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CHILDREN’S DAY: ANYTHING TO CELEBRATE!!? May 27, 2015

Posted by seunfakze in EDUCATION, POLITICS.
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The Chibok girls have been kidnapped now over a year, and in many minds, they are better forgotten than remembered amongst the countless and daunting challenges facing our nation. Tragically, we cannot forget, the families cannot forget their children are still missing, nor can well meaning people forget. Without hope, what are we? Many children who can attend schools form a “fortunate” or privileged class in Nigeria. A lot others cannot attend school: deliberately because of choice (poverty, supporting their parents in hawking, amongst others) or by decision of leaders (dis-incetivized through lack of teaching conditions/resources and infrastructures).

On Monday, I travelled to a community in Birnin Gwari Local Government of Kaduna State, where for the past 10 years, no child had attended any form of schooling in the community. No individual in that community speaks English Language. Needless to say, communication was a difficult ordeal for me given my shambolic ability to communicate in the native language: Hausa. Likewise, I travelled to Sanga local Government in Kaduna State yesterday 26th May, 2015 where I had the rare unfortunate privilege of witnessing firsthand the inhumane deplorable condition under which our children were learning. Nigeria ranks the nation with the highest number of out-of-school children (10.5million), this should naturally propel leaders to a reflective and decisive mode in solving the issues obstructing our children from their educational pursuit.

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Educational reform centred on curriculum, teachers training and welfare, and infrastructural development for our children should ultimately be the focus of leaders. Not so as I witnessed across my 6 days sojourn around Kaduna’s 23 local government area. Sanga (Gwantu community) particularly captured my attention because in about three of the schools i went to, the children were “learning” out in the open; not because they needed some aeration but because their school infrastructure had actually collapsed.

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In many of the schools, community partnership and help were more than the attention and concern sought from government. Not only were teachers morale low, in some cases the teachers were visibly absent. Kaduna state, according to records, has earned about N600bn since 2007 in federal revenue. How this has been spent remains a mystery. In a state where many health centres have little to nothing in equipment, besides the General hospitals where you hardly find a sitting doctor, one wonders what Governor Ramalan Yero had been up to. I visited four General hospitals, and sojourned through the pothole ridden roads; they are nothing to write about. For me personally, anyone who took advantage of state resource and expropriated public funds deserve to face the full wrath of the law if found guilty after prosecution.

People die daily across these uncompleted roads, mothers and other patients are dying because of lack of resources at our hospitals and our nation is imperilled because our children are not learning at all, many discouraged from attending schools and others have resorted to crime. We cannot continue as a nation where and when there are no deterrents for crimes perpetrated by thieves and rogues in our leadership positions.

Emma Ezeazu: Tribute to a True Nigerian Across Borders by @smlukman May 24, 2015

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Emma Ezeazu, former President, National Association of Nigerian  Students (CLO) – 1986 – 1988, former National Secretary, Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) – 1990 – 1992, former Executive Director, Community Action for Popular Participation (CAPP) – 1992 – 2000 and until the early evening of Monday, May 18, 2015, Executive Director, Alliance for Credible Elections (ACE) died after long protracted illness. He died at the age of 52 after clearly more than four years of health challenges. Everyone that may have encountered Emma in the last few months would have certainly noticed that he was going through very trying times but one thing that is also veryclear was that he remained his determined self. Partly on account of that, conversations with him never focus on his personal health. Rather, it remained as usual around politics and national issues.

 

I first met Emma sometime in 1985 while attending the meeting of Patriotic Youth Movement of Nigeria (PYMN), which was the coordinating body of all Marxist movements in higher institutions across the country. Through the PYMN, Marxist movements were able to control the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). Centraltherefore to the deliberations of the 1985 meeting was the issue of NANS convention, which was scheduled for early 1986 and Zone D covering campusessuch as UNN, UniPort, UniCal, UniBen, etc were by NANS constitution to produce the Secretariat – President and General Secretary. Emma Ezeazu and Jonas Awodi were introduced to the meeting as leading cadres of the UNN-based Marxist Youth Movement (MYM) and proposed NANS’ candidates respectively for the positions of President and General Secretary from UNN.

 

I was introduced to the meeting by the then NANS President, Hilkiya Bubajoda and the General Secretary of the ABU based Movement for a Progressive Nigeria (MPN), Ado Yahuza. I was introduced as a representative of Students’ Liberation Movement from College of Advanced Studies, Zaria.

