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Op Ed

As Abia State Engages its Diaspora Community

THE PUBLIC SPHERE with Chido Nwakanma

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As Abia State Engages its Diaspora Community

In a landmark legal and policy move, Abia State has become the first subnational to domesticate the federal legislation for the involvement of its citizens in the diaspora in state affairs. The Abia Citizens in Diaspora Commission became a parastatal by an Act of the State Assembly on 22 March 2021.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu and the State House of Assembly’s Speaker have shone in the limelight deservedly, but two women with pluck deserve even more accolades for this happening.

The Abia Citizens in Diaspora Act and Commission reprises the Nigerians in Diaspora Act 2017 and the Commission over which Hon Abike Dabiri presides. It sets out to ensure the protection of Abians in the diaspora and project and facilitate their effective participation in the state’s economic, political, and social development. Its objectives include providing a direct link to the involvement of Abians in the diaspora in the state’s development, exploring the “huge reservoir of skills knowledge and experiences” of Abians abroad for state development and exploring the most attractive and cost-efficient means for capital inflow or remittances, investments, and transfer of technology among others by Abians outside the homeland.

READ ALSO: Ikpeazu Lifts Ban On Activities Of NURTW In Abia State

The Abia Citizens in Diaspora Commission will have an Executive Chairman, a Director General, seven ministries’ representatives and Abians in Diaspora in America, Asia, and Europe. It did not mention Africa. Then there would be persons from the Abia Investment Commission, Human Rights Commission, three serving or retired diplomat. A curiosity is that the Chairman would be Chief Executive Officer with accounting responsibility for the Commission yet serve on part-time basis in the draft bill this correspondent saw.

The Abia State journey to tapping into what PWC calls “strength from abroad: the economic power of Nigeria’s diaspora” began with the Okezie Ikpeazu leadership. He provided policy and strategic direction by appointing Mrs Vivian Iro-Uchime as S.S.A., Diaspora Matters in his first term. Mrs Iro-Uchime was an active player in the Nigerians in Diaspora movement from her base in the Netherlands.

Iro-Uchime, a lawyer, did the spadework. Governor Ikpeazu approved the proposal requesting the setting up of the Abia Citizens in Diaspora Commission. On 29 June 2018, Enyinnaya Okezie Esq, Solicitor General and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice commenced the legal process based on approval of a draft by the Governor. It then went through the bureaucratic labyrinth until March 2021.
In the period, Mrs Iro-Uchime moved to another assignment while Dr (Mrs) Ngozi Ogbonna-Erondu took over as Special Adviser on Diaspora Matters and Special Duties. Hon Onyekwere Mike Ukoha sponsored H.A.B 21 or The Abians in Diaspora Commission Bill, 2020.

Countries all over the world pay keen interest to their diaspora for economic concerns as well as the transfer of knowledge and skills. The PWC white paper reports that Nigeria accounts for over a third of migrant remittance flows to Sub-Saharan Africa. PwC estimated that these flows amounted to US$23.63 billion (2017: US$22 billion) in 2018 and represented 6.1% of Nigeria’s G.D.P.

“The 2018 migrant remittances translated to 83% of the Federal Government budget in 2018 and 11 times the FDI flows in the same period. Nigeria’s remittance inflows were also 7.4 times larger than the net official development assistance (foreign aid) received in 2017 of US$3.4 billion. PwC estimates that migrant remittances to Nigeria could grow to US$25.5bn in 2019, US$29.8bn in 2021 and US$34.8bn in 2023. Over 15-years, PwC expects total remittance flows to Nigeria to grow by almost double in size from US$18.37 billion in 2009 to US$34.89 billion in 2023.”

Beyond money, the Nigerian diaspora boasts of high-level manpower. The USA reports that Nigerians in their country are the most educated group. States and countries that harness this powerful economic force will derive many benefits. Kudos, therefore, to the Abia State Government team for thinking long-term on this tremendous source of soft power. Commendation to Mrs Vivian Iro-Uchime for bringing her passion, expertise and experience in diaspora matters to deliver on this assignment and her successor, Dr Ogbonna-Erondu, for taking it to the home stretch.

