Category Archives: Opinions

Abia’s 5,666 Teachers: You can’t sack someone you never hired-JOK

There is a long existing embargo on new employment in Abia State Civil Service and only the Governor of the state can validly issue a waiver to employ anyone or group of persons to fill any vacancy within the service.

Every civil servant, no matter the level, is aware of this fact and its implication for those wishing to join the civil service: only a valid waiver, in this circumstance, from the Governor, or a lifting of the embargo by the Governor, can genuinely give employment.

Between 2018 and March 2020, Secondary Education Management Board (SEMB) hired some teachers ostensibly as PTA-teachers who were supposed to be paid by the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) of some schools that needed them to fill some vacancies. They were never meant to draw their wages from the civil service of the state as no budgetary provision was made for that purpose and the Governor never issued any employment waiver for their hiring.

According to information released from the office of the Chief of Staff (COS) to the Governor, about 5,666 persons were involved in this PTA arrangement without the necessary employment waivers. None of them ever received wages from the state government, in line with the terms of their hiring by SEMB, whereas 187 teachers employed by same SEMB with valid waivers within the same period were receiving wages from the state government.

Nobody was sacked, please.

Obviously, some unscrupulous persons took money from the PTA teachers and others in need of teaching jobs, and promised them full government employment as teachers whereas those involved knew they could only hire PTA teachers at the request of the schools. One of the affected persons told me she was made to part with thousands of naira and told to go and work as the Governor would ultimately be compelled to approve their full employment and authorize their salary payment from the state government coffers.

That is a SCAM.

When the Governor found out about this scam, he empaneled a committee to review what happened and report back to him. The committee’s report pointed to all sorts of malfeasance including extortion, deception, manipulation of records etc and the government decided to make public its position via relevant announcements regarding the illegality so that those affected would not fall into the venture of making false claims of being owed for some work supposedly done for the state government.

In the announcement signed by the Chief of Staff to the Governor, Dr ACB Agbazuere, government never claimed to have sacked any teacher because you simply can’t sack someone you never hired. None of the affected persons received any employment waiver from the Governor and those validly given waivers are continuing with their job.

There are windows available to those PTA teachers and others: approach the schools where you were supposedly working to write the Commissioner for Education and request for your services as a teacher giving cogent reasons for the request with the letter copied to the COS. If the Honorable Commissioner finds merit in the request, he will recommend to the Governor for a waiver to be issued. Only the issuance of such waivers validates your employment with the state government. The other window is to wait for the state government to do a general audit of teachers in the state with a view to identifying where vacancies exist and fill same. According to the announcement, the government is ready to consider the 5,666 persons first, before others, to fill such gaps, if in existence.

As per the argument that they met the then Commisioner for Education, please find out if they met him as newly employed teachers in the civil service or simply as PTA teachers.

Thank you.

-JOK(Honourable Commissioner for Information, Abia State)

RE: Obaseki and PDP’s Wicked Plot to Procure a Court Order to Stop APC and its Candidate Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu from Participating in the September 19, 2020 Governorship Election in Edo State: A Call for Judicial Caution

By Sebastine EBHUOMHAN

Reading through the above-titled call and a generated remark, I have noted with suspicion, the motive for Mr Osazua Ivbaze’s commentary on the essay written by Hon. Samson Raphael Osagie to sound an early alarm on an undemocratic move to duck direct contest of the forthcoming Edo State governorship election with the formidable and fearsome candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, by the incumbent Governor and candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Godwin Obaseki.

Hon. Osagie, a lawyer and politician of no mean feat, the former Minority Whip of the House of Representatives and now the Coordinator, APC Campaign Council in charge of Edo South Senatorial District, titled his piece as: Obaseki And PDP’s Wicked Plot To Procure A Court Order To Stop APC And Its Candidate Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu From Participating In The September 19, 2020 Governorship Election In Edo State: A Call For Judicial Caution.

In the simple, concise and lucid essay, the two-term former federal lawmaker described his fears and sounded an early alarm about a pernicious move by the rejected, confused, fearful and quarrelsome Obaseki to ensure that Mr Ize-Iyamu is prevented from participating in the election he is presently campaigning vigorously to win. Obaseki is seeking through the legal backdoor of a baseless injunctive order to stop the APC candidate.

Hon. Osagie concluded by urging the Chief Justice of Nigeria to prevail, as he has democratically asserted since he assumed office, on all superior courts of record to exercise utmost discretion and restraints in matters relating to Edo State governorship election before, during and after the poll without prejudice to their powers to entertain post-election petitions, so as to prevent avoidable constitutional crisis in Edo State.

Despite the obvious clarity in Hon. Osagie’s intelligent observation, Ivbaze, an educated and cerebral analyst, would rather focus his gaze on elementary issues that have no relationship, direct or indirect, to the write-up in a manner that portrays the journalist as deliberately seeking, albeit poorly, to divert attention from the weighty and criminal issues that Osagie raised against Obaseki, Ivbaze’s benefactor.

What are the key issues Osagie raised against Obaseki? One, that Obaseki is obviously jittery because of the high profile, pedigree, formidability and acceptability of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and the APC. Two, that Obaseki is allegedly romancing and “grovelling” before an unnamed PDP godfather in Port Harcourt, who recently described the PDP as a party of “tax collectors” with the wicked intention of using the godfather to derail Edo State political process. Third, that with his alleged search for pliable judges, Obaseki is seeking to prevent through the back door of judiciary by ways and means of “injunctive order,” Ize-Iyamu’s participation and expected victory in the election. Four, that two senior lawyers: one in Edo State Government’s public service and the other in private practice have allegedly been contracted in tandem with another lawyer in Lagos to work to scuttle to the smooth election of POI, the people’s choice. And five, that millions of dollars and billions of naira are allegedly involved in the undemocratic scheme.

Osagie did not stop there, but went further to supply some base evidence in support of his claims, including the accurate description of a changing room talk.

While one or two of his claims are already domiciled at the public domain, others are so weighty that they cannot just be swept with a wave of the hand. One, that Governor Obaseki and his party, the PDP, are not campaigning anywhere in Edo State right now. Two, that the grounding of Obaseki’s re-election campaign has since resulted to a rift between him and his Deputy Governor. Three, that Mr Jack Obinyan, a Special Assistant to Governor Obaseki erroneously twitted words of the suspended former Edo APC Chairman, Anselm Ojezua, as saying: “APC has no candidate,” even when he and Ojezua knew APC NEC overwhelmingly ratified the candidacy of Ize-Iyamu at the party’s last meeting at the Presidential Villa. Four, that Obaseki, Ojezua and Obinyan are living in fools’ paradise for assuming they could throw spanner into the smooth work of Edo APC where Ojezua remains suspended with his well-known plans to sabotage APC work with the help of a few disgruntled party chairmen; which should make a sane person to ponder the question of who be granted audience out of a suspended and an unsuspended leaderships. And five, that Ojezua “virtually attended, albeit erroneously” the National Executive Committee which held at the Presidential Villa and which ratified APC governorship primary for Edo State.

In spite of the factual evidence available for a knowledge and understanding seeking commentator coupled with the fact that Port Harcourt has become the centre of recent dubious political injunctions even by PDP aspirants against fellow PDP aspirants, it beats the imagination of a reader hollow to see Ivbaze subjecting Osagie’s claims to a dismissive doubt, veiled in his half-hearted shock expressed without a scintilla of verification or investigation. It shows the hatchet columnist is either expressing a blind bias for his benefactor or just out to cause some mischief intended to derail the focus of the general public from a glaring tendency for increasing violence, deadly desperation and impulsive implosions of Governor Obaseki as he watches his re-election slipping through his shaking, almost lifeless fingers.

