The House of Representatives recently passed a resolution mandating its Committee on Foreign Relations to investigate the death of 26 Nigerians on the Mediterranean Sea. PHILIP NYAM examines how the decision was taken and how far the committee could go in this assignment.
This is not the first time Nigerians will lose their lives in an attempt to cross over the Europe either though the sea or the Sahara desert. Every other week, able bodied and energetic young men and women in a desperate attempt to leave the shores of the nation in search of greener pasture, take unbelievable risk crossing the Mediterranean on over loaded ships and boats travailing.
Some of these people have no skill, while others have no certificate yet there are also some university and other tertiary institute graduates joining the fray. Some of the ladies end up as sex slaves even when they eventually get to Europe or other parts of the world; while the boys end up being used as drug carriers.
Perhaps, the government may not have done enough in the past and this would have led to the death of the 26 Nigerian ladies recently. Jolted by the latest development, the House of Representatives last week mandated its Committee on Foreign Affairs to liaise with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Libyan government to unravel the cause of the death of 26 Nigerian women on the Mediterranean Sea.
The resolution followed a motion brought under matters of urgent national importance by the House leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila. Leading debate on the motion, Gbajabiamila said the news that came in recently indicated that there were over 50 persons that were traveling in the boat and queried what could have led to the tragic loss of lives of 26 Nigerians. According to him, the circumstances of the deaths made it pertinent for the House to investigate the cause to forestall future occurrence.
He said: “It is a motion that involves the death of 26 young Nigerians on the sea. You are all aware that just a few days ago, 26 bodies were found. News filtered in that they were Nigerians. We were made to understand that there were about 70 persons but 26 died. They were Nigerians. When things like this happen abroad, we are always quick to send our condolences, but these are Nigerians.
“The questions are: How come they were found dead at sea? What happened to the rest? We must not allow foreign bodies to do our work. It is a very sad one. Even if it is one life that was lost, it is sad let alone 26. We need to investigate it with the Foreign Affairs Ministry with the human rights groups to know what happened and report back to this House, so that we can avert future occurrence.” Hon. Saheed Akinade-Fijabi (APC, Oyo), who supported the motion said the latest incident was one out of many tragic occurrences on the sea. He added that it was important to know what happened and how the ladies died.
“We should not forget that it was no just these 26 ladies. A lot has happened on the Mediterranean Sea. We need to know what happened,” he said. Hon. Beni Lar (PDP, Plateau), who acknowledged the efforts of National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) at stopping human trafficking and prostitution, said that more funds should be appropriated to the agency to improve on their activities.
“I want to implore the House that in 2018 budget, there is budget for emergency funding for National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP) to help tackle these problems,” she said. To Hon. Betty Apiafi (PDP, Rivers), “the rate at which Nigerians are dying on the Mediterranean Sea calls for concern.” Also supporting the motion, Hon. Segun Adekola (PDP, Ekiti) expressed worry on the harsh living conditions that make Nigerian youths to seek greener pasture abroad in the midst of deadly challenges.
He therefore urged the House and the government to create jobs for them to prevent people from taking avoidable risks. “Our youths are going out to seek for greener pasture because our economy is harsh. The youth are not being employed. Nigerian youths are suffering. It is high time we did something to alleviate their suffering.
The Nigerian government should do something. The youth are dying,” he said. Similarly, Hon. Onyemaechi Mrakpo (Delta-PDP) reminded the House that government is supposed to save the youth, who are the leaders of tomorrow. “Each time we have painful deaths like this, it brings to mind how we have failed. The deaths of our youths who are supposed to be leaders of tomorrow is terrible.
When you get up in the morning and there is nothing to do or eat; what would you expect? I think as a country, we should look seriously into their issues,’’ she said. The motion was unanimously adopted by members, when it was put to a voice vote by the Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara. This investigation is coming on the heels of the arrest of two suspected human traffickers in Italy last week after the bodies of 26 Nigerian ladies, all of them believed to be teenagers, were found dead on the Mediterranean Sea.
According to media reports, the two suspected traffickers, identified as Al Mabrouc Wisam Harar from Libya and Mohamed Ali Al Bouzid from Egypt, were accused of trafficking at least 150 people, but prosecutors have not directly linked them to the deaths. It is still unclear exactly how the ladies died, but autopsy results are expected soon.
However, investigators said they may have been murdered, while attempting the dangerous smuggling route between Libya and Europe. The bodies were reportedly discovered by an anti-trafficking rescue boat called the Cantabria at the site of two separate shipwrecks. The House committee certainly has a herculean task at hand. It is no longer news that human trafficking has tainted Nigeria’s image and subjected thousands of victims to inhumanity.
