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OPINION

25 lessons I learnt from Olusegun Osoba’s autobiography, ‘Battlelines: Adventures in Journalism and Politics, By Azuh Arinze

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I devoted my weekend to devouring Aremo Olusegun Osoba’s autobiography, Battlelines – Adventures In Journalism And Politics. And without any apology, I want to confess that I thoroughly relished and enjoyed it. I also would like to recommend it to all, but especially journalists and politicians whose terrains were well covered in the book.

Parading all of 341 pages, and published by Diamond Publications Limited, Battlelines, besides being racy and unputdownable, is simply one ‘helluva’ a book. Once you pick it up, you won’t want to put it down. And personally, I never stopped till I finished.

Like most autobiographical works, the book is littered with life’s lessons. But below are my 25 favourites:

1. ALWAYS BE PREPARED: Osoba, from my deductions from the book, was more than prepared, especially by his godfather, Alhaji Babatunde Jose, for all the roles he ended up playing, both in journalism and politics. Simply put, it was that preparation, both internal and external, that enabled him rise to the top ‘so fast’. Imagine having a Vespa and a telephone line even as a reporter! Osoba sure invested in himself and his craft.

2. YOU NEED QUALITY CONTACTS IN JOURNALISM: Osoba, in his active days, was not an ‘office journalist’. He was always out there in the field. And armed with enough quality sources and contacts, his report card is still being admired and saluted till date, even by the younger generation. For example, while the Nigeria/Biafra war was on and Zik made a surprise appearance at the Lagos airport, he was there to capture it; he also interviewed President Tubman of Liberia, President Gowon and equally got some exclusive photos, from the singular event, although the headline he gave the story: ‘Head Of State Excited, Very Happy’ later earned him an arrest by Umaru Shinkafi, who was in charge of national security then.

3. TO SUCCEED, YOU MUST BE READY TO TAKE RISKS: Osoba, a master risk taker, captured it thus: “A journalist who cannot take risk and is unadventurous is not worthy of the name…” Risk takers, sincerely, usually succeed more than those who are lily livered. And it’s evident in the book. From moving even when there was a curfew to venturing where many dreaded, Osoba, simply put, is lion-hearted.

4. RECORD KEEPING IS VERY IMPORTANT: Facts, indeed, speak for themselves. So, always keep records. Osoba, besides making some shocking revelations, was able to back them up with incontrovertible evidence(s). From Confidential government documents to decades-old letters, the Akinrogun has them all in the book. Obasanjo/I.A Taiwo, Jose/Sketch, Momoh/Ibrahim, Omowale Kuye/ Herald…Even personal communication/letters between Alade Odunewu/Babatunde Jose/L.L Cross concerning his studies abroad were all captured in the book.

5. PRAY TO BE AT THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME: Journalists are not spirits. They only depend on sources, ideas, tip offs and so on to write beautiful stories. Being at the right place at the right time also helps. And it really, really helped Osoba. Just two examples will suffice here – he had gone on a visit to Atom Kpera in Enugu and while waiting in the man’s office, the then CP of the State, Kafaru Tinubu came to inform him that Dimka had been arrested and thus he became the first to break the story; same with his discovery of the corpse of our then Prime Minister, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.

6. YOU MUST ALWAYS STATE YOUR SIDE: And then let the people judge/decide. Osoba, from the book, detests being ‘lied’ against. And here is a solid example. Despite having conclude work on this very book, Afenifere chieftain, Pa Ayo Adebanjo, released his own book, ‘Telling It As It Is’, where he said certain uncomplimentary things about Osoba. Know what he did? He recalled his own book and added an extra chapter, which he called ‘Replying It As It Is…’ Just to state his own side!

7. TRIBALISM HAS ALWAYS BEEN IN NIGERIA: Yes, tribalism didn’t just start in our country. It has always been with us and most likely will continue to be. According to Osoba, just because he’s from Ogun, himself and Mr. Peter Ajayi were labelled non-Kwarans at the Nigerian Herald. So much so that the people after them almost succeeded in instigating General George Innih, the man who took over from Ibrahim Taiwo, who recruited him, to send them packing.

