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PETER OBI’S MOVEMENT BIGGER THAN ENDSARS – ABURE, LP CHAIR

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Embattled National Chairman of the Labour Party, Julius Abure

Embattled National Chairman of the Labour Party, Julius Abure, shares his views with ADEBAYO FOLORUNSHO-FRANCIS on the lingering feud in the party, Peter Obi’s candidacy and other issues

Why is it difficult to resolve the issue of the Labour Party chairmanship tussle between you and the factional leader, Callistus Okafor?

It is only in Nigeria here you find that somebody can just wake up and say he is a party national chairman. Callistus Okafor is just somebody who wanted attention, and unfortunately, he is getting it. Was there an election or convention that produced him as the national chairman?

But Okafor said the constitution states that when a party chairman dies or gives up his position, the deputy immediately assumes the post.

Which constitution is he talking about? Somebody can wake up and say anything. It is left for us to find out from INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) and other bodies. People who are hungry shouldn’t just wake up to present another presidential candidate because an election is coming and claim that he is the chairman of the party. Since he said the issue is in court, there is no problem. There are several cases in court; how many do you see being advertised on the pages of newspapers? When we had our presidential primary, it wasn’t hidden; it was clear. Pat Utomi and others were there. You saw what played out before we arrived at the decision we took.

The factional chairman (Okafor) also warned that Peter Obi was sitting on a keg of gun powder by accepting to be your presidential candidate. What is your reaction?

If we are sitting on a keg of gun powder as he claimed, why can’t he just wait for it to explode? The truth is that Okafor just wants food to eat. His case is not a threat to us at all. We will meet in court as he said. It is not a difficult task for anyone to find out who the chairman of the Labour Party is from the Independent National Electoral Commission. I don’t think that at this time of our development, when we want to get it right politically that we should be promoting what will bring down the momentum of the people. This country is dying and it is on the brink of collapse. I think we need to show enough patriotism to prevent it from collapsing.

Recently, Peter Obi has come under fire for travelling to Egypt when he ought to be campaigning for your Ekiti governorship candidate. How do you react to that?

It is a normal thing for people in opposition to find something negative to talk about a candidate or party. What’s their business with him travelling to Egypt? It is because they are already afraid of Peter Obi. That’s why they are always looking for excuses to attack him. Is it a few days before the election that electioneering campaigns are done? People who want to win an election already know how to go about it. The truth is that there is no amount of negative report that will bring down Peter Obi’s presidential train. It is clear that he is ahead of other candidates. His track record is clear.

When you put him on a scale with other presidential candidates, it is very obvious that he stands out. Compare him with Atiku (Abubakar), and the difference is clear. That is because we knew Atiku when he was in Customs and later became the Vice President. When Peter Obi was also governor of Anambra State, we knew what happened. We know what both of them did in their private lives and in public offices. Is it (Bola) Tinubu that we want to talk about? It is clear Obi is way ahead. If he is going to Egypt for a meeting and that is his priority, what’s their problem?

Don’t you think Obi’s presence in Ekiti State would have boosted the chances of your candidate in the state?

Not really. Even the President cannot be expected to do everything on his own. There should be division of labour. There are leaders in Ekiti State who have been working hard. The people already know their candidates and where they are heading. Nigerians are suffering and they are tired. The people have made up their minds as to where they want to go. If they like, let them bring 100 bullion vans of money. The popular reggae icon, Bob Marley, said ‘you can fool some people sometimes but you can’t fool all the people all the time.’

What is the Labour Party doing differently to ensure Obi wins the 2023 presidential election?

Obviously, everybody has come to a realisation that our party is not the Labour Party of yesterday. We’re building on that momentum and expanding our horizons. You know people have been clamouring for an alternative to the APC and the PDP over the years and that is the opportunity we have provided for Nigeria. That was also why we sought the best candidate. By the time we come up with our vice presidential candidate, it will shock Nigerians because we are going to get somebody with the same credentials as Peter Obi. That will put an end to the whole of the APC and PDP. Quite frankly, we need to change those who have mismanaged this economy.

Nigeria just finished celebrating June 12 Democracy Day. In all honesty, has the country fared well?

I gave a historical perspective of June 12 and what it symbolises during the last commemoration. I said that was an election that brought all Nigerians together because it gave hope and became a symbol of the democratic struggle of the country. It has become a symbol of good governance in Nigeria. But unfortunately, the Moshood Abiola family ended up paying the ultimate price. Abiola died in the struggle, and his wife, Kudirat was also killed in the process. Their businesses, including newspapers like Concord and Abiola Group of Companies went down the drain as a result of that struggle. While we can say that Nigeria has attained democracy and people now enjoy the freedom of speech, all these are dividends of June 12. The 1999 Constitution is clear that the principal purpose of government is to provide security and welfare for the citizens. Section 2 harps on the fact that the national resources of the country must be managed in such a way that it gives maximum welfare to the people of Nigeria.