To conclude, the concern of every well-meaning Edo son and daughter for a free, fair and credible governorship election should be to see Governor Godwin Obaseki and PDP leaders truly stopping their internal wrangling and embarking on a serious political campaign across the nooks and crannies of Edo State before September 19, 2020. That is the only way Obaseki can revive his dying re-election dream.

Sebastine EBHUOMHAN is an award-winning journalist from Edo State resident in Abuja. He can be reached on: usie007@yahoo.com.

OBASEKI AND PDP’s WICKED PLOT TO PROCURE A COURT ORDER TO STOP APC AND IT’S CANDIDATE PASTOR OSAGIE IZE-IYAMU FROM PARTICIPATING IN THE  SEPTEMBER 19, 2020, GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION IN EDO STATE: A CALL FOR JUDICIAL CAUTION

~By Samson R. Osagie, Esq

Ahead of the September 19, governorship election in Edo State, the PDP and its emergency candidate Godwin Obaseki have ran out of ideas, as their campaigns loses traction with thousands of their members abandoning their sinking ship.

Perturbed by the reality of imminent and unavoidable defeat, they have gone on their kneels groveling before one of the South South Governors and a PDP godfather who describe the National leadership of their party as tax collectors to assist them procure a frivolous court order that will prevent the APC and its formidable candidate Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu from participating in the September 19 gubernatorial election in Edo State.

As a matter of fact two Senior Lawyers in Benin one in Edo State public service and the other in private practice have been given matching orders to liaise with another prominent Senior lawyer in Lagos to urgently seek for injunctive orders against the APC candidate by all means possible. This step is been backed by the payment of several millions of dollars and billions of naira by Governor Obaseki to the Lawyers and the PDP godfather in the south south.

As part of measures to achieve this unholy and devilish mission Obaseki having obtain assurance from the PDP’s godfather in Port Harcourt has been junketing from one judicial division to the other seeking for pliable judges to assist him with an order based on frivolous and unmeritorious application against the APC and its candidate.

This is why he is not campaigning or funding the PDP campaign, a situation which is alleged to have created a rift between him and his Deputy.

No wonder their media hirelings have been posting what looks like messages intended to prepare the mind of the public as to what they intend to achieve. In one of the Post a certain Jack Obiyan, Special Assistant to Governor Obaseki twitted that the suspended former State Chairman Anselm Ojezua as saying ” APC has no candidate”. The PDP godfather during their ill-fated flag off campaign in one of the changing rooms at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium re – echoed same.

Unfortunately, for the embattled party that sold its governorship and Deputy governorship tickets to Obaseki and his Deputy for several billions of Edo taxpayers money, many heads of courts across the country have issued stern warnings to judicial officers to refrain from entertaining frivolous politically motivated litigations aimed at derailing the democratic process which has characterized the Obaseki misadventure in Edo State governance since 2016.

Let it be known that Anselm Ojezua and Godwin Obaseki are living in fool’s paradise for assuming that they could put spanner in the works of the Edo APC from regaining its control of government in Edo State come November 12, 2020.

The APC gubernatorial primaries which Anselm Ojezua claims did not produce a candidate was ratified by the National Executive Committee which held in the Presidential Villa and which he virtually attended, albeit erroneously. How he now claim that after the ratification of the primaries which produced Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the party still has no candidate is a matter Mr President and the National Caretaker Committee of the APC must invoke serious disciplinary measures against by expelling Anselm Ojezua from the party.
It is no longer news that Anselm Ojezua and a few party chairmen at the LGA levels in Edo State are refusing to decamp with Obaseki to PDP with the intention of sabotaging the APC in the next election.

They will fail!!!

It is therefore important to state that Nigerian courts must be wary of the suits which are been filed with the aim of derailing the democratic processes in Edo State so as not to create a constitutional crisis as the tenure of the incumbent governor expires midnight of November 11(my birthday) and Edo people are not prepared to renew the mandate.

Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, candidate of the APC has undoubtedly fulfilled all legal requirements including incontrovertible academic qualifications and compliance with every statutory provisions spelt out in the Nigerian Constitution, the APC constitution and the electoral Act under which INEC has issued its guidelines.

Consequently, any order seeking to stop the APC candidate from participating in the forthcoming gubernatorial elections in Edo State can only be a product of judicial compromise and we are confident that the Nigerian judiciary will not lend itself to such an ignoble mission.

Let us warn the PDP godfather in the south south oil rich state that the APC is fully aware of his boasts to use the judiciary to achieve this unholy mission as he did to APC in Rivers State in 2019. By God grace and under God no weapon fashioned by him and his God son Godwin Obaseki shall succeed and Obaseki shall lose shamelessly to Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.

Needless to emphasize that the people of Edo State have accepted the SIMPLE AGENDA of the APC and its candidate and they are very prepared to run with it to guarantee security, quality infrastructure, Manpower development, public private partnership, leadership by example and employment cum empowerment. This SMART program is Specific, Measurable, Achievable , Realistic and Time bound so much so that Edo people can hold the APC government of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu accountable to it. On the contrary, the Obaseki government has no discernable agenda except bogus and incomprehensible litany of failed promises. Edo People cannot continue with his deceitful and hypocritical administration.
The task to reclaim Edo from the PDP tenant on September 19 is already a forgone conclusion and the Courts must exercise utmost circumspection not to yield to any unpatriotic, undemocratic, frivolous and vexatious applications relating to Edo elections particularly applications for injunctive reliefs against the APC and its candidate.

Finally, the Chief Justice of Nigeria should prevail on all superior courts of record to excercise utmost discretion and restraints in matters relating to Edo State governorship election before, during and after the election without prejudice to their powers to entertain post elections petitions.

Edo State is APC, and it’s people have decided to elect Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and Mallam Gani Audu as the next Governor and Deputy Governor.
No more, No less.

~Hon Samson Osagie is a former Minority Whip of the House of Representatives and the Coordinator, APC Campaign Council in charge of Edo South Senatorial District.

2023: MAMMAN DAURA’S MERIT PRESCRIPTION AND ITS MISDIAGNOSIS

By Law Mefor

A significant number of people have died due to misdiagnosis of their medical conditions done with the best of intentions. One can be right the wrong way and vice versa. Such is life.

The nephew and closest confidant of President Muhammadu Buhari, in a BBC Hausa interview days ago, called for merit in deciding who governs Nigeria at the expiration of Buhari’s tenure.

In case you missed the interview, Daura said: “This turn by turn, it was done once, it was done twice, and it was done trice…It is better for this country to be one… It should be for the most competent and not for someone who comes from somewhere…”

What one understands the elder statesman to say is: Nigeria has come of age when merit should govern our national life. This is not quite a fair postulation if merit will not be applied in every aspect. The office of the President cannot be an exception and since federal character is what obtained, given its indivisible nature, only rotation can apply to it. For related good reasons, the Federal Character and Quota System still override merit in most official considerations in Nigeria as ways of carrying every part of country along. This is point missed by the elder statesman.

Right from the foundation of Nigeria the political and structural imbalances of the country have been at issue and have caused much crisis and continually arrest the nation’s development. Before independence, Nigeria operated three regions, two in the South and one in the North. Nigeria added one more region in 1963 – Mid-Western Region, still in the South.

The four regions operated up till the Biafra civil war when the then head of state Yakubu Gowon abolished the 4 regions and created 12 States. Major General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi created no states. General Olusegun Obasanjo who succeeded Murtala Mohammed, who also created states, did not create any State also.

Generals Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and Sani Abacha created States as Heads of State of Nigeria, bringing the number of States in Nigeria to 36 plus the Federal Capital Territory, which is also given the Status of a State, given the North an overarching advantage where it comes determining who becomes the President of Nigeria.

