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2023, Nigeria’s year of Ghen-Ghen

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year of ghen-ghen

By Prince Charles Dickson PhD

Someone who has sold an old woman before knows the price of an old man

Yes, like Prophet Jeroboam, of Wole Soyinka’s famed Jero Plays, I danced with eyes closed and spoke in tongues not known to me and asked the higher powers what was in store for Nigeria; the clouds I saw were misty; it was moving like this and like that and ghen-ghen.

I saw that Nigeria would not break; Nigeria will not fail or fall because it already has. We are not united, but we are one in corruption, one in greed, one in maladministration and misgovernance. And very well united in our religious and ethnic brinksmanship.

The year 2022 was a long year, a year that a lot of us want to forget for so many reasons, and others would not forget for obvious reasons. But either way, what more can we do than be happy that we were finally able to navigate it somehow? There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic this year as well as a lot to be pessimistic about; a lot of us will be watching with an eagle eye as events unfold towards the general elections; on the international scene, the drama will certainly continue from where it stopped last year.

This essay would be a thrust of all I expect would be confronting us this year as a nation and as a people; it would be a confabulation of issues that, if tackled, can take us closer to the promised land and, if neglected, as usual, will only be ingredients for disaster and a continued slide towards doom. And the signs show that the latter is inevitable!

From the beginning of this year, we will be battling against poverty, of the mind, of pocket and sensibilities; despite seven years of reforms by the outgoing Buhari administration, we will still remain one of the poorest in the globe, despite our natural and human resources, due to human mismanagement we would be battling to sustain meaningful development, and growth that is equal to the expectations of our people.

With the emergence of the Obis, Tinubus, Atikus and co., again though subtly, we will still be concerned about tribal sentiments, ethnicity, and religion and thus, to a large extent, none of or few of us are thinking nor discussing meritocracy. Around these three evils and many more, we are likely to be subjected to more political irresponsibility, rascality and political arithmetic that further alienates the rulers from the ruled.

We shall again be fighting against negative statistics of reality; we still are likely to remain one of the poorest; the statistics would be against us, whether corruption or malaria, but we will still remain and continue to feature amongst nations with the worst badly run economies, a lot of ghen-ghen (events of crazy proportion) would occur.

We are insecure as a people, we are once more going to be constantly dependent on others after 63 years of paper independence; despite all that really and imagined rice pyramid, the rice we eat would still come from Thailand, any land but not our land, our drugs both fake and original, we have India, Germany and co. to thank for them.

This year, will we be able to make sense of our economic policies, both micro and macro, with currencies that bleach when washed mistakenly in a jean, while we say alhamdulillah for Innoson Motors, our cars, computers, clothing, ballpoint pens, all from obodo oyinbo. Will we shed off the skin of a nation that is full of contradictions, a nation of millions of school leavers without jobs, a nation of millions sick with curable diseases and ailments, a nation yet blessed with fertile land, with intelligent men and women in abundance? But being punished by a handful of crooks called leaders, being ruled by mediocres. A nation where amidst this poverty, a man would steal billions.

The issues that stop us from attaining nationhood again would include the fact that we are all hypocrites, constantly waiting for any opportunity to better Judas Iscariot in the act of betrayal, go ask Wike, Atiku and Co. Topmost is, we shall again see leaders who grew up in Oshodi, schooled in Oshodi, lived there all their lives and get elected to serve Oshodi, and the first thing on their card would be a familiarization tour of Oshodi. Our Leaders would still be exploring all means and any means necessary to steal from us.

With looting, corruption and insincerity, the ball again would be played on the pitch of underdevelopment and to think otherwise would be deceitful. In a world experiencing a time and season of global recession, our cry would still be trying to catch the Asian Tigers, even West African puppies have gone too far for comfort. Our life expectancy would likely drop further, even as more roads are likely to be unmotorable. We shall lose more kids at birth due to a lack of infrastructure while leaders and the affluent treat their stomach disorders in Paris.

More children would fail their qualifying exams, especially with all the strikes of the preceding year. With less than 50 cents a day, only the Almighty and our perseverance can keep us going.

