#IStandWithBuhari, #IStandWithTuface, #IStandWithNigeria

• Showdown as citizens take to the streets
By Tope Templer Olaiya, Metro Editor
THERE’S no sitting on the fence. This weekend, Nigerians will be sharply divided into three distinct groups – #IStandWithBuhari, #IStandWithTuface and #IStandWithNigeria. All three will be stomping the streets in a popularity contest from Sunday.
Of the three, #IStandWithTuface, a sort of 2012 remake of #OccupyNigeria and #EnoughisEnough fuel subsidy protest, is leading the pack in popularity and resilience, as the other two appear to be a belated afterthought in response to the growing acceptance of a movement that may well define public consciousness and shape the next general elections in 2019.

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The missions of the three groups are well stated. Popular music icon, Innocent Idibia, popularly known as Tuface, is leading a nationwide protest against the government and for good governance; a group, which sponsors are yet to be unveiled, #IStandWithBuhari immediately launched a counter protest in support of the government; while a fairly unknown group, led by those who refuse to be bystanders in the emerging power show, is floating #IStandWithNigeria.

The third group will on Monday, February 6, assembly by 8a.m. at the National Stadium, Surulere in Lagos and march to the National Theatre, Iganmu. According to Bemigbo Awala, one of the organisers, “we are marching on the two national icons that epitomizes our decline as a nation.

“We want to state very clearly and peacefully that #IStandWithNigeria and the country must work for all of us and all of us must work for Nigeria,” he wrote on his Facebook page yesterday.

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Ahead of the clash of the mega rallies, it has been a feverish war on the social media space with each canvassing for supporters and maligning the others.

The group in support of the government had on Wednesday in a Facebook post stirred some controversy when it announced its nationwide solidarity rally for February 5 to take place on the same day Tuface had earlier fixed his protest march.

Not taking the bait, the #IStandWithTuface group immediately shifted their rally to Monday, February 6, to avoid some clash with the president’s supporters, while announcing they intend to hold the march on the day President Muhammadu Buhari would be returning to the country from his 10-day vacation in London.

Despite the controversies generated by the much-publicized protest, including the warning by the Lagos State Police Commissioner, Fatai Owoseni, stopping the protest, the ‘African Queen’ crooner yesterday vowed to go ahead with the planned protest.

#OccupyNigeria - #EnoughisEnough protest against fuel subsidy removal at Ojota, Lagos, renamed Freedom Park in 2012

#OccupyNigeria – #EnoughisEnough protest against fuel subsidy removal at Ojota, Lagos, renamed Freedom Park in 2012

Meanwhile, the police have been advised to desist from becoming tyrannical by attempting to stop the Tuface Idibia-led rally. A pro-democracy and Non-Governmental Organization, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) said the Nigeria police should not attempt to stop an idea whose time has come just as it affirmed that the peaceful nation-wide rallies called by the reputable social crusader and musician, Idibia is in compliance with a plethora of human rights provisions enshrined in the Chapter 4 of the Nigerian Constitution.

In the same vein, activist-lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, yesterday said the police cannot stop the planned mass rally organised by the popular musician. Adegboruwa said he considers it to be an attempt to intimidate those who wish to partake in the rally.

“For the information of the police commissioner, Nigeria is a democratic country governed strictly in accordance with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution. Section 39 of the Constitution grants freedom of expression, including the right to be heard and to disseminate information and ideas.

https://guardian.ng/news/showdown-as-citizens-take-to-the-streets-to-stand-with-buhari-tuface/

http://allafrica.com/stories/201702030300.html

 

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Change or Chains

Angst as Nigerians feel pains of increasing hard times
By Tope Templer Olaiya
These are not the best of times in Nigeria. Long before July 21, 2016, when the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, officially confirmed that the country was ‘technically in recession,’ it had been an arduous battle for survival for citizens, organizations and governments at all tiers.

The first half of the year was rough.

In spite of government’s assurances, Nigerians weathered the storm, bracing the challenge of petroleum scarcity, epileptic power supply amid increase in electricity tariff, removal of subsidy on petrol, hike in cost of food, goods and services, unprecedented scarcity of tomatoes, skyrocketing exchange rate of the naira to a dollar, backlog of unpaid salaries and mass retrenchment of workers.

For this man, RECESSION is not just a word

For this man, RECESSION is not just a word

Government kept repeating that the tide would turn once the 2016 budget was passed and the second half of the year would be better for the country and its citizens.

President Muhammadu Buhari eventually signed the budget on May 6, raising the hopes of turnaround with the injection of government funds across critical sectors of the economy.

With four months left in the year, it’s a stark reality of a depressed economy staring Nigerians in the face as strange things are reported daily.

Organized and petty crimes have been on the increase, unsecured pots of soup have become endangered species, sale of human blood and organs for economic reasons is rife, and frustrations have given rise to rampant cases of domestic violence, child abuse and suicide.

