Registering to vote in Nigeria(for the records)

June 18, 2017

Last Week I managed to register to vote in the coming April General Elections in Nigeria. It was no mean feat. For more than two weeks I tried to do so without success. I tried to register in my area of residence, Rumuobiakani, Port Harcourt but there was no machine allocated to my neighborhood. I got to understand that some influential persons wanted their own spots covered so the allocation of machines was reshuffled at the last moment. I tried to go to GRA where it was rumored the line was not excessive and the machines were working and the handlers were dutiful but there was the snag that I needed to manufacture a fictitious address to address my case or the machine will not bulge; that s if I manage to get myself into the line and get my name into the list and come the following day to receive a piece of paper authorizing the minders to go ahead to register me for me to go elsewhere to laminate it.
The odds did not end here. If I am lucky the machine’s weak memory will take less than 5 minutes to get itself back on track after each command. But then don’t take it for granted that your finger prints will be accepted .Sorry, not exactly your fingerprints, it includes your paw, all the fingers but of course ,thank Heavens, excluding your leg fingers. After this huddle you have to proceed to put down your name manually with another officer where your real thumb is dipped into the blue ink for verification and printed. Maybe this last one is necessary especially where the machines disappear or the motherboards take a walk or the data gets corrupted. I may be impressed but not registered. At last I decided or was forced to realize that this was an uphill task because I could not imagine falsifying my home address to get registered.
Just when I was giving up hope, there was another light at the end of this tunnel. I tried to grab it with both hands. Again it disappeared. Someone hinted me that the nearest Street of St Andrews was a viable option to far away GRA and I didn’t need to tell a lie here to register. However, and this is not for the public, it would have been easier if you were indigene. No, no, don’t get me wrong here it is not in the regulations. The following was not even really uttered to be fair to them but it hung in the air.” It is more or less a help to get you registered among this community…” So considering that I was not too keen on this help I decided to travel home to Uzuakoli in Abia State to register amongst my village people.
Arriving Uzuakoli, I was greeted with a flurry of posters. On closer scrutiny I discovered that most of these posters were not up for elective positions but were obituary notices. Two schools open for registration, out of many approved and people were literally sleeping there. The others were expecting machines and computers. It was only two days to closing period before the last extension notice and you could see desperation in faces. Some of these people were party hustlers; one of who blamed’ “prominent people “for insensitivity thereby giving room for political machination of “non Uzuakoli ‘people to determine the fate of the people in this election. I tried to get clarifications. It was rumored that there was a conspiracy to minimize the number of registered people in the town was a political strategy by those who expected to lose out here.
As the decision to wait it out at the Practicing School was being taken, news came that the materials and men had commenced duty at Amuhi village near my home, Ndagbo, so we rushed there to take our place in the line. My luck had truly held out for I had dreamt of getting back to Port Harcourt same day. The youths were anxious to know where my loyalty lay in the new dispensation. They expected me to have joined the race. I was suddenly put on the defensive here. Unable to keep my views to myself here I assured them that I would vote for candidate of my choice irrespective of the parties and urged them to do like wise. I tried to explain that at this stage the parties had done their constitutional job of giving us candidates it is our chance to make the best of what we have to help our selves. I urged them to register and vote for any candidate of their choice for their future depends on this choice. It did not matter now the party. For those complaining of dislike for parties, well we need them for the constitutional purpose of selecting candidates. There is no other way than their imperfect way. Now we must cease the moment and regard the process as starting afresh. Close your eyes to the monumental manipulations before hand and demand programmes, debates from candidates. Judge them according to what they can say they will offer even in the imperfect environment. Those who fail to make tangible promises cannot be held accountable by you spiritually or physically.
As you vote realize the enormous responsibility you bear. With your vote you determine your spiritual circumstance in the next four years. You weave the carpet of the path you must follow. It does not matter if your candidate loses since you may become spiritually unburdened by it. On the other hand voting for the winner may not ensure you the enjoyment you deserve because you endorse his tactics and the law guarantees that you reap spiritually the first fruit of the tree you planted in its true nature. Do you notice that it is the person you claim to ‘help’ that deals with you severely. These laws cannot change because every one needs a ready shooting target and your proximity without strong cause provides it. The reason is that often what you regard as ‘help’ may not be help but undeserved up-liftment. So in doing so you break the natural law that must through the person fulfill itself. Be careful whom you vote for, this is a spiritual age. What it means is that you may suffer same or more torments meted to others spiritually even if you occupy a high office. Most people that voted this way in 2007 only tied their destiny to the weal and woe of the President they elected. Some of them are still frequenting spiritual homes trying to untie themselves from the paralyzing situation. It’s your choice, but my advice is that you do not refuse to vote because the consequences may not always be sound since you make up Nigeria and should help determine her future which is also your future. One can of course abstain when physical harm may result from it; in that case you decide that the adverse effects may be swallowed by the other threats. But the consequences of every choice remain at different levels at the very least.
When I stopped speaking some of them were dosing off. The line had gone on without us and the officials were calling us to take our place. It was my turn at last. I went through the rituals until my last finger held out for a while almost bringing uneasiness amongst those waiting. If it was rejected, then I would have to find some replacement in order to vote in the elections. People continued to assure me it was normal, that I was luck because for others it was all the fingers and that was how they stayed away for good. So we waited and prayed. I continued to turn it up and down, east and west until it turned the light from red to green. At last I was registered to vote in April elections. The future is brighter now.
*Mr. Nworisara aspired to be President of Nigeria in 1992

Nigerians:This time is ours( for the records)

