All posts by steveazaiki

Global Education Debates: Should Africa Have a Voice?

There is no lack of conflicting opinions in the arena of global education discourses. In this respect, education can be viewed as a ‘prized possession’ that every nation is fighting for. But the purpose here should not be about winning a fight, but about engaging collaboratively to benefit all human beings who find themselves on the carousel of life, regardless of nationality or geographical location. This paper utilises a desk research methodological approach to analyse selected paper contributions that are made to the global education debates. The main themes examined relate to the purpose of education and the effectiveness of education systems. The paper takes the position that education is all-encompassing and that it should be progressive, not only because of the rapid advancement in technology and the inescapable reach of the ‘tentacles’ of globalisation, but also because humans are thinking beings who are capable of responding to changing situations. It argues that Africa should have a voice in global debates, not for the sake of simply adding to existing dialogues, but for adding value to them by using educational experiences from its culturally rich and diverse sources. The discussion is underpinned by three main theories – behaviourism, constructivism and social constructivism. Reference is also made to the importance of considering multiple intelligences in teaching learning spaces and how they impact on learners’ progress and achievement. The paper concludes that it is edifying for Africa to glocalised its education activities with a view to making a meaningful contribution to its overall growth, development and redevelopment.

Keywords: global education, globalisation, glocalisation, behaviourism, constructivism, social constructivism, multiple intelligences

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Entrepreneurship as Engine for Economic Growth in Nigeria

Keynote Address

Entrepreneurship as Engine for Economic Growth in Nigeria  by Professor Steve Azaiki

Quantum Graduation Ceremony
Quantum Business School & Entrepreneurship Centre
#1 Orusa Street By Woke Street, Off Sani Abacha Road,
GRA Phase 3, Port Harcourt

Friday 16th & Saturday 17th March, 2018

It is indeed a great honour and privilege to be a Special Guest of Honour and Keynote speaker for the Quantum Business School and Entrepreneurship Centre graduation ceremony. Let me take this opportunity to extend sincerest thank to the President Mr Victor Itonyo and the organisers of this event.

I would like to begin my address by extending a hearty welcome and a BIG WELL DONE to the 25 graduands who have completed the six-week Entrepreneurship Development Programme. I must draw attention to the gender composition of this group – 5 males and 20 females. This is indeed quite telling in an era where women are called upon to play a greater role in the global economy. From the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, held from 23-26 January 2018 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, Abney and Gonzalez Laya (2018) reports:

The majority of women entrepreneurs run micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) – more than 30% of MSMEs are owned by women.

Abney and Gonzalez Laya (2018) further report that women are “poised to engage in economic activity”, and that empowering them “to participate equally in the global economy could add $28 trillion in GDP growth by 2025”.

I congratulate you the 20 females who are graduating today, you too can contribute to the global economy. But remember that charity begins at home!

For all the graduands, the theme for this Graduation Ceremony is very judicious. Igniting/Equipping & Accelerating Global Entrepreneurs is a very appropriate theme because it conveys a message of continuity. The implication here is building in the present with the view of preparing for the future. The groundwork that you have laid is not only to be operationlised in the local and national settings, but also in regional and international environments. It is only when you can successfully transfer all the knowledge and skills that you have acquired to an inclusive worldwide milieu that you can truly be numbered as global entrepreneur. With this in mind, I am appealing to you to see your graduation day as just a pause in preparation for the challenges and exciting times ahead. In fact, if you do not cultivate such a mind-set, you would be down-playing the motto of the reputable Quantum Business School & Entrepreneurship Centre. Its motto Building Global Leaders with Integrity and Excellence encourages the type of pride, gratification and self-importance that every Nigeria should embrace. It is in a similar spirit that Quantum Business School & Entrepreneurship Centre has created a vision to become a world class educational centre that develops people for entrepreneurship and professionalism for the market place. You the graduands, have a duty to ensure that this vision becomes a reality, and that Quantum Business School & Entrepreneurship Centre continues to develop entrepreneurs whose professionalism allows them to participate in the global market.

So how can entrepreneurship be an engine for economic growth in Nigeria? This address does not allow the space to talk about the numerous ways that demonstrate how entrepreneurship can be an engine for economic growth in Nigeria. I will therefore use the objectives, the critical success factor and the mission of Quantum Business School & Entrepreneurship Centre to make my case:

Objectives

  • To provide a learning environment for the teaching, study, research and development of entrepreneurship.
  • To build a world class business study and training centre in the Nigeria.
  • To provide business support and development services for SMEs in the Nigeria.
  • To provide business networking opportunity for Small Business Owners.

Taking these objectives singularly or collectively, it is clear that, if achieved, entrepreneurs will find themselves in a position to bring about positive economic change. Lifestyle changes are highly possible as standards of living improve. Conditions for work will also change for the better because of the support and developmental services provided for Small Business Enterprises (SMEs). The ‘chain effect’ will also come into play because the many entrepreneurial endeavours can result in new opportunities for would-be entrepreneurs. In this way wealth creation will spread from local communities to the wider Nigerian society. Additionally, a research-and-development teaching environment will promote the training necessary for to create a ripple effect with regard to entrepreneurial activities. You the graduands, as up-and-coming entrepreneurs, are well positioned to become catalysts for economic growth in Nigeria.

