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The Agbese Philip Challenge: Why The Old Masters Are Jittery




There’s a yet to be explained dimension to the current wave of political reawakening in Nigeria, where youths of the country are agitating to take charge of the affairs of the nation.

Recent protests leading to the dissolution of a police unit may not have come with the intended verve for positive action, but it signals one thing; that the youths are tired of occupying the back seat of national politics and now want to be at the forefront.

Since 2018, youths clamour for increased participation in politics gained currency with the signing into law of the Not Too Young To Run bill, which statutorily enhanced the scope of youth participation in politics by extending the age for running for political offices downward.

Before then, former military president, Ibrahim Babangida had tried to create a window for the youths in Nigeria to once again take charge of the affairs of the nation as it was in the 1st Republic, through banning of old breed politicians from contesting political offices. His efforts however became lost in the mire of intricacies that accompanied his transition programme and attainment of a particular age took centre stage in qualifying for political office.

Fortunately in Benue State, the agitation for the youths to have a say in the way they are governed preceded the Not Too Young To Run Act, as young people began to ask questions and to indicate they have what it takes to move the state forward as was obtainable in the 1st Republic but which was lost over the years in the national malaise of recycling old hands.

The moment Benue youths had been waiting for to prove this nearly came in 2016, a court ordered rerun in the contest for the Benue South Senatorial seat and Daniel Onjeh of the APC again challenged former Senate President, David Mark.

Surprisingly, Onjeh’s loss in the rerun rather than suppress the agitation for youth participation in politics, increased it.

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Just last week, the posters of Chief Philip Agbese, who holds the traditional title of the Okanga Agila, announcing his intention to run for the Benue South Senatorial seat,
flooded cyberspace.

The colourful posters which had the picture of the young man doning a chieftacy hat was striking in both its aesthetic appeal and the potency of its message and drew lots of reactions across board.

The reactions as expected were electrifying as the entire Idomaland and beyond vibrated with the news of the entry of the Okanga into the 2023 Senate race in nano seconds, like a wave spiraled by a drop of an object in water.

Hitherto in the entire Zone C, it was thought that to aspire for Senate, one has to either be a grand father or be retired due to old age or had to spot grey hairs covering the head and visage to qualify.

But the sudden entry of the renowned philantrophist into the race has reinforced the quest for redefining political aspiration in the zone where only a circle see themselves as eligible for the seat.

But beyond that, it was the background and character of the Chief Agbese, that had served notice that something serious is about to happen in Zone ‘C’ as far as who will represent the zone in the next dispensation is concerned.

It is known in the entire Idomaland, that Chief Agbese does not talk where he does not intend walk neither does he walk away from something he had set his mind to do.

It is also known that the Okanga is a youth who had washed his hands and can therefore eat with elders and that he holds the key to unravelling political mysteries having been the brain behind the success of many politicians in the zone.

Little wonder that less than 24 hours after his posters flooded cyberspace, political office holders in Zone ‘C’ began to call for meetings with the people they have ignored since they won elections all in the bid to win back peoples’ confidence.

Political meetings were called late into the night to work out ways of confronting the new possibilities of the youths taking over political leadership in Idomaland.

Though many of the older generation pretended not to be perturbed, it was obvious that they were rattled and that voters in Idomaland would no longer be taken for granted.

The question many are asking is why these group of persons who have served in various capacities on behalf of Idomaland but largely wasted the opportunities are jittery about the Okanga joining the race for the Senate.

From the opinion of people sampled in the zone, it is obvious that the Okanga Movement comprising beneficiaries of his philanthropic acts cutting across age and geographical boundaries, if converted into a political force would be unstoppable!

People of the zone believe that between 2015 and 2019, no politician in Zone ‘C’ has affected the lives of the people like Chief Agbese has.

They say he has provided many indigent youths in the zone with scholarship to further their education, paid hospital Bill’s for many, provided employment for many in both the public and private sectors, and equally employed many in his private firms.

It was gathered that it was the youths he has helped in this regard that recently approached him and asked him to run for the Senate given his vibrancy, fearlessness and readiness to help others.

