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CRAVE FOR A NEW NIGERIAN YOUTH AND GOVERNOR UGWUANYI’S TAILORED INTERVENTIONS.

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Historical records reckon with the youths as a formidable force for remarkable transformations and development in every society.

By STEVE ORURUO.

All antecedent epoch-making inflexions, from the Industrial Revolution to domestic political uprisings, the World Wars to institutional reforms, and to the digital evolution, have the legible markings of adventurous youth. Contemporarily, besides the political realm which has largely remained under the recalcitrant and often suffocating siege of septuagenarians and octogenarians especially in Africa, the youth still constitute the critical boulder upon which nations are either built or destroyed.

The will, imagination, courage and actions of every nation’s youth propel its economy, inspire leadership credibility and accountability, fuel social change and crystallize innovations that drive multifaceted development. Investing in the youth should therefore be a cardinal priority of progressive political governments, emphatically echoed by these timeless words of Coretta Scott King: “The failure to invest in youth reflects a lack of compassion and colossal failure of common sense.”

Investing in the youths is as complex as it is necessary; demanding robust policies, unfettering will, commitment and diligence. Firstly, the youths deserve to grow up in a global climate devoid of political volatility, socio-economic instability and insecurity. The unfortunate reality however is that millions of the world’s youth are trapped in climes walloped by hunger, lack of basic social amenities, wars and needless political conflicts cum violent transitions.  Ensuring the effective and uninterrupted education of every youth is another integral component of youth-oriented investments. As Gilbert Chesterton brilliantly observed, “Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another”. A nation teeming with uneducated youths not only battles socio-economic instability and political fiascos, it is a danger onto itself, sitting ignorantly on a self-fabricated time bomb. The destiny of such a nation is, with a confident clairvoyant accuracy, ridden with episodes of economic stagnation, restiveness, social unrest and profound directionlessness.

The Nigerian youth must subject themselves to a critical introspection. For long, it seems they have languished in ignorance of the enormous trove of potentials and power lying fallow within them or perhaps been subservient slaves to self-doubt, truncated self-esteem and the cozy but virulent charm of apathy. The post-independence Nigerian youth have condemned themselves to mere spectators at best,, while the nation barely trudges through the murky waters of corruption, poverty, human rights abuse, electoral malfeasances, and hopeless institutional decay. Sadly enough, political fiefdoms have been concretized under the enablement of youth with the attendant amplification of the chasm between the bourgeois and the plebeians. While it behoves on the government to empower the youth, the Nigerian youth must rise up to the responsibilities of righting generational wrongs and powering the nation into aeons and oasis of prosperity, and they must think beyond violent destructive agitations to achieve this.

Quite frankly, We inherited a Nigeria built on mutual suspicion and bitter political rivalry and it is this divided Nigeria that we are still operating till today. We do not need to continue to fan the embers of disunity and unhealthy battle of supremacy bequeathed to us by our founding fathers. More instructively, we do not need to continue to romanticize a return to the past that was so steeped or marooned in ethnic chauvinism, religious bigotry and horrible cronyism they tend to advocate as the ultimate solution to Nigeria’s multifarious challenges.

We need new activists and new thought leaders who will turn the heat on the mismanagement and incompetence stealing away the destiny of Nigeria. We desperately need problem solvers, solution providers and nation builders. We need a “NEW NIGERIA” movement. Regrettably, we cannot completely build a *”new” Nigeria with “old” Nigerians—particularly those who have made up their minds to see nothing but gloom and doom for the country. To them, Nigeria is finished beyond redemption or any possible resurrection

. We need “new” Nigerians- those whose passion is fuelled and propelled by a yearning for the development of the country; those who see bountiful opportunities for greatness, those who consciously expend their energies on promoting what unites us rather than magnifying what divides us, and those who insist that every part of Nigeria deserves to be treated with equity; no matter their tongue, beliefs, population or political leaning.

