Enugu’s brilliant artist Nsikak Essien dies, aged 63

One of Enugu’s better-known and best regarded artists, Nsikak Essien, dies at the age of 63, it has been announced.

News of his death on 29 July 2020 was broken by friends via Facebook and is generating an outpouring of heartfelt eulogies.

The eulogies focus on his times in Enugu training budding artists and his extraordinarily gifts as a paintng expert.

…extraordinarily gifted

Essien came to Enugu in 1975 to study at the famous Art Department of the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT).

In 1979, he graduated as overall best of the School and also secured the 1979 Fasuyi Best National Art Graduate Prize in Painting as well.

Expectedly, IMT retained him to do his national service and subsequently employed him as a member of faculty to train upcoming artists

After holding the job for 11 years, Essien left for Lagos to engage in full-time studio practice “experimenting with various media that finally themed in iconic explorations of religion, family, and love.”

 “Those were times when the quality of an artist’s works testified to the plaudits he got,” said Ikeddy Isiguzo, a media veteran and an IMT alumnus, in a moving tribute to the artist.

“When our set arrived in IMT the same year he graduated, everyone knew him by reputation … The very ground he walked on might have as well sprouted master pieces. He was well regarded even by many of us who knew next to nothing about arts.”

Essien’s last outing in Enugu was in November 2019 when he chaired the national jury that selected prize winners for the 11th Grand Finale of the annual Life in My City Arts Festival (LIMCAF).

The Festival encourages and promotes young Nigerian artists in the visual arts  to develop their professionalism.

As Enugu Metro reported then, “judges for (the 2019) competition have been carefully selected to ensure that decisions over winning artworks follows strict and rigorous professional standards, the organizers said. At the head of the judging panel is Mr. Nsikak Essien, a prodigy who trained at the famous IMT art school, from where he graduated as best student of the school in his set.

 Essien greatly impacted the lives of many artists in Enugu and Lagos and influenced the art scene in Nigeria with his masterpieces which adorn important landscapes in Enugu, Lagos, and Abuja among other places.

He has uploaded over three dozens of his works on his Facebook wall. Enugu Metro fans are encouraged to take a look andn leave a farewell comment there as well.

Nsikak Essien, Artist Extraordinaire and a Generous Spirit, Departs

By Ikeddy ISIGUZO

NSIKAK Essien, a Lagos-based multimedia artist, was a celebrated at the Institute of Management and Technology, IMT, Enugu, where he was the 1979 Best Graduating Student in Painting, with a Distinction, and the Overall Best Graduating Student. Those were times when the quality of an artist’s works testified to the plaudits he got.

Broad Street,” one of Essien’s paintings

His works assumed increased religious intensity with themes like “A road-to-Damascus”, “Agape” in which Essien preached that, “People should always discover God in their lives as He is the only one that can fix their lives and usher in the much desired peace and harmony”.

He also won the 1979 Fasuyi Best National Art Graduate Prize in Painting.

Essien earned every bit of the high marks that came his way. He was a legend that IMT would not let him go. He was in IMT for another 12 years.

When our set arrived in IMT the same year he graduated, everyone knew him by reputation. IMT had retained him for his NYSC programme. The very ground he walked on might have as well sprouted master pieces. He was well regarded even by many of us who knew next to nothing about arts.

Serious, and minding his business, he often surprised with a ringing laughter when he let it out, otherwise he was too quiet for an artist. Both his students and colleagues spoke well of his generous spirit.

The news of his death on Wednesday, 29 July 2020 was another shock in this era of deaths. Just 63, Essien had buried his life in impacting the lives of many artists and influencing the art scene with his works that were places, like the Aso Rock, the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Before Abuja, his works adorned Dodan Barracks, the former seat of power in Lagos, and offices of some of Nigeria’s biggest organisations.

He spent 11 years lecturing in IMT before venturing into full-time studio practice experimenting with various media that finally themed in iconic explorations of religion, family, and love.

