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UGWUANYI: LIKE ENUGU’S BRAND UNIVERSITY, LIKE FED. POLY OHODO

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By Chibueze Nwagadu

It is confirmed now that a brand new unique and specialized University has berthed in Enugu state, courtesy of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s administration.

The University which seems to be the first of its kind in the country and to be owned by a state government is called the State University Of Medical And Applied Science (SUMAS) Igbo- Eno, Enugu State.

The National Universities Commission (NUC) recently approved the license for the take-off of the State University Of Medical And Applied Science (SUMAS) Igbo- Eno, Enugu making it the second state-owned university, after Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT)

The license recognizing SUMAS as the 2nd Enugu State-owned university was issued to Enugu State Governor, His Excellency Rt. Hon. Dr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi by the National Universities Commission (NUC) at its office in Abuja.

It would be recalled that

following the enactment of the State University of Medical and Applied Sciences (SUMAS), Law, Igbo-Eno, Enugu State on April 13, 2022, Enugu State Government presented at the National Universities Commission the Law establishing SUMAS along with the Academic brief and Master Plan of the new University.

With the granting of a license to SUMAS, Igbo-Eno, Enugu State, the state now has a brand-new, full-fledged state-owned, State University of Medical and Applied Sciences (SUMAS)

With this, SUMAS has become the 59th State university in Nigeria and the 219th in Nigeria.

Enugu State with two state universities has now joined the league of states with more than one state university such as Delta State (with four state universities), Lagos (with three state universities) Imo (with three state universities), Edo State (with two state universities), Sokoto (with two state universities).

Others include Ebonyi State with two, Ogun State with two, Bayelsa State with two, Kogi State with two, Ekiti State with two Gombe State with two, and others.

Speaking on the development, renowned academic and Deputy Chief of Staff, Government House, Enugu, Prof. Malachy Okwueze said: “We can’t thank Enugu State Governor, His Excellency Rt. Hon. Dr. Ugwuanyi, enough for achieving this goal of providing the platform for increased access to quality university education for our teeming youths who struggle year after year to gain admission into the university without fulfilling their desires and dreams for university education.

“This is especially for a professional course such as Medicine. The existing Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) gets over 2, 000 applications from our youths to study medicine yearly, but only a paltry 50 applicants are offered admission to study medicine in the end.

Even the University of Nigeria Nsukka, the Federal University in Enugu State offers only about 180 applicants admission into medicine leaving the dreams of thousands of youths to study medicine dashed year after year.

“This is despite the deficit in the number of medical doctors and nurses required to optimize medical and health care for Enugu people.

“Enugu people are therefore overjoyed and are already celebrating our dear Governor Ugwuanyi on this feat.

Enugu State government has made provision for sustainable funding of the new University.”

Already on the ground and nearing completion at the new University are two sections of a teaching hospital sitting on two floors the outpatient department of seven sections and an inpatient department with a 200-bed ward. Hostels, offices, internal road networks, and others.

It has been confirmed that the management of the new University will be constituted very soon as the University will take off in September this year.

Meanwhile, the actualization of the brand-new University by Ugwuanyi’s administration will make it two higher institutions the administration has built and attracted to the state in the last two years.

It would be recalled that in 2021 and against all odds, Gov. Ugwuanyi attracted the Federal Polytechnic, Ohodo, Igbo-Etiti LGA.

Before the attraction of the Polytechnic which is about to take off at its temporal site at Community Secondary School, Ohodo with the appointment of management staff and recruitment of academic and non-academic staff, many were highly skeptical of its possibility or actualization. They were of the parochial and fixated views that the All Progressives Congress (APC) led-Federal Government will not easily grant such approval or concede such a monumental and enduring legacy project like Federal Polytechnic to Enugu State under Ugwuanyi’s watch for reasons which include that Ugwuanyi is not of APC stock and he has not overtly made move to attract such gigantic and development project from the Federal Government before now.

