[ Masterweb Reports: Press Release For Immediate Release ] - Igbo Information Network (IIN) hereby congratulates the first lady Hijia Aisha Buhari for her uncommon patriotism and siding with the Nigerian masses. Her comment is a source of inspiration to Nigerians and we commend her for that.
We also condemns Mr President for his comments on his wife. Its an unpresidential remark and he should tender apology to Nigerians and Nigeria women.
We are therefore recommending Hajia Buhari for Award as an Epitome of Womanhood and Mother of Democracy in Nigeria.
We warn those people Hajia talked about to remove themselves from the scene or be prepared to be disgraced out of government.
Igbo Information Network (IIN)
*Photo Caption - Mrs. Hijia Aisha Buhari
[ Masterweb Reports ] - Hon. Chuks Ibegbu is the Secretary General of Nigeria Unity Forum (NUF) and Executive Director of War Against Poverty In Nigeria (WAPIN). In this inverview with Nigeria Media Network, he speaks on the oncoming Peace In Nigeria Project by NUF and the War Against Poverty Workshop in the six geo-political zones of Nigeria and other national issues.
Q Sir, how do you see the state of the nation vis-a-vis the economy, politics and agitations everywhere.
A Well, in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation you cannot rule out some of these centrifugal tendencies and crisis . It all depends on how the leadership is able to manage it. There is nothing happening now that have not happened before. I believe if the leadership and the followership in the country patriotically work hard, show discipline and fear God, all these challenges will be a passing phase. We need patriots in leadership positions.
Q The Nigeria Unity Forum is planning a PEACE IN NGERIA PROJECT and the War Against Poverty in Nigeria, WAPIN is planning a Workshop in the six geo-political zones of Nigeria. What is the purpose of these programmes.
A The greatest challenge facing Nigeria today is insecurity , disunity and poverty. If these problems are tackled, other challenges will be taken care of. So the NUF decided to embark on a PEACE IN NIGERIAN PROJECT which will take it to all nooks and crannies of Nigeria to preach peace and unity to all Nigerians. Also the War Against Poverty , an NGO is organising anti-poverty workshop in all the geo-political zones of Nigeria with a view to eradicating the cankerworm in the country. Look, the resources in Nigeria is enough to take care of all Nigerians if well managed. We need to tolerate each other. Despite our diversity and challenges, Nigeria remains a better option to Biafra, Oduduwa, Arewa and Niger Delta republics. A working Nigeria is better than a working Biafra or Arewa, Niger Delta or Oduduwa. As for the poverty workshop, the gulf between the haves and the have nots is much. There is a lot of unemployment and underemployment in the country. Many Graduates are unemployable. The purpose of this workshop is to expose our youths and people to different opportunities that will enable them be self employed and live a better life.
Q Who are going to be the participants
A The participants will be youths, women, students and the general public.
Q How do you think the government can tackle the challenges of BOKO HARAM, BIAFRA AGITATION, NIGER DELTA MILITANCY, FULANI HERDSMEN AND THE SHIIITE PROTESTS .
A I think Dialogue remains the best way to tackle the challenges you have mentioned . Force can never solve the challenges. All human crisis on earth have ended up in the roundtable and the ones you have mentioned are not exception. I want to call on all agitators for one thing or another in Nigeria to embrace Dialogue. The federal government should not be obtuse and fixated in its stand on these agitations. The agitators are Nigerians and they have to be listened to no matter what they are talking.
Q The federal government is thinking of selling our national assets. What is your take on that.
A My take on that is that the National Asset of the country belongs to all Nigerians and should not be sold without a national consensus. Be that as it may there is also no doubt that most of these assets are not well managed. We have to strike a balance between privatisation and commercialisation within the ambit of the collective decision of Nigerians.
Q Some people are calling for restructuring of Nigeria and the implementation of the 2014 National Conference resolutions. What is your take on that.
A Personally to me I think we need to restructure our mindset first . Many Nigerians reason awkwardly so we have first to restructure our mindset and before physical restructuring. Yet , I believe that some resolutions of the 2014 CONFAB will leapfrog the nation if implemented. For instance the issue of Social Security for Nigerians, the cost of governance, local government creation and funding . rotation of power etc are germane to the nation among others. I believe at the nick of time the present regime will look into the report of the CONFAB and consider those worthy to be implemented.
THANK YOU MR. IBEGBU
A You are welcome
*Photo Caption - Hon. Chuks Ibegbu
[ Masterweb Reports: Press Release For Immediate Release ] - The Rivers State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has endorsed the Niger Delta Peace Initiative recently launched by South-South leaders under the leadership of the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. The party in a statement issued on Monday in Port Harcourt by the State Chairman, Chief (Dr.) Ibiamu Ikanya, praised Amaechi for assembling South-South stakeholders under the umbrella of the Initiative for Peace, Governance and Development of the South-South to proffer solutions to the current destruction of the oil pipelines and ecosystem of the region.
“This historical peace parley held at the Lagos Hall of Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, on 24th September, 2016 was a welcome development and should be supported by all true sons and daughters of the Niger Delta,” the party said. It added: “We are ashamed that some disgruntled elements can take pleasure in destroying the facilities that convey oil, the mainstay of our national economy. Apart from this, our environment is polluted, thereby making fishing and farming – the major sources of livelihood of our people – impossible.
“We urge those behind these unwarranted attacks against our region to have a rethink and save us from being looked upon as a people who are violent. Apart from destroying government facilities, their activities serve to scare away investors that are desperately needed in developing our region.”
Rivers APC said it is not surprised by the Amaechi initiative to restore peace to the Niger Delta considering the great initiatives he used in ensuring peace and security of lives during his eight years reign as Governor of Rivers State. “This peace parlay simply demonstrates Amaechi’s concern for the peace, development and emancipation of the Niger Delta region and we pray that our leaders will buy into this and allow peace to reign in our region,” the party said.
It commended all those working with Amaechi on this latest peace move, urging them to be guided by the biblical admonition found in the Gospel of Saint Mathew in Chapter 5 verse 9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
“We urge therefore all Niger Deltans to stop blaming others for our woes and get our priorities right in this government that has demonstrated commitment to develop our region,” the statement said. “In this vein, we admonish all the interventionist agencies such as the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to expedite action in the discharge of their mandate. We are convinced that if these agencies work accordingly and with the various State Governments in the region utilise the 13% derivation fund judiciously; our region will be developed, militancy will be eradicated as the reasons adduced for the blowing up of the oil facilities would no longer be exist.”
The communiqué issued at the end of the stakeholders engagement meeting under the auspices of the Initiative for Peace, Governance and Development of the Niger Delta Region on this 24th day of September 2016 was duly signed by these great Niger Delta Leaders.