As we speak, Nigerians are not even asking for welfare. All they are asking is for the Federal Government to secure their lives. This is because people are killed on a daily basis in this country. The government has failed us. Over 100 million Nigerians are living below  the poverty line. Inflation is in double digit; people’s salaries cannot take them home. Poor people have no food, no shelter and no water. So, yes, we have to have democracy but it is not yet Uhuru for Nigeria; there is more to be done. Those who have not yet taken their PVCs are urged to do so.

There is a perceived assumption that Peter Obi is a social media president who may lose at the poll when the actual voting process begins. What’s your take on this perception?

If you look at the EndSARS protest, you cannot underestimate what the social media can do, especially with the younger generation. It is very clear that the people of Nigeria are tired. The truth is that a mind that is equipped is one that will be able to effect changes. Our youths have taken the election and collection of PVCs up as a challenge to actualise the changes. My party office here is already filled up with people registering for PVCs. The same thing is also evident across the federation. It is a very powerful movement that is good for us. It is even good that the opponents are underrating us and they will see the result in February 2023.

This movement is more than EndSARS, I can assure you. You can see how people are moving around, struggling to get their PVCs. If you visit INEC office in Abuja, the unprecedented crowd there now will send a signal. Go to Lagos, Warri, Imo and even Sokoto in the North, you will be shocked to see the crowd. But it is always good for your opponents to believe you are not on the ground. Technology has broken all barriers. What we actually need now to mobilise Nigerians are smartphones and social media. In the past, these were absent. People had to be in different wards to canvass for votes. Now, you can canvass on your phones. Was the success of the EndSARS process not attributed to the social media? They had to bring in the military to kill people before they could have their way. If not for the use of brute force by the military to break up that movement, you can be sure that something would have come out of it. This is why it is good for us to be underrated over our presence on social media at this moment.

Is Peter Obi not feeling threatened by the incursion of Atiku and Tinubu in the North and South-West zones where they rely heavily for votes?

If you look at the mood of the people, you will discover that it has ruled out the option of APC and PDP, irrespective of whoever they feature as their presidential candidates or running mates. The people, especially from the South-East, South-South and even the South-West, have made up their minds to do away with them. I don’t think they are a serious threat to us. I must admit that we may have one or two challenges in the North. However, from the statistics and polling that we have done, we don’t see it as a threat. We have had a president from the North for eight years, how has he impacted on the region?

What exactly do you mean by impact on the region?

Check the statistics, you will discover that the number of out-of-school children is even higher now. Even the Almajiri children that you see protesting in Kaduna, Kano and Sokoto states, who have carried arms against the country were given birth to when Buhari was just made president. Today, they are on the streets fighting for justice. Of course, they are children that were not trained by the system and those the states have abandoned. Today, they have taken up arms against the country. It is not about where the president is coming from. The northerners have seen it. Giving a northerner the president or vice president position doesn’t mean it may impact the lives of the people. The 2023 election is all about who has the capacity, character, antecedent and competence to drive the process of development in the country. The northern region has huge natural resources that can even pay the country more than oil.

What sort of natural resources are we looking at?

I don’t want to go into details or enumerate what we have in the North. As we speak, I am aware that some of these resources are being exploited by private individuals. Those resources exploited by these individuals with the active collaboration of the government would have gone a long way in providing education, healthcare and other welfare arrangements for people in the North. It is not about whether Atiku’s people are from the North or Tinubu has a stronghold in the West. We have had the PDP for close to 20 years and we have had APC for eight years. We know their results. Obviously, the people are tired and are ready to do away with the two. And that’s the mood of the country. I am confident that Labour Party will do very well in the 2023 elections. I have no doubt about it.

You seem so confident about the chances of Obi even in the South-West. Do you think Labour Party can defeat Tinubu in his stronghold?

If you study the situation very well, you will discover that the youths are actually in the majority. Although it is not in my place to comment on aspirants’ age or health status, people generally believe that a younger person should rule as president. Definitely, we cannot be talking about somebody like Asiwaju, who is old and may not be able to cope with the challenges of governance. There is no sentiment about it. This is all about the lives of the people. It is obvious that Asiwaju can’t cope. The mood of the people even in the South-West is not different. We need a younger and more vibrant person to do the job. My advice to him would have been to support a younger person and occupy a seat in the background. He needs to emulate people like ex-President (Olusegun) Obasanjo and Abdulsalaam (Abubakar) by having some rest while playing with his grandchildren. Even people like the late Nelson Mandela had the opportunity for a second term but he concluded that age was not on his side and he needed to rest. The people respected his decision. We must learn to quit at the stage when the ovation is loudest.

Many APC supporters believe Nigeria stands to benefit more from Tinubu’s brain based on his wealth of experience, not his physical attributes. Do you have a contrary opinion?