“Quite a few of my friends and I won’t be artists today without this guy. As giants go, there’s none greater, in the way he fired up our young minds, not by his words, but by the sheer grandeur of his God given ability,” Nnamdi Okonkwo, one of his students posted on Facebook. “To us then, and I still happen to feel the same way today, if God came down disguised as an artist, His name would be Nsikak. I believe there’s a special place for you above, Nsikak, earned not just by your legendary talent, but also by your generosity of spirit. Occupy it with the same mastery with which you wielded a pencil and paint brush! And thanks for the inspiration!,” Okonkwo’s tribute read.

His works assumed increased religious intensity with themes like “A road-to-Damascus”, “Agape” in which Essien preached that, “People should always discover God in their lives as He is the only one that can fix their lives and usher in the much desired peace and harmony”.

A 2016 two-week solo exhibition at the Nike Gallery, Lagos, with over 35 works, encapsulated Agape, and aligned with the previous year’s exhibition titled “Love Songs”. Most of those works aimed at getting human being to seek harmony in their relationships with each other and their Maker.

Essien was adept in his use of colours on different media. Once he began the provoking works on humanity and the Almighty, he ceased accepting commissioned works. His works on glass had rebuses of religion.

“My theme is Agape. The Bible says that God loves man, but, man has lost his relationship with God, and it, sometimes, looks as if God is punishing man. But no, our Father is a God of love. So, the exhibition was all about God’s love for man. We are not God’s invention. We are His creation, the work of His hands,” Essien had explained his 2016 exhibition.

Some of his works, among them the cover picture of this article, depicting Broad Street, Lagos, illustrate this article. One of them titled “Alert” shows the joy of a cart pusher on a particularly busy day that guarantees a lot of money.

Norwegian Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Rolf Ree, who declared the 2016 exhibition open said, “Essien is a gifted artist who demonstrates uncanny insight, amazing creative imagination and the ability to bring his vision into manifestation. The results are both beautiful and compelling, as well as informed as they are by his gift.”

“I am happy to be here. Essien is one artist that has carved a niche for his works. It is a good show going by the works paraded here,’’ Ben Ikimi, art collector and builder said at the exhibition.

The Board of Trustees of the youth empowerment NGO, Life In My City Art Festival, LIMCAF, appointed Essien, one of the best known full-time studio artists of his generation, as its National Jury Panel Chairman in 2019. Members of the National Jury were Mr. Sam Ovraiti, a consumer artist and a notable Nigerian artist from the Auchi colourist school, Erasmus Onyishi, an experimentalist and one of the 10 artists El Anatsui presented in the controversial “New Energies” exhibition in 2001, Klaranze Okhide, a Nigerian Visual Artist and Educator and Dr Lasisi Lamidi, of Sculpture from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

Essien was a founding member of the famous AKA Circle of Exhibiting Artists which included other stalwarts such as El Anatsui, Bona Ezeudu, Obiora Anidi and the late great Okpu Eze.

Often mistaken for Nsikak Essien, former Editor of National Concord, Essien the Editor posted this on Facebook on Thursday, “Artist Nsikak Essien was studying at IMT in Enugu at about the same time I was studying at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He is one of the best fine artists in the country. As Editor some people mistook me for him and vice versa. A few even visited me in Concord newspapers office in Ikeja, expecting to see him.

“Just about six months ago someone phoned to inquire if I were the fine artist. Sadly, both of us had never met but we spoke on telephone about twice. The sad story is that he passed on some hours ago. As usual some friends think I am the one. I mourn the loss of my namesake. May his maker take back his soul. I am alive and well. My maker has not called me home yet. Rest in peace my namesake. Amen.”

The tributes are pouring in for a master painter, teacher, and a generous-spirited man. He leaves a void.

Adieu, Essien, the artist.

