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Terrorism Lasting 20 Years: Shehu Sani Should Go Back To School – By Philip Agbese

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Former Senator for Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Shehu Sani, is a man to watch. He should be watched not because he is some star boy or role model that must be recommended to the upcoming generation to emulate, he should be watched closely because he has degenerated to a point where he has become a danger to himself and the society.

In the dire times the country has found herself in, at a time when the opposition has all but fizzled out from being a warming fire to become a mere heap of ash, with the best it has on offer being a career candidate who has made a habit of appearing on the ballot every other four years, Shehu Sani is exploiting the lacuna to posture as an influential voice. But far from it, if Sani’s voice is anything then it is in the league of a siren , one that will lure the unwary into ruins.

Sani plies his poison on Twitter and for good reasons. First, he knows social media in Nigeria is a space where trolls can cowardly hide behind their keyboards to malign others without repercussions; he would need to have more than the below two million followers he currently has for Twitter to consider his posts significant enough for moderation. Secondly, his tweets address an audience whose mental faculties are limited to 280 characters when processing information. Sani’s quality of intervention will not stand up to scrutiny when dissected by persons that are intellectually engaging.

This is why it is no surprise that Sani took to the same medium to unfairly castigate the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General TY Buratai, whose offence was stating that terrorism could persist another twenty years. This assertion, in Shehu Sani’s estimation is an admission of failure, one that should make Buratai resign. Of course, Sani’s band of urchins are jubilant at the barb he threw without taking time to understand the assertion beyond the limitation of 280 characters.

First, Sani’s followers failed to deconstruct their demagogue. Had they a deeper understanding of the man, they would have appreciated that the only credential he parades is that of being an activist, one that could not serve him usefully during his stint at the Senate, a position he lost because he never bothered to cultivate the needed democratic skills required for serving his constituents. His idea of democracy is limited to buying camels to slaughter for the electorates during Sallah. This should not be misconstrued as the failed senator being militarily savvy because he is not a good democrat. Far from it. Sani will fail more in the military than he failed at politics. He simply does not have the discipline to understand the nuances associated with securing a sovereign territory.

Now to the main issue. The point General Buratai made is trite. It is something that several people, a few of them experts had made in the past. It is that: the military may obliterate all Boko Haram’s members in a scorch earth campaign overnight, but the ideology already sowed by the terrorists will take a long time to wipe off just as the damages they have done will take possibly five decades to reverse, hopefully.

General Buratai’s assertion further speaks to the reality currently on ground. The Military is doing all it can to decimate and defeat Boko Haram. That assignment is like mopping water in a flooded room. Until the tap dripping water is turned off then the mopping will be eternal; even when the tap is turned off the broken and leaking pipes as well as seepages must be addressed for the mopping to work. So, as General Buratai and his troops continue to mop up Boko Haram terrorists, the tap must be turned off by way of stopping the foreign interests that prop up the terrorists, geo-strategic intervention like arming militias in Libya, Iraq and Syria must end so that arms destined for these groups do not flow into the hands of Boko Haram terrorists, countries that pay ransom for their conveniently abducted nationals simply to put money in Boko Haram’s coffers must stop.

The leaking pipes and seepages are the criminal politicians that make capital out of terrorist activities, the terrorist moles in the military and security architecture that provide credible intelligence to terrorists, the cyber warriors that unwittingly promote and publicize terrorist propaganda, the unscrupulous business men of diverse persuasions that sell arms and provide logistics to terrorists, the rogue clerics that preach extremism and indoctrinate young people, the foreign organizations that need the crisis to continue for them to sustain donor funding for their so called relief or human rights monitoring work, the war entrepreneurs that need crises to get contracts, corrupt officials that need the crisis as subheads in the budget to steal money, the perverts that finance the operations of the terrorists and a host of other undesirables.

