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Buhari and Jonathan

The ongoing probe of the immediate past administration by President Muhammadu Buhari is to beam its searchlight on the alleged purchase of three mobile stages, costing $6.9m, by former President Goodluck Jonathan and two of his officials, a Presidency source has said.

According to a document, which was obtained from the Presidency on Saturday, the deal, which is now a subject of investigation, was allegedly carried out by Jonathan; his Chief Security Officer, Mr. Gordon Obuah; and former Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.

The fund was said to have been withdrawn from one of the numerous accounts of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

The $6.9m (about N1.37bn) was said to have been withdrawn for the purpose of buying three pieces of 40-feet mobile stages for use by Jonathan during mass public speaking events.

According to the document, apart from the fact that the sum for the stages was “incredibly inflated”, there is currently no evidence that the stages were bought since the money was withdrawn.

The document read, “While the cost of mobile stages ranges in sizes and designs, only outlandish rock star musicians in Europe and the US spend hundreds of thousands on their huge stages way bigger than the 40-feet stages.

“Even then, those musicians and superstars would not pay over $2m per stage, according to industry sources.

“The process of procurement of the three mobile stages was neither known to extant Nigerian laws and due process regulations nor were the offices of the Auditor-General and the Accountant-General in the know, according to the investigators.”

It added that the phony purchase was carried out late 2011, a few months after Jonathan won the presidential election for a full term after having completed the term of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua.

Jonathan’s CSO was said to have initiated a memo to the former President on October 17, 2011, asking for the purchase of three mobile stages.

He was reported to have written in that memo to Jonathan that memo referred to “my earlier discussion with Your Excellency on the security implication of your public appearances and your subsequent directive on the need to procure a secured presidential platform.”

The Presidency source said on the same day, without any financial advice or purchase order reviews, the former President approved the request to buy the three stages and minuted the memo to the then Minister for Petroleum Resources.

In his minute, Jonathan was said to have written, “We have discussed this, please deal.”

According to the document, on the same October 17, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Administrative Matters, Mr. Matt Aikhionbere, did another letter on the strength of the President’s approval requesting the minister to take action on the request to purchase the stages for $6.9m.

It added, “By the next month, an NNPC payment voucher, number 3840336, was already in place, revealing that the money was released.

“NNPC directed that the money be taken from one of its accounts in New York CITIBANK with sort code CITIUS 33, and Routing number 021000089.

“It was first routed from the US bank to an NNPC account in Zenith Bank account number 5000026593, Maitama branch in Abuja, from where the money was sent to a private account.

“The sum of $6.9m was then credited to a Sterling Bank account of one J. Marine Logistics Limited, Abuja, a company investigators said was registered by Obuah.

“The CSO himself, according to investigators, has not been able to show proof of the purchase and his memo irked his bosses at the SSS that he took the initiative to write requesting for the stages, an action which officials said was way above his pay grade.”

The document added that it was not the duty or responsibility of the CSO to make the determination on that purchase as he was meant to have informed the service, which will then review the situation and act accordingly.

It added that the $6.9miilion in question was promptly paid on Nov. 29, 2011 into a private account belonging to the former CSO.

“The former President approved the procurement of the mobile platforms without due process and bypassing the Procurement Act; neither was there an appropriation in the 2011 budget for such facility,” the document quoted investigators as saying.

It added that neither the then Minister of Finance nor the Director-General of the Budget Office was aware of the deal.

“Investigators say this is just one of the several instances, where the Jonathan administration used secret NNPC accounts to fund many questionable projects and for alleged personal financial aggrandisement.

“Already, the CSO has been questioned over his role and activities in the Jonathan Presidency. It will be recalled that he was arrested, detained, questioned and later released.

Attempts to get the National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Olisa Metuh, to react to the allegation against the former President did not succeed as calls to his mobile telephone did not go through.

He had yet to respond to an SMS sent to his mobile phone as of the time of filing this report.

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National President, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Alhaji Yerima Shettima

The President of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, Mr. Yerima Shettima, has criticised President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointments, saying they are not nationalistic in outlook.

Shettima told SUNDAY PUNCH that President Buhari had not reciprocated the trust reposed in him by all Nigerians, with almost all of his appointees coming from the northern part of the country.

He said, “I am from the North and I will not keep quiet because President Buhari’s appointments are in favour of the northern region. The government we run in this country should not be about ethnicity. All appointments must reflect our geopolitical zones. We must do away with suspicion. But how can that be when the President’s appointees are all from one part of the country?

“No fight against corruption will be successful in this country if suspicion arises. Let’s not be deceived; are there not people who are honest in the South-East or South-West? Are there not good people in the South-South who can work with the President?”

According to the AYCF president, Buhari needs to show that he is the father of the nation and that must be reflected in his appointments.

Shettima stated that he was speaking against the President’s action because he felt it was the right thing to do.

He also noted that if he could speak against former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, he would also speak against any inappropriate step taken by Buhari.

Acting that way, Shettima said, would give him the moral ground to speak against any leader of the country, especially if such a person was not from the North.

In his view, even though Buhari is perceived as being incorruptible, he cannot afford to pick the team of people who will work for him only from the North.

However, a former National Publicity Secretary of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Mr. Anthony Sani, told SUNDAY PUNCH that Nigerians should exercise patience till the President had made all his appointments.

“As we assess the President, it is important to note that many appointments have yet to be made. What is more, there are many dividing lines in the polity. And until most of the appointments have been made, it would be too early for a fair and realistic assessment of distribution of access to national resources by way of appointments,” Sani stated.

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Applicants undergoing Post Utme Computer Based Test (CBT) at Federal  Polytechnic Oko in Anambra ...on Wednesday

The National Association of Nigerian Students has called on the Federal Government and the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board to stop the post-Unified Tertiary Matriculations Examinations being conducted by universities.

According to the policy, which was adopted on July 14 at JAMB’s 2015 Combined Policy Meeting, candidates of universities with surplus applicants for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination would be reassigned to other universities with lower number of applicants than their capacities.

The Federal Government, on July 28, however, overruled the policy after protests were sparked off in parts of the country.

But the President of NANS, Tijani Usman, in an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, said, “We have a larger number of students applying to institutions. JAMB has the prerequisite to say they are changing the institution of choice. Ordinarily, when one sits JAMB, the availability is first and second choice.

“Most institutions will take only those who apply to the school as their first choice without considering second-choice candidates. If JAMB is doing that, it means they are trying to help most of our people. The board has a statute that establishes it and once the body offers a candidate admission, every university has to comply.”

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Arogbofa

Seinde Arogbofa, the Secretary of pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, in this interview with ADE AKANBI, speaks on the National Assembly and President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration

afenifere did not support President Muhammadu Buhari in the last election, and now that he has won the election, has the group realigned itself with him?

No, that is not possible. We in Afenifere, we are what we are always are; we are always focused and principled. It is not that we are unbending but we are quite prepared to look at things from a better perspective. Our philosophy has always been education for all, better health for all, integrated rural economy which has something to do with our agricultural lives and gainful employment for our teeming youths. These had been the major problem of the country. These are what we believe in and what we want any government in power to do and will keep on talking about them; impressing it on anybody in power as to why these things should be, more so when most people know these are the areas we need to tackle for a better Nigeria. Better health, better education, and gainful employment and integrated rural development.

Have successive governments been listening to you?

Every government in this country has always been listening to us when we talk as a body. They see us as the conscience of the nation; they see us as a serious body and they take us seriously because we don’t beg or ask anybody for money. We speak for the masses and we speak to make things better for everyone in the country. Our voice is often respected. Anytime we speak, the people listen to us because they know we are always talking reasonably.

There is an insinuation that the current administration in the country may not implement the reports of the last confab. As one of the delegates at the conference, how will you feel if the report is jettisoned?

That will be very unfortunate. The past government of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan initiated the confab and the issues surrounding the confab are the problems facing the country since independence: The issues of true federalism, state and local governments; peace, security, education and parity are what over 500 Nigerians of different categories — old and young, powerful and non-powerful , knowledgeable people across the country , ex-governors, ex-senators, university heads and even the physically challenged — discussed at the confab. We were all there for about six months racking our brains on how things could be better for this country. The then government also agreed that these issues must be resolved once and for all. We must remember that about six confabs had been set up previously in this country and nothing really had come out of them. Therefore, if this government did not make use of the confab report, that would be very unfortunate for the country and the citizens. Rather, this Muhamadu Buhari-led government should be advised to implement the report of the confab because this is the report that the representatives of all Nigerians gathered to put together and need to make our country move forward.

In some quarters, President Buhari is perceived as being slow in decision making, especially as he has yet to constitute his cabinet. What is you take on this?

That is a mixed feeling. In the first instance, let’s allow him to do some serious homework but he has to make haste, no longer slowly. Things appear to be getting a little bit delayed. He should have studied enough before now to come out and act. I know the situation in the National Assembly may be part of the factors causing the delay, but he should quickly do something. When people are complaining, he should know that the voice of the people is the voice of God. When people start to complain of issues, leaders have to be careful and have to been seen as being sensitive.

Do you think it is right for the Federal Government to release over N7billion as bailout for states owing workers salaries?

It is necessary for the President to do that if only to save the suffering workers. Imagine a state owing workers up to seven months salaries. That is almost a year. How do they want the workers to survive or perform? If there is a bailout for them, no problem. But we must go back to the basis. First, how did these states get bankrupt? How did they spend the workers’ money? This must be investigated.

I am happy about what is happening now. Some past governors are facing the music of their alleged misdemeanor. One of them was locked up in Kano, two or three (of them) have been granted bail but what is important to us all is that these are people who formerly felt they were above the law. You can now see that the law is above them. Whether the current governors will take a cue or not is another thing, but we will like the law enforcement agents to carry this matter to a very logical conclusion so that they can serve as deterrent to others.

Secondly, we have always said that no state has any reason to depend on the Federal Government for money. Every state should be independent and self-sufficient. Part of what every state has should be sent to the Federal Government. Every state in this country has natural endowment (resources) that God has created in it. How did (Chief Obafemi)Awolowo make history, was is not from what we had in Western Region? How did (Dr. Nnamdi) Azikwe make his mark, was it not from what he was able to do at his region? How did (Sir) Ahmadu Bello achieve what he achieved at his domain? Every state should look inwards. I know that the Federal Government has too much money now; let it give the states some money to be able to explore their natural endowment to bring what they have to the limelight to make their economies grow. Every state governor should stop going to Abuja to beg for money every month. It is very wrong. If they are very resourceful, they will make it. This bailout thing is improper.

As a member of the Political Restructuring and Forms of Government Committee at the confab, what are the issues discussed about the National Assembly?

We were radical and revolutionary about the National Assembly. In our committee, we said the Senate should be scrapped because it has been the greatest source of wastage in this country. We said we should have unicameral legislature. What we said in our committee was that there should be a unicameral legislature whose membership shall be full-time and the membership should be 50 per cent based on equality of states and 50 per cent base on population. We did this because it has been very wasteful; how can a senator be entitled to N250million per annum? This is a country where people die of hunger. We said it (Senate) should be scrapped. But you know Nigerians; at the plenary, our decision was jettisoned. We were not surprised because some ex-legislators were also members of the confab.

How about the call by some people that the legislature be made part-time and less attractive financially?

Yes, I do support it. As members of Political Restructuring and Forms of Government Committee of the confab, we raised it at the committee level but we were defeated at the plenary level. Though it is too late now to say that the legislature should be part-time because elections have been held. Maybe that can work in the next election. But for now, it is not possible again. Again, I support the drastic reduction of money being spent on our legislators I was reading in the dailies recently that what they received as allowances is nine times their salaries. This is too outrageous. How can they be taking such amount of money? I know that we Nigerians also contribute to this mess because these legislators spend a lot of money on electioneering. But if people are now aware that you don’t need to sell your houses to be elected, I think there will be sanity.

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Dr. Sylvester Ikhisemojie

The vagina is a sacred place that should be treated with respect and with kid gloves. It is a woman’s most intimate possession and in the course of life undergoes many different changes. During the reproductive years, it is especially most liable to sustain some damage and this should be no surprise when it is considered as the main organ that allows a normal delivery to take place. Think, therefore, of the large mass of new lives that must somehow pass through that narrow passage, a major reason why it should be handled with care.

One of the early manifestations of this lack of adequate care for the genital area is manifested by an itchy vagina. The symptoms of such discomfort are itching and an unpleasant feeling down below. It varies a lot from the mild form of itching to the very profound type such that a sufferer may be compelled to scratch the groin so furiously that injuries might even be sustained. Young women and undergraduates have various names for this malady and these vary from “craw-craw,” “sweetie” to “akwari quata”. These names are very strange but they are also an attempt to hide the embarrassment associated with having the condition.

Not every woman moves around with an itchy vagina. It is nevertheless, an irritating problem which a few women would ignore while others would seek treatment for. It is important to begin to take seriously any itching in the vagina that lasts for more than two days. It should be attended to sooner if there is an associated vaginal discharge. This usually would mean that there is an added infection, usually caused by bacteria, and so there should not be a doubt of the need to have a doctor examine it and have a prescription. These are not issues for which an individual should simply go to a chemist and bug some medications across the counter but one in which it is wise to see a doctor, pharmacist or a nurse for the required advice. In most situations, it is wise to have a swab taken and analysed in a laboratory for a better kind of information that would guide the treatment. Very often, a vaginal infection leading to itching would be caused by a mixed infection.

Some women are able to manage their itch with tact and style. For others, it is so bad that all inhibitions are dispensed with and such people can be seen beside the road scratching away. Others are more circumspect and would do so behind a wall where they assume no one is looking, in a toilet or in the privacy of their cars. Others would engage in more frequent sex in the wrong assumption that the blunt end of the penis would do less physical harm but still do the scratching. These are only temporary solutions; the real basis of treatment in all cases is in determining what has led to the itching. Often times, only the labia are involved. At other times, the itching is within the vagina. In other cases, both parts of the organ are involved.

The use of perfumed or scented soaps and powders are some of the most common causes of suffering from an itchy vulva. This is known technically as pruritus vulvae. It is associated with such itching that it has to be scratched, causing some injuries as already discussed above and thus making the skin in that area vulnerable to bacterial infection. That makes it a vicious cycle of sorts, another important reason to avoid doing such practices altogether. The use of scented pant liners is similarly harmful, not to mention the uninformed practice of douching. One of the most common causes of this annoying phenomenon is the choice of the wrong fabric for the underwear. Using synthetic fabric for your underwear, such as nylon pants and other similar materials, trap moisture like sweat and secretions between the edges of the clothing and the skin. The skin then becomes vulnerable to infection which starts the itching or makes it worse.

Another cause of this problem is Candida, a yeast infection that is common in a majority of women. It is so common that it would be seen in as many as 75 per cent of all women at some point in their lives. The common causes would range from some of the issues mentioned above to pregnancy and diseases like steroid therapy and diabetes. The common feature of this infection is severe itching which is associated with a thick, white, odourless discharge. When you see this combination, it is time to see your doctor for the appropriate tests and treatment. Attempts to do self-medication, as many women in this environment engage in, often fail to resolve the issues because the experience of another woman is what is relied upon to obtain the drugs. As symptoms may be similar even in different conditions, failure and persistence become the problem.