Critical Success Factor

Quantum Business School & Entrepreneurship Centre’s key success for the Business School includes:

  1. Maintaining a reputable and qualitative training centre.
  2. To provide leadership and entrepreneurship training that will equip the students for the future.
  3. To provide flexible hours and privacy in our training curriculum
  4. Affordable pricing

Three of the (4) four above factors make mention of the word training. The importance of training should never be underestimated, especially when it comes to promoting economic growth. Findings from scholarly investigations have shown that education and training do play a vital role in a Nigeria’s economic development (Afolabi, Kareem, Okubanjo, Ogunbanjo and Aninkan, 2017; Ojeifo, 2012). Maintenance of quality training is undoubtedly costly. Nevertheless, Quantum Business School & Entrepreneurship Centre has recognised that an important critical success factor is affordable pricing. This recognition allows you the graduands to be able to here today to celebrate your achievements.

Mission

Quantum Business School & Entrepreneurship Centre has shown its commitment to building talented capacity by espousing this mission statement: Our mission is to promote entrepreneurial leadership and performance excellence in the workplace using qualitative training methods and tools that inspires creativity and innovation with strong emphasis on value creation. The focus on creativity, innovation and value creation is not misplaced, especially when viewed against the backdrop of dwindling revenues from Petroleum and high unemployment rates. In such a situation, SME development has taken on an urgent and necessary meaning, which entails helping to fill the need to diversify.

The power to lift this laudable mission off the page and make it work is in the hands of you the graduands. It is only when you leave the confines of these premises and put what you have learned into practice that this mission has practical worth. In doing so you would make your family and friends proud, Quantum Business School & Entrepreneurship Centre proud and yourselves even prouder. But most importantly, you will have the chance to participate in activities that can boost the economy, not solely in South-South Nigeria, but also in all the areas of Nigeria where the need is identified.

For twelve (12) years now Quantum Business School & Entrepreneurship Centre has been focusing on stimulating the development of SMEs in Nigeria. There are many areas from which you the graduands can choose such as Manufacturing, Oil and Gas, Education, Hospital, Transportation, Hospitality, among others. Now that you are ‘qualified’ to develop SMEs, go forth and make every effort to share in nation building. The Federal Government, as well as the State or Local Government, can use your skills in helping to deal with the unemployment problem in Nigeria. You are among the over 2000 entrepreneurs who have been trained at an institution that helps to fill the structural gap in entrepreneurship training in the most Universities curriculum. Three cheers to Quantum Business School & Entrepreneurship Centre and its valued affiliates Regent University Virginia Beach, USA and AMBA, United Kingdom!

In conclusion, I leave you with some food for thought. Consider carefully these words that have been uttered by entrepreneurs who have made massive positive differences to their lives and the global community:

The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks – Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Founder.

When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often times arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions. Most people just don’t put in the time or energy to get there – Steve Jobs, Co-Founder of Apple.

Success … is no longer a simple ascension of steps. You need to climb sideways and sometimes down, and sometimes you need to swing from the jungle gym and establish your own turf somewhere else on the playground – Reid Hoffman, Founder of LinkedIn.

Graduands, as you extend your entrepreneurial acumen to the practical realm, be prepared to deal with the challenging times ahead. Be prepared too to handle various levels of criticism. Keep in mind the words of Greek Philosopher and Scientist, Aristotle, who contends: There is only one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.

So graduands, do something! Uphold the business spirit! Continue to fly the entrepreneurial flag! See entrepreneurship as a very strong medium for economic growth! Be committed to helping the Nigerian economy to grow!

I thank you.

References

Abney, D. and Gonzalez Laya, A. (2018) This is Why Women Must Play a Greater Role in The Global Economy. Available from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/01/this-is-why-women-must-play-a-greater-role-in-the-global-economy/.

Adamu, L. (2015) Repositioning Nigeria University Education for Economic Development through Entrepreneurship Education. Journal of Education and Practice, 6(25), 84-89.

Afolabi, M., Kareem, F., Okubanjo, I., Ogunbanjo, O. and Aninkan, O. (2017) Effect of Entrepreneurship Education on Self-Employment Initiatives among Nigerian Science & Technology Students. Journal of Education and Practice, 8(15), 44-51.

Ojeifo, S. (2012) Entrepreneurship Education in Nigeria. Journal of Education and Practice, 3(14). Available from http://www.iiste.org/Journals/index.php/JEP/article/view/3425.

He is 31 years old

Austria on December 18, 2017 made history by electing the world’s youngest president who is 31 years old.

His name is Sebastian Kurz, he is just 31 years old.
Before today’s election, he was the country’s foreign minister.
While our youths are contented with being used, praise singers and Special assistants on social media in Africa, youths elsewhere are disrupting the status quo, pushing for innovation, changing the narrative and pushing for the new frontier.

Arbeitsbesuch Deutschland. Bundesminister Sebastian Kurz trifft Aydan Özoguz (Staatsministerin für Integration). Berlin. 12.04.2016, Foto: Dragan Tatic

From Facebook to Snapchat and Taxify, these tech giants were founded by millennial who are youths.

Mark Zukerberg is just 32 years old and the youngest billionaire in the world. The bar has been raised in Austria that elected a 31 years old man as its leader.

A 31 years old man in Africa is probably in his parents’ house, unemployed and broke, eating free food and not bothered.
The 31 old Africans are feeling big supporting politicians (who directly or indirectly put us in the mess we are in) on Facebook without seeing the nexus between the failed leadership and present unemployment predicament.

I weep for our youths many of whom are wasting away forgetting that time waits for no one. The condition in Africa is not helping matters though, and then my generation is not ready to push for change.

