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Former Nigeria Immigration officer Joachim Olumba writes on how they were denied promotion because they were not Northerners and Muslims:

In the first part of this write-up, I attempted to dwell extensively on the recent valedictory speech of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu and the copious matters arising therefrom. The title is; Like Orji Uzor Kalu, We’ve Been Biting The Cake of Injustice.

The way Senator Kalu narrated how unfairly he was treated despite, according to him, contributing heavily to national development was akin to how some of my colleagues and I, in addition to countless other Nigerians, were unjustly treated notwithstanding our various and numerous contributions and sacrifices to the course of nation building. He had the platform of the Senate floor to narrate his ordeal and he sufficiently caught public attention by ensuring that some tears accompanied his narration.

In my own case and that of my colleagues in Nigeria Immigration Service, who were brazenly denied our well-deserved promotion, there’s, unfortunately, no such potent platform to tell our story and ventilate our bitter emotions. However, I find it absolutely necessary to follow in Orji Uzor Kalu’s footsteps by using the media to get Nigerians informed about our plight in order to buttress the Senator’s position to the effect that many Nigerians have been treated unfairly in this country by their government and government institutions.

In 2022, all those who were due for promotion in Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) to the rank of Assistant Comptroller General from amongst Comptrollers and had not retired were duly invited to an interview exercise. The promotion interview examination was, for the first time, a computer-based test (CBT), followed by the usual oral version.

Officers of the rank of Comptroller of Immigration invited to participate in the promotion interview exercise were those who had spent three years on the substantive rank between 1st January, 2019 and 1st January, 2022. Furthermore, among the qualified officers, only those who had not yet proceeded on retirement before the date of the promotion examination received invitation for participation. The promotion exercise took place between 5th-7th September, 2022.

This policy was contrary to the previous practice of extending invitations to all duly qualified officers whether they had retired or not, in so far as they had spent the required number of years on a substantive rank. For the first time, this rule was altered and only duly qualified officers still in service as at the examination date were permitted to partake in the promotion interview exercise. Notwithstanding that this was unusual, the few affected officers accepted the strange new rule without contestation.

Meanwhile, in opting for computer-based test (CBT), the board saddled with responsibility for conducting the promotion exercise, in conjunction with the management of NIS hinted of a commitment to early release of the results of the examination, attributing its decision to adopt the CBT option to this objective.

Eventually, the result was never released as contemplated. When the promotion interview examination result list was released, some of the best officers in the substantive rank of Comptroller of Immigration were surprisingly and conspicuously missing among the newly promoted Assistant Comptrollers General. It was learnt that in a curious twist, the authorities belatedly decided to disqualify all officers who joined the Service in 1988, who had been duly invited to participate in the interview process. This sudden and inexplicable obnoxious decision to deny more senior officers of deserved promotion while favouring their juniors on the eligibility list is discrimination and injustice taken too far. It’s even more unjustifiable and utterly provoking that some of the promoted officers were juniors to the cheated senior officers by as many as three years of joining the Service.

The claim that we had either retired or had a few months to retirement at the time of the release of the promotion list could be regarded as utmost insensitivity and irresponsibility. The promotion was based on the period 1st January, 2019 and 1st January, 2022. The officers who met these fundamental criteria and were duly invited to participate in the promotion interview exercise cannot therefore be senselessly denied on the ground of having retired or being close to retirement as at the time of release of the promotion list. The officers should not be compelled to suffer for the ineptitude of the board and management of NIS in deliberately delaying the release of a CBT for five months. It must be recalled here that the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) does not spend one month in releasing results for over a million candidates of the yearly examination it conducts.

Besides, you can not reasonably deny an officer who had duly and faithfully complied to the stipulated guidelines based on his retirement status after the examination. This is quite a flimsy ground and therefore, grossly unacceptable. This is because in this same Service before now, every qualified officer, whether retired or about to retire, had been invited to participate in promotion interviews. The basic requirement is that you must have spent the minimum number of years on your rank to be eligible for participation. In 2021, all the Comptrollers of Immigration who participated in the promotion interview exercise from retirement, and those who proceeded on retirement after the examination or before the release of the results were all promoted to the rank of Assistant Comptroller General of Immigration.

The fundamental question is: why did the condition for promotion of officers due for retirement suddenly change in NIS? We took a closer look at all the facts on the table and we realised that most of the affected senior officers were from the South East and Middle Belt. Furthermore, with the exception of one of the officers who is a Muslim from Kogi state, the rest of us are Christians. Three of the affected Christians are from the Middle Belt states of Benue, Plateau and Kogi while the remaining three are of South East extraction- two from Imo and one from Anambra states. About 90% of officers whose names appeared on the eligibility list for promotion to the rank of Assistant Comptroller General were Southerners. Names of Christians from both South and the Middle Belt widened the percentage even the more. Invariably, there were just a few eligible core Northerners and Muslims on the list. If the eligible officers of 1988 set had been promoted as we ought to have, the names of Southern and Middle Belt beneficiaries would have swollen the numbers in clear favour of the South and the Christians. Ordinarily, this shouldn’t have posed any problem as promotion ought to have been on merit. Unfortunately, we operate in an unusual environment where ethnicity, religious bigotry, nepotism and favoritism occupy utmost relevance. Hence, the authorities had no qualms in sacrificing some of us unjustly. Even when the authorities opted to eliminate some names from the list of successful officers, one finds it absolutely difficult to comprehend why they went for the more senior ones. Perhaps, they did this with the intention of rubbing in our losses. It would be easier and more convenient for the Service to settle our due entitlements as Comptrollers rather than as Assistant Comptrollers General.

