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Benue APC: Please, don’t allow History to Repeat itself, By TONY IJI

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Benue APC: Please, don’t allow History to Repeat itself, By TONY IJI
• L-R: Governor Hycinth Alia of Benue State, President bola Tinubu and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Senator George Akume
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AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT BOLA AHMED TINUBU AND APC NATIONAL LEADERSHIP

Your Excellency,

I am writing as a concerned member of our dear party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), to draw your attention and that of the national leadership of our great party to the emerging ugly developments in the party in Benue State.

The first outing of APC in the governance of Benue State was not a very complimentary episode. All indications now are that history is on the verge of repeating itself if you as President and the national leadership of the party do not intervene urgently.

APC won the Governorship election in Benue state for the first time in 2015 after 16 straight years of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rule. At that time, Senator George Akume, leader of the party in the state, used his vast influence to secure the party’s gubernatorial ticket and electoral victory for Samuel Ortom whom he brought from the rival PDP at the last minute. No sooner did Ortom assume office than cracks began to appear in the relationship between him and Senator Akume over irreconcilable differences in the affairs of the state.

By Ortom’s second year, the muffled cracks had developed into open gullies. Sensing that he could not secure APC’s ticket for a second term in 2019, Ortom defected back to PDP, taking APC’s governorship mandate along with him. That meant that APC was in power effectively for only two years as Ortom got reelected in 2019 on the platform of PDP.

With his reelection, Ortom pulled a chunk of APC members with him to PDP, leaving the rest to languish in opposition, an unpalatable experience they had passed through for 16 years before 2015. It meant another six-year reign of PDP, from 2017 to 2023.

Fortuitously, Ortom failed to perform for those six years, igniting in the electorate another desire for change. And, once more, Senator Akume came to the rescue by bringing in Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia, an immensely popular Catholic priest, considered untainted by the existing political environment, as APC’s ace for the 2023 governorship election. Senator Akume and Alia led the party to a convincing victory at the polls.

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The Alia administration is only eight months old but it has drawn all the parallels with that of Ortom in 2015 in terms of friction between the Governor and his mentor. It appears to be worse this time around, even. The friction began when the Governor allegedly rejected the candidates for the position of Speaker and other Principal Offices proposed by Senator Akume, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), and the party. It is alleged that he rather aligned with the opposition PDP to constitute the House leadership. It was reported that the Governor was personally in the House to supervise the election of the Assembly Officers. The election was eventually decided in favour of the Governor’s candidates on the second ballot after votes by Akume’s and Alia’s loyalists had tied during the first round of voting.

SEE ALSO:  Bright Ngene: How Enugu LP Candidate Orchestrated Own Downfall

Since then, the rancorous relationship has persisted between the state chapter of APC and Governor Alia. What started like a mere crack in the state APC family has developed into a wide gully, with the prospect of turning into a gulf. The crisis has manifested in press conferences or statements by different organs of the party and individuals accusing the Governor of excluding the party from participation in his government. These include the Forum of Local Government APC Chairmen, State Zonal Vice-Chairmen representing the three Senatorial Districts, the APC Caucus in the National Assembly, and Arch. Asema Achado, member representing Gwer/Gwer West in the House of Representatives. They cited the rejection of candidates recommended by party officials and leaders for inclusion in the House leadership, the State Executive Council, and Local Government Caretaker Committees, among other appointments, as evidence of Governor Alia’s policy of exclusion of the party from his government.

The Forum of Local Government Party Chairmen went a step further to threaten public protests in Makurdi, the state capital, and Abuja, as well as boycott state government public functions.

The crisis also manifested in an open brawl between the Secretary to the State Government (SSG) on the one hand and the Chief of Staff to the Governor and Speaker of the Benue State House of Assembly, on the other, during a meeting on the leadership crisis rocking the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW).

As expected, relevant aides to the Governor refuted all the allegations against their principal through counter-press conferences and statements.