They taunted Ugwuanyi’s administration and labeled it a failure. For a sense of entitlement mentality, they were critical and antagonistic of Ugwuanyi and his government. They maliciously and emotionally compared Ugwuanyi’s administration with that of his predecessors, without factually and statistically placing critical issues like the state of the economy, state wage bill, political awareness, cost of running the government, and political situations, another key index of governance then and since Ugwuanyi assumed office.

But today, all these are balderdash and beer parlour talks for Ugwuanyi proved them wrong with the approval letter with N2b take-off grant addressed to him and signed by Permanent Secretary Federal Ministry of Education, Arch. Sonny S. T. Echono on behalf of Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, for the immediate establishment and take-off of the Federal Polytechnic Ohodo in Igbo-Etiti LGA of Enugu.

What a masterstroke by a leader who knows his way, where, and how to get what he wants without being noisy.

What an unprecedented feat of actualization of two higher institutions in Enugu in less than two years.

No doubt, the two higher institutions will leapfrog the economic, human, and developmental capital, and status of the entire state, particularly the Enugu North Senatorial zone. They will complement and co-exist side by side with the University of Nigeria Nsukka and Enugu State Polytechnic, Iwolo.

Nwagadu writes from University market road, Nsukka

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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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VOICES OF HISTORY: THE MANIPULATION OF RELIGION IN NIGERIA

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Dr Yusufu Bala Usman. Remember him? Not many of us dare forget the late radical, leftist scholar, an historian who positively influenced young students in the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. The students were nicknamed “Bala Brought Up” to correctly situate their radical leftist politics.

By Dan Agbese

Usman railed against incompetence in government – be it military or civilian. He was very much aware of our nation’s fault lines. The major and troubling fault lines for him were religion and ethnicity. They have been, and still are, the greatest tools for manipulating the nation and wasting its immense human and natural resources; hence Nigeria remains a potentially great nation because its feet are tied to the millstones of the manipulation of our fault lines.

The manipulation of these fault lines retards our national progress and hobbles our national cohesion and unity. Their manipulation has become tools for the purposes of securing political and economic advantages in our multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation. These manipulative tools are used to oppress and suppress other ethnic groups and people of different religious faiths. They hold down our national progress. The manipulation creates, worsen our faulty leadership recruitment process. Men who are not fit to lead a village council are manipulated into leadership and crowned our political leaders at national and sub-national levels.

Ethnic and religious fault lines are, if you like, the twin evils of our nation. In each political generation, these fault lines tend to widen to accommodate new twists in their unending manipulation to meet new and refurbished ethnic and religious ambitions and interests.

Usman saw it coming. He foresaw that our nation would eventually come to this sorry pass at which the manipulation of these fault lines would effectively widen them and scuttle our attempts at national unity and cohesion and arrest our national development. Perhaps, his greater worry was the religious fault line and its crass and shameless manipulation by the denizens of the political power kingdom, not for purposes of gaining heaven but for the more mundane pursuit and acquisition of political power and opportunities and, of course, personal wealth in the individual kingdom here on earth.

In 1987, the repressible scholar published a 166-page book, The Manipulation of Religion in Nigeria, 1977-1987. The book grew out of his lecture on the subject organised by the Students’ Union, Institute of Administration, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, in November 1977. The book itself is made up of his other lectures dealing with national unity and cohesion or lack thereof over a ten-year period. He mocked the NPN slogan of One Nation, One Destiny with his own slogan, No Nation, No Destiny.

This column is based on his book. I have also borrowed its title for this column. The alarum he sounded some 35 years ago fell on deaf ears. We may ignore it, but we cannot deny that it casts ominous shadow on our nation and its people. In his foreword to the book, Professor Usman A. Tar, points out that “The book echoes the material foundations of power politics in Nigeria with key focus on how religion, region and tribe are bandied as platforms for negotiating access to power and wealth.”

This, I think, is actually the crux of the manipulation of both religion and ethnicity in our country. When we cannot get access to power and wealth in the context of the distribution of our national resources, we cry marginalisation. The manipulation of religion has had a deleterious effect on the unity of a country desperate for unity. It has made it impossible for our leaders at all levels to effectively manage our ethnic and religious diversities. Inherent in the manipulation of ethnicity and religion is the unwritten code enforced to fence out other tribes and people of different religious faith from the national feeding trough.