The politics of international flights from Akanu Ibiam Airport Enugu
Aviation authorities have engaged deliberate obfuscation on the resumption of international flights from Akanu Ibiam Airport Enugu. The airport is the only gateway from Eastern Nigeria with the approval to offer such flights. However, the belief in the streets and offices of Eastern Nigerian towns is that it seems some persons do not like it and seek to deny it that right.

READ ALSO: Gov. Ikpeazu Issues 14-Day Ultimatum To Contractors Handling Federal Roads in Abia

Ethiopian Airlines is the only airline currently servicing the Enugu route for international flights. Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika assures that international flights to and from Enugu would resume on 3 May. As of Friday, 16 April 2021, there was no indication that this would happen.

Why? There is suspicion of a deliberate policy impediment from the Federal Government. Conspiracy theorists say Africa’s leading airline may cease servicing the Enugu route because of discriminatory taxes on that route by the aviation bodies.

The authoritative Enugu Metro.com reported that Ethiopian Airlines is yet to open its portal for flights out of Enugu or sell tickets. Travel agents await clarity from the aviation authorities.
Stakeholders of the South-East must wake up to this danger, whether it is a mere conspiracy theory or an actuality. Governors of the five states and various groups such as Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Nzuko Umunna, Aka Ikenga and others should get into the matter.

I have the testimony of entrepreneurs in Onitsha, including my cousin, about the benefits and reduced expenses of travelling from Enugu rather than coming to Lagos for trips to China and other destinations. The F.G. must eschew any actions that could raise suspicions about its intendments regarding Akanu Ibiam Airport after spending N10billion on fixing it. Clarity, please.

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Economy

Repeal 2019 Minimum Wage Bill, Start Again – Dele Sobowale

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Repeal 2019 Minimum Wage Bill, Start Again – Dele Sobowale

“Those who deal in ideas, if they are wise, will welcome attack. Only a peaceful passage should dismay them; for it proves that the ideas do not affect anyone very much.”

– Professor J K Galbraith, 1908-2006, Nobel Prize Winner.

The attacks will come. They are welcome. Most of it will be from Labour leaders, never-say-die “Socialists”, media fellow travellers and others emotionally wedded to the idea that Nigeria is still a rich country – where “money is not our problem, but how to spend it”. The fallacious notion of great wealth, because we are an oil-producing nation, was planted early after we joined the oil cartel. Few people are aware that the oil bonanza was over years ago. Henceforth, exporting crude oil will not save us. It will certainly not make it possible to maintain our over-bloated public service sector anymore. The new global economic reality calls for far less reliance on oil than most of us realise

 

TODAY IS THE BEGINNING OF A NEW ECONOMIC ORDER

“Ekiti State suspends minimum wage; slashes political office holders’ salaries.”

News Report, June 5, 2021.

“Umahi sacks over 1000 board members, aides.” News Report, May 30, 2021.

Two Governors have taken tentative steps to adjust to the new normal. Governor Fayemi of Ekiti slashed the take home pay of Special Assistants; he has also reduced the number of those appointed. Nobody needs to tell the poor fellows affected, whether sacked or retained at reduced pay, to adjust their life styles to the new reality. For many, it will constitute the biggest shock of their lives.

Governor Umahi of Ebonyi State went even further. Not one to dwell on half measures, he sent his entire board members and several aides packing.  It is not surprising that Ekiti and Ebonyi were among the first states to take drastic action. They rank 33 and 32 in the league of Nigerian States. Only three other states are poorer than those two. Rest assured several states will soon follow.

Nothing sobers a person up as quickly as a sack letter. Governor El-Rufai acted first, unwisely if you ask me, and is already fighting his own battle. For the hundreds of thousands likely to go under nationwide the trauma is the same.