The number of Local Governments in Nigeria (774) also gives the North nearly 60% while about 40% to the Southern part, using landmass instead of human population. Yet, these amorphously and unfairly created States and Local governments form the basis of determining which part of the country produces the President of Nigeria. Going by the provisions of the 1999 Constitution, it stipulates that the winner of the nation’s presidential election would score 25% of the votes in 2/3rd of the States of the federation and simple majority of votes. This makes it almost certain that the North is always in a position to determine who emerges the President of Nigeria at any time.

Yes, democracy is about majority but where the primordial sentiments and skewed structures pervading the nation are irrational, other measures must come to play to stabilize the polity. Voters do not consider candidates on merit in Nigeria but on religion, ethnicity, and region and so on. There is nothing democratic about that pattern of voting and where it is rife and one side of the country dominates the rest based on such factors, rotation becomes inevitable. Such factors made the United States of America to introduce popular votes and electoral votes.

Recall that Hillary Clinton won the popular votes but Donald J. Trump is President based on electoral votes. One may as well argue that the US approach is undemocratic but it has kept the country peaceful and progressive. Zoning of presidential position in Nigeria is akin to the US introduction of Electoral Votes, which supersedes popular votes where necessary.

Nigerian political class was therefore wise for the zoning understanding that has decided the political life of the country since 1999. It has served the nation well and each time efforts are made to set it aside, there has been an overly overheating of the polity. The most classic example of the crisis was an attempt by an incumbent to go for another term when the power ought to move to Northern Nigeria. The attempt of President Goodluck Jonathan (as he then was) to set aside zoning to enable him contest again brought the nation to a precipice.

That decision to set aside rotation and zoning gave oxygen to the formation of the first successful coalition to stop Dr. Goodluck i.e. the All Progressives Congress (APC). It formed the basis for the legacy political parties, namely: Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN), All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) and a faction of the PDP rally Nigerians.

The political leaders rallied round APC because it was a just resistance of an action to thwart a beautiful measure aimed at giving the nation political stability and progress.

In other words, merit as seen by the elder statesman, Mamman Daura is inoperable and does not apply to the nation’s presidency without moderating factors given their due premiums. Again, it also depends on how the nation applies merit. Nigeria as perhaps 6 nations rolled up in one can always have competent men and women in each of the six zones.

In the South East for example (just like in other regions of the country), there are at least a dozen acknowledged men and women who can provide topnotch leadership to our nation.

In other words, rotation does not mean that merit is scarified in Nigeria. Those who have ruled Nigeria were blighted by the nation’s skewed structures, which they lacked the political will to confront, not lack of merit.

There is none who has ruled Nigeria that was not competent enough. But each either lacked the guts to set the skewed structures of Nigeria aright or they maintained the status quo for the little, passing gains enjoyed by their regions.

Those who argue otherwise argue amiss. Merit and competence to rule a country render the many factors of leadership too secondary. The real deciding factors could be National visibility, acceptability, Integrity and Political courage. However, in application, judging by the Nigerian experience, what is important is the person being known and acceptable to a broad spectrum of national power stakeholders, influencers and to the generality of Nigerians.

Elder Statesman Mamman Daura knows what is meant by “broad spectrum of national power stakeholders”. To this group who decide who rules Nigeria, merit is not an educational qualification. It means much more. After all, to date Jonathan has been the only university graduate to rule Nigeria.

Rotation will give the nation the opportunity to keep the struggle for power by the regions, which ruined the First Republic, to be less rancorous. It will give the nation the chance to focus on development since the area when the next president will come from is predictable.

Rotation of presidential power became inevitable. All the factors that have made Restructuring Nigeria inevitable have equally made rotation inevitable. These are the centrifugal forces tearing the nation apart. All the measures that can help keep Nigeria one, progressive and peaceful are, by all means, democratic. Democracy is agreement and consensus, and there is nothing more consensus than rotation, given the nation’s peculiarity.

Dr. Law Mefor, a Social Psychologist, writes from Abuja; e-mail: drlawmefor@gmail.com; tweet: @LawMefor1.

Re: Ours is a closely-knitted family; Idehen is alien to us

BY DR TINYAN OKUNBO MD

I have just read a so-called letter doing the round in the social media by a character who referred to himself as Frank Agbons Idehen and claimed that Captain Hosa Okunbo is his cousin.

While I doubt the claim of this social media bully, I have every reason to believe that Frank Agbons Idehen is a pseudonym adopted by a paid agent of Capt. Hosa’s traducers to tar a global brand that has been built for over two decades with a brush of public odium.

But, unfortunately for this ghost writer, who lives in the world of fictive narration and puerile imagination, it is too late for him and his timid sponsors to unconscionably de-market, negatively deconstruct and wickedly profile Capt. Hosa, whose records of achievements and contributions to national and global peace are writ-large.

Idehen claimed to have written from the USA and populated his contrived letter with dubiously-crafted tales and salacious lies that could have come only from a warped mind. Yet, he failed to substantiate all his claims.

That the letter came at a time my younger brother, Capt. Hosa Okunbo published an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari and the good people of Edo State explicates the suspicion that the writer of this spurious letter in the social media could very well have penned the preposterous missive from a cozy office in the Government House.

With just an open letter, the political climate in Edo State has changed dramatically and the elements in power are no longer at ease.

I expect them to clutch on to available straws and my brother, who declined overtures to contest the governorship position because he would not want to hand over his massive investments to proxies, became a significant straw to hold on to.

My take really is that if the so-called Idehen knows he is speaking the truth and he is ready to prove to the world that he is not an agent of Capt. Hosa’s traducers who are on a familiar voyage of character assassination, he should accept the gauntlet by presenting himself to the public instead of lurking in the dark.

This letter falls in the class of the series of stories about Capt. Hosa’s business deals with the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Allison Madueke, which traducers have continued to circulate and recirculate in the last four years and yet, Capt. Hosa walks about a free man.

Those who were involved in oil deals with the former Petroleum Minister are either on exile or before one court or the other in Nigeria standing trial.

Capt. Hosa has not written a statement at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in connection with any oil business involving the former Minister of Petroleum; or at any other anti-corruption agency in Nigeria in connection with any fraud.

I hereby on behalf of the Okunbo Family of Edo State declare that the so-called Frank Agbons Idehen is not known to us. We are a closely-knitted family and as the head of Okunbo siblings, I know all members of our family both immediate and distant.

I can also attest to the character of my younger brother, Capt. Hosa Okunbo, who has a home in America and was in 2012 conferred with the African Titan award by the US Congress.

I have lived in America for so many years now where I practise as a medical doctor and there is no single incident yet that has pitched him against the law of the US.

We have told our brother, Capt. Hosa Okunbo that all of these shenanigans are political and we have advised him not to bother to reply any more to these silly insinuations.

We call on people to disregard these calculated attacks to damage a reputation that had been built a long time ago through honest hard work and commitment to value addition.

We take this opportunity to advise the candidates in the forthcoming Edo governorship election to focus on their campaigns and leave our brother alone.

Signed
Dr Tinyan Okunbo MD
For the Okunbo Family

Simple Agenda Promises A Secure Edo With Novel Social Welfare Package

By Don Osehobo Ofure

Mr. Godwin Obaseki as Edo State governor sits on a security vote of N900million monthly (N10.8billion Annually), according to the Wikipedia.

It is one of the highest security votes by s

tates in Nigeria. Yet for many residents and even visitors passing by the state, Mr. Godwin Obaseki should be blamed for the very high level of insecurity the state is experiencing today. The state of insecurity is visible, as all parts of the state including the capital, Benin City, Edo north and Edo Central are deeply affected.