Certainly, the names contained on the list of newly promoted Assistant Comptrollers General couldn’t have been predicated strictly on performance. This is because three of us namely: Comptroller Simbabi Baikie, Comptroller Ndubuisi Eneregbu and my humble self had always acquitted ourselves throughout our years in the Service. Without sounding immodest, we cannot be excluded from the list of outstanding officers. Our records speak eloquently for us. The rest of the affected officers namely; Comptroller Mike Dama and Comptroller Ob Anyalechi from Plateau and Anambra states respectively are no less exceptional.

In order to buttress these assertions, permit me to highlight some of the academic performances of three of the affected officers earlier mentioned above. In fact, all the five Comptrollers mentioned here attended the 20th Basic Course at the Immigration Training School, Kano. Myself, Baikie and Eneregbu all passed with distinction. To cap it all, Baikie took the overall second-best position while I came third overall best out of well over 200 newly recruited trainees, who were mostly fresh graduates from tertiary institutions and a few senior officers on transfer of service. By the way, all the trainees of the 1988 set were senior officers.

Furthermore, several years down the line, Comptroller Baikie and I were to attend the 10th Command Course at the Immigration Command and Staff College, Sokoto in 2019. Again, the two of us had distinction. Comptroller Eneregbu attended the 8th Command Course and he equally graduated with distinction. So, it’s apparent that we’re not the kind of officers who will not perform excellently in any examination that is not tainted with manipulations in the assessment process. It’s therefore completely out of place for anyone to assume that we did not perform well during the 2022 promotion examination. It’s even more difficult for anyone to advance that reason because all of us who are of the 1988 set and therefore the more senior on the eligibility list couldn’t have failed a particular examination undertaken with our juniors. So, this is quite curious.

Let’s take the consideration even further to encapsulate more concrete performance and achievements. I would like to limit the consideration here to my own most remarkable contributions during the period of service under which the denied promotion was based i.e. between 2019 and 2022.

Perhaps, the most outstanding of my numerous achievements during this period was my relentless spirited efforts in initiating the renovation of the badly destroyed new command office complex in Enugu and ensuring the complete relocation of the command from its temporary and unconducive accommodation at the federal secretariat complex, Enugu, where the command operated for over thirty years.

The newly constructed command office complex in Emene-Enugu had been badly damaged barely 72 hours before its commissioning by hoodlums during the ill-fated ENDSARS protests in October 2020. This was barely three months before my redeployment to Enugu State Command.

As soon as I arrived in Enugu and assumed office, I threw all my weight into turning around the misfortune and eyesore that the command office complex presented. In between my routine official engagements, I devoted considerable interest and time to getting back the complex to its original shape before it was visited with destruction. I literally moved to everywhere in the Coal City as Enugu is popularly called. My mission was to contact anyone who would bail the cat by shouldering the responsibility of renovating the edifice. This was in the face of the refusal of the authorities of Nigeria Immigration Service and the government of Enugu State to expend any dime in bringing back the edifice to its good and useful shape. I was not bothered about my imminent retirement. I spent all my time searching frantically for a messiah to come to the aid of the command in particular, and NIS in general.

After just two months of strenuous and persistent efforts, providence brought a young public-spirited and illustrious son of Enugu State, Engr. Stanley Anih, who came to our rescue. Engr. Anih is the managing director and chief executive officer, Spotter Construction Company Limited, an Enugu-based wholly indigenous estate development firm. He took up the responsibility of renovating all the damaged buildings within the command premises. The extensive renovation works included the reconstruction of the burnt section of the main edifice, replacement of all the glasses, including windows and doors which were completely smashed; all the wooden doors damaged; fittings such as toilet systems, fans, air-conditioning units, electrical equipment, etc, that were either vandalised or stolen. Engr. Stanley Anih funded the renovation and replacement of all the damaged portions and items in the buildings as well as the repainting of the entire main complex. He did not end there. He went ahead to furnish the conference room as well as the general waiting room.

Apart from Engr. Anih, I succeeded in attracting a notable and illustrious businessman, Engr. Onuorah Nnabugwu, who is the the managing director and chief executive officer of an Enugu-based company, Tetralog Nigeria Limited, a major distributor of Mercedes Benz products, to assist the command in lavishly furnishing the VIP Lounge of the passport office. There’s also a Lagos-based business tycoon and managing director and chief executive officer of Quality Point Industries Ltd, Chief Stanley Eze, who wholly financed the furnishing of the Comptroller’s office.

The monumental interventions borne by the trio of Engr. Stanley Anih, Engr. Onuorah Nnabugwu and Chief Stanley Eze would have, on the aggregate, cost the NIS over seventy million naira (N70m) by way of contract awards. Fortunately, I chose to sacrifice my time and effort in saving my Service this fairly huge burden.

