By Yemi Adeowale; email@example.com
A vibrant opposition party is a necessity in any genuine democracy. It is essential for its success. The developed democracies in Europe and America owe their feat to this essential ingredient. This is what is lacking in our democracy today. Our dear nation is fast turning into a one party state, with every Tom, Dick and Harry trooping into the ruling All Progressives Congress. Those who fought for this democracy and are sincerely interested in the progress of this country must consistently stand for a vivacious opposition party. This is why I am concerned about the spiteful situation of the supposedly opposition Peoples Democratic Party. It has been in turmoil for almost two years, largely due to self-induced problems and the mediocrity of our judicial system.
This country needs an energetic opposition party that can keep the ruling APC on its toes. For now, it is only the PDP that is capable of doing this. The APC knows this and truly wants the PDP dead. I am convinced that the fifth columnist stoking the PDP crisis is the APC. Security agents’ sealing of the International Conference Centre, Abuja on Monday, hitherto announced as the venue of the PDP stakeholders’ meeting is a clear pointer to this avowal. This flagrant manipulation of critical institutions of democracy is not only dangerous, but depraved for Nigeria’s democracy.
I have taken time to study the issues and key characters in the PDP crisis. I don’t think this is the time to start apportioning blames. However, one fact that has been so difficult to run away from is that those that matter in this party don’t want the reinstated national chairman of the party, Ali Modu Sheriff. A very close look at the big names at the stakeholders’ meeting of the party on Mondayreflects this. Virtually all the key organs and bodies of the party are clearly averse to Sheriff. The founding fathers of this party are unenthusiastic about the chairmanship of Sheriff. The fact that the party’s Board of Trustees is solidly behind the Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee is a clear pointer to this. Just as former Vice President Alex Ekwueme remarked recently, “The party opened its doors to some people who did not know how it was formed to hijack it.” Ekwueme did not mention any name, but any right-thinking person knows those he is talking about. Those around Sheriff are largely charlatans and political-rent collectors. I don’t need to mention names here. We all know them.
The reinstated PDP chairman has been all over the place, saying if need be, he is ready to relinquish his office for peace to reign in the party. “I am determined to make my honest contributions to the success of this party. I am ready to make any sacrifice for the success of this party. We don’t want PDP to lose elections again. We need people to patronise our party. Democracy is about people, you either give them their right or they leave. What we are trying to do is to give the party back to the people,” remarked Sheriff. This is the time to walk the talk. If the PDP is to achieve all that Sheriff listed, then, he must step aside immediately and allow the caretaker committee to function. PDP needs an untainted and credible leadership to effectively play its role as an opposition party. Sheriff cannot lead the PDP because of the many issues around him. When the average Nigerian sees Sheriff, what readily comes to mind is Boko Haram. Many see him as a symbol of terrorism. It could be a perception but it can’t disappear in years to come. This is the reality Sheriff must face if he truly loves the PDP as he wants many to believe. A large number of Nigerians will surely not patronise the PDP, with Sheriff at the helms for a short or long period.
Last Sunday, I heard Sheriff reiterating that he was invited to come and lead the PDP and that he gladly accepted it. Now that those that asked him to come and lead have now told him to leave, he should also gladly honour this by stepping aside. Sheriff is clearly not qualified to lead Nigeria’s main opposition party. He has to step aside, in order to urgently reposition the PDP and halt the mounting tide of opposition within its fold. His emergence has divided leaders of the party and divided the rank and file. If urgent steps are not taken to halt the slide, the party may not recover from it. Sheriff has to make room for someone who would be a unifying factor – instead of the divisive factor that he has become.
This morning, I want Sheriff to deeply reflect on the statement of a
member of PDP’s Board of Trustees, Chief Bode George, who said: “Handing back the leadership of the party to Sheriff is a step backwards from repositioning the PDP. The judgment reminds me of the decimation of the old Action Group and that does not portend a good omen for democracy. Entrusting the leadership of the party to Sheriff, who has yet to learn the ropes, understand the terrain, the culture and customs of the party, is a dark day for democracy in Nigeria. Sheriff’s faction lacks the capacity to do a proper opposition job.”