June 18, 2017

For so long the Nigerian youth has suffered neglect from those entrusted with catering for their welfare. The youths have only served the purpose of prolonging the life of their fathers. Everywhere the old have set up cults to mislead the youths into obedience to their perverted ways. Some of us started this struggle to liberate the youths from this bondage as youths but today we are adults with a difference because we bear the wounds of our generation. We have remained peaceful because we did not want to be blinded by the deceptive simplicity of our task. We wanted to succeed.We have waited for the right time to strike while the iron is hot. So today is the time. The April Elections in Nigeria will give the Nigerian youth including the wasted generation from 50 years down the opportunity to execute a truly peaceful revolution through the ballot box.
Our strategy has been to participate, not to join them but to learn from them those tricks we would utilize this time around to heal the wounds perpetrated on a generation. We have learnt enough. It is time to act right. This in itself is predicated on right knowledge of the strategy itself. I am privileged to have been through the planning stages. I have been mercifully granted life when my colleagues have fallen and now participate only in spirit. Some of the little group are still around and now work for the same goal in their own without connecting it to the whole. Others have newly joined the various splinter groups but work tirelessly for the goal without being clear about it. Each person now has a duty to do but what remains is what I am going to do today-joining together the various pieces to show that they remain one whole big picture in time.
This whole movement started in 1986 with the first real public opinion mobilization under the military rule in Nigeria. It was the IMF debate. It was heightened during constituent assembly process and hit a peak of awareness for Nigerian youths who felt left out of these stirrings by the military afraid of awakening the youths. So when the then unending military disengagement process involved nationwide political debates, we the then student leaders selected ourselves and decided that as representatives of the then majority as at then and similarly today 70% of the Nigerian Population was aged below 30 years and below. So while they spoke of taking Nigeria to the moon in order to avoid pressing issues as today, we organized a parallel political debate where we spoke about how to mitigate rising unemployment amongst school leavers. The military panicked and they suppressed our opinions through the then chairman of the political bureau who warned that our debate was illegal. But we had achieved something by coming together to strategize over our common problems. From there we agreed to form the new Nigeria Youth Movement to carry on from where Nnamdi Azikiwe, Awolowo etc stopped in their quest to build an egalitarian Nigeria. I remember Abdurrahman Black, Femi Oladele Falana, Charles Adigun, etc. We decided to participate in all levels of politics to push for the youth agenda. We decided to create awareness by writing in the media since we were not moneybags. We decided to work with role models. Our strategy was to push our electoral weight behind those young leaders whose pedigree we could identify with and we wanted to persuade them to run for public offices to push the youth agenda.
In the late 80s we had failed to convince any of our selected role models to join politics for us. We only managed to convince Ben Murray Bruce to speak against drug use by youths in few gatherings. From all indication the reality was not what we envisaged. We couldn’t reach Prof Wole Soyinka.But we reached out to Steve Rhodes. Politics was not what anyone of them considered as descent for them, yet we needed to raise awareness here on the short run. In the course of this struggle we had been invited by Ben Bruce to work with his Silverbird Production. Charles Adigun had other ideas but I was determined to convince Ben Bruce to run for President. It was a long shot; instead I ended up as night club Manager of his Fantasy Club in Yaba then later as Silverbird Publicity Officer. Everyone believed it was a joke, and sympathized by offering a job. By 1991, the Presidential primaries gingered us to more action when we saw that youths problems were not on the agenda and that the old soldiers were going to speak for us again for another span. During the University of Lagos last meeting Lagos, we were indeed fewer than before and already transportation cost was telling on our pockets being mostly underemployed school leavers. It was then I offered to run and at the age of 29. The rest is history. My running opened the way for new breed participation in Nigerian politics. Silverbird produced and donated my television giggle but it was not aired before we were disqualified for not paying N500,000 gate fee. While student unions contributed to produce and distribute my radio jingles, traders unions handled the mass production of my posters nationwide. Journalists published my press statements without charge and the union supported my candidature. Each Student union sponsored my trip to their state for campaigns campaign and took care of my welfare. The campaign spanned one year until August 1992 when my party the Social democratic Party SDP earlier pleased to utilize my popularity awoke to the fact that I could win it if not checked. So the party and the military overlords decided to change the rules midstream, swallowing their earlier policy of “no gate fee” for Presidential Aspirants. That was the real beginning of money politics in Nigeria.
Today I note the progress of Wole Soyinka as the conscience of the Nation. I am pleased with the progress of Ben Murray Bruce and his Silverbird group. From his performance managing NTA, down to last Lagos governorship television debate; the class that perhaps only Silverbird can bring to bear in our collective quest to purify the Nigerian Polity. What remains now is to collectivize the efforts which has cost us all so much sacrifice so that another generation does not pass in ignorance of the collective agenda and their role in it.
Our purpose for participating in politics is to seize it and work together to achieve the important goal of leading Nigeria to the nationhood truncated by military advent into Nigerian political system.
This goal must be understood by every “youth’ offering him or herself for elective office today. We are not in politics merely to enrich ourselves and thereby become an object of manipulation by the same military rump determined to keep us away from true nationhood which is the only acceptable organization of the Nigerian state for growth and competitiveness in a global world.
Nationhood cannot come after development but always the route to it. So you will notice two directions already amongst politicians persuading the two dominant directions. Some out of ignorance some just for ego trip. Those who tell you Nigeria can become one of the world’s 20 best industrialized nations in 2020 without settling the issue of citizenship is working for the military agenda. On the other hand those who see the restructuring of Nigeria through constitutional changes leading to the resolution of citizenship as the basis for development leading to harmonization of the goals of our forefathers are on the right path. There are still challenges ahead to determine of which of the two directions will prevail in the coming dispensation. Much of the battle will be fought in the National assembly that is why the election of representatives was fixed first to remove it from too much influence of the corrosive system. All the upsets in this election will come from the first ballot and the idea is to elect an independent Assembly to begin the dismantling of military decrees that bogged down the others. These people must know from the outset where they belong and must not allow the lure of money which has been raised by the anti democratic elements as a strategy to keep Nigeria deeper in bondage and prevent fundamental changes from happening. But if we can constitute a more democratic Assembly by voting in only credible and visionary members, then we can already constitute an assembly that can help us push through credible structure changing bills within the next 4 years. If on the other hands we get other office holders who are aware of the National direction and wish to support it, we have only a bonus.
So go out on Saturday knowing the national direction and choose your candidates based on the above criterion. This time is ours-no one can take it away! There is still time for every voter to vote knowingly. Do not vote for the old Nigeria but vote against it. Remember this strategy is pan Nigeria not sectional or religious or based on mad financial ambition. It has no particular party in mind but just credible people. You will know those going the opposite direction that will approach you promising to pay ten thousand naira or more for your votes. You can decide how you handle the situation but don’t fail to vote your conscience so that you do not regret your action for life.
*Mr. Nworisara aspired to be President of Nigeria under the SDP in 1992

WE MUST HELP THE SOUTH EAST AS WELL

September 15, 2015

By Nwokedi Nworisara

I have been working and living in Bayelsa for a while helping to actual the  famed Restoration Agenda of Governor Henry Seriake Dickson aimed at diversifying the Economy of this oil rich Riverine State to position her for life without oil. To this end I have been helping to push forward the Ijaw cause that agrees with the Bayelsa cause. Earlier, I had been committed to the Niger Delta question. The Niger Delta deserves Preferential treatment not just as the goose that lay the golden egg but because of the difficult terrain. This cause has progressed through the establishment of the NDDC as an offshoot of the Willink’s Commission of the 50s set up by the Colonial powers to decide how best to develop the Niger Delta Region. The commission had recommended that a preferential treatment be meted to the Region going by its difficult terrain as the only way to produce positive developmental impacts. In my own little way,as a writer,working with NGOs in the Niger Delta,I reasoned once that the Region deserved a more  realistic Masterplan from NDDC because the one released by the Commission appears to stand on a Wooden legs or rather hanging in the air and so it was not sustainable from the start. It did not include social justice for the people of the area in terms of oil production and the environment and so the body could not really make any “difference”.NDDC appeared concerned only with Physical “transformation” of already negatively transformed environment. It never really thought of solving the inherent injustice of the old to annul its spiritual effect on the present.It preferred to resettle the people in a different home so as not to tamper with their original degraded home to protect oil production. In order words it could only help them as refugees! After the commission itself failed to mobilize part of its promised funding from States,it was reduced to just a political platform for distribution of political privilege to chosen few. For instance if you are well placed you could literally get the NDDC to tar the side road into your private house!
I was closely associated with an advocacy group the NIGER DELTA INTEGRITY GROUP and we kept our pens active in the media. When it was clear that the NDDC experiment was not really what could further true development of the Region and taking cognizance of a seeming lack of interest from other zones,we began to push for short term solutions. Studies were ongoing and many pointed to the direction of social justice for the people even if symbolically.The problem was how to concretely transfer theory into practice. The same question always reoccurs : How do we allow help to trickle down directly to the people without the danger of its being cut short at elite levels to the detriment of the masses. The grassroots approach or the bottom up began to make some sense. Organizing the bottom to deal with the top posed its own problems as the gap remained up filled by many emergent theorems. Of course the politicians also understood it their own way,their own crash programs were being put forward.  They call it “empowerment”,whatever that means.As if tired of such crash programs,the Presidency of President Obasanjo  commissioned a landmark study, the “Community committees” emerged from recommendations of the committee headed by then Bayelsa State Deputy Governor,Goodluck Jonathan about 2005/6 . This was a grassroots study  aimed at bringing peace and stability. The Study may have brought into legal existence the now pervasive Community Development Committees (CDCs )in the Niger Delta. It was to be the basic unit at the ward level democratic and autonomous enough to deal with other tiers of government and it was thought seriously this will help trickle down help to the grassroots and bring needed peace to the most troubled. The Niger Delta Presidency Project. Remember that already background events that heightened tension in the region had come to pass. The Ogoni debacle climaxing to the execution of Late Ken Saro Wiwa by the Abacha regime may have brought so much pressure on his successors to find a solution. It may also be that the Ogoni grassroots solidarity and organization had posed a problem of control for the Military and pseudo military regimes of those days that the need to replicate it all over the Region was already determined but this time under the firm control of the powers that be. What it means is that the new attempt soon began to degenerate to political patronage and lost much of its attraction at the level of theory.