1. PROF. BEN AYADE
2. SEN. VICTOR NDOMA-EGBA
3. MR. DONALD DUKE
4. SEN. BASSEY OTU
5. SEN. FLORENCE ITA-GIWA
6. HIS EMINENCE KING (DR) EDMUND DAKORU
7. HRM KING EBITIMI BANIGO
8. HRM FRANK OKORAKPO
9. HRM KING W.S. JOSHUA IGBUGBURU
10. HIS EXCELLENCY, CHIEF (NAVY CAPT) WALTER FEEHABO-AMAIN
11. REAR ADMIRAL FESTUS PORBENI (RTD)
12. PROF. T. TURNER ISOUN
13. SEN INATIMI R. SPIFF
14. CHIEF TIMI ALAIBE
15. SEN. E. W. T. DIFFA
16. OLOROGUN FRANK KOKORI
17. BARR. JUSTIN REWANE
18. NDUKA OBAEGBNA
19. DR. OGAGA IFOWODO
20. HON E. T. AGBONAYIMA
21. HIS EXCELLENCY, OBONG VICTOR ATTAH
22. RT. HON. EMAH BASSEY
23. RT. HON. BERNARD UDO
24. RT. HON. IGNATIUS EDET
25. OBONG BASSEY INUAEYEN
26. PROF. OKON EMINUE
27. CHIEF DON ETIEBET
28. OBONG UMANA O. UMANA
29. DR. AKPAN MICAH UMOH
30. H.E. NSIMA EKERE
31. MRS IBIM SEMENITARI
32. PROF. NIMI BRIGGS
33. PROF. B.B FAKAE
34. BARR. BOMA OBUOFORIBO
35. DR. I. N. IRAGUNIMA
36. PRINCE TONYE PRINCEWILL
37. CHIEF ANDREW UCHENDU
38. SEN. MAGNUS ABE
39. CHIEF TONY URANTA
40. HON. MENE L. DEREK
41. RT. HON. CHIBUIKE ROTIMI AMAECHI
42. HRM KING MALLA SASIME (EBENIBE OF EPIE)
43. HRM KING OKPOITARI DIONGOLI (IBEDAOWEI OF OPOKUMA)
44. OLOROGUN OTEGA EMERHOR (OON)
45. ENGR SAMUEL ADJOGBE
With over 150 other persons in attendance.
Long Live APC!
Long Live Rivers State!!
Long Live Federal Republic of Nigeria
Long Live President Muhammadu Buhari
Chief Eze Chukwuemeka Eze
SSA Media and Public Affairs to the State Chairman, APC Rivers State.
*Photo Caption - APC logo
[ Masterweb Reports: Jojo Kwebena reports ] - Professor of Islamic Eschatology and Director of Muslim Rights Concern, Ishaq Akintola, has spoken out about the controversies surrounding the recent visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry to Nigeria.
In an interview with The Sunday Punch, Akintola responded to the criticism of Kerry´s meeting with Northern Governors and the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar by the Christian Association of Nigeria.
According to Akintola, Kerry “did not come with a religious agenda but a humanitarian one”, adding that his primary discussions were based on aid for Boko Haram victims.
“John Kerry came to assess the extent of damage in Boko Haram-ravaged North-East. To achieve his objective, it is only normal that he visited Northern governors and the Sultan as the rallying point of northern traditional rulers.”
He added that the influx of Western leaders visiting The Synagogue, Church Of All Nations (SCOAN) in Lagos has never been criticized by Muslim leaders, who actually embrace the development such visits bring for the country and its image internationally.
“Why would the Muslim community raise any eyebrow if (John) Kerry or any other Western figure attends a Christian conference or night vigil”, he questioned.
“What have the Muslims ever said about Westerners and their leaders attending TB Joshua’s Synagogue? We see it as a good development, a foreign exchange earner and a return match.”
Akintola referred to statistics released by the Nigerian Immigration Service which revealed that six out of every ten foreigners visiting Nigeria are bound for TB Joshua´s popular Lagos based church, perhaps the most prominent Nigerian ministry that is not a member of CAN.
He further added that the issue was too ‘peripheral’ for Nigerians to waste time on. “I bet White House must be laughing its heads off over this,” he surmised.
The fiery Professor quoted the Bible in expressing his frustration with Nigeria´s foremost Christian body. “CAN is not upholding the tenets of Christianity… But most Nigerians know the truth and the truth has set them free.”
Jojo Kwebena ( Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ) is a writer with interest in religious matters.
Editor's Note: John Kerry's visit to Nigeria was a state, official or working visit and no such visit has been made to The Synagogue, Church Of All Nations (SCOAN) by any political leader or figure in the world. Religious pilgrimage or tourism to SCOAN is not political and should not be compared to Kerry's visit which is political.
*Photo Caption - Professor Ishaq Akintola
[ Masterweb Reports: Due to its relevance to present day Africa, this interview of Sept. 2010 is republished ] - As Tanzanians face deep problems that need rapid solutions --- thus this interview with Dr. Kusum Gopal by Guardian Tanzania correspondent to share some of her insights on the Reduction of Poverty, Meanings of Gender towards understanding the political tensions, social inequalities and, endemic civil wars that plague our great Continent. Dr Gopal‘s expertise as a Gender, Health, Social Development and Conflict Advisor covers the Indian Subcontinent (all countries of South Asia), the MENA region, Vietnam, Northern Europe, West and East African region Tanzania. She was appointed as an UN Expert in 2001. Here she speaks independently as requested, and none of these views below represent any of the organizations.
Q. Shall I begin by asking you what are the most important criteria understanding a country such as Tanzania?
Well, knowing the history in all its facets is paramount to connecting with how ordinary people feel and think in any country or region. Well what they experience is true... But knowing history is not archival material or to read colonial Utilitarian write ups -- we need to feel and share with people of the country, the many dimensions of their country’s experiences going back three hundred years or more, and with that, their sense of time and space. For example in Tanzania, indeed for east Africa we need to keep in mind Swahili time and space. That is, in addition to the brutality of the colonial experience, to learn also about the pre-colonial history of Africa – in a wider sense-- because that spans millennia and we find in that it is syncretistic – much like the ancient cultures of the Indian subcontinent. That is to say people co-existed with each other, adopted each other’s beliefs and, race, or a distinct ‘ethnic’ identity of tribe did not exist-(that was introduced by the Europeans) but mbeyu or clan, not kabila was important as, most certainly, indeed, language. To illustrate, inter-marriages between different groups of people have taken place for millennia --and continue to happen. There are also powerful democratic and egalitarian traditions that present in ordinary every day interactions-- the symbols, languages, values and assumptions that are utilized in trust networks and norms of reciprocity? All these expressions are extremely important to learn from and to understand.
Thus, when Mwalimu Nyerere stated that all Tanzanians are one people – he was in fact invoking the pre-colonial understanding of what it means to be an African- umoja, hekima amani. And, that has firmly rooted Tanzania on the path of peace as people seek to avoid conflict in everyday interactions--a model for so many African countries and indeed, for the world also in some respects.
Q In Africa today we have so many civil wars that have caused genocides and continue to happen. Our leaders meet and discuss these issues but they happen. Any thoughts on this?
Yes, Land, water and natural resources are integral to human existence. One famous writer – Wole Soyinka observes that in addition to the ill-advised partition of Africa at the heart of current civil wars, struggle for lands, water and other natural resources have caused immeasurable trauma and, hunger. And, he advocates dialogues between all warring factions to banish the pernicious legacies and bring peace, as intolerance of people is antithesis to the African way of being. Also, great leaders such as Bishop Tutu and Nelson Mandela have spoken about indigenous cultural principles that underlie acceptance-The term ubuntu understood by most Africans, is the essence of being human or being a person. That is, every human being’s humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in another’s... to be open and available to others, affirming of others. Thus, one cannot feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed. Indeed, many parts of the world have much to learn from such ancient wisdom from Africa- “I am because we are” – and this is an entry point for dialogues… It is necessary corollary to assume that the local populations, not the outsiders are experts in their own social and cultural environment. Societies and cultures are best understood holistically. All societies are systematic, rational and, we need to value the integrity and worthiness of all human societies. That is also why cultures should never be viewed as barriers but always seen as enabling and contains the power to transform the lives of people through dialogues and discussions.
Q3 We are now discussing Mkukuta2 as the government is aware that what seriously afflicts our nation is Poverty and that is common knowledge. What are your thoughts on this subject?
Mkukuta 2 will necessarily learn valuable lessons. To me the most pressing problem in the developing world is that of livelihood. Each morning making a livelihood is important and to be unable to do so and earn money keeping one’s dignity and respect is an anxiety that is impossible to measure – because it leads to an acute loss of confidence and then without money people are forced to resort to survival strategies that cause harm to themselves and their families. I would say that in Tanzania – as indeed, in several countries of the Indian subcontinent and elsewhere a common feature that beleaguers post-colonial countries in the main is the insufficient indeed, adversity lack of being able to make a livelihood, shortage of food, poor nutrition and the add-ons—the conspicuous absence of indispensable civic facilities –- such as water on tap – as basic hygiene and cleanliness of the environment are paramount considerations -– for human dignity as indeed, social development to take place effectively.
