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Okowa; Leadership, Deviance and Decisiveness

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Ifeanyi Okowa Delta State

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

Although the word deviance often carries negative connotations, it is not synonymous with dysfunctionality.

Deviance is, at heart, a creative act-a way of searching out and inventing new approaches to doing things. Acts of deviance can point to areas where organizations/society/nations need to change and can result in fruitful alternatives. The chief thing to keep in mind here is that norms can have expectations. By challenging a particular norm, we can play a role in changing it.

Without an iota of doubt, the above expression by Leslie Perlow aptly captures transformational leadership prowess demonstrated in the past six years by Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, the Governor of Delta State.

This claim is evident in ways and manner he has to the admiration of many piloted and challenged particular norms lacking in the human face at both state and federal levels, and in the process played a key role in changing them.

Specifically, while it is common knowledge that the governor has recently in the state scored high points in areas such as youth empowerment, infrastructural provisions, security and peacebuilding, it is of considerable importance to underline that Okowa is presently making in-road and covering new grounds in areas that are more national in outlook.

Commenting on these new areas is the objective of this intervention.

But before then, it is important to add that decisiveness/ transformation is not new to Governor Okowa. He is transformation personified.

A medical doctor turned politician. A politician turned Administrative Secretary of Ika Local Government; Administrative Secretary turned Local Government Chairman (Ika Local Government); Local Government Chairman turned Commissioner where he at different times and places transversed about three different ministries; Commissioner turned Secretary to the State Government (SSG); Secretary to the State Government (SSG turned Senator and of course a Senator turned Governor of the state who is now serving out his second in office in that position.

Let’s look at these issues beginning with his recent call for a complete overhaul of the nation’s 1999 Constitution.

It was widely reported that the Senate Sub-Committee on review of the 1999 Constitution met recently, with Governor Okowa in Asaba, the state capital.

Surprisingly but to the admiration of all, Governor Okowa was not only decisive but emphatic in his position/demand. While he noted that Nigeria needs a new constitution, he kicked against the amendment of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

Let’s listen to him; a new constitution for the country had become necessary in view of inherent flaws in the 1999 Constitution. It’s good enough that those sent here are familiar with the zone. So, when the people speak, they would understand “But, I also wished that some persons from other zones actually had the opportunity to come here and hear the voices of our people directly, because sometimes we do not understand the extent of the pains that the Niger Delta people truly suffer in the country.

“We believe in one country and in the unity of Nigeria, but we will continue to ask for equity as a people, and I know that the people will give their opinion at the public hearing,” he stated.

The governor urged the National Assembly to reconsider power devolution to the states, review revenue allocation formula, oil derivation and state police in the amendment to enable the Chairman of Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to provide a revenue allocation formula proposal directly before the lawmakers.

He lamented that the revenue allocation formula had not been reviewed for the last 24 years, whereas it was supposed to be reviewed every five years, Okowa noted that oil-producing states had continued to struggle for the 13 per cent derivation fund, adding that oil was a wasting asset, while the environment where it was being extracted had continued to be polluted and degraded.

Away from the call for a complete overhaul to the call for nation restructuring, he again going by media reports captures it this way; the voices for restructuring have been very strong out there. Why will somebody even criticize restructuring? The only thing you need to know is that restructuring is of various facets, you only have to bring forth your arguments”.

His stand came against the backdrop of the criticisms of the Asaba Declaration by Abubakar Malami, Federal Attorney and Minister of Justice including Mallam Garba Shehu, presidential spokesman.

“I actually thought that the voices who tend to criticize the meeting failed to have an understanding. People should learn to approach things after a very deep thought rather than just looking at the surface, picking one thing and speaking about it.

“We actually came in as state governors to reaffirm our belief in the Nigerian state and secondly we do also realise that there are things going on very wrongly and there was a need to address them”, the governor said.

On the enactment of anti-open grazing laws in the state, the Governor again, scored a very high point as he berated critics of southern governors on the ban of open grazing of cattle and the call for national dialogue to restructure Nigeria.

