Acting as One-Day Chairman of a local council, Boluwatife becomes new poster for street children

By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor

Wonder, it is said never ends; and this was repeated in Lagos when Olanusi Boluwatife, a 14-year-old orphan picked up at Okomala in Oshodi and sent to the Special Correctional Centre for Boys in Oregun, emerged from a Spelling Bee competition to become a one-day chairman of a local council in Lagos.
   He had strode in unannounced on March 17 into the Adeyemi Bero Auditorium, Alausa neatly dressed in his school uniform for the annual Spelling Bee competition that would produce the One-Day Governor of Lagos State. There was no reason for any of the children to be spotlighted since it was a gathering of champions, with participants emerging winners and runners-up of a similar contest at their various local councils.
   Unknown to many, Boluwatife was not one of the also-rans among the five pupils selected to represent Onigbongbo Local Council Development Area (LCDA), but had, in fact, emerged winner of the Spelling Bee competition at the local government level. Not one to flaunt his stuff, he maintained his unassuming calmness until the results were announced and he emerged third in the primary school category.
   From that moment on, he became the cynosure of all eyes alongside Master Olabanji Edun of Army Children Senior Secondary School in Onigbongbo LCDA, who won the fierce intellectual contest to automatically become the next One-Day governor of Lagos State.
   While Edun awaits his day in the sun to act as governor of Lagos for 24 hours, Boluwatife, last weekend, got his reward as the One-Day Chairman of Onigbongbo LCDA. Though young, now he is old enough to understand the popular axiom that success has many parents but failure is an orphan.
   Expectedly, he was swarmed on all sides by parents, council workers, well-wishers and officials of the Office of Youth and Social Development, which oversees the Special Correctional Centre for Boys.

ImageChairman, Onigbongbo LCDA, Babatunde Oke (left) handing over to the One-Day Chairman, Olanusi Boluwatife… last Friday

A brief ceremony was held at the council secretariat, where the chairman, Hon. Babatunde Oke, temporarily handed over power to Boluwatife. This was followed by scheduled visits made by Boluwatife and his entourage to Galaxy Television, Honeywell Noodles, and palace of the Awise of Onigbongboland, Oba Muniru Olatunji Yusuf, among other locations of interest.
   For the hundreds of citizens, who came to receive the One-Day Chairman, they were regaled by the tale of the boy who ran away from home and later found his way to Oshodi, where he integrated himself with other street urchins in Okomala.
   With the honour he has brought to himself and his school, there is a frantic search to locate his paternal grandmother. According to the boy, he doesn’t know his parents. “All I remember is that my parents fought and my father took me to my grandmother’s place in Mowe area of Ogun State,” he told The Guardian.
   Recounting his street life experience, Boluwatife said he ran away from his grandmother’s home after committing an offence. As a street boy, life has been very tough and brutish. He was forced to fend for himself and be street smart to avoid being caught in some dirty pranks.
   However, his life changed when the Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) officials combed the area and picked him with others.
   He said:  “Life on the street was difficult. Before I could eat, I would work as a factory worker where they produce sachet water. I had gone from one home to another but today, the centre has changed me.”
   Boluwatife, who desires to go to any good university for higher learning wants to be a footballer and a film actor.
  He implored other street children to return home. At the moment, he is learning screen processing with special attention on photography at the vocational training centre located inside the school.
   Special Adviser, Office of Youth and Social Development, Dr. Dolapo Badru, said Boluwatife’s case is a success story of street boys. “He was rescued at Oshodi on the streets in 2013. There was a talent out there about to be lost but now rescued and his life has changed. If we don’t do it, we won’t know he is talented. He is an orphan, thrown out by the father’s family. He is a brilliant boy. His case is the success story of those boys on the street.
   “Ours was just to take care of him. The court put him under government to care for him. His studies go on as he attends classes and trade acquisition training. Some children find themselves in situation they can’t control. When parents are not alive, those that take care of the children abuse them but it is the responsibility of government to intervene by rescuing them from the streets and placing them in our facility,” he said.
ImagePermanent Secretary, Office of Youth and Social Development, Dr. Adesegun Oshinyimika (left); Boluwatife and Special Adviser to the governor on Youth and Social Development, Dr. Dolapo Badru at a reception for Boluwatife