The truth is that the brain cannot function without the body. There is no way a brain in a weak body can function effectively unless we want to deceive ourselves. The country is facing a lot of challenges; we cannot afford to have a sleeping president who will be moving from one hospital to another. Quite frankly, I didn’t want to comment on this because it is sensitive and touches on the life of somebody but the truth has to be told. The country is full of so many challenges. People get kidnapped every day, some die in road accidents, and others are killed. Nothing is done about it and we want to bring a president who will be running from one hospital to the other. I think this nation has gone beyond that. We cannot put the burden of over 200 million Nigerians on the shoulder of somebody who is already weak. This is about our lives and the future of this country. I want to assure you that we will win in Lagos and other states in South-West clearly. The Yoruba will not go with Asiwaju.

People from the South-East have intensified efforts towards getting their PVCs. What could be the reason for the current rush to get the voter cards?

The answer is clear. People are fed up and seriously planning to vote out the APC and PDP from governments at all levels. You are aware that we once had voter apathy at a stage. People were not interested in even going to pick up their PVCs because they saw no difference between Tinubu and Atiku. So, they concluded that it is better to stay back in their homes. Now that Labour Party has come on board and also has Peter Obi as its presidential candidate, the rush you are seeing now is because of the Labour Party resurgence and Obi. I can assure you that there won’t be voter apathy in 2023 as people will come out and vote massively  for Labour Party.

Don’t you think issues like monetising of the process or vote buying as witnessed in the past can edge out the likes of the Labour Party?

Nigerians have since realised that the money they are sharing with them was stolen. It is our common patrimony taken from the government purse for themselves and their children. That’s the same money they bring to buy votes. I can assure you that Nigerians will collect the money and do the right thing this time. We have seen that done in Edo. I have had the privilege of campaigning during the time of (Adams) Oshiomhole. I have seen people collect money from the PDP and voted against them in Edo. The same thing will play out in the 2023 general elections. The reason people collected money and do whatever they like is that they may not have seen any difference between Buhari and Atiku in 2019. Therefore, they will just take the money when given as if there is no difference. But those who see that Peter Obi is better and may change their lives will collect the money and still vote against them. Some may not even collect and do the right thing. Buying of votes will definitely end in the 2023 elections.

Are you sure that some Labour Party aspirants are not involved in vote buying?

 Nigerians have witnessed our party primaries. They can use that to benchmark this assumption. We have seen how money was spent in the PDP primary. We also saw a similar thing play out at the APC national conference. I am sure nobody saw that at the LP convention that produced Peter Obi. That should tell you that vote buying is not part of our agenda. The people have decided and I am sure they will do the right thing. The people have seen bad governance over these few years and learnt some lessons. At least, we have seen that Nigerians rushing to get their PVCs are not induced or given money. Immediately after LP announced Peter Obi as its presidential candidate, there was a rush for the collection of PVCs by a massive crowd. It is an indicator of the fact that the Labour Party won’t buy votes but Nigerians will do the right thing.

Will Peter Obi’s emergence somehow put an end to secessionist tension by IPOB in the South-East?

In a way, it will. It is not the first time we are seeing an uprising. You will recall that in the South-West, there was a similar thing when the people felt marginalised. Groups like OPC and others sprang up and agitated for rights to secede from Nigeria over the rising case of insecurity in the South-West. When Olusegun Obasanjo became the President, he almost ended it. In the Niger Delta, we had the Avengers also threatening to cause tension over secession. But when Goodluck Jonathan became President, it was also doused. I am sure if Obi becomes president, the agitation from the South-East will resolve itself. This is because part of the agitation was because they were denied the chance of producing a president and given no sense of belonging. If such an opportunity is eventually given, I am sure that they will gladly support one of their own and allow peace to return to the country.

But we must also note that the issue of insecurity is not limited to the South-East alone. There is Boko Haram, ISWAP, unknown gunmen and violence all over the country. I think all these are down to the problem of bad governance. If people are poor, have no jobs and are hungry, the obvious thing to do is to go into crime. That is what Peter Obi is out to correct. If you are to provide jobs, create an enabling environment, and take care of the vulnerable in society, I am sure this problem of insecurity will die naturally. Sadly, we have repeatedly endured a government that has no passion for its people. Otherwise, what is happening in this country can’t happen elsewhere, and the people will still remain together as one. Nigerians are just very peaceful and loving people.

PUNCH

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WHEN THE JOURNALIST BECOMES THE NEWS: THE CASE OF REUBEN ABATI AND RUFAI OSENI

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Veteran Journalist, Reuben Abati

With the traffic infraction saga involving Arise Morning Show co-host, Rufai Oseni being resolved, it is pertinent to look back and point out valuable lessons that need to be learned. As the incident unfolded, it emerged that his colleague Reuben Abati, was equally involved in a back-and-forth with the irrepressible Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.

