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OPINION: Confronting Corruption, A Road Less Travelled

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Tony Abolo

The flurry of tales around the sordid revelations around the NDDC sleaze, Magu’s accusations, with a bifurcation towards Malami, the Attorney-General, has set the country stirred around whether or not, the world’s poverty capital, Nigeria may sink under its moral morass. To compound our dilemma, Buhari, the seeming anti- corruption champion, merely sings about “fighting corruption” in a broken record fashion, and has no seeming ability to stem it, punish for it, on a commensurate scale or find the right engagement to curtail it, and this, neither now nor ever. Corruption for all we care in Nigeria, is a “directive of State policy,” if we may borrow a line in the Constitution.

To say corruption in Nigeria is endemic is merely not just to say the very obvious; it is a national behavior. It is a national culture. It is not odious. In fact, it is a desirable, even if it is“ others” who tell us that, it disfigures the Nigerian character, globally, and it is a prime cause for our massive underdevelopment.

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Our condition may have been helped if like “Lot and Abraham” in the Bible we could be asked to look for ‘fifty, fourty, thirty, twenty, ten good persons in the society. Much as we like to the vilify and ridicule our “Police” as the poster child for corruption, you would be hard pressed to move to any other institution in the country and not find “corruption blood stains”. This is about institutions, as it is about the ages, even down to the “calm down” boy.

The moral turpitude of the nation is tossing about in the sea. And there are sadly only but few shining examples. Even the “saint” dressed in a borrowed garb and we are all told, is “squeaky clean”, is merely a myth sold as a political gimmick, we are finding out. It is patent before our eyes, where the truth lies.

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We moved out of our old cultural “stronger” values and we are moored in the cesspool of who gets to steal the bigger billions, in the speedy rate of NDDC’s Interim Management Board. The society has no underpinnings. Political office holders are not selected for moral rectitude, but the one with the fattest purse. Where from ? No one cares. In fact you are given juicy “Ministries and positions, so you can be a “dirtier pig and with your loot, you can return to your state to become “The Governor”, “The Senator”, the next bigger office holder, in a no holds barred “rapacious treasury riler”. And today, religion does not seem to restrain anyone in the public space.
Times was, when you could vouch for some ethnic group or some religion. Now, not anymore.

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Education in Nigeria has no moral or ideological content. And so from weak homes, we course through schools, into public life, unhinged morally. Like the American’s would say, we behave like the ‘shit’ that hit a rotating ceiling fan. We have lost it and we are collectively not deeply sorry. If only we all, as a society could see that the over $600billion dollars stolen from Nigeria into the ”outer space” of the Western World, since 1960, could have made Nigeria a double “Dubai”, we may have developed a compunction and a sense of responsibility.

Pardon me, if pathetically, we linger on the sad examples of what could have been a better Akwa/Ibom and Rivers states. In terms of earnings from IGR, Federal Statutory allocation and VAT, these two could have been model states. But then, corruption is a habit and so states that could have set the examples of transformation are just as niggardly as others.

Lagos makes an awful lot, as much as a trillion naira is budgeted annually, but is Lagos in a transformatory shine? Perhaps it has also to do with the level of intelligence of those who say they want to be leaders. And that is a critical point to make and take note of. The choices they make inside the inner closets of the cabinet, the lack of the people’s ability to make critiques of public policies and the coercion of the people never allowed to demonstrate to state their rights- all leave both the Federal Government and states, at an abysmal level of shame and underdevelopment.

READ ALSO: Opinion: Intricate Police And Justice Related Maters (Legal)

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As time passes, we have no reason to blame the young ones. For want of engagement, the young ones drift into yahoo, kidnapping, gangsterism, the hit Boys for politicians. The girls go into “lesbobo” or outright prostitution; into a life of crime and unproductivity. Hardwork does not appeal to them. They prefer instant gratification. Travelling out of Nigeria is their easiest dream, instead of “imagining” a better future.

