The region known as Niger delta in Nigeria comprises nine states with about 31 million people of more than 40 ethnic groups, the region has the highest deposit of mineral resources, but has been entangled in conflicts, political violence and undulating leadership over the years.
The enthronement of democracy in 1999 has not yielded much of the anticipated dividends in the region, as socio-economic developmental benefits have come in crumbs and trickles to the governed, compared to the outlandish self-aggrandisement of some entrusted with the privilege of political stewardship.
It’s such a sad narrative, which could still be reversed, given that the people remain hopeful of finding truly capable leaders via the polls, exemplifying an unflinching faith in democracy.
Indeed it would have been refreshing to witness the emergence of a rare kind of leader from the most recent electoral opportunity in the region, precisely Bayelsa State, in the person of Late Pastor Keniebi Okoko, who took time to evaluate the needs of his people; groom himself; project innovative solutions and finally decided against all odds to vie for the seat of power, to enable him bring about a transformation, that only a visionary can engineer.
Keniebi Okoko, a highly successful Harvard-trained business mogul, not only lost out in the primaries to politicians with more established bases, even though he proved to be a worthy opponent. He later bowed out of the biggest stage of all – life, when he took a chance on science to undergo a medical surgery in a Lagos hospital, which went sideways.
Keniebi dazzled his supporters and opponents by his noble display of gallantry in defeat, when he collapsed his campaign team into that of his opponent who picked the slot ahead of him in the party primary and eventually emerged governor. A man of peace, Keniebi understood the meaning of leadership for the benefit of the people, by not toeing the usual stance of two elephants fighting as long as only the grass suffers.
As a philanthropist, Keniebi donated food items to the old and less privileged people for years and gave relief materials to flood victims in the state.
An astute promoter of wealth creation, he was an advocate of industrialisation and envisioned rapid industrialisation for the state, as he told PDP members of the state’s legislature while highlighting his plans for the state: “Industrialisation has come to stay and not just industrialisation, rapid industrialisation.
“They say your network is your net worth and I bring to bear, apart from the 12 years in the economic sector, I bring to bear my friendship and relationship across the globe, with 154 classmates from Harvard Business Law of which I am the poorest, most of them are owners of industries and have always wanted to come to Africa, because Africa is a gold mine, but they have not had a level playing ground and relationship matters in every business you want to do.”
One of his plans was to position the state as a big player in the $116 billion global glass industry, having identified the competitive and comparative advantage of sand deposits in Brass.
“Being a governor, I can assure you that we can bring these industries into Bayelsa state. A quick example, look at Brass, one of the things that are very synonymous with Brass is beautiful sand, it will interest you to know that the best component for making glass is sand and we have billions of dollars lying down at the beach front of Brass.”
As a successful 41-year-old youth, Keniebi maximised every opportunity to canvass for youth empowerment through purposeful leadership, seeing the best even in people considered as dregs of society.
“I can assure you that if a sea pirate sees a job that is paying him money, no man likes the sound of an AK-47, he will drop it, nobody will reject a half loaf of bread for a full chin-chin.
“Nobody was born an armed robber or a militant, but opportunity has to be created for them to be engaged. And I tell you that the Ijaw man cannot be lazy, if I am lazy, how did I get to where I am, is it by magic? Circumstances and opportunities are created for people to do things, we are smart and we will bring that to bear in the form of rapid industrialisation.
Keniebi also had a clear understanding of the challenges of the education sector and was keen on repositioning the sector as part of his human capital development plan, according to him: “When we talk about education, yes we have universities, but you have to look at the substance of what is in the universities because a building is not a university. The payment scheme for lecturers and teachers is not so good and then people are still using text books that have since lost relevance in current realities.
“So these are the things that we can work on with the executive and legislative arms. I’m a product of a scholarship, I had never been abroad up until 2003 when former governor, late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, thought it wise to sign my scholarship of N11 million and I went to Canada and it was like a dream, but for that opportunity given me, how would I have done it? My father could not afford that from his lecturer salary, so we should be able to give those opportunities to our younger ones too.” he once said in an interview.
Keniebi was loved and trusted by his people and could have easily won at the polls, but for sheer political manoeuvrings of his more experienced opponents.
“When I wanted to contest, some people said I was doing it because I had money, I said it has nothing to do with money but capacity, and that is having a good plan and strategy. Once you have a good strategy, you can overturn things. They didn’t see me coming, they kept undermining me and some will call me a small boy and I’ll say I’m 41 what has that got to do? I was undermined, but I kept pushing, I kept coming and knocking on doors and the doors are wide open now.
