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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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Perspectives

El-Rufai and the arrogance of power

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Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasiru el-Rufai, likes controversy. And this predilection did not start when he became the governor. He has attracted criticisms from many sources in the past. Some of his critics feel he has unbridled lips or caustic tongue and people with such idiosyncracies are always controversial.

But to his admirers, el-Rufai is smart. He will call a spade a spade rather than describing it as a gardening tool. He is bold, daring and never afraid of carrying out his will once he’s convinced about it. The governor got people talking on Tuesday when the Kaduna State Urban Planning and Development Agency (KASAUDA) demolished the house of Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi, the lawmaker representing Kaduna North Central senatorial district. The house was used as the secretariat of a faction of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state. The faction, which operates under the aegis of APC’s “Restoration” group, is being promoted by the senator.

But how rational is the rationale given by the Director General of Kaduna Geographic Information System (KADGIS), Ibrahim Husseini, that the building was guilty of “flagrant violations of the land use and non-payment of ground rent since 2010?” Is the reason in any way different from the typical give a dog a bad name so as to justify why it deserves to be hanged?

The governor perhaps, must have been pained by the audacity of the “Restoration” group, which issued him a query over alleged anti-party activities and subsequently “suspended” him for six months for not replying the “query.” Could it be that the issuance of “query,” “suspension” of the governor and the demolition of the senator’s house are mere coincidences? For the sake of argument, let me concede that they are.

If they are, they are bad ones that will make the senator attract pity and sympathy while El-rufai is viewed from the prism of a civilian dictator, who still finds Machiavellianism attractive in a democratic setting.

The governor is a smart man and I wondered how he should be worried that a faction he does not belong to suspended him. It was even alleged that the state government had a few months back marked another property of the senator for demolition but the residents of the area prevented the demolition. Could it then be the reason the senator’s property on 11B Sambo Road was demolished with soldiers providing cover for KASAUDA’s officials in the early hours of Tuesday? Of course, if rules had been violated, there should be consequences. But they must not be devoid of the rule of law and due process.

Are outright demolition and revocation of the property’s documents the normal process? While awaiting the court’s verdict on this since the PAC faction had resolved to seek redress in court, I found it curious that state government had issued a 30-day ultimatum to Hunkuyi to pay N30 million as ground rent to avoid demolition of another propert. On the one hand, this shows that the senator’s demolished property could have been precipitately done except if same number of days were given before it was pulled down. On the other hand, if the senator had indeed contravened the laws, he should be ready to bear the brunt and come to the reality that the rich also cry.

That it pleases the state government to look the other way for years if he indeed ran afoul of the law does not make it right that the senator cannot be punished. And it will serve as a lesson that laws respect no one except those who respect themselves and obey the laws. It is not in doubt that in Nigeria, big men choose the laws to obey. And ironically, they expect the common man to obey even the ones they disobey.

My concern is about what the laws say and due process. As long as we continue to emphasise money in our politics, the scenario that is playing out in Kaduna and elsewhere will continue to rear its ugly head. Governors will always want to assume leadership of the political parties they belong to in their states. And this will always generate issues once the party executives want to have a voice of theirs independent of the dictates of the governors.

The same scenario plays out at the federal level where the president is the Alpha and Omega in his party. Political parties lack the courage to discipline errant governors even if there is enough ground to show that parties’ rules have been breached. This explains the difference in how political parties are run in Nigeria and South Africa, where party supremacy is sacrosanct. A Jacob Zuma in Nigeria would have gone away with all his atrocities and may even determine who becomes the party’s chairman.

Unfortunately, the power play in Kaduna is not about good governance. It’s about individuals’ ego and selfish interest. As for Governor el-Rufai, it is in his interest to promote common good instead of fighting battles that will clothe him in the garment of a dictator who hates opposition with passion and will kill a fly with a sledge hammer if it expresses different political ideologies.

For a man who many believe has his eyes on the most exalted political seat in the land, he should avoid issues that can become a reference point, that he is too temperamental to tolerate an opposing view.

