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Who Deserves Pardon: Saro-Wiwa Or Buhari?

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By Festus Adedayo

At No 9, Rumuibekwe Road in Port Harcourt on November 10, 1995, the devil sat in a corner, having a saturnalia. No one could see him. He wore dark goggles, donning the uniform of a five-star Army General, wrapped up in a huge celebratory mood. His arch-enemy, Kenule Beeson Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists had just been hanged at the Port Harcourt Prison.

Inside No 9, Rumuibekwe, family members sat on the hood of parked disused cars, weeping profusely, others holding their heads in anguish. By that instant the most recently widowed woman in the world, Hauwa Saro-Wiwa, was inconsolable. Reporters at the Ogoni Special Civil Disturbances Tribunal reported that, since her husband was charged before the tribunal which leapt on its two hind legs like a kangaroo that it was, perhaps sensing a ghoulish foreboding, Hauwa came in to the Rivers House of Assembly Complex venue of the tribunal to observe the proceedings looking gaunt, pale and lean.

On that morning when the devil’s infernal reign was announced, Hauwa, in the company of wives of the then about to be executed Ogoni activists, had taken breakfast to Ken and his convicted compatriots at the Bori Camp Army Settlement where they were detained. The events that transpired must have given Hauwa inkling that the day might be the last for her husband. Not only did the heavily armed security personnel deny the Ogoni wives the opportunity of seeing their husbands, they returned the food after taking them to Ken and the others because, according to them, Ken refused it since he couldn’t confirm where it came from. Like a soliloquy, Harry Saro-Wiwa, Ken’s younger brother who was also at Rumuibekwe Road that afternoon, told journalists, amid wailings, that “the devil has triumphed.”

As prophetic as Harry’s statement was on the afternoon of that November 10, 1995, he should have known that this was just the devil’s dress rehearsal and its eventual triumph would come years later. If Harry ever thought the execution of the Ogoni activists just ordered by military despot, Sani Abacha, marked the triumph of the devil over the Ogoni people’s advocacy, he should have waited for what would happen 26 years later. For the devil, its final triumph came like a thief in the night. Just a few hours to the 26thanniversary of the horrendous hanging of Saro-Wiwa and eight others, the triumph came with pomp and ceremony.

When it came, the hanged activists shook restlessly in their graves. President Muhammadu Buhari recently played host to some Ogoni leaders who had come to pay him a courtesy call at the Aso Rock Villa. Receiving them, Buhari in his address, said that, “In spite of the grievous circumstances, the federal government will consider the request for the grant of pardon to finally close the Ogoni saga.” By that statement, Buhari erected the gallows preparatory to the second and final hanging of Saro-Wiwa. So, the question is: who deserves pardon between this man and that man judicially murdered 26 years ago? Then, the devil threw an orgy like one who had won tombola. It was almost the same way the devil danced in triumph when he vanquished the biblical couple of the early Christian Church, Ananias and Sapphira. Pardon for who and by who?

The trajectory of what led to the hanging of Saro-Wiwa by Abacha is in the public domain and should not dare detain us here. Suffice to say that, since 1958 when Shell Oil Company began drilling on Ogoni land in what was to translate Nigeria into a petro-state economy, the sorrows and tears of this oil-rich people began. Dissatisfied by the effluents, combustible gas flares and the degradation of their land as a result of the exploration which rendered farmlands covered by oil spillage blow-out, rendering them unsuitable for farming, in 1970, the first petition against the operations of Shell, which was then operating a joint venture with the British Petroleum, was made by Ogoni chiefs who took their petition to the Military Governor, lamenting that Shell was “seriously threatening the well-being, and even the very lives” of the people. As if confirming the content of their petition, that same 1970, a huge blowout that spanned three weeks, occurred on the Bomu oilfield in Ogoni land which caused untoward hardship, outrage and widespread pollution.

The Iko people, Ogoni neighbours, were to feel the brunt two years after. In defiance, they protested at the head office of Shell which promptly invited the notorious Mobile Police nicknamed Kill and Go, resulting in the destruction of 40 houses while 350 people became homeless. That year, Ken and his brothers formed a non-violent action group named the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and Ken was made president and Ledun Mitee his vice. On August 4, 1990, Ogoni elders signed what they called the Ogoni Bill of Rights that sought “political control of Ogoni affairs by Ogoni people, control and use of Ogoni economic resources for Ogoni development, adequate and direct representation as of right for Ogoni people in all Nigerian national institutions and the right to protect the Ogoni environment and ecology from further degradation.”

A year after the Ogoni Bill of Rights was signed, it was amended in August 1991, authorizing and empowering MOSOP to seek international assistance for the plight of the Ogoni people and make an appeal to the international community. Saro-Wiwa thus began engagements with multilateral organizations, United Nations, US, Europe and other groups all over the world to sensitize them about the evil being perpetrated by Shell, in cahoots with the Nigerian military government.

