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The Nigerian Senate: All Performance, Zero Propaganda

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Like an old car parked in the garage, nobody cares about propaganda politics anymore. It’s tires are now flat. It’s methods are now known and its inaccuracies are now easily decipherable with the quickest click of your smartphone. This is why throughout 2017, the Nigerian Senate, under the leadership of Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, carefully worked to meet the demands of Nigeria’s ‘New Governance Order’ — an order that is defined by delivery and performance over orchestrated publicity, and effectiveness over obvious hype.

Despite the many attacks, and in spite of the countless distractions that were thrown at the 8th Senate from external forces, the focus of the Senators, their persistence on people-centered legislation, and their collective commitment to always put Nigeria and Nigerians first, allowed the Upper Chamber of Nigeria’s federal legislature to achieve various notable feats in 2017.

This is why, when people ask: “So, what should we expect from the 8th Senate in 2018?” you should tell them: “Look back at the Senate’s performance in the past, it will give you an idea of its future.”

Looking Back at 2017, we all remember that the year started off with the budget. Talks about #OpenNASS accompanied the conversation about the 2017 appropriations bill — and commentators across the social-media-sphere all had a thing or two to say about the alleged secrecy behind the National Assembly’s annual spending.

Some predicted that 2017 would be ‘no different’, while others laughed at the idea of the legislators agreeing to open up their books for the first time since 1999. This status quo narrative permeated through Facebook and Twitter, all the way to ‘those-annoying-broadcast-messages-that-your-parents-send-you-on-Whatsapp’ — and the consensus in the court of public opinion was clear: #OpenNASS would never happen!

While the naysayers preached ‘Never!’, and the self-proclaimed political pundits speculated and  hypothesized, people on the inside knew that the Senate President was a man of his word. He had promised to release the budget — and he would deliver. Though it was difficult at first, however, through constant consultation with his colleagues in both the Senate and the House, and the political will of the entire National Assembly leadership, on Thursday, May 11th, 2017 — in a move that shocked observers — the National Assembly released the breakdown of its annual budget to the world. This budget is now on the National Assembly website. You can check it out yourself.

Fast forward to two weeks later — if Drake was Nigerian, his ‘Back to Back’ chorus would have been the Senate’s soundtrack. Following the release of its budget details, in quick succession, the Senate passed the historic Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (#PIGB). This piece of legislation that had tripped up the 6th and 7th National Assemblies, scaled the 8th Senate within 24 months.

Right now, many people still do not know that the PIGB passed by the Senate in 2017 is aimed at unbundling the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for better performance, creating a sustainable framework for the effective governance of Nigeria’s petroleum industry, and putting an end to the issues that cause fuel scarcity across the country.

The Senate did not stop there. It went on an anti-corruption sprint. It passed the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Between Nigeria and Other Foreign Countries Bill. In July, it passed the Whistleblower Protection Bill to protect people that inform the authorities about corruption. And, it also passed the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit Bill (NFIU) Bill at the end of July — in order to get Nigeria re-admitted back into the EGMONT Group after its suspension. This move was aimed at giving our nation the previous access that it once had to the network, resources and expertise of 154 other financial intelligence units around the world in our war against corruption, money laundering and terrorist financing.

Similarly, the Senate responded to Nigeria’s 2016 economic recession by fast-tracking the passage of the Secured Transactions in Movable Assets Bill and the Credit Bureau Services Bill in 2017. Both bills, which were signed into law by the then-Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, in May 2017, were aimed at providing Nigerians across the country with easier access to credit.

The impact of both ‘Access to Credit’ Bills passed by the Senate, and the National Assembly as a whole, were brought to the fore when in September 2017, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria announced that due to the access to credit legislation — which began in the Senate, 20,684 movable assets valued at N392 billion had already been registered on the National Collateral Register (NCR). Similarly, in October 2017, the World Bank rated Nigeria among the top 10 most improved economies in its 2016/2017 Doing Business Report. All of this was due to the fact that the Senate had focused on creating more opportunities for MSMEs in Nigeria through well-crafted legislation.

Of course, we cannot forget the Senate’s 2017 comprehensive amendment to the electoral act of 2010, which ensures the full biometric accreditation of voters with Smart Card Readers; the instant transmission of accreditation data and results from polling units to the collation centers; and giving INEC unfettered powers to conduct elections by electronic voting.

We also cannot forget the Review of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This exercise, brought about the approval of notable pieces of legislation like the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill, which reduces the qualifying age for election into the House of Representatives from 30 years to 25 years; the age qualification for contesting for a State House of Assembly office from 30 years to 25 years; and the age qualification for contesting the office of President from 40 years to 35 years.

