Tag Archives: Azaiki

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

Obasanjo: A Great Diplomat

So far, my expectations have been misplaced. In the last few weeks,
I have deliberately engaged in a great deal of content analysis of major Nigerian newspapers. Each time I pick the papers these days. I seek out the reactions of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s unrepentant critics to the recent debt relief granted Nigeria by the Paris Club of creditors.

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The debt write-off was a huge economic and diplomatic breakthrough for the country and I had expected even the most ardent critic of the Obasanjo’s administration to at least, for once, heap praises on the president for the great feat. But rather than speak out to congratulate the administration for the accomplishment with the same fervour with which they had disparaged the President’s “excessive foreign trips” in the past, some of the critics have opted to keep mute while others have dismissed the gesture as mere political gimmick.

But the mere fact that critics of the President’s diplomatic shuttles have been silenced by the development is itself an indication that every Nigerian appreciates the enormous significance of the $18 billion debt noose that was taken off the country’s neck. Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the $1 billion (132.8 billion) the country channels into debt servicing annually can now be diverted to critical social infrastructure such as roads, water supply, education and health. If the government sticks to its promises, there will be tremendous transformation of the Nigerian economy. Expectedly, more resources will be available to government to fund agriculture, social infrastructure and the foreign exchange market.

The trickle-down effect on the economy will be phenomenal. The expected improvement in infrastructure will surely boost foreign investments, create employment and strengthen the naira. Every Nigerian, sooner or later will be better off and the country itself will be on the path to real development. However, one important fact is that the debt write-off is a great diplomatic mileage which journey began over six years ago. Immediately the Nigerian people gave him their mandate in 1999, the President began the great race to position Nigeria as the number one black nation on earth. Insisting that the country had no reason not to be the leader of Africa, Obasanjo hopped on the plane travelling all over the world with a view to convincing the world that there was a new dawn in Nigeria and that the country should therefore be stripped of its pariah status.

Obasanjo shuttled frequently and extensively to all parts of the world up to the point that Nigerians became deeply irritated that their President was ruling them from the air. Then, there was a deluge of criticism with some Nigerians describing Obasanjo as “a flying President” who is more at home abroad than in Nigeria. Some Nigerians even got to the ridiculous extent of derisively compiling Obasanjo’s numerous trips into a book. But despite the unceasing scathing criticisms, the President kept his focus, intensifying the drive to position his country as the real giant of Africa and a prominent player in world politics.

The result of the President’s effort to make his country a strong voice in world affairs is now there for all to see. No matter what anybody thinks, President Obasanjo has taken Nigeria to another level. The country now has a tremendously good image and is gradually inching its way towards becoming the greatest black nation in the world. Today, because of the admirable leap in its stature occasioned by President Obasanjo’s deft diplomatic shuttles, Nigeria is highly favoured to clinch a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. Recently when African leaders converged on Sirte, Libya, it was clear that Nigeria’s international profile has been gradually dwarfing that of all other African countries hitherto believed to be ahead of it in terms of political stability and economic advancement.

In the context with South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Senegal and Libya who are also in contention for the UN seat, Nigeria’s prospect appears brighter. And that was because President Obasanjo made it appear so. He has met with several African leaders and has been shouting himself hoarse that Nigeria’s democratic credentials have shone brightly.

The President, in his characteristic witty way of doing things, said in Tokyo in April 2005, that the world is made up of the white, yellow, brown and the black people and that Nigeria constitutes 20 percent of the blacks in Africa and should therefore be the automatic choice for the United Nations Security Council seat. Obasanjo has no doubt championed the cause of Africa and fight for Africa’s place in the sun. Nigeria has had 45 years of diplomatic and peacekeeping experience and has the highest troop’s deployment in UN operations at the moment.

Again, since he came to power six years ago, Obasanjo has intervened successfully in political crises in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Congo, Zimbabwe, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Sao Tome and Principe, Rwanda and Sudan. In some instances, the President had summoned warring factions to Abuja for the resolution of the crises in their various countries. In the case of Sao Tome and Principe, Obasanjo ensured that the democratic head of the country, which was toppled by the army, was reinstated. Nigeria even risked the goodwill of some Western countries when it gave political asylum to former Liberian President, Mr. Charles Taylor, for the sake of peace and stability in the West African sub-region.

In recent times, the innovative New Partnership for Africa Development, NEPAD, championed by President Obasanjo and President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, has blazed the trail for the mobilisation of western capital for Africa’s development. The country is able to do this because of its relatively comfortable foreign reserves, which is currently the highest in Africa. Besides, the Nigerian leader has ensured that the country continues to share the expertise of her people with countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands by sending technical aids to them under the Technical Aid Corps at great cost to the country.

The fact is that President Obasanjo has carved a new niche for Nigeria. The country is now admired and respected by the rest of Africa and indeed the world. Most countries in Africa now look forward to Nigeria for the resolution of their internal conflicts. Even countries in Europe and America are beginning to realise that Nigeria can no longer be ignored in the comity of nations.

To summarise all these is to say that the dividends of the President’s democratic shuttles are now tumbling in. Foreign investments are pouring in and will continue to pour in. The country’s rating in the international community has improved tremendously. Now that more than half of the country’s debt has been written off, Nigeria may as well be on the path of economic recovery. If the country eventually gets the permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, then that would be a deserved icing on the cake. And it may just be around the corner.

Dr. Azaiki is Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government. This piece was published in The Guardian, July 20, 2005.

Alamieyeseigha Goes Home 9th April 2016

GOOD BYE MY BROTHER

To save your world you asked this man to die: would this man, could he see you now, ask why?
Wystan Hugh Auden (1907- 73)

Today 10/10/15 our Iroko fell. A fearless man. The Adukali 1 of Epie and Atissa people. Mark Twain had Alamieyeseigha in mind when he said “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”

Alamieyeseigha was a man of many parts. From 2005 Alamieyeseigha’s health has been a subject of discussion for us his friends and family. But Alamieyeseigha being a strong man had fought his Health issues gallantly. Yesterday his health suddenly became difficult to manage and today he was rushed to the hospital and he died.

I have lost a brother and a loving friend. Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha was many things to many people. What ever we think we know of him, what ever we want to say of him, let us remember that he is dead and dead person do not speak. Lynn Caine was speaking to us when she said “Since every death diminishes us a little , we grieve – not so much for the death as for ourselves. Alamieyeseigha and his family has suffered enough. Let the dead be.

To me Alamieyeseigha was the senior brother I never had. He was good to me and my family. He showed me love and respect. I will always remember the words of Marcus Tullius Cicero , ” The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.”

I am crying writing about him in the past tense, it confirms to me that truly Alamieyeseigha is gone. Alamieyeseigha died carrying the burden of his deprived and depressed people. Martin Luther king, Jr. Said “A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live”.

We know and you know that Alamieyeseigha died for something greater than himself. Like Isaac Boro and like Ken Saro – Wiwa our people will always remember them. Albert Pike told us that “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; What we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.

What ever any one will say about him let that person not deny him this; Alamieyeseigha loved his people, Alamieyeseigha was passionate about the Izon Nation, the Niger Delta, and Alamieyeseigha was a Nigerian patriot.

John Wise ( 1717) was right; “Death Observes no Ceremony.” To para phrase Quintus Ennius, “Let no one weep for him, or celebrate his funeral with mourning; for he still live, as he pass to and fro through the mouths of men.