Saro-Wiwa, renowned author and playwright, with books like On a darkling plane, Soza Boy and Four Farcical Plays which he adapted to the highly successful television series called Basil and Company, now abandoned all these to concentrate on his people’s advocacy. In July 1992, at Geneva, he addressed the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Peoples where he said, inter-alia: “I speak on behalf of the Ogoni people. You will forgive me if I am somewhat emotional about this matter. I am Ogoni … Petroleum was discovered in Ogoni in 1958 and since then an estimated 100 billion dollars worth of oil and gas has been carted away from Ogoniland. In return for this the Ogoni people have received nothing.”

The Nigerian military elite was riled at Saro-Wiwa’s diffidence. Reputed to be one of them, being friends with many of the big-epaulette soldiers like Abacha himself, it was obvious that Saro-Wiwa was intent on liquidating them and upturning their pots of soup, perhaps committing an intra-elite harakiri. The denouement came on January 4, 1993, when Saro-Wiwa got the Ogoni to celebrate the Year of Indigenous Peoples. This he did by getting 300,000 Ogoni people to peacefully protest against the environmental destruction of Ogoniland by Shell. It frightened Shell departments in London, got the Nigerian government scampering hither thither and was said to remain, till date, the largest demonstration against any oil company. Excited at the turn-out, as if predicting his own death, Saro-Wiwa said if he died then, he was an accomplished man.

Upon seizing the reins of power, Abacha did two things that was to be the pall of Saro-Wiwa. One was the appointment of Lt. Col Dauda Musa Komo as Military Administrator of Rivers State and, Major Paul Okuntimo, an Okun-Yoruba from Kogi State, as Commander, Internal Security, in Rivers State. Okuntimo later became an Army Brigadier-General, rising to become adviser to Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello. Both superintended over the torture, arson and killing of Ogoni and the liquidation of Saro-Wiwa in 1995. Okuntimo died recently in Ibadan of cancer. In all these, there were coordinated evidence that showed that Shell was sponsoring the Kill and Go policemen as evidenced byWillbros, a contractor working for it, which owned up to calling government troops to violently fire back in response to demonstrations by the Ogoni and paying Major Okuntimo and ‘his boys “field allowances”.

It will seem that the assignment was to deliver Saro-Wiwa’s head on a platter. Then came the Abacha Constitutional Conference which the Ogoni agreed that Ken should attend as their representative to voice their plight. Ken however did not submit the form until its submission expired. At a rally in Gokana Local Government which he called to address the people, he was forcefully prevented from mounting the podium and escorted to his car by Mobile Policemen. While entering his car, he was alleged to have told the surging crowd that he had heard that “the vultures” who stopped him from going to the Confab were meeting somewhere and all should be done to fish them out and dealt with.

Before then, Okuntimo was reported to have sent a “restricted” memo to Komo, the Military Administrator, stating that Ogoni was making “Shell operations still impossible unless ruthless military operations are undertaken for smooth economic activities to commence.” In the memo, Okuntimo recommended “Wasting operations during MOSOP and other gatherings making constant military presence justifiable.” On May 21, 1994, exactly nine days after this memo, in Gokana, a mob seized Ogoni elders suspected to be anvils of Shell and the Nigerian government who were taking mercantilist interest in Shell’s continuous exploration and who antagonized MOSOP. In the process, Chief Edward Kobani, Mr. Albert Badey, Chief Samuel Orage and Mr. Samuel Orage were cruelly murdered, thus opening the way for an excuse by government to justify a military operation.

The second day, Saro-Wiwa, Ledum Mitee and many other Ogoni leaders were arrested in connection with the killings. General Abacha then constituted the Tribunal which had Justice Ibrahim Auta as Chairman. Apart from Wiwa and Mitee, other Ogoni leaders brought before the tribunal were a former Commissioner for Commerce and Tourism, Dr. Barinen Kiobel; Mr. John Kpuinen and Baribian Bere. While Gani Fawehinmi acted as defence counsel, Joseeph Dauda (SAN) stood for the prosecution. Fawehinmi had to withdraw at some point when he found out that the state’s hands were heavily visible for the prosecution. For instance, a major evidence in his grip, a tape of a press conference held by Dauda Komo and an Alhaji Kobani, was pronounced unrecyclable by the tribunal. From then, Saro-Wiwa refused to cooperate with the tribunal and his imposed counsel, Michael Kamebigba. Mittee defended self.

Finding Saro-Wiwa and the others guilty, Auta, in a 3-hour judgement, said the murder of the Ogoni four had the accused Ogoni leaders’ hands in it. He sad their offence which contravened the Civil Disturbances Decree of 1987 and punishable by S 316 of the Criminal Code. He thus found the accused guilty and to be hanged by their necks. One Victoria Vokwe had given evidence that Saro-Wiwa told her that there would be a revolution in Ogoni land and heads would roll. As Auta rose, Hauwa wept uncontrollably, her shoulder on Political Scientist, Claude Ake’s shoulders. Ake, who was also inside the Rivers State House of Assembly Complex venue of the tribunal, wore a visage of crimson.