People also appreciate him for his constant contribution to security in the zone and recall with delight, how during the Covid-19 lockdown, he provided palliative for people by distributing trailer loads of food items in communities.

He has also provided capitals for many youths to start their businesses and helped the elderly with funds and vehicles.

The Okanga is seen a an inspiration to youths in Idomaland many of whom had hitherto become despondent and lost hope about making it in life.

The Chief Agbese story, where he rose to grace from a humble background excites the youths and gives them the hope to believe in themselves and aspire for greatness.

The Okanga is also known to embrace all in dealings with people and does not discriminate and is therefore seen as the bridge between the old and young, poor and the rich and as a unifying force for all communities.

His impact in national politics through youth activism and subsequent foray into business and the wide contacts he has both nationally and internationally is seen as the tonic that would be used to finally liberate the people of the zone and expose them to their entitlements as free citizens of the country.

Unfortunately, that is particularly what the old breed in Zone ‘C’ fear about him as they wouldn’t want the eyes of the electorate to be open so that they’ll continue to oppress and suppress hem.

The Okanga is also coming into politics with the pure intention of assisting people and to develop Idomaland.

Many know that God has blessed him as an Entrepreneur and his intention for joining politics is not to come and make money for himself and his family.

This is the Chief Agbese edge that has made many of the old masters to be jittery over his intention to run for Senate, but as good will always triumph over the contrary, arriving the destination in this particular journey is certain.

Isaac Ikpa writes from Asa-Ehicho, Otukpo.

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EndSARS Violence and Nigerian Army’s Footprints




By Thomas Uzah PhD

The recent revelation with regards to the number of casualties at the Lekki Tollgate incident once again highlights why Nigerians must be circumspect before we disseminate information and draw conclusions on burning national issues.

I recall I had my reservations when news went round town that the Nigerian Army had massacred peaceful protesters at the Lekki Tollgate. I struggled to come to terms with the pictures that were freely distributed all over the social media space, and the subsequent comments that followed suit. In truth, it was depressing.

It started at 78, after some days, we heard 15, and after some days, we heard two. That was not it. After some days again, those that were proclaimed dead resurfaced. Those whose movie pictures were used as a part of the massacre quickly came out to clear the air. And the list goes on.

This I must confess indeed brought back my sanity as I could not come to terms with the fact that the Nigerian Army that prides itself as the bastion of our nascent democracy would throw all caution in the wind and descend on unarmed citizens peacefully demanding for an end to police brutality in the country.

For the very first time, I questioned the sincerity of the Chief of Army Staff on why and how he would sanction the indiscriminate killing of young people. But little did I know that it was a well-orchestrated attempt by some powerful and vested individuals to drag the Nigerian Army into the mud for inexplicable reasons.

I am glad that indeed the truth has come out and those that wanted the head of the Nigerian Army have been put to shame. I must state that I am still at a loss as to why we tend to propagate falsehood at the slightest opportunity. At some point, it feels like there are a group of people whose stock in trade is to take advantage of every situation to entrench division amongst Nigerians.

These same individuals and associations have an overarching desire to see that Nigeria erupts in flames and in achieving this, they sponsor acts of violence, they allege ethnic and religious genocide, and other despicable acts too numerous to mention. They even went as far as spreading rumours that only existed in their imaginations. And with impunity.

Having said all of the above, every discerning mind would agree with me that indeed what happened in Lagos and other parts of the country was a display of professionalism by officers and soldiers of the Nigerian Army that contributed a great deal to containing the situation across the country. I must also add that it was indeed a spectacular display in instances where we saw videos of soldiers entertaining the crowd with pushups and pacifying them at the same time. We also saw other pictures and videos of acts of bravery displayed by officers and soldiers in containing rampaging crowds.

At some point, it looked funny how soldiers behaved like ushers welcoming people for church service, and the level of reception from the once restive crowd would melt your heart. Whomever it was that gave such a directive must be a genius because the strategy employed by the Nigerian Army was a very effective strategy that worked magic and an indication of credible leadership by the Nigerian Army authorities.