Like the 26 ladies, thousands of others have died in the process of being trafficked across international borders. It is axiomatic that international awareness on human trafficking is on the increase, but the traffickers are not resting on their oars. Analysts have severally submitted that Nigeria is one of countries of origin, transit and destination for human trafficking.
Hence, women and children are being trafficked across the country’s borders for unconscious domestic servitude, commercial sexual exploitation and begging. Just recently, there were reported stories of the Nigerian girls repatriated from Libya and Morocco, who were held captive in the commercial sex trade.
There were also reports that no fewer than hundreds of Nigerians are being illegally trafficked to the United Kingdom, where they face sexual exploitation or forced into domestic servitude. The United Kingdom’s first independent anti-slavery commissioner, Kevin Hyland, said in a recent chat that Nigeria has been consistently in number one or two of people trafficked to the UK, and more than 2,000 potential trafficked victims were referred to the authorities in 2014.
Of this figure, 244 were from Nigeria, representing a 31 per cent increase from the previous year. According to the report, Nigeria remains consistently on the top one or two, while other top five countries include Albania, Romania, Vietnam, and Poland. It also showed that about 98 per cent of those trafficked from Nigeria are from Edo State.
This means that fighting trafficking in Nigeria is all encompassing, because it requires a need for synergy of efforts to create public awareness, address the poverty situation in the country, create employment for the youths, reinforce relevant national laws, organise counseling, rehabilitation and reintegration program for the victims and allow them access to government subsidised services for HIV/AIDS and other female reproductive health care programmes.
Although, many analysts have argued that there is a linkage between poverty and human trafficking. Worsening economic hardship in most developing countries, Nigeria inclusive, has contributed massively to this problem. Experience has shown that people are trafficked from poor, and economically depressed countries to the developed world. Similarly, the lack of education and poor enlightenment are also critical factors, but above all is the collapse of family value system.
It is said that some parents even encouraged their children to be trafficked. It is therefore gratifying to note that Nigeria now has one of the most advanced institutional and legal frameworks for combating trafficking in persons worldwide. Against these backdrops, the House committee would in the course of the assignment also need to liaise with NAPTIP and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to aggregate views of stakeholders in order to proffer lasting solutions to the rather intractable crime of human trafficking.
Stakeholders have agreed that human trafficking has metamorphosed into a mega business run by cartels around the world, just like drug trafficking. Unfortunately, it is becoming more complex and even mysterious that governments across the globe are finding it difficult to track.
The House committee on foreign affairs would therefore have to dig deep into the remote and immediate causes of this heinous and inhuman trade and seek for ways to combat it. Nigeria has become notorious for this and it is the responsibility of government at all levels and relevant stakeholders to make conscious effort to stem it.
The Durotoye, Moghalu challenge
The emergence of youthful figures in positions of power in other lands seems to have given hope to some young presidential hopefuls ahead of the 2019 general elections. FELIX NWANERI reports on two young Nigerians – Fela Durotoye and Kingsley Moghalu, who are determined to change the old order
Today’s generation of young people is the largest the world has ever known. Half of the global population is under 30, and yet 73 per cent of countries restrict young people from running for public offices, even though they can vote. The teeming population of young people, notwithstanding, they make up less than two per cent of the world’s members of parliament. About 30 per cent of the world’s lower houses of parliament have no members of parliaments (MPs) aged under-30, while more than 80 per cent of the world’s upper houses of parliament have no MPs aged under-30.
But, it is a reversed trend at the moment as there is growing unhappiness with established politicians across the world. The new trend, which is driven by youthful energy, perhaps, explains why countries like France, Ireland, Estonia and Austria and Canada, recently elected leaders under the age of 40.
To the electorate in these countries, there is the feeling that new approaches are needed for today’s problems. Therefore, less emphasis is put on age and experience. More than youth alone, these new crop of leaders offer their respective countries a renewed sense of vitality and excitement.
For instance, 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz, who was recently elected to power in Austria, had earlier served as the country’s youngest-ever foreign minister and hosted negotiations on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who before Kurz was Europe’s youngest leader, as well as Emanuel Macron, France’s youngest-ever president elected in June last year at the age of 39, also held high ministerial positions before leading their political parties. The question many have asked against this development is: What could have influenced this trend? The answer may not be farfetched as the rise of social media has changed the dynamics of politics, making it less predictable.
The generational power shift sweeping across Europe, perhaps, explains the renewed interest in, and enthusiasm for politics among the youth back home. More than before, young Nigerians seem to feel more comfortable dealing with the new dynamics than old established politicians. The new political dynamics is also boosted by the recent passage of the Not too young to run Bill by the National Assembly. With the bill’s passage, sections 65, 106, 131 and 177 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) have been altered to reduce the age of eligibility for elective offices across the board thereby affording more young Nigerians the opportunity to stand for elections.