Snr. Students to write exit exams Aug-Nov 2020

Nigeria’s senior secondary students will write three exit exams between 17 Aug and 18 Nov 2020, federal officials announced yesterday.

All lschools in the country have been shut since March 2020 in the wake of the Coronovirus pandemic.

Federal authorities nearly got into a face-off with the regional examination body over this years WASCE when government said it is not keen on opening schools or writing the exit exams.

Commissioners for Education in the South West states however promptly indicated that they are willing to allow students in the zone write WASCE as scheduled.

Minister of State for Education, Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajuiba, announced the various examination dates as follows:

  • West African Examinations Council, (WAEC-SSCE) starts on 17 of August
  • National Business and Technical Examination Board, (NABTEB) examinations start on 21 September to end 15 October
  • Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations, (SSCE), conducted by NECO, starts on 5 October and ends on 18 November,
  • Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE) for JSS 3 (also conducted by NECO) starts on 24 August and ends on 7 September
  • National Common Entrance Examination for applicants to Unity Colleges (JSS1) is on Saturday, 17 October 2020.

The Minister said registration for the NECO (SSCE) exam is ongoing and will close on 10 September.

“There shall be no extension for the registration whatsoever,” he warned.

Government also directed that the National Board for Arabic and Islamic Studies (NBAIS) examination should begin on 23rd September and end by 17 October.

Government has therefore directed all the bodies to release their examination timetables within seven days from yesterday.

The heads of the various agencies managing the examinations were present, including the acting registrar of the West African Examinations Council.

They include JAMB Registrar, Prof. Is-haq Oloyede; Registar NECO, Prof. Godswill Obioma; NABTEB Registrar, Prof. Ifeoma Isiugo-Abanihe, NBAIS Register, Dr. Raji, and WAEC Acting Registrar, Dr. J.O. Oke.

Pupils and parents were asked to don face masks when they show up for the one-day National Common Entrance Examination conducted by NECO.

“It is compulsory for parents and pupils to wear face masks on the exam date, while also carrying along with them, alcohol-based sanitizers,” said Ben Bem Goong, Director of Press and Public Relations who released a statement at the end of the meeting.

Secondary schools open 4 Aug, for exit classes only

Senior secondary school students in Nigeria return to classes on Tuesday, 4 August to prepare for the West African School Certification Examinations (WASCE) which begins on 17 August.

Education managers nationwide met at a virtual conference and agreed on the date, a spokesperson from the Federal Ministry of Education said.

In attendance at the meeting were officials of the federal and state ministries of education, Nigerian Union of Teachers, (NUT), proprietors of private schools, and Chief Executives of examination bodies.

They agreed that exit classes resume immediately after the Sallah break to enable them prepare for the WAEC examinations beginning on 17 of August, 2020.

They also agreed to beg the federal government and philanthropists for assistance to schools across the country “to enable them fast track the preparations for safe reopening, as agreed.”

Babalola defends NNPC on fraud claims by a Brazilian

Senior lawyer, Chief Afe Babalola, has stepped forward to defend Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on fraud claims by a Brazilian company, Samano Sa De CV.

He said today in a statement that he has been briefed to take “appropriate legal actions” against the company and its agents for causing injury to the Corporation and its officials by peddling “falsehoods.”

Samano’s claims have received considerable global media publicity, including a denial by China at the United Nations and a petition to OPEC by the Company.

The company accuses NNPC officials including Group Managing Director, Mele Kyari, of selling the alleged crude and sharing proceeds of sale among private individuals and public officials,

In the statement, Babalola describes the allegations as “falsehoolds, offensive, gold-digging” and a calculated attempt at “blackmail and extortion.”

He said NNPC met with Samano officials and heard the story of the 48million barrels of crude stolen by Nigeria and stored in China, but Nigerian officials did not find the story credible for four reasons:

  • it is impossible to ship that quantity of crude from Nigeria without records
  • Nigeria produced 1.6million barrels of crude per day at the time and 48 million barrels would represent one full month of full production
  • Four Chinese companies managed Nigeria’s crude oil export arrangements with the Chinese, and would have had such a large shipment on their radar, and
  • It did not make economic sense to hoard that volume of crude considering the significant attendant storage costs.

