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‘We must be co-creators of a prosperous state’

For Debo Adesina, Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian group of Newspapers, is too self-effacing. He rarely talks about himself and keeps a very low profile. As ‘an aspiring servant’ (he dreads being called a politician), little has changed. Unless it is about ideas for development, he avoids what he calls ‘vain talk of ambition and self.’ Born in Okaka, Itesiwaju Local Government area of Oyo state, Adesina, one of the nation’s most reputable journalists, is known as one of those being touted for the governorship seat of his home state in 2019. A man who has turned down many opportunities to serve in government except for a stint as Federal Commissioner in the Fiscal Responsibility Commission under President Umaru Yar’Adua, , he spoke to LAOLU AFOLABI briefly about his passion for the people and what to do to make life better for them.

You have spoken often about how people should worry less about who becomes governor but about what he or she would do with the office. What do you mean?

The Czech poet and former president, Vaclav Havel, once spoke of a contaminated atmosphere co-created by all who stand by as their society goes to rot. The people must strive not to be co-creators of a contaminated atmosphere in which poor management, misuse of power and lack of vision continue to breed such stench of poverty and underdevelopment as envelope the nation at the moment.  In other words, we all have a duty to change the story of our state by asking questions and getting involved.  What kind of state do we want and how do we create it? Each person has a role to play and must identify that role. Our first duty, as leaders or aspiring servants, is to bring on board all of our people. We must ensure that each citizen recognizes the enormity of the power in his or her hands to choose how his state is governed and by whom. Questions and questions must be asked. The people must ask questions of themselves. How did we get here? How do we get out of the mess? Of course, they must ask hard questions of those seeking to lead them. What would you do? How would you do it? They must interrogate promises and assess the plans. That way, we would all be co-creators of the prosperous state we desire and deserve.

Otherwise, we may end up with an average leadership that has neither passion nor purpose.

 

In what box would you put the current administration in the state?

I am not holding brief for the current administration. There are enough people in the system to do that. But against the background of  very little resources available, it would be unfair to expect much more than has been done. Certainly, waste could have been reduced or cut out completely. Certainly, a little creativity could have brought out a better performance from the bureaucracy. But the truth is that the challenges we face today were not created a few days ago. I, of course, believe that a very good foundation was laid in the beginning for successive administrations to build on. But each got consumed in its politics and internal contradictions.

Hence I once spoke of how foresight took flight a long time ago and how past administrations chose the convenience of the moment over the necessary pains that could have birthed long-term prosperity.

Today, must we make the same mistakes? Must governance be reduced to just paying salaries of workers and laying asphalt on a few roads? All of that is good. But where does it take a state that ought to be as prosperous as the nation of Botswana?

So, there must be a plan to meet immediate needs, paying salaries and digging a few boreholes as have become the signature of governance in Nigeria. There, however, has to be a more comprehensive plan to take Oyo, with its solid mineral and agricultural resources, to the level of a self-sustaining, prosperous state. I had a privileged audience with the minister of solid minerals the other day and what abounds in this state by way of gems is unbelievable. Much of it is being illegally mined and exported without any revenue coming to the state.

It is not an easy job. But it is a job that must begin now.  I have a prayer every morning now: May the spirit of federalism prevail so oil can revert to its owners and so other states can develop their own resources for a more prosperous Nigeria. When free money from the federation account ceases to flow, all of us will look for and find how to survive. Then we will, in joy, cover our faces in shame at our laziness over the years.

I was in Poland late last year and I saw the determination of a people at work, to build a new country from the ruins of wars and occupation.

Let the people of Oyo state develop a liberation mentality and look beyond the flowing gowns of those of us who lead or aspire to lead them and break into poverty-fighting mode.

With a leadership that shares the ideal of economic freedom for all, the flight may be rough but the landing, in good time, would be smooth. And the journey would be worth it.

 

What is wrong with the system now?

Democracy dividend, a bastardised phrase, is nothing more than a job in the civil service, at the state or the local government level, or a political appointment. Hence you have a bloated civil service and public service system. I know this is not exactly politically correct and can cost a politician an election. But truth must be told: The system is populated by so many people who contribute little or nothing to development. There are civil servants who can and must do more. There are political office holders who are not really needed but are engaged just to reduce the number of complainants and to put up an appearance of creating jobs. In a democracy, patronage is real. But it must never be used to the detriment of the state and its people. Each citizen must be made to point at what value he or she adds to the state. Reducing the size of the civil service may not be easy in the face of massive unemployment but a certain value must be extracted from all, from the cleaner to the permanent secretary. This may require training and re-training. It will require what I call job-justification exercises with a view to getting optimal productivity from every individual.

