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Nigerian Railways Modernisation and Expansion By Salisu Na’inna Dambatta

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Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe the first President of Nigeria, was born in Zungeru, Niger State. Chief Ifeanyi Jim Nwobodo, a former Minister of Sports Development and Governor of the old Anambra state, was born in Lafiya, Nasarawa State. Chief Bola Ige, former Governor of Oyo State and Minister of Power, later Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, was born in Kaduna, Kaduna State.


The three cities or towns where these three prominent citizens of Nigeria were born have one thing in common: they are railway towns. The towns, along with dozens of others serviced by the railway, were melting ports for all Nigerians, brought together by railway stations. The parents had roles in manning the railway installations. This fact reflects the oneness of Nigeria, years before the amalgamation of 1914.


Every background on the introduction and subsequent expansion of railways in Nigeria says “the first railway in Nigeria was opened in 1898, linking Lagos and Abeokuta, two years after its construction started in 1896. It expanded gradually to other parts of Nigeria.


President Muhammadu Buhari has now joined in the art of building railways in Nigeria, which was started by the British government. The railway started by the Lagos Government reportedly began operations in 1901 and was extended to Minna in 1911. Records indicate that, “it was linked to the Baro–Kano Railway that was built by the government of Northern Nigeria between 1907 and 1911.The two lines were amalgamated in 1912.”


Railways in Nigeria, as is the case elsewhere around the world, serve many purposes. They facilitate the transportation of cargo in whatever shape: liquid, solid, light, heavy, bulky and even invisible, like gas.


Railways ferry human beings in cities, between cities and across national borders. I am privileged to have travelled from Kiev in Ukraine to Maldovia by sleeper train in 1990. I also had a train ride between Port Harcourt and Enugu. And from Enugu to Kano, although I disembarked prematurely in Zaria.


The way railways ferry goods and human beings in large numbers at relatively low prices is a major contributory factor to economic prosperity. Thus, railways support economic growth, encourage domestic trade and facilitate the mingling of Nigerians of varied backgrounds into a people sharing purpose and benefitting from each other.


Given the importance of railways and how they spread happiness, ideas, and encourage national integration, it is thrilling that Nigeria has resolved to not only modernise the railways, but to expand it to reach all state capitals and other principal cities in the country.


The Railways Master Plan, which will link all sea ports to the main economic centres of the country and the main international airports, will make Nigeria the hub of an efficient intermodal transportation network for the West Africa subregion.


It is because of the desire to achieve that regional hub status that the Railways Master Plan envisages taking it to the border towns in Cameroon, Niger and the Republic of Benin, respectively.

This subregional perspective as it concerns the Republic of Niger, was explained thus: “An agreement between Nigeria and Niger in 2015, coordinated by the Nigeria-Niger Joint Commission for Cooperation, has a plan for “Kano-Katsina-Maradi Corridor Master Plan, (K2M)”.


An informational document says it will be “a standard gauge railway line with an alignment of about 387 km from Kano to Maradi. It has a branch line from Kano to Dutse, capital of Jigawa state. Consequently, the northern region of Nigeria and the Southern part of Niger will benefit from an important connection to the Nigerian railway network under construction, and to Lagos and Lekki Port.”
The document explained further: “the design and construction of a single-track standard gauge rail line (with associated stations) between Kano to Maradi and a branch line between Kano to Dutse comprises Earth Works, Track Works, Signaling and Communication works, Depot, Stations and Rolling Stock Facilities.”
In breathing life into that Plan, the Federal Government of Nigeria led by President Muhammadu Buhari has awarded contract for the Kano-Dambatta-Kazaure-Daura-Mashi-Katsina-Maradi side of the project in the sum of $1.9 billion.
Going by this, the two nations would each build a rail track of the same standard to meet at Maradi, Niger. It will be the first railway tracks that will be constructed in the Republic of Niger. It will consolidate the huge economic, commercial and cultural ties between the two friendly nations.
An explanatory note issued by the Federal Government on the project emphasised that, “The objective of the rail is the harnessing of raw materials, mineral resources and agricultural produce.”
Crude oil from the Republic of Niger to feed a proposed refinery in Mashi, Katsina State, and the transportation of other cargo and people between the two countries, are additional reasons for doing the project. Fully justified.