The whole episode must have been frustrating to the management of the Arise News Channel; under whose umbrella the flagship program the Arise Morning Show is produced. There is nothing more embarrassing to a media outfit, than for its presenters or reporters to become subjects of news reports for the wrong reasons. It is the major reason  journalists are admonished to cultivate a low profile, and conduct their affairs quietly, hoping only to attract positive news reports if at all. No media organization wants its internal affairs laid bare in public. Not because media houses do evil, but out of a sense of professional etiquette. Furthermore, it would be akin to scoring an own goal, as Tundun Abiola would say, and a serious breach, for a media house to actively engage in reporting a negative story about itself, how much more creating stories for others which it cannot report.

For the avoidance of doubt, the Arise Morning Show has become a must watch for most Nigerians. The in-depth analysis by Abati and his co-anchors; Tundun Abiola and Rufai Oseni, coupled with their masterful interviewing skill has made it so. To have two of them embroiled in avoidable media uproar must have rankled with management. I am happy however that no actions were taken against the journalists by management, as witnessed in the recent case of CNN anchor Chris Cuomo who was fired, following revelations that he was involved in a scheme to shield his brother Andrew Cuomo, the erstwhile governor of New York State from justice due to allegations of sexual misconduct.

Rufai Oseni

Oseni committed traffic offence and was confronted by traffic officers. I’m happy he has acknowledged as much, following his apology. A careful analysis of the entire saga reveals that those who live in glass houses should never throw stones; this is because the Arise Morning Show is seen as the people’s court, where government officials are interrogated and made to answer questions which ordinary Nigerians cannot ask them. It follows that the anchor of such a program is like the goldfish which has no hiding place.

Many years ago I was guest analyst on television when the Super Eagles B team, the CHAN Eagles, took on the Atlas Lions of Morocco. By the end of the first half, the Moroccans were 3-0 up against the Eagles. I was so frustrated at the Eagles play and forgot my role, I became emotional and stated that the Eagles had lost the plot and had no hope of a comeback. Unfortunately for me, the Eagles scored three goals in the second half and took the game to extra time before triumphing via penalties.

For months I was heckled to no end by football enthusiasts for not knowing my job, messages were sent to me directly and through friends abusing me. Lucky for me Social Media was not in place at the time, if not, I wouldn’t have seen the end of the matter. Since that time, I have learnt to keep emotions out of my analysis.

I believe in the same sense that Rufai Oseni now realizes that there is a target on his back, and that a man who wants others to be upright, must himself be upright. As a social critic, the searchlight is always on you, and your detractors are always on the prowl waiting for you to stumble so they can feast on your carcass. The glee with which rival television and radio stations, rushed to publish the news bears testament to this fact. Oseni knows by now that he must always be on his best behavior in public.

The other side of the story involves Abati using the opportunity of a side swipe by Nyesom Wike the governor of Rivers State to remind Nigerians of his journalistic credentials, and posit that Wike does not have the premise to teach him journalism.

I believe Abati needs no introduction in matters of journalism in Nigeria, those who were old enough to read newspapers back in the 1980’s know very well what The Guardian Newspapers alongside The Vanguard and Concord Newspapers meant to journalism in Nigeria. In later years especially in the 1990’s and 2000’s, Abati made his mark as a columnist with The Guardian, and endeared himself to Nigerians with his erudite essays.

It was therefore surprising that Abati took time to respond to Governor Wike. I followed the PDP presidential, and vice presidential nomination processes on the Arise Morning Show, and I believe Abati was objective in most of his analyses especially as pertaining to Nyesom Wike. One cannot rule out however, that Wike may have found Abati’s objectivity somewhat irritating, and therefore nursed a grudge. In that sense the governor used a recent media opportunity to take a swipe at Abati over an interview with Atiku Abubakar which Abati conducted.

I must state here that no journalist anywhere in the world can ask all the questions in people’s minds in tandem with their perceptions. When going for an interview, the journalist has a mandate and the pertinent issues he wishes to tackle, if his respondent answers to those issues, then his job is done. It is not the journalist’s place to know the issues on everyone else’s mind and begin to probe his respondent for answers to them. It was therefore unfair of Governor Wike to challenge Abati over the Atiku interview.

In the same vein however, I did not expect Abati to respond to Wike’s comments. As the revered late American president Abraham Lincoln once said; if you stopped to throw stones at every dog which barks at you, you’ll never get to your destination. In that sense, I expected Abati to take the Wike criticism as what comes with the territory, and did not require a response.

All in all however, I am happy to see both Abati and Oseni on the job, and keeping Nigerians abreast of goings on in our country. I’m sure that Rufai Oseni realizes now that there are enemies waiting for him to stumble. This should in no way stop him and especially Reuben Abati, from doing the great job they are doing; keeping our leaders on their toes, and keeping Nigerians informed.

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FALZ… ADVENTURES OF THE BAHD GUY

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One of Nigeria’s finest Hip-Hop/Pop mavericks, Folarin Falana, professionally known as Falz,

Two years ago, Nigeria witnessed one of its most bohemian civil protests. A crop of young, daring voices dared to stand against the country’s Federal Government, in a war that is currently controversial as an uprising against police brutality, economic stagnancy and venal law enforcement.

