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Public Office And Dilemma Of Transparency, By Muiz Banire, SAN

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A high level of service to the public is carried out in the occupation of public office. This, therefore, makes requirements for occupying public office to be high public-spiritedness, consuming passion to serve and absolute dedication to high moral standards.

Certain practices in Nigeria have made it imperative for us to consider two aspects of practices in public office, both of which relate to accessibility and transparency issues.

The first relates to barring members of the public from accessing public office and, by extension, public officials, in the course of the discharge of their official responsibilities. This vice, in my view, predates the invasion of the pandemic. Therefore, the pandemic cannot be used as an excuse. A Nigerian with a mission in public office will most often be prevented from accessing public office, in the same manner as the opportunity of seeing a public officer while discharging his duty.

A public office, as the description depicts, is a place supposedly accessible to members of the public with business to transact there. However, in the last couple of years, it has become a no-go-area for members of the public that are meant to be served.

You have a complaint and approach the relevant government office with a view to seeing an official, the query you are immediately confronted with at the entrance to such public office is, do you have an appointment with him? If you say no, call him on phone and book an appointment, is the next response. This is someone you have never come across, in fact, he is a stranger to you, and you are expected to call him on phone to book an appointment. Recently, I was to visit a state commissioner of police, this time even on appointment. I was not only stopped over a kilometre to the office block, I was instructed by the members of the rank and file at the blockade to the entry to phone him for clearance. Besides the appointment, it took me over 30 minutes to access him on phone for clearance to come in for an official engagement. Now, imagine an ordinary complainant without such an appointment and access to the telephone number of the commissioner of police, that would end his genuine mission.

This is the plight Nigerians are facing currently in the hands of public officers who are meant to serve them. Should the complainant attempt to correspond through any other means, not only is the access lacking, in most instances, there won’t be any response. The sad thing is that acknowledgement of your correspondence is another challenge. You probably had even made efforts to secure an appointment by sending an earlier mail with the hope that the official would read it and get back to you for an opportune time to host you or listen to your complaints, no response is ever coming. The interesting thing at times is that the suggestions you are putting forth towards better service in government or the pure intention to render a service, which may have to be remunerated by government, if found worthy, is unwittingly jettisoned.

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In all these cases, mails sent to government offices are hardly acknowledged, much less responded to. How is such a complainant meant to book an appointment, much less knowing the right officer to contact? How does he get the details of the relevant official? These are the hiccups that an average Nigerian faces daily in accessing public officers in public offices. What a joke! While I appreciate the probable busy schedule of the officials, there must always be a time or times created for the members of the public to contact public officers and have issues sorted out. Balancing of the schedule with the need for members of the public to access public officers is a must. I remember in my days in government, Tuesdays and Thursdays were dedicated to members of the public without any prior appointment having to be fixed. Those days were made available as public appointment dates, which did not require any prior contact or negotiation of time to meet. It is undeniable that a public officer that is not available to listen to members of the public can never render adequate service to meet the needs of the people.

The mentality of a public officer who sees himself as a potentate or a god that must be propitiated for divine mercy has never been a virtue in any epoch of human history. It smacks of lack of any leadership trait. It is the beginning of corruption in public office, as less scrupulous members of the public who intend to get their desires met would offer anything to have their complaints listened to. This gives room to touts who loiter around public offices and claim to have the audience with ‘Oga patapata’, or ‘Oga at the top’, leaders at the upper echelon, I mean, to secure appointments or influence decisions. Today, in virtually all the sectors of the economy, or all institutions, touting is a thriving business as a result of this impediment or barrier created by public officers.  My activities while reviewing some states’ legislations gave me an insight into the kind of problems this unsavoury practice must have created.

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Some states, like Oyo, had to legislate prohibition of touting in public office into law and criminalise the practice. In any case, this would have been unnecessary if public officers made themselves more accessible and attentive to public demands. Active and responsive approaches in attending to members of the public will create opportunities for the people to feel the impact of government. I, therefore, solicit the intervention of government in addressing this scourge that is fast becoming endemic in our society.