This means that Nigerian youths can now contest for president at the age of 35 and governor or Senate at the age of 30. It is a change from the initial 40 and 35 years limit, respectively, which was mandated by the constitution. The bill also provides for persons at 25 years to contest for the House of Representative and states Assembly. Prior to this time, the youngest age a person needs to run for elective office in Nigeria is 30 years at the House of Representatives or the state House Assembly level.
The Obasanjo/Agbakoba challenge
Advocates of the rights of young people running for elected office had predicated their campaign on the belief that young people deserve the same rights to run for offices and that age discrimination is a hindrance to youths’ participation in the democratic process. It was against this backdrop that the likes of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Chief Olisa Agbakoba, recently called for the opening the political space for youths’ participation.
Agbakoba had in a letter to Obasanjo in July last year, entitled: “Nigeria needs a generational shift in political leadership,” raised concern over the quality of leadership in Nigeria. He said that Nigeria’s situation is due to failure of leadership, adding that country has been “held back by crop of leadership that has outlived usefulness and effectiveness as a result of old age.” He went further to say that Obasanjo ruled Nigeria at 39, and that Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello were 40, 43 and 40 respectively, when they began active roles as pioneers of Nigeria’s political history.
He also reminded Obasanjo that Odimegwu Ojukwu and Yakubu Gowan were in their 30s, when they took centre stage in Nigerian politics and therefore urged him to intervene in the political situation of Nigeria to see that, like in France, where 39-year old Macron emerged as president, and in Canada, where Trudeau, 45 is the prime minister, a younger Nigerian could also be president.
But, Obasanjo in his reply entitled: “Re: Nigeria needs a generational shift in political leadership,” called on the younger generation to organise themselves around positive core values, become ideological in the sense of nationalism and patriotism in their quest for a generational shift in political leadership of the country. His response read in part: “It is sad that the successor generation of Nigerians have in most cases resorted to work avoidance in the quest for leadership.
Most members of the younger generation of Nigerians are mostly contended with waiting for dead men’s shoes and are unwilling to beat alternative past leadership. In such a situation, it is to be expected and actually it is human that those with some head start in life will not concede such advantages freely and based on their innate goodness.
“The world as I know it, is powered by shrewd hard-headed calculating individuals and the cornucopia of their mercy is decidedly thin and it is unlike God’s rain that falls on the just and the wicked alike. The point to ponder is how has the successor generation positioned themselves to lead?” On what the younger generation needs to do, he advised: “Let the younger people organise themselves around positive core values.
Let them become ideological in the sense of nationalism and patriotism in this struggle. “This is democracy. Politics is a game of numbers. At the end of the day, the youth are in the majority. What is the excuse? So, long as the older generation do not have the incentive to step down, for so long will they continue to reinvent and reappoint and resurface.”
Babangida’s call for generational power shift
Former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, who added his voice to campaign, said the forthcoming 2019 general elections provides an opportunity for a new generation of leaders to assume the mantle of leadership of the country. Babangida, who reflected on the state of the nation in a statement titled “Towards a national rebirth,” said: “This is the time for us to reinvent the will and tap into the resourcefulness of the younger generation, stimulate their entrepreneurial initiatives and provoke a conduce environment to grow national economy both at the micro and macro levels.”
He added: “We have experimented with parliamentary and presidential systems of government amid military interregnum at various times of our national history. We have made some progress, but not good enough to situate us on the pedestal we so desirously crave for.
“It is little wonder therefore that we need to deliberately provoke systems and models that will put paid to this recycling leadership experimentation to embrace new generational leadership evolution with the essential attributes of responsive, responsible and proactive leadership configuration to confront the several challenges that we presently face.
“In 2019 and beyond, we should come to a national consensus that we need new breed leadership with requisite capacity to manage our diversities and jumpstart a process of launching the country on the super highway of technology-driven leadership in line with the dynamics of modern governance.
“It is short of saying enough of this analogue system. Let’s give way for digital leadership orientation with all the trappings of consultative, constructive, communicative, interactive and utility-driven approach where everyone has a role to play in the process of enthroning accountability and transparency in governance.”
Youths, young professionals rise to the occasion
Apparently heeding the call for a new order that will see the youth taking over from established politicians, a number of young professionals have so far declared interest in the 2019 presidency. Prominent among them are renowned motivational speaker, Fela Durotoye and former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Kingsley Moghalu. Unlike their peers, whose aspirations are limited to declarations on the social media platforms, the duo are leaving no stone unturned to make real their dream by officially declaring to run for the highest office in the land and going a step further to set up structures to give older politicians, who have dominated the political scene for long a run for their money in the forthcoming general elections. There are others who have declared for the governorship of the respective states.
