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Clerk of National Assembly: a triumph of integrity

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The victory of a just cause, triumph of truth – Menachem Begin (Former Isreali Prime Minister).

The Office of the Clerk to the National Assembly (CNA), no doubt, is one of the most challenging first-class positions in Nigeria.

The reasons are not far-fetched. The Clerk sits at the peak of the bureaucratic machine in the nation’s topmost legislative body, where we have the Senate and the House of Representatives. He sees to the peaceful and sustainable development of the National Assembly.

Therefore, when the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC), ably led by its Executive Chairman, Engr. Ahmed Kadi Amshi, came up with a circular on July 17th, 2020, that reeled out the names of fresh appointments into the highest administrative echelon of the National Assembly, with Architect Amos Olatunde Ojo, heading the list as the Acting Clerk to the National Assembly, the Commission clearly showed that it was living excellently up to its statutory responsibility.

In picking Architect Ojo as the number one Chief among the members of the management cadre, the NASC has sent a clear message that its newest personality in the highest saddle of reckoning is a round peg in the round hole.

Allowing Ojo to wear the deserved crown of the leadership of the National Assembly, amid a gaggle of desperados who went to town with their foot soldiers, with the unkindest, fabricated and unfounded allegations against his candidature, shows graphicly that Amshi and his team at the NASC allowed fairness, equity and transparency to come to fruition in arriving at their judgement.

In the light of the above, one must commend the NASC for standing above the stone of unnecessary scandal and unwarranted controversies.

Perhaps, a brief look at the intellectual background and career records of Ojo will give us a marvellous idea why the Commission rated him far and above other contenders.

Born on February 14th, 1963, in llobu, Osun State, this apostle of progress and humility, a brilliant thinker and mental giant left Ilobu Secondary Commercial Grammar School in 1983, with a first-class academic laurel.

His sojourn at the Obafemi Awolowo University, lle-Ife, after gaining admission to read Architecture, which began in 1985, was sealed up with a Masters Degree in Architecture in 1992.

Ojo’s amazing imaginative and creative prowess manifested in his designing Ogun State Cultural Centre; the proposed Oba Alesinloye Market in Ibadan; the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc Building, llesa branch, in Osun State; the Primate Lodge of the African Church, Ifako, Agege, Lagos, to mention but a few.

His loaded intellectual proficiency has given way to his designing and supervising the construction of the Niger Insurance Headquarters Building in Lagos (12-floor skyscraper); the National Assembly Fire Service Station; the National Assembly Office Complex Phase three, part one and the National Assembly Office Complex, phase three, part two, etc.

His pedigree in his chosen career opened doors for him earlier in 2004, when he became a staff of the National Assembly, as Chief Architect in the then newly established Department of Estate and Works, where he rose from Assistant Director to that of Director.

As a Permanent Secretary, Department of Estate and Works in the National Assembly, Ojo was responsible to Mohammed Ataba Sani-Omolori, the former Clerk, in procurement, physical planning, development and maintenance of the facilities within the National Assembly.

It is not out of place to declare that the masterful display of synergy and moral magistracy with the immediate past Clerk to the National Assembly, led to the extraordinary infrastructural transformation that took place.

One thing is very clear, the career of Ojo speaks volumes of his invaluable treasures, inexhaustible sense of knowledge, learning and moral sophistication.

As l congratulate a wondrous achiever, a man with a chain of goodwill and dazzling records of performance, my absolute wish is that the supreme divine forces controlling the universe will continue to accord him sound health and mind, for the staff of the National Assembly to tap to the extreme, his fountain of knowledge, uncommon intelligence, unfettered philanthropism and unrivalled sagacity.

This unbeatable champion of superior ideas, undefeated winner in the field of public service struggle and a successful super navigator of storming waters of intrigues, simply deserves to be celebrated and given his meritorious respect.

Today, the entire National Assembly is blessed to have an Acting Clerk who will leave office far better than how he met it because he is a flourishing example of a good man cum administrator, who parades unparalleled ethical credentials of the highest repute.

Despite the avalanche of odds that were amassed against him and the cocktail of lies, he has succeeded to smash his way to the pinnacle of his career.