 

That 1985 meeting had representation from many Marxistmovements from Nigerian universities, notably, UniJos, ABU, BUK, UNN, UniBen, UniCal, Ife, Kwara Tech, etc. Attending the PYMN meeting for the first time was to say the least very intimidating. The debates were very antagonistic and highly academic. They reflected sharp Marxist tendencies that at least challenged every delegate to study Marxism deeper especially if one hope toparticipate in debates at the meetings of the PYMN. 

 

The Jos 1985 PYMN meeting, which held at the Secretariat of the then Civil Service Technical Workers Union on No. 3 Tafawa Balewa Way started around 9 amon a Saturday and ended in the early hours of the following morning of Sunday around 5 am. Attending the Jos PYMN meeting convinced me that revolutionaries are knowledgeable people and student activists as revolutionaries in the making are very hungry for knowledge. I still recallsome of the intimate personal discussions we had with Bubajoda and Ado Yahuza on our way to and from the meeting. Ado Yahuza was very emphatic that activists must aspire to make 1stClass. This was in some ways much later corroborated by Chris Abashi of blessed memory and Labaran Maku. 

 

Femi Ahmed, popularly then called Sandinista was the one that introduced Emma and Jonas Awodi to the Jos PYMN meeting as General Secretary of MYM. I remember very well that my only contribution at that meeting was presenting the report of the state of the movement in our campus, CAS Zaria. Emma certainly, although attending the PYMN meeting for the first time, made more contributions largely because he was far more advanced bothacademically and ideologically. He was already a postgraduate student in UNN.

 

I must confess that I left the PYMN meeting very confused because some contributions around the debate on the state of the nation was too advanced and there were often lengthy references to Marx, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin. I remember asking Ado Yahuza and Bubajoda that does it mean that to be able to contribute to debates on the PYMN floor, one has to be able to quote at length Marx, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin? Both Ado and Bubajoda unanimously made the point that some of the references were just empty and often out of context. They cautioned that I must not go about studying Marxism with the objective of memorizing Marx, Lenin or any other person, but instead seek to understand the central message and logic of analysis.

 

Some weeks after the meeting, there was a follow up meetings of the PYMN. I wasn’t able to attend some of the meetings but was privileged to be briefed by our ABU comrades – Ado Yahuza and Bubajoda. I was made to understand that the issue of NANS secretariat moving to UNN was settled with Emma and Jonas Awodi as respectively candidates for President and General Secretary. The debate shifted to the issue of which campus will produce thePRO. The contest was between UniJos and UniLorin. This came to be part of the deliberations of the Zaria PYMN meeting. Interestingly, Movement for Advancement of African Society (MAAS) Jos came to the Zaria meeting with two camps. One led by John Odah, who was the PYMN General Secretary and second led by Victor Olisah who was NANS Vice President (National Affairs). While JohnOdah argued that the MAAS candidate for NANS PRO was Labaran Maku, Victor Olisah argued that MAAS candidate was a different person. However, Adoga Ibrahim of UniLorin was also a contender for the NANS PRO. Eventually, the decision of who will be the PYMN sponsored NANS candidate for PRO was shifted to the pre-convention PYMN meeting to hold in Kano.

 

This development and internal contestations within the PYMN set the tune for the Kano NANS Convention. Of course, faced with bigger contestation against the Nigerian state with clear state sponsored candidates, PYMN was able to reconcile its cadres and produced the Emma Ezeazu leadership. Labaran Maku eventually emerged as PRO.

 

Emma was to serve as NANS President under very trying times. Shortly after the Kano NANS Convention, authorities of ABU Zaria expelled Mathias Yohanna and Bala Hamid, student union leaders and on May 22, 1986 ABU students began a protest demanding the removal of Prof. Ango Abdullahi as Vice Chancellor. Police were invited and on May 23 four ABU students were killedincluding a female student, Farida Mustapha. The Emma Ezeazu’s NANS leadership immediately called for national protest.