President Buhari’s Committee Investigates

“The Federal Government and NNPC receive hundreds of spurious claims of this nature daily, and they always turn out to be false,” the statement said.

Samano requested to buy but later changed his mind about buying the alleged crude because, according to him, he was merely providing a tip-off for President Buhari to fight corruption.

Although the Chinese themselves have denied on the floor of the United Nations that there was any such cache, President Buhari responded by setting up a committee to investigate.

“President Buhari set up a Committee to verify this and similar claims but Samano “refused, neglected or failed to provide the Committee with any cogent and verifiable evidence,” Babalola said.

The committee members went to China and confirmed that the claims were false and that the documents presented by Samano were not genuine.

NNPC said that Samano resorted to blackmail when he realized that the game was up and that NNPC was no longer interested in further discussions with him.

Samano’s Search for Compensation

Samano, according to the statement, demanded for $125million from government as hush money otherwise he would go public with the allegations.

He also said the money was for giving information in line with the government policy on compensation for whistleblowers.

NNPC however faulted his claim because he was asking for compensation for information that was delivered in 2015, two years before the whistleblower policy took off.

“SAMANO also failed to follow due process or establish that the information it allegedly provided led to any recovery or that the information was disseminated through the proper channel – the Federal Ministry of Finance online portal or in writing to the Federal Ministry of Finance or the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit Unit.

“SAMANO’s actions were contrary to the laid down policy of the government on whistleblowing.

“Indeed, SAMANO does not qualify as a whistle-blower under this policy, particularly as no benefit whatsoever was derived from the piece of falsehood it provided at the time.”

Law has Caught Up with Samano

Babalola disclosed that NNPC reported the matter to the Department of State Security (DSS) and to the Nigeria Police both of which invited Samano’s agents in Nigeria to quiz them on the deal.

“After a thorough investigation by the Police and DSS and confessions by agents of SAMANO, it was discovered that the allegations of conspiracy, forgery, obtaining money by false pretence, blackmail and extortion were well-founded and that some of the fraudulent activities of one Mr Ramirez and Mr Jose Salazar Tinajero (both agents of SAMANO) constituted a threat to the national security of Nigeria.”

The police also found that that one of them was a blackmailer and a fraudster on the run from the law in the United States.

The statement disclosed that one of the agents has been charged to court in Nigeria for “criminal conspiracy, forgery, extortion and attempt to obtain money by false pretence,”

The agent is also being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Abuja and Lagos for other crimes.

NNPC, through Babalola, urged the public to disregard the publications allegedly sponsored by SAMANO.

“SAMANO’s attempt to shift attention from the on-going criminal charges against its Managing Director and agents will not fly.

“They are at best diversionary and in furtherance of its scheme to fleece Nigeria,” he said.

Meet Interesting Enugu People

10 Best Places to Meet Interesting Enugu People on Your Next Visit

Are you visiting for the first time and wondering how to meet interesting Enugu people? Worry no more. There are many great places in Enugu where folks go to work out, chill out, and enjoy soothing music. From lounges, live bands, garden bars and nightclubs, the Coal City presents non-stop entertainment for the visitor … and residents.

In the daytime, however, here are our best 10 suggestions on how to meet interesting people in the Coal City

1. Street Games

There are many open pitches in Enugu where games are played by both sexes – from basketball to football and volleyball. These are usually places of excitement where tribe and toungue no longer differ. One innocuous question about how to get to a certain location will have you making a friend for life. Or for the duration of your visit.