For instance, I love a model once espoused by Governor Gbenga Daniel when he was in power in Ogun State. And I would not be surprised if it is being adopted by some states now. Why, for example, would there be engineers, architects, builders and other professionals in the ministry of works and jobs they can handle would be given out as contracts?

With the appropriate motivation, why wouldn’t such people help reduce the cost of governance by taking on some jobs? The street light poles in Ogun State were supposed to cost about 150,000 naira or so when the governor asked regular contractors to bid. He called members of the welders union in the state and gave them his specifications and gave them the challenge. The local welders fabricated the poles at 25,000naira each! They are still standing till today. Jobs were created and wealth went round.

So, what do you recommend?

We must first admit that we need some creativity in governance and that the law of economics has never been truer. Man’s needs are unlimited but the means of satisfying those needs are extremely limited and even shrinking. So, sacrifice or shrewd prioritization is not something you have the luxury of weighing, it is a choice already made for you by the gods. To take a state like Oyo to enviable heights, a leader must consciously make harsh decisions. He must look at a future beyond the next election.  But his first job is to be compassionate and carry the people along. To do so, he must be more than transparent and he must live the people’s pains.

Today, and this is true of most states, destruction of the future poses as inclusion  and democracy dividend. And the people are largely spectating their way into perpetual servitude or poverty. If this state would prosper and the people would live a better life, they must all be made to and be ready to work. Everybody has to take the pick-axe and dig for wealth. Each man or woman must be challenged to put his or her skills to use in the service of the state and, by extension, himself or herself.

It is a shame for a people to sit on so much wealth and live in abject poverty. Waste and indolence cannot continue to define governance and the leader cannot continue to be a prisoner of this narrative that government alone must provide all things, perhaps including cooking for all families. No! The governor or the leader only needs to put in place the machinery that would make each family do its own cooking within the limits of its well- rewarded exertions.  A government’s job is to put in place a system that makes it possible for all who wish to work to find a place to do so and be rewarded for it. With appropriate policies and programmes, a cleaner, a farm-hand, a tractor driver, a bus driver, a petty trader or a waiter should live as much an abundant life as the governor or a director or a permanent secretary. With such a system that gives equal opportunity to all, the son of that food vendor in Baptist Day School, Okaka, or the tailor in Beere or Alekuso, can grow up to become whatever he wants and seek the highest office in the country. The daughter of that housemaid would go to school and find her way in life.

You once said education is one cure for all that ails Nigeria. What does that mean?

Roads need to be tarred and infrastructure must be built. But we must first build the minds that will generate the wealth and maintain the infrastructure. We must build the minds that would see beyond jobs in government, see multi-million dollar businesses in their heads and pursue such with all of their hearts. We must build the minds that would see opportunities in the refuse being dumped in the middle of the expressway between the toll-gate and Ojoo in Ibadan. We must build the minds that would develop our agricultural and mineral resources, not just for today’s convenience but also for perpetual wealth

Your plans or thought are impressive but the reality may not be so rosy!

Roses are planted and tended. We must all work to build our garden of roses, nurture it and endure the pain from the thorns before we can enjoy the rewards.

Look, Debo, there is no money in the coffers of any state or even that of the Federal Government of Nigeria. That is why I often sympathise with the governor when verbal rocks are hurled at him for his government’s owing this or owing that.  There is little with which to do so much!  But there is too much money in the land, in our heads and in our hands. I am not being overly dramatic here. That is the truth! We only need to put our brains to work and set our hands on the plough and we will find much more than we need. I am not saying this is going to happen overnight. But if we begin today, we can wake up tomorrow morning in bliss.

Nigerian Tribune

Misau says minister behind ‘plot’ to remove Saraki

The senator representing Bauchi central, Isah Misau  has claimed that a minister is spearheading a move to remove Bukola Saraki as Senate President.

Misau said this on the floor of the senate on Wednesday while contributing to a motion sponsored by Shuaibu Lau, senator representing Taraba south, on herdsmen attacks in his state.

The Bauchi senator said the unnamed persons are plotting to remove the senate president because of his alleged plan to defect from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

He wondered why issues in the country had to be tied to religion and tribe.

“When we were on holiday, so many people were going behind that they should try and remove the senate president. During this holiday, a minister that was spearheading that thing,” Misau said.

“What is the reason, they said that the senate president would leave APC that they should create problems from him (Saraki). What kind of country is this? Everything is about religion, about tribe.