 

Government responded with a ban on NANS and appointed Emmanuel Abisoye Panel of enquiry on the remote and immediate causes of the ABU Students’ crisis. In addition to banning NANS, the Federal Government also banned activities of students unions in all tertiary institutions. Emma Ezeazu’s leadership responded appropriately by refusing to accept the ban and continue to operate. In addition to the Abisoye Panel, the Federal Government also setup the Justice Akanbi Panel to among other things determine the role of teachers in the crisis. Akanbi Panel came up the notorious report that some teachers are not teaching what they are paid to teach leading to very aggressive state intervention in the content of university education in the country. The deportation of radical ABU sociology lecturer, Dr. Patrick Wilmot in 1987 by the Babangida administration was direct fallout of the Akanbi Panel report.

 

Armed with Abisoye and Akanbi Panels’ Reports, the Babangida government opened direct attacks on structures of students’ unionism in the country. Without barely any union leadership in Nigerian institutions, Emma was able to run NANS, often spending more time in SSS detention centres. In February 1987, he was arrested and was to face military tribunal with the potential danger of death sentence hanging on him. Students across the country were to rise in his defense and the Babangida regime was left with no option but to release him. 

 

To say, Emma was a committed student union leader will be an understatement. I believe there must have been a genetic factor in the constitution of Emma. His parents no doubt must have been very selfless to be able to accommodate his choice of activism and the periods of tribulation that he has gone through. There were periods between 1987 and 1988 that Emma, on the floors of PYMN cried out loud for the need to have a NANS convention. The realities on ground made it impossible for NANS Convention to be organized until mid 1988.

 

In March 1988, there was an attempt to hold the Convention in Jos and SSS virtually took over the whole of Jos, especially areas around Tafawa Balewa Way. As a result the Convention was aborted. But in June 1988, we successfully had the Convention in Ilorin. Interestingly, two issues that were very clear to us were that the government had a different strategy. Instead of stopping the Convention, the government wanted to take over the leadership of NANS. Candidates that had no prior knowledge of NANS came to Ilorin to contest for NANS leadership. One of such was the President of Bendel (now Edo) State University, Ekpoma who came to contest for President. He had no prior knowledge that NANS President is a joint ticket with the candidate for Secretary General. He was flamboyantly dressed with a walking stick. 

 

The second issue was that the NANS Secretariat could not make it to the Ilorin Convention as Emma and other student leaders of UNN were arrested on the eve of the Ilorin Convention. In the circumstance, Labaran Maku was the only member of Emma Ezeazu’s NANS leadership that was present at the Convention. Part of the reason responsible for this was also that most of the Comrades have graduated and have moved on. Shortly before the Convention Bamidele Aturu (also of blessed memory), who was NANS Vice President National Affairs, has graduated, served in Niger and was recognized as one of the best NYSC member but rejected his award. He graduated with 2/1 from Adeyemi College of Education, Ife. Having rejected the award, the government claimed that it was his NYSC discharge certificate that he rejected. Bamidele responded by going to University of Ife to enroll in a law degree programme. Until his death about a year ago, Bamidele was one of the successful lawyers produced from the ranks of student activists. 

 

The address of Labaran Maku to the June 1988 Ilorin Convention scared the government candidates. Once Labaran announced that Emma could not attend the Convention because he was arrested and that everyone aspiring to be part of NANS leadership should be ready to go to jail, my only challenger from Ekpoma, when called upon to respond to his nomination voluntarily stepped down. Eventually, all positions were contested unopposed. In the end, out of about 18-member team, only about four of us ran the activities of NANS. I lost my Secretary, Yiluk Isa Almasihu, immediately after the election as his father who was a Deputy Commissioner of Police forced him to resign. 

 

As student activists, our vision has always been political. Between the late 1980s and 1990s, human rights and trade union organisations became our destination. Emma Ezeazu went to Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) as National Secretary and he opened the space for people like Chima Ubani, Lanre Ehonwa, Ogaga Ifowodu, Abdul Mahmud, Emma Edigheji and many others. Those that went to the trade unions include Yahaya Hashim, Salisu N. Muhammed, John Odah, Chom Bagu, Issa Aremu, Chris Uyot and Didi Adodo. 

 

Our relationship with these organisations opened the space for us to contribute to the struggle against military dictatorship in the 1990s. Having left the CLO in 1992, Emma moved to Abuja and took up the responsibility of establishing CAPP. CAPP was certainly not as successful comparative to CLO and ACE. For Emma, however, one can say without any fear, he was very unhappy that we have failed politically. Between 2011 and the time of his death, we have had a lot of reflection and we are in agreement that we made big time blunder in 1998 when we decided not to participate in the Abdulsalam transition program. We both came to the conclusion that we must retrace oursteps and engage politically.