2. Okpara Square

The beautiful and serene Okpara Square at Independence Layout has grown to become more than a jogger’s den. It is now a place where an adhoc street market exists. Professionals come here each morning to keep fit and look for business deals. Looking for lawyers, realtors, doctors, anyone? Okpara Square in the morning is the place and time to have a great encounter.


3. Professional Groups

Are you a professional visiting Enugu? Whether you are looking for local partners, help to execute a contract, or info from the local professional association, the place to start is Enugu Metro Business Directory (enugumetro.com/directory). We have also prepared a special listing of the groups and associations that you may be interested in. You will find the contact numbers of executives of your association, and search to find individual businesses – engineering companies, law chambers, realtors, PR professionals, everyone. Repeat: We have the info on everyone


4. Scheduled Events

Enugu is a watering hole for culture enthusiasts and there are scheduled art and intellectual events that cater for every taste. From the bi-weekly Enugu Literary Society meet to the monthly Nkata Umuibe Talk and the annual Life in My City Arts Festival, your visit might conincide with an African Nights Entertainment whose memory will linger long after you bid the Coal City goodbye


5. Anchor Shops

The two major anchor shops – Spar and Shoprite – have large spaces for outdoor recreation. The Polo Mall (housing Shoprite) also has a large food court inside and a children’s playgroud outdoors. They are great places to meet your kind of people in Enugu and many have taken advantage. Many organisations (e.g. Enugu Book Club) take advantage of the high footfall to organize fairs, attended by parents and their wards, as well as other professionals.


6. Open Markets

If your interest is just getting to meet the hustle and bustle of the open markets, and getting to see how the other side lives, Enugu City has a number of markets from which to choose – from the all-purpose Ogbete Main Market to the Kenyata Building Materials Market and the Auto Spare Parts Arena at Coal Camp. There are smaller open markets in between and you can find one close to your hotel.


7. Parks & Gardens

Enugu folks like having a good time, to be sure. With the public restrictions being gradually relaxed, a lot more of families will now be venturing out to parks and gardens. There is a themed forest beside the Okpara Square that governmet is developing into a tourism spot, and there are other playgrounds and parks, including the one at Nike Lake Resort Hotel.


8. Facebook Groups

Ever before you embark on the trip, you could check out the various local hobby and interest groups on Facebook. A few of them are open groups that you can freely join to ask questions, strike friendships and get a feel of the city, even before you arrive. Enugu Metro is developing Life in the Coal City to serve just this purpose. Many others are already doing it, although most are not public groups. Facebook is the place to meet interesting Enugu people.


9. After-Hour Joints

Enugu sizzles because of some of Nigeria’s biggest acts – Flavour, Phino, IllBliss, Zoro – who are all Coal City Boys. They still come around to mix pleasure and business in the city’s nightclubs and lounge bars. Flavour owns a nightclub in Enugu. The after-hours scene is a mix of fun and non-stop entertainment with a blend of local and traditional dances and songs to spice an evening night out. Post Covid19, the Coal City will surely bubble again.


10. Worship Places

In a reflective mood, there are many places of worship to cater to the spiritual inclinations of believers in Enugu. There’s the Father Ejike Mbaka’s Adoration Ministries Enugu Nigeria (AMEN) at Nike. It has Pentecostalism versions dotted all over the landscape. There is also a bustling Muslim worship Community with its main Mosque in Asata. You will enjoy Enugu because there’s spiritual food served for you also.


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Okonjo-Iweala, the WTO and a naysayer

By Chuks ILOEGBUNAM

If the current controversy surrounding the search for a replacement for the outgoing director-general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the Brazilian Roberto de Azevedo, were not global and intense, it would mean that the position was worth little more than a sinecure. Appointed in 2013, Mr. de Azevedo has served notice that he will step down this August, a year before his term concludes.

Up came eight candidates from all regions of the world, three of which are Africans: Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; the former Kenyan foreign minister Amina Mohamed, who previously was the chairperson of the WTO General Council; and Abdel-Hamid Mamdouhm, an Egyptian lawyer who also had a stint as a senior WTO official. Because the headship of the WTO is not geographically rotational, no region of the world can claim it is its turn to produce the organisation’s next D-G.