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TRIBUTE TO CHIEF DIEPREYE SOLOMON Peter ALAMIEYESEIGHA (“DSP”)

TRIBUTE TO CHIEF DIEPREYE SOLOMON Peter ALAMIEYESEIGHA (“DSP”) (16 November 1952 – 10 October 2015)
By Prof. Steve Azaiki
Many times we wait until a friend has died to tell the world what a wonderful person they were, and I’m just as guilty as the next person about that. Today, I would like to pay tribute to a very dear friend, brother and Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.
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Let me describe my friend. We call him Governor General of the Ijaw nation because he was one of the most focused and intelligent political leaders of our time.
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 He always listened to his people however trivial the problem was. Alams, as we called him for short, always wanted to be strong for everyone and hated being vulnerable. As the rest of us whined about life, he was always optimistic and believed in tomorrow even in ill and deteriorating health conditions. Governor General was so full of life, so much that some of us forgot about his terminal illness.
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I am deeply saddened by the passing of my dear friend Alams. When I heard the news, I immediately began reflecting on all the outrageously funny and wonderful times we spent together while in government, at home, during our travels within Nigeria and beyond.
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He was a truly remarkable man who possessed the gift of laughter when necessary and strictness when required. He loved his people and did everything possible to promote their identity
Governor General was my boss, beloved by many who knew him.  He was an exceptional leader because he tries to hire the best and allow them work with little supervision. Our team then, when he was Governor was an assemblage of some of the best our new state then could produce. He made us work so hard as though we were running against time to catch up with other states in terms of development projects.
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 Alams had a simple philosophy about what makes success in government business. “hire good people and have them do their jobs” he would say.
He was never overbearing, in humility he correct his lieutenants in simplicity he deciplines. Governor General gave people opportunity and then got out of the way allowing them to perform their best.  His greatest gift was that he made our job fun. His leadership never changed even outside government.
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The mind is sharp; it recollects. As I write, I can almost hear his voice with every word I pen. I figure, I can almost say these words the same exact way he does. Oh, the things I remember now. I remember the happy times, the tough times, and serious times. I remember his humility in character and firmness in belief. My last meeting with him, the laughs, the hugs, the instructions, the pessimism’s and the last phone call. I wish I knew that was our last.
My spirit is high because I know Alams lives on. The flesh may have returned to the dust, but his dreams of his people, his hopes of better days, and his cry for justice will live on.
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Yes, I remember so many things about Alams. But what I remember, most of all that he was my friend, colleague and my boss.  I am deeply saddened by his loss. I pray that God accept him unto His bosom and give his family the fortitude to bear the loss.
Rest in Peace, my friend.

Madam Abirindi Stephen Azaiki Passes On To Glory!

I KNOW MY MOTHER HAS GONE TO HEAVEN

Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of children – William Makepeace Thackeray

 

2I was with my mother in her farm at Ovom bush that November afternoon, when two men came to talk to her, and then she screamed, fell and cried. I do not remember how we got home. I was crying because my mother was distraught, crying and wailing. But, later that evening I cried for the reason that would come to define my life. I was ten (10) years old when the news came that day that my father, one of the best brains in Attissa, son of Yenebebeli, one of the first people to build a modern (block) building in Yenagoa, a headmaster of outstanding pedigree, was dead. I cried. For me, I thought to myself that my life had come to an end.

The next day, my mother, Abirindi, daughter of Chief Fefegha, who challenged the Colonial Royal Niger Company, picked herself up, dusted herself from the floor where she sat, took me by the hand, walked me to Yenagoa waterside, bathed me properly and said to me, “Son, your father wanted you to go to grammar school, that was his wish. I will sell my last wrapper to make sure you go to grammar school. Weep no more.”

Maxim Gorky, that Great Russian writer was right when he said, “Only mothers can think of the future – because they give birth to it in their children”. The love of a mother can propel a child to greatness. I was raised by a single mother who worked twenty-five hours a day, to make things easy for me. She would leave home for her farm before the cock crows at dawn, and return at dusk, rarely before 7pm, and still go to the village square to buy ingredients for soup, having brought yam and plantain from her farm. On her way home from her farm, she would stop to check on her fishing trap, but she must come home to make that late dinner. Then, according to her, by her culture she must clean up the dishes. Then, she will begin to prepare and select the Adia (yam seedling or the Okile (cocoyam) for planting, and then again she would begin to weave the Ikeli (traps for shrimps) or the Ukpom (Basket) that she must sell on Edeafieki (market) Day. Thinking back now, those memories remain hazy, yet vivid at the same time, and I am at a fog in remembering those events or happenings. Were they real? Did my mother normally stay awake all night? Oh yes, I remember when she was weaving the Ikeli or Dumu Utaran (Pounding the Fufu). She told me and friends, especially my Cousin, Domokumo, tales of her great grandfather and father; how her grandfather gave the land to the Anglican Church and St. Peters school, Yenagoa. She also told me then that my paternal grandfather, Iwemu, was a wrestling champion and how my grandfather brought the Anglican Church to Yenebebeli, and how my father, Christian Stephen, was the most handsome Headmaster in the country. I never was interested in this part of her stories. The part that captivated my attention was Ifiama, a wizard, a woman that was operating an invisible television in Yenagoa. She could tell tomorrow. She predicted outcome of wrestling competitions. She was simultaneously feared and revered throughout the land. She also told me stories of her forefathers’ immigration from the Bini Kingdom. In fact, she told me about Oguara, a great Bini giant of a man, who could uproot a palm tree to sweep his compound. A man who could pull down Aka (Iroko Tree) with one hand. She told of the great deceit of Iwiri (Tortoise) and how he manipulated the birds to let him fly with them and explained why tortoise has cracked shells.

Looking back now, I continue to marvel at the intelligence, wisdom and the information that was stored in that smallish head. Engr. Izi Faafa, who has interacted with my mother on many occasion, particularly during our time in Lagos, concluded that Abirindi was one of the most intelligent women he had ever met.

Truly, my mother did not attend a formal school, but in my mind, she was one of the most educated persons I have ever met. If I am to score my mother I will give her an ‘A’ in Literature, an ‘A’ in History, an ‘A’ in Languages (my mother could speak many languages – pidgin English, Nembe, Kolokuma, Epie, Kalabari, Okirika, passable Yoruba, passable Hausa, passable Bini), and an ‘A’ in Agriculture. It was years later when speaking with Professor Zehlia Babaciwilhite, a Professor of linguistics at Berkeley that I began to appreciate the depth of knowledge stored in my mother’s head. In fact, my mother was the unrecognized professor of languages. Long before I went to study Agriculture to Ph.D. level, my mother had taught me crop rotation, land fallow system, shifting cultivation, irrigation, seed multiplication, bio fertilizer, compose manure, multiple cropping, erosion control, crop preservation and a host of other concepts related to sound farming practices.

I arrived in the Soviet Union on a Federal Government scholarship to study medicine, but the authorities decided that in the city where I was posted, the quota for medical students had been exhausted, and consequently, I was redirected to the field of agriculture. I spent days on my return to Nigeria during the holidays, explaining to my mother that I was actually studying agriculture, not medicine, and when she finally understood what I was saying, she smiled and said “You see, that’s why it is good to follow your mother to the farm; I have already taught you all of that.” Indeed, she had taught me all that. Mother had several farms. One was in Uto Kpakaram at Ikolo, and others in places like Azibani, Ukobode Yenebebeli, Otoro Famgbe, Azi Swali, Okotumo Ovom, Eti Fitepigi and Igbene Ozubidebide. We would go from one farm to the other, planting and harvesting the crop of the season.

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Yesterday my paternal cousin, Effort Dokubo, sent me a text commiserating with me on my mother’s death and brought sweet memories to my mind’s eye. He reminded me that, he, along with his mother and others in a canoe, as well as me with my mother in a canoe, all rowing by hand, were travelling from Yenagoa to Warri and my mother, ever caring, would call out Etiemo (my sister), that we should stop at the next fishing port to eat something before moving ahead. It was a tedious, painstaking job, manually rowing a canoe on a journey which took about five days, a journey in which we would sell our wares in villages along the way. I travelled on many occasions with my mother to far flung places such as Ukubie, Ozezama, Basambiri, Ogbolomabiri, Okpoama, Twon Brass, etc. My mother would buy plantain, yams, cassava at Oyoyo Market at Ovom and would sell these items by barter (in exchange for dry fish), from village to village during the flooding season when there was no farming, and bring this fish back to Yenagoa to sell them at the Oyoyo Market. Years later as Secretary to the Government, I was instrumental to moving the Oyoyo Market to Swali when Governor Alamieyeseigha completed the building of the Swali Market .

My mother taught me about the power of inspiration, hope, love, compassion, generosity, sincerity and loyalty.  She did it with the strength and passion that I wish could be found in every mother. By the time I was in my teens, I had unknowingly become a gentleman, respecting and treating women with absolute respect and tenderness.

My mother and my late sister, Cecilia Zifawei, taught me how to respect the virtues and values of a woman. Both overworked themselves trying to play the dual roles of man and woman, father and mother, in the home. Unfortunately, Cecelia died five (5) years ago, and I am yet to recover from her untimely demise. I blame her for making me an only surviving child. I blame her for dying; leaving me alone to bury my mother, a task that she could have done much better than me. I blame her for leaving me alone. I blame her and I refuse to forgive her. Her death has given me too much pain and now this blast – “Alamieyeseigha”.