 

In 2011, we held series of consultations and agreed that our mission in politics should be long term and must not be reduced to aspiration for a particular position. But one area we debated but had to accept to disagree was the ambition of Emma to contest for Senate in Abuja and not Onitsha. I felt Emma would have made more successful impact in Onitsha. Emma disagreed on the grounds that he is only known in Abuja and he is not ready to go back to Onitsha and start negotiating to appropriate the profiles of hisparents. With such strong positions, Emma engaged the process of APC formation in Abuja, aspired for House of Representatives but lost the primaries very marginally. 

 

Unlike many of us, Emma engaged politics on his own terms. He refused to allow the dominant perception of playing politics based on how much you accumulate and therefore eventually simply buy the ticket. More than anything, for many of us Emma represents the future Nigerian politician. In the coming days, months and perhaps, the next four years, our APC leaders, standard bearers will face the challenge of producing new generation of politicians.Otherwise, electoral storm similar to the one that produced the defeat of PDP will confront us again.

 

It will be incomplete to talk of the politics of Emma without bringing out the fact his nationalism being unpretentious and without any border. At a time when everyone is returning back to his ethnic group, Emma chose to integrate himself with the Gwaris. He worked hard and selflessly for the Gwaris. There is no contest; the Gwaris as their own. One can say confidently, Emma was born an Igbo man and died both an Igbo man and a Gwari. In our generation, Emma is about the only Marxist that practically lived based on Lenin’s dictum of recognizing your own nationality but never campaigning for the hegemony of your own nationality over others.

 

The legacy of Emma is Alliance for Credible Election (ACE). It is one of the success stories of organisations established by generation of activists. While I am confident that members of the Board of ACE must have been working round the clock to address the challenges facing the organization with the unfortunate demise of Emma, it is also important that other patriotic Nigerians demonstrate commitment to strengthening ACE. Not just because Emma is associated with ACE but because the future of our country and nation depends on credible elections. Emma’s life and politics provides the nexus for both intellectual and organizational actions for credible elections. 

KADUNA DESERVES BETTER May 22, 2015

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Kafanchan through Kurdan

Kafanchan through Kurdan

My last school site yesterday was an array of two “blocks” of mud filled classroom. Animal excretion and broken benches made for most of what was inside. I held my breath, took the shots, and decided to leave. I had had enough for the day.

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Passing through the shortcut from Kurdan to Kanfachan yesterday, after 12 hours of going through Southern Kaduna; the last path to cross was (probably not surprising) a makeshift “bridge” the community had finally constructed. I had complained severally through the bumpy ride across that shortcut as we had to severally alight to push the car through sinking mud and murky waters.

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This bridge is the community’s gateway through Kafanchan, and it is unfortunate that through their many pleas, the government of Kaduna state has failed them. The bridge is shaky, weak, and i held my breath while our car passed through this “bridge of death”. A government that has earned over 600bn in 7 years can do better than this. Besides, i support, in full, the due prosecution of those who contributed to mismanaging the funds that accrued to Kaduna within these years. Our children, citizens and society needs justice.

Hopefully there won’t be any heaven for corrupt people.

Ekiti: The Loss Of Innocence by Vincent Bamigboye, MD May 19, 2015

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To all Ekiti sons and daughters, home in Ekiti State, in Nigeria and in the diaspora, no news is good news these days. One was born in Ado-Ekiti to parents who were from Oye-Ekiti and spent virtually all the teenage years in Ekiti. One still remembers the beautiful fertile land and the undulating hills, spanning Efon-Alaye to Omuo-Ekiti, from Moba to Ikere-Ekiti.

These beautiful hills gave Ekiti her name. One closes one’s eyes and beheld those days of innocence of the late 1960s up until 1980. Those were days when the only house in Ado-Ekiti with a walled fence and a gate belonged to Chief Ajibade, the Egbedi of Ado-Ekiti.

No other house, not even the palace of the revered Ewi of Ado-Ekiti, had a fence. The then revered Oba Aladesanmi Anirare II had no reason to shield himself from his subjects.

You could wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning and make a leisurely trip to your farm and return at ten in the night without being molested by anyone. Virtually everybody was his brother’s keeper. Children could rely on adults to take them home if they lost their ways.

