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We are still ‘dancing on the brink’, Dan Agbese

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The news ought to be good, very good now with 22 years of precious democracy under our belt. The government of the people by the people and for the people, has found its berth. The jackboot has been lifted off our scrawny neck, heralding a new era for the country and its people.

 Still, the news about the state of our nation continues to be a source of worry for all of us. The experts keep piling up the bad news, jolting us each time from our apparent somnolence about the unvarnished facts about our country we refuse to take into consideration as we celebrate every motion as a monumental and radical movement in the land.  

            It is not entirely their fault, the experts, that is. They are not to blame. It is not their fault that we have been living with paradoxes that befuddle other nations. It is no secret that ours is an oil-rich nation, providing leadership in OPEC. It boasts of the biggest economy in Africa. Yet, paradoxically, it is officially classified as the poverty capital of the world. Of its estimated population of 209 million, fully 100 million are labelled as extremely poor. It is a huge paradox. 

            Nigeria is a big country endowed with incredible natural and human resources. Eighty per cent of our 923,768 square km is fully arable. Still, we are net importers of food from such small nations as Thailand and South Korea, the latter with only 33 per arable land. Yes, you got it: it is a huge paradox that few nations could live with. Nor should we forget that all our political leaders at federal, state and local governments are magic-performing men but each of whom, past and present, rode the crest wave of motion that defied movement; hence we have moved this far, running on the same spot. It is no small wonder to me that the prayer warriors and the juju men who are the eyes and the ears of the gods have never told us why and if it is our lot to live with these painful paradoxes.

            The preceding four paragraphs serve as a long introduction to situate the latest bad news about our country on the litany of our failures. Last week, the United States think tank, known quite famously as the Council on Foreign Relations and the Harvard Kennedy School published a study on the state of our country. John Campbell, former US ambassador to Nigeria and Robert Rotberg of the Kennedy School, co-authors of the study, jointly released the report. Since leaving the country, Campbell has maintained his interest in the affairs of our country. In 2010, he published a book, Dancing on the Brink, in which he warned that Nigeria was “in grave danger.” While its political leaders were quite busy savouring their enormous and rewarding political power, the country itself was sliding down the path to Golgotha. No one took him seriously. Nigerians are masters at brinkmanship. 

            The new report minces no words about the current fate of our country. It has tipped over the cliff “from being a weak state to ‘a fully failed state.’” According to the study, (and it is worth quoting at length), “Nigeria has long teetered on the precipice of failure. But now, unable to keep its citizens safe and secure, Nigeria has become a fully failed state of critical geopolitical concern. Its failure matters because the peace and prosperity of Africa and preventing the spread of disorder and militancy around the globe depend on a stronger Nigeria.

            “Long West Africa’s hegemon, Nigeria played a positive role in promoting peace and security. With state failure, it can no longer sustain that vocation…Its security challenges are already destabilising the West African region in the face of the resurgent jihadism, making the battles of the Sahel that much more difficult to contain.”

            A failed Nigerian state has horrendous ramifications for the country, its neighbours, the continent and, as the authors of the study pointed out, on the rest of the world. Some of us may still be processing these implications of these conclusions for us and our country. I would not be surprised, and none of us should be, if those in the corridors of power with the assumed right to live a lie and inclined to dismiss whatever views, be they from experts or laymen, that do not square up with their definition of patriotism, would wave off the study as an intellectually dressed up piece of garbage aimed at making the Buhari administration look bad. This dismissive attitude has had a damaging effect on almost every effort by individuals and groups of Nigerians who are no less patriotic than those whose fortune put them in the salubrious corridors of power at the moment to make our country live up to its billing as the cradle of black renaissance. 

            The study was not a product of sentiment or hostility. Scholars use some set criteria to judge the state each of the 193-member nations of the UN. Nations are generally classified as strong, weak, failed, and collapsed. Nigeria is on the last but one step. That should give us hope that we and our leaders can still join hands and pull the country back from sliding into the nadir as a collapsed state and avoid the fate of Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

            If it is any consolation, some 80 or 90 members of the UN are weak states and are unable to provide “essential public goods, the most important of which are security and safety.” If a state is unable to pull itself back from this stage, it slides into a failed state. Such a state, according to the report, “lacks security, is unsafe, has weak rules of law, is corrupt, limits political participation and voice, discriminates within its borders against various classes and kinds of citizens… (and)…are violent.” As a failed state, Nigeria is in the good company of “possibly a dozen or so” of UN member-states. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic and Myanmar have made the grade. 