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You can shed tears that Abirindi is gone or you can smile because she has lived the fullness of life. Abirindi lived for over ninety (90) years. Her only surviving brother and my uncle, Chief Costman Fefegha, told me that by his calculation and judging by his own age, my mother was at least ninety (90) years old, maybe even more.

Abirindi had two surviving sisters –Baby and Erebigha, and a brother, the aforementioned Chief Costman Fefegha. Their parents, my grandparents, died when my mother, Abirindi, was about fourteen years old. To take care of her younger ones (Baby, Erebigha and Costman), she decided to marry at an early age in order to provide for her siblings. By all accounts, she did a great job, as each of them became successful in their own right. Both of her sisters had many children and my mother’s only surviving brother has more than seven children and many grandchildren.

So, who motivated me to be the man I am? The answer is simple – my mother. My mother may have been considered “illiterate” by academic parlance, but she was by far, the wisest and most learned person I have ever met. She was a peasant woman, petty trader, basket weaver, fisher woman. She struggled all her life and did menial jobs, such carrying loads, cleaning. She taught me about the dignity in labour, a lesson which proved invaluable during my years in the Soviet Union.

Throughout my life, my mom has been the person that I have always looked up to; her smile an inspiration, her suffering a source of courage and her lack of a formal education, a vivid reminder for me to remain humble.

I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. I believe even now as I write, mother is still praying for me and my family.

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The legacy of my mother, to me, is her generosity, kindness and love, all of which were infectious. Her humility, Godliness, and smiles were the true manifestation of Godliness – love. Growing up, my mother’s house was a dormitory, kitchen, restaurant, store, bank, market, school, everything. My mother, unlike most women I knew who would send you away when it is time to eat or will tell you your friend is not at home because it is time for them to eat, was quite different in this regard. My mother would actually send me three (3) kilometers to go call my friend or cousin or whoever, to come and eat with me during meal time. She taught me values which I never believed possible to practice. She was Mama Azaiki, Mama Yenagoa, Ina Gene, Ina Eni and later people began calling her Mama Africa. How this Mama Africa came about I do not know.

Growing up, I saw my mother as the most beautiful woman – dark, petite, white teeth, swaging steps, curvy lips and a fixed smile. My mother never forgot, not even for a moment, that she was the daughter of Chief Fefegha and a princess. It was that dignified humility that distinguished her in a crowd – stoic and proud, yet calm and humble with impeccable comportment. I owe everything I am today, to my mother, and even then, I cannot compare to her greatness. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.

In 1992, I returned home finally from the former Soviet Union with a Ph.D. in Agriculture. The Epie and Atissa Communities decided to do a befitting welcome party for me. Thanks to Patterson Kikile, Amasamana Ikiobofa, Sinivie Ototo, Noble Akenge and others. At that reception Chief Frank Omeleh of Yenaka was the Chairman. In attendance was the Obeni Ibe Epie (Clan Head), Chief Charles Agulata and Ebeni Ibe Atissa (Clan Head), Chief B.L.W. Mabinton. It was at that occasion that the greatest gathering of the two clans to celebrate an illustrious son took place. It was at that gathering that I saw an emaciated, worn-out, malaria/typhoid ridden, almost dead woman – Abirindi, my mother, my Inaa, my Mekiviewo. When our eyes met I saw many stars in hers. But I also saw tears and sadness, om addition to joy and may be hopelessness or may be like she was saying I’m done or maybe she was saying I told you at the waterside you will go to college, or like she was saying we did it for Christian Stephen. Or maybe she said none of these people here gave me food when I was hungry, gave me water when I was thirsty. I wept.

That moment, I realized that if my mother is to live another day, if my mother would ever smile again, if my mother will be happy again, it will depend on the decisions I make. I decided from that moment in 1992, that my mother will be my child and I will take her to the riverside and reassure her that she will be happy again. She will be the giver again. She will live as long as she would want to live. I took my mother back to Lagos with me. When I was posted to Ibadan, Odede (my sister’s daughter that came to live with me at age ten) and my mother accompanied me. From Ibadan I moved back to Lagos, and from Lagos to Port-Harcourt; my mother lived with me till I married my wife, Mimi.

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Mimi and my children – her grandchildren, accepted and loved the women I loved most – Abirindi and Cecelia. One day, my mother told me “son, you know I worked hard, but I own nothing, and am so very happy I chose to be your mother instead of properties.” That night I thought about my conversation with mother, then I told myself I will work very hard so that I can get my mother those basic things she missed by paying my fees and providing for me when I was a child. I bought a house in Port-Harcourt, built a house for her in Yenagoa and provided for her to the beset of my humble abilities. My mother was never excited about material things. In fact, to my surprise, when I told her that I have built two small houses for teachers and finished the building of a Primary school in Yenebebeli, she stood up and hugged me. I saw my mother again the way she looked at me when I told her I “passed” and that I was going to grammar school.

Last year, upon roofing of the Yenebebeli Anglican Church, I came to Yenagoa, and in her bedroom, I whispered to her that I have just completed the roofing of the Yenebebeli church. Again, I got my reward on earth with the most beautiful smile I have seen in all my life. My mother told me on several different occasions, that she was living her dream vicariously through me. She once said that I was getting to do all the things that she would have wanted to have done. I knew then, as I do now, that God actually lived in my mother. As I write this, I am 100% certain my mother is with God. I asked for proof and God gave it to me.

God showed me the proof by the way she died. For more than eight months as the President of the International Society of Comparative Education, Science Technology, Nigeria, I had been preparing to host the world to a conference starting from the 3rd to 8th October, 2015. The conference date was shifted to 10th December through 14th December, 2015 to allow the Bayelsa governorship election to come and go. Now, my mother also knew that her son, a visiting professor to several institutions overseas, may not be around when she dies. She, like Chief G. M. Odumgba, had raised this issue with me. My mother also knew that by the tradition of the Epie/Atissa people when an elder dies, one must be present for four days and on the fourth day celebrate Ede Peletiemo, that day is set aside for relatives to celebrate the dead or better, put relatives to present themselves for recognition. For our custom and culture and tradition, it is a taboo not to be present. My mother was thinking of all these cultural and traditional commitments and wondering how I will be able to manage it. But, for the hundredth time, my mother did it again, proving to me the love, the affection and appreciating all that I have done for her (I know that whatever I did for my mother she had paid in full, I was only trying to thank her for the twenty-hours hours a day she gave in for me). That 10th of December morning, at about 5a.m. she came to my Hotel room at Aridolf Hotel and told me “mebidam” (I am leaving). Thinking she was going to the farm, I asked which of the farms – and she said “to Heaven”. My mother died 6:30am that same morning.

By dying on the 10th of December, the same day we were starting the conference, it allowed me to give my mother the respect and dignity she so deserved, allowing me to honour the four-day tradition of celebration.

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I will always remember my mother. My sweet mother. Keep praying for me and my family. Do what you know best. Do not forget Ikolo, Famgbe, Swali, Yenagoa, Ogbogoro, Yes and Akaba and Ovom and Onopa and Agudama. I have named the street where you lived after you – Madam Abirindi Stephen Azaiki Street. It will probably be here for a long time. But, it is not in the naming of street that we will remember you. You will be remembered for your generosity, for your neighborliness, for your kindness, for your compassion and for your humility.

Albert Pike was right when he said “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal’’. You will never die. From your rotting body flowers shall grow and you are in them and that is eternity.

Prof. Steve Azaiki, OON

President, International Society of Comparative Education, Science and Technology, Nigeria.

Alamieyeseigha – His Day Is Done

By Steve Azaiki

Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha was undergoing treatment in Dubai, when he and I spoke on the 3rd and 4th October, this year. We discussed political developments in Nigeria and the forthcoming governorship election in Bayelsa State. He assured me as usual that he was on the side of truth and that the Ijaw nation must stand united. Then, he called me on Monday, 5th October, but I missed his call. I returned his call in the evening, he informed me that he was back to Nigeria.  We discussed the rumour making the rounds that he was to face extradition to London. He was his normal self, except that he was interested in seeing me and would be in Yenagoa the next day.