“I didn’t lose because of rigging, the election was free and fair, what happened was politics, they were better than I was and I had to accept it, that is what makes a man, when you are tested, to have fortitude. I have learnt one or two things from the winner about how he did it and there are no hard feelings at all.” To the question on why he contested to lead, his answer was: “I have always wanted to help people and I have been doing that on a smaller scale, for you to be able to touch lives the way I want to, you’ll need a bigger platform.”
To be plain, if the current leaders of Niger Delta are driven by what drove Keniebi to aspire to lead his people, the region will become transformed and bear tangible fruits of democratic dividends in no time, which is the actual desire of their people who voted them into power.
NYSC at 48: Giant and Commendable Feats of an Institution – By Atim Atedze
The National Youth Service Corps ( NYSC) has come of age so much so that the institution’s gains cannot be quantified in the country’s socio-economic life. So much has been written and said about the scheme regarding its contribution to the country’s socio-economic development.
And this is where it stands in commemoration of the 48th anniversary of the existence of the NYSC and what it represents as an institution designed to promote national unity amongst the teeming youthful population in the country. The NYSC was created to reconstruct, reconcile and rebuild the country after the Nigerian Civil war. One of the objectives of the NYSC is to contribute to the accelerated growth of the national economy.
After the Nigerian Civil War ended in 1970, as part of the “3R” program—reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation—the government created the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to bridge ethnic and religious divisions in Nigeria and foster the spirit of Nigerian nationalism. General Yakubu Gowon, the military head of state, created the NYSC as one of many ways to achieve national unity in Nigeria. The program is a mandatory one-year service to the country after completing a first degree for youths below the age of thirty. Participation is a prerequisite for admission into graduate schools and employment in Nigeria.
The question that thus arises is, has the NYSC been successful in achieving its primary objective of “developing common ties among the Nigerian youths and promoting national unity and integration?” For all its faults, the answer is still yes. By posting “corpers” to unfamiliar places to interact with people from different backgrounds, the NYSC brings together Nigerian youths from diverse socio-economic and ethno-religious backgrounds. This helps bridge the ethnic and religious divisions in the nation by providing exposure to other ethnic groups, which is a positive step towards building a stronger nation.
The scheme also aids social integration by providing opportunities for cross-cultural interaction that has led to inter-tribal marriages, helping to reduce inter-ethnic stereotypes and suspicions prevalent during the period after the war. The scheme further serves as an employment buffer by offering employment to recently graduated youths. Some places of deployments retain the “corpers,” thereby aiding economic integration in the country. Likewise, NYSC fosters a sense of patriotism among Nigerian youths; participation is regarded as obeying the clarion call to serve the fatherland. This position still stands and needed given the prevailing circumstances where the country has witnessed sentiments along ethnic and religious lines.
I know some would argue that the scheme has outlived its usefulness; some would also say that the scheme’s objectives ought to be rejigged to reflect the realities of the time in the country. These positions are valid and at the same time invalid because the proponents of the above stated have narrowly missed how the NYSC has evolved over the years to be that engine room for the socio-economic development of the country.
As an aside, the NYSC is what every young Nigerian graduate looks forward to yearly. I dare say that most parents and guardians also have a sense of fulfilment when they see their children and wards kitted in the NYSC khaki uniform. To say it brings joy and a sense of pride would be an understatement. The corps members themselves relish every moment during their participation in the scheme.
The NYSC of yesterday is not the same as the NYSC of today in the sense that a lot has changed. The NYSC of today has evolved into a skills and entrepreneurship development scheme where corps members are availed the unique opportunity to contribute their quota to the country’s development. For example, the NYSC has a Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) programme in place to facilitate access to requisite skills and resources necessary for successful entrepreneurship.
The SAED programme is targeted at young Nigerian graduates deployed for the one-year mandatory service and designed to be implemented during the required camping exercises (in–camp) and throughout the service year (post-camp). Corps members will be encouraged to learn in-demand industry skills, position themselves to become value creators, and leverage career and business start-up opportunities.
The SAED programme, in my opinion, supports the federal government’s aim to catalyze economic transformation through the promotion of entrepreneurship and self-reliance, particularly among youth. While corps members are encouraged to start a business in any field of their liking, SAED emphasizes twelve vocational skill sectors, including within the agri-food sector, tourism, construction, information and communications technology and education. This, we must admit, wasn’t the case many years back, and this tells us that the NYSC is evolving to meet the peculiarities of time.
Also, the welfare of corps members has been prioritized by successive administrations. If we do not know, the monthly allowance paid to corp members goes a long way for many families. This is where I commend the present Director-General of the NYSC, Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim, for his numerous innovations in the scheme over the years, which in my opinion, is a function of leadership.
Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim has redefined the concept of leadership through his sterling performance at the NYSC. And today, the NYSC is robust in its programmes and impactful in its contributions to national development.