Durotoye: Dreams a new Nigeria
The 46 years old consulting guru, leadership coach and public speaker, who runs the Gemstone Group, has declared to run for the 2019 presidency on the platform of Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN). He said that he settled for the party because the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) cannot save Nigeria from her myriad of problems. Noting that he has committed his life to building Nigeria and listing a number of projects he has executed without the help of the government, Durotoye averred during his declaration for the 2019 presidency on February 22, that he has what it takes build a new Nigeria.
His words: “As you may already know, over the last 13 years, I have committed my life and resources to doing all I can to build a New Nigeria that would be the most desirable Nation to live in by December 31, 2025. “As I have stated severally on this platform and in public, I have come to the conclusion that good governance is critical for any nation to accomplish its full potential. In fact, without good governance every other good work carried out by its citizens would ultimately be like pouring water into a basket and is therefore not sustainable.
“This is why it became important for us to set up the running for a new Nigeria platform, where we galvanize a critical mass of people who would participate in the governance process either by voting or being voted for at the 2019 general elections and beyond.
“In line with our Values one of which is to “be a role model worthy of emulation,” I had to decide to get involved in the political arena rather than staying on the sidelines and only challenging others to go in. “It is my hope that as I step unto the political scene, many more of our brightest and best will arise to heed our nation’s clarion call to contest for elective offices, win the elections, and most importantly collectively deliver good governance to our nation.” On his vision for Nigeria if elected as president, Durotoye said his desire to serve Nigerians better and provide the kind of leadership the country urgently needs are the factors responsible for his ambition.
“I do aspire to serve my nation and I believe that to be able to do the most that I can, it will require that we have the kind of leadership for the nation that I believe I can offer in terms of priority of vision, in terms of a set of clear values that can bring about the kind of behaviour and culture of a new Nigeria.
“More importantly, in terms of the fact that I am someone, who has spent the most of my life helping others build their businesses, find their careers, and I don’t know if there is any other platform that will enable me serve the people as well as possible as the presidency.” he said. Serving the present crop of leaders a quit notice, he declared that the youth have decided to take their destinies into their hands and will take over the mantle of leadership through the ballot box in 2019.
He said: “To these rulers, our generation serves notice; we will no longer be ruled. We have been ruled for the last 57 years, and have not fulfilled our potential as a nation. This generation is determined to choose real leaders, who are committed to serve the common interest of our people and protect our common wealth.
“And I stand here on behalf of this generation of leaders to declare that we are now willing, able and ready to serve our nation through elective office and we are ready to deliver the quality leadership and governance required to build a new Nigeria.
“To build the Nigeria of our dreams will require exceptional candidates, who would emerge from a pool of excellent and credible aspirants chosen by the people to represent them at the general elections. This would require a free, fair and transparent internal democratic process, which even the prominent members of the established parties claim to be missing within their political party structure as they cross carpet from party to party, seeking more favorable outcomes from the same flawed system that I have called selectocracy.”
As intelligent as Durotoye’s ideas may sound, the questions many have asked over his ambition are: Does he have what it takes to run a presidential campaign? How strong is the platform on which he wants to actualise his ambition and most importantly, what level of political experience does he have to run a complex society like Nigeria if elected as president? But, responding to the doubt over his qualification to run for the office of President, Durotoye, in a post on his Instagram page, appreciated the comments and criticisms thrown at him, stating that tough questions would make him learn faster. He wrote: “I’m so grateful for all the feedback offline and the comments online…
pleasant, unpleasant and sometimes downright nasty… I am grateful for all. “Like the political analysts often say, No comment is the worst comment in political space. Why; because it lacks energy. Positive comments carry positive energy and can be directed into action (campaigning/volunteering/donations and ultimately voting). “Interestingly, negative comments also carry energy but you only need to find ways to get to the essence and redirect the energy for positive action. No comment carries no energy and therefore cannot be directed or redirected.
“So thank you everyone for liking, reposting, retweeting and commenting. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, concerns and excitement with me. Your opinions are important to me and those tough questions are helping me learn faster and ultimately preparing me to be a better aspirant. “
No doubt, only Durotoye can proffer answers to the puzzles over his ambition, but the fact is that what he lacks in political experience, he has in private practice although the two sectors are miles apart. Born in Ibadan, Oyo State in 1971, Durotoye is graduate of University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), where he obtained a BSc in Computer Science with Economics as well as a masters degree in Business Administration.