His handling of the APC crisis in the state is already making some people to have a re-think on how some governors will make use of state police despite the huge advantages that come with the clamour that truly defines what federalism is. In his book, ‘The Prince’, Niccolo Machiavelli, recommends six character and behaviour for princes. Two of those recommendations interest me, the first being: “it is better to be cruel than merciful.”

This cynical disregard for moral rectitude and promotion of self-aggrandizement appear to be the driving force behind dictatorship. But still talking about how to acquire and maintain political power, Machiavelli postulates that: “Princes must avoid making themselves hated and despised; the goodwill of the people is a better defence than any fortress.”

The two recommendations seem an interesting paradox. But I am more at home with the second one because of its tendency to promote greater good for the generality of the people if leaders make use of it. In his dissection of Machiavellian recommendation that: “it is better to be cruel than merciful,” Professor Dacher Keltner, in his book titled: ‘The Power Paradox,’ took Machiavelli to the cleaners in his “revolutionary rethinking of everything we know about power,” describing some of the Italian author’s recommendations as “old school view,” adding that: “The new science of power shows that our Machiavellian view of status is wrong.”

The celebrated professor of Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley, USA, warns that people who feel powerful are more likely to act impulsively and they break the same rule they want others to follow.

Their surroundings are mostly peopled by sycophants and boot lickers who lack modicum of courage to tell truth to the throne for fear of losing out in the corridor of power. Besides, in little or no time, powerful people lose the quality that people saw in them in the first place that made them the obvious choice.

They are induced by seduction of power and the very skills that endeared them to people’s hearts are lost once they assume power. Even if such leaders started well, it is a matter of time before they derail.

There are even cases of complete derailment. They become proud; see things from their world view alone. And the once jolly good fellow, the once revered ‘Man of the people,’ easily becomes an object to despise that nobody wants to touch even with a long pole.

Keltner admonishes that it is in the interest of powerful people to make common good for the generality of the people their watchword and resist the temptation of allowing power go to their heads.

He went ahead to give four warning signs to show leaders who are power drunk. They are: “The leader thinks their rights and needs outweigh those of others and so their decision making is all about what works best for them.

“The leader stops listening to the ideas and opinions of others, believing that their knowledge and insights hold more weight and value than others. “They ignore feedback from people seeing it as unhelpful and irrelevant, rather than reflecting on what is driving the feedback and what they may want to adjust to be more effective. “They believe they are smarter than others and have little more to learn, and so they stop seeking out new ideas and diversity of thought.”

A leader should know how much is too much. And he should always remember that once he starts seeing himself as the smartest person in the room, his instinct should tell him that it’s time to find another room.

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Perspectives

When ‘fake news’ is actually ‘genuine news’

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Last weekend in faraway Madrid, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, told the whole world that with President Muhammadu Buhari piloting the affairs of Nigeria, the country is in very safe and competent hands, and thus there is no cause for alarm.

The Minister, who spoke at a mini town hall meeting with the staff of the Nigerian Embassy in the Spanish capital and a cross section of Nigerians living in the European country on Saturday, added that contrary to the “fake news” being peddled on the Social Media, Nigeria is making steady progress, especially in revamping the economy, tackling insecurity and fighting corruption; the three cardinal programmes of the Buhari Administration
He said: “Don’t believe everything you read on the Social Media. Nigeria is neither at war nor in crisis.

“Contrary to what you may be reading on the Internet, the Buhari Administration is putting Nigeria on a solid footing, after the years that were eaten by the locust.”
Speaking further, he said naysayers are spending millions of naira to distort the true situation of things in Nigeria and to make the administration look bad.

The Minister added that the administration’s achievements should be evaluated against the background of the tough challenges that it has faced since coming into office on May 29, 2015.
“It is said that if you don’t know where you are coming from, you won’t know where you are going,” he said, listing the drastic fall in the price of crude oil, the low foreign reserves at $24 billion, the fact that the Federal Government was borrowing to pay workers’ salaries and the fact that many states were unable to pay salaries as some of those challenges.

Mohammed also said when the administration came into office, unpaid pensions had run into billions of naira in many states, contractors had abandoned sites across the country because they were being heavily owed, infrastructure was in poor state, power generation was 2,690 megawatts, billions were being paid as fuel subsidies to fat cats, corruption was the order of the day, while 20 of the 27 local governments in Borno State were under the firm control of Boko Haram.