The #NotTooYoungToRun Bill and the other constitutional amendments passed by both Houses of the National Assembly, are currently making their way through the State House of Assemblies, and are likely to become the focus of a lot of political discourse this year.

To close out 2017, the Senate received a few final and significant notches on its legislative belt, when President Muhammadu Buhari signed six Bills into law on December 30th, 2017. Notable amongst them were the amendments to the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) Act, which now mandates the gas producing and processing companies to contribute to the development of the Niger Delta region. Additionally, with the signing into law of the Compulsory Treatment and Care for Victims of Gunshots Act by President Buhari, all Nigerians with gunshot wound will now be able to receive immediate medical treatment — instead of having to file police reports. This Bill that started in the House of Representative, but was fast-tracked by the Senate through concurrence in the later half of 2017 will definitely save many lives.

There are countless other Bills passed by the Saraki-led Senate in 2017 that have not been mentioned in this piece. However, as we look back at the year that has just passed, to give you a snapshot of where it currently stands, the 8th Senate has already passed 140 Bills in 30 months. This is more than the 5th Senate that passed 129 Bills in 4 years, the 6th Senate that passed only 72 Bills in 4 years, and the 7th Senate that passed 128 Bills in the same timeframe. This Senate has also cleared over 120 public petitions in 2 years and 7 months. You can do the maths.

In this regard, when people ask you this year: “What should we expect from the 8th Senate in 2018?” You can tell them: more people-centered legislation that will impact various aspects of our national existence; more thorough oversight on government spending to ensure transparency and accountability in the utilization of our national resources; and more focus on getting Nigeria’s economy back on track by creating more opportunities for everyone.

“All performance. No propaganda.” Make this the motto.

I rest my case.

— Olu W. Onemola is the Head of the New Media Department in the Office of the Senate President. He tweets at @OnemolaOlu —

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Opinions

Ikedi Ohakim, Imo and the ghost of 2011

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To flow with this essay, the reader is advised to first put on the cap of objectivism as reading without it will be tantamount to wasting scarce energy reading the “nonsense” that is not.

Yesterday in Owerri at the Wetherell Road Roundabout, curiosity drew me to one of the newsstands where I was greeted with the caption on one of the local papers titled “Polls Favour Ohakim for Imo Governor”. My first natural reaction was indifference as I do not have the singular power to make or deny anybody from being what he or she is destined to be.

However, throughout the night, I unconsciously busied myself thinking aloud who truly deserved to be best as governor for Imo come 2019. This was after considering reactions that trailed my last published article with the caption “NDIMO, PLEASE KNOW YOUR ENEMIES”.

In the said article, I summarily adduced that all characters today in the so-called “Allied Forces” in the Imo APC seeking to destroy Governor Rochas Okorocha for what he is, are also enemies to Ndimo. I explained their sins one by one and showed some of the roles they all played in bringing in the Okorocha pestilence upon Imo. That they are after Governor Okorocha today is not just by good intent, but for survival war against the fact that Okorocha desired to retire them from relevance in Imo while he (Okorocha) and his family enjoy alone.

At the point of his un-ceremonial handover to Governor Okorocha on May 29, 2011, available indisputable records show that Ohakim handed over about N28 billion to our governor. These were monies from balance of bond money from the FG acquired to work on the dredging of Nworie River in Owerri; another sum was from the education sector (SUBEB/UBEC) and others. There has been no mention till today that Imo State was indebted to anyone at this point in 2011. As a matter of fact, it is even being claimed in some quarters that previous debts of the state acquired in the days of Dee Sam Mbakwe were cleared and paid off under Ohakim after Achike Udenwa started it.

Ohakim handed over a lot of money and assets such as buildings, equipment, land and such other capital related properties to Okorocha that the Ogboko-born governor exclaimed to the world that “Imo State is very rich”.

Sadly, today, and at the last count, Imo State under Governor Okorocha is said to have borrowed so much that it has now plunged back into debts running to more than N100 billion with nothing meaningful to show for it.

I have never been a fan of Ohakim. In fact, I was one of the people who demanded for his head when it was alleged that he beat a Reverend Father. It was mainly because of that allegation that many of us hated him and celebrated his removal. Today, the world has come to know that Ohakim never truly beat a Reverend Father. I was shocked when I watched the trending youtube video of Reverend Father Mbaka telling all who cared to listen and watch that what was levelled against Ohakim was all lies by politicians and that his personal investigation showed that Ohakim had never even set eyes on the Reverend Father Eustace Okorie, let alone raising his hand on the anointed man of God.