The events of recent times also brought out the human face of the Nigerian Army. It showed to Nigerians that the Nigerian Army is not only about guns and tanks, but also compassion and trust. I must confess that I am more than impressed with the conduct of the Nigerian Army so far despite the campaign of calumny ferociously launched all in a bid to drag the Nigerian Army into the murky water of politics.

This is where I salute the leadership strides of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai for the entrenchment of a high level of discipline and professionalism in the Nigerian Army. Aside from its other exploits, the response of the Nigerian Army in the restoration of law and order in the country in the aftermath of the outbreak of violence indeed saved the day for our nascent democracy as the country almost slipped into a state of complete anarchy.

I believe that those that have never seen anything good in the efforts of the Nigerian Army would as a result of this timely intervention have a rethink and come to terms with the sacrifices of the Nigerian Army towards the protection of lives and properties in the country. And I also believe that all those acting out of ignorance and painting the Nigerian Army in a bad light would also retrace their steps and rebrand as advocates of the Nigerian Army.

In all, the lessons from the above are that Nigerians can be sure that the Nigerian Army in the past five years has been institutionalized to be the bastion of our democracy and its loyalty is to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the people. This should also tell us that great efforts have gone into repositioning the Nigerian Army for more remarkable exploits by the Chief of Army Staff and for that he deserves every form of commendation for building a professionally responsive Nigerian Army, that is human rights complaint and tactical positioned to deal with the various security threats in the country.

And if I must add, credit must also be given to President Muhammadu Buhari for providing the political will for the repositioning of the Nigerian Army into a professional force. This too is a promise kept and what he would be leaving behind for Nigeria.

Uzah PhD is head of department, mass communication, Kwararafa University Wukari.

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Upon Femi Falana, The Blood of the Innocent




By Oni Johnson

Self-styled activist, Femi Falana (SAN), must be proud of what he has gifted Nigeria – a celebrity activist son, Falz, a key inciter of the #EndSARS protests that almost sent Nigeria back to the stone ages but for the timely intervention of the real patriot. This piece is however not about Falz, there would be another time to talk about the destabilization campaign unleashed on Nigeria by the community of bards, who at other time in history would have been starving. This piece is about Falana, the father, and the blood of the innocent dripping from his hands and trickling down the corners of his mouth like a vampire.

There is something unsettling about the way and manner the Senior Advocate has been persistent in demonizing the current administration. Not that Falana demonizing a government, any government, is a new thing. The concern here is that this same man would have been quoting legal tomes backwards had his one life ambition of becoming part of the government been met. Not everyone has forgotten that he was a staunch supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari until the position of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice went to another person. The Hell broke loose for this government since that mistake was made in the view of certain persons.

In the interventions that busybodies have made on the #EndSARS saga is distressing for the very reason that the premises of such exercise are faulty. The greatest fault being that people like Falana speak in absolute terms without recourse to what had transpired in the past and without regard for the impact that the decisions of now will have on the future. For instance, Falana – with celebrity activists like Aisha Yesufu, Deji Adeyanju, Omoyele Sowore, Reno Omokri and the hip-hop crowds of his son – simply ignored the decades of missteps by previous government and landed the entire blame on the incumbent administration. What this did was to incite the protesters against the government of the day, one would agree that government is a continuum but at what point should a balance have been struck to prevent the kind of chaos unleashed on the country?

All the panels investigating the violent protests and the associated looting must review the role played by past inciteful comments in throwing protesters into the frenzy of destruction they embarked on. Each day that the likes of Falana had penned venomous articles, granted toxic media interviews and threw shades at those in government was a building block in building the evil structure that almost ruined the country. Falana and his co-traveler did not engage in such activities in ignorance. What they did was systematic, a sustained campaign of incitement that could have let to only one outcome: an angered populace that egged to attack the government of the day and possibly illegally overthrew it through mob action.

Even after the protests began, at the innocuous stage when the exercise seemed justified, the expectation would have been for true statesmen and elders to take on mediatory roles. It would have counted for something if the elderly people that had been inciting the younger part of the population had urged caution, including the need to not engage in a long-drawn protest, which naturally has the vulnerability of being hijacked by criminals. No. That is not the Falana way. He continued to edge the protesters on.

