By Tunde Odesola
So much dust has been raised since Abba Kyari bit the dust last Friday. When he walked the surface of the earth, the Chief of Staff to the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), was omnipotent. He was a sociologist and a lawyer – two unique fields that expound theories and ideas in human behaviour and regulation. Kyari combined his learning with the abdication of powers by Buhari to emerge the most powerful CoS in the history of the country. James Arogbofa was the random CoS to President Goodluck Jonathan. He never had Jonathan in his pocket.
When Kyari coughed, service chiefs shivered. When he sneezed, the Office of the Vice-President got goose pimples. When he yawned, ministers clapped. When he spoke, his word came to pass. Even Aisha who belongs in the ‘kitchen and the other room’ failed woefully to turn Buhari against Kyari. She tried hard, but she failed. She employed emotion and the media, she failed. Kyari was Buhari and Buhari was Kyari. Mammam Daura, the unelected but all-powerful 80-year-old uncle of Buhari completes the comatose Fulani-Kanuri gerontocratic trinity at the apogee of Nigeria’s rulership.
Upon the death of Kyari, the land was expected to be soaked in tears. Grief and heartbreak ought to be enrobed in green and white sackcloths. Mourners should see one another in glistening tears streaming down sorrowful cheeks. Nigeria should quake in gloom. But none of these is happening; the land is not mourning Abba, the son of Kyari. The land only opened up and swallowed his body, never to be seen again.
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Haba! Since the bell tolled for Abba, the land is not soaked in tears. But the wind echoes drum beats of comeuppance and indifference. In countless communities across the land, fists punch the air. Flutes float on songs. Online and offline, many laugh and rejoice, happy that a calamity has befallen Aso Rock. They smack their lips and taunt Aso Rock to carry its pots of ashes alone. This is the tragedy of governance or misgovernance, if you like. Nigerians’ indifference to the death of Kyari is embedded in the distance between the Buhari regime and the Nigerian masses he swore to serve. The unmourning masses’ retaliatory apathy against Buhari and his hegemony is located in the numberless, undelivered electoral promises; the suffocating inaction and creepy-crawly corruption that have characterised the nepotistic administration.
I won’t mourn Abba Kyari. I won’t gloat over his death, either. For death is the iron curtain that falls with a finality before the actor on stage performs his finale. One day, some day, everyone is going to kick the bucket. It’s Kyari today, it could be me tomorrow or you, yes you, the reader, next week. Whenever I go to my grave, I look forward to being judged solely by the deeds of my hands. I don’t expect to gain eternity through unanswerable prayers by clerics for the repose of my soul. For it is appointed unto men to die once, after death – judgment. I know for a fact that no amount of eighth-day firdaus prayer or memorial commendation service will change a scarlet list of endless sins into a whiter-than-snow, paradise-deserving passage to eternity.
Tyrants, their cohorts and the ignorant will always say, “Shhh! Don’t talk ill of the dead!” Yet, they read history books stuffed with the villainies of Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden, Sani Abacha, Illiya Bisalla, Bukar Suka Dimka, Basorun Gaa, Efunsetan Aniwura, etc and talk about them. Are these villains still alive? These naysayers never stop to think that if God doesn’t want mankind to learn and talk about the dead, the Holy Bible and the Holy Quran won’t brim with the stories of tyrants.
True Christians pray daily to be like Jesus Christ, the son of God. The same way true Muslims seek to emulate the holy Prophet Muhammed (SAW). If Christianity, Islam, African religions, Buddhism etc preach afterlife punishment and reward, there’s nothing wrong in believers taking notes from the lives of departed men and women. It’s not being judgmental. It’s exploring God’s innate freewill deposited in Man. That’s why He created Man in His own image. Particularly, Jesus, in Matthew 10:34, says, “…you are gods!” Similarly, David says in Psalm 82:6, “You are gods, And all of you are the children of the Most High.”
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Kyari is dead. I’ll leave, entombed in peace with him, the legacy of his public service. The countless number of articles churned out in favour or disfavour of him since his passage amplifies Nigerians’ desire for good governance. It also shows Nigerians’ growing impatience to break away from the past stupidity of turning the other cheek and keeping silent in the face of poverty, diseases, hunger and government’s indolence. I’ll interrogate Kyari’s last five weeks on earth and attempt to show why Nigerians on the street fail to feel his demise.