Another common cause of vaginal itching is Trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted infection brought about by a parasite known as Trichomonas vaginalis, an organism normally found in the vagina. As a result, many women do not even know that they have it. When the pH of the vagina is altered, however, and the organism is able to grow unchecked, there is severe itching within the vagina and the labia, a burning or peppery sensation and a change in the colour of the normal vaginal discharge. In addition, the surrounding skin may become cracked and injuries around the vagina become more numerous. Bathing even with the mildest toilet soaps could then become an ordeal as the contact with the skin around there causes intense pain. A swab must be taken for laboratory analysis so as to make the required treatment accurate and useful. And because of the nature of this particular infection, it is wise to have the sexual partner or partners treated to avoid the spectre of re-infection.

Shaving is another reason that people often itch around the vagina. It may initially feel smooth, especially in the first two days after a shave. However, when the hairs begin to grow, as they must, the pruritus can become very intense. Such women need to understand their skin type as the intensity of the itching is dependent on the medium of shaving; whether it is a blade, shaving powder or a depilatory cream. If all of them would cause itching, perhaps the person can do well to simply trim the hair rather than remove it completely.

Hormones are an important predisposing factor for having an itching vagina. In the menopausal period, the reduction in the level of oestrogen circulating in the blood causes the vagina to thin out a bit. There is thus some relative vaginal dryness which would itch. This can be combated by using an oestrogen cream which is available in some pharmacies around Nigeria or the less commonly available oestrogen tablet. This will gradually help to combat the inconvenience.

One of the most common causes of vaginal itching seen in clinical practice is what is called bacterial vaginosis. This is often seen in adults as well as female children. Often, the children are poorly cared for and mostly are responsible for their own hygiene. Such young girls may wear one pant for an entire week – five days at school and perhaps the weekend – and only remember to change such pants on a Sunday because she feels all the clothes should be changed for church. It is often annoying to have to treat such children because their mothers appear with them in the clinic looking very well kept. The most important feature of this aberration is a foul-smelling discharge that is obvious to everyone around the person. A swab is mandatory here for laboratory analysis because very often, more than one bacterium is involved in this and treatment has to be precise. If you have any problem like this one, do not hide somewhere and attempt to treat it by yourself. See a doctor.

The last, but not the least, among these irritating problems is genital herpes. This is a viral infection that is often sexually transmitted. Usually, the lessions are pretty obvious and the treatment very straight-forward. Sometimes, though, the typical rashes are not that evident and any person thus suffering from an unexplained vaginal itch would need to see their doctor and have an expert examination.

Ask the doctor

Dear doctor, I am 24 years old. I have had a vaginal discharge for two years. It has a bad smell. What is the solution? Thank you. 070319xxxxx

You probably have a bacterial infection within the vagina. This may have come about from a number of possibilities, not the least of which is an abortion considering your age. You would thus do yourself a world of good by reading the article above thoroughly and then getting to see a doctor for examination and treatment. Good luck.

Dear doctor, while cannabis sativa has medicinal value, it still remains a drug of addiction with psychic effects. Psychiatrists have documented evidence of its link with some psychiatric ailments as visits to some neuro-psychiatric centres will prove. It can be approved for medical use while restrictions are in place for other purposes. 080231xxxxx

You have simply re-emphasised the timeliness of the discussion because what your contribution amounts to is a summary of the essay that was published, where medical benefits were emphasised, as well as its recreational use as observed from the locals of Latin America and in a bold experiment in The Netherlands. Thank you all the same for your contribution.

Dear doctor, your article published in August 16 edition of SUNDAY PUNCH, “It may be time to accept marijuana,” is a beautiful message. Ride on and more grace. 080233xxxxx      

Thank you very much.

Dear doctor, like most SUNDAY PUNCH readers, I pray the Good Lord sustains you in your good works. I have come across many complaints to you about bad breath. Please pass this information on because I know it works. Either (1), brush the tongue with regular toothpaste dipped in pulverised wood charcoal or (2), gargle with saline solution. However, this treatment should not exceed one week. During the time of treatment, try and avoid bruising the sensitive the sensitive parts of the mouth. May God bless you abundantly. 080503xxxxx

Amen. This solution is very interesting but I know for a fact that charcoal is not harmful. Thank you for sharing this information.

Dear doctor, I often ejaculate within minutes of having unprotected sex, but if I use a condom, I can go on for hours without any hope of ejaculating. Am I okay doctor? This explains the reason why I ignore the condom and at times, the thing even breaks. Doctor could you please recommend a better condom? Thank you, sir. 070611xxxxx

The problem you may have is that you feel very extreme sensitivity without a condom, while using it not only diminishes the excitation experienced by your penis, but also helps you keep the organ erect because it may help you trap blood inside it, somewhat like a tourniquet. On that score, I do not see anything wrong with you as a person. I believe all condoms are similar in action. If you fail to wear it properly, it would tear no matter who the manufacturer is. As for alternatives, the people that sell such products should be able to educate you on them.

Dear doctor, I am 15 years old and have not seen my menses for some time now, which has made me think about my past. For example, I had sex with five boys. Could this be the reason why? Thank you.   090926xxxxx

It all depends on if you were menstruating before you had your escapade with the five boys. If that is so, and depending on when you had sex with them, you could be pregnant. But if you were not menstruating before your encounter with them, there may be no problem. However, you would be so much more at peace if you go to your family doctor and complain before you engage in anything further that could maim you for life.

Dear doctor, I am an avid reader of SUNDAY PUNCH and a regular reader of your articles. I find your last article titled “It may be time to accept marijuana” rather misinforming and misguiding because the marijuana specie planted in Nigeria is more potent than those planted around the world, so they have more devastating effects on the customers. Hence, no one should attempt to consume or even experiment with them! Please note also that the buying and selling of the obnoxious substance called marijuana is regulated by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency cap N30 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and users, sellers and buyers are liable to be prosecuted at the Federal High Court, Lagos. Thank you. 080332xxxxx

Thank you for the information. The drift of that article referred only to the medical and recreational uses of marijuana. At no time did it say it was legal to use, purchase and sell it in Nigeria. You may label it an obnoxious substance but I am almost certain that you know at least one person who takes marijuana. Its use in Nigeria is commonplace and even members of the police and the armed forces are involved in using it. Other than traffickers who are caught at the airports and on the highways around the country, how many people have been arrested by the NDLEA and prosecuted for the use of the product? Part of the problem we have in Nigeria is that people, like your humble self, see what is a crying problem in the society and take refuge in quoting elegant laws nobody wants to enforce. The potency of the Nigerian variant of marijuana, in contrast to what you claim, was not even cited by the United Nations report on the production and use of hashish; nor was Nigeria mentioned as an important grower of the product. Finally, do you mean that only the Federal High Court in Lagos tries people who are engaged in the marijuana business? If that is so, it means that Nigerian law enforcement operatives do not see it as the problem you have painted it to be.

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Faleye

The Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ekiti State, Mr. Idowu Faleye, tells KAMARUDEEN OGUNDELE in this interview that money is at the root of the factional crisis in the party

What is responsible for the factional crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party in Ekiti State?

There is no factional crisis in Ekiti PDP; there is only a misunderstanding between two groups. This started when we held one of the State Working Committee meetings. We usually have it every Monday. We have been holding it for the past seven months. At one of the sittings, some people claimed the party owed them 30 months’ honorarium, which I believe I’m not responsible for. My responsibilities started from when I took over as the acting chairman. Although I believe the leader is in charge of both the assets and liabilities of the party, the information gathered was that a lot of money came into the party during electioneering and the money was shared by the officers without adequate record.

Be that as it may, Governor Ayodele Fayose has been so magnanimous to fund the party. He paid honorarium twice and gave money to each SWC member for every election that we had, even though the state was in debt, inherited from the All Progressives Congress government. As a good leader, who is interested in the welfare of his people, the governor has been making a lot of sacrifices to pay workers’ salaries and, at the same time, fund the party. As soon as money came from the national headquarters (of the PDP), the people started agitating that I pay six months’ honorarium, which I refused. I told them that the money was for the running of the party and not to pay honorarium to a few individuals, and that I would be kind enough to pay for one month and would make a request for approval from the governor to pay additional months. They said no.

Let me say that I did not inherit any money from my predecessor. A lot of money came into the party during the primaries, which was not accounted for. The so-called honorarium is not spelt out in the constitution (of the party); it is just a conventional arrangement and they fixed the amount by themselves. I told them they would sign for all the money released to them for accountability. The six months’ honorarium they demanded was N11.2m. That was the beginning of the fracas. I have a reputation which I have built for over 42 years when I left my family. I was a union leader for 27 years and rose to become the national president of a union. Those who knew me then can attest to my financial prudence.

After you resigned as party chairman, why did you return to office as the acting chairman?

I did not resign. If somebody claimed that I resigned, he should show the letter of resignation. I never thought of resigning. It is a non-issue that I’m from the same place with the youth leader; the chairman could come from anywhere. That I’m from Ido is not a violation of the constitution. I emerged the acting chairman because the post was zoned to my senatorial district.

It is alleged that you are not a registered member or financier of the PDP. How true is this?

That is funny. They have forgotten that I’m a financial member from my ward and I have a party card. I have sponsored candidates for elections, including filling the nomination form of Gov. Fayose. I have been sponsoring candidates at various levels. When I wanted to contest a House of Representatives seat, I paid a levy. On what platform did I pay the money if I was not a member? I have a receipt of the money paid to the party. When we went for the National Delegates’ Conference in Abuja, my name appeared as number two on the list after the governor’s. If I was not a member of the party, would I have the power to vote? It was Dr. T.K.O. Aluko that wrote a letter to the national headquarters, notifying them of my appointment after the endorsement from my ward. I thank God the National Working Committee has written to declare me as the authentic and recognised chairman in the state. I have been leading the party for 11 months now but because I asked them to sign for money released to them, they started singing a different tune. All our members in the national and state assemblies, as well as the State Executive Council, have passed a vote of confidence in me.

Apart from finances, what do you think could make 13 SWC members to revolt against you?

No! They are only six. I have others and the SEC members, including the 16 Local Government Areas chairmen behind me.

Has there been any intervention from the national leadership of the party so far?

The NWC has made a policy statement that it recognised only me as the chairman. It was announced in the media and I have been receiving congratulatory messages. I thank God for the life of my mentor and leader, Governor Fayose, who has continued to recognise me as the chairman. The NWC has given me a mandate to discipline anybody that misbehaves in the party and I would do that by following due process.

Are you a stooge of the governor?

I’m not a stooge of the governor, but let me say it without mincing words that the governor is God-fearing and he is a leader worth emulating. First and foremost, who won the governorship election? It was Dr. Fayose, because of his charismatic nature and grass-roots mobilisation. Before he joined the party (PDP), nobody could take the leadership of the party. When he came back, he started mobilising. That was when we knew the PDP was still on the ground in Ekiti. The last general elections were won by the PDP because of his person; people love him. When the APC was still in power, which among these people could raise their hands and say they are party leaders? He is a dogged fighter. He is a man to emulate, if one wants to be a real politician. He doesn’t fail to keep his promises. He has a listening ear. If they call him my leader, I accept. I can’t be a stooge at my age but there is a reward for loyalty. That you are loyal to your boss does not make you a stooge. Governor Fayose is a role model.

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President Muhammadu Buhari

Having waited for nearly 100 days, not a few Nigerians are concerned about the quality of individuals President Muhammadu Buhari will announce as members of his cabinet in September, BAYO AKINLOYE writes

It is Muhammadu Buhari’s 94th day in office as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; and by Saturday, September 5, he would have spent 100 days in office. To many political observers, the month of September is significant in the life of the Buhari-led Federal Government as some feel that the non-appointment of ministers is slowing down the process of the country’s development.

Some Nigerians, seen as being petulant, gave Buhari a sobriquet, Baba Go-Slow, which he accepted with grace.

“In some quarters, they are now calling me ‘Baba Go-Slow’. I am going to go slow and steady. Corruption in Nigeria has virtually developed into a culture where honest people are abused. We need to put some sense into governance and deal with corruption,” the President stated in July while addressing Nigerians in the Diaspora during his official visit to the United States.

A renowned law scholar and leader of the Concerned Igbo Leaders of Thought, Prof. Ben Nwabueze, some days ago, criticised Buhari for delaying the appointment of ministers that would form his cabinet. The Senior Advocate of Nigeria described Buhari’s refusal to appoint ministers almost three months after taking the oath of office as a reflection of the President’s military personality.

According to him, it was the same military mentality that caused former President Olusegun Obasanjo — a retired general and former Head of State like Buhari — to delay the announcement of his cabinet.

Beyond being described as slow, he was even sued by a lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa. The lawyer asked the Federal High Court in Lagos State to order Buhari to appoint ministers or cease to function in office as President.

Adegboruwa sought an injunction restraining the President from “functioning or continuing to function or further functioning in office as or from performing or continuing to perform the duties of Office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria without ministers duly appointed or the Federal Executive Council duly constituted.”

Amid public angst and outcry over Buhari’s delay in announcing his choice of ministers, the Presidency had begged Nigerians to be patient till September when his cabinet would be formed.

Writing in an article titled, ‘Nigeria committed to good governance and fighting terror’, published by the Washington Post in July, the President said, “Already, there are voices saying these changes are taking too long. I hear such calls, but this task cannot and should not be rushed. When cabinet ministers are appointed in September, it will be some months after I took the oath of office.”

According to Buhari, the path the country must take is to first instill rules and good governance, and install officials who are experienced and capable of managing state agencies and ministries.

This stance was emphasised when he was quoted as saying, “I have been around long enough to know people that I can approach for things like that (ministerial appointment). Deliberately, we will look for competent people, dedicated and experienced to head ministries and, of course, there will be schedules for ministers and we will expect them to fill them.”

He added, “Certainly, there is a lot to do but we are hoping that we will get good people to be in charge of ministries, who can apply themselves to their responsibilities so that in no time, Nigerians would begin to see the difference.”

But the President might have already begun his ministerial appointments.

Earlier this month, The PUNCH reported that Buhari was set to head the Ministry of Petroleum Resources for 18 months before appointing a substantive minister for the ministry. According to the report, the President said this while meeting with some members of his political party — the All Progressives Congress — in Abuja.

One of those at the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity, hinted that Buhari would use the 18 months of heading the sensitive ministry to reposition it.

The source said, “At the meeting we had recently, we discussed the issues of portfolios and other matters. The President said he was going to handle the Ministry of Petroleum Resources himself for about 18 months. He said it was after this that he would appoint a substantive minister for the ministry. He said he would only personally handle the reorganisation of the much-important ministry. Besides, he said the ministry needed to be reformed and be rid of corruption. He promised to sanitise the ministry.”

It was, however, gathered that the President was thinking of appointing an experienced person as his special adviser on petroleum. Buhari was once a minister in charge of the ministry and because of his experience, he was said to have vowed to make sure that he blocked all the loopholes that enabled those manning the ministry to either steal the revenue from oil or aid the theft of petroleum products.

Speaking on the issue weeks back, the Peoples Democratic Party had said it would be too early to speculate on whether the President would head the ministry or not. Rather, the opposition party urged Nigerians to wait till September when the President promised to name his cabinet.