 Expressing his delight on the boy’s performance at the competition, Principal, Special Correctional Centre for Boys, Mr. Oluwatoyin Kotun, said parents should show love to their children for them to maximize their potential. “Every child has his own talent. It is just for parents to identify it. Many children have potentials but they lack parental care, love and support.
   “At the centre, we give them psychosocial therapy, which helps to identify potentials in them. Other children at the centre are also doing well. We have always been participating in this competition every year and preparing hard for it. We are happy our efforts have been rewarded. This is the first time a student has brought honour to our school, which is good for us because of the problem of poor public perception.
   “Children in the school are tainted with a wrong perception by members of the public. It is not all of them that committed crime. Some of the children are in the facility because they are going through abuse, some of them are orphans, who lack care and protection, and some are street children because their parents were fighting over their custody. So, the perception that all of them are hardened criminals and can’t be reformed is incorrect,” he said.
   “There is hope for the street children. When you wear the toga of a street child, there is no hope, but when you take off the toga, there is hope. A child that wants to learn will definitely progress in life,” Badru said, adding that as part of efforts to empower youths in the state, the Office of Youth and Social Development in the Ministry of Sports, Youth and Social Development has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with 7up Bottling Company Plc to train some of the youths in many fields. He said that after graduation, those who do well would be employed in the company. The training runs between six to 12 months.
   “Presently, 22 youths are undergoing training in fleet management, engineering, production as well as various fields in which 7up operates. If the youths excel in the pilot case, there is tendency that the company can employ them. If the company is encouraged with their performance, it will make them to do more in the area of training.”
   He added that the ministry does a lot of skill acquisition for youths in the state and there is a short-term course in hairdressing, baking, shoemaking and other areas.

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Aggrieved APC members stage protest in Lagos

By Wole Oyebade
Cracks in the All Progressives Congress (APC) were again obvious on Monday, as some aggrieved members of the party protest what they described as “stolen mandate” in the last ward congress.
The protesters, from Ward B, C and E, in Ikeja Local Government Area (LGA) of the state appealed to the Lagos State government, especially the Lagos State House of Assembly to investigate the matter and make their votes count “for the sake of peace and tranquility.”
No fewer than 150 members of the party defiled the scourging afternoon heat to storm the Lagos Assembly with placard either calling their Lagos leaders unprintable names or seeking “true change”.
Some posters read: We want true change… APC: We want true congress in Ikeja LGA… Let us use the broom to sweep corners of our room first… APC Ward C Ikeja LGA was clearly won by us…

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The aggrieved protesters alleged that their ward congress, held penultimate Saturday, was fraught with irregularities, alleging that a Chieftain of the party, “Kemi Nelson stole our mandate.”

One of the protesters from Ward C, Yinka Banjoko noted that the congress was to enable party faithful elect their representatives through free and fair election, but it was to their disbelieve that the deciding votes was stolen to force some Ward chairman on the electorates.

She said: “They are not thinking of that ‘change’ as preached by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and it is unfortunate. In good faith, we all went to the ward congress and mobilised our women, but Kemi Nelson stole our vote. That is why we are here.

“We want our mandate back. Enough is enough. We’ve had enough of the same wrong people leading us for 13 years, we want change and it begins from the ward,” Banjoko said.

Another protester, Segun Orji, observed that Ward C congress rekindled rivalry between two factions of the APC – Justice Forum (led by Kemi Nelson) and Mandate Group (which the protesters belong).

According to him, “The election was initially transparent. But by the time the votes were counted, starting with theirs (Justice Forum), they had 196 votes. Ours (Mandate Group) was already 297 and still counting, before it was disrupted by thugs.

“Their police started shooting, forcing everyone to run away. It was later that we heard that Kemi Nelson had won the election. How can that be possible, with 196 votes against 297 and still counting? They are a collection of losers that we no longer want,” he said.

On efforts that had been made to report the matter to top hierarchy of the party, Orji alleged that the APC Chairman in the state had also compromised in the matter.

“We were told to meet Demola Seriki, aide to Asiwaju, and he told us that Asiwaju said status quo must stand. We don’t want to believe that is coming from our leader. It is the hands of Nelson and the Lagos APC chairman at work,” he said.

Women Leader in Ward C, Abiola Balogun insisted on transparent election, adding that they must not be denied of their mandate. She noted that the faction did not participate in last Saturday’s LGA Congress in protest of the outing at the ward congress.

She said: “Until our mandate is restored, we will ensure there is no Ward meeting. We appeal to the Lagos Assembly to come to our aid for the sake of true democratic practice, peace and tranquility in Ikeja.”

The Nigeria, United Kingdom visa quagmire

TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA writes on how stringent visa policies tend to hurt trade relations and slow down investment opportunities between Britain and Nigeria

The stories about what thousands of Nigerians go through to obtain visas of developed and developing countries have been well documented. But what many do not know is that Nigeria also has what some have described as “stringent regulations” for issuing visas to foreigners, which many analysts now blame for the drawback of the country’s quest for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

     This was the crux of a sidebar discussion at the United Kingdom (UK)-Nigeria Trade and Investment roundtable, held in London recently, and organized by the Nigerian London Business Forum (NILOBF), in conjunction with the Business Chamber Trade Association of the UK.

     The roundtable seeks to promote bilateral trade and investment relations, by bringing together business people from the two countries to establish, locate, renew and seek fresh investment opportunities. Besides, it hopes to develop long-term business relationships and finalize existing contracts.