Of course, Alhaji Mohammed was doing the job with which his portfolio insists he carries out which is to propagate the positive sides of the government in which he serves.
However, sadly for the Minister his attempts to lump virtually all reports in the Social Media as “fake news” (à la a certain Donald Trump?) is for me taking it a bit too far.

Yes, while it is true that a lot of news in the Social Media is fake and cannot be substantiated, that does not mean that every news item in the Social Media can be dismissed with the same wand.
Only recently, the whole world was tuned into a school in the US state of Florida when another mass shooting at an educational institution took place with the loss of 17 innocent souls by a disgruntled expelled student.
The incident, the 17th school shooting to have taken place in the US this year alone was carried by both the regular media and Social Media platforms.

However, what is even more impressive was the fact that the media (whether regular or Social) did not stop at just reporting the shooting incident, but went further to expose the fact that America’s top law enforcement agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), had been warned of the possibility that Nikolas Cruz, the shooter, was a danger to society, but the agency failed to act with dire consequences.

Now wait for it, rather than the agency in question (FBI) adopting a siege mentality and dismissing the allegations as false (and even hiring people to defend them in the media) they owned up that they had actually received the information but deemed it not serious enough for further action.

The Bureau’s Director, Christopher Wray immediately acknowledged the lapse and promptly released a statement: “It is now clear that the warning signs were there and tips to the FBI were missed. We see the tragic consequences of those failures. We are still investigating the facts. I am committed to getting to the bottom of the incident.”

This is in spite of the fact that the agency receives thousands of reports every day of potential danger, making it not humanely possible to properly treat all of them!
Back home in Nigeria, the Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, lamented just like his Benue State counterpart, Samuel Ortom, that they had got wind of the recent attack in which 39 people were slaughtered in Zurmi Local Government Area of the state, and yet the police and other security agencies failed to act.

Till today, the police have not refuted the governor’s claims or given a reasonable explanation as to why the brutal and callous acts have become an almost daily occurrence.
In fact rather than show some level of contrition, the Police spokesman, Mr Jimoh Moshood, in a very un-PRO-like manner called the Benue State governor a “drowning man”!
The PRO has not been punished neither has the police issued a public apology.

I vividly remember while interviewing the then FIFA Secretary General, Sepp Blatter, in Cairo during the FIFA U17 World Cup, which the North African country hosted in 1997, I asked him how FIFA acted on reports that they used to prevent Nigeria from hosting the U20 World Cup in 1995 and he pointedly told me that besides the regular media channels (back then there was no Social media), they had other sources to verify what is happening in their member nations.

FIFA had withdrawn the hosting rights close to the 1995 edition on the grounds of a meningitis outbreak in Nigeria.
It is the same thing with other governments and potential investors who have their ways of checking on the country they want to put their investments in.
So in as much as Alhaji Mohammed is right to portray the government in a positive light; he should also be quick to acknowledge flaws were necessary; because it is not possible to gloss over the loss of 73 lives in one night in Benue State or the murder of another 39 in Zamfara State or the multiple suicide blasts in Borno which left 18 dead and more than 50 others injured or the recent attack on a girls’ school in Yobe State.
Like we were told in Advertising/Public Relations 101 course, “A good product does not need much advertising or public relations”.

As soon as things generally improve in the country, no minister will need to tell us because both we the citizens living in Nigeria and those in other countries will notice the improvement!

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Perspectives

Stomach ulcer

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  1. Fire! Fire!! Fire!!!
    Fire in my breadbasket,Unquenchable with water,Flaming in my belly

  2. Fire! Fire!! Fire!!!

Fire in my chest,Far from a retardant’s reach,My heart is on fire

  1. Ethanol I gulp,Tobacco I chew,Intensified the agony becomes,I’ve been set aglow within.

  2. Hot pepper I guzzle,Spiced plantain I gobble,Bloated my stomach becomes,I am burning up.

 

 

In the last one week, there’s been an upsurge in stomach related symptoms in a Lagos community which has been ascribed to a new local alcoholic beverage in town. It was said to be a mixture of concentrated alcohol spiced with spicy herbs and alligator pepper!