Before the students invited Usman to deliver the lecture on this sensitive subject, he had watched for years and seen how the manipulation of religion had manipulated the nation and its citizens. He saw how every political decision in the country was coloured by ethnicity and religion; and perhaps more importantly, how, for the sole of purpose of manipulating religion, every political development was seen through the religious prism.

Usman was prescient. Consider this: “The meaning and significance of the increasingly violent political campaigns built around differences in this country today, can only be understood when seen within the larger context of what has been happening to Nigeria, to Nigerians…”

He wrote that some 35 years ago. Nothing, as you can see, has changed in our country. Take that back. Almost everything has gone from bad to worse. It may not be the change we crave but it is the change we have. The manipulation of religion has become an article of faith among those who seek to dominate the political space, not for the sake of Nigeria and the Nigerians, but for the sake of access to power and wealth at the expense of the nation and its people. We are poised for other people’s jugular.

Usman cites three instances of the pattern of the manipulation of religion, namely, the assassination of General Murtala Muhammed in a failed coup led by Lt-Col Buka Suka Dimka; a lecture by Professor Chike Obi, which he described as “… an example of a well-tuned act of manipulating religion in Nigeria today;” the third was the sharia debate in the constituent assembly which “… provided an excuse for the publication of provocative and scurrilous articles purporting to support or oppose the sharia in newspapers.”

According to him, some serious, if diabolical, attempts were made to present the assassination of General Muhammed in stark religious terms of Christians versus Muslims. Attempts were made locally and internationally “to present Murtala as a Muslim martyr and his assassins as Christian villains.” The attempt might have failed but it left a residue of its cynical mark on the nation’s conscience by creating the impression that there is a silent war between the two major religions, each of which is in search of its own champions.

More importantly, it continues to define political contest or elections in terms of us versus them and thus makes nonsense of political pluralism and the freedom of choice inherent in a democracy. The manipulation of religion is intended to drive a wedge between the two dominant religions in the country. We are not just navigating tortuous political and economic landmines; we also have to navigate religious and ethnic sensitivities.

The current controversy over the Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket of APC throws up the challenge of navigating the religious sensitivities for purposes of capturing power. We are not electing religious leaders; we are electing secular political leaders, men who offer themselves to serve the nation at the highest level because they believe they have the capacity to turn the misfortunes of our nation into fortunes. But because we have dragged religion into the political decision-making process, our political leaders give pride of place to religion to endorse their political decisions. They need the religious imprimatur.

Thus did the presidential candidate of APC, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu feel he needed to tell the world that his choice of a running mate was endorsed by Christian clerics. His handlers made a crude, tendentious and desperate show of it. They recruited men from the motor park in Abuja, dressed them in borrowed robes of Catholic bishops and transported them to the venue where Senator Shettima was unveiled as Tinubu’s running mate last month. The manipulation of religion takes many forms but serves only one purpose, to wit, to use religion as a prop for personal and group or sectional ambitions and interests. The presence of the fake bishops was not winner. Fake bishops do not win elections. It was a needless attempt to do right by the Christian community.

Why has religion become important in this purely civic and secular duty performed by Nigerians to have a say in who governs them? The answer lies in the fact that having invited religion as an arbiter in the political decision-making process, the politicians must accord it the place in deserves in their political calculations both as crude manipulation and as a winning strategy. The assumption is that like the Israelites, the Muslims and the Christians would each go to their tent and vote for the party whose candidates are of the same faith with them. This is a dangerous assumption. But it has assumed a centre stage in our political discourse, including the proper management of our diversities.

It does serious injuries to our democracy and confuses our patriotism. It denies the electorate the right to make rational choices of their preferred candidates based on what they think of each man’s antecedents, integrity, competence, and ability rather than the deity he worships. It forces the electorate to vote on sentiment; consequently, it foists on the nation mediocre, incompetent, and indifferent leadership. We choose because he is our own; not because he has a proven track record of competence and qualitative leadership. Yep, Richard Dworkins is right: religion poisons everything.