     Nigeria’s ambassador to the UK, Dr. Dalhatu Sarki Tafida, set the tone for discussions in his keynote address on activities of the Nigeria High Commission (NHC) in the promotion of bilateral economic relations between Nigeria and the United Kingdom. According to him, Nigeria and the UK have continued to enjoy cordial bilateral trade and economic relations due to historical antecedents and shared ties in language, education and legal systems, which “have reinforced the robust relations and positively impacted on the economic prosperity of the two countries.”

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Immigration boss at Nigeria High Commission in London, representing the Minister for Interior, Aminu Muhammed; Director of Nigerian London Business Forum, UK, Dr. Chris Onalo; and British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Peter Carter, at the UK-Nigeria Trade & Investment Roundtable event, held recently.

 His words: “Presently, Nigeria is UK’s second largest trading partner in Africa after South Africa and it is 32nd largest worldwide. The drive for improved trade and economic relations made the leaders of the two countries, President Goodluck Jonathan and David Cameron, in June 2011, to set an ambitious goal to double bilateral trade to eight billion pounds by 2014. Nigeria and the UK are very well on the way to achieving and possibly, surpassing the ambitious goal set by the two leaders.

   “It is instructive to note that in 2011 when the goal was set, the volume of bilateral trade was about four billion pounds and rose to seven billion pounds. There is also a conscious effort on the part of the two countries to diversify and shift focus from oil, financial services and food products, which had dominated Nigeria-UK trade relations in the past to the non-oil sectors, including agriculture, infrastructure, creative industry, information technology and retail business.”

     However, one of the organizers and member of the NILOBF Board of Directors, Dr. Chris Onalo, in a chat with The Guardian in Lagos, said it was shocking to participants at the conference when some UK businessmen revealed that Nigeria’s stringent visa policy, based on the doctrine of reciprocity, may hamper the realization of the eight billion pound trade volume target set by leaders of the two countries.

     He said: “We recognize that the operating instrument between Nigeria and other countries of the world is based on the basic doctrine of reciprocity. Sadly, Nigeria has not yet come to the level where we can demand such from the international community. And because we are a consuming population, we tend to depend solely on other countries for most of what we consume. We have not engaged ourselves in a constructive direction that can position us to reciprocate whatever foreign policy other countries throw at us.

     “Singling out Nigeria and United Kingdom for example, at the recent business forum where issues that would promote bilateral relationship between the two countries were discussed, a lot of the issues centred on the visa requirements. I realised that the immigration policy of Nigeria to the UK is even much more stringent than the regulation of the British to us.

     “I was shocked. These stringent conditions for issuance of Nigerian visas to British business visitors will not help the growth of bilateral relations between the two countries. The response from the Nigerian delegation was that, in the international diplomacy, it is more about reciprocity. It does not make sense that as a British businessman, I apply for a type of visa that allows me (only) 24 hours access to Nigeria.

   “It was strange to us that such treatment exists in this age. Issuing 24-hour business visa to citizens of countries not blacklisted or under any watch list? No businessman would come here and refuse to go back to his country, especially not a British,” he concluded.

     Applicants for Nigerian business visa are required to pay visa and processing fees totaling over $200. For expedited action, an additional $85 is required, alongside an invitation letter from the host company in Nigeria, which would accept full immigration and financial responsibility; a letter of introduction from applicant’s company; proof of legal residency and copy of airline ticket or flight itinerary.

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President Goodluck Jonathan (right) with Merkel, Obama and Cameron

Participants at the roundtable noted that apart from the advertised official rates, Nigerian consular officials also create unnecessary bottlenecks for applicants; a situation which, they argued, encourages corruption. It is also seen by some as a subtle retaliation for the “jungle of regulations and visa rules” the British Home Office institutes for immigrants to the United Kingdom from Nigeria.

     Efforts to get an official response from the Nigerian High Commission in the UK were unsuccessful as enquiries sent to the commission’s e-mail address got no reply and calls made to the Second Secretary (Trade, Industry and Investment), J.D. Pam, were not returned last week.

     An official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the ministry remains committed to protecting the interests of Nigerians by constructively engaging the diplomatic and consular missions in Nigeria, especially on visa matters.

     “As we demonstrated in our swift and effective response to the deportation of Nigerians from South Africa over the issue of yellow fever cards last year, we have made it clear that Nigeria would not tolerate the maltreatment of its citizens at home and abroad. We hold no responsibility for how citizens of other nationals are treated.”

     Last year, the Federal Government announced the introduction of a new Visa Policy, applicable to expatriates seeking to visit or invest in the country. The new policy seeks to transform the visa issuing process and guarantee easy access to immigration facilities by genuine visitors and foreign investors.

     Under the new regime, the five categories of visas are: Visa at Points of Entry, Short Visit Visa, Temporary Resident Visa, Employment Based Visa, and Scarce Skills Transfer Visa.

     The new policy also allows the issuance of a visa at the entry point, removing the barriers that currently prevent business people, tourists, and government delegations from visiting the country at short notice. Those visiting from countries where Nigeria does not have an embassy can now obtain visas at the port of entry.

