By Obiora Ifoh
The expectation in the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP is that its candidate for the 2023 presidential election may come from the north, however the reality will be clearer after the national convention of the party which is expected to hold in October. This is because a lot other party leaders are of the opinion that for the interest of equity and justice, the South-East should produce the presidential candidate of the party, being the only major ethnic zone yet to occupy Aso Rock since the present dispensation. Another school of thought also thinks that the North East should be allowed to produce the candidate. This is because no other zone in the North can boast of more membership of the PDP than the zone. It also has an added advantage of being a zone three out of six state governors.
Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, a southerner was the last president from the PDP to have occupied the presidency and the Northern elements in PDP are strongly contending that the zoning should be in their favour. This is not withstanding the fact that the present occupant, President Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner is on his second lap of eight year tenure.
PDP has however said that for the party to have any chances of retrieving power soonest, it will not be restricting the candidacy to any zone and that it is throwing open the contest to all zones of the federation.
By tradition of the party, the national chairman of the PDP and its presidential candidate should follow the North/South understanding of power equation. The implication is that if for instance, the PDP elects a national chairman from the South, the North will be expected to produce the party’s presidential candidate, and vice-versa. It is however safe to assume that the permutation on the zoning will have a clearer perspective after the October convention.
But not withstanding the contestation and debates, a good number of aspirants have already shown more than cursory interest towards the exalted office. Though as usual, there will certainly be contenders and pretenders but at least about five top contenders have so far emerged. Among them are Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Senate President Bukola Saraki and Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal; the North. And from the South are former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, former Senate President Anyim Pius Anyim and Enugu state governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed came into prominence in 2007 with his election into the Senate to represent the Bauchi South senatorial district. He was a leader of the Unity Forum, a group of senators that mobilised support for the then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan during the protracted infirmity of late President Umaru Yar’Adua. The Bala group had mounted a support campaign for Jonathan against the backdrop of opposition perceived to have been inspired by a cabal within Yar ‘Adua’s kitchen cabinet. Jonathan eventually became President after Yar ‘Adua’s death in 2010. He appointed Bala Mohammed as Minster of the Federal Capital Territory.
As a minister of the Federal Capital Territory under Jonathan administration, Bala had gained tremendous experience as an consummate administrator who was exposed to international politics as the Mayor of Abuja whose duty also included welcoming all diplomatic corps and personalities and in which most cases he personally honoured some of them with diplomatic citizenship.
After a four-year break, he contested for the governorship in 2019 on the platform of the PDP and won the election. He also the PDP committee charged with a responsibility to review the factors that led to the party’s loss in the 2019 election and to make recommendations for the way forward.
In his early 60s, Bala’s ambition is gaining traction, but the governor has not confirmed or denied rumours in the media space linking him to the 2023 race but a Bala presidency is certainly one project that will fly should he throw his hat into the ring.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is one Nigerian who has shown his thirst for the presidency since the inception of the present dispensation. Atiku played key roles in the enthronement of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 whom he served as his vice. Efforts by Atiku to climb into Aso Rock as substantive leader have repeatedly failed.
First he contested under the AC ticket in 2007 but lost to the late Umaru Yar’Adua who ran on the platform of the PDP. Atiku returned to the PDP shortly after Yar ‘Adua’s death and struggled in vain for the party’s presidential ticket in 2011.
Jonathan picked the PDP ticket and went ahead to win the election. In 2013, he joined many other prominent PDP bigwigs to dump the PDP for the then newly formed mega opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). He lost the party ticket in 2015 to Muhammadu Buhari. He returned to PDP, though he picked the party’s ticket but he lost again to Buhari in the 2019 general election.
Though, he had been away from Nigeria for what he claimed was for academic reasons but he has since returned and is seen playing host to his numerous supporters, visiting states and participating in most party activities lately. Born November 25, 1946, Atiku will be 77 in 2023, a factor that may militate against his presidential ambition. Though he has not made his political intentions public, but it is believed that with his huge political capital and financial war-chest, Atiku will definitely attempt for the ‘last’ time to hit the bull at the eyes.
Aminu Tambuwal, the Sokoto State Governor may turn out to be one of the strongest contenders in the race for the party ticket. He has been able to maintain a relatively baggage free outlook in his political career so far. His conciliatory approach to politics has continued to endear him to many stakeholders in the opposition party.