Militarily defeating Boko Haram without attenuating these identified variables means that they will somehow interact and regroup the fighting arm of their operations within the shortest time. This is what has been happening and it is something that will continue to play on loop until Nigeria is able to identify those that fall into these categories and deal with the specific problem they constitute. It is the reality that will allow terrorism to persist for twenty more years and that is hoping that in that span of time the country somehow manages to unmask who these people are. It does not matter whether General Buratai is the one in the saddle or another commander. It is a problem that would not disappear overnight.

Perhaps one should recommend Shehu Sani to study countries that are dealing with terrorism to understand the dynamics and the life cycles of this problem, if that will not be too difficult for him. Indonesia, Malaysia, Philipines and Myamar are dealing with terrorism at a phase that is different from what Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Yemen are dealing while the phases in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India are also different. In each of these countries, killing the leaderships of the terrorist organizations had not translated to instant peace. They adopt long term approaches to dealing with the residual and associated components of terrorism even when the militant arms of the terrorists have been decimated or defeated.

Interestingly, in the case of Nigeria, some of these problem components could be addressed with robust legislation. Something that Shehu Sani could have initiated when he was in the Senate. But he wasted the four-year chance he had to make impact because in the entirety of that time he confused activism for governance and never truly did things that matter. It is provident that the constituents he accidentally represented realized their mistake and promptly voted him out of the Senate, lest he would have been abusing their mandate to pursue his personal bitterness.

Unfortunately, with the much we have seen of Shehu Sani, he simply does not have the intellectual capacity to decode what General Buratai has said. He would need to go back to school to learn modern tricks like critical thinking in order to understand what is being said.

Agbese is a human rights activist based in the United Kingdom.

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COVID-19 And NPHCDA’s Rescue Mission – By Philip Agbese 

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At last, salvation from the asphyxiation of the COVID-19 pandemic for Nigeria looks very certain now. Like the popular idiomatic cliché, there is now light at the end of the tunnel. A bright hope and reality of the total freedom from the sickening torments of the global coronavirus pandemic on Nigerians stares in the face and patiently waiting to proclaim its victory.

Soon and very soon, the COVID-19 induced deaths; agonizing days and months of illness and treatment of victims and the lonely burial of beloved ones like recluses will be forgotten. In the nearest future, the multiple public social restrictions would begin to gradually ebb out of life’s boring routines imposed by the epidemic in Nigeria, like elsewhere.

Nigeria has subscribed to COVAX vaccines, which is spearheaded and co-led by Gavi, the vaccine alliance, and the World Health Organization, (WHO), with UNICEF as an implementing partner. It is free globally and Nigeria is not an exception.

On March 2, 2021, the Nigerian Government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari took delivery of 3.94 million doses in the first batch of the global scheme, COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility (COVAX), developed by the University of Oxford and drugmaker AstraZeneca.  Nigeria is only the third African nation to receive the COVAX vaccines for the inoculation of her populations against global contagion.

Interestingly, the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has tested, certified and approved it for use by Nigerians. Worldwide, the newly developed COVID-19 vaccines are in short supply.

But the battle against the disease has started and there is no need to panic anymore. So, in a few months from now, Nigeria would take delivery of 16 million more doses of COVAX vaccines in batches and a projection of inoculating 40% of its population in 2021. Progressively, the figure would add by another 30% by 2022. COVID-19 threats are real in Nigeria, with a frightening confirmed case of 155, 657 and a total of nearly 2,000 deaths nation-wide by the latest official figures.

The onus of national coordination, distribution and inoculation of Nigerians for the COVID-19 falls on the shoulders of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, (NPHCDA). It is an arduous task, no doubt and basically because of the limited dosages of the COVAX vaccines, the estimated population it must cover; the conscious measures required to avoid crowdy platforms which might cause further spread of the disease in the course of distribution and the delicate nature of the vaccines as well as other incidental problems that might arise in the course of the exercise.