The hunger is so widespread that poultry farmers confess to skipping meals for their birds as the cost of feed has risen by 100 per cent.

Signs of the time: A boy eating crumbs from a pot.

Signs of the time: A boy eating crumbs from a pot.

Even in the president’s home state of Katsina recently, there was a massive scramble for unwholesome grain when the truck conveying bags of the suspected poisonous grains for destruction broke down in a village.

When persuasion failed, authorities had to engage the help of task force to retrieve some of the poisoned grains in a bid to avoid devastating consequences.

The new economic reality is affecting the lifestyle of Nigerians.

Today, an exchange of pleasantries is incomplete without the word ‘Change’ in reference to the evocative slogan that brought the present administration of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to power.

The standard reply to any untoward situation in the country is ‘Chanji’, the street version of APC’s motto – change.

President Buhari takes a peep at the capital city from Aso Villa

President Buhari takes a peep at the capital city from Aso Villa

A public affairs commentator based in Kano State, Aminu Muhammad Ofs, last week recounted his experience of the times, which has gone viral on social media.

He said: “I was sitting with a guy who sells tea when an elderly man came and said ‘Give me ‘Buhari’s mixture’. Without saying anything more, the man was given some tea and small bread for a sum of N40.
I was baffled, so I asked the seller what the man meant by ‘Buhari’s mixture’. He explained that it means tea without milk plus a small loaf of bread.

“Again the next day, I stopped by a small kiosk to get a battery for my wireless computer mouse. While I was leaving, a guy came who said: ‘Give me Buhari and Osinbajo. I waited to see what he meant and the seller handed him garri and groundnut.

“I inquired from the seller, who explained that garri is the street term for President Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is groundnut, while Senate President Bukola Saraki is sugar, slang for the staple foods the poor can afford.”

A drummer bows his head in agony after low patronage.

A drummer bows his head in agony after low patronage.

Before now, Lagos State was often referred to the city that never sleeps, because it is known for its hustle and bustle from dawn to dusk.

The wind of recession has blown all that away.

The bustling nightlife is disappearing in the Centre of Excellence, as the city practically shuts down and becomes a ghost town once it is 10p.m., even on weekends.

Due to the harsh economic conditions in the country, Nigerians have developed some clever methods of dealing with the tough circumstances.

Policemen take to lotto and gambling to make ends meet

Policemen take to lotto and gambling to make ends meet

According to a public opinion survey by NOIPolls, released on August 10, 2016, 97 per cent of the respondents said the recent economic realities have had a negative effect on the wellbeing of the average Nigerian.

Some survival methods discovered by the polls include cutting down on household expenses and luxury items, resorting to prayers and hoping for a miracle, engaging in subsistence farming, adjusting feeding patterns in place of the regular three-square meals.

A businessman, Emeka Obinna told The Guardian that he has had to adjust the feeding patterns of his family.
“I have a family of six, with several other dependents. That’s the only way we are managing to survive. No more three-square meals. It is either breakfast and dinner, or lunch and dinner. So, it is the 1-0-1, 1-1-0 or 0-1-1 formula I am operating now with the little resources at my disposal,” he said.

 

Angst as Nigerians feel pains of increasing hard times

Lagos ‘golden boy’ becomes Buhari’s ‘Actualizer’

By Tope Templer Olaiya, Assistant Lagos City Editor

PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI (R), CONGRATULATING MR BABATUNDE FASHOLA AFTER TAKING HIS OATH OF OFFICE

PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI (R), CONGRATULATING MR BABATUNDE FASHOLA AFTER TAKING HIS OATH OF OFFICE

ONE hundred and sixty six days after dropping the saddle as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Nigeria’s richest state, Lagos, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), who would forever be remembered for the sobriquet, Eko oni baje, was yesterday recalled from rest to take up a higher responsibility for national assignment when President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated his cabinet and assigned portfolios to the ministers.
While social media leaks had skirted around the probable nomination of Fashola as Minister of Works or the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), no one, not even the ex-governor, would have won the bet on the president’s plans to assign three heavy portfolios. Alas, when the president unveiled the ministers and their portfolios, the former governor of Lagos got the lion’s share as he was given a combination of three ministries – namely power, works and housing.

Fash He joins the newly constituted cabinet on the strength of his antecedent with his above-average performance as Lagos helmsman. Former governor Bola Tinubu’s eight-year administration laid the groundwork of modern Lagos as has been rightly termed ‘The Navigator.’ Fashola came on board and did his spell as ‘The Actualizer’ to implement the development and policy thrust of his predecessor before Akinwunmi Ambode’s emergence, who is touted as ‘The Consolidator.’
Fashola, the ‘Actualizer’ must have earned the absolute trust of President Buhari for a few reasons, some of which shone brightly during the intense campaign for the general elections. Others were the way he carried himself brilliantly during his eight-year administration of Lagos, which made him far ahead of his peers and first among equals of the Governors’ Class of 2007 to 2015.
Before the president selected Fashola as a ministerial nominee, there was a lot of talk from some quarters that Buhari might drop him due to some powerful forces within the ruling All Progressives Congress APC working against his nomination. However, the president had other ideas. He had so much faith in Fashola. Moreover, Buhari saw Fashola as a disciplined man just like himself who was ready to work assiduously.