Then the violence began. Still Falana did not relent, neither did he resort to the silence that would have been considered as befitting of his stature in view of his wholesale embrace of violence. He rather increased his verbal attack on the government and functionaries. If the other clout chasers are bereft of sense to stop inciting protesters, Falana, with his legal background should have known better. Instead, Falana, by his various utterances, TV appearances and public statements incited the youth.

The result? The Falana incited protesters went on a killing spree that resulted in several law enforcement personnel being killed by a mob that has been programmed to see itself as being on a vengeance mission against those in authority. The blood of the innocent is on Falana’s hands and as he continues to spew venom, the blood drips from the corner of his mouth.

There are those in government who have also failed to call Falana to order even when they have the responsibility to. The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbjo and political bigwig, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu are culpable in the inglorious murder of innocent Nigerians by not prevailing on their political charge, Falana.

Their failure to rein in their estranged associate could end up confirming conjectures that they are connected to the incitement of the mob to kill innocent Nigerians, especially the gruesome murder of police officers on lawful duty across several states of the country.

Given his penchant for throwing the International Criminal Court (ICC) in people’s faces when defend his terrorist Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) clients, it is time to make Falana appear before the Court at the Hague, not as counsel but as suspect on trial for instigating a pogrom against policemen and public office holders, and for putting the lives of all Nigerians at risk through the same incitement. I strongly recommend that the genuine human rights activists in the country rise up to this national challenge of dragging Falana before ICC at The Hague and his associates with him.

Johnson wrote this piece from Bariga, Lagos

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#EndSARS and the professionalism of the Nigerian Army




By Nkechi Odoma

A lot of confusions have assailed Nigeria now over #EndSARS protests. Merchants of violence and bloodbath have taken control of parts of Nigeria in irrefutably dubious protests. Hidden retrogressive schemes have been hatched and re-enacted by various interests within the country. Surely, these demonstrations have become a mass exhumation and combination of satanic motives by groups, demonic interests, questionable personalities and regions in the country.

Most times, Nigerians fail to express their grievances against government, in a civil, lawful and orderly manner as permitted by the tenets of democracy operative in the country. But when Mr. President becomes constrained to deploy soldiers to restore abused public law and order, Nigerians again, make the Army fall- guys and brand them with all sorts of unproven violations of extant laws.

Quite truly, most of the people masquerading as protesters now, cannot convince anybody on why they are still demonstrating. It’s the extent of the pathetic poverty of the mind in most Nigerians, especially the youths who are now used as springboard to destabilize and destroy their country. And then the patrons are speaking in confusing tongues on the upheavals.

The voices of elder statesmen and former leaders of Nigeria who have brought the country to these doldrums over the decades hardly blend. In the day, they pretend decency, but in the night their guttural bewitching voices resonates with incitement of protesting youths.

Most worrisome, is the transmogrification of the #EndSARS protests into insane exploitation of national faultlines, such as religion, ethnicity, nepotism and regionalism. And it is being pulled with every might by the actors. The most surprising aspect of it is the blame mentality of Nigerians on President Muhammadu Buhari over the threats to national security and the breakdown of public law and order.

They exclude other leaders at lower rungs for the failings in Nigeria. Nonetheless vandalized shops, raided warehouses and targeted businesses of prominent politicians speak volumes. So far, none can point to any pin Buhari possesses as his corrupt possession while serving Nigeria.

It’s ironic that the same accusers of President Buhari’s apathy or dishonest claims of his neglect of the welfare of Nigerians in the guise of #EndSARS instigated breach of public peace are unwilling to allow him use his executive powers to restore public peace and order as the situation demands.

Two days ago, the BBC Hausa editor in Nigeria Aliyu Tanko wrote on the Lagos incidence of protesters/youths invading the palace of Oba of Lagos; “What began as a protest against the hated Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) has become a conduit for the youth to vent their anger with the people who have been in charge of Nigeria for decades, and demand change.”

