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Tinubu, Aregbesola and South West Politics

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Adewale Adeoye argues that only unity of purpose in the South can win it presidential laurels in 2023

In the last few weeks, the social media has been filled with speculations that a rift exists between two important figures in Yorubaland, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu and his soulmate, Comrade Rauf Adesoji Aregbesola.

Cynical cheers, glee and a sense of remorse, in some instance have seized the cyber space.

There are people who wish to see the two in a boxing ring. In fact, in many instances, the spectators have been obtaining tickets for what they imagine would be a political rumble in the jungle. I begin with an impressive chronological account in Yoruba bygone. It has to do with the glorious era of the old Oyo Empire, when she had a formidable army with over 100,000 in numerical strength, at a time that no force in the Sahara could measure up to her feet.

The leader of the parliament (Senate President) ordered him to shut up, charging at him “Ta ni mon Okolo l’oyo” meaning “who knows an insignificant Okolo, a wretched of the earth in this Republic.” The next few days, Okolo set a part of the palace ablaze. For the first time, Okolo gained fame, albeit a very loathsome one, but he became known nevertheless. It was not clear what punishment was meted out to Okolo, but the damage had been done, Okolo had proved to the world that he could make himself known even though he was previously a footnote. This sums up the danger of what the people in the gallery could do to disrupt the stage where they are not the main actors but trivial spectators. There is a growing perception of a rift between two of the most dominant political figures in Yorubaland, Asiwaju Tinubu and his godson, Ogbenin Aregbesola. This has been fueled by certain developments which the many ‘Okolos’, the spoilers within the political circle have tried vehemently to link with what they see as a brewing storm between the two soul mates. Why is the issue important to us? As indigenous people of the South West with a deep sense of history, we have always known that spectators have a devious way of igniting fire where there is none and could fuel the embers into a dangerous peril which may affect peace and stability of the dominion.

Promoters of this cite the dissolution of the Mandate Group and the Justice Forum. The action has been described as a plot to cut the wings of Aregbesola in Lagos politics. To be sure, though the two groups are domicile in Lagos, members cut across the entire South West. The activities of members reverberate in and out of Lagos localities, making the two groups a resounding model for regional political transfiguration.

The other event was what they describe as the “missing name of Aregbeola” in the list of Governors Advisory Council, (GAC) in Lagos. Again, why are these issues important to us? Let us face it, all over history, there have been disputes that began as a minor disagreement between two people that later spiral into a mass conflagration, consuming the actors and then the spectators leaving only the bias referees to their glee. These developments are local but have far reaching regional and national implications.

No serious people will ignore real or imagined dispute between some of her most outstanding political figures who are also co-captains in the most influential political party in their protectorate
However, the deliberate (mis)interpretation of these developments should be understood in content and form. There are forces feeding on the figments and realities. There are three tendencies involved with different goals, not really the same in character. First is the politics of Lagos.

No doubt, Comrade Aregbesola has a charm grip on the dynamics of Lagos electoral politics, not being his own creation alone, but courtesy of the responsibility placed on him as far back as 1999 by Asiwaju, backed by Aregbesola’s own power of insight and his knowledge of dialectics which enriches his understanding of Lagos political phenomenon. There is a small but vocal group in Lagos that wants to severe the Tinubu-Asiwaju almost blood-bound ties. They have overt reasons but a covert agenda. They argue that Tinubu may have been giving too much of influence to Aregbesola. But there is a covert game: to weaken Asiwaju’s technical strength and reduce his grandeur by cutting off a major of his roots making him more vulnerable to their concealed assault. In reality, it was not the first time non-party based groups were dissolved in Lagos. Bola Ahmed Tinubu Campaign Organisation, (BATCO) was dissolved. From all indications, the recent dissolution was by leadership consensus.
The other antagonists are equally within the APC and even beyond the party. Yet, a state governor in the North leads her own garrison, a plot. On his visit to Lagos few years ago, Kaduna State Governor, El- Rufai called for an end to ‘godfatherism in Lagos’ teaching his audience on the tactics and strategies of how to defeat the “Lagos godfather.” He suggested raising some billions to fuel the project. If there is a godfather in Lagos politics, what does Mallam El-Rufai stand to gain by being part of the group that seeks its destruction? Does it mean he loves the people of Lagos more than themselves?
Only recently, during an event in Lagos involving Aregbesola, the same El- Rufai said he does not admire Tinubu but that he has fallen in love with his godson. Literarily, he does not admire a king, but he loves his first son. There cannot be a posture as divisive. Let it be admitted. El Rufai is a typical Fulani intellectual: brilliant, intelligent, as calculating as a stealth tiger, surgical in manners of scrutiny and essentially primordial. What then is the game plan? Simple: El-Rufai appears to represent a tendency within the APC that is obsessed with strong regional power blocs different from that in the armpit of his camp, or any other one unless it is subservient to it.
Outside his domain, El-Rufai’s group detests an organized political structure that cannot be broken into pieces, but wants each isolated and weakened. His tendency would love to determine the custodian of political treasures in each regional bloc, its shape, its content, its form. This caucus would love to determine the substance of political relationship across the country. I first met Tinubu in 1992 as a Correspondent with The Guardian. During the anti-June 12 struggle, I watched him closely. In 1999, I also had series of interviews with him while in The Punch. But I have never been intimate, not to the extent of calling or receiving his calls. Yet, I sum up his strength as fierce courage and indomitable will. He has weaknesses, like all humans.

So, it is not that the El-Rufai group hates Tinubu’s intimidating eyeballs, neither his mode of dressing, but rather detests his sheer courage, his lion-heart, his network of intelligence, to bestride over an intimidating political machine, his dexterity, his influence across the South West and even West Africa and beyond and the fact that the region cannot be accessed in piecemeal but in whole, and best through him. Under the British, it was called ‘divide and rule.’

Having fired many arrows at Asiwaju, including taking the ladder off his feet after his huge labour in the last two elections, the forces seek to varnish him not for want of love for the people he represents, but to viciously clear the strongest mortar, difficult to manipulate, to their establishing an unquestionable political garrison. So, it would be in the interest of the hegemony, to demolish what appears to be the most formidable political structure in the South West, supplant it and dissipate its strength. In doing this, having succeeded in creating two blocs in the SW, it will be necessary to strengthen their stronghold by first dismantling one before seeking the destruction of the other. It was thought Aregbesola would be a pun.

But this appears to be a huge blunder, for here is a man with a Marxist background, a dogged defender of his values whose most cherished quality is loyalty to friendship and his never-bend posture in matters of bond. In all, it is all about the 2023 Presidential ambition. If any of the regional blocs in the South remain factionalised, bruised and broken, with each seeking salvation in the undoubtedly outside its zone, I foresee a situation whereby the North again will produce the 2023 Presidential candidate in the two most dominant political parties, APC and PDP. If the Southern elite genuinely want the Presidential trophy in 2023, only a unity of purpose, irrespective of their tendencies, within and outside party politics, can ever save them from self-destruction. Even then seeking the trophy is not enough, Nigerians must be convinced that the next President of Nigeria will create a real paradigm shift from the past to build a status of democracy that cannot be demolished by the current whirlwinds of poverty, violence and threats to the livelihood of millions of Nigerians.

––Adeoye is a journalist

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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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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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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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