Fashola during his appearance at the Senate for Ministerial Screening

Fashola during his appearance at the Senate for Ministerial Screening

One of the qualities you can’t deny Fashola of is his high spirit of patriotism. The former governor has always showed his passion for the progress of Nigeria. He believes in the project of a prosperous Nigeria. He proved this sufficiently when he steered the ship of Lagos, and became the toast of other African countries and foreign investors across the world.
Next to his patriotism is the fact that Fashola is a workaholic. The new minister of power, works and housing is a person who never gets tired of whatever he sets his eyes to achieve. When he came in as governor of Lagos in 2007, he could count the number of grey in his hair. Today, the reverse is the case. Eight years of intense work has made his hair all grey.
The minister, who would be the cynosure of all eyes in the new cabinet, also has a soft spot for innovative ideas. And his signature and indelible marks are all over the state. From the boosted Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) to the Lagos State Security Trust Fund, which assisted in reducing crime in the state; the restructuring of the once notorious Oshodi under bridge and beautification of some notorious hotspot are few examples.

L-R; New Ministers, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (Power, Works and Housing); Lai Mohammed(Information); James Ocholi, (State, Labour and Employment)and Alh. Abubakar Malami (Justice) taking the oath of Office as Federal Ministers

L-R; New Ministers, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (Power, Works and Housing); Lai Mohammed(Information); James Ocholi, (State, Labour and Employment)and Alh. Abubakar Malami (Justice) taking the oath of Office as Federal Ministers

For the poster boy of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Fashola has proved the saying to be true that the reward for hard work is more work. In a sense, he has had his short rest abruptly truncated to help deliver the change the ruling party promised Nigerians.
In August, when during the twists of an intra-party high-wired politics that was meant to dim his chances of being considered for a national call into the president’s team, he had replied his traducers, particularly the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) on the subject of the N78 million personal website that he was not looking for a job.
“I cannot conclude without responding to the crusade of CACOL and their ilk, seeking my prosecution on allegations that have no proof and writing “pre-emptive” letters to the Presidency. In case they are unaware, I am not looking for a job. I expect them to know that allegations of wrongdoing are not resolved without evidence, neither are they resolved in press conferences.

Readers are definitely Leaders

Readers are definitely Leaders

“I have served my state, and by extension, my country for twelve and half years and I did so with my heart. I am taking the rest that I believe I have earned. For those who still wish to remain in the mud, they should look in the mirror. For those who wish to throw mud at me, they should look at their own hands. As for me, I have moved on. My job is done.”
After taking the oath of office yesterday as Minister, the job is beginning afresh, on a national scale, where he is expected to drive the vision of the president.
All hopes are on Fashola to succeed. Some of the fangs he released at the Federal Government during the previous administration will now be used to measure his achievements in office. The Federal Government must live up to its responsibility to Lagos. Expectedly, he stole the show during the ministers’ screening at the Senate, Nigerians now expect him to steal the show with a sterling performance.

 

Lagos ‘golden boy’ becomes Buhari’s ‘Actualizer’

Potholes, potholes everywhere you go!

Federal mess in Lagos (Part 1)
By Tope Templer Olaiya,
Assistant Lagos City Editor

Failed portion of Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway at Ile-Epo bus-stop, Abule-Egba

Failed portion of Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway at Ile-Epo bus-stop, Abule-Egba

LIVING in Lagos can be as stressful as living in a war zone; the weather is constantly humid, traffic is hellish, living conditions are horrid, roads are terribly bad and the government appears to be ‘indifferent’. In the last few weeks, the combined problem of traffic logjam and insecurity across the state have made many Lagosians wondered aloud what is going wrong with their beloved Centre of Excellence.
A latest survey conducted by leading research institute, NOIPolls, revealed that severe traffic gridlock and heightened crime rate have now become the major sources of concern to the residents of Nigeria’s commercial capital, since Governor Akinwunmi Ambode assumed office in May 2015.
Predictably, the latter (heightened crime rate) exists because of the precarious situation of the former (severe traffic gridlock), which regrettably have been blamed on the lukewarm attitude to work by the state’s traffic regulatory personnel and hideous potholes littering many of the major artery roads in the state.

