As medical experts forecast, COVID-19, now a pandemic, will downgrade to endemism and over time, a long time, assaulted by the vaccine which the world awaits with bated breath, will fade into the background as a major health issue. Mutant strains are said to be in the works and the cycle of such diseases may continue.
In the midst of the pandemic, in more than 90% of affected countries, children are asked to stay home. Exposing them to the virus comes with the danger of being casualties and loss of lives of successor generations of the nation’s workforce and leaders.
In Nigeria, the stay at home order was issued by the Honourable Minister of Education in March after due consultations with stakeholders and derived from empirical data from Nigeria’s COVID-19 Presidential Task Force (PTF).
Last week, the news that schools will reopen, first for students in external examination classes- junior secondary 3 (JS3) and senior secondary 3 (SS3) was thick in the air. The timetable for the West African Examinations Council’s (WAEC) senior school certificate examination (SSCE) was announced to commence from August 4.
Schools claimed compliance with initial guidelines for reopening and all would appear set for the re-entry of the students. By July 13, a detailed set of guidelines which sync and are fully aligned with international best practices were published by the federal ministry of education.
The expectation is that upon verified compliance, schools will benefit from phased reopening sometime at a safe future date.
Going back a week, after the Wednesday, July 8 Federal Executive Council meeting, Malam Adamu Adamu the honourable minister of education announced that school reopening should tarry based on verifiable information available to government regarding the inclemency of the environment for schools to reopen.
The minister was unwilling to expose school children to the health hazards associated with COVID-19 when daily updates by PTF present data that the COVID-19 storm was still howling.
I am not a medical expert but the wise counsel of the experts converge that you do not unlock when the infection curve is rising.
Unlocking has been implicated in the sharp rise of the curve and concomitant elevation of mortality rates. No parent will claim ignorance of the daily rise in the cases of COVID-19.
Curiously, some want to gamble the lives of their children to return to school and hurt the health and lives of the children to ensure they sit the WAEC SSCE.
I invite such parents to consider three scenarios to which students in the examination classes (JS3 and SS3) may be plunged.
The coronavirus-free child on the way to school in a bus is exposed to asymptomatic coronavirus-carrying conductor or passenger. Even when walking to school, interaction with others en route carries some risks of contracting the virus. Scenario 2 is in school as seen play out in Kenya, Ghana and South Africa.
A child is “clean” but has physical, unprotected interaction with teachers and other students who may be infected.
The “clean” student at 8.00am now becomes “unclean” at 2.00pm when school closes and returns home, infests the parents who prodded him to school and his or her siblings.
Scenario 3 is the case of the student in the boarding house. Expecting young children and adolescents who have not physically seen themselves for three months maintaining safe distance is on the other side of reality.
Even if final-year classes resume in August, keeping safe distance where two students sleep on a small bed as typical of choked-up hostels especially in our public schools is illusory.
What about the big issue of the SSCE to be conducted by WAEC planned to kick off on August 4? Kick-off date will have to be another day for Nigerian candidates.
This is my understanding of the ministerial directive. My deeper understanding, which should be pleasing to the ears of parents, if I score a bull’s eye in the forecast, is that Nigeria can negotiate an out-of-season date for WAEC SSCE when COVID-19 curve would have flattened sufficiently, the July 13 guidelines are complied with and our children can return safely to school.
In finalising my position on the ministerial directive to keep our children at home for a little longer, I surveyed members of my network all over Africa and found that in many countries in our region, schools are still shut with outlook to open when the ravaging storm of COVID-19 would have abated to a point for safe return to schools. In Kenya, schools will remain shut till 2021.
In Ghana where schools were ordered to reopen, spike in COVID-19 in the ministry of education and in schools may trigger massive demonstrations this week and closure of schools.
As reported in the JAMB Bulletin Volume 1 No. 18 of July 13, culled from a creditable South African source, 775 schools in the country have been affected by COVID-19.
Reports from the US as at July 13 monitored on CNN, confirm that about 26 of the states are rolling back the plan to reopen schools.