In his conclusion to the 1977 lecture, Usman said: “The real basis of the manipulation of religion in Nigeria today is the need to obscure from the people of Nigeria a fundamental aspect of our reality: that is the domination of our political economy by a class of intermediaries who are being increasingly exposed. And this is to enable this class to cover themselves with religious and ethnic disguises in order to further entrench division among our people, slow down their awakening, at any cost; even the unity of our country, for which so much has been sacrificed.”

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NORTH THOUGHT BUHARI WAS NIGERIA’S MAHATMA GANDHI – BAUCHI EX-DEPUTY GOV

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A former Deputy Governor of Bauchi State, Sule Katagum, speaks with ARMSTRONG BAKAM on the state of the nation and explains why he dumped the All Progressives Congress for the Peoples Democratic Party

You recently dumped the All Progressives Congress and joined the Peoples Democratic Party.  Why did you do that?

First of all, I didn’t ‘dump’ the APC; actually, the APC drove me out of its enclave. I joined the APC in 2014 and we formed the government in 2015 and 2019, I was the Chief of Staff and I even became the deputy governor of Bauchi State under the leadership of former governor M.A. (Mohammed Abdullahi) Abubakar.

Unfortunately, in 2019, we lost the election, and the PDP took over. Since then, we, I mean the administration of  M.A. Abubakar, were treated like pariah people. We were not part of the developing structure of the APC.

In fact, we saw clearly that we were no longer wanted because all activities, all meetings, and all decisions were taken without the input of, first and foremost, the only governor the APC has ever produced in the state, Barrister M.A. Abubakar.

 Just because he, the former governor, lost his re-election, he was treated like that. I could remember when he lost the election. He tried to reach out to those who were in the leadership of the APC at that time. He said, “Look, let us come back together and build the APC from our mistakes that we made. Yes, I made a lot of mistakes, but I was not the only one that made the mistakes. Everybody made mistakes.”

However, I do believe that was not the intention of the new leadership of the party and at the end of the day, up to this year (2022), when the primaries were  held, we realised that even if our former governor of the APC came in and tried to participate in the primaries, he would not have won. Not because he doesn’t have the people and not because he doesn’t have the structure, but just because the party leadership didn’t want him to continue as governor.

If they do not like our principal, that is, M.A. Abubakar, they don’t like us either. So, we were driven out, and the only reasonable and honourable thing to do, for someone like me, is that if you don’t want us, we leave you. So I resigned from the party.

Did you consult with your former boss, the former governor, Barrister Mohammed Abubakar, before quitting the APC?

Well, I consulted widely with my people. I consulted widely with my elders, my family, and, of course, with the former governor. I went to see him and I told him, “Look, Your Excellency, you are a gentleman. You tolerate so much disdain, intolerance and everything but we that are under you can no longer take this kind of thing.

In your resignation letter to the APC ward chairman, you stated that the principles for which you joined the APC in 2014 are no longer valid and that you must leave the party. What are these principles?

The reason that made us join the APC in 2014 were that the party’s principles entailed things like fairness, justice, and so on. If you look at the motto of the APC, we believed strongly in the APC.  In the north, there was no doubt, Buhari was like a messiah,  Buhari was compared to people like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. We thought this was a man who would clean Nigeria and make it what it was supposed to be.

Sadly, the principles, over the years, became more or less like those of the normal Nigerian political party. What we had expected, like I said earlier, after the failure of the Governor Abubakar’s administration in 2019, was a sort of reconciliation, a sort of reaching out in order to speak to ourselves and see how we could go about it.

In fact, to be honest with you, in 2019, I don’t think it was really the PDP as a party that defeated Abubakar; it was more or less an internal affair (that cost him his seat).

What efforts did you make to seek redress?

If they don’t involve me in the running of things or ask me to come and do this or that, if they don’t involve me in stakeholders or whatever, what can I do? Maybe somebody would call you and say they didn’t see you in a meeting, or maybe a meeting will be held tomorrow and they will call you to come to Abuja by 4pm for a meeting.