Creek Road, Apapa

Creek Road, Apapa

Lagos has elevated the definition of potholes. They are no longer small openings carved out on its roads by rainfall and lack of drainage but are alternatively death traps, that an unsuspecting motorist can pay dearly for.
These potholes, mostly on federal roads, have widened into craters and usually cause unnecessary traffic gridlocks. In some cases, car owners have to visit mechanics after a trip or two on these roads. More so, it has become an eyesore to Nigeria, the nation’s former political capital.
Lagos is encircled by dreadful roads on all fronts. Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is perennially a motorist’s nightmare; Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway is caving in under pressure and influx of citizens to the fringes of Lagos; Lagos-Badagry Expressway is taking forever to remodel and expand; too much has been written and said about the deplorable but busy Apapa-Oshodi Expressway; and the situation remains the same with Ikorodu-Sagamu Expressway.

Wharf Road, Apapa

Wharf Road, Apapa

At a time, former governor and now member of President Buhari’s cabinet as a minister, Babatunde Fashola, had relentlessy told the world how the Federal Government has over the years neglected Lagos and why a special status needed to be granted.
It is no longer fruitless to play politics with Lagos. Concrete action must now be taken to arrest the rot, which is threatening the economy of Nigeria’s biggest cash cow after oil. If taken as a country on its own, Lagos would be among the largest economies in Africa. According to a recent Economist report, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Lagos exceeds that of Kenya, East Africa’s beefiest economy.
All these have made life miserable for Lagosians. There is an increase in the number of vehicles on the roads. As a result of the traffic, many have missed business engagements, while those gainfully engaged have lost productive man-hours to the traffic.

The worries do not end there, as every person behind the wheels are weary of daredevil robbers clutching dangerous weapons in the bid to disposes motorists of money, phones and valuables. And these men of the underworld have found a new hobby in plying their trade during traffic. They are so brazen they don’t need the cover of darkness anymore.
All these are enough to stress out even the calmest soul, and sometimes most people who are stressed out don’t even know it until it’s too late.
Little wonder then Lagos was listed as one of the least livable cities in the world alongside Pakistan, Harare in Zimbabwe and Dhaka in Bangladesh by a study conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Ranking, which rated 140 cities in the areas of stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure.
Inspite of this, it is an irony of sorts that the city of Lagos still attracts visitors in their hundreds daily.

• Federal Ministry of Works keeps mum

Oshodi-Isale service lane, Oshodi

Oshodi-Isale service lane, Oshodi

WHEN The Guardian contacted a deputy Director, in the Federal Ministry of Works, Mr. Godwin Eke, for comment on the bad state of the road, he directed the reporter to contact the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Works in Abuja, on the ground that he is not allowed to speak to the press.
When reminded that he has been talking to the Press in the past on the parking of trucks and petrol tankers constituted nuisance on the highway, Eke, who is in charge of Section I of the Federal Highway said it was in the past and not now.
Minister-designate and former governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, had last year, said a good number of federal roads in the state were in a state of disrepair, pointing out that the situation would have been worse if his administration had not intervened on some of them, adding that he spent over N50 billion of tax-payers money to fix federal roads without getting any refund, despite acknowledgement by the Federal Government.
“We intervened in federal roads because they would disrupt economic activities if we leave them in a state of disrepair. One can imagine the economic impact of watching Apapa-Oshodi Expressway to be completely unmotorable. We can’t just watch these roads to rot away because we feel the pains.”

• Quick Facts

• Lagos has 117 federal roads.
• Length of state roads is 328.
• Length of local government roads is 6,415.

• Length of federal roads in Lagos is 719.2km.
• Length of trunk routes is 646.2km.
• Length of secondary routes is 73km.

 

Federal mess in Lagos (Part 1)

Strengthening Nigeria-UK trade relations

• Investors wait on Buhari’s policy thrust, cabinet
By Tope Templer Olaiya

It’s the end of the magical September that the nation waited for with baited breath for President Muhammadu Buhari to name his ministers and constitute his cabinet nearly four months after steering the ship of Africa’s most populous nation and the continent’s biggest economy.

While the ship of state has sailed on undeterred amidst the wail song of political brickbat within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), there have been strident calls for the present administration to kick-start its economic blueprint, first with the constitution of Buhari’s team of economic advisers.

Buh3This all-important subject was the kernel of discuss at the recently concluded United Kingdom (UK)-Nigeria Economic Forum organized by the Nigerian London Business Forum (NILOBF) in Kingsway Hall Hotel, London. With the theme ‘Partnership for Mutual Benefits, the Metrics that Matter,’ business managers, political leaders and representatives of strong business interests of the two countries met in a no-holds barred interactive session to espouse on the beneficial bilateral relationships between Nigeria and the U.K.

The key objective of NILOBF is to promote and attract trade and investments, support or oppose legislation or other policies and measures, capable of affecting trade, investment, and business between Nigeria and the U.K., as well as representing the opinion of Nigerian business community on those issues and the economy as a whole.

As the biggest economy in Africa, (and 26th in the world) in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and population of over 170 million, Nigeria offers a great investment climate and opportunities to investors from all spheres of life. Its re-emergent, though currently underperforming manufacturing sector, is the third largest on the continent, and produces a large proportion of goods and services for the West African region.