As we navigate our way along the pathway of reopening our schools, we should note two strands of caveats (public-health related and economy-related) canvassed by some medical experts.
On the public health line of reasoning, the experts note the inefficiency of the NPIs (Non-pharmaceutical Interventions) to control Covid-19.
The impact of the measures to control the spread of the infection is said to be debatable as we have been unable to enforce social distancing/isolation, effective lockdowns, use of face masks and so the curve is speeding up rather than flattening.
As a result, there is no real rationale for not allowing schools to resume in a controlled manner. Allowing schools to resume is essentially a continuation of the status quo rather than a departure from the current reality. Also noted is the limited community testing.
As the experts observed, it is unlikely that we will soon have the massive testing required to truly begin the process of identifying people with the disease with the aim of focusing on them and thus isolating them. Because it will be tricky to test people in the medium term, how long can we truly withhold people from going about their regular lives including schools? If we had a reasonable sense of timing, perhaps we could bide time until such testing was available.
We cannot keep people home indefinitely, especially the youth. Thirdly is the inherent resilience of the school-age population. School children are not the most vulnerable population and so allowing them to continue schooling may not be as dangerous as allowing our current practice of allowing people who are in the at-risk population to resume work.
The mortality and morbidity in children appear less and so maybe less consequential than other currently employed measures.
On the economy-related caveat, the experts contend that it is obvious that the economic challenges are much more severe than initially anticipated.
The education sector is not an exception. Teachers need to be paid, parents also need additional help to keep children busy while they return to work and a myriad of other economic realities.
It would be best to get students back to school but do so carefully, for example: having smaller classes, doing basic health checks on students, encouraging sick children to stay home, and use of sanitisers just as being done in offices across the country.
I am convinced that Malam Adamu Adamu, the honourable minister of education, does not want to experiment with the lives of Nigerian children and end up being blamed by the same parents who want their children to rush to the WEAC SSCE examination hall on August 4.
Who says the Nigerian government cannot request WAEC to conduct the SSCE when the environment is clement out of the regular May/June, November/December seasons? Who says that the other West African countries are ready to present their candidates in August/September 2020? Softly, softly, dear colleague parents and grandparents. The lives of our children matter.
Okebukola, a distinguished Professor of Science and Computer Education wrote via [email protected]
Edo Decide 2020: Lack of ideology or just pure vibes?
Nigeria’s democracy is 20 years old since the country returned to a democratic government on May 29, 1999. Since then, there are different clogs in the wheel of democratic dispensation in Nigeria which affect the country from having a ‘true’ multiparty democracy. One of these is party defection or cross carpeting.
If we take a closer look into the Nigeria political history, we will realise that Extant literature reveals that the issue of party defection, where politicians crossing from one political party to the other, is rampant in Nigeria and it cuts across all levels of government from federal to local. The most recent and absurd occurrence is that of the Edo state political system.
The Tenure of the Governor of Edo State will expire on the 11th day of November 2020 and by virtue of the provisions of Section 178 (2) of the Constitution, and Section 25 (8) of the Electoral Act, Election into the office of a State Governor shall hold not earlier than One Hundred and Fifty (150) days and not later than thirty (30) days before the expiration of the term of office of the last holder of the office. In view of that, the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) announced 19th September 2020 as the official date for the Edo state election.
This election once again presents the Edo people with another opportunity to elect a leader that will provide them with the dividends of democracy and good governance they have been clamouring for. For me, it is also the best time to point to the good people of Edo state that they have more than APC and PDP to select from in the forthcoming election.
According to the communique released by INEC, they have registered and confirmed only 14 Political Parties (14 Governorship Candidates for the forthcoming election). Which means the people have 14 candidates to select from of which two are females. I needed to point that out as we have indirectly accepted that Nigeria is running a two-party system by practice as the “competition” has always been between the APC and the PDP.
A political party is meant to be driven by principle and ideologies, these ideologies apparently are what attract candidates to join the party. In other words, it is safe to say, the ideology of a political party is almost the same as the members of that party. But what democracy depicts in Nigeria continues to manifest clearly around individual’s quests for recognition or self-preservation rather than the greater purpose of service to the people and nation as enshrined in the letters of the definitions of democracy.