Q. You spoke of the poverty of health in our discussion earlier. What do you mean by it?
In several countries as also India, despite the apparent success globalization - economic poverty is severe. Also there remain high rates of anaemia, helminthic infections, reproductive tract infections, maternal mortality and, share some of the problems that afflict women and men here. There is a general lack of knowledge of the body even shame – and women and girls hide within themselves – and find it extremely hard to discuss or talk about their health problems--women’s forbearance to prolepsis, lesions, miscarriages and continence is marked. In Vietnam, in contrast, women are much more open, for example, there are sixty common terms for vaginal discharges. These are important indicators on how women and men relate to each other in various cultures- and constitute a facet of human poverty that needs to be recognized.
Here, we need to bear in mind the Human Development Report 1997 that states that poverty needs to be conceptualized as ‘human poverty’ and it needs to be understood multi-dimensionally. According to this human rights based perspective the poor are those who are deprived of essential human needs and entitlements, resources and, opportunities such as education. It includes not just economic poverty but also, social and political exclusion. Thus while Tanzania is economically poor, it is sophisticated and rich in social terms– the spirit of egalitarianism is particularly marked – people understand each other be it the President or the farmer: the moral fibre of democracy is indigenous and deeply rooted. It is indeed an enviable situation that cannot be said for most countries of the world I would imagine. Also, programmes on democratisation should take note of this and work with these givens to succeed. And, that is why there are tremendous potentialities for success to overcome poverty because dialogues would be fruitful.
Also, there is a marked respect for the old and children; people greet each other and strangers are also embraced into the community, regardless of what they look like or where they come from. The mark of a sophisticated culture is respect of all people and acceptance of all people, regardless of colour, creed, age and so forth. That is why the ancient cultures such as those of the Indian subcontinent, Egypt, and certainly, the sophistcated cultures of the African continent have so much to teach the world.
As one travels through this country, young girls and women of all ages also dress as they wish and do not bother about size or shapes— and they walk confidently and appear to love their bodies – and that is extremely instructive – because what is being celebrated is to be female, no matter what. And, I find women here, in that respect have much to teach the world. All these issues need to be included in the measurement of poverty as the cultures and ways of seeing generated by such values or beliefs are integral to physical and emotional well-being of human beings in general.
That is why Gender needs to be viewed as a process rather than a category – the doing of gender rather than the being of it–Gruntdvig, a rather wise Danish philosopher noted, "Life is of a double nature, whole only in man and woman.
Q6. What about corruption, which is so widespread here?
Once again like poverty there are many kinds of corruption – but we can discuss economic corruption. Much has been said about greed and there is a lot of moral censure against such corruption. Rightly so, What needs also to be borne in mind that corruption in many developing countries exists mainly because there is no social security, no safety net that ordinary men and women can rely upon to secure free housing, a maintenance allowance, a free good quality national health service or live with the assurance of a good education for their children – all of which constitute benefits for themselves or their families in hard times. Perhaps provision of social security is something all developing countries need to take extremely seriously. It would ironically speaking, phenomenally reduce the expenses of the government, promote a savings culture, and, vastly improve the quality of every individual’s life.
*Photo Caption - Map of Africa
[ Masterweb Reports ] - Senator Theodore Ahamefule Orji, representing Abia Central Senatorial District at the Red Chamber, in this interview with journalists in Abuja, speaks on the just concluded PDP ward, local government and state congresses, the party’s forthcoming national convention, the candidacy of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, problems created by Fulani herdsmen, among other issues.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ward, local government and state congresses held without any rancour. As a good party man, what were your observations?
Well, as a good party man I participated in the congresses at the ward, local government and state levels. And my impression about it is that this concept we have about rebuilding PDP is working. You see that our own was peaceful, there was no fight, there was no rancor. I believe that that should be the spirit that should, at least, guide PDP, now that we want to rebuild the party. Because we have learnt from our previous mistakes. You cannot bring a candidate and insist it must be this candidate. No. You don’t do it nowadays because this is democracy. Even if you have a candidate in mind, you have to bring a candidate who is generally accepted, a candidate that will perform, a candidate that the people will vote for. That is what democracy is all about. It’s not about impunity, it’s not about imposition. So, I think we are learning now and we are learning very fast.
But PDP at the national level seems to be having some problems as some groups are calling for the cancellation of the planned national convention of the party. What is your take on this development?
These things are things that are expected in a party that has a lot of people with diverse interests. In PDP, we know that we now have an Acting National Chairman in the person of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff. If he participates in the election for the party’s chairmanship position in the forthcoming national convention and emerges victorious and his victory is ratified, in accordance with PDP laws, he automatically becomes the National Chairman. When such happens I will implore all members of the party to support him, to move the party forward. If he doesn’t win, he knows the right thing to do, which is to hand over to the winner of the chairmanship position. So far, we have seen in him that he has the passion to rebuild the party. Let us give him the chance to try his best, especially now that he has agreed to be with the PDP. He has come with all his mind and heart, so we should accept him and give him all the support to rebuild the party. This is a time to rebuild and not to diversify. Therefore all I’m saying is that we should allow Sheriff to rebuild this party and let us watch him. If there is anywhere that he is not doing well, he should be cautioned and if he continues, the laws are there to remove him. But as at now, let us squarely focus on rebuilding the party and not creating different factions in the party that will divide us the more. All the factions should come together to build a united PDP.
What are the qualities that you see in Senator Ali Modu Sheriff that makes you think that he will deliver at the end of the day?
He has the experience. This is a man who has been governor. This is a man who has severally been elected senator and he has been in many parties. This thing they are saying that he has been to many parties, is an advantage to us in PDP, because he has garnered experience in ANPP and other parties. At least he knew and knows, as of now, the problems in those parties. And certain things will continue recurring in political parties as far as political parties are concerned. So if it occurs in PDP, with his experience he can handle it.
Now, a man who has made up his mind finally to come to the PDP, we shouldn’t seriously doubt his sincerity. And apart from having the capacity, the mental capacity and the experience to lead the party, he has the resources also to assist PDP now that we are no longer in the central government where people can help you out voluntarily because you are in central government. So I know he can help the party out to the extent that he can.
Recently, the Fulani herdsmen wreaked havoc in some parts of the country killing and destroying properties worth millions of naira. Some people are suggesting that grazing land should be allocated to the them. What is your position on this?