He is also an Alumnus of Kennedy School of Government Executive Education programme of the prestigious Harvard University, United States. He as well as attended High impact Leadership for a better society Program at the prestigious Yale University and The Leadership Institute, Arlington (Virginia) all in the United States of America. He is also a certified leadership coach of the John Maxwell Team. In 2015, he completed the Executive Seminar programme on Strategy, Innovation and Governance with specific focus on Sustainability for Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and corporate organisations at the prestigious Lagos Business School (LBS).
Moghalu: Sees a post-oil future for Nigeria
The former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), while declaring for the 2019 presidency on February 28, asked Nigerians to replace recycled “failed leaders” with competent and experienced youths. Moghalu explained that he is taking a stand to unify Nigeria beyond ethnicity and put the country on the path to progress.
He also assured that he will hit the ground running from day one by announcing members of his cabinet in 48 hours if he emerges as president. Though he is yet to declare the platform on which he intends to actualize his ambition, there is no doubt that the former CBN deputy governor has an intimidating profile and well thought out plan, which even his critics cannot afford to admire. For instance, he disclosed his plans to establish a “concrete economic diversification plan with a concrete path to a post-oil future for Nigeria, based on emerging global trends.”
To achieve this, he insists that “we must stop recycling failed politicians and regenerate our leadership ranks with competent and experienced young men or women.” He speaks further on why he wants to be president: “I seek the opportunity to offer our country visionary, purposeful, competent leadership to build our future.
“The world is changing: time and tide have in several countries swept away old orders and brought in new, more dynamic ones. Nigeria must not remain stuck in its past. We, you and I, can do it for our country too. “We need to modernize, and quickly.
For instance, we know that women in leadership and in government can accelerate growth for any economy, yet only six per cent of our legislature are women. There are many, many competent, smart women who are more than ready to dig in and work together to rescue this country. We must draw them out and ensure that their voices are heard.
“We must stop recycling failed politicians and regenerate our leadership ranks with competent and experienced young men or women. Youth who have prepared themselves with the relevant qualifications must take over the mantle of leadership because this struggle is about the future of Nigeria, not its past.
“The battle to reorient Nigeria into a strong, capable country requires competence, capacity, and character. And as a citizen who aspires to be president I possess all three. “If it is about competence: my work as a Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria who played a leadership role in rescuing and stabilizing the Nigerian banking system after the global financial crisis speaks for itself. “If it is about capacity, my work in the United Nations reconstructing countries torn by civil war or reforming the internal workings of the world body is there for everyone to see.
“If it is about character, well, talk to my colleagues, mentors, friends, and of course my family and listen to what they have to say. Strong, knowledgeable guidance is needed as Nigeria navigates these difficult waters, and I offer myself for service with a solid track record of leadership.” Acknowledging that there are no quick and easy solutions to Nigeria’s problems as decades of economic and leadership mismanagement cannot be undone in a few short weeks or months, he said of his policy agenda.
“My vision for our country is set out in my new book BIG (Build, Innovate, Grow). In summary, however, the agenda of a government under my leadership includes the following: “Compose a world-class, ‘first eleven’ team based on merit and inclusive governance to drive government policy. We will be ready on Day One.
The appointment of all senior officials of the Presidency will be announced within 48 hours. My government will enthrone evidence-based public policy, strategy and risk management as tools of effective and modern governance. “Establish and propagate through the educational system a foundational philosophical worldview for the Nigerian state, around which all Nigerians will unite in a common purpose “Lead a consultative political process, in cooperation with the National Assembly, to achieve a constitutional restructuring of Nigeria and return our country to true federalism for stability and prosperity by 2021.
“Implement a 50:50 gender parity policy in all political appointments – nearly double the ratio recommended by the National Gender Policy of 2008. “Establish and implement a Diaspora engagement and return policy and strategy as a new, fundamental component of our national quest for development as has been the case in China, India and Israel.
My government will build the Diaspora Commission approved by the National Assembly into an effective, world-class institution to accomplish this important agenda. “Fundamental overhaul of the Nigerian Police Force that will emphasize training, equipment, and boosting the strength of the Force by recruiting at least 1.5 million policemen and women, up from the grossly inadequate present force strength of 350,000.
“Establish an innovation-led economy, with intellectual property and commercialization of local innovation as its bedrock. “Establish a Venture Capital Fund with a minimum of N500 billion as a public-private partnership to invest in the creation of new businesses by presently unemployed youth in Nigeria; the new businesses created with support from this fund will in turn create new jobs.
The fund will be managed by private sector partners while the Federal Government of Nigeria will be a core investor. “Reform energy policy to create an enabling environment for Nigerian households to be powered by renewable energy while industrial zones are served by gas and hydro-powered energy and fundamental reform of Nigeria’s healthcare system to assure quality healthcare for Nigerian citizens and remove the need for medical tourism abroad. “ Undoubtedly, Moghalu is stepping into the political space for the first time with a rich profile, but there are several political dynamics that will come to play, which may puncture his aspiration.