The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Abdullahi Jalo, said, “That Buhari is going to head the ministry is speculative. But what we know, going by his body language and actions so far, is that he is going to split the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. This is what we know. So, let’s wait and see what he’s going to do before we make comments.”

On Buhari heading the oil ministry, the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties had said the constitution vested powers in the President to head any ministry or parastatal of his choice or appoint a representative.

On Thursday, President Buhari made some appointments which analysts said were an indication that his list of ministers would apparently be unveiled in September.

Those appointed include: Babachir Lawal as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation; Abba Kyari as the Chief of Staff; Senator Ita Enang, Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters (Senate); and Suleiman Kawu, SSA on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives).

Oyegun

As the announcement of the President’s cabinet approaches, SUNDAY PUNCH learnt that Buhari had refused the contribution of state governors in picking his ministers, even though the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, claimed that Buhari was carrying the party along “in everything that he does and we are very grateful for that.” He said, “He (the President) has always been like that; he has put the party in the front burner in all the things he has done at all times and he has continued to do that.”

According to some political watchers, it is not unlikely that Buhari will pick some of his ministers from the crop of current permanent secretaries manning critical ministries.

The Head of Department, Political Science, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Prof. Jonah Onuoha, told SUNDAY PUNCH that the President would definitely surprise Nigerians and possibly his party, the APC, concerning his choice of ministers.

“Many of the All Progressives Congress members, who have been jostling and struggling to ensure that their names are on the ministerial list Buhari will announce, will soon be surprised. He can even pick civil servants. Since he was sworn in as president, he has been working with permanent secretaries and the country has not collapsed since then,” Onuoha said.

Tinubu

Those that have been touted to be named as ministers include the embattled former Governor of Lagos State and Director of the defunct APC Presidential Campaign Committee, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), who is currently facing an unrelenting corruption campaign against him; former Commissioner of Finance in Lagos, Mr. Wale Edun, considered to be a loyalist of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; former National Chairman of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu; and the Deputy Director-General of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora.

Other likely names include Second Republic Minister of Communication and APC chieftain, Chief Audu Ogbeh; the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; former Governor of Rivers State and Director General of the APC PCC, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, who is being accused of mismanaging state funds during his administration; former Kano State Governor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso; former Anambra State Governor, Senator Chris Ngige; and former Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who is said to be very close to the President.

However, Onuoha said he did not see President Buhari toeing the party line in his choice of ministers.

He said, “Buhari will surprise everybody. He will go out of party line; he will not be stuck with the need to appoint his ministers within the APC rank. His focus is on credibility, accountability and incorruptibility. He is more likely to go for technocrats instead of politicians. I see his ministers being a fresh start and not a recycling of old faces. We expect President Buhari to appoint individuals, who understand the issues bedevilling the country and are determined to face them head-long. He should go for people who are passionate, who can deliver and who are not corrupt.”

Onuoha’s view was not shared by a former Minister of Finance during the military regime of Buhari, Dr. Onaolapo Soleye. The former minister told SUNDAY PUNCH that no one could stampede the President into choosing a particular set of people as his ministers, adding that Buhari would only choose individuals he feels he could work with.

Soleyestated, “Buhari understands that he is no longer a military Head of State. He cannot operate without the input of his party. He was elected as a democratic president on the platform of a party, the APC. If he fails, his party has failed too. Hanging too much on Buhari as an individual –- true, he commands the respect of being a crusader against corruption –- he needs competent, loyal people and his party to succeed.

“What Nigerians want are ministers who will work for the interest of the people. It does not matter whether they are technocrats or not. Were there not technocrats in ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration?”

For the Executive Director of Civil Liberties Organisation, Mr. Ibuchukwu Ezike, the Buhari-led administration should not waste any more time in announcing members of the cabinet in September. He urged the President to resist any temptation to bring in old politicians as members of his cabinet.

Ezike said, “Having wasted so much of our time, we hope President Muhammadu Buhari will not present to us names of individuals who have been tossing the nation hither-thither. We want a fresh breath of air. By that, I mean, he should announce names of people the Nigerian people will feel proud to associate with. What kind of people does Nigeria need as ministers?

“They must be individuals who are honest, dedicated, resilient and determined; people who will not idle away in their offices but will rather be in the field working. We want people who will manage our resources for the common good of all; generate employment for the unemployed millions of Nigerian youth.”

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The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria has said it would comply with the directive of the Department of Petroleum Resources to sell Premium Motor Spirit at the official pump price of N87 per litre on condition that depots will sell to marketers at N77.66 per litre.

The Chairman, IPMAN, Rivers State, Mr. Sunny Nkpe, who spoke in Port Harcourt on Saturday, said the association had directed its members to sell PMS and other petroleum products at government- approved prices only when they (marketers) get the product from the depots at the government-approved prices.

Nkpe stated that it would not be advisable for marketers to run at a loss in the sale of fuel to consumers, adding that IPMAN’s challenge has been how to buy fuel at the depot at official price.

Nkpe said, “We have directed our members (marketers) to comply with DPR’s directive by selling PMS and other products at government approved prices. But getting PMS at the private depot for N77.66 per litre is a challenge.

“For now, government depots have no fuel and that is why some of us go to the private depot to buy. The truth is that we are ready to comply with the instruction from the DPR. But it is necessary to consider how much marketers buy petroleum products from the depots, which is always above the approved prices.”

Earlier, the DPR Zonal Controller in Rivers State, Mrs. Onyebuchi Sibeudu, said the agency was not going back on its determination to ensure that petroleum marketers sold fuel at government approved prices.

Sibeudu, who spoke through the Administrative Officer in the agency, Mr. Prince Oshodi, explained that sealed filling stations were reopened because the operators had shown their readiness to comply with the Federal Government directive that fuel should be sold at official prices.

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Last week, I introduced an article by Shaun May, a lecturer in Drama and Theatre at the University of Kent.*

As I mentioned last week, one of the difficulties in copyright registration is the precision of the words in the material registered. If someone takes the essence out of those words and uses a different set of words to represent the same idea, by law, it will be difficult to win a copyright infringement claim. Basically, a comic can come up with a joke, and another comic can distill its essence and “make it their own.” One example cited in May’s article is about women and fragrances. The original joke could be, “If women wear perfumes to attract men, why do perfumes smell like flowers? Men don’t like flowers, perfumes should smell like motor oil, that will attract the men!” Another comic could take that same joke and turn it into something like, “You know what would really make men really happy? If women would wear perfumes that smell like new car leather interior.” The general idea here being that men are not excited by the smell of flowers.

May illustrated the difficulty of protecting the essence of a joke with a quote from the ruling of Justice Jacob in a computer software case (Ibcos Computers Ltd v. Barclays Finance Ltd) Justice Jacob: “Where an ‘idea’ is sufficiently general, then even if an original work embodies it, the mere taking of that idea will not infringe. But if the ‘idea’ is detailed, then there may be infringement. It is a question of degree. The same applies whether the work is functional or not, and whether visual or literary. In the latter field the taking of a plot (i.e. the ‘idea’) of a novel or play can certainly infringe – if that plot is a substantial part of the copyright work. As Judge Learned Hand said (speaking of the distinction between ‘idea’ and ‘expression’), “Nobody has ever been able to fix that boundary and nobody ever can.”

May, in his article, examines three possible defences against a claim of joke theft: parody, independent creation and subconscious influence.

Parody is the exaggerated imitation of a creative work for comic effect. Some of you may remember Weird Al Yankovich who is probably the most prolific parodist in music. In parody, the artist takes the original work and puts in effort to sufficiently change the work into something new. In his article, May makes reference to a case on parodied content, Glyn v Weston Feature Film Company, and quotes a part of Judge Younger’s judgement: “No infringement of the plaintiff’s rights takes place where a defendant has bestowed such mental labour upon what he has taken and has subjected it to such revision an alteration as to produce an original result”.

The second defence of Independent Creation refers to when comics are inspired by current affairs or general state of affairs and come up with similar jokes. In the articles that I read, the most common example of this was a joke in response to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal, when he was Governor of California, to build a border wall between the United States of America and Mexico. It is apparently on record that four different comics came up with variations of the same joke with the punch line hinged on who will construct the fence. Being that Mexicans and other immigrants largely constitute the labourer market, it is not impossible that all four comics came up with their joke independently. For one of them to claim ownership of a joke like this one, they would have to prove that the other comics heard the joke from him. In our jurisdiction, as in the UK, the burden lies on the comic defendant joke thief to prove that they were not directly influenced by the comic claiming ownership of the joke.

The third defence May considers is subconscious influence, where a comic hears a joke from another comic, and sometime later creates something similar but does not remember the source of his inspiration. May admits that this is a moot defence as a joke created in this subconscious manner would probably not be word for word. If it is word for word, then the defendant joke thief has no defence because subconscious influence will not fly with a judge in court.

While, like others who have written on the subject agree, it is difficult to take legal action in cases of joke theft, May proffers some solutions for comics who are serious about protecting their work.

He advocates routine recording of performances — this takes care of the issue of fixity as it puts the material in a fixed form recognised by copyright law and also creates time evidence of when the joke was performed and the exact words used. He also advocates developing jokes that are centred around the comic’s persona as those sorts of jokes would be difficult to appropriate.

May also charges comics to be vocal and to speak up against joke theft, to educate younger comics and use social media to disseminate the message that joke theft is unacceptable. While very few comics have sought help in the courts, in many jurisdictions they have set their own rules within the industry such that joke thieves are shunned by other comics and promoters who will not book them for gigs because no comic will perform on the same billing with a notorious joke thief.

*May, S. (2013) ‘Take My Gag, Please! Joke Theft and Copyright in Stand-Up Comedy’, Comedy Studies. 4(2): 195-204

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Wike and Amaechi

Former Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, on Saturday, warned his successor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, against taking God for granted.

Amaechi also said he decided to shun the judicial commission of inquiry set up by Wike because the panel was illegal.

The ex-governor, while speaking with his supporters and members of the All Progressives Congress in Rivers State, stated that he would only appear before the commission of inquiry if Wike complied with the law.

Amaechi stated that the governor had already adjudged him to be guilty in the presence of members of the panel and vowed that he would go to court over the matter.

He insisted that he would not appear before the Justice George Omeriji panel until an independent person or body was called to handle the probe of his administration.

Amaechi said, “Nyesom Wike was not afraid of God in the past; he never went to church. Today, he is going on bended knees to the same God we worship. Don’t take God for granted because if we don’t go back to God to remind Him, God may answer his (Wike’s) prayers.”

Recalling how his relative was allegedly killed in front of Wike’s father’s house at Rumueprikom, the former governor called on President Muhammadu Buhari to prevail on the Inspector-General of Police to investigate the deaths in the state.

He said, “We are asking the Federal Government to investigate it; we have written, asking for investigation but nothing has happened yet. We hope that the President will call on the IGP to investigate what happened with his policemen. We need the IGP to investigate so that people don’t encourage impunity.”

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National Coordinator, Oodua People’s Congress, Otunba Gani Adams

The National Coordinator of the Oo’dua Peoples Congress, Mr. Gani Adams, tells TOBI AWORINDE about his grievances against former President Olusegun Obasanjo and a former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu

The Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, recently passed away. What do you think the late monarch will be remembered for?

Kabiyesi (Oba Sijuwade) was one of the best to have ascended that throne. He was a socialite and a person who knew how to have his way in projecting the culture of Yorubaland. In Ife, hardly would you see any of the people taking Kabiyesi to court. And you know the Yoruba are known for seeking justice whenever they feel they have been treated unfairly. Ife happens to be a very big town; for him (Ooni) to have presided over the kingdom for about 35 years, he was a great man. He projected that stool to the extent that whoever succeeds him already has a template. There is no way he (the successor) can reduce the popularity. It is a great loss to the Yoruba race, to Nigeria, Africa and the whole world.

Hearing the news of his death was a huge shock. For the past four years during the Oduduwa Festival, you would feel the presence of Kabiyesi, despite the health challenges that came with old age — he was 85. He would sit with us for a period of up to three hours.

You would never have seen Ooni talking anyhow; he could attend 10 events, but hardly would he speak at two of the events. He would rather ask one of his aides to speak on his behalf. But during the Oduduwa Festival, Kabiyesi would give a speech of up to 30 minutes. That stool is the source of the entire Yoruba race; it has been in existence for more than 20,000 years. We pray that whoever will succeed him will be crowned from heaven.

How would you describe your relationship with the late Ooni?

Ooni was the kind of monarch that would not underrate any hard-working individual in Yorubaland despite the level of his affluence and influence. Whenever I host a birthday celebration, he would send three powerful chiefs to represent him. Before I became close to him, I had a wrong perception of him. When you sit down with some of our politicians, you would hear different things about him. But sitting down with him (Ooni) in his palace turned out to be a delight.

We discussed at length about the unity of the Yoruba race. I remember vividly that around November 1999, when there was a serious factional crisis in the Oo’dua Peoples Congress, he was the first human being in Yorubaland to call for a reconciliation between Dr. Frederick Fasehun and I.

You know how people perceived the OPC back then; even to call us together, you would think twice about your security. But he took the risk because he, as the Alaroye Oodua (Mouthpiece of Oduduwa), needed to reconcile us. His efforts singlehandedly reduced the tension between the two leaders, before God used (former Ogun State governor) Gbenga Daniel in March 2005 to completely resolve the dispute.

Anytime there was a challenge on how the Yoruba should move forward, Ooni would summon all the socio-cultural and political leaders. Apart from writing a letter, he would call you personally.

His last assignment for Yorubaland was last year when the national conference was approaching. He called a conference of all 50 Yoruba leaders to his palace and asked us, ‘What are you doing? What preparations have you made to defend the interest of the Yoruba? Form a committee in my presence’. So, in the presence of the Ooni and some other Obas, we formed a committee. (A former Secretary to the Government of the Federation) Chief Olu Falae was the chairman of the committee, (a former Chief of Defence Staff) Lt.-Gen. Alani Akinrinade was the vice chairman, and (former Secretary General, Yoruba Council of Elders) Dr. Kunle Olajide was the secretary. That was how we began the Yoruba agenda, there in Ooni’s palace. From there, we took the meeting to (a former Commissioner for Education in the defunct Western Region) Pa Olaniwun Ajayi’s residence in Ishara-Remo. Assuming he did not take the initiative, we would have gone to the national conference without an agenda.

I pray God will give us someone who loves the Yoruba heritage as he did; someone who will continue with a strong passion for our identity and be liberal about religion, not a religious fanatic, who will choose one religion and disregard the other two.

During the Goodluck Jonathan administration, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo displayed a strong dislike for the former’s leadership style. What is your view on Obasanjo’s criticisms?

Obasanjo did not normally agree with any President for a period of four years. If he is praising you at the beginning, within two years, he will have problems with you. There is no human being on earth that can satisfy Obasanjo. He is just like a father, but that is the truth. Even when former President Shehu Shagari was there, within four years, Obasanjo started nursing certain feelings towards him. When Buhari was there, from 1984 to 1985, Obasanjo refused to do anything with him; meanwhile, he was dining and wining tactically with (a former Head of State, Gen. Ibrahim) Babangida. If you don’t come to Ota farm, even coming to him, he can set you up.