Widely perceived to be temperate and level headed, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives has continued to build political bridges across the six geopolitical zone right from his days in the federal legislature. Seen by his colleagues in the PDP Governors Forum as a team player, the 55 years old Tambuwal’s contribution to the relative stability in the PDP may count for him when the chips are down.
As chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, Tambuwal, who is currently serving his second and final term as governor, is seen by many of his compatriots as a stickler for objectivity in all situations. Under his leadership, the PDP Governors Forum has become a force to reckon with in tackling the ruling APC over its obvious poor performance and the administration’s abysmal failure to tame the hydra headed security challenges ravaging the land. He has also played a key role in steadying the turbulent wave of crisis in the PDP, a situation which is currently threatening the ones famous umbrella.
Tambuwal started his political career as a member of the House of Representatives elected on the platform of the PDP before he emerged as Speaker in 2011. He was a member of a group of disgruntled chieftains that formed the “rebel” nPDP that defected to the APC in 2013. He got elected governor in 2015 on the platform of the APC but dumped the ruling party and returned to the PDP in 2018 alongside a few others who defected to the APC about the same time. He joined the race for the presidential ticket of the PDP in 2018, but came second, losing the slot to Atiku. He sought re-election as governor in 2019 and got re-elected for a second term. Should he become a candidate of the party in 2023, he will certainly be a huge thorn in the flesh of other opposition parties.
Bukola Saraki was a two term governor of Kwara State and was elected the President of the Senate in 2015. Very influential politicians having been tutored by his father Olusola Saraki, a second Republic Senate leader.
His political influence was however dented during the 2019 general election where his political leadership in the state was challenged. He lost election to the APC, a party he once funded after he joined other political rebels in 2013 in PDP to form nPDP.
However, Saraki is from North Central, another zone yet to taste the presidency since 1999. In 2019, Saraki also contested for the presidential ticket in PDP but lost to Atiku. He has remained a visible force in the party and is currently charing various reconciliatory committees in PDP. His eyes are nevertheless still on the ball. He will likely attempt to seek the ticket to vie for the presidency.
Another potential candidate for the PDP presidential ticket is Peter Obi, the former Anambra state governor who was the PDP’s Vice presidential candidate in the 2019 general election. Along with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who was the candidate of the PDP, Obi showed his classy touch in governance particularly as it concerns the solutions to the economic quagmire, Nigeria has been grappling with in the recent.
Born in 1961, Obi graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1980 with a degree in Philosophy. He spent better parts of his life in the board rooms of many companies and conglomerates. He was elected governor of Anambra State under the Ikemba Odumegwu Ojukwu led-All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) where he spent eight years and seven months as the governor. He was sworn in as governor of Anambra State on 17 March 2006. However, on 2 November 2006, he was impeached after seven months in office. He took the matter to court, he won and was reinstated on 9 February 2007.
Another election took place in 2007, that brought in Andy Uba. Obi went to court to argue that he didn’t complete his four-year tenure, the court agreed with him and said his tenure ought to end on March 2010. After his dramatic first term, Obi contested for the position of governorship again and won a second term in office, which ended on 7th of March 2014. He left APGA for the PDP but not after he had succefully worked for the emergence of Willy Obiano as his successor in Anambra.
He was later appointed the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission by former President Goodluck Jonathan in April 2015. He remained very influential and probably the best ever presidential material from the South East. He is reputed to be the only governor in the history of Nigeria that left billions of naira in the coffers of the government, and without putting the state into debt. He ran a frugal administration and built a reputation for himself as a politician who would rather work for his people than engage in primitive acquisition of wealth for which most of his colleagues have been accused of. It was that quality that endered him to Atiku in 2019 and the qualities will certainly speak for him should the presidency be zoned to the South East.
Enugu state governor, Hon. Lawrence Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (popularly known as “Gburugburu”) was born 20 March 1964. He was first elected to the House of Representatives of Nigeria in 2003 where he served as Chairman, House Committee on Marine Transport. A third term Reps, who later contested and won the governorship election in 2015 under the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. He is currently in his second term in office.
Under his leadership, Enugu state has achieved tremendous transformation in the area of rural development where he commissioned several landmarks and legacy projects- projects that impact directly on the people. Never before in the history had the state witnessed so much tranquility, a situation where all political actors had to subsume their interests all for the greater good of the state.
