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OPINION

The Boss as a Bridge-builder

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Boss Gida Mustapha, Secretary to the Government (SGF)

Mr Boss Mustapha, even when he was the helmsman at the Inland Waterways Authority, carried out his duties efficiently outside the public glare which is rare for a man of his political standing. This may have prompted President Muhammadu Buhari to choose him to replace the disgraced former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal.

The President, after the heat generated by the indiscretions of the former occupant of that all- important Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), in his thinking, wanted a less noisy and less controversial candidate who will be diligent enough to carry out his duties earnestly and without attracting negative attention either to himself or to his office. So far Mustapha has lived up to the billing combining, dexterously, the administrative schedules of the OSGF with its immense political demands. Though he claimed not to have come into the office with any special skills, but by adopting the strategies that made it possible for him to interface, mediate, negotiate and extend a hand of fellowship to the office’s numerous stakeholders, he assured people with varying shades of grievances, that they are part of Nigeria.

He made the stakeholders that looked up to his office to understand that they can make claims for which the government is obligated to listen to them. Through this approach, he has been able to attain relative peace in areas and among people with issues that had tended to generate conflicts.

Re-echoing the President’s assurances that we would work to avoid the conflicts which are needless, the office of the OSGF which Mustapha occupies, has done a lot in that area. Narrating his efforts in this direction he said in a recent media appearance that “we have tried as much as possible to interface with the traditional rulers who are the first respondents in most communities through the National Council of Nigerian Traditional Rulers, which is co-chaired by the Ooni of Ife and the Sultan of Sokoto. We have had series of meetings. Not long ago, I was in Kaduna, where we had a joint one for the Northern states and subsequently we had that of the South-East in Owerri. We are working to have that of the South West in Ibadan or Lagos, which we haven’t fixed the time and one for the South South.”

Sounding optimistic, he also said that to move a little bit further, some of these conflicts and clashes that were noticeable in the polity are results of unfortunate suspicions that have eaten deep into our psyche as a result of religious and other differences.

To address this, the SGF breathed life into the hitherto moribund Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC). This Council which had existed before he came into office, for a period of about six years, held no meetings. “I had to do a lot of spadework to convince the leadership that we needed to go back to the negotiation table and begin to talk. When the people outside begin to see the leaders of different faiths talking, it encourages them to have a sense or feeling that our problems will be sorted out.”

In his assessment of that approach to conflict resolution, Mustapha said that “it has helped us tremendously and we have had segregated meetings in all the six geo-political zones where NIREC could be meeting at different levels. The same thing with the National Council for Traditional Rulers which is part of what we are doing in addition to what the government is doing as well as the OSGF because we have the responsibility for public safety and security.”

He observed that the government had to take these steps to ensure that the people are in dialogue, talking and trying to find solutions to the problems that have engulfed the country. The SGF expressed his confidence that as much as the dialogue process and peaceful resolution of crisis continues, “it will reflect in our communities and we would find solutions to our conflicts and begin to accept that we need to resolve our conflicts than engaging in the shedding of blood that has really caused a stigmatization of the nation.”

The SGF sees his approach to public safety and security which his association with religious and traditional rulers has helped as a cardinal function of his office. In addition, “it is very imperative for me to have an eye on enforcement agencies when it comes to public safety and security. And part of what we have been able to do concerns especially the challenges that we find in this country.”

In a futuristic note, the SGF continued, “but the basic thing is going forward, as we go into 2019-2023 what the government will be looking at is strengthening the institutions; putting in place mechanism that will help stop corruption from taking place because it comes with a lot of expenses which I know require a lot of paradigm shifts.

One way we can do it as a people is to begin to create safety nets for the people that are involved in the work place. Once you are able to create a safety net; something that can take care of them in terms of any major accident, insurance packages that can cover them and their families, people will have less tendency in indulging in corrupt practices. Nobody wants to be stigmatized with corruption which is the truth, but I know it is this fear of the unknown that normally propels people into doing that.

Going forward, we should strengthen the institutions and build capacities for them; make sure too that we create safety nets around the whole places so that people can have a bit of comfort. No government has ever recovered the kind of money that we have recovered, the kind of properties that have been seized, now going through the processes of temporary forfeiture and eventually permanent forfeiture and after they are disposed and the funds generated will be ploughed into treasury account.