Nigeria did not stumble into this woeful status overnight and Nigeria will not be salvaged overnight. It took decades upon decades to ruin Nigeria. To create the mindset that shapes a responsive and functional leadership and positively controls National discourse; it will take a long time.

When I said that our hope is firmly nestled in the  *”youth”- defined in the National Youth Policy as those between 18-29 years of age, although the African Youth  Charter prefers 15-35- I am sure some pessimists would have sniggered; YOUTHS? The same chaps or Lads that are on social media hurling all kinds of obscenity, aspersions, venom and innuendos at one another based on ethnic, religious and political prejudices. The same chaps that are implicated in yahoo-yahoo (internet scam) all over the world? The same chaps that are dosing heavily on hard drugs? The same chaps that would rather elect to vote in Big Brother Naija (BBN) than on election days. The same chaps that are being churned out by our dysfunctional and strike-ridden educational system? I do see ill-mannered conversations on Twitter and WhatsApp mostly coated in insipid literature. I come across vile ethnic and religious hate speeches being spewed in the crudest possible language. I am often condemned to face twisted facts and outright falsehood in the name of politics. I don’t live on the moon. I see highly disrespectful youths and the badly behaved youths on social media sending misguided missiles of tantrums, vituperations, innuendos and deadly aspersions without reflections on the debilitating effects and number of casualties.

But do these tell the entire story of the Nigerian youths? CERTAINLY *”NO”. We need to acknowledge that there is a large army of young Nigerians who are great thinkers and builders, who are doing things better than we did in our own youth, who are going to places we never went, who are making exploits in greater dimensions and who are reaching heights we only dreamt of. And I mean in every walk of life; academics, media, science, arts and entertainment. Under the same intense climate, hot temperature, challenging humidity and protracted volatility, we are producing resourceful youths, yet we tend to see only the bad and forget the good. The major task before us is how to retain, refine and reproduce the good, and quite essentially, how to salvage the bad. We give up too easily, perhaps just to justify our cynicism. Could it also be that we are underappreciating our youth and, thus, using the deviants to parochially define the entire demography? I can testify that from the same vilified and unshepherded army of youthful Nigerians, we have been recruiting resourceful talents, some of whom have won awards and gained international recognition.

We have to also admit that we have failed our youth. We cannot logically complain about the output without a critical appraisal of the input. The school system, both traditional and vocational, is in comatose. That is not their fault.

Whether we like it or not the youths are the leaders of tomorrow. This is not subject to arguments but a natural fact. They are the building blocks and the indispensable nucleus of the society. They will end up in different fields – business, sports, media, civil society, civil service and politics. They will end up calling the shots. If we lose them today, we lose the future of Nigeria. What we owe them is the duty to encourage the positive use of their energies, to correct their mistakes, to celebrate their overwhelming successes and to show them the light so that they can find the way. Nigerian youth, home and abroad, have to form the core of the rebuilding process. Reorientating and mentoring the youth should form the key strategy, not just for the government but corporate bodies and individuals.

We need a “NEW NIGERIA MOVEMENT”, not only as a mantra but engraved in our strained mentality. A movement of informed and passionate youth who in their total contrition need a great Nigeria. We need new Nigerians amongst Nigerians who want to side with Nigeria in this troubled journey to Nationhood. We need youth who will turn on intellectual heat on all levels  of leadership – Federal,  States and Local Governments to literally force the underperforming public office holders to start performing at optimum today for the sake of our tomorrow. These new Nigerians must hijack and dominate public discourse with unflappable candour, chilling maturity, reassuring temperance and indelible sense of history.

But some leaders, inspired by their commitment to the social contract with the electorate, sensitivity to the emerging rage and discontent in the air and in pious obedience to the will of the Almighty, are already keying in to measures that will ameliorate the suffering of the people especially the youth.