Breaking the news of his coronavirus infection, Kyari told Nigerians that he had made his ‘own care arrangements to avoid further burdening the public health system, which faces so much pressure’. But Nigerians weren’t fooled. They knew that the decrepit nature of public hospitals informed Kyari’s preference for the much more efficient and costlier private hospital that he ostensibly checked into in Lagos. Public healthcare facilities treating COVID-19 patients, even now that the country’s cases are rising, are not burdened. Though sick, Kyari still engaged in the syllogism of his health.
Integrity embraces transparency. Corruption cuddles secrecy. From Europe to America to Canada, Australia and Asia, the world battles coronavirus with openness. The infection, treatment and healing of British Prime Boris Johnson; wife of Canadian PM, Gregoire Trudeau, and many global personalities were splashed online across the world. But the whereabouts and treatment of Kyari were kept away from Nigerians. The terse statement from the Presidency announcing his death was like a secret cult signal, giving no information about his age, his underlying illnesses, the hospital where he died and his family. If the Presidency says that Kyari had the right not to disclose his medical information, I’ll ask: why did he publicly disclose his infection and course of treatment?
Many Nigerians on social media hailed the coronavirus as a leveler. They said it was the first time privileged government officials couldn’t twitch their noses as they went through dingy Nigerian airports to hop on the next flight for medical treatment abroad. If governments had fixed facilities back home, the ridicule officials faced today wouldn’t have occurred. The situation got to a head for Aisha Buhari in 2017 when she lamented that the over N3.2bn budgetary allocation to Aso Rock Clinic in 2017 was money down the drain as the facility had no syringe. It’s to the eternal shame of the Buhari regime that there was no public hospital in the FCT that could treat Kyari. Medical tourism by government officials isn’t only a waste of public funds, it’s also a veritable avenue for corruption.
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Nigerians weren’t oblivious of the sheer hypocrisy in Kyari’s burial. Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, had earlier warned that the Federal Government won’t release the corpses of patients that died of COVID-19 pandemic to their families. But not only was Kyari’s corpse released for public burial, the number of the people at the burial was far more than the few people at the house party actress Funke Akindele threw for her husband. While Funke and her husband were convicted and the people that attended her bash underwent self-isolation, hundreds of potential vector-dignitaries that attended Kyari’s burial departed to mingle with the society.
Today, Nigerian masses are wiser, they’ve left eye-service mourning to politicians. To be mourned by the people, you must earn it. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, Chief MKO Abiola, Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu, Fela Anikulapo, Sam Okwaraji, you all earned your mournings by the people. Rest in Peace.
Tunde Odesola is a seasoned journalist, writer and a columnist with the Punch newspapers.
OPINION: The god that cut soap for Wizkid (2)
There’s no god-like mother, orisa bi iya kosi. A praying mother for that matter. Eyes shut wide in her bowed head, brow sweats as bosom heaves up and down while tongue speaks in supplication for her offspring to grow in wisdom, blossom in understanding, blow in success, live in health and enjoy the good life. The prayer of a mother.
Father is the mirror, baba ni digi. He’s also the unsung hero. The overworked engine. Father prays, too. But his prayers are short and practical, they are against real threats. His prayers are more physical than metaphysical.
May God hearken to the prayers of every parent on their children. The more bad the child does, the harder the parents pray. May the joy of every parent on their children not be cut short by destiny killers, like naira and kobo flogged the destiny of MohBad to death with the koboko of drugs.
It’s good. Nigerian youths are rising across the states, demanding a probe into the death of MohBad, the youngster and songster whose star dropped off the sky into the sea on noonday, a few days ago. Like many Nigerians, I know the nation’s music industry is a haven of hard drugs, but the fast-spreading #justiceformohbad movement, however, should curb the power of life and death wielded by barons, producers and record label owners. Though death has stopped Ilerioluwa Aloba aka MohBad and his promise, the awareness created by the #justiceformohbad movement will set many up-and-coming musicians enslaved to music labels free. Rest in peace, MohBad Ìmólè!