It, therefore, requires focus, shrewdness and perceptiveness from the administrative leaders and managers of NPHCDA to successfully discharge the sensitive national assignment. Fortunately, from the outset, its Director, Mr Faisal Shuaib by words and actions has proven to be a brainy administrator, who is competent and perfectly abreast with the briefs and intricacies of the national assignment.

To this end, NPHCDA has adopted multi-layered approaches for the distribution and administration of vaccines. It has launched a self-registration portal online for individuals, who would be processed and notified for the inoculation through the personal data provided by the client. Also, there is the house-to-house electronic registration segment by its staff in preparatory to the vaccine rollout to the target audience.

In essence, the NPHCDA’s boss is conscious to avoid the reality of the maxim, which alludes to creating more problems in the attempts to solve one. Therefore, to avoid crowding by immunization seekers, he has structured the administration of the COVAX vaccines in a manner that guarantees individual and isolated inoculations. The COVID-19 vaccines would be delivered and administered to Nigerians almost at their doorsteps, and also, on a day and time convenient to the recipient.

The agency has also incorporated an elaborate public awareness campaign, including the use of traditional campaign models to penetrate the grassroots. Already, NPHCDA has kick-started explosive media campaigns to impinge the inoculation exercise on the psyche of Nigerians.

Furthermore, Shuaib has ingeniously streamlined and prioritized the category of Nigerians to first have the COVID-19 inoculation. Topmost on the initial and urgent list of focus are healthcare workers.

And there is wisdom in conceding the priority to medical personnel because they are responsible for treating COVID-19 patients and prone to its infection easily in the course of discharging their professional duties. Hence, it is thought that healthcare workers must necessarily be insulated from the threats and their confidence restored to place them on a pedestal to take full control of public health.

In the wisdom of NPHCDA, the next batch of prioritized Nigerians to receive the COVID-19 vaccines are those the agency has recognized as  “frontline workers.”  It covers the military, police, oil and gas workers, customs workers, and strategic leaders. These are people whose jobs expose them to contact with multitudes daily.

Quite sensitively, the preservation of the COVAX vaccines to sustain their potency and effectiveness is also very crucial. And so, despite logistics difficulties, the NPHCDA’s boss is distributing the COVID-19 vaccines by air to all states of the federation. However, those devoid of functional airports will have the vaccines delivered from the nearest airport by road, through vans with fitted cold cabins to prevent exposure to heat or extreme temperatures capable of destroying them.

These steps have assured Nigerians of a success story in the administration of the COVID-19 vaccines. Mr Faisal Shuaib has planned the immunization with COVID-19 vaccines excellently. He has set out for the journey and knows how to dodge or avoid the drawbacks to arrive at his destination unhurt, delivering the national assignment fabulously.

Nigerians must support his initiatives for a smooth immunization exercise so that the pandemic can be defeated in the country by all means. Nigeria must be rescued from the grip of the pandemic and, with Shuaib on the frontline, leading the assault, victory is sure and certain.

Agbese is a UK-trained human rights activists and public affairs commentator based in London.

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NYSC: Ibrahim’s Silent Transformation – By Bukola Olasanmi

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Youths of any nation globally are the foothold of a secured tomorrow for the country. Nigeria is a country blessed with agile and vibrant youths. In them, the portrait of endurance and perseverance exudes, laced in the dogged determination to conquer the challenges of life. But most times, they are not properly to arrive at the destination of a purposeful and worthy life.

Therefore, it is the first time, Nigerian youths have found a friend, an ally, a partner and boss in the incumbent Director-General (DG) of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim.  Since he became NYSC’s DG, the   young Army officer has dispensed himself as a formidable plank for youths of Nigeria to realize their full potentials in order to become assets to the nation, rather than miscreants.

Brigadier Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim has undeniably proven himself as an agent of transformation, a reformer, an innovator and pacesetter in leadership. He has spared nothing to reposition the NYSC and in ensuring corps members are genuinely guided. Now, Nigerians are delighted to see the ingenuity embedded in Nigerian youths serving in the NYSC scheme, maximally exploited for their personal development and nation-building.