My position on this is guided by the position of my people where I come from. I’m a Nigerian, I agree, but I come from the South-east. And if you go around the South-east, you will know that there is no person who supports this issue of allowing cattle to come and graze freely because they come and destroy the farms. We are basically farmers and we guard our farms jealously plus the land, because land is very precious to us. We don’t have that expanse of land, so whichever that is yours, you guard it jealously. So it is very painful when you see cattle coming to graze freely on your limited, scarce farmland. And these cattle rearers come with impunity, carrying guns, threatening to kill you if you disturb them. That shouldn’t be tolerated in this country. Cattle rearing is a private business. Cattle rearing I know very well, when we were very small in Umuahia where I was born, there was one Alhaji Bako Mohammed. He lived in Umuahia, his business was selling cattle. He will go to Kano and buy a lot of cattle, put them on the train, because the railway was very efficient then. So, they will transport them straight to Umuahia, they will off load them in Umuahia Gariki. He had herdsmen whom he pays, who will now take care of the cattle. These cattle will graze and there wasn’t any trouble here. We lived harmoniously with them, and after grazing they can now transport them to Port Harcourt and sell and kill and the meat will go to every person. That was the system that time. Even if any cow strayed and entered any farm, you don’t start fighting with the herdsman. You just go to Alhaji Bako Mohammed, he will call them to order. Why is that type of thing not happening again? And the point I want to stress here is that these cattle are owned by wealthy people. They are not owned by these people who follow the cattle and take them to graze. Rich men own the cattle. Do you know how much AK47 costs? It’s wealthy men that buy these guns and give to herdsmen. So I don’t support the idea of free grazing. What I know is that cattle rearing is a private business; they should leave the private sector to drive it. These wealthy men who own these cows should go and buy land and develop ranches where these cattle will stay and feed and people will go there and buy thecattle for their use. Or if the government wants to come into it, then government should look towards the arid areas and import grasses to feed the cattle. It’s done in Israel. There are some deserts that are now fertile in Israel. Let them make those places fertile and grow grasses so that these animals can go there and graze. Let them not come to other areas that are peaceful, in terms of grazing, because we also graze in this part of the country. You know we rear sheep and goat and we know how to deal with such. You don’t allow them to enter the farm, you keep them in your house, in the morning,you take them to an open bush, not the farm, tie them to trees and allow them to feed. In the evening, you come and take them back. That one doesn’t cause any harm to any person. But, now, to allow your animal to go into another person’s farm to destroy his property and your own will be safe is unacceptable. Nobody will accept that. So my own suggestion is that private people should go and establish ranches.
But is it true that there is a grazing bill before the Senate?
There is no bill like that in the Senate. The senators were highly embarrassed when our numbers appeared in an online media outfit. So they picked our numbers from there and started bombarding us with insults. “Ah you are there and this type of bill is on and you are not doing anything. Okay finish and come home.” Some of them will say “okay you are there, we will recall you”. There were all sorts of insults and we started looking for the bill, but there was no bill like that in the Senate. The rumour was so much that Senator Abaribe had to raise the issue in one of our plenary sessions, which helped to douse the situation. And to those who were phoning me, I was explaining plainly to them without insulting any person. But some people on social media used that to castigate some senators, even myself. One girl called me one day and, while I was explaining to her, the woman charged. I didn’t know her. The next thing she did was to write my name that I was supporting the grazing bill, a bill that was nonexistent in the Senate. So that is part and parcel of the blackmail. Politicians are used to blackmail but eventually, one day, the truth will surface.
President Muhammadu Buhari recently signed the 2016 Budget into law. What are your expectations?
What we expect is that the budget should be religiously implemented, and it’s the executive that will implement the budget, not the Senate. On our own part, what we will do is to intensify our own oversight functions to help the executive to ensure that the budget is religiously implemented, to benefit the generality of Nigerians, especially the poor people. That is my expectation. Mr. President has signed the budget, the budget now is a legal document. The next thing is religious implementation. Let the executive implement the budget. The legislature will do their oversight function to assist the executive to ensure that the budget is well implemented for the benefits of all Nigerians.
You are the Deputy Chairman Senate Committee on Agriculture, what should Nigerians expect from this important sector of the country’s economy now that the budget has finally been signed into law by Mr. President?
Of course every person is now aware that agriculture is the Sector that hardly disappoints if well handled. The other day I was watching a programme where somebody mentioned an amount that is in the reserve of a country outside Africa and 80 per cent of that amount came from agriculture. If such a thing can happen in other countries why can’t it happen in Nigeria, where God has given us fertile land and also the human resources to cultivate the land, and the intellect also to do that. So we expect a revolution to start in agriculture from this budget. We should be in a position to feed ourselves without depending on imported food and the budget has taken care of some of those areas that can make this possible. Farmers at least will have facilities at reduced cost, where they can access finance and farm inputs provided it is put into agriculture. The government also has programmes to assist farmers by making farming attractive. Let’s feed ourselves first then if there is any surplus we can export. So this budget has, to a large extent, taken care of some of the problems we are having in the agricultural sector and I believe with proper implementation we will get the dividends.
As a governor you established what was called Liberation Farms in the three senatorial districts of Abia State. Are you thinking of introducing this policy to the national level?
Of course, when I was governor I made an impact on agriculture. For sure throughout my period as governor I produced the best cocoa farmer in Nigeria. Each time we went for agricultural exhibition, Chief David Onyeweaku will come first in the production of cocoa. And I brought this concept of establishing farms on senatorial zones. We called them Liberation Farms. We will go to one senatorial zone and the community will give us large hectares of land and people from that locality and zone will be employed to establish a farm, that will be in tandem with what that senatorial zone produces. We also got experts and trained manpower for those farms and they started working. I established one in Abia South senatorial zone, did one in Abia Central and did another one in Abia North. For that of Abia South we looked at palm, cash crops. In Abia Central it was cocoa, palm, cassava, rubber and vegetables. In Abia North we looked at rice, and rubber plantation, the farms were doing very well; it didn’t cost us a lot of money. The money it cost us was in terms of paying the staff and the agriculture inputs. So it’s an idea that could be sold to the federal government. And as we are there in the agriculture committee, when the opportunity comes, we will chip in such ideas and any other fresh idea that will, at least, improve agriculture.
Your Bill on Food Security was well received by senators. Can you throw more light on this bill?
Of course the importance of agriculture has made people to shift attention to that and you have to make laws that will at least make food production to be of priority. So that Food Security Bill that I sponsored is a bill that will ensure that food reaches every person. It will remove hunger. There are people who are hungry in this country. There are people who cannot afford two good meals in a day, the poor in the village. So the bill is aimed at making sure that they get what they can eat, including those who are disabled, including women who are mothers who are breastfeeding their babies. So it’s a bill that is very dear to me and I’m happy that it was received very well in the Senate and once it’s passed into law and implemented you will see the result. It will be for the benefit of every person both the rich and the poor.
You are a member of Senate Committee on Health. Recently the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, Ile Ife, performed six successful open heart surgeries. How do you feel about this breakthrough?
It’s interesting but that is not the first time. I know that they have had open heart surgery in Lagos. That will show you that we have Nigerians who are ready to do very well in the medical sector. If you go to the US, to the UK, most of the Doctors who are working in those big teaching hospitals are Nigerians. They are using their talents to develop other countries and we want them to come back and help out. But those Doctors who are here need just the push, the facilities, the incentives and you will see that they will excel. That one in OAU is a typical example of that. Give them the little incentive, give them the equipment and make the environment very conducive for them you will see that they will perform. As it’s done in OAU, so also it will be done in Nsukka, done in Ibadan, done in Maiduguri, done in Kano or Sokoto where you have teaching hospitals. So we are happy with that because, you see, there are lot ailments nowadays. I know that Nigerians have tried to venture into areas of curative medicine. So if they have the conducive environment, if they have the incentives, if they have the facilities, they will excel. So I encourage them. When I was Governor of Abia State, I established a Specialist Hospital in Umuahia with the best diagnostic centres that extended to Aba. The Hospital is equipped with the most modern diagnostic equipment like MRI etc, a dialysis centre with five new dialysis machines, an eye centre with equipment comparable to the ones in Jons Hopkins Hospital, a Heart centre with the appropriate equipment and a children centre. This hospital attracted people from far and wide, and the Nigerian Medical and Dental Council inspected and certified the place as a training place for one year internship for new medical Doctors. Well-equipped hostels were also built for the fresh Doctors and allowances paid to them. This reduced the burden of fresh Doctors looking for a place of placement before proceeding for the NYSC programme.
As Governor, we built 712 health centres on the whole all to encourage health care delivery. Therefore every person should try in his capacity to encourage health care and the practitioners, Doctors, Nurses, etc.
*Photo Caption - Senator T. A. Orji
[ Masterweb Reports ] - The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has been thrown into confusion over who the real founder and leader of the group is, The Sun reports.