Although, relevant sections of the Constitution recognize the Nigeria Police Force as the agency responsible for the provision of security in the states of the federation, Edo is one of many states in the country which can set up organizations to complement the efforts of the police and ensure safety of lives and properties.

After almost three years in office and following public outcry over the spate of violent crimes ravaging the state, Mr. Obaseki said that the government he heads has created new state security architecture he called ‘Operation Wabaizighan’. He said the idea will complement the efforts of the regular police force in the area of combating kidnapping, cult killings, armed robbery, as well as herdsmen/farmers clashes. The organization was designed to be funded under the State Security Trust Fund, with the state government committing N2 billion as seed fund in 2019.

He had listed the components of the architecture to include 50 special security cars fitted with modern communication and security gadgets, 30 Toyota Hilux patrol vans, 30 patrol motor bikes and three Armored Personnel Carriers APC, three ambulances, Integrated Command and Control Centre and five special security check points, to be manned at all the entry and exit points in the state. Others he said are Special Patrol Units (land and waterways); Integrated Electronic City Surveillance Unit, Establishment of a Special Force unit/anti-kidnapping squad, establishment of K-9 unit, establishment of paramedics unit, establishment of the Public Works Volunteers (PUWOV) scheme with 3000 trained and kitted workforce and a community police radio network.

There are also indications that Mr. Obaseki was privy to a strategic document titled, “Contemporary security challenges facing Edo state, Nigeria”, authored by A.B. Jatto et al. In the paper released, the authors undertook an analysis of Nigerian security issues specifically evaluating Edo State, deriving from structured deliberations around the issue of security challenges in Edo State held in London in 2015 involving key stakeholders.

In their findings they said that the State faces serious security challenges arising from natural disasters and climate change, and the rise of sea levels resulting in floods and erosion. In the economic sphere, they said Edo state experiences high unemployment rate due to the absence of key industries and lack of investment and inappropriate models of education. In addition they also identified as an immediate concern, is herdsmen, whilst political security has remained unabated due to the rising numbers of political assassinations in the state. The paper advanced a number of recommendations to address many of these problems, none of which has been applied by Mr. Obaseki.

Many residents of Edo state insist however that it is the responsibility of a responsible government everywhere in the world to protect the lives and property of all its citizens, irrespective of age, faith, sex or vocation, lamenting the state of insecurity in the state. They say Edo people are not safe in their homes and they no longer sleep with their two eyes closed. Their conclusion is that it is a misnomer to hear, daily news of violent crimes, sometimes in broad day light by youths, who should be gainfully employed to help build Edo state. Their verdict, Obaseki has failed!

Worried by the trend, some residents and communities across Edo state have resorted to self-help to check insecurity. From Edo South, citizens have expressed concerns that their relatives abroad even before Covid19 stopped visiting home since Obaseki took office in 2016. They blame the unabated kidnapping, cult-related killings and rape in Edo, is alarming. They repeatedly called on the state government and security agents to intensify efforts at solving the problems to no avail. As one respondent said, “We are concerned about this insecurity, because of the fact that our children living abroad who would love to travel with their parents to Benin City, to experience or fraternize with their relatives and friends are increasingly discouraged”.

It’s the same story in Edo Central where citizens formed a Vigilante to help protect against destruction of lives and properties, farmlands, cash crops and other legitimate means of livelihood in various communities in the locality. They rationalized the vigilance group and said it will be involved in community policing and assisting security agencies to ensure the safety of lives and properties in the area. They also said they will be collaborating with security agencies to address incessant killings, kidnappings, assassinations, armed banditry, raping and destruction of lives and property in the area.

The All Progressive Congress (APC) governorship candidate in Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, has a plan to address the insecurity in Edo state, so citizens can sleep with their two eyes closed and news of violent crimes will be left for the past. He has said that even with the huge sum Mr. Obaseki receives monthly, he, “…has not been able to show commitment to security funding. Every month, the governor collects over N600 million as security vote and gives the police N5 million, not even enough to fuel vehicles”.

He says when he gets elected as Edo state Governor in September; his government will show sincerity in combating crime and make adequate investments in technology to combat crime. This is because Security and Social welfare is the first plank of his covenant with Edo people, he calls SIMPLE AGENDA. The other part is Social Welfare. There is no doubt that the potentials of Edo state are huge in terms of its ability to attract tourists, investments and quality jobs but the current security situation in the state makes the realization of these potentials unrealistic and unattainable.

Many in Diaspora have demonstrated willingness to come home and invest their skills and material resources for the state’s development, given proper incentives, but unfortunately, the current level of insecurity in the state makes the realization of its full economic potentials a pipe dream. In cases where some of the few some braved the odds and came home to explore some investment opportunities, they have fallen victims to either abduction or other violent crimes. But all that will change under the coming APC government led by Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. The government will provide an enabling environment for Edo people so that they can channel investments back to the state.

Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu’s plan for securing lives and properties in Edo is a global best practice approach to security delivery, involving all stakeholders in our communities and the use of well-trained and motivated personnel, empowered with cutting edge technology for combating crime, will be adopted to make Edolites sleep with their two eyes closed once again. It will feature a new security architecture that is intelligence-driven, and an integrated state security system that collects information with relevant data from all security agencies and is able to analyze and use it to identify security threats and take appropriate and timely action to deal with them proactively and decisively. Best practice decision making procedures will also be put in place to enhance the rapid response of the security outfit to emerging threats without the usual bureaucratic delays.

The Simple Agenda’s other panacea to finding a lasting and effective solution to the security challenge in Edo, is the important role of the individual and the community. The fears people have about reporting crime because of their personal safety as they do not trust that the people they are reporting to may be complicit in the crime, will be eliminated. In this regard, a functional emergency system as part of the security architecture in the State with an emergency system like 911 will be put in the state. This will be achieved by the relevant state and telecommunication companies, working together.

The Simple Agenda also promise adequate provision of materials and institutional support for the Police and other security agencies in the state, including but not limited to operational vehicles and trucks as well as ultra-modern communication crime-detection and crime-prevention equipment such as the tracking device to detect the location of kidnappers and their hapless victims.

On the Edo State Security Trust Fund, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu will overhaul it in a manner that it will be function as a special purpose vehicle to mobilize adequate funding for security agencies on a sustainable basis. And it plans the Community policing Program involving Neighborhood watch and Vigilante groups in rural and urban areas. Under this plan the state government will partner with all Edo state traditional rulers, village heads, school authorities, civil society and religious organizations in the quest to find a pragmatic and lasting solution to insecurity because safety of lives and property is an ingredient for the state to move forward.

On Social Welfare, it draws from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which Article 22 says that as a member of any society, citizens have the right to Social Security. Social Security has been described as any government scheme that provides monetary or other forms of assistance to people with an inadequate or no income. The article adds that citizens are also entitled to its realization, through deliberate government effort and in accordance with the resources of each state. This is to ensure that he/she enjoys the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for human dignity and the free development of their personality.

Globally, Social security proponents argue that the society in which a person live should help them to develop and to make the most of all the advantages (culture, work, social welfare) which are offered to them. In more sublime climes, Social security also refer to the action programs of the state intended to promote the welfare of the population through assistance measures guaranteeing access to sufficient resources for food, water and shelter and to promote health and well-being for the population at large and potentially vulnerable segments such as children, widows, persons with disability, the elderly, the sick and the unemployed.

This is what the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in the Edo governorship election, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu has in mind for Edo state in his Manifesto of Hope called Simple Agenda, which he has promised to, implement, when he gets elected as State governor. As a matter of fact under the very difficult conditions Covid19 imposed on the world, including Edo state such as limitations of movements, loss of jobs, hunger and shortage of food, water and access to healthcare, Pastor Ize-Iyamu earlier this year gave Edo people a glimpse of what to expect with his Social Security Scheme. This was when he unfolded palliatives for vulnerable people across Edo state in the wake of the pandemic. With the lockdown due to restriction of movement of persons across the state as part of measures to reduce the spread of the dreaded Corona virus, he said he acted because of a compelling need to do so.