A peek into the administration of Shuaibu Ibrahim as DG NYSC for these past months shows a progressive trend of solid legacies and unshakable commitment to his avowal of rescuing a pivotal scheme which was almost paralyzed. The aims and objectives of the NYSC scheme have been his sacred book and at every point and everywhere, NYSC is now noticed with the badge of a rebirthed scheme.

The welfare and social security of corps member is not only of paramount concern, but a top priority in the policies of the NYSC boss.  His consistent preachments to corps members have always been that they should consider anywhere duty beckons for the primary assignment as their birthplace and ancestral abode. To him, everywhere is the home of every Nigerian.

He has guaranteed the financial security of   Nigerian youths serving the country under the NYSC scheme. Brigadier Gen. Ibrahim fought relentlessly to ensure the   implementation of the new National Minimum Wage (NMW) of N30, 000 monthly. Every corper now collects N33,000 (thirty-three thousand) as monthly allowance and it is paid promptly, despite the economic crunch. And through subtle persuasions, the NYSC boss has been able to convince employers of the services of corps members in augmenting the Government pay package with some stipends.  And the respond has been tremendous.

A foresighted stickler to standards anywhere he serves his country, Ibrahim provides leadership for the scheme in very exceptional ways. He thinks more about a rewarding future for Nigerian youths than the realities of today and has silently launched a variety of economic empowerment programmes to assist them to become responsible citizens by utilizing it to clutch the niceties of tomorrow.

Obsessed with this agenda, as soon as he was appointed the DG NYSC, Shuaibu Ibrahim engaged the International Labour Organization’s (ILO), Abuja country office in Nigeria in mutual talks. It was in pursuit of the economic empowerment of Nigerian youths who have passed through the scheme.  His reception and outcomes of the parlays with ILO were commendable.

The mission of strengthening and deepening relations with ILO to open windows of utilizing the potentials of youths’ empowerment through employment and entrepreneurship skills development in Nigeria were not an effort in vain. These trips have yielded amazing dividends to corps members through ILO’s ‘Start and Improving Your Business (SIYB) Management Programme.’

Brigadier Gen. Ibrahim has also elevated the NYSC’s “Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) initiative to a new realm, by utilizing the creative ingenuity and productivity of corpers. The greatest success narratives of the scheme now is that through SAED, NYSC under the leadership of Ibrahim, sought and stabilized ways of generating internal revenue to fund some of its operations. Corpers were trained and mastered various crafts within the one-year duration of the scheme.

NYSC has reactivated its formerly silent commercial values and strength. It now operates its bread factory and table water company in Kubwa, Abuja.  And the NYSC boss has plans to replicate same in   states of the federation. It is an uncommon innovation and a gradual path to NYSC’s financial independence in the nearest future.

To further fortify and expand its investments web, some corpers are trained in fish and snail farming in NYSC farms. Most of them started practicing the skills before they were discharged from the service. So, NYSC farms across the nation are no longer dormant territories, as even rice cultivation and other agric-based businesses are undertaken by corpers, as the scheme’s response to local content policy of the FGN, in what the DG hopes to keep expanding in order “…to internally generate our revenue.”

The global outbreak of Coronavirus pandemic in 2020 was a tough period, not only for the NYSC, but Nigerians generally. But Brigadier Gen. Ibrahim provided a patriotic, astute and focused leadership when it was most needed. The greatest joy engineered by Ibrahim was that throughout the period of the raging Covd-19 pandemic, no corper’s life was risked to Covid-19 or snatched by the cold hands of death because of the epidemic.  The religiously strict enforcement of all Covid-19 social protocols in camps and other places of congregation by corps members became a golden rule.