An often overlooked perspective in youth-oriented investment is economic empowerment through the support of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). According to the flagship global financial institution, World Bank, SMEs represent about 90% of businesses and more than 50% of employment worldwide, and generate 7 out of 10 formal jobs in emerging markets. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Survey 2020 reveals that in Nigeria, MSMEs account for 96% of the total number of businesses in the country, and contribute about 50% to the national GDP. The stimulating revelation by the survey that SME owners in Nigeria typically fall between the ages of 20 and 60 years depicts that the realm of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises is dominated by youth who mostly operate their businesses under sole proprietorship.

The Government of His Excellency Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Lawrence Ugwuanyi which began in 2015 and was historically sustained by an overwhelming majority of the state’s electorate in 2019, has beamed an uncommon spotlight on the youth through the dendrites of education, economic empowerment, employment and socio-political integration. It is no longer news that in his regime, there have been massive reforms in the education sector manifest in infrastructural renaissance, capacity building, award of scholarships to indigent. students, recruitment of quality teaching staff and unprecedented prioritization and enhancement of workers’ welfare. *It is also glaring that the political structure of His Excellency Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s government, across a two-term mileage, has echoed youth representativeness loudly enough to rattle the foundations of gerontocracy and political ostracization of the young people in the entire continent.

However, the economic dimension of Governor Ugwuanyi’s youth-oriented policies and projects remains underappreciated. This is moreso despite the conspiracies of economic recessions, consequent dwindling of accruing federal statutory allocations and stunted internally generated revenue (IGR) growth. The nation during the Ugwuanyi regime has been badly scathed by economic woes headlined by the 2016 recession, the debilitating 2020 Covid-19 economic stagnation and the current post-covid recession. Unlike the average political leader, rather than find convenient subterfuges in these afflictions, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi was inspired to break out of conventional moulds and set unseen precedents.

Governor Ugwuanyi empowered 3,600 traders, majority of whom are youths, with N50,000 each under the Enugu State Traders empowerment Scheme. Also, over 750 youths were engaged in skills acquisition under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) programme. A thousand youths, working assiduously and tirelessly under Enugu Clean Team Project (ECTP), receive Minimum Wage for less than 20 hours of work per week. Furthermore, the Governor approved the establishment of two World Bank projects, namely IFAD and APPEALS programme for women and youths agricultural empowerment, for which the state government pays counterpart funds regularly. Today, young people in Enugu, like Miss Chinwero Chisom Lilian, the State Champion at the 2020 Maltina Teacher of the Year competition, exude new zeal for excellence and enjoy uninhibited expression on the platform of Governor Ugwuanyi’s policies.

The Enugu Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Centre under the administration of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has been on the frontiers of youth empowerment, spurning several avant-garde initiatives, curated by Hon. Arinze Chilo-Offiah, the inventive Special Adviser to the Governor on SME Development and Head, Enugu SME Centre. The Centre has been aggressive on the vanguard of providing collateral-free working capital through the Enugu SME Business Support Loan (ESBSL) for enterprising SMEs and MSMEs to cushion the financial constraints impeding the successful startup, growth, sustenance and development of micro, small and medium enterprises. These loans are not tools of economic guerrilla warfare, as is often the case in Nigeria, rather genuine vehicles through which Enugu youths can be emancipated from the venomous gripe of poverty.

Not long ago, the Enugu State SME Agency partnered with Utiva to launch Enugu Technology Talent City poised to empower youths with invaluable digital skills profitable in the modern day marketplace. Through this programme, Human Capital Development Loans were provided under clement terms for beneficiaries to learn Product Design and Programming. At the end of the programme, these beneficiaries access various job options through which they are able to repay their loans. The Enugu SME Hackathon was conceived to be a gathering of tech-inspired and non tech-inspired thinkers brainstorming to re-incline, redesign and redefine the future of work in Enugu state and enforce a global change. It has since served as a platform for the conception, incubation and operationalization of innovative, cost-effective and sustainable smart  solutions for business.