In the Edo state 2016 election, Governor Godwin Obaseki contested and won his election under the APC. In his campaigns, his Godfather and mentor were able to present to us why PDP is not a worthy party to give power and how they lack ideologies to govern a state, here we are in 2020, the same man is contesting under the PDP, a party that is of no good.
Pastor Ize-Iyamu Osagie on the hand, who has been a major rival to the APC, contested under the PDP in the 2016 election in Edo state but in this 2020 he is now in APC, a party he agreed are occupied by corrupt and incompetent people. The question really is what changed over the years in the life of both Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu?
I won’t ever forget the role of Adams Oshiomole in all this, how he was able to remind the good people of Edo state about the past mismanagement of Edo State by Pastor Ize-Iyamu Osagie and his then party, the PDP. Adams Oshiomole, who was then the outgoing governor, minced no word in tagging Pastor Ize-Iyamu Osagie as a thief and an incompetent bigot who cannot be trusted with the treasury of Edo state and it was the reason he did not nominate him for an appointment when he was still a Governor under the APC in the State. I ask again, what changed now?
To be fair, it is not just an APC or the PDP thing. Because in that same 2016, Amos Areloegbe contested under the Labour Party (LP) but he is now contesting under the All People’s Party (APP). In the same vein, Akhalamhe Amiemenoghena contested in 2016 under the People for Democratic. Change (PDC) and in 2020 he is in the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP). Not forgetting Agol Ebun who was in the Nigerien Progressive Party (PPN) in 2016 but has now crossed carpet to New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) in 2020.
This systemic behaviourism by so-called and self-styled politicians in Nigeria has reduced the quality of opposition and clear proof that politicians and their political parties have no principles or ideologies. All this supports Winston Churchhill claim that “Some men change their party for the sake of their principles; others their principles for the sake of their party.”
Victor Ejechi is the Media and Communications Lead at StatiSense Consult
Buhari: Restoring Nigeria’s Armed Forces lost glory BY Onmeje
The reality in Nigeria on improved security does not need crystalline lens to have a clear sight. Never mind those whose minds are fixated on pulsating or celebrating the odd and the petrifying, which comes erratically for a country adroitly fixing its various insecurity challenges amid schemes of sabs.
But the value of truth cannot be diminished by the media hype of opposition elements, scattered everywhere in the system and only concerned about permutations on how to grab power in the next political dispensation.
No one blames them because leadership or power is not donated on a platter of gold to anyone. It is a rough field and all arsenals are recruited either for triumph or defeat of either side of the actors on the turf.
Mindless of the entanglements on field of powerplay, but truth is always visible and palpable enough, in spite of the evil gang-up against it. The Commander-In-Chief (C-in-C) of the Armed Forces of any nation is a serious personality by every rating, whether biased or objective. He holds the ace and accepts every liability or asset in the aftermath.
The C-in-C’s physiognomy is immaterial in the political and security leadership of a nation he bears the nightmarish burden of offering to his people. He is the receptor of everything. He takes credit for good or bad as long as he reigns.
It explains President Muhammadu Buhari’s reasons for painstakingly dedicating of time to carefully scrutinize and appoint capable lieutenants to assist him in the arduous task of governing a complex country like Nigeria. In Nigeria, at least one thing is expressively eloquent enough for all ears. President Buhari, as the C-in-C made no mistakes in selecting his appointees’, especially Service Chiefs. Security is a pivotal component of government in any country globally.
A fortified Armed Forces are the primary strength of any nation. When countries like Israel, America, Russia, Germany, China, Great Britain and several other world powers roar at external aggressors harshly- the countries which threaten their sovereignty and territorial integrity, its because of the might of their Military. The world has never at any time been immune from troubles. It is prophetic and historical.
President Buhari did Nigerians a lot of good which has remained unsung. When Buhari became the democratic leader of Nigeria in 2015, he met a degenerated, polarized, politicized, under equipped, poorly motivated, under-staffed, under-trained and an archaic Military. Nigeria had the infamous chaunt of operating a Military which ducked in the battlefield in the face of menacing enemies.