Because Enugu city still holds the honour of being capital of the South East zone, the governor has however continued to play prominent roles in the South-East politics where he is incidentally not just a unifying decimal but also played the chief host in several meetings where the issues concerning the zone are decided.
This calm, resourceful, humane, agile, dynamic and development driven governor most often prefered not to be seen or heard but most assuredly has proved to be factor in the quest for a united Ndigbo. In spite of the political and ideological differences of most governors and leaders in the state, Ugwuanyi has continued to exhibit a unique personality as someone who appears not politically ambitious or hungry for power. He is also seen in quaters as not being flamboyant, and as a colourless politician, however, it appears that these qualities are turning out to be his strengths on which it is being speculated that he could be the best presidential material from the South East. Like every other possible aspirants, Governor Ugwuanyi has not made any pronouncement on his future ambition but when he eventually does, he will certainly be a strong contender and will certainly not lack support from the South-East.
Former Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim was born on February 19, 1961 and after his law degree, he became the Head of Protection Department at the National Commission for Refugees, Abuja, in 1992, a job that included the provision of legal services and political protection for refugees. In this capacity he traveled to various parts of the world.
As the political impulse flowered, in 1998, he joined the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP) and won a Senate election.
However, the death of General Sani Abacha on June 8 of that year nullified the result. During the transitional regime of General Abdulsalami Abubakar, he joined the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and again ran successfully for election to the Senate in 1999. Anyim took office in the Senate in May 1999, and was elected President of the Senate in August 2000, after Chuba Okadigbo was impeached. He creditably held the office until May 2003.
With remarkable foresight, he did not seek reelection in 2003 – correctly reading the political barometer at the period. He was appointed by former President, Goodluck Jonathan to head the Centenary celebration of the proclamation of Nigeria as a nation by colonial Britain. In January 2010, he led a delegation of 41 eminent Nigerians that called on President Umaru Yar’Adua to urgently transmit a letter of his incapacitation to the National Assembly to salvage the nation’s democracy from danger. This willy-nilly led to the Senate passing a resolution on February 9, 2010, to make Vice President Goodluck Jonathan Acting President. In May 2011, he was appointed as Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) by President Jonathan.
Though Anyim left the scene after Jonathan left office in 2015 but he has continued to play an elder statesman’s role for the common good and sustainable development of Ndigbo and Nigeria as a whole. He is no less a child of providence, wielding influence with alluring humility and exemplary focus. He has spoken and continues to speak to both regional and national uncertainties and fears, with courage and conviction. It is also rumoured that he harbours presidential ambition.
Obiorah is an Abuja based journalist.
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A Re-Union Weekend In Benin City
By Ehi Braimah
It was time to head back to the ancient city of Benin recently – that was from September 23 to 26, 2021 – for the re-union of my classmates. We attended Government College, Ughelli (GCU), now in Delta State, previously in Bendel State. Edo and Delta States were created from the old Bendel State.
Such gatherings bring back old memories for “boys” who have now become “men”. It was truly a priviledge to have attended GCU – a public secondary school for male students only. When my set gained admission into the school, J.E. Jones, an Englishman, was the Principal.
I was quite young at the time and we grouped into two arms – A and B – of not more than 20 students each. My class teacher who also doubled as Art teacher was M.D .Asoro. He was tall and lanky. I completed my primary education at Eserophe Primary School, Ughelli, which reverted to its former name: Nigerian Baptist Convention (NBC) Primary School, Ughelli. I was at Payne Primary School, Upper Mission Road, Benin City before we shifted base to Ughelli where I ended up spending 10 years.
After scaling the entrance examination successfully into three secondary schools, I chose GCU for its reputation. We were required to sit for another test and interview in the hallowed premises of GCU. Only those who made the final shortlist were given letters of admission.
To the best of my knowledge, no one was bribed to facilitate the admission of students into GCU, one of the best public secondary schools in Nigeria in those halcyon days. Admission was purely on merit and the experience in a productive learning environment was awesome. Nothing compares to that anymore except in the elite schools funded by the rich and affluent amongst us.
Today, you’re forced to weep at what public schools in Nigeria have become. They are not different from the general decay that is prevalent in every segment of society and it explains why parents and guardians who can afford the fees send their children to private schools. But paying school fees is no longer a stroll in the park due to our current economic circumstances.
From poor sanitary conditions to lack of desks and chairs, broken doors and windows, suffocating classrooms that are overcrowded without ceilings and electricity, the conditions in public schools (primary and secondary) are pathetic. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what happens to the yearly appropriations for education – both at the national and subnational levels?