This comes on the heels of allegations by the former president-general of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Dr. Dozie Ikedife that Nnamdi Kanu is neither the founder nor leader of IPOB as he claimed.
Ikedife, in an interview stated that Kanu is only the director of Radio Biafra and adopted the acronym IPOB to operate.
He added that they were the people that founded IPOB as the Supreme Council of the Indigenous People of Biafra and has been used as the Bilie Human Rights Initiative.
But in a swift reaction to Ikedife claims, Emma Powerful, the media and publicity secretary of IPOB said the group under Kanu condemned Bilie Human Rights Initiative.
Powerful said: “The statement on the pages of newspapers that Kanu is not the leader of IPOB is not true.
“Bilie, meaning Biafra Liberation in Exile, now claiming to be a human rights organisation was formed abroad as freedom fighters in exile until IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu appointed Dr. Dozie Ikedife and other members of the elders forum of IPOB on advisory ground.
“When the elders forum and Ikedife started campaigning for APC in 2014, Kanu dissolved the forum and told them to stop using Biafra’s name to campaign for any political party. Ikedife is talking from both sides of his mouth.”
Kanu, director of Radio Biafra and the leader of the IPOB was arrested in Lagos in October 2015 on conspiracy and terrorism charges, which were later dropped. He is now standing trial on six counts of treasonable felony charges.
*Photo Caption - Dr. Dozie Ikedife
[ Masterweb Reports: Ismail Adebayo reports ] - The Emir of Zuru, Dr. Muhammadu Sani Sami, Gomo the II, has condemned the agitation for the Republic of Biafra, saying it is uncalled for. The emir in a statement said: “We all remember the tragic by-product of the war from 1967-1970, which led to loss of lives and grounded economy in its wake”.
He added that it was sad to note that people were wasting their potentials. “This is unacceptable and I call on all well-meaning Nigerians to continue to demonstrate their disapproval of such agitations,” he said.
The emir also decried what he described as menace of the Almajiris. He called on the legislative arm of government in respective states to enact laws that would ensure restriction of the children.
“In the current Almajiri system of education, parents send their children far away from them, where they become exposed to all psychological and emotional vulnerabilities of life,” the emir said.
He urged governors of states in the North to collaborate with traditional rulers to provide a result oriented approach to the Almajiri system by integrating it into conventional government schools.
The emir further urged Nigerians to be patient with President Muhammadu Buhari, saying that he has the political will-power to change the socio-economic and political landscape of the country. “We do know that PMB is capable, given his track record,” he said.
Ismail Adebayo reports from Birnin, Kebbi State.
The Emir of Zuru, Maj-General Dr. Muhammadu Sani Sami (rtd) last year in December in Zuru on the 20th anniversary on the throne as the Emir of Zuru spoke to John Ogiji on a wide range of issues. When asked about the agitation for Biafra, the emir said: "So many Nigerians have voiced out their opinion on this issue, but I don’t think there is any need for such agitations now within the country, because we have had nasty experiences in the past.
"We fought a civil war, for example, which claimed so many souls in Nigeria. We have leant our lessons, we know our differences, we know what to do and we had demanded the creation of states just to bring development to the people within the country.
"So, some of these agitations, I think, are uncalled for. Why should we go back to what we have done before? They want us go and fight another civil war again? What are we agitating for?
"If you have some things that the government has not done for you, come out and say it. You have your representatives both at the Senate and the House Representatives and you have your elders that you can channel your grievances through.
"So, so why don’t you explore those avenues? Why should you take to the street to start killing yourself for nothing?
"My advice is that the elders from the Southeast States should sit down and re-examine this thing, so that it doesn’t get out of hands. Let us not make another mistake again."
Below is Ogiji's report on his encounter with the emir -
Q. Congratulations on your 20th anniversary on the throne as the Emir of Zuru. From the barracks to the palace, how has the experience being in the last 20 years?
A. Well, very interesting. I was in the Nigerian Army for over 30 years.
I join the army in 1962 when I left the secondary Government College Bida, along with Generals Ibrahim Babangida, Abdulsalami Abubakar, General Mohammadu Magoro, Mamman Vatsa, Col. Sani Bello and so many others. I can tell you that we had a fulfilled military career.
So, after serving for 30 years, I retired and became a businessman in Kaduna and was doing very well and comfortable until I answered the call of my people to come and serve them at home, to become the Emir of Zuru, which am serving now.
I became the emir in 1995 and now I am 20 years on the throne. I give thanks to Almighty Allah.
I can tell you the experience is a wonderful one, because I enjoy working for my people, I like helping the needy and helping to improve the quality of life to the people.
I have spent a lot of my meagre resources to do that and I am happy doing it for my people.
Q. How have you been able to achieve peace among your people in the last 20 years?
A. I don’t want to blow my trumpet, but with experiences I have had in the military, as an ex-military governor of Benue, Sokoto and Bauchi states, and again as Chief of Staff, United Nations (UN) forces in Southern Lebanon, as well as other military responsibilities, coming home to serve my people in a small emirate shouldn’t be a difficult thing.
So, when I came in, I observed so many things among my people, including poverty, illiteracy and superstitious beliefs and these constituted a lot of security challenges, because these were causing friction among the people, especially among Christians and Muslims.
So, I decided to sit down and introduced inter-religious committee within the emirate headed my some prominent people in the emirate and which members were drawn from both Christians and Muslims.
That took care of all the religious frictions that we were having in Zuru, which died a natural death and since then, we have been living peacefully in Zuru Emirate.
I also did the same thing in the area of security, because before now, we were having serious security challenges here in Zuru. I sat down with all the security agents (agencies) and I asked why we were having security challenges and we were able to identify the reasons, worked on them and we have peace now.
Despite the calibre of people that Zuru has produced, development is still slow here.
Q. What are you doing to mobilise sons and daughters of Zuru to ensure meaningful development of the emirate?
A. Again, having achieved peace in the domain, the next thing was how to mobilise the people to tackle the challenges facing us and in doing that, we decided to constitute different committees and associations.
Right now, we have elders meeting in my Council. We have the Zuru Emirate Council meeting and we have an association that is given much responsibilities- Zuru Emirate Development Society.
So, we meet regularly with our elites to discuss developmental issues as it affect the emirate.
It came to a point that we agreed with the elites and we gave them assignment on what to do in Zuru. They can to see that we have started development the town, giving it a face-lift.
These are done by our elites willingly and in addition to this, I task them to always identify with their communities, because everybody has a village. They should identify with their communities and see what they can do for it.
Honestly, many of them have done a lot of things for their communities and the emirate has introduced a reward for anyone who has done something good for his or her community.
In addition, it may interest you to know that at my individual level, I floated a non-governmental organisation (NGO) called Sami HIV/AIDS Trust, which has been working in the area for the past seven years now, because of the high rate of the disease in my domain.
I decided to do this because we don’t want to lose our youths, who are very productive in agriculture and so many other things, so I have to float the organisation and I can tell you that awareness is very high here.
Q. What can you say about the current agitation by pro-Biafran agitators in the Southeast?
A. So many Nigerians have voiced out their opinion on this issue, but I don’t think there is any need for such agitations now within the country, because we have had nasty experiences in the past.
We fought a civil war, for example, which claimed so many souls in Nigeria. We have leant our lessons, we know our differences, we know what to do and we had demanded the creation of states just to bring development to the people within the country.
So, some of these agitations, I think, are uncalled for. Why should we go back to what we have done before? They want us go and fight another civil war again? What are we agitating for?
If you have some things that the government has not done for you, come out and say it. You have your representatives both at the Senate and the House Representatives and you have your elders that you can channel your grievances through.
So, so why don’t you explore those avenues? Why should you take to the street to start killing yourself for nothing?
