Archive for July 2012


“Patience Jonathan is probably the worst First Lady Nigeria ever had. Her lust for money and power is alarming with no repentance in sight; her husband does not seem to be in control of her excesses capable of sinking our collective moral value. A staunch public outcry could stop this mundane madness.”
–Samuel Asiwaju

Ever since her husband became President, Patience Jonathan’s public gibberish has always been an embarrassment to most discerning Nigerians. I don’t mean to fault her substandard grammar (which can certainly be improved upon with learning) as much as I do her overall unmeasured comments on many a major national issue. This is however nothing compared to her recent misdeeds in the past couple of months.

Just when I thought Nigeria had seen the worst of insensitive First Ladies in Turai Yar’Adua, Patience Jonathan has showed up with untold nuts! Patience has ostensibly been very preoccupied with entrenching her influence way beyond the moral and sensible standards expected of Nigeria’s First Lady or any other First Lady, for that matter, majorly cashing in on her husband’s generally weak and flawed approach to governance.

It all began with a visit Patience paid to Lagos State on April 12, 2012 with the stated purpose to appreciate women in the state for voting her husband at the April 2011 presidential election. The visit caused a traffic gridlock on the Lagos Island and other parts of Lagos for several hours and equally stifled residents’ commercial and social activities for as long. Reacting angrily and rightly so, Lagos Governor, Babatunde Fashola, urged the Federal Government to call Patience to order – in a bid to preclude a repetition of the incident. Indeed, that Patience later truculently chided Fashola for his rebuff of her insensitivity and the accompanying malaise it wrought on the denizens of his state smacks of how heartless she is! The very fact that the visit was a strictly political one was enough for Patience to have made it low-key and perhaps helicopter her way to the venue without causing the masses all that trouble.

Also, on July 12, Patience was appointed a Permanent Secretary in Bayelsa State by the puppet Governor and Jonathan stooge, Henry Dickson. Whilst the appointment was hinged on claims of a logical follow-up of her alleged civil service career that was halted by her leave of absence since accompanying her husband’s political office pursuits in 1999, it doesn’t make sense that she would serve in absentia and yet be entitled to the full retirement benefits that would accrue to her. In other words, Patience has simply used the influence of her privileged position to legalise a ‘ghost-worker’ status for herself. This is particularly unbecoming of a woman whose husband has promised to rid Nigeria of a status-quo that continues to sustain jumbo recurrent expenses on a generally unproductive bureaucracy.

Again, and following in the footsteps of her sycophancy-enamoured husband who had an Abuja district named after him four months ago, on July 19, Patience Jonathan had a road linking the Defence Police Officers’ Wives’ Association (DEPOWA) with the Shehu Yar’Adua Barracks, in Abuja named after her. Fair enough, the naming of the road after Patience was but at the instance of DEPOWA, which rehabilitated it in the first place. The problem, however, is that Patience should have been humble and discreet enough to not accept the honour as it just goes to add to a long list of favour-seeking politicians and other entities who have accorded her and her husband naming-spree honours of sorts. But that of course is not the case for a First Lady who is having a run to boost her ego like none before her.

The most recent of Patience Jonathan’s gaffes is that which is about her canvassing for the roles of presidents’ wives to be constitutionalised so as to enable them get retirement benefits alongside their spouses. Patience gave the hint in a press briefing shortly after being sworn-in as Permanent Secretary in Bayelsa State on July 20, 2012. In a non-altruistic fashion, Patience said recognising the First Lady as an official capacity will “enable the occupier of that position to enjoy benefits of the office like their husbands on retirement.” This is consummate avarice, to say the least!

It is especially striking that in all this, Patience goes about with such utter insouciance! This must be why my friend, Ayobami Oyalowo, says thus of her: “Her insensitivity borders on the inane. It is a clear indication of her…crass stupidity”. I concur with him. Another friend, Aliko Ahmed, adds, rather succinctly: “That’s what we get from an accidental first family”.

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Posted July 23, 2012 by Raymond Eyo in Aso Villa

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The Bastille was a fortress built in Paris in the 14th century and used as a prison in the 17th and 18th centuries; it was destroyed on July 14, 1789 at the start of the French Revolution in what was described as “The Storming of the Bastille”.