I have since then hated Fr. Mbaka for leading that struggle through a song he composed at his adoration ground against Ohakim. I blamed him for speaking outside the guide of the Holy Spirit. But his humility in apologizing to Ohakim after he discovered in 2014 that he erred won him my respect. My take away from that video, however, are his prophecies after blessing Ohakim. I will come back to these on another day and with a different title.

Imo under Governor Rochas Okorocha has lost a lot. We now see different properties sprouting all over Owerri and environs being associated to Okorocha, Uche Nwosu, who was an applicant just about six years ago, Okorocha’s sisters, brothers, in-laws, ndi agburu oshi ha, etc. We also see conversion of government landed properties into personal ones, such as the Old Secretariat that has now been taken by Okorocha’s wife and rebuilt into what is called Woodi Wellness Centre.

Imo State is currently running on auto pilot economically, with huge debt hanging over its neck.

First, there are only two people presently in the state that can perfectly attempt the description of Imo properties and worth. They are Chief Achike Udenwa and Dr. Ikedi Ohakim. Both served as governors and had compilation of properties belonging to the state.

Second, Nigeria as an unfortunate democracy is fashioned in such a way that happenings in its states are usually influenced by external forces from the centre. Their interests are often pressed on the states. It is not just enough for any of the guber aspirants to claim he can probe Okorocha. If Okorocha remains in the good books of these external forces, who among these aspirants that is constitutionally entitled for a second term in office would risk his second term ambition to try Okorocha when the centre is interested in the matter?

Can Ihedioha, who is loyal to the Sokoto State governor and his former boss in the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, muster enough courage to probe and try Okorocha? Can Ararume risk his second term ambition if he is threatened by the Northern elements to drop probing Okorocha? Can the businessman, Hope Uzodinma even attempt to try Okorocha?

 

Okorocha’s emergence in 2011 was an aberration that must be corrected. When one misses his way while in a forest, wisdom demands that he finds himself back to the point from where he missed his way and then continues on the right lane to his destination. Imo must get back to the days of Ohakim, reorganise itself, re-strategize and then move forward again. It is better to “waste” the next four years finding our way back to the right lane than spending an eternity groping and wandering in loss and confusion in the forest of death.

 

Gift Okechimaghalam Treasure writes from Egbema and can be reached by ebeayojapan@gmail.com

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Opinions

Vituperations of an upstart

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It is not in all cases that rejoinders or responses should be made to an invective, especially when the protagonists are misguided elements. However, it may become necessary to do so sometimes because of the absolute need to expose the lies and correct misconceptions that these elements, very inconsequential ones at that, spew out just because they want to be heard and become popular.

This is exactly the fact that has made this write up necessary, not because His Excellency, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor of Delta State and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state would ordinarily want to respond to statements made by upstarts, particularly, political opponents and their infantile arguments, but because we believe that one Frank Esanubi, who claims to belong to the Action Democratic Party (ADP) and whose only claim to some level of public importance is that he is the deputy president of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and this position sadly, has therefore now become a criterion, in his warped calculations, for seeking to be a governor.

Even as we do not begrudge him of his right to aspire to any political and elective office, we of the Delta PDP take serious exception however, to his intemperate use of uncouth language on the person of Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, just as we strongly remonstrate against the tissues of distortions, unintelligent arguments and lies that he ignorantly peddled in his so-called blueprint.

 

It is for the sake of not allowing people to be deceived into believing the misinformation in the infantile vituperation against the person of His Excellency and the bizarre comments made against the employment opportunities given to political appointees in the state, that this rejoinder has become a desideratum.

First issue is that Esanubi wants those he called ‘old politicians’ to leave the stage for an upstart like himself. Maybe that’s how he became Vice President of PENGASSAN; his older and better experienced colleagues probably had to fall to his blackmail and left the stage for him and so he did not have to struggle to get the position. He needs to know that politics in Nigeria and the world over is one in which stakeholders don’t appeal to sentiments and base instincts in seeking for political elective office. They came in by conscious effort and have, through hard, dedicated work attained their dreams.

Interestingly Esanubi, who is just about to seek political elective office, beyond his trade union politics and possibly the elections at his community development union end of year meetings, is at 40 years, already an old man, while the likes of Okowa, and others, against who he is throwing tantrums started out in politics in their 30s. Former President Shehu Shagari was a member of the House of Representatives at the age of 21, just to mention a few.