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Osun: Celebrating ‘the cradle of Yoruba civilisation’ at 30, by Zainab Suleiman Okino

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Ignore the irony in the title of this article. Osun state is home to Oduduwa, the progenitor of Oranmiyan, the prime-heir of Ile-Ife who returned to claim his grandfather’s throne and became king. I’m not about to stir any controversy over Oranmiyan’s place in Yoruba folklore, but to state clearly that Osun state is a reservoir of a rich history beyond 30 years, though its creation is now a part of that rich chronicle. 


With Osun’s remarkable past, it is no surprise that the state’s founding fathers sought and fought for its creation which came to fruition on August 27, 1991 when ex-military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida created the state.


30 years after, under the leadership of Governor Isiaka Adeboyega Oyetola, the state rolled out the drums not just to celebrate, but to create more history, with series of events to mark the 30th anniversary of the state’s creation. One of such events is a colloquium held on September 8,2021, and where yours truly served as a panelist. The colloquium was described by the governor as the “intellectual arm of the 30th anniversary of our state, to interrogate the performance of the state so far, examine possible gaps and project for a sustainable future that all crave for as a people and desire to bequeath”. 


The colloquium was moderated by renown scholar, Professor Niyi Akinnaso, who together with the panellists discussed the keynote address presented by a former governor of the state, Chief Bisi Akande whose speech revolved around the dreams of the “founding fathers and past leaders of the state for achieving an optimum community and laying a foundation for the prosperous future of the state”, in a paper titled “Osun @ 30: Celebrating Milestones, Building a Prosperous Future”.


The event was chaired by the Sultan of Sokoto, his Eminence, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III who said that the state’s decision of a colloquium to celebrate its landmark 30th anniversary “is a significant strategy for linking the past with the present and the future to build a sustainable enterprise”. And the audience did get a good dose of history and its relevance in charting the course of their future” adding that “ it was no surprise that in Osun’s years of statehood, it has produced a galaxy of stars in all sectors and areas of human endeavour” as the state is blessed with both human and natural resources.


As the custodian of the people’s culture, the Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi paid glowing tributes to the past and present leaders in the state, while expressing happiness over the progress the state has made in the last 30 years. He also cautioned politicians not to play politics that could divide the state: “Osun is better today than when it was created…the journey of 30 years began with some people’s efforts and we appreciate the founding fathers, past administrators  and incumbent governor, for their contributions to the growth and development of Osun. Osun is greater than every single individual, and it has become necessary to stress this fact for our people to be careful not to allow politics and other interests to disintegrate us”


Chief Akande described the “the Optimum Community as a definable people’s settlement capable of raising and sustaining a minimum of a standard secondary school…a youth educational secondary institution…in other words, such a secondary institution would accommodate students population of between 420 and 850 youth. In this way, community development architecture should reasonably be designed to target people around every corridor of such standard secondary schools which become the nucleus of an ‘optimum community’ and a major development unit”.
The optimum community concept has ensured the rise and rise of such development units and all-encompassing development of the state especially in the area of education, which has expanded the frontiers of the state to other sections of  society’s strata. Osun state boasts of at least 14 higher institutions among them , a federal university, Obafemi Awolowo University, a state university, seven private universities, one federal polytechnic, one state polytechnic, one college of technology, two state colleges of education and a newly approved federal university of health sciences to make it 15. This exceptional stand in education has put the state in a good stead. It is therefore no coincidence that the state boasts of the highest number of professors and PhD holders in Nigeria. 


Education of the mind presupposes a positive social construct of the people. As a first-time visitor to Oshogbo, the state’s capital, I looked out for anecdotes that piece together to make the people who they are. There is no gainsaying the fact that their education has contributed in no small measure to their exposure and urbane traits. I must say I was impressed by the way the people I met conducted themselves. My initial reluctance to make the trip soon gave way to cautious optimism when the protocol people picked me from Ibadan airport to Oshogbo. Then came the day of the event. Then I saw the overwhelming joy of the people—old and young, who gathered at the state’s event centre for the occasion.


Governor Oyetola demonstrated his commitment in the service of the state in his speech and deed. Compared with some governors who attend only the opening ceremony of such events, the governor sat through an almost four-hour event. he said: “as an administration, we have instituted this colloquium to celebrate our shared values and our collective resolve that have delivered the Osun that we desire and to give vent to our dream to prosecute our development agenda which is our strategy and road map to put our dear state on the part of sustainable development. We are confident that just as the foundation laid by our forefathers 30 years ago has earned us a viable place in the national and international space, our decision to lay bricks of contemporary governance structures will build a prosperous and sustainable future.