As a result, Nigeria wants to see the U.K. more engaged in trade and industry with it. The U.K. also wants to increase its trade and investment in the country. A target to increase trade between the two countries has been reset to £15 billion. The last, which is £8 billion, was easily achieved ahead of the 2015 deadline. The forecast for investors then is that the climate is set fair for partnerships for mutual benefits.

Pix 1While kick-starting the talk-shop, Maryanne Jemide, board member of NILOBF and publisher of Nigerian Watch, a U.K.-based newspaper, said there was the need for the two countries with a shared history to create partnerships that would achieve mutual benefits. “That is how business is done. This is the third year we have held this forum. It is one of its kind; Nigeria wants to do more business with the U.K. and we are the ones who can ensure that it happens,” she said

The snag, however, is that many British companies and investors, including the Forum, say their members are biding their time, and waiting to see what policy areas President Buhari will prioritize and who he will appoint to his cabinet to deliver those policies.

In spite of the delay in constituting a full cabinet, there have been some modest gains in the last 100 days of the administration. Since being elected, the president has acted in a way to give confidence to those seeking to undertake trade and investment in and with Nigeria. In pre- and post-election speeches, the president has assured investors that Nigeria’s core liberal economic policies will remain.

THE fight against corruption and leakages from the revenue account is underway. Plans have been announced to revamp agriculture and cotton output. The cost of government is being reduced, with the president and vice president leading the way by voluntarily halving their salaries and there has been improvement in electricity and power generation.
“Just imagine what Nigeria and Nigerians could do with constant supply of electricity. We would be the powerhouse of the global economy, a manufacturing powerhouse. Buhari’s government has suggested it is ready to privatise its transmission grid in line with international best practice. There is much potential for investment here to interest U.K. companies,” Jemide noted.

Continuing, she added that the need for diversification of the economy has never been more evident. “It is how Nigeria will tackle its chronic problems of unemployment and poverty, and these two issues, important in themselves, will help it tackle the big tumbling block to growth and investment: security. The situation is tragic, but our President has been rapidly building an international coalition force to fight the insurgency.

Pix 2While the problem manifests itself in the north of the country, the terror unleashed there is part of an international problem. Nigeria is too big, too strategically important to fail. We can be confident that this is a battle that will be won. We can be confident that Nigeria will flourish and the U.K. is Nigeria’s preferred partner.

Among those represented include the London Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, Kano Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, Abia Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, the Institute of Credit Administration (ICA), Credit Business Services Global (CBS Credit), Nigeria High Commission, London, British High Commission, Lagos, UK Trade & Investment, Lagos, Exports Credits Guarantee Department U.K. and BEN TV.

In his presentation on the investment opportunities in Oyo State, governor of the state, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, said in his second term in office, he was resolved to reposition the state to a fiscally functional, economically vibrant, socially harmonious and aesthetically delightful preferred destination for investors. He listed the priority focus of his administration as agriculture, wholesale and retail trade, manufacturing, real estate, building and construction, hotel and restaurants, and solid minerals among others.

In a passionate plea for more investments, the governor harped on his state’s potentials and opportunities, which he said are vast untapped farmlands and forest reserves, large pool of skilled and low-cost labour, proximity to Lagos seaports, key transport route between the Southwest and Northern Nigeria, key transport links to West African markets through its border with Benin Republic, high market demand for hotels and hospitality services and discounted land prices for establishment of businesses compared to Lagos.

From right: Dr. Chris Onalo, Director of the forum; Mrs. Florence Ajimobi, wife of Oyo State governor; Governor Abiola Ajimobi; Maryanne Jemide, Publisher, Nigerian Watch Newspaper, UK; and Alistair Sorodoye, CEO/Founder, BenTV, UK during the presentation of Honorary Member Award to Oyo State governor.

From right: Dr. Chris Onalo, Director of the forum; Mrs. Florence Ajimobi, wife of Oyo State governor; Governor Abiola Ajimobi; Maryanne Jemide, Publisher, Nigerian Watch Newspaper, UK; and Alistair Sorodoye, CEO/Founder, BenTV, UK during the presentation of Honorary Member Award to Oyo State governor.

The Nigeria High Commission in London also played a pivotal role in the success of the business forum. The combination of these two efforts goes to show how determined the two countries are to promote strong bilateral relations. Our aim is to provide the platform for excitement, enthusiasm, and satisfaction to the already established business, trade and investment relations, while charting the course for new possibilities and opportunities.”

Submission made by a cross-section of participants at the forum was that Nigeria’s economy has the potential to develop if President Buhari-led government takes the necessary measures.

Lead sponsor of the conference, Heritage Bank, admitted that though Nigeria’s relation with its trading partners is a mixed bag of risk and opportunities, Nigeria remains an investor’s delight despite the seeming unfavorable business climate such as insecurity, infrastructure deficit and slow pace of economic and political development.

