine eras on Nigerians. Bola Tinubu whose chant was *emi lokan,* (it is my turn), and “renewed hope” has brought famine, hunger, inflation, heightened insecurity to the land. Only the mute at birth will not speak to these realities even in the closets of their homes.

There has been a tendency towards the deification of the archetypal Nigerian president a trend which was accentuated during the Buhari years. Don’t we recall that photograph of the immediate past Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege kneeling to shake hands with Buhari the day he, Omo-Agege was inaugurated? Shockingly, serving opposition governors individually and collectively credited President Bola Tinubu for their victories in the Supreme Court. The belief is that Nigeria’s imperious presidency holds the power of life and death literally. Mohammed Umaru Bago of Niger State scurried to Abuja within hours of concurring with Peter Obi’s criticism of Nigeria’s receipt of grains from war-torn Ukraine. Black-bearded Bago was pictured grovelling on the Persian rug on the floor of president’s office as he sought parole for his “slip of tongue,” identifying with Peter Obi’s clear-headed position. The systematic reconstruction of the persona of the president into a virtual monarch is being consummated under Tinubu.

It is preposterous the fact that public officers at that level who were supposedly elected by their constituents cannot take a position different from that of the *Oga at the top.* The parliament too continues to squirm and grovel before the all-powerful president, raising parliamentary servitude to legendary heights. It is the kind of acquiescence which gradually throws up emperors and despots. To the understandable discomfort of the incumbent administration, however, Atiku has beaten a distinctive part. He has followed the government “bumper to bumper,” to approximate the lyrics of a song of the same title sang by *Wande Coal* one of Nigeria’s popular artists every step of the way. He’s ever pointing out the government’s drawbacks.

Atiku has unfailingly highlighted missteps of the incumbent government as they perilously impact the citizenry. Last August for instance, Atiku queried the blurry $3.3Billion emergency crude repayment loan facilitated by the African Export-Import Bank for the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Ltd, (NNPCL). The money was reportedly procured to support the naira and stabilise the foreign exchange market. Atiku sought full disclosure of the terms and conditions of the deal. The former Vice President has also lashed the Tinubu system of embarrassing Nigeria at every opportunity on the global podium no thanks to its profligacy especially with regards to Nigeria’s wasteful “over-representation” at global events.

Atiku has also criticised Tinubu’s spontaneous policies as bereft of critical reasoning, causing sadistic pain, anger and despair to the people. He alluded to the impulsive removal of fuel subsidy on Tinubu’s inauguration, a proposal which was not captured in his prepared inaugural address. Atiku noted that such policies have fuelled skyrocketing inflation creating more misery for the generality of the people. Inflation has since pole-vaulted past the 30 percent mark, casting a palpable pall on the visage of the nation. Atiku chided Tinubu and his aides for squeaking and shrieking about the comatose economy inherited from the preceding administration. Atiku noted that since Tinubu like Buhari are of the same politica party, they inevitably carry the same “DNA!” For Atiku, Tinubu’s perpetual whining is evidence that APC lacks the wherewithal to redeem Nigeria. According to Atiku: “Tinubu came into office unprepared and his men have found a pastime blaming the economic woes of the country on previous governments. Tinubu and his economic team must swallow their pride, admit their false steps and failures and follow those who understand the issues.”

More contempraneously, Atiku has bemoaned the accentuation of killings and bloodletting under Tinubu. Nigeria he noted “has become a killing field” under the present government. Atiku referenced the recent murder of villagers in Rafi local government area of Niger State by suspected bandits who invaded the community and left a trail of blood. The sadists levelled 21 unsuspecting country folks in that incident. In less than 10 days, over 30 soldiers and policemen have been killed in Delta State alone by suspected riverine militants. Atiku railed at the complacency of the Tinubu system under whose watch the Nigerian narrative has become “one day, one calamity.” Computations by the media indicate that within the first 10 months of Tinubu’s superintendence, 7000 people have been killed. This averages at 700 Nigerian casualties every month. Atiku has been vindicated by the concurrence of senators from the 19 northern states about the disturbing wave of kidnappings and killings in the north. They want a decisive termination of the trend.

As Nigeria slides blindfolded into a one-party state, no thanks to the enormous powers of a chief executive operating the suspect and serially criticised 1999 Constitution, Atiku continues to point the way to the imperative of multi-partyism. It will almost amount to centuries lost for our nation and our people if our own brand of democracy as experimented over the last quarter of a century only breeds “civilian despotism” at the end of the day. *Lagbaja* the masked and famous Afrobeat artist reminds us in one of his classics, that “even the crab despite the hardness of its shell always keeps its eyes open in readiness for the adversary.” This is the attitude Atiku exhorts we collectively adopt and not misconstrue democracy and politics as the business of those who desire public office. That is where real danger lies.

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

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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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