Among other numerous initiatives from the Enugu SME Centre include: Auto-revamp Innovative Training Program (AITP) in partnership with Autoease, which seeks to equip indigenes with skills in automobile body repairs and upgrade; Enugu WiFi project in partnership with Wicrypt; and Enugu Job Portal Development and Employment Training Program. Information on these and more are available on the official website of Enugu SME Centre – https://www.enugusme.en.gov.ng/

The Ugwuanyi regime is building solid legacies revolving around the youth of Enugu State; the tendons of the Wawa clime. Through restructuring, strategic rethinking, salient policy formulation, and implementation, the young people of Enugu have been given the attention, sociopolitical integration and economic leverage they deserve as the engine of society and leaders of tomorrow. Governor Ugwuanyi has so religiously sustained the mission he embarked upon in 2015 to harness the vast energy and potential of Enugu youths towards realizing his noble agenda of credible leadership, economic diversification, jobs creation, blistering performance in sports, revitalization of the education sector, Health for all, Judicial independence and the institution of a sane political culture anchored on cooperation, equity, egalitarianism, peaceful coexistence, adherence to zoning tradition and social justice. The recent global recognition and award given to Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi by the Ohaneze Ndigbo Youth Wing (Worldwide) as the Best and Most Peaceful Governor in the South East is just one in a growing array of deserving crowns befitting the stature and youth-oriented legacies of Enugu’s Chief Servant 

Steve Oruruo is the Special Adviser to the Governor of Enugu State on Information

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News

GOV. UGWUANYI ESTABLISHES 1,700 START UP AGRIBUSINESSES THROUGH ENUGU APPEALS PROJECT

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Governor of Enugu State, Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi,

The Agricultural Transformation Agenda of the Federal Government of Nigeria is aimed at attaining adequate food security in the country through pragmatic support to farmers across strategic value chains in Nigeria. 

By Ambrose Igboke

The Governor of Enugu State Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, keyed into this critical policy by initiating the state version of agricultural transformation. One of the agriculture policy drives of Governor Ugwuanyi is evident in attracting the Agro-Processing, Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support Project (APPEALS) of the World Bank to Enugu State. The project objective is to enhance the productivity of at least 10,000 farmers in Enugu State as direct beneficiaries. 

Gov. Ugwuanyi, beyond attracting the APPEALS Project to Enugu State, being the only state in the South East, went further to match intention with action by promptly paying a counterpart fund of ₦244 million. This put the project in a steady footing to fully access the funding from the World Bank and properly implement its developmental objectives. 

A critical aspect of the APPEALS Project is the Women and Youth Empowerment Programme (WYEP) which empowers 1700 women, youth and people with disability. In Enugu State, a total of 1700 beneficiaries, out of which are 85 persons with disabilities, have been trained in the practicality, economics, business psychology and marketing dynamics in five value chains, namely; aquaculture, Cashew, cassava, poultry and rice. 

Furthermore, each of these 1,700 beneficiaries have received grants to the average sum of ₦2, 000,000 to start up businesses in their chosen agricultural value chains. So far, through the support of Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, the Project has disbursed the sum of ₦3.4 billion for the Women and Youth Empowerment Programme. This has made it possible for these 1, 700 beneficiaries to establish their own start up businesses in their chosen value chains and various segments of production, processing and marketing. The implication of this is that Gov. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi has added over 1,700 new farmers to Enugu State, mostly made up of the youth population. They have been fully funded with grants in form of inputs, climate smart technology support and building of infrastructure like poultry pens. 

It is expected that these beneficiaries will be firmly established in their various businesses. The spiral effect on the economy of Enugu State will create a quantum leap in economic development, job creation and food security in every senatorial zone and each local government area of Enugu State. 

– Ambrose Igboke is the Communication Officer of Enugu APPEALS Project

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History

NIGERIA, DEATH OF QUEEN ELIZABETH II AND THE VERDICT OF HISTORY

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The death, few days ago, of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, no doubt, has brought to an end a chequered chapter in the history of mankind; a historic chapter that saw Britain pioneering the industrial revolution and also a chapter that marked remarkable expansionism and acquisition of colonial territories by the British Monarchy solely for economic exploitation of the indigenous peoples.