A good example of his sterling leadership is signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI), Badeggi, Niger State, on the training of Corps Members and Staff on modern farming methods. This is indeed brilliant given the vast potentials for wealth creation in the agricultural sector.
The NYSC DG was also recently commended for ensuring the improvement of staff and corps welfare, involvement of Corps members in COVID-19 Interventions, active participation of corps members in National assignments, especially election duties, Skills Acquisition, resuscitation of NYSC Ventures and enhancement of security network for corps members among others. And many more innovations too numerous to mention.
As the NYSC clocks 48, all relevant stakeholders must continue to extend their support to the scheme for optimal performance. The peculiarities of time require this, and it consequently beholds on well-meaning Nigerians to make the NYSC impactful in the country’s socio-economic development. I say hurray to NYSC at 48.
Atedze wrote this piece from Lagos.
Reflecting on Buratai Days and Nigerian Army’s Fiscal Policies on Troops Welfare -By Idoko Ainoko
Wonders, as they say, shall never come to an end. I was taken aback when I stumbled on a news item on Sahara Reporters alleging that the immediate past Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, during his time in office entitlements under the Uniform and Boots Allowance and Scarce Skills Allowance approved by President Muhammadu Buhari since November 2017 have not been paid by the army authorities, then under the former Chief of the Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai (retd.).
Initially, I struggled to make sense of the story, which forced me to read carefully until the end. But I could not get the import of the story. Instead, I was confronted with a poorly written story laced with mischief and intended for character assassination. And my conclusion was that there was no sense in the story.
However, I was constrained to pen this article because of the danger such bare-faced lies could have on the psyche of members of the unsuspecting general public. The story is absolute balderdash and a typical Sahara reporters style of maligning individuals and organizations in return for a plate of porridge.
This trend must stop as it is not in the interest of the generality of Nigerians but that of a select few who are bent on truncating our nascent democracy in fulfilment of their evil desire to set the country up in flames.
Having stated the above, it is essential to highlight the fact that in the annals of the Nigerian Army, never was there a time where the financial books of the Nigeria Army were subjected to rigorous scrutiny, than during the tenure of the former Chief of Army Staff. And he didn’t disappoint.
So, in my opinion, it is most despicable and an act of sheer wickedness for anyone or group to allege that monies and allowances meant for troops were not given to them under whatever guise. Just in case Sahara reporters and their promoters are not aware, under the Buratai leadership, it is on record that the Nigerian Army experienced tremendous infrastructural development that includes but not limited to the building of hospitals to cater for the medical needs of officers and soldiers, as well as their families, massive renovation of command secondary schools across the country, the establishment of the Nigerian Army University and also, the renovation of army barracks across the country.
I deliberately mentioned the above achievements to give us an idea of how the former Chief of Army Staff placed the welfare of officers and soldiers on a premium by undertaking projects that directly impact on their lives and that of their families. Since assumption of office, the former COAS on annual basis through his welfare programme evacuated over 70 personnel, spouses and retired personnel for medical treatment annually. He instituted a medical insurance for all category of officers and soldiers including treatment abroad.
The question thus is if a man with such foresight and disposition could embark on such projects, why would that same man cheat his troops? The narrative is not connecting, and it can only be misguided and meant for mischief purposes.
I also wish to state that with the successes recorded in the fight against insurgency, it would have been impossible for the troops to record such feats if their allowances are left unpaid for upward five years as alleged by Sahara reporters and their co-travellers. This new move by Sahara reporters is not only uncharitable; in my opinion, it is nothing but a distractive tool designed by the promoters of violence in Nigeria to cause a distraction so that they can have the time to regroup and wreak havoc in the country.
It is also a statement of fact that under the leadership of Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai, the Nigerian Army witnessed an enviable upliftment in its operational procedures and an emphasis on improved welfare for troops. So much so he was nicknamed the soldiers’ soldier. This same man would pass the night in the trenches with soldiers and eat from the same pot with them.
It is the same man that pays unscheduled visits to his troops on the battlefield. It is the same man that organizes feasts for soldiers during festive seasons in the theatre of operations and other parts of the country where operations are conducted. I can go on non-stop because here was a general that connected well with his troops at all times. And for the records, if the allegations peddled by Sahara reporters were true, there would have been no way the officers and soldiers would have kept quiet for that long.
I dare say it is not possible because the Tukur Buratai era in the Nigerian Army was characterized by transparency, accountability and improved fiscal policies that contributed mainly to the successes recorded in the prosecution of the war against terrorism and other acts of criminalities across the country. Under Tukur Buratai, the Nigerian Army opened its financial records for scrutiny under a Freedom of Information request by a group of civil society organizations. And as we all know, the outcome was a commendation for entrenching a fiscal discipline regime in the Nigerian Army.