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Oak grows from acorn. Mighty grows from mite. A casual telephone call to a former colleague, Folasade, inspired this article. I was touched by the good-naturedness of Wizkid’s mother, who stayed connected to her humble beginnings. As Folasade recounted her moments with Iya Yetunde, I saw her influence in the musical works of her son.
If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it, goes a popular catchphrase. Nigeria, her youth and music industry are fast becoming broken like the rickety bicycle of the village drunk nicknamed Keke baje o seto. Nigeria needs to fix the menace of drugs. I wonder how Iya Yetunde would have felt at MohBad’s death. Like the caring mother she was, I guess she would have been shattered.
A testimony that her prayers on Wizkid were being answered manifested when her only son flew her to Dubai about three years ago for a medical checkup.
Folasade recalls, “Iya Yetunde wasn’t sick from COVID. She went to Dubai for a checkup in the heat of the COVID pandemic. Because she and her husband were very close, they went together. When she was through with her checkup, she flew back home with her husband. When they landed in Nigeria, Wizkid told their driver to bring them to his two-storey mansion in Lekki because he wanted his mother to have adequate rest. He knew friends and well-wishers would throng his father’s Surulere home if his parents went there from the airport.
“But Wizkid’s tactic failed because Iya Yetunde was a golden fish. Family and friends still thronged Wizkid’s Lekki home, and the privacy he sought for his parents became a mirage. After some days, Wizkid bought another house in Lekki, where he moved to, leaving the sprawling two-storey house for his parents. They never moved back to Surulere. She gave me a room on the middle floor where I slept when I visited while she and her husband stayed on the topmost floor. The house has a swimming pool.”
Recounting another act of kindness by Wizkid’s mother, Folasade said when Iya Yetunde visited her in Abuja, she (Folasade) cooked a pot of soup and told her to help give it to her (Folasade) son, Akinola, who was seconded by Accenture to MTN.
“My son was then working in Accenture but he was outsourced to MTN. So, when Iya Yetunde was going back to Lagos after a visit, I told her to help give my son the pot of soup I cooked. She asked me why would I want her to take a soup from Abuja to Lagos. She said she couldn’t take it. But she got the phone number of my son.
“A day later, my son called to ask if I told Iya Yetunde he was having a birthday party. I asked him why. He said she stormed his office with different kinds of dishes enough to host a wedding reception. My son said he had to share part of the various dishes with his colleagues. That was when I knew Iya Yetunde was also a caterer. In fact, she catered for MTN and other big multinationals. When I asked her why she was still into catering despite her son’s success, she said catering was her hobby, and that she didn’t want to be idle. After this, she regularly cooked for my son,” Folasade said.
Folasade, who disclosed that Iya Yetunde was quite older than her, also shared another display of humility by her. “One day, she came visiting in Abuja. She had an afternoon flight to catch and I had to go out in the morning. So, I took her to a friend’s house to stay till the afternoon because I didn’t want her to feel lonely. My friend, Aunty Funmilola, was an ex-caterer with the OSBC, she owned a school in Abuja. When we got to Aunty Funmilola’s house, I called her aside and told her to help me take adequate care of Iya Yetunde. I said she was Wizkid’s mom. She said Wizkid ko, Wizkad ni; she thought I was joking. I didn’t press it. I just left Iya Yetunde in her care and went away.
“Aunty Funmilola collected her number it was during their subsequent telephone discussions that she got to know I was saying the truth. Iya Yetunde never threw her weight around. She was honest, kind, sincere, humble and very down-to-earth.
If there are only two Nigerian Afrobeat stars who love their mothers and are proud to show it, Wizkid is one of them. The love he has for his mom shines through in the various songs and verses he dedicated to her. The song ‘Ayo’ is a special dedication to her. Also, he recorded ‘Jaiye Jaiye’ in her honour, featuring Afrobeats legend, Femi Kuti. Wizkid referenced her in ‘Pakuru Mo’ and some other songs.