Although the existence and origin of the deepening crisis between Governor Alia and the APC leadership in the state has been widely acknowledged, nobody has been able to admit the true cause of it. For instance, the three Zonal Vice-Chairmen of the party said in the address they read at their press conference: “We have made frantic reconciliatory moves, trying to find out what the real issues were but in all our efforts, we could not get tangible issues capable of tearing the party apart. Our Leader, Sen. George Akume, has a deep love for Gov. Hyacinth Alia, and in all our meetings, he has never spoken ill of the Governor at any point; he has consistently admonished us to pray and support the Governor to succeed, the same way the Governor eulogizes Sen. Akume at all times and hints of a cordial relationship between them.”

As evidence that an end to the feud is not yet in sight, the Governor fired hot shots at his party critics in his Christmas message to the Benue people. He urged them to “resist attempts by desperate, selfish and disgruntled politicians to use them to cause divisions, mischief and disharmony.”

SEE ALSO:  Bright Ngene: How Enugu LP Candidate Orchestrated Own Downfall

He continued: “Watch out, especially for those who have abdicated their primary legislative responsibilities which you voted them to Abuja to perform. Be very wary of them at this crucial period as they have sadly failed to jointly sponsor even one newsworthy bill in the whole of the last six months, but have rather resorted to poisoning your minds with hate in the bid to divide and conquer.”

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A careful analysis of the allegations against the Governor reveals that they revolve around the filling of political positions – in the House of Assembly, State Executive Council, MDAs, Governor’s aides, Local Government Caretaker Committees, etc. It is apparent that the political hawks in the party, the core loyalists of Senator George Akume and Governor Alia, created and are the ones fanning the embers of the disagreement between them for their selfish gains. The hawks on both sides appear to be selling the idea to the two leaders that the only way they can maintain or take control of the party in the state ahead of the 2027 elections is for them to fix their people in strategic positions now. They disguise this self-serving advice in the garb of the long-term political interest of their respective principals who find it irresistible. These political hawks are playing a very dangerous game of pitching the two leaders against each other in their desperate efforts to secure favour from either of them. For instance, during the appointment of the local government Caretaker Committees, many of the hawks who lost out at the stakeholders meeting of their zones or Local Government Areas quickly moved over to sell a dummy to the Governor that the names recommended by the stakeholders were representing the interest of the SGF, Sen. Akume; that to work with the lists submitted by the party amounted to putting the Local Government Councils under Akume’s control. This prompted the Governor to drop the recommended lists of nominees which he had requested from party stakeholders in favour of the lists drawn for him by the political hawks.

What many concerned APC members like me find disturbing are the growing speculations that the escalating crisis might lead to the impeachment of the Governor, or that Alia, like Ortom, might defect to the rival PDP if he cannot be sure of securing an APC ticket for reelection in 2027. Neither scenario is good enough for the party or Benue state. Apart from stultifying the development of our state, either of them is capable of weakening the party’s support base in the state to the point of, once again, costing us future elections and control of the state. We have gone through this road before and it was a harrowing experience. We must not allow history to repeat itself.

SEE ALSO:  Bright Ngene: How Enugu LP Candidate Orchestrated Own Downfall

We cannot continue to pretend that there is no crisis in the APC family in Benue state. Unfortunately, the ominous clouds are gathering and the denial of the existence of a feud between Governor Alia and Senator Akume is no longer tenable. Public shows of camaraderie between the two leaders, in speeches and before the cameras, are largely farcical. For instance, the apparent cordiality between the duo, symbolized by the Governor’s faithful participation and encouraging speeches during activities marking the SGF’s birthday as well as the Governor’s Supreme Court victory celebration to Akume’s Abuja residence, were soon neutralized by commensurate hostile public outings by their supporters. The most recent such hostilities were the defection ceremony of PDP members to APC in the state and the APC primaries to fill a vacant House of Assembly seat in Guma LGA. In the former, the loyalists of Senator Akume, reportedly publicly berated the Governor and members of his cabinet for allegedly boycotting the event. In the latter, the Governor announced the cancellation of the primaries over alleged irregularities, but Akume’s supporters describe the announcement as a face-saving attempt by the Governor whose preferred candidate had allegedly lost to that of their principal. The matter is yet to be resolved.