So, you see, these are some of the tricks, and quietly, they were trying to say, “We are sick and tired of you guys. Can you go through the window or through the door quietly?”

There are two major contenders struggling to unseat the current Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed. They are a former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar (retd.) of the APC and a serving Senator, Haliru Jika of the New Nigeria Peoples Party. What do you think are Mohammed’s chances of returning as governor?

Well, first of all, you must realise that the current governor is an incumbent. He is an erudite politician. He’s someone I think needs no introduction to anybody in the context of Nigerian politics. They are the ones that are trying to remove him from his chair, which I doubt if they can, because he’s a politician who has all kinds of ways of retaining that chair (as governor).

In our own time, my former governor was a bit too nice for a typical Nigerian politician in that aspect. But for someone like Bala, he’s someone who will come out fully and try to retain his seat.

Secondly, let me say this that, from my experiences as a one-time administrator, there’s really no governor in Nigeria who can really do a lot for people in just one term of four years.

A governor makes a lot of mistakes in the first four years. He needs a second term to really consolidate, to really set out his goals, and to achieve them.

And at the same time, we are supporting Bala Mohammed because we believe in what he is doing. If you see somebody performing, applaud him, because tomorrow when he’s no longer the governor, he’s not going to take these roads to Duguri, his hometown, to Lagos or any other place.

You said earlier that you and others who joined the APC in 2014 went all out to ensure that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), won the election. But here we are. The country is worse off with insecurity everywhere; the economy is in a shambles, Are you disappointed by where we are as a country?

Well, let’s be very, very honest with ourselves. We’re all Nigerians. The promises were mainly on security, on the economy, and on corruption. But in all honesty, look at the security situation across the country.

Yes, we agree that maybe Boko Haram has been contained to a certain level. In those days, there were bombings, but now, nobody can travel from his state, for example, from Bauchi to Abuja, without feeling that something could happen to him on the road. Every day, we hear of people being apprehended, and kidnappings are common. In terms of security, I will honestly say, with all due respect to Mr President, that there has been no improvement.

Secondly, of course, there is corruption. Nobody has been vilified; nobody has been taken to prison.

Even the two former governors of Taraba and Plateau states who were sent to prison were pardoned…

You see, that is sending the wrong signal that you can steal, go and spend some time in prison, and come back and your money is still intact.

If the APC members campaign, what are they even going to tell Nigerians (during the campaign)? There’s nothing! Except if people just want to play the ostrich and put their heads underground.  Yesterday (Monday), someone was talking about the kind of development that happened in Lagos. You see, we are individualising this thing now. We’re not talking about an individual; we’re talking about a party structure. The candidate of the APC is part of the APC. He was the greatest contributor and progenitor of Buhari. If not for Bola Tinubu with his influence, I don’t think Buhari would have won the election, but he helped, so he’s part and parcel of the APC.

First of all, he has to explain to Nigerians what really happened. Why did the APC, after promising in 2014 to do all these things for Nigerians, still sits on the brink?

In seven years plus, you (Tinubu) were part and parcel of the government and even a leader of the APC. You had direct access to the President, so what are you coming to tell Nigerians now? Or you didn’t know what was happening? We’re all Nigerians and we need to be very frank with ourselves and agree. But what we are saying is that Atiku (Abubakar), just like (Muhammadu) Buhari, has tried many times.  He doesn’t need to be the President of Nigeria, but there must be a reason because he’s comfortable, he has attained a certain age where he can go and relax and nothing happens.

The Nigerian economy is in shambles right now. The Naira got up above N700 to a dollar and the prices of goods in the market keep skyrocketing. Do you think those managing the economy in Nigeria are bereft of ideas or what do you think is the major problem?

They might have ideas, but you see; the problem in this country is that most of our managers don’t really do things for the generality of Nigerians. You can see that all the managers are PhD holders. They have M. Scs from Harvard University, from whatever, but this attitude towards public wealth or public purse is so sad in this country. We still have people who think their own policies should pave the way for them to make wealth and not for the country to become what they are; they are not for the improvement of the country.

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