The other aspect of inaccessibility in government offices is that relating to refusal to allow members of the public to enter public offices with their phone handsets. It is now becoming ‘normal’ to be forbidden to enter public offices with phone handsets. The rationale behind this I do not know but, basically, must be to forestall recording or taping of any discussion or act taking place within the public office. This is more pronounced in security agents’ offices and you start wondering what the officials want to prevent or protect by so placing such restrictions on entry with phone handsets. Are we not running open offices? Is transparency no more the watchword in governance? This practice has now been embraced by several other government officials, governors, ministers, commissioners, some members of the National Assembly, even chairmen of local government councils. This certainly does not exclude or exempt heads of government parastatals and agencies.

For me, the moment there is such barricade or barriers to bringing in phone handsets, it signals a red flag that there is something unorthodox going on in such offices. In my very strong view, these practices not only engender corruption but also actively promote it. For instance, in law enforcement’ circles, it is certainly done mostly to perpetrate abuse or engage in corruption. No other plausible reason could be supplied than this. It reminds me of the contradiction in governance of Nigeria, where the government proclaims transparency and simultaneously administers oaths of secrecy. Should anything be secret in governance where transparency is sought? ME THINK NOT! My position is that access to public offices with phone handsets must not be impaired under any circumstance. Nigerians visiting public offices must be allowed where they like to approach the various offices with their handsets.

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This issue dovetails into the barricade of most roads, particularly those running across military and para-military offices. These are roads that are insufficient in the first instance and now you discover some institutions depriving the general populace access to the roads available. The sad thing, as said above, is that these are security formations that ought to know better how to secure their environment without such barbaric practice of blocking the otherwise insufficient/inadequate roads. I know, even from my civilian experience, that there are technological devices capable of addressing the fears they have without such errant behaviour of depriving Nigerians access to those roads. Another seemingly innocuous behaviour of public officials is the attitude of lording their views on the people and giving the impression of doing someone a favour while discharging public office responsibility.

I can continue to replicate all the above but suffice to just conclude that there is urgent need for the reform of public service and reorientation in the country. I believe that the time is ripe to stop the foregoing practices, except there is more to it than what we seem to know.  There are still so many of these aberrations that need to be tamed in the public service but space will not permit me to discuss them all. Suffice, therefore, to generally call on the various heads of service, at the federal and state levels, that an urgent review of the modus operandi of public officials is now imperative.

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Religion Must Not Divide Nigeria Under Our Watch By Ajogwu Jerry Ochada

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African Continent is the center of modern civilization (Egypt) yet many Africans often mistake westernization as civilization meanwhile, they are never in tandem.

Many eurocentric researchers are living in solitary immersion of subjective thoughts because they prefer reading stories of Africa authored and doctored by White imperialist without any sense of remorse while trashing the rich cultural ethics of oral tradition and various traditions of origin.

To buttress the least, Africans are not slaves, Africans are not weak, Africans are not wicked. Our ancestors had a well evolved culture and religion now tagged African Traditional Religion (ATR) before the incursion of the colonialists who veiled their intentions using religion as bait of conquest.

It should also be recalled that in areas where annexation by the Whites was rejected, so many rebellion and war of conquests was fought.

In other words, religion was forcefully imposed on many communities and nations in Africa. Take for instance, the Sokoto Jihad (1804 – 1810) which was ably inspired by Usman Dan Fodio of everlasting memories. Christianity on the other hand snookered into the shores of Nigeria by early merchants disguised as missionaries. These religion imposed by early traders, tourists, travellers and later slave merchants are not indigenous to Africa and it is pathetic to note that the Siamese religion is fast dividing the United Peoples of African descent in the 21st century.

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Why do we allow a borrowed religion to influence divisive tendencies?
Did ATR ever instigated brethren against each other?
What do we stand to gain when Nigeria is crushed under our watch?
Is this the Nigeria of our dreams?
Who are the terrorists and who are their sponsors?
What is causing the growing spate of kidnapping, banditry, insurgency and numerous calls for secession?