I have been keen on drawing lessons for Nigeria from France’s advanced democratic setting especially as exemplified by that country’s last presidential elections. See:

However, our present purpose suggests that Nigeria takes inspiration from the very foundation of that French democratic establishment – the Storming of the Bastille! Without much peering, it is clear the recent Edo State gubernatorial election which fell precisely on the 223rd anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille, constitutes what can be considered “The Storming of the Nigerian Bastille”.

It has to be said that the generally popular resonance with the victory of the candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) against the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) stems more from the fact that it dealt a death blow to the PDP’s culture of god-fatherism that more or less has had Edo State as its epicentre in recent times. Indeed, Senator Mudashiru Hussain said on July 14, 2012 that the outcome of the Edo election was going to determine the future of Nigeria’s democracy as I suppose, to the extent that it would demonstrate the potency of people power over ‘god-fatherly’ machinations. The ACN National Leader, Bola Tinubu, shared the same sentiment when he described Oshiomhole’s victory as “a great signal of a new chapter in Nigeria’s democratic struggle.” In the same vein, a political commentator, Taiwo Nolas-Alausa, declared: “May the victory of Edo spread across the nation. Come 2015, we shall cremate the godfathers”.

Also, former military head of state, General Ibrahim Babangida on July 17 said the Edo election has re-enacted the doctrine of ‘one man, one vote’ being canvassed by most Nigerians. In a statement entitled “The Power of the People,” Babangida said the election had further reassured the polity that under a credible and effective electoral system, the people’s power, expressed through votes, would reign supreme. Babangida said: “This ennobling and humbling feat [of victory “against a party that parades hitherto political heavyweights”] is only possible in an atmosphere of well mobilised and [conscientious] voters, who… resolved to sustain the mantra of ‘one man, one vote’ as the fundamental basis of representative democracy.” “The lesson from the Edo election is that Nigeria can truly get it right if election outcomes reflect the wishes and aspirations of the people. Edo State has become a trailblazer in this unique dimension of making votes to count after elections,” Babangida added. Like or hate him, Babangida struck exactly the right notes in his statement above.

By many standards, the Edo election was a huge political battle that transcended the state. The Oshiomhole victory wasn’t just a victory for the people of the state. Edo is the only state being governed by the leading opposition party, the ACN, outside of its dominant base in the South-West, and hence constitutes a major factor in the party’s quest for national reckoning. Similarly, the Edo election was a test-case for the planned merger between the ACN and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) – a development that informed the withdrawal of the CPC’s candidate to back his ACN counterpart. Therefore, Edo may have just created a platform for a possible and expedient opposition merger much needed to provide a credible national alternative to the ruling behemoth that is the PDP!

Indeed, the appeal of July 14 is what must have informed this Nigerian twitter handle @iamBHL to have “July 14th” as his profile name! This handle’s bio opens with “…in pursuit of positive change”. Going forward, it is my impassioned hope and prayer that the gains of July 14, 2012 for Nigeria will ultimately lead to positive change via the upping of our democratic ante just as July 14, 1789 brought about positive change for France!

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“#RejoiceNotinOilWellsandWeepNotforOilWells: What does it PROFIT a PEOPLE to have ALL the OIL WELLS in the world and have so much POOR in the LAND?” –Dr Oby Ezekwesili, former Nigerian Minister of Education and former World Bank Vice President for Africa

On July 10, 2012, Nigeria’s Supreme Court ruled that Cross River State lost its littoral status following the 2002 handover of the Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon – in effect, ceding the disputed 76 oil wells to neighbouring Akwa Ibom State.

Though many consider this a sad development for Cross River, I actually think it is a very positive one. That is because the loss of the oil wells will prompt the state to creatively explore other avenues for means of development. In a statement reacting to the court ruling, Cross River Governor, Liyel Imoke, sued for peace, and rightly so, saying “We shall not abandon our peace-loving nature simply because of this temporary setback…” Imoke added: “While we seek the face of God and the counsel of wise men on the best way forward on this matter, I urge you to look inwards and bring out your talent and time for the continued good of Cross River State.”