The world still believed that Abacha had a modicum of humanity left in him and would not kill Saro-Wiwa. Prof Wole Soyinka and Wiwa Junior, son of Saro-Wiwa, however moved to Auckland, Newzealand, to convince the gathering Heads of State of the Commonwealth to persuade Abacha to commute the sentences. On November 5, 1995, Bola Ige, in his Uncle Bola’s Column, wrote defending the Ogoni convicts, which he entitled. Saro-Wiwa will live.
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On Thursday, November 8, 1995, the Provisional Ruling Council (PRC) confirmed Auta’s sentence. Announced by the GOC, 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Victor Malu, the PRC said there was no room for clemency. On Saturday, November 10, barely 48 hours after the PRC confirmation, Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni elders, among whom were Saturday Dordee, Nordu Eawo, Felix Nuate, Paul Levula, David Gbokoo, Baribor Bera, Barinen Kobel were hanged at exactly 11.30am. About two hours before then, the prison and other adjoining roads were cordoned off by heavy MOPOL as the hanging was going on. By 2pm, their bodies, taken in a Port Harcourt City truck, were driven out of the prison premises to the cemetery and by 3.15pm, the burial was concluded. There was unconfirmed rumour that their bodies were spattered with acid to speed up the process of decomposition.

Other reactions followed like the suspension of Nigeria from the Commonwealth and harsh reactions by leaders of the world. The UN General Assembly condemned it and President Clinton responded by recalling U.S. Ambassador Walter Carrington for consultations and banned the sale and repair of military goods and services to Nigeria. For British Prime Minister, John Major, it was a “judicial murder.”

Several declassified information pointed at the fact that Saro-Wiwa was murdered by the Nigerian state. He was a sore in their throats and if he and his MOSOP continued, they would put “sand-sand” in the “gari” of the Nigerian military elite who profited from the environmental sorrows of the Ogoni people. With his education, international connection and reach, Saro-Wiwa was fast penetrating the sacred groove of international attention. He had to die.

Apparently anticipating Nigeria’s wickedness, The Guardian, in 1992, had asked him what epitaph he would want written on his grave. The man whom Nigeria was so unfair to that it denied him the usual six feet of the earth, he told the reporter. In death, Abacha reportedly even ordered that acid be poured on Saro-Wiwa, so as to shrink the space of the earth he occupied.

At the time Saro-Wiwa was hanged, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, as he then was, was the de-facto Prime Minister of Nigeria as he served as the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) Chairman. He controlled the levers of the economy and levers of the operations of government. Throughout the period, there was no word from Buhari for the Ogoni leader nor in favour of their being spared to live. Indeed, Saro-Wiwa had to die for the interest of the military elite which Buhari protected, to be sustained. One can thus logically agree that, ipso facto, Buhari was part of the hangmen who finished off the rights activists and his compatriots.

Having said this, it will be safe to conclude that Buhari’s recent claim of considering the offer of clemency to Saro-Wiwa “as part of this administration’s bid to lay the foundation for genuine reconciliation and bring closure to the issues of Ogoni land” was a post-humus re-conviction and re-murdering of Saro Wiwa and his men by the Nigerian state that he represents.

“What type of country is this?” was Saro-Wiwa’s last word on record, a hypothetical question that he sought answer to without success, until the hangman wrenched life out of him. Twenty six years after, the echo of that morbid question still thunders across Nigeria. We all still ask ourselves what type of country this is.

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An Unusual Traffic Jam On Sagamu-Lagos Expressway

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EHI BRAIMAH

By Ehi Braimah

It was a Sunday afternoon trip to Abeokuta. Ordinarily, Sundays are not very busy days and on a “normal” day, it takes about one hour and a few minutes to arrive Abeokuta from Lagos. Remi Bello, the District Governor of Rotary International District 9110, and his entourage hit the road last Sunday for his official visit to the Rotary Club of Obantoko in Abeokuta. As District Secretary, I was part of the team.

The District Governor is required to visit every club in our District comprising Lagos and Ogun States with 131 Rotary clubs – and still counting. Nigeria has four Districts with the following numerical identities: 9110, 9125, 9141 and 9142. In the whole of Africa which forms Zone 22, there are 17 Districts. But in District 9150 which hosted the 3rd All Africa Rotary Institute in Cameroon from August 24-28, 2021, there are 10 countries!

You can see that Nigeria is blessed in so many ways and it shows in Rotary. Nigeria alone has four Districts out of the 17 Districts in Africa due to our numerical advantage. As we continue to drive membership growth of Rotary in Nigeria, more Districts will be created.

By 4.50 pm, it was time to head back to Lagos. My driver suggested we should avoid the Sagamu-Lagos Expressway because of the long line of cars we saw when we were inbound Abeokuta. I discussed this option with our District Governor who was in his own car and we agreed to use the Expressway through the Sagamu interchange back to Lagos. It turned out to be a costly mistake.

There was chaos on the Expressway that was completely enveloped by darkness. There were no street lights. Apparently, the federal government had announced traffic diversion on that route effective that same Sunday for six days to enable Julius Berger, one of the contractors working on the project, to lay asphalt between Arepo and Warewa, a distance of one and half kilometres. But most people were unaware of the announcement.