My advice is that the elders from the Southeast States should sit down and re-examine this thing, so that it doesn’t get out of hands. Let us not make another mistake again.
Q. What can you say about Boko Haram?
A. The case of Boko Haram, yes, so many people have said a lot about Boko Haram, even some western countries have also advanced reasons such groups come up.
But I think it is poverty and illiteracy that is worrying people in these areas, and I think we should be able to address these problems.
Boko Haram was a religious sect that started under the watch of so many political leaders who do nothing about it.
We have had such experience before, the Maitasine in Kano, which was engineered by some politicians and the Army quelled it. I was part of those who did, because I was in 1 Division then. But the one in the northeast was unprecedented.
If the people in that zone had done their homework early enough, especially in Borno State, to suppress this sect called Boko Haram, it wouldn’t have escalate to this level.
We shouldn’t have allowed it to escalate beyond Borno state; we should have stopped it, by doing the right thing to settle those young boys.
I am one of the few people today who does not believe in the mobility of these people called Almajiri within our northern region particularly. Why should we allow Almajiri? Somebody from Maiduguri to come to Zuru, for instance, to come and learn Quranic school? Why? Don’t you have Quranic school there? Don’t we have mallams there? Don’t you have a local government there that can take care of these things?
I think our governors should sit down and re-examine themselves and stop mobility of these children. Every local government should hold its Almajiri and resettle them and do the correct thing, instead of allowing them to go to long places, giving wrong interpretation of this religion.
You have a mallam sitting down in his village with four wives and maybe 30 children. He doesn’t know what to do with them, so what he does at the end of the day is to distribute the children all over the place to go and fend for themselves.
That should be stopped, because we have passed that age now in this country. This is what is bringing about Boko Haram.
Q. With your experience in the military, why do think the fight against Boko Haram is taking this long?
A. There was a problem of insincerity, I am sorry to say. The former administration didn’t tackle it properly, and you can see what is coming out of the investigation that this administration is doing, how funds meant for the purchase of weapons to assist the military to quell the insurgence were diverted.
So, I think there was insincerity in the whole operation against Boko Haram, but now that President Muhammadu Buhari has come on board with a change slogan, things are changing quickly, the military ae being trained and equipped and being motivated to fight. They now know that they have a common enemy now.
So, very soon, the war will be over. Boko Haram don’t have any chain of command now anywhere. What they are doing now is gorilla warfare.
Q. Does it disturb you that most people involved in the arms deal are military men?
A. I don’t think that is correct. Yes, some military men were involved, but quite a number of politicians who know nothing about weapons were given contracts to purchase weapons and these contracts were not executed.
Again, some of the few military chiefs were insincere and greedy and didn’t do the right thing. The military was supposed to be clean and do the right thing, but it was only during our time that we did that. These days, I don’t know what is happening, so many things went wrong.
During the last administration, there were a lot of lies told to the public about the operation, equipment on the ground and the rest.
Those people were contractors, they were businessmen in uniform, stealing our money and doing nothing. A well-trained professional and properly disciplined military man will not do that.
Q. Don’t you think that this would affect the morale of the military, especially those on the battlefield?
A. No! How does it affect the morale of the military? Come to think of it, we have the Service Chiefs who should be able to work out all these things.
So, what happened was done for a purpose and that is why we are having this problem now because a lot of things were done by unprofessional people, not the military.
Unfortunately some few military men were co-opted into it to be able perfect the stealing of public funds in the name of arms purchase.
Q. As military administrator of Bauchi State in 1983, you introduced what you called back to land programme, which is one of your major achievements. What do think is wrong with our agriculture today?
A. Every administration gives it a name and mine was back to land, but it is not the name that matters; it is sincerity of purpose.
We depend so much on oil in this country and we are being told that it is a time to diversify, as oil will dry up one day.
This is agriculture; that is the main occupation in this country, but abandoned because we have a cheap source of funds. That is why we are having serious problem today.
But I am happy that the President, who is all out for a change, will do something about it. Recently, he came and commissioned an agricultural project in Birnin Kebbi sponsored by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
We have to diversify our economy. That is the only thing we have to do now. Relying solely on oil is deceitful.
In 1982 in Kuru, Plateau State, I produced a paper on local revenue generation and when I came on board as emir, I organised a seminar, invited some intellectuals from Kuru and Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria and we produced a very fine paper for the state, so that they go into revenue generation locally.
But nobody is looking at one;, we wait for federal government to send money. We must go back to land, if we must do well as a nation that is the only solution.
Q. What is your assessment of the present administration?
A. I think the President is on the right path, especially his anti-corruption campaign, the recovery of public funds from these thieves, which he is pursuing vigorously now and I leant he has recovered some funds, running into billions naira, for a start.
It is going to be tedious exercise, but I am sure the President, with the cooperation of Nigerians, will recover more money that could be used for development.
Again, the present administration is trusted by the outside world, they believed in Buhari very well, because he is honest and straight-forward, an achiever and a very disciplined military officer with great respect.
I have worked with him right from when I was a second lieutenant, so I know what he can do. He is a very dependable leader.
Let Nigerians support the man. He can take us to places; all he needs is support from all Nigerians.
*Photo Caption - Dr. Muhammadu Sani Sami, Emir of Zuru, Zuru LGA, Kebbi State.
[ Masterweb Reports ] - Tessie Nkechi Udegboka is the Executive Director of Whispering Hope Africa Initiative (WHAI) – a nonprofit organization that caters for poor women and people living with HIV (PLHIV), among other endeavours. Masterweb reporters on learning of Tessie Nkechi Udegboka’s selection as one of the participants in President Barrack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), met her at her Obosi, Anambra State base for a chat. Below is her story on the YALI:
It started in 2013 when I came across the YALI, Young African Leaders Initiative launched by President Barrack Obama. I went online, studied the initiative and application details, and then started working on the application questions. It took me not less than 11 days and some sleepless nights to complete and put finishing touches to my application. I submitted my application with the track on Civic Leadership focusing on my non-profit project activities.
My hope was high; I was counting days and hallucinating of been selected unlike my typical self, when I submit applications or proposals, I forget about them. Six months gone; I was neither shortlisted as a semi-finalist nor the finalist. It was highly disappointing and frustrating considering the number of days and sleepless nights it took me to work on the application.
In 2014, YALI announced its application opening again. Taking into account the bulk of work I have at hand then, the wakeful nights to work on the application which at the end won’t be shortlisted, I refused to apply. I shared the application links on the social media and encouraged every qualified youth on my network to apply. Though I didn’t apply in 2014, I followed and celebrated those who were selected.
In 2015, the US government announced the opening of Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF) application submission. I hurriedly shared the link to my email contacts and on social media pages and encouraged youths to apply. Three youths on my network list did apply. They sent me their application draft for editing. Despite my busy schedule, I made out time, over two weeks to work on and edited their application answers. Though discovered they didn’t meet up with the years of experience required, I didn’t discourage them, rather was happy they attempted to apply.
From editing three people’s applications, I started getting inspirations, the track to go for and ideas on how to apply for mine. The deadline was fast approaching, yet I haven’t started the application process, rather was busy putting finishing touches to other persons application. A fellow Tech Camper and lecturer at Olabisi Olabanjo University (OOU), Ogbomoso, Akande Noah commented on the YALI application link shared on my timeline. He said the program is for me, hoping that I had applied. I replied not yet, that he should apply first.
Three days to the deadline, I started answering the essay questions that required deep thoughts and brain storming. I changed from Civic Leadership to Business and Entrepreneurship track. For 3 consecutive days, I worked on my application; got fresh new ideas daily on how best to answer the essay questions. Each day I see a new meaning to the same question and kept re-writing as the inspiration comes. So please do not be straight jacketed in answering such questions. I finally submitted few minutes before the application portal closed.