     Also in the new policy aimed at boosting tourism, attracting foreign direct investments, opening up the economy for employment opportunities and securing Nigeria’s borders, the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) will now issue a 30-day non-extendable tourist pass at the port of arrival. This will apply mostly to visitors from countries where Nigeria does not have Foreign Missions.

     Furthermore, Nigerian Foreign Missions will henceforth issue one-year multiple entry permits/visas to all genuine visitors and tourists who wish to visit Nigeria. Visitors who are in Nigeria for investment purposes are eligible to be issued 10-year visas where they meet laid down criteria.

   Foreign investors, with as much as $10,000,000 investment prospects, may be given up to a 25 per cent employment quota without sacrificing employment opportunities for Nigerians.

       The UK business visa requirement is similar to those requested from British businessmen visiting the country. In fact, one requirement that stands out is the UK Home Office’s insistence on copies of bank statements from the past three months, which must be well funded to the satisfaction of the issuing official. The official rate, though, is USD 136 for business visitors.

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Tafida, Nigerian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom

Last year, Britain had planned to force visitors from six “high-risk” countries including Nigeria, to pay a cash bond of £3,000, but it was reversed after diplomatic consultations. According to a Conservative peer, Lord Howell, the UK’s visa rules are creating a “nasty” impression of the country and leaving many people “in despair.”

     He warned that tighter immigration controls could damage the economy. “We are concerned that the visa system is keeping out genuine business people and students. A new report by peers is urging ministers to make sure legitimate visitors get visas quickly, easily and cheaply. Also, the government’s language on immigration do not discourage those who would add to the UK’s prosperity from coming to the UK and supporting its businesses,” he noted.

     But Home Secretary, Theresa May, has rejected such claims, and launched a number of initiatives aimed at attracting wealth creators to the UK, including an invitation-only, fast-track visa service for top business people.

   New restrictions on graduate’s ability to remain in the country after finishing their degrees have seen the number of students coming to the UK fall. The move is part of a clampdown on so-called “over-stayers” – those remaining in the country after their visas expired.

     On the flip side, a Nigerian and member of the NILOBF, Patrick Ochuba, was denied visa to the roundtable after he had submitted all the relevant documents

   He narrated: “The visa officer wasn’t sure if I will return to my country of residence despite being a businessman and managing director of a thriving firm in Nigeria. I was made to understand that the stringent requirements or standards are mainly applied to visa applicants in countries with economic deficiencies who pose a risk to immigration rules.

   “Though, it is a general requirement to provide bank details with six months statements, but as an applicant who is legally residing in the USA or UK, you should be fine with one of three months provided the Visa Officer (VO) is satisfied in other aspects.

   “Furthermore, your travel history will put you in position of advantage, but each application is treated on its own merit, therefore, the requirements must be fulfilled. I was, however, pained that my application was rejected despite fulfilling all requirements and even providing the covering note from organizers of the event, which was endorsed by the Nigerian High Commission in the UK.”

The Strange Dream of a Muslim/ Muslim Ticket (Part 1)

By Femi Fani-Kayode

”The last notable Christian-Christian ticket was Awolowo-Umeadi in 1979 and the last notable Muslim-Muslim ticket was Abiola-Kingibe in 1993. You can figure out the rest. But let the optimists know that reality always trounces wishful hope in political contests. Chief Femi Fani-Kayode’s advice that we get real must be directed where it truly belongs – to the leadership of the APC’’- CHIEF KAYODE SAMUEL, FACEBOOK, 29th MARCH, 2014.

I thank my brother Kayode Samuel for his contribution and I shall take his advice and direct my counsel to the leadership of the APC and to the Nigerian people in general. That is the purpose of this essay and so important is the subject matter under consideration that I would urge as many as possible to find the time to read it from the beginning to the end.

 

Chief Akin Osuntokun, the Bashorun of Oke-Mesi, the former Special Advisor to President Olusegun Obasanjo and the highly celebrated columnist for Thisday Newspaper is one of my closest brothers and friends even though we tend to disagree on virtually everything. He is a very complex and interesting person who has a penchant for speaking the bitter truth. He is blunt to a fault and brutally frank and he manages to give as good as he gets in any argument.

 

I respect him immensely for a number of reasons, one of them being his unquestionable loyalty to his friends regardless of their circumstances, political views and party affiliation. Simply put, he is capable of maintaining a good relationship even with those that he disagrees with politically. I say this because most of Akin’s friends like Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, Alhaji Kashim Imam, Mallam Uba Sani, yours truly and a host of others have left the PDP yet we still meet virtually every other night as a group and slug out politics and current issues.

Even though Akin is invariably the lone voice in a hostile sea at such meetings, he always holds his own and stands his ground in a most admirable and spirited manner even when things get rather heated up. His loyalty to and support for President Goodluck Jonathan and his administration is second to none and I have often wondered how difficult things would have been for us if Akin and his likes were the ones speaking for this government.