By Malachy Chuma Ochie

For purposes of clarification, the British monarchy from its inception is a form of constitutional government whereby a hereditary sovereign rules as the head of state, not just of the United Kingdom but also of the Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories.

The monarchy is also recognized as the head of the British Armed Forces. In real terms the British monarchy wields enormous powers such that it is its royal prerogative to appoint the British Prime Minster. This monarchy traces its origins to the 10th century when medieval England and Scotland consolidated into the kingdoms of England and Scotland. The institution of the monarchy in Britain has a rich history.

Queen Elizabeth II succeeded her father, King George VI in 1952 after his father, who had dined with his wife as well as Elizabeth’s younger sister, Princess Margaret, passed on in his sleep. Though she was designated as Queen, it was not until 1953 that she was formally crowned at Westminster Abbey. Incidentally, at the point she knew she was the Queen designate; she was in Kenya savouring the beauty and natural endowments of that East African country. She will be remembered as monarch who reigned longest in Britain’s history.

Without doubt, the Queen represented so many things to so many people. Expectedly, since her death the global media have been awash with tributes pouring in from world leaders. As a person, I mourn the Queen passionately, probably not for the same reasons Britons are mourning. Fundamentally, I mourn because she was of the family of God. God enjoins us in His word to mourn with those who mourn even as we rejoice with them that rejoice in times of joy.

I mourn because she played significant roles in the decolonization process of African states, it is also on record that British colonialism brought “light and civilization” to a “Dark and benighted” African continent; a people “without root and history”; a people “stewed in savagery and barbarism”. After all it was the British missionaries that brought us the “word of God” through which such evil customs and traditions like killing of twins, human sacrifice and worship of dead gods were exorcised from the consciousness of the native Africans.

In discharging this “divinely ordained” assignment, the British monarchy initiated policies that would permanently distort the space and mind of the Africans. We were to be sanctified with the word of God; our stony hearts were meant to be removed and replaced with hearts of flesh. Unfortunately, the British succeeded in creating more atavistic Africans that have raped and ripped off the African continent by a devious British acquiescence.

The British monarchy originated the twin evils of slave trade and colonialism; devious systems through which the monarchy sustained its policy of exploitation and expropriation. For instance, the British monarchy was instrumental to the establishment, expansion, and maintenance of the British Empire and the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The English Empire was first proclaimed in 1532 AD by Henry VIII. It was Queen Elizabeth I that granted the Royal Charter (an instrument of incorporation) to noted slave traders. In 1660, King Charles II formed the Royal African Company in 1660, which extracted gold and ivory from Ghana (then known as Gold Coast). Through the trans-Atlantic slave trade, hundreds of thousands of Africans were transported to the new world especially the Americas; with the initials of the slave merchants burned with hot iron into the body of each slave. Only a monarchy driven by the most grotesque evil could unleash such ill-treatment to fellow human beings. The British monarch’s global significance and power stemmed directly from the enslavement of people of colour.

The establishment of the Commonwealth by the monarchy is also misleading. Composed of about 52 “independent and equal” member states, members of the Commonwealth are anything but equal. The Commonwealth emerged from post-WWII decolonization process as a means of reassuring the British public that the demise of the British Empire would not diminish Britain’s global prestige. The monarchy is head of the Commonwealth. The role of head of the Commonwealth allows the monarch to continue their position of international privilege and influence, which stems from colonial histories.

I mourn because in 70yrs on the throne, the British Monarchy failed to correct several historical injustices, which its colonial policies entrenched and have sustained in several parts of the world. Unlike the colonial policy of the French, which espoused the principle of “assimilation”, the British Monarchy promoted a policy a deliberate exclusion, divide and rule, expropriation of labour and resources and purposeful stealing of indigenous crafts of the local people.

The British Monarchy, it’s argued, is responsible for most of the crisis we have in our world today. The British Monarchy, for instance, is responsible for the no love-lost between India and Pakistan. Britain created the problem called Kashmir region, a region that has been the driver of several conflicts between India and Pakistan. Britain created the crisis in Sudan by its colonial policies of creating a large political structure in the form of countries just to satiate its insatiable appetite for economic exploitation. There wouldn’t have been the Darfur tragedy if British Monarchy didn’t authorize the merging of north and south Sudan.