Among these dynamics is the power sharing agreement between the North and South, which explains why a northerner is likely to emerge as president in the next elections. Already, the two leading political parties – APC and PDP – have zoned their presidential tickets to the North. So, the option left for the Anambra State born banker is any of the “lesser parties” although they cannot be ruled out to upstage the “big two” as politics remains a game of the possible. But, Moghalu, who said he is not deterred from joining the race by any political arrangement whatsoever, declared:
“It is the turn of any competent Nigerian to aspire for the post of presidency because career politicians have failed Nigeria.” While Nigerians wait for the former CBN deputy governor to declare the platform on which he would be contesting the 2019 presidency, the question some have asked is: Who is Kingsley Moghalu? Born on May 7, 1963, Moghalu is a graduate of the London School of Economics. He also read Political Science at the University of Nigeria (UNN), Nsukka. He served as CBN deputy governor from 2009 to 2014.
A former official of the United Nations (UN), Moghalu is currently a professor of practice in International Business and Public Policy at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Massachusetts, United States. He is the founder and president of the Institute for Governance and Economic Transformation (IGET), a new think tank based in Abuja.
Youth and the urgency of now
While the emergence of youthful figures in positions of power in other lands gives hope to these young Nigerian presidential hopefuls, it still remains to be seen how far they can cause a break from the past. To some analysts, the newcomers should have concentrated their energy at the state level, and if they succeed, look towards replicating the success at the centre. Nigeria, these analysts argued will fail if handed over to inexperienced orators, who know next to nothing in practical terms what leadership demands.
However, there is a political school that believes the urgency of generation power shift is now. National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, who shares this thought, disclosed that his party will come up with what he described as “Generation Next” programme for repositioning youths to take over leadership in 2019.
Speaking at the opening of PDP Youth Leaders meeting in Abuja, on Wednesday, he said age barrier will be removed and a 25-year old that is popular and intelligent can be voted into power as governor. “Unless you come out and volunteer to make that sacrifice, you will not be noticed and the country will be missing you.
The country needs the youth and the party is ready to allow you participate,” he said. Will the youth seize the opportunity of the 2019 elections to address the leadership deficit that is so legendary in an emerging world order that emphasises clear-headed and able leadership, developments in the days ahead will determine.
2019: PDP has many presidential pretenders – Akintoye
Dr. Remi Akintoye is a former acting National Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and a member of the party’s Board of Trustee (BoT). In this interview, he speaks on the party’s quest for an acceptable presidential candidate for the 2019 general elections, the recent defections in the party, among other issues. WALE ELEGBEDE reports
You were recently appointed as a member of the PDP Board of Trustees. What are you bringing to the table as the party rebuilds ahead of the 2019 general elections?
Firstly, I want to thank the party for the appointment. The PDP is a very big party in the whole of Africa. I think my appointment as a member of the party’s BoT is meritorious since I served as the National Secretary of the party sometimes ago and our constitution says those who have served in such office including that of chairman of the party are automatic members of the board.
But you have to possess integrity, you have to be honorable and you have to be tested to become one. So, it is not that it is really automatic. I want to thank those who considered me meritorious enough to be a member of the BoT. I use this opportunity to confirm that I will work assiduously to ensure that the PDP regains power in 2019.
Are you not worried about the recent defection of two members of PDP BoT, Prof.Jerry Gana and Prof. Tunde Adeniran, to the Social Democratic Party (SDP)?
It didn’t really worry me so much because many other people have left the party and so many others have likewise joined the party as well. I know that within the next three to four months, politics will heighten towards the election of 2019 and things will really settle.
By then, we will know the true PDP members and true APC people. For now, there is still this thing that I will call political anomie, where people are jumping from one place to another, whether because they don’t want the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to ask them questions anymore or because they feel the All Progressives Congress (APC) is better than PDP or whatever.
But I believe things will soon settle and you will be amazed by the number of people that will return to the PDP. I think Prof. Adeniran, who left the party may have his reasons; he may have been very annoyed with what happened at the last national convention of our party. But I will say that he should emulate people like Chief Bode George, who still affirmed that no matter what happens, he and his supporters will never leave PDP.
So, Adeniran should look back and embrace peace. Most of the things Chief Bode George was saying at that time are what Adeniran is now saying. He was saying that what happened the other time must not happen again. Adeniran may have justification for what he is doing, but he must be matured enough not to leave PDP because of that. So, I am not very worried because I know he is a staunch member of the PDP. He may be annoyed now, but I believe he will return to PDP. You can’t be a tenant in another person’s house, when you have your own house.