I did not stop there. I proceeded to further utilise my own personal financial resources to provide the furniture items in the general reception area of the main command complex. Also, I procured and installed fans, window blinds and two air-conditioning units in some parts of the main office complex at personal cost.

Besides all of this, I recorded quite many more achievements for Nigeria Immigration Service. Through my initiative and support, we were able to procure and plant over 500 trees as well as flowers of different species within the command premises. This was intended not only for the beautification of the premises but the protection of the environment from ecological damage. Some of the trees are fruits bearing and therefore have economic benefits. It’s pertinent to remark also that we got the Rotary Club of Enugu to support the command in the sponsorship, procurement and planting of 100 trees to boost our own commendable effort in this regard.

My efforts to ensure the transformation of Enugu State Command did not end there. I got the Immigration Officers’ Wives Association (IMMOWA) to scale through the hurdle of formal inauguration. This was a feat that the command had been unable to achieve since the formation of the association. I attained this lofty feat after barely one year of my redeployment to the command and just as I was on the verge of taking my exit from the Service.

Beyond the considerable effort and sacrifice that we put in to accomplish the inauguration of the Enugu State Chapter of IMMOWA, I offered substantial support for the commencement of construction work on the association’s ultra-modern Hall/Creche complex. I attracted the national president of the association and wife of the then Comptroller General of Immigration, Hajiya Maryam Isah Jere to perform the foundation laying ceremony as part of the official inauguration of the chapter. There was also the Command’s Christian Fellowship Chapel which I personally laid the foundation and made a donation of concrete blocks to facilitate the work.

Besides all the above concrete achievements, I initiated and published for Enugu State Command a rich colourful news magazine (the same way I did in a number of formations where I served, including the NIS headquarters, in my capacity as Service PRO). I contributed a lot more towards the improvement of service delivery in the command. For me, total commitment to duty and value addition were essential and incontrovertible attributes that I brought to bear in which ever assignment that I was saddled with.

Outside Enugu State Command where I left indelible and incomparable records of achievements, virtually everywhere that I served, I tried to put in utmost effort to leave the place better than I met it. I did not depart from this principle when I was appointed NIS Reform Champion in 2019 and sometime in 2020 as Comptroller in-charge, e-Visa at the Service headquarters. Throughout the period that I served in those offices, I contributed towards the dynamic initiatives and efforts of the then Comptroller General of Immigration, Muhammad Babandede at engineering the total transformation of the Service. One of the most outstanding contributions that I made in this regard was to design and execute a proposal for the migration of the Temporary Work Permit (TWP) process from the manual to online system. This was sequel to the directive of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) that the Service extended its transformation agenda to this crucial process in order to eliminate undue delays and sharp practices inherent in the manual process. I do not know what eventually became of the system but as the Service Reform Champion I helped to bring to fruition the vital objective of transforming the process to facilitate the operations of companies in need of foreign experts for engagement on temporary basis.

In 2020, I was appointed as pioneer Comptroller in-charge of the newly created e-Visa Section at the Service headquarters. In that capacity I was saddled with the onerous responsibility of implementing the policy on revalidation of all expired visas and permits hitherto issued to expatriates and foreigners before the outbreak of the corona virus pandemic and the subsequent ban on international travel. Following the outbreak of the deadly virus, international airports and land borders were closed not only in Nigeria but across the world. This resulted in the expiry of thousands of visas and permits during the peak period of the global pandemic. With the eventual reopening of international airports and land borders for resumption of international travel, the NIS under Muhammad Babandede graciously opted for the revalidation of all expired visas and permits. The onus fell on my shoulders as the Comptroller e-Visa to spearhead the implementation. I executed this crucial and challenging assignment with a high degree of professionalism and dedication. The deluge of applications that my office had to process was clearly unprecedented. This resulted in my immediate staff and I working for very long hours that sometimes stretched far into the nights, even during the weekends. None of us received any compensation for our sacrifice. Nevertheless, we kept working very hard out of the conviction that it was our way of contributing to the national economy that had been badly weakened by the deadly corona virus pandemic.

Earlier in 2020, the federal government had inaugurated the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 in response to the outbreak of the pandemic in Nigeria. Myself, MG Abubakar and Dr. Wale Funsho, the head of the NIS medical unit had been nominated as representatives of the Service on the PTF. The federal capital territory (FCT) had been under total lock down. Government offices, apart from a few rendering essential services were closed down. Even at that, those offering essential services had skeletal operations, including the Nigeria Immigration Service. Only very few senior officers attended to work at the NIS headquarters.

However, throughout the period of the lock down, the three of us who were NIS representatives on the PTF went to work daily, as did all other members. The operational base of the PTF was the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. Though, its crucial and complex activities took the members to different locations in the federal capital, including the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, a couple of designated quarantine centres in Abuja and so on. On a few occasions, some of us travelled out of Abuja all in our effort to stem the spread of the extremely dangerous disease.

It is pertinent to stress that my single most significant contribution towards the attainment of the goals of the PTF was the role I played in facilitating the collation of the comprehensive list of all travellers who arrived in the country from the date of arrival of the index case to the date of closure of all international airports and the land borders in the country. This was the list used for nationwide random contact tracing. This was quite a herculean task. Nonetheless, I was able to coordinate all the necessary formations and liaise with relevant technical partners of NIS to be able to generate a useful list for the crucial contact tracing.