Our society is structured around corruption, come to think of it. You get nothing as of right, in educational institutions, government offices and institutions not to talk of the famous “wetin you bring, wetin you carry” toll gate security stations. Examine, the life styles of top civil servants and the political elite. For the top civil servants, they consider “the civil service” as a business posts and as for the political class, it is the ‘raison d’être’, the reason why they sought public office, for aggrandizement and primitive accumulation. After all, it is easier to acquire wealth by “stealing” aka “akpabioisim” and “pondei-ism” rather than investment, hardwork and waiting for results. Then it all cascades to the children of the elite who live above their means. Heard of the Aso rock super bike story or the weddings of the children of the anti-corruption and law watch dogs? Mind you, we are not speaking of the weddings of the superrich!! Such a shame of a country!!!.

All these lead us to talk of values-societal values which should form the real bulwark. We have in error been talking of having “morality” as the defence, for our “corruption tendencies”. These morals are more often derived from religion and ethical norms of cultures and religions. If I do not belong to a culture or religion, how can I understand or ascribe to those values? Values, that are the real bulwark, are national values- which would tell all Nigerians of whatever states, of whatever location, of whatever religion or ideology, or culture to decide and evaluate what is permissible and can be done and what cannot be done. As long as we are in our disparate cultural enclaves and arguing and never uniting as Nigerian peoples, so long will we have varied perspectives on values, that favour our location, ethnic group or faith. So national integration prevents us from resolving the corruption war, meaningfully.

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OPINION: Supper For Nigeria’s Àkébàjé

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By Suyi Ayodele

Every home has at least one spoilt child. Such a child is known as an Àkébàjé among my people. The Àkébàjé Omo cries for meat when his mates are asking for food – Àkébàjé únsunkún eran, elegbé e rè únsunkún oúnje. When eventually given what he craves, he complains that the pieces of meat in the plate will not allow him access to the stew (wón fun léran tán, ó tún ni eran ò jé kí òhun run obè). The elders of my place have a descriptive name for such a child: Omo gede aróde tò súlé (an over-pampered brat who leaves the outside to pee inside the living room). Àkébàjé can never be satisfied. He remains implacable. He keeps asking for more like Oliver Twist. He is a child with an eerie entitlement mentality! Every family which attempts to satisfy the many fancies of an Àkébàjé ends up in ruins.

One peculiar nature of an Àkébàjé is that he positions himself as an indispensable member of the family. He tells his parents that he holds the four aces. Usually, he comes in the form of either the only child or as the only male child in a society that is patrilineal and attaches importance to the male gender. In such a circumstance, the entire clan tends to pander to the wishes of an Àkébàjé. His greatest weapon is blackmail. He tells his dotting, and equally fretting parents to either satisfy his wishes or he leaves them in pain. He behaves like an Ogbanje, who can die anytime, prematurely. Whereas, he has everything to lose if he dies, but the parents don’t know this!

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The parents of the Àkébàjé operate from a disadvantaged cum weak position. They always believe that the Àkébàjé Omo holds that which is most precious to them. The Àkébàjé knows this weakness of character in his parents. He, therefore, tightens the noose, pummelling his parents to submission, at any given time. Àkébàjé is as unfeeling as he is selfish. He is equally deft on the negotiation table. He is like the Gambler in Kenny Rogers’ song, “The Gambler”, Àkébàjé Omo /…Know when to hold ’em/Know when to fold ’em/Know when to walk away/And know when to run/. Like the gambler that he is, an Àkébàjé /knows the secret to survivin’/ But there are a few members of the clan who feel that the Àkébàjé needs to be treated with tough hands. Some others believe that the spoilt brat should be treated like any other normal child. The basic truth is that any community which pampers the Àkébàjés in its midst ends up very badly.