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That night (Monday) I called Governor Seriake Dickson, to discuss Alamieyeseigha and the extradition rumour.  The Governor and I agreed that the rumour was locally generated, designed and calculated to embarrass Alamieyesigha. That same night, because it was too late, I decided against calling Alamieyesigha, but instead sent him a text message thus: “I discussed with the Governor, we do not see any reason for this rumour, we do not believe it. When you come I will go with you to see the Governor. Sir, can you come with the first flight, I am going with my friend to Agbor, to attend his mother’s funeral.”

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Chief Alamieyeseigha called me around 1.30 p.m. the following day, at that time I was already at Warri on my way to Agbor. Since I received the news of his death, I have often contemplated the fact that, if only I had seen him, he probably would not have died.

On Friday, 9th October, I had a very bad dream. In it, I saw a man holding a torch, he was giving a group of people direction, saying, “We are almost there, I am very tired, you guys should move ahead, that is the place. I will not go with you, because I have done everything to make this long journey possible. I have done it for you. Now, I will stay here and not allow the evil trees grow.” By 5p.m. on Saturday, 10th October, I received news that Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha was gone. He did not arrive at the Promised Land with us. He stood there as the gatekeeper so that evil doers would not cross over.

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I had known Alamieyeseigha since 1998. Over those years, I can only testify to his goodness. I cannot speak of his sins, that is for God. But my testimony is that Alamieyeseigha was a good man. He loved life, native soup, vegetable soup, eba, unripe plantain, fine and spacious house, but not a vanity for clothes, he loved cars, he loved to dance and he admired beauty. Alamieyeseigha carried his burden of leadership with a smile. Never complaining, always cheerful, always optimistic and always positive.

Alamieyeseigha was forceful, open and accommodating. He was never rigid; he would say, “if you convince me I will bow to superior argument. “ Alamieyeseigha was a man of peace, never confrontational, never argumentative but persuasive, though firm in his belief. He hated oppression, he hated injustice and he passionately hated hypocrisy.

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Alamieyeseigha’s strength, which most people mistook for weakness, was his large heart. Alamieyeseigha forgave unconditionally. He forgave all the members of the committee that recommended his impeachment in 2005. He told me, “I have forgiven the Chief Judge, Justice Emmanuel Igoniwari; I have forgiven the Speaker and fifteen members of the Assembly that impeached me.” He said, Steve, “I have forgiven our sons and daughters that plotted my arrest and impeachment. I have even forgiven the British Police, I have forgiven former President Olusegun Obasanjo. I have forgiven all those who plotted my downfall, including those who carried coffin on the street.”

I testify that, in truth and indeed, Alamieyeseigha forgave them all. He attended their mother’s funerals,   father’s   funerals, birthday parties, daughters and sons weddings; he celebrated with them and mourned with them. To paraphrase Ralph Mc Gill (1898-1969), “One of the shameful chapters of this country was how many of the comfortable— especially those who profited from the misery of Alamieyeseigha – abused him. But he got even in a way that was almost cruel. He forgave them.”

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Alamieyeseigha was a patriot to the core. When, in 2003 and 2004, kidnapping was finding its way into the Nigerian vocabulary;  when the reason for kidnapping was not for the  demand of millions of Naira, but out of frustration of the people deprived of their God-given  wealth and right to manage their resources, denied of participation in the  politics of their country. The youths were demanding for attention, calling on the Federal Government to take notice of their suffering in a land of plenty, a land that is benefiting from the crude oil in their underbelly, yet they have nothing to show for it. At that time I had the rare courage to dare go with Alamieyeseigha to Sangana Sea to rescue thirteen foreign nationals held hostage on an oil platform. We risked our lives. I thought I would die. In that boat at that point when I was sure we would not return back home, Alamieyeseigha told me: “My brother, remember we fought for Nigeria, the Ijaw Nation is the thread holding Nigeria together, we must do our best for our country.” When those young Ijaw boys saw Alamieyeseigha, all of them prostrated and greeted him: “Governor General nuooo, Governor General carry go.’’ That was the respect, that was the esteem, the man commanded. Alamaieyeseigha was a great man, a great Ijaw man, above all he was a Nigerian patriot. At that time, President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote him a letter thanking him for risking his life, “Our Nation owes you a debt of gratitude.”

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Alamieyeseigha was truly detribalized. He was the Ganuwan Katsina; his friends were the true sons of the North: Abdulsalami, Hassan, Bayero, General Ibrahim, Abubakar, Sale, Aliyu. He was honoured in Yoruba land. The Oba of Lagos was his friend, the late Ooni of Ife was his friend, Tinubu, Bukola, Olubolade, Olurin, Akande, AVM Adeleye who was the Military Governor of old Rivers State appointed Alamaiseyegha his Military Assistant (M.A). The Ibos loved him. Uche Chukuwumerije who appointed him Special Assistant when he was Minister of Information; Okolo, Ojukwu, Osifo, Pius and many others were his friends from the South-east. In the South-South, Alamieyeseigha was the Niger Delta Resource Control Champion, irrepressible and unstoppable.

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In all his actions Alamieyeseigha was always in support of one indivisible Nigeria. He had made it clear that fighting for resource control was a National responsibility, he used the Niger Delta only as a reference place, that the country must be fair to all.

Alamieyeseigha –-His day is done. While we cry and mourn, what will we remember him for?  I will remember Alamieyeseigha as a man who loved unconditionally. I will remember how Alamieyeseigha approved N24million for Mrs. Ojoru, a Level 10 civil servant, to fight cancer in London, I will remember how he approved N9million to a first class Chief to travel overseas for treatment, I will  remember how he asked me to go see an Ibo man in the hospital, in Lagos, how the man was flown overseas on the instruction of Alamieyeseigha, I know of a Brigade Commander, that the Army could not help, Alamieyeseigha and sent him overseas for treatment, I know of one Sanusi  who Alamieyeseigha sent to India for surgery, what of a Director in the SSS that was attacked by armed robbers at Abakaliki in Ebonyi State, I reported the critical condition of the man  to Governor Alamieyeseigha and he immediately sent his Commissioner for Health Dr. Baralete to fly the officer to Germany.

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On 18th October, young men and women dressed in black marched through the streets of Yenagoa to condole with the family of Alamieyeseigha at Opolo. I know most of them; these are young Bayelsans Alamieyeseigha had sent overseas, specifically to study in Russia, Belo Russia and Ukraine. Bayelsa state, I remember vividly as pioneer Commissioner for Agriculture, had only one veterinary doctor, Dr. Seiyefa, who was my Permanent Secretary, the Yenagoa General  Hospital probably had only two indigenous  doctors. Today,  thanks to Alamieyeseigha, Bayelsa has upward of hundred medical doctors, numerous master’s degree holders and PhD’s. I remember that even while he was in detention he directed that Bayelsans who had applied for the special scholarship programme be given their monies. At a special ceremony at the Women Affairs Auditorium, I handed over cheques worth millions of Naira to beneficiaries: N5million for Master’s degree and N10million for  PhD students going overseas. Today, most of them are back and contributing to the development of our country.

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Alamieyeseigha established the Niger Delta University at Amassoma to check youth restiveness in the Niger Delta. To support the University faculty, Alamieyeseigha established a special scholarship programme to send University lecturers overseas to study for Master’s and PhD. Today, some of the beneficiaries are Professors at the University. I know this, because I was there and I am still at NDU as a member of the University Governing Council.

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I remember Miss Yokorigha who received US$100,000, to study in Brazil. I know of Dr. Owei, current Commissioner of Health, who Alamieyeseigha sponsored to Germany to study plastic surgery; I know of Engr. Agina of the Ministry of Works Alamieyeseigha sent to Germany to study Bridge Engineering. These people I have written about are alive and I do expect them to speak up and honour this lover of education.

I once asked Alamieyeseigha how he would like to be remembered. “Alamieyeseigha,” he paused. “Izon man, from the Niger Delta. I am a full Nigerian, I am very proud of this privilege God has given me. Nigeria has been unfair to me yes, but many Nigerians have been good to me, I love Nigeria.” Then he burst into laughter. Alamieyeseigha’s legacy, to me, was his faith in his country, his humility, his courage. Alamieyeseigha was a fearless man. A man who spoke the truth, a man who stood for justice and equity. A man who stood up for the minority. A man who gave his all to and for his people, the Izon Nation.

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Now, let me say this. My opinion may not be popular; but this is what I know of the man. Alamieyeseigha was a good man. Writing about him in past tense brings tears to my already over-worked eyes. Alamieyeseigha was truthful to us. He apologized for the pain he caused us. He cried for the humiliation his family, his friends, and the Izon Nation suffered on account of his sins. He asked for forgiveness, just as he forgave us all. Lois McMaster Bujold said: “The dead cannot cry for justice, it is a duty of the living to do so for them.”