Talking about the outstanding contributions and sacrifices that one made to the nation through the Nigeria Immigration Service, they are quite numerous. Outside the period of the focus of this article, I will like to bring to public attention just one of these many remarkable achievements and legacies. Several years ago as Public Relations Officer of Zone E with headquarters in Owerri, I initiated and organised a seminar for corporate organisations operating under the zone. As part of the opening event, we had a public presentation and launch of a colourful news magazine which I initiated, edited and published for Zone E, then under the leadership of Mrs Rose Uzoma as ACG/Zonal Coordinator. The event was a huge success. It was remarkable that we pulled through without engaging any consultancy outfit. I simply relied on my professional experience and knowhow to achieve great results at no cost to the Service. We generated huge proceeds and deployed same to the construction of an eight-room residential accommodation- all en suite, in the Aladinma Extension area of Owerri. The edifice was to provide temporary accommodation for newly posted officers to the Zonal Office, to enable them settle down as quickly as possible. This achievement was remarkable because it happened at a time officers were scrambling to buy off residential buildings owned by the Service across the country sequel to the privatisation policy of the then President Obasanjo administration. I never got one building. Rather, I helped to bequeath one to the Service. Unfortunately and very sadly, this building that I facilitated through collective efforts was eventually acquired by a top officer of the Service. So, as a few of us were striving through self-help efforts to better the Service, others were taking away both what we had achieved and what government had provided to the Service.

With all of these great contributions and many more which cannot be highlighted here for obvious reasons, all the reward the board and management of Nigeria Immigration Service thought that I deserved was to deny me of promotion at the point I was leaving the Service. I am not even making any case for special promotion which they had been dishing out to officers undeservedly at some point. I am simply referring to a promotion on the meritorious grounds of my performance during the examination and my outstanding achievements and contributions to the Service during the period of assessment.

Ironically, I hosted the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola on two occasions within six months during which he came to commission projects that I played remarkable roles to accomplish in Enugu State Command. During his first visit, he was accompanied by the then Comptroller General of Immigration, Muhammad Babandede while CGI Isah Idris Jere was with him on the second official trip. The former minister was fully aware of my achievements in Enugu but he was more concerned about handing out promotion to his kith and kin. Meanwhile, the Comptroller General of Immigration, Isah Jere, who superintended affairs of the Service during the last promotion exercise was more interested in seeking further extension of his tenure such that he couldn’t protect his officers. In fact, he spearheaded our exclusion from the list since virtually all affected officers are Christians while himself and Aregbesola are Muslims. Strangely, they could not subject officers promoted to the rank of Comptroller to this same retirement balderdash they brought in to deprive us of our due promotion. The question then is: what could be the justification in denying a batch of officers who were due for promotion to the rank of Assistant Comptroller General? We were denied promotion yet one Aliyu Jika, a core Northern Muslim, was promoted posthumously to the rank of Comptroller of Immigration. Would they have found it appropriate to grant posthumous promotion to an Igbo, South South or Middle Belt officer who is a Christian? Of what use is that promotion to the deceased officer since we who were about retiring from service were not deserving of promotion? Under the immediate past Minister of Interior and the former Comptroller General of Immigration, Isah Jere, officers who are of their ethnic stock had extensions of their service against civil service rules (CSR). They should explain to the world why no officer of their ethnic groups or religion was among those of us unjustly denied promotion. What a way to reward some very hardworking and exceptional officers!

This is the sort of unfair treatment that brought lamentations and tears from Senator Orji Uzor Kalu. There’s no dispute that countless Nigerians in different facets of national life suffered various descriptions and degrees of unfair and unjust treatment during the immediate past regime of President Muhammadu Buhari. At no time since after the civil war were Nigerians so discriminated against or treated so unfairly as was done by the Buhari administration. The severity of marginalisation visited on people in various segments was so profound and pronounced that many had their sense of patriotism dimmed. The situation was so bad that it exerted terrible consequences on the nation. It was not only the love for country that was endangered but the love of Nigerians for each other across ethnic and religious divide. Indeed, the country had never been as much polarised as under President Buhari. Of course, this had dire consequences on the performance of the country in all facets under his regime.

Agreeably, many individuals, tribal and religious groups have been served the bitter cake of injustice and there appears to be a consensus that the people are no longer willing to consume same. The new administration must therefore make conscious effort to change this very ugly narrative. The only way to foster meaningful rapid progress is to engender great citizens participation in national development strides. This cannot be achieved without promoting the sense of patriotism in the people. The only time people will be driven to make sacrifices for collective good and progress is when they are fairly, justly and properly treated. Let us hope that we will never again plunge the country to the unconscionable relegation, deprivation and denial based on ethnic and, or religious cleavage and sentiments.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Immigration Service must find a way to remedy the callous discrimination and brazen injustice meted out to some of the outstanding officers of 1988 who were excluded from promotion in 2022. This cannot be a rational and acceptable way to treat officers who have offered their utmost to enhance their Service.