Boko Harm and other insurgency sects held Nigerians captive in their country and homes for years, right into Abuja. Aware of this situation, what President Buhari never failed his conscience about the leadership Nigerians entrusted to him from the outset was to appoint competent, loyal, patriotic and trusted team of senior Military officers to head the various arms of the nation’s Armed Forces.
The President wanted a total overhaul of the security architecture of the country. It was avoidably the first tonic he discovered as imperative to inject into the Nigerian Military. He allowed the Service Chiefs he inherited to function for nearly two months (May 29 – July 15, 2015) to weigh their performance before taking a decision. If they were truly good, but frustrated by the preceding administration, Buhari was prepared to retain them. He would never have sacked them.
President Buhari gave them the tools and liberty to operate freely for nearly two months. But he didn’t get the required results. Quite disturbed, he relieved these Nigerians of their appointments; thanked them for service to the nation and crowned new Service Chiefs with a specific mandate- to end terrorism in the country as soon as possible.
And among them, a crack professional soldier, patriotic, loyal and a no-nonsense Army General, already used to terrorism warfare, who was serving as Commander of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai was appointed COAS and leader of counter-insurgency operations in Nigeria. It was the genesis of the relocation of Military Chiefs to the theatre of war in Maiduguri, Northeast of Nigeria in compliance with a presidential order.
The insecurity in the region immediately resolved itself because serious senior Military personnel, who are conversant with the asymmetrical style of terrorists’ wars took charge in obedient response to the presidential directive. A lot of gains have been made. The wanton destruction of lives and properties by the Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria has been reduced by at least, 90 percent, even with their bolstered strength by ISWAP.
Today, when some Nigerians malevolently fault the Service Chiefs and playout games to compel President to drop these Military assets to Nigeria for flimsy excuses such as “incompetence,” the President just laughs himself out. It is because he is yet to see where they failed Nigeria or the best to replace them now to effectively dispense results and stick to the earlier stated qualities, especially, loyalty and patriotism. The current internal struggles for leadership in the Military confirms this fear.
Its normal that some Nigerians are sometimes forgetful. The person leading counter-insurgency operations in Nigeria is President Buhari and not the Service Chiefs. The President who has a clearer and better knowledge of the operations of the Military in warfare, knows his Service Chiefs have not disappointed him or the country on this sensitive national assignment and its spiraling into other insurgencies most Nigerians can’t even rehearse in haste. With someone else on Buhari’s seat, it would have been worse for Nigeria.
Whether desperate political power seekers inflaming or aggravating the insecurity problems appreciate it or not, the evidence is palpable or unalterable. And those who for various reasons deny it openly, still admit it in their secret and reflective moments.
Beneficiaries of this insecurity breather as necessitated by President Buhari are also chorusing songs of praise to the Military every day. The journey started quite far and President Buhari prepared for it. He has kept watering the pipe of Military empowerment for excellence in Nigeria.
Under President Buhari, the Nigerian Armed Forces have not botched on security as often irreligiously echoed sentimentally. The brave officers, personnel, men and women of the Nigerian Air Force, the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Army have all been retrained, adequately equipped and properly motivated for the job. And the morale has ever been high, among air, water or the ground troops of Nigeria.
A combination of these Military personnel constitute the troops cracking the swampy Lake Chad Basin area in final Clearance Operations. It is exactly the last battle ground between Nigeria and the enemy forces of Boko Haram/ ISWAP terrorists.
And as the Nigerian Military expend weapons every day on the battlefield battling insurgents, so also President Buhari ensures that Military armoury is consistently replenished. It is what has made the Military of other nations like the USA, Great Britain, Russia, China and Germany thick and proud in defending their countries. Nigerian Military is at their doorstep now.
However, anywhere in the world, the Army is the largest and biggest component of the Military. They are the first fighters deployed to the field in the event of a sudden outbreak of war. And the Army is also the last to end field battles with enemy forces. President Buhari, a retired soldier himself realises it; what many Nigerians failed to decode.