Those who have bank jobs think they are on top of the world, forgetting that the owners of the banks were Billionaires at their age. The women get married and drive their husband’s cars and think they have arrived.

I ask myself and other young people reading this, what are you doing with your life?

Are you happy with the way you are at the moment?

What are you doing to push for true change?

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sebastian_Kurz

Happy Birthday OBJ

Obasanjo, Chief Dr Mathew Olusegun Okikiola Aremu, farmer, politician, former president of Nigeria.

He was born on March 5, 1937 in Ibogun, Ifo Local Government Council Area of Ogun State. He is 81 today. My relationship with Obasanjo started in 1993 when he invited me to attend the Africa Leadership forum as a very young man. He was impressed so we continued to see and discuss various problems of Africa especially Niger Delta, Resource Control and Nigeria’s Leadership problems.

When he became President he invited me to discuss the Niger Delta and the Nigerian Environment. Prior to that I was the President of the World Environmental Movement For Africa and Obasanjo was kind to have accepted to serve on the Board along side Bishop Desmond Tutu among others.

When in 2004 I launched my book Inequities in Nigerian Politics at the Yar’Adua centre in Abuja, Obasanjo was the special guest of honor -” I have accepted your invitation because I have come to know you as a man of peace and you are a patriot”.

I have great respect and admiration for Chief Obasanjo even those who do not agree with him respect the fact that he has never been silence when the county and people needs him to speak.

The only sore point of our relationship was the invasion of Odi and the impeachment of my friend and boss Chief Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha.

Chief Alamieyeseigha told me on two accession when OBJ name came up that he has forgiven every one including President Obasanjo because it was Politics.

I have accepted that position since then and has continued to relate with the Obasanjo’s and was happy to see him recently healthy and cheerful in his old flamboyant self.

Let me use the occasion of his birthday to wish him long life and good health and happiness.

God bless you. Happy birthday!

Letter to Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha

My Boss,

Truly, great people in history never wanted to be great for themselves. All they wanted was the chance to do well for others and be close to God. In the last several months, your will has been tested; your courage has been tested; your strength has been tested. Now, your patience and endurance are being tested. In retrospect, looking back was full of sadness and confusion. I didn’t realise how hateful some people could be until the period between September to December 2005. The more trouble, the more injustice done to you as a person, the more my feelings for you grew. It made me feel that we are here for a reason.

It is important for each of us to figure out why we were put here on earth by God. The importance of life is to accomplish the task we were given. Without working on this task, life is meaningless. Human beings have a basic need and desire to accomplish something before they die – to make a difference.

When a man of position and fame speaks out about injustice and pain and tells the truth, he risks losing everything that he has worked for, possibly even his life, but he helps millions. On the other hand, he may choose to keep silent and say or do nothing, just because he wants to keep the status quo. But I think you made your choice. My consolation is that after the travail, after you are back home, our people will see a stronger person who had also suffered hardship, but who had never forgotten his people or where he came from. They might recognise in themselves what they see in you. Your travail, in the final analysis, would lift spirits and elevate souls – not violence or war.

I believe that success is not achieved by winning all the time. Real success comes when we rise after we fall. We must be grateful for victories and success. We must also accept our fate when we fall and are grateful for our losses, because it acts as a catalyst for us to achieve much more.

It is the heart that makes a man great – his intentions, his thoughts, and his convictions. The body and the mind are only vehicles for experiencing life. The truth is that, you must realise that how you handle this moment in history, will affect your friends and family. This is because everyone counts on your patience and perseverance. The awareness of this should be a source of strength to you. This is the very essence of faith. That is, believing in the things the eyes cannot see. Therefore, you must have faith in God.

One thing that has always amazed me is how many people question the existence of God. They are always searching for proof especially when they are faced with difficulties. To prove the existence of God, one must remember Job. God is all-knowing, all-forgiving. To be God-like and know God, one must not remember hate. Some people hold on to hatred, revenge, and prejudice. But there comes a time in every person’s life when he has no choice but to forgive or he will be consumed by bitterness.

In my last letter, I told you about my meeting with Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I was really pleased to meet these great men of the 21st Century. Mandela knew adversity first hand, as he struggled and fought against the apartheid machine in South Africa–apartheid, the terrible, and often violent, institutionalised racism that for many years held the South African society in its grip. Mandela, like you, understood (understands) what it means to fight against enormous odds. He went to prison for nearly three decades for his activities because he knew there was no alternative. Nelson Mandela is a man of great personal honour, strength, and integrity, but he was fighting for something greater than himself, and that was the freedom of an entire nation.

In life, there will be setbacks, there will be challenges, and there will be obstacles. Sometimes you may feel as if your obstacles are insurmountable. These are the times you must be strong. If you experience injustice, keep your head up and your heart open. Bitterness will only weaken you. Don’t let anger consume you. Never let resentment into your heart – it will only weigh you down.

Again, looking back now, I can justly say that your greatness is in your courage, in your strength, in your selflessness, in your love for your people and in your compassion. In my mind and eyes, you were even greater at being a loving friend than you were as a governor. This I will not forget. You have lived your life with strength and courage, and those virtues live on inside you. You have lived a life in pursuit of peace. I mention peace because, I was personally involved in conflict resolution. I do remember the turbulent waves we overcame to rescue those oil workers in Sangana. Now I know that peace resides inside you. You lived a life of love; all that love now resides inside you.

Please don’t get me wrong, you are not blameless or guiltless, but that is OK because we are nothing but humans. But I say this with humility, like every coin, you supposedly must have two sides – bad and good; but your goodness and compassion outnumber your bad – by far.