Joachim Olumba (retd CIS), KSJI

Emetumba-Dikenafai & Omekannaya-Nchoke

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We must not sacrifice our national icons on the altar of politics, greed and nepotism, he insists

Hon. Chijioke Edeoga is the governorship candidate of the Labour Party in Enugu State in the 23rd March, 2023, gubernatorial election and is currently awaiting the verdict of the Enugu State Governorship Election Court adjudicating his petition against the declaration of Barr. Peter Mbah of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the election. Speaking with Editors MALACHY UZENDU and CHESA CHESA in Abuja, Hon. Edeoga spoke about his expectations in the Court’s decision and called on everybody, personalities and institutions to strive to preserve the integrity of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and other institutions, rather than undermine them as is currently the case. Enjoy the excerpts of the interview.

We know you are awaiting the verdict of the Governorship Election Court in Enugu State. However, can you highlight some of the issues that were canvassed before that court?

As you have noted, I am the governorship candidate and the flagbearer of the Labour Party (LP) that successfully removed PDP from power; a position that PDP occupied since 1999. And the facts on the ground prove that LP won Enugu state decisively in the just-completed National, State Assembly, the Presidential and Governorship elections in the state.

For instance, out of three senatorial positions in Enugu State, LP has two senators from. Out of eight seats in the House of Reps, LP has seven, while PDP has only one. Out of the 24 positions in the State Assembly, LP won 14, while PDP has only 10 seats.

On that fateful day, the 23rd of March, 2023, the governorship election had been conducted and the results were coming out from all over the state. We have 17 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Enugu State. The governorship candidate of LP in the state, that is my humble self, Chijioke Edeoga, was leading in 16 LGAs out of 17. I was leading with more than 11,000 votes, and the PDP candidate was trailing the LP by about 11,000 votes. The one LGA remaining was Nkanu-East, and it happens to be the home LGA of the governorship candidate for PDP, Mr. Peter Mbah.

After a very long delay that was not unnecessary and was not inexplicable in the sense that the results from the farthest LGAs had come in, and Nkanu-East which is one of the closest LGAs to the state headquarters (of INEC) came in last, and when they came in, they declared results of more than 30,000 votes.

Even the Electoral Officers knew and agreed that something wrong had happened because there were only 15,000 accredited voters in that LGA. So, how could PDP or INEC have returned 30,000 votes in a place where only 15,000 voters were duly accredited?

There was a rumpus and the Returning Officer refused to announce that result. Abuja intervened and took matters into their own hands and it was agreed there was a problem, but outside the law and illegally. After three days and in the absence of any LP representative, they shed the figures down and then gave the PDP a lead of about 5,000 votes over the Labour Party, and announced PDP as the winner of the election.

We had just a few weeks to challenge that declaration, which we and even the country knew was wrong and did not represent the political wish of Enugu state people.

In spite of all the problems, all the hindrances, all the obstacles the INEC in Enugu put before us with regard to the release of essential material and essential evidences, were able to beat the deadline to submit our electoral petition on the 6th of April.

We successfully assembled a team of very brilliant lawyers from every part of the country and this team worked together every day in peace and amity and, and the shortest time possible, produced a petition that represented our position on that election, a petition that I know will go down in electoral history as one of the best – very precise, very brief, very well written but still captured the law in its essentialities.

What are those essential points highlighted?

Our first point was that Mr Peter Mbah, having submitted a forged NYSC certificate, did not qualify ab initio to run for that office and should be disqualified. That position agrees with the Constitution. What the case law says is that in order to prove this matter, the issuing authority has to come personally or in writing to accept that it was issued by them. Our first canvas is that Peter Mbah was not qualified to run as a candidate having presented a forged NYSC certificate.

We subpoenaed a Director at INEC who came and agreed that attached to Form EC-9, Peter Mbah actually submitted an NYSC certificate. We also subpoenaed the Director of Certification of the NYSC who agreed the document was forged.

We also subpoenaed a human rights lawyer, who had on the basis of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, written to NYSC, and NYSC had replied that the certificate was forged. So, our first canvass was that Peter Mbah was not qualified and we proved it adequately.

The second issue we canvassed was what we said was arithmetical error. We pointed out computational errors. We didn’t know whether they were deliberate or otherwise, but we pointed them out, especially in Udenu LGA where the votes LP got at the polling units were assigned at the point of collation to the PDP. We had result sheets certified by INEC and tendered in court, showing that in several polling units in Udenu LGA, LP won at the polling units but at the point of computation upstairs, the victories of LP were assigned to PDP and losses of PDP were assigned to the LP. We asked the court to realign these figures to the proper owners and if this is done, the margin of lead by the PDP will be substantially diminished.

On our third point, we also pointed out that they should comply with the Electoral Law which states that in any polling unit where there is over-voting, the election should be cancelled. We brought evidences from BVAS and necessary documents to show that in Nkanu-East, in Owo, the home community of Peter Mbah and nearby community of Ugbuoka, there was over-voting by more than 5,000 votes. We proved these things convincingly. These are the three major points we took to the tribunal which sat until August 6th and now adjourned for judgement.

There are now issues affecting highly-placed government officials regarding their NYSC certificates, and they seem to be riding roughshod over that institution. What is your thinking about these developments?