He had issues with (Gen. Sani) Abacha before he was arrested and later was saying (late Chief Moshood) Abiola was not the Messiah—the same Abiola, who had personally prostrated before Prof. Wole Soyinka in Sheraton Hotel, Lagos, begging him to let Obasanjo become the United Nations Secretary General. But when Abiola’s turn came, he turned his back on him.

He was in prison when Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar came to in power. In 1999, he (Obasanjo) was given power; he dealt with virtually 90 per cent of the people that assisted him from prison to power. He disagreed with (the late President) Umar Yar’Adua for befriending Daniel.

When Jonathan came into power, within two and a half years as Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party’s Board of Trustees, Obasanjo had issues with him. Before the end of Jonathan’s four years, he tore his PDP membership card. I have never seen any person on earth, who a party would bring from prison to become president for eight years. No matter the situation or issue, couldn’t he have been silent like Abdulsalami or Yakubu Gowon? Is it when one becomes an elder statesman that he should become an activist? If we, as activists, are heating up the polity, as an elder statesman, he should tactically caution us or persuade us. But when an elder statesman, who has been in power for 11 years, becomes an activist to the point that he campaigned publicly for the candidate of a party, then you can be sure something is wrong.

Do you agree with Obasanjo’s view that Awolowo was not the political leader of the Yoruba?

Thank God for (former Ogun State governor) Chief Olusegun Osoba for giving us an opportunity to remember history at the national conference. As a journalist in those days, he refreshed our memories: On August 16, 1966, all leaders in Yorubaland endorsed Awolowo (as Yoruba leader) and Obasanjo was a garrison commander under Gen. Adeyinka Adebayo. After that, Obasanjo could not talk. I have never seen somebody in life who could say the best candidate would not win an election against Chief Obafemi Awolowo in 1979 and we all know what happened in that election.

I don’t know how old one will be that he will start writing a book that will affect his future. Obasanajo is the luckiest person in Africa. I have never seen anybody who is belle-full (overfed) to the point that he would be looking for what would destroy his stomach. How can anyone be writing that kind of information to sell to the whole world? I am using this opportunity to appeal to people (eyewitnesses) to X-ray that book and write rejoinders. They should not underrate what he wrote as a former Head of State for fear of people using it for research. That book he wrote, My Watch, is highly condemnable. It is unacceptable. It is something a reasonable Yoruba should think twice before reading. How can anyone on earth be attacking Awolowo that gave us free education, the Liberty Stadium and the first 24-storey building — Cocoa House — as far back as 1957?

This man ruled the Western Region for five years and gave us the Rediffusion (television) in the same month France got it. He did all this with just agriculture; there was no oil then.

About 200 people were given scholarships, many of whom became professors. Awolowo is the reason for the education standard the Yoruba have today.

I cannot imagine why he (Obasanjo) would be abusing this man (Awolowo). Even if he doesn’t believe in his leadership, couldn’t he have even issued a statement (at the time) to say so? After the death of Awolowo in 1987, when no one has ever questioned his leadership, Obasanjo then wrote a book in 2014, saying he doesn’t believe in a Yoruba leader and that he (Obasanjo) was an Owu person, but that he would prefer to be recognised as a nationalist, an Africanist or a world leader. But how can a person be a leader in Nigeria without having a base? The Yoruba will tell you ‘adara n’ta, ma dara n’le’ (good abroad but not at home). When they say that, it means such a person is finished; that means the person has no base. So when a person dies, who will glorify him? Most of his statements have always been out of selfish interest.

You have been very vocal about your conflict with the national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Have you settled your differences?

I will tell you categorically, he (Tinubu) is a person I was so close to. But I realise now that he didn’t like me. He was just trying to manage me.

Why doesn’t he like you?

I don’t know. He was trying to identify with the group (OPC) back then, but he was not planning to repackage it to make it great. We tried our best for him. We stood by him when Obasanjo was trying to water him down. As a matter of fact, when Obasanjo detained me for 14 months, I got information from the (Presidential) Villa that one of my offences was that I was very close to Tinubu. It took the intervention of the law of the land to effect my release in 2006. Obasanjo wanted to keep me in detention till the 2007 general elections so that Tinubu (as Lagos State governor) would not hand over power to his successor, Babatunde Fashola.

I was blackmailed by even most of the leaders of the PDP back then because of my closeness to Tinubu. We later realised that he (Tinubu) did not want the group to exist. In the middle of our (OPC) crisis — though we had no evidence at the time that he was the one fuelling it — he couldn’t call us for reconciliation. He preferred to dine with (OPC founder, Dr. Frederick) Fasehun and I separately. Majority of OPC members were in Lagos, but Tinubu did not do it (resolve the crisis). After Daniel’s reconciliation process, Bayo Banjo called me and said, ‘Gani, Lagos is your base as OPC. We need Tinubu to put finishing touches to this reconciliation’. This was after we had held a press conference, where I was named National Coordinator of the OPC and Fasehun, founding father. (Osun State Governor Rauf) Aregbesola was then the Lagos State Commissioner for Works. Together, we drove to Bourdillion to meet Tinubu.

After we got to Tinubu’s office and Banjo presented his case, the first thing he (Tinubu) did was to bring out a magazine. He said we should look at the publicity that Daniel used the reconciliation to make. We said, ‘Your Excellency, what is the problem? Do yours for the sake of history in Yorubaland, after all the bloodshed that had happened within the group’. But he just went into a long rigmarole and that was how we left that place. Banjo was highly disappointed, but God has said He is happy with anyone who initiates peace.

Tinubu and I disagree politically. The last election marked the first time that we had to disagree openly and from the beginning of the election, I had made up my mind that anywhere Tinubu is, I will not go there. Even if he is supporting the right candidate, I will go for the wrong candidate. You can ask some of the Yoruba APC members; some of them accused me of not supporting (President) Muhammadu Buhari. I told some people, who are close to Buhari in Abuja, that I wouldn’t align with them as long as Tinubu is still APC leader in the South-West. I could have supported Jonathan without making a noise, but I knew Tinubu was so smart. If he realises you are not supporting him, he will strike your structure from underneath. So, we made sure that we blocked those holes to a certain extent and that is why since 2007, he has been asking some OPC members to say a lot of things about me. But I told people that you can’t expect me to be joining issues with parasites. Politics is a game of number. If someone is supporting a candidate against you, you look for a way to tackle him. One cannot drag me into supporting a candidate on the pages of the newspaper. We have to negotiate.

Didn’t it appear that you placed your personal dispute with Tinubu before the interest of the Yoruba people?

Yes, politics is about interests, but I cannot give someone power (empower someone), then he starts working towards my downfall. Besides, there are two ways of getting power: through the barrel of the gun or through the ballot box. What we have now is democracy; it is through the ballot box. If you want to enlist me as your supporter and one of the people that will influence your progress, you must negotiate with me. I am not saying you should give me money. But I have followers; what will you give them? Assuming Tinubu was not confronting different leaders of self-determination groups, it is possible that the APC could have won 90 per cent of the votes and the people that lost interest might have done so because they couldn’t decide who to vote for.

Are you disputing Tinubu’s influence in the last elections?

I don’t dispute his influence much because he tried his best to make sure some people in the South-West were persuaded. In Buhari’s case, I think his time had come; it was settled in the spiritual realm. Six to eight months to the election, nobody thought Buhari would win the election. Buhari’s clout grew beyond Tinubu; it became an image that could sell the APC. People chanted ‘Sai Buhari!’ They were not shouting ‘Sai Tinubu!’ I am not saying Tinubu did not work towards that image, but God had already made up his mind that Buhari would be the president.

Do you think the comparisons that have been drawn between Awolowo and Tinubu are true?

You cannot compare Tinubu with Awolowo. First, Tinubu was just a governor for two terms. I was in Lagos at the time and we didn’t enjoy free education or free health. There was nothing like employment for all. There was no welfare policy. All Tinubu did was to repackage Lagos State and he brought some elite to showcase that there was democracy, even to the extent that there are more private schools in the state than public schools. We are products of the free education provided by Awolowo’s Unity Party of Nigeria. I remember receiving textbooks and exercise books with stamps saying ‘not for sale’. So, the distance between Awolowo’s legacy and that of Tinubu is just like the distance from heaven to earth,

In the last elections, the Igbo and the Yoruba in Lagos were pitted against one another along PDP and APC divide, leading to heightened tensions in the state. Do you think it will have a lasting effect on their ability to coexist?

I think we can coexist, but I want to appeal to our Igbo brothers to be very careful, especially of our royal institutions. They are our pride; no matter what mistakes you find in their statements, there is no cause to downgrade or insult them. In our culture, the Oba is like a god. If they make a mistake, go to their palace and talk to them within the palace. I read an article in a newspaper directed at the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwanu Akiolu, and I was not pleased. I asked myself, ‘What are the Igbo trying to cause in the South-West?’ The Oba of Oworo said if they had been allowed to do a normal appeasement, the helicopter crash would have been averted. I read about 20 comments of Igbos abusing him. I couldn’t believe it. There were also some foolish Yoruba who, because of their fanaticism, joined them. I wondered whether we are in a country where we are not entitled to our belief or speech. If this man, as a traditional ruler, says something about his tradition and some people are abusing him, it is an insult to the Yoruba people.

A former President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, also recently spoke out against Yoruba monarchs that hosted Jonathan during electioneering, saying they lied to the ex-President. What is your reaction?

It is bad. I have my reservations about Cardinal Okogie because he is someone I respect a lot; I don’t like that statement at all. I am appealing to him, as one of our radical priests, to be very careful about statements concerning our kings. Any priest in Yorubaland is under a king, no matter how powerful he is. It is normal in any election for the incumbent President to visit all the respected kings. If the Cardinal could have extended it (statement) to the Emirs in the North and the Igwes in the South-South and South-East, I would have said he was being neutral, but why did he pick on the Yoruba kings alone? After all, Jonathan visited almost all the important traditional rulers beyond Yorubaland and we didn’t hear anyone of them saying he would not win. It is normal for them to pray for you. The (late) Ooni of Ife did not say he would win; the Alaafin of Oyo was so tactical; none of them made a categorical statement. Even Oba Akiolu was tactical. As a person fighting for the cause of the Yoruba, I don’t find that statement heartwarming.

People have a very negative perception of the OPC. They often think of it as a tool for political violence. What do you think of this perception?

Great and everlasting organisations have always had to deal with wrong perceptions. There is no way you can start and get it right. Do you know that the African National Congress (in South Africa) was listed by the State Department in the United States as a terrorist organisation until 1994? Check history, you’ll find that any great organisation, in its earliest form, is never accepted. But with time, it gains global acceptance.

During the elections, we heard of multiple attacks by the OPC in places such as Oshodi,…

(Cuts in) We were not given a chance to explain our side of that story. We are not part of the union (National Union of Road Transport Workers). We tried as much as possible to say we did not have anything to do with MC(Oluomo). Yes, MC was our boy before he became union leader. But we could not say because they want to arrest him for political violence, then we want to take his garage (motor park). What is our interest? Most of them are my boys. I don’t get involved in union issues, no matter how lucrative it is, because I hate insults. You won’t see me laying my hands on anything that will soil my name because of money. I would prefer to drink garri in my house.

What were the terms of the N4bn pipeline surveillance contract that you and other militant leaders signed with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation under the Jonathan administration?

The terms and conditions were very accurate. They (NNPC) formulated the agreement; we studied it and signed it. We have done the job; we wrote reports every week by which we communicated (with the NNPC). We also submitted monthly dossiers. We didn’t want to take chances because some people perceived that we were given that contract without due process. We made sure that all the agreements were concluded by us. We took the job on March 16 and handed over on June 15. But since we finished the contract two months ago, we haven’t been paid. They promised to pay us the first instalment for one and a half months. But then, we realised that they wouldn’t be able to meet up, so we called a meeting to tell the public. If we go to court, what of public opinion? People didn’t know we had signed that contact with the NNPC’s legal department. People thought Jonathan just wanted to throw money away, so, he gave us the contract. But people didn’t understand that about 90 per cent of the money was salary. The NNPC gave us a standard and we agreed to pay N50,000 per person. So, we informed the public so that the people would know how we got the contract, how it was signed and how we wrote a report. Knowing Nigerians, we just wanted to sensitise the public before taking the matter to court. In fact, on June 14, they sent us an email congratulating and commending us for completing the contract. They said they weren’t sure the contract would be renewed but that they thanked us for the completion of the contract.

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Tofa

Alhaji Bashir Tofa, the presidential candidate of the National Republican Convention in the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election, who contested against the late Chief MKO Abiola of the Social Democratic Party, speaks on the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in this interview with LEKE BAIYEWU

Do you think the North will find fulfillment in Muhammadu Buhari’s Presidency, with what you have seen so far?

President Buhari is not about the North alone. He is about the entire country. And from what most Nigerians see so far, he is the answer to our prayers. I now see clearly the great wisdom of our Creator in giving President Buhari victory in 2015, instead of 2003, 2007 and even in 2011. He came at the right time that Nigeria needed someone like him; of impeccable integrity and courage, to steer this country away from the path of destruction. That is exactly what he is doing now with considerable success.

Some Igbo leaders, especially the Prof. Ben Nwabueze-led Igbo Leaders of Thought, have alleged that the delayed formation of a federal cabinet and President Buhari’s one-man leadership shows the trait of a military dictatorship. Do you agree with them?

I totally disagree with that view, although I do respect some of these Igbo Leaders of Thought. After a reflection, I think President Buhari is right and even wise to delay the appointment of ministers and advisers. I look at it this way:

One, I believe he wants to set the fundamentals of his government, its agenda and its method of operation – all in his image and the precise track he wishes to follow to achieve his objectives. He is going to be a man of history on his own terms. He will lay the foundation of his government by himself, and anyone he would appoint for any job will have to build upon and work on that foundation. I am sure he has been thinking about these matters for a long time. He has contested this post four times and only the blind-minded will imagine that President Buhari has not been contemplating what he needs to do to produce the results and fulfill the promises he made to all Nigerians.

Two, he now meets directly with the ministries and departments of government to hear first-hand their situations and get a clear understanding of the problems and what needs to be done. If he had appointed ministers, it will be those ministers, who will have this direct knowledge and not him. He will have to rely on second-hand and, probably, incomplete or even distorted information from a minister, who may be under some influence or even controlled by some interests. In a situation like this, the President will not have the right information to actualise his objectives and fulfil his promises. He will always be sitting and eagerly awaiting a minister. And, that will certainly not fit with his plans. He knows well he is the one elected and he will bear the consequences of his successes and failures.

Three, since he has already decided to reduce the number of the ministries by half, it then becomes necessary for him to be careful which ministries he axes and which ones he merges. He may have those ideas even before he was sworn in. But, having direct conversation with the ministries, he is now better informed.

If one adds these three scenarios, one has to come to the conclusion that appointment of ministers straight away is the most unwise thing to do. With all these information he now has, he is in a better position to choose and appoint the right type of ministers who he believes will help him achieve his goals. He will, I hope, give them their clear brief of what they must achieve for him, at what cost and within what time. With these instructions, he will be able to assess the performance of each minister, renew their contracts or replace them. And, we must not forget the fact that we are in an era of fighting corruption. The President will have to do whatever he can, within reason, to avoid future embarrassment.