It remains a bittersweet memory in the minds of the myriads of young Nigerians who wore their motivations on their chest while they chanted, trekked and roared against the systemic anomalies in the country’s governance.

At the heart of that expedition was one of Nigeria’s finest Hip-Hop/Pop mavericks, Folarin Falana, professionally known as Falz, who was among the pioneers of this democratic process.

Born to lawyer parents, Falz, who has become infamous as one of Nigeria’s entertainers slash activists, has always chaperoned any pro-humanitarian movements since his early days as a singer, when he was barely 19. A decade later, the musician is one of the most vocal prodigies of his generation using his voice for socio-economic good.

However, at the heart of Falz’, aka FalztheBahdGuy’s artistry, is an undying resolve to be radical. And this has now morphed into his latest musical adventure, his fifth studio album dubbed, Bahd, which sees the layer turned musician tread unusual waters in the realm of loverboys, sonics and storytelling. Now, the young musician turns inwards, leaning towards his romantic persona, churning a subtler, mellow groove across the 12-track album.

Sitting across a Zoom call, the 31-year-old peels his layers of activism, stripping bare the loverboy and life enthusiast that underscores the persona of Falz within Bahd. In this Guardian Music Special, he opens up on the stories behind Bahd, the influences bootstrapping his activism, as well as why he remains the Chairman of Nigeria’s Single Men Association, among others.

You have an exciting new project out. How do you feel about it?

I am excited about it. Like you said, it’s refreshing. I wanted to do something that reflected that; something that was different from the norm. That’s why I worked on this project.

Let’s dive into the project. What exactly was the concept of Bahd when you were creating this project?

Basically, Bahd is an album that captures me in completely different lives; it captures me being emotional. It captures me being vulnerable and at the same time, me being very sexy. So, it’s a very different kind of project, in that it is more solemn in the feel. It’s very psychedelic in the way that it makes you feel. It was meant to be that sort of beautiful dreamy project, but at the same time, it breaks away from the norm.

On this project for example, you hear me singing on a majority of the tracks, you know. I’m not doing that much rap and that shows how much I wanted to tear away from my regular style. I think I have been able to achieve that, and I am happy with the end product.

So, when did you first have the idea for Bahd?

I have actually been working on it for some time. Basically, the recording process started during the entire lockdown, spilling into 2021; between 2020 and 2021.

Let’s go into the creative process of this record. What influenced you to work with the people you did on this record?

Yeah, I wanted people that would fit in nicely to the sort of sounds that I was creating on this project. I wanted people that I am naturally a fan of; people I have always wanted to work with. So, it was beautiful to be able to put them together.

I also wanted people from as diverse a range of sound as possible, you know. So, that’s why I had Tiwa Savage on the track, and in another track, I had Cavemen. On another track, I had L.A.X, you know and there’s BNXN. It’s a big mix of different folks from a diverse range of sounds. That was what I wanted.

Speaking of sounds, you are rather mellow on the record. Was that all you or mostly influenced by your producers?

It’s a mix actually. I conveyed, of course, what I wanted to achieve in the project and they said, ‘say no more, we got you.’ And we created this idea, then they helped me to achieve that mellowness and sweetness I was looking for.

If you were to pick two of your favorite records on this album, which would you pick?

Wow, that’s a very tough one; my favorites kind of vary. This week, I might be feeling something, tomorrow, I might start feeling something else, but every track is special. Every track on the project is special for its own cause or what it stands for. But right now, my favorite probably is Kneel Down, the one with Chike.

That’s the one stressing people up on social media?

Yeah, that’s the one making people do some exercise.

There is a record called Beautiful Sunflower featuring Tiwa Savage on this album, what’s the backstory?

I wanted to make a love song – a love song that is very different. I wanted to make a love song that is from a completely different angle and unfamiliar. It is almost like Afro-funk, you know. I wanted to have it be very psychedelic and I also needed a very sweet touch.

I knew it had to be female vocals and I couldn’t think of anyone else but Tiwa Savage. We had been planning to work together for some time and this just happened to be the perfect record. The synergy, I think, was also A1.

What was the most stressful record to produce on this album?

There was no stressful record, if I am going to be honest with you. All the tracks were as easy to make, as they sound. It was sweet; it was all nice and neat. So, I wouldn’t say there was any stressful record to make.

Leading up to the album, you were releasing a lot of Amapiano and Rap tracks; we didn’t really see you coming out like this. Was there any fear that people might not receive this?

Literally, there is always that you know, ‘you don’t know how it’s going to be received, you are not sure how you’re going to do this.’ But at the end of the day, I have always been that one to break away from the norm. I have always been the one to sort of do things that are unexpected and for me, it was another adventure. So, I am happy I did it.

Leading up to the album, what were you listening to?

Well, leading up to this project, I was listening to a lot of Drake and a lot of The Weekend. Yeah, I will say these guys do these things a lot too, in terms of sound, mood and the mellow vibe. You know, how they convey on their records, there were definitely some similarities on how I wanted to convey.