We are not exactly strangers to the games people with access to opportunities and power play. Funds that are meant for the development of educational infrastructure are stolen and diverted. When contracts are awarded, there are no performance bonds to hold the vendors accountable. Even where such bonds exist, they are bloody pieces of paper that are thrashed for profit by all the parties involved in an egregious display of greed because there are usually no consequences.
The interventions by philanthropists and humanitarian service organisations as well as alumni groups have helped to mitigate the rate of decay in public schools. Rotary clubs in 532 Districts all over the world have continued to make strong interventions in Basic Education and Literacy – one of Rotary International’s seven areas of focus.
The late sage, Nelson Mandela (1918 – 2013), said education is the most powerful weapon which we can use to change the world. He was right. According to information available at Rotary International website, over 775 million people over the age of 15 are illiterate – that’s 17% of the world’s adult population.
There’s even a far more sobering statistic based on UNICEF data: over 40% of the world’s children are not accessing basic education and Nigeria occupies the unenviable 6th position out of 10 countries in the world with the highest rates of out-of-school children. We are grouped with Liberia, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Sudan and Niger in the Hall of Shame.
When we gathered in Benin City to reflect on the days we spent together in GCU, we counted ourselves lucky. There was regular electricity and pipe borne water flowed non-stop. The laundry took care of our school uniforms and bed sheets, while the sick bay attended to the sick. GCU was not a military school but there was orderliness and everywhere was clean. Sometimes, I wonder whether those days in GCU will ever return.
GCU was a training ground for future leaders. In addition to our studies, we had extra-curricular activities aimed at developing our talents in different areas. Students were encouraged to develop interest in at least one sport and take part in it in order to avoid being called a “waste pipe”. We had the Literary and Debating Society, Drama Society, Cadet (the para-military group), Scout, Boys’ Brigade, Red Cross, Mariners’ Dance Band and so on.
Speaking vernacular was completely forbidden and siesta was compulsory. However, it wasn’t all work and no play. We also danced to soulful music on Saturday nights and generally enjoyed ourselves.
There were friendship and cultural exchange programmes between GCU and two female schools in Ughelli: Anglican Girls Grammar School and St Theresa Girls Grammar School. It was an experience that helped us to grow as young men and it sharpened our worldview on relationships with the opposite sex.
Lights out was compulsory at 9.30 pm; it meant you must return to your bed and sleep. From your first day in class until you wrote the final exams, everyone was groomed to be strong, focused and independent.
GCU also had the Higher School Certificate (HSC) programme which lasted for two years but it was not compulsory. It was an Advanced Level course where only three subjects are taken before proceeding to the university.
We were also trained to develop a winning mindset. GCU gave us a wide canvass where you could splash your own colours with the brush of your choice. We were allowed to make our mistakes and learn from those mistakes.
Whether it was a Treasure Hunt game that required all participants to think on their feet by decoding clues or General Inspection which was a contest for the cleanest House (hostel), the competitive spirit was alive and well in GCU, preparing us for a world of competition in the years ahead.
In sports, GCU was ahead of its peers because the facilities were available and maintained regularly. Football, cricket, athletics, table tennis, lawn tennis, badminton, handball, volleyball and basketball were the dominant sports.
Over large swathes of land, we had the administrative and classroom blocks, dining hall, hostels, well-manicured lawns and shrubs, parks and gardens, junior and senior staff quarters, sick bay, sports complex, assembly hall, metal and woodwork sections, laundry and tarred roads that left a memorable and charming picturesque on our minds.
No one can foretell the future but the bonds of friendship and fellowship that we shared as young students back in the day are celebrated each time we meet in a convivial atmosphere – we generally exude good humour and bonhomie. The Benin re-union ticked all the boxes. There’s also plenty of yabis time but the cheerful friendliness displayed anywhere old boys meet has created an enduring vibrant fraternity.
With a new EXCO in place after our AGM/Elections, our next re-union will hold in Abuja in 2023. Fidel Oke, our classmate and senior executive of FBN Insurance, chairs the Abuja Branch. He told us he was returning to Abuja to swing into action for a befitting Abuja re-union.
Two classmates (Osaguona Ogie and Amos Agadaigho) celebrated their birthday on Friday September 24. There was cake and wine to the delight of the palate. Osaguona, by the way, is the twin brother of Osarodion Ogie, Secretary to the Edo State government (SSG).
