Regardless of where one stands on the animosity between Russia and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), leading to the invasion of Ukraine by President Vladimir Putin, reports of the human tragedies are heartbreaking. Sadly, many of our nationals are also caught in the middle of this disaster. Ukraine and Russia have in recent years become destinations of choice for many young Nigerians seeking affordable quality education in medicine and the sciences. The distress of war and the racism that is now blatant in the treatment of refugees fleeing Kyiv for neighbouring countries, have combined to worsen the plight of these Nigerians and other Africans. Many inside Russia are also affected as sanctions imposed against the country could ultimately paralyse the economy. Already, Russian banks have been cut off from Visa, Mastercard and other international payment platforms.
For Nigeria, the Russian invasion of Ukraine presents both challenges and opportunities. But as @Chuksbey reminded us on Twitter, “Opportunities are always a nightmare to the unprepared.” With crude prices approximately $110 per barrel, subsidy payments will gulp whatever gains we make from oil sales. Our woe is compounded by the reality that Nigerians are currently being forced to buy available fuel at scandalous prices. I doubt if policymakers are also thinking about how we can leverage on this war that pitches Russia against its major (European) gas customers given our huge reservoir of untapped gas. But let’s not deceive ourselves, most of our politicians and top public officials care less about what is going on between Russia and Ukraine. With the signing last Friday of the electoral act 2022 by President Muhammadu Buhari, attention has shifted to the 2023 general election that is now effectively eleven months away.
Last Saturday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released the 2023 general election timetable which stipulates that the “Conduct of party primaries, including the resolution of disputes arising from them” should conclude by 3rd June 2022. Going by that timetable, the future of our democracy effectively rests on less than 100 days. For the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the challenge is even more daunting because the party must first elect its National Working Committee (NWC) before the congresses and national convention to nominate candidates.
Meanwhile, all the masquerades with eyes on the presidency must now come to the threshing floor if they have the courage of their conviction. With or without Clause 84 of the electoral act which gives sleepless nights to those who want to eat their cake and still have it, selection of candidates must be done within the next 90 days. That is why the greater responsibility falls on political parties. If the APC and the PDP nominate rubbish candidates for the presidency and state governorship positions, we will only be affirming their detritus at the election proper next year. It is the same with the choice of candidates for the national and states assemblies.
Elite conversations in the next 90 days must therefore reflect that the nation is almost at a crossroads. Despite our status as an oil producing nation, Nigerians are groaning from scarcity of petroleum products due to the way we have mismanaged our affairs. Claims by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) that it expended N210.38 billion on fuel subsidy in January left no money for the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) to share in the first month of this year. To worsen matters, international oil companies are divesting from Nigeria. “They are leaving our country. That is the best way to put it,” the NNPC Group Managing Director, Mr Mele Kyari said in Abuja on Monday.
The problem is further compounded by the recent classification of our country as a ‘hunger hotspot’ by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). In their joint report, the two United Nations agencies observed that food insecurity is soaring in about 20 countries where conflict, economic shocks, natural hazards, and limited humanitarian access now put millions of lives at risk. Nigeria is listed among these countries that include South Sudan, Yemen, and the northern parts of Ethiopia.
It is good that many Nigerians are paying attention to what is going on in Ukraine. That may serve as a warning to the warmongers in our midst about the consequences of their actions. The lesson should be not only about the suffering of war but also the brazenly racist utterances from some western journalists, policymakers and politicians. The dangerous weapons being deployed in Ukraine, we are now being told, were designed not for “European people with blonde hair and blue eyes” but rather for people in Africa and the developing world. This then prompts pertinent questions for us regarding how to put our house in order, especially in Nigeria: How do we tackle the challenge of insecurity that has made huge swathes of our country criminal empires and made living and livelihood difficult for rural dwellers? How do we address the brain drain in which our young professionals (most of them trained at home) are emigrating abroad in droves? How do we create jobs for our young population? How do we resolve the crisis in our educational sector that has led to many Nigerian parents sending their children and wards to foreign universities, including in Ghana? How do we make Nigeria a nation indeed rather than one whose unity is decreed as non-negotiable by those who arrogate to themselves a monopoly of patriotism?
In these crucial 90 days, the media have a huge role to play in the way we set the agenda and frame these questions. And for us to play this role well, rather than become part of the problem, we must stay above the fray. I once recalled my experience at a conference in Maputo, Mozambique in 2006, where Mr. Wachira Waruru, then Managing Director of the Kenyan Film Corporation, said all African journalists have something in common. According to Waruru, we express frustrations “about leaders without vision, leaders without integrity, leaders that are corrupt.” He then posed two questions: “Where are the African journalists when these leaders are elected? Why do you people (journalists) sit idly by when the electorate vote wrong people?”
The average voter on the continent, Waruru argued, exercises their franchise based on narrow and primordial considerations. Using his country, Kenya, as an illustration, Waruru gave the example of a member of parliament who devised an election-winning mechanism. With his constituency comprising four districts, the lawmaker married four wives, one from each of the districts. At election time, according to Waruru, the lawmaker would remind his constituents that as their son-in-law they had a responsibility to vote for him so he could continue to take care of their daughters.
Waruru concluded his treatise with what happened in Kenya in 2005 during the campaign leading to a major referendum. He said both the people in power and the opposition politicians decided to conduct their campaign by crisscrossing the country in helicopters, perhaps because the roads were not motorable. Quite naturally, whenever these politicians reach a village, they create a spectacle with their helicopters to dazzle the people and in the process throw debris in the air. “The major part of their stay is spent on being entertained by drummers and dancers after which they will spend about five minutes abusing their opponents. They will say nothing about the merit of the referendum, or the issues involved. Not surprisingly, after they leave, the villagers will spend the next weeks talking about the beauty of their helicopter!”
That helicopter campaign (which hearkens back to President Lyndon Johnson strategy in Texas in the sixties) has been our lot as a nation at every election cycle since 1999. All it takes to aspire for office in Nigeria is to print glossy posters with which our politicians deface the environment and then make outlandish promises. And because they are never tasked, most of these politicians seek power for reasons not inspired by a commitment to public service. Too many want to be able to dispense favours to friends and cronies, some simply to enjoy the good life with their 28 children and others simply for the vanity of being driven around in long convoys of cars with policemen carrying the handbags of their wives and concubines.
It is noteworthy that some of the conversations we need to have been taking place but in silos so they need to be structured and properly channeled for effectiveness. Yesterday in Abuja, I joined Mr Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede and his wife, Ofovwe as well as Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs Folashade Esan, 14th Emir of Kano, Khalifa Sanusi II, Managing Director of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, Mr Orji Uche and retired federal permanent secretary, Dr Dere Awosika for the closing ceremony of the AIG Public Leaders Programme Class of 2021. With Sanusi as commencement speaker, the ceremony was moderated by Professors Chris Stone and Kate Orkin from the Oxford University Blavatnik School of Government, who were faculties for the six-month programme. There were 49 graduates comprising senior public servants. It is aimed at strengthening the requisite skills needed to build cultures of excellence, effectiveness, and integrity in public service. Yet, as laudable as such programmes are, without the right political leadership in Abuja and the 36 states, not much will change.
As the political parties, therefore, begin the process leading to the nomination of candidates, the next 90 days will decide the kind of Nigeria we should look forward to after the 2023 general election.
Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye at 80
When the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye marked his 60th birthday exactly 20 years ago, a thanksgiving service was held for him at the Redemption Camp on a Sunday afternoon. As one of the ushers detailed to man the entrance to the marquee tent that hosted the event, I was caught in an interesting drama in which the then Cross River State Governor, Mr Donald Duke and a senior pastor of the Church played ‘supporting’ roles. While I keep that tale for another day, what I find particularly remarkable is what Redemption Camp has been turned into within a period of 20 years. It reflects what one visionary man can accomplish and a testimony to committed leadership.
But the prophecy that turned a forest into a sprawling city is no more than a footnote in the remarkable story of Pastor Adeboye. Interestingly, in his numerous sermons, Pastor Adeboye has shared several insights about his life and ministry. And since he has been in the public eye for more than four decades without any hint of scandal around him, there is hardly anything new to say about his humility, integrity, and strength of character to which Nigerians from all walks of life attest.
It is noteworthy that Pastor Adeboye has often used the polygamous family setting under which he was brought up to illustrate the essence of his faith. While his mother was not the first among his father’s wives, the God (of mercy) bypassed Absalom and siblings before elevating Solomon to the throne of David (despite the circumstances of how his mother got to the palace), is the same One Pastor Adeboye preaches. And he uses his own story to encourage and inspire.
A doctorate degree holder in mathematics, Pastor Adeboye gave his life to Christ at the RCCG in 1973 at a time the church was populated mostly by unlettered men. Faithful in his calling, Pastor Adeboye not only became the GO only eight years after joining the RCCG but has today been elevated far above his peers in ministry work. The humility that could lead him to the church where he accepted an assignment (interpreter from Yoruba to English) that was ordinarily way below his station at that particular period remains his strength even till today.
There is a lot to learn from the life and ministry of Pastor Adeboye who has at every point led by example. It is then little wonder that the mustard seed of a church entrusted to him 41 years ago has blossomed to become a household name in practically all the countries of the world. As RCCG members and well-wishers, therefore, celebrate Pastor Adeboye, I find no better fitting words than what President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote about him in January 2001 excerpts of which I take from the book, ‘Let Somebody Shout Hallelujah!’
Pastor Adeboye, according to President Obasanjo, “is a most humble man who goes about the propagation of the gospel with utmost simplicity and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The way he delivers the revelation from the throne of grace makes God Almighty (through the Holy Spirit) so practical and real in his ministry…Pastor Adeboye carries the presence of the Holy Spirit so distinctly that it cannot be mistaken. One can therefore not but be inspired by a man with such supernatural endowment…Pastor Adeboye is thoroughly distinguished, not by his activities, but by the grace of the Lord upon his life. If anything, God should raise up men who, while they are still here, could share in their burden and, after them, could keep the touch of the supernatural ever aglow”.
I join millions of people across the world in saying happy birthday to the most authentic Daddy GO!
• You can follow me on my Twitter handle, @Olusegunverdict and on www.olusegunadeniyi.com
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