Also, I am always listening to Afrobeats. There are tons of talented guys out there that are killing it. So, it was I finding that nice, little balance between what I was listening to and what I wanted to create.

Now that we have seen the lover boy Falz, are we still going to see the serious Falz again?

Yeah, of course, the serious Falz is always there; it can never go away. The serious Falz is always going to be there, today, tomorrow and the day after.

Probably, my next project, I can’t say for now, because I am still focused on this project. But in my next project, yeah. So, stay tuned.

Speaking of serious Falz, tell us about how your childhood influenced your activism?

I mean, definitely. I grew up in that type of setting, you know. My dad and my mum are activists in their own rights. They, being both lawyers and I grew up in that too. So, naturally and inevitably, it was always going to show up in my life, character and that is something that has always pushed me since the very beginning of my career.

I have always used music to reflect this and it just came out a lot more in recent times but definitely, my upbringing was a big part of it.

What do you really hope to get out of this activism?

It has never been about what is in it for me. For me, it has been about what is in it for everyone. You know, at the end of the day, it is compassion. Music is expression. It is a medium for which you could voice out your thoughts. So, if I am saying this a lot, then it shows you that I am thinking this a lot.

You know, these are matters on my mind; these are matters that genuinely disturb me. These are matters that I genuinely want to see something change about. You know, music is just reflective; what is around me is what I am always going to talk about. There is absolutely no ulterior motive. It is just compassion and I will continue to do that.

There is a song on the album that I don’t understand. Can you please explain what the Parampe song is about?

Parampe is like a ginger song; it is like a sort of motivation. It makes you feel like a super villain.

Oh, So, is that a word you formed?

No, it is that song that is going to give you utmost ginger. So, when I say ‘them dey blow me Parampe.” You know, Parampe is like mimicking the sound of a trumpet. That is why there are lots of horns on the record. It leans toward Afrobeat, the original; that is, the Fela Afrobeat. You can hear that.

Yeah, it is just meant to be that ginger song. So, ‘dem dey blow me Parampe,’ is basically you know, they are welcoming me; they are blowing me that trumpet, like the Bahd guy has arrived.

Let’s go a bit more personal. You have gone into the lover boy Falz, from the look of things are we looking at a relationship?

Maybe in the near future, stay tuned.

How about now?

I am still a single man. I am the chairman of the Single Men Association.

Where did you get the inspiration for these songs, if you are still single?

Well, while I was making them, maybe things were different, but now I am single.

If I was to present you with any amount of money you desire and tell you to quit music and go back to law, would you do it?

No, no, no I will not. Law is not something that I did not enjoy; don’t get it wrong. I did enjoy it. While I was practicing, it was something I enjoyed. But at the end of the day, you want to do something, especially something that you are doing everyday of your life. Something that you absolutely adore, like this is my passion, and a lot of this is what gives me utmost pleasure, you know. So, I would not want to drop that even for money.

Do your parents tease you about going back to law?

Yeah, definitely; he is still super proud of me. Him and my mum are my biggest fans, but there are days they still talk about how much of a great lawyer I would have been. For them obviously, that is their perspective. So, yeah, it is always going to be like that.

Going forward, what is the vision for Falz?

At the end of the day, I just want to keep on making beautiful music. I want to continue to inspire; I want to continue to educate as much as I entertain with my music. I want to continue to make my music an avenue for an awakening and at the end of the day, it is still a tool for entertainment. You know, music is an art form. When I am 99 years old, I will still make music and I will always make music.

Tell us three things that most people will be shocked to know about Falz?

Errm, let me see what I can come up with. Funnily, I am actually a shy guy. A lot of people find it hard to believe when I say that, but I am actually a shy guy.

Also, I cannot swim and I think those are two fun facts I can think of. Also, my favorite meal has to be pounded Yam and Egusi.

I was hoping you were not going to say Amala…

Amala too is mad o, with Gbegiri and Ewedu.

We are going to have issues, Falz…

You don’t like Amala? Who doesn’t like Amala? Anybody that doesn’t like Amala should be arrested.

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NGIGE SABOTAGING FG’S EFFORTS TO END ASUU STRIKE – NAPTAN PRESIDENT

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The National President, Parent-Teacher Association of Nigeria, Haruna Danjuma

The National President, Parent-Teacher Association of Nigeria, Haruna Danjuma, speaks to GODFREY GEORGE about the lingering industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities which has gone on for almost six months.

How would you assess the response from the Federal Government as regards the demands of the Academic Staff Union of Universities which has made students of public varsities be away from school for nearly six months?

The Federal Government is now beginning to respond in a more pragmatic manner concerning the ASUU strike. The issue of ASUU has raised a lot of reactions that even the Ministry of Labour and Employment had to come in. Now that the President, Muhammadu Buhari, has mandated the Ministry of Education to take over the matter, I think there will be light at the end of the tunnel. We hope that within the two-week ultimatum given to the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, changes will come. We need tangible results as parents and stakeholders in education. Our children need to go back to school. They are tired of just sitting at home, doing nothing. They need to continue their academic exercise.