Typically, I do not submit/apply for opportunities and put my mind on them. I got engaged with the numerous other projects, activities and writing facing me and forgot about everything about YALI.
One certain Tuesday afternoon while at work with my staff, an SMS came in with an unknown MTN; “You are invited for an interview … ” I laughed and told my staff “see 419 message". I immediately deleted the message, admonishing them to be wary of such fraudulent messages inviting people for job interviews. There was MWF on the text but can’t figure out what it meant.
I DON’T BELIVE IN DREAMS
I’m a known unbeliever of dreams. Close friends and family know I don’t believe or act based on my dreams. I do dream but trash them immediately I get up from bed whether good or bad, I don’t bother praying over a dream I had. None of my dreams has come to fruition ,thus never put my mind on any.
After the Tuesday I deleted the ‘419’ SMS. My step-mum on Thursday morning called me and shared a bad dream she had on Wednesday night about something negative. I laughed over it and asked her I also had a rubbish dream last night; a nonsense dream I wouldn’t share with anyone but because she has shared hers, let me share mine.
I had a dream where President Barrack Obama invited me to USA. He took his time teaching me in a room after which we moved to another classroom, showing and teaching me things. While the president was busy and serious with what he was teaching me; I was busy looking for someone to take a photo of I and President Obama. I tried, couldn’t get anyone take us pictures and in the process of still searching, I woke up and sadly nobody took a photo of us.
I laughed and told my step-mother is a nonsense dream so has trashed it. That was on Thursday and the following day, Friday, at the close of work, got an email from @state.gov asking me to confirm immediately my availability for MWF/YALI interview the next Tuesday, congratulating me for been shortlisted as a semi-finalist.
I ran to my co-workers who where there when I deleted the SMS on Tuesday that it wasn’t a fraud; is real and that the e-mail has confirmed it. I looked at myself; I shortlisted? What did I write that will warrant this village woman from the semi-urban and working in the rural communities been shortlisted? I grabbed my laptop to get a copy of the submitted application form. I searched and searched my system, not seeing the copy of my application, rather saw the three I edited for others. I continued with the random searching on my laptop and lastly found it.
The next day, Saturday, something flashed through my mind and linked this YALI interview news to the dream I had about I with President Obama. I quickly picked my phone and called my step-mum, informing her about the interview and the dream I shared with her two days ago. I told her I’m scared for I don’t believe in my dreams and none has come to pass but let’s watch and see.
THE INTERVIEW EXPERIENCE
I prepared well for the interview except for the dress code. I wear and dress African, so I don’t have any corporate wear to put on and late for me to look for one. I visited and liked YALI Facebook page. Read blogs and shared experiences of past MWF semi-finalists. I got good insights which helped me know what the interview looks like.
I got to the interview venue, Barrack Obama, American Corner, an hour before the time allocated to me. I met three other applicants waiting for their turn. I was given an attendance sheet. Scanning through the sheet, I realized the day was for the applicants from Anambra state and there were about seven of us. None of the applicants communicated a word to each other. A video documentary was been shown on the TV screen which wasn’t of interest to me. However, whenever, it ended, it was been replayed again and again. A second thought crossed my mind: how am I sure some interview questions won’t come from this documentary video? I forced myself to pay attention to understand the documentary.
A staff of the US Embassy came in and asked if I’m Udegboka , I said yes, and noted something on the paper he had at hand. I observed that applicants, who went in for the interview, don’t come out again and so it strategically planned that interviewed applicants leave through another route and wont cross path with yet-to-be interviewed ones.
As my own time approaches; I said a short prayer, asking God to put words into my mouth, knowing I’m not good at verbal communications. I write well but may not verbally communicate well what I’ve written down. Next, I was called in. I met the interview panel of 4 US embassy staff, 3 Americans and one Nigerian. I was greeted with, “Congratulations, you were one of the 600 shortlisted out of the 10,500 applications reviewed, so congrats for making it this far” They introduced themselves and asked for my identity card. “We would like to know more of what you do, but please be brief with your answers as we have more others to interview and there is stipulated time to spend with you”, I was told. Then, the questions started flowing which I discovered; they have copies of my application form /essay answer handy with them.
How did you come about working with people living with HIV (PLHIV) and the stigmatization issues surrounding it?
In my application, didn’t mention of been a public health nurse. With the question, I seized the opportunity and shared my experience as a Couple/HIV Counselor under the then GHAIN Project of Family Health International (FHI). I reeled out relevant challenges, terminologies, acronyms and activities of the project, which they nodded in affirmation. I also shared my achievement and breakthroughs I had while working in the sector.
How come you are now into entrepreneurship and tell us more about HBSK.
ARVs are provided free for the PLHIV, however some of them find it difficult accessing the treatment. No organization then caters for their welfare. I looked at myself, not financially buoyant to be giving them money, so I thought of establishing a venture that will offer sustainable income to the people. I came across a product 80% of African women consume; been produced in USA where only about 20% women there use it. I travelled to Ghana, Burkina faso and Malawi discovered same one brand from USA serving the African countries. Since majority of Africans consume this product, why can’t we produce it here?
This led me into Research and Development (R&D) and discovered two of the raw materials used are been gotten from Africa. I relocated to the slums, formed a working team and HBSK is 50% ready to hit the market but lacked investors. Most potential investors asked I import the product from China to make quick money, I stubbornly refused. The idea of the venture is to impact the African economy and satisfy my passion of creating direct and indirect employment to PLHIV and unemployed semiurban residents, contribute to the labour force and nation’s economy. Asked if I have patented the kit, I said no but have already enquired from the Ministry of Trade and Commerce but yet to begin the patency process. They advised I patent it first.
I established a Resource Center, where semi-urban/rural residents walk in to get equipped for free and through which I mentor, train women and youth groups on information technology, personal and career/entrepreneurship developments.
In three words, how would your staff and colleagues describe you?
I paused for long, not sure of what to say. I stammered to say something as I forced words into my mouth. Next thing I heard was, “it’s ok, our time is up”. I was ushered to leave the room; however, I refused to leave and requested to ask some questions. “Oh! Sorry, please go ahead with your questions”. I had three questions to ask but respecting I have been told my time is up, I asked one: Why is it that investors do not like investing in a social enterprise? They took their time to explain. I quietly left the room unhappy that I have messed myself up for stammering to answer two of the questions asked. People asked me, how was the interview, fine but the best 600 have been interviewed, so I can’t really say I have performed well.
I was in Abuja for PoizeMedia training sponsored by Google and on the 22nd of March 2016, I had another dream. My Governor, His Excellency Willie Obiano, in company of his Principal Secretary paid an unannounced visit to my place of work.
A minute after they arrived, I came in. I didn’t let them in into the office; rather, we stood outside and was having a chat. I told the governor how I raised N10M to establish a venture, he was not happy and satisfy with that, rather asked it is not enough, he is concerned about my capability and skill to manage the venture. His Secretary whispered I tell the Governor about my selection into the President Obama’s Initiative.
I quickly responded before the Governor that I have not been finally selected, so can’t talk about it. All the while we chat, had my phone on my hand waiting for the time to have a photo with my Working Governor. Time to take the photos, I can’t find my phone any more, looked and searched around; I woke up and find my hand stretching round on the bed looking to grab my phone to take a shot with the Governor.
I said to myself, what a funny dream? I scripted the dream, less I forget it and later in the day shared it with the Governor’s Secretary. The only question he asked me was; “When was the last time you treated Malaria?” I said I have never been ill of malaria, thus don’t treat it. “So, it’s likely is malaria this time, please go and treat it” he said.
In the evening of the same day while in the Google training class, an SMS came in, now with customized name, ‘US Embassy’ notifying me I have been finally chosen to participate in the 2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship. I became disorganized in the class and kept mute to myself and others the rest of the day, meditating and reflecting on these entire scenarios shared.