This British colonial policy of acquiring territories for economic exploitation without taking into cognizance of the history, culture and religion of the people has been the basis for incandescent ethnic nationalism in many African states. The same is true of many countries in Asia and the Middle-East.

It is also true that the British Monarchy created the monster called Nigeria by unilaterally lumping together disparate ethnic nations as one country. Even one of the key players in the fraud called Nigeria, Sir Peter Smithers and former Principal Press Secretary to British Colonial Secretary, Alan Lennox-Boyd, who died in 2006, confessed to the tragic monster Britain created and called Nigeria. Smithers died at the age of 92yrs. In the London Times of Wednesday, July 15, 1998, with the headline banner “Nigerian Lesson” duly signed by Sir Peter Smithers he said, and permit me to quote him:

“During the negotiations for the independence of Nigeria, the view of the Secretary of State at that time, with which I agreed, was that in Nigeria we should attempt to put together a large and powerful state with ample material resources, which would play a leading part in the affairs of the continent and of the world. This was attractive but it involved forcing several different ethnic and cultural groups into a single political structure. The negotiations were complex and very difficult, the chief problem as I remember relating, significantly, to the control of the police and the military. In the retrospect of 40 years, it is clear that this was a grave mistake that has cost many lives and will probably continue to do so. It would have been better to establish several smaller states in a free-trade area. In exculpation, it must be said that we did not then have the examples of the collapse of Yugoslavia and of the Soviet Union before our eyes. I should now be clear for but the willfully blind to see that it is extremely dangerous to force diverse racial and social entities into a single rigid political structure such as that which is being built upon the foundation of the Maastricht Treaty. Recent history suggests that it would be best to complete the development of the Common Market and to call a halt to political integration in Europe.” Those were the exact words of Sir Peter Smithers.

In her 70 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II and British establishment saw nothing wrong with the contraption called Nigeria but has continued to sweep the Nigerian conundrum under the carpet. In the face of mounting challenges facing the Nigerian state, in terms of civil unrest, poverty, under-development, terrorism, militancy, banditry, struggle for self-determination etc, we cannot but conclude that the foundations of these ailments were laid by the British even before our political independence. There are clear evidences that the British meddled with the independence elections to ensure that they enthroned their preferred candidates in power through which they can remotely control the destiny of Nigeria.

Nigerian leaders, with the active connivance of the British have remained stiff-necked and unwilling to unbundle the contraption called Nigeria simply to sustain Nigeria as its biggest market in Africa. They are afraid that addressing the Nigerian question would divide the country; a country that has been divided along its worst seams already. Without doubt, Nigeria’s many problems could be traced to the criminal amalgamation in 1914 of the northern and southern protectorates. Is it any wonder then that someone like Smithers would conclude that if the issues of Nigeria’s union is not addressed, the country would continue to experience internal strife, corruption and under-development.

While it made administrative sense to the British to amalgamate the South of Nigeria the north, there was no practical sense in it; essentially because despite the nearness of the north and south of Nigeria there were fundamental differences in their peoples, religion and culture. The major reason for the amalgamation was to release the northern protectorate from the leading strings of the British treasury. The intention was to use the surplus economic resources from the south to sustain the northern protectorate.