Nigeria is like that typical parent with an Àkébàjé child. The Àkébàjé of this epoch is the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) of the North. The group has been over-pampered by the Nigerian nation for too long. It has grown wild such that it does whatever it likes with an out-and-out impunity. Every government, particularly the ones headed by Southerners, frets at its feet. MACBAN is the law. It decrees a thing, and it comes to pass. It can create or recreate any that catches its fancies. The group blackmails anyone to no end. You can blame it. When a dog has a marksman as a backup, it kills the most ambulant monkey! Supported by a powerful political block up North, Miyetti Allah dictates the pace in virtually every matter that has to do with agriculture. Its greatest weapon is the terror it visits on its hapless victims. Everyone cringes at the mention of herdsmen. Even presidents shiver in its presence. On the negotiation table, Miyetti Allah does not take prisoners. In the last one year, MACBAN has tested the waters on different occasions.

It started its deft calculation in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, on Saturday, April 20, 2024, when the group ‘signed’ a “peace” agreement with the non-existent Commodities Farmers’ Organisation in the South-West. The event was coordinated by one Olusegun Dasaolu, and supervised by the first daughter of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Mrs. Folashade Tinubu-Ojo, the Iyaloja General of Nigeria. That adventure birthed a piece titled: Why were Miyetti Allah and Tinubu’s Iyaloja in Ibadan?”, published on this page on April 23, 2024, That piece summarises that the Miyetti Allah and farmers ‘agreement’ in Ibadan was all about the 2027 second-term ambition of Tinubu. I stand by that position till the second coming of my Lord Jesus! What is after six is more than seven, so say our elders. We are coming to witness that in a short while!

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The North is very wise. I mean wise like the Gambler of Kenny Rogers’ song. The North has over the years “…made a life/Out of readin’ people’s faces/Knowin’ what the cards were/By the way they held their eyes/. So, it is never difficult for them up there to study President Tinubu. They know that one thing rules the president’s life – insatiable craving for power. They know that for Tinubu to realise his second-term ambition, he will give in to anything. The monkey’s keeps its hand permanently in the gourd of banana till the hunter comes and captures it! I alluded to that in the piece referenced above, when I said inter alia: “Tinubu will do anything to get his second term. He will sell where he needs to sell, buy what he needs to buy. Nothing will be too precious for him to trade off…”

Having scored the needed goals and obtained the required points to advance to the next stage of the 2027 political tournament, the North shifted its strategy to the National Assembly. They asked the docile legislative arm to decree it to law that cows are human beings and must be given freedom of movement. Senator Adamu Aliero, former governor of Kebbi State, waved the bait. He was supported by Senator Danjuma Goje, himself also a former governor of Gombe State. But something went wrong in the calculation. The usual yes-man Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, did not catch the bug. He put spanner in the works with his “Cows are not citizens of Nigeria, Senator Aliero; are you arguing with me?” lines. I detailed that encounter in “Distinguished Senator Cow and his human rights”, published on this page on June 11, 2024. I concluded that piece with this prophecy: “I can predict the end. DISASTER!” I hope I am not Jeremiah, the prophet of realism, who many tagged the prophet of doom. Before I finish packing my divination seeds, my Babalawo has started to praise his Opele!

Again, Kenny Rogers cautions. As a good Gambler, he says: /You never count your money/When sittin’ at the table/There ‘ll be time enough for countin’/When the dealin’s done/. The North knew Akpabio’s interjection was a temporary setback. The Senate President has a master, who lives in the rocky area of the capital city. They approached him. I am still trying to hazard a guess on the plausible argument that was presented to President Tinubu on the desirability of a Ministry of Cows! Yes, read that again! The proposed Ministry of Livestock Development is nothing, but Ministry of Cows. I don’t believe in its euphemism dubbed Ministry of Livestock Development. We shall return to this argument on the exclusivity of the ministry, presently.

MORE FROM THE AUTHOR: OPINION: Why Were Miyetti Allah And Tinubu’s Iyaloja In Ibadan?