The animosity between the hawks on both sides has split the party stakeholders into two from the Federal level down to the Council Wards, with each fighting for control of party structures, Local Government Councils, palliatives, and other advantages. Latest unconfirmed media reports say there are moves to impeach the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, a Governor Alia loyalist, a move interpreted by political analysts as a prelude to the impeachment of the Governor.

Our dear President, a stitch in time, as the English proverb says, saves nine. To avoid further escalation of the crisis that may prove too costly for our party, our state, and our country’s democracy, I call on you and the national leadership of our great party to intervene urgently. The two leaders should be called to a round table where a formula for the sharing of the fruits of hard work and victory of the party in the 2023 election in Benue state will be worked out and agreed upon. The hawks hovering around the SGF and Governor Alia should be identified and called to order. They should be told clearly that the two leaders and their supporters were instrumental in getting the Benue state electorate to give their mandate to APC. Benue people deserve to reap the dividends of democracy under APC which cannot be achieved in a crisis-ridden atmosphere.

Tony Iji
Concerned APC member,
Oju Council Ward,
Oju LGA, Benue State

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Opinion

Bright Ngene: How Enugu LP Candidate Orchestrated Own Downfall

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• Bright Ngene
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By Simeon Ogbu

On 28th June, 2024, the House of Assembly candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in Enugu South 1 State Constituency, Bright Ngene, and the former President-General of Akwuke Town Union, Chief John Ewoh, were sentenced to seven years imprisonment for conspiracy and stealing of the sum of N15,750,000 belonging to Akwuke/Akwuke Uwani communities.

But no sooner was the judgement delivered than the Enugu LP and their Chairman, go to town with the allegation that Ngene was summarily tried within 48 hours and sent to jail to incapacitate him ahead of the rerun election between Barr. Bright Ngene and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterpart, Hon. Sam Ngene, in eight polling units in Enugu South 1 State Constituency, as ordered by the Court of Appeal. But is that correct?

In his hit song, the Yoruba Fuji star, Abass Obessere, sang, “Egungun be careful, na express you dey go.” That song forewarns not only Egungun (Yoruba word for masquerade), but also mortals, to never throw caution to the wind. Unfortunately, men like Bright Ngene are like the proverbial tortoise in Ola Rotimi’s historical play entitled “Kurunmi”, after an Ijaiye maximum ruler and Aare Ona Kakanfo. Rotimi wrote, “When the tortoise is going on a senseless journey and you say to the tortoise, ‘brother tortoise, brother tortoise, when will you be wise and come back home?’ Eehn! The tortoise will say: Not until I’ve been disgraced, not until I’ve been disgraced… disgraced, disgraced, not until I’ve been disgraced!”

Way back in 2009/2010, crises erupted in Akwuke and Akwuke Uwani communities of Enugu South LGA over the collection of sand and gravel loyalties. It cost a life (Ogochukwu Nwanwu). Homes of several key community leaders were torched. In the end, a 20-man committee was set up with a representative of all 17 kindreds of Akwuke and Akwuke Uwani communities. But tenure elongation plot in the chairmanship of the committee meant to rotate among the four villages of Akwuke communities and allegations of corruption soon crept in.

Consequently, Akwuke communities set up a Contract Committee with Bright Ngene as the Secretary, while Benneth Okeke (Ben Global) was awarded the contract to collect the revenues.

In 2017, Bright Ngene and the then Town Union PG, John Ewoh, caused to be paid into a corporate bank account that has Ngene and his wife as the signatories the sum of N15,750,000 collected by the contractor instead of a designated community account. When confronted during a community meeting at the village square, Ngene admitted receipt of the money and promised to remit it before the next meeting. But instead of keeping to his promise, Bright Ngene and John Ewoh petitioned the Commissioner of Police, accusing the two royal fathers and some community leaders of Akwuke communities of obstructing Town Union and Contract Committee functions.

SEE ALSO:  Bright Ngene: How Enugu LP Candidate Orchestrated Own Downfall

Interestingly, it was at the mediation/interrogation by a Deputy Commissioner of Police, DCP, that Ngene and Ewoh challenged the royal fathers and community leaders to make good their claim of embezzlement by petitioning the police. They refused the effort of the police to settle the matter. That was how the DCP, a Yoruba woman, then told the community leaders to go home and put their allegations in writing for investigation if they were sure of their claims.

