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Delta 2023: Between Calculated Risks and Political Suicide

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Political Suicide

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

Spaced out from prevailing indices/situations in Nigeria which reflects the fact that things are not as good as we might wish them to be, let me underline that this piece was inspired by two separate but related occurrences.

The first was a recently held focused group discussion in Asaba by some concerned Deltans to among other critical issues shop as Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s successor a development-minded Deltan who understands that when ‘public sector achievements pick up speed, the increased pace extends to the activities in other sectors.

The second has to do with a proposition by a well-informed Deltan, who while reacting to one of my recent interventions titled; ‘Delta 2023; why Justice and Equity Must Prevail Over Sentiment’, noted thus; it may pay more if the position of the governor is placed on merit than unnecessary sentiment in Delta state’.

For clarity sake, the referenced piece above was inspired by and dwelt primarily on the agitation by Ijaw leaders of Delta State, that their ethnic nationality must produce the next governor of the state in 2023, as they have made huge sacrifices, contributing to the socio-economic sustenance of state and supported other ethnic nationalities over the years emerge governors in the state. Heightening the imperatives of the piece as it were, was that the declaration came at a time when another ethnic nationality in the state, the Urhobos of Delta Central Senatorial zone is also of the views that the year 2023 is their turn to produce the governor. Their position was predicated on the ‘alleged political power rotation arrangement in the state between the three senatorial zones’.

However, despite the validity of these claims/counterclaims, mountains of superior evidence presently abound, if only sought for, that argument constructed around natural resources ownership/contribution or zoning arrangement as a justification for demanding leadership positions can only translate to political suicide and a move devoid of calculated risks. In fact, it can no longer hold water when faced with embarrassing facts.

Certainly, if we are to survive as a state, Deltans must depart mundane and parochial senatorial/tribal considerations and seek as a governor some that can serve and save the people as well as engineer economic prosperity of the state via effective management of these much-admired resources.

More particularly, in order to throw up a creative governor to sustain Governor Okowa’s developmental tempo in the state, the state needs a more liberal and sophisticated leadership recruitment approach anchored on merit and international best practice, that will not only but place the state in the hands of a vibrant technocrat.

Going by the above and looking at the calibre of Deltans angling to succeed Okowa, their credentials and achievements, this piece proposes that Deltans look at the direction of Afiesere, Ughelli North local government area of Delta state born David Edevbie.

The choice of Edevbie by this piece is anchored on two broad critical reasons. The first has to do with the public leadership experience that is delta state-specific. The second focuses on education and professional expertise.

Being with delta state public leadership, the state in material terms qualifies as a location that has left behind third world challenges of illiteracy and poverty, to become a successful centre for the dissemination and distribution of best human capital resources across the nation. And blessed with people that have through hard work, planning, established themselves in all sectors-finance, science/technology, sports and education among others. In view of this fact, governing the state will call for personalities capped with a global mindset and exposure. This claim is evident in its profile that will be made available in subsequent paragraphs

Secondly, the state, to use the words of Governor Okowa, is a microcosm of Nigeria because it is populated by different ethnic nationalities. It has had inter-ethnic conflicts/clashes, fatal boundary disputes, especially over oil-bearing land, and political tensions’.

It will, therefore, in my view be highly rewarding to bring in as a governor, a personality that has been with the government of the state since 1999. He not only understands the story, but he is conversant with such challenges and has been part of the solution in the past two decades. We must not fail to remember that leadership is but nature and nurture.

Concerning his work credentials, it presents something alluring.

Edevbie going by information at the public domain-joined Barclays Bank Plc, the UK as a trainee and 1988 and 1992, rose to the position of Manager’s Assistant, Corporate Lending while in late 1992, joined Hill Samuel, a U.K. Merchant Bank, as an Investment Banking Executive. In 1995, David, joined the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC), UK (CDC Group) as an Investment Officer responsible for Asia & Pacific Regions. And was in 1996, promoted to Deputy Country Head, and was responsible for establishing the CDC Philippines Office. Again, in March 1998, the Edevbie returned to the London Office and was promoted to Investment Manager. This time around capped with significant project finance expertise having participated in several high profile project-financing transactions.

In June 1999, he was appointed Commissioner for Finance and Economic Planning, Delta State. Where he transformed work attitudes and computerized the operations of the Ministry. And at the end of Chief James Ibori’s first tenure in office in 2003, took a break to attend the prestigious Harvard Business School Advanced Management Programme to prepare himself for higher responsibilities.