Deployment of federal forces to protect lives and property of citizens when protesters become violent is not alien to law books. America’s President Donald Trump also applied the same measures in the case of #BlackLivesMatter protests in America in the wake of police brutality as sparked by the killing of Pastor George Floyd.

It’s ridiculous for Nigerians to keep viewing every phenomenon or destructive development from personalized prisms or sentimental camps. None cares about national or collective interest. What is in vogue now in the country over the farcical #EndSARS protests now is the animation of emergency activists and aimless crusaders of social justice or emancipation.

The same quoted BBC report also stated; “While those who backed and came out in support of the #EndSARS movement were peaceful; another segment of the youth saw the protests as an opportunity.” Which Government anywhere in the world would allow these brazen acts of criminality in the pretext of protests?

The Lagos Lekki Toll Gate shootings is often projected by these clan of people as the manifestation of President Buhari’s “civilian dictatorship” and militarization of Nigeria. The Nigerian Army are baselessly held culprits by promoters of the #EndSARS protests. But no Nigerian has so far displayed a recorded video of the sad incident implicating soldiers in the line of duty in Lagos and Lekki Toll Gate shootings’ in particular. But the international community is being persuaded and encouraged to implicate soldiers.

Therefore, idlers and fake news merchants in Nigeria have found an engaging job of tainting the image of the Nigerian Army. But whereas some fake news activists want Nigerians and the world to believe that the Army killed people in Lekki, all the videos/ pictures on social media seen on the incident have not even remotely linked soldiers to the shootings and killings.

By now, some dubious persons and ICT experts might be trying as hard as possible to doctor or re-work the videos to implicate soldiers. But Nigerians and the international community are aware. There is no amount of blackmail or hatred on anyone that can submerge truth. It resurfaces someday and definitely.

It’s strange that some Nigerians deliberately downplay the reforms and innovations the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and leader of the counter-insurgency operations in Nigeria, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai has imposed on the Nigerian Army under his leadership. Before the Buhari Presidency, the Nigerian Army was a brute, uncultured, undisciplined, unpatriotic and unprofessional assemblage of people under this arm of Nigeria’s Armed Forces.

Gen. Buratai had noticed it in the cause of his service. He has been part of the system from his youthful age. Everywhere Gen. Buratai has dispensed services to Nigeria, Africa and the globe, in leadership capacity, no one has ever accused him of human rights violations, until now and only at this time by Nigerians. Rather, he has earned accolades and priceless medals.

And when God availed him the opportunity to lead the Nigerian Army at the critical time of overwhelming insecurities, it was clear to him that he had to first, reposition this institution to rank among Africa and the world’s best. He has successfully done it, very strenuously, combining the reformation and repositioning of a degenerated force vis-à-vis battling the multiple insurgencies and insurrections in Nigeria perfectly.

Funnily, Gen. Buratai deserves no appreciation of some Nigerians because of the pursuit of partisan and selfish interests. Every day, some people sleep and wake up only plotting how they can unseat Gen. Buratai as COAS. The only reason is that he has refused to compromise professional standards to service the interests of devious Nigerian politicians.

But even in the current instance of the #EndSARS protests and the Lekki shootings and killings, the Nigerian Army displayed the same professionalism and discipline as has become their hallmark under the leadership of Gen. Buratai. They were attending to protesters as if it was a church service or business class of an air craft on air. Nigerians should search their consciences and speak truthfully to themselves.

Soldiers were deployed all over Lagos once the #EndSARS protests become violent and Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu imposed a 24-hour curfew on Lagos. It was not Lekki area alone. Why is it that the soldiers so fervently accused of killings at Lekki were not accused of the same abuse of human rights violations in other parts of Lagos? Let Nigerians listen to the drums and lyrics, thereafter, take time to denote the message. Some persons are out to ensure certain leaders are not only vilified but crucified and persecuted. Gen. Buratai is one such target.

In spite of everything and all through the #EndSARS nuisance which became unreasonably bloody, Nigerians saw the massive display of professionalism by soldiers. It speaks a lot about the disciplined and professional leadership of the Nigerian Army. Kudos to Gen. Buaratai.

Odoma wrote this article from Asokoro, Abuja.

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