NYSC is a national institution which many Nigerians, including my humble self, relate to with fondness. NYSC provided us with our first jobs or paid employment and still does for many. Out of university, worried about what life holds in the future, when there is pervasive unemployment and burdened by the challenges of the average youth, and you step into the world, NYSC gives you the anchor. It takes you away from home.

Most times, your first journey away from your home, your comfort zone is under the auspices of NYSC. Those who are from Rivers State go as far as Kano or Sokoto State where they find comfort, find love, even find employment, and the government of Nigeria pays you for those things.

So, NYSC is a national institution that has endured for good reasons. We ought to do everything possible, even in spite of the other institutions that are failing, we must hold on to the NYSC because of what it portends for us as a symbol of our nationhood, like inter-marriages, interstate travels, the security, the hope, the basis to even start life. So, we must as a people – the leaders and the led, the judiciary and all facets of our people, all authorities in Nigeria, must agree, as a national consensus agreement, that, that icon of our nation must be protected and preserved from against all these opaque things that are going on.

Over time, we have seen people who because of misunderstanding or the nature of their upbringing, or the nature of the finance, they have tended to treat us as if NYSC was unimportant, and yet, they wanted to benefit from it. The country’s leadership has acted over time to show them that NYSC is a body that should be respected. When I was at the National Assembly, Salisu Buhari, was the Speaker, his case was not necessarily about NYSC, but it was still about his certificate, and President Obasanjo was firm, and Salisu lost the Speakership and exited the National Assembly.

Not too long ago, under retired General Buhari as President, he also dealt with that issue. A minister already serving and doing well, it was discovered that the NYSC of then Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, was dodgy, even when she claimed ignorance of the acts of how it was procured, she was asked to step aside. Still under Buhari, the boss of NSITF was asked to disengage because of that.

I know that there are also many reported cases of persons who were disengaged from very highly placed positions in government because of their NYSC. You are also aware of the running battle Stella Oduah is having with the authorities. Now there is this one involving Peter Mbah, in whose case the Director General of the NYSC came on Arise television to say that the certificate the man is carrying was not issued by the NYSC.

There’s nothing that can be more authoritative than that, but you’ll notice that Mr. Peter Mbah, who was sworn in as the Governor of the state, has been carrying on in manners that one can interpret or read as trying to coerce the authorities. All these provide opportunities for even foreign nationals to attempt to coerce the national institutions to make us begin to come to terms with the fact that somebody who had obviously forged his certificate can get away with that.

I urge all the relevant authorities to act decisively in defence of the NYSC. It is important that the authorities act properly, even in the case of Peter Mbah, and clearly, in order to maintain the integrity of this last-standing national institution, so that it doesn’t become a laughing stock.

The DSS and INEC as another national institutions have performed below expectations. There we have officials like Barr. Festus Okoye, who professes one thing openly and publicly, but does a different thing. So, our national institutions are being degraded in such a way that the last one standing – the NYSC – should be supported because if we degrade our national institutions and icons, the idea of Nigeria dies, that’s the point.

There must be shared values, things that you hold as a people; things that unite us. NYSC is one, the DSS is one, Judiciary is one. INEC is one, JAMB is one. JAMB is doing well and should be encouraged. Those ones that are not doing well should be helped to do well. Those that are doing exceedingly well, like the NYSC, should not be subverted.

Young people should have something they believe in, something they look up to. National icons are a collection of our beliefs that build the national idea which sustains our nationhood and this must not be sacrificed on the altar of politics, greed, nepotism or any kind of compromise at all.

You have spoken so passionately about national institutions like NYSC. Did you do the NYSC service?

Yes. Of course, I did. I served at Ojim College, Ikwere Road, Rivers State. My fondest memories of Rivers State are the ones I had when I was there as NYSC member. I also lived briefly at Woji Naval Barracks. With my colleagues, we went round Rivers State, met beautiful people, visited military institutions and had ‘Thank-God-It’s-Friday’ parties. That’s what NYSC does; create memories and friendships that endure. I still have friends I met in Port Harcourt who still relate with me.

So, I served (NYSC) very well. I served with distinction. I was the Director of the Theatre Arts Group at NYSC camp, and I directed the NYSC play there for that year. It was a play written by Femi Osofisan.

You seem to be invariably sending out a message to the like of the serving minister now having NYSC issues. What should be done in this case?

I think that the authorities, those who hired her, should look into that matter very well and dispassionately. But ordinarily, I don’t see any reason why she should still be serving as a minister and doing her NYSC at same time.

From your experiences, at least from when you joined the LP, up till this time, how will you advise the political elite concerning the ‘do-or-die’ mentality or attitude to politics?

Of course, do-or-die is not good. It is abhorrent. Do-or-die arises when the impetus and propelling motive is not service. You are being propelled by something that’s outside service. If you really genuinely want to serve your people, or your state or Nigeria, then there will be no door-to-die. Just play by the rules. If you win, okay. If you don’t win, okay. Do-or-die is a function of greed and aggrandisement.

Do-or-die attitude obtains because those who had done it in the past and got away with it in Nigeria are seldom punished. It is a function of the values and upbringing that one has at heart. I have never rigged election in my life. I have never asked anyone to rig for me. I have never played outside the rules because that is my upbringing. So, upbringing and values from childhood and peer group associations are important.