“It is high time for us to do. If it’s about talking here or holding conferences, it would not solve this problem (of security challenges). We should look at security, who and who are holding offices, are they appointed by merit?

“So many appointments in this government are not on merit. Some people have taken over the government as if they are even above the president. We say we are fighting corruption. Babachir Lawal that the vice-president’s committee indicted… why can’t they take him to court and all of us are here keeping quiet. People who have not done anything are always in court.

“This attorney-general is becoming a nuisance, going to court to stop Maina (probe) and we are still here.”

Nigeria practicing ‘military democracy’ – Bisi Akande

Former Interim National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Bisi Akande, says the presidential system of government Nigeria is practicing can no longer sustain its growth and success.

Mr. Akande made the remark while addressing a news conference in his country home, Ila, Osun state as part of activities to mark his 79th birthday.

He said that multi-party parliamentary democracy was the best form of government for Nigeria, if it wanted to catch up with the rest of the civilised world.

Mr. Akande, a former governor of Osun State, said that the American democracy system of multi-party presidentialism was too complicated and costly for a country of poor people with large illiteracy rate like Nigeria.

According to him, the Nigerian nation is currently running a difficult government under an unworkable set up.

“President Buhari is my friend and I want him to succeed but he is running a difficult system of government.

“Nigeria’s democracy is a military democracy of sharing and if we continue like this, there is no how we can succeed.

“Up to this present age, evidence based analyses has proven parliamentary democracy to be the most accountable transparent form of government in the whole world,’’ he said.

He said that parliamentary democracy had helped countries like the United Kingdom rich, stable and respectable globally and also made the very young Israel very strong economically and militarily.

“It is also transforming India from acute poverty and hunger into self- sufficiency and reliability virtually in all fields.

“Apart from being transparent and accountable, parliamentary democracy is absolutely inclusive.

“It appears to be the best form of governmental structure for Nigeria now,’’ he said.

Mr. Akande maintained that anything less accountable and transparent would not help the development of the country.

(NAN)

I’m involved in politics, Nigerians should do same — Onaiyekan

 

The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, has urged Nigerians including religious leaders to be actively involved in politics, saying he is involved.

Speaking during the ordination of nine new priests of the Church on Saturday, Mr. Onaiyekan said every citizen has not only a right but a duty to be interested in politics.

Mr. Onaiyekan said the leadership of Nigeria, as governed by the two major parties in the country, has not offered the people the desired change for a better Nigeria. He advocated for a new system to improve upon the current condition of people.

“Every citizen must be involved in politics. Therefore even as Reverend father, Cardinal: I am involved in politics. Only people who are irresponsible will say are I’m not interested: because even if you are not interested in politics, politics will be interested in you. If we are to say now that how many Nigerians are card-carrying members of political parties, I am not sure we will be up to 10 per cent.

“In the readings of today, God is telling all of us his people that those at the frontline must be servants of all. Politics is not supposed to be aimed at gaining power for yourself. Let all politicians come back and rethink. What do we want political power for? If it is not to serve the people, but to enrich ourselves, then Nigeria will never move forward. We have tested the two husbands now!.

“Anyone who will tell us now that they will continue what they have been doing before will not help us.”

Mr. Onaiyekan urged the newly-ordained priests to be committed to their vows and be honest with all Nigerians in their task of leading God’s people. He also warned against undue excesses on the part of priests.

“Say the truth: but be careful, don’t be stupid. Your priesthood is a gift from God. We have all kinds of men of God. Some of them are doing well in terms of the things of the world. They are flying jets up and down. Some of them are even in books as the richest men of this world. But is that what we are all about? You must know what we are called for. Carry out the ministry of Christ with constant joy and generally not attending to your personal interest but the general welfare of the church.

“Do not take too seriously the fact that you are declared worthy by the priest today, because you are not. The moment you think you are worthy, from that point on, you are nothing.

Ben Murray Bruce challenges el-Rufai to public debate

Ben Murray Bruce, senator representing Bayelsa east, has challenged Nasir el-Rufai, governor of Kaduna state, to a public debate.

The lawmaker did this in response to the governor’s salvo.

El-Rufai had dismissed the statement of Bruce that ex-President Goodluck Jonathan should be given credit for the progress in the rail sector.

Buhari inaugurated new rail vehicles for the Kaduna–Abuja train service at Rigasa train station in Kaduna on Thursday.

He later took a train ride from Rigasa to Kakuri on the outskirts of Kaduna to inaugurate Nigeria’s first Inland Dry Port in Kaduna.