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Why did President Tinubu agree to set aside a new ministry for cows? My ‘infertile’ mind tells me that it could not have been anything beyond the Lagos Boy’s ambition for a second shot at the presidency in 2027. He bought the idea on a weak negotiation table. He told us that we should expect the new ministry. If he ever requires the National Assembly’s endorsement to make that happen, I bet my next salary on it: Akpabio will never use the microphone to ask: “those opposed say nay”. The Executive Bill for the establishment of Ministry of Livestock Development and other departments under it, will pass the first, and second readings, and the Committee of the Whole House, in a matter of minutes. President Tinubu will equally assent to the Bill within the hour. That is the beauty of the ‘cooperation’ between the Executive and the Legislature in this dispensation. This is the era of the you-do-for-me-I-do-for-you concept. With a pliable National Assembly as we have now, anything goes!

Back to the exclusivity of the new ministry for cows and cows alone, I have read a lot about the Solomonic wisdom in establishing the ministry. The government’s mouthpieces on the matter have told us that with the ministry in place, we can kiss the perennial clashes between herders and farmers goodbye for life. Wonderful! I have also tried to ask a few of them why all the talks about the ministry are about cows. Are there no other livestock apart from cows? What about the poultry keepers of Otta, Ogun State. What about those who own piggeries? Those who run snail farms? Herpetaria for snakes, etc? Are they going to get their own ministries? Nobody should deceive us; the new ministry is a Ministry of Miyetti Allah, for the Miyetti Allah, and by the Miyetti Allah, kagane? That group asked for it. That group got it. The group will dominate and run the ministry to the exclusion of other livestock owners! And to those asking us to clap because the ministry would end the clashes between herders and farmers, they did not see this coming!

Miyetti Allah is a typical Àkébàjé. You cannot placate it. President Tinubu had not swallowed the saliva in his throat while announcing the ambitious Ministry of Cows, when Miyetti Allah, like the Àkébàjé that it is asked for another thing. That is the way of the over-pampered child. This time around, Miyetti Allah wants something more! It wants all the governors of the 36 states of the Federation to establish grazing reserves for them in all the states. That group and its promoters have a lot in their kitty. Grazing reserve is another name for Rural Grazing Area (RUGA). RUGA, to bring it to its simplest definition is Fulani settlement in every corner of Nigeria! That is what Miyetti Allah is asking for after getting a ministry for its cows. The group is like the proverbial leper. Try to shake him and he will ask for an embrace and a kiss on the palm!

The issue of RUGA began time immemorial. However, the hegemonic civilian government of General Muhammadu Buhari gave it prominence. The word got more registered in our lexicography in the last nine years. Its younger sibling, “Grazing Routes”, was also brought to our consciousness. Miyetti Allah, nay, the North, will not stop until these two are established. And guess what, if it is established that RUGA and grazing routes will make 2027 happen for Tinubu seamlessly, he will give it everything it takes and requires! That is what ambition does. Little wonder William Shakespeare, in “Hamlet” defines ambition as “a vice of kings; is as bad as the worst thing in the world…” (Act 3, Scene 4).

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The leader of the Miyetti Allah, Baba Othman-Ngelzarma, was on the Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily last Wednesday, a few hours after Tinubu announced the establishment of the new Ministry of Livestock Development, to ask for grazing reserves in all the states of the Federation. Of course, he has the usual signature excuse of such putting an end to the seemingly intractable herders/farmers clashes! He has kind words for the would-be landlords. Herders, Othman-Ngelzarma, assured, “don’t care about land; they stay in the forest, when development reaches them, they move further into the forest”. He added that “even in the northern part of the country where the pastoralists belong, they don’t have lands.” I agree with him. Herders don’t have lands. They simply kill for lands! Kajiko? Naaji!