8. LOYALTY MATTERS SO MUCH: Besides his own angles, Osoba also talked about the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo; how despite advice against fielding J.S Olawoyin as UPN guber candidate in 1979, he still went ahead, just because of the man’s loyalty. And guess what? Olawoyin later lost to Adamu Atta of NPN.

9. ALWAYS GIVE HONOUR TO WHOM IT IS DUE: I love people who admit their imperfections, inadequacies, foibles and mistakes. Osoba, magnanimously, acknowledged APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as a man of both immense political sagacity and strategy. He gave a public ‘Tuale’ to the man whose followers and admirers fondly address as Jagaban, Lion of Bourdillon, Strongman of Southwest Politics, Alpha & Omega of Lagos Politics for the two new parties that eventually ended up as APC, the roping in of more political parties and ultimately the dislodging of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s administration and PDP.

10. LIES HAVE SHORT LEGS: But certainly not truth or the truth. Mercilessly accused of betraying Chief Frank Kokori, the erstwhile NUPENG President, who tormented the hell out of late General Sani Abacha’s life, and following the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, won by Bashorun MKO Abiola, Osoba was however exonerated after 20 obviously agonizing and sad years of carrying that cross and stigma by Kokori, who exposed it in his memoirs that the fellow who sold him to his enemies was Mr. Fred Eno. The just, indeed, shall always be vindicated. Though it may take long, it must surely happen.

11. BE NICE TO THE PEASANTS: The saying that ‘oga’s life is in the hands of his houseboy and vice versa’ rings through in the book. While the security agents were looking for him here and there, the vulcanizers on his street, and who obviously he had been very nice to, were always tipping him and his wife off whenever they suspected any person or smelt any rat. Thus, he was able to repeatedly escape from Sergeant Rogers and his gang.

12. KEEP YOUR HANDS CLEAN: History never forgets. In fact, it always sticks out like a sore thumb. The shameful role played by Chief Francis Arthur Nzeribe, Abimbola Davies, their cohorts as well as their ignoble ABN (Association for Better Nigeria) was well documented and frozen for posterity in the book. So, let’s always remember tomorrow and be mindful of the things we do.

13. ALWAYS MAKE YOUR BOSS LOOK GOOD: Robert Greene, in one of his classics, 48 Laws Of Power, admonished us never to outshine the master. And this was exactly what Osoba did when himself and Abiola were trying to get the late General Musa Yar’Adua to convince his men to support Abiola. Abiola, according to Osoba, made a political mistake, but rather than blame him for that when confronted by an obviously angry Yar’Adua, Osoba chose to be the fall guy.

14. PRAY FOR A GOOD WIFE: He that findeth a good wife indeed has it all. And Abiola’s first wife, Simbiat, was a good example. According to Osoba, while trying to govern Ogun, which is also Abiola’s State of origin, it happened that Abiola was not only supporting SDP’s Abdullateef Dele, but had also given him N500,000 then. On getting wind of this, Osoba, a member of SDP and from whom Abiola not long ago sought a favour, visited him at home to complain. While they were at it and arguing back and forth, Simbiat, who obviously was eavesdropping and watching the drama unfolding in their sitting room, went to bring Abiola’s cheque book, insisting that he also be given a cheque of N500,000. And ‘na so equation come balance’.

15. BE A MAN OF PRINCIPLE: The late conscience of the nation, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, used to have one popular quote: ‘Stand for what is right even if you are standing alone’. Osoba, on a few occasions, did exactly that. And two examples will suffice here – one was when Obasanjo needed the support of Egba people, and face to face with Ebora Owu, Akinrogun told him he wasn’t going to do that; the second was when he personally issued a statement countering Egba’s support for Chief Ernest Shonekan, to ‘inherit’ Abiola’s mandate.