Anyway the whole detail became necessary to properly position the event in a historical perspective that helps us understand what follows. We began to agitate for a South South Presidency in our little way knowing that perhaps only a son of the soil can appreciate the need for urgent attention to the challenges of the Region. Maybe President Obasanjo was thinking in the same direction but how to realize it in a democracy was still seen as “crazy”. It may be that a vice Presidency would assuage them,it may be many other thought forms all leading to the selection of Then Governor Jonathan. I can vividly remember when this draft plot was brewing. We were consulting for the state on the Masterplan by 2006- 2007 when a conference on Democracy was held in Yenagoa. It seemed strange to us that time that such an important national event was to hold in Bayelsa and transmitted live to the Federation. I could almost see the many OB Vans outside the Women’s centre which was decorated to make it come to some standard and Governor Jonathan delivering a keynote address. It was clear to us this was a dress rehearsal but we couldn’t place our mind on anything until the announcement came later on that the governor was to be running mate to then Governor Yar Adua in the forth coming Presidential Elections to pick President Obasanjo’s successor. There was indeed to be no third term for him.
As a part of a consulting team,(that worked not directly though )with then Governor Jonathan in both the preparation of the CDCs document and his own practical translation in Bayelsa of the immediate post Alamieyeseigha era,in terms of the Yenagoa city Masterplan,I found myself wanting to see how my own theories would be concretely implemented and I think that this may have bound me to a certain degree to Bayelsa State.I have been searching too to see the fulfillment of my own theories in concrete form here. I suppose I got into trouble when a consulting Firm to NDDC in Port Harcourt in 2005 threw the bulky Niger Delta Masterplan final draft on my laps and challenged me to do a critic in one week. To join them,I had no choice but to do this. So I did a critique that may have merited my absorption but it had also opened a pandora’s box so to speak. It literally made nonsense of this document by removing the rug of its feet. Identifying the missing link to sustainability of the plan and the NDDC charter. The absence of social justice to the people that owns the land or settled there first.So until I moved on from there,the question was what do you think should be done? How should it be done? But each time I answered these questions the sooner these answers were rejected as too utopian. I found myself getting gradually into positions to help prove it can be done and so it became a personal challenge and I had no choice but to live it out. That is how I saw myself tied had and feet to these developments up to the formation of the political structures and processes especially in the emergent states. When Governor Amaechi came on board,we thought he would be the springboard for the emergence of an alternative capital for Nigeria in the Newport Harcourt and we (PROJECT CONCEPT ASSOCIATES) helped the think thank during his sectorial study conferences. The same way we worked with all the Bayelsa governments and can actually say without fear of contradiction that Restoration encompasses the dreams we have been nursing. So I am also trying my best to add value to the wonderful vision of Governor Henry Seriake Dickson particularly through the social Media.

Why am I tracing these roots? In the course of my work here I have often had to grapple  with constantly explaining to myself and others why I am here.I have not been able to satisfy even myself not to talk of others as to why I have to live and work in Bayelsa. Sometimes it seems like a very grave sin. But I cannot seem to help myself . It is like I owe much to the people and yes maybe my writings and theories have bound me like a tether. Only the success of these theories,these people seem to assuage it a bit and until more success is indicated. But there has been of recent increasing clamour that the neighboring South East region has fallen much more into neglect each day and some schools of thought opine that I should see the entire region  South South and South East as belonging to one vital whole. We must now help the entire East if the progress made by the Niger Delta is to endure because the two are just like different faces of just one coin. This realization hit home on me last week when I visited Uzuakoli my place of birth after a long while. I was warned it would not be rosy,never to drive,nor take my car along. It amused me at first. So that day,I took off from Port Harcourt early on public transportation and was still unable to cross Oyigbo bridge  the very suburbs of  same Port Harcourt bounding Abia State,3 hours later ! I could not go back to  mainland Port Harcourt nor continue with the journey. The Expressway to the East had cut into two impassable  joints so bush parts into Oyigbo the other epitome of neglect ,became THE ONLY OPTION, and brought us into swamps and make shift pass ways with many having to trek much of the way because even the cars and buses  often needed more help than the people. This must be the hell ,I told myself. What is the essence of developing only a part when the whole will make nonsense of you efforts in the long run. We saw the same thing in Port Harcourt. When Okada was to be replaced by Taxis,we warned that the situation of the traffic would be worse despite the numerous roads built,the dual carriage ways. It happened in our very eyes. The more the roads built,the more cars poured into the city from other less endowed states from the hinterland. Also more of the Okada drivers converted to taxi drivers returning with their vehicles. There was need to implement a low class transport system and we suggested the Keke Napep to fill into a small part of the gap.  In the same way perhaps in another facet of it,the Bayelsa development will only be sustained if similar visions are driving the South East in tandem so that Bayelsa or Rivers do not just become a migrants paradise with its attendant problems. So it is important that we shed borders as much as possible and carry every ones problems as if it is our own. There is nothing wrong in the Bayelsa state governor suggesting some directions to his Abia State counterpart in this area. If  the Contriman Governor can sandfill  a swamp to build an  International airport,what stops the Abia state counterpart from doing so with so many level lands in the state? We need to help each other at this time if our development will endure. As for me I will use my writing to help promote the development of the South East as well as the South South ,indeed all Nigeria in need because it makes common sense. I appeal to those who see development from the perspective of separation recheck their theory,and stop aggravating the situation because Nigeria is a house not many houses. For a room to separate from the house it implies a damage to the building and this will be resisted by occupants of the other rooms. So advocates of separation must know that they are actually responsible for creating spiritually the physical potholes separating the south east roads from the rest of the country. The right direction is to contribute to further up building of the Nigerian house so that more decks are added and everyone can have enough space to do his thing.

Conflict between the two Nigerias

May 17, 2014

In 1914 there were two Nigerias. The North and the Southern Nigeria managed by Lord Luggard the then British Governor General . He thought it would make sense for the British to amalgamate the two since there were no more scramble going on by competing Powers. Amalgamation could produce an economy of scale and enable each side to benefit from the others advantages while integrating into a giant provider of British raw materials.

Earlier the methods of administration of the two had differed greatly. The North was ruled indirectly allowing the feudal system to remain unperturbed by modern advances and it produced great courageous infantrymen to defend the whole. The south was ruled directly through democratic means and the people were assimilated to the western education as basis for their proper participation and ownership of democratic culture. Earlier they were organized in hostile city states and did not care much about integration or nationhood except it was bound by force of arm. So the South developed faster in this new way of organizing in the public realm shedding their much of their cultures to accommodate the ways if the white missionary. On the other hand the North was already conquered by the jihadist Arab from the North who introduced their Islamic religion to calm down the earlier existing city States and established the Fulani Emirates to rule over the people. They were highly successful in utilizing the political cleavages of religion in organizing society something that the colonial British admired and wished to retain because it was also productive and effective.

It was an uphill task getting to amalgamate the two disparate world views but the British had the machinery to instill law and order. Remember that left on its own the two sides cannot gravitate towards integration or nationhood. So the presence of some prerequisites in the British style made it possible to hold the two together. The first requisite is force ,ie a good law and enforcement with a disciplined army. The other is productivity. The whole thing hinges on economy of scale. The British was able to keep the two sides separate while uniting them at the point of their output at the Federal levels. So the federal system was complemented by the Parliamentary structure of governance. There was nothing unitary.

What it means is that a law consistent with international standards and expectations contained in a constitution and backed by a strong disciplined army also rooted in international standards was needed to keep Nigeria Amalgamated. It was needed to keep Nigeria productive and secure but she must be governed by a balanced federal structure with delivery mechanism being a parliamentary system of government because of its educative ,accountable and responsible characters. It took the British 50 years of trial and error to achieve this balance and when Nigeria became independent in 1960,this system was handed over to the new Government.

Unfortunately those whom the British saw as worthy enough to continue this legacy did not seem to understand it. Neither did they have much chance to operate it before they began to remove the very pillars that kept the system stable in the first place. The first pillar to be removed was British authority or guidance. The last Governor General of Nigeria who became the first President Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was to provide that necessary link as Queens Consul. Much of Nigeria’s exports still went to Britain. The economy was structured to serve British industries even the Railway lines ran to the sea. The first bad move was making Dr Azikiwe a ceremonial President. Then followed the rush to declare a Republic in 1963. As soon as the Republican status came,Britain had its hands tied even though it still retained the lever! Earlier the new leaders were already working ignorantly to destabilize the army. The Northern Premier wanted quota recruitment of Northern Youths into the Army. Then followed attempts to alter the tripod structure bringing about instant instability in the polity . The Creation of Mid West Region sent wrong signals to the North that the South was trying to put them In disadvantage . The centre could no longer hold! All these were distractions to productivity and the groundnut pyramids,cocoa and oil Palm exports began to show signs of decline!

The consequences of the above events happening before 1964 was that the army was disabled,the parliamentary system and the Regional Federalism was now in doubt in just 4years what was put together in 50 years came crumbling down. There was no need to continue this analysis until the physical effects became form in 1966 coup. The discovery of oil in the Niger Delta came as a structural defect instead of blessing. It emboldened those who thought that the Army could play a stabilizing role with or without the other prerequisites such as a good law and enforcement with international backing. Those who did not understand the great need for Federalism and Regional autonomy in the Nigerian equation, those new experimenters who believe that he who controls force which later translated to the economy can enforce National unity and integration!