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I have mentioned it on several occasions on this page. I don’t mind repeating it. Tinubu’s government is at its lowest ebb because every energy is devoted to 2027! You may not like the sound of it; but that is the unfortunate truth. His’ is a pure merchandising government, very transactional in all ramifications! The holder of power today is ready to trade off anything. The race for 2027 began on May 29, 2023. This is a government of no-time-to-waste mentality. The vicious cycle will continue. Tinubu is not like a Buhari who went to sleep when the decision of who his successor would be was being taken. If President Tinubu gets his second term (which I know he will get as long as he lives), the game for a puppet to take over from him will begin immediately! You can engrave this in your mind and thank me later! While that lasts, every other thing will suffer. If you doubt this, I encourage you to do a little research on why kingdoms don’t enthrone the kingmaker. Nigeria has already boarded that bus. Disembarking is not going to be an easy task.

I love peace, no doubt. I want an end to the senseless clashes between herders and farmers. I want Nigerians, irrespective of tribe, creed and language, to be able to live in any part of the country they choose. But I don’t want the peace of the graveyard. I don’t want the constitutional right of residency that does not take cognizance of the traditions and customs of the owners of the land. I equally detest, in greater measure, a situation where the landlord becomes a tenant in his own ancestral home. The new Ministry of Livestock Development is a ruse; it cannot guarantee any peace between two opposed people! It will only give Tinubu what he wants; support of Miyetti Allah, nay a large part of the north, for his second term. It is a selfish decision, taken just for the ambition of the president.

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A government that promised prudence should not be doing this if not for selfishness. Can we imagine what goes to the new ministry in terms of finance, personnel and infrastructure! Where is the money coming from in a haemorrhaging economy like ours? What happens to the Department of Livestock in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture? Will there be a Ministry of Fishery Development in the future? A former Service Chief once told us about the profits in snake farming. Which Ministry is overseeing that? What if I decide to rear scorpions and other deadly creatures tomorrow? Will there be a new ministry for such a venture? Cattle rearing, like cocoa farming, and maize plantations, is a private business. The State has no business managing their affairs other than establishing research institutes where the operators can acquire more knowledge. Virtually all conventional universities run Faculties of Agriculture. Nigeria has more than two Universities of Agriculture, and many Colleges of Agriculture. Rather than establishing a new ministry for cows, let the money be channelled to fund more research in those faculties and colleges.

Miyetti Allah should be encouraged to embrace modern farming practices. Enough of this nonsense about RUGA, grazing reserves and grazing routes! It should perish the idea of permanent settlements in other people’s ancestral homes! Giving in to the demands of the group is akin to pandering to the unending wishes of an Àkébàjé. The new ministry is a sumptuous supper for the nation’s Àkébàjé. Tinubu needs the North to win his second term, no doubt. He equally needs every other part of the country. It is high time someone told this over-pampered few that we all own this nation, together! President Tinubu has every right to aspire for a second term. If he likes, he can manipulate the system and get a third, fourth and ad infinitum! But he should be cautious about what he does to the inheritance of the people. If they are deceiving him that establishing an exclusive ministry for the herders of the North guarantees his second term, he should be mindful of what history says about him. He should answer the name, an Ifabonmi (the Oracle does not deceive me) and add its concluding part: Eminabonrami (I will not deceive myself either). As long as Miyetti Allah remains ambulant, there won’t be peace between its members and farmers all over the country; the number of ministries created for them notwithstanding!

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OPINION: Tinubu, ECOWAS And Its Rebellious Boys

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I danced on Sunday when President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was re-elected as Chairman of ECOWAS. I rejoiced because his re-election will give him an opportunity to correct one of his errors that has made life miserable for Nigerians. And that was the way he handled the Niger Republic crisis of last year. In his acceptance speech, Tinubu asked President Bassirou Faye of Senegal and President Faure Gnassingbe of Togo, to go and appeal to Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger Republic to return to ECOWAS. I give it to Tinubu on this. This is what we say in our street lingo as one’s brain “return to factory setting!” This move, a departure from his last year’s initial gragra of threatening to fight those three countries, especially, the Niger Republic, over the coups that took place there, shows that someone is thinking in this government for the first time. The security of those three countries, known as members of the G5-Sahel region, to the peace of Nigeria, cannot be overemphasised.