It was the weekend of our re-union that the long awaited list of Edo State commissioner-nominees including two special advisers was released by Governor Godwin Obaseki. A classmate joked that Obaseki knew GCU old boys were in town for their re-union and he decided to honour their presence with the announcement.
Osaguona returned to Nigeria after about 18 years sojourn in the United Kingdom and he has adjusted well. He was a member of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the Benin re-union which was chaired by Godfrey Okobaroh. They did an excellent job hosting the class. Initially, some classmates expressed security concerns and the spread of COVID-19 infections. They wanted the re-union cancelled but that was not to be. It turned out to be a glorious get together.
The diaspora arm of our class is very active and they support the welfare package of the class with generous donations. They are able to join our meetings from time to time using the Zoom app. With greying hair as our everyday companion, it means we are growing older by the day. That explains why the rank of retirees is swelling, even though they may not be tired.
Apart from the standard welfare package for classmates through voluntary donations, we also have a Group Life Insurance policy for the class – for both permanent disability and death. Indeed, we have lost some classmates to the cold hands of death, most of them not yet 60 years old. May their souls rest in peace!
Besides our class, we also have the broader alumni group: Government College, Ughelli Old Boys Association (GCUOBA) with different branches – both at home and in the diaspora. For a term of two years (2019 -2021), Sam Omatseye, my classmate, essayist, poet, journalist and chairman of the Editorial Board of Nation newspaper, was the president of the Lagos Branch of GCUOBA while I served as the vice president.
Being an old boy of GCU in general and my class in particular is a thing of joy and pride. The experience gave us the kind of confidence we needed to move ahead in life. The discipline and orderliness in GCU were unmistakable, making it possible for us to establish our credentials and competencies with authority at every station of life that we found ourselves.
When it was time for the election of officers, there was no rigging or ballot snatching – it was smooth and orderly. It was a mark of GCU excellence. The previous EXCO led by Omatsola Vincent as chairman was largely returned for another term of two years due to their excellent performance. Vincent led by personal example and I’m not surprised that he, alongside members of his team, recorded a huge success to the admiration of his classmates.
The class chair always acted with courage and that is what leaders need to make the right decisions without fear or favour. Nigeria needs that tribe of leaders who can lead from the front as we prepare for another election cycle in 2023.
Braimah is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Naija Times (https://naijatimes.ng)
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Fani-Kayode On A Familiar Road
Only a casual observer of the unpredictable Nigerian political space will be surprised when the picture of President Muhammadu Buhari, governors Mai Buni of Yobe State, his Zamfara counterpart, Bello Matawalle and Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode, flooded the social media on Thursday evening.
The news of the meeting, in a follow up to quench the curiosity of Nigerians, was that Fani-Kayode has defected or should we say, has returned to the ruling All Progressive Congress, (APC). The former spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential Campaign Council was introduced to the president formally at the Villa as APC member by the Yobe Governor, who is also the Chairman of the APC national caretaker committee, who was accompanied by the Zamfara state helmsman, Matawalle.
The loquacious former minister, said he worked behind the scene to facilitate the defection of three Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Addressing State House reporters Fani-Kayode, who explained that he had been a founding member of the APC, said he returned to the APC for the unity and togetherness of the country.
He further characteristically hinted that he was also working behind the scene to woo the governors of Oyo, Bauchi and Enugu states, Seyi Makinde, Bala Mohammed and Ifeanyi Uguanyi respectively, to also relinquish their current parties and join the ruling APC. The veracity of this revelation will be known in the next few days or weeks.
But it was vintage FFK in front of the cameras in Aso Rock, flanked by the two Northern governors, telling the unwary why he decided to leave the PDP at this point in time. Trying, albeit unconvincingly, to tell Nigerians that President Buhari, who he had hitherto called unprinted names; who he incessantly used every opportunity to abuse; is the best thing that ever happened to Nigeria.
This was a man who said in December 2019, when there was speculation that he was considering joining the APC who described it as a sinking party and a party in darkness. “I will rather die than join APC”, he famously said. And even though men of honour are becoming increasingly elusive in our political terrain, a decent party full of honourable members would find it difficult to reconcile FFK’s latest outbursts to what he said about the party barely three years ago.