Are dreams real? Should I start believing in my dream?
*Photo Caption - Ms. Tessie Nkechi Udegboka
[ Masterweb Reports ] - The APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie Oyegun was in Madrid Spain on March 4, 2016 to meet with the APC supporters Spain chapter. The group led by Steven Adeayo Tella and their spokesperson and media director Prince Kelly Udebhulu hosted the chairman to a dinner party and press session. The press session was covered by Masterweb Special Correspondent - Spain and the Daily Independent foreign correspondent, Uchendu Precious Onuoha, and media crew from Zenith magazine. Below are the excerpts of the interview with Chief Oyegun with Onuoha.
Que. As the chairman of APC the ruling party in Nigeria, what are your achievements and challenges so far?
Ans. I would say am lucky and privileged to be the first national chairman of course there was one interim chairman before. It was a privilege to be entrusted with that respect. I am running a party that rose up from the ashes of 3 to 4 other major parties, the ACN, NDP, CPC, part of APGA and others. And they turned it into a fighting force, of course with the intense cooperation of a lot of other major stakeholders of the party; we were able to turn it into a fighting force that succeeded in upstaging the government that was in office at that time which a lot of people thought and believed until the last minute it was not doable. For obvious reasons, it has never happened before, because they had access to so much resources and patronage that a lot of people thought it was undoable. But the good thing is that at that time, the Nigerian public was generally fed up with 16 years of PDP government.
The Nigerian public wanted a new direction, the Nigerian public was yearning for integrity, they needed leaders they could trust in governance and leaders they could believe in. On top of the stage so to say was such a personality in the person of Muhammadu Buhari, who is now president of the nation. And it was so clear, it was so obvious that he was the kind of person the nation needed at this period, a man who is transparent, obviously incorruptible, a man of very strong will and mind. And the only person who had the type of courage that it takes like we are experiencing today to tackle the MONSTER called corruption. I would say, it has been a pleasure, a wonderful experience, tough and difficult. I had to rely majorly on the compassionate cooperation of other stakeholders that together made the victory possible.
Que. Many Nigerians in Spain and diaspora are affected by the economic downturn of their host countries. Many are distressed and want go back home. Is there any plan on ground back home to rehabilitate such people?
Ans. I don’t know about rehabilitating those coming back home. But coming to join the struggle to change Nigeria, yes, and no question about that, they are very welcome. Talking about the economic downturn, it’s obvious that this is a worldwide phenomenon. Most nations of the world are experiencing economic difficulties. The Nigerian hazards originated from mis-government over 16 years ago. The lack of vision, the lack of direction, the lack of that will to build a nation and create something that was not there before. To be precise, the PDP government seems to have been contented within this period sitting on the resources that we have, distributing it, consuming it without creating for the future, without building for the future, without putting the economy on the footing for a sustainable growth. That was the period we have excess crude account. Meaning that we had more money coming in than we have planned from the price of crude our main export. The time crude was sold 130 to $140/barrel. We had that kind of money, but we did not plan, we did not build a single petro-chemical complex, we did not build a single refinery, instead even in the midst of plenty, we were still importing refined crude.
That was how visionless and totally plan less the situation was before APC took over. So to come back directly to your question, we too, apart from that plan less-ness, we also are victims of this major collapse of the price of crude from 140 to 30 dollars a barrel which is over 70% drop. So as fathers, just imagine what happens when you go to work and at the end of the month you come back with an income 70% less than what you have been used to. That has put us today in a situation of lack of infrastructures and total lack of facilities. So if you are coming, you know you are coming to join the major struggle to rebuild the foundations of our nation. Our nation is potentially great, make no mistake about that, we are resource blessed, there’s no question about that. And with the type of leadership we have now, we are going to rebuild that foundation. But what I emphasize is that, like you are experiencing here, these are hard times. So the choice is yours, do you want to come home, come and join the struggle there won’t be any bed of roses, one has to be practical, and there won’t be any soft landing. The foundations have been badly fractured that we have to rebuild. Once we get it right, the sky is the limit for Nigeria. That is the only thing one can offer.
Que. We have an array of Nigerian professionals in diaspora, how can the government harness this opportunity to turn the issue of brain drain in Nigeria into brain gain?
Ans. There is no question at all, those of you professionals abroad, this is really the time your knowledge, skills, experience and expertise are required because this is not the age of professional politicians per say. We need technocrats to get us out of the mess the economy has been plunged into. So for those of you that have specialized knowledge and skills, this is the time and you must hasten otherwise we are not going to make the kind of progress at the rate we must put in place for our country to recover.
Que. What plans are in process for Nigerians in diaspora to vote in the next dispensation?
Ans. That time will come, it will happen. You have heard the commitment of Buhari’s administration to the slogan we are shouting everyday which is, change. Again we have to fundamentally change the society and our attitude to politics and re-establish respect for right and disdain for what is wrong. We must establish respect basically for due process and rule of law. You can see that the electioneering has just been through, some of the cases are just been concluded in Rivers state, Bayelsa, Abia, Akwa Ibom. Cases which were visited with a lot of violence. Most cases went to Supreme Court for those who lost because of the nature of the electoral process. To be plain, to venture into that it has to be technically fraught to dangers and abuses and not for politicians to reap where they did not sow. The change we are now beginning to put in place is one of the thing that will go paripasu when we start to respect right and condemnation for wrong. There is no question at all given the large diaspora population that we have. What I have noticed here is the kind of passion with which you people have embraced this idea of change. It would be wrong to say NO, we cannot extend the possibility of diaspora voting, but the time must be right and the atmosphere must be right.
Que. Do you think the new trend where election victories are decided by the courts will augur well for the Nigerian democracy?
Ans. Let me say this in general terms then I go back to the APC change, the general Mantra, the challenges that are presently facing the regime. What is important is that the president believes strictly in the rule of law, strictly in enforcing existing laws. I am sure those of you who visit very often must have come across this talk that the APC say they have won the election but they are not behaving as if they are in power, meaning that people still have this old concept that power is having a sledge hammer and smashing everybody who is in your path. But the president is dedicating himself to due process and respect for rule of law. So he is shunning the big stick so to say and believes strongly that you can change society only when you have changed people’s attitude and it becomes second nature for them to do what is right and shun what is wrong. It’s going to be tough and difficult process, but it’s the only way we can depart from the past where might was right and unfortunately it sticked in the entire society. But the Buhari’s government is going to be very strict in enforcing due process, strict on the rule of law without respecter of persons. If you fail foul of the law, you pay the price whoever you are. There will be no exemptions and nobody is going to be too big to be touched. That is the only way change can become permanent. But it’s a longer route, the road we are travelling.
Que. Before coming to Spain, what was your impression about Nigerians in Spain?
Ans. I knew there is a very active and large Nigerian population here facing the struggles of life and the rest of it. I knew also there was an active APC wing here, one of the most active worldwide that I have experienced and that is why I chose to come here. I know that the economy worldwide is taking a tumble and I know you people are affected like people anywhere else. But the important thing is that in the midst of that, you have held your head very high and still truncating in social positive activities which are contributing in projecting the image of our country particularly at this time. So far I know it’s not yet “Uhuru” but I am impressed by the road that you are travelling.
Que. As APC national chairman and leader what advise do you have for other leaders in implementing youth empowerment policies?
Ans. The issue of youth is inevitability. It is inevitable because whether we like it or not, the youth at a certain stage are the inheritance of the nation. And everyone must endeavor to create opportunities for them and instill hope into their lives. Nothing like a youthful population that has lost hope. So they must always be engaged, they must always be challenged. The call in part of government is improving and restoring hope to the youths of the nation.
*Photo Caption - Chief John Odigie Oyegun