ImageFani Kayode

He is an intellectual par excellence and one of the most under-utilized assets that the PDP has in their armoury. Yet I often marvel about how well he stomachs the attacks and intellectual ripostes that he suffers from those of us that are no longer in his political party but that have the rare privilege of still being in the inner circle of his friends.

That is what makes Akin special. That, together with the fact that more than any other person that I know, he can tell his friends the bitter truth about themselves and point out their mistakes. You can count on him for that. And the strangest and most uncanny thing is that nine times out of ten he has been proved right.

Today I shall take a cue from my brother Akin and tell a few bitter home truths to my own friends and political associates in the APC. Whether this will break or enhance our friendship and association remains to be seen. I hope that it does not have any negative consequences for our relationship but if it does I have absolutely no regrets. After all the greatest gift and virtue that a true friend and brother can offer is truth and wise counsel. That is what real friends are supposed to do even when that truth and counsel is unpleasant and painful to hear.

The subject of my counsel is the suggestion by some that our party the APC should consider fielding a Muslim/Muslim ticket in the 2015 Presidential election. Even though the party leadership itself has not expressed such an intention and even though the matter still remains in the realms of speculation, as someone recently pointed out, I can confirm to you that quite a number of people within the party are discussing it privately and are actually considering it.

As a matter of fact some are openly advocating and canvassing the idea. Whether we like to admit it or not this is the subject of heated discussions in many party circles today with some party leaders being for it whilst others are against it.

Consequently the party would do well to issue a statement on the matter and tell us whether they are in a position to rule out such a course of action or not. If they refuse to do so the speculations will simply continue and, like an insidious cancer, the matter will eat away at the very soul of the party and eventually squander its fortunes.

It is in order to avoid this and for that very reason that I deem it fit, wise and appropriate to make my views on the matter known to the world, regardless of what the consequences of doing so may be for me. The outcome of this exercise and the reaction to my counsel will determine whether I am indeed in the right political party or not.

Let me start by stating loudly and clearly that I have nothing against Muslims. As a matter of fact I am very proud of the fact that I have both Muslims and Christians in my family. So strong is the Muslim influence in my extended family from my mother’s side that I, together with all my siblings have at least one Muslim name. Mine is Abdul Latif, which I am told in Arabic means ”servant of the All Gentle”, and I am very proud of it.

 

This is a name which my friend and brother Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, in an attempt to crack a joke about me and my ”one eighth” Fulani bloodline, mischievously reduced to ”Boda Lati”  in one of his celebrated articles and I am still trying to find it in my heart to forgive him for that.

I also have many friends from both the south west and the north who are Muslims and who can testify to the fact that I have nothing against Islam. I am talking about people like my dear brother Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, our current Minister of State for Defence, who I not only grew up with in Lagos but who I also cut my political teeth with in 1990 when we both joined the defunct NRC and people like Governor Tanko Al Makura of Nassarawa state who formed and led the youth wing of the defunct NNC with me in 1989.

 

The reason that I have gone to great lengths to point out my strong links and family ties with the Islamic faith is simply to prove that I have nothing against Muslims and that the great faith of Islam is part and parcel of my proud and noble heritage.

Yet despite my deep respect for and affinity with Islam and in spite of my fondness for all those that have espoused that ancient and noble Abrahamic and monotheic faith, I would be the first to say that it would be most improper and politically inexpedient for anyone to suggest the idea that any political party in Nigeria today should present a Muslim/Muslim ticket in next year’s Presidential election.

I have said it privately in countless political meetings and I will say it publicly today. Please mark it- the biggest mistake that my party, the APC, can make is to field a Muslim/Muslim ticket in the 2015 Presidential election. If we do that we will not only offend the Christian community but we will also lose the election woefully. This is not 1993 and whether we like it or not we must accept the fact that religion plays a major role in our politics today. This is not the ideal but it is the reality that we have to accept and live with.

Our party must have both a Christian and a Muslim on the ticket if we want to be taken seriously in the Presidential election. I implore those that think otherwise to sit down and think this through properly. We must not present a Christian/Christian ticket as this would be insensitive to the feelings of Muslims and we must not present a Muslim/Muslim ticket as this would be insensitive to the feelings of Christians. I for one would NEVER support a ticket that presents two members of the same faith no matter what the consequences would be.

 

This country belongs to both Muslims and Christians- we are all one and we must ensure that we do not hurt the feelings or the sensitivities of one another either advertently or inadvertently. As they say ”the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. Let us be mindful of our actions, deeds and words, no matter how well-intentioned they may be, and let us ensure that we do not confirm the terrible stereotyping that those that are against us are trying to label us with.

Unlike some who only joined the political fray a few years ago, I have been in politics in this country for a total of 24 long years and during that period of time I have learnt a thing or two. The first lesson that I have learnt and which must be appreciated is the ability to distinguish between an ideal and reality. It is laudable to pursue an ideal and we must do all that we possibly can to enthrone it but it is disastrous to ignore the realities on the ground no matter how unsavoury or distasteful that reality may be.