That he has been able to wade through a maze of determined rivals, who threw decorum to the winds and carried personal grudges to the point of nausea, to secure his historic triumph, is a demonstration of his legendary integrity.

After the startling victory of July 17th, 2020, his appointment as Acting Clerk to the National Assembly has attracted a stream of praises which has qualified him fittingly as a man of integrity.

  • Tolu, a journalist, writes from Abuja.
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Opinion

Usman Okai Austin CNA, The Courageous and Fearless Voice In Kogi State by Oruma Paul

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Mr foreign

In The words of Elton Mayo, Courage is simply the willingness and boldness to confront any form of agony, pain molestation, intimidation, oppression, exploitation, victimization danger and unjust treatment melted on the masses by someone or those at the helm of affairs.

The above assertion is demonstrated over time by Usman Okai Austin CNA.

One of the reasons for the dwelling of our economy and infrastructural deficit today is because we do not have a strong institution or opposition that will stand firmly to check and confront excessive or immoderate of our political leaders.

Ever since Governor Yahaya Bello took over the mantle of leadership, the conditions of people living in Kogi state has been characterised with abject poverty, unemployment, unquantifiable underdevelopment and pandemic suffering.
In fact, the situation of people living in Kogi state is pathetically bad like an orphan abandoned by the whole world, we have been left to wallow in abject poverty.

The so call political bulldozer in PDP and other political party who ought to serve as a strong institution or opposition to challenge the maladministration of this present government become close mouthed because of fear of the unknown.

But here is a man who completely remain unruffled even at the height of unwarranted intimidation and provocation.

Here is a man who remain the voice of the voiceless even in the face of intimidation and torture.

In view of this I want to personally thank you Usman Austin for your doggedness and ability to stand firmly for the people even in a stormy weather as I urge you to come out and contest for any political position in kogi state come 2023 for I will personally take to street and campaign for you.

Thanks and God bless.

Oruma Paul Writes in From Abejukolo,
Omala Local Government, Kogi state.

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Opinion

Growing hunger in the land

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As of April 2021, the inflation rate was the highest in four years.

Food prices accounted for over 60 per cent of the total increase in inflation. Nigeria’s economic growth is being hindered by food inflation, heightened insecurity, unemployment and stalled reforms”.

Talk is cheap. But walking that talk is what truly matters for effective leadership. For instance, Nigerians have over the recent years discovered that some of our top political leaders are far removed from the harsh economic realities on the ground. They make fanciful promises during electioneering campaigns only to disregard or jettison them soon after mounting the pedestal of political power.

It is most painful therefore, that some 22 years after the return of democratic governance Nigerians have found themselves enmeshed in the quagmire of escalating insecurity, dire unemployment situation and massive job losses. Yet, those entrusted with the destiny of millions of the citizen wear other shoes than that of the people they claim to lead and cannot feel where they pinch them!

It is disheartening that contrary to the recent claim by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari during his Speech on Democracy Day that: “In the last two years we lifted 10.5 million people out of poverty – farmers, small-scale traders, artisans, market women and the like” the World Bank has refuted his statement with empirical evidences. That was barely three days after he made that speech.

In fact, a research carried out by yours truly over the past week has revealed astronomical jump in the cost price of raw food items compared to what they were as at 2015. That was when former President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration handed over the baton of leadership to Buhari and his acolytes. For instance, while a plastic paint bucket of garri cost N250 then it now goes for N1,200. A 50 kg of the same garri that sold for N4,000 now sells for N35,000. In a similar vein, a 50kg of rice has since moved fromN7,000 to N25,000.A basket of tomato that cost between N2,000 to N3,000 back in 2015 now sells for N28,000. Yes, you read that correctly. Meanwhile, the price of a small basket pepper has leapfrogged fromN4, 500 to N17,000 over the past six years. Similarly, a 50kg of beans that took N12,000 from the home maker’s purse now sells forN17,000.And a 50 kg of onion bulbs that sold for N5,000 now go for N35,000. And perhaps, if you are still in the dark a tuber of yam has jumped in price from N250 to N2,500 even as they are being cut into pieces since the average housewife cannot afford a tuber. Four pieces of sliced yam sell for N200! In fact, while listening to a related issue being discussed on Cool FM on Thursday the 17th of June, 2021 several family heads confessed that the hunger has become so real that they are compelled to remove some items such as chicken, turkey, even rice from their daily meals. That is the excruciating economic mess Nigerians have found themselves caught in. Yet, our government is more worried about gagging free speech under a democratic dispensation than doing all it could to rein in the hyenas and jackals of insurgency, banditry and kidnapping for ransom!