Being the most homogenous of all Yoruba clans, the Ekitis were very protective of each other. All you had to do was open your mouth, utter the local form of greeting ‘o kun o’ and you would be fed, watered and cared for, wherever you went. All these are now lost to history in Ekiti State and it is so painful that one could cry.

Where did we go wrong? Ekiti State of Nigeria, home to about three million people was carved out of the then Ondo State by the Military Government of General Sani Abacha on October 1, 1996.

It was an independent celebration present for the Ekitis who had agitated for a state of their own because of the marginalisation experienced, being part of an incompatible association in Ondo State.

Unlike the other states created before then, Ekiti State got no take-off grant from the Federal Government but all Ekitis rallied round to make sure that the new state had a smooth beginning. Ekiti people have always been fiercely independent, proud, stubborn, single-minded and protective. We resent being dictated to by anybody regardless of his or her status.

We took to Western education as a means of forging on in life without having to depend on our neighbours. We are reputed to have scored a lot of firsts in production of Professors in the country with pioneers like Professors Adegoke Olubummo (one of the pioneer Nigerian Professors in the field of Mathematics), Adeyinka Adeyemi (first Professor of Architecture in West Africa).

Things started going wrong in Ekiti with the coming of the politicians. One must say that Ekiti, even in the pre-independent era, had never been a single-party people.

In the First Republic, the Action Group of Chief Obafemi Awolowo was dominant but had stiff competition from National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) led by Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe.

The Second Republic of 1979 -1983, before Ekiti State was created, pitted Chief Akin Omoboriowo (an Ekiti man) against Chief Michael Ajasin from Owo – both of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). Chief Omoboriowo decamped to National Party of Nigeria (NPN).

Out of respect for the national leader of the UPN, the Ekitis preferred Chief Ajasin against one of their own. The resultant rigged general election of 1983 and the violence that attended it led to the collapse of the Republic.

With the current Fourth Republic, the Alliance for Democracy (AD), an offshoot of the UPN won the Governorship of Ekiti State in 1999 in the person of Otunba Niyi Adebayo.

The A.D lost to Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – an offshoot of NPN in 2003 – in a much-disputed election in which Mr. Ayo Fayose assumed the governorship. Mr. Fayose was impeached by his own PDP House of Assembly members in October 2006.

A state of emergency was declared in the state by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, and retired Brigadier General Adetunji Olurin administered the state till April 2007.

The Governorship election of 2007 was won by Engineer Segun Oni amid extreme violence. Oni was removed by the Appeal Court while the mantle of leadership fell on his rival Dr. Kayode Fayemi of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), an offshoot of AD.

The government of Fayemi was defeated, in another disputed election, by a political bruiser in Ayo Fayose who is the current Governor of Ekiti State.

The state hasn’t enjoyed significant peace or development since the advent of the Fourth Republic. The likes of Chief Ayo Ogunlade, Chief Deji Fasuan, Chief Afe Babalola etc, who fought for the creation of Ekiti State must be having a lot of regrets about the monster they helped in creating.

The most present and current danger are the advent of excessive criminalities in the forms of armed robbery and kidnapping of innocent citizens for ransom.

Within the last one week, the former Chief Medical Director of Ekiti University Teaching Hospital Ado-Ekiti, Dr. Patrick Temi Adegun, his wife Kikelomo, an Obafemi Awolowo University Lecturer and a Hospital Staff Nurse have all been kidnapped in Ekiti. Armed robberies have become rampant with banks afraid to stay open sometimes. Criminality begets further criminality.

What does one expect from a State where electoral violence is the order of the day, where Judges were beaten up for daring to hear complaints, where 19 elected House of Assembly Members were ousted by seven members, where the ousted 19 members were only interested in their salaries and other emoluments to the detriment of their constituents while threatening an elected Governor with impeachment?

When kidnapping was rampant in Anambra State, their then Governor Peter Obi pulled all the state’s apparatus – Executive, Legislative and Judiciary together and confronted the menace head-on.

Perpetrators were sentenced to death and their properties were destroyed or confiscated. Criminals look for soft touches.

Ekiti State currently represents one and that is why they are here. Instead of bickering, the current political actors should pull together and save Ekiti State from these hoodlums. Otherwise, history and posterity will be unkind to them.

• Bamigboye, Consultant Gynaecologist lives in the U.K.

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