My advice, if I am to give it, is that the appointment of ministers does not have to be all at once. With what is currently happening, it may be time to consider these very important and due appointments that can be made: The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Chief of Staff, the Principal Private Secretary and the Ministers of Defence, Justice, Finance and Economic Planning; and four or five advisors. The rest can wait till the President is sure that it is time for them to be appointed.

Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife once said the Igbo were still being marginalised under President Buhari, to which Dr. Junaid Mohammed replied that the President owed the Igbo nation nothing and, as such, they should rather secede if they wanted to and not hold the President to ransom. For this, the Igbo have called for Mohammed’s trial for treasonable felony. Do you think the South-East is asking for too much?

I think it is incumbent upon all Nigerians to be careful what they say to one another. The government of Nigeria is for all Nigerians, irrespective of their ethnicity or religion or political party. Although, I personally hate the fact that we still see and identify ourselves in our tribal image, we nevertheless have to be sensitive to some differences and do justice to all. The Igbo are as Nigerian as everybody else and, although political patronages are mostly distributed to party members, good sense and the law dictate that we need to treat all at least with equity, even if not equally always.

In fact, I do want to see Igbos hold responsible positions in Buhari’s government to make them feel an equal sense of belonging and to encourage them to help the party (the All Progressives Congress) make a better showing in their areas in the future. And, I do not think any Nigerian will be asking too much to belong to their country and to serve their government and people at all levels. As for treasonable felony, we have today some people in the South-East and the South-South calling for the break-up of the country, and I do not hear (Igbo) leaders publicly condemning them, not to mention accusing them of treason.

But would you agree that the President, who was rejected in the South-South and the South-East at the presidential poll, may not express his full commitment to those areas under his administration?

Good leadership, especially political leadership, does not and cannot thrive on vengeance. President Buhari wants to be known as the President who cared about all Nigerians and all parts of Nigeria. I think we are beginning to see the signs of that with the clearance of the oil pollution in some parts of the Niger Delta, and the review of the second Niger Bridge budget. These are well intended, and I am sure we will see more of that.

Do you think President Buhari’s decision to limit his probe to the immediate past Goodluck Jonathan-led administration is selective as some people have claimed?

Limiting a probe – I prefer ‘investigation’ as a softer word, meaning the same thing – to former President Jonathan’s administration may not necessarily mean that an investigation of a certain matter may not spill into earlier administration(s). There may be issues being investigated now, whose source is 10 years ago, and you cannot tell investigators to stop at six years. So, I see no real harm in mentioning only one administration. What we need to be careful about is that whatever we do, we do it for the sake of God and the country. That means we have to make justice and fairness our keen watchwords.

Some people fear that President Buhari will be distracted and pay more attention to investigating officials and others for corrupt activities. But, I do not think so. My belief is that the line he says he will draw is between his work of governing as President and the work of the investigators and the relevant courts. They will be left alone to do their work, while he concentrates on his.

Do you think the National Peace Committee is guiding the President through the right path with its advice to the President not to probe looters?

The Peace Committee, I am sure, is well intended. The former Head of State, General Abdusalami Abubakar, who is the leader of that committee, is a very respectable person; and so are the other members. I personally respect them all. But, I would suggest that their missions are not for public exhibition, and that is where the problem emanated from, as some (of their missions) do inadvertently make them matters of public debate. Again, the committee was not there to give guidance to the President, for he knows very well what he is doing and what his assignments to Nigerians are; the members were there to offer some good advice, which they did and which was well taken from the reports coming out. Not only they but all Nigerians are entitled to give advice to their President by whatever means at their disposal. My advice is we should give the committee the credit for being concerned about the peace and stability of our country and the efforts they have made in the past which yielded fruits. And, whether they should continue or not, is a matter for them to decide. No one constituted them, no one can disband them.

But when someone like Bishop Hassan Kukah is cautioning the President on probing Jonathan as it could be his turn later, and that even though the ex-president might have stolen billions, his singular act of averting bloodshed should excuse him. Are these excused tenable?

That singular act was commendable, but it was necessary for him to concede defeat. Nigerians will not allow anything else. Ex-president Jonathan correctly read the mood of the nation and the international community and he did the right thing. People said, ‘this never happened before;’ of course not, because there was never an election in this political dispensation in which another party won the election. Obasanjo handed over to Umaru Yar’Adua, who died and was succeeded by (the then) Vice President, Jonathan. So, what are people talking about?

The fact that a person did the right thing in an event does not mean that all the wrongs he did in all other events should be wiped out. That person will reap the fruits of his good deeds and those of his bad deeds. People cautioned about witch-hunting. Those who did wrong in Nigeria are not witches, they are normal human beings. But if they prefer to call looters witches, then witches have to be hunted, as it is done everywhere. No one spares witches.

Do you think the National Assembly, as it is presently constituted, will encourage President Buhari’s anti-corruption war?

In any group of people, you will find the good, the bad and the ugly. The National Assembly is not an exception. Each member has his or her individual interests and fears, even agendas. But all together, they are there to serve the national interest and agenda. Many will and some will not, for reasons best known to them. That is in the scheme of things.

The few, or even if many, who will seek to be stumbling blocks to the fight against corruption, will also need to be careful because their constituents, who voted for Buhari to lead in this fight, and the rest of the country are watching them. The danger they may place themselves in by fighting against the fight will be more than what they fear. If they go against the mood of the country, the consequence will be serious for them. Most of them, who are members of the APC, should also keep in mind that they are there as beneficiaries of the bandwagon.

People have mixed feelings about Federal Government’s plan to hold talks with Boko Haram. What is your advice in this regard?

Dialogue is the epilogue of all disputes. World Wars, religious wars, regional and territorial wars, even the Nigerian war ended with a dialogue. What is essential is sincerity of the parties involved. Nigeria needs to first make sure it is holding the dialogue with the right people and that it will benefit most from it (the dialogue). I therefore see no harm in doing it, if it will stop the killings and the destruction; but the most important thing is what Nigeria has to put in place to make sure that this violence and other crimes are curtailed. There must be a ‘Buhari Plan’ for the North-East and wherever else poverty, illiteracy and decease abound throughout this country.

Do you think there is still hope on the return of Chibok girls after 500 days in Boko Haram’s captivity?

A major part of the negotiation with the Boko Haram must include the release of all these girls and other captives of Boko Haram. Whatever is their situation, they must be released to come home. I am sure that both the government and the military are aware of that.

How much do you think the West will help Nigeria on the ongoing campaigns against corruption and terrorism, especially with recent renewal of diplomatic ties?

Our country now enjoys tremendous support from the international community; from the United States, the European Union, China and Russia, etc. If we follow up things carefully, and with wisdom and integrity, I am sure Nigeria will get most of the help it needs. I saw an argument somewhere that the West will not return the stolen money (stashed away in their countries) because they benefit from the money lodged in their banks. Who needs them to return the money? All we want is for them to change the account name to that of the Federal Government of Nigeria. How could doing that be difficult?

There are fears that what is happening now is another ‘Scramble for Africa’ by world powers and that these extensions of friendship have hidden benefits for the West. Do you agree?

There is nothing surprising for any country to pursue its national interest. Our friendship to them is also in our national interest. If there are no benefits to any activity, you will not see any sensible person pursuing that activity. Countries too are like that. The important thing is that we should know exactly what we want out of those relationships and how to pursue them with vigour and determination.

There are mixed feelings on President Buhari’s appointments so far. Do you think the Federal Character principle is necessary especially when choosing who can do what?

Mixed feelings are a product of disappointment or self-serving interest. I am sure some people will not like whoever will be appointed to certain positions because they prefer someone else. But the President cares most about choosing the right people for himself, not for others. So far, I think we have the best Vice President we can ever hope for; the best National Security Adviser and military chiefs. The two special spokespersons are doing their work competently. All other appointments are successions. To abide as much as possible with the Federal Character provision is necessary, because the constitution says so.

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Last Wednesday, August 26, The PUNCH newspaper carried a story on its inside pages of workers protesting the continued closure of their cocoa-processing factory by Asset Management Corporation. ‘Workers protest factory closure, beg AMCON’ read the headline. The factory, Multi-trex Integrated Foods Plc, has been shut down by AMCON since June 26, after prolonged AMCON intervention (since 2011) that failed to restore the ailing company to good health.

The Multi-trex case is a sad one. The company, within a very short space of its existence, became the exemplar of indigenous industry, showcase-able to the world of what Nigerians are capable of achieving if they put their minds to it. Multi-trex stood tall and clean, growing with impressive gallop to put an end to the anomaly of the country exporting its raw materials only to reimport them as foreign manufactured products.

Multi-trex, from its very humble one-man cocoa business beginning of some years back, grew to employing hundreds of workers from the lowly unskilled to the highly skilled and management cadre, and becoming listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange a few years ago to earn the PLC like a badge of protection it should be but isn’t. Conspicuous on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the huge factory complex (on the left-hand side right after the famous “longest bridge” on leaving Lagos), was a beehive of activities and bubble until a couple of months ago when the “bubble burst” literally, with red inscriptions all over its walls visible from the expressway affirming the surreal lifelessness of the factory on the orders of the almighty AMCON.

Let me quickly make a necessary disclosure: I am related to the founder/CEO of the company in question by marriage. Mr. Dimeji Owofemi is married to my niece, Monisola, whose mum, Mrs. Ajibike Ayeni (nee Fagbenle), is my eldest sister. But I assure my readers that my “intervention” in this matter is based on what I know of the company and what I believe the company represents for Nigeria and Nigeria’s desire to stimulate indigenous manufacturing.

To move on, manufacturing business in Nigeria is almost tantamount to masochism; a business meant for those who simply enjoy inflicting pain upon themselves. Generally, it is treacherous and, depending on its scale, it is even a foolhardy adventure considering the myriad of peculiarly Nigerian hurdles, human and systemic, to surmount.

But as far as the protesting Multi-trex workers are concerned, AMCON is the ‘bad guy’ that has come to deprive them of their livelihood. Some of the placards read: “AMCON please settle with our management and save our posterity;” “Save our families from hunger and increasing debt;” “We are willing to work, AMCON please reopen our factory;” etc. Multi-trex Management also views AMCON’s intervention that has now ended in the shutdown of the factory as premature, extreme, and unfortunate. The former Management of AMCON is blamed for this and an ulterior motive is impugned, which Multi-trex hopes the in-coming AMCON leadership should be wary of, lest it got misadvised into perpetuating an “injustice” and killing indigenous entrepreneurship that should be encouraged and supported.

The nature and scale of the Multi-trex business deserves a little bit of mention to understand the magnitude of business entrepreneurship at stake. It is a wholly indigenous company with over 1,000 Nigerian shareholders. The installed capacity of its two factories, with 65,000 metric tonnes, cocoa processing equipment and machinery for manufacturing chocolate bars, chocolate drinks, etc, is the largest in the country. The first factory, launched by President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2006 has 15,000 tonnes capacity. The second factory also on the same site has a capacity for 50,000 tonnes. I am proud to say I was present and participated at its launch in 2009; jointly opened by Pastor E. A. Adeboye (General Overseer of The Redeemed Christian Church of God), and Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto, and witnessed by Governor Gbenga Daniel.

The company’s production of chocolate bars and spread was inaugurated in 2012 by President Goodluck Jonathan, and it has a capacity to produce over 30 million pieces of 16.5g bars per annum. Its chocolate beverage powder drink plant was inaugurated in 2013 by the then Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, now President-elect of African Development Bank. Its recently completed chocolate beverage liquid drink plant will manufacture over 16 million units of 30cl plastic bottles chocolate drink per annum.

Apparently, Multi-Trex, as to be expected, owed banks hugely, the severest being N8.5 billion unpaid loans owed Skye Bank as of 2011. AMCON came in then and bought over the Skye Bank loan. Multi-Trex finance man, David Obijole, argued that the move was wrong in the first place as the company was still servicing the loan when AMCON bought it. “AMCON was supposed to buy non-performing loans from banks,” he says in the statement published in The PUNCH. “But our company’s loan was still performing when AMCON bought it over from Skye Bank Plc.”

Matters became complicated as a result of later CBN directive, barring banks from further lending to companies indebted to AMCON above N5m. Multi-Trex operations became stifled and asphyxiated, a position corroborated by Mrs. Mobola Sanya, Head, Human Capital and Administration Services. “The company has been handicapped since 2011 when AMCON bought over our loan facility,” she said. “The company has not been able to access working capital thereby unable to pay back the debt it is owing AMCON. This has led to mass retrenchment of over 200 workers of the company and 50 other employees have been sent on compulsory leave without pay. About 70 staff members have not been paid salaries for 11 months. This has brought hardship to the affected workers and their numerous dependants with attendant loss of revenue to the country through export and foreign exchange generation.”

PROSHARE, a financial information, intelligence and analyst services firm that claims to have investigated the Multi-Trex case, says on its portal: “That Multi-Trex Integrated Foods Plc, the flagship of the Nigerian cocoa-processing sub-sector, is today closed for business is unimaginable, with about 200 persons rendered unemployed and the modern processing plant and equipment exposed to vandalisation and disuse.

“What immediately stood out as we embarked on this exercise was the undeniable trail of ‘institutional failures’ that laid the foundation for the shut-down of an otherwise viable entity and the wrongful tagging of an otherwise quality management that can hold its own within the ‘Trade Finance’ community as inept.” It went further: “The questions, concerns and inquisition were many. So, what went wrong? Who was culpable? How could a company that raised so much money, had an ultra-modern firm launched by the President, State Governor and Bank executives get to a stage of stagnation? What happens to investors now? The more we searched for answers, the more we saw how a series of policy changes, administrative inertia and indifference frustrated a well-intentioned entrepreneurial endeavour, a situation not helped by the regulatory framework that allowed the transfer of a performing loan to AMCON where new financial rules ensured it had no access to working capital legitimately.”

Proshare corroborates Obijole’s opinion above, saying, “The (Multi-Trex’s) downturn was precipitated by the decision of Skye Bank Plc to place the Multi-Trex expansion-driven long-term loan with AMCON at a time it was performing which in consonance, the bank justified was motivated by the “…need to free-up liquidity for the bank, especially on the long dated exposure.”

It continued in its blistering damnation of the system that kills that which should be protected: “This Multi-Trex case therefore offers much more than a story about the collapse of a company – it is the ultimate poster sign of all that was wrong with our financial markets, regulatory environment (lack of nexus between fiscal and monetary policies driving economic goals) and harnessing of resources to build a non-oil economy for Nigeria.”

What is required now is whatever can save a company like Multi-Trex from going under. The new AMCON leadership could investigate and take a more lenient look. So, could the Central Bank of Nigeria provide a waiver, probably with the intervention of the Presidency in the manner it has done for the “distressed” states? Multi-Trex represents more than itself and the hundreds of workers and their dependants whose livelihoods are on the line.

It is, as PROSHARE says, “The flagship of the Nigerian cocoa-processing sub-sector.” It deserves to live for all our sakes. And that’s saying it the way it is!

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PDP National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh

The Peoples Democratic Party has said the Nigerian economy has suffered under the government of President Muhammadu Buhari since he assumed office.

The party said the shambolic state of the nation’s economy within the period, which represents “the worst in the nation’s contemporary history,” was direct fallout of uncertainty created by the inability of the Buhari-led government to chart a clear-cut economic policy, worsened by alleged abuse of regulations and flagrant violation of constitutional provisions.