The scene
Miss OPK walked into the consulting room clutching the upper part of the tummy, complaint was that of central upper abdomen pain. This symptom have been on and off over the last 3 years, usually brought on by hunger and her favorite (fried plantain), but relieved by milk. The most recent episode started 4 days prior to hospital visit.
This is classical of Peptic Ulcer Disease.

What it is
Peptic ulcers are sores that develop in the lining of the stomach, lower esophagus, or small intestine. They’re usually formed as a result of inflammation caused by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, as well as from erosion from stomach acids. Most ulcers happen because of infection with the bacteria. An ulcer in the stomach is known as a gastric ulcer while that in the first part of the intestines is known as a duodenal ulcer.

The offending bacteria
Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a type of bacteria transmitted via contaminated food, water (or other drinks) or utensils. It’s more common in countries or communities that lack clean water or good sewage systems. It can also be picked up through contact with the saliva or other body fluids of infected people.
It was discovered in 1982 and has been found to be the cause of most ulcers. These germs can enter the body and live in the digestive tract. After many years, they can cause sores, called ulcers, in the lining of your stomach or the upper part of your small intestine. Infection with H. pylori is common. About two-thirds of the world’s population has it in their bodies. For most people, it doesn’t cause ulcers or any other symptoms.
After H. pylori enters your body, it attacks the lining of the stomach, which usually protects one from the acid the body uses to digest food. Once the bacteria have done enough damage, acid can get through the lining, which leads to ulcers. These may bleed, cause infections, or keep food from moving through the digestive tract. Many people get H. pylori during childhood, but adults can get it too. The germs live in the body for years before symptoms start, but most people who have it will never get ulcers.

What gives it away
The most common symptoms of a duodenal ulcer are waking at night with upper abdominal pain or upper abdominal pain that improves with eating. With a gastric ulcer the pain may worsen with eating as gastric acid production is increased as food enters the stomach . The pain is often described as a burning or dull ache. Other symptoms may include bloating, belching, farting, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, vomiting of blood or passage of dark stool (both could point to bleeding) weight loss (in gastric ulcer), water brash (rush of saliva after an episode of regurgitation to dilute the acid in esophagus ) and foul breath (halitosis).

Causes
Infection with H.pylori, some types of pain medications (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs-NSAIDS), taking some other medications along with NSAIDS (such as such as steroids, anticoagulants, low-dose aspirin, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors- SSRIs etc) can greatly increase the chance of developing ulcers. Though stress, spicy foods, alcohol, and smoking don’t cause ulcers, they can keep them from healing quickly or make it worse and intake of caffeine/coffee is also said to be less contributory.
The catch
A comprehensive history and examination followed by some tests.
1. Laboratory tests for H. pylori; This is to determine whether the bacterium H. pylori is present in the body. It can be detected using a blood, stool or breath test (Urea Breath Test-UBT) The breath test is the most accurate.
2. Endoscopy; A scope is used to examine the upper digestive system (endoscopy). If an ulcer is detected, small tissue samples (biopsy) may be removed for examination in a lab.
3. Upper GI series; During the procedure, the client stands or sits in front of an x-ray machine and drink barium, a chalky liquid. Barium coats the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine so the shapes of these organs can be seen more clearly on x-rays.
4. Computer Tomography (CT) scan; can help diagnose a peptic ulcer that has created a hole in the wall of the stomach or small intestine.

Negative outcomes
Gastrointestinal bleeding, perforation (leading to peritonitis), Anemia, Stomach (gastric) outlet obstruction and in the long term may lead to cancer.

Treatment
Drugs that reduce acid secretion and appropriate antibiotics to eradicate H. pylori.

Preventive measures
You can protect yourself from getting an H. pylori infection with the same steps you take to keep other germs at bay; 1. Basic hand washing hygiene after using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food. 2. Avoid food or water that’s not clean. 3. Do not eat anything that is not cooked thoroughly. 4. Avoid food served by people who are not hygienic.

Advice
Please visit a doctor as appropriate as other conditions (such as GERD; literally, heartburn) mimic peptic ulcer.

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