Not a few farmers in Zamfara, Niger, Bornu, Benue, Imo, Ebonyi, Enugu states and even Katsina, the president’s home state are unable to access their farmlands due to all manners of insecurity ravaging their lands. So, we do not need rocket science to tell us that food prices and related inflation will continue to haunt Nigerians for some time. This is well captured with regards to the World Bank Report that gave a GDP growth forecast for Nigeria of 1.9% in 2021 and 2.1% in 2022, compared with 3.4% this year and 4.0% next year for sub-Saharan Africa. It also warned that in 2020 the Nigerian economy experienced a shallower contraction of -1.8% than had been projected at the beginning of the pandemic (-3.2%). Earlier in February, a World Bank report had projected that an additional 20 million Nigerians could be impoverished by 2022. Gloria Joseph-Raji, a senior economist at the Washington-based financial institution, predicts an astronomical surge by about 15 to 20 million people by 2022 from the about 83 million people in 2019 according to Ms. Joseph-Raji. This remains a timely warning signal to be taken seriously.What with agricultural imports exceeding exports by about N503bn in Q1 of 2021.

So, whether the president likes to hear this or not, the bitter truth is that we are currently confronted not only with hunger but the critical issues of extreme poverty and food/ nutrition insecurity. The national poverty line has increased from 69 million in 2004 to 112 in 2010, equivalent to 69% of the population. In the same period, the number of millionaires increased by approximately 44%. Income inequality, as measured by the Gini Index, grew from 40% in 2003 to 43% in 2009.

So, what is the way out of the wood? The federal government should be more decisive in confronting insecurity. It should proscribe the fully armed Fulani herdsmen that kill, rape and maim innocent indigenes across the states; to clip their wings in their ill-fated land-grabbing, malevolent mission. Since the president says that the state governors should play their part, he should allow for retooling of the 1999 constitution as the APC promised Nigerians in 2015. Doing so means giving ample room for the states to control their resources through a holistic restructuring, with true fiscal federalism. And of course, have their police as the chief security officers of their states. These will certainly boost local production of raw food items as the defunct Northern Region boasted of cotton, groundnut, hides and skin in the ‘60s. Back then the Western Region survived with revenues from cocoa and coffee and the East of rubber, fish and the root crops. The other significant issue is that of bridging the rich-poor gap that has worsened over the years. The Nigerian Living Standards Survey (NLSS) is the official survey that is the basis for measuring poverty and living standards in the country and is used to estimate a wide range of socio-economic indicators including benchmarking of the Sustainable Development Goals.

According to Oxfam’s calculations, lifting all Nigerian people living below the extreme poverty line of $1.90 out of poverty for one year will cost about $24 billion. This amount of money is just lower than the total wealth owned overall by the five richest Nigerians in 2016, which was equal to $29.9 billion.

Similarly, the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) should drastically reduce the huge pay package of political appointees and place them on equivalent civil salary scale in tandem with the tough economic situation as at this day. The time to act is now!

Baje writes from Lagos

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Opinion

Between Zulum’s capital projects and GYB’s celeb gimmicks

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Every citizen is entitled to enjoy the dividends of democracy and it is important to note that, a responsible government will always strive to jettison antics aimed at depriving the masses of these privileges.

Good governance demands we provide good amenities for the governed and not showcasing hypocrisy, deception and falsehood while fooling ourselves that we are towing the right path.

As a keen observant of the present administrations of Prof Babagana Zulum of Borno and Alh. Yahaya Bello of Kogi, I stand to be corrected that there is glaring vacuum between the duo in terms of their approach to what makes good governance visible in the minds of the people. For Governor Zulum, good governance is far beyond playing political gimmicks to the detriment of the masses who elected him into office. This is the man who the President, Muhammadu Buhari recently graced his state to commission seven out of 556 capital projects delivered by him.