The federal government is keen to complete the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway project by next year, because it was a promise made by the Buhari administration. There was clearly the need to increase the pace of work but it has come with the hefty price of sitting for long hours in the traffic.

No one could rule out the threat of hit-and-grab criminals who operate in slow moving traffic, harassing innocent people for cash, mobile phones and other valuables.

The effect of the diversion was pain, anger, frustration and lamentation by motorists and commuters. The drivers were impatient but it was understandable. From private cars to commercial vehicles and heavy duty trucks, it was a struggle for every available space, sometimes only in inches. About six lanes were formed with a lot of “James Bond” driving on full display in a desperate bid to out-maneuver each other.

I travelled with the District media officer Elizabeth and photographer Afeez and we sat patiently for seven hours in the horrendous traffic jam to get to Lagos. Most of the time, traffic was at a standstill. When movement resumed, it was at snail speed.

The more I remembered the suggestion by my driver to beat the traffic, the more I felt guilty. Instead of seven hours, the journey would have lasted less than two hours if we had passed through Ijebu-Ode.

We were stuck in Mowe for one hour. I asked Afeez to step out of the car at around 6.30 pm to take shots of the bumper-to-bumper traffic scene. At this time, we were not even sure when we would arrive Lagos.

Emotions began to run high due to the fact that no one could be in control of the situation. Even if a chopper was available, there was no place for it to land in the pitch dark neighbourhood.

On the sidewalk, commuters who disembarked from commercial vehicles trekked long distances: men, women and children opted to find their way home from the nasty traffic experience that would be etched on their minds forever.

But it appears we are forgetting something. Everyone was heading to Lagos — the city, like New York, that never sleeps and bursting at the seams — for different reasons. Lagos has its attractions which includes high enterprise growth, sprawling real estate and access to opportunities. Lagos is home to everyone.

Vehicles that ran out of petrol and could no longer continue also became part of the problem and added to the back story. Others broke down from rising engine temperatures while some drove against the traffic, making life even more difficult for other motorists.

The entire stretch on the Expressway from Mowe, Ibafo, Magboro all the way down to Longbridge and the surrounding communities are major conurbations of Ogun State extending into Lagos. There are so many people who live in Mowe, Magboro and Arepo axis but work in Lagos. On a daily basis, they commute to and from these communities.

The population density in Lagos is perhaps one of the highest in Africa and the rising cost of a decent accommodation has resulted in developers building low income estates in the area. It is evident the residents are used to traffic jams on the highway but what happened last Sunday must have shocked them, too.

Motorists and commuters were helpless and traffic enforcement officers were missing in action. They were clearly overwhelmed with the unbearable traffic gridlock and they were not around for duty.

But the good thing was that miscreants who usually rob in traffic could not carry out their nefarious activities on that day. The explanation is simple: since the vehicles were largely at a standstill, the occupants of all the vehicles on the road were capable of forming a “formidable army” to repel any attack. It would have been a game of numbers.

Thankfully, to the best of my knowledge, there were no violent incidents in spite of the anxious moments until we arrived at Ojodu-Berger a few minutes to midnight. Even at this late hour, there were several vehicles dropping off passengers at the bus terminal.

It turned out to be a huge relief for vehicles that were running low on petrol to drive into filling stations that were still open to top up. For example, the Total Filling Station at Ojota was still open for business at about midnight.

For those who had appointments to keep, the logjam was a huge disappointment. I was also looking forward to arriving Lagos early enough to see the Super Sunday English premier league game between hosts Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge. I missed it but I monitored the match online.

For the next few days, construction works will continue on the highway and the slow moving traffic and the inconvenience will not go away.

Overall, it was a frustrating experience, affecting one’s capacity to think straight apart from being drained physically. Medical practitioners tell us not to sit for too long so that blood flow in our veins is not restrained, but on that day, we sat for seven hours nonstop. The driver stepped out a few times and the photographer once.

But you cannot make an omelet without breaking an egg. Can you?

Braimah is the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of Naija Times (https://naijatimes.ng)

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NIJ @ 50 Celebration At Its Best

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By Qasim Akinreti, Ph.D

50 years is remarkable in the life of anyone, organisation or even a Nation. Instructively, the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, NIJ, – Center of Excellence for media training in Africa is celebrating.

At inception in 1963, three Journalismtraining centers focusing mainlyon the training of Journalists and professionals (on the job) in the field of Journalism were established in Lagos, Kenya and Tanzania with the support of the International Press Institute, IPI, The Poynter Institute of Media Studies, St Petersburg Florida, US provided manpower support to the School, Dr Boye Ola (one of Nigeria’s Photo Journalists top notches) was there.

Lekan Otunfodurin and myself , were Poynter Alumni too. Today, both us are part time lecturers at NIJ.

NIJ, vision was clear, to be the leading and foremost Mass Communication and Journalism training Institution in Africa; “the Centre of Communication Excellence.

Expectedly, the mission was apt, an Institution dedicated to mass communication and journalism training and retraining through the use of all round curriculum and state of the art equipment in an environment conducive to critical thinking, learning, sound character, professionalism, ethical standard, research and productive.