Of course, he needs to be told that the office of the governor of a state is different from the office of a vice president of PENGASSAN, where the job is to regularly become a pain in the neck and make demands on government and employers, failing which, he calls out his colleagues to down tools, and in the process cripple economic activities and hold the nation to ransom. It does not matter to people like Esanubi the implication of their strike action to the generality of Nigerians.

Socond is Esanubi’s misinformation that the government of Governor Okowa is wasting the state’s resources in employing political appointees. It is unlikely that many of the appointees whose appointments he is condemning are from his local government, ward, and senatorial districts.
Let’s even take his claim of 2,384 political appointees, should it not be a credit to Governor Okowa who graciously saw the value in the appointees and gave them positions of responsibilities, rather than leaving them to waste away? Today, they are utilizing the opportunities of these appointments to invest their ideas and creative talents for the good governance of the state. Esanubi is a selfish and presumptuous fellow, who has too high an opinion of himself with little or no understanding for others.

His fellow members in ADP ought to mark this as a trait in Esanubi, and record it as a minus that should not even qualify him to contest the party primaries, talk less of emerging as candidate.

Besides, an intelligent governorship aspirant should by now know the reason behind the collapse of some industries in Delta State. No, not so for Esanubi, who has no ability for indept analysis of issues, but who takes delight in hoodwinking people with baseless claims and propaganda. Otherwise, he would have studied the explanation of the Commissioner for Finance who recently told the gentlemen of the press that the collapse of some industries in Delta State, like the Asaba textile mill is beyond the state government.

Esanubi would have known that Asaba Textile Mills, for instance, was a victim of the privatisation effort of the then federal government in which the Chagoury Brothers won the bid. Subsequently, they took a =N=500million loan from Fidelity Bank and used Asaba Textile Mill as collateral, and rather than use the loan for the purpose for which it is meant, they diverted it to import rice. And when they could not pay back, the bank took over the assets of the company and did what they liked with it in order to recover their money. So, how can anyone in his right senses put the blame of the collapse of a company like Asaba Textile Mill on past and present government of Delta State.

If Esanubi is one that is out to play honest, clean politics; criteria that he apparently doesn’t possess, he would have known about the good work that Governor Okowa is doing across Delta State, covering every facet of life. He would have known that through STEP, YAGEP, Streprenuers, among other programmes that a new structure of economic life is developing in the state. That hitherto unemployed youths are now no longer idle for want of what to do. That through the various skills acquisition trainings and programmes of government, the young men and women are now becoming gainfully employed as business owners, who are also employing others.

Maybe Esanubi needs to be told, since he is a Deltan that lives in the Diaspora, that many towns and villages in the state are wearing new good looks of roads, either completed, under going rehabilitation, under construction or nearing completion. Maybe we should announce to him also that traditional rulers have spoken glowingly about the impressive government of Governor Okowa because of the value they have witnessed in his equitable and human-faced style of government, and as a result of which they are rooting for his second term as governor of Delta State. Of course, when traditional rulers speak in support of a candidate, who else is better placed than them as the symbols of their people and communities to know.

The traditional rulers have spoken, and the people through their various senatorial districts have echoed it with their endorsement of Governor Okowa for second term at Government House, Asaba.

Esanubi and cohorts should better look elsewhere, for there is no vacancy in Government House, Asaba.

Okowa carry go.!!

Osuoza is Publicity Secretary, PDP, Delta State.

 

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Perspectives

Conjoined twins: The medical ‘miracle’ at FMC Yola

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The feat recorded at the Federal Medical Centre, Yola, recently, can best be regarded as a medical ‘miracle’. In view of the fact that members of the Joint Health Workers Union (JOHESU), were on strike, medical doctors, led by the medical director of the institution, Professor Auwal Muhammed Abubakar, embarked on a life-saving mission; a mission to separate a set of four-month old female twins joined together in the stomach named Fatimah and Maryam.

The twins were delivered by caesarean section in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital on November 25, 2017 with a combined weight of 4.5 kilograms. The twins shared a single umbilical cord and were joined from the mid thorax to the mid abdomen.

They were referred to the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Yola, Adamawa State, on March 25, 2018, to be separated and had been on admission since then. Preparations for the separation of the conjoined twins had been on since the arrival of the babies at the facility but the industrial action by JOHESU became a spanner in the life and death situation of the twins.