How do you think Adeniran and others, who left the party will return, when the issues that made them to leave ihave not been addressed?
I quite agree that issues are still pending and it is becoming apparent that the last administration in the PDP under Senator Ahmed Makarfi did so much harm to the party than good. But like I said earlier, the issues will be corrected in the next two months or thereabout. The issues will be sorted out in such a manner that the party will be stronger.
A lot of efforts are currently ongoing for reconciliation and rearrangement to ensure that under Price Uche Secondus, who is a very good administrator, PDP will bounce back. Those who really love PDP should forget the past and let us rebuild our party.
Does this reconciliation move take cognisance of aggrieved members, who want to adopt sitting on the fence approach ahead of the 2019 elections?
No! You cannot adopt a ‘siddon look’ approach. You are either a member of a party or not. If you are still a member of a party, you will hope for its progress. The progress we are looking for now is winning the 2019 election and nobody except Chief Bode George can deliver the South-West for the PDP.
He has been in control of the structure of the zone for such a long time and he has mastered its winning formula. That is why some people raised other people to perpetrate what happened at the last convention. By that, I mean if seven people are coming out from a zone to contest for one office, it means that we are not serious. He is saying that micro-zoning is the fabric of the PDP.
But he is not bitter by what was meted to him and the zone at the convention. I was there when the Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson, came to meet him after the convention. He is a fair minded person and very forgiven. He is not even fighting for himself, but those who will come after him. He is saying that micro-zoning created peace in the political arena of PDP for the 16 years. But all that has been removed now and we must learn from our mistakes.
There are insinuations that a clique has hijacked the PDP and they are the ones controlling the affairs of the party. How true is that assumption?
It is not possible in PDP; even a governor cannot do that. If it looks like that, I can tell you that it’s a temporal phenomenon. I said it is not possible because PDP is a very rooted party, it has a BoT, has a National Executive Committee (NEC), has the National Working Committee (NWC) and other organs including the youth and women. How do you think one man can control all these organs?
Also, there are still also some respectable elders and founding fathers of the party, who are still around. One person can maneuver the convention, one person can maneuver the election of his successor, one person can control the structure of his party in his state, but at the national level, no one single man can dominate. Even one of the governors that people are saying will be controlling the party said some few days ago that no governor can dictate where the party is going and that no governor can dictate the party’s presidential candidate.
But there are fears in some quarters that what played out at the last convention might also occur in the run-up to the party’s presidential primaries?
It is not possible. Whoever is thinking of doing that may want to tear the party apart without remedy and that may be the end of the PDP. But the elders, including the respectable chairman of our BoT will not allow that. The party is a party and not a one-man property. The majority will speak, minority will speak and everybody will be heard, but the majority will carry the day. I don’t have any fear about the PDP producing a credible and acceptable presidential candidate for the 2019 elections.
How does the PDP intend to manage the array of contenders from the North for its presidential ticket?
There are people coming out from the South as well. Let me define it this way; there are so many pretenders than real contenders in the race. But when the time comes, you will see the contenders standing and the pretenders heading home. There are rules; there are mechanisms and machinations to select the presidential candidate, let us wait and see. The election of NWC members is a micro-platform, but the presidential primary is a larger platform, where merit, intelligence, integrity and other qualities will be weighed against each other to say this person can win election for us.
What makes you think that the PDP will win in 2019?
I am so sure that the PDP will regain power in 2019. One thing that is certain in life is change. There are indices that will make PDP win the election on the ground as of today. Those indices include the economy, security, and others. I am not saying that the present government is not doing anything; they are pulling their weight, only that their weight could be better in terms of democratic gains for the people.
What special quality do you think whoever would be PDP’s presidential candidate must possess to defeat President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC in 2019?
I think a candidate with equal acceptability not only in the North, where the person would come from, but by all Nigerians, is what would guarantee victory for the PDP against APC. He must be acceptable by all. He must be somebody that people know very well and he must be bold to declare his past achievements.
Such an astute that will be acceptable by the party will go a long way in ensuring that PDP wins the election in 2019. I believe we are winning already and that is why such a person cannot just be produced by some few people. We want someone that even a member of the APC will say that ‘if it is this guy, I will change my mind and vote for him.’
We’ll use dialogue to resolve myriads of problems in maritime industry–Nwabunike
Hon. Iju Tony Nwabunike last week emerged the new National President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) in the election held in Enugu. Nwabunike, who is the Managing Director of Mac- Tonnel Nigeria Limited, and pioneer chairman of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), in this interview with PAUL OGBUOKIRI, he speaks on the programmes of his administration. He insists that there are more civilized ways of addressing issues not lockouts.