In a statement issued on Saturday by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, the PDP said instead of gains, the last three months under the APC-led government had brought a sudden decline in the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, with alleged attendant losses and hardship to the citizens.

The statement read in part, “In the last three months under an inept and poorly coordinated All Progressives Congress-led government, our nation’s economy, which before now held the record as the largest in Africa and one of the fastest growing in the world, suddenly plummeted as officially evidenced in the lull in the capital and money market sectors, which have lost billions of naira; spiral rate of inflation, and stagnation in domestic and foreign direct investments, with investors scared away due to the uncertainty arising from lack of economic direction and apparent confusion in the polity.”

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Adokiye Amiesimaka

On 6th September, 1971, a Decree establishing the National Sports Commission was promulgated, entrusting it among other things ‘with the responsibility of encouraging and developing sports and games throughout Nigeria…’ It was also ‘to provide and maintain sports centres and facilities…’

Sports associations that were affiliated to their parent international bodies and expected to be run under their approved statutes were also statutorily tied to the apron-strings of the NSC.

That was how sports became public sector driven in Nigeria.

In the early 1990s, however, government singled out football among the over twenty Olympic sports for legislation and, despite the introduction of professionalism, made the Board of the Nigeria Football Association — the football governing body — subject to the control of the Minister in charge of Sports vide the NFA Act, 2004 (recently repealed).

The Minister’s control of the NFA extended to the Board of the Nigeria Premier League too as its Chairman was the 2nd Vice-Chairman of the Board of the NFA.

At state level, the Football Associations being affiliated to the NFA had a similar relationship with their respective Sports Commissioners.

However, as I tried to point out in an earlier piece, the provisions of the recently passed NFF Bill by the National Assembly will, if signed into law, still ensure that government’s influence on the football governing body in Nigeria is not diminished.

It is therefore not difficult to see why in addition to providing basic infrastructure for mass participation in sports for recreation and good health government cannot absolve itself from responsibility in ensuring that our pro football meets international standards. And professionalism is anchored on the pursuit of excellence.

Until recently we did not regard any sport as a respectable profession. Virtually all parents wanted their children to be lawyers, or doctors, or engineers, but not professionals in any sport, including football.

Yes, participation in sports was encouraged in schools. But, it was principally for recreation and as the missionaries would say, ‘to produce a healthy body for a healthy mind’.

Even at club level, football players were expected to be gainfully employed elsewhere and to only play the game as amateurs. And what was seen as ‘youth development’ then was engaging the youth in competitions meant for their respective age groups. And a few sport centres and facilities that were barely functional were provided. At least, such active early engagement in sports helped to an extent at elite level.

But, as I have tried to point out on numerous occasions, times have changed and sports, especially football is much more competitive, lucrative, and attractive. Facilities too are now expected to be readily available and of the highest quality.

In fact, we have never had any proper youth development program in the strict sense of engaging professional personnel in different relevant areas, obtaining data and using it to regulate training and competitions (there can actually be too many competitions), monitoring nutrition and physical growth, and mentally fortifying athletes for serious competition in adulthood.

So far, there is no evidence that our public sector can successfully shoulder the burden alone.

For those who may postulate a contrary view by citing the former Soviet Union, let us be quickly reminded that sport, generally, was regarded there as a ‘tool of war’ in the Cold War with the West. It was a matter of utmost national importance and considered in the national interest not to let sport suffer. It regarded victory in sport, especially against the US or any of its allies as proof of the superiority of its political philosophy and way of life. Accordingly, it spared no effort in the pursuit of excellence in sports.

But, the least that those in control of our football can do is to create the enabling environment for the private sector to find it compelling to also be an active participant while not forgetting, however, that just as it is not everything about the public sector that is bad so it is that not everything about the private sector is good. A synergy of the two sectors may be just what will work here in the circumstances.

Mention had been made earlier of substantial tax incentives. But that may not be persuasive enough especially in the light of infrastructural inadequacies and the fact that our pro league is not yet the ‘quality brand’ on which the corporate world may want to leverage.

It is also important to reiterate that the private sector will not participate as an act of charity, but as a pure business investment.

At the moment, the few ‘bold’ sponsors from the private sector are virtually begged to maintain a show of interest and that cannot be the way to get the best from that sector.

As I have tried to show, government controls sports, in general, and football, in particular, in Nigeria. On the public sector’s broad shoulders may, therefore, rest the task of initiating and sustaining the rejuvenation process. Those that fund the clubs that own our league may have to adopt a hands-on approach using the clout and authority of their office to get things done. They can publicly show support for the clubs and gradually refocus the attention of the fans.

Other issues to consider may include the need to reschedule our matches as an interim measure to avoid conflict with the EPL; strict compliance with essential prerequisites for membership of and participation in the league; top quality membership of the Boards of Directors of respective clubs as well as of Football Associations at state level and their counterpart at local government level; provision of appropriately trained coaches; upgrading of infrastructure; etc.

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Ajiboye

Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, University of Ibadan chapter, Prof. Josiah Ajiboye, tells BAYO AKINLOYE that recent activities of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board have shown that the organisation is no longer credible

Many people have condemned the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board’s recent action to change candidates’ choice of institutions. What is your view on the policy?

My view on the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board’s decision to reallocate students to universities other than those they selected is a condemnable act. JAMB took a very wrong decision — and a criminal one for that matter — because it sets aside the right of Nigerians to freedom of choice. The criminal aspect is that a public institution like JAMB cannot be a promoter of private establishments.

For the admission board to have reassigned candidates to private universities, using public fund, is criminal. The question is in whose interest did JAMB do that? Many Nigerians have speculated that there is more to the issue than meets the eye. Many are speculating private universities’ inducement (to get JAMB to act to their advantage); we need to confirm though. But going by the argument that in 2014, only two per cent of candidates, who sat the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, applied to private universities, subsequently, JAMB was trying to correct that imbalance through re-allocation. Obviously, something is fishy there.

Do you think JAMB has become a ‘clearing house’ for some universities as some people have claimed?

JAMB, from its inception, is expected to serve as a mere clearing house for admission into universities. However, the examinations conducted by it over the years have suffered credibility problem. Many Nigerians have lost hope in the examination body as a credible examining body. They have accused the body on many fronts. An instance is when a parent, who was told that his ward’s UTME score could not fetch him admission and the father asked what mark would qualify the child. After he was informed about the needed score, the father returned later with the required grade! Incredible, you will say, but that is the truth.

Would you prefer that universities set their admission tests?

Due to the failure of the examination body (JAMB), universities started the post-UTME test. This is the final attestation to the failure of JAMB. We have actually reached a stage in Nigeria where we should return to the era when each university conducted its entry examination. If it is about federal character or quota system, in terms of admission, it is no longer relevant as each state of the federation now has a federal university located in it. In addition, states now have their universities; some even have more than one. With at least a federal university in each state of the federation, this issue of JAMB serving as a clearing house is now irrelevant. Let each applicant be free to select any three or four universities of his or her choice, eventually they will succeed in one. And to eliminate overlap in admission so that an individual will not have multiple offers while others are denied; this is where you need a committee of admission officers of universities to sit and harmonise their positions.

Won’t the universities abuse that opportunity?

I do not see how universities can abuse that. Rather, it will strengthen the autonomy universities have been struggling to achieve. A university can go as far as Australia to source for students. That will also strengthen the internationalisation drive of our universities. Then, our universities would be able to compete with their foreign peers. This localisation principle has not helped our universities’ growth. When universities begin to source for candidates globally, then the competition begins; one can then classify the universities: first-generation, second-generation and state universities. The candidates will be free to pick one university from each of the categories. You could add a final category if you like: private universities. But I strongly believe private universities should be able to scout for their students independent of any public agency. JAMB can then monitor universities for compliance with set guidelines, if the government still wants to retain it to check abuse from universities.

Are you saying the exam body should be scrapped?

The question of whether it should be scrapped or not should be left to Nigerians; they should decide on what to do with the agency after universities have been granted permission to conduct their entry examinations.

Do universities have the capacity to conduct admission exams for prospective candidates?

I do not doubt the competency of our universities to conduct entry examinations. In any case, they are already doing that through the post-UTME test. The universities have everything to conduct more credible examinations than the sham currently being peddled by JAMB; no doubt about that. Besides, studies have been conducted to support that position. To doubt the capacity of universities to conduct entrance examinations is to doubt the quality of lecturers and professors in our universities. Who actually prepares the UTME questions? Are they not our colleagues from the universities? In the first instance, the Senate of each university is vested with the powers to determine the academic affairs of the university, including those to be admitted into its programmes. I have no doubt in my mind that our universities are capable of conducting entrance examinations. Like I said earlier, they have already started with the post-UTME, which has been described as less rancorous and more credible than what is done by JAMB.

The argument in some quarters is that JAMB is responsible for the sanity currently enjoyed in terms of entrance examinations into tertiary institutions.

JAMB lost it (credibility) long ago. The agency has destroyed the dream of many young Nigerians for university education through its actions and inactions. Many were frustrated to surrender their ambition for university education. Let Nigerians decide now. I call on the government to set up a review panel on admission crisis in Nigerian tertiary institutions. The continued existence of JAMB should be determined now. From past records of agreements between the Academic Staff Union of Universities and the Federal Government over the years, the restructuring of JAMB has always been part of the agreements. It’s only that successive governments have failed to implement that part of the agreements. University autonomy will not be complete until that omnibus body called JAMB is removed.

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Minabere Ibelema

It is often said that corruption is everywhere, and that is very true. In the United States, hardly a day passes without news about one official or another being indicted or sentenced to prison for corruption.

Meanwhile, there are the rumblings in Nigeria, as President Muhammadu Buhari begins to let lose his anti-corruption artillery.

What has struck me though is that there is a remarkable difference in the offences or alleged offences. And the differences say much about the differential impact of corruption on a country such as ours and on an advanced democracy such as the United States.

In fact, indicted American officials may well wish that they had their day in the Nigerian system, and yes, even under Buhari. It is not just a matter of getting away with the corruption; it is that in the United States, officials serve long prison terms for misdeeds that in Nigeria would pass for probity.

In fact, in the United States, it is easier to get away with murder than with corruption in office.

There is also the matter of the nature of the corruption. In Nigeria, many cases of corruption involve diverting public funds for one’s own use. In effect, officials dip into the national, state or local government coffers to pilfer. In contrast, most instances of such fraud in the United States involve kickbacks. State governors and city mayors get paid to award contracts and legislators get paid for favourable votes. Both forms of corruption have negative consequences, but the direct stealing much more so.

Consider first the matter of magnitude. The UK’s Daily Mail estimated in 2013 that the late President Sani Abacha looted no less than $4 billion from Nigeria’s coffers. There is no comparable case of an American president looting even a fraction of that. And, of course, Abacha couldn’t have been alone.

Fast forward to 2015. Some of the allegations of graft are as mind-boggling as that of Abacha’s, granted that they are yet to be proved. As an Associated Press story on Wednesday summoned it up: “Buhari last month said a staggering $150 billion has been stolen. U.S. Justice Department officials told him one former minister alone stole $6 billion, according to a governor at the meeting.”

In Col. Jerry Rawlings Ghana and in today’s China, one does not have to steal one-thousandth of that to be greeted by a firing squad. The U.S. constitutional provision against “cruel and unusual” punishment would make such a fate improbable here. But then, such figures are unheard of in U.S. government corruption cases. In the United States, even the mere solicitation of kickbacks is enough to land an official in prison even when no money changed hands. Here are a few illustrative cases.

Former Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, is serving a 14-year sentence primarily for soliciting donations to his re-election campaign from people who wanted to replace now President Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate. Obama had just won the presidency, and it fell upon Blagojevich to temporarily fill his seat on the Senate pending an election.

Blagojevich was caught on phone conversations insisting on contributions to his campaign as a condition for making the appointment. And that was enough to net him 14 years in prison. As often happens with such cases, there were secondary charges, but those were just that, secondary.

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, is serving a two-year prison sentence after being found “guilty of doing favours for a wealthy businessman in exchange for more than $165,000 in loans and gifts, such as flights, golf outings, vacations and designer clothing.”

The McDonnell case is a tricky one for legislators, who usually get lobbied by businesses to back favourable legislation. If the legislator subsequently accepts gifts from the lobbyist, it reeks of quid-pro-quo. And depending on the value of the gifts, that may be enough to land the official in prison, as is McDonnell’s case.

“A lot of politicians are very afraid of running afoul on corruption charges,” Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science, is quoted as saying. Larry Langford, a former mayor and County Council president is serving a much longer prison term than McDonnell because he too crossed the boundary between acceptable gifts and abuse of office.

As reported by the New York Times, Langford is serving a 15-year prison sentence for accepting “more than $230,000 in cash, expensive clothing and jewellery in exchange for steering $7.1 million in county bond business to a prominent investment banker.”

Langford’s case was especially notable because he had the reputation of a dedicated public official. That’s why he held mayoral positions in two cities, including Birmingham, Alabama, in addition to serving as the County Commission president.

I once took participants in a high school summer journalism workshop to his office while he was the commission president. Characteristically dapper in his designer suit, he chatted in folksy fashion with the students about the missionary spirit of government work and urged them to set high goals. I couldn’t help thinking about that meeting when it turned out that his fondness for expensive clothing was central to his undoing.

Another unravelling of a flamboyant mayor took place in the city that many people know as Motown. Detroit, that is. There, former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was sentenced in 2013 to 28 years in prison for running what was described as a “money-making racket out of City Hall.”

Like Langford, the 43-year-old Kilpatrick was a local political phenom. And as often happens with such people, he developed an imperial attitude to his office and began to mine it with impunity. His conviction on corruption charges included counts of extortion, racketeering, bribery, mail, wire and tax frauds.

Prosecutors estimated his fraudulent practices cost the city $9.6 million, but the presiding judge based sentencing on the adjusted amount of $4.6 million. Even the maximum estimate is still a far cry from the $6 billion a former Nigerian minister is alleged to have stolen.

If the case is proved and the minister is sentenced, it would be interesting to compare the prison sentence, if any, to Kilpatrick’s 28 years.

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Asumogha

President of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, Mr. Chibuzor Asumogha, in this interview with BAYO AKINLOYE, says the call for the scrapping of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board is hasty and cannot be justified

In view of the crisis that followed the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board’s policy to change candidates’ choices of institutions, do you think the call for the scrapping of the body is a step in the right direction?

The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board had attempted to explain the controversial policy, an explanation which cuts no ice with stakeholders. The recurring agitation against the existence of JAMB has been heard in the past for other reasons. I do not subscribe to hasty extreme options when there are no alternatives on the ground. A single policy gone awry certainly cannot justify the scrapping of JAMB. There are larger considerations that must be made for a more wholesome discussion. Such considerations should include a postmortem of the examination body, as an idea and as an institution, with a view to realistically appraising how far JAMB has solved the challenges that necessitated its establishment in the first place. What options can realistically be put forward as a replacement for the idea and for the institution?

Would you say the national exam body’s action was right?