To the Izon nation, to the people of Bayelsa, now that Alamieyeseigha is no more, the one the wife calls Caterpillar, the one I call General, the one Izon people knew was their leader, the one we knew as our Governor General of the Izon Nation, the one Nigeria knew was a patriot. We must now bury our differences, political, social, cultural, whatsoever and come together as a people, work for the development of our people and state. John Donne (c. 1571-1631) wrote: “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th American President, said famously: “The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what he did here. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honoured dead we take increased devotion to that cause  for which    he gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.’’

In conclusion, let the world know that Alamieyeseigha as Governor of Bayelsa State did so much. However, he could have done much more if he had been allowed to finish the race. He commenced the construction of the 500-bed hospital (Dickson is improving on it), he built the Banquet Hall, he built the Opolo Commissioner Quarters, he built the Azikoro Housing Estate, he built the Treasury House, he built the super guest lodges behind the banquet hall, he built the Sani Abacha Road. He proved to Nigeria that the Niger Delta terrain should no longer be an excuse, by constructing the Yenagoa – Amassoma Road, the first time anybody or government had dared to construct a road to the heartland of the Delta. He dualized and built the first major highway in Bayelsa – the Yenagoa–Mbiama  Road, he built the College of Arts and Science, he built the Secretariat, etc.

Now, therefore, I will end this testimony with the words of Benjamin Franklin, American scientist and Philosopher, “The body of Chief D.S.P Alamieyeseigha PhD, JP, First Civilian Governor of Bayelsa State, Governor General of the Izon Nation, Politician, (like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out and stripped of its lettering and  gilding) lies here, food for worms, but the work shall not be lost, for it will (as he believed) appear once more in a new and more elegant edition, revised and corrected by the author.” Chinua Achebe in his book, “A Man Of The People,” (1966) Chapter Thirteen wrote: ‘‘In such a regime (the government of Chief Nanga in Nigeria), I say, you died a good death if your life had inspired someone to come forward and shoot your murderer in the chest without asking to be paid.” No one will kill to revenge Alamieyeseigha’s death, but I tell you today that history will be very kind to him. I know this, because his biography will stand the test of time for generations yet unborn.

  • This piece was sent in from Johannesburg, South Africa, by Prof. Steve Azaiki (OON), former Secretary to the Bayelsa State Government.

http://www.ngrguardiannews.com/2015/11/diepreye-alamieyeseigha-his-day-is-done/

THE SECOND CIVIL WAR

THE SECOND CIVIL WAR

Last April, 2014, I wrote in the Guardian newspaper an article titled: Nigeria at War: The case for State of Emergency. I wrote that article because of what was happening in my country and the nonchalant attitude of my country men and women who goes about their business as if our men, women and children are not dying daily. I have three beautiful daughters, who are still finding it difficult to recover from the shock and agony of the abduction and taken into slavery of the Chibok girls.

Then quite recently too, I saw on the front page of Daily Trust newspaper photograph of rescued Nigerian men and women with their children all clustered in low spirit inside a truck that was conveying them back to Nigeria from God knows where. Jesus wept! My heart bleeds for my people. It was Charles Francis Adams (1807 – 86), son of John Quincy Adams, who said:”it would be superfluous of me to point out to your Lordship that this is war”. Seriously, Nigeria has been at war with itself since 2010 when Boko Haram started operating like Mongol hordes.

At first, the Muslim North was silent because the operators were Muslim; “Non Enim facile de his quos Plurimum diligimus turpitudinem suspicamur” meaning:”For we do not easily expect evil of those we love most”. Yet the South was busy with their Niger Delta and OPC and kidnapping and armed-robberies so nobody took notice. Even now, Nigerians who are far from the genocidal scene behave as if North-East or North-West is in Asia.

Boko haram promotes a version of Islam which makes it “haram” or forbidden, for Muslims to take part in any political or social activity associated with western society. The group’s official name is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’a wati wal – Jihad, which means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophets Teachings and Jihad”. Boko Haram loosely translated from the North-East Hausa language, means “western education is forbidden”. These people should have lived in ancient Greece. In ancient Greece, according to John Lloyd et el, in 1,227 quite interesting facts; the word “idiot” meant anyone who wasn’t a politician.

In April 2014, Boko Haram abducted more than 200 school girls from Chibok village in Borno state into slavery. In August of 2014, Mr. Shekau declared a caliphate in areas under Boko Haram’s control with the town of Gwoza as its seat of power. “We are in an Islamic caliphate” said Mr. Shekau, flanked by masked fighters and carrying a machine gun. “We have nothing to do with Nigeria. We don’t believe in this name.” Later, Mr. Shekau formally pledged allegiance to Islamic State (ISIS) which gave the body an international dimension.

On May 29, Boko Haram struck, seven people were reportedly killed by twin explosions at a village wedding in Borno on the same day. On May 30, a day after President Buhari’s inauguration, a suicide bomber struck at a mosque in Maiduguri during the afternoon prayer session killing 16 people. On the same day on the Dala Lawanti, west of the city, Boko Haram insurgents killed 13 people. At 1pm, on June 2nd my birthday at the busy meat market in Maiduguri 30 people died. What an agonizing birthday for me. My Country men and women and children are dying daily and I am powerless. But I can write their story. Chinua Achebe was right; “Writers don’t give prescriptions. They give headaches”.

I can tell Nigerians what we all know is happening to our brothers and sisters, the pain and agony, sorrow and the shame and confusion our people in Borno and Adamawa and Yobe are carrying as a burden today. We all know and we all are aware of the death and rape and slavery that are recklessly going on in Maiduguri, Baga, and Wagir in Gubja Local government of Yobe state. Since President Buhari came to power more than 300 Nigerians have died in the hands of Boko Haram and yet, it appears, Nigerians do not give a damn.

It is amazing, unbelievable, the human and material resources America, Britain or for that matter any other civilized country will put to looking for one missing child or the shooting of one of its citizens. Here we are, hundreds of our people are dying and everyone pretends its happening in the distance. It is happening right in front of us.

General Robert E. Lee in a letter to his wife on December, 1862 wrote “what a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our heart with hatred instead of love for our neighbours, and to devastate the fair of this beautiful world”. My wife loves watching crime channels, so to make her happy, I have had to join her in watching crime channels.

I have been having sleepless night because of the photo of those little children I saw on the front page of Daily Trust, I promised myself I will do something about this insanity, stupid war and foolishness. I called a friend Tola Ogunubi and Usman Shuaibu to accompany me to the Durumi camp of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), those whom Boko Haram has turned into refugees in their own country. When we got there, what I saw, the frustration, the shame, the humiliation, the pain, the death, the sick, the pregnant, etc. I knew Nigeria is not yet a Nation. Nigeria is an incorporated entity. Nigeria group of companies. No Nation will abandon its own people in that manner.

I spoke to a boy, Ahmed Saidu, whom a good Samaritan, has provided barbing kits for and is now a barber. –Ahmed said he saw his father Ibrahim Saidu slaughtered but he pretended to be dead when his younger brother’s head was hacked off. Hajia Hauwa is eight months pregnant, I dare not ask her who is the father especially after what Hajia Halima told me. She was repeatedly raped. Her daughters were raped severally. She was there. Her husband was there too. Then they killed all of them. She does not know how she survived. The camp coordinator told me he is a living miracle to have been able to get out of that madness.

Then I attempted to talk to the kids: where is your mother? Babu! Where is your father? Babu! Ask the pregnant women, you are all pregnant have you seen a doctor? Babu! Have you eaten? Babu! My fellow Nigerians, Durumi camp that has about 1200 IDP is not in Adamawa, it is not in Yobe, it is not Borno. It is in Durumi very close to the beautiful training school of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS, in Abuja. This is the shame of our people fellow Nigerians. Yes, Government can and should do something but what have we as citizens done? Are we truly all Nigerians? Are we a Nation?

A good Samaritan, has arranged some Youth Corpers to teach the children some basic subjects in a make shift school. I held the chalk in my hands and I wrote A and the children shouted A, I wrote B and the children shouted B, then tears began to flow. At that moment, I was thinking of myself, how I lost my father at age 10, my mother an illiterate in western sense who has vowed that I must get education. I got it. I am now thinking, could some of these kids be Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Bamanga Tukur, Muhammadu Buhari or Goodluck Jonathan that never had shoes. Of course, none of them had shoes, most of them had nothing.