We shall suffer the rule of idiots because sages are kept in the dustbin, maybe we will have exceptions here and there, Insha Allah, but again, it is going to be like it was; while Tafawa Balewa wanted to be a broadcaster, the powers that be thought otherwise, Yakubu Gowon was not intellectually, psychologically, temperamentally, ready but the oligarchy said it must be him. Then we had an all-knowing OBJ in his first coming who was forced on us by Danjuma, Shehu Yaradua and co.

In Shagari, it was no different, as the man that wanted just to be a Senator, a man that was not even at the Row Park venue of the NPN primaries, emerged as the winner without his consent; he was not even aware that his name was on the ballot. In 1998 fresh from prison, the Baba of Aso Rock had asked, “how many Presidents did Nigeria want to make of him” but we did not listen. We witnessed a crying Mr Buhari, who says he cannot wait to leave; he has done his best whether it is good enough will be debated because, after all, the shoeless one before him from Otueke is revered now.

The Emilokans, Unifiers, and Obidients, men who crave it, with the exception of one. These are the specs that we have to navigate this new year. INEC would be in the eye of the storm, as well as the Police, the ruling APC, PDP, the G5, EFCC, and many ruffians that the government has created.

Things could be better; Nigeria can be great if only these institutions, if men and women of goodwill, can take the bull;  if only you and I can make a concerted effort at being right in our own little way and fight in our own small corner.

The nation must emerge, or else we are wasting time again, we must fight for liberation from tribal loyalties, ethnic jingoism, religious parapoism, monetary godfatherism and many more. We will have to move a ladder up from hope and expectation to reality.

In this New Year, we have to move towards Nigeria, with Nigerians, we either continue the self-deceit and watch the nation crumble like cookies. As I welcome us into this new year, let me say that this is our nation, we are the only ones that can stop the drift; people that claim to love us are few, and many nations are watching and waiting. Let us remember that we cannot continue to massage the ringworm and leave the sore. Almighty Allah, we as a people thank You for a New Year and ask for the best, but are we working towards it—Time will tell.

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2023 Presidency: Using Your Votes to Reconstruct, Reshape Nigeria

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Mike Owhoko May Nigeria Never 9th National Assembly

By Michael Owhoko, PhD

As Nigerians file out to elect a new president on February 25, it is imperative to remind electorates that a country’s future and destiny are shaped by the choice of personality they elect as president. Entrusting a country’s leadership and resources to someone with impaired vision and dubious national disposition will be a tragedy.

In context, the Nigerian President is one of the most powerful in the world, given the scope of responsibilities and powers as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution. With 68 items on the exclusive list and mere 12 items on the concurrent list of the constitution, the destiny and future of Nigerians are in the hands of one man – the president.

Since man is a product of his thought process, the president’s style of administration will be conditioned by his character. This means that the well-being of citizens, prosperity and wheels of development of Nigeria are contingent upon the demeanour and capacity of the president.

A president with integrity and a clear national vision devoid of materialism and ethnic prejudice can change a country, as we saw in Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew. The choice of Nigerian voters should be premised on this standard. Nigeria cannot afford to entrust its leadership and resources to a colourless personality to determine its destiny.

Nigeria requires a president that is capable of steering the country away from tragedy to optimism. Prosperous nations are not configured from heaven. They are products of the selflessness and commitment of those in leadership. Electing a person without vision, capacity, integrity and empathy as president will amount to sacrificing the collective well-being of the people on the altar of incompetence.

Therefore, as you vote for the president of your choice, let Nigeria’s overall national interest guide your decision. Your personal survival depends on it. Do not allow ethnicity, religion, emotions and primordial sentiments to influence your choice. A wrong choice at this critical period of Nigeria’s democratic journey will mean further erosion of citizens’ dignity, both at home and abroad.

Incompetence, ethnic nationalism, nepotism and greed, as evident in poor management of the economy, insecurity and corruption, are factors that have kept the country prostrate. These elements are responsible for leadership failure, stunted growth, and poverty in the country. It is, therefore, critical to vote for a candidate with the requisite capacity to deliver on the aspirations of Nigerians. Failure to do this will mean no lessons have been learned from the current widespread hardship.

As a voter, ask yourself this honest question. Has your living condition in the last eight years improved or dipped? Without subterfuge, Nigeria has been on a downward swing in all critical facets of socioeconomic space. This is evident in the increasing number of those falling into the poverty bracket, as reflected in the growing penury rate in Nigeria.