When I spoke to you from Harvard, I did not bother to ask of your health. I mean your physical health, because I know that in spite of your operation and general physical health that are in bad shape, I am more concerned with your mental health and spiritual health. You are a man that has seen war and physical pain. However I do hope that you are responding to treatment.

I have reconciled my health problems, however I will also like to check again in Hungary – I was told there lives a great medical professor. I will also repeat a visit to the hospital in Moscow and Kiev. Let me just do my best. At least Eastern Europe has good doctors and facility and they are extremely cheaper. Well, we must always be mindful that each day is a gift from life that can be lost at any moment. The body and the mind are only vehicles for experiencing life. Let me conclude this letter with a Sufi story:

A Story of Gratitude and Generosity (A Sufi Story about a Slave Named Omar)

Once upon a time there was a slave named Omar. He had been brought before the king with one hundred other slaves. From the moment the king laid eyes upon Omar, he knew that he was someone special. The beauty of Omar’s aura enchanted the king so much that he instantly made him his assistant. It was not long before Omar gained the trust and confidence of the king, who put him in charge of his treasury, where all of his precious gold and jewels were kept. Many of the king’s men became envious of Omar’s new position. They could not understand why he should rise from a slave to keeper of the king’s treasure.

Soon their envy grew into spite. They began to tell stories in order to bring Omar into the king’s disfavour. One of the stories was that Omar woke up before everyone else in the palace and went into the room where the King’s jewels were kept – and that he was stealing little jewels every day. When the king was told, the king responded, No, I cannot believe such a thing! You’ll have to show me. Therefore they brought the king to watch in secret as Omar entered the treasury room. The king saw Omar open the safe. But what did he take out of it? It was not the king’s jewels, but his old ragged cloths that he had won as a slave. He kissed them, pressed them to his face, and laid them on the table. Incense was burning and the king could see that Omar was doing something important to him.

Omar put on his old cloths, looked at himself in the mirror and said, “Look, Omar see what you were before. Know that it was not your worthiness that brought you to this position, but the king’s generosity and goodness in overlooking your faults. So guard this duty as your most sacred trust, in appreciation of his generosity and kindness. Most important, never forget your first day – the day when you came to this town. For, it is remembrance of this day that will keep you grateful.”

Omar then took off his old slave cloths and put them back into the safe. Then he put on his princely robe. As he headed for the door, he noticed the king standing in the doorway.

The king looked at Omar with eyes full of tears and said, “People told me that you had stolen jewels from my treasure room, but I have found that you have stolen my heart. Omar, you have taught me a valuable lesson. It is a lesson we all must learn, whatever our position in life may be. We must always be grateful, even for hardship we have known. Then the king looked into Omar’s eyes and said, “Omar, I may be the king, but it is you who have the royal heart. (Culled from: The Price of Loyalty).

With all my sincerity and everlasting loyalty,

Steve

This letter was written to Diepreye Alamieyeseigha during his detention in Lagos, 2006. Reproduced from: Azaiki, Steve (2016). Thoughts on Nigeria (TON) pp. 326 – 329.

Alams in the eyes of the Ijaws

 

Before 1999, the Ijaw nation had no one whom they affectionately called Governor-General. Not because the Ijaws, Nigeria’s fourth largest ethnic group spread over a wide swathe of the coastal terrain, had a shortage of personages any one of whom could be hero-worshipped. There was Major Isaac Adaka Boro, who staged the 12-day Revolution for the establishment of the still-born Niger Delta Republic in 1967. There were many others, including Chief Harold Dappa-Biriye. At any rate, for more than 15 straight years before 1999, the country—together with the Ijaw nation—was beleaguered by different strains of retrogressive military regimes during which it was a sure-fire daring of the gallows for anyone to muster the kind of following that would have earned him the soubriquet of Governor-General.

But after 1999, with the advent of the Fourth Republic, the Ijaws found one in whom they were immensely pleased. That person was Chief Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha (Alams, for short), the democratically elected Governor of Bayelsa State from 1999 until 2005, when, midway into his second term, he was removed from office in a dramatic gun-boat legislative undertaking that advertised the reckless abuse of Federal might and politics of vendetta. Through a combination of genuine populism, empathetic appreciation of the deplorable status of the Ijaws in the national scheme of things, robust articulation of far-reaching measures to redress the age-long grievances of the Ijaws, coupled with the steps he took to begin opening up Bayelsa from its backwater  status, Alams won hearts and minds of the Ijaws.

Before long, Alams was no longer being addressed as Governor of Bayelsa State, but as Governor-General of the Ijaw nation, a somewhat anachronistic title dating to the colonial era. But, it was, nevertheless, an alias that reflected the gut feeling of the Ijaws, the largest population of whom are concentrated in Bayelsa. Alams was a leading voice in peaceful agitation for resource control, in particular, a constitutional amendment that would drive up derivation, as a factor in revenue allocation, from at least 13 per cent, as prescribed in the 1999 Constitution, to no less than 50 per cent. And given the nation’s manipulative and rapacious politics that thrives on parasitism, while tokenist reliefs are tossed to the deprived areas that produce the country’s oil wealth, it was only a matter of time before this new-found Ijaw hero would be brought back to earth by forces too powerful for him to combat.