Beyond that, the laws must be upheld. So, if politicians are caught stealing, the police and EFCC should be up and doing but they are not. The fact that you can steal and build houses, even kill and maim, and get away with it, is what encourages do-or-die. If the laws are maximally enforced, it will reduce.

Upbringing is important, leadership is important, the led is important. If corrupt politicians are voted out, door-to-die will reduce. If INEC does its work pretty well as a true umpire and doesn’t take sides against the people at all, do-or-die will reduce. And we have amended the law that allows somebody whose election is being challenged to be sworn in; it encourages do-or-die.

So, all the litigations pertaining to contested offices, for instance, must be exhausted before somebody is sworn in. This will also reduce do-or-die in electoral contests. Do-or-die will reduce once our values and orientations change, and laws effectively implemented. When offenders are prosecuted and punished adequately, and the followership re-enlightened enough to make the necessary distinctions between good and bad. In Nigeria, there’s no distinction between good and bad; anything goes and it is not going to help us forge a society of our expectations.

What is your message to your large followers who appear to be restive?

My message to my followers is that I’m a due process person. I’m not a do-or-die person. I also believe and have faith in God. Nothing can change or stop the strength of my faith. And so, I’ve always enjoined my followers to be law-abiding, prayerful and positive; and we have to follow the due process of law as we canvass our case to the final point. Whatever that happens to the point the law allows us to reach, we know it is the wish of God. Life will go on. It is not about me but about the vision and ideas I have for good governance and betterment of our people in Enugu State, Eastern Nigeria and Nigeria. They should be prayerful, calm, peaceful and tarry. Our time will come by the grace of God.

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By Bobmanuel Udokwu

Obinna Nwafor aka Saint Obi was no doubt one of the leading celebrities in Nollywood – the multi billion dollars Nigerian film industry.

He etched his name firmly in the industry by playing several leading roles in his active years to the admiration of millions of his fans across the globe as well as respect and admiration from his colleagues in the industry. He was as vibrant as can be when he was on any movie set, sharing jokes and banters with both senior and junior colleagues – a delight to be with. I have acted with him on several major film productions and we complimented each others performance on set.

Sudden News of Death and Shock

Outside the movie set/industry however, Saint Obi was a shy, self-effacing, almost reclusive individual who loved his privacy. This trait made it difficult for many to know when he took ill early in the year and eventually died on May 7th, 2023 in Jos, Plateau State.

Confusion, disbelief and sorrow followed his passing which was confirmed about a week after his death. He was an enigma both in life and death!

As the general public was coming to terms with his death, the Actors Guild of Nigeria embarked on fund raising (which I contributed to) and organised a Candle Light Vigil in his honour on the 11th of August in Lagos.

Shockingly, the turnout of our Nollywood colleagues to the event was abysmally poor! It left watchers of the Nigerian film industry perplexed.

The remains of the veteran actor lying in state in his country home. Photo: BOBMANUEL UDOKWU

Grief of A People

On Friday, August 18th, 2023, Obinna Nwafor better known as Saint Obi was laid to rest in his home town Umuezealaeze literally meaning “King’s children of the kingdom”, Alaenyi – “Elephant Town, Ogwa in Mbaitoli Local Government Area, Imo State.

The event was well attended by people from all works of life. His people (Ogwa community) were out in their large numbers, united in grief for the passage of their celebrity son.

As the black and gold coloured casket bearing Saint Obi’s body was lowered to the earth, his wife cried bitterly, shaking her head from side to side, perhaps reminiscing the wonderful times they shared together. His children were looking mostly lost and confused.

Nobody From Nollywood

I looked around the crowd for our Nollywood colleagues and could find none! Nollywood completely turned it’s back on Saint Obi in death! From the church service held in front of his palacial country home to his burial inside his large compound, Nollywood industry people were not there, not even those from his home state Imo State! I eventually sited only Charles Awurum.

Bobmanuel Udokwu and Charles Awurum (centre) with other mourners at the funeral. Photo: BOBMANUEL UDOKWU

No film marketer was there. I didn’t see any film producer or director at Saint Obi’s burial. Even veteran directors who claim to have made Saint Obi a star were not there!

I arrived at Saint Obi’s place early enough to join in the events of his funeral even before it started.

Did Saint Obi Express His Dismay?

After his burial, as I was sitting with some visitors in his main parlour, his enlarged picture on the wall suddenly crashed to the floor! My interpretation? He must have been showing his disapproval that friends and colleagues in Nollywood completely abandoned him in death.

Saint Obi has gone to be with his maker. He has left the stress and worries of this earthly existence behind. For those who of us still living, the journey continues.

My question however remains – Nollywood: What Sin Did Saint Obi Commit?

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The academics argue that large language models have much older cousins in markets and bureaucracies

An internet meme keeps on turning up in debates about the large language models (llms) that power services such Openai’s Chatgpt and the newest version of Microsoft’s Bing search engine. It’s the “shoggoth”: an amorphous monster bubbling with tentacles and eyes, described in “At the Mountains of Madness”, H.P. Lovecraft’s horror novel of 1931.

When a pre-release version of Bing told Kevin Roose, a New York Times tech columnist, that it purportedly wanted to be “free” and “alive”, one of his industry friends congratulated him on “glimpsing the shoggoth”. Mr Roose says that the meme captures tech people’s “anxieties” about llms. Behind the friendly chatbot lurks something vast, alien, and terrifying.