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Not done, Ngene and Ewoh dragged their community leaders before the Enugu State House of Assembly where Hon. Onyinye Ugwu, their alleged godmother and a principal officer of the Assembly, held sway. Their traditional rulers and leaders were made to face the House Committee on Public Petitions chaired by Hon. Philip Nnamani. But nothing came out of it.

With total war now declared on them, the two traditional rulers and leaders of Akwuke communities were left with no choice than to fight back. They petitioned the Commissioner of Police. Investigation established that Ngene indeed received the contentious N15,750,000 and proceeded to charge Ngene, Ewoh, and the contractor (Benneth Okeke) to court (case file number MEN/ 225C/2017). In October 2017, the accused were arraigned before His Worship A. O. Eze on a two-count charge of conspiracy and stealing, with the communities applying for the Attorney General’s Fiat to prosecute the case in the belief they could still resolve the matter as brethren. Prosecution opened their case on 11th September 2017, calling witnesses before closing their case.

But instead of marshalling their defence, the Defendants embarked on a lengthy, windy, legal rigmarole to stall the case. First, they made a no case submission, which the court dismissed. Then they filed a petition to the Chief Judge of Enugu State, seeking a transfer of the case from Eze for the trial to start denovo (afresh), a request that was rejected. But just at the point Eze was to deliver judgement, he retired. They also used deliberate absence from court by one of the accused to frustrate the case. At one point, the case file got missing, but was later found. It was one trick after another.

SEE ALSO:  Bright Ngene: How Enugu LP Candidate Orchestrated Own Downfall

So, when LP National Working Committee and state executive, go to town to defend their member/candidate convicted for stealing community funds claim that Ngene was summarily tried and sentenced, they forget that but for his delay tactics, he would likely have been serving his jail term long before the 2023 election.

Meanwhile, since Eze could not read the judgement before his retirement, the case was reassigned to His Worship, E.D Onwu and trial started afresh. The Prosecution called their witnesses, who testified and were carefully cross-examined by the Defence all over. Ngene (1st Defendant) testified in person for himself and also called witnesses, who testified on his behalf before closing his case. But again, he filed a petition against Onwu, and the matter was transferred to His Worship Ifeanyi Mammah.

Mammah was Bright Ngene’s classmate at the Law Faculty, Enugu State University of Science and Technology. Ngene gave evidence, but when he would not utilise the windows granted by the court for out-of-court settlement, Mammah washed his hands off the case like Pontius Pilate. The suspicion is that he probably didn’t want to jail his classmate, as the evidence, including the bank statement had done Ngene in.

The matter was returned to Onwu to complete the case, instead of starting denovo since he had heard the case before. Evidence abound how the Defendants and their Counsel would denigrate His Worship in court.

It needs to be underscored here that although it is a criminal matter and therefore a matter between the state and the Defendants, there were many opportunities for Bright Ngene to resolve the matter out-of-court with his kinsmen, but which he blew. For instance, Jerry Eneh, a senior lawyer, had applied to court to give him the opportunity to settle the matter. Several meetings were called. An illustrious son of Akwuke resident in the US, Chief Chris Ogbodo, also travelled down Nigeria to help resolve the matter. But whereas John Ewoh and Benneth Okeke would attend the meetings, Bright Ngene snubbed the peace efforts, insisting that he would never beg his royal fathers.

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In fact, their Counsel, B.C Nwobodo, had to withdraw his services from Ngene on that account and only continued to represent the other Defendants. Ngene then hired Barr. C.C Ebonyi, who soon withdrew his services. Then he hired Barr. J.S.C Okereke.

SEE ALSO:  Bright Ngene: How Enugu LP Candidate Orchestrated Own Downfall

Frustrated by Ngene’s intransigence, Akwuke communities gave up the fiat and the Attorney-General took back the case. At this point, instead of making peace, Ngene sent impostors, namely, Oliver Ede and Chibuzo Ngene to file for discontinuation of the case purportedly at the instance of Akwuke people, claiming to be the Presidents-General of the two Akwuke communities. Therefore, the authentic Town Union officials, traditional rulers, and community leaders stormed the court to declare the applicants were impostors. For instance, Ede’s tenure expired in June 2023 and Hon. Celestine Ugwu was elected on 28th December, 2023 as his successor.