            Nigeria’s right to keep their company is assured by its “weak rules of law, is corrupt and discriminates within its borders against various classes and kinds of citizens,” for which read ethnic groups and the poor management of our diversities.

            If those in power chuckle over the report, the rest of us should take it and its conclusions seriously and ignore the insinuation that it was authored by intellectuals not in love with the Buhari administration. This, indeed, is not about the Buhari administration. It is about our country and the critical challenges of salvaging it. If the country has failed, as indeed it has, under Buhari’s watch, it is arguably his luck but not entirely his fault. The progressive infestation of the apple by worms is a historical fact. We saw the worms, but we thought that if left alone, they would eat the apple and quench.

The study has simply told us what we have always suspected but voiced sotto voce, about the state of our nation. The evidence of its progressive weakening has at best been hidden in plain sight. We knew that things were not going well. We knew that our political leaders refused to face this basic fact, believing that in ignoring it, it does not exist.

The study confronts us with facts and a situation we cannot continue to ignore or run away from any more with dire consequences for our country, Africa and the black race. Nigeria carries more international responsibilities than we, as citizens, tend to appreciate. It is such a big irony that under Buhari who knew the country was in a mess and came to clean it up, everything that did not need to go wrong has done so in his six years as president. Neither the economy nor its management is stellar, and Nigeria finds itself living on internal and external borrowing to meet its basic obligations. The economy has gone into recession twice and further weakened it and deepened our poverty, frustration and engendered soul-destroying hopelessness and despair. It also refused to let Buhari fulfil his promise to take 100 million people out of poverty in ten years. This economy has a bad attitude, I tell you.

Insecurity is, of course, our greatest problem. Ordinarily when a government fails to make the people secure and safe, it loses its legitimacy. It is the reason security is the number one duty the constitution imposes on the three tiers of government. No one is safe anywhere in the country anymore. Our young school children in the north-west geopolitical zone have been turned into money-making bargaining chips between criminals and the governments.

I believe that we can pull back from the ultimate brink by committing to the enormous challenges. The fate of our nation is in our hands. As the authors of the study pointed out, “only Nigeria can save itself, but doing so takes the kind of political will that has so far been wanting.”Finding the political will is not rocket science. 

Email: [email protected]


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Obateru: Celebrating a quintessential PR man at 60

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By Obinna Nwachi

The job of managing the image and reputation of a company that many love to hate and others hate to love is no mean task. Very often, one leaves the job inheriting the ‘enemies’ of the company as personal enemies. Very rarely does one leave the job in a gale of accolades as Dr. Kennie Obateru is doing today from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) upon clocking the statutory retirement age of 60.

Obateru assumed office as the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division of NNPC in March 2020 at a time when various countries across the world, including Nigeria, were going into lockdown to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. He quickly retooled the Division to be able to promptly respond to the challenges of the time. This saw the robust engagement of the Corporation’s publics with the Group Managing Director, Mallam Mele Kyari, leading the charge in clarifying the issues around production cuts, decline in crude oil sales and efforts to shore up revenues for the nation.

Apart from ensuring the vigorous implementation of the corporation’s Transparency, Accountability and Performance Excellence (TAPE) through timely communication of NNPC’s operations and activities, Obateru maintained an open-door policy which ensured prompt handling of all enquiries. This obviously resulted in a near-zero bad press for the NNPC in the one and half years he held sway as the chief reputation manager.

Speaking on Obateru’s style and professionalism, the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji, stated that he owed the very cordial relationship his agency enjoys with NNPC to Obateru’s engaging human relations skills. “It is with mixed feelings I learnt about Kennie’s retirement. Kennie Obateru is a very tall man, taller in ideas but tallest in competence and integrity. He’s a man of details, learns lessons from opportunities and from the ups and downs of life. We had a smooth working relationship with the NNPC during his tenure and it was all due to his style,” he declared.