The ultimatum expired over a week ago. Don’t you think this shows the government’s unwillingness to meet the demands of ASUU?

No. Adamu just came on board. He needs time to make recommendations and will do so soon. He understands education better.

It has been almost six months since the strike began. Is this intervention not belated?

People need to know everybody’s role. It is the role of the government to establish universities and engage the services of lecturers and educators that will teach our children. They also have the responsibility of equipping our universities with adequate equipment so our children can learn properly. I just hope Adamu will take this recent call by the President seriously and play his role to make this strike come to an end. Even though he is not an educationist, he has been an educational administrator long before he assumed office. He used to advocate for quality education in Nigeria. He used to run a column in a Nigerian daily. I do not want to talk about the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige, who has bastardised this struggle with his words and actions. This has made the amicable settlement of this crisis to be farfetched. Ngige thinks he can do this all by himself. He thinks the issue of handling academics is like other unions in other sectors. What ASUU is asking for is for our own good – revitalising our universities and making sure that all the equipment needed is in place. That is why they asked some stakeholders led by Prof Nimi Briggs to go to the public universities and assess the facilities themselves on the ground. They have done that and they submitted their findings and their recommendations. It is now left for Ngige to take that report and meet with Mr President and explain in detail what to touch, what to do and not to do, but he has not done so till now. This is why the President had to reassign Adamu, who is at the helm of affairs in education ministry, to take over the matter and deliver it in two weeks. It is such a shame! The issues of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System and University Transparency and Accountability Solution, are things that we ought to sit down and talk about and come to an agreement on. As parents, we are surprised that this has taken so long. It is something that an employer and the employee are supposed to sit together and talk about and reason together. With what is happening now, I just hope Adamu will intervene and things will return to normalcy.

Speaking of the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, he has not been on the scene for quite a while, leaving much of the negotiations in the hands of a former Minister of State for Education, Dr Emeka Nwajuiba, and Ngige. Why do you think this ‘new’ intervention would be any different?

If one is in the government, one cannot just go and do what one has not been assigned to do even though your ideas are the best and you are very versed and have experience. Once a boss assigns someone else to oversee or resolve an issue, there is nothing one can do. Now that Mr President has mandated Adamu to take over the matter and deal with the issue, he can do that now because he has the right to put in his best. At the early stage, there was very little he could do because he was not a member of the committee assigned to meet with ASUU. The deliberations have taken place already and there is a report, too. All he has to do is to take the document to meet with Mr President and advise him on what to do. Adamu also needs to invite ASUU leadership for another roundtable discussion for a  possible resolution of the dispute. It is not about starting from the beginning again because the bulk of the work has been done. If one is not fully involved from the beginning, one cannot just go and meet Ngige and ask him what is going on. He was not the one who assigned Ngige to do the job. It was Buhari who did so. Even the second committee led by the Chief of Staff, did you hear if Adamu was invited to be part of the committee? We are expecting that Adamu will use this opportunity to make the whole nation know that the matter is now with someone who understands the issues. Anything less than that, Adamu will find things difficult going forward.

How has Ngige’s intervention helped this struggle?

No, no, no. Ngige has failed. He handled things too arrogantly. He thought the matter was something he could toss about the way he wants. Issues bothering education affect the life of the country and should be treated with urgent care. We are talking about the lives of future leaders, who we don’t want to deviate from the right track. This is the reason we have the issue of banditry and terrorism everywhere. Now, we have our children at home and Ngige and his cohorts are insisting that there is no money because his children do not attend school in Nigeria. He does not care about education in Nigeria; that is why he feels he can do and undo it. In fact, Ngige is sabotaging the government’s effort to end this strike. It is only by sabotage that his government is being brought to a level that makes the citizen unhappy with the government. We are now expecting Adamu Adamu to change this narrative and prove to Mr President that he is the right person to handle this issue.

The Minister of State for Labour and Employment. Mr Festus Keyamo (SAN), urged parents to beg ASUU to resume classes. Have you picked a date to beg the striking lecturers as recommended?

(Laughs) Keyamo misinterpreted the whole matter. He looked at the whole thing from the perspective of a lawyer, maybe. What he has forgotten is that the PTA did not employ lecturers. They did not establish universities. We don’t own universities. We don’t own the lecturers. We were only asked to send our children to school which we have done. It is surprising for him to ask us to go and beg the lecturers. We can have a meeting with ASUU, FG’s representatives and NAPTAN’s representatives for us to witness the whole deliberations to see where we can come in and contribute. But, if Keyamo wants us to kneel and beg ASUU and the FG, we will do that for all this to end. From the beginning, we were not invited to come and witness any proceedings. We will keep appealing to both the FG and ASUU to come to an agreement so our children can go back to school. We cannot do anything more than that. If we are then invited as observers to the meetings, then, we can contribute. We will tell them why we need our children back in school and why we need to revitalise our universities with modern facilities and equipment. This is why most politicians take their children overseas, even to neighbouring countries to go to school. I am sure those politicians sending their kids abroad attended school in Nigeria themselves. That is why up till now, we have not heard their voices on this critical issue concerning our children. We have not heard that a motion has been moved by either the House of Reps or Senate about this issue. It is even a good thing to hear from the elders – the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities – and other stakeholders who have made an appeal to the FG and showed concern.