He was invited in late 2006, by one of the PDP Presidential Aspirants, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to join his small campaign team as Director of Finance and Strategy and Yar’Adua was elected President in April 2007.

In recognition of the significant role played in the Presidential Campaign Organization, President Yar’Adua, in 2008, appointed him as Principal Secretary to the President (PSP) to take over the responsibilities of the out-going Chief of Staff. And performed prominently well in the Presidency until shortly after President Yar’Adua’s death in April 2010.

Finally, this piece will again underline without failure that if an accelerated economy is our goal, if social and cultural development is our dreams, if promoting peace, supporting our industries and improving our energy sector forms our objectives, then, we must look beyond ill-will, socioeconomic contribution and ethnic specificity, and go for a vibrant technocrat like Edevbie with a capacious mind to build on Governor Okowa’s achievements. If elected, he will likely preach and practice development principles.

But for us to offer merit on the altar of ethnic consideration could only but amounts to political suicide.

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374

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Feature/OPED

Still on Nigeria’s Electricity Crisis

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Nigeria's electricity crisis

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

Similar to history, which according to historians, is an unending dialogue between the present and the past through a continuous process of interaction between the historian and his facts to assist the anxious enquirer improving the present and future based on a clearer understanding of the mistakes and achievements of the past, the conversion on electricity power supply challenge in the country has like history, become neither unending nor abating.

Essentially, the first half of this recurring circle was captured recently in my piece titled FG’s Assurance on Generation of 25,000MW Electricity, as it explains why Nigerians are no longer comfortable with assurances from the federal government, the present piece which qualifies as the beginning of something new was elicited as a response to a declaration by Garba Shehu, the presidential spokesperson.

Shehu, who spoke in an interview on a Channels Television programme, Sunrise Daily, among other things stated; that President Muhammadu Buhari has greatly improved electricity generation in the country, he concluded.

Let’s face the fact; he spoke convincingly with actual authority that flows from the position that he occupies. However, the only difference here is that, unlike history, his run on fact, particularly his fervent belief that the outlook of the nation’s electricity remains good, in the face of the current epileptic power supply and unjustifiable high tariff regime in the country, has not in any way advanced our conversation on or assisted the nation’s quest to find a quick solution to its electricity/energy crisis.

Let’s face the fact; it is true that the 2005 Power Reform Act (EPSR, ACT of 2005), which provided for the privatization of the power sector did not go far before President Olusegun Obasanjo administration left office in 2007. Yes, it is also true in parts that the present frustration in the sector was further fed by the reality that the current federal government as noted by Garba Shehu during the interview, inherited reckless privatization of the power sector done by the Goodluck Jonathan administration (the roadmap for power sector reform of 2010), Despite the validity of these claims, yet, Shehu’s analytics for reasons did not go without opposition.

First, enough evidence supports the fact that no administration in the country, not even the present Muhammadu Buhari led federal government can boast of clean hands when it comes to Nigeria’s electricity crisis.

Without going into analysis to establish how culpable each of these administrations appears in this case, one point, in my view, that mustn’t be overlooked when discussing the power/electricity crisis in Nigeria is that the challenge has nothing to do with privatization. It is neither fuelled by the desire to fashion an authentic roadmap for restoring the health and vitality of the sector nor is it the function of the current effort to bring about a new tariff regime.

Rather, it’s simply and squarely a conceptual problem of what successive federal government has been doing which has never been in the best interest of the people, the nation and the sector.

Very fundamental of the challenge is the operation of the obsolete grid system, an arrangement where the power generated in the country is pooled/assembled or channelled to a control/switch centre before it is finally distributed to consumers across the nation.

Aside from qualifying as a clumsy arrangement and operated in an environment laced with outmoded transmission lines and facilities that cannot hold supplies over time, the practice itself, going by what industry watchers are saying, is not only out-fashioned, old-schooled but visibly runs contrary to the global vision/model which presently favours decentralization of energy generation and distribution.

In my view, energy/power centralization has never assisted the socio-economic development of any nation desirous of making headway industrially.

There exist yet another frustration, this time around fuelled by painful consciousness that instead of acting as energy sector regulator, successive administrations’ for yet to be identified reasons choose to function in the nation’s power sector as both ‘ captain and coach’,- owning shares in Gencos, Discos and TCN.