Because of the single treasury system that has been put in place, so much money can be accumulated and be used to fund projects, provide for social services for the people of this country. The other aspect of it is the diversification of the economy, I think we have done very well in that area, particularly in the area of development of infrastructure. Most countries long time ago knew that if they could provide roads, provide rail then they would open up their countries, there will be influx of businesses and I think in that area, in a better way, we have succeeded tremendously. Not only that, even in the area of agriculture, so much investments have gone into agriculture. The anchor borrowers’ scheme has provided so much resources. As at the time we went to campaign, it was about N86 billion that was expended from that and you know how many millionaires have come out through the scheme, particularly in the area of growing of rice. We grew the rice farmers population from 4 million to 12 million. So, it’s a mass of people that have benefited from that scheme.

Then the social investment programme has, in the last two years, done so much in creating wealth for the small business people. Is it the farmer money or the trader money, market money, and so many of these programmes have helped generate employment for the people. The school feeding programme in the south has created wealth for a lot of people and so many people have gone back to the farms, millions are required to feed the students on daily basis, so much monitoring are required, so many food vendors, women have been employed as cooks servicing that particular industry. So I believe that to a large extent, we have diversified the economy. We realize that we came at a time when there was a major drop in crude oil prices, but we were able to navigate, despite that to come out of recession, I think we have done so well and therefore we can do better for the people of this country.