Iya Yetunde never dissuaded Wizkid from doing music, she gave her blessing and support, praying, guiding and hoping he turns out well. And Wizkid didn’t disappoint her. Wherever she is now, I think she’s happy. Ayodeji omo Balogun showered his mother with love and affection as if he knew her time was petering out. My heart-felt sympathy goes to Wizkid’s dad, Alhaji Balogun, Wizkid’s elder sisters, family and relatives.
Adieu, Iya Yetunde, the god that cut soap for Wizkid.
Facebook: @Tunde Odesola
OPINION: ‘Alaafin’s Stool Is Not For Sale’
By Lasisi Olagunju
An oba is put on the throne to keep “the bush at bay.” Collectively and individually, the successful oba is praised as “so’gbó di’lé/sò’gbé dì’gboro/ oba a s’ààtàn d’ojà – the successful king is he who turns forest to home; the one who turns bush to town. Karin Barber’s ‘I Could Speak Until Tomorrow’ (published in 1991) is my book of reference here. An oba that would turn his town’s rubbish heap into a market would not be deficient in legitimacy; he would not owe his ascension to the throne solely to money and its filthy influence. A king whose reign would be well would come courtesy of the blessing of God and man. In the past, “nobody could be a good oba unless he had a very broad-based support in the town” (Ulli Beier). But royalty in Yorubaland today suffers the violence of money; money is the principal speaker that speaks and gets listened to. It is our parliament and our executive; it is the judiciary. It is true that a palace needs money to breathe; it is a necessity, but it should not be the reason for a king and his super elector.
At a project inauguration event in Iseyin, Oyo State, on Friday, the state governor, Mr Seyi Makinde, announced that the vacant throne of the Alaafin of Oyo would not be allowed sold to the highest bidder. “Those of you fighting over Alaafin of Oyo’s stool should stop. Those who have collected money from people should know that Alaafin’s stool is not for sale. The stool is very important to Yoruba land; we will not allow it sold to the highest bidder.” That was quite cool, pleasing and reassuring. The governor spoke as an authentic Yoruba patriot who understands the place of the oba as the ori (head) and what it does in the life of the Yoruba society.
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One of the most difficult moments for a governor in Yorubaland is when a prominent oba’s stool falls vacant. The skies, at that moment, wear an incandescent shroud of lightning, thunder claps and storms of intrigues. Dr Omololu Olunloyo was Western State’s commissioner in charge of chieftaincy affairs when the last Alaafin was chosen in 1970. He tells dusky stories of what went into that decision. When a first class king dies and the governor allows the lowering of his guard, his face will suffer the ugliness of pimples. Where the soil is fertile, kingmakers sell thrones for princely sums and princes of means buy stools. Shortly after the immediate past Timi of Ede, Oba Tijani Oyewusi Agbonran II, joined his ancestors in August 2007, the then Osun State governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, asked the most senior kingmaker in that town which royal house’s turn it was to present the next oba. “It is everyone’s turn” was the answer the governor got. It cannot be every prince’s turn, the governor countered the kingmaker, asking him if what he was saying was that the family of the one who just died could also present a candidate. And the kingmaker replied the governor: “Ṣebí oyè bàbá won ni” (Why not? It is their father’s chieftaincy). That final answer was a code (or a red flag) for rent seeking and rent collection – a recipe for interminable litigious crisis. The governor understood what was not said, and, I am aware, he quickly closed all roads to trouble.
Sometimes, it is the princes and their houses who run after kingmakers and assail them with irresistible cash. Throne purchasers pursue chiefs up the hill and down the valley. The same happens to key people around the approving authority, the governor. Even small me, as the governor’s spokesman, I received august visitors from the town of Ede who said they came to thank me. Thank me for what? They said I issued a statement in which I promised that government would “follow due process in filling the stool” and because of that they brought gifts. Where I come from, a child’s most precious possessions are his mother’s and father’s prayers. I got plenty of such prayers against missteps before I became an orphan, and I pray daily for those parental fortifications to dictate what I do, what I say, what I eat. My elderly guests said they brought kola nuts for me; I told them I inherited hectares of kola nut farms from my father but I don’t eat kola nuts. They fixed their gaze on me; I also looked at my ‘appreciative’ throne-seeking visitors and smiled. I showered them with rejective thanks. They left with their kola nuts in their pocket.