“These were part of the decisions taken when he hosted his 16 colleagues on May 11, 2021, in Asaba where they also called for state police and devolution of powers from the Federal Government to the States.

“We owe no apologies because we spoke the truth and we thought that the truth we spoke was in the best interest of this nation. Can we truly at this moment be promoting open grazing?

“Thank God that the President was misrepresented because I have seen news headlines that the President is not opposed to the ban on open grazing. We need to begin to look into what is best for us. Where we were 50 years ago should not be where we should be today and tomorrow.

“Today, a lot of money is being spent by the Central Bank of Nigeria to encourage farmers to ensure that we are food sufficient but a lot of these efforts are lost, because of insecurity. Farmers can’t go to the farm, their crops are destroyed, they are maimed and raped and some are even killed. We cannot continue like this, because if you have a programme you are spending billions on, we must secure it and we must ensure the food security of this country.

“Ranching obviously is the only way out as is happening in other climes and it’s not impossible in this place. In some parts of Taraba State, ranching has been on for so many years and we can actually create those ranches where the cattle will have more meat, more milk and then the children can actually afford to go to school.

“We may not go into the big ranches but we can start in some form by acquiring some lands for that purpose and it may not be owned by individuals. Government can own the ranches where individuals can come and populate and pay some form of token”, the governor stated.

On power rotation in the state, Mr Governor also created new awareness.

Speaking through, Mr Olisa Ifeajika, his Chief Press Secretary, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa among other concerns noted that there is an insinuation making the rounds that the governor came to power through zoning.

That assertion, he noted, was wrong because people from other senatorial districts participated in the primaries that brought him to power. He said that there was no time in the history of the state that any primary for the governorship was allowed as an exclusive preserve of any senatorial district.

“We are all witnesses to the primaries that brought him to power, persons from the other senatorial districts in the state other than Delta North, participated in the exercise.

“There was no time in the state, particularly in this present dispensation that any primary for governorship has been allowed to be for only one particular senatorial district.

“In all the records we have, primaries had been for all comers; people from all the senatorial districts always participated in all of that.

“For the one that brought Okowa to power in 2015, we are aware that aspirants from Central and South Senatorial Districts participated, including a former minister who has become an apostle of zoning and saying that zoning consensus brought Governor Okowa to power.

He fired again; “Indeed, former Chief of Staff, Olorogun David Edevbie, came second in that race, meaning that if he had come first, there was no way they would have asked him to stay away and allow Okowa to grab the ticket on the grounds that it was the turn of Delta North to produce the governor.

“In other words, it is not true that it was zoning that brought Okowa to power; it was his person, his pedigree in politics and the grace of God. He also had, as he still does, immense goodwill across the three senatorial districts.”

In all these, Mr Okowa’s latest call on political appointees to be a repository of ideas that will end poverty and social vices in the country appears to be the most appreciated by the people of the state.

The governor while inaugurating eight newly-appointed special advisers at Government House, Asaba, noted that the times were difficult for Nigerians and that this was not the time for them to be lazy in their duties. Even as he urged political appointees to commit themselves to more work to revive the economy and create opportunities for the younger generation, he decried the high rate of youth unemployment which, he said, had driven many into self-help, leading to the current social vices in the country.

In my view, such comment/notion can only come from an honest and decisive National Leadership.

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

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Teeth Cleaning for Children and its Significance

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Teeth Cleaning for Children

Teeth cleaning is really substantial, so for children as for adults. Tooth plaque and bacteria can be removed by brushing teeth and avoiding the illnesses of gums and decay of teeth. People should brush their teeth in the morning and in the evening just before falling asleep, that is twice a day.

Parents should teach their children to clean their teeth early in the morning and make teeth cleaning an indispensable part of the list of their daily must-do activities so that this habit will stay with them when they become adults.

From what age, children should start off brushing their teeth?