Group Managing Director (GMD) of the bank, Ifie Sekibo, said Nigeria, though a middle income, mixed economy and emerging market, has the capacity for expansion in the areas of financial services, telecommunications, entertainment and other non-oil sectors with an ambition of becoming one of the top 20 largest economies by 2020.

Pix 3

It is in this respect that I kindly introduce Heritage Bank as your bank of choice in determining where and how to make your investment decisions. Feeding off this, Heritage Bank has identified strategic partnerships in the offering of financial services, especially in financing projects to enhance infrastructural development. Amongst the key sectors currently focused include Telecommunication, entertainment, education, oil and gas, power and other priority sectors.

Within three years of operations, Heritage Bank has transformed from being a regional player to a top tier player through the recent strategic acquisition of a national commercial bank – Enterprise Bank Limited. Gladly, the market has responded positively to our value preposition albeit within a very short period of being recognised, as the most innovative bank, most customer focused bank, and a generational bank of first choice.

 

Strengthening Nigeria-UK trade relations

Buhari’s second coming and the audacity of Change

DawnBy Tope Templer Olaiya

THE dawn of change is here, after a long anticipated wait that lasted 59 days. Since the historic call made by former president Goodluck Jonathan to his successor on the afternoon of March 31 that simmered all post-election hostilities, all eyes had looked forward to today, May 29, with bated breath.
The transition was expected to be anything but smooth, considering that this is the first time in the nation’s history there would be a change of government from a political party to its bitterest rival. But it was a small hill to surmount for the people’s general, who had not only fought wars, but also swallowed the bitter pill of defeat, taking it in his stride after three straight routing in presidential elections.
The March 28 election was heralded with a vigorous, no-holds barred campaign either for ‘change’, as represented by General Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) or ‘continuity’ as proclaimed by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In a never-seen-before manner, blood-dripping and nail-biting crusades from both divides interrupted sanity and polluted the traditional media and social media space.
It was therefore somewhat of an anti-climax for the curtain to have fallen on the general elections in such dramatic fashion, hours before the umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Buhari as President-elect in the early hours of April 1.

Saybaba The 72-year old president has returned to power 30 years after a military coup masterminded by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (Rtd), his then Chief of Army Staff, sacked him as Nigeria’s military head of state. He has also equaled national statesman, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s enviable record of leading Africa’s most populous country at twice.
Buhari has also made history as the first opposition candidate in the nation’s political history to dislodge an incumbent president from power. He had contested for the highest office in 2003, as candidate of the defunct All Peoples Party (APP); in 2007 as candidate of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP); and in 2011 as candidate of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).
Buhari is not a quitter, one virtue that would readily be required to salvage the country from the precipice of ruin. Defeated in the previous three attempts, he returned from self-imposed political retirement to contest for the highest office again, becoming victorious the fourth time, and bringing home the story of former United States president, Abraham Lincoln, who tasted several defeats at previous elections before getting to the Oval Office.
In 2003, Buhari lost to Olusegun Obasanjo in an election, which European Union (EU) observers reported was marked by widespread irregularities. He lost again to Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2007, which was widely condemned for rampant rigging, violence, theft of ballot boxes and intimidation.
After Yar’Adua’s death in 2010, Jonathan rose from being vice president to president and squared up with Buhari for the first time in 2011. Buhari had formed the CPC a year earlier, saying it was “a solution to the debilitating, ethical and ideological conflicts in my former party, the ANPP.”
BabAfter Jonathan’s victory in 2011, amid accusations of rigging, riots broke out in the North. Armed protesters took to the streets chanting Buhari’s name. More than 800 people were killed in the post-election violence. Buhari issued a statement describing reports of burning of places of worship a sad, unfortunate and totally unwarranted development.
Ahead of this year’s election, Jonathan and Buhari signed a non-violence pact, known as the Abuja Peace Accord in January. On March 26, they renewed their pledge and reiterated their commitment to “free, fair and credible elections.”
Very popular among the poor in the north known as the Talakawas, Buhari was able to dislodge the PDP, which had dominated the political scene since the end of military rule in 1999, with the aid of heavyweight defectors from the PDP but principally the triumph of people power, which like an opera orchestra, loudly chorused Change.
With his military background and spartan credentials, the ‘Change’ campaign was able to warm up to many Nigerians, who felt he possesses just what the country needs to get to grips with not only the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency in the north, but the financial recklessness that characterized the Jonathan years.
A Muslim from Daura in Katsina State, who has given his support to Sharia in the north, Buhari has previously had to deny allegations that he has a radical Islamist agenda. This posed a problem for him in the 2003, 2007 and 2011 polls, when he failed to secure much support among Christians in the south. But haven escaped an attack on his convoy in Kaduna in July 2014, which bore all the hallmarks of a Boko Haram assassination attempt, he has promised to end the insurgency within months.
Bab2In 1983, Major-General Buhari and Major-General Tunde Idiagbon were selected to lead the country by middle and high-ranking military officers after a successful military coup d’etat that overthrew civilian President Shehu Shagari on December 31.
In 1985, Buhari was himself overthrown in a coup led by Babangida on August 27th, and other members of the ruling Supreme Military Council (SMC) were sacked ostensibly, because Buhari insisted on investigating allegations of fraudulent award of contracts in the Ministry of Defence.
His first sojourn in power was a period remembered for strict campaign against indiscipline and corruption. The verdict on the president’s first coming is mixed. About 500 politicians, officials and businessmen were jailed as part of a campaign against waste and corruption.
Some saw this as the heavy-handed repression of military rule. But others remember it as a praiseworthy attempt to fight the endemic graft that prevented Nigeria’s development. He retains a rare reputation for honesty among Nigeria’s politicians, both military and civilian, largely because of this campaign.
It is on this plank of untainted record that so much expectation has been dumped on the president by millions of Nigeria, including those who campaigned vigorously and voted against him. The burden of expectation is enormous at the least and outlandish at best. Something akin to turning stone into bread or water into petrol or as widely circulated on social media, making the dollar at par to the naira.
Buh3In summary, Nigerians expect Buhari, starting from today, to do all the things Jonathan didn’t do, and that expectations to be modest, is arduous.
In specifics, one Prince Ajibola Adebayo Odusanya expects the newly sworn-in president to do the following: restructure the power sector, sanitise the oil sector, create jobs for graduates, construct good roads, reduce salaries and allowances of senators, House of Representatives members and ministers, rebuild natural resources to make the country not depend solely on oil and revamp the educational system to standards attained in developed countries.
Buhari’s campaign was also fiercely anti-corruption. He ran to office under the slogan of “new broom,” the symbol of the APC as against the ruling party’s symbol of an umbrella.
The first litmus test for the Buhari presidency will be the colour of his cabinet, which will shape the direction of his administration. In this new age of political awareness where the voter is king, the president would not have for 2019 to know the people’s verdict. The change administration would be assessed right from its first 100 days in office.
The president’s 100 days covenant with Nigerians has been classified into several sub-heads, which include corruption and governance, insurgency and insecurity, Niger Delta, diversity, health, agriculture, management of the economy for prosperity, industrial relations, power, and youth and ICT development.
The first few sentences of the covenant on corruption and governance really excite Nigerians, where the president in a pre-election document had pledged to: “publicly declare my assets and liabilities; encourage all my appointees to publicly declare their assets and liabilities as a pre-condition for appointment. All political appointees will only earn the salaries and allowances determined by the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission (RMFAC); work with the leadership of the National Assembly and the judiciary to cut down the cost of governance and present a National Anti-corruption Strategy.”
The promised change has arrived on a fresh clean sheet of unadulterated goodwill. How this open cheque handed to the president by millions of expectant Nigerians will be spent will be the defining moment of Buhari’s second coming and his place in posterity.