At least, Ngene and Ewoh were found guilty on the charges of conspiracy and stealing and were sentenced to a reduced jail term of seven years each.

Obviously, Bright Ngene’s and LP’s self-inflicted woe leaves in tatters the fanatical and habitual attempts by LP supporters to confer sainthood on anyone, on account of his/her membership of their party, forgetting that these people are equally politicians. Or did any LP Senator/Representative reject the multi-million-naira jeeps given to them while the Nigerians go to bed hungry? Should it not worry LP supporters that of all the distinguished sons, daughters, and residents of Enugu South, only a man undergoing a criminal trial for embezzling community funds was good enough for LP’s State Assembly ticket? Does it not give credence to allegations of merchandising of LP’s tickets to the highest bidder, a major factor in the internal crisis rocking the party?

To conclude, Ngene is like that proverbial Nza (sparrow) who, after eating bellyful, challenged his personal god to a wrestling match or like that proverbial tortoise that continued on a senseless journey till he met his disgrace. Indeed, like Ezeulu, the Chief Priest of Ulu, deity of Umuaro, in Chinua Achebe’s “Arrow of God”, Ngene overstepped his bounds in his dealings with his people, and learned the hard way that “No man, no matter how great, can win judgement against his clan.” It is a case of whom the gods want to kill, they first make mad.

• Ogbu wrote from Enugu

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Urgent Action Needed to Address Food Inflation

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Urgent Action Needed to Address Food Inflation
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By Elvis Eromosele

“An old woman is always uneasy when dry bones are mentioned in a proverb.” This is a popular saying from Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”. Many times, these days, I feel like that old woman in the saying, especially when I see skits where food is wasted and there are too many of them now. I don’t find them funny. I can’t laugh. They offend my sensibility. Food don cost.

This rising food cost is called food inflation. Food inflation refers to the rate at which food prices increase over a specific period, typically measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for food. This metric indicates how much the cost of a standard basket of food items has risen, impacting consumers’ purchasing power and overall cost of living.

According to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, ”In April 2024, the food inflation rate reached 40.53 per cent on a year-on-year basis, marking a substantial increase of 15.92 percentage points from the 24.61 per cent recorded in April 2023.”

People across the length and breadth of the country have adopted (and are adopting) various strategies to cope with soaring food prices. It’s a picture that should worry anyone with a conscience.

A simple scan of households reveals that many families are shifting from more expensive food items to cheaper, less nutritious alternatives. This often means reducing protein intake and relying more on carbohydrates. This is inadvertently compounding the nation’s protein deficiency woes.

Reports indicate that some households are reducing the number of meals they consume daily. Instead of three meals, many now eat just once or twice a day. Take a closer look at your driver, security guards and other domestic staff today, do their necks appear thinner?

SEE ALSO:  Bright Ngene: How Enugu LP Candidate Orchestrated Own Downfall

Fortunately, community support appears to be on the rise. This refers to informal community networks that play a crucial role in augmenting family meals. It can be neighbours or extended families sharing food and resources to provide a buffer against acute shortages.

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There is an increased reliance on street food. Street food vendors, offering relatively affordable meals, have become an essential part of daily sustenance for many urban poor. They are a good reason many people are surviving. They provide a life-giving service.

Many people have equally resorted to the time-honoured pattern of borrowing money or buying food on credit from local vendors. While this ensures people can live to fight another day, it equally perpetuates the cycle of debt.

It is time to mitigate the adverse effects of food inflation. The government, the major driver of inflation through its policies, must now take several urgent measures to help curb it and provide immediate and long-term relief to Nigerians.

Let me start with my favourite theme, the government must provide food subsidies. I believe that implementing subsidies for essential food items and controlling prices can help make basic foods more affordable. Subsidies on fertilizers and seeds can also reduce production costs for farmers.

Two, it needs to urgently strengthen food security programmes. This includes expanding food aid programmes and school feeding schemes that can ensure that vulnerable populations, particularly children, receive adequate nutrition.