From 1966 the Nigerian constitution was suspended,the FEDERAL structure disbanded,the army became unprofessional as quota soldiers had their way. Since the constitution was no more law and order took a nosedive and the rest is history. Attempts to create states to replace the Regions to give semblance of unity multiplied governance units until it was no longer controllable and units became unviable eating deep into crude oil federal coffers establishing a new reason de entrée for this new concept of the Nigerian State to sharing instead of productivity. Later on attempts were made to put these unviable states into eight geopolitical zones and after many years of running at seemingly stable democratic rule from 1999 till date after the earlier republics proved abortive,the imbalance in structure remains and great poverty besets the land in the midst of plenty. The people are no longer the centre piece of the new democracy rooted in a common wealth of sharing of oil funds. Money had assumed a surfer age if its own and can buy votes or positions. The Military rulers since 1886 were experimenting in Diarchy and have converted to the new civilian helmsmen but they still feel that unitary control of everything from the centre will retain their control of this experimental brand of Nigeria! So constitutional conferences are open but not entirely free to discuss the major issues capable of returning power to the people once again or returning Nigeria to its true nature.

So here we are today grappling with the effects of the perpetual conflict between the two Nigerias and the people are all but ignorant of what is happening to them! Although they perceive the conflict some mislabel it and therefore for narrow political expediency deceive their people into wild goose chases year after year. They would tell you it is a conflict between the North and the South,Muslims and Christains,Arab and West,politicians and the people,and other vague phrases arising out of pseudo knowledge or ignorance. Most people cannot decide it because they have arisen from it and cannot detach themselves from it or overlook it as to know the big picture! From here you can see that the conflict you see today manifested in Boko Haram,Sharia,coups etc was made in Nigeria! It was as a result of the rush to rule Nigeria when you do not even know what Nigeria is all about. Now what is happening is that the attempt to change the old British prescription for a stable Nigeria has failed disastrously and the new Nigeria which is just a return to the old is rising! It has no geographical boundaries so it is not the North or South,Moslems or Christains but the will of God!

REYNET CHANGES YOUTH ATTITUDE IN BAYELSA STATE NIGERIA

March 7, 2013

Bayelsa State is gradually wearing a new look following the Emergence of Governor Seriake Dickson with his Restoration Agenda. Youths from the various Local Government Areas of Bayelsa State are also gradually keying into the Restoration Agenda.

Gone are the days when the Niger Delta and indeed Bayelsa State was characterised by youth restiveness, militancy and other social vices. The Youths of today are more than ever before determined to take their destinies in their hands to ensure a brighter futiure.

Similarly, the estwhile begging culture of Bayelsa Youths, which got to a height at the inception of democracy in 1999 is no longer in vogue. Most of these “I am loyal” youths have come to realise the relevance of the Bibilical saying that there is no foiod for a lazy man.

The Slogan “I am loyal and committed” often used by Youths to curry favour from political victims is equally disappearing from the political scene,giving way for a thorough breed of serious and determined youth.

Perhaps this among other necessities informed the establishment of a non-governmental organisation known as Restoration Youth Network ( REYNET),which is poised to change the mindset of Bayelsa Youths and reorientate them for a better tomorrow

Convinced that Restoration is assured for youths in the State, REYNET has keyed into the government’s development policies in the Ministries,Departments and Agencies(MDAs). This way,it believes that youths in the State will be better empowered for a better tomorrow.

Again,It has been the resolve of REYNET to bring youths together under a common platform, and speak in one voice on issues that affect them and the society. As leaders of tomorrow, REYNET believes youth could be self reliant,by being focused with a vision and rallying together to achieve set goals.

For the NGO, the above task is achievable with little assistance and less emphasis on pecuniary expectations. The flood crises that ravaged most parts of the country with its attendant devastation, was the litmus test for the REYNET group.

As a committed Youth Vanguard, REYNET came all out to complement the efforts of Bayelsa State government and NEMA in the area of medical servicesto internally displaced flood victims. In other climes the youths would not be strong enough to give aid to flood victims instead of waiting to recieve one.

The Group through a lean purse traversed most coastal communities in five local government areas of Bayelsa State before the floods receeded, rendering medicare and giving succour to the needy. The body did this at time when all Bayelsans were expected to be their brother’s keeper and do all they could to lessen the burden of their neighbours.

Now the organisation is facing a crucial stage in its youth development Agenda. Reducing Youth unemployment and poverty rate in the State through ambitious skills acquisition programmes in collaboration with the State government. Recall that during then Hon. Henry Seriake for Governor campagn through the State,the then aspirant now Governor promised to collaborate with youth groups as a second stage of the Restoration programme. During telecasts he expressed his joy at the the way Youth groups without funding formed themselves into vigilante security rings to guard him and his campaign team during the turbulent days when security of life and property was not to be taken for granted in Bayelsa State. He said he would collaborate with the Youths in full respect, not as subordinates, so, the coming together of youth groups fulfils the first stage to this engagement. The government’s emphasis very early on State security via enabling laws as well as enforcement apparatus now in place was to pave way for massive infrastructural development sorely needed for social, economic as well as institutional reforms that would create jobs for youths. Meanwhile as the processes continued through the first year, youth groups were forming their own agenda to be able to present common demands. REYNET has made such demands and engagements that informed the massive investment in Education and human capacity building in Bayelsa State during the first stage of Restoration and is poised to play a bigger role to position the youths for the emergent total employment phase.

It is likely that the organisation would continue their humanitarian services post flood to impacted communities reached earlier as well as those not reached. This step is imperative to encourage other youths in the State to emulate the kind of selfless guestures expected of the new Bayelsa Youth determined to be self reliant in a difficult terrain and environment. The NGO has indeed proved to be worthy of the confidence imposed on it by Bayelsa Youths as it navigates the youths to the coming stage of total youth Employment in Bayelsa State.

-Culled from the maiden Magazine of REYNET and edited and updated by Nwokedi Nworisara

What I learnt from Ojukwu-A Tribute

February 24, 2012

With the passing of the Dim Emeka Ojukwu who led Biafra through the Civil war in 1967,many recollections of this extra ordinary man come to mind.

It was one of those heady days in 1989 and I was serving as Personnal Aide to the Ikemba, Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. It was always an effort for him to do anything during the day because it caused quite a bit of a traffic gridlock if the Ikemba ventured as much as on to Falomo road, from his house at Villaska, Queens Drive, Ikoyi, Lagos,Nigeria.. He was just too popular or rather some would say notoroius a man, respected and feared by even his enemies.And here I was a ‘lamb’ unknown and finding myself in his employ not really recorgnising what it meant. I handled his business, his public relations and funny enough I stood at his back when he addressed gatherings. Often, varied thoughts would race through my head. He said it was better I was known as Aide not business manager as hitherto. I did not really know the meaning. It meant that my duties increased without bounds. Instead of having Sundays off, the Ikemba explained that I had to put in all the time now. I felt a bit uneasy. Already I have been living in Villaska with him for months. I cherished my freedom but I had a duty to perform. The other occupant was Ebele, the 8-year-old daughter with his last wife,Stella. Of course, we had Stewards, Gardeners, and Cleaners and cooks.We had a driver. Everything had to be impecable in the quintessential British tradition. I was his legs and sometimes mouth outside. This particular day I complained that mosquitoes bit me because owing to the workload I had to pass the night in the office. Apparently, the Ikemba was not amused. “Is it not your mates that go to the war front?” he roared! I went back into myself. Maybe I should not have complained.

Life in Villaska was not all that rosy for the pressure came from the uneasy relationship with the Military government. Just outside at the beautiful Sea front you could clearly see the constant human souvellance. Young men are there taking records of the car plate number of visitors. Intruders were kept at bay by the twin signs “Beware of Dog” and “Beware of snakes” I never saw any snake throughout my stay though but it may have helped save us unnecessary intrusion. Once I enquired of the Ikemba; what was the secret of his overwheming hold on the people and he smiled. There was nothing really. He is just human. Then, he lighted up as he relayed the story of an attempted assasination while he was in Exile in Ivory Coast…. This man had done the entire job perfectly evading all the security checkpoints and gaining entrance into his house aas he launged outside reading by the balcony. Nevertheless, the man failed to complete the job unable to steady his nerves to pull the trigger on very close range and so the bullet missed its mark by a wide margin. Taken to custody, the intruder confessed that prior mindset of likely missing his shot made his handshake as he pulled the trigger. The lesson is that sometimes the mindset of people about a leader may become his redeeming quality at crutial times and this becomes the magic.