“I am highly impressed by the very dynamic leadership that His Excellency Governor Babagana Umaru Zulum has been providing in Borno State in the last two years. He is very selfless and has been taking a lot of personal risks in order to guarantee the safety and welfare of his people.

I wish that every other person who has responsibility for the people at various levels will emulate Governor Zulum, instead of squandering so much time on unhelpful buck-passing and blame games. I have gone round to commission some of the capital projects executed by the Zulum Administration in two years. I am very happy with what I saw,” Buhari said during the commissioning.

Among the projects commissioned by Mr. President are: completion of the senate building, construction of two large hostels with 150 rooms for 1,200 students; construction of 34 units of duplexes and bungalows for Professors, senior and intermediate staff; and construction of seven kilometres of road and drainage network and undertook landscaping works across the University.

The President also commissioned two mega-size Government Day Technical Secondary Schools in Njimtilo and Goni Kachallari and a higher Islamic School, near the Shehu’s palace, all of which have 60 air-conditioned classrooms for at least 2,400 students; vocational workshops, laboratories for sciences and ICT, auditoriums and sporting facilities.

He also commissioned roads and drainages constructed in Jiddari Polo and first phase of 10,000 resettlement houses he had approved for Borno State from which 4,000 have been completed, among others.

The Yahaya Bello-led administration otherwise known as ‘New Direction Government’ on the other hand, has been in the news following its pronounced publicity stunt, especially using celebrities as political tools to gain goodwill in recent times. White Lion as fondly called by his supporters has received not less than 10 celebrities in the last two months in the state, with most of the visitors either ‘eating their cakes’ (without minding the backlashes at stake) or turning themselves to ‘praise singers’ in a bid to endorse the former ahead of the 2023 presidential election. What a great campaign strategy!

Recently, Super Eagles forward Kelechi Iheanacho aka ‘Senior man’ and ex-Super Eagles captain Mikel Obi respectively visited Yahaya Bello at the Lugard House in Lokoja, the state capital city. The two visits many Nigerians described as ‘shameful’ and ‘unnecessary’ considering the caliber of persons involved. But for Yahaya Bello, this is the time for ‘serious business’ and whatever the critics say is no way in match with his future ambition. The youth governor is ever-ready to sacrifice all to get public support for his presidential bid that he has decided to keep mum about pending the time he’ll deem fit to let the cat out of the bag.

Since its inception in 2016, The New Direction Government has always been criticised for neglecting the Kogites in terms of provision of basic amenities among other social welfare services, and this has been the major strategy for the opposition party to capitalise on. Where are the projects in the state if truly the governor claims to be working? Does it mean the governor is planning a surprise package to shock his accusers when the set time comes? Why has Buhari not visited the state to commission these ghost projects if truly they exist? These among many others form critical questions in the minds of the opposition party in the state.

According to reports, the governor seems to place more emphasis on political gimmicks rather than human capital development as against what his counterpart is doing in Borno. A vivid example is the publicity stunt of the governor where celebrities have now become regular visitors in the state with little or no positive thinking on how to improve livelihood of the masses who ought to have been enjoying the dividends of democracy as against the ‘iberiberism’ in place.

One fundamental question Yahaya Bello must answer is, why is the New Direction Government reluctant to commission its project in the state if truly they’re visible as claimed? The Governor must wake up from playing the hide and seek game if it must achieve optimal success in its administration. Imagine a state that is pronounced as the safest in the country still have records of banditry among other criminal activities that will never be mentioned in the news to avoid discrediting its proven track records on security. I don’t see sense in telling the world Kogi is the safest state in Nigeria when we all know that no state in the country is 100% safe as compared to what people in other developed climes are enjoying in terms of internal security.

It’s high time our leaders stopped politicising state affairs by majoring in the minority and vise-versa. Good governance is far beyond political gimmicks that has no positive influence on the electorates but rather makes the polity dirtier and more dangerous for the players. From Zulum’s policy, it has become clearer that we need progressive and productive leadership to make Nigerian states edifice of good governance irrespective of the ruling party on board. We’ve had enough of rhetorics, conspiracy theories and propagandas. Now is the time to choose between Zulum’s capital projects and GYB’s celeb gimmicks. But I advise we follow the right path.

By Arogbonlo Israel, journalist and good governance advocate, writes from Lagos

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