I don’t think most Nigerians would give FFK latest indiscretion or political summersault the benefit of the doubt, because the man simply does not deserve it. This is a man whose main preoccupation is that of a rabble-rouser. Apart from being unprincipled, covetous and unpragmatic, he had shown over the years that he can be unreliable and cannot be trusted. Yes, even though we all knew that he has little regard for integrity and decency, his latest move is way too low and pathetic.
What political value is he even bringing to the table? FFK has never won an election since he became a prominent political figure in this country. He had always been a paperweight who finds solace in making a lot of noise. Unlike Patrick Buchanan, the vivacious American journalist and politician, who, apart from being an intellectual and a polemist, won election to the House of Representatives, FFK has never been on a major ballot for elections. Even in his native Osun State, he is not known to be a political heavyweight. Rather, many see him as someone who just wants to be noticed and not someone who wants to contribute to the well-being of the people.
It therefore amuses me that the APC leadership and the presidency gave him a red carpet and a presidential treat. There was no sign that the ruling party was in serious crisis and needed an FFK as a catalyst or a major asset to fill the void. Perhaps the APC leaders knew what they are doing that we don’t know and wanted to score a cheap political point that the vocal and opportunistically ranting fellow will be useful inside than outside their fold.
For goodness sake FFK is not the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, whose defection to the ruling party will be a masterstroke and will shake the nation’s politics to its foundation and even change the political dynamics of the country; and he does have the weight of the governor of Delta or even Sokoto States, whose exit from the opposition party would badly damage their political fortunes. Why then would Buhari undignified his office by giving FFK and company a photo-op and red carpet that he badly needed to redeem his unenviable and battered image?
Are the handlers of PMB mindful of the damage such an itinerant hustler will do to the image of the presidency? Must the president give FFK such an important audience when the reception can always be done by another senior government official? Or was it a set up to embarrass the president? These are some salient questions that need to be answered so that the issue can be given proper perspective.
For sure, his return to the fold of the ruling party cannot be a plus, it would indeed, be a big minus to its electoral fortunes. FFK will ultimately be judged by what he said in the past and if what he said is anything to go by, then, it is easy to conclude that his inconsistencies would have a negative impact on both himself and his new party going forward.
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Hurray! It’s Naija Times’ First Anniversary
By Ehi Braimah
It was on September 15 last year that we invited family, friends and associates to the launch of Naija Times. It was a hybrid event. All too soon, Naija Times has completed one full circle of 365 days – it’s our first anniversary.
We thank God for keeping us alive because Covid-19 is today’s grim reaper. So many lives have been lost to the deadly virus. It is indeed an irony that it was at the height of the lockdown last year that we decided it was time to launch Naija Times.
The clock keeps ticking – a constant reminder that time waits for no one.
The idea of floating an online newspaper had always been on my mind but I kept it in the can. When I informed Jahman Anikulapo, art enthusiast and former Editor of The Guardian on Sunday, that it was time to launch the newspaper, he told me he was in retirement.
Somehow, I managed to pull him out of his self-imposed retirement from journalism practice and he agreed to work part-time as Editorial Director. But Jahman has been doing more than our part-time agreement because he wanted us to produce a “complete” digital newspaper – no newsprint, printing press, circulation vans or vendors. Technology has enabled us to operate a virtual suite for Naija Times.
I’m happy to report that Jahman’s commanding influence in the newsroom and rock-solid commitment to the project has been beneficial to Naija Times and the team of reporters, writers, researchers and contributors. Jahman has been doing a yeoman’s job – he’s a workaholic and newshound of the first rank. I still do not know how he manages to juggle his role at Naija Times with his other numerous engagements.
In order to achieve our goal of producing a “complete newspaper”, I contacted Akpandem James, another senior and experienced journalist who lives and works in Abuja, to join the team and he gladly accepted. Like most Nigerians, Akpandem and I are passionate about a Nigeria that works for everyone but we also believe Nigerians must learn to take responsibility for their individual roles.
Although leaders are the conscience of society, a country can only get the leader it deserves and we must understand that the leaders are not going to drop from the moon. They live amongst us. This was why we decided to work together on another “Proudly Nigerian” project.
Previously, Akpandem was Editor and later CEO of Daily Independent before his appointment as Assistant Secretary, Media and Communications of the 2014 National Conference inaugurated by former President Goodluck Jonathan, and subsequently as Special Adviser (Media) to Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, former Minister of Budget and National Planning.