Reacting via Twitter, his main medium for communication on social media, Bruce asked Buhari to thank Jonathan for the train ride.

But el-Rufai, who sat next to Buhari during the ride, would have none of that, so he took to Twitter to hit back at Bruce.

The governor said Bruce was wrong to have credited former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s achievement to Jonathan.

Bruce would not allow el-Rufai have the last word, so he challenged him to a debate.

I’ll become a pastor after retiring from politics- Fayose

Governor of Ekiti state, Ayodele Fayose says after retiring from politics, he would become the pastor of a “very big ministry”.

He said his next target after leaving office is to become the president of the country after which he would go into full-time ministry.

Fayose said his “popularity” and “influence” would serve him in achieving his ambitions.

He said this during an interactive session with some reporters in Lagos.

“There is nobody reasonably who doesn’t know who Ayo Fayose is and the decision to me being president is spiritual and physical on the other hand because when your time comes, it will manifest,” he said.

“I am a force God has created at this time. When I retire, I’m going to become a pastor with a very big ministry.

“After being president of Nigeria, I will be a pastor who will be a major force all over the world.”

Speaking on his “ spiritual gift” the governor said he had been getting requests to prophecy about Nigeria’s future.

“Nigerians know that if I give you figures, they find it like that even my prophecies. Some of the things I said about last year came to pass. Some people have been calling me to ask for the prophecies for 2018,” he said

He said he is prepared to be maltreated over his criticisms of President Muhammadu Buhari.

“One pastor said the federal government will bundle Fayose this year, and so? Let them come and do it, who is begging them? I’m equally prepared,” he said.

“I remember Gani Fawehimi, he goes around with his bag. You can arrest him any day, what is the big deal? Some people, their promotion will come as a result of oppression. Our enemies are not our enemies in totality, they are catalysts to our success so I don’t care.

“If the federal government wants to go after me, I am more than available. They know my address, I’m in Magodo now, and tomorrow I’m going to Ekiti. I’m available for them. Those who keep their lives will still lose it.”

On his presidential ambition, the governor said: “Nigerians know that I represent the interest of the common man. If my party picks me as their candidate, I will win this election against President Buhari”.

Fayose also advised the president to quit politics at the end of his first term in office.

He said Buhari would do a great disservice to the nation by contesting the 2019 election.

“We pray for our president that God will grant him wisdom to lead the nation right because as it is now, we are drifting,” he said.

“He is old; he needs the energy to complete his tenure. God will give him the energy to complete this tenure and God will help us to tell him to go and sit in Daura and not contest in 2019. That is my prayer for Nigeria. That he goes to sit in Daura peacefully like the late president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela and go home and rest.”

Fayose’s wife warns those plotting husband’s downfall

Feyisetan Fayose, wife of Ayodele Fayose, Ekiti state , has advised those around her husband against plotting the downfall of his government.

Speaking during a thanksgiving service organised by the state government, the first lady of Ekiti said those working against Fayose would be exposed.

“Every enemy pretending to be a friend close to the government of Ayo Fayose and working against the government, the Lord will expose them with shame this year. Enough is enough,” Gbenga Ariyibi, Feyisetan’s spokesman, quoted her as saying.

“I want to plead with everyone, don’t hunt for the downfall of this government, don’t even try it.

“God is looking at you, and God is watching. Don’t hunt for the failure of continuity. Why? Because our God is God of continuity, our leader is carrying the unusual grace; if you don’t want to be disgraced, don’t hunt for the downfall of this government, don’t hunt for the failure of continuity, I have said my own.

“It is not him, it’s God through him. Look beyond him, and let’s continue to work together in unity.”

She said God has revealed to her that her husband would occupy a political position higher than that of a governor.

“God told me expressly, years back, that he needed Ayo Fayose in Nigeria,” she said.

“What brought about this was that, I was praying that the trouble of this man was too much, that I wanted God to take politics away from him, to separate him from politics, that I have had too much.

“But God said, ‘Leave him to me, he is in the hollow of my palm, l need him in Nigeria, it is not only Ekiti. He is just passing through Ekiti State.

“In December 2015, the Lord said that we will have series of victories in 2016 when you are expecting victories prepare for battle.

“In spite of all challenges I held on to His word that I will have series of victory and I continued to ask for God’s Grace. If It had not been for the Lord, we would have lost out: it is not because Fayose is a superman.

“It is just God’s grace. Whoever is not happy with this government, you are contending with God not us. I sincerely congratulate all who stood by us in this government so far.”