The 2022 Multidimensional Poverty Index survey carried out by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), together with its partners, captured this vividly.

According to the survey, 63% of persons living within Nigeria (133 million people) are multidimensionally poor, out of which 65% of the poor (86 million people) live in the North, while 35% (nearly 47 million) live in the South.

The poor Nigerians under reference here are not politicians but a majority of the voting public. Unfortunately, the hope that Nigeria will get out of this mess soon was dashed by President Muhammadu Buhari when he asserted that he had done his best for the country, even in the face of a growing debt profile, inflation, unemployment, corruption, insecurity and capital flight. This is the mirror image of the country’s leadership capacity.

When this is juxtaposed with the recent report by the Debt Management Office (DMO) on the nation’s debt, then Nigeria is in big trouble. The DMO stated in December 2022, the country’s public debt had reached N44.6 trillion. When viewed against the backdrop of Nigeria’s revenue-to-debt service ratio, which The Economist Intelligence Unit described as the worst in the world, it means that Nigeria is in crisis. With a high debt-service ratio and dwindling revenue, the provision of infrastructure is relegated, compounding the woes of Nigerians.

Voters should, therefore, not repeat the mistake of the past. Those who voted in previous elections based on ethnic and religious lines had no inkling that their fortunes would plummet. Today, many of those voters have been humbled by the poor performance of the economy as depicted by the misery index, particularly inflation which has eaten deep into their pockets. They have become victims of their own decision.

Obviously, the wrong choice of candidates has been unhelpful to the future of this country. Check your conscience and reflect on the number of Nigerians that have lost their lives in the last eight years, either through insecurity or poor management of the economy or suicide.

Also, think about the number of businesses that have closed shop or the growing band of single parenthood resulting from broken marriages. All these have their roots in the poor handling of the nation’s economy.

As part of the consequence, there has been a mass exodus from Nigeria. Voters must note that to “japa” or flee abroad is no solution. Of all those leaving or escaping from the country to seek greener pastures overseas, only less than five per cent achieve their aspirations. Over 90 per cent of these Nigerians struggle to make ends meet, regretting the decision to relocate.

On one of my trips to London a few years back, I went to Kaycee’s Bar, a popular Nigerian joint in Holloway, where Nigerians hang out and where sometimes, Nigeria’s independence celebrations were held. While there, I met two Nigerians at the underground disco section. They begged for money, saying they were trapped and would like to return to Nigeria. I was touched and parted with a few pounds as support. This is just one of the tales and ugly experiences of Nigerians abroad.

Ironically, while the majority of Nigerians are reeling from the excruciating effect of poverty, the president, governors and other elected officials are swimming in affluence with high-quality life made possible by manipulative access to the public treasury, despite managing the economy aground. Politics in Nigeria is the surest way to break out of poverty.

Voters should know that the president and governors do not spend their salaries while in office. Their bills are borne by the government, including feeding at the government’s expense. Even members of their extended families are relocated to the Villa or government house to enjoy these privileges. This cannot happen in advanced democracies. Yet, in midst of this, the average Nigerian toil day and night to stay afloat.

At the last World Cup in Qatar, the President of Liberia, George Weah, watched his son, Timothy, play for the United States of America. It is most unlikely a Nigerian President will allow his son to play football games for fear of injuries. He would rather make his son a billionaire through the award of indirect contracts or presidential favours.

The underpinning motive of politicians is not to serve but to acquire the power to accumulate wealth. Without empathy, they multiply poverty through fiscal indiscipline and extravagance while fraudulently feeding fat on the nation’s resources. This is why voters must liberate themselves from this hopeless life of poverty and frustration caused by leadership greed and bankruptcy.

With 48 million youths out of a total of 93.5 million eligible voters, coupled with the poor, credible leaders can be elected, but politicians exploit their vulnerability, using ethnicity, religion and handouts as inducements to manipulate them. Voters should be reminded that these office seekers would move on to oil their profligate lifestyles, leaving the electorate to suffer the consequences of their choice.

Nigeria has the resources to pull the country out of poverty, but leaders are indifferent. As long as they can access good healthcare and send their children abroad for quality education, they care less about the masses who are left to contend with low-quality education, poor healthcare system, erratic electricity and bad road network.

