By Joel Popoola
“Together we shall be”
With protests taking place in at least one in three Nigerian states, it is hard to imagine a less appropriate slogan for our nation at this moment than the one President Buhari unveiled less than a month ago to mark the 60th anniversary of independence.
Nobody can say for certain when the current protests will end, and what will change as a result of them.
But what we know for certain is that Nigerians of all backgrounds, beliefs and ages will have to reunite when the #EndSARS protests are over. Together we must be.
But the social media misinformation which has defined so much of these protests will only make things harder.
A perfect example of this is the video circulating widely of presidential spokesperson Femi Adesina apparently dismissing the protests as “child’s play”.
But the video is old and has nothing to do with the current protests. It has been edited out of context and circulated with the words “if you are not angry enough, I hope this will help”.
Anger is one of the things Nigerians currently have more than enough of. We do not need any more. It is clear that peaceful protesters have suffered enough real-life indignities, insults and injuries. Inventing new ones only undermines their own credibility.
Similarly suspect social media information has been spread the other way, with semi-official sources and their surrogates seeming to spread untruths undermining and slandering peaceful protests against police violence and poor governance we all know continues to blight our nation. Telling us to ignore what is in front of our eyes only undermines their own credibility.
These protests will only end when officials and the public, electors and elected, come together and work to design and deliver a new Nigeria.
Mr Adesina himself has released a statement highlighting that the misleading video has led to him being “bombarded…. with curses, expletives, and messages from the pit of hell”.
We cannot allow social media to irrecoverably define relationships between the state and the public as antagonistic.
Recent days have brought home to us the tragic cost of the total breakdown in trust between public and political class in Nigeria causing relationships between government and governed to become grounded in mistrust and resentment, as we witness the widespread looting of government storage warehouses containing COVID-19 aid.
Protesters have claimed that the supplies were being hidden and hoarded by officials for their own use.
State governors have stated that the supplies were being held in reserve in preparation for a possible second wave of COVID-19 infections.
Maybe this was yet another example of public officials serving no-one but themselves. Maybe it was an eminently sensible action of governors planning ahead to meet the challenges of an uncertain future.
But in a climate of mistrust and misinformation, a lack of communication and a lack of transparency, the only outcome is yet more unrest.
What is not up for debate is that official Nigerian government figures show that more than half the population had to take out loans to pay for food during the first COVID-19 lockdown.
We can only solve problems like this if we trust each other and work together.
We can only build trust if people get their information from reputable, authoritative and credible sources – not from retweets and reposts designed to mislead and divide.
At the digital democracy campaign I lead, we believe new online platforms are needed to bring politicians and the people they serve together. That is why we have created a free mobile app called Rate Your Leader.
The Rate Your Leader app allows registered voters to directly contact local leaders person to person from their mobile phones, with our technology ensuring that all communication is courteous, civil and free from abuse.
Using Rate Your Leader, local people can ask straight questions of local leaders and expect straight answers in return. If they feel the response they receive are misleading or biased, they can rate the responders appropriately for their neighbours to see.
The app also allows local leaders to identify and address the issues which matter most to the people who elect them, building their profile, reputation and trust.
Together we can be. We have much more in common than we sometimes believe. We must not let falsehood divide us nor hostility define us.
Social media is key to defeating this, but right now it is dividing us.
Joel Popoola is a Nigerian tech entrepreneur, digital democracy campaigner and creator of the Rate Your Leader app. You can reach Joel on Twitter @JOPopoola
Low UTME Cut-Off Mark Reason for Laziness Among Northern Youths – El-Rufai
Northerners have refused to take advantage of the ‘educational benefits’ given to them by the Nigerian government, the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El- Rufai, has said.
He specifically said the low cut-off marks needed for admission into northern universities via the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) was making northerners ‘lazy’.
Mr El-Rufai spoke during a plenary session on “Rethinking Sub-National Competitiveness” at the ongoing Nigerian Economic Summit.
These were some of the points he raised when he talked about restructuring the nation on Tuesday.
The members of this session were Mr El-Rufai, Azinge Azinge, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and Justin Lin, a Professor of Economics.
“The northerners are at advantage. The low JAMB cut-off mark is making northern youth lazy rather than encouraging them. Despite the advantage of the education in Nigeria, we have the highest number of children out of school,” he said.
According to the United Nations, the huge number of out-of-school children in northern Nigeria poses an enormous challenge.
“For example, Joint Admissions Matriculation Board (JAMB), gives different cut-off mark for different states and you say you are building a nation, no you are dividing it.
“I am from the north but we have suffered educational disadvantage and the JAMB has given us lower cut-off mark to catch up, have we caught up?
“It is making people lazy,” the governor said.
He also said selecting leaders based on their ‘origin’ will not move any nation forward.
“This has become a big problem for Nigeria. Zoning in political parties cannot solve the economic problems we are facing,” he said. “Selecting the best person to get the job done will benefit everyone.”
“The best we can do is to give everyone equal opportunity.”
He also harped on reforming the federal police and judiciary to improve their effectiveness.
“Implement state policing. Some governors have more influence on the police than others; state governors cannot control security actions except there is an order from the IGP. This makes state governors handicapped in serious matters.
“Same is applied to the judiciary system. We are the only country in the world that is running a federal judiciary system. This has exposed the sector to inefficiency. There are decisions for states to take for example, land issues, traditional issues.”
Court Revokes Marina’s Son’s Bail, Orders His Arrest
The Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday revoked the bail granted Faisal Maina, the son of Abdulrasheed Maina, and ordered his arrest for jumping bail in his trial on money laundering charges.
Justice Okon Abang also ordered that his trial on money laundering charges would proceed in absentia pending when the security agencies would be able to arrest and produce him in court.
The judge also summoned his surety, a member of the House of Representatives, Sani Umar Dangaladima, representing the Kaura-Namoda Federal Constituency of Zamfara State, to appear in court to show cause why he should not forfeit the N60m bail bond which he signed for Faisal.
The order for Faisal’s arrest came barely six days after the same court, on November 18, issued a similar order against his father, Abdulrasheed Maina, a former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reformed Task Team, who is facing separate N2.1bn money laundering charges before the court.
On Monday, Justice Okon Abang, sent Maina’s surety, Senator Ali Ndume, to jail for his inability to produce the fleeing defendant in court.
Earlier on Tuesday, following the judge’s November 18 ruling, Maina’s trial held in his absence with three prosecution witnesses testifying behind him and his legal team.
At the resumed hearing of Faisal’s trial on Tuesday, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s prosecution counsel, Mohammed Abubakar, said both the defendant and his surety had not attended court since June 24, 2020.
FG, S’South Govs, Leaders Set to Meet in Rivers Tuesday
A delegation from the Federal Government is expected to meet with Governors and leaders of the South-South geo-political zone in Government House, Port Harcourt today (Tuesday).
The Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, is expected to lead the presidential delegation.
A Government House source in Port Harcourt, who confirmed the meeting to our correspondent, said Gambari is on his way to Port Harcourt.
The rescheduled meeting is coming on the heels of the botched stakeholders’ forum, which angered the Southern Governor, during which the South-South Governors’ Forum, demanded an apology from the presidency.