16. IT PAYS TO LEARN FROM THE MASTERS: We all need mentors; quality mentors. And just like the disciples of Jesus learnt at his feet, Osoba, politically, learnt at the feet of masters of the game like Obafemi Awolowo, Bola Ige, Michael Ajasin, Bisi Onabanjo…

17. A LITTLE MADNESS IS SOMETIMES GOOD: Yes! Nobody has a monopoly of madness, and Osoba confirmed it in Battlelines. Believing that Sketch, which Osoba was overseeing then was against him, Governor Omololu Olunloyo, had visited in Osoba’s absence and locked up the office. On his return, Osoba broke all the padlocks and ordered his men to return to work. To cut a long story short, a truce was eventually brokered. And that was it.

18. GOING TO PARTIES IS NOT BAD: In fact, we must all cultivate the habit of attending parties. But mostly quality parties. It is good for networking and other things too. It was while at a party at the Officers’ Mess in Marina, Lagos that one John Momodu informed Osoba about his sack from Daily Times, and instantly he swung into action and eventually had it reversed. Again, it was also at another party in Apapa that he met his wife, Derin, after their first encounter at the airport. Even the controversial story on the deportation of Shugaba, the GNPP Majority Leader in Borno State, accused of being from Niger Republic, equally came at a party.

19. LIFE IS AN UNENDING BATTLE: So also is jealousy. And Osoba had his fair share, both in journalism and politics. The sweetest thing,however, is that ultimately he triumphed over most of them. A vivid example in the book is Mr. Dayo Duyile’s alleged futile attempts to scuttle his joining Sketch.

20. CARRY YOUR PEOPLE ALONG: The popular saying, ‘chop alone, die alone’ must have ‘guided’ Osoba in most of his undertakings. Nearly all through the book, you would hear him talking about his two buddies, Peter Ajayi and Felix Adenaike. In fact, the trio were so inseparable that the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo nicknamed them ‘The Three Musketeers’. They were together in good times and in bad times. Which all of us must also learn from.

21. FORGIVE ALL, BUT DON’T FORGET ALL: Yeah, our Christian brothers and sisters may disagree with this. But that is Osoba for you. He forgives and forgets some, but definitely not all. Currently in the same political party with Chief Tony Momoh, who incidentally succeeded him as the MD of Daily Times, Osoba couldn’t resist capturing how Momoh attempted to have him sacked from Daily Times until he deployed his wide network to circumvent that. And according to him, both of them are still friends!

22. WE ALL LOVE WOMEN: Yes, all men do. Except those who pretend or choose to be discreet about theirs. Osoba admitted sowing his seeds of wild oats and tumbling under the duvets with daughters of Eve. He was a man about town and even dated a white lady, whom his mother never wanted him to marry. Everything, however, changed when the ebony beauty called Derin appeared on the scene, bought his heart ‘wholesale’ and locked it up permanently.

23. ALWAYS THINK ON YOUR FEET: To his then editor, he was after his job. But having occupied that position myself and also seen how panicky some editors become whenever they begin to see you as a threat, Osoba has my total support. A coup had just taken place, but rather than race to the office to do the story, an editor remains at home. A daring reporter steps in, does the story beautifully, ably guided by the great Babatunde Jose, his editor makes it to the office after almost 24 hours and then begins to accuse the reporter of eyeing his position! Anyway, Osoba eventually landed the position, but certainly not because he had his eyes set on that from the onset. Rather it was his good works that did it. So, you must always be strategic; don’t just do anything, but do the most strategic ones. They will always announce you and open special doors for you.

24. WE ENJOY DEFENDING OUR MISTAKES: Osoba, alleged to be temperamental, interestingly, blamed it on journalism. Hear him: “You cannot be in the newsroom and not be temperamental…” Hmmmm! Coming from an elder, I won’t say more than that.

25. AND YET WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES: Yes, nobody, including the master is insulated or exempted from mistakes. So, what exactly am I trying to say? Simple – it’s that some things could have been done better, especially editing-wise. On page 295, paragraph 1, …as Rogers told the curt (instead of court); still on that page, but in paragraph 2, …earlier in this book, I have (instead of had) narrated; on page 283, paragraph 6, …Ooni…was the first of (instead of to) discuss; on page 286, paragraph 4, …continued making ight (instead of light); on page 293, paragraph 2, …at Ogun Stae (instead of State) INEC; on page 306, paragraph 2, …Economic (and was missing) Financial Crimes Commission; page 315, paragraph 3, …earlier is (instead of in) the same speech; page 318, paragraph 2, …The (National) Independent National Electoral…; on page 40, last paragraph, you (instead of your); on page 17, paragraph 2,…Animashaun whose remains is (instead of are); page 31, paragraph 2…such as the Ajiborishas (,), Ajibodus and other (s is missing); page 108, paragraph 2,…succeeded also of because (instead of because of); page 153, paragraph 3…accussations (instead of accusations); page 160, paragraph 1,…while Ikenne wouold (instead of would); page 184, paragraph 1,…meant winning ar (instead of at)…