When I left the University in 1984, the Student Union flame was still burning so I faced unemployment or rather underemployment doing all sorts of things without requisite qualification ranging from beauty contest to public relations. I took up this job as a reporter with the Ikemba’s NEWGLOBE magazine based at Apapa Lagos. At that time, The Alhaji Shehu Shagari Administration had pardoned him and paved a way for his return from Exile. However, it did not seem to go down well with the post Shagari military. From Buhari came IBB. Therefore, the Ikemba found himself in a crucible by the trend of events. His attempt at Business endeavour was twarted. His Magazine died within a year.Some of us employees kept the impossible faith that the Magazine had only gone to sleep and would soon awaken even if for the sake of our salaries. In this group was also Gbenga Adefaye of Vanguard Newspapers. Alas, we waited in vain. Meanwhile, apparently I may have warmed my way into the notice of the Ikemba. I doubt if it was particularly my writing that did the trick for I was not that exeptional in my reports;maybe it was my inquisitiveness for,often, I would take him on some historical points. When it became clear the magazine was not going to publish further, he commissioned me to write a book on the Late General Aguiyi Ironsi.For the next four years I was on this project under his sponsorship. I worked from a furnished office space next to his at Apapa. Once, in a while when I had doubts or needed clarifications I would sit for hours getting his views.He gave me introductory letters to some of the dramatis personnae including Mrs Aguiyi Ironsi. My zeal was probably all I had for I could not really say I was making progress. The family of Aguiyi Ironsi tactically shut the door on me. Was I too young to handle such a weighty topic? Perhaps there were other reasons. The Ikemba advised me never to look back. So the struggle continued under very stringent budgetary conditions. My hope for the four- year reasearch lay in the publication of this costly book. Alas, it was not to be as the Manuscript itself may have become too sensitive for the government to overlook. Apparently, it was confisticated by a publishing firm claiming that my representative sold it to them. Case closed. At that time, Nigeria was not as open as it is today. The Ikemba urged me to go to court innitially. However, later on, it seemed to me that although unaltered we both came to terms with what was flowing under the bridge.

The Ikemba was determined not to go through the same experience with his own manuscript on the works. “The Book” as he used to describe it was an ongoing work.My experience was apparently a revelation for him. With rising financial crunch arising from cripling measures from the Military government, the Ikemba had to survive through novel means. Sometimes we would sell one of his Mercedes cars to someone who would pay us instalmentally only at the end of each month for a long spread since we could not go to bank for any thing. Sometimes the money failed to come as agreed by month end.The last time the Ikemba visited someone in a University, the institution nearly closed down.He could only go out deep in the night unrecorgnised. There was need for another way of making a living. The Ikemba’s last interviews with the Lagos based African Guardian weekly magazine opened our eyes. The Magazine sold out and for weeks, when it ran out of print, photocopies sold for months on end. Meanwhile we literally eked a living here. It was becoming a harder to pay salaries. I tabled the suggestion to the Ikemba that we compile his ideas into a book. I did not originate the idea but gave it more urgency. Apparently, he bought the idea so we set a moratorium on further interviews and we set to work compiling his past speeches. He would update and correct them and I would proof read and make suggestions. It was then I learnt he had submitted a part of the manuscript with the same publisher in Enugu. Now a new direction was in the works. His orientation was to change in the interim at the very least.. A new image he was building for himself would manifest with the new publication. The Ikemba explained he was turning a new leaf. “Did you notice that now it is “Emeka” no longer “Chukwuenmeka Odumegwu Ojukwu” he would point out. The Warlord profile will have to go with all negative memories of the civil war. It is time to help rebuild Nigeria

Therefore, the Ikemba chose the title appropriately “Because I am involved”. He could not just fold his hands since he was bound to suffer the consequences of a derailed nationhood. We managed to, tactically, withdraw the manuscript from Enugu and fowarded it to Spectrum publishers Ibadan, Oyo State Nigeria. Spectrum publishers were businesslike and challenged us to new ideas. Ikemba became busy considering other topics suggested by the publishing house. For instance, “Walking the minefield” chapter was an entirely new suggestion of the publishing house to situate the book on current affairs. The most controvertial chapter was not even the evaluation of past leaders but for me his decision to dedicate a chapter to Bianca Onoh,the then reigning “Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria” and “Miss Intercontinental”.I found myself disagreeing with the Ikemba on the suitability of this addition and I still remember his countennance. He simply insisted it was just okay. Later on, I saw the wisdom. Bianca represented a symbol of the future that will outlive the present and every good book must include all generations to be always relevant. Bianca was his attempt to draw us away from the bitter past into a promising future. We were already considering Emeka and Bianca prospects but I did not think he should do such a solid association before hand. What would the press say? Getting to persuade my former employers Silverbird Production to release Bianca to visit the Ikemba at Villaska was an uphill task for me. The Ikemba had insisted that he would receive the Queen but Ben Bruce was adamant. He felt releasing her would hurt the pageant. At that time it was not, a good idea for a pageant to be controversial The Ikemba never swallowed his words and I made it clear to Ben. At last, he piped down.He sent his pageant Coordinator to accompany her. At Villaska, Bianca accompanied by her Chaperon received a reception fit for a queen. Everyone began to relax. It was not a bad idea afterall. The rest is History.

*Mr Nworisara, a commentator on National affairs writes from Port Harcourt Nigeria
nworisara@yahoo.com

WHY DICKSON IS RESTORING BAYELSA STATE

November 3, 2011

The two major camps justling for Bayelsa Governorship have irreconciliable developmental strategy differences that belie their political positioning. If you fail to understand this ideological difference, then you are likely to miss the gist.The two camps-Green Movement and the Sylva camp( now that he is cleared to participate in the primaries) have contradicting visions for Development. The Green Movement as the name implies focuses on tourism while Sylva sees commerce as his own developmental paradym. In the course of his one year as Governor of Bayelsa State Goodluck Jonathan laid the foundation for a strategic tourism programme. Incoming Governor Sylva promised to follow the footsteps already made easy in a masterplan. Unfortunately, his own input prioritising development of the Central Business District literally abandoned the development strategy as put forward by experts.

What informed the Tourism approach was the consideration that Bayelsa State is mainly below sea level with a difficult terrain for basic Agriculture. It is costly to build a commercial centre here by the mere fact of its proximity to highly commercial Port Harcourt.Commerce was to arise as adjoint to the tourism business developing here,it was planned.This was the laid down structure for Bayelsa State development which cannot be turned aside having been properly reseached and adopted by the founding fathers. The tourism approach to Bayelsa State development commenced formally in 2004 with the completion of the Yenagoa city Masterplan by Herbert Aduke and climaxed in 2006 with a revision led by the German firm of Albert Spears. The later consultants commissioned by the then Governor Goodluck Jonathan produced the Development Strategy for a new skyscraper capital city with tourism as trust for development. Unfortunately, for this plan he had to go to become Vice President while his successor made changes to the directtion thereby distorting the entire concept leading to abandonment. Now the Green Movement, the political party platform within PDP that sponsored the President when he was governor,is sponsoring a governorship aspirant Hon Henry Dickson who has promised to restore this vision.

To achieve this objective, Dickson has promised to go back to the original development paradym via tourism already made into a masterplan, which has been tried and tested in Cross River State under Donald Duke. The idea was to attrack foreign investors to finance the model city of Yenagoa utilising public private partnerships amongst other avenues. Now that Bayelsa State has risen in global rating as Presidents home State, one cannot but marvel at a vision which by now, if left undistorted,would have built a globally recorgnised tourism city to house today’s willing tourists and business ventures. Unfortunately the State instead desended into infamy frightening away even foreign contractors handling vital projects thereby abandoning many projects especially within the pivotal Ox Bow lake Resort.As soon as the original strategy was subverted,those who were trained for the job were sacked, planning ceased, opening the way to wrongly designated settlements on floodplains and green belts. The result was evident in time in the massive flooding witnessed in Yenagoa recently. Now talk about the years the locust ate in Bayelsa and you begin to understand what Hon. Dickson was talking about.