If the resources of the country are effectively harnessed and deployed, particularly in a restructured political system which is best suitable for a plural society like Nigeria, the country will quickly recover from current economic woes. But leaders with entrenched interests are opposed to this arrangement, preferring the status quo for selfish reasons.

Voters must therefore rise in unison and vote out ethnic bigots and visionless persons without integrity and capacity as president, failing which, they have no other persons to blame but themselves. February 25, 2023, has provided another opportunity, so be resolute and courageous. Vote conscientiously to reconstruct and reshape Nigeria in order to restore its corroded dignity.

Dr Mike Owhoko is a Lagos-based journalist and author. He can be reached at www.mikeowhoko.com

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The Remittances Route Driving Sub-Saharan Africa’s Financial Inclusion

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Remittances Shahebaz Khan

By Shahebaz Khan

Remittances from overseas workers are a vital source of funds for many families around the world and are an area of payments where, for all parties involved, time is of the essence and every single cent matters.

Low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) make up the bulk of receivers of these inflows, representing $605 billion of the total $773 billion of incoming remittances in 2021, according to the World Bank. Thirty LMICs received more than 10% of the GDP in remittances, with eight receiving over a quarter of GDP through these inflows.

However, a lack of access to traditional banking facilities means that cross-border payments can be slow, risky, and expensive.

World Bank data from the second quarter of this year shows that, on average, a $200 remittance costs the sender 6.01%. Cash-funded remittances, traditionally the most expensive means of sending money, are 6.52%, while digital remittances are 4.8%. Meanwhile, when consumers have access to sufficient information, the figure drops to just 3.35%.

The past six years have seen substantial progress in the transition from cash- to digitally initiated and digital end-to-end remittances. In the second quarter of 2016, 93% of remittances worldwide were cash-initiated – six years on; the figure had dropped to 66%, with digital end-to-end and digitally initiated transactions at 13% and 21%, respectively.

By launching two innovative products that make cross-border person-to-person (P2P) payment transactions significantly faster and cheaper, Visa has also introduced sub-Saharan African consumers to a global financial network of billions of users. In the region, Nigeria received the largest sum of remittances, at $19.2 billion, followed by Ghana ($4.5 billion) and Kenya ($3.7 billion) in 2021.

In Kenya, in a first-of-its-kind market solution in Sub-Saharan Africa, Visa has partnered with ABSA Bank Kenya to launch a domestic and cross-border remittance service via the Visa Global network that will allow seamless money transfers and payments to any of the two billion-plus Visa cardholders in over 100 Fast Funds-enabled markets, in near real-time with the complete security and reliability associated with Visa cards.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, meanwhile, it is estimated that in 2021, Congolese citizens received remittances valued at more than $1.33 billion – in an economy where only an estimated 26% of the population is part of the formal financial system.

Since opening an office in Kinshasa earlier this year, Visa has partnered with a range of stakeholders, including the central bank, financial institutions, fintechs, merchants, and mobile operators, to develop the country’s digital payments ecosystem and drive financial inclusion.

With around 650 million mobile phone users, Sub-Saharan Africa is home to some of the fastest-growing economies across the globe and is a leader in the adoption of mobile digital payments, according to the World Bank and African Development Bank. Africans are making frequent transnational payments related to trade, education, and healthcare, among other things, and this service is giving them a powerful, efficient new option for transacting across borders.

Globally, according to the World Bank, remittance flows to low- and middle-income countries are expected to increase by 4.2 per cent this year (2022) to reach $630 billion. In an increasingly digital and connected world, consumer demand for fast and convenient access to funds is driving opportunities for cross-border person-to-person remittances.

By building digitally-enabled infrastructure, driving digital enablement, and fostering an open, interoperable, and secure ecosystem, the rewards of remittance innovation on individuals, communities, and businesses can be realized – driving economic growth for everyone, everywhere.

Through our global platform, Visa Direct, we are helping facilitate this growth, powering a global and open money movement ecosystem and aiding financial inclusion.

These innovative new products in Africa are great examples of how Visa is seizing this opportunity by rethinking the traditional way we receive funds, transitioning from ‘pull’ – using a card almost exclusively to withdraw funds – to a ‘push’ model where cardholders can receive payments, as well as make them.

With these products, Visa is not just making the remittance process more efficient but is introducing millions of people to connected, global platforms and accelerating financial and digital inclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa and around the world.