I spoke to Zainab Halim Garuba who told me that she is a widow, and one of her husband’s wishes before he died was that she must help victims of this senseless war. She devoted her time and resources to help the camp. She said first we moved them to an uncompleted building, later, someone provided the land and the person says he needs the land back. Where do these people go?

I deliberately refused to look at her. She has seen enough pain; I do not need to add mine. I asked what about toilets? What about mattress? What about medicals? What about food? What about cloths? That is not really the problem now. “When we first came to help the people the men were hostile, smoking and drinking, they were lost. They thought Nigeria had forgotten them. They lived in anger and pain and frustration. But we started encouraging them, talking to them and praying with them. They are just beginning to come back to life. Do not forget some of them lost an entire family and everything” she said.

It is people like Miss Kiki who organized those Youth Corpers to teach those kids ABC and the widow, Zaniab that gave me some hope for Nigeria. They make me go back many years on my minds’ eyes to my village of Yenebebeli when everybody was his brother’s keeper.

President Buhari himself an Ex-Army General and one who fought the first civil war and was a major player in bringing that bad dream to an end, will paraphrase Dwight D Eisenhower, “ I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its fatality, its stupidity”.

I Place my hope on Buhari to bring this civil war to an end. The appointment of Brig – General Iliya Abbah as new commander of Multinational Force on Boko Haram, the cooperation of our Neighbors, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Benin Republic will be decisive in bringing this war to an end. This is the time that friends of Nigeria especially the USA must exit Nigeria from the Leahy law and help us equip our military. The world powers should know that aside that this is a civil war, it is also terrorism and terrorism does not have boundaries. It’s like the dreaded Ebola Virus.

To my fellow Nigerians, please let us help our brothers and sisters that are refugees in our country. We can help. Dangote may decide to send rice and sugar, Adenuga may decide to do something, then we, one by one, will contribute our corns. What’s important is bringing back that old forgotten spirit that helped me to finish primary school and secondary school, and university even though I had a mother who never went to school and had nothing.

Now there is danger in the other choice of not doing anything. That is dangerous. The young people I saw there, if we do not show them love, just wait in ten years, in five years, they’ll come back to terrorise us. They will kill us, they will rob us and when we ask them why, they will answer, when we needed you, did you help? James A. Garfield on 25 of June, 1864 said: “A Nation is not worthy to be saved if in the hour of its fate, it will not gather up all its jewels of manhood and life and go down into the conflict, however bloody and doubtful, resolved on measureless ruin or complete success”.

President Buhari as a matter of urgency must direct the appropriate agencies; National Directorate of Employment (NDE) to provide skills acquisition and implement the graduate employment program; National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to provide teachers and doctors and pharmacists for the various camps in the country.  It is the time our young men and women could be put to service; Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education and NEMA etc should also come out to assist. It is most worthy if international organizations such as the Red Cross and Doctors without Borders can give support. We also need in those camps social service workers and sociologists and psychologists to help those traumatized people recover. May God help us!

Azaiki’s Thoughts on Nigeria by Solomon Elusoji

Thoughts on Nigeria is an extremely ambitious project that attempts not just to find a panacea to Nigeria’s heart-wrenching difficulties, but also to provide a robust conversation around engaging global issues, writes Solomon Elusoji

Discussing Nigeria is a difficult task to embark on; Africa’s most populous nation carries with her humongous issues, diverse in their nature, which have both extensive local and global implications on the form of history. But that’s exactly what Professor Steve Azaiki attempted in his latest book
‘Thoughts on Nigeria: Speeches, Letters and Essays’. He plunged deep into the mathematics of the country’s politics, and the wide-ranging social and economic issues assailing the nation in the 21st century.

Azaiki is a man that should be listened to. A recipient of Nigeria’s national honour (OON), he is the president of the International Society of Comparative Education, Science and Technology Nigeria (ISCEST) and serves on the governing boards/councils of organisation, including the Federal University of Technology, Akure. He is a visiting professor and fellow to a number of institutions, including Institute of Petroleum Studies, University of Port Harcourt. Also, he is currently the coordinator, National Think Thank Nigeria.

To be sure, the book’s blurb describes it as “an intellectual companion, a collective story of Nigeria’s challenges, progress and people. The book has chronicled various happenings in Nigeria in the last few years, especially on politics and governance, corruption and Nigeria’s missed opportunities. The book also tells the story of influential figures in the history of Nigeria, culture, education, politics and governance.

“A collection of essays, articles and speeches, it documents the acts of terrorism by Boko Haram, youth, education and also covers inspirational stories of some notable individuals in our society and dominant issues in the Nigerian discourse.”
The book is divided into five major parts. The first part is focused on Governance and Politics, where Azaiki touches on several pertinent issues pertinent to the survival of the nation’s architecture. He makes a general acknowledgement of the difficult problems facing Nigeria, but also oozes confidence, that with the right set of leaders, there is hope.

In this first part, he presented speeches that focused extensively on National Think Thank Nigeria, an organisation which Azaiki believes will “strengthen economic and political reforms which are the compass of a new world order, as well as the rapid integration of the country into global economies.

Through this, we hope the country would achieve genuine liberalisation and deregulation, free flow of capital and up-to-date information technology as vehicles to take us to the Promised Land.”

The second part of the book is about the Niger Delta. In ‘Confronting Poverty and Social Insecurity in the Niger Delta’, a paper he co-presented at Harvard School of Business Studies, Azaiki writes that “there is a wide mismatch and gulf between the promise and the practice of the social programmes initiated. Outlays are not outcomes. Year after year, budgets, which make up allocations for the poor and programmes initiated with good intentions of assisting the poor, often lead to perverse outcomes.

The failure of social expenditure to reach the poor and people of the Niger Delta is the collective failure of the neo-liberal market model, the polity, and the society.”

Azaiki’s prose is clear, sharp and crisp. His penchant for presenting ideas intelligibly and providing adequate background with well researched facts and figures makes Thoughts on Nigeria a fascinating reading. The section on the Niger Delta, perhaps, underlines this point more.

The third part focused on tributes to several prominent and national leaders like Abdusalami Abubakar, Shehu Shagari, and others. He describes former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo as “a great diplomat’ and Goodluck Jonathan as “a man of transparent honesty and humility; a perfect gentleman, a tender loving husband, father and an unshakable believer in the unity of Nigeria.”

The fourth section deals with international and contemporary issues such as an analysis of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. A Christian by religion, Azaiki, while acknowledging the fascinating literary effort of Brown, believes the book’s core claims are based on specious sources of history. He concludes: “It is amazing how many people took that book literally and think it is true. How many more Da Vinci’s would Christianity contend with before the end of time? Christians awake. The truth, as contained in the Bible: Jesus Christ was never married to Mary Magdalene, never had a daughter named Serah.”

In this section, Azaiki displays profound scholarship curiosity and a painstaking approach towards unravelling the truth. Although he holds a PhD in Agriculture and is currently a Professor of Plant Protection in Agronomy at the Institute of Potato Research, Ukrainian Academy of Agricultural Sciences, his interests are extensive and reek of intellectual curiosity.

In a 2006 piece published in The Guardian, ‘The Challenge of China’, Azaiki writes: “China’s increasingly aggressive competition with the West for Africa’s economic space represents both an opportunity and a challenge to Africa in general and to Nigeria in particular. The opportunity is inherent in Africa being able to choose between options presented either by the traditional West or by China, and in being able to negotiate the best deals in the circumstance.”

He surmises that “we must not take China for granted, nor assume that its current and growing global status is a happenstance . . . we must examine the critical success factors in China’s  leap  to  global prominence and then seek to domesticate those relevant factors, lest we continue to lag behind.”

One of the most moving pieces in the book is the piece ‘Let Mandela Go’ published on the Scoop in 2013. “Africa could not have wished for a prouder son,” Azaiki writes. “To the extent that history will always be a relevant subject in the future, the history of the world will not be complete without a discourse of Nelson Mandela. He was the rallying point for the emancipation of South Africa from the settler-colonialists, who sought to enslave the indigenous people in the land of their birth.”