It is pathetic that as citizens, we are buried in the shallow graveyards of religious sentiments (directly or indirectly) and the overwhelming impact of modern day preachings circumvented via religious centers is affecting the sensibilities of worshippers thereby hunting sincere inclinations of peaceful coexistence amongst brothers from different mothers. Therefore, until the day Emeka stop evaluating Lawal and Adebayo under myopic lens summarized as a different citizen of Nigeria as a result of religious difference and indifference, the country is sitting on a keg of gunpowder. This is not a baseless assumption because current trends in the country is painting a bigger picture we are all striving to understand.

At the moment, we have few citizens of goodwill who are always on standby to make NIGERIA a better place by showcasing the real ideals of philanthropy without sentimental attachments to religion, ethnicity or class. Sadly, these class of detribalized Nigerians are haunted in broad daylights by evil gamblers of greed suffocating good intentions of the former. It is imperative that these men of goodwill should not be allowed to be beaten by the bug of sentimental approach which is detrimental and a clog in the wheels of development, peace and progress.

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It is time to change the narratives by inculcating passionate tenets and mannerisms especially in the mindset of the newer generations whose reasoning style and state of mind can still be rated as tabular rasa. Pupils should be thought from kindergarten classes that all Nigerians are one united people irrespective of religion, culture and geographical placements. This is also a wake-up call to the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and other sister organizations.

Conclusively, present day political culture in Nigeria should be trashed as a matter of urgency. Leaders should not be elected and recycled in Nigeria based on religious affiliations or regional consideration. The format should not align on the basis of a Muslim should rule after the tenure of a Christian or viceversa. If truly we are sincere and humane and ready to practice honest politics of political power rotation, then subscribers of African Traditional Religion should also feature in the rotational process.

I attended a Unity School where everyone is equal before God and man. All thanks to General Yakubu Gowon (rtd) who envisioned the glorious need for all Nigerians to come together despite passing through the corridors of a Civil War (1967–70) that could not break the country however, shadows of Biafran insurrection is still in vogue and it takes the refined idiosyncracy of a tough leader to crush varying agitations lingering in the country. To curb these menace, no sacred cow should be permitted to roam around romancing with terrorists, spew all sorts of hate speech yet he or she is free as a bird perhaps pardoned by religious supremacy / mutual understanding.

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Furthermore, allocating school admissions and employment slots on the margins of religion should be scrapped. This should be based on merits not religious calculations captioned as connection, grace or miracle. So many intelligent citizens are roaming the streets depressed because of systematic defects of illicit practices which is not even constitutional yet inherently operational in Nigeria against all odds. If ATR which is indigenous to Nigeria and Africa cannot divide us, we should not allowed any borrowed religion that filtered in from another Continent to cause us more harm than good.

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Contractor’ Mbaka Should Reap Where He Sowed

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“Man has an incurable habit of not fulfilling the prophecies of his fellow men.”-Alistair Cooke

 

Had he read this quote from Alistair Cooke, a British American journalist, Rev.

Fr. Camillus Ejike Mbaka would have been circumspect about his “I saw it coming” winning predictions for Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 and Hope Uzodinma in 2020. Circumspection would have saved the popular priest the national embarrassment he is facing over his right to comment on the President’s poor performance in office.

If you are a current affairs commenter and something concerning your faith crops up and is trending, you need the guidance of the Holy Spirit to attend to it judiciously to avoid bias or poor judgment. Politicians may not care about taking unpopular positions on issues so long as their political interests are served.

Not so for the writer who is conscious of the demands of public interest and his duty to speak truth to power in the public space.

In various ways, Father Mbaka of the Adoration Ministry, Enugu, Nigeria (AMEN), has taken the Catholic Church to its high and low points. Easily, his ministry is the most popular. He has also dragged the church into needless political controversies. If you are expecting me to tongue-lash Father Mbaka for allegedly soliciting contracts from the government he had helped to install, so to say, you will be sorely disappointed. As a Nigerian, Fr. Mbaka has not done anything unexpected or unusual trying to reap where he sowed.