Covid19 Information, Education and Communication, IEC materials were put on TV and Radio as jingles, in addition to enlightenment leaflets, handbills and flyers sponsored by Pastor Ize-Iyamu, his wife, Professor Idia and their friends. In addition, they distributed Lorry loads of branded Hand Sanitizers and followed it up with foodstuff like Beans, Rice, Salt Garri and even water to the most vulnerable across the 192 wards in the 18 local government areas that make up Edo State. Pastor Ize-Iyamu had made public two emergency phone numbers as help lines for people in dire need of food and water within the state but could not come out. He took the palliative to their homes. The initial target of 4000 families was exceeded, so much that that an uncountable number of families in every part of the state, in every ward and unit became beneficiaries.

It is against this backdrop that Pastor Ize-Iyamu’s plan is to develop a comprehensive Social Security Scheme that will make social welfare programs work for all citizens can be understood. To actualize this he plans to establish a data bank where every resident of Edo State will be allotted a personalized life-time Social Security Number. With this, government will have ready information to enable it plan and provide the social security for children, widows, persons with disability, the elderly, the sick and the unemployed. And as a deliberate state policy to protect vulnerable persons from discrimination and exploitation, the coming Edo state government led by Pastor Ize-Iyamu hopes to facilitate the enactment of appropriate legislation as well implement initiatives to this effect.

Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu’s Simple Agenda, also plans the establishment of Social welfare offices to handle matrimonial problems and help resolve them through family counseling and mediating services. These will be set up for each of the three senatorial districts across Edo state and backed with the relevant enabling legislation. His policies will protect widows and children of the deceased from harmful traditional practices, harassment and intimidation are also in this lofty package. Also relevant provisions will be made to ensure that widows and children in Edo state have easier access to the Estate, retirement benefits, pension and other assets of their deceased husbands or parents as the case maybe.

A vigorous and proper enlightenment campaign of the provisions of the Child Protection Law of Edo state is also on the cards of the Social Welfare policy of the APC candidate. This will be pursued as a vital step against Child Labor and its twin evil, Child Abuse; not only to discourage its violation but to ensure its enforcement. And for a man who has high regard for Senior citizens like pensioners, who have served the state in various capacities as civil servants, Pastor Ize-Iyamu’s concern for their welfare can be better imagined. This is why his template for the care of pensioners is one of a kind.

Lastly, with a growing population of the qualified but unemployed, especially restive youths, and the failed promise by the current government to create 200,000 jobs since 2016, the Simple Agenda’s solution can better be appreciated. With the creation of the Edo State Employment Bureau (ESEB), responsible for identifying the unemployed and employable in Edo state, and capturing them in a database with their qualifications, the Bureau should be able to make available and at convenient notices, opportunities for employment.

Osehobo is Edo APC Media Council Scribe on Traditional Media in Benin City.

COVID-19: Flattening the Curve in Abia State

John Okiyi Kalu

According to scientists, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the strain of coronavirus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the respiratory illness responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. In our environment, this highly contagious virus, when in a human host, is known simply as the coronavirus.

While many are aware of the above, it appears not many understand the emphasis on “severe” and “acute” associated with this and other related respiratory diseases, hence, they lose thier lives or that of their loved ones.

Describing something as “severe acute” should warn of very dangerous clinical nature of a disease signposted by sudden onset, lasting for a short time and requiring urgent medical care. Indeed, the duration of illness between life and death, for highly symptomatic COVID-19 patients may not be longer than 5 days from the first day of manifestation of symptoms to death, unless a prompt medical intervention is made in between.

Sadly, in the Nigerian environment, the average number of days between submission of sample and release of test results is sometimes more than 4 days. Hence, many of those recorded as COVID-19 related deaths in Nigeria actually die between the time of sample collection and the intervening period of awaiting result. Within that window, patients suffer from rejection by some clinics as medical practitioners would rather exclude COVID-19 and its associated contagious nature before they take the patients in for proper care. While this is a terribly dangerous practice, experience has shown that medics are also at risk, indeed much more than the rest of us, hence, the need to also take measures to stay alive even while trying to help others.

Practice expectation is that when medics have strong suspicion of likelihood of a patient presenting with COVID-19 they (where space is available for case holding) should not turn away the patient but instead wear full personal protective equipment (PPEs) to engage and stabilize the patient then invite the lab scientists to come forward and collect samples for testing. But this is not the case currently. To worsen our peculiar situation, when fully licensed public healthcare facilities turn away suspected patients they end up in prayer houses or traditional healing homes. In either case, the outcome is same: undocumented deaths from COVID-19 and rapid community spreading of the disease.

During a pandemic, a global outbreak of disease, and other escalating health crises, public health statisticians from leading organizations, such as the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), track the number of confirmed cases, deaths and recovery cases.

What is flattening the curve?

In epidemiology, the curve refers to the projected number of new cases over a period of time. In contrast to a steep rise of coronavirus infections, a more gradual uptick of cases will see the same number of people get infected, but without overburdening the health-care system at any particular time. The idea of flattening the curve is therefore to stagger the number of new cases over a longer period of time, so that people have better access to care.

The word curve in the term “flattening the curve” doesn’t refer to the actual number of COVID-19 cases. Rather, it refers to the projected number of people who will contract the coronavirus diaease.
More specifically, the curve is actually two curves in a chart that demonstrate the spread of the virus with and without protective measures, such as social distancing.

To avoid overloading the health care systems in our communities, because of rising number of people needing to be hospitalized as a result of COVID-19 infection, flattening the curve means slowing the spread of this virus over time using social distancing and wearing of protective face mask, which looks like a lower, smoother curve on the chart. Based on past experiences, the most critical keys to flattening the curve are social distancing and wearing of face mask in public places. That also include closure of schools, people remaining at home for as long as possible, avoidance of worship centers and other gatherings where one is likely to come into contact with infected persons some of whom are asymptomatic and may not know they are carrying and spreading the virus.

With WHO confirmation that COVID-19 is likely airborne and spread through aerosols, it is even more crucial now to avoid gathering within enclosed spaces such as worship centers and event halls.

Within the Abia environment, the challenge remains testing as many people as possible to, as much as possible, determine the spread of the disease with a view to putting in place necessary measures to control, manage and ultimately rid the state of the virus. In this wise, Abia state government had on Monday, 20th July, 2020, formally launched a mass community testing program across the 17 LGAs, in partnership with World Health Organization (WHO) and Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), starting with Umuahia South LGA. The program which is expected to last for one month has as its main goal the breaking of the chain of transmission of COVID-19 in Abia State with the following measurable specific objectives:

1. To identify cases of COVID-19 in the state.

2. Isolate cases from the communities

3. Manage identified cases

4. Protect the entire population of the state from the infection

With 480 confirmed positive cases, as at Sunday, 19th July 2020, and 1,182 negative cases from 1,871 tests conducted in the state, it is expected that the community testing initiative will likely drive the number of confirmed cases in the state up as more than 10,000 samples are expected to be collected and tested. Ultimately, the state hopes to decentralize the response to the pandemic to LGAs where sample collection and surveillance activities will now be initiated and executed.

It is instructive to note that with the measures put in place by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu’s administration since the outbreak of the pandemic, the state’s public health infrastructure is not in anyway overwhelmed at the moment. With 365 patients discharged and 110 active cases in the state (majority of whom are showing zero to mild symptoms) no single patient has been lost from any of the isolation and treatment facilities in the state.