 

 

 

Deepening Nigeria’s democracy with presidential debate

By Tope Templer Olaiya
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Nigerians across the world will on Sunday, March 22, be treated to an interesting spectacle void of hot air that has pervaded the 2015 electioneering campaigns. It is the Nigeria Elections Debate Group (NEDG) presidential debate.
With bated breath, Nigerians look forward to seeing the best and worst from not just the leading presidential candidates, President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd.), the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, but a roll call of all 18 presidential candidates standing for March 28 election.
Followers of Lagos Governorship Debate already have their appetites whet to the stimulating engagement expected to herald the live debate.
The expectation is high because the entire country is the panel and though actual measurement of impact may be tentative, especially in a developing country where there are challenges of illiteracy and access to mass media, the performance of the candidates ordinarily reshapes the conversation and can significantly influence voters’ choice.
The essence of a presidential debate would be fully appreciated in a society where the people see it as an opportunity to evaluate the policies, preparedness and demeanour of those who seek to govern them. It must, however, also be warned that a great leader may not be the best of debaters.

Buhari and Jonathan

Buhari and Jonathan

Chairman of the NEDG and Director General of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Mr. Sola Omole, during his sensitization visit to The Guardian newspaper, said the debate, which will be held in three sessions, 12noon-2pm, 3pm-5pm, and 7pm-9pm, will be broadcasted to over 300 million audiences across the world.
Omole, during his visit to The Guardian, said the mission of the NEDG is to ensure the debate process becomes a strong component of Nigeria’s democracy. “All over the world, this is what happens before any presidential elections. We want to make the debate culture a part of our growing democracy and we have initiated discussions with the National Assembly to propose a bill in order to legalize presidential debates ahead of general elections.”
The culture of televised presidential debates is one of the many cultures that were copied from the United States of America (USA).
The first ever debate in the USA between rivals for elective political office can be traced to 1857 when Abraham Lincoln insisted on having a debate with Stephen Douglas on “the virtue of the republic and the evil of slavery”. Abraham Lincoln lost that election but a history in political debating had already been made.
Lincoln would later win the presidency in 1860, in an election, which featured no political debates. In fact, there were no debates between presidential candidates until 1952.
The culture of televised debate would later become formalised with the televised debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960. The handsome and more charismatic John Kennedy won the televised debate while an earlier radio debate had been won by Nixon. Nixon was said to have appeared rather “shifty” on television and that contributed to his loss of the election.
If televised debates could prove the downfall of a candidate who otherwise could have won in an election, why bother to participate in it? President Lyndon Johnson refused to debate with Senator Barry Goldwater in 1964; he was leading in the polls, and public speaking was not his forte.
Just as John McCain was about to do in one of his 2008 presidential debates when he said he was attending to legislative matters in Congress, President Jimmy Carter in 1980, refused to participate in the first presidential debate because it included independent candidate John Anderson.