The final part of the book is a quick compendium of some of the interviews the author has given over the years, where he discusses a plethora of topics, ranging from how he felt after being awarded a national honour, and what he thinks about solving the problems of the Niger Delta. In short, Azaiki’s thoughts on these issues are precious and are worth the paper it is printed on. It is a book every Nigerian should read.

Writing the preface to the book, the first executive president of Nigeria, Shehu Shagari points out that the purpose of Azaiki’s ‘Thoughts on Nigeria’ “is to document history and a particular period in our history. Those who did not read these publications in the newspapers or hear Prof. Azaiki speak will now have the great opportunity of seeing all these in one book. This is the beauty.”

He adds: “This book is Nigeria incorporated. Let us read it. Let us enjoy it. Let us use it to grow this country to greatness and prosperity. I am happy that a new thought process and mindset is springing up in my lifetime – men and women who are ready to make and accept change, Nigerians who are ready and able to speak for the majority who cannot do so themselves.”

Shagari is right. The 546 page text is sprinkled with quotations from notable figures in history, a technique which Azaiki uses successfully in providing context and coaxing his readers into a position where his convictions can be perfectly conveyed without sounding arrogant or high-minded. History will remember him for having left a treasure behind for coming generations.

Solomon Elusoji

http://www.thisdaylive.com/articles/azaiki-s-thoughts-on-nigeria/214609/

Azaiki rethinks development strategies for a better Nigeria

The babble of voices on the socio-political space sometimes makes it difficult to sift through properly and winnow out the best and practicable views that best suit Nigeria’s intractable problems.

This is further compounded by policymakers who fit World Bank and International Monetary Fund-induced solutions to every situation and circumstance in far removed and alien soil like Nigeria. Prof. Steve Azaiki’s Thoughts on Nigeria: Speeches, Letters and Essays (Associated Book-makers Nigeria Ltd, 2014) falls into the category of seminal distillations that are often ignored by Nigeria’s policymakers at the peril of development.

It’s why, in spite of abundance of intellectual input to socio-political conundrums, the problems still persist, perhaps, that way, too, those who profit from the problems continue to feed fat on the misery of the majority.

The saying ‘do not judge a book by its cover’ is also true for Azaiki’s book. The author’s photograph on the cover, on a book that is not an autobiography, wrongly sets it out as one of those ego-massaging, self-glorifying tomes by Nigeria’s politicians likely to gather dust in private libraries soon after the fanfare of a launch. But Azaiki is no ordinary politician; he’s an academic that brings a whole measure of intellectual savvy to the governance table. Having served as Secretary to the State Government under Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha in Bayelsa State, Azaiki is eminently in a position to make qualified pronouncements regarding Nigeria’s leadership problems and offer modest suggestions on the way forward. But also, questions of his stewardship will also be asked: Is he speaking from hindsight of what might have been done? What did he and the government he served do to resolve some of these problems he is now exposing? Having also served during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s tenure as deputy governor, couldn’t he have put in a word or two to help stem the drift that assailed the country’s recently political history, especially the reverses that he contends National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) represent for the people of the Niger Delta and other low income, excluded areas?

These are some of the observable issues that arise from Azaiki’s postulations in his seminally researched essays and speeches that have the endorsement of former President Shehu Shagari, who wrote the forward to the book. These essays and speeches are clearly beyond the drill of some of the workaday run of politicians striding the land. Indeed, Azaiki is probably not writing for now, when democracy equals how much a politician can grab for his pocket while the majority wallows in abject poverty. This is why the emergence of an a properly educated crop of Nigerians that understand what development means and how it can be deployed to best serve the interests of segments of the Nigerians in their diverse sociological backgrounds is an imperative for the author. This postulation is at the heart of Azaiki’s Thoughts on Nigeria.

The book is divided into four parts although the themes or topics necessarily dovetail into one another, with a concern for the peculiar problems of minority Niger Delta inexorably confounded by oil politics. The first part is ‘On Governance and Politics’, with a telling first chapter on oil and gas and the leadership opportunity available for Nigeria. Sadly, Nigeria has repeatedly failed to cash in on such opportunities at the global level because the country fails to address inequities at home, what with the criminal neglect of oil-bearing communities both by the federal Government and the oil companies. The same neglect, Azaiki argues, attends Nigeria’s inability to diversify the economy with revenues from oil wealth, with the result that unemployment remains unacceptably high. The oil companies have their head offices in Lagos, a situation that necessarily denies Niger Delta youth employment opportunities in the oil exploited on their land.

According to the author, “We, as a major oil exporting nation, must use our oil to diversify exports and invest the bonanza in better roads and seaports, invest in education, manpower training, technology transfer and health services… We as a nation must address inequities in Nigerian politics. Oloibiri in Bayelsa State, where oil was first discovered in 1956-1958 must be indelibly etched within Nigeria’s consciousness, and not left barren as an after-thought of yesteryears”.

This essay was written during the Olusegun Obasanjo era. But clearly neither Obasanjo nor Jonathan heeded this sound advice. Even the road to Obasanjo’s Ota or the East-West Road to Jonathan’s Bayelsa was made during their tenures. The seaports of Warri, Port Harcourt, Calabar and Onne remain ghost ports under Jonathan. There’s, therefore, disconnect in scholarly postulations or advice and the realities of development in the land, a situation that has hobbled and stunted the country’s growth.

Azaiki’s is a man of patriotic fervour; for him, being in government is not the only way to serve his fatherland. Having left office, he set up the National Think Tank of like-minded Nigerians to help formulate policies for governments both at state and federal levels. In setting up the National Think Tank, Azaiki argues, “Given our political and economic antecedents and status in the comity of developing nations, we believe that the time has come for Nigeria to take its rightful position in world affairs. As one of the fastest growing, developing nations, Nigeria is expected to show leadership in the delivery of public service. We have, therefore, found it highly important that, in order to achieve good public governance, several factors come to play. Bearing these in mind, this Think Tank will provide a basis for analyzing the areas of success or failures of public governance in Nigeria and proffer credible solutions to the country’s myriad of socio-economic and political problems…”

The professor of Agriculture also writes on other issues of development and governance, especially as happened in recent collective memory. Such issues as Boko Haram, rash of impeachments, the sort that saw his former boss, Alamieyeseigha out of office in what he describes as strange circumstances akin to political witch-hunting, corruption, Bayelsa State under Sen. Seriake Dickson and a host of others.

‘On Niger Delta’ makes up part two of Azaiki’s Thoughts on Nigeria in which he devotes a lot of intellectual energy on issues plaguing the region that effectively feeds Nigeria, but which still has nothing to show for this economic bleeding that leaves a region and its people in bewildering abject poverty. Here, Azaiki argues that government’s developmental efforts through such policy as NEEDS have done far worse to deepen poverty rather than alleviate it. Apart from the physical poverty charactersised by the inability of the people to live well, as a result of polluted waterways and farmlands that starve them of their livelihood, Azaiki also points out a more deadly kind of poverty – educational poverty, which he says will keep the region’s coming generation perpetually poor and in disadvantage with their peers from other parts of the country.

The author argues that the rash of privatization and commercialization of government’s utilities, including the all-important social service like education, has devalued education currently offered in public schools. As a result, government now fails to budget adequately for education, which is contracted out to the highest bidder. This shortfall in educational budgeting will mean that the poor, a condition in perpetuity among the marginalized majority of Niger Delta citizens, cannot afford quality education for their children, as the oil resources of the region go to finance educational projects in other parts of Nigerian. This leaves them in the throes of poorly equipped schools and trained teachers, as local and state governments increasingly find it hard to cater for the huge educational needs of the region. This approach, which the author calls macroeconomic management of development that does not take into account the peculiar needs of special areas that are already at a disadvantage for which the Niger Delta falls compounds the problems of the region. This is moreso when the region is denied full benefit of its oil wealth, a policy that excludes majority of the Niger Delta poor.

As Azaiki states, “Under this framework, government has a purely regulatory role as education at all levels is now a commodity. As a result, NEEDS has deeply impacted the right to free, equal, and high quality education thereby excluding some citizens from participating in growing the economy and denying them from being integrated in a meaningful way in the long-run… the narrow mechanism of NEEDS as inadequate for the scale of a problem which requires broad-based measures…”

With part three as ‘Tributes’ and part four is ‘On International/Contemporary Issues’ that are dear to the author’s heart, Azaiki’s book effectively plumbs the depths of some of the problems plaguing the country. This is a book for now and the future that will help direct the course of good governance that has been lacking in Nigeria’s democracy since 1999. With President Muhammadu Buhari’s ‘Change’ mantra and his promise to feed school children every day, the first step would be to rethink NEEDS and its anti-poor stance in commoditizing education in line with Azaiki’s conception. Clearly, Azaiki’s former boss, Jonathan missed the road on NEEDS with regard to the Niger Delta.

