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Of APC, scorpions and comrade Burombo’s advice, by Hassan Gimba

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“Each time I want to fight for African rights, I use only one hand because the other hand is busy trying to keep away Africans who are fighting me.” – Benjamin Burombo

Today I want to talk about Nigerian democratic growth and good governance but with the All Progressives Congress (APC) as a springboard. This is necessary because, like it or not, the APC is currently the ruling party. Whatever affects a ruling party must affect governance. A stable ruling party led by those who have the interest of the country at heart will translate into having a responsive government that hearkens to the yearnings of the citizens. An unstable ruling party managed by self-centred individuals would tell on the government and the country will always be the worse off for it.

I am not a politician, but I have had cause to write about politics and politicians. I have also written about governance and parties that have midwifed governments. One cannot escape such if one desires to write about society, about a nation and about human development.

Until towards the middle of last year, the APC was a party hurtling towards self-implosion. Then in June last year, Governor Mai Mala Buni was made to supervise the party in the capacity of chairman of its newly made-up interim caretaker committee. Barely a year after I wrote: “The APC was on the brink of implosion when he took over. It had lost states and national legislative seats in the 2019 general elections and was on the brink of losing sitting governors. But the party, which had 64 senators then, now has over 70. He has also made three PDP governors throw away the umbrella and embraced his broom wielding party, with the possibility of bringing in more.

“The APC was birthed through the merger of four legacy parties on February 6, 2013. The major parties were the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), along with a faction of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). It was like a child of necessity coming when Nigeria was then at a crossroads.

“That the All Progressives Congress (APC) was galloping towards disintegration was obvious. That other political parties, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that would benefit from APC’s implosion, were happily watching, like vultures sensing a carcass and awaiting the apocalypse, needs no elaboration.” The party was just fighting against itself.

In that unfortunate situation in which the ruling party found itself, governance was affected. The President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government was out of sync with various officials singing discordant tunes. The government was then plodding on because the conduit that brought it to power was dying.

Then came Governor Buni, who breathed a new lease of life into the party and it metaphorically got a second chance to live. It became the most courted political party in Africa south of the Sahara and grew into a threat to the opposition. The opposition became jittery because, whereas the party had dropped to their level, now it hovers over them.

However, a major disadvantage of the current political parties, unfortunately, is that they are not borne out of ideologies like those of the First Republic. And to an extent, even those of the Second Republic. Some have attributed it to the demise of the Soviet Union. Maybe.

What we can say is that the parties are almost the same. Therefore, changing platforms based on self need is never a problem for our politicians. And so, what differentiates the parties is the calibre of people in them. Those with the most “movers and shakers” of the society always win elections. Oh, aberrations occur, but they are too few and too far in-between.

The APC, under the supervision of the governor, started magnetising the bigwigs that hitherto left the party and those who were never even in it. Those who had packed their bags and were on the verge of exiting found reason to stay back. Calmness also enveloped it and the government picked up as party affairs no longer diverted the attention of the president.

It is, therefore, inconceivable that a member of the APC, a genuine member, will want to see all this work gone with the wind or seek to rubbish the efforts of the committee led by Governor Buni. In other climes where people’s efforts are recognised, where those who gave their all to right a capsizing boat are found, they get honoured. APC members would utter his name in reverence and the party would immortalise him in their Hall of Fame.

But some people say it is the African’s way to fight who fights for him, to sting who seeks to protect him and to bite the finger that feeds him. Well, at least that was what Comrade Benjamin Burombo said. Comrade Burombo was a labour union leader and black nationalist in then Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. Born in 1909 in Buhera in Manicaland, he worked in South Africa, and then in Bulawayo, where he formed the British African National Voice Association in 1947. He died young in 1959.

Power tussles and the dream of offices in 2023, a time that only God knows who will witness, are the primary cause why some of the party members want to throw away the baby with the birth water. And some of those with an eye on 2023 but afraid that with the way the party’s current caretaker committee is repositioning the party, they may lose out are those who, in desperation, want to destroy their political vehicle. They started their attack last year using ghost names of people purportedly from Yobe State. Having failed at that, they have now come out from another angle.

To destroy what Governor Buni has done is to destroy the APC. Without the APC, many of these people would not occupy the positions they are now enjoying. Have they ever thought of what becomes of them and their dreams without the party?

It would not be a good idea for them to use the vagueness of some laws and shoot themselves in the foot. They will only fall into the willing hands of the opposition. Attacking their caretaker committee and its work is akin to plunging the knife into their soft underbelly. But then, as Comrade Burombo told us, it is in our nature.

I recall the fable about the scorpion and the frog. The Scorpion and the Frog is a tarradiddle that emerged in Russia in the early 20th century. It teaches that some people cannot resist hurting others even when it is not in their interests. This tale seems to have some APC characters in mind.

The story goes thus: ‘A scorpion wants to cross a river but cannot swim, so it asks a frog to carry it across. The frog hesitates, afraid that the scorpion might sting it, but the scorpion argues that if it did that, they would both drown. It (the frog) considers this argument sensible and agrees to transport the scorpion. It lets the scorpion climb on its back and swims. Midway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog anyway, dooming them both. The dying frog asks the scorpion why it stung despite knowing the consequence, to which the scorpion replies: “I couldn’t help it. It’s in my nature.”’

Then there is also that of The Old Man and the Scorpion. it goes like this:

‘One morning, when passing a stream, an old man saw a scorpion floating helplessly in the water. As the waves washed the scorpion closer to the tree, the old man quickly stretched himself out on one of the long roots that branched out into the river and reached out to rescue the drowning creature. As soon as he touched it, the scorpion stung him. Instinctively, the man withdrew his hand. A minute later, after he had regained his balance, he stretched himself out again on the roots to save the scorpion. This time, the scorpion stung him so badly with its poisonous tail that his hand became swollen and bloody and his face contorted with pain. At that moment, a passerby saw him stretched out on the roots struggling with the scorpion and shouted: “Hey, what’s wrong with you? Only a fool would risk his life for the sake of an evil creature. Don’t you know you could kill yourself trying to save that ungrateful scorpion?”’

Without taking his eyes from the scorpion, the old man replied, “The nature of the scorpion is to sting and mine is to help. My nature will not change in helping the scorpion.”

Comrade Benjamin Burombo would have advised Governor Buni not to change his nature, for some things are done to be known, and appreciated, by people ages after our bones have turned to dust.


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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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