“This 30th anniversary is the end of a phase and the beginning of another: the beginning of  sustainable governance and development, the beginning of a new era for a generation of Osun citizens that will ride on the wings of knowledge, technology and entrepreneurship to realise their potential, shut the door against unemployment, create wealth and radically transform the economy of the state”. Indeed, with the colloquium and the coming together of sons and daughters of the state, Governor Oyetola has further enriched the history of Osun and the embodiment of Yoruba civilisation.


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Wada Maida’s touch on journalism, Oche Echeija Egwa

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On Thursday, September 16, 2021, headquarters of News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) in Abuja was formally renamed Wada Maida House, a befitting honour to a veteran journalist, who worked most of his life for the agency. Until his death, August 17, 2020, Malam Wada Abdullahi Maida, 70, was the Chairman of the NAN Board.

Before then, Wada, as he was popularly and preferably known, was Managing Director of the news agency for eight years, after working as Editor-In-Chief. The former Editor-In-Chief, who was a pioneer staff in 1978 with eight others, following the establishment of NAN in 1976, also served variously as Zonal Editor, Kaduna, in charge of Western States, Political Editor and Western Europe Correspondent, London.

Wada’s career trajectory reflects the history of NAN in its 45 years of existence. For the period of his appointment as Chief Press Secretary to then military Head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari in 1984, and retirement to start a private media business of consulting and publishing a newspaper, Peoples’ Daily, Wada’s his image continued to looms large. He influenced many appointments and recruitments, facilitated access to government, states and federal, and used his international network to the advantage of NAN.

To Wada’s credit, his predecessors and successors, NAN remains the most webbed media institution in Nigeria, with a reputation for accuracy and balance in reporting. NAN has hundreds of reporters across 30 states and a metro office in Lagos, many district offices covering major towns and villages, and foreign offices, that until recently, were active as European Office in London, North American and UN Office, New York, West African Bureau, Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, North Africa, African Union Office, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and South African Office, Johannesburg.

Wada played a major role in the structuring and sustenance of the agency’s global spread to gather news to enrich the content of bulletins and increase subscribers, which include almost all media houses in Nigeria, partnerships and exchange agreements with Reuters, AFP, Xinhua Chinese News Agency, DPA of Germany, Pan African News Agency and Rossiya Segnodya of Russia.

Among some significant milestones and legacies, the former Managing Director ensured that the agency owns its operational buildings in New York, Johannesburg and Abidjan and a five-storey marble edifice in Abuja, which he supervised completion and upgrade of working tools. President Muhammadu Buhari approved the naming of the headquarters after the former Chairman on November 26, 2020.

Conveying the approval, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said it was in recognition of the immense contributions of Wada to the growth of the agency.

“I write to convey my approval for the naming of the NAN headquarters building after the late Wada Maida, who served the agency in many capacities, including Foreign Correspondent, Editor-in-Chief and Managing Director.

“It is my sincere belief that the decision to honour the late Wada Maida is well thought out and that he deserves such a great honour, considering his immense contributions to the development of NAN,” he said.

At the ceremony, Mohammed commended management and staff of NAN for immortalizing Wada. “Wada played a strong role in NAN. The man who built this edifice deserves to be immortalised.’’

“He believed journalism served a higher purpose for peace, harmony and development. If a country goes down everything goes down, with it,’’ Mohammed said. “I appeal to media houses to put Nigeria first. Yes, we have challenges but this administration is working.’’

Wada’s love for journalism started in Secondary School, says his longtime friend and colleague, Sen. Ibrahim Ida. Ida disclosed that the former Managing Director was named Abdullahi Maida at birth, and only got Wada as a pet name while growing up. Wada, taken from “Wadata’’ meant influence and affluence.

The Guest of Honour and Katsina State Governor, Hon. Aminu Bello Masari, said the naming of the NAN House after Wada was well deserved, considering his contribution to the development of journalism in the country and penchant for helping others.

“You can live for 120 years in this world, but what matters is the courage you brought to life and how many people you touched. With this naming, Wada’s life will continue to the end of time.

“That’s a life worth living. He lived for others. Anytime he visited me it was because of the needs of others and his community, not for personal reasons,’’ he said.

Masari noted that the former Managing Director of NAN contributed to the emergence of many media houses, both print and broadcast, in the country, particularly in the Northern part, adding that “the whole of Katsina remains proud of his achievements and many would have made it to Abuja for the ceremony, if they were informed.’’