Shahebaz Khan is the Senior Vice-President and Head of New Payment Flows for CEMEA

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Wike and his Imminent Endorsement of Tinubu: Cain, Where is Your Brother?

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Nyesom Wike

By Okoro Chikaodiri Frank

As Governor Wike, the de facto leader of the G5, has reportedly decided to endorse the candidacy of Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), one cannot help but evoke the emotions captured in Genesis 4: 9 when God asked Cain, where is your brother?

This emotion and question are understandable, considering the political and fraternal brotherhood between the South-South and South-East and between the Ikwerre in Rivers State and their Igbos from the South-East in particular. A brotherhood that Nyesom Wike benefitted from in his two successful bids for Rivers governorship.

It is paradoxical that Wike, who is still licking the wounds inflicted on him by Aminu Tambuwal’s choice of being his brother’s keeper against a one-sided friendship of convenience with him, will now turn back to betray Obi, whom he himself described as ‘my brother’ when Obi visited him in Rumuepirikom on September 30, 2022.  One would think he learnt a thing or two from the May 29, 2022, incident, but alas, he is still indulged in the opium of political rabble-rousing and comedy shows.

What could have made Wike go back to eat his vomit, you may wonder? Simple, hate and avarice. Wike is consumed by his thinly-veiled hatred for an Igbo man and/or his success. The Oyigbo massacre, the Ikokwu saga, his opposition to the zoning of the PDP ticket to the South-East and other clandestine anti-Igbo actions and inactions all betray his emotion and motive towards the Igbos.

Any right-thinking Igboman in Rivers State is not ignorant of the aforementioned actions, and I am sure he has been patiently waiting for the opportunity to tell him that we are aware of his antics.

It is an open secret that Wike has turned himself into the biggest landlord in Port-Harcourt all within the past eight years of his governorship. He might have been dreaming of becoming the “Jagaban of Rivers State” just like his newly found political mentor, Tinubu, who, through whatever means, has allegedly turned Lagos state into his personal estate and is now believed to be going for the jugulars of the economy of our country Nigeria. This quest for ‘jagabanism’ is why he is seeking a tenure extension through his accountant and boy, Simfubara, whom he believes will be pliant enough for him to continue and achieve his aim, God forbid. Rivers people, through the support of their Igbos residents in Rivers, must refuse and resist this agenda.

Wike has done his worst; what next for the Igbo man resident in Rivers State? There must be a concerted effort to marshal out plans to remind and sensitize Rivers people, indigene and non-indigene, that Rivers’ political future is NOT and is bigger than Wike’s political future. As Patrick Obahiagbon will say, “it is visible to the blind and audible to the deaf” Rivers people will support and vote en masse for Peter Obi and Labour Party in the presidential election because Obi is by far the best candidate in the race and the candidate that represents fairness and justice without minding Wike and his egoistic endorsement.

Ohaneze Ndi Igbo, the Professionals for Igbo-Excellence that I lead and other Pan Igbo groups must wake up to the task and pay Wike back in his coin by making sure that his stooge is stopped by all means necessary.

We must get ready to defeat his campaign of calumny, which he will deploy against Obi through different means and make Rivers people understand that the N20,000 he pays them monthly is their rightful entitlement and a peanut compared to the billions being allegedly squandered for his failed and failing political venture. On February 25, Rivers people will go ahead and vote for Peter Obi of the Labour Party and “Nothing will happen”.

On March 16, during the gubernatorial election, we will ‘obey’ Wike’s voice and vote for APC candidate, Pastor Tonye Cole, who, in sincerity, is a better candidate by all standards. (Emphasis will be thrown on why we need to vote for Tonye Cole in part 2 of this series.)

God told Cain in Genesis 4:12, “You shall be a wanderer and fugitive on earth”, for daring to go against the wishes of his people, against the principle of fairness and equity, which he deceitfully claimed to be fighting for and for going against Obi’s candidacy which obviously has divine backing, it is now clear that come May 29, 2023, Wike will become a political fugitive in Rivers state and Nigeria and as Cain exclaimed; “my punishment is worse than death”, that will be the political death of Wike and his selfish calculations. He will be looking for visitors in his Rumuepirikom mansion if he isn’t cooling down in the EFCC facility.

By Okoro Chikaodiri Frank, President of Professionals for Igbo-Excellence

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