No crime committed even before God who, so the Bible says, has ordained seed sowing and harvest time for as long the earth remains. Even the Canon law is not against that. The people who denied him compensation for his support of Buhari should have issues with their conscience. Much of the restiveness across the country today is traceable to the useand- dump practice in our polity which Buhari took to the next level.

If with all his encumbrances, Sheikh Isa Ali Pantami, who contributed little compared to Mbaka in making Buhari President in 2015, is a full cabinet minister, what is wrong with Father Mbaka getting a contract? If Mbaka had come from the North or been connected to the Caliphs and took such a high risk to support a President his followers didn’t want, he would have been asked to nominate ministers and others for appointments. The Presidency even had to plead for the forgiveness of Pantami ignoring the advisory that is suited for his likes from Syed Ata Husain, an Indian General, that “forgiving a terrorist is left to God, but fixing the appointment with God is the soldier’s responsibility.”

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Buhari and his henchmen knew of the massive collateral loss suffered by Mbaka for the President’s sake. Besides threatening his priesthood, Mbaka’s open declaration for Buhari in an enclave that denied him 97 percent vote cost the cleric a flourishing business.

Soon after declaring his Buhari support, Aqua Rapha that was the prime table water in the market in the South East and beyond suffered unprecedented rejection from consumers. It’s people like Mbaka who deserve to be given FG contracts. He would have delivered contract jobs and gone further to use the proceeds to feed the thousands of poor people on his payroll, as a scholarship and other acts of charity.

He is one of the biggest single employers of labour in Enugu State, the base of AMENl. He just conand secrated a church he single handedly built in his village. Mbaka and his Adoration Ministry can afford more than one private jet but he is not even eyeing one because he is on the side of the poor. He is easily the most hard-working Catholic priest in the South-East if not Nigeria.

It is worthy of note that Fr Mbaka does not deserve any accolade for going the wrong way outside his very successful mission in the priesthood. One had expected him to openly apologize to his followers for supporting Buhari and for dragging the name of the Holy Spirit around as his guide.

He should just have withdrawn his support for Buhari, going further to ask him to resign or be impeached was politicking which was bound to attract reprisals from the President’s attack dogs. He should have seen it coming. A Wada Nas of Abacha era would have done worse than Garba Shehu. Why the Catholic Church advises priests to refrain from partisan politics is because of the impracticability of serving God and mammon at the same time without getting bruised. When a child is restive and attracted to fire and breaks its mother’s restraint, it may be necessary to allow the child to have a brief feel of burning fire. If seeing is not believing, feeling is it.

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Mbaka knows better today. In 1992, the Rev. Fr. Moses Adasu of the blessed memory emerged as a gubernatorial candidate of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) and even won the election as governor in Benue State against the advisory of the Catholic Church. Like Fr. Mbaka, Adasu got the feel of dining with the devil and realized that even a long spoon was not enough safeguard.

People who are furious about Fr. Mbaka’s botched political outing with Buhari have even suggested his defrocking from the priesthood. But such people do not understand the Catholic Church. Nobody, not even the Church’s alter-ego, the Pope, can by his attitude affect the Catholic Church fundamentally to warrant a rash action to satisfy the often sentimental public.

When Jesus tells Peter, “On this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it,” the Catholic Church symbolizes it with Pope Francis as the 266th in the papal seat of St Peter. Also, when Gamaliel told Jewish leaders trying to halt the initial Apostles to leave them alone that if what they do is not of God it will crumble like the others in history they heeded his advisory and it worked.

When Fr Mbaka’s controversial prophecy on Buhari and Hope Uzodinma was generating heat, Nigerians wanted the Church to act on him but it would not, believing that if it’s not of God, the truth will come out. Where are we today? The same Mbaka, a Buhari and Uzodinma protagonist yesterday, is today among the growing club of their antagonists the extent that his behind-the-scenes deal with the ‘devil’ is being exposed!

What makes the Catholic Church tick is the priesthood, when you are trained and found worthy of priesthood in the line of Melchizedek, you must have been set aside. And that is what Fr. Mbaka is in a very special way and may remain so until the end of his time. During his political battle with once dreaded Governor Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu State, Mbaka said the bible in his car wedged the bullet aimed at him by the reigning dragons of the time and nobody doubted him. Even his traducers are still in shock. Though a Catholic, I am not a fan of Fr. Mbaka, but I cannot allow him to pass by me without blessing me because I know who is an anointed man of God.