Indeed, governors in the region will do well to read this book and redirect their thinking caps for better performance. Azaiki’s intellect shines through in this commendable work of dispassionate political rendering.

Anote Ajeluorou on June 17, 2015

Guardian newspaper 2015

Aminu Wali : Redefining Nigeria’s Foreign Policy

THE work of an ambassador is not for the averagely intelligent. It is for eggheads. Three months to the appointment of Aminu Wali as Nigeria’s 28th Foreign Affairs Minister, I was in company of some politicians. Not being a politician, I was supposed to be quiet, seen not heard. The discussion was who will come from Kano to the Federal Executive council, Gali Na Abba, Wali or the former Governor of Kano. It was also said that Wali could become, if accepted, as Minister of Defence. I was surprised when “Oga” said Steve you are close to this Northerner, what do you think?

I first met Aminu Wali in 1992 at his house in Victoria Island. It was the good old days of NPN. I still remember my first impression of him: small, audacious, calm, dark, probing, humble, complex and knowing. He could discuss anything; engineering, construction, military, civil service and of course, his calling, politics. He spoke of Chief Melford Okilo, Ranami Abba, Ferdinard Alabraba. (He even sent me to meet with Ferdinard Alabraba of the Commission then known as 3%).

When Bashir Tofa was nominated, and leading to that nomination, Wali determinedly wanted me to be involved in politics. I did try, becoming a strong member of the Youth Wing. But my relationship with Aminu Wali blossomed when I decided to take a break from the academia to join the civil service after the failed third Republic.

  I went to Wali at home in Victoria Island and told him I wanted a job. Without asking any question, he gave me a note to Alhaji Hashim who was the Director General of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity. What stands him out and endearing to me is the words he wrote of me. “Alhaji, this is a young man that our country needs, and tomorrow, me and you will be proud we helped.” I got a job and became a Federal Director under the Ministry of Labour.

  When Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was elected President in 1999, he invited me to meet with him on June 22, 1999. I went with DIG Fidelis Oyakhilome. At that meeting, we discussed Nigeria, nothing personal was discussed. But months later, Obasanjo wanted to appoint the first Nigerian Ambassador to Ukraine and I believe Wali played a role in that decision. Ambassador Nana was appointed in my place because at the time Ambassador Wali was looking for me, I was on an official delegation to China, Japan, Malaysia, Ukraine and could not answer that important call for duty.

  Aminu Wali received me warmly and with a lot of fuse in New York when he was the Nigerian Permanent Representative at the United Nations. And on another occasion, when my wife, Mimi, visited New York, he hosted her to a formal dinner. I and my wife have not forgotten his hospitality.

  Ben Stein was right when he said “Nothing happens by itself …it all will come your way, once you understand that you have to make it come your way by your own exertions. Wali has paid his dues. He has served our country well. He has served humanity. I remember back in 1992, he said: “Steve, I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to the service of our people, our country.”

  Aminu Wali is a true believer in democracy; he is bold, serious, but humble. Like John Caldwell Calhoun (1782-1850), an American politician said, “the very essence of a free government consist in considering offices as public trusts, bestowed for the good of the country, and not for the benefit of an individual or party.”

  For him, the country comes first. Prior to the 2011 elections, I visited him in China. Again, we discussed Nigeria. He told me how he is setting up a committee in Guanzou to help sort out the many messes Nigerians are going through – drugs, killings, fraud and the attitude of the host government. Today, there is relative peace, respect for Nigerians and less killings in Guanzou. Aminu pulls all his diplomatic strings around the world.

  The other discussion was my appointment in Jonathan’s government. He suggested some positions and expressed surprised that I am not in the cabinet. But what I will remember most from that visit is his Nigerianness. He once said: “We must never downplay the office of the President; he must be respected. Steve, you know that I am a Northerner, but for you, you must stand with your brother on this. Your people must. Let Nigeria work. Our country is a special place; we have always been sustained, through good times and bad, by the noble vision of our founding fathers – a vision not only of what Nigeria is today, but what we as a people can make it be tomorrow. Your task is to be sure our foreign policy and by extension, Jonathan, do not fail the Nigerian people.

   “Nigeria is today struggling with a definitive Foreign Policy: what is our policy on African Integration? What is our policy on non-alignment? What is our policy on the super powers? Only recently, I had an opportunity to discuss Nigeria’s position and action towards what is happening in Ukraine. Nigeria must think carefully before getting involved in issues affecting the big powers. My consolation is that with your Permanent Secretary, Ambassador Martin, Nigeria will fast track itself into the committee of respected Nations at the United Nations. Again, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “Let us be sure that those who come after will say of us that in our time we did everything that could be done. We finished the race, we kept peace, we kept the faith.”

  Born on August 3, 1941 in Kano, Ambassador Wali attended the Provincial Secondary School and the School of Arabic Studies in Kano between 1955 and 1961 after which he proceeded to the Federal Training Centre, Lagos. On completing his studies in 1962, he was offered admission to the North Western Polytechnic, London, England (now University of London) where he obtained the ACCS in Business Administration in 1967. When he returned to Nigeria, he was employed as company secretary to Sayen Nigeria Company Limited, Kano. He was there till 1969, when he was appointed General Manager of the Nigerian Match and Chemical Industries, Kano. He was in 1972 appointed Managing Director of Intersales West Africa Limited, Kano.

  A man does not get to the level of boardroom player like that without being identified by the high and the mighty. And one cannot climb the ladder of big business like that without a track record of high morality and integrity. It was in his capacity as MD of that company that the Federal Government nominated Wali to attend the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, Jos, Plateau State in February 1986. He bagged the award, Member of the National Institute (mni). 

   Having conquered the private sector world, Wali delved into politics. In 1998, he was one of the founding members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a member of the party’s Board of Trustees and Deputy National Chairman. He was later appointed as Special Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo on National Assembly Matters, and much later Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

   At the UN, Wali served, among other positions, as Chairman of the Second Committee (Economic and Financial). And he was part of the major resolutions of the UN. For example, there was the “potential of sport to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), International Year of Sport and Physical Education (2005) and other resolutions on global peace and economic cooperation. 

   After his tour of duty at the UN, Wali was appointed Nigeria’s Ambassador to China. When he assumed office in China, one of the first steps that he took was to ensure a close relationship with the Chinese authorities, to create a forum that would open dialogue and relate to each other to make things a lot easier for Nigerians who might run foul of the law. In fact, he organised a seminar in concert with the Chinese authorities for Nigerians resident there to understand what is expected of them by Chinese laws.

  Wali’s achievement in China also included promotion of economic and other bilateral cooperation between that country and Nigeria. It was during his tenure that President Jonathan visited China with 12 ministers and four governors in April 2013. In fact, there were technical agreements on a wide range of cooperation including power projects in Nigeria, abolishing of visa between Nigeria and China for holders of diplomatic and official passports, collaboration on checking theft of cultural assets and artefacts, agriculture and communication. Others were Chinese EXIM Bank for construction of Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt and Abuja, Abuja light rail and Abuja-Kaduna railway.

   If Ambassador Wali was a trouble shooter in China, he is even doing more now as Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister. He was among the new ministers who were sworn in to replace those that were relieved of their appointments in September last year by President Goodluck Jonathan. His appointment came at a time when Boko Haram has turned the North East and other parts of Nigeria to a burning cauldron. In these hard times, Wali is consolidating on the efforts to bring international collaboration to fighting Boko Haram. Right now, there is cooperation among Cameroon, Chad, Benin, Niger and Nigeria to fight insurgency. When he spoke at a recent African Union Summit, Wali said. “The most important thing that happened between Paris and the follow-up meeting in London to date is the commitment of the neighbouring countries with Nigeria to cooperate and fight terrorism and insurgency.” 

Moreover, the Federal Government recently sought the support of the European Union in the fight. He made this request when the EU Group of Ambassadors, led by the EU Ambassador to Nigeria, Erian Mishel, called on him in Abuja. 

Prof. Steve Azaiki, CON, is National Coordinator, National Think-Tank

Article on GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER