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OPINION: Between Mushin And Ngige’s Victoria Island By Lasisi Olagunju

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Now, if the seller does not sell, what shall the buyer buy? Fear of death and disease has emptied the entertainment shelf of life everywhere. It is worse in Nigeria. There is nothing new on DSTV again to kill boredom and entertain us. No movie. No sports. What is shown as football is just a mimic of the real thing. Football without spectators, is that football? If it is not panadol, it cannot be the same thing as panadol. COVID has also locked up our Nollywood actors. All our five-star TV series are winding down. Some are repeating old episodes. We can’t go to parties. Everywhere is dry; even laughter has dried up in the mouths of comedy. There are no bubbling outings again; what we have are laughters that have gone rancid. COVID has made everything to be difficult. Veteran actor, Baba Wande, spoke this frustration in a recent newspaper interview: “You can’t travel to movie locations…because you have to maintain social distancing… Everything has become so difficult.”

COVID is an enemy to (and of) everything, living and non-living. But nature is stronger, which is why it gives a forest of beards to the bald-headed. It is the same reason we are grateful to God for giving us the National Assembly (alias NASS) at this austere period of our existence. The National Assembly is a solution to everything. There is nothing it cannot do, except that which may hurt its interest. Just when life was becoming drab and boring, and Nollywood is lost in the woods of COVID, the House of Representatives, backed by the Senate, came out with a bang. It whipped out Nigeria’s magic Doctrine of Necessity and created a reason for us to laugh again. The NASS is the new movie location, giving us a breath of fresh air from the suffocating heat of coronavirus and its deaths. We have seen how it released the NDDC as a promising TV series. It was an instant hit. At least you heard ‘it’s okay! it’s okay!’ and ‘off your mic’ skits. We want more of that and many more. It cannot end like it is threatening to do. Abrupt ending of everything good is never good. Not in amphitheater or theatre, not even in the other room. A two-minutes man, half-way to paradise, is never celebrated. And, I am sure, neither the strongmen of the House nor the uncommon Senator Godswill Akpabio and his virile NDDC team are premature people. So, we plead with NASSwood producer, Femi Gbajabiamila, to let the series run its full season. We need it from now till its arch-rival, Nollywood, regains its groove. It is good for our health.

There is already a silver lining in the sky. Labour Minister, Chris Ngige, premiered another series last week. Just as the NDDC location was threatening to wind up and we ran to prayer mountains for an extension of these times, the minister poked his forefinger right into the eyes of the legislature. Ngige, like Adams Oshiomhole, is a short man with big, hard balls. He has a huge part to play in this season of sleaze and he is playing it. He appeared before a House of Representatives committee to give evidence against an agency under him. Then he looked straight into the eyes of leopard and warned James Faleke, a forever member of the House from Lagos, not to dare him. In age and in location, Ngige said Faleke is a small boy because he (the minister) was from Victoria Island while, ignorantly, he identified the Ikeja Rep member as a Mushin boy. “If you yap me, I yap you ten times,” the short man told Faleke. I wanted to laugh, but I couldn’t. That joke was too deep to be cynically laughed off prematurely. Untimely laughters always distract actors and dry up the well. But, what exactly did Chris Ngige mean by his being the better Lagosian because he is from Victoria Island? How much of Lagos’ Mushin does he know? I consulted Kaye Whiteman, author of ‘Lagos: A Cultural and Historical Companion.’ He said Lagos is much more than an abode of “con-men and chaos.” It takes more than staying on the Island to understand the Mainland and its wisdom. He then referred me to what the 6 August, 1887 edition of The Observer of Lagos told night callers like Ngige who may think they know enough of the water city: “The inner life of Lagos is a dark and oftentimes incomprehensible mystery.” That is the knowledge the white man had which, sadly, eluded Ngige.

Since the minister’s territorial brag mirrors Johanne Miller’s “gang culture in the theatre of the streets,” I think it was very inappropriate of him to pair Victoria Island with Mushin. A proper Lagos boy wouldn’t do that. In real bare-knuckle contestation for the streets of politics and power, coast to coast, Ngige’s adopted Island has no chance. Does Ngige even know what it means to have a solid reputation in merchandised disorder? Mushin holds that title. Ngige smells like the hunter who thinks the monkey is silly; Mushin’s monkey is wise, only that it has its own logic of existence. If Faleke is truly Mushin in thought and in action, let Ngige quickly tell him sorry and stand up for the champion. The knowledgeable have no problem knowing that the unkempt, overcrowded Lagos interior holds the ace on what happens to the upscale VI – its politics and, therefore, its economy. If you know, you know.

The Mushin vs VI diatribe was meant as a diversion from the real issue. Of what benefit was that corridor to the argument over who stole what from Nigeria’s unzipped treasury? I cannot remember Faleke replying the minister on the Mushin bit of his attack. I think the Rep ignored him with a silence that was loud. The audacious minister even threw a poisoned spear at Faleke’s god and father, Bola Tinubu. That was also very unnecessary and risky. Ngige was testing the depth of the Lagos Lagoon with both feet. Who does that? The child who abused Iroko yesterday will realise next year how Olúwéré kills. When Lagos is called ‘ilé ogbón’ (home of wisdom) Mushin plays a great part in that christening. Ngige should find out in history why Island boasters like him were always the yokel who bought and rebought same plot of land in backend Lagos. The Igbo chief should also consult the gods of Okija Shrine for the secrets of Faleke’s never-ending representation of princely Ikeja part of restless Lagos since 2011. Let him come back after the consultation to tell us who is small between him and the Lagos boy from Kogi.

The drama has just started. First it was Akpabio, now comes Ngige. Members of the executive branch are moving their silted, dirty, muddy canals to the National Assembly. And that is because pigs know pigs even in the dark. The dirt-fight will be very dirty unless the lawmakers back off. When you demand money before passing budgets and/or you collect money before releasing signed copies of passed budgets, you lose all claims to respect. An elder whose ornamental beads are made of maize will be pecked by chickens. What we are seeing are feather-pecking drama sketches. Plumage will be irreversibly damaged; there will even be cannibalism. The poultry owner is not bothered. He is in his easy chair in the Villa picking his teeth. What we have is a perfect Animal Farm. Ministers can fight lawmakers; lawmakers can slap ministers; Napoleon belongs to nobody as long as his milk is not spilt by the feuding pigs. Ministers are miffed that members of the National Assembly who ate their cakes yesterday are acting to repossess them. In the skies of heist, there should be enough space for the thievish kites of the Villa to fly without annoying collisions with the vultures of the Dome. That is the message the ministers are passing to the lawmakers.

After Ngige and Faleke, the next movie will be very loud and the location will be right on the streets of Nigeria. It will be a battle between the Nigerian people, north to south, and the cannibals in government. I do not know why this government won’t know that after pursuing the people to the wall, a fight-back is the only option left. We are getting there, progressively. The latest fight-bait from those in power may be the trigger: If you rent out your house, the Nigerian government says it will soon start taking a cut. And you want to ask why. Has the president and his group become omo onílè? Or they are now a more daring version of Ibadan’s One Million Boys? I think it is worse than that. The profligate government is now into money ritual; the people are the ingredients. That can be the only explanation for the money-grabbing policies it sends out almost daily without deep thoughts for the down and out.

Abuja is directing landlords to charge six per cent stamp duty on every tenancy agreement on their houses, my house. You want to ask what that means? It means as tenants pay you a hundred thousand naira, they also pay the government in Abuja six thousand naira. You will collect this on government’s behalf and remit to it with your bank doing its own criminal deductions. Head and tail, the government cheats you and your tenant. Again, you ask: Were they the ones who built my house for me? What is our governor saying? The governor has no mouth there. They say it is a federal tax even when the law clearly vests the right on tenancy rent agreements on states. Abuja is lawless. The only thing they know there is money with the power and advantage it confers. We wait for the drama to unfold; then thunder goes out to ‘fire them.’ Why is it that they see no crime in making it a sin to be a Nigerian? No access road. No water. No electricity. No security. No salary. No school. But there is tax and more tax.

End.

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A Governor and his love for probity

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By Rafiu Ajakaye
 
Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq is an emerging phenomenon in the Nigerian political space, thanks to his style, his drive to make things easy for the poor within resources available to him, and the pace at which he is demystifying governance. He lives in his own house. He drives his own car. He carries his own files. He goes about town on official duties without the air that comes with governance in the country. And he recently made himself a subject of school quiz when he officially wrote to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the anti-graft body, to probe his own administration on claims that N300m of Local government funds was being diverted monthly. Who does that?
 
He went a step higher a few months ago when he became the country’s first chief executive to introduce social audits of public projects. While several Kwarans considered the step as the next phase of his efforts to sanitise governance in the state, particularly given his record of involving neutral parties in monitoring government programmes, a few others said he was only trying to kill the Freedom of Information Bill. They warned the civic group (ENETSUD) tapped to partner with the government that the social audit was a kiss of death for proponents of the FOI. But the Governor said he meant every word about the social audit and that it was not intended to kill the FOI. For him, the social audit is meant to strengthen transparency, ensure good governance, and strengthen public confidence in government for better service delivery. It is meant to break the ice. But his critics would have none of that. They said it was all talk! 
 
Today, social auditing has become a reality with at least six projects now being examined by the civic group to know whether works done by contractors are commensurate with public funds released for the projects. In the first phase, the College of Education Road (Ilorin); Government High School renovation Adeta Ilorin; Patigi Secondary School Patigi; Diamond Underpass Geri-Alimi; Ilesha Baruba-Gwanara Road; and Cargo Terminal Airport Road are to be audited.
 
The exercise is the first of its kind in Nigeria. What the Governor has done is to volunteer all relevant technical documents to the civic group to conduct independent critique of the projects to determine whether there is value for public funds sunk into them. It is fair to note that the social audit partly followed an outcry in some quarters about the quality of jobs done on some projects. 
 
This is beyond doubt a rare show of transparency, accountability, and oft-absent political will to make things work for the people. In doing this, the Governor is not expecting everything to be perfect. He instead intended the social audit to build confidence and open a new page in public accountability on the part of everybody involved in project conception, management, and execution. As he mentioned in the interface with ENETSUD and elsewhere, outcome of the social audit could lead to government directing contractors to return to site to correct observations made. And it may well lead to some contractors getting a pat on the back for job well done. Or a red card for erring ones. Similarly, it is a sign to government’s project monitors to always do the right thing as their own judgment may not always guarantee a pass mark for any contractors. Ultimately, no one would get away with poor job in Kwara. Not anymore. 
 
Some persons have suggested that any revelations of poor jobs would rub off badly on the Governor. That shows they do not know him. He seeks the best for his people. His focus is to gently and steadily move everyone to do their own bit as he is doing his. He appreciates the institutional gap that had long existed in project conception and execution and he wants to leave a legacy of being that leader who insisted that the public must get value for their money. Accepting to do social audit is an evidence that he is not one who gives contract and asks for some unlawful returns. All he desires is the best for the state. 
 
And there is no let up in this regard. For the first time in Kwara, the Governor has officially activated the Public Procurement Agency with the recent appointment of Mallam Raheem AbdulBaki as its pioneer General Manager. You know what? That law had long existed in Kwara but no one had the balls to implement it for reasons readers may guess. It is not every time a state is blessed with leaders who walk their talk. Kwara is currently having one in the Governor who tells anyone who cares to listen that he has nothing to hide. And every step he takes speaks just to that. 
 

Ajakaye is CPS to the Governor
 

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EDO 2020: Between SIMPLE Agenda and Moving Forward By Babatunde Qodri

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By Babatunde qodri

With some days to the September 19 Edo governorship election, there has been noise in the downtown of Benin city. The atmospheric condition is not friendly as everywhere is throbbing with campaigns, posters and many more. Markets are busy. Roads even in Edo state assembly have become National Theatre! Desperate moves are in motion, too.

Of the 35 registered political parties as confirmed by the INEC in the state, the dominant ones are APC and PDP. As a matter of fact, the deafening electoral noise in the state reflects the struggles between these two players.

However, the incumbent governor Obaseki is doing all his best to be re-elected as the governor of the state while his counterpart Osagie Ize–Iyamu remains his greatest rival with his embattled godfather Adam Oshiomole. Each of the political actors are into several political tactics on who to control the government House for the next four years. Interesting.

