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THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED: An Enugu Experience

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Enugu State Governor, Dr Peter Mbah

By Dr Aroh Chukwuemeka

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost

Share the money!
Fill my pocket!
Give me my own!

These voices bring to mind the biblical account of the prodigal son. He said to his father “give me my share”. When his wish was granted, his mindset was that he had been settled and it will never get exhausted. As we recall the story, he was going to learn a lesson in resources and their sustainability the very hard way.

“…there are those who believe that there isn’t much we can do about this nation. That the best Idea is to give everyone one big refund on their government – divvy it up into individual portions, hand it out, and encourage everyone to use their share to buy their own health care, their own retirement plan,   their own child care, education and so forth.
In Washington, they call this the ownership society.

But in our past there has been another term for it – Social Darwinism – every man or woman for himself. It’s a tempting idea because it doesn’t require much thought or ingenuity. It allows us to say that those whose health care or tuition may rise faster than they can afford – tough luck. It allows us to say to the May tag workers who have lost their job – life isn’t fair. It lets us say to the child who was born into poverty – pull yourself by the bootstraps…
But there is a problem.
It won’t work.
It ignores our  history.
It ignores the fact that it’s been government research and investment that made the railways possible and the internet possible. It has been the creation of a massive middle class through decent wages and benefits, and public schools – that has allowed all of us prosper…
Barack Obama
         Commencement
         Speech
         Knox College
         Illinois
         2005

Pardon me for dropping this long extract on you while striving to paint a picture. I strongly suspect that as you read through, it sounded familiar. Looked like sound bites from our typical Naija streets. May be you didn’t even realise that this was America being alluded to until you read down to where “Washington” was mentioned or you still didn’t even realise till the source reference. This buttresses one immutable fact, that people are people, pain is pain and joy is joy everywhere. Humanity is humanity home and abroad, our common humanity.

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The timeless point by former American President Barack Obama then Senator, was that collective salvation by government is the best approach to the building of a people (nation or sub national). This is evidently true in all cases even when it doesn’t sound like it gives immediate gratification. He clearly highlighted that this is how America has been enviably successful for two centuries and counting.

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It has always been the political will of any government to invest in the collective good of the people, pursue policies for building better societies while resisting the “nke mu, nke mu” syndrome that births sustainable growth. The best and simplest expression or indicator of this collective salvation is the provision of social amenities; water, health care, education, roads, etc and innovative investments.

At this juncture permit me to conspicuously applaud the Executive Governor of Enugu state, Barr Peter Mbah for having governed Enugu in the past one year with this same collective salvation philosophy. He has driven Enugu state by taking the road less travelled. This same road that made America America and successful for two centuries plus. Under his watch, we have seen a new Enugu budding so quickly. He really deserves a writing ovation after a year in office thus this. A way of saying to him “jide ka iji”.

As expected, the internet is already awash, innundated with plethora of ecomiums from people of all walks of life, showering praises and breaking down these achievements.
A lot has really been penned down on the Enugu transformation.

Is it the enormous water reserve? which is presently being reticulated so every home can enjoy it. The 260 SMART schools and Health centres across the 260 wards of our state. We can see our roads all wear a new look.
What of the morden transport efforts( the interchanges being built and a computerised vehicle inspection centre)? Can we ignore the many laws accented to like the recent electricity bill? Many MOUs home and abroad like the most recent in Austria. What of the 500 capacity International conference centre and the foundation laying of the 5-star international conference centre hotel? Governor Mbah is really on the ball.

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My focus is an analysis his public policy and it’s far reaching impact now and tomorrow. This I have christiend “the road less travelled”. It is revolutionary, highly rated in the nation and best our state has ever witnessed.

Enugu state, a great state created by Gen. Babangida and announced to the public by 8pm on the 27th of August 1991. The capital of the old eastern region. Our state has continued to grow and remain central through the years but this time we are gaining world attention in a hurry courtesy of Governor Mbah. This is exactly how a state becomes the best destination for living, business and tourism,no doubt.

The administration has been true to its tag line ” Tomorrow Is Here”. Having given ndi Enugu excellent public administration, a logical outcome of an affective policy cycle. This has impacted all facets of the state. Public servants and pensioners are happy. Labour unions are not worrying like they do in some places close to us. Better environment and calibration for business, no more robbing Peter to pay Paul or monkey dey work baboon dey chop.

In practical terms, move from wherever you are right now in Enugu state, you won’t be long before you see a clear manifestation of good governance. On a personal note, just to elucidate how the impact of social amenities are interwoven and rub off on us all.

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For instance, if you do school runs from Trans-Ekulu to anywhere after IMT campus 2 (i.e present day ESCET), you can attest to that incontrovertible and unassailable axiom that the hold-up we saw yesterday we see no more. You don’t have to loose sleep any longer to beat the traffic-jam .Your metal health is better, your pocket less stressed, you become more effective all round and ultimately live better.