Three, agricultural support initiatives must be pursued relentlessly including security. There are several states where farmers can’t go to farm because of fear of bandits and kidnappers. The government must stop treating the security situation with kid gloves.

SEE ALSO:  Bright Ngene: How Enugu LP Candidate Orchestrated Own Downfall

In line with the first point, emergency relief funds should also be on the card. Establishing emergency relief funds to support households in dire need can provide immediate financial assistance to purchase food. The Lagos State Government, earlier in the year, spoke of a mass resident feeding programme through local bukas. Who knows how that initiative is progressing?

I’ll be the first to admit that the government cannot possibly do everything by itself.

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Private organisations also have a vital, even if, complementary role to play in addressing the food crisis.

Companies can launch CSR programmes focused on food distribution, nutritional education, and support for local agriculture. They can, in addition, collaborate with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to fund and implement food relief projects to expand the reach and impact of aid efforts.

The food inflation crisis is real. The hunger in the land is pervasive. The government cannot afford to keep paying lip service to the situation. Concrete action is required, urgently.

While the government must take the lead in implementing policy measures to stabilize food prices and support agricultural production, private organisations can play a significant role in providing immediate assistance and promoting sustainable solutions. By working together, we can help mitigate the impact of food inflation on the most vulnerable populations and ensure food security for all citizens.

Eromosele, a corporate communication professional and public affairs analyst, wrote via: elviseroms@gmail.com

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Opinion

National Anthem Change: Rat chase in house on fire, By Law Mefor

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National Anthem Change: Rat chase in house on fire, By Law Mefor
Dr. Law Mefor,
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It was like a joke at first. Nigeria’s national anthem was being reversed to the previous one by a law passed by the National Assembly. The president is believed to be the inspiration for this somewhat pointless action taken by the national parliament, the logic for which has been looked for to no avail. It couldn’t determine if the bill was an executive or private member bill. However, it is noteworthy and unprecedented how quickly President Tinubu signed it and how urgently the national assembly passed it. Simply put, the Tinubu Presidency is majoring in minor amid economic and security crises.

Priorities and the results of actions and inactions are important to life. The economic and security challenges present President Tinubu’s administration with at least two fronts of a national emergency. A man whose house is on fire doesn’t go after rats, but going for a change of the national anthem—which, incidentally, not many Nigerians think is a problem—makes just that impression. Every citizen is concerned about the growing economic and security problems, which the president needs to address head-on.

The World Bank and the IMF, two Bretton Woods institutions, enticed President Tinubu to abandon fuel subsidies and defend the naira, a step that previous Nigerian presidents fiercely opposed or implemented piecemeal. For the sole reason that he was eager to validate his disputed presidential mandate, which is still in dispute, and to gain worldwide influence as an ‘action president’, Tinubu fell for it and led Nigeria into a trap.

Even crude oil, which makes up about 75% of the country’s export earnings, was heavily mortgaged during the past Buhari administration. This indicates that just a portion of Nigeria’s oil exports are sold for income; the remainder is used to pay off debt and meet other commitments made to other countries.

To make matters worse, the naira was floated and made to compete with other world currencies in the absence of significant inflow from exports and external reserves that continued to decline from $35 billion at the start of the Tinubu administration. Braggadocio is no virtue. What chance does Tinubu’s economic team see for the naira against, say, the $1 trillion foreign reserve-backed Chinese yuan, not to mention the British pound, US dollar, EU euro, or Japanese yen? Yet, the presidency boasts that the naira is floating to find its level.

SEE ALSO:  Bright Ngene: How Enugu LP Candidate Orchestrated Own Downfall

The naira, as the trend Is showing, has no level and needs to be defended and protected by all means. If not, it will collapse along with the nation’s economy. Because of the significant disruption and misalignment the naira floating and unplanned fuel subsidy removal have caused to the economy, the government is once again standing up for the naira, just like other nations do with their currencies.