When, Niger Republic, for instance, staged its coup against the government of President Mohammed Bazoum, and Tinubu was calling the meeting of ECOWAS Command Chiefs almost daily, many Nigerians warned him of the futility of those efforts. The North made it abundantly clear to the president then that a war with Niger Republic would amount to a war with the North. They explained that northerners share the same ancestry with Nigeriens. A friend who travelled to Gaidam in Yobe State told me that the CFA of Niger Republic was a legal tender in those parts of Nigeria. He said that when he bought some balls of akara from a seller and offered her a N1,000 note, the seller, in giving him back his balance, added some Niger Republic currency to the money she gave to him. Another colleague on that trip, who happens to know that that is normal up North, quickly intervened by exchanging the CFA with Naira notes! That is the affinity that Tinubu was trying to unsettle with his threat of war with the Niger Republic.

That empty grandstanding had its implications. One of them is the influx of bandits and other felons to Northern Nigeria. The least intelligent student of International Diplomacy knows that the collapse of Libya led to an increase in the number of armed men to other African countries. The Liptako-Gourma region – where the Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger borders meet – is believed to be the most ravaged by armed rebellion in recent years. Forcing Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger Republic to leave ECOWAS further compounded the problem. The simple implication is that with their Saturday, September 16, 2023, mutual defence pact, the three countries divorced themselves from ECOWAS. The pact, known as Alliance of Sahel States, was designed to defend one another against any external attack. That broke the bone of ECOWAS.

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Many who postulated that the treaty would not stand have come to realise that it was a huge mistake. The lesson there is that never threaten today’s kids with expulsion; they will leave home permanently. Now ECOWAS wants those guys back, but they are not ready to come back. Now we are in trouble because those three countries provide a shield for us from the ravages of the Sahel. From their geography, they cover us from Libya. Nigeria now must worry about the security implications of not having friendly countries as a buffer against small and big arms from North Africa, particularly Libya. That is what indiscretion can cause! President Faye of Senegal told Tinubu this much when he visited Abuja on May 15, 2024. Faye, at the meeting with Tinubu, said ECOWAS must reopen talks with the guys in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger Republic with a view to bringing them back to the ECOWAS fold. Omar Touray, President of ECOWAS Commission, amplified the importance of the return of the three countries to the regional fold when he said that Faye’s position “is in the spirit of engagement that our leaders believe should continue. Because we don’t only share borders, we share families, we share communities, and the leaders are determined to do everything possible to keep our community together. ECOWAS is not about heads of state. It’s a community of people that must stay together.”

The new ECOWAS position towards the ‘Three Rebels’ runs contrary to the argument by Folahanmi Aina, an Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, London, United Kingdom, who on October 24, 2023, barely a month after the Sahel countries signed their military pact, posited that the pact was bound to fail. His thesis is that the Alliance of Sahel States “is focused more on stoking anti-French sentiment than fighting violent extremism.” He states further that: “Collectively, these states do not have what it takes militarily and economically to fight off the threat of violent extremism, let alone guarantee the sustenance of a defense pact, given the logistical technicalities involved. Even more important is that they lack the state capacity to address the underlying root causes of violent extremism, some of which include deteriorating socio-economic conditions such as poverty, youth unemployment, inequality, illiteracy, poor governance, and environmental degradation. Their institutions are simply too weak…. The new Alliance of Sahel States is bound to fail given that it is built on a faulty foundation—a reaction to a perceived threat from France rather than a proactive posture toward the real threat of violent extremism. However, its potential to embolden would-be putschists across West Africa should not be ignored.”