The school started with a Director, an expatriate. Chief Dayo Duyile ended the era, obviously the longest serving head of the institution. He I was a student during his administration from 1992 to 1993 as Post Graduate Student. My classmates include : LadanSalihu former DG NBC, Mrs Sherifat Ahmed, Director FRCN , Abuja National Station, Osa Director- Publisher and Lawyer, Tunde Ajibike , Director in the Ministry of Information Oyo state and DotunAdenijo, former Registrar , NIJ , among others.

Dr Elizabeth Ikem, arguably the first Ph. D holder to run the affairs of the school, brought panache and change the nomenclature of NIJ from just a training School to a Monotechnic. She broadened the recruitment drive for professionals and academics. In 2009, he sought permission from Voice of Nigeria Executive Director News, Mr. Okey Nwachukwu for my part time service to teach Online Journalism/ Multimedia /New Media. Dr Savage was instrumental to this offer after my presentation on Online Journalism at the post graduate class of Professor Ralph Akinfeleye in the University if Lagos Mass Communication Department.

Now, NIJ students after Higher National Diploma Certificate programme are entitled to go for the National Youth Service programme, NYSC. Mr.GbemigaOgunleye, Journalist and Lawyer added more value to the products and services of the school. The rebranding project of NIJ started with him. Beaming with years of professional experience in the print and broadcast media from Punch to TVC, he set a towering standard which, GbengaAdefaye, former President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE and currently Managing Editor / Editor In Chief Vanguard Newspapers has surpassed.

Gbemiga Ogunleye, brought a remarkable private sector initiative to the school, corporate organisations were brought with their assistance and technical support. Access Bank came with a brand-new generating set, the classrooms were fitted with Air-conditioners and Projectors for teaching. Just like Dr Elizabeth Ikem, GbemigaOgunleye was an administrator and a teacher in the school. He brought the National Communications Commission, NCC, and the US Embassy Public Affairs to install Computers, audio gadgets and Internet facilities.

Adefaye era is unique in all respects, he concluded the Radio Studio project- PEN RADIO. GbengaAdefaye secured the broadcast licencefrom the NBC. The Radio station is Online, real time presently. Now my darling Uncle, is looking for a Radio Transmitter. He is currently talking to the international development partners ad media NGOs. and continued the rebranding process, an initiative started by Ogunleye. The Code of Ethics of the founding organisations of NIJ are first impression that indeed you are in a Journalism School. You must be guided by the ethics of the profession.The NGE, NUJ, NIPR, APCON were conspicuously hanged on the wall on the staircase. The school also has a functional website. The website was first built by Dr Elizabeth Ikem, with my inputs as Adjunct faculty – New Media. We trained NIJ students to update the website.

Assuredly, each Provost, as well as full time and part time teachers are committed to the vision and mission statements. Industry experts are at the school to integrate theory into practice for the students. Courses available at the school are print journalism, broadcast journalism, and public relations and advertising (PRAD). There are also special programmes on writing skills, Editing, Photo Journalism and Film productions.

Today, NIJ boosts of mediaIndustry starsin the public and private spheres. Mrs AbikeDabiri, Erewa, NTA (Diaspora Commission), Iyabo Wale – Eri, NTA, MrsSherifat Ahmed, Radio Nigeria Abuja National Station,GbengaOnayiga, FRCN, Mrs Mary Atolagbe, Dr Qasim Akinreti of Voice of Nigeria, John Momoh, Ini Thompson of Channels TV, MrsOlufunkeFadugba,BiolaAberuagba of Ray Power FM, IyaboOgunjuyigbe, Anike Ola Salako,KafayatAdeolaOrisile, Qasim Funmilayo, FunmiOmoboriowo, – Radio Lagos/ EkoFM, JubrilFolami, AminatElegusi,BusolaKukoyi,LTV. Karimat Salami, SaronIjasan, Jeremiah Uzor, Producer Inside Lagos, TVC.DeboOsundun, News Agency of Nigeria,

In the print media, these names tower above others, Dr Olusanya Awosan, Public relations, Publisher Nigerian Essence and former Special Assistant on Public Relations to President Jonathan, Mrs Dupe Gbadebo,former editor daily times , Dapo Olorunyomi, of Premium Times Online, Bolaji Adebiyi, Managing Editor This Day Newspapers and Vice President West Nigerian Guild of Editors , Lanre Arogundade, International Press Center, IPC, Otunba Tajudeen Abbas,Publisher Ekoblog.com, and late Ben Alaya of Sports Day Newspapers and Former Media Officer Super Eagles , complete the circles among other notables.

The public service, security agencies, music celebrities, Nollywood industry and the corporateworld are full of NIJ graduates. Sina Thorpe, Lanre Bajulaye, Dupe Ileyemi, Frank Ajayi, Mrs Ronke Famakinwa, Funmi Olabisi, Mr. Ganiyu Banuso, and Kayode Sutton, among others are senior public officials in Lagos state ministry of Information and Strategy . Korede Bello, the young talented artiste and musician of “Godwin Song” Yeni Kuti, of Felebration fame, the Nollywood Star. Njoku Ebeonu are gladiators in their own space.