Stakeholders from across all sectors of the oil and gas industry who had the good fortune to encounter him in his long career that spanned 29 years across various subsidiaries and the Corporate Headquarters of the Corporation are all agreed about Obateru’s excellent human relations skills. One of such is Sopuruchi Onwuka, the publisher of Oracle News who traced his first encounter with Obateru to his days at the Manager, Public Affairs Department, Port Harcourt Refining Company (PHRC), Port Harcourt, Rivers State. He described Obateru as a thoroughbred public relations professional and a perfect relationship manager who succeeded in getting the public to see NNPC through him.

“He is down to earth in his dealing with people. He is polite and urbane. He doesn’t talk down on you or force you to accept his point of view, he wins you over. Another thing I find particularly fascinating about Dr. Obateru is his ability to listen patiently and respond to issues no matter how busy he is. If his busy schedule makes it difficult to take your call and respond to your questions immediately, he will send a text message that he will get back to you, and he returns with answers,” Onwuka stated.

From colleagues and media practitioners who had to deal with daily in the course of his job, none could think of anything negative to say about Obateru as a person or his style as a reputation manager. A veteran energy journalist, Mr Olusola Bello, who related with him closely for years in the course of his job described Obateru thus: “He is a very competent public relations man, he knows his job. He is very accessible and always reaching out. In fact he has a way of drawing people close and taking them into confidence about developments in the industry. This style made it difficult for a lot of us to do stories that could impact on NNPC and its subsidiaries negatively because it would make you feel guilty that you are betraying your source”.

Bello’s submission holds the secret to the general positive reportage NNPC enjoyed throughout Obateru’s tenure as the corporation’s spokesman, a job for which he came fully prepared by virtue of his vast experience within the NNPC and the oil industry. Before his appointment as the Group General Manger, Group Public Affairs of the NNPC in 2020, he was the General Manager, NNPC London Office.

He joined the services of the Corporation in 1992 as an experienced hire and since then has held several key and strategic positions in the Public Affairs Division.

He was Manager, Public Affairs of the National Petroleum Investment Management Services (NAPIMS), a corporate service unit of the NNPC between 2010 and 2015.

Prior to that, he was Manager, Public Affairs Department, Port Harcourt Refining Company (PHRC) between 2008 and 2010 and was Manager, Media Relations in the Group Public Affairs Division from 2007 to 2008.

Dr. Obateru was Deputy Manager, Media Relations in GPAD between 2006 and 2007, and served as a team member in Project PACE-SMS, CP Core Process Teams between 2005 and 2006.

From 2001 to 2005, he served as Supervisor, Budget & Planning in GPAD. He also doubled as Supervisor, Audio Visual, between 2000 and 2001. His versatility was brought to bear on the print side of the corporate communication business when he diligently served as Editor, NNPC News, a monthly publication of the Group Public Affairs Division from 1998 to 2000.

Between1993 and1998, Dr. Obateru was the Protocol Officer to the then Honourable Minister of Petroleum Resources. He cut his teeth in the Corporation as a Protocol and Consular Officer between 1992 and1993.

He is an alumnus of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Lagos; University of Ilorin and University of Stirling, Scotland, United Kingdom, where he obtained a Certificate in News Reporting, a B.A. (Hons) Performing Arts and an M.Sc. in Public Relations respectively.

In 2012, Obateru joined the doctoral club of eggheads when he was awarded a Doctorate Degree in Management (Honoris Causa) by the Commonwealth University, Belize.

He has attended numerous professional courses and conferences at home and abroad which included three (3) International Public Relations Association Conferences, five (5) World Petroleum Congresses (WPCs) and 15 OPEC Ministerial Conferences among others.

Dr. Obateru is a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants, a member of the International Public Relations Association, a senior member of the Africa Public Relations Association as well as a member of the Nigeria Institute of Management.

His hobbies include Lawn Tennis, Table Tennis, reading and dancing. Dr. Obateru is happily married and his union is blessed with four children.

Dr. Obateru bows out after 29 years of meritorious service to the NNPC.

Obinna Nwachi, a public commentator and analyst, wrote in from Abuja.


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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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