The entire world you have built around yourself crumbles in one minute. Self-esteem evaporates; the future looks totally bleak. Evil thoughts creep in – suicide is always a strong possibility. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. The media publishes the news on the same or the next day. There is no hiding place. You can’t go to church, mosque or club without several people asking “What happened?” Only those who had experienced it can understand how the people involved really feel. Thank God, I never did.

READ ALSO: Labour Demands For N30,000 Minimum Wage For Workers In Kwara

DON’T BELIEVE THE GOVERNOR; EXPECT RETRENCHMENT.

“States bank on PPP projects as cash crunch bites harder.” News Report, May.

Virtually all the states, and the Federal Government, are now looking longingly in the direction of the private sector to bail them out of, frequently, self-imposed financial hardships. Private-Public-Partnership, PPP, which most of them avoided like COVID-19 before is now being explored as a way out of impending disasters everywhere. To be quite candid, it is already too late for those with only two years left in office.

Despite the obvious inevitability of down-sizing, some Governors are still deceiving their people that there will be no retrenchment. Anybody who believes that rubbish has not heard that “You cannot adopt politics as a profession and remain honest.”(L. M. Howe, 1871-1936). They won’t tell the workers they are going – until the sack letter arrives. Preparing for it is the beginning of wisdom.

WHY THE MINIMUM WAGE BILL IS DEAD

“You can’t bully reality.”

One of the reasons why Nigerian governments have failed us, and might continue to fail us, is the lack of understanding of the basic principles of economics by the leaders and the led. We operate a country in which the blind lead the blind. That is why the most popular campaign promises are massive job-creation and free services – starting with education. The listeners clap; the party members go round and ram those vague promises down our throats. We vote and wait in vain for the promises to be delivered.  The Minimum Wage Bill is a classic example of how the Nigerian people conspire with the politicians to deceive themselves and develop high expectations – which invariably are not, and cannot be, met. And, that is irrespective of which political party or which candidate wins the election. As usual, readers should follow me down memory lane. As far back as December 2015, Nigerians – governments and governed alike – were warned that we would end up here today. Read on.

READ ALSO: The High Cost Of Federal Procurement

MINIMUM WAGE AND THE INEVITABLE BANKRUPTCY OF STATE GOVERNMENTS.

“Who ever reads history with application will perceive that the same events are often repeated and that we need only change the names of the actors. Frederick the Great, 1712-1786, (VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 92.)

Another economic war is about to start in Nigeria. The war will be about Minimum Wage, MW. The states want to renegotiate it, meaning reduce it. Labor also wants to renegotiate it, meaning increase it. Renegotiation seems to be the only point of agreement; it is also the battle ground. On the face of it, one would assume that this is only “a matter of cash”. But, it is more than that. The very existence of states and local governments is threatened by this conflict.

The first sounds of the 2016 war involving the governments and Labor have already been heard from most of the state governors – minus three dissenters, namely Governors Wike, Fayose and Oshiomhole. Wike, as everybody knows, faces another election and cannot be seen to be anti-labor. Self-interest is the motive here. Fayose, we know, loves to fish in troubled waters; while Oshiomhole is caught in the trap of his past as a Labour leader. The former Labour leader cannot be seen to be forsaking the people who brought him into prominence. At any rate he has only seven months to go; he can leave his successor with the problem when he goes. That is the worst form of political cynicism. Irrespective of how the three governors arrived at their current positions, they can be regarded as traitors to the cause of the other governments. They may eventually regret their dissent from the majority.

Let me declare, up front, that I strongly believe that the two sides are engaged in a war that would end up in mutual destruction — they will also destroy the states, economically, as we know them now. Most states are already tottering on the brink of bankruptcy with the current MW pegged at N18,000 per month.”

Need I say more?

 

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Op Ed

Duplicity and the Buhari Interview

THE PUBLIC SPHERE with Chido Nwakanma

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Duplicity and the Buhari Interview

President Muhamadu Buhari continued the unveiling of the PMB gauntlet on Thursday, 10 June 2021, by granting an interview to Arise Television. It was strategic in timing and import.