The ideal, which we all desire and which we all seek to enthrone, is to play the type of politics in our country which has no recourse to religion and where a man or woman’s faith is entirely their own affair. Yet the reality is that to ignore the religious sensitivities and differences of the Nigerian electorate is a manifestation of, at the very best, political naivety of the highest order and, at the very worst, dangerous, self-depreciating and self-destructive ignorance. Simply put, religion SHOULD NOT be a factor in our politics but in reality it IS a factor.

To those who say that the APC will produce a Presidential and Vice Presidential candidate that have ‘’integrity, capacity and competence’ and that the religious faith of those two candidates does not matter, I have only the following to say. The ‘’integrity, capacity, competence’’ and all those other laudable qualities are virtues that can surely be found in adherents of both the Muslim and the Christian faith.

They are not the exclusive preserve of the adherents of one faith alone. You can find Muslims that have these qualities and you can find Christians that have them as well. It therefore makes perfect sense to present one of such people from each of the two major faiths as a Presidential and Vice Presidential candidate respectively.

This is especially so given the fact that Nigeria is a multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic country which suffers from severe religious tensions and periodic sectarian violence and which has at least 80 million Christians and Muslims on both sides of the divide living side by side. We are already sitting on a keg of gunpowder and to ignore one side of the religious divide and treat them with contempt and disdain may be the trigger that causes that keg to explode.

Presenting a Muslim/Muslim ticket for the 2015 Presidential election ticket, no matter how cleverly rationalized, defended or justified in the pursuit of an ideal or in the name of ‘’political correctness’’, will be a terrible insult to the 80 million Christians that are part and parcel of this country and it would result in their voting, en masse, for another party. My candid advice to those that are thinking that way and that are moving in that direction is that they should perish the thought and that they should do so very quickly.

As far as I am aware the APC is not an affiliate of Al Qaeda and neither is it a Boko Haram party, a Janjaweed party or a Muslim Brotherhood Party. I have had cause to say so and to defend the intellectual integrity and what I consider to be the multi-religious and secular ethos and composition of the party on numerous occasions. And of course it is a pleasure, a duty and a privilege for me to do so simply because that is what I honestly believe and because I happen to be a secularist myself. Like millions of others from all over the world I believe that religion ought to have no place in the running of the affairs of any country.

However that does not mean that we ought to ignore the very delicate religious balance that we have in Nigeria or that we should play havoc with it. To do so would be disastrous for the fortunes of the party and for the future of our nation. As a matter of fact we would be opening the gates of hell and we would be courting catastrophe. Anyone that doubts that should consider the ugly events that are unfolding in the Central African Republic today or that took place in the Sudan before the country broke into two. We must never allow such things to happen in Nigeria by any act of commission or omission.

As far as I am aware the APC is a party for both Muslims and Christians. It is a vehicle for change and not one that seeks to give the impression that Christians don’t matter or that they are second class citizens. If I am wrong then those that claim to know better or that believe that they own the party should please tell me. If it is a party where faith and religion has no place, as some would have us believe, then they should please let us know. We have an image problem which we need to deal with.

Permit me to share just one example of the factors that have sustained that image problem. We have a leading member of the party from Borno State that has been consistently accused of being the sole founder and originator of Boko Haram.

In fairness to the individual concerned the allegations about his personal involvement in these ugly events remain unproven yet all the same they remain serious and grave and they cannot be ignored for much longer. He must provide direct answers to these serious allegations so that, if they are all false, we can make it our business and duty to defend him. Until then, being in a political party that harbours and attracts the sympathy and support of such a person puts some of us in a very awkward position.

If such things do not make some people uncomfortable they certainly make me very uncomfortable. This is especially so given the atrocities that Boko Haram has perpetrated against both Christians and Muslims in our country in the last three years. Whether we like it or not we must go out of our way to try to let the world know that we are not a party of Muslim fundamentalists and closet Islamists and if we choose not to bother to do so it simply means that we are arrogant and that we have lost touch with reality. (TO BE CONTINUED)

Fashola Has No Approval From NIWA To Build Houses On Water, Says Obanikoro

By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor
THE Minister of State for Defense, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, at the weekend replied the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, on his comments that the minister took soldiers to disrupt the ongoing Ilubirin Housing project on the Lagos Island.
Fashola had at an event last week decried attempts by Federal Government to take over reclaimed land at Ilubirin, earmarked for housing estate by the state government.
Speaking yesterday, Obanikoro said Fashola description of his personal visit to the planned Ilubirin housing estate as “Rambo like” was mischievous.
The minister, who is representing Lagos in the federal cabinet, noted that the governor has refused to get the required approval from the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA). “He has objected to getting an approval from the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). He does not even want the consent of the Federal Ministry of Works. The location of his site breaks all the laws on set back requirements for highways and roads.
“Despite all pleas, the governor has turned deaf ears on economic hazard of his project. As at today, the only approvals he has are the ones he manufactured for himself using various state ministries, departments and agencies. I am still confused about the logic behind building houses underneath high electric-powered cables.