In implementing the mandate of the amalgamation, Lugard constructed a Nigerian state with strong regional governments and a weak centre. This effectively ensured that the North was protected from Southern influence. In 1946, the British colonial government further divided Southern Nigeria into two regions: East and West. The North was left intact and so retained its position as the dominant region both in population and landmass. This created an imbalance and tilted the balance towards Northern Nigeria. Furthermore, the adoption of indirect rule system did not help in building a homogenous country. The system was a great success in the north as the central nature of local administration made it easy for the British to control the people using their local political structure. Indirect rule was partially successful in the west and not successful in the east. The British deliberately discouraged nation building and national integration

The British’s divide-and-rule policy is evident in the educational policies it pursued; for example, while the south was exposed to western education, the north was, as a matter of British deliberate policy, protected from the “adulterating” influence of western civilization. A more serious demonstration of the policy of divide-and-rule was the introduction of parliamentary politics in the south in 1922 without a corresponding introduction to the north. It took 25yrs to do so in the north. That was in 1947. It was under this political arrangement that the British ruled the country thereby sowing seeds of separation rather than cohesion. The Land and Native Rights Ordinance of 1910, which created separate laws for landowners in the north and south, contributed in making visible ethnic divide and instilled ethnic consciousness. The result of such policies is the separation of southerners in the north from the indigenous Hausa/Fulani people who lived within walled cities.

We can continue this expose ad infinitum. In whatever way we look at it, we cannot run away from the conclusion that the British monarchy has done more harm than good especially in Nigeria. And so when some individuals call for the renaming of our premier university of the seat of government to Queen Elizabeth II, one runs away with the impression that proponents of such idea could have brains stuffed with cotton wool. It is such crude mentality that would provoke another to suggest that the Queen should have died a slow and painful death.

While I am not disposed to any of the foregoing opinions, I am persuaded that if history is history indeed, it would be on the wrong side of the British monarchy, which Queen Elizabeth II symbolized and personified for 70yrs; yet she did nothing to remedy these historical injustices. The new king still has a date with history. Who knows, he could trigger a remedial process that would reduce tensions in many countries and save lives. Irrespective of the gains we could attribute to the British monarchy, it is fair to conclude that it has done more harm than good. All the same, I commit the soul of the departed Queen into the hands of God who is the most righteous judge both of the living and the dead.

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Politics

AS OBI’S CANDIDACY REDEFINES NIGERIA’S PRESIDENTIAL DEMOCRACY

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AS you read this, and barring any last minute rescheduling, it will be exactly 177 days to the 2023 presidential election scheduled to hold on February 25.

By Ikechukwu Amaechi

Many Nigerians are enthusiastic, thrilled and motivated. Some are even exultant. This election cycle will be the seventh since 1999. Yet, none of the previous six elections elicited as much enthusiasm. In fact, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, figures, the turnout of voters had been on the decline.

For instance, 74 million Nigerians registered for the 2011 elections and 39 million (53.68 per cent) voted to elect Dr. Goodluck Jonathan president.

In 2015, both the number of registered voters and the percentage that voted dipped. Whereas 67.42 million registered to vote, only 29.43 million votes were cast, representing 43.65 per cent voter turnout.

Four years later, there was an 8.9 percentage decline. Of the 84 million who registered to vote in 2019, only 28.61 million (34.75 per cent) bothered to show up on Election Day.

Political pundits had predicted that voter apathy in the 2023 elections will be worse. And then, one man, Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra State, happened on the presidential canvass and everything changed. Now, rather than a decline, there is an uptick if the upsurge in voter registration is anything to go by.

Suddenly, those who had sworn never to vote again, wondering what difference it would make if they vote, have not only rescinded their decision but are fired up because everything seems be to falling in place and democracy has a new meaning for hitherto disillusioned folks.

For too long, many Nigerians had fantasized about democracy in other climes where issues dominate the campaigns and wished that theirs would blossom.

Before the primary elections, that hope looked forlorn. With the two major political parties – All Progressives Congress, APC, and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP – subtly signaling where they were headed with their presidential tickets, disillusionment crept in. Then, Peter Obi pulled out of the PDP and pitched tent with the Labour Party, LP, and nothing has remained the same ever since.

Now, when the campaigns start on September 28, there are indications that unlike before, politicians will no longer go on the hustings to dance Buga for two minutes after contemptuously keeping the people waiting for 10 hours.