This state of affairs occurred in spite of part breaking studies that suggest that the private sector is likely to better understand the location and nature of market failures/bottlenecks/barriers that inhabit the energy sector.

It was also argued elsewhere that the government capacity to design and execute an appropriate resolution of identified market failure/bottlenecks is the sector is often always laced with controversy.

From this  ‘unrelenting’  failures/failings on the part of policymakers to define the business of power generation and distribution in the country and lack of clear strategy for penetrating it profitably, or allow conventional market forces to determine electricity tariff regimes in ways that will lead to the realization of economic rights of the investors while expanding fundamental freedoms and choices of the individual consumers; and with government, unwillingness to follow swiftly, the ‘changing needs of time’, which of course are the sufficient ingredients of foresighted decision making and condition that every leader desirous of success must constantly fulfil, it obvious that the nation’s handlers have finally left the survival of the sector to chance.

As we know, anyone that fails to search for his potential leaves his survival to chance

Again, it is weak regulations and untidy oversight such as these, that largely promotes a situation where according to a commentator, an electricity consumer buys pole, cables, meter and contributes money to buy or replace the community transformer; and, as soon as that is done, they automatically become the Disco property and the electricity distribution companies will, without taking the meter reading, send outrageous estimated bills he/she never consumed.

That is not the only apprehension. There exists also some unforgivable abuse of trust within the sector.

The first that comes to mind is the recent report that the Senate Committee on Public Accounts has begun the investigation of N14.7 billion proceeds of privatization of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) allegedly hidden in commercial banks by the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE).

The committee is acting on an audit query in the ‘Auditor-General for the Federation’s Annual Report on Non-Compliance/Internal Control Weaknesses Issues in Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria for the Year Ended 31st December 2019.’

Before the dust raised by the above worrying/worrisome development could settle, another was up. This time around has to do with a new awareness of how TCN, DISCO’s Inefficiencies Caused Electricity Generating Companies to about N120.25 billion to stranded power which averaged 2,448.50 megawatts every month in 2021.

According to industry data cited by Business Standards, an average of N13 billion was lost every month by generating companies. This is the total monetary value of the volume of electricity generated by generating companies but which unfortunately could not get to consumers either due to infrastructural problems or because they were rejected by distribution companies for fear of not being able to recover the money from consumers.

What the above development tells us is that it is a difficult venture to implement meaningful changes when institutions are the cause of the problems in the first place.

It also suggests that engineering prosperity without confronting the root cause of the problem and the politics that keeps them in place is unlikely to bear fruit as the institutional structure that creates market failure will also prevent the implementation of interventions.

To catalyse the process of serving the sector, we must recognize that what we need today, perhaps, is not a new theory, concept or framework, but people who can think strategically with a balanced perspective.

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), a Lagos-based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). He could be reached via Jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374.

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Advancement, Money, Transcendence and Vanity

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Money truck going over a cliff

By Nneka Okumazie

The progress that a country makes does not depend on what some individuals can afford. That an individual can have something or afford it does not mean that the happiness the individual now has would become useful to development.

There are countries in the world with people whose priority is to be able to afford high-end things. The acceptance of their society is about that – not about making it, or how it was made, or how to make extraordinary things that people would want, in future.

Money is the global standard of success, but the availability of money is not the eradication of problems. Most developing countries in the world with complex problems have internal and external revenues, with people of means, but low to zero probability of solving their own problems.

Money is its own pet, necessary for continuous tend. Those who have it live for it and are its subject, those who don’t, want and serve for it. There is normalcy to continue to make money, but many people, decades and decades ago, who did, and lived for it, rarely transcended its shackles.

They are gone. Their time and pleasures are gone. What it was to be what they were is forgotten. Their conflicts, bias, strife and competition are all past. Many left without leaving lessons. There is no difference between some of those who had now forgotten, and others who didn’t, also forgotten.

In a world where sudden death is possible, money should not be this important. Knowing that void can become of anyone should make the total war for advantage to money or resources less important. Time passage also, is a lesson, as some fade off, after being in the centre stage for years.

Money should have been a tool mostly adapted to progress, not as the meaning of life. The loss that the place of money is, to life, is unquantifiable. There are people who have things and that is all for them. Pride, arrogance, discrimination and irritation are tosses of money.