However, there’s a good a case for an African to be appointed this time around. In its 25-year history, no African has ever headed the WTO. Yet, “Africa represents a key bloc within the WTO. It accounts for nearly 27 percent of membership and 35 percent of members from developing countries,” argue Professors Mzukisi Qobo and Mills Soko of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa.

In an article entitled Why one of three African candidates fits the bill as the new head of the WTO, Soko, a Professor of International Business & Strategy at Wits Business School, and Qobo, the Head of Wits School of Governance, strike a mighty blow for Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy: “In our view, of the three African contenders, none is better qualified than Okonjo-Iweala to lead the WTO in the next phase of its 25-year history, which is poised to be the most fractious and challenging.

“The WTO plays an important confidence-building role in the global economy, and the interests of poor countries will be best served in a stronger multilateral trading system that is responsive to their development concerns.

“The nature of the institution requires a leader with significant political heft and who commands the respect of all member countries, rich and poor…

“Okonjo-Iweala is suitably qualified to serve at the helm of the institution. She is a Harvard-educated political heavy-hitter with the skills and experience to cajole, knock heads together and break logjams. She is regarded as a consensus builder who enjoys the confidence of governments, business and multilateral institutions. As Nigeria’s finance minister, she successfully spearheaded the negotiation of an $18 billion debt write-off for the county with the Paris Club creditor nations.

“Her political acumen and extensive negotiating skills could contribute towards restoring the multilateral trade agenda. This has collapsed amid the Trump administration’s hostility towards multilateralism.

“With her origins from a neutral developing country, she could be the right candidate the embattled WTO needs to broker truce between the US and China and end their trade conflict, which has led to institutional collapse.

“Okonjo-Iweala also boasts a credible tract record of economic reform and political sway. Following a long stint as a senior executive at the World Bank, she twice served as Nigeria’s finance minister between 2003 and 2015. During this period, she took on vested interests and implemented far-reaching reforms. These included overhauling a corrupt fuel-subsidy scheme, cutting delays at the country’s ports, creating an oil fund to stabilise the economy, increasing transparency by publishing the government’s monthly finances, and introducing an electronic tax system that curbed illegal diversion of funds…

“Her global finance expertise, in particular, would serve the WTO well given the nexus between trade and finance in the world economy, accentuated by the current economic crisis. By not being a WTO insider, she would bring a much-needed fresh perspective to the institution.”

It is apposite to state that much of Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala’s assessment across the globe accords with the views of Soko and Qobo. Strikingly, Mr. Patrick Lumumba, the well-known Kenyan lawyer and former managing director of the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission, whose country has a candidate for the WTO job, has singled out Okonjo-Iweala as the most qualified to clinch it.

Again, Forbes, the global media company focusing on business, technology and entrepreneurship, is already quoting with approval Okonjo-Iweala’s view on a way to end the US and China trade conflict that Soko and Qobo mentioned. She has said that “demonstrable effort” by the WTO to address China’s industrial subsidies could prompt the US into a more favourable look at the organisation. It is thought in informed circles that the WTO’s future is tied to US-China relations.

Inside Nigeria, however, there is a twist. An Okonjo-Iweala spokesman has alleged that “powerful and well-connected forces” are sabotaging her chances by peddling lies and linking her with a secessionist tendency. In an article entitled Who Is Afraid of Okonjo-Iweala, Reuben Abati described the saboteurs as “sado-masochists” propelled by impulses that include sadism, the endless search for people to pull down, mental instability, the “Luciferian complex, mischief, ethnic, or religious reasons or plain wickedness.”
 