Fair enough, my present reflection wholly concurs with that compelling thought. It is abundantly clear that seeming setbacks like these have always caused affected societies to look inwards and see how to get the best value from their other extant resources. In Cross River today, the resource that holds the greatest promise for her sustainable development is her people! Indeed, that a 19-year old Cross Riverian, Wukeh Egem-Odey, on June 29, emerged the 2012 best graduating student of one of Nigeria’s leading private universities, Covenant University, with a 4.89GPA on 5.0, is testimony to this. It must be in that same context that the Chancellor of Covenant University and General Overseer of the Living Faith Church aka Winners Chapel, Bishop David Oyedepo, visited Cross River in May 2012 to inspect the site for the smooth take-off of Covenant University’s Calabar campus. The proposed university is to offer courses in Engineering and Computer Science, amongst others.

Also in May, Cross River’s Commissioner for Education, Prof. Offiong Offiong disclosed that the state is making efforts to scale up school enrolment by upping access to school and training of qualitative teachers. Offiong also announced the commencement of construction work for three world-class state-of-the-art model secondary schools in each of the state’s three senatorial districts as well as phase two of a comprehensive renovation and reconstruction programme adopted as part of measures to revitalize public schools.

Equally important, in a bid to position Cross River State to derive the utmost best from China’s status as an emerging world power, especially as demonstrated by an OECD report stating that “by the end of this decade, 2 out of every 10 of the world’s young graduates are going to come from China” with 2020 “forecasts for the shape of the “global talent pool” showing “China as rapidly expanding its graduate numbers – set to account for 29% of the world’s graduates aged between 25 and 34,” the Cross River State Government has unveiled plans to introduce the teaching of Chinese language in public schools in the state. Offiong said the proactive move is borne out of the desire to reposition Cross River to key into China’s phenomenal socio-economic revolution, and given the leading role China will play globally in ICTs and other critical fields of human endeavour. Indeed, Offiong has commendably sought the Chinese Embassy’s collaboration to carry out a ‘train-the-trainers programme’ with the establishment of a Chinese Language Centre in Calabar to fast-track the exercise.

Whilst the above government interventions and programs are commendable and should be sustained accordingly, it is not only the state government that should be depended on for important initiatives to boost Cross River’s human resource drive. Thankfully, Cross River has very active education-centred civil society personnel whose expertise can readily contribute to yielding positive policy and other beneficial dividends for the state. A good case in point is Dr. Raphael Oko, whose organisation, the Global Educators for All Initiative, is pragmatically involved in pertinent issues of educational planning and reform.

Also, recently, a team at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute produced a set of maps showing the “geography of the world’s knowledge” and measuring how populations are consuming and producing information in the online world. The maps reveal that Africa and South America are lagging behind in this new scramble for digital power – a development begging for investments in ICTs and human capital development.

In Nigeria’s case, Cross River is getting poised to lead the way in filling that void. In November 2011, the Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Omobola Johnson, announced that in a bid to accelerate technological evolution in the country, the Federal Government will, in August 2012, set up Nigeria’s first-ever Information and Communication Technology (ICT) incubation centre in Calabar to be known as “The TINAPA Knowledge Centre”.

Indeed, it is the development of ICTs that led to the growth of the renowned Silicon Valley in America’s California State – with great benefits accruing to the latter – a feat which Cross River can, with vision, hope to repeat. The lead academic in that Oxford internet study, Prof. Mayer-Schonberger rightly notes that “[The] information age [is] dependent on bases of knowledge.”

Cross River should therefore construe the loss of the oil wells as a blessing to further entrench her special standing as a working experiment for Nigeria’s eventual post-oil period. Already, the state is the undisputed preferred tourist destination in the country with many attractive facilities and features, and plans to construct an International Convention Centre in Calabar, will certainly bolster that potential even more.

Ultimately, as Cross River gains more human ‘wells’ than the 76 lost oil wells, she must ensure that the dynamic and skilful human resources that will be churned out of the ICT and other innovative schemes she is privileged to have and to host, are gainfully employed. It is instructive that the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology boasted in December 2011 that its cluster concept is capable of generating 2,000,000 jobs in many sectors of the economy using its incubation programme, technology licensing and technology franchising. Therefore, as the ICT incubation centre, the specialised technology-inclined Covenant University Calabar campus and other similar projects and initiatives take-off, Cross River State must evolve policies and strategies that derive maximum benefit from them in order to further grow her economy away from dependence on either monthly allocation from the federal purse or from her now, essentially, extinct oil reservoir.