Therefore, his anointment and support of a knowledgeable Military expert like Gen. Buratai as COAS and leader of counter-insurgencies in Nigeria has paid off handsomely. The Army Chief has repositioned the Army to accept, absorb, deflate, dismantle and effectively tackle all the insecurity challenges of Nigeria staunchly. Nigerian soldiers now are not just brave, courageous and resilient, but excitedly execute the manifold tasks at the frontlines with Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists.
But it has come through months and years of strategic planning and prudent application of resources. Gen. Buratai has revived the Nigerian Army to levels where it is confirmatory that not every fighting weapon troops need in the warfront with the latest touch of technological innovations is acquired externally or imported, but fabricated locally. Hitherto moribund Army institutions like Nigerian Army School of Artillery, et al and training institutions like the Nigerian Army University at Biu and the Nigerian Army Aviation School and others, with widely acclaimed world class infrastructures attests to Gen. Buratai’s epochal leadership of the Army.
Beyond these achievements, Gen. Buratai has ensured the return of accountability, probity and transparency to the Nigerian Army through various innovations and reforms championed by the C-in-C who appointed him to supervise the Army.
A soldier reputed as someone ahead of his time, Gen. Buratai by the directives of President Buhari has prioritized the expansion of the Nigerian Army his topmost agenda in other to meet the numerous security challenges in Nigeria. From Nigerian Army’s former six Divisions, Gen. Buratai has added another two to the number. Nigerian Army now has Army Division 6 (Rivers state) and Army Division 8 (Borno state) in addition to countless Forward Bases and Battalions across the country.
Buratai’s almost monthly expansion of the Army also has bold imprints in recruitments of both direct and short service officers for training. It is therefore, not unexpected that the Nigerian Army has won laurels and medals in international organizations, signposts which have restored Nigeria’s lost Military glory in the comity of nations.
The COAS also thinks a soldier deserves economic empowerment; a life of comfort and financial independence. Therefore, and in line with global trends, the Army under Buratai has evolved and implemented an economic development agenda for the convenience of soldiers and their families in tandem with the political leadership vision of President Buhari.
Pointedly, never before had the Nigerian Army boasted of the Nigeria Army Farms and Ranches; Nigerian Army Property Limited; Nigerian Army post- Service Housing Development Limited; Command Engineering Depot; and Nigerian Army Welfare Limited through an organized Guarantee or surety under friendly terms for soldiers. But under President Buhari’s direction and Gen. Buratai’s compliance, the Nigerian Army is a proud owner of these legacy investments and heritage.
When Nigerians read a recent interview Gen. Buratai hurriedly granted a journalist in his makeshift camp at Maiduguri , headquarters of Operation Lafiya Dole, while kitting himself to hop into the jungle again, he said; “ I am a soldier; am a highly patriotic soldier; a highly patriotic Nigerian who loves his country so much; who loves the progress of his country, and who loves his profession so passionately and is interested in the welfare of anyone I come across.” Truly, Gen. Buratai came prepared for the task roundly.
Onmeje is a public affairs commentator and contributed this piece from the United Kingdom.
2023: Why Mamman Daura should not be vilified BY AGBESE
In the years 2017, a group of northern leaders felt ashamed by the crop of leaders warming up to take over the mantle of leadership from the current set of leaders that it realised it has to do something about the leadership selection process in the region.
At the end of that summit which held in Kaduna, many of the participants were of the view that the current process which throws up clannish champions as national leaders may not be the best and that something must be done to create a system where competence would be the major criteria for leadership selection.
Three years later, elder statesman, Malam Mamman Daura has come out to hit the nail on the head about what has been at the base of poor leadership in Nigeria and recommended that competence should be prioritised while zoning should be rested.
But this noble idea has been shouted down for no other reason than the fact that it is coming from what is considered an inappropriate quarter to voice out such concerns.
The North is always considered as conservative and reactionary and not expected to advance progressives ideas.