-Muhammad wrote in from Jalingo

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OPINION

Aisha Buhari: The travails of a first lady in Aso Rock

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By Olalekan Abdullahi
Nigeria’s First Lady, Mrs. Aisha Buhari is certainly facing an existential battle, despite being the wife of the President of the most populous black country in the world.
Her travails are not actually from her husband, President Muhammadu Buhari, but from those that surround him, who she strongly believes are trying to make life difficult for her and her children, and she appears to be helpless as her husband does not seem perturbed by what she has been complaining about right in Aso Rock, the seat of Nigeria’s government where the first family resides.
Hajia Aisha Buhari has never failed to express her views on issues concerning the running of the government and matters that have to do with her family and her husband’s administration generally.
Aisha comes across as a very strong woman and what most Nigerians appreciate about her, is the fact that she speaks her mind.
The First Lady has voiced out the truth on many occasions damning whatever consequences that may arise.
She once spoke up fiercely against the “cabal” frustrating her husband’s government. An act many people, especially first ladies, have notably shied away from.
The First Lady is noted to be active on Facebook, twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms where she objectively criticizes the policies of the government and even offers suggestions when and where necessary to the surprise of many Nigerians.
In October 2016, Aisha Buhari during an interview with BBC, openly criticized the President suggesting that she might not support his 2019 re-election bid.
Aisha Buhari also claimed that some people had hijacked Buhari’s government.
“The president does not know 45 out of 50, of the people he appointed and I don’t know them either, despite being his wife of 27 years.
“Some people are sitting down in their homes folding their arms only for them to be called to come and head an agency or a ministerial position”.
“…If things continue like this up to 2019, I will not go out and campaign again and ask any woman to vote like I did before. I will never do it again,” she said.
Mrs. Buhari also alleged that a ‘powerful caucus’ is behind the presidential appointments.
In response to APC party’s mishandling of 2019 elections party primaries, Aisha publicly said: “It is disheartening to note that some aspirants used their hard-earned money to purchase nomination forms, got screened, cleared and campaigned vigorously yet found their names omitted on election day, these forms were bought at exorbitant prices.”
The Nigeria’s first lady also accused the APC Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole of condoning impunity and threatened to dissociate herself from the party if it continued.
Flashback to July 10, 2017, when the media was awash with the outbursts of the First Lady during a visit to her husband in the United Kingdom, where he was receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment.
Apparently frustrated Aisha had described some people around her husband as Hyenas and Jackals and wrote a piece entitled; “Hyenas, jackals will soon be sent out of my husband’s kingdom.” This was in response to Senator Shehu Sani’s (representing Kaduna Central District) post which read: “Prayer for the absent Lion King has waned; until he’s back then they will fall over each other to be on the front row of the palace temple. Now the hyenas and the jackals are scheming and talking to each other in whispered; still doubting whether the Lion King will be back or not…”
There, Aisha Buhari gave an insight into the power play at the Nigerian seat of power in the wake of a sickness that had kept her husband out of the country for two months then.
Responding to Mr. Sani’s comment also proverbially, Mrs. Buhari said: “God has answered the prayers of the weaker Animals. The Hyenas and the jackals will soon be sent out of the kingdom. We strongly believe in the prayers and support of the weaker animals”.
Mrs. Aisha’s comment attracted many comments from her followers on Facebook, wishing her husband quick recovery.
Upon her return to Nigeria back then, the President’s wife had said he was recovering well and that he expressed appreciation to Nigerians praying for him.
However, the First Lady kept making statements about issues that has to do with governance and she was able to endear herself to the hearts of numerous Nigerians, who felt she has been doing her best to protect the nation’s nascent democracy. She was dubbed the amazon of African democracy because her voice has been the loudest from any woman in the continent of Africa, fighting vigorously for the sustenance of democracy and preservation of the office of the president.
On Wednesday, 11, December, 2019, Mrs. Aisha Buhari came out in another form to tackle her husband’s spokesperson, the Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mr. Garba Shehu on issues affecting the country and how she is being undermined and doubted Shehu’s loyalty to the president. Trust the amazon, she poured her heart out through a piece she posted on her verified Instagram page and other platforms.
The piece is entitled; “Garba Shehu Has Gone Beyond His Boundaries.’
In the piece, the First Lady made it clear that Nigeria’s development is hinged on the ability of public officials to execute their mandates professionally, and to be shining examples in their various areas of endeavor.
“As spokesperson of the President, he has the onerous responsibility of managing the image of the President and all the good works that he is executing in the country.
“Rather than face this responsibility squarely, he has shifted his loyalty from the President to others who have no stake in the compact that the President signed with Nigerians on May 29, 2015 and 2019.
“To make matters worse, Mr. Shehu has presented himself to these people as a willing tool and executioner of their antics, from the corridors of power even to the level of interfering with the family affairs of the President. This should not be so.
“The blatant meddling in the affairs of a First Lady of a country is a continuation of the prodigal actions of those that he serves.
“We all remember that the chief proponent appropriated to himself and his family a part of the Presidential Villa, where he stayed for almost 4 years and when the time came for him to leave, he orchestrated and invaded my family’s privacy through a video circulated by Mamman’s Daughter, Fatima, the public was given the impression that on arrival into the country I was locked out of the villa by Mr. President,” the First Lady said.
The First Lady added that Garba Shehu, as Villa Spokesperson, knew the truth and had the responsibility to set the records straight, but that “because his allegiance is somewhere else and his loyalty misplaced, he deliberately refused to clear the air and speak for the President who appointed him in the first place.
Aisha Buhari stressed that Mr. Shehu was privy and part of the plan and it’s execution and that he was shocked when he realized that she had publicized her return to Nigeria on October 12, 2019 and cleared the air on the many rumors that took over social media, a job she said he was supposed to do but kept mute to cause more confusion and instability for his Principal and his family.
“Garba then, vented his anger on the National Television Authority (NTA) Management insisting that the media crew to my office must be sacked.
“He succeeded in getting them suspended for doing their job. I had to intervene to save the innocent staff from losing their means of livelihood by involving the Department of State Services (DSS) in order to ascertain roles played by key actors in the saga.
“It is at this late hour that I recall, sadly, that it was the same Garba Shehu who claimed that the government will not allow office of the First Lady to run.
“He was later to confirm to one of my aides that he was instructed to say so by Mamman Daura and not the President.
“This antic attracted the anger of Nigerian women. He didn’t realize the fact that First Lady’s office is a tradition which has become an institution.
“Today, even without a budget, I am able to run my humanitarian programmes.
In saner climes, Garba Shehu would have resigned immediately after going beyond his boundaries and powers,” she said.
Aisha added that the “latest of his antics was to wage a war on the first family through an orchestrated media campaign of calumny by sponsoring pseudo accounts to write and defame my children and myself.”
Several Nigerians however, wondered why the First Lady makes this kind of outburst, when her husband is not around, and if President Muhammadu Buhari would support his wife or Garba Shehu, when he returns to the country from Egypt on Friday, 13th December, 2019 or keep mute on the matter as he has done in the past.
With these, millions of Nigerians have applauded Aisha Buhari as a defender of democracy, who is never afraid to lend her voice to issues despite being the wife of the President.
The First Lady is seen as a rare breed and Africa’s First Lady with the loudest voice, when the need arises despite the fact that she comes from the northern part of the country, where women are not expected to speak loudly.
Aisha might be hated by those in power that are immensely benefiting from the system, but she is loved by women and the masses and they see her as the icon of democracy and hope that all is not lost after all despite the travails of the country under the present government.
Aisha is seen as a very dependable woman that has been with her husband all through the period he had been contesting elections right from 2003 until he eventually succeeded in 2015. She stood by the husband through thick and thin, keeping the family and raising beautiful children since she married Buhari 30 years ago.
The thinking of many in Nigeria and beyond is that the likes of Garba Shehu and Mamman Daura should let the first lady live in peace with her family and reap the fruits of her years of labour. But many believe despite the travails she has been going through, Hajia Aisha Buhari will hold her ground, and continue to fight for good governance and protection of democratic ethos in Nigeria. She is indeed an iconic amazon worthy of emulation by other wives of African leaders.
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OPINION