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Who or what should choose the next Alaafin? The answer is in tradition and religion, encased carefully in lore and anecdotes. Priest and professor of Ifa religion and a former vice chancellor of the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ile Ife, Professor Wande Abimbola, offered an insight in November 2022 in an interview published by the newspaper I edit. He told this story: “In ancient times, there was a vacancy in the stool of the Alaafin. In those days, Ifá would choose from among the princes. So they had the list of all the princes; they presented all to Ifá and Ifá rejected all of them. After exhausting the names of all the princes, the kingmakers were worried about what to do next. One of them said: ‘there is one person who lives in a village far away. He carries his load of firewood to the town once a week. He goes to the bush, cuts firewood, takes it to the town every week to sell. After selling, he would go back to the village. His name is Otonporo. Why don’t we try him?’ So they consulted Ifá if Otonporo would be fit for the throne, and if the Oyo Empire would be prosperous under his reign. Ifá said yes. At that time if Ifá had chosen you as the new Alaafin, the kingmakers would meet you in the house wherever you were. Otonporo had just put his heavy load of firewood on his head, coming to the town. They met him as he was leaving his abode in the forest. They shouted: ‘Otonporo, da’gi nùn; ire ti dé’lé kokoko’ (meaning ‘Otonporo, throw away your firewood; great fortune is awaiting you in the city.’) Otonporo became Alaafin and ruled for a long time. He was a successful king….” None of the rich princes in the metropolis got the throne; it was one hewer of wood somewhere deep in the bush who got the crown – and brought peace and prosperity to Oyo and its people.
A good leader is to his people what a good child is to its parents. When a child takes the right steps, the mother sings delightsome tunes; when a child opens its arms, it delights its father (omo sí’sè o wù’yá/ omo sí’pá, omo wu baba). Every Yoruba person should be proud of Governor Makinde’s stance on the Alaafin stool. His vow that the stool won’t be sold to the highest bidder is good news. It means we won’t have an Alaafin that has no regard for etiquette and protocols; one who routinely violates values and would be beating up other obas in private and public places. When a government makes a vow to do good, the people would be assisting themselves by helping it to get the promise fulfilled. We should be interested in what is happening in Oyo town and what will happen to the stool there. We should particularly note the governor’s choice of words. What he said was not a guess-work; he was sure of what had happened and may still happen to the process. He hinted that some people had taken money to force an unworthy stuff into the vacant ààfin in Oyo. Who took money and who gave money?
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Things happen daily around us; only that we are too blind (or too drunk) to see them. But if the eyes are attentive enough, they should have no problem seeing through the dank alleys of nostrils. It is not as if the decay in our obaship system started today. Maggots and nestling peckers have, long before now, been gutting the Yoruba royalty. Pioneer arts, culture and tradition scholar, Ulli Beier, was here from 1950 through the ’70s. He observed the Yoruba society’s unique monarchy and its democratic mainframes. He noted that in the selection of an oba, every part of the community had a say in it. He added that the Yoruba held the belief that an oba that lacked broad-based support in the town could not be a good king. In exasperation, he lamented that “now, people more or less buy the office, or they are imposed by the government.” The German uttered those words decades ago. Ulli Beier said more about the journey with so much poignancy in this narration: “In the 1950s, I met a generation of oba like Timi Laoye of Ede, Oba Adenle of Osogbo, the Olokuku of Okuku (Oyinlola) and many more. They were Christians and they understood the changed political situation. They believed in education but they were also strongly committed to upholding the dignity of their office. They also understood the value and wisdom of ancient Yoruba traditions. They were an impressive group of men, of kings. They did not use their office to enrich themselves; and they were absolutely accessible to the people. Now, you have a generation of oba, many of them political appointees who have by-passed traditional election procedures in a shameless way. A surprisingly large number of these new oba have been accountants or big businessmen before ascending to the throne. Some see the office as a means of making money. Various governments keep them in tow by throwing a few contracts their way. You now have an oba who shamelessly asks: ‘where is my envelope?’ – a new euphemism for ‘haven’t you brought any money to give me?’ So, how is Yoruba society going to cope with such problems? Should this ancient institution be abolished? Can it be rejuvenated, and, in such a way that we can keep politics out of it? Can it still play a vital and positive part in contemporary and future Yoruba society? If not, can it be replaced by something else? And what will that ‘something else’ be? Who or what will give a sense of direction and cohesion to the Yoruba town?” (Ulli Beier in Conversations, 2012; page 84-85). Beier asked the right questions: in the face of this thing we called ‘democracy’, shouldn’t the institution of obaship be abolished? Or can it be saved with rejuvenation? How? Who will save it?