With Jahman and Akpandem agreeing to support the dream, I knew I was the luckiest guy in the world. This was even more so because I have enduring relationships spanning several seasons with both of them.
In any event, I was not going to do the job alone; Jahman and Akpandem made it possible for us to build a great team from Day One – and we are having plenty of fun working together. I’m grateful for their friendship and goodwill.
To kick-start the project, I created a WhatsApp forum on July 25, 2020 for seamless sharing of information. After welcoming them to the forum, I wrote this: “Naija Times is planned to be an online newspaper and the vision is for the paper to become an easily recognisable brand in Nigeria within 24 months. I welcome ideas on how we can build a strong Naija Times brand that can be trusted.”
That goal looked like a tall order but our Zoom meetings commenced immediately. We discussed the editorial policy and direction of Naija Times bearing in mind the overarching objective of publishing stories that are “factual, balanced and credible to achieve the highest standards of ethical journalism.”
Even choosing the name Naija Times was deliberate. It went through a thoughtful and iterative process to enable successful branding. What we had in mind 12 months ago was to position Naija Times as Nigeria’s voice for news around the world and it explains the choice of colours and dot ng domain.
No newspaper is complete without well researched and interesting contents. We went ahead to create multiple and diverse sections because of our vision for a “complete” newspaper. We also publish weekly editorials and the Editorial Advisory Board, chaired by Akpandem, holds two virtual meetings monthly.
Let me confess that we are truly blessed with a great team of distinguished professionals in different fields serving voluntarily on the Board. They include business persons, university dons, media practitioners and public policy analysts in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Jos, Ottawa (Canada), Austin, Texas (USA) and Boston, Massachusetts (USA).
At the last Editorial meeting, the Board members unanimously agreed to write articles on key Nigerian issues from different perspectives to mark our first anniversary. It turned out to be the icing on the cake and they are highly appreciated.
In addition to being Chair of the Editorial Advisory Board, Akpandem uses his network of high profile contacts to source and send materials regularly to the newsroom from the presidency, state governments, political parties, MDAs and development agencies. He also interfaces with opinion writers and contributors to Naija Times – including the ones he invited to write for us.
I must especially commend the contributions of Dan Amor, lead editorial writer; Bankole Wright, assistant lead writer and our founding staff, Kolawole Ojebisi (News Editor), Paul Otaigbe (Copy Editor) – they have moved on to other assignments – and Prince Toby Udo, our Assistant Editor who works round the clock. He is a rare gem and he is ably supported by Hollins Esegba, our Assistant Content Manager who doubles as a reporter.
Kanayo Ume is one of the best graphic designers in town taking charge of our Creatives and projecting the right visual image for Naija Times. I salute Frederick Agbi who produced our Naija Times branded T-shirts and shipped them from the United Kingdom.
I’m thankful to an amazing team comprising of Manuella Igori, Vincent Braimah, Bola Okoromadu, Mary Soremekun, Ifeoluwa Odunlade, Blessing Obi and Nkechi Njoku who provide back office support.
We also have a long list of regular contributors, opinion writers and columnists, wonderful people who are supportive of the Naija Times dream. They include Armsfree Ajanaku (who is also on the Editorial Advisory Board), Joseph Afamhe, Nurudeen Obalola, Oyindamola Lawal, Jane Peters, Ubongabasi James, Moses Ebong, Samuel Benjamin, EnemonaAtamodu, MajaFawole, OlayinkaOyegbile, Benson Idonije, Femi Odugbemi and others.
My wife, Oluwakemi, a first class care-giver, has been managing the last line of defence, ensuring that we did not score “own goals”. We have received tonnes of constant encouragement and we remain grateful to her.
We also thank our advertisers who have been there for us. They include, UBA, Access Bank, First Bank, Fidelity Bank, Nigerian Breweries Plc and NASCO Group. But like Oliver Twist, we want them to do more.
In our first year, we set out to create rich and interesting content that would be supported by a user-friendly website. In today’s digital world with millions of websites, a robust digital marketing strategy that can enable a meaningful global ranking is inevitable.
That was how Ayo Banjo, a website architectural professional, joined the team and he initially supervised MacDonald Chigozie and Deji Oluwadare – two creative and hardworking web designers.
Ayo who studied Computer Science at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa practiced journalism in the 90s. He brought to the table his wealth of experience in robust website security architecture and outstanding user-interface experience for our readers.