The PMB Gauntlet is a series of actions and statements over the last six months making clear the decision of Mr President and the Presidency to implement the prioritisation of cattle and cattle routes, the importance of the Fulani and the North and his disdain of Southern Nigeria with the South-East at the apex.

The interview revealed deep things that otherwise literate Nigerians miss and continue to misread the man. After years of staying away from interactions with the media, PMB agreed to do one. Why?

  1. He could crow about the Lagos-Ibadan railway project as proof of his vaunted infrastructure programme.
  2. He needed to unleash his venom on those he considered enemies.
  3. It was a few days to 12 June; perfect for messaging the South-West and the South-East and mollycoddling the South-South.

The excitable have dismissed aspects of the interview wherein PMB seemed to go into the forest instead of facing the road in response to questions. To them it is proof of the sickness and intellectual vacuity of the president. Note that he did the same thing during his appearance at the United Nations in the recent past. He ignored a question and focused on reading a prepared text. The uninformed sniggered while intellectuals lamented our ill-luck in having such a “dumb” president.

Experts are coming out of the woodworks. They insist that some of his miscues represent a reputational risk for management by his communication team. Others claim that a man who has lost his onions is leading Nigeria.

Prof Farooq Kperogi wrote: “I’ve just had a chance to watch soul-depressing, dementia-plagued clips of Buhari’s incoherent, genocidal, and ethnocentric babble that passes for an interview, and all I’m inclined to say at this point is that people who believe in Nigeria can only hope against hope that the country survives the suspended animation Buhari instigates and presides over. Trying to make sense of Buhari is now completely pointless.”

The professor of mass communication gets it on “genocidal and ethnocentric”. On the contrary, Kperogi, we need now more than ever before to make sense of Buhari. A determined ethnocentric is leading Nigeria with a clear and evil plan.

Buhari’s answers at the Arise Interview showed articulation where he wanted and strange befuddlement as desired. He deliberately threw those bones of seeming amnesiac moments to the lettered, mainly Southerners. The goal is to keep them guffawing while he executes his plans. People forget that PMB is a military man schooled in the deception and feints of the military.

Following three failed attempts to return to the headship of Nigeria, PMB learnt to apply Taqqiyah and his military lessons. He played along with those who promised to deliver the crown to him. Unlike in 2011, for instance, he went to all parts of Nigeria in 2015. He agreed to appear in the attires of all Nigerian ethnic groups.

Some friends of mine worked for his campaign. They compiled those lofty campaign promises in a booklet. PMB showcased the brochure at a rally at the Teslim Balogun Stadium. Once he got into power, he disowned the publication in a statement Garba Shehu signed. We have in PMB a wily imperious emperor giving the impression of a simple-minded village bumpkin.

Over the years, PMB cultivated the persona of a simple, almost rustic and poor man. As a brilliant Doris Obi Enwezor has noted, “It allowed the educated to underestimate him and the poor to identify with him.” It yielded a passionate following. He then made a fool of the lettered and showed how shallow they are. He dumped all those who claimed political sophistication before his election, knowing they were irrelevant. PMB has created another category: persons to blame for his misdeeds and those who defend his every action.

He used everyone who willingly lent him their reputations. Many are still smarting from the deception.

PMB responded candidly to questions that he wanted to answer. He passed responsibility for managing insecurity arising from the carnage of herders and bandits to the governors though those ones have no control of any armed forces and PMB had denied other Nigerians of arms. He reaffirmed his hate and fatwa on the Igbo. We are all members of IPOB to him, and our land is a mere dot with no exits. “We are going to treat them in the language they will understand. I have told the military and police to be ruthless with them”.  Whether or not you spoke for or against IPOB, you are a secessionist and terrorist in the Buhari book of Nigeria. Moreover, he affirmed the allegiance of the South-South not only to him but to blocking South-Easterners.