Amid these moves for power, politicians are decamping to different political parties, enemies become friends, trust is betrayed and those who are holding the levers of power are not ready to take it easy. Obaseki who was once a godson to Oshiomole is now seen to have betrayed his godfather. He’s been alleged of misappropriation of fund, misgovernace and sheer failure to swear in 14 elected lawmakers in the state. His sin not limited to this, he appears to betray and bite the fingers that feed him. The 14 lawmakers that Obaseki refuses to inaugurate are now the ones fighting him.

Few weeks back, the State Assembly was shut down by the opposition party where the supporters of both APCand PDP are fighting over speakership seat. The roof of the secretariat was scattered and everywhere seemed controlled by tensions. For many, the coming election may likely to come with troubles in the state the state. INEC warns!

In the face of the fierce atmosphere that grips the state currently, both candidates Ize-Iyamu and Obaseki are campaigning throughout the state as to either Edo will choose simple agenda or consider moving forward. The APC candidate pastor Ize – Iyamu in his statement said, “When Chief Obafemi Awolowo in 1978 formed the Unity Party of Nigeria. Even though I was quite young, I was fascinated by the manifesto of his party. The four cardinal programs of the UPN include free education, free health services, integrated rural development and employment for all”. This has become the mantra of the APC candidate.

Obaseki, in what looks like a reaction to the above, relies his cardinal agenda on moving Edo forward. He aims to capitalise his work on his previous achievement. In the main, the Edo BEST(Basic Education Sector Transformation), expansion of infrastructure in terms of road, Obaseki’s administration has taken the state from where it was and the governor promises to consolidate on them in his second term. “Edo is not Lagos” is his mantra.

And this reminds me of Gov. Ambode, the one-time Governor, who was disqualified for failure to respect the law of the game and was thrown out in a bid to seek re-election. In the case of Obaseki instead of him to respect elders, rather chose to leave his party for another decamp to seek elections, not only that he renovated the State Assembly to save himself from impeachment. Obaseki’s refusal to bow is only known to him and he can face the battle and win it. The dice is cast and September 19 is near to know who owns the state!

I urge the Edo electorate to come out massively in order to vote their preferred choice of as the future of the state remains depends solely on them. They shouldn’t be induced by money or anything that can compromise their wish for the state.

Based on this, I wish to remind the Edo electorate of Joachim Macebong’s admonition in a piece entitled, “The Importance of One Vote” on April 1, 2011. He said: “The most often heard excuse for not voting in an election is ‘my one little vote won’t make a difference.’ Yet, history is full of instances proving the enormous power of one single vote. In many cases, the course of nations has been changed because one individual ballot was cast or not cast”.

End.

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Hon. Adenike Harriet Afolabi-Oshatimehin; An exemplary woman of virtue By Saleeman Muslim

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By Muslim Saleeman

The occasion of your birthday is indeed remarkable to reflect on your wonderful personality and retrospect on your specialities. As you display through your actions, I shall briefly justify your essentiality through Pen.

It has been a wonderful and impressive journey of grace and gratitude so far. You’ve really made us proud and happy with your excellent performance as the Honorable Commissioner of our great State. The leadership traits in you is inherent as you’ve truly differentiated between progress and stagnation.

Words are not enough to appreciate God for your life which is a beacon of hope for the hopeless and an inspiration to numerous. Your patriotism, selflessness and bridge-building capacity have manifested in unprecedented administrative and socio-political excellence, undisputable social investment on the development of our dear state.

The exploits of your predominant tenacity with resilience in every facet of humanity are testimonies to your exceptional leadership and uncommon vision for coming generations. Even if all seems to be a familiar appraisal, I will still emphatically say you’re always on adventures of commitment to ensuring ability where there’s disability and stability where there’s instability.

There have been so many practical experiences with you which make me a witness to justify the above accolades that you deserve. The platform you’ve been given to serve even acknowledges the intelligence and wisdom you’re blessed with to pilot the affairs of the Ministry. A versatile bold woman you are!

As a model to me, you are a great epitome of integrity and discipline; these among others I so much cherish as you’re so worthy of emulation in all ramifications. May Allah continue to be your strength.

Hearty felicitation on your new glorious age Ma. May you continue to be enriched with the necessary qualities that shall best make you greater than who you are as I wish you many graceful and prosperous returns with more accomplished fulfilments. Amin!

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