KORO.

“As a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), I expect him to know that the construction is illegal. He needs to stop using the name of Alhaji Femi Okunnu to legalise his illegality. It only shows the recklessness and impunity that he governs with,” the minister said.

According to Obanikoro, it was suspicious that after being in office for over 15 years, the state government, with less than 15 months to go, is considering building affordable houses for Lagosians.

Obanikoro said:“ Surprisingly, Lagos State Government chooses to build these houses on the water. It is no longer a secret that most of the affordable housing communities in the world are built on land, not on the water.

“I have always supported housing projects, especially for families living in densely populated areas of the state. They need affordable houses. But the governor seems to have easily forgotten that Mosan-Okunola, Ijede, Ojokoro, Badagry are densely populated areas in Lagos. Residents in those areas have been crying for affordable houses since 1999.

“I know what affordable houses look like. My family and I lived in one of the good affordable houses built by former governor Lateef Jakande. Why does Fashola pretend not to know that 97 per cent of the families living in Ajeromi-Ifelodun, Alagbado, Agboyi-Ketu, Oke-Odo, Ayobo-Ipaja, Bariga, Epe and Igando do not have access to Government Housing Estates?

“Many families in Itire-Ikate can only afford to live in one room. Most Lagos State University (LASU) students still live in severely overpopulated environments. My advice to the governor is focus on building houses for families living in the areas that have the lowest house ownership rates like Ifelodun (4 per cent), Shomolu (8 per cent), or Mushin (8 per cent).”

Ahead of the rains, calls mount for speedy completion of ongoing road projects

o Bad weather, relocation of obstructing structures, facilities on RoW are causes of delay – Commissioner

By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor

ImageRain Rain Go Away

The rains are here again and it is about another time Lagosians begin to sing the old nursery rhyme: Rain rain, go away.

   Recently, the Lagos State government through the Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello, announced that there would be 263 days of rainfall this year starting from March 14 to December 21, with a margin error of nine days.

“The rainfall pattern showed that in the second week of March 2014, rain will commence till mid July when it will recess before starting again in September till December when the season will end. The little dry season will likely begin in July 15 and will end in August 31.”

   Bello said the prediction showed that Lagos would likely have a normal rainfall in 2014, but added that surrounding states like Ogun and Oyo would have above normal rainfall. “The excess flow from dams in those states may cause flooding downstream realistically in Lagos if the water is not properly managed.”

   While many look forward to the rainy season as a huge relief from the searing heat of the last few weeks, the state of many inner-city roads in Lagos State is getting many Lagosians worried.

   From the bad roads to those undergoing rehabilitation, the drop of rainfall spells doom for some residents, as they have to endure hours of flash flood in a state several metres below the sea level.

Such roads are common sight from Alimosho to Ikeja, Amuwo-Odofin to Ogba, Kosofe to Ikorodu.

While Lagosians are appreciative of the intentions of government in initiating renewal contracts on some of the inner-city roads, which are currently at various stages of completion, many people interviewed said that the ordeal of navigating through many of the uncompleted projects with some of them already dug up and impassable, is causing growing unease and scare of a flood disaster.

Image

The rains are here again and it is about another time Lagosians begin to sing the old nursery rhyme: Rain rain, go away.

   Recently, the Lagos State government through the Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello, announced that there would be 263 days of rainfall this year starting from March 14 to December 21, with a margin error of nine days.

“The rainfall pattern showed that in the second week of March 2014, rain will commence till mid July when it will recess before starting again in September till December when the season will end. The little dry season will likely begin in July 15 and will end in August 31.”

   Bello said the prediction showed that Lagos would likely have a normal rainfall in 2014, but added that surrounding states like Ogun and Oyo would have above normal rainfall. “The excess flow from dams in those states may cause flooding downstream realistically in Lagos if the water is not properly managed.”

   While many look forward to the rainy season as a huge relief from the searing heat of the last few weeks, the state of many inner-city roads in Lagos State is getting many Lagosians worried.

   From the bad roads to those undergoing rehabilitation, the drop of rainfall spells doom for some residents, as they have to endure hours of flash flood in a state several metres below the sea level.

Such roads are common sight from Alimosho to Ikeja, Amuwo-Odofin to Ogba, Kosofe to Ikorodu.

While Lagosians are appreciative of the intentions of government in initiating renewal contracts on some of the inner-city roads, which are currently at various stages of completion, many people interviewed said that the ordeal of navigating through many of the uncompleted projects with some of them already dug up and impassable, is causing growing unease and scare of a flood disaster.