There are areas in the life a State or people you can play politics with and get away with it not masterplans laid down using the taxpayer’s money. Today the uncompleted upwardly winding conference centre in Yenagoa is a tourist attraction for the wrong reasons. The Newswatch Magazine has recorgnised it as a landmark to illustrate this “locust years” in Bayelsa State by taking its picture in bushes. There is the Hospital project in Bushes. These projects are now dislocated; not meant to serve only a new Business District trying to compete with a cheaper overhead nearby Port Harcourt city. Instead, it was for a bugeoning tourist heaven and free open society akin to Calabar, Cross River State where Federal, State and International events would hold. Painfully however, nobody predicted that Bayelsa state would become lately a city where foreign contractors cannot just pass the night for fear of violence. Owing to inadequate political will, or rather lack of appreciation of the basic structures and functions of development agenda in the state as laid down at the inception of the present government in the State. This departure has cost the State dearly in terms of dislocated development. Yet there is no question as to why the original vision will under go a restoration in order to develop the State. Hon Seriake Dickson, one of the leading Governorship Aspirant of the PDP recorgnised this task and made it the cadinal point of his administration in the State.

Now the Green Movement within the PDP and a coalition of elders have chosen Hon Dickson Seriake,the former Attorney General of Banyelsa State now Chairman of the Special Duties committee of the Federal House Of Representatives to run a well structured restoration agenda to realign Bayelsa with the plan of its founding fathers. One of the elders happens to be the last but one Chairman of the Bayelsa Capital City Development Authority BCCDA. H.R.M. Chief Turner. He watched helplessly as then incoming incumbent Governor Chief Timipre Sylva cut down to the bone the once generous budget of the BCCDA,and later making it almost impossible to continue the visions of the Masterplan. He resigned from his position later on. After he left the centre could no longer hold in BCCDA for there was an altercation between the MDAs and the Authority over whose authority it was to award what contract and when or how. The Ministry of works loomed large while Housing as well as related Ministries often-duplicated projects thereby completely boxing away the power of regulatory authority. It all went on well for a while.

Unfortunately, the rains of this year with rising flood levels in Yenagoa exposed violation of the Masterplan in terms of illegal allocation of land for building on green areas and flood channels as growing population created many slumps during the 4years of this administration. Since BCCDA was often merely percieved as just the political legacy of opposing camp, funding had gone so low that some of the trained experts prefered to return to their respective MDAs from where they received their secondment into the authority. Now there was panic. Newly appointed was a helmsman to oversee that things did not get out of hand. Mr George Fente who doubles as the political campaign director of the Governor became Chairman of BCCDA.Since we were earlier consultants, we received another invite to help reposition the Authority. We advised improved funding and about three Billion naira released. This enabled the authority to commence belated demolitions. It also enabled us to understand the level of rot that had set into the affairs of the authority and therefore the State since 2006.

It is not as if Bayelsa State is unique in these matters but it is particularly painful that so much has been lost in terms of time and resources to get the State where it should not be. I remember the logistic nightmare faced by the Presidents entourage during the innauguration of the Federal University at Otueke, the Presidents village, a few kilometers away.Some of the invited digniitaries were advised to stay back in their Hotels and watch on television the ceremony because there wasn’t enough space or infrastructure to accommodate them at the venue. You may surmise; not a big deal that such a thing occurred. Yet for the Presidents home State, arrangements could have been differently and properly. These issues continue to linger. The general feeling within is that the State would do better with a change. There was need to vote in a government that could take full advantage of the momentous occasion of Bayelsa as President’s home State. There was need for full cooperation between the centre and the State in terms of development. The State yearned for a visionary who could stand in the gap to marry the vision with the new vista open to the State. Without a forward-looking Bayelsan state, the President can hardly command the respect that he deserves in national and international affairs. For four years, Bayelsans watched to see if the policies of Chief Timipre Sylva as Governor of Bayelsa State would turn out better than the one set out by his predecessor. Alas, they were disappointed because instead of sustaining progress achieved in his own first term it seems as if the flame was extinguished .Major projects like the Airport, senatorial roads, Major bridges and other critical infrastructure needed to make Yenagoa habitable and attractive to foreign investors for which a Fifty billion naira bond was obtained has literally been abandoned. Insecurity and cultism had returned to continue where militancy left off. A David had to come to overcome this Golliath. David knows his task. Hon Seriake Dickson said he was not seeking power for vain purposes; only to serve the yearnings of his people.

Mr Nworisara a media consultant and policy analyst writes from Port Harcourt Nigeria

Why Supreme Court May Reverse Governors Tenure Extension in Nigeria

October 21, 2011

So now, once again we stand on edge thanks to this 1999constitution and the possibilities it can bring. When a constitution does not stand in the natural law, it opens itself and the citizens to uneasy moments as we expect with the recent appeal by INEC against an earlier rulling by the Supreme Court this year extending the tenure of 5 Governors of the PDP thereby denying their States of the hassles of holding an election with others. At that, time it was convenient for the ruling party to support the process if only to avoid a likely constitutional crises that would likely have truncated the 2011 elections.

As you must understand all parties are into this with both eyes open. In Nigeria, justice is not asleep but dead even though each man has a right to prop it upright in order to obtain some of its sleepy words of endorsement to enable each sponsor-overcome exigencies of the moment. So it is with the constitution we run which had negated all efforts at proper Amendment to some wholistic state till date.Recall that just before the Supreme Court Judgement in 2011, I wrote:”How to save Nigeria from Constitutional Anarchy”. In this article, I argued that extension of tenure for the five governors was expedient not because it was just but because the constitution allowed such injustice and the political class had resigned to the shortcomings of the political environment in Nigeria. However, this expediency existed only then since it allowed us to get over a bad patch. Little did I realise that we could begin the incoming government to this time without tidying up the constitution but allowed the constitution unchanged to take us to another constitutional brink.

Now it will be a surprise if the same Supreme Court does not reverse the five Governors tenure extension. The same arguments that brought it about is being put forward to disallow it because this really as you know this constitution can hardly have one definition of justice.In the same way the Supreme Court will likely move to reverse itself. Already the only group that presented an arguement in favour of extension which shocked our elite lawyers like Femi Falana,the PDP has changed its outlook about things and may again be the group bold enough to encourage the court to do the ‘right thing’. The said tenure extension for five Nigerian State governors hinged on the fact that tenure starts to count from the day they took their oath of office. Moreover, the duration would be 4 years. Therefore, if your election was annuled you could get your tenure extended since you take a fresh oat of office. Without having to think deaply about it this is okay, especially knowing that nothing really need make sense in this constitution. However, when you think about it more deeply you might laugh at your own naivity. How could wer have been so shallow and blinded by our bushy own eyebrows? What exactly is the swearing in or Oath taking based on? Just some questions to tune up our minds in this way. Suppose for reasons we have no control over the winner is not able to take the oath for a long while? What it shows is that swearing in may not be taken in isolation to the entire national goal for it cannot stand alone. It is understandable that we have rendered the constitution purposeless through ouster clauses decreed by the military, drafted by lawyers, and rubbed into the new constitution through ‘no go areas’by mediocre political opportunists and military politicians in the years ahead. So there is really nothing to bring us back to sane reflection what we do is follow precedents whether aligned or not. Again with military agents breathing down the back of public servants whom they can blackmail with security scares at crucial moments,it is understandable that no one needs do any deep enough thinking of anything.

The above became our national dilema when learned men stand aloof while political parties push their arguments through the courtv system that depends on evidence available, admissable, servable and received. Therefore, it was when the Justices ruled that taking the oath of office twice was acceptable and that one oath was nulifiable.The question is if the first oath is nulified by the second how did the second oath arise. Could the second oath stand on its own leg without the first oath? Definitely, they are related and all intertwined by the National goal, which ideally in a good Constitution should form one whole and emanate from the opening entries of a constitution –the foundamental principles of State action. Unfortunately, for us this entry does not agree with the state action itself because so many petty entries make a mockery of its very existence in the same constitution. So you can understand why the justices did niot labour to go back to get a unity or harmonise their judgement in the rush for expediency. Make no mistake it was the only way out at that time but now we have the luxury to do it right to avoid becoming a laughing stock in the comity of nations.