This is not different from the stories from other parts of Enugu because of smooth motorable roads. Picking the other social amenities one after the other will be akin to re-inventing the wheels and cumbersome. You are a click away from getting multiplicity of data on the eldorado  Enugu under the Man of the unusual road.

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It is not lost on me, as a matter of fact it will be gross insensitivity to conclude this write up without acknowledging the hard times in Nigeria. Our current national high fever and economic malaise is undebatable. This really exacerbates the pressure that our common national patrimony should be shared, let all fend for themselves. This is the easier road to take but it is not the route to glory. Any government that takes this route. It won’t be long before they realise like the prodigal son that they are finished. Sadly, unlike the prodigal son there will be no where to run to when they repent.

This is why the people of Enugu rejoice that our Governor despite giving heavy palliatives from civil servants to the indigent is focused on building systems. Systems that can sustain today and secure our tomorrow.

Let me drop my pen or give my typing pad rest by calling on ndi Enugu to continue cheering and supporting our Governor. We know that if our football team is performing super dapper well, it brings zest and better performance when they are cheered. Barr Peter Mbah has given us sustainable development as against the common social media-hype development in some other places.

As Obama succinctly alluded, it is government research and investment that builds a people. This is the road less travelled by because it hardly brings the commensurate immediate media ovation.

It is the harder way but the better way
However, Public policy and development experts like myself really look at the happenings in Enugu state and shout Hallelujah!
Our Governor has taken the more difficult path and Enugu is fast becoming the preferred destination for living, tourism, business and investment in Nigeria.

Thanks your Excellency Governor Peter Ndubusi Mbah, Executive Governor of Enugu state for taking the road less travelled for ndi Enugu.
This has made all the difference in our State.

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Sir, I drop you a line of this song we sang to our local sports representatives while growing up.
“Governor anyi jisi ike na olu anyi ga enwe mmeri”

Dr. Aroh Chukwuemeka
 Peter Mbah Support Group (PMSG)

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Opinion

Urgent Action Needed to Address Food Inflation

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Urgent Action Needed to Address Food Inflation

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?

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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.

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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,
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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Opinion

Leadership of the legal profession should act now before it is too late

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By Jibrin S. Okutepa, SAN

All is not well with the legal profession in Nigeria. The actions and decisions of some members of the legal profession have eroded the confidence of the members of the general public in both adjudications in courts and tribunal and even in legal practice. Lawyers are no more respected because Nigerians, in most cases, see lawyers as the problems of Nigeria. The general public sees the legal profession as problem creators in Nigeria.

The disgrace to which the legal profession is put in Nigeria by the decisions of some courts is not in the best interest of the sanctity of the profession.The silence of the leadership of the legal profession to the desecration of the sanctity and purity of justice in Nigeria seems to have made the public think that the leadership of the legal profession is an accomplice to these ignoble roles of some members of the bar and the bench.

Look at the injuctions and counter injunction flying here and there in Nigeria in political spaces and chieftaincy cases in Nigerian courts, both Federal and states High Courts. The rules of the games of justice and that of adjudication have been lowered to accommodate primordial partisan interests and to the prejudices of absolute fidelity to purity of justice.

The absurdities of the orders flying from these courts cry to high heavens seeking the immediate intervention of the leadership of the legal profession. The legal profession needs to be saved from self-inflicted injuries by all those that do not mean well for the pure and the unpolluted justice.

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The leadership of the bar and the bench can not sit and fold their arms comfortably as if nothing is happening. The legal profession is sick, and it is being strangulated by those who should protect it from political and economic interferences and manipulations.

Adjudication should not be a function of commercial and partisan interest. We are heading to the calamitous end of true and pure adjudication in Nigeria.
Oh, that the leadership of the legal profession can wake up now and save the profession from extinction. Sanctions must be visited appropriately and not lightly. It has to be now.

Nigerians are sick and tired of the sacrilegious naked dances of the bar and the bench in market places.The awe of the once noble profession, the legal profession and the light that that profession represents have been overgrown, overthrown, and overshadowed by unethical rascality of activities of some known members of the legal profession.

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Those who filed frivolous processes in both wrong and right courts and those who adjudicated over these downright frivolous processes must be fished out and punished appropriately. Legal processes must not be turned to tales by moonlight. We must not be ridiculed further.The odium and disrepute are becoming too dangerous for comfort.

When I speak of the leadership of the legal profession, I speak about the Hon Body of Benchers, NJC, NBA, BOSAN, and the office of the Hon the Attorneys-General of the Federation and those of the States. Unless something is done urgently and the leadership of the legal profession does what are in the best interest of Nigerians and Nigeria, by immediately bringing all those who have brought the legal profession to its knees, the legal profession will soon come to the painful but calamitous end in the most unfortunate disgraceful manner.

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It is important that the leadership of the profession I have identified above call for an emergency meeting and to do something now to save the legal profession from complete disgrace and relevance in the scheme of things in Nigeria. It has to be now. Time to act is now.

• Jibrin Samuel Okutepa is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) 

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