ImageHamzat

Residents of Mushin, Ikorodu, Ejigbo, Ijegun, Okota, Idimu, Ipaja and Ayobo said they coudn’t wait to see an end to the tortuous exercise of commuting with tears on uncompleted roads in their areas.     
   Mr. John Danye, a resident in Isheri Osun complained that the government has been constructing the about 10 kilometers road between Isheri Oshun and Jakande Estate in Ejigbo for well over a decade but that the project has remained uncompleted.
   Spokesman of the residents’ association of the community, Chief Adisa Akiode, said residents of Ikotun, Ejigbo, Isheri-Oshun and Ijegun have shouted themselves hoarse over the delay in fixing the road, which was started several years ago.
   He declared: “It is only recently the contractor, Hi-Tech Construction, moved back to site. We (people living in these areas and visitors) are getting use to passing through hell to conduct our businesses because of the poor condition of the road.
   “For over six years, the road was abandoned until early this year, when the contractor mobilized his men back to site and they started working on one lane. This has aggravated the traffic situation on the road as the other lane is left for both inward and outward-bound vehicles. We only pray the new pace of work will be maintained and we will see an end to this project, he lamented, adding:
   “The road is strategic and would be a huge relief when completed and it would help decongest traffic along Okota-Cele bus stop, as some would prefer to link Ago Palace Way, Mile 2 and Festac Town through Bucknor and Ijegun ends.”  
   When The Guardian visited the area, it was discovered that at the highly congested Iyana Ejigbo junction, a lane had, for up to a year now, been impassable due to drainage re-construction to solve the perennial flood problems in the area.
   Some Ejigbo residents said that respite only came to them recently when the governor commissioned the Ejigbo-Ajao Estate link bridge named ‘January 27 Bridge’ in memory of the January 27 Ikeja bomb blast victims.
    To find out the state government’s side of the deplorable conditions of the roads and what is being done about the various uncompleted roads projects in the metropolis, The Guardian approached the Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat whose task it is to drive Governor Raji Fashola’s urban renewal project.
   Hamzat, while stressing that he had at several public fora given assurance on government’s commitment to complete ongoing road projects before 2015 runs out, he disclosed that about 367 inner-city roads with a total length of 350.686km were awarded in 2011.   
  “Of this,” he continued, “161 with a length of 147.347km have been completed and about 211 with a length of 211.339km are under different stages of completion.”
    According to him, this figure excludes the 58 inner-city road projects awarded in 2013 with a length of 64.527km, adding that this year (2014), about 31 new roads would be awarded while 17 others will be graded and resurfaced.
   He said the policy thrust of the state’s urban renewal project is “a multi-pronged strategy designed to make domestic trips enjoyable in the metropolis; drain water off the streets when it rains and provide, especially pedestrians with walkways in order to reduce accidents.”
   Referring to Joel Ogunnaike road in Ikeja GRA, which is being redeveloped into a dual carriageway with a standard drainage channel, he said the work was already 52 percent completed.
   He pointed out that the nightmare often experienced by residents of Ejigbo and Idimu in the past was gradually fading away with the construction of Idimu-Ejigbo road, which is now 50 percent completed.
   When completed, the road, which he said is strategic because it links Ikotun-Isheri and Egbe-Isolo roads, would redirect traffic flow and also provides viable alternatives for commuters going to Idimu, Shasha, Igando, Egbeda, Iba and Isheri from the Isolo and Cele Express routes.
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The commissioner acknowledged that over the years, the Idimu-Ejigbo road, which redevelopment contract was awarded in 2012, has been deplorable due to non-functional drainage system.
    Referring to Alimosho, he said the deplorable state of Meiran road generated concerns among several communities that the road links together.  
  “The road is being reconstructed into a dual carriageway, with walkways, streetlights, standard drainage system and service ducts among other facilities. When completed, it will enable commuters to go to Ayobo, Ipaja, Baruwa and other adjoining communities from Sango, Otta and Ifo among others without the need to get to Iyana Ipaja. Such commuters can connect their destination or residence through Meiran road en route Ajasa-Command road,” he affirmed
     Also worth mentioning is the Mosalashi-Ipaja-Ayobo road, which, according to Hamzat, has been 70 percent reconstructed.
   He noted that with a total length of 7.2km, the road is critical among about 69 road projects allocated to Alimosho between 2011 and 2013, the state’s most populated area.
   “The reconstruction of the road would reduce travel time, open up adjoining communities, abate erosion, flooding and enhance property value along the corridor,” the commissioner emphasized..
   He disclosed that in Ikorodu, about 15 road projects were underway, which include Obafemi Awolowo road, Ring road in Imota and Mile 12-Ikorodu road.
  “Across the state, a good number of inner-city roads are being reconstructed. In Badagry, seven road projects are underway. It is not true when some critics say the Fashola administration is only running an elitist government.” Hamzat said.
   A resident in Alimosho, Mr. Audu Kazeem, noted that the Meiran road and Alakuko road has solved a lot of accessibility challenges in the area. According to him, “drainage system in Meiran has been completed; median work is underway and walkway already demarcated, though much is yet to be done on the streetlight.
   “Though the road project has not been completed, ongoing work has seriously reduced public strain and trauma. I want the state government to fast-track the redevelopment of the road before the rainy season to avoid flooding,” he said.