MKO Abiola (waving) and Tofa (left) at 1993 debate

MKO Abiola (waving) and Tofa (left) at 1993 debate

He, however, attended subsequent debates and that memorable question by Ronald Reagan did him great damage: “Are Americans better off today than they were four years ago?” The state of the economy and the American hostage crisis in Iran suggested it was the right question that would nail the coffin of the Carter presidency.
On the home turf, the highpoint of Nigeria’s experience with presidential debates and the last time Nigerians enjoyed something really close to an exciting debate was during the 1993 presidential elections. It was a memorable encounter between the late Chief MKO Abiola of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Alhaji Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Convention (NRC).
At the end of that debate, it was clear who among the duo was better experienced, much more intellectually capable and more endearing to the electorate in terms of readiness for the job being applied for. That is what a debate, under these circumstances, is: a job interview.
Unfortunately, there won’t be a remake of the 1993 feeling. Voters would be denied this opportunity for comparison, assessment, interaction, excitement and drama that comes with a debate of any sort, as Buhari announced on Tuesday that he be shunning the debate on Sunday.
It would be recalled that the APC had said it will not participate in the previously scheduled public debates on national television and radio stations organised by the NEDG, long before the elections were postponed from February 14 to March 28. The party had alleged that NEDG, which is co-ordinating the debate, was fraught with fundamental errors from the outset, according to Malam Garba Shehu, the Director Media and Publicity of the APC Campaign Organisation.
Clarifying his stance, Buhari, in an interactive session with journalists, said there was nothing worth debating with the president, which has failed to live up to the expectations of Nigerians. According to him, the mere fact that Jonathan had to rely on Chad, Niger and Cameroun to tackle the menace of Boko Haram speaks volume of the failure of the PDP-led administration.

Jonathan debating alone during the NESG 2011 edition

Jonathan debating alone during the NESG 2011 edition

Reacting, the Director of Media and Publicity of the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, Femi Fani-Kayode, claimed the APC took the decision to boycott the debate simply to shield from Nigerians and the international audience its candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari’s intellectual laziness and inability to constructively engage contemporary national issues in a live television and radio debate.
It is not only political gladiators that are bothered about the seeming intransigence of Buhari to debate with Jonathan as the two leading contenders for the 2015 presidential elections. Citizens like Niran Akintunde are also showing similar concern and what it portends to the electioneering process.
In his Facebook post recently, Akintunde said: “Yes, I am supporting Buhari but ask me what does my candidate think about local government autonomy or creation of state police, I would not know. This is really a shame, I must admit. But beyond rhetoric, both Buhari and Jonathan have really not helped Nigerians to be able to decide wisely.
“I expect the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to make political debates compulsory as part of the electioneering process in the interest of the electorates because at the moment, mediocrity is found in both the Jonathan and Buhari camps.”

Shekarau, Ribadu and Buhari during the NN24 2011 presidential debate

Shekarau, Ribadu and Buhari during the NN24 2011 presidential debate

Many political watchers have complained to a great length the seeming absence of issues in the campaigns of the two leading political parties. Sadly, in the few days before March 28, the campaigns might never rise beyond the present disenchanted state, which is focusing greatly on personalities rather than issues. They argued that only a presidential debate would change the narrative.
Reacting to concerns by the APC, who had earlier pulled out of the debate earlier scheduled for February 8 over the integrity of the process, Sola Omole said efforts have been made by organisers to make the debate credible.
“The debate platform, which is designed by the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON) comprises of all radio and television stations across the country. With our over 300 membership, it is going to be the largest broadcasting session ever.
“Over 4,000 questions were sent in from across the world and it has been polled and vetted by our technical team to avoid repetition. The questions have been kept secret from our panelists, which would only be delivered to them minutes before the debate begins. At the same time, it is the same questions that will be asked from all the contestants, while the debate is going to be aired live so there would be no filtering.”
The chairman of the debate group added that the contact committee of NESG has been in touch with the APC leaders to carry them along and explain the whole process of the debate. He, however, noted that with or without the APC participating in the debate, it would still go on as scheduled on Sunday.