The Ugly Side of $1bn Bond
It is disheartening that virtually everything has been reduced to propaganda by the ruling APC. The completed $1 billion Eurobond sale has suddenly been turned into an achievement. The oversubscription to the tune of $ 7.8 billion at an interest rate of 7.88% is being celebrated as if we are getting free money. For those who don’t know, a bond is an instrument of indebtedness of the bond issuer to the holders. Nigeria has simply borrowed money from a certain class of investors abroad and agreed to payback these funds after a specific period of time and at a given interest rate. We have borrowed with the promise that we will pay back in 15 years and at an interest rate of 7.88%. By the time this country exits this bond, we would have conservatively paid an additional $1 billion as interest. This bond was issued in dollars; therefore Nigeria must pay back in dollars. The interest could go higher as the Naira plummets. So, they have simply pushed Nigeria to continue wallowing in more debt.
Again, what is the big deal about $1 billion in relation to this country’s infrastructural needs? $1 billion is just a dip in the bucket relative to Nigeria’s infrastructural needs. We are at a level that we now celebrate this meager $1 billion loan in a ridiculous manner. Years back, it was estimated that about $14 billion would be required to bridge our infrastructure deficit. We would probably require about $100 billion to do that now.
Governor Ikpeazu Should Treat Teachers with Dignity
Teachers in public primary and secondary schools in Abia State have been going through hell under Governor Okezie Ikpeazu due to huge unpaid salaries and allowances. They were on strike for almost two months until about three weeks ago. It is a shame that those responsible for shaping the future of our children are being treated with disdain, while Ikpeazu and his cohorts are living well. Many will be shocked to know that Ikpeazu spends millions of Naira maintaining two clubs – Abia Warriors and Enyimba – in the Nigerian Professional Football League, yet, salaries of teachers are irregular. Things like football clubs should be private sector-driven. That is the standard in sane societies. Ikpeazu must do away with frivolities and give the welfare of teachers and other civil servants priority attention.
Retired Abia civil servants are also going through hell, thanks to the tedious and unending verification of pensioners. The daily process has been cumbersome, unfriendly, rigorous, stressful and harmful to the health of these retirees. Ikpeazu should come up with a better way of doing this to reduce the pain of the pensioners.
Searching for Foreign Investors Amidst Insecurity
The President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Dr. Nike Akande was apt, when she remarked that the raging insecurity across Nigeria was doing a lot of damage to investor confidence and Foreign Direct Investment. The LCCI boss stressed: “There is the need for Nigeria to address this challenge speedily to make the business environment more secure. Security of life and property is a very critical factor in the investment environment. Managers of the Nigerian economy, as a matter of urgency, must prioritise developmental efforts in addressing the security situation in the country. The country has been grappling with security issues bordering on terrorism, religious and ethnic crisis, attacks on oil installations, kidnapping, armed robbery, attacks by herdsmen and the likes. The impact of these security challenges on business is phenomenal.
I just hope our governors and federal government officials that are persistently travelling abroad in search of investors will listen to Akande and do the needful. This idea of wasting resources on bogus trips abroad in search of investors must stop. We must put our house in order before going to look for foreign investors. In fact, foreign investors are the ones that will come looking for Nigeria, once there is an enabling environment.
Deceit in Southern Kaduna Continues
Southern Kaduna is brimming with security operatives, yet it remains a killing field. This week, 21 people were killed in fresh attacks in four communities by suspected Fulani herdsmen. Several houses were also reportedly burnt in the attacks. The affected communities were Ashim, Nissi, and Zilan in Atakad District, Kaura Local Government, as well as Bakin Kogi, Goska District of Jama’a Local Government Area. These killings will most likely continue if the federal government fails to take proactive action in line with the wish of these traumatised people. This job should not be left alone to the biased government in Kaduna State. As a first step, only security agents from outside the region should be used for operation in this area.