In addition, two of the isolation facilities put in place by the state government with combined bed spaces of 135, including the fully equipped 100-bed overflow at Amachara and the Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH) in Aba which are yet to be used. Only the main isolation center at the Specialist Hospital and Diagnostic Center in Amachara and that of the Federal Medical Center, Umuahia, have so far received and managed COVID-19 patients in the state.

As obtainable in wider Nigeria, most of Abia COVID-19 patients are either asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic thereby meeting part of the NCDC guideline for managed home isolation after proper review by medical experts in the state. It is therefore not expected that the ongoing case search and aggressive testing ordered by Governor Ikpeazu will overwhelm our medical response infrastructure. Similarly, with 2 state-owned NCDC approved testing facilities already in use and additional 2 facilities expected this week, it can be anticipated that the turn around time from sample collection to analysis will be much more reduced compared to the earlier days of the state response when samples were sent to Edo, Ebonyi and FCT for analysis.

If all go according to plan, we estimate that by year end the state would have fully stabilized its response to COVID-19 pandemic and possibly manage the disease as a routine clinical challenge with designated facilities that test, isolate and treat patients. Until then, all citizens are strongly advised to compulsorily wear face mask when leaving their homes and observe other protocols on social distancing and regular hand washing with soap under running water.

As stated by NCDC, Community surveillance is key for prompt identification, isolation and treatment of COVID-19 cases, to slow the spread of the virus. But ultimate responsibility for our collective protection rests with each one of us. If you protect yourself and I protect myself we will all be safe from Coronavirus.

-JOK

Captain Hosa to Buhari: Pls tell Governor Obaseki to leave me alone

PRESS STATEMENT BY CAPT. (DR) IDAHOSA WELLS OKUNBO (CAPT. HOSA)

AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI AND THE GOOD PEOPLE OF EDO STATE: PLEASE, URGE GOVERNOR GODWIN OBASEKI TO LEAVE ME ALONE

I have, for some time now, experienced an unprecedented dose of orchestrated bashings and campaign of calumny calculated to malign my person and cast aspersions on my hard-earned reputation.

This spate of coordinated attacks, with their attendant mode of vicious execution, can best be described as the unconscionable actions by attack dogs and hirelings of desperate Edo State Government on the watch of Governor Godwin Obaseki.

After a deep evaluation of these seamless attacks and poisonous bitterness against my person, I have come to the conclusion that, as a good-hearted Edo son, I do not deserve the embarrassing treatment. My pedigree will never, ever allow me to deliberately concoct any wrong against my State and its Governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki who, today, by the grace of God, enjoys the mandate of the good people of Edo State to preside over their affairs.

I am, however, shocked, bewildered and pained to observe that despite my very sincere, robust and stated commitment to support the anticipated pace of infrastructure development, progress and other social investment initiatives through the deployment of my modest goodwill and network of capital, for which I am eternally grateful to God, alas, the response has been to paint my person with a tar brush of public odium that verges on mischief.

I have, regardless of this very unpleasant experience, remained a lover and promoter of peace and will continue to be at peace with myself and most members of the society, but which by the Governor’s actions and inactions, it has become impossible.

My contributions to peace, progress and visible development of the economy of the state pursuant to our collective aspirations and shared commitments remain a fait accompli. These contributions are self-sacrificing without necessarily expecting any iota of reciprocal gesture or patronage from the Government of Edo State.

I, therefore, find it sickening and incomprehensible to understand or accept any justification for the series of sustained virulent attacks against my person in the social and print media by some agents of Edo State Government.

My long and trusted acquaintances of very many years will attest to my unrepentant fidelity to principles and facts. They know that I will not, through distortion of facts, destroy the integrity of such values to gain undue relevance, unnecessary attention and sympathy.

To be sure, I state the facts of matters as they are to the best of my ability, good conscience and the fear of God. It is therefore in this context that I set out to address contending issues in this statement.

Pursuant to my personal convictions and without any fear of contradictions, I have solidly supported the administration of Governor Godwin Obaseki without employing rhetoric but verifiable evidence of actuality in the last three years of his administration. These very modest contributions of solidarity include but not limited to:

1. In 2016, on assumption of office, I met with Governor Godwin Obaseki to discuss several ways of driving foreign investment and ultimately making Edo State an investment hub. Pursuant to this objective, I immediately sponsored the Governor and his team of officials on an investment pathfinder’s trip to China. This was done pursuant to my firm conviction in private sector-led participation as being the key to economic and industrial development of the State.

2. As a show of reinforcement of solidarity for the Governor’s mandate when I was invited to the Edo Convention in Toronto, Canada, I again demonstrated my support for the Governor by my speech where I encouraged everyone to support his administration and also, on that occasion, donated 5 (five) houses worth N50m (Fifty million Naira) to support his housing project located in Benin city towards helping our Edo brothers and sisters in the Diaspora, all in a sustained campaign to share his vision, because I believed in the development template, which he sold to me and this I wholeheartedly accepted.

3. My advocacy to the political class and other critical Edo stakeholders on the need to embrace the virtue of patience with Governor Obaseki as he settled down for governance and infrastructure development remains legendary. This I did with a lot of passion without the least expectation for reward in any form. I was filled with ecstasy that Edo State had a new sheriff in town, an illustrious son, with a private sector background who had stepped in the saddle to pilot our dear State in the direction of development and prosperity. I never knew all these were ILLUSORY.

4. Only very recently, I joined some well-meaning sons and daughters of Edo State to donate generously to the Governor’s COVID-19 relief fund campaign. How more supportive could I have been?

It is instructive to mention that when the Governor requested my daughter to work with his administration, I obliged him even though the little allowance which was only sustained for 5 months and stopped, had to be subsidized from my office and none thereafter. In a bid to reinforce my support for the Governor, I purchased a brand-new Toyota Hilux van to enable her discharge her responsibilities effectively on the project she was assigned. From then on, she has neither earned from Edo State Government nor does she owe the State one kobo to the best of my knowledge.

My dear People of Edo State, the fundamental question, yearning for answer, is: WHAT WRONG DID I COMMIT FOR IDENTIFYING WITH GOVERNOR OBASEKI AND GALVANIZING SUPPORT FOR HIS ADMINISTRATION?

In the course of time, I heard he started having issues with former Governor, Comrade Adams Aliu Oshiomhole and, I was quite worried and vehemently pleaded with him to settle whatever the issues were and embrace the path of peace in the interest of the good people of Edo State. As a stakeholder in the state, I advised on the need to allow wisdom drive his decision-making processes. I emphasized the critical position of leadership he occupies. I further espoused the virtues of patience and sacrifice in public service as I considered these as sine qua non to achieving one’s vision. Following a series of complaints of abandonment by his friends and associates from the political class who knew my relationship with the Governor, I recommended to the Governor to bifurcate between politics and Governance.

I recommended the need to appoint a trusted and experienced politician to bridge the gap and manage his relationship with the political wing of his administration so as to avoid distraction as he faces the onerous task of steering the business of moving the State towards economic and developmental prosperity.

He, however, rejected my proposal and insisted politicians were rogues and would not patronize them or see them in Government House. Governor Obaseki told me without mincing words. He emphasized he would not be moved an inch about their responses or feelings on this particular issue, reiterating he did not need their support either. He told me clearly that he was not interested in pursuing any SECOND TERM agenda.

At a time, I spent almost three hours of my precious time in the Governor’s house, explaining to him the need to build synergy between him and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the then APC National Chairman, in the best interest of the development of our State. He was blunt that he was not interested in any peace talk and that he was embarking on a fight to the finish with Comrade Oshiomhole. Again, to prove that he meant every word of his threat, he sent a mutual friend to me that night when I got home with a warning that I should steer clear from the ensuing fight between him and Comrade Oshiomhole, else, he would inflict severe collateral damage on me. In fact, I was stunned by his message, yet I put a call to him the next morning to confirm the veracity or otherwise of this message delivered to me by our mutual friend. He confirmed it.