Therefore, whilst Nigeria bled under the yoke of the Covid-19 pandemic, NYSC members were reoriented and mobilized to join the league of other Nigerians working to salvage their nation by rendering the needed sensitive services. The NYSC boss created a historic record. He ensured corps members nationwide were activated in battling the Covid-19 pandemic. So, corpers produced face masks, sanitizers, disinfectant tools, and automatic sanitizing machines as their national contribution in battling the Covid-19 pandemic.

This was in addition to a vigorous and robust public sensitization campaigns as well as active participation in distribution of Government palliatives to various communities in the country. It was the first of its kind in the annals of Nigeria’s history that corpers were mobilized to play a focal role in a national emergency.  It never happened in the days of Ebola outbreak.

It has excited everyone that corpers have marketed themselves as assets to the nation, rather than liabilities at a season of tribulations in the country, spurred by the Covid-19 epidemic.  Today, through the worthy and purposeful leadership of Brigadier General Ibrahim, the seasons of NYSC orientation camps have been fully restored throughout the country.

And with Ibrahim still on board, even the Covid-19 phase II has posed no worrisome threat to this aspect of the scheme.  He started his leadership of the NYSC on a sound footing and has sustained the tempo; expanded the productive tentacles of corpers in unimaginable ways. By his impactful ideas, millions of Nigerian youths are assured of a brighter tomorrow and economic independence after the mandatory national service.

Olasanmi wrote this article from Abuja.

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Obioma And His Midas Touch in NECO – By Philip Agbese

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Femi Adesina, the presidential aide is a fantastic and affable fellow. Nothing else has glued me to him like bees on honey more than his present role as a presidential spokesman to President Muhammadu Buhari.

Adesina is one person it will take me a long time to forget in the history of strategic presidential communication and publicity. I have seen and read his predecessors in the same office over the years; but certain things make him a unique human being on the job; one of which is his prose style. It’s doubtful whether Adesina has any known enemies or foes when he pens down anything.

He has a peculiarly friendly way of disarming his traducers without striking a war. To me, Adesina is an equivalent of an armless Military General who goes to war. He is not combative in his writings, but coasts home with victory without firing a shot. He is calculative and philosophical.

He sometimes decides to be comical or whimsical even on the hottest of issues. He could also be difficult and in many cases, but very factual. Whichever way one sees Femi Adesina, he is just that man even his enemies love to read and hate to despise for whatever reason. I have echoed it several times and I hate to miss his columns any day!

It was on Mr. Femi Adesina’s page recently that I saw an old-time friend, Professor Godswill Obioma. It stirred fresh memories in me. I met him during his tenure as the Executive Secretary, National Education Research Development Council (NERDC) sometime in 2008. The Abia state-born, thorough bred educationist, academic don, innovator and Professor of Mathematics and evaluation has redefined educational policies, monitoring and evaluation in Nigeria.

He has raised the bar to unimaginable heights! Prof. Obioma’s uncommon imprints in the development of Nigeria’s education sector whilst he served the nation as NERDC boss attracts standing ovations anywhere his identity is disclosed. He is a perfect model of a team player and those who have worked closely with him in the numerous places he has served the nation are usually euphoric each time his is sighted.

His impacts in NERDC were mostly felt in redefining curriculum development, upgrading the quality of teaching and learning materials, policy formulation and re- structuring for the overall development of the Nigerian child from basic to tertiary education. They are reference points to date amongst education specialists.

I have a penchant of getting glued to people I perceive as knowledgeable, intelligent and hardworking to also learn something from their wealth of endowed wisdom. So, having heard so much about Prof. Obioma’s spectacular performance in NERDC, his deeds naturally courted my attraction. On a good day, I decided together with a few colleagues to pay a visit to meet this rescuer of Nigeria’s education sector and also salute his lauded efforts in this agency.

Prof. Obioma’s impact and footprints in the agency astounded and marveled to infinitum. Because of limited space, I cannot touch on all that beseeched our eyes in the course of the visit. But the varsity don was the major architect and backbone of the current National Policy on Education (NPE) officially adopted to remodel our educational system in consonance with the dynamism of our socio-economic and political realities.