Commence teeth brushing once the first tooth appears, in general beyond seven months of age. First and foremost, start to apply a mild wet cloth, as well as parents, can try cleaning the teeth using water and a mild toothbrush. Teeth are extremely significant for adults and, notably, for children. Teeth aid babies in speaking and eating, so it is significant to take care of them properly from the first months of life onward. Many children do not allow cleaning their teeth as it is an unpleasant activity for them. In this case, parents are advised to try to entertain the kid with the games on smartphones, for this a vivid instance can be the casino gaming like 22Bet Nigeria. So, as the parents adore much to play, they are able to grab the attention of children by these games and clean their teeth in the meanwhile.

The pickup of the right brush and toothpaste for kids

Children under 18 months only make use of only water during tooth brushing.

From 18 months to 6 years old, apply a toothbrush with a tiny head and mild stubble. Check out the fluoride quantity on the pack of toothpaste, it should be with a low.

Teach your kid the right brushing of teeth

Cheer your children up to be engaged in the process of tooth brushing with pleasure. Support them to adopt this skill and entitle them to brush their teeth on their own. After the age of 8, kids develop the perfect motor ability required for cleaning the tooth. Nevertheless, control over the children is mandatory until parents are assured that the kids are able to succeed in this activity and many others by themselves.

After cleaning, cheer your child up to spit out the toothpaste, rather than to swallow it with water.

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Making 2023 General Elections a Rewarding One

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2023 General Elections

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

The central interest of this piece is not to spot leadership faults in Nigeria or proffer solutions to what the present administration is not doing well to salvage the socio-economic well-being of the poor masses. Rather, the present piece is out to perform two separate but related functions.

First, as the nation races towards 2023 general elections, the piece x-rays the volume/strength with which foreign observers have in the past two decades raised strong voices against uncivil antics particularly the thorny transparency challenge that characterized concluded elections in Nigeria and the organized resentment it brought to the nation at the global stage/ exposed the nation to the pangs of sociopolitical challenges that prevent her from enthroning true democracy that ensures a corruption-free society.

Secondly, it is primed and positioned to find both practical and pragmatic ways Nigerians and particularly the present administration can use the forthcoming 2023 general election to correct the nation’s leadership challenge which is gravitating towards becoming a culture.

Aside from the fact that we cannot solve our socio-political challenges with the same thinking we used when we created it, the 2023 electoral project will among other things demand finding nations that have met the electoral challenges that we currently face, how they had tackled it and how successful they had become. We must admit and adopt both structural and mental changes, approaches that impose more discipline than is conventional.

Indeed, we are challenged to develop the world perspective in performing the traditional but universal responsibility which the instrumentality of participatory democracy and election of leaders confers on us, as no individual or nation can live alone and our geographical oneness has to a large extent come into being through modern man scientific ingenuity.

Again, with the amendment of the electoral Act that presently accommodates the electronic transmission of results, one can say that as a nation, we have made some political/electoral gains.

However, to help achieve electoral perfection in the country, there exists also, a study report which provides a link between the factors that impede credible election in Nigeria as well as made far-reaching measures that could pave way for development and orderliness in the nation’s political sphere.

The report was put together by the Centre for Value in Leadership (CVL), Lagos in partnership with the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), and supported by MacArthur Foundation. It has as title; Ethics and Standards in Electoral Process in Nigeria (guiding tools/principles).

Going by the content of the report, an election is said to be credible when it is organized in an atmosphere of peace, devoid of rancour and acrimony. The outcome of such an election must be acceptable to a majority of the electorate and it must be acceptable within the international community.

If elections are to be free and fair, laws designed in that regard must not just exist; they must be operational and be enforced. And the power of freedom of choice conferred on the electorates must be absolute and not questionable.

But contrary to these provisions, since the re-emergence of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, our country has conducted different elections. These elections have many common features and few things differentiate them.

For instance, the elections were all conducted periodically as expected. They were closely monitored by domestic and international observers, and they aroused varied contestations from Nigerian politicians and voters and they were marred by varying degrees of malpractice.

The implication of this finding is that the electoral process in Nigeria is rendered vulnerable to abuse, through massive rigging and other forms of electoral malpractices by political parties- especially by those in power as they seek to manipulate the system to serve their partisan interest.