I will not fail to also thank the media for the kind of support they have shown. We have to team up to tell the government to meet ASUU’s demands and be honest about what it can do and what it cannot do. The back-and-forth is too much, and it is getting nauseating. ASUU should not expect that it will get all that it requested; that will be them being childish. It said it wanted A, B, C and D. If the government says, “We can do A and B to an acceptable level,” ASUU should succumb to the government and negotiate further even concerning its rights. But, if you see the way Ngige treats these professors, you will marvel. He treats them like they are his children, and that is so unfair. How far can we tolerate this impunity?

Between December 2021 and February 2022, a Central Bank report showed that Nigerians spent over $221m on foreign education without significant reciprocity from inflows from foreign sources to the local educational sector. What is your reaction to this?

This is very sad. Who are those whose kids are abroad? Politicians. That is the issue. That is why they are not showing any interest whatsoever because that money is not from the right source. They spend it anyhow. Ask them, “How many of them studied abroad?” Most of them studied in Nigeria. Some attended the University College, Ibadan (now University of Ibadan, Oyo State). Others attended Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna state; University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State; Bayero University, Kano, Kano State; and the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun state). I know some of them. But now, they are taking the same system for granted because they are in a place of power. Do they think sending their kids abroad makes them acquire more knowledge than the locally-trained graduates? Time will tell.

We know who we are. As I am talking, I am a father of 13 children.  I have nine graduates. All of them attended public primary, secondary and universities. At a time, I had seven undergraduates among them at the same time. They are all graduated now. Call them and they will show you who they are through their performance. I have a PhD holder in Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering and Communications Engineering among my children. I have a biochemist and a political scientist, all pursuing their master’s in Nigerian universities now. I have the ability to send them to foreign universities but I refused and decided to stay here. We need to support education in Nigeria. That is why we have our medical doctors leave here and go abroad and emerge the best in exams and performances. Many Americans prefer Nigerian doctors to work with them because of their level of excellence and professionalism. What is wrong with the system? We have failed to focus our attention on education in our Nigerian universities. I know how much the government budgets for education but our number one problem is the state governors. They do not take education seriously. That is why we have issues. That is why the governors have teamed up to say they do not want people above 60 years to be retired. Do they know what they are saying? They don’t contribute anything to education except when they decide to build schools so they would make huge benefits for their personal purses. This is why these politicians are sabotaging education in Nigeria, allowing the masses who voted them into power to suffer.

Despite having 49 federal universities, 57 state universities and 111 private ones, the National Assembly proposed recently to build additional universities. What is your response to this?

It is laughable. The ones that we have are not being funded, yet they want to build more to add to the already existing ones. This is a misplaced priority. They should be talking about building more polytechnics because that is what brings developments in China, India and South Korea. We need skilled graduates, not paper qualifications. Why can’t we be proactive in this country? Why can’t we expand the existing polytechnics? Let us engage the qualified lecturers; train and retrain them to give our children the best and forget about this political funfair of building more universities. They took one to Buhari’s hometown, Daura, Katsina State, because they wanted to please Mr President. Why can’t they improve on the ones that we have, add more faculties, and more teachers? Why can’t they secure the universities that we have?

What do you think can be done about the brain drain in the educational sector, where most universities do not have enough professors to cater to the needs of the students because the available ones are retiring while the ones eligible to be promoted are moving abroad in search of greener pastures?

It is all because of the negligence the government has on the educational system. There are no facilities and this frustrates our lecturers. They want the latest equipment, a system that works; that is why they are travelling. People are running away from Nigeria because many have lost faith in the country. We need a turnaround in the educational sector. No matter the amount of money spent on education, it will not be enough. If the government is doing its best, the lecturers will stay. If they all run away, who will stay back and train the ones here whose parents cannot afford foreign education? My son was given an appointment to work in a hospital in Saudi Arabia. I said no to it. He is a father of three, and he had decided to carry them along but I resisted, noting that he got his knowledge here in Nigeria. And should help build the system. He is still in Nigeria, and he is a medical consultant.

What do you think about the no-work, no-pay policy of the government against the striking lecturers?

The government is joking. They think that restricting the payment of the lecturers’ salaries will suffocate them and make them back down on their demands. They don’t know lecturers. The best thing is to meet with the lecturers and dialogue with them. Show them they are important to the system. The government needs to do more to show respect to our lecturers and send our children back to school.

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