It’s a wide gamut of amazing innovations and reforms, which have reshaped, articulated and repositioned guidelines, objectives, standards, structures, strategies, and management patterns for attaining the national goals of education in a developing country like Nigeria. I think, he who deserves an applause should be given and Prof. Obioma is one such person.

He did a lot more by venturing into virgin or obscure areas like giving a formidable boost for the quest for education of Nigerians. He pioneered and raised a platform for indigenous educationists to consummate their full potentials through what NERDC tagged the National Book Policy (NBP) where books of indigenous authors are brought on stream in a special manner to embolden local creativity.

The NBP as crafted and implemented endorsed investigation and research into book development, the production of books in specialized areas; for example Braille for the visually impaired; support for the establishment and growth of libraries at all tiers of the educational system and promoting and rewarding local authorship of educational books in the country. And it is working even after his exit from NERDC.

Outstanding both in academics and administration, Prof. Obioma worked in several other establishments and later joined INEC. His talents and perfections were sighted and he was elevated to the position of Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of Ebonyi state. While serving in this capacity, Prof. Obioma sustained his evangelism on merit, hard work, honesty and commitment to duty. He is a public servant who abhors corrupt acts. He also brought his peculiar stamp of incorruptibility to bear on all INEC staff in the state office of Ebonyi state .

Therefore, when a few deviant staff under his supervision were fingered in collecting bribes to alter the results of the 2019 presidential elections, Prof. Obioma did not play the usual Nigerian game of godfatherism and cover-up of alleged offenders.

He believes, if Nigeria must become a great country, all bad eggs must be flushed out. He won my heart when he testified against indicted INEC staff for collecting N300 million bribe to manipulate results of the presidential elections in certain areas when he appeared at the Special Investigative Panel (SPIP).

Obioma’s strictness on discipline of subordinates and with eyes fixed on the dais as the Ebonyi state REC, the state and Nigeria ended up better for it when general elections were conducted. His good job was evident in the smaller number of post-elections petitions which emanated from Ebonyi in the last elections. The state had the least cases of post-election disputations in the election’s tribunal, a rarity in Nigeria. This is Obioma’s peculiar midas touch.

Those yet to decode President Buhari’s leadership idiosyncrasy, may not understand. But Mr. President endears himself to any Nigerian who demonstrates uprightness, selfless service and honesty in public office. I know, Mr. President has keenly monitored the impeccable antecedents of Prof. Obioma and knows, he is a suitable candidate to come on board of the train to the #Nextlevel.

Therefore, it never surprised me, when the President sought the golden fish, Prof. Obioma and appointed him the Registrar of National Examinations Council (NECO) in May last year. I discerned the NECO boss assignment as cleansing the cesspool of filth and maladministration which have become a defining character of that examination’s body. The NECO boss is on a familiar path. And in less than a year, Prof. Obioma is proving his mettle, by launching several innovations and reforms to standardize the operations of NECO.

The Coalition of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) hardly hail appointments of people into public offices; but that of Prof. Godswill Obioma as the National Examination Council boss was applauded because of his wealth of experience in educational sector. And the signs have started manifesting. Nigerians are aware of how he has shaped NECO in the last few months since taking over office.

Certainly, Godswill Obioma is a man destined for greatness as symbolized by his name and NECO is damn lucky to have him as its boss. It’s the beginning of its regeneration. Even a blind man needs no soothsayer to know that President Buhari is blessed to have some of the best hands in the various sectors, as today epitomized by Prof. Obioma.

With the likes of Adesina, Obioma and several others, it will indeed be a mission fulfilled and a legacy secured for President Muhammadu Buhari. Those seeking to frustrate his laudable policies and programmes might soon become frustrated themselves because there are competent gatekeepers and sentinels mounting the city gate to wade-off saboteurs and subverts. #

Agbese is a UK based human rights activist.

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