Those who ventured into other professions especiallyacademic, such as Professor Ayandiji Daniel Aina, former Vice Chancellor, Caleb University and Dr Saeed Timehin of LASU, are giants and role models. A full compendium of NIJ Alumni is in the offing as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations. Surely all graduates will be accommodated and appreciated accordingly.

The Challenges

In the midst of celebrations are myriads of challenges facing the school, poor funding from the current owners of the school- Nigerian Press Organisation, NPO. Only Nigeria Guild of Editors has shown the passion to pay subvention to the school. NIJ is financially struggling with paltry school fees.. The Jakande building need expansion, the classrooms are inadequate, lecturers do not have well deserve office for research and comfort. Since all satellite campuses have been closed , the pressure on man campus in Lagos is enormous.There should be hostel facilities for teeming students outside Lagos.The off campus system is not too ideal for students.

Most disturbing is the discrimination of PGDcertificate for only Professional Masters Programme against an Academic Masters in Nigerian Universities . This phenomenon must be addressed by the academic board of the school, with a petition to the National Board of Technical Education ,NBTE and the National Universities Commission,NUC.. In foreign universities, PGD certificate is accepted. Ghana and Kenya Journalism Institutes have attained a full Degree University , a special media institution status. NIJ cannot be different.It should be a specialized media university.

The alumni association of the NIJ will need to upscale their engagements with the school towards sustainable contributions to the development of the institution. I am absolutely convinced that the graduates have what it takes to turn around the fortune of NIJ.

There is also the question of take over if the school by the federal government as a specialized university. On the score, the NPO and alumni should engage the proponent of this idea from the National assembly and government circles. Is the proposed takeover in public good and public interest?.

Be that as it may, we must roll out drums for celebration, come November 29th and 30th,2021, tomark the 6th convocation. In the words of Mr.GbengaAdefaye, current provost “This edition is a unique one as it is coming at a time when we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the institution.”four set of 2017 and 2021 graduates across disciplines are expected to receive certificates and awards.Two of my students in the post graduates class,JemmyEkunkubor of Vanguard Newspapers ,former official of the NUJ Lagos Council and Aniwura are slated to receive best student prizes. I am exceedingly proud of them.

Qasim Akinreti, Ph.D, is an NIJ Alumni 1992- 1993 Set, Deputy Director Digital Media Voice of Nigeria and Former Chairman Nigeria Union Of Journalists, NUJ, Lagos State Council.

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Yahaya Adoza Bello As Nigeria’s Best Bet For 2023

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By Mahmud Abubakar

Nigeria is at the crossroads presently and to get her out, we should be willing to embrace a hard to swallow pill that will stabilize the polity and assuage wracking nerves of different interest groups pumping adrenalin into the seemingly weak valves of the nation and sending it to possible overshoot. If Yahaya Adoza Bello, Nigeria’s youngest governor of Kogi state accepts to vie for the office of the president as he is being called upon by the young and the elderly across the country, he would be the best bet and the stabilizing force in the present circumstance for the country.

At a time Nigeria is implacably gripped by loud calls for restructuring, a tacit call for dismemberment of the regions that hold the country, there could be no better way to kick start the process of true restructuring and charting a holistic future for the country than experimenting with the hard-won victory of the ‘Not Too Young to Run’ bill signed into law by the President Muhammadu Buhari led APC government. And amongst the crop of politicians currently eyeing the highest seat in the land, who better fits this bill than Yahaya Adoza Bello, a 46 years old two term governor of Kogi state and one of the most brilliant, energetic, broad-minded and colourful politician of the ruling APC?

There is no gainsaying that age is not just a number in contemporary Nigerian politics where the stress and tension of leadership is not only overwhelming but also consuming. A leader holding the highest office needs to be physically sound, mentally alert and highly mobile to be able to move around at the shortest notice to attend to issues and events that affect and shape the destiny of the country and state of being of its people. Nigerians need to see their president regularly on the road, in the schools, communities and everywhere where he could be seen to lead and inspire the people, especially young ones who for some time have not been opportune to see a president that is like them or close to them in age and can relate to them, feel their pulse and speak to them in the language that they understand.

As the tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari rolls to a close by 2023, the ruling APC will be saddled with the task of new acceptable leadership replacement and consolidating power at the centre. These are two herculean tasks and examination that must be passed brilliantly if only to keep the country together and win the trust of its teeming population across the region and several divides. President Muhammadu Buhari came into power after four attempts through strong negotiations and consensus that led to the ouster of an incumbent president and government in a hotly contested election which clearly demonstrated the popularity and acceptance of the presidential candidate.