The preeminence of capitalism paved way for intense use of technology, contributing in part to unprecedented loneliness, dissatisfaction and gross sadness. Money is the centre of most technology contents, to make or to show, drawing those trying to make or looking to show.

When it was said that all is vanity, there is a point where the money for the sake of it, is included. Progress, real useful advancement carries more meaning than money for things, status or class.

Lack of money is what can make people brand others danger or stranger. The thing about network or connection is not about integrity or purpose, but mostly about who has money or who is close to it.

There are lots of talks about the end of the world, but the world has long driven over the cliff with money as the one true throne everyone bows before.  Those who should have understood more about the risks of money supremacy are blinded by it. Those who understand nothing about its emptiness are controlled by it. The position of money in the world is greater than all people, nation, government, work, school, knowledge, all. Money may be the main, unbreakable hex.

[Psalm 144:4, Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away.]

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Feature/OPED

Germ Traps in the Kitchen

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SweepSouth germ traps in the Kitchen

From fridges to coffee makers, these are 5 germ traps in your kitchen.

We all want our homes to feel sparkly clean, but there are some areas that may not be making it onto your household chores list.

Aisha Pandor, whose on-demand home services company SweepSouth helps people to keep their homes spotless, lists the places we often forget to clean.

In a study by global health organisation NSF International looking at where the highest concentration of germs can be found in the average household, three of the top five germ hot spots were in the kitchen – which leads to the first area that needs a good clean.

The back of your fridge

Topping the list of places in the home that rarely gets cleaned is the back of the fridge – that’s the exterior back, not inside! The coils located there work to cool the air down, but they can’t do so efficiently if they’re coated with grime. To reach the coils, Aisha advises you to unplug your fridge, pull it away from the wall and gently brush off any dirt and dust on the coils.

Do this annually and it will help you save on power costs. A fridge is one of the top energy-using appliances in the home, and simply cleaning its exterior coils can reduce the amount of energy it uses by up to 30%. Remember to leave space between your fridge and the wall once you’ve pushed it back into position, to allow air to freely circulate.

Backsplashes

Tiled backsplashes are often overlooked during cleaning, but they’re notorious for attracting grease and grime. That grease acts as a magnet for dust and dirt, says Aisha — not exactly the type of environment where you want to be preparing food.

To clean backsplashes using natural products, mix two cups of distilled white vinegar with a cup of water and 15 drops of eucalyptus oil. Dab a cloth into the mixture and rub over the tiles to clean. You can use this cleaning mixture on any shiny non-porous surface, like sinks, too.

Ovens and hobs

At the very heart of the kitchen’s food preparation, ovens are prime real estate for germs. Clean the interior regularly, and line the bottom with foil to catch any drips and spills. When the foil becomes grimy, simply peel off and throw it away.

It’s not just the inside that needs cleaning, though — stove knobs are in the top 10 for common places where germs hide. To clean, remove the knobs and wash in hot soapy water. Rinse well, allow to dry, and reinstall. On a gas hob, dismantle the gas rings and clean separately in hot soapy water.

Can opener

Chances are that you seldom take a close look at your can opener, yet it’s surprising how grimy this kitchen aid can become. Can openers can harbour bacteria like salmonella and e.Coli, and should be washed after every use to clean the gears and cutting wheel.

Dry thoroughly to prevent rust. If there’s a build-up of dirty residue in your can opener’s wheel, Aisha has a nifty trick to clean it: simply clamp the wheels onto a piece of dry paper towel and turn the handle to get rid of any gunk.

Coffee maker cleanse

Coffee machines’ water tanks or reservoirs usually have lids to stop dust, dirt and insects from getting in. However, a study by a health organisation, NSF International, of where the highest concentration of germs can be found in the average household, showed that coffee machine water tanks are the fifth most germ-ridden place in the house.

A tank’s moist, dark, location is a prime place for germs and bacteria to grow. In fact, the study discovered that 50% of households had yeast and mould in their coffee maker water tanks, and one in 10 had traces of coliform, a bacteria found in animal and human faeces that can cause gastrointestinal upset and flu-like symptoms. If you regularly make coffee, Aisha advises that you rinse the water reservoir regularly — if not daily, at least every week.

While experts do say we need some exposure to germs to help build strong immune systems, we need to limit being around germs that cause serious illnesses, says Aisha. By cleaning the above areas regularly, you’ll help keep your kitchen more hygienic and safer.

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