It is however interesting, as an aside, to mention that the Deputy Governor Philip Shuaibu, who I have always known as Comrade Adams Oshiomhole’s political son, did not, on his part, help matters. While efforts were on by various personalities for reconciliation, he announced that Comrade Oshiomhole should be arrested by the Police.

Following a series of very disturbing, ugly and unacceptable developments, I decided to hands off the matter. Indeed, I felt I had done all I could possibly to engender a peaceful atmosphere for governance and development of our state.

To God, my Father in Heaven, I am speaking the truth and will have no reason whatsoever to do otherwise. I am blessed beyond measure and expectations to His Glory. My pedigrees remain an integral influence on my conduct and character.

I have always believed in the virtues of Hard-work, Uncommon Service Delivery powered by exceptional personal integrity. These are the values I remain totally and irrevocably committed to. My passion for lifting the quality of lives of our people and developing our environment remains an existential imperative for me.

I am also totally committed to supporting our Traditional and rich Cultural Heritage which is the pride of the average Edo man. For my age, I am stoutly and irrevocably committed to certain intrinsic values that include but not limited to Honesty, Integrity, Peace, Progress and Support for Humanity. “Faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life. It is also incontrovertible that POWER belongs to only God Almighty and no man will share His glory with HIM.”

Now, to hazard a guess as to why I became a target of unconscionable attacks by agents some of whom have claimed to be working for Edo State Government: it is true that overtures were made to me by well-meaning Nigerians from within and outside Edo State to run for the office of governor in 2020. I made them realise that there are several ways one can be of service to his people, not necessarily by holding public office and that I am satisfied with the business trajectories that I had charted for myself right from the outset and wasn’t interested in the office of the governor.

I believe, on getting this hint, the Governor decided to bare his full fangs, seeking to tear me apart. He did not want me to run for the position; yet he never sat with me at any point in time to solicit for my support and vote for his second term bid. The only time he made a remark about the governorship to me was at a reception in Lagos where he mockingly addressed me as “IN-COMING GOVERNOR”, which I immediately dispelled and told him, like I was telling others, that I wasn’t interested in the office of the governor.

Coincidentally, on that same day that the reception held in Lagos, the story of Nigerian Ports Authority’s move against my company, SAA, was published in THISDAY newspapers. The story insinuated I was interested in the Edo governorship race and numerous reports have come back to me that Obaseki was the one behind all of that.

As God would have it, while in the company of some friends in the governor’s house in Benin, on one occasion, I confronted him that he was the one behind the attack on my company. In a bid to defend himself, he put a call through to someone in Lagos and, perhaps, mistakenly, left the phone speaker on. He asked the person at the other end: “Why is the MD of NPA worrying Captain?” and the man replied: “Godwin, I thought you said this man was fighting you. The MD of NPA is fighting your battle for you.” I quickly told him that I had caught him. On this occasion, I had witnesses and, if further probed, names could be mentioned.

Secondly, Governor Obaseki was the Chair of the National Economic Council’s Ad-Hoc Committee on Oil Theft and Pipeline Vandalism and I got a feeler that a damaging report was going to be written about my company by the Committee. I was then given an opportunity to address the Committee on the matter to defend my company and its job. My defence was excellently delivered, but at the end of the day, when the report came out, it was still damaging even when I had complied with my threshold and responsibilities.

It is sad that Governor Obaseki has been paranoid about me even before he became governor, for reasons best known to him. I have since got to know that the disagreements between Comrade Oshiomhole and myself during his eight-year administration in Edo State were orchestrated from the background by Governor Obaseki who was at the time Chairman of that administration’s Economic and Strategy Team. But with patience, maturity and forgiveness from Oshiomhole and myself, we were able to, once again, rekindle the spirit of brotherhood and trust in our relationship.

So, I keep wondering what Oshiomhole must have done to Governor Obaseki to make it impossible for him to embrace reconciliation such that he would irrevocably commit himself to the project of pulling Oshiomhole down from the top of the very high Mountain Olympus, according to Honourable Patrick Obahiagbon, just because he had state power and resources. As my people would say: “Na wah oh!”

In the face of all these developments, I had maintained a high sense of equanimity, without taking it out on the governor. I stayed out of their politics, and made it publicly known I was not interested in the office of the governor because I knew from the outset that these attacks were, largely, politically-motivated. I guessed there were also shades of envy involved.

Validation: There was an occasion when the Governor wanted to frustrate the President’s visit to inaugurate my greenhouse farm in Benin and I had to reach out to the President directly to please oblige me on this occasion to inaugurate my farm, only for the Governor to call me that the President would not come out of his car. Of course, I knew that was improbable.

However, the movement of the Army Week celebration to Maiduguri was what then made it impossible for the president to come for the inauguration since that was the main assignment that the President was on a visit to Benin to accomplish. That singular act has discouraged me from the expansion programme for my farm coupled with the fact that the Governor had earlier pleaded with me to do a proposal on fish farming, which I directed my junior brother, who runs my farm, to embark on.

Following his successful submission of the proposal, having invested so much hard work, resources and time, he was blocked out after the money was collected from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for its actualization and, as a matter of fact, the project never happened to our greatest surprise. All these and more had discouraged me from further investment in the expansion of my farm and also further investment in Edo because the business environment was now looking a little bit too toxic and harsh for my liking.

When Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu returned to the All Progressives Congress (APC), Governor Obaseki and his men attacked me for facilitating his return to the Party, which came as a surprise to me. Pastor Ize-Iyamu is not unknown to many people as a politician and as a Nigerian; everyone knows he has his constitutional right like everyone else to join any party and legitimately play politics. So why attribute his return to me?

My dear people of Edo State, what have I done wrong to deserve the barrage of invectives being ceaselessly hurled at me by agents of the State Government? Even for the purpose of argument, don’t I have a right to associate with and support a candidate of my choice?

I have built enormous goodwill in Edo State, which money cannot buy. Regardless, I had issued statements severally calling out for them to leave me out of their politics. It is very regrettable and saddening that my name has now been dragged within Edo State political firmament where I have never, ever harbored any personal interest to run for any political position.

I wish to make this save-my-soul appeal to all well-meaning Edo indigenes and Nigerian citizens both at home and in the Diaspora to tell Governor Obaseki to stop these continuous attacks on me, my family and my business. I have been told how they intend to burn my farm and revoke the Certificates of Occupancy of all my houses in Benin City. I have already alerted the Police to this heinous plot. But, what have I done to deserve this bellicose treatment?

My good people of Edo State, I have always wished for a state where we can have a desirable atmosphere to bring about investment opportunities and create employment for our teeming youth population. There is nothing I desire from the State Government other than to create enabling environment for me to bring investments back home, create opportunities for employment and, in the long run, retire peacefully in my old age.

I call on our people to tell Governor Obaseki and his team to leave me alone to exercise my fundamental human rights and, in particular, allow me exercise my freedom of choice without intimidation and blackmail. I am sincerely worried about the desperation and intolerance of the Governor. I am honestly worried that these agents and hirelings may go beyond the limits of their mandate at the risk of my life and that of my family, including the destruction of my personal and corporate investments which have taken me decades to put in place. I have never before experienced this high level of intolerance, wickedness and envy from anybody in my life, until now from a so-called friend and fellow Benin Man.

My dear people of Edo State, I plead with you to save my soul from the hands of the Edo State Government. As it is, I cannot fight any government and even if I can, I am not interested in doing so and, if so pushed, will surely fight within the ambit of the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Edo government should, therefore, be told to leave me alone. Today, those who are fighting me have the machinery of government to do so on spurious claims that I have been funding all activities of the opposition against the Governor.