Back then in 2015, the age of President Buhari was a strong weapon used against him by the ruling PDP and its vociferous henchmen who pummeled him left right and centre, trying to rope him into one divisive closet or the other, but his track record of integrity and selflessness became his unbreakable shield and cover. His initial health challenges was to give vent to the opposition’s trumped up fears about his incapacity as a result of his age. Coincidentally, however, Atiku Abubakar, his strong contender was no better as their age difference was four years plus or minus. Thus, if age was a key weapon of opposition back then, it would still be in the front burner today, now that luckily the ‘Not Too Young to Run’ bill has been signed into law by this administration. And what’s more, it is increasingly clear that youths have grown tired of playing the second fiddle and wish to challenge the old political guards for leadership at all levels of government. Conservative estimates today indicate that 70% of Nigeria’s population falls below the age of 35 years. This is a clear handwriting on the wall that should not be ignored as we march into 2023 with great trepidations and expectations.

Why do I consider Yahaya Bello as the best bet for the ruling APC and indeed for Nigeria? I would be sunk to think of him as the best youthful president that Nigeria can produce today; there are hundreds that can be mobilized if we look deeply and intensely across the regions of the country. However, since Nigeria is a highly varied country and politics is the game of democratic governance, it would be preposterous to spring up a run on the mill kind of person to contest the post of a president on the strength only of intellectual brilliance with no requisite experience in party politics and understanding of our different areas of convergence and divergence as a people, and only simply to satisfy the righteousness of youth. If we do this, we may end up farther away from where we are today and wish to progress and consolidate.

The atmosphere of tension and uncertainty that we experience today will be tripled and the country’s seams may burst out in all directions. Before 2015, Yahaya Bello’s name may not ring any bell in political circles, but if it takes only six years for him to build this massive goodwill politically, then I will be hard put to look any further for the young man to pull the country out of the brink as it is today, at least politically and as they say in security circles, strategically. Yahaya Adoza Bello has become the inscrutable dark-horse of Nigerian politics today, and a white lion, as he is touted by his aides and political allies.

Of course the curious question will be to ask what are his pedigree and how does this add up to the seemingly stringent criteriaof presidential leadership? Does serving two terms as governor qualifies one to the post of a president, since obviously this is the only qualification governor Yahaya Bello has? When late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua was made ruling PDP presidential candidate for 2007 and went ahead to win the election with the massive support of the machinery of state, his outstanding pedigree was serving as two term governor of Katsina state. He was touted to have performed wonderfully well as governor and that informed his choice ahead of others by the party but most especially by President Olusegun Obasanjo whose relationship to his late older brother, General Shehu Musa Yar’adua, was very well known. If only this criteria alone can qualifies one, then Yahaya Bello too can be said to be qualified. He is in his second term as governor of Kogi state.

It is interesting to note that he came into the governance of the state largely unprepared, after coming second in the APC primaries behind late Prince Abubakar Audu who was taking a third shot at governance of the state. He was governor of Kogi state in 1991 and 1999 and has won the ticket for a record third term when Allah’s plan for him takes precedence over his own plans. His death created an emergency political vacuum that has to be filled and it turns out the person to fill the vacuum was none other than the then fourty years old Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello who has already accepted his fate and gone back to face his business. Therefore, because of the way in which he came into office, coupled with the economic meltdown across the globe which affected the Nigerian economy, Governor Yahaya Bello, like other governors, encountered some challenges in the governance of the state that were soon nip in the bud, no thanks to the leadership and magnanimity of President Muhammadu Buhari who came to the rescue of the states through different financial interventions.

These interventions more than did the magic for the governor, because after then there was no looking back for him in his effort at charting the path of growth and development for Kogi state. He stabilized the state, revamp its fledgling economy and set in motion a comprehensive regime of infrastructure development in schools, roads, hospitals, water and agriculture.

What’s more, it is on record that Governor Yahaya Bello’s organization of the security architecture of the state ensured that it has only recorded marginal security challenges across the nooks and crannies of the state, in spite of its increasing propensity across several states of the north.

These unprecedented achievements paved the way for his reelection for a second tenure of four years. It is on record that Kogi state is the most youth friendly state with 70% of the state’s executive cabinet members ranging between 30 and 45 years. This action of the state governor has translated in the zeal, energy, dedication and commitment to duty on the part of this cabinet members.

Key achievements of the government are worth documenting here if only to demonstrate that Governor Yahaya Bello has a track record that could speak for him when the need for that arises. Not only has the governor succeeded in resolving the lingering problems of salaries and allowances of staff of Kogi State University, Anyingba, but has also set massive infrastructure and machinery in motion and has gotten National Universities Commission license to start the Confluence University of Science and Technology to meet the higher education needs of Kogi state indigenes whose students constitute significant percentage of student population in many universities in the north and south of the country.

Ongoing simultaneously are three ultra-modern general hospitals in Isanlu-Yagba East, Gegu in Kogi local government and Eganyi in Ajaokuta Local government. This is coupled with massive rehabilitation of existing ones across the state. Kogi state commissioner of health, Dr Saka Haruna Audu, only last week reported the state’s procurement of Nigeria’s first Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment Chamber, making Nigeria the fifth country in Africa to procure such sophisticated and all important medical equipment. There are several other key achievements in rural electrification, rural roads and urban renewal projects in Lokoja and local government areas that cannot readily be captured here. Essentially this is to demonstrate that Governor Yahaya Bello is coming to the political centre with incredible governance experience and a record of unprecedented achievements as state governor.