Alams himself made the task easier for his adversaries. He failed to realise that when a favourite wife misbehaves, all she earns may be a frown, or a mild rebuke; but not so for a disfavoured wife who in similar circumstances might be visited with far harsher punishment for her transgression. Yet, it is easy, without necessarily justifying the conduct, to understand why Alams failed to appreciate that he was a high-valued target, and therefore needed to be above board in order not to give his traducers the much-needed pretext to nail him. Thus, when they began to hunt him, he was arrested in London for being in possession of foreign currency that could not be justified by any reasonable earnings. Taken to court, he jumped bail, and entered into the frying pan that had been prepared red-hot for him back home. To, as the saying goes, cut a long story short, he was impeached by the legislature in questionable circumstances, handcuffed and flown to Abuja. His became the first high-profile case that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission prosecuted against a former governor since the beginning of the Fourth Republic. Alams pleaded guilty, and was convicted with a prison sentence and forfeiture of a number of assets.

Nigerians are unlikely to forget in a hurry the snide remark of then President Olusegun Obasanjo, who described some of Alams’ colleagues as “Owambe Governors” that were partying all over the world. If these governors were having a ball, it cost money, and no one is fooled that it was small money—money that could not be justified from reasonable earnings. It wasn’t that these other governors were merely partying, there was also implied in President Obasanjo’s remark  a negative competitive spirit that had overtaken some of the governors, who then began to brag about “My Mercedes (or mansion) is bigger than yours!” But these other colleagues of Alams were not the target, hence the law could look the other way, while they had a lavish time.

Alams succumbed to the pervasive peer pressure of the time. Again, it is useful for us to remember the mood of the political class when democracy began anew in 1999. There were serious doubts about the survival of the system; fear was rife that sooner or later the military would strike again, and send everyone packing. The nation had been through various transition rigmarole since Gen. Ibrahim Babangida came up with the Political Bureau in 1986, which led to his deceptive transition politics that eventually ended in a fiasco with the June 12, 1993 presidential elections. Gen. Sani Abacha came with his five fingers of a leprous hand that sought to adopt him as sole candidate and leader-for-life, until he died suddenly.

Politicians had lost huge sums of money in earlier botched transition programmes; their hopes had equally evaporated. Thus, from 1999, there seemed to be a conscious determination by the political class not to be caught napping, if the Fourth Republic collapsed like others before it. Politicians generally, therefore, sought to minimize their losses. And, let’s face it, there was no legitimate way of doing this, other than recourse to funds under their custody. There was gross abuse of security votes, a situation which has merely decreased in intensity in recent years. Some governments took questionable loans that were guaranteed by irrevocable standing payment orders, such that their state monthly allocation from the Federation Account was mortgaged. If there was any saint of that era, let him/her come out and swear by juju, the Holy Bible or Holy Koran that he/she is squeaky clean.

Of course, if no one was caught, it became a game that they thought could go on forever. But, when democracy did not collapse after the first two/three years, politicians again descended on the till, to the detriment of the people and country no doubt, in order to raise funds for the next electoral battle—the badly flawed 2003 general elections— that was a do-or-die affair. By now, the political class had become the new monied class, able and willing to dispense financial favour that the people appropriately termed “empowerment”. Those politicians with definite term limits also began to think of funding the election of their successors.

Additionally, serving governors had seen the penurious state of some governors of old, and like serving civil servants who do not wish to die on the queue waiting for their miserable pension, and therefore help themselves through inflated contracts and outright stealing, politicians thought they could accumulate for the rainy day. Except that, there was no limit, and the recklessness was all over the polity—at Federal, State, Local government, in both the Executive and Legislative branches of government.

Alamieyesigha was a trophy to be won, and he made the game easier for his hunters. He tumbled from hero to villain, at least in the immediate circumstances of his humiliating impeachment, arraignment, plea and conviction. But can Alams, before and after the presidential pardon, walk the streets of Bayelsa freely? The answer to the question is a pointer to the man’s enduring heroism. Yes, of course, Alams has been walking the streets of Bayelsa neither molested nor taunted for his travails. It would be insulting to the people of Bayelsa, and to the Ijaw nation that they did not know the injury Alams meant to them by his conviction. The truth is that the people know the deeper undercurrent that sought to make Alams the quintessential villain, while his contemporaries, who behaved in the circumstances described above, have been given a slap on the wrist, or have a made a yo-yo of the legal system, such that nobody knows the precise status of their trial, for lack of diligent prosecution.

Alams has completed the cycle of heroism and villainy; and now, he is on the rebound. He has been deploying his influence to abate the scourge of oil theft and brazen militancy in the Niger Delta region, which by most accounts has yielded beneficial results as indicated by the quantum leap in crude oil production and export, with attendant resource flow for the entire country. What Alams has been achieving silently in his post-conviction years is not altogether new. The period of his rise as Governor-General of the Ijaw nation also coincided with a parallel development: the intensity of militancy that had been brewing since the years of military rule.

From genuine agitation for resource control and remediation of the Niger Delta environment that had been devastated by the reckless operations of the oil companies, criminal gangs emerged from all over and began a reign of ransom-kidnapping and plain oil theft. As Governor of Bayelsa, Alamieyeseigha interceded on numerous occasions to secure the release of expatriate oil workers who had been kidnapped. He braved rough seas on occasion to negotiate with the kidnappers to secure the freedom of the victims.  He may not now be hailed as Governor-General, but Alamieyeseigha has since been back in the warm embrace of his people, who should know that Alams is no villain, and the presidential pardon has formalised it by transforming him into a novus homo (a new man).

  • Azaiki is a former Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government

Alamieyeseigha and the burden of Leadership

In an article published in the Guardian Newspaper of 21st December, 2004, I quoted former President Obasanjo’s letter to Alamieyeseigha titled Commendation and Gratitude.