ANLCA’s national elections have come and gone; what does your victory entail for members?
My victory is not only for members of ANLCA but is also a victory for all because it will bring about total emancipation from foreigners, who have taken over our businesses and jobs for our people. It is total emancipation from the unwholesome activities of some government agencies that do not want to play the game by the rules.
It is victory for all the operational challenges faced by our people in the course of doing their legitimate businesses. We will ensure that freight forwarders and customs brokerage agents are seen as professionals and not dropouts.
We will embark on an aggressive training and re-training of our members to make them globally competitive in their operational activities. We will enthrone a regime of international best practice for our members and also network with international bodies and agencies in terms of training and re-training our members on international best practice. You will see a total re-organisation of the customs brokerage and freight forwarding profession in Nigeria.
There is this clamour for ceding certain percentage of import duties collected by the customs brokerage agents. What is your take on this?
We will interface with the National Assembly in many areas. One of them is making input into the import guidelines of the country since we are directly involved. Secondly, since we generate the revenue for the Nigeria Customs Service in terms of import duties and other fees and levies collection, it will not be out of place if our welfare is taken care of in the process of doing this.
There may be challenges and difficulties at the beginning, but we will triumph in the end. We will seek adequate reward from government agencies for our members, in doing all these; we will apply dialogue and consultations not confrontation. This is why we will partner the National Assembly with a view to creating the needed legal framework.
A lot of freight forwarders and customs brokerage agencies are not computerised. What do you intend to do about this, especially in terms of helping them acquire modern Information and Communication Technology (ICT)?
First and foremost, we will put in place a wonderful and ICT compliant secretariat for the association. Like I told you earlier, the new executive will train and retrain members on international best practice, in international trade business. ICT would form part of this training and capacity building programme.
We are considering exploring the possibility of guaranteeing loans from Micro Finance Banks to enable them acquire modern ICT equipment that would ease their jobs and by so doing enhance professional efficiency. How would you relate with the Federal Government in terms of international trade policies that affect freight forwarders and customs brokerage agents? Like I told you earlier, caution will be our watchword and so we will employ dialogue not confrontation and lockouts. We will employ every legitimate and modern means of addressing issues.
For instance, we would want to make inputs into fiscal policies that affect us, especially fixing tariffs and charges, we will dialogue with relevant government agencies in this direction. For instance, we believe that the government should revisit the issue of the 41 items blacklisted from accessing foreign exchange through the official market.
We also think that the government should at this time review its vehicle import policy, especially the ban on the importation of vehicles through the land borders. Everyone knows that this policy has not achieved its desired objectives for obvious reasons.
So it is high time the government allowed the importation of vehicles through the land borders, especially Seme and Idiroko but efforts must be made to ensure that appropriate duty is paid on any vehicle so imported.
We will also seek a review of import tariff and charges for some staple foods consumed mostly by the poor masses such as rice, tomato puree. It is commendable that the government is trying to encourage local production of such products, but we propose that in situations where locally produced ones cannot meet the needs of the over 180 million Nigerians, the shortfall should be imported, at least until the country is self -sufficient in the production of such items.
What would be the association’s relationship with the Nigerian Shippers Council?
As a regulatory agency of the government, ANLCA under my watch will liaise with the Nigerian Shippers Council to check some of the excesses of shipping companies and terminal operators.
The current rampant cases of imposition of arbitrary levies and charges by terminal operators and shipping companies would no longer be tolerated. We will not allow a situation whereby you wake-up in the morning and find out that the entire charges have been reviewed upwards without any form of negotiation or all the notice to that effect.
It is also a well- known fact that our jobs are being taken away by foreign customs brokerage agents, Customs officers and even members of the Nigerian Plant Quarantine Service today do clearing jobs at the ports.
We will not sit and allow all these to continue and so we will device mechanisms to ensure that all these anomalies are corrected. Cargo clearing business must be done in Nigeria the same way it is done elsewhere including neighbouring African countries and indeed all over the world. So we will take a critical look at these issues, activities of shipping companies, terminal operators and even bonded terminals and other service providers at the ports
There is a disagreement between the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) and ANLCA over Practitioners Operating Fee (POF). What is your take on it?
You know ANLCA is currently in court with the CRFFN, but we will resolve all that through dialogue. The new Executive Council of the association would take urgent steps to resolve the debacle. We will seek legal advice from the legal department of the association as well as from independent sources with a view to urgently resolving the crisis. There must be a way forward.
How would you relate with other members of the various associations in the industry?
You will recall that the immediate past president of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) was at the venue of the election that saw my emergence. So I have a good rapport with all of them. We need to speak with one voice. We will synergise with the Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA) and even the association of Registered Freight Forwarders (AREFF), among others.
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