By Lekan Adetayo
Shortly after I arrived at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Monday morning, I received a message that the Chief Security Officer to the President, Bashir Abubakar, would like to see me in his office. What came to my mind immediately was that it was the Presidency’s Media Office that interfaces with journalists and not the CSO. I felt I should inform the presidential spokesmen before honouring the strange invitation.
I proceeded to the office of the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, and informed him of the invitation. Adesina advised that I honoured it and updated him on developments. The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, was not in the office at the time but I contacted him on the telephone.
On getting to the CSO’s office, he was initially polite. He offered me a seat and asked how I was doing and I replied I was fine. He then first confronted me with my column, Aso Rock Lens, published on Saturday, April 22, 2017. He was angry with one of the items in the column titled ‘Seat of power’s event centres going into extinction’. In that piece, I highlighted some places in the Presidential Villa that hitherto had hosted high-profile events. I wrote that lately, events had not been held inside the halls. He said I was insinuating that government had collapsed in Nigeria.
The CSO then brought out a copy of April 23, 2017, edition of SUNDAY PUNCH. He was visibly angry about the lead story titled ‘Fresh anxiety in Aso Rock over Buhari’s poor health’. That story was about how the President had not been seen in public in the last two weeks except when he made brief appearances at the mosque inside the Presidential Villa for Juma’at services last Friday and penultimate Friday. That story included the reaction of Adesina, who said the President was recuperating and that the prayer of all was that he recovered fully soon.
The CSO queried the motive behind the two stories.
He told me that the President was free to rule the country from wherever he liked. He said the stories were meant to portray the President as incapacitated and that it had to do with the politics of 2019.
He told me he would take me to the President’s official residence to see him and then tell him (the CSO) if Buhari was incapacitated. He never did that.
Abubakar added that if God had sanctioned it that Buhari would rule the country for eight years, no man could stop him. He made reference to the fact that people who were not even sick died daily.
The CSO thereafter directed one of his men to take my statement and revert to him. The man took me to his office. I wrote in the statement that I had no ulterior motive in writing the stories in question. I was updating presidential spokesmen of developments as earlier agreed. The gentleman took my statement and I returned to the CSO’s office.
On getting there, Abubakar asked the Officer-in-Charge of the Department of State Services, Victor Nwafor, to seize my accreditation tag. He said he should escort me to retrieve my personal belongings from the Press Gallery and then leave instructions with security operatives that I should not be allowed access into the Presidential Villa again.
Nwafor carried out the assignment dutifully. He passed the message to the security officials at the Admin Reception and then handed me over to another security operative who he instructed to do the same thing at the Pilot Gate before escorting me to where I parked my car to ensure that I left the premises immediately.
I was driven from there in a security vehicle. At the Pilot Gate, the gentleman assembled all security operatives there and delivered the message to them. I caught one of them, a policeman, snapping my photograph with his telephone handset and I protested. I told him I am not a criminal and he has no right to snap me. He was apologetic and attempted to show me the handset to prove that he had deleted the picture but I told him I was not interested in his claim.
I was driven in the same security van to where I parked my car and I drove out of the Presidential Villa from there.
The CSO had penultimate Thursday had an interactive session with members of the State House Press Corps, during which he handed them guidelines on how to report the Villa.
He had also in January complained about a story on an accidental discharge that injured a female worker at the State House. Although all national newspapers reported the incident, he singled out The PUNCH and Daily Trust.
His argument was that the story was not informative, educative or entertaining.
2023 Presidency: Using Your Votes to Reconstruct, Reshape Nigeria
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
The Remittances Route Driving Sub-Saharan Africa’s Financial Inclusion
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
Wike and his Imminent Endorsement of Tinubu: Cain, Where is Your Brother?
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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