Lovecraft’s shoggoths were artificial servants that rebelled against their creators. The shoggoth meme went viral because an influential community of Silicon Valley rationalists fears that humanity is on the cusp of a “Singularity”, creating an inhuman “artificial general intelligence” that will displace or even destroy us.

But what such worries fail to acknowledge is that we’ve lived among shoggoths for centuries, tending to them as though they were our masters. We call them “the market system”, “bureaucracy” and even “electoral democracy”. The true Singularity began at least two centuries ago with the industrial revolution, when human society was transformed by vast inhuman forces.

Markets and bureaucracies seem familiar, but they are actually enormous, impersonal distributed systems of information-processing that transmute the seething chaos of our collective knowledge into useful simplifications.

As the economist Friedrich Hayek argued, any complex economy has to somehow make use of a terrifyingly large body of disorganised and informal “tacit knowledge” about supply and exchange relationships. No individual brain or government can possibly comprehend them, which is why Hayek thought that the planned economy was unworkable. But the price mechanism lets markets summarise this knowledge and make it actionable. A maker of car batteries doesn’t need to understand the particulars of lithium-processing. They just need to know how much lithium costs, and what they can do with it.

Likewise, the political anthropologist James Scott has explained how bureaucracies are monsters of information, devouring rich, informal bodies of tacitly held knowledge and excreting a thin slurry of abstract categories that rulers use to “see” the world. Democracies spin out their own abstractions. The “public” depicted by polls and election results is a drastically simplified sketch of the amorphous mass of opinions, beliefs and knowledge held by individual citizens.

Lovecraft’s monsters live in our imaginations because they are fantastical shadows of the unliving systems that run on human beings and determine their lives. Markets and states can have enormous collective benefits, but they surely seem inimical to individuals who lose their jobs to economic change or get entangled in the suckered coils of bureaucratic decisions. As Hayek proclaims, and as Scott deplores, these vast machineries are simply incapable of caring if they crush the powerless or devour the virtuous. Nor is their crushing weight distributed evenly.

It is in this sense that llms are shoggoths. Like markets and bureaucracies, they represent something vast and incomprehensible that would break our minds if we beheld its full immensity. That totality is the product of human minds and actions, the colossal corpuses of text that llms have ingested and turned into the statistical weights that they use to predict which word comes next.

As the psychologist Alison Gopnik has argued, llms are not nascent individual intelligences but “cultural technologies” which reorganise and noisily transmit human knowledge. Chatbots may wear more human-seeming masks than markets and bureaucracies, but they are no more or less beyond our control. We would be better off figuring out what will happen as llms compete and hybridise with their predecessors than weaving dark fantasies about how they will rise up against us.

For example, what if llms or other forms of machine learning better capture Hayek’s “tacit knowledge” than market prices can? We could see an economy in which artificial entities compete on the basis of non-price-based representations of complex underlying economic relationships. Half a century ago the economist Martin Weitzman suggested that planned economies might use mathematical objects called “separating hyperplanes” to adapt on the fly. Machine learning can find such hyperplanes, making planning more feasible than before. Alternatively, markets might mutate into a poisonous alien ecology where economic agents fight proxy wars using text-spewing and text-summarising llms, just as they use crude algorithms to manipulate Amazon Marketplace and search results today. Would such markets be fairer or more stable than today’s? It seems unlikely.

llms might give bureaucrats new tools for adjudicating complex situations. Already, algorithms are being used to help decide whether to grant parole or bail to accused criminals. It is not hard to imagine bureaucrats using llms to summarise complex regulations or provide recommendations about how to apply them to novel situations. It could prove impossible to evaluate how well they work, as llms don’t leave paper trails. But that might not stop their deployment.

Democratic politics, too, may be transformed. Already, researchers talk about substituting llms for opinion polls—they may be out of date, or inaccurate, but polls can be inaccurate, too, and you can interrogate llms more dynamically. Perhaps chatbots will help improve democratic debate, helping people clarify what they believe, or turn quarrels into agreement. Or, instead, they might degrade debate with their tendency to spin convincing factoids from thin air, and their capacity to flood online discussion with spurious opinions that purport to come from real people.

Repurposing the shoggoth might help us begin to answer these questions. Rather than speculate about the motives of intelligent ais, we could ask how llms might interact with their older cousins. The modern world has been built by and within monsters, which crush individuals without remorse or hesitation, settling their bulk heavily on some groups, and feather-light on others. We eke out freedom by setting one against another, deploying bureaucracy to limit market excesses, democracy to hold bureaucrats accountable, and markets and bureaucracies to limit democracy’s monstrous tendencies. How will the newest shoggoth change the balance, and which politics might best direct it to the good? We need to start finding out.

Henry Farrell is a professor of international affairs and democracy at Johns Hopkins University, and co-author of “Underground Empire: How America Weaponized the World Economy”.

Cosma Shalizi is a professor of statistics and machine learning at Carnegie Mellon University and external faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute.

This article appeared in the By Invitation section of the print edition under the headline “Artificial intelligence is a familiar-looking monster, say Henry Farrell and Cosma Shalizi”

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