Pantami: An unstoppable game changer, By Uwa Suleiman

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Pantami

Long before he was called to public service, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami) had prepared for the task ahead. His life- long foray into the highly complex, intellectual world of digital scholarship, long before we even embraced technology in these climes, is testimony that nature had behooved on him the role he is so excellently playing today. It is neither accidental nor a mistake or even some inexplicable phenomena that at this very auspicious time in our nation’s history, a man of Pantami’s standing and repute is exactly where he is today. No great leader happens by accident and nature makes no mistakes. In fact, it is God’s grand design that a leader is born, shaped, prepared , tested, purified and molded for the task ahead. Like the true worth and weight of gold is tested by fire, so is the life of a great leader tested and strengthened by trials and the stormy weathers of life.

However one looks at it, whether from a microscopic or a telescopic perspective, Pantami is one of the greatest , most influential leaders of this generation, a living attestation that the wisdom of Solomon has nothing to do with Methuselah’s age. Pantami was born ready, armed with uncanny wisdom, knowledge, focus, determination, resilience, an awe inspiring fearlessness in the pursuit of justice and truth, a doggedness that defies distraction and the ability to set the pace in the most unpaved paths.

The renaming of the Ministry which he oversees to the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, which has become a thorn in the flesh of some myopic, misguided or out rightly unpatriotic elements, gives an insight into the depth of Pantami’s understanding of where we should be and how to get there. A man who is thoroughly meticulous in his actions and responsibilities, he initiated and pursued the name change to properly position the Ministry, expand its scope to include the requisite functions and give legal backing to it, in line with global best practice. He took his team back to the drawing board and laid a formidable foundation for the process of digitalising the economy. This is the same strategy deployed by technologically advanced societies globally, the same strategy that has put them ahead of us, the same strategy we have always yearned for but lacked the leadership to implement. Pantami has risen to the occasion and filled the vacuum, by demonstrating the will and courage to execute his mandate, as tasked by President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, and the very people who should lend their support are indeed the crusaders of stagnation and retrogression.

Judging from the numerous feeble and cowardly recent attempts, at distracting or even stopping the laudable strides of Dr Pantami in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Sector, through cheap blackmail, it is only logical to conclude that quite a number of hitherto, “lords of lawlessness” have become quite uncomfortable with his mass oriented, people friendly policies which uphold the rule of law.
It is both ironic and shameful, that while fifth columnists are working against the very principles and ideas we should all project, our neighbours on the continent both near and far flung, are inspired by Dr Pantami’s strategies and have refocused their countries’ digitalisation agenda drawing from his policies back home. At the Cyber security Conference for ECOWAS ICT Ministers, held in Ghana in October, his Ghanaian counterpart, Honourable Ursula Owusu-Ekufu after Nigeria’s presentation, stated that they were inspired by Dr Pantami’s policy of deactivating all improperly registered SIM Cards and right there and then, she followed in his footsteps and issued the same directive to the sector in her country. And that is not enough for an African female leader who has publicly declared Dr Pantami as a source of inspiration, she has also demonstrated her government’s willingness to collaborate with Nigeria for knowledge transfer as she has requested that a team from Ghana, visits Nigeria for the sole purpose of understudying NITDA, so they can benefit from Dr Pantami’s legacies and implement them in their country. There is no history of such a feat based purely on exemplary leadership and merit in the sector.