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A number of my relatives are his buffs. They call themselves ‘umu ikuku’, Igbo for ‘children of the wind who cannot be caught by an evil spirit’. You cannot enter into an argument with Fr. Mbaka Adoration member (umu ikuku) concerning their idol and win.

He is their special Daddy on earth. Imagine the commotion in Enugu yesterday when they could not find their Daddy at the Adoration ground, the Bishop was forced to release him from the so called ‘protective custody’ On a very solemn note, my senior sister Caroline Abonyi passed on in an accident in 2013 while rushing to travel to Enugu from the village for Fr. Mbaka’s adoration. Those who came to console the family when she died said to us that her spirit must have gone to that adoration ground from where it was lifted to heaven and now resting with the angels.

Who am I to doubt as a Catholic and believer in the resurrection, especially knowing the kind of selfless life she lived while on earth. The fundamental thing in all the Fr. Mbaka brouhaha is the evidently poor performance of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, especially as it relates to insecurity in the nation.

If Buhari was doing well in the delivery of democracy dividends which securing life and property are key as enshrined in Section 14, subsection 2b, of the constitution, “the welfare and security of the citizens shall be the primary purpose of government”, Fr. Mbaka may not have made his U-turn. Nobody wants to be inside a sinking ship if he can jump out and that was what the fiery priest did. The issue of a contract is intended as a distraction. Fr. Mbaka’s goodwill may have been diminished for being where he shouldn’t be but the image of the church is intact. Huge lesson for all not to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

God, help us.
Credit: Newstelegraph

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Opinion

HOUSE OF REPS:Ankpa, Olamaboro, Omala Who is next? (Olamaboro)

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In an ideal democracy, the rotational formula is very sacrosanct in other to protect the involvement of the minority in a country, State, Senatorial district, and federal constituency respectively.


Ankpa federal constituency in kogi state has been maintaining this rotational formula since the country returned to a Democratic system of government.
In 1999, honorable Abimaje Muazu from Ankpa local government was elected and happened to be the first rep member after the country returned to democracy.
In 2003, senator Attai Ali Aidoko from Olamaboro local government was elected and was still reelected in 2007 consecutively, after the completion of his second term in 2011, Hon Idris Muhammad Ibro from Omala local government was voted massively based on the principle of rotational method which the good and loving people of Ankpa federal constituency has been maintaining.

In 2015 Hon. Hassan Omale from Ankpa local government was elected, during this period, all the major political parties zoned their party tickets to Ankpa local government to enable them to produce the next house of rep member, it was then that distinguished Hon Hassan Omale of all progressive Congress (APC) emerged victoriously in the general election.
Hon Hassan Omale lost reelection but despite that APC, PDP and other major political parties still zone their party tickets to Ankpa to enable them to complete their second card, it was in that contest that honorable Halims won on the platform of All Progressive Congress (APC) who is currently the member representing Ankpa, Olamaboro and Omala federal constituency at the green Chamber. based on the historical background given thus far, Ankpa local government has ruled for 12 years leading above olamaboro and omala local government respectively since the returned to democracy.
Standing on the history given below it is now unmistakable that it is the turn of olamaboro local government to produce the next House of Representatives member in 2023 because olamaboro local government has never against the zoning formula and this has created love, conformity, and purposeful leadership among the three local governments that made up the federal constituency.
As the 2023 election draws nearer,we appeal to all the major parties in Ankpa federal constituency to zone their party tickets to Olamaboro local government to enable them to produce the House of Representative member to continue with the zoning strategy that has been in places to keep going if this zoning method is maintained there will be compassionate and again there won’t be any means of politics of one-sided or dominance but uniformity
Let us all termed with this reality for the refinement of our federal constituency.

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God bless Ankpa federal constituency.

God bless Kogi State.

God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Abutu Silas Ojochenemi

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