Assuming positions on such matters in terms of right or wrong will amount to drawing hasty conclusions. Although JAMB’s explanation on the controversial policy did not go down well with several stakeholders, it will be quite presumptuous and judgmental to claim that the examination body’s intentions were ill-intended. What I think is that JAMB proceeded without factoring in the interests of other stakeholders in the matter. Perhaps, the board needed to have consulted with other stakeholders before adopting that policy, which looked like changing the position of the goal posts halfway into the game. JAMB and the Federal Ministry of Education have been holding periodic stakeholders’ fora, but these platforms have consistently excluded such critical stakeholder groups as parents, the academia, labour unions and alumni groups. JAMB should be worried that the major opposition to its recent admission policy is coming from the stakeholder segment it claims the policy was meant to please.

One of the reasons some have called for the scrapping of the body is the allegation that it has become a ‘clearing house’ for private universities. What’s your view on this?

I do not want to be seen as holding brief for JAMB, but then I restrain myself from identifying with conclusions which I cannot substantiate. If JAMB has in any way become a ‘clearing house’ for private universities, then the allegation ought to be investigated and appropriate reprimand meted out. I still think JAMB needs to open up its operations to certain critical publics which it has shut out. It will also be necessary for government to reappraise its policies on private participation in tertiary education, with a view to streamlining the partnership of privately owned institutions with the Federal Ministry of Education and even the regulatory agencies, such as JAMB, the National Board for Technical Education, the National Universities Commission, and the National Commission for Colleges of Education. At present, wide variances exist between public and private tertiary institutions in administrative structures, admission policies, personnel capacities and other critical standardisation variables. These challenges must be tackled holistically to gain redemptive altitude on the perennial problems.

How would you explain a situation where a candidate has a high score in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination but does not do well in the post-UTME conducted by his or her university of choice?

The common assumption is that a student, who scores high in the UTME but ends up scoring low in post-UTME test, must have been involved in some malpractices. There is no denying the fact that such incidents have persisted over the years, which is why the idea of the post-UTME test is a very welcome idea; it complements the efforts of the central examination body. If JAMB, as an institution, is given full capacity, the post-UTME test would not be necessary anymore. As it is currently, the post-UTME process in some universities seems to have begun to accommodate some of the unwholesome practices which JAMB was set up to eliminate.

If universities still have to conduct post-UTME test after JAMB must have conducted the UTME for applicants, don’t you think this is enough reason why the examination body should be scrapped?

We should not forget that prior to the establishment of JAMB, universities carried out their admission procedures independently. JAMB came as a solution to the shortcomings of that system. At the time the exam body was established, it represented the only hope for certain classes of Nigerians to have a shot at tertiary education. The post-UTME phenomenon was a consequence; not of the idea of JAMB itself but of the syndication of the subversion of the system. It is noteworthy that even now, the post-UTME test in some universities has been compromised. There is no denying the fact that JAMB has been experiencing growing pains, but that is the reason to strengthen the body and not to scrap it. And let us not forget that there have also been calls for the stoppage of the post-UTME in some quarters.

Don’t you think JAMB has outlived its usefulness?

I do not believe that the glitches that led to the establishment of JAMB have all been eliminated or resolved. The integrity and moral thresholds of public servants, examiners, parents and candidates have even deteriorated with the years, just as the population of matriculating candidates has grown astronomically. Can you imagine what each candidate will spend in order to sit matriculation examinations in several universities? I do not think the JAMB has outlived its usefulness.

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Oyewusi Ibidapo-Obe

Tokunbo, a daughter of a former Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos, Prof. Oyewusi Ibidapo-Obe, talks about her father in this interview with MOTUNRAYO JOEL

Briefly introduce yourself

My name is Tokunbo Somorin; I work as an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine with the University of Texas in Houston, Texas. I am the third child of Professor and Mrs. Oye Ibidapo-Obe.

Where did you have your primary, secondary and tertiary education?

I attended University of Lagos Staff School, International School, Lagos and the College of Medicine, University of Lagos.

How was your childhood?

It was amazing. I must say, growing up on the UNILAG campus was a privilege. We had constant power supply, safety was not an issue, and school was within a walking distance. Even though our school was a walking distance, my mother or father used to drop us at school to ensure we were not late to school. During that period, in the schools I attended, I always ranked top. I also made lifelong friends and majority of our friends are people I grew up with.

Did your parents visit you often in school?

They really had no reason to, maybe a few times when I was at the Medical school in Idi-Araba, Lagos. My dad visited me a couple of times, his visits attracted too much attention because he was the VC, and since home was literarily 20 minutes away, I preferred to go see them anyway.

Your father is well known in Nigeria. How does it feel having him as a dad?

I am grateful, I feel blessed.

Tokunbo

Did your father influence your career choice?

My mum had more of an influence on my career choice. She definitely played a major role while I was in Medical School. Till this day, my dad still jokes about how her name should be somewhere on my certificate. The fact that I now teach medicine is definitely my father’s influence. I am extremely grateful for the support I received from them. They shaped my life and made me who I am today.

Did they impose their career choices on your siblings and what career paths did your siblings follow?

My parents advised each of us and guided our career choices. My brother, Bambo, has a BSc in Chemical Engineering with an MBA. Mobola is a lawyer; currently a doctoral candidate.

Niyi is a civil engineer and also a doctoral candidate. I would say they guided their children, but they did not impose anything on us.

Describe your father’s personality at home?

My father is always relaxed and cool, he is a wonderful father. My dad is awesome. We have cultivated a habit of getting together when we are all home to just talk and have fun. Also, he always seems to have one paper or the other to write; therefore, he spends time in his study working as well.

Is your father jovial at home?

He is jovial at home; there is no boring moment with him.

Nigerians know a lot about your father since he is a public figure, but what is that thing Nigerians don’t know about your him?

He is a family man. My dad loves to spend time with us, especially his grandchildren. Being together over the Christmas holidays is a tradition; he loves to see his grandchildren excited while opening their presents. We all spend a whole day together every year. On a lighter note, he loves Archie comics and he watches Ben 10 and other cartoons with his grandchildren.

What were the challenges he faced at the start of his career?

He was a Professor and lecturer when all there was to the job was the title. I think a lot of university lecturers at the time I was growing up were underpaid. This is an area I think government needs to pay more attention to.

How would you describe your parents’ marriage?

Most times, when I look at my parents, I admire the love they have for each other. I believe their marriage is ordained by God. I lack words to describe their marriage; theirs is a blessed and happy one.

Did your father advise you on the type of man to marry?

I don’t recall, I married the son of a University of Lagos Professor of Chemistry. My father knew his father long before we knew each other.

How sociable is your father?

My father is very sociable. He is amiable and he is an outgoing personality. It seems people always have a compliment or two about him, even now when I run into people all the way in Houston and even some of my patients, the first question is, ‘Are you Prof’s daughter?’ I also used to get a lot of ‘Omo Oyeee’ while I was growing up. My Dad has fantastic interpersonal skills and runs an open door policy.

What are your father’s favourite meals?

He likes rotisserie chicken; I think it reminds him of when he was schooling in Canada. He also likes ketchup.

What is his favourite drink?

I am not sure he has one. I should think it is water when we are together.

Describe your father’s temperament?

I would describe him as someone who is cool; it takes a lot to get my dad worked up. He gives a really long rope. He doesn’t lose his temper easily. He is patient.

You are saying he doesn’t get angry easily?

No, he doesn’t. He is a great dad.

What do you like about him?

I love everything about him. He is such a wonderful father; the best father one could ever dream of having. I am proud to say he is my dad.

And what don’t you like about him?

I think he sometimes works too hard. I am always telling him he needs to slow down. When I was much younger, I hated asking him for help with my Maths homework; it always ended up being a Maths lesson.

How did he discipline a child who erred?

He disciplined us using various ways. Sometimes, he took away our privileges (game consoles, cable decoder etc). Other times, he would give us punishments such as pick pins, kneel down and raise your hands. It all depended on the gravity of the offence.

The Ibidapo-Obes

Has he ever spanked you or your siblings?

Of course, he has. I can remember all the periods I received a spanking from him. But to be fair, they were few for everyone. Maybe Mobola was the only one who never got spanked by my dad.

How does your father handle criticisms?

He handles them constructively. Now, I, on the other hand, take up any critic of my dad or mum personally.

What is his view on the current state of the nation and President Muhammadu Buhari’s style of leadership?

I think he is hopeful, like most people, hopeful that Nigeria improves.

What does he say about President Goodluck Jonathan?

Dad says, ‘Goodluck Jonathan was the President of Nigeria.’ My father has respect for authority and has instilled that in us.

 Where does your father see himself in the next five years?

He still sees himself teaching by then. I know he plans to work till retirement. I also know he had plans to return to the classroom after the Vice-Chancellor term at UNILAG ended, then he was asked to be the pioneer Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University at Ebonyi State, this has also taken him away from the classroom. On the other hand, he plans to focus on academic research and mentoring in the public sector. I think he is capable of doing quite a lot of other things apart from teaching.

Who is your father’s role model?

God is his first role model. Other names include his father, the late Chief Ladipo Ibidapo-Obe, late Chief V.O. Ojutalayo, and Professor Chike Obi. I also know he has a lot of respect for former President Olusegun Obasanjo and many elder statesmen. Other names are Prof. Ayo Ogunye and Prof. Abass, who both had a lot of influence on his career.

What does he do first when he wakes up and the last thing he does before going to bed?

The first thing he does on waking up is to put on his glasses. I know my parents pray together before setting out for the day and before bed.

Does he read what people write about him in newspapers?

Yes, he does; we all do.

What has kept his marriage strong?

I believe love, prayer, a wonderful and loving woman. My mum is a great person; the best mother one could ever have.

What has been your father’s lowest moment or most trying period that you know?

I think it was the period when school fees were raised by the Federal Government and also when UNILAG students went on a rampage. Even after they looted and burnt our residence, personal cars and other property, we still received death threats and many more. My father was ready to walk away from it all at some point; he did not want any threat to his family at all. But till this day, he believes the act was not committed by UNILAG students. It was an extremely trying time for all of us. But God was faithful then and has remained faithful. Also, when my grandma passed away was a very low moment for him.

Did he fight in the Biafra war, and where was he at that time?

No, he did not. He was an undergraduate at UNILAG during the war and thanks be to God, we understood the war did not get to the stage of having to draft people into the army before it ended.

How does your father like to dress?

He dresses formally mostly on week days and to formal events. On informal occasions, he likes slacks and shirts. He wears complete national dress to church on Sundays and to functions.

In the religious sector, who are his role models?

Pastor E.A. Adeboye is definitely one of his role models. He is a Mathematician like him and a ‘GREAT’ Akokite. His wife, Pastor (Mrs.) Folu Adeboye, and my dad are from the same town, Ilesa. Pastor Adeboye himself is also from one of the neighbouring towns in Osun State. They both treat him like a brother. I also know he has a lot of respect for Dr. Olukoya, who was very supportive during his term as UNILAG’s Vice-Chancellor.

What do you know about his childhood?

He has not always loved school but has always been brilliant. His mum adored him, but was tough on him. His early education was in Ilesa; I think one of his primary school teachers influenced his choice of Mathematics as a first degree.

What is his advice to you when it comes to money?

His approach is frugality. My dad is a conservative spender.

What special privileges have you enjoyed as a result of being his daughter?

I believe a lot of my professors in medical school wanted me to succeed. They had all eyes on me, most of them were harder on me, and I could not get away with half of what other students were getting away with. I could not miss lectures; I had to study extra hard and in advance, because I never could avoid a question. In retrospect, maybe it was because they did not want to be accused of favoritism. Then, I saw it as a burden, now I realise it was a privilege, and perks of being the VC’s daughter.

If he wasn’t in the education sector, what else would he be doing?

Probably in the petroleum sector, he was already at British Petroleum (later African Petroleum) before joining UNILAG. My dad has fantastic interpersonal skills and I believe he could be anything he wants to be. He can carry out a conversation on any sector or career. However, I believe he will also make an excellent UN representative or an ambassador but still as an academic.

What values have you imbibed from him?

I have imbibed hard work, diligence, and being principled.

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Herbal mixtures for malaria and typhoid

Nigerians have resorted to using strange combination of drugs to fight malaria, which kills a child every minute in Africa, writes ARUKAINO UMUKORO

Shivering despite the several layers of clothes he had on, he was obviously weak from the incessant vomiting he had experienced in the last 24 hours. Then, he decided consulting a drugstore by the corner of a roadside in Ketu, Lagos.

He needed anti-malaria drugs. “Give me Folic acid, Vitamin B-Complex, Ferrous, Curefenac 50, Laridox tablets,” he told the ‘chemist.’

With experienced dexterity and with a teaspoon, she counted the drugs from different packs and put them inside small nylon packs for the patient.

“Oga, it is N250. I added Chloroquine and Flagyl because you are stoolling,” she told him.

The ‘chemist’, who did not want to divulge where she learnt her ‘trade’ from, told SUNDAY PUNCH that of all illnesses she attends to daily, malaria drugs are in high demand.

“Nothing cures malaria like combining Folic acid (1 tablet); Vitamin B-Complex(1 tablet) Ferrous(1 tablet) or you can buy blood tonic if you can afford it, then, Curefenac 50, Laridox Sulfadoxine (500mg) and Pyrimethamine (25mg) tablets. Since most malaria comes with vomiting and stooling, I also give patients Flagyl and Paracetamol,” she reeled out with pride.

The roadside ‘chemists’

Meanwhile, somewhere in the ever-busy Mile 12 market area of the state, Abdul carried his mobile shop around. Wearing a colourful horizontally-stripped shirt and faded blue jeans trousers, he did not cut the picture of a medical doctor. But with a big plastic bowl containing different kinds of medicine/drugs by his side, he is an expert in hawking medicine.

His is a mobile drug store and he is called ‘Doctor’ by the teeming ‘patients’, who consult him on a daily basis. When our correspondent asked for drugs to treat malaria, Abdul beamed. “Kai, malaria plenty for here,” he said from his ‘observatory.’

With such deftness that could have only come from regular practice, Abdul rummaged through some packs of tablets in a bowl, he shuffled it a few times, like a pack of cards, and brought out a pack of a particular type of drug each time – five types in total. Then, he lectured this correspondent on the uses of each.

“This is Antidar (Sulfadozine Pyrimethamine), anti-malaria tablet, and this is Zamba 500, it would help the anti-malaria work very well, and it is good for body pain, dental pain and so on. This is Paracetamol, also for body pain and headache. This is Amoxyl, an antibiotic, and this is blood tonic. When you use it, you won’t have malaria again. I don’t want to give you too much because it will be overdose,” he said confidently.

The total cost of the combination of anti-malarial drugs was N150.

Abdul claimed he learnt community health education for about two years in Katsina State before moving to Lagos two years ago to ‘ply his trade.’

Although he sells other types of medicines – from aphrodisiac to fever drugs –Abdul said he had over 50 customers that ask for anti-malaria drugs every week.

“Malaria no dey respect anybody oh. Oga, our drugs dey work well. You no go get malaria again,” said another roadside ‘chemist’, who gave his name as John.

One of Abdul’s ‘customers’ is Sule Musa, a trader in Mile 12 market. In his 40s, Musa said the anti-malarial drugs worked very well each time he bought them. When asked if he knew the names of the drugs he was given to treat malaria, he said, “What would I do with their names? I just know that the medicine works very well to cure malaria. These drugs are also cheaper than the anti-malaria drugs those big chemist and hospital sell.”