My philanthropic gestures, charity works and compassionate heart to bless fellow human beings is not tantamount to misplaced spending. These are humanitarian enterprises to which I have committed my entire life. I am not, in any way, associated with imprudent spending on sponsorship of opposition against the Governor or anybody for that matter. It’s also very sad that they kept hammering on financial sponsorship while underrating my enormous wealth of goodwill, which is far more than money they solely rely on.

Against the backdrop of these scenarios, and regardless of the attacks on me, my admirers and the teeming youths who see me as their role model and Goodwill Ambassador need not be told, as they know where I stand on the critical issue of choice of the next Governor of Edo state in order to move our state forward towards rapid development and economic prosperity.

If, therefore, on the basis of my personal conviction and the exercise of my fundamental rights of association and choice, Governor Obaseki and his team carry through their threat to burn my farm and revoke the Certificates of Occupancy of my houses in Benin, it will be a worthy price to pay for my conviction and the courage of my choice. It is imperative for me to categorically state that if that, indeed, happens, it will only facilitate my resolve to excuse myself from Benin as long as this wickedness remains directed at my person, family and my businesses.

I also believe that our dear state has had a fair share of discriminating treatment in opposition politics as witnessed during the Oshiomhole era. It is therefore important that Edo State reorders its priorities and works in concert with the Federal Government rather than drift, once again, to the oppositional flank.

This press statement, which I have tried to make as detailed as possible, has become necessary in order to present my case to the good people of Edo state to enable them to know what I have been going through in my sincere effort to galvanise support for the Obaseki administration. It is pathetic that our State, under the Obaseki administration, has become a laughing stock, a butt of jokes about violence, disrespect for processes, rule of law and outlandish character assassination being the orders of the day. We must rise to reject these negative profiles.

I am, sincerely, wondering that since the last election and the atmospherics in Bayelsa State, where we had ex- militants, have become more peaceful than what is playing out in Edo state, even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic challenges, there is a need for collective reasoning to embrace peaceful conduct. Human lives are sacred and the governorship ambition of any man-caring and God-fearing candidate should not be more important than the blood of any man or woman. We need peace and harmony in the coming days, months and perhaps years ahead.
It is significant to place on record the fact that I am NOT using this medium to seek for settlement because I have already chosen my path, to wit: to align with the Federal Government of Nigeria, in this circumstance, in order to realise the goal of developing our dear state.

My dear brothers and sisters of Edo State, without a modicum of doubt, I have remained steadfast, resolute and irrevocably committed to the peace, progress and development of our State through various initiatives. I have graciously, to the glory of my Creator, gleefully shared God’s bountiful blessings to my deserving brothers and sisters in the face of the plethora of challenges and hunger that I see on the faces of my fellow citizens who manage to reach out to me.

This has remained my hallmark and imperative with a view to alleviating poverty while also reducing huge dependence on Edo State’s perceived lean resources following ceaseless lamentations about the ingratitude of the State Governor to a large community of those who helped him to power but who he abandoned on assumption of office. My assistance to deserving citizens has been carried out within the limits of God’s compassion and mercy on my life and I have never been noisy about it. Yet, Governor Obaseki seeks to destroy my personal and business interests that I have solidly built in the last thirty-two years when I retired as a certified commercial Pilot at the age of 30 to chart the business trajectory.

My dear good people of Nigeria and Edo state, in particular, IN CONCLUSION: if I could suffer all this injustice for no just cause, so you can imagine how many innocent citizens of Edo State that Godwin Obaseki and his agents would have been STANDING ON THEIR NECKS THAT CAN’T BREATHE.

God bless you all.
Long live my good people of Edo State!
Long live Edo State!
Long the live the Federal Republic of Nigeria

OBA GHA TO KPERE! ISEE.

Signed
Captain (Dr) Idahosa Wells Okunbo (JP)

Who N-Power epp? Success Stories Validate Programme, by Onyema Dike

If you have been following the news lately, on and off social media, you must have been apprised of the N-power programme, which has been described as a critical component of President Muhammadu Buhari’s National Social Investment Programme (NSIP).

The ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development under which the N-Power programme was domiciled after it moved from the office of the Vice President announced the transitioning and exiting of Batch A & B beneficiaries beginning June 30 and culminating on July 31st 2020.

The announcement was greeted by vitriol and anger on and off social media by the youthful, extremely vocal and so, not surprisingly social media savvy beneficiaries who did not wish to exit the programme even though Batch A beneficiaries had, somehow, managed to stay for over 40 months, 16 months longer than the programmes advertised 24 months.

When the Buhari administration took office in 2016, it shared the very ambitious vision of taking 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.

The vision was clearly an ambitious one when viewed through the prism of available insights. Statistics indicate that our institutions of learning push out 4.5 million young people annually into the bulging job market. In 10 years that figure would be 45 million. Where were the jobs going to come from?

The president’s vision, it turned out, was not just a good-to-have election promise. It was a well-thought out policy of engagement and manpower development. In a technologically advancing world the president and his advisers had hit upon the idea of using the N-power programme to upskill graduates and non-graduates aged between 18 and 35 with skills and attributes that would make them employable for jobs of today and the future while also preparing them to take up the mantle of entrepreneurship.

The N-power programme was the administration’s silver bullet and it proceeded apace. In 2016, 200,000 beneficiaries were enrolled in the programme while another set of 300,000 were enrolled in 2018.

Four years down the line, as the Batch A and B beneficiaries begin their transition, it is imperative to undertake a cursory of audit of how the programme has performed vis a vis that presidential vision while also taking a hard look at whether it is really needed.
The application portal for Batch C enrolment opened on Thursday June 26th 2020 to an enthusiastic response.

Figures from the ministry indicate that the portal was receiving as much as 100 applications per minute and in 48 hours over 1 million young and eligible Nigerians had registered. That number would climb to 3.9million in seven days.

If anyone needed proof regarding the imperative of such a manpower building programme that was proof positive.
But could the stampede to register have been a function of that long queue of young people out of jobs or was there something else?

A few weeks before the application portal opened, the ministry had begun a sensitization campaign and part of that included the sharing of testimonial videos on social media. The videos called “N-Power Success Stories” featured N-Power beneficiaries who had exited the programme voluntarily and had applied skills gained and funds saved during their time on the programme in setting up small and medium scale businesses.

It was a delighted honourable minister, Sadiya Umar Farouq, who announced a few days after the Batch C applications began that 109, 829 beneficiaries from Batch A and B had become entrepreneurs running small but thriving businesses in their communities. These were aside from those who had become gainfully employed after passing entrance exams and psychometric tests set by companies.

The announcement was significant because it underlined and highlighted the imperative of the N-Power programme by showing that it was not only bridging the unemployment gap by upskilling young Nigerians for employability, it was enabling and empowering them to become entrepreneurs and employers of labour.

Some of the beneficiaries, the ministry announced, had even been engaged as aggregators for the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme, another component of the NSIP.
Development experts tell us that SMEs are the engine room of most developing and even developed economies. Statistics from Nigeria indicate that this is also true here. According to the CBN, SME’s not only contribute 48% of national GDP in Nigeria they make up 98% of businesses in the country while providing employment to 84% of gainfully employed Nigerians.

A careful consideration of these statistics and insights will show that the coming of N-Power Batch C with a new set of young Nigerians who will gain skills for employability and entrepreneurship, Nigeria is gearing up proactively for post-Covid-19 when battered economies all over the world will be needing a shot-in-the-arm.
This speaks eloquently to the imperative and impact of N-power.

Onyema Dike, a public analyst writes from Lagos