At this point, I do not think I should go further because it’s unnecessary given the realization that this also is another campaign to discredit one of the best that has led the Nigerian Army to the best of his ability, and his records stand tall. Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai ( rtd) remains a legend. In the annals of the Nigerian Army, there has never been a time where the Chief of Army Staff connected effortlessly with his troops. And this is because he prioritized their welfare and not what Sahara reporters and their promoters want the unsuspecting members of the general public to believe.
At this point, I would advise those that are envious of the Tukur Buratai years in the Nigerian Army to do themselves well by coming to terms with the reality that Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai was an example in service to the country.
Ainoko wrote this piece from Kaduna.
Pam’s Transformational Leadership at NCPC and Matters Arising – By Steven Onwu
Purposeful leadership can do wonders. It can turn things around in a twinkle of an eye. And it can make tedious tasks seem simple. The aforementioned aptly describes the Yakubu Pam adventure in the Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission since he assumed leadership some months ago.
I have been a fan of Rev Yakubu Pam for his numerous contributions to the entrenchment of peaceful coexistence amongst Nigerians. This much he has diligently pursued in the past 30 years of his life, where he has been advocating for religious and ethnic harmony, especially in Northern Nigeria. Rev Yakubu Pam is not a stranger to leadership. Hence, he hit the ground running since his well-deserved appointment as Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Christian Pilgrim Commission. It is sufficient to add that before his appointment; he was the Chairman of the Plateau State Christian Pilgrims Board, a position where he distinguished himself by introducing institutional reforms that placed the Board in good stead towards achieving its strategic mandate.
This much Rev Yakubu Pam has brought about in the NCPC. It is therefore not surprising that in less than one year at the helm of affairs, his impact has been felt, and the fortunes of the Commission have taken a turn for the best.
This is what I call the Yakubu Pam magic, which was not surprising to some of us that have followed his success story for several years. He is a man with many parts, and he is also a man filled with passion for service to humanity.
I recall that it was stated in some quarters that Yakubu Pam would reinvigorate the operations of the NCPC within a record time. Even though some quarters expressed reservations, he has proven all those that expressed reservations wrong with his sterling performance at the NCPC.
If not for anything, Rev Yakubu Pam has entrenched the regime of transparency and accountability at the Commission, which has been a challenge in the Commission’s operations for several years. That it has become possible within a short period indeed explains the leadership acumen of Rev Yakubu Pam and what it entails to be a leader with eyes on the ball.
Today, the NCPC is a success story. It results from the provision of sound leadership and a commitment to render service when it matters most, with the example of Rev Yakubu Pam, I dare say that Nigeria can overcome its challenges if those in leadership positions tend to lead with sincerity of heart and purpose.
The Yakubu Pam revolution at the NCPC was naturally expected because of his track record that speaks volume of integrity, accountability and transparency. His vast knowledge of diplomacy saw him excel in the position of Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) of Northern Nigeria (which includes the 19 Northern States and Abuja) from 2016 to date, Vice President, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, 2013 to date and District Superintendent, Jos mainland Assemblies of Nigeria, 2010 to date, including as Chairman, Plateau State Inter-Religious Council; and Chairman, Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Committee, Plateau State, were contributory of how he has been able to turn the fortunes of the NCPC around and in record time.
I cannot but commend President Muhammadu Buhari for identifying such a man as Rev. Yakubu Pam for a leadership position in the country. I do not doubt that he has not only reposed the confidence of Mr President, he has also set a standard for leadership in the country. This much has been stated in numerous forums by relevant stakeholders, whom have never been short of words for the transformation at the NCPC under Rev. Yakubu Pam.
Rev Yakubu Pam falls under the category of silent achievers whose impact doesn’t dot pages of newspapers. However, silently, they are making exploits and making life more meaningful through the provision of purposeful leadership, as with the case of the NCPC, whose fortunes has taken a turn for the better.
And the commendations have continued to pour in from home and abroad for the man nicknamed the Apostle of Transformation by stakeholders for obvious reasons associated with his stewardship at the NCPC. And one whose coming has redeemed the image of the Commission.
I can’t but charge Rev Yakubu Pam to continue to render selfless service to humanity in the light of the above. He should not rest on his oars and refuse every temptation to deviate from the lofty standards he has set in the areas of transparency and accountability.
I also want the relevant stakeholders to realize that the task at hand is a collective one. As such, it is worth extending their support to the reforms introduced by the Yakubu Pam led administration at the NCPC.
I can go on non-stop on Yakubu Pam’s transformational leadership at the NCPC. However, the lessons that should resonate are that in all that we do as a people and as a country, sound and purposeful leadership remain that magic wand needed to translate our hopes and aspirations into tangible realities. At this point, I would say well-done to Rev Yakubu Pam.
Onwu is a civil rights activist and wrote from Badagry.
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