“On behalf of my delegation, I write to thank you most sincerely for your very warm hospitality during my visit to Bayelsa from 9th -10th May, 2004. I want to place on record, my personal satisfaction with what I saw in terms of infrastructural development during this most recent visit, which is a far cry from the scenario during my visit in March 2001. This positive development has engendered the renewed confidence of the people in themselves, and in your administration. I commend you and members of your government for your achievements, especially in the special area of healthcare delivery, ICT, provision of housing and road development.

Mr. Governor, allow me to urge you to do everything possible to ensure that all the on-going projects are completed to ensure that none becomes an abandoned project, please.

Permit me to suggest that your achievements in the areas mentioned should be complemented by serious and sustained attention to agriculture, especially in the areas of rice, oil palm and cassava production as well as in fisheries and aqua-culture which are sustainable in your riverine ecosystem. Bayelsa is naturally well-positioned to reap significant benefits in these areas; it is also the fastest way to job-creation which, in turn, would contribute significantly to permanently addressing the issue of youth restiveness.

I am taking the opportunity of what I have seen in Bayelsa to ask Shell Petroleum Development Company do more about clearing pollution within the creeks in the state.

I must, once again, commend your efforts in dealing with youth restiveness and crisis in Bayelsa State. I appreciate the efforts that you have made in concert with the various community leaders and associations in the Ijaw nation to ensure that irrespective of social demarcations and differences, they eschew violence and confrontation as a means of resolving problems. I urge you to continue to do everything you can towards the promotion of peace, harmony, stability and development in the state and throughout the Ijaw nation.

Kindly convey my heartfelt thanks to your dear wife who was a wonderful hostess not just to me but also to my wife. Give my very warm thanks to all members of your government, staff and traditional rulers who contributed to make our visit so memorable.

The points made about Federal projects in Bayelsa particularly roads, Police Headquarters, Polytechnic, Central Bank Building, NNPC Mega Petrol Station on which I have made comments that will be followed up immediately.

I thank you for your support, for the Federal Government to make the lives of all Nigerians better through your efforts in Bayelsa and as you do more for Bayelsa people and for Nigeria.

Olusegun Obasanjo, President”.

In concluding the article I wrote “Nevertheless, it is admitted that Alamieyeseigha’s story is not complete yet. Nor, can he reasonably be expected to do all and everything to bring Bayelsa in to the 21st Century. What is not in doubt, as Obasanjo attested to, is that Alamieyeseigha is well on the mark to laying a solid foundation for the subsequent growth of Bayelsa from a brackish backwater State into a hub of nationally critical socio-economic activities in a peaceful environment that ensures, among others, adequate returns for potential investors in a wide array of investment opportunities. Alamieyeseigha can only record more success if he continues to bear with equanimity, the burden of leadership that is partly indicated by the unwholesome tactics of political detractors.

While President Buhari Is Away

It would have been Nigeria’s greatest national surprise in recent times if the ill-health and consequent overseas medical vacation of President Muhammadu Buhari was not politicised. From the initial, genuine empathy and expression of get-well messages, the gears shifted first into low-level partisan mockery by some who sought to validate their pre-2015 presidential election claim that Buhari, then a candidate, did not appear strong, or healthy, enough to shoulder the tasking responsibilities of running a country now more complex and with far more complicated issues than were present when Buhari was military Head of State from December 1983 to August 1985.

More than 90 days into President Buhari’s latest medical leave, the politicisation of his continuing absence is in full bloom. This is notwithstanding the non-breach of any legal or constitutional provision governing a President’s absence from duty. To dramatise the politicisation, some self-styled Concerned Nigerians under a banner, #OurMumuDonDo, have launched a #ReturnorResign campaign, in protest against the President’s continued stay in London for medical attention. Not surprisingly, a counter protest has been launched, but a violent clash between the opposing campaigners was averted, although the police had teargassed the #ReturnorResign protesters, to forestall, they said, the hijack of the protest by hoodlums.

I endorse wholeheartedly the position of the Senate while reacting to the #ReturnorResign campaign. The Senate said that the President should be left alone, as he was not in breach of any law or the Constitution. The President had done the right thing by transmitting a letter to the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, intimating them of his medical leave during which time the Vice President would assume the role of Acting President. It is the third such official absence from duty with notice since the President came into office on May 29, 2015, although in terms of duration, the latest medical vacation, which commenced on May 7, is the longest.

The 1999 Constitution as amended does not stipulate the length of time that the President, or a Governor, may be away on leave, medical or otherwise, provided there is compliance with the requirement of notifying the Assembly of the leave together with handing over to the Vice President, or Deputy Governor, as the case may be. I am sure many among us will recall the aberration in the earlier part of the current democratic dispensation when one or two Governors, on account of differences with their Deputies, refused or neglected to hand over to the Deputy Governors while they (Governors) were away on leave. One instance that caused a lot of uproar was that of a Governor who bypassed the Deputy Governor and instead purported to have handed over to the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, even when the Deputy Governor was in situ.

The other point to note is that the notice of vacation/leave/absence, once transmitted, continues to have effect until the President or Governor, upon his return from the leave, transmits another letter to the lawmakers, notifying them of his resumption of duty. We saw that play out on March 10, this year, when President Buhari returned from his second medical leave. At the time, the runway of Abuja Airport was closed to traffic, and the President landed in Kaduna from where he took a helicopter shuttle to the Presidential Villa in Abuja. He arrived on a Friday and was received by the then Acting President as well as other dignitaries. But it was not until the next working day that the President wrote to the National Assembly, informing them of his return and resumption of duty. The process was seamless, and there was no vacuum either in leadership or in governance. Which is what the situation is this time around.