Tenure of 4 years for Governors is not likely to exist in isolation of the big picture; even if such a picture meanwhile has been distorted. I miss the Late Gani Fawehnmi. Our lawyers may need to be financially independent to be able to withstand the lure of money as Gani did. The kind of money that is rumoured to change hands does not really encourage deep thinking. Let me say it again, what the Nigerian constitution deserves is not amendment but allignment to good sense. That good sense existed in the 1960 constitution. We do not have any choice over this matter but when you have taken the wrong steps, you retrace them. You do not go faward ibn your wrong direction. I expect our experts to understand that the first step physical and spirtitual is to reverse what happened in 1966. To remove those ouster clauses that distorted our constitution by attempting to build a nation outside the approved plan without even bothering to make a new foundation but naively continuing ineffectually on the old.

It is not just enough for General Gowon to appologise for his mistakes in governance as a military ruler who had to help rub in Gen. Ironsi’s ouster clauses. Gowon engaged even further even while the military claimed it was disengaging; but I expect him as a political scientist who in the meantimeb via higher education has come to understand the untearable threads knotted by these actions to lead a crusade to make amends constitutionally. In the same manner as he put foward his “Nigeria Prays”, Gen. Gowon can actually help convince his fellow military retired Generals why Nigeria should conciuosly remove these ouster clauses. Why this action will help Nigeria continue the truncated upbuilding on the approved plan of the 1960 constitution.I expect the Supreme Court Justices to understand the vital nature of their role in helping to reestablish a national direction by aligning their compass with the approved national purpose of nation building as enshrined in the 1960 constitution.

Tenure extension, which has nothing to do with staggering of elections, stands out as if a sore thumb .The idea that your tenure begins when you took the oath of office for the second time should hold no water because tenure itself cannot be determined outside the constitution itself and cannot be higher than stipulated no matter the situation. Even if you change the constitutional provision, it still will not stand because the constitution remains a whole and must align with the overall national purpose depicted visually in the national flag and coat of arm and scored into music in the National anthem. What it means is that you cannot change the Constitution without changing the flag, the coat of arm and the national anthem. If you change the constitution or just put up outster clauses, you need to change the flag, the coat of arm and the national anthem to be in line with the new constitution or you risk establishing imbalance in the society you build. The more the changes you make in the constitution as in Nigeria without any commensurate change in the flag a spiritual imbalance is immediately established that is capable of turning society’s values on its head. That is the summary of the Nigerian dilema. May the reversal of the Governors tenure extension lead us into deeper thinking and resolution to correct the deep spirtitual, mental and physical burden we have imposed on Nigeria out of ignorance in the past 51 years!

Mr. Nworisara aspired to be President of Nigeria in 1992

Tribute to Minere Amakiri

September 2, 2011

Writing has not come easy with me. It has always been a struggle to put my thoughts on paper and you can imagine my own amazement when people tell me that I write well. If only they know how many times I write, rewrite, cancel, and erase, how much indecision and uncertainty that goes with each draft, the infighting between my double minds as I debate the outcome of each word that comes to stay. So was it when the late Media icon Minere Amakiri, publisher of the Port Harcourt based “Beacon’ newspaper invited me to do a regular column on page two of his newspaper in 2007. Remember him the same famous reporter from the then Bendel State based “Nigeria Observer” whose head was shaved with 12 strokes of the cane by Aids of then Military Governor of Rivers State,Commodore Alfred Diete Spiff during the Nigerian Military era. How can we forget his “refusal to disclose his source of information concerning the Military Governors’ petty interinery when his State was on fire?” Do not ask me for details here. Suffix it to say they put him into their notoriuos Guardroom and oh, what they must have done to him with jackboots but he stood his ground chosing to take the pain rather than implicate a source. As the proverbial Sampson and the honey pot, the pain and freedom coalesced into the legendary unity of the press against tyrany.Every Newspaper appeared to be saying the same thing for months “What Did Amakiri do?” This earpiece appeared in every front page and at last, justice came through a court ruling giving Amakiri and the Nigerian press victory over military impunity. Today we can sit comfortably and practice journalism knowing that Amakiri suffered for our freedom.Or do we. The above was playing in my mind when, on his invitation, with some visible trepidation, I hurried about trying to learn how to write a column.
John Idumange insisted I write. He was the go between Minere Amakiri and me. He would always bring me news of how Oga and Mrs Amakiri liked the article. I began to wonder whether it was just a public relations treat to encourage me for truly I had not been previledged to meet this man one on one. Deep down in me I feared I could not sustain a column for long. There was still a lot to learn in writing> I have struggled with my tenses. Sometimes to my chagrin, Idumange always tried to equate himself to me. My background was the sciences.It took me long to position this argument. He would point out to me that he maintained several columns at the same time that one column was too small, and I would remind him that I was not an encyclopadia like him, nor could I go sleepless for nights without breaking down. Nevertheless, I began to try. I am used to opinion article of my choice at a time of my own bidding without a deadline and now I have to turn out quality articles in a timely fashion sometimes to suit the issue of the moment. How could that be without opening my underbelly for all to see? It is not as if there was nothing to say; it is just that the Nigerian Media limits you from saying all you want to say without the risk of overheating the polity. Yes,it was easy for me to talk about Barrack Obama and get some kudos but I dared not talk of any living strongman here. Of course, John Idumange can do so without backlash but not me. I did not have his know how. The second week brought me some problems. The article I had written so labourously repeatedly was not what I would like to submit because it was unworkable. There was nothing to write. So soon and Madam was now my fan and would certainly be disappointed. Therefore, I decided to dabble into politics knowing I had to do something credibly current by the third week. As I said elsewhere, I happen to have such a surprisingly wide political experience having tasted the presidential race as far back as 1992. However, my experiences were not what I wanted to put down in a column knowing fully well that the military was still around despite our self-congratulations. I had so many experiences in Lagos writing such regular contributions even though it was not with my picture. Everytime I tried to dwell on the home front issues something happened to the newspaper or the Editor or someone would decide to buy off the entire space for weeks.I had it at the back of my mind and I did not want it to happen to my hero. Perhaps I was becoming too soft for someone I never really met. Somehow as expected the newspaper struggled to publish with ammendments the week’s column. My ego took a bashing and no one commented on this piece. I began to blame myself for not chickening out of this whole thing while the ovasion was loudest but how could one achieve that? For the third week, I decided to take a stand on the political arena. “Why Sylva should return” and all hell was let loose. It brought in its wake a seroius backlash everywhere. It was as if I touched a no go area and my column stopped for good.Every other thing crumbled; job, contract, even relationships dissolved. Subsequent articles remained unpublished because the page had permanent advert running endlessly. After a while, I gave up trying coming to terms with the inevitable fact that perhaps my articles did not merit such “respect’. The other voice said to me that it was the same continuing military repression in another way.
The above provides the reader a background to my relationship with the now late media icon Minere Amakiri who passed away ostensibly in difficult circumstances on Friday 19 August 2011 at the age of 63 in Port Harcourt. After a successful kidney transplant in 2006, Minere had been gracoiusly assisted to periodic check ups in India by the Rivers State government. This time around, he made efforts to reach the facilitators to pick the bill but to no avail. He sent his wife, she could not get through and he knew he was going to pass away.He confided in some of his closest friend, that he could have accepted to be treated free of charge by the South African Union Of Journalists but his patrotism got the better of him so he turned down the offer. Now the government funding he relied on was not forthcoming.
Looking at events from the outside, everything appeared normal to some of us. One of those days, I had this strong urge to get to meet him after he returned from his last check up. It was March 2011 and he was bubbling with life. John called to inform him he was due with me. My heart was pounding. At last, I would be meeting him after all these years. We were ushered into the tastefully furnished living room. His choice of colours got me immediately. The place gave a pleasant experience. Facing us was this big life size painting of Minere and his wife going through their traditional second and final wedding rites. He personnally explained it to mean that this was his last bus stop in Wedding going by Okrika culture. For you to take a woman to this rite signifies her enduring loyalty and love.
Mr Amakiri was full of enjoyment. His sharp intellect solved almost every problem but also he was a good listener. He suggested that any one who could afford it should not hesitate to do his own Medical check up in India. I pinched myself. He admonished younger ones to take their health seriously and not wait until their health conditions degenerate before getting professional advice. He suggested better feeding habits for the young and elderly alike revealing that wrong feeding is the source of many health problems. For him vegeterianism may even be preferable if one can manage it. We took our drinks and can you believe it my favourite fish pepersoup to ferry it. I began to wonder whether this impromptu visit gave madam enough time to prepare. I refused a beer settling for Malt. It was as if Mr Amakiri had known me all my life and I began to relax,to warm up to this extraordinary man. We lamented the State of the Health care system in Nigeria and he confided in us that he was not inclined to support the ruling party. Days after this visit, I did try out a vegiterian diet, but failed to sustain things for long. It was refreshing at the onset. Later on, I began to feel a bit too light so I stopped. That was the measure of the impact on our first meeting on me. When much later our group the Niger Delta Integrity group with Civil society organised an interractive session recently in Port Harcourt we tried to get Minere to sit on the high table. He did not turn us down but recommended his daughter Aya Amakiri a lawyer to represent him. After the event, He was pleased that we pushed her into the klegglight on the high table that day. He wanted her to acquire all the skills to take on the world. Little did we realise he was doing a consciuos thing. He was handing over. When John Idumange met him, a day before he passed away and they held hands praying together, he reported to us that tears rolled down his eyes. Our hero Amakiri was dying. Quickly we set up prayers and made urgent appeals to government to assist the man. His last speech showed clearly that he knew that the delay in releasing funds might prove very costly. After the announcement of his passing the following day, we broke down in grief. Was there something we did not do to help him? I querried myself but after the reassuring meeting with John Idumange, Mike Akpati and other writers on our resolve to continue to honour what he stood for,I felt better. The Service of Songs for Late Minere Amakiri was jampacked with family, wellwishers including representatives of the Rivers State government at the Port Harcourt Club on Wednesday August 31 while burial would come up Saturday 3 September 2011 at Okrika near Port Harcourt. For all the grieving, this consoling poem shows clearly how we should proceed in these matters:

“Don’t grieve for me, for now, I, m free;
I’m following the path God laid for me
I took his hand when I heared his call,
I turned my back and left it all….
I could not stay another day,
To laugh, to love, to work, to play
To those whom I love,
I, ve found that peace at the end of the day”.
…Minere Amakiri (1948-2011)

Amnesty For Every Nigerian

August 27, 2011

A Political system may achieve stability via policies put foward by the various regimes in power. Policies are organised in such a way as to achieve socio- economic stability. Stability comes about when policies exist to benefit the three major classes of society. While the upper class is concerned with economic growth, the middle classes crave for service delivery and better wages, the lower classes are concerned with welfare. A good government does not neglect welfare while pushing for growth because its absense may create instability capable of derailing the other two. Today Nigeria is talking about becoming one ofv the top 20 industrialised natrions of the world by year 2020. Great plans have woven made to achieve requisite economic growth to take us there. There is the power reforms much talked about as well as many others. Meanwhile Statistics show that the youths constitute 70% of the populace and at least 70% of the youths are unemployed. It means that the best avenue to achieve stability while awaiting 2020 is to put forward a comprehensive interventionist welfare policy for youths to help create more time for the government to achieve its loafty goals. Unfortunately, this process did not come about. Happily, the only programme on stream that satisfies this requirement today is the Amnesty programme for Niger Delta militants.

The programme concieved by Late President Yar Adua came on stream two years ago.
This writer was one of those who supported the Amnesty Programme in 2009 at its inception. My article on the issue: “Amnesty for all Nigerians” posited that the programme should be a national intervention to mitigate rising youth unemployment in Nigeria.The reason being that we operate in an organic polity whereby a problem spreads its effects when not tackled wholistically. Today, almost every word of this article has come true.We have many other youths asking to be included in the Amnesty programme and some innocent youths may have submitted guns just to be included in the Niger Delta programme. The success of the Kinsley Kuku led Amnesty programme is just a pointer that this is actually the direction government should be going if she is serious about ending youth unemployment and its inherent instasbility in ther polity.

There is no way a government can avoid a massive welfare programme for all Nigerian youths whether militant or not. Afterall when has it become a blessing to be an offender? No country in the world can survive for long faced with the same statistics of unemployed and unemployable youths and goeas about talking about anything else. If only for selfish reasons those who sit in big offices should recorgnise that it is people like Kingsley Kuku that is keeping them earning another months salary by merely training and being seen to train youths to acquire requisite skills to earn a living. It is the duty of gocvernment to find jobs for the young after their education. What Nigerian youths need is unemployment benefits paid across board like in many countries that would not want to geopardise everything. Let me tell you that all deviant behaviour we have seen whether Boko Haram,kidnapping kingdoms,militancy,bunkering,and armed robbery are given fuel by rising youth unemployment as well as inability of government to show real concern through such tangible programmes as the Amnesty programme. If I were the President, I would use the Amnesty programme as entry point to mobilise all other youths. I would order inmmediate expansion of the scheme to include all the unemployed in Nigeria. Every Nigerian whether corrupt or a lier; whether a deciever,419 or human trafficker or even the innocent hardworker deserves Amnesty. Considering they did not bring about the years when the locust had its fill in Nigeria;considering they had no hand in educational decline they deserves an agency like the Kuku led Amnesty Programme tob retrain them and offer them new hope for life. There would be a Ministry of youth to supervise these programmes and it should get all youths to register for a minimum monthly stipend of at least N15,000. In return, the youths give up their particulars and you can then create jobs for them realistically.

To position the present Amnesty Programme to engender a nationwide welfare system for youths should be the focus now. If you look at what the Kingley Kuku leds Programme is doing you may delineate three trusts. The first one is to retrain the youths recorgnising the deficiency in our present edsucational system vis a vis the potential employment opportunities in the Niger Delta Region. Secondly, the programme design acknowledges that jobs and the education plus requisite training are missing. It means that some of these youths would receive training abroad. The sacrisfice of proper training should be borne by the country because these youths are not to blame for the brain drain that has left our institutions second rate.The Amnesty programme recorgnises that you do not punish these youths for a crime society failed to insulate from them. In essense, what government is doing is share the blame by footing the bill for a better education. Of course, there is the sense in negotiating with these groups but it comes only as a way of taking control and reorganising the justice apparatus more equitably. In essense, the Amnesty programme would grow from phase to phase. Stay too long in a particular phase and the effect elapses.

Finally, there is the reintegration of these trainees into society, hopefully a society that has changed in the meantime while the youths trained or schooled aright. It means that you are also embarking structural changes to make sure we do not end up having another batch of troube makers to retrain in future. You ensure that structural defects in the constitution are fixed. The last exercise of job-hunting for these youths completes the responsibility and brings on the stability needed. It is no longer going to be enough for government to hide under the excuse that youths should seek self-employment for look at what it has brought us. Bunkering, Armed Robbers, Ritual Killers, human trafficking, Kidnapping. I am not sure any of these courses are taken inn any formal educational institution I know in Nigeria. There is an age you cannot force a man or woman into self-employment. Even then, it should have been after a successful carreer in a formal sector son that the self-employed could be attuned to formal institutional requirements as well as obey the laws of decency. The whole essense of welfare is for government to maintain control n only over the youths at their most vulnerable period of growth and maturity. You can only exercise power over someone that owes you something. So competent governments make the youths owe them some gratitude for their education, for good jobs and social justice. That is why you will never see any government preaching self-employment just as we do with relish here. All said it needs a committed manager,a selfless person to manage a welfare programme to train youths and give them hope because your gain is only in the success of the people concerned. A trader and political contractor may be unable to superintend the growth of human beings. Welfare is a strange area in Nigeria where the political system throws up the most selfish public officers ever created,those who look up to themselves for strenght and build up their families to periodically access them and congratulate them. Such people could not have been able to run the Amnesty programme to the point of bringing about the relative peace in the Niger Delta today.
However, the Kingsley Kuku led Amnesty programme has many huddles to cross if he must maintain the present momentum.Itb is not yet Uhuru. Infact the only reason people are cheering is that it is a novel idea in Nigeria to see an agency of government delivering welfare in tangible forms not on pages of the newspapers alone. The biggest huddle comes when the government fails to expand the programme to include other unemployed in the country whereby the phasing of the programme stagnates. Then other criminal groups may struggle to undo each other to claim attention and in the process, the economic growth that would guarrantee a sustenaible job creation may turn to a mirage because of increasing instability in the country. To avoid reaching this point it is important we expand the scheme to become the national vehicle to engage the youths and thereby extend welfare to the deserving while gaining valuable time to allow the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan fulfil his mandate.

Mr Nworisara a Policy and media consultant is based in Port Harcourt Nigeria