Senior Special Assistant to the President, Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, described Wada as “an elder brother, mentor and a facilitator.”

“He lived a life of patience & integrity. We should learn to be patient. Good things will come as we wait. Wada thought us not to rush the story; to be thorough. I recall, as editors, we will always wait for the NAN bulletin before our newspapers will go to bed.’’

The passion for reporting, editing, publishing and Public Relations saw Wada through trainings in London School of journalism, Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Aberdeen College of Technology and University of Salford, Manchester and Nigerian Institute of Journalism. He was once President of Nigerian Guild of Editors, and later became a Fellow of the guild.

He was a member of other associations like the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Commonwealth Press Union, Amnesty International, Executive Director of International Press Institute and Chairman of Pan African News Agency (PANA) and Katsina State Broadcasting Corporation.

Wada’s contemporaries in the newsroom, who are also veterans in journalism, his mentees, some former administrators in NAN and other media houses across the country, traditional rulers and political leaders, friends and family were all at the renaming event.

The Managing Director of NAN, Mr Buki Ponle, affirmed that Wada’s leadership guided him to get a first degree and a Master’s degree while working and the former pioneer staff also encouraged him to get a Ph.D, if he wanted.

Ponle said the agency had suffered financial hardship over some years, forcing it to scale down some operations and dream projects for expansion, while thanking Wada’s vision for the progress recorded.

Wada’s family led by his wife, Hajiya Amina and son, Dr Aminu Maida, joined in unveiling the signage, and received a plaque from Governor Masari.

Aminu, witty, reticent and unassuming like his father, thanked President Buhari and the Federal Government for the honour done to his father, telling everyone that the entire family remains grateful to NAN.

 “NAN will continue to be part of our family, and we will always be part of NAN,’’ he said.

Like the Wada Maida House in Central Area, the former Managing Director of NAN continues to stand tall in our memory and a physical structure.

Oche Echeija Egwa, Senior Editor, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) and Chief Information Officer, Office of the Special Adviser to the President, Media and Publicity.


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2023: The North must let go, by Dan Agbese

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The season is virtually upon us. The politicians are sharpening their knives for 2023. The sound is becoming jarringly louder. Prayer warriors are being pressed into service just like the eyes and the ears of the gods. It is always good to seek the assurances and the support of God and the gods in the battle for political power in our country. It is a battle no one takes lightly. 

But the fate of our country in 2023 is not in the hands of God and the gods. It is in the hands of those who play god, to wit, the party moguls whose bounden duty it is to dispense favours to godsons and god-daughters, even at the expense of peace, unity, a sense of belonging and cohesion in our badly fractured republic. It is our duty as fellow citizens not to allow them to be trapped in their faux pas only for us to blame God and the gods at the end of the day. 

This is the time for the rest of us to put our views across on what should be done to set our country back on the path of oneness. Politics, as the wag said, is too serious to be left to politicians. 2023 presents us with some peculiar but critical challenges, not the least of which is that the crass mismanagement of our diversities under the current dispensation has widened our traditional fault lines and opened some other fissures. This is the time to recognise them, appreciate them and factor them into the permutations for the locus of power at the centre in 2023.

The two major political parties, APC and PDP, are beset with internal problems and wrangling. They have fractured national executive committees and both are engaged in patching things up by constituting reconciliation committees to appease their members who feel aggrieved by the endemic problem of our political parties: the absence of internal democracy. The committees will reconcile them and thus help to staunch the toing and froing from one party to another and back again that instantly changes the fortunes of political parties and their members. These movements are merely an opportunistic exploration of accommodation in a rival political with seemingly greener grass under its feet. Its deleterious effect is the inability of the political parties to build themselves into steady and strong parties able to drive, through their policies and programmes, our national development. Weak and unsteady political parties are afflictions on our democracy.

The first order of business for the political parties is the choice of a national chairman in each case. This is no ordinary choice. It is critical to the political parties because everything else rides on the section of the country that produces the national chairman of each party. In their tradition, the section that produces the national chairman cannot produce the party’s presidential candidate – all thing being equal, of course. 

The real question is not who but which section of the country, north and south should produce the next president in 2023. The fortunes or the misfortunes of each party will depend on its answer to the question. Perhaps, we should lend them a helping hand in the absence of a guiding principle through which the locus of power at the centre is determined at the regular election intervals. In 1983, NPN mooted the idea of a rotational presidency between the north and the south. Its purpose was to ensure that politics being a game of numbers, number alone would militate against equity, fairness and justice. Its new formula was to be put to the test in 1987. It never was because after four years, the generals returned from the political Siberia to service their political fortunes. 