The kingmakers in the Otonporo case above had a choice: they could sell the Oyo throne and strut the metropolis in accursed beaded wealth. The priest too had a choice; he could collect money and pick a candidate his oracle did not command him to pick. But both sides did not take the route to personal and communal ruin. They knew that every bad behaviour had very bad consequences. A purchased throne, most times, results in having a bad oba. And, what is the effect of having a bad king? A bad king is exactly the public equivalent of a bad head. A town can survive lack of rains but no society survives the ravage of bad leadership. Leaders without legitimacy reverse gains no matter what riches they inherit – they make bush of their society and ruin their people’s good head. Look around you. It is real. I quote Karin Barber again: “…the ruins of abandoned houses overgrown with bush, the traces of whole ruined settlements, remain as a warning that at any time, the conquest of the bush can be reversed…” True. The quickest way to reverse “the conquest of the bush” is to invest the powers of the state in the wrong hands. Athens and Sparta were Ancient Greece’s powerhouses. They convulsed and lost their luster to bad choices. The frailty of the polis is a constant warning that we must never plant thorns and thistles where rose is desired. Oba Lamidi Adeyemi died in April 2022; he was a very successful king and a pride to the Yoruba, home and abroad. When he died, the question was: who steps into his shoes and when? That we are still asking that question in September 2023 is to our collective shame as a people.
Senator Adams Oshiomhole’s Grand Strategy For Edo’s Future
By Fortune Ehis
In the heart of Edo State’s political arena, a high-stakes chess game is unfolding, and former Governor Adams Oshiomhole is making his moves with precision. Oshiomhole, a key figure in Edo politics, has been drawing attention for his efforts to shape the state’s political landscape, particularly in the looming battle for the next governor.
At the center of this unfolding drama is the agitation by Edo Central for their shot at producing the next governor. Oshiomhole, known for his godfather role in Edo politics, previously played a hand in the election of Godwin Obaseki, a governor who he later had a falling out with. Now, he appears determined to renew his influence by imposing Dennis Idahosa, the member representing Ovia in the National Assembly, as the APC flag-bearer, and Victor Eboigbe, his in-law from Edo Central, as the running mate.
However, behind these apparent moves, Oshiomhole’s true intentions seem to lie in securing Edo North’s hold on the governorship once again. He is rumored to be favoring Clem Agba as the Edo North APC flag-bearer, with Valentine Imasuen as the running mate. This move puts him in direct contention with another key figure in Edo politics, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who is also favored to fly the party’s flag.
One notable aspect of Oshiomhole’s strategy is his nomination of ministers from the state, which, critics argue, predominantly comes from his ethnic group, Etsako, without giving due consideration to other regions like Owan and Akoko-Edo in Edo North. This has sparked debates about equitable representation within the party.
Adding an intriguing twist to this political narrative is the emergence of Mary Alile, a relatively unknown figure in Edo politics. It is speculated that her husband may be tapped as Clem Agba’s running mate if Valentine Imasuen declines the offer. Mary Alile has been nominated as the National Women Leader, a position that can significantly impact the party’s dynamics.
As Edo State gears up for what promises to be a closely watched political showdown, Senator Adams Oshiomhole’s maneuvers have set the stage for a high-stakes battle for control and influence. Whether his efforts will ultimately scuttle the agitation by Edo Central or pave the way for a new chapter in the state’s political landscape remains to be seen. One thing is certain, though – Edo’s political future hangs in the balance, and Oshiomhole’s role in this unfolding drama will be closely scrutinized by all.
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