The chickens have come home to roost for ECOWAS and its misadventure of threat of war. Nigeria now is in dire need of a peaceful Sahel Region if it must fight insurgency in its land and get its farmers to go back to till the land. Murtala Ahmed Rufa’i, author of the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto’s seminal series, “I am a Bandit: A decade of Research in Zamfara State Bandits’ Den”, notes that the vast forests of Sokoto, Zamfara and Niger States alone have about 60,000, terrorists with 120 commanders. The implication here is that each ‘commander’ controls 500 terrorists. If these figures are distributed to all the 19 states of the north, one can imagine the havoc this has consistently wreaked on the local populace. If Niger Republic, for instance, decides to look the other way, while felons use its borders to flux into Nigeria, your guess is as good as mine.

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This is why I think Nigerians should mount pressure on President Tinubu to eat the humble pie and personally approach the coupists in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger Republic to get them to come back to ECOWAS. This appeal is as urgent as the errand of the king. This is not the time to delegate responsibility. President Tinubu should know that his pronouncements when the Niger Republic coup happened in 2023 aggravated the ECOWAS crisis. His threat of war and symbolic meetings of ECOWAS Command Chiefs in Abuja sent the wrong signals. He who assists the tortoise to climb a tree should also be available to assist in bringing it down. This is not an assignment to delegate. Nigerians are hungry.

There are food shortages everywhere. Simple Economics says when demand is higher than supply, there will be inflation. If farmers return to their farms without molestation, food will be abundant. Adding hunger to our current litany of woes is a recipe for disaster.

“My people can no longer afford to buy a mudu of rice to eat. You will not believe it. People now prefer to eat leaves like zogale, rama, and drink water. They don’t have money to buy foodstuff!” A traditional title holder in Birnin-Gwari, Kaduna State, was quoted to have uttered these words last week.

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If anyone is in doubt that there is hunger in the land, the above quoted sentences should clear your doubt! Nigerians are becoming herbivorous daily. The Nigerian Tribune, in its Monday, July 9, 2024, edition, did a comprehensive report on “How insurgency, banditry worsen food prices.” Birnin-Gwari Local Government Area (LGA) of Kaduna State is one of the biggest LGAs in the state. It is equally, unarguably, the food basket of the state with the production of crops like maize, guinea corn, millet, and rice in commercial quantities. The council area is also described as the “most traumatised” LGA, with terrorists, bandits and kidnappers constantly on the prowl. Commuters have abandoned the Birnin-Gwari Road which hitherto served as the link between the North and the South-West because of the activities of these felons.

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Still speaking on the food crisis in the area, the report states, “Farming activities in the area have gone down as a result of banditry. Bandits have taken over the farms from the locals. The production of crops like maize, guinea corn, millet, and rice, which the area is noted for, has become history.” Sallau Ibrahim, one of the farmers in the locality, volunteered the information. In that same Birnin-Gwari, which used to be the source of food supply to the state and other states of the Federation, last week, “a bag of maize was sold at N90,000, while a bag of local rice sold at N105,000, and beans at N85,000.” Why? Ibrahim, again, explained that many farmers in the area had been killed and scores abducted by bandits who usually stormed their communities to carry out the nefarious activities without challenge. Even in places where the farmers were not killed and allowed “access to their farmlands, they (bandits) imposed taxes or levies on them before they could harvest the crops.” Those who could not afford the imposed tax abandoned their farms. The result is the high cost of food items in the markets.

The hunger has nothing to do with the voodoo economic policies of President Tinubu’s government. The Hallelujah orchestra of the government should at least relax now that they know it is not their tin god that is solely responsible for the hunger we all face. However, the Tinubu government is not totally blameless! The hunger in the land is caused not by scarcity of food items but by their unaffordable prices occasioned by the intractable insecurity across the country as well as the prohibitive costs of transporting the food items to end users! The foreign Exchange rate also has nothing to do with it. The simple issue here is insecurity. Farmers don’t go to their farms any longer. Many have resorted to subsistence farming on their available spaces around their homes. At least Madam Remi Tinubu, the wife of the president, demonstrated that in her new video of how to plant vegetables around our homes and their benefits for our “digestive track”!