On the 2nd of December 2019, South Africa’s Communications Commission ordered its Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to reduce the cost of data, a clear twenty six days behind the same directive by our own proactive, forward thinking Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy. If indeed there is any justification in the attack and totally baseless criticism of the policy, I expect that the same venom should have been directed at the South African Authority, for after all, the pursuit of what is right and just, should not be selective or discriminatory. Commissioner for communications Tembinkosi Bonakele, went even further to threaten legal action against MTN and Vodacom if they fail to comply within two months.

The Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), in its latest report released on the 22nd October 2019, declared that Africans face the most expensive internet charges in the world! The A4AI’s report is based on its definition of affordability as, 1GB of mobile broadband data, costing no more than 2% of average monthly income. Studies conducted across the continent reveal an appalling 7.12% averaging almost a sixth of monthly income in some cases. The cost of data is a major determinant of access.

In Nigeria, a reported forty million citizens have no access to the internet and Dr Pantami finds this situation totally unacceptable. He has the mandate to change the narrative and has proceeded to act accordingly. I personally, and millions of other Nigerians find it totally incomprehensible as to why anybody would stand against it. This ilk of illegality, who feed fat on the deprivation and dry milking of the ordinary consumers, and have no sense of loyalty or duty to country, should know that Dr Pantami’s ultimate objective transcends local recognition not for himself, but for Nigeria. The A4AI, for the purposes of clarity, is a globally credible initiative of the Web Foundation founded by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web, in partnership with Google and Facebook. This organisation has put in place a Good Practices Database which monitors improved access and affordability. Namibia and Kenya have already been cited on the platform for improved access and tax eliminations. Dr Pantami aims to effect such a phenomenal change in the sector as to put Nigeria on that pedestal. So unless the naysayers have more credibility than the A4AI, or nobler patriotic intentions than the Honourable Minister, I humbly advice they desist from their ignoble acts as no cabal will survive under the leadership of Dr Pantami in the ICT Sector.

The precedence he has set in NITDA, has become the solid bedrock on which sanity, the rule of law and professionalism now thrive. That same inherent leadership quality is what is manifesting in his capacity as Minister today. You cannot change or stop a man like Pantami from following his convictions, the law and his heart, when it comes to the discharge of his duties especially in upholding justice for the benefit of majority.

Here is a man who has staked everything to give his very best to the service of country, here is a man who is inspiring governments of other nations and galvanizing them into action, here is a man who has proven his mettle through his antecedents, one of our own, willing ready and committed and all some nitwits can do is attempt to discredit his efforts by ascribing petty politics to his office for their own selfish gains.
Dr Pantami is not a man to make loose or unguarded statements, so when he speaks, his words resonate substance. At a meeting with stakeholders in his office recently, he declared his stand. In his words, “They say, it is unwise to put all your eggs in one basket, I have deliberately put all my eggs in one basket, so my attention remains undivided. I have no choice but to commit all I have to ensure my eggs are protected and productive”. There is no Agency or Parastatal under his purview, that is left out of his transformation drive. He attends to issues with equal zeal as they exist and arise in every facet.

In the event of doubt or ignorance, let me make it categorically clear that if I have not learnt anything in the three years and three months I have been privileged to serve, under the impeccable leadership of this great Nigerian and extraordinary human being, it certainly is not his strength of character. This is a man whose determination and focus is further fuelled by criticism. The failure to support worthy leadership, and the oppression of it has been the bane of development in these climes. Both challenges however, do not apply to the intellectual par excellence, as he has the full backing of President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, to deliver his mandate, legal might, a formidable and competent team loyal to his cause and the support of millions of Nigerians. Every strategy, policy, reform, directive and action, is inextricably linked to the President’s three (3) point Agenda of National Security, Anti Corruption and A Digital Economy. He is effectively blocking the leakages deployed as conduit pipes to siphon national resources and shortchange the people, he is deploying technology to enhance security and address distress situations across the country, and of course doggedly pursuing the Digital Economy Agenda, with the strategy document in green mode already.

We are at a point in our nation’s history where business as usual cannot hold. The world is developing at the speed of light aided by technology and Dr Pantami is too busy, trying to make sure we are on board that train as a nation to reckon with, in the areas of innovation, capacity and infrastructure. He is too busy delivering his mandate to the millions of Nigerians who benefit daily from his mass-oriented leadership style. Those who cannot add value to the system should not sabotage the laudable efforts and achievements of those who are.
Pantami will not be oppressed or suppressed, he will not be intimidated and he will not abandon his mandate.

Uwa Suleiman is Spokesperson to the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy.

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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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