So, what is the grouse of the campaigners against the President’s continuing absence? Those who have tried to draw an analogy between the indisposition of Buhari and that of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua have clearly misfired. The basis of the assertion lies in properly contextualizing and understanding what became known as the Doctrine of Necessity propounded by the Senate in 2010, to fill a potentially anarchic power vacuum in the Presidency. Gravelly ill, President Yar’Adua had been in and out of the country for medical attention, and even when he was in the country, he had become largely incapacitated.

Then, Yar’Adua was ferried abroad, and both he and his handlers, who infamously were referred to as the cabal, wilfully neglected to hand over to the Vice President, to perform the role of Acting President. Yar’Adua’s handlers had played on the fact that if he did not hand over to the Vice President, then he (Yar’Adua) was deemed to be in charge and no one else could trigger a power transfer. But it was all a ruse, as insider leaks revealed Yar’Adua’s dire medical condition. And the country was in stasis. To arrest the drift, the National Assembly on its own invoked the Doctrine of Necessity that, given the circumstances of Yar’Adua’s absence from duty, and the non-transfer of powers to the Vice President to function as Acting President, the National Assembly would recognise the Vice President as Acting President. It was a masterstroke of the Sixth National Assembly.

But the situation of President Buhari is not the same. There is an Acting President. Visitation teams that have gone to see President Buhari in London, and those teams include the Acting President who made an overnight journey, have reported that the ailing President is recuperating. In other words, he is not incapacitated. In that case, his removal from office, through the constitutional mechanism of a medical board convened on a resolution of the Federal Executive Council, is unwarranted.

To me, a key point that is being overlooked in the current agitation against President Buhari’s continuing medical vacation is whether there is an Acting President who is effectively in charge. Answering that question, and indeed ensuring that the Acting President is truly and effectively in charge, would do more to deepen our constitutional democracy than the legally and constitutionally baseless campaign for Buhari to either return or resign from office. Is the Acting President in control? Are the institutions of government and governance up and running?

It should be borne in mind that one of the most important pieces of legislation to be passed each year by the National Assembly—that is, the Appropriation Act—was signed into law by the Acting President. He was also in charge when the vacancy in the position of Chief Justice of Nigeria was formally filled. The Acting President convenes and presides over meetings of the Federal Executive Council; he has made key appointments in the bureaucracy, including most recently those of Permanent Secretaries, and a number of vacancies in Federal agencies have been filled. The Service Chiefs have taken instructions from the Acting President, in particular, restrategizing the war on terror in the North East. The Acting President has also attended summits outside the country in fulfilment of the country’s international obligations. Under his guidance, the economy is being managed steadily out of turbulence. So, what is it that he should have done as Acting President that he has left undone?

One other point to make about the #ReturnorResign campaign is that it glosses over the moral and therefore restraining influence that President Buhari represents. Considering the widespread misbehaviour in the public space in recent years, the anti-corruption disposition of President Buhari has brought about palpable restraint in the wanton pillaging of public resources. Aside from the institutional mechanism to tackle graft, plus the use of enforcement agencies, the fact of Buhari’s presence (he remains de jure President) serves as a stern reminder that the season of business as usual is over.

We saw how, even after leaving office, President Nelson Mandela remained a huge moral force in South Africa. On his deathbed, when it was medically impossible to bring the grand oldman back to breathing life, South Africans held endless vigils, wishing him well—because they desired the symbol of moral authority to stay alive. Let us look inwards and see how we can tap into President Buhari’s moral authority, while ensuring that our constitutional democracy is at work, addressing exigencies of the moment as well as the larger issues troubling the Nigerian Project.

 

*Prof. Azaiki is a former Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government

Cinquains for Professor Steve Azaiki

Cinquains for Professor Steve Azaiki

Professor
Intellectual, Compassionate
Inspiring, Creating, Producing
Like the busy bee
Azaiki

Chairman
Dedicated, Motivational
Guiding, Furnishing, Enabling
Like a caring shepherd
President

Instructor
Gracious, Considerate
Coaching, Training, Edifying
Like a solid rock
Mentor

Gertrude Shotte
10/12/2014

Developing the Niger Delta Region

By Dele Agekameh

Nigerians have always had cause to condemn the activities of their elected representatives, particularly those at the National Assembly, NASS. The reason for this is that many Nigerians believe the representatives are usually selfish and have been doing everything possible to protect their minority interests rather than the interest of the larger society. That is why for quite sometime the battle has been on for the NASS members to disclose their total take-home pay which the public suspect is mouth-watering, an emolument that does not correspond with the actual performance of the legislators. As a matter of fact, there are many more areas of friction between the NASS and the people.

B-DERE, NIGER DELTA, NIGERIA- JULY, 2016: In B-Dere an oil spill from Shell in 2007, polluted all the water, depriving the fishermen of fishes and intoxicating the soil. Nothing is growing anymore is crying Nambi Azikiwe. (Picture by Veronique de Viguerie/ Reporatge by getty Images).