Hopefully, all that’s been noted above and others will be corrected in subsequent editions of this awesome book, which once again I implore everybody to get copies of. Thanks so much for reading and may all our battles always end in our favour…

– Azuh is a respected journalist, author and motivational speaker

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OPINION

Oniru Obaship Stool: Enough of lies, By Babatunde Olowu

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The late Oba Oniru

It has become necessary to nip in the bud the vicious lies being shamelessly peddled by certain unscrupulous fellows who have allowed their greed to rob them of their senses. Where good people choose to stay away while untruths are being fed to the people, they (the good people) enable the ground upon which the truth is forever lost, actual history is interred and the lies become the new truths.

The desires of certain persons to illegally appropriate the currently vacant stool of Oniru of Iruland has foolishly caused them to fabricate history and feed their fabrications to the innocent members of the public. After several failed previous attempts at selling their fabrications to the people, they have invented a new one wherein they are claiming that a certain ruling house within the Oniru Royal Family had been occupying the Obaship stool of Oniru of Iruland for the past 75 (Seventy Five) years. This claim, we must say, is the height of falsity. That any lineage has been occupying the Obaship stool of Onri of Iruland for the past 75 (Seventy Five) years is both factually unfounded and legally ungrounded.

To set the record straight, it is a verifiable fact that there has been only 1 (one) Kabiyesi Oniru of Iruland from time immemorial till date. The Late Kabiyesi, Oba Abidoun Idowu Oniru has been the only Oba of Iruland till date. Therefore, we must not fail to ask these evil people who are hell bent on wanting the people to believe that the one family has been occupying the Obaship stool of Iruand for a phantom period of 75 years to please tell the world who the occupants are prior to the late Oba Abidoun Idowu Oniru. Just like in the case of Obaship of Ikate, only one Eleguishi of ikateland reigned before the present Oba who incidentally is the son of immediate past Oba.

To further expose the lies, prior to 1995 when the late Oba Abidoun Idowu Oniru was crowned as the first Oba of Iruland, what obtained was a chieftaincy position. One does not require any form of formal education in order to appreciate the difference between a king and a chief.

May we advise that rather than resorting to harmful lies, these peddlers of falsehoods may vie to be chiefs, if they so desire: the only obstacle is that even to become a chief in Iruland or anywhere else in Lagos State, integrity is key (a quality they apparently lack).

It is not much of a surprise that these unscrupulous fellows would take this path of dishonour and shamelessly seek to mislead our people: we know their antecedents. Persons that have built a culture out of deceiving people cannot change over night. As the saying goes: eefin ni iwa.