Elections, which are a critical part of the democratic process, therefore, lose their intrinsic value and become mere means of manipulation to get to power.

This, the study noted, derogates the sanctity of elections as an institutional mechanism for conferring political power on citizens in a democratic dispensation.

As a way forward, it underlined four basic conditions necessary to create an enabling environment for holding free and fair elections. These include; an honest, competent and non-partisan body to administer the election, the knowledge and willingness of the political community to accept basic rules and regulations governing the contest for power, a developed system of political parties and teams of candidates presented to the electorates as alternative choices. And an independent judiciary to interpret electoral laws and settle election disputes.

For transparency and accountability during and after the election, INEC should; be free from any form of financial encumbrance, funding of INEC should henceforth come from the first-line charge. The commission should also be removed from the list of Federal bodies. And, the procedure for the appointment and removal of the INEC chairman and members of the board should be reviewed.

To perform its role effectively as the final arbiter of electoral dispute, and curb the excesses of the politicians, the court must possess both juridical expertise as well as political independence. There should be adequate time between resolution of conflicts and swearing-in of elected officials; section 134 (2) and (3) of the Electoral Act 2010 should be reviewed such that election tribunal cases are expedited. And finally, the court must resist the political or financial pressure and adhere strictly to the underlying legal grounds in their consideration of injunctions.

Aside from adopting or enforcing provisions requiring aspiring candidates to have been a member of a political party to address a high prevalence of defections before elections which dilutes political party growth and development, political parties should act as a bridge between people and the government and help integrate citizens into the political system. Also, they should inform citizens about politics through socialization and mobilization of voters to ensure that the decisions are made by the people.

While the report stressed that any discussion on democracy without the right to receive and impart information is empty. It, however, regretted that journalism in Nigeria with regard to its constitutional roles is not scientific; adding that Nigerian politicians have always used the media in an unwholesome manner.

To exit this state of affairs, the report urged practitioners to help build enlightened electorates as public enlightenment is a prerequisite for free and fair elections.

The Nigerian Broadcasting Commission, private and state-owned media outlets should strictly enforce, and adhere to regulations on media neutrality and take steps against hate messaging and misinformation in the media. The media should uphold the ethos of providing accurate and factual information to the citizens at all times.

While this is ongoing, the Nigerian Police Force should be guided by,  and conform to the appropriate principles,  rules, codes of ethics, and laws governing police duties especially in relation to crowd control and use of firearms. They should maintain impartiality and eschew partisanship or discrimination between the ruling and non-ruling, big or small.

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

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Money, Society, Development and Economics

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By Nneka Okumazie

For some people, all they will ever become is what money can make them.

For them, the power of everything money can do makes everything about money.

They often measure to money and measure for money. They talk for it and ensure it is what is seen about them.

Many of these people have money above all culture in some of the countries the people there have described as unbearable.

In most of these countries, the same reason government does not work is the same thing outsiders are about, bringing the country to a contiguous halt.

Government is all about who can grab for self and interests, around power, resources and money.

This same reason is why many organized crimes exist and several kinds of harmful practices across the private sector.

Money will never develop any country. Though some continue to say money is what is lacking.

Money will never change anything about anyone because if there are real changes at any point, money may have enhanced it but was never cause.

Things that look like changes that money made does not change; they are just more of how money keeps itself important.

For many things done because there was money to do it, they are many times purposeless. There are also others that should be been important, but because money was more important in that project, it also became purposeless.

If in some developing country, someone lives in a nice apartment or drives a cool vehicle, making that individual seem important, the importance of the individual is to whom, and what purpose does it serve, and for what it serves, what does it change, affect or improve?

The comfort that is lived in many of these places is a false peak.

It keeps them there and there is rarely much else to find meaning for.

Money continues to dictate how to be seen to have it, going around in circles, absent of progress, but ensuring participants are unaware.

Money, for what it can, makes people become a sunset. Money stays important using people as tools to itself.

[Ecclesiastes 6:7, All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.]

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