This was later renamed power shift. Different semantics, same  primary purpose. It was the rallying cry by the south in Babangida’s transition to civil rule programme; the argument being that the north appeared bent on domiciling the presidency to the permanent disadvantage of the south, given the number of northerners who had held the levers of power since independence. It was no way to build the nation and unite the people. It was time, the south strenuously argued, for power to shift from the north to the south to make the latter an equal partner in the Nigeria project. That would be the right way to build the nation and unite the people.

Quite a bit of water has passed through the River Niger to the creeks. Power shifted to the south in 1999 and 2011. Still, 2023 presents the country with the same unsettled issue and challenges. The late head of state, General Sani Abacha, introduced the geo-political zoning system as the basis for managing our ethno-political and other interests. It is the formula for sharing or allocating elective and appointive political offices at the centre. It has virtually become an important tradition in both the management and mismanagement of our diversities. Can we use this as the basis for inclusive governments in which every part has a chance to both hold and milk the cow?

It still rankles those who, while recognising zoning as necessary in other cases, appear allergic to using it as the basis for choosing a party’s presidential candidate on the grounds that it would be a cynical abbreviation of individual political ambition. I think we are dealing with some sophistry here. Political parties are constitutional creations by tradition and that is why you find neither APC nor PDP in the constitution. By constitutional tradition they are the platforms on which people seek elective political offices. More importantly, political parties determine independent ways and means of managing power and growing  the  national economy without recourse to the national constitution. Each political party has its own constitution by which it runs its affairs. That zoning is not in the constitution does not prevent a political party from using it as a basis for determining the locus of political power at the centre provided it is satisfied that it makes for equity, fairness and justice and does not offend the letter and the spirit of the supreme law of the land. 

It is the constitutional right of a political party to find ways and means of managing the affairs of a nation. That which it chooses to do does not become unconstitutional by reason of its not being in the constitution. Sophistry is a red herring across the path of serious and rational thinking on managing our nation and its myriads of diversities in a manner that makes Nigeria our Nigeria all of the time, not some of the time. 

The south sees the north and its so-called greed for power as the nation’s main problem. In the next few months as the debate on the locus of power at the centre heats up, copious evidence would be provided to show that the north has used its sheer number to dominate power in the country since independence to the discomfiture of the south. This evidence cannot be rationally contested. So long as the south feels marginalised by the north, so long will our country continue to be a patch work of ethno-religious interests masquerading as government of the people; so long as the south feels that it is not an equal partner with the north in the Nigeria project, so long will our country remain an atomistic nation in perpetual conflict with itself; and so long as our political leaders are given to the luxury of paying lip service to equity, justice and fairness sans a commitment to those ideals, so long will the simple formula for building a nation and uniting the people elude us.

Let us quit pretending about this. Buhari’s successor will inherit a fractured republic and a divided people. It behoves our political leaders to appreciate this and take steps now that will de-fracture the republic and unite the people and make our country peaceful. It is time for the north to recognise that it has a moral duty to share and share power equally with the south. Political power is not essentially about merit. It is about what is right for a country at a particular point in time. There are potentially great leaders in every part of the country. To recruit them, we must ventilate the system and end power hoarding.

To move forward, we must take two urgent steps. The first is to accept and formalise power rotation or power shift between the north and the south and cast it in marble. Let us ride on what happened in 2019. APC and PDP zoned the presidency to the north. Two northerners slugged it out. We can do the same in 2023. Power must shift to the south and the two political parties must choose their presidential candidates from there and let them slug it out as to who wears the presidential sash. 

The second step is to accept the zoning arrangement as a means of perfecting the power shift. It is not enough to broadly rotate power between the north and the south; power must also rotate among the zones in the north and the south so that no zone dominates and leaves other zones in the cold.We can emerge from the current crucibles as an enviable republic and a united people. But we must set aside sentiments and face the challenge of nation building with the courage to use political power as an instrument for the good of the nation and its people. I am not naïve enough to believe that this would be easy but I believe we have enough patriotic Nigerians who wish to see our nation pull itself up from the murk of its failed promises, shed its toga of a potentially great country and put on the new toga as a great nation. Then we can to ourselves what President Barack Obama said to his fellow Americans: yes, we can. Yes, we can unite the people and build a great nation.

Email: [email protected]


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