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OPINION

No to escalating Nigeria’s debt profile, By Abba Dukawa

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In January 1984 Major General Buhari  justified the coup by saying that the civilian government  overthrew was hopelessly corrupt.
 As a result of our inability to cultivate financial discipline and prudent management of the economy, we have come to depend largely on internal and external borrowing to execute government projects with attendant domestic pressure and soaring external debts, thus aggravating the propensity of the outgoing civilian administration to mismanage our financial resources. Nigeria was already condemned perpetually with the twin problem of heavy budget deficits and weak balance of payments position, with the prospect of building a virile and viable economy. However, in the case of Nigeria, its impact was aggravated by mismanagement. We believe the appropriate government agencies have good advice but the leadership disregarded their advice.
The situation could have been avoided if the legislators were alive to their constitutional responsibilities; Instead, the legislators were preoccupied with determining their salary scales, fringe benefit and unnecessary foreign travels, et al, which took no account of the state of the economy and the welfare of the people they represented.
This was what our perceive Messiah said in 1984 accused both  legislators and executive members of not  being  financial discipline and prudent management of the economy.
Nigeria debt has almost doubled since Buhari took over  two months before Buhari took office on 29 May – the country owed a total of N12 trillion. At the end of June 2015, country debt had risen slightly to N12.1 trillion. By the end of June 2018, total public debt had almost doubled to N22.4 trillion. Going by this frightening figures  released by the Debt Management Office, the total debt stock stood at some humongous N24.047tn as of March 31, 2019. As its now the debt risen to  N25 trillion (US$80 billion).
 A gaskiya the recent request by President Buhari  asked National Assembly to approve $30 billion of foreign borrowings after a similar request three years ago was rejected is scaring and Nigerians on the street not wants it. Because poor Nigerians seeing  raised over Nigeria’s ever escalating debt profile is scary economic situation throws up some salient questions, all begging for answers. Nigeria is  using 50% of its revenue to service its debts! this is unsustainable. But this is just part of an economic malaise that has consigned millions of Nigerians to “multidimensional poverty” even as a few favoured ones continue to enjoy the nation’s wealth.
 Surely Nigeria do not need comprehensive mathematics  to understand that the country’s economic growth is undermined by the huge debt stock as well as other obvious factors including sheer profligacy in running government.  Nigeria’s debilitating debt profile” in January 2015. But, the situation has only worsened over the years. Recall that in June 2017, experts,  Prof. Pat Utomi and   Mr. Bismarck Rewane, had expressed a similar worry over the increasing debt burden at both the state and federal levels.
Its seem like most of the financial policies of the administration is not fevour masses that spends hours under the sun to vote the administration. It may be recalled that Nigeria’s Senate on 21 November 2019 passed the Finance Bill, 2019 after the third reading just as the House of Representative is expected to kowtow. The bill, as presented to the National Assembly in October 2019, includes vast changes to the Companies Income Tax Act, Value Added Tax (VAT) Act, Petroleum Profits Tax Act (PPTA), Personal Income Tax Act, Capital Gains Tax Act (CGTA), Customs and Excise Tariff Etc. (Consolidation) Act and Stamp Duties Act. What really surprising Nigerians is whether our lawmakers understanding the gravity of their actions in causing more hardship because
 contemplating an increase in VAT rate now is bad timing and inconsistent with current economic reality… VAT increase will lead to higher inflation, interest rate hike, more unemployment and generally make people poorer.
One’s current concern, however, is who will pay these huge debts? Will the burden being left by the reckless and frivolous political class not be too weighty for the lean shoulders of our jobless children? Will they not be turned to slaves and beggars in their own country by the creditor nations, just because they want to pay off the debts left by the locusts that have ravaged our common patrimony? But that is not all.One is surprised too about the speed with which governors go for questionable bonds at the end of their tenures. What is the guarantee that the incoming administrations and the subsequent ones would have the capacity to repay without harming the security and welfare of the citizens which are their primary reasons of being in government? The earlier we started having credible answers to these burning questions, the better for us all.
Dukawa can be reach at abbahydukawa@gmail.com
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OPINION

Money Politics: Nigeria’s delicate delicacy, By Abiodun Komolafe

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I have written a few weeks back about the lamentation of the 14th Emir of Kano, Alhaji Lamido Sanusi II. However, the critical mass of Nigerians still seems to be going about their daily social activities as if nothing frightening is in the offing. Indeed, something frightening is in the offing! In reality, similar situations that are indeed worse than what Sanusi pointed our attention to are in multiple ways happening all around us. While it may be good enough to pretend as if they are not there, the earlier Nigerians paid attention to them before they snowball into a tornado of unimaginable cataclysms, the better for the health of our country.

In the First Republic, for example, there was the issue of corruption and the influence of money. However, it was not as pervasive as we have it now. And there are reasons for that! First is the phenomenal surge in commitment and political participation. The percentage of the population that was actively involved in politics at the time was not as alarming as it is today. Secondly, people contributed money – as members and co-owners of the party – to finance party activities. Nowadays, reverse is the case! Political parties are formed and people are invited to join. And, the party, through its co-owners, sponsor candidates, finance the day-to-day running of the party and determine what happens in the party. And each ‘party owner’ must be a moneybag. Otherwise, the party will not fly!