Recently, due to the governor’s uncommon effort at boosting the economic fortunes of the state, he has succeeded in getting the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to accept its oil wells as worthy of consideration and enlisting into the monthly 13% derivation fund allocation, a feat the state shares with Anambra state. This revenue if it starts flowing will change both the narrative and economic landscape of the state.

Another pedigree, an invaluable one at this time in our political history, is the age advantage of Governor Yahaya Bello who only recently celebrated his fourty six years birthday. Now that the ’Not Too Young to Run’ bill has been signed into law, won’t it sound absurd and unhelpful to the youth agitation for leadership to foist much older men to hold power at the centre? Yahaya Bello may not have been visible for long on the political scene, but these short years have been productive indeed both at the state and national levels. His tremendous goodwill and acceptance at the national level and his total loyalty to President Muhammadu Buhari has earned him respect and recognition by the government and his ruling All Progressives Congress. He was nominated by the APC leadership to lead the reelection of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo state in 2020, a task which he performed excellently well. He was also appointed to chair the Youth and Women Mobilization Committee during the party’s membership registration and revalidation exercise early this year.

Added to this is Governor Yahaya Bello’s constant and relentless support of the activities of the ruling party. The imperative of paradigm shift in leadership cannot be overemphasized and this is expressed in the agitation that led to the passage of the ‘Not Too Young to Run’ bill. What’s more, the ruling APC last June organized a youth summit in Abuja where the imperative of youth participation in politics and occupation of leadership positions in the country was stressed. Participants at the summit drum support for paradigm shift in leadership, with youths taking centre stage and elders remaining in the background to provide moral support. This no doubt places Governor Yahaya Bello at great advantage as we march towards 2023.

Further, against the backdrop of intense agitation for restructuring and the threatening activities of separatist groups such as IPOB, Yoruba Nation and of course, Arewa Youth Congress, all of which are directly and indirectly linked to hankering for the presidency in the coming 2023 elections, there is the need to come into an acceptable consensus that will be seen to be fair to the north and south alike. As President Buhari’s tenure draws to a close, the south is warming up to a change of power baton on the shaky grounds of zoning which is not expressly supported by the constitution. Already the two major parties, APC and PDP have shot down this idea, with Atiku Abubakar announcing his intention to partake in the presidential primaries against his party’s zoning of the presidential seat to the south. It is clear from this development that the road to 2023 will be fraught with rancour and extreme division, adding to already potentially charged environment of mistrust, suspicion and grinding insecurity. While the south feels the understanding of zoning means power will be transferred to it pro bono in 2023, the north hold on to the fact that it was not a constitutional arrangement and most of all, it has the voting power that will earn her victory any day in a free and fair election.

To get the country to stand and going for all, there is the need for a consensus that will fairly represent the agitation and fears of both sides of the divide. The north, especially northwest has had two shots at presidency in this democratic dispensation, so also the south with southwest and south south-cum-southeast having one shot each. By way of compromise, the north central is the only region that has not had a taste neither of the presidential nor vice presidential position since the return of democracy in 1999. And which state in the north central can serve the purpose of a fulcrum to balance the hold on power other than Kogi state where Yahaya Bello comes from? As a confluence state that links the north and south of the country, Kogi can serve as compromise fulcrum of presidential power that is neither wholly north nor wholly south. Kogi wears the shade of the north and south, with large concentration of Yoruba and Igbo stock living side by side with Hausa, Nupe, Ebira, Igala, Idoma, Tiv, Fulani and sundry other minority stocks of the north. Therefore, Kogi has a pan Nigerian outlook and holding the presidential power come 2023 will be like holding it for the whole of Nigeria.

It is therefore on these grounds but most of all of age advantage, the centrality of Kogi as confluence that binds north and south together, that concerned Nigerians especially groups are routing for the choice and emergence of Governor Yahaya Bello as the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential candidate in the 2023 elections. There have been calls by prominent Nigerians and youth groups for the governor to declare his intention to vie for the office of the president because of his unmatched pedigree as governor of Kogi and his broadmindedness and pan Nigerian type of politics. So far calls are ongoing across the country for him to accept to run for the presidency, prominent among which is Yahaya Bello Network (YBN) spearheaded by Abdulrahman Mohammed, aka Abdul Amart, the iconic Kannywood producer and his team drawn from within and outside the industry.

This group recently launched its campaign in Kaduna and is already moving across the 19 northern states to drum up support for Yahaya Adoza Bello whom they dubbed as the youth friendly governor who has great promise to become the first youthful president of Nigeria since the return of democracy in 1999.

Therefore, if Nigerians truly love the country and wants to avert fierce tussle for power that may further endanger the fragile bond that hold us together, the best bet for the country come 2023 is Governor Yahaya Adoza Bello.

Mahmud Abubakar, consummate writer and Public Affairs commentator, can be reached on 09075014446

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