But not to be daunted by the strike, the medical team decided to separate the twins on Monday, May 14, 2018. Fatimah and Maryam, now having a combined weight of 11 kilograms, were moved to the theatre surrounded by more than 10 medical doctors. Other professionals deployed for the surgery included surgeons, anaesthetics, radiologists, laboratory scientists, preoperative nurses, cleaners, ICT and the media, to save lives.

After four hours of surgery, they were transferred to the intensive care unit of the health facility for post-operative management. In what looks like a miracle, Fatimah and Maryam were transferred to the ward on the second day after the surgery, after being certified fit following the resumption of normal feeding.

The leader of the operating team, Professor Auwal Muhammed Abubakar, who is also the Medical Director of the FMC, Yola, attributed the success of the operation to the spirit of team work and adequate planning.

He told the media at the end of the operation that: “You are aware that the team is a combination of different professionals; surgeons, anaesthetics, radiologists, laboratory scientists, the people managing the theatre, the cleaners, the media, information and communication talking about your people, you know.

We’ve had several meetings and drills. We made sure that the facilities to be used were set and the medical consumables necessary for the surgery were on ground. You see that everything worked according to plan. We successfully separated the conjoined twins,” Auwal said.

Though the cost of surgery for the separation of the conjoined twins would run into millions of naira, when asked about who shouldered the financial responsibility for the surgery, Prof. Auwal said that the surgery was carried out free of charge as a Corporate Social Responsibility on the side of FMC Yola.

“The Federal Medical Centre, Yola, actually took the financial responsibility, considering the fact that the parents would not have been able to afford to foot the bills and the bills are also so much that we didn’t want to burden them.

“During investigations, the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Maiduguri did the CT scan free of charge. The Adamawa- German Medical Centre, Yola, also assisted. Another CT scan was also done free there. And everything for them has been free since they were transferred to this hospital”, Prof. Auwal said.

Prof. Auwal was asked how long the separated twins would stay in the health facility before they could be certified fit for discharge “Well, this is difficult to say, you know. It all depends on the postoperative outcome.

If they do very well, two weeks or less than two weeks will be enough for them to go home. We’re hoping that by two days’ time, they should be able to start oral feeding, this is going by the present assessment. Although, it is difficult to say for sure until the time comes. However, within two to three weeks, they should be able okay,” Prof. Auwal said.

He said that the cost of the surgery would come from the Hospital Paupers Fund, established by the hospital to raise money for the funding of indigent patients. Another prominent member of the facility that took part in the separation of the twins was Prof. Fola Faponle, a Professor of Anaesthesia, who was the leader of the anaesthetic team.

She said that after putting the babies to sleep before the surgery commenced, the team had the responsibility of observing them and stabilising them after the operation, in the intensive care.

She added that already, the babies were awake and stable. Prof. Faponla confirmed that positive postoperative management was expected, in the sense that the surgery was successful and that there was no complication relating to their hearts.

“We ensured that their drugs and everything necessary to ensure high level of care were readily available to take care of their needs; the blood was ready should in case they needed infusion, take care of their bowels and give them required anaesthesia and drugs”, she said. Dr. Raji Bello, Consultant Anaesthesia, is the head of anaesthesia department with FMC Yola. Like Prof. Faponla said, he reiterated that everything went well preoperatively, ‘We didn’t also expect much challenges during the postoperative period. It was to be a routine exercise; the babies would be given intensive postoperative support that patients need when they are recovering.

Other than that, we don’t anticipate much problem,” Dr. Raji said. Muhammad Ramat, 30, and Kellu Adam, 27, are the parents of babies Fatimah and Maryam. Married in 2015, the conjoined twins are their first and only children.

They were highly appreciative of the corporate social responsibility rendered to them by the management of FMC Yola. “We had faith that the surgery to separate our conjoined babies would be a successful one, especially when we were counselled by Prof. Auwal Muhammad Abubakar and Dr. Wabada Samuel to be strong, hopeful and confident. The contributions of Professor Fola Faponle in strengthening our faith is also worthy of mention.

“It was not only the surgery that was done free of charge, everything was free; our feeding, accommodation, medicine and general post operative management were all free. We thank the management of FMC Yola for their professionalism and philanthropy. “We are also soliciting on behalf of FMC Yola, for the government to provide the hospital with the needed hi-tech medical facilities like the MRI and the CT scan to be able to improve upon their efficiency and effectiveness.

Individuals could also make generous contributions. “We’re also soliciting for assistance from the government and individuals for the sake of our twin babies to have a meaningful future,” the parent said. JOHESU strike notwithstanding, the happy parents of Fatimah and Maryam would have positive things to say about the health care system in the country for good.

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