Hence, when Malam Daura, a northern elder made the suggestion, the criticism that trailed his comment had nothing to do with the merit of the idea, but the perceived undertone that it was meant to favour a particular region.
But while castigating the message because of the messenger, many have failed to acknowledge some historical factors that support the Daura viewpoint.
In both the 1st and 2nd Republics, when the team of what was considered as the 1st Eleven of Nigerian politicians featured, nobody said anything about zoning the prime minister or president position to any particular zone in the country.
Though the dominant parties then had their bases in the respective zones of their party’s leaders, they all went into elections believing that the electorate is mature enough to decide the best based on what the candidates present to them.
The great Nnamdi Azikiwe because of his eloquence, erudition and the programme of his party, won elections in the Southwest devoid of any ethnic or religious consideration.
In the era of the 2nd Republic, the NPP which had Azikiwe as its presidential candidate won the northern state of Plateau and almost won Benue in 1983 before the coming of the military, while the NPN considered as made up of northern conservatives, won southern states like Rivers and Cross Rivers in the south.
The apogee of such political idealism was when in 1993, MKO Abiola defeated Bashir Tofa in his home state of Kano.
These examples have shown that Nigeria had always preferred merit and competence over parochial considerations.
Step forward to 2020 and elder statesman, Malam Mamman Daura, who has seen it all makes recommendations that Nigeria should go back to its preferred pattern of the leadership selection process where competence would be placed above geopolitical considerations and all hell was let loose.
The question is, what is strange in the Malam Daura suggestion to warrant such attacks and misrepresentations when it had always been actually what Nigerians wanted.
The Nigerian electoral body, which is now known as INEC had over the years tried to de-emphasize regional, religious or ethnic politics and that is why it had always made it mandatory that any party seeking to be registered to contest election in Nigeria must have functional offices in at least two-third of the states of the federation.
Further than that, the electoral laws also provide that a candidate can only be declared the winner of a presidential election if he, in addition to winning the majority votes, also scores at least two-third of the votes in at least two-third of the states of the federation.
Translated, this means that even the laws governing elections in the country have tried to deemphasize regional considerations as candidates can only receive such nationwide acceptance based on merit.
This is the point that Malam Daura tried to make when he said the 2023 presidency should be about competence and not based on zoning as the nation had tried zoning about three times and it has not worked.
When Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was president between 1999 and 2007, the zone that complained most about neglect was the Southwest and when Yar’Adua succeeded him, the North did not fare better than in the previous administration. Till date, Jonathan is being accused of not doing enough for the South-south.
This shows that the idea of the rotational presidency does not even help the region the president hails but only puts pressure on the incumbent to look at his region eve when he had sworn an oath not to use his office to give undue favour to one side.
The fact is, competence is the new order in the world in the leadership selection process. That was why America chose Barack Obama, that was why Russia is almost stuck with Vladimir Putin as its leader and that is why issues of where a political leader hails from hardly matter in most advanced countries.
Naturally, people gravitate towards good leadership no matter where it comes from. The first US president, George Washington was offered a third term but he declined not minding whether he was from the North or South.
Rwanda after the genocidal war came back and repeatedly elected Paul Kagame, a true leader, who has moved the nation forward despite being from what was considered a minority ethnic group.
It is said that in Tanzania, the people don’t even care where their president hails from as he has been able to wield the nation of different ethnic groups into one nation.
Malam Daura has not excluded any zone from contesting the 2023 elections as there are qualified and competent persons from all the regions in the country.
What he is saying is that the best among the collection should be favoured.
Nigerians should accept this as the new world order as zoning has proven to be undemocratic, dictatorial and exclusive.
To continue on the archaic and primordial principle of zoning which has not helped any would be to retrogress.
Besides, it is unconstitutional as zoning denies people their rights and privileges to contest at a given time.
Worse still, the principle has never been respected in the first place as people from other zones usually defy the recommendation to contest with those from the zone it is zoned to.
That is why zoning should be jettisoned since it has always been observed in the breach while competence, like Malam Daura said should be the new thing.
Agbese wrote this piece from Abuja.
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