Mrs. Eno Johnson, a trader in Agege area of the state, also shared Musa’s views. She told SUNDAY PUNCH that she spent a significant sum of her earnings on buying malaria drugs from roadside chemists or any pharmacy closest to her at the particular point she felt symptoms of malaria.

“I don’t know the names of the drugs. The only thing I know is that they said it treats malaria. It is a mix of different drugs. I just know that it works,” she added.

Although Johnson said she took her children to the hospital in most cases whenever they developed malaria symptoms, she noted that she was also comfortable with self-care, as it works. “Sometimes, they use mosquito net too,” she noted.

Not everyone can afford a net though, which reduces malaria transmission by half. It is estimated that less than five per cent of children in sub-Saharan Africa currently sleep under any type of insecticide-treated net. Most homes in Nigeria do not have regular electricity, supply or none at all, while there are inadequate health facilities in many towns and communities in the country.

Similarly, Mr. Chukwuma Ernest, a businessman in his 50s, said he sometimes asked for more combination of anti-malaria drugs depending on the symptoms he felt.

He said, “I always know whenever I have malaria. I start feeling weakness in my body, fever, headache, and sometimes cough, catarrh and slight chest pain. I tell the chemist to give me different types of drugs combination so that I would be sure that I treat the malaria completely then. Whenever I take these drugs, I get well. Going to the hospital for tests and all that is too expensive.

“Going to a hospital to treat malaria could cost between N3,000 and N10, 000, depending on the treatment prescribed, but I can just buy drugs worth about N500 to treat myself. I don’t have to go to a hospital when I can buy malaria drugs anywhere, even from the roadside.

“Again, some of these hospitals would not want to treat you immediately if you do not pay them a deposit first; while some public hospitals, even when treatment is free, still ask one to pay for some drugs.”

The cost of a laboratory test ranges between N1,000 and N1,500.

The herbal medicine practitioners

“You want ‘correct’ treatment for malaria, abi? No problem, you have come to the right place.” With a knowing smile, the ‘doctor’ welcomed our correspondent into her shop in Ogba, Lagos.

The title, ‘doctor,’ on the wall was almost hidden by the growing shrub of leaves beside her ‘inspection room.’

The concoction would fill a five-litre gallon, she added. “It would cost you N3,000, but I would prepare one-litre for you for N1,000,” the lady, who gave her name as Mama Ronke, said.

It was a combination of over 15 different ‘things,’ including roots and leaves, she emphasised proudly. With that statement, she went to work.

Mama Ronke deftly cut the roots and barks into pieces, and added other things into the one-litre plastic bottle. In about 15 minutes, she was done. “Mix it with hot Seven-Up or Teem drink. You can even use water but allow it to ferment for 24 hours. Then, take it twice a day, in the morning and at night,” she instructed.

“How long should I take it and how would I know when to stop it?” this correspondent asked.

“You can take it for about a month, and you would know when to stop it from the odour of the drink after some time,” she replied, adding that she had been a practising herbal ‘doctor’ for over 20 years. “I learnt it from my parents.”

Mama Ronke’s customers come from within and outside Lagos. She said she prepared herbal medicine for an ‘uncountable’ number of customers weekly.

At another herbal medicine practitioner’s shop, the cost of malaria treatment was between N3,000 and N5,000. “This is because I will give you a mixture you can use for up to four months. We can prepare it for you or you can take it home and do it by yourself, and mix it with hot gin,” he told SUNDAY PUNCH.

In Ikotun, a suburb of Lagos mainland, and at Akute, a bustling town in Ogun State, and many other places in the South-West, one could buy a malaria herbal concoction for as low as N50/N100 or as high as N3,000, depending on what the customer wants and the person’s health condition. Malaria and typhoid fever concoction cost more.

Interestingly, most herbal medicine sellers and practitioners SUNDAY PUNCH spoke to were reluctant to share the components of their mixtures. “I’ve been doing this for years. If I don’t know what I use, why am I in this business?” one retorted and declined further comments. Another simply laughed and said, “I know my business.”

“Maybe they don’t want to give out their ‘trade secret’ so as not to ‘spoil’ their market,” one of their customers, who simply gave her name as Ify, noted.

Just like the aforementioned, many Nigerians patronise these herbal sellers and practitioners to get malaria treatment. “I buy malaria mixture from them because it is cheap and works very well. I don’t need to know what is inside, as long as it works,” a motorcycle rider added nonchalantly and walked away.

A certified traditional medical practitioner, Olajuwon Okubena, argued that despite the controversy, herbal medicine could kill the malaria parasite over time, with continued usage, especially when the parasite might have become drug-resistant to orthodox medicine.

He said, “It is true that there are charlatans in the herbal medicine business who take advantage of people’s ignorance, but these herbal mixtures were used by our forefathers, which we have just replicated, but under better hygienic conditions.”

A herbal ‘doctor’

In places SUNDAY PUNCH visited, most of these herbal medicine concoctions were prepared or sold in unhygienic conditions.

According to these ‘doctors’, herbal mixtures include roots and leaves such as Dogonyaro leaves, Awopa (bark of a tree), lime, mango and pawpaw leaves, lemon grass, and so on. These are mixed and fermented with hot gin, soft drinks, pap water or ordinary water.

‘Dangerous mix’

Due to poverty, illiteracy, poor healthcare system, harsh economic situation, culture and tradition, many Nigerians shy away from receiving proper hospital treatment for malaria. Instead, most prefer to patronise herbal medicine sellers, or use a cocktail of anti-malaria drugs, self-prescribed or prescribed by a relative or a roadside chemist, to treat themselves at home.

These practices are common, but not ideal, noted infectious disease specialist, Dr. Joseph Onigbinde.

He said, “Going to a chemist to buy drugs or engaging in self-medication is erroneous and dangerous. This is because most of the time, such persons could end up spending more than they had planned. Apart from that, what most of these chemists do is just guesswork, without carrying out a proper laboratory test.

“Prevention is better than cure. Some of these unregulated treatments could lead to complications such as liver and kidney failure, and even death.”

Judith Duba, a civil servant in Gokana Local Government Area of Rivers State, learnt this the hard way. Her husband of two years, Justice Duba, died in April, 2014 after taking anti-malaria drugs on self-medication.

Duba’s husband, having felt some headache, pain and developed high body temperature, went to a local drug store, bought some drugs and placed himself on what he believed was malaria treatment.

“My husband lost weight drastically while he was taking medications for malaria; and instead of getting better, his health condition worsened. We eventually took him to the Bori General Hospital at the local government headquarters, where he was diagnosed with acute malaria, with traces of typhoid, and given adequate treatment,” she recalled with grief obvious in her eyes.

Although Justice initially responded to hospital treatment, his health had deteriorated so much that further medical tests had to be carried out. It was discovered that he had developed a kidney problem, and needed dialysis to stay alive.

“He was unable to breathe due to his failing health and was placed on oxygen, but we had no money to carry out the dialysis,” Duba said. Justice later died same month.

Warnings

Medical experts have also warned against getting treatment for malaria without a professional doctor’s diagnosis and treatment.

A public health expert, Dr. Sunday Aderibigbe, said, “Even if herbal medicine has been used for thousands of years, but again, we don’t know how many people have died from it, or kidneys that have been damaged from it, because they are undocumented issues.

“The problem we have with them (herbal medicine practitioners) is that they don’t have proper dosages, and we don’t know the active ingredients they use in preparing such concoctions. Taking concoctions without proper dosage can affect the kidney, the main organ which bears the brunt of all toxic materials in the body. So, these concoctions can cause kidney failure.”

Similarly, a pharmacist and logistic officer, National Malaria Elimination Programme, Rotimi Kunle, noted that herbal medicine for the treatment of malaria is not ideal, noting that the downsides include safety and hygiene concerns, and lack of quality control.

He said, “Safety concerns are usually not their business and their procedures are not regulated in any way. But, most people are risking their health, exposing themselves and their organs to damaging chemicals from taking such (herbal) mixtures. It is not advisable. It might be effective for some, but it is not right. A patient recently developed complications from malaria and was only brought to the hospital two months after taking herbal concoction to treat it. He died later. The false hope such medications give actually complicates malaria cases.”

Nevertheless, many Nigerians still patronise herbal medicine sellers and practitioners because of traditional beliefs, as well as the cost of getting proper medical treatment.

Experts opine that the recommended Artemisinine-based Combination Therapy drugs are still out of reach for many in Nigeria, where more than half of its 170 million people live on less than $2 (N400) a day. While a pack of notable and approved anti-malarial drug could cost between N500 and N3,500 in registered pharmacies.

Also, the use of chloroquine for the treatment of malaria is no longer recommended by the World Health Organisation in some countries, including Nigeria, because the malaria parasite had developed resistance to it.

Abdul at work

Kunle said, “Chloroquine is no longer recommended by the WHO in treating malaria because, over the years, it was discovered that it was no longer effective in managing malaria.

“Also, Sulphadoxine and Pyremethamine, popularly called SP in those days, were used for the management of uncomplicated malaria many years ago. Now, because of resistance, that combination is no longer in use, although it is cheaper. The focus has shifted to other more effective forms of antimalarial. ACT is now what is recommended.”

Aderibigbe explained that Pryimethanimne and Sulfadoxine were supposed to be used for the prevention, and not treatment of malaria, unlike the prevailing practice.

He added, “It is wrong to use these as treatment for malaria. It is meant for prevention. Also, WHO standard recommends two doses of Fansidar (which contains Pryimethanimne or Sulfadoxine) to prevent, not treat, malaria in a pregnant woman. For the treatment of malaria. Now, it is ACT.

“ACT drug combinations include AL (Artemether/Lumefantrine) and AA (Artesunate Amodiaquine). Many cases of malaria complications in hospitals degenerate into complicated malaria or cerebral malaria, which are the consequences of self-medication, and herbal medicine therapy.”

The malaria scourge

Malaria, said to be one of the most severe public health problems worldwide, occurs mostly in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, like Nigeria. About 3.2 billion people – almost half of the world’s population – are said to be at risk of malaria, a life-threatening disease which is transmitted to people through mosquito bites.

According to WHO’s latest estimates, there are about 198 million cases of malaria in 2013 and an estimated 584,000 deaths. People living in the poorest countries are also said to be the most vulnerable to malaria.

In Nigeria, poor electricity supply, poor sanitary practices/ environmental conditions and the country’s tropical climate, provide perfect breeding ground for the malaria parasite, plasmodium, which is transmitted to people through bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.

With over 170 million people, malaria is a major health problem in Nigeria, which accounts for the highest cases and deaths from malaria in the world. Alongside Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Uganda, are said account for nearly 50 per cent of the global malaria deaths.

In Nigeria, while malaria contributes to an estimated 11 per cent of maternal mortality, some experts claim that with an estimated 90 million malaria cases with over 250,000 deaths per year, there are more deaths from malaria in the country than deaths from HIV, leprosy and tuberculosis combined.

Similarly, malaria is said to be the second leading cause of death (after HIV/AIDS) from infectious diseases in Africa. It is also estimated that a child dies every minute from malaria, although since year 2,000, malaria mortality rates among children in Africa are said to have fallen by 54 per cent and by 47 per cent globally. Ninety per cent of all malaria deaths occurred in the African region, mostly among children under five years of age.

This is the more reason why experts warn against self-medication to treat malaria.

A paediatrician, Dr. Edem Duke, said, “Most symptoms simulate malaria in children, but they may not actually be malaria. Fever is a universal symptom for most infective illnesses – bacteria, viral and fungi. So, the likely malaria symptoms could be a viral or bacterial infection; meningitis, chest infection, pneumonia, or blood infection. Not every fever symptoms is a sign of malaria.”

The symptoms of malaria include loss of appetite, fever, headache, chills, sometimes joint pains, nausea, and vomiting in some cases, noted Kunle.

Duke said in most cases, parents only come to the hospital when the cases that looked like malaria had worsened.

“Managing children can be quite challenging, but some parents come to the hospital for tests when there are already complications. This is after they have gone to patronise roadside chemists and undertaken self-medication.

She further said, “That weakness or fatigue in an adult’s body may just be a sign of stress, but the person would just decide to start taking anti-malaria drugs unnecessarily whenever this occurs. This could lead to the formation of a resistant strain.”

The other challenge is the issue of sub-standard or expired anti-malarial drugs in the market. According to recent research published in a medical journal, PLOS ONE, a rigorous analysis of more than 3,000 anti-malarials purchased in Enugu State, South-East Nigeria, which has a population of about 3 million, found about 10 per cent to be of poor quality.

The research, which was done by the drug quality team of the Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy Consortium at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, analysed 3,024 anti-malarials containing artemisinin (the component that makes malaria treatment effective) from Enugu Metropolis. This left patients at risk of not receiving the correct treatment dose and potentially contributing to the development of resistance to the main drug used to treat malaria. The report also noted that “poor quality drugs were frequently found with patent medicine vendors — known as drug shops, the main source of treatment for most patients — rather than in pharmacies.”

Study co-author, Prof. Obinna Onwujekwe, from the University of Nigeria, Enugu, said, “The results show that the health system actors should be eternally vigilant in Nigeria and in other countries to ensure that sub-standard drugs do not impede or erode gains made in malaria treatment. Drug regulatory authorities and their partners should intensify drug quality monitoring activities with appropriate sanctions for defaulters.”

Similarly, a snap poll by NOIPolls, which works in partnership with The Gallup Poll (USA), in February, showed that 18 per cent of Nigerians claimed they had ‘personally been victims of fake, counterfeit and substandard pharmaceutical products, medicines and drugs.’ Independent pharmacy/chemist (68 per cent) and drug hawkers (14 per cent) were identified as the two main points of purchase of fake drugs in Nigeria.

Prevention, not cure

These issues have been major concerns for the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, noted its president, Mr. Olumide Akintayo. This is one of the reasons why the medical body places emphasis on the need for Nigerians to visit registered pharmacies, if they chose not to visit the hospital for malaria treatment.

He said, “From experience, there are many health cases that have symptomatic presentations of malaria, but they are not. This is why the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria insists that every pharmacy consult should have a proper counselling office. It would enable private and professional dialogue with a health consumer to convince them of the need for proper diagnosis before making any clinical inferences.

“However, one cannot change the prevailing culture in one day. So many things have gone wrong in our health care system which we need to correct. Even clinicians mismanage a lot of this. This is why we need the media to promote advocacy.”

Nigeria loses an estimated N130bn annually due to loss of man hours and productivity due to malaria and its cost of treatment. In the same vein, the WHO estimates that malaria costs an estimated $12bn in lost productivity in Africa.

While programmes such as the Roll Back Malaria campaign, local and state government malaria initiatives, as well as the contributions from foreign partners, and others, are helping in the fight against malaria, experts believe there is still a lot more to be done, in a country of over 170 million people.

Onigbinde said despite the increase in public enlightenment and awareness programmes, government should provide more mosquito nets for the populace, and generally improve healthcare in the country. Similarly, Akintayo noted that, aside from the National Health Insurance Scheme, government should fast-track a community-based social health insurance scheme. “Government must be bold enough to implement the NHIS. More needs to be done, as many Nigerians, especially children, are still dying from malaria,” he added.

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