For too long, politicians have taken the electorate for granted. They promise nothing and are not obligated to the people. If Peter Obi didn’t throw his hat into the ring, the choice for Nigerians would have been severely limited because the difference between the APC, PDP and their presidential candidates – Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Alhaji Atiku Abubabakar – could be likened to the difference between six and half a dozen. Had the status quo remained, the apathy would have been unprecedented.

Peter Obi’s bold, strategic move has animated the political space and energised Nigerians to do the needful. They want to know the candidates – their antecedents, backgrounds and past history. The issue of integrity is resonating loudly. It is no longer enough for a candidate to boast of his unexplained wealth, Nigerians are beginning to ask questions. Those who refuse to answer may regret their folly on Election Day. NEPA bills are no longer sufficing for certificates. Dubious affidavits have become a liability and those who claimed to have attended certain primary and secondary schools in 1999 would rather leave the spaces blank in INEC forms today.

Leadership is a big deal. It makes all the difference in countries aspiring for greatness. If Nigerians had factored in the issue of antecedents in the weighty electoral decision they made in 2015, they would have taken note of how disastrous Buhari’s 20-month stewardship as military head of state in the early 1980s was. Nigeria wouldn’t have been in the mess it is today.

But while many, including APC chieftains, who are too ashamed of the Buhari legacy of failure, believe that no president will be worse, conscious effort must also be made to run away from the “anyone but Buhari” syndrome. In 2015, Nigerians who chorused “anyone but Goodluck Jonathan”, ended up with Buhari who turned out to be 100 per cent worse.

While it is true that President Buhari is the poster boy of incompetence and no one can possibly be worse, rescuing Nigeria from the doldrums requires grit, self-discipline, altruistic weltanschauung and buy-in of the people.

That, again, is where Peter Obi comes in. His candidacy in the 2023 election has become a crusade that crystallised in the Obidient Movement. For the first time since 1999, Nigerians have taken ownership of a presidential campaign without any financial inducement.

For too long, money bags have used their wealth to bribe their way, literally, to power. And because they owe their mandate not to the people but the deepness of their pockets, they are not obligated to anyone once in office.

That obnoxious political culture is changing. Today, Nigerians who have never met Peter Obi in person and may not have the privilege of doing so all their lives are volunteering their time, resources and talents, not because of what they hope to get from him but for the good of the country.

While the APC and PDP are looking up to the governors, contractors that have been awarded contracts at highly inflated costs, ministries, parastatals and agencies of government to fund their campaigns, Nigerians are using their hard-earned resources to organise million-man marches across the country to promote the Obi candidacy. Some are donating their properties, others are hiring private jets to facilitate his movement. His trips outside the country are paid for by Nigerians who insist that their country must be better.

Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora are crowdfunding to raise the billions of Naira needed to prosecute the electoral battle.

Is Peter Obi a poor man? Not by any means. He is far richer than most of those making these contributions. But they are doing it because they trust him. They believe in him. Is Obi a saint? Not at all. But Nigerians are rooting for him because his message resonates loudly. They want something new. Peter Obi is the breath of fresh air they have been yearning for. He is a refreshing change from the norm, hence the unprecedented decision by all to do the needful: talk of putting one’s money where one’s mouth is.

Suddenly, a presidential bid that looked like a long shot only yesterday, is becoming a reality, so much so that the APC and PDP are scared stiff, which explains all the attacks against Obi. But it is only natural that the tree with fruits gets the most stone throws.

Whether Peter Obi wins the 2023 presidential election or not, he is already a champion. His candidacy has redefined and deepened Nigeria’s democracy in very fundamental ways.

The choice of both the lecturer and chairman was a product of painstaking deliberations.

Since the announcement was made, some have asked the question: Why Fashola, who is not only a partisan politician and APC chieftain, but arguably one of the ruling party’s ideologues?

My answer is simple: On Thursday, September 8, 2022, ensure that you are seated inside the Agip Recital Hall, MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos. Fashola, Nigeria’s Fourth Republic poster boy, will provide the answer. He has, beforehand, promised that it will be a rich intellectual harvest.

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