But by and large, a recent development in the Lower House, clearly indicates that the legislators may have, at last, decided to identify with the people in the people’s quest to have a better deal with the government. The day was May 9, 2017. That day, Leo Ogor, the Minority Leader of the House, presented an amendment bill to adjust the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas, LNG, (Fiscal Incentives, Guarantees and Assurances) Act. A provision called section 7b, which is an addition to the Principal Law was added to the amended bill. It states that: “Notwithstanding section 7 or any other section of this Act, the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited shall pay 3% of its total annual budget to the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Fund as required by section 14, subsection 1 and 2b of the NDDC Establishment Act, 2000.”

Fishermen sort out their fishing net at the bank of a polluted river in Bidere community in Ogoniland in Nigeria’s delta region August 20, 2011. Picture taken August 20, 2011. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye (NIGERIA – Tags: ENERGY ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY) – RTR2Q6OD

While making the presentation, the House Minority Leader said:“The amendment to this Act is aimed at redressing the great injustice that the NLNG has meted out to the people of the Niger Delta region for almost 27 years now.” Promptly, in what is generally seen as a departure from the ugly past in which very important bills like this are left to gather dust on the shelves, the House, without further equivocation, passed the bill.

With that passage of the amendment bill, the battle has now been shifted to the hallowed chambers of the senate for the mandatory concurrence in order to breathe life into the bill. With that, the rigmarole that had attended the passage of the bill all along would have been brought to a safe conclusion.

‘The Federal Government should urgently put in place a mechanism through which all the money accurable to the NDDC is paid promptly and as due to the coffers of the commission to enable the department carry out its mandate without any hindrance’

But the management of the NLNG is not accepting this without a fight. In fact, the corporation has been crying blue murder. The NLNG is saying that it is one of the biggest promoters of corporate social responsibility, CSR, in the country, especially in the Niger Delta region where it operates. The management also laments that the amendment is a threat to the continued existence of the company because the NLNG had succeeded so far, due to the provisions of the NLNG Act.

This, according to it, gave investors the confidence to invest in the country. But with the amendment, that confidence could be eroded and such a development could jeopardise ongoing investments for the continued survival of the company. Generally, the management is of the opinion that the amendment will discourage the inflow of investments into the country.

From the lamentations of the NLNG, it appears the company does not want to operate within the existing laws of the country whether with any amendment or not. What the House of Representatives simply did was to pass an amendment to the existing bill requiring the NLNG to pay three percent of its humongous yearly profits to the NDDC as part of its social duties to a region ravaged by neglect in spite of its abundant wealth – oil and gas.

Other companies in the region have acquiesced to this, although some do in name only but not always in deed, leaving the NDDC to be chasing defaulters all over the place. But one thing is that the defaulting companies, at least, recognise the supremacy of the law of the land. The same thing should apply to the NLNG which has already enjoyed some tax holidays in this regard.

It is good news that the House of representatives has now finally decided to put national interest above the cynicism that has characterised our political elite who collude with the oil and gas companies to oppress their own people. If the idea of the tax holiday granted to the NLNG was to enable the company to firmly get its act together and thus create a solid foundation for business take-off, it has surely had more than a generation to do so. This is the more reason the company should realise that it is time to gloriously bow to the impulse of the people and put aside just three percent to develop the area where it has had it marvellously good through the years.

The argument or the claim that the NLNG does not pollute the region, but merely processes, does not hold water. The management of the NLNG should not pretend as if they are operating from the moon or that they are less concerned about the growing agitation for a better deal as being canvassed expeditiously by the people of the Niger Delta region who have been badly treated since oil and gas were discovered in their bowels in 1956. Since then the people have borne the brunt of the massive exploration and exploitation that has taken place in the region without commensurate compensation or anything substantial to show except poverty, misery and disease.

The NLNG makes about N500 billion a year. And it is not even being asked to pay tithe or even half a tithe, but a measly fraction. Yet it yells in pain. The NLNG is owned by four shareholders, and Nigeria, represented by the NNPC, owns 49 per cent. The balance belongs to Shell Gas BV, Total LNG Nigeria Ltd, and ENI International Ltd. These firms control 25.6  percent, 15 percent and 10.4 percent respectively.

Since the establishment of the NDDC in 1999, its activities have been seen from different perspectives by both critics and admirers of the agency. On account of its intervention in the infrastructural uplift of the member states, the commission has, to a large extent, lived up to its mandate. But some people have argued that its achievement profile hardly matches the funds at its disposal.

The heightened expectations are not unconnected with the bloated impression by some people that the agency has an unlimited mandate. They easily forget that the peculiarities of the topography of the Niger Delta pose a lot of challenges to its development in terms of money and time. Perhaps, that is why it is easy for people who do not understand the terrain to hastily jump to wrong conclusions and/or assumptions.

As it stands today, the NDDC is being owed a staggering amount of N1.8 trillion in unpaid statutory allocations in the past 15 years by Federal Government who set up the commission to develop the Niger Delta. In addition to this, the Ecological Fund, another Federal Government outfit, also owes the Commission more than N45 billion. This is not inclusive of tax evasions by some multi-national companies who have been mandated by the law, to pay certain amounts of money to the coffers of the NDDC yearly. Going by all of this, therefore, with what magic wand is the NDDC expected to carry out its mandate and the quick transformation of the Niger Delta region?

The Federal Government should urgently put in place a mechanism through which all the money accurable to the NDDC is paid promptly and as due to the coffers of the commission to enable the department  carry out its mandate without any hindrance. Those who relent in the remittance of their statutory dues to the commission should be heavily sanctioned to serve as deterrence to others.

The task of developing the Niger Delta can no longer be undertaken with kid gloves. The government and other stakeholders must stop their hide and seek games and give the region the necessary attention it deserves.

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