He blamed restive youth for the declining FDI under his leadership rather than the absence of policy and enabling environment.

PMB confirmed his roots in the Niger Republic and stated, devil-may-care, that the investment in the rail line to Maradi is to link him with his cousins. It negates the constitution, but what is that in the Buhari world? Here he threw another bone at intellectuals. He wants us to interrogate the Partition of Africa between 1881 and 1914. Smart distraction.

Then he claimed disingenuously that his appointments relied on the merit criterion as well as seniority. Another example of the Buhari gauntlet thrown at Nigerians: what can you do about it anyway, knowing that it is untrue?

Welcome, Ozymandias. All roads hereafter lead to wherever Buhari desires. Or so he assumes. It is man’s eternal conceit, the Nebuchadnezzar Syndrome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Op Ed

Who Wants To Rename Nigeria?

By Safiyanu Danladi Mairiga

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Who Wants To Rename Nigeria?

Many things in Nigeria start like a joke, so, it won’t surprise if the proposal for renaming our 60-year-old country also started that way. The proposed change of name has caused mixed reactions among Nigerians, especially on Twitter and Facebook–some in support and majority, kicking against it.

Federal lawmakers from both chambers have been going around the country in the past two weeks collating opinions from citizens on the planned constitutional amendment. Groups and individuals nationwide have submitted memoranda to the various committees on their areas of interest or in other words, how they want the to-be amended constitution to be. Some submissions centered on the creation of additional states and local governments; some on economic restructuring; some on youth engagements in governance and indeed many other areas of interest.

READ ALSO: FG Is Addressing Job Creation For Youths — Lai Mohammed

But it came to me as indeed many Nigerians as a surprise when the House of Representatives announced that it received a proposal from a tax consultant in Lagos, Adeleye Jokotoye, seeking for the renaming of the country to the United African Republic. To Jokotoye, the name Nigeria was a colonial creation by the British and therefore, does not reflect our culture.

The point is that Nigeria–not only the name–but the country itself, is a colonial creation. The country was born in January 1914 when the then British colonial governor, Fredrick Lugard, brought the northern and southern protectorates together to form a single colony for easy exploitation. So, many things including institutions that exist today in this country are colonial creations. His reasoning, therefore, holds no water.

What’s wrong with the current name? And will renaming the country bring a lasting solution to the challenges the country is battling with today?

Will the proposal change our debt profile; will it change the corruption in the public service and the attitudes of citizens?

The major focus for all of us–the government and the governed alike–should be on how to sustain our fragile unity and restore trust and tolerance among diverse ethnic groups in the country. The unity of this country only starts and stops on the lips of its citizens but doesn’t reflect in their actions and how they relate. You understand this more when you traverse the country.

READ ALSO: Biafra Customary Govt: Dokubo A Joker Seeking Attention – FG

There are tensions all over the land with each region facing its peculiar security and other economic challenges. Insecurity and agitations by secessionist groups are at an increase. Southeast has now become a hot zone with incidents of killings and destructions being reported on a daily basis all in the name of agitating for an independent state that was unsuccessfully fought some 50 years ago, this time around, with Nnamdi Kanu spearheading and commanding the frontline agitators from London. Agitation for the creation of the Oduduwa republic has sprung up in the southwest with Sunday Ogboho in the lead. ISWAP has now expanded its criminal activities from the territories of the northeast to the northwest and has been launching attacks and kidnapping innocent citizens including students in schools. This story is not different in the north-central.

So, I’m of the opinion that what we need now is not a change of identity. We need the government at the center to be serious in how it deals with issues and how it confronts most of these known problems. These problems that are fast accumulating are posing serious threats to our democracy that haven’t lasted for even a quarter a century and also to our corporate existence as a nation. All hands must now be on deck to get this country back on track, else we will all gather to regret our actions and what the dysfunction of our system has caused us all.

If this joke of Adeleye becomes true, it means we will need aside from the new name, also a new anthem; a new coat of arms; perhaps a new flag; and so many new things.

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