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Nigeria is a huge joke. The First Lady is encouraging us to farm around our homes. I chuckled at the garrulousness of her new-found love for farming. For instance, how many residents of Aso Rock will that vegetable garden feed, and for how long? So, if we all cultivate vegetable gardens, shall we equally grow our yams, beans and run our own rice farms and mills too? What about those living in face-me-I-face-you apartments? How many Nigerians own their houses, in the first place? How many landlords will allow gardens around their property? But I love the video all the same. It gives an idea of how those guys up there thinking.

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Nigeria is experiencing acute food shortage at the moment because of insecurity. This should be of ultimate concern to those in authority instead of the promotion of gardens around our homes. If we don’t tackle those bandits, terrorists, herders and kidnappers who make farming almost impossible in the bushes, they will soon hit our towns and those Madam Tinubu’s vegetable gardens around our homes will pale into insignificance. The news report under reference here is comprehensive enough. It shows that food insecurity is not a problem of the North alone. Down South too, people can no longer farm. I stumbled on a video of herders who reared their cows into a maize farm in Ikere Ekiti the other time. Someone also sent another video of a deliberate grazing on a cassava and maize farm in Egbe town of Kogi State. The farmers in the two videos could not do anything. Millions of naira invested in those ventures got wasted. Who will persuade those victims to go back to the farm? Little wonder that in Ado Ekiti, a friend told me on Saturday that a set of five tubers of yam was sold at N25,000!

The South-East has the best of vegetable cuisines. Someone once said that vegetables were introduced to the South-East gastronomy during the civil war. Faced with acute shortage of food supply, the people resorted to eating all manners of shrubs. Some died, and many survived. The people studied the leaves that had no toxic properties while the war lasted and added them to their list of ingredients. Nigeria is not at war at the moment; but people in Birnin-Gwari are already eating leaves and drinking water because they can no longer afford the prices of the food items. These are people who used to be the producers of those items before terrorists, bandits and kidnappers took over their land. How soon will that spread to the south, if not already there? This is why our leaders should move away from the banausic issue of planting gardens to tackling the issue of insecurity that has made real farming almost impossible. Enough of egbelekokmiyo vegetable gardens in Aso Rock Villa. Let’s get our real farmers back to the land!

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Hardship In 2024: A Time Like No Other![OPINION]

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Icon-James Tam

Nigerians are known for their sense of resilience, endurance and hard work, especially in challenging times. Like years gone, 2024 has also given face to this fact.

Since President Bola Ahmed Tinubu took office on May 29, 2023, and announced the removal of fuel subsidies, prices of essential goods have skyrocketed across the country.

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Even our education system has been affected, with tertiary institutions increasing tuition fees by 100%. I withheld judgment on the daily struggles of Nigerians until after the president’s first year in office.

To my surprise, President Tinubu’s first tenure came to completion with his stumble at Eagle Square, followed by an explanation that, as a Yoruba man, he(Dobale)was paying homage, not falling. Unfortunately, this past year has been incredibly difficult for Nigerians, with the benefits of subsidy removal nowhere to be seen in terms of human or infrastructure development.

Eight out of every ten persons suffer from malnutrition, a fact painfully evident during my recent visit to my hometown Arogbo in Ese-odo Local government Area of Ondo state. The promises of renewed hope after the turbulent governance of former President Muhammad Buhari seem increasingly distant.

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Today, Buhari’s leadership is sorely missed, as hunger claims an average of ’20 lives daily’, largely under-reported by the mainstream media.

Mr. President, it’s time to live up to your reputation as a pro-democracy advocate and patriot; and live out that messiahic leadership that would salvage our economy.

A president cannot succeed if his people are not thriving. I urge you to overhaul your cabinet, your economic team and enact robust economic policies that would ensure that every citizen, every home in this nation enjoy three square meals a day.

Icon-James Tam,
Writes from the creek of Ogidigba 2,
A suburb community of Arogbo, Ese-odo LGA ,Ondo state ,

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