His role is basically to oversee the functionality of Naija Times website, evaluate and manage its performance, facilitate hosting and server management. In addition, he develops, maintains and updates Naija Times website content with critical oversight responsibility for internal and external security against malware and any other infection.
Ayo and I, by the way, have also come a long way together as friends, brothers and associates. We are both Rotarians and we belong to the same Club – the Rotary Club of Lagos, the oldest Club in Rotary International, District 9110, and the second oldest Club in Nigeria (after the Rotary Club of Kano, District 9125), having been chartered on May 30, 1961.
As a deliberate policy, we targeted Nigerians in the diaspora. They are a key audience. Apart from having a “Diaspora News” section and “Diaspora Files” (from contributors around the world), we also launched “Naija Times Diaspora Conversations”, a virtual colloquium, on April 17, 2021 with the following objectives:
Engage our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora and give them a voice on issues that affect us;
Find a common ground from the discussions and make recommendations to the government;
Promote patriotism amongst this demography — we do not have any other country to call our own, and
Publish summary of the conversations on Naija Times website for the benefit of our readers.
As we look ahead to the next cycle of elections, our 3rd Naija Times Diaspora Conversations will discuss the leaders we want in 2023. We have in mind visionary and competent leaders that can be trusted. Who are they? I’m using this opportunity to appreciate all our previous discussants and participants for their various contributions to the task of nation building.
Part of our strategic positioning is to tell the Nigerian story as it is without fear or favour and promote a developmental agenda. All Nigerians, regardless of where we come from, must take on the patriotic duty of selling the positive attributes of our great country to the rest of the world, no matter our circumstance.
It is true that Nigeria is blessed with abundant human and natural resources which confer unique advantages on the largest black nation in the world. Apart from being the most populous country in Africa (208 million people), Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa.
It is being projected that by 2050, Nigeria’s rapidly growing population will be about 400 million, making it the third most populous country in the world after China and India. However, our burgeoning population will also become our albatross because of poor local productive capacity.
If there’s no incentive to produce locally, our appetite for imported goods will continue to grow. The downside will be further devaluation of our currency thereby reducing the purchasing power of the Naira which is already in a free fall.
Due to current economic hardship and uncertainties (it is difficult to plan and the security challenges are unhelpful), there is an exodus of our best and brightest out of the country but the trend can be reversed, and we cannot give up because Nigeria is too big to fail.
History has shown that nations rise out of the ashes of difficult periods; all stakeholders – including journalists – must come together to fast-track the renaissance process for a “New Nigeria”.
In reporting the news, Naija Times will continue to expand the frontiers of development journalism by using such reports to shape public policy to build strong institutions for a better society. This explains why we adopted the slogan: Journalism in the service of society.
As stated in our Vision Statement, “Naija Times is committed to building an egalitarian society that is founded on equity, justice and respect for fundamental human rights”. To achieve these noble objectives, Naija Times needs to be strong and independent.
As we begin another circle of 365 days, what do we want to achieve? Ultimately, we want our footprints to be on a solid ground. We intend to use the platform for advocacy to control our birth rate because population explosion is a time bomb waiting to go off. The federal government should begin to articulate and implement policies on birth control as a matter of national emergency.
Secondly, we shall promote transparency in the implementation of government policies and spending — it is the only way we can win back people’s trust. Our reports will therefore highlight the essence of building social capital and its numerous benefits; good governance mechanisms, gender equity and social inclusion.
Another area of interest will be reviewing the impact of yearly appropriations on the development of healthcare and education. The measurement of human development index in any society cannot ignore the well-being and literacy rate of its people.
Finally, we cannot run away from reporting the devastating impact of climate change in all its ramifications – a clear and present danger threatening our common humanity.
In Nigeria, for instance, we have seen how increased flooding from heavy downpours is wreaking havoc across the land. The story is not different in Europe and the United States with ravaging tornadoes, extremely high summer temperatures, horrific storms, wild fires, record rainfall and floods.
The Naija Times project has not been a bed of roses — we had our challenges and disappointments but we summoned the courage to forge ahead. Getting to the first anniversary finish line and crossing it is like winning a gold medal but Naija Times is still work-in-progress and the future is bright.
We definitely hope to do more in our second year by God’s grace and with the support of our readers, advertisers, well-wishers and other stakeholders. God bless you!
Braimah is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Naija Times (https://naijatimes.ng)
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