From the Second Republic, money politics approached a different, dangerous dimension; and only God knows where Nigeria is now headed. Today, if you ask anybody who is a member of a political party in Nigeria how much he or she has contributed to the purse of his or her party, the response will certainly shock you. That is why carpet-crossing thrives; and why commitment to party ideology and manifestoes is superficial at best. This is a very critical challenge but, unfortunately, it has not been addressed because Nigerians are not paying attention!

When we talk about money politics, we are talking about how money influences and affects our political engagements and participation. To be sure, a robust understanding of the basics of the negative effects of money-politics gives meaning and intelligibility to the greed and Modus Operandi of most governments. When people, who are apathetic to democratic ideals, development and Public Administration, come together as a formidable force, it then becomes problematic for the society. Most political gladiators and public servants are aware of this, but, unrepentantly, always acquiesce. Thus, impunity comes in; accountability becomes a problem; and transparency is a non-issue! There and then, party hierarchies will remain what they are because people will not be responsible to the party but only to their bellies. Once this happens, it goes back to what Sanusi has already addressed because money politics ensures that people begin to have a feeling or belief that “money answereth all things.”

More than just talking, there is a malaise invented by the military; and that is the demystification of the power of the political party in Nigeria. For lack of a better word, it was nothing but a muzzling of the social institutions in the country such that the military now appears as a Leviathan. Of course, this ‘might-is-right’ succession mentality succeeded in crippling that aspect of our social institutions; and all eyes could see it. Sadly, we are yet to recover from it! Not even in this incredibly complicated clime where good is repaid with evil and loyalty is rewarded with abandonment. Anyway, that’s a story for another day!

In 2016, Donald Trump won America’s presidential election because of certain factors which the Democrats didn’t see; which, again, they are yet to figure out! But Leon Trotsky saw it! Marx Weber saw it! Anthonio Gramsci also saw it! These men are majorly conflict theorists whose works revolve around peace in order to have prosperity! Put in concise terms, the common denominator, as we speak, is poverty. That the people are hungry is no doubt a minus for any party that claims to be people-centric in its affairs. Forget the wattages of excuses and messianic propositions that are only worthy of utopian solutions. The frightening truth is that poverty is endemic in Nigeria and Nigerians have existential needs! Although there is an unrestricted free flow of cash in the country, majority of the population are cash-strapped; which explains why politicians move from house-to-house, on the eve of elections, to exact oaths from prospective voters.

All said, can there be an end to money politics in Nigeria or has this debilitating cancer, currently devouring Nigeria’s political firmament, come to stay? Well, when the people wake up in the morning without an assured way of life sustenance, it then means that the real issues have not been addressed. It is the same reason a hungry voter will continue to compromise his or her conscience. Unfortunately, ‘owners of Nigeria’ have refused to listen to the ground with a view to legislating against this oddity of crass materialism and naira-centred politics. Again, that is why the toilers are starving only for the stealers to continue to act as if the people don’t matter in their scheme of things. So, until we have effective equity in the control and distribution of the commonwealth of this country, the balance between life chances and economic prosperity of the majority will remain very thin and threatened. Until issues relating to economic unfreedom are dealt with, there will neither be peace nor prosperity.

Basically, if the critical mass of the society is saying that an election has no meaning, such an election will not only lose credibility, the resulting government will also give life to illegitimacy. Once an election lacks legitimacy, the emerging government automatically lacks authority. And the lack of authority will always be in constant conversation with chaos! If a formed government does not derive its oxygen from the active support and backing of the critical mass of the society, the possibility of that government collapsing is, without doubt, very high. Jokes apart, it is like a suicide mission! Remi Fani Kayode, Adegoke Adelabu and Ladoke Akintola understood that precept. Lamidi Adedibu only came later to expand the horizon of the philosophy! And that’s the danger of what we are discussing here!

May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!

 

*KOMOLAFE writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria (ijebujesa@yahoo.co.uk

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