The unplanned removal of fuel subsidies remains a tragic economic decision and another instance of braggadocio. Combined with naira floatation, the two policies dragged the economy into stagflation, with food inflation standing at about 40% as of today, a figure never recorded since Nigeria came into existence. As an example, in May 2023, when Tinubu took over, a basket of tomatoes sold for about N10,000. This week, tomatoes sold for N150,000. Yes, you read it right, and this kind of galloping inflation is not isolated. Virtually all goods have moved up by at least 300% and will leap further up when the new minimum wage comes into effect.

That’s what you get when you have rising prices for goods, expanding unemployment, and economic stagflation. That is what the country has to urgently deal with, yet the National Assembly and the presidency are more focused on changing the national song.

In actuality, both the previous and current national anthems had important messages and were appropriate. The old hymn “Nigeria, we hail thee” is a relic from the colonial era because it was composed during the rule of the British in colonial days in 1959 and was first rendered the Whites. In 1978, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo changed it, ostensibly to create something genuinely indigenous and to strengthen the nation’s autonomy.

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The succeeding anthem brought in by Obasanjo – “Arise, O’ Compatriots” – makes a lot of sense as well. So, changing to the old has nothing to do with meaninglessness or applicability. It smacks more of inconsequential politics and ego trips that detract from the economic and security crises, which are the main challenges unsettling Nigeria at the moment. The third challenge is corruption, which is still having a field day and growing more and more intractable.

SEE ALSO:  Bright Ngene: How Enugu LP Candidate Orchestrated Own Downfall

Therefore, one cannot help but beg the president to concentrate on the important matters, give the nation’s economic and security challenges the emergency attention they require, and give less attention to unimportant and irrelevant issues.

Nigeria is a nation of farmers. The country’s economy is built primarily on agriculture, and not much has been done to move the country away from subsistence farming and towards mechanised agriculture. Terrorists, Janjaweed bandits, and killer herdsmen have destroyed even subsistence farming by evicting Nigerian farmers from their lands and causing food shortages and serious insecurity.

Farmers in many states now have to pay terrorists and bandits to gain access to their farms so they may plant and harvest crops, given the level of insecurity that has enveloped the land.

The proposed establishment of the state police is a wise decision because it will enable the people to use their state governments to defend themselves against terrorists and bandits invading the country and other groups of terrorists who are encircling the country like vultures and attacking everywhere like a pack of wild dogs. To reduce the possibility of state governor misuse, the establishment of state police would require extremely detailed legislative drafting. The national anthem change is not as urgent as security is. Yet, such frivolities are what preoccupy the FG and the NASS.

The economy is In dire straits and requires rejigging. Until the value of the naira comes down to a reasonable level (below N1,000) and stabilises there, the country’s economy will not improve. Fuel subsidy has returned through the back door as a result of the government realising that the pump price of fuel cannot be allowed to continue to rise at the whim of staged market forces. If subsidies hadn’t been used to intervene, the price of fuel at the pump would have surpassed 1,000 naira long ago.

However, without the refineries in the country working, the price of fuel at the pump would not resettle favourably. Not a single refinery is operating a year after Tinubu entered office. As a private enterprise, the Dangote refinery has taken off. This is unlikely to provide any relief, though, as Nigeria is unable to provide crude to the Dangote plant due to both oil theft and the Buhari administration’s mortgage of crude. Because of this, Dangote refinery is now compelled to look for crude from the US.

SEE ALSO:  Bright Ngene: How Enugu LP Candidate Orchestrated Own Downfall

In summary, the Tinubu administration ought to stop focusing on minors and shadowboxing and instead tackle the pressing issues of the economy and security.

The federal government must give the economic crisis urgent attention. FG has to work with state governments to break the electricity jinx and fix a workable state police.

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What’s more, a lazy approach to the nation’s macroeconomic management would be to continue to tax a collapsing economy, tax citizens who have been robbed of their ability to pay by poor economic policies, and take more loans. The only options left are: getting into massive export and high-volume food production, ensuring import substitutions, and, of course, rooting out corruption. But this cannot occur unless the enablers, such as electricity and security, are first taken care of. It will not happen by squandering time and money on unimportant side issues that divert attention from the primary, urgent course of action that is required, certainly not reversing the national anthem.

•Dr Law Mefor, an Abuja-based forensic and social psychologist, is a fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thought; drlawmefor@gmail.com; Twitter: @Drlawsonmefor

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