Ex-Kaduna governor, Lawal Kaita is dead

Lawal Kaita, a former governor of old Kaduna state, is dead.

He died on Tuesday at the age of 86. Details of his death are still sketchy.

Kaita was governor of Kaduna between October and December 1983. He was elected on the platform of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN).

He lost his first attempt to govern Kaduna state to Balarabe Musa of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) when he contested in 1979.

Kaita later became special assistant to former President Shehu Shagari. Before then, he was a member of the Constituent Assembly of Nigeria (1977-1978).

Kaita was also a leading member of the late Shehu Yar’adua’s political movement as well as a founding member of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).

Dangote, others donate N300m at Dogara’s 50th birthday ceremony

 

Drama ensued on Tuesday when the Leader of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, challenged the Governor of Sokoto State, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal, to tell Nigerians the exact role he played in the emergence of his successor, Mr. Yakubu Dogara.

Gbajabiamila was speaking in Abuja at an event to mark Dogara’s 50th birthday and the unveiling of a book, titled, Dogara: A Real Made Flint.

Dogara had succeeded Tambuwal as the Speaker of the House on June 9, 2015.

He had defeated Gbajabiamila, the anointed All Progressives Congress’ candidate to win the speakership election, with only eight votes to the surprise of all.

It had been speculated that Tambuwal, who was very influential as speaker and later governor, worked against Gbajabiamila.

The Sokoto governor reportedly mobilised support for Dogara as soon as his bid to get Gbajabiamila to make some power-sharing compromises failed.

Findings indicated that before the poll, Tambuwal and Gbajabiamila were close friends.

Against all odds, Gbajabiamila, a Lagos lawyer, had worked for the emergence of Tambuwal as the speaker in 2011.

He was said to have naturally expected Tambuwal to return the favour in 2015, but he was reportedly disappointed when the governor supported Dogara instead.

Tambuwal and Dogara drifted apart in the aftermath of the election.

On Tuesday, when Gbajabiamila was asked to speak, he seized the opportunity to challenge Tambuwal to open up on his role by telling Nigerians the truth.

He stated, “Since the speakership contest, nobody can really say this is the role Tambuwal played. But, with this book, I believe we should be able to know. He has not been able to tell anybody the role he played.

“Maybe, he should be the one to tell us now. Nobody has been able to pin him (Tambuwal) down to state the role he played.”

There was general laughter at the venue as Gbajabiamila threw the challenge.

However, the governor merely joined others in laughing instead of speaking to the issue Gbajabiamila raised.

Meanwhile, over N300m was raised at the event on Tuesday. The amount is to be donated to charity, particularly internally displaced persons.

The President of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, led the donors with N100m.

Other major donors were by Capt. Idahosa Okunbo, N50m; and Chief Emeka Offor, N20m.

The governors of Bauchi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Edo and Borno states donated N10m each.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who was represented at the event by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, praised the Speaker for his role in dousing executive-legislature tensions.

In his response, Dogara assured the donors that the money realised at the event would be spent to improve the well-being of the IDPs and to fund charity.

Meanwhile, President Buhari on Tuesday congratulated Dogara on his 50th birthday.

In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, the President said having followed Dogara’s political trajectory; he believed that Nigeria’s future could be secured with great leadership by younger Nigerians.

Such youths, he added, should be fired with the zeal to build one great nation that everyone could call a home.

The President noted that Dogara’s personal attributes of selflessness, maturity and friendliness had eased the relationship between the Executive and the Legislative arms of government.

Atiku’s defection to PDP, exercise in futility – Masari

Gov. Aminu Masari of Katsina State has described the recent defection of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as an exercise in futility.

Masari made the statement in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria NAN in Maiadua, Katsina State on Monday.

He said the defection of the vice president would not in anyway affect the electoral success of the ruling APC, stressing Atiku had just answered his popular name.

He said the APC was aimed at repositioning the nation by creating leaders that would champion the positive cause of the nation; “about 65 per cent of our political appointments were allocated to the youth”.

Masari said the era of “do or die politics was over as individual character and his performance speak for him in a political warfare, not unnecessary pride and display of wealth”.

He said APC in the state and federal levels would not be deterred by elitist tendencies, adding that “we are set to receive more defectors into the party by next year as many influential members of the opposition would be joining us soon”.

He said the party was willing and ready to accept and accommodate any individual who sought to defect into its fold, stressing politics was a game of number.

He said his administration had, in the last two years, constructed many roads, schools, hospitals and intensified efforts on security in the state.