Characters of Dr. Abati’s categorisation invariably operate by stealth, a point that places them beneath contempt and wholly deserving of disregard and/or excoriation. However, there is a strident Nigerian voice openly opposed to Okonjo-Iweala landing the WTO job. He is Owei Lakemfa, a known journalist and trade unionist, who has written two articles in quick succession to sell his market, and thereby place himself squarely at an antipodal position with the national predilection on the subject.

It is logical to assume that an argument against Okonjo-Iweala’s candidacy should systematically knock down those premises that are of the Soko-Qobo hue. Did Mr. Lakemfa do this? His first piece, Swimming Against WTO and Okonjo-Iweala’s Candidacy, rails at the structural liabilities of the Bretton Woods institutions and the WTO vis-a-viz Africa and the rest of the Third World. The title of the second article, The Fruitlessness Of An Okonjo-Iweala Leadership Of WTO, indicates its thematic thrust.

So, what, really, is Mr. Lakemfa point? “The IMF and the World Bank are two monkeys who take turns in carrying each other on their backs, while their child, the WTO, hops from one tree to another playing at nurturing world trade,” he states. The bashing of global organisations that are perceived as Western lackeys is age-old. But, after it, a progressive recommendation should usually follow. Lakemfa didn’t advocate the dismantling of the bodies, or the cessation of relationships with them by Nigeria and the developing countries. Rather, he went celebrating UNCTAD, “the baby born by the wider world to handle beneficial trade, multilateral relations and all-round human development.” On this he conveniently forgot that the world that begat UNCTAD isn’t any wider than the United Nations that also fathered the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO.
 
Lakemfa did not say how Okonjo-Iweala’s absence at WTO leadership would benefit Nigeria and Africa. This champion of developing countries did not also argue against the two other African candidates for the WTO leadership. This means that his anti-Okonjo-Iweala grouse is personal. “I cannot in clean conscience, recommend Okonjo-Iweala for any job,” he declares. Why?

Because, writes Owei Lakemfa, her “curriculum vitae is so long, windy, weighty and suffocating that she is either a genius like Albert Einstein or an endlessly recycled agent of Western interests.” Pray, how does this conclusion strike any perceptive reader as sensible? But that is not all; there is more of the ridiculous nature. To take three of them:

At a conference by Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili’s Due Process Office, Lakemfa asked Okonjo-Iweala Nigeria’s daily oil production. The conference chairman, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai (Now Governor of Kaduna State) fumed: “‘Mr. Lakemfa, let me tell you, there are three persons I can die for in this government; Oby, Ribadu (Nuhu, then Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) and Ngozi.’ He did not allow her to answer the question. I doubt if until today, it is a question she can answer.’” This absurdity is supposed to make Okonjo-Iweala ineligible to head the WTO! In any case, why is it critical that El-Rufai’s name is thrown into the mix?
“Dr. Okonjo-Iweala has been so ingrained in the consciousness or sub-consciousness of many Nigerian middle class elements, that to say anything negative about her is to commit a crime, if not a sin. In fact, there are some rooting for her to succeed Buhari as the next president of Nigeria, my dear country that lays prostrate after decades of relentless pounding by her progressive and conservative children.” How does this accelerate Lakemfa’s limping argument?
“The Buhari government withdrew the Nigerian nominee for the race of the WTO director general, Dr. Yonov Frederick Agah, and replaced him with Dr. Okonjo-Iweala. There was no explanation for this unusual step…Did the Buhari government take this step having come to the conclusion that she has a better chance? Was it taken to appease the increasing agitation of our Igbo compatriots who have been completely marginalised, or was it pressure from her mother agency, the imperial World Bank and its Western owners?

Most people would be hearing Dr. Agah’s name for the first time from Lakemfa. In opposing his replacement as Nigeria’s candidate, is it the contention that governments cannot alter course in the light of better information or grander articulation of national interest? When Lakemfa asks who of Agah and Okonjo-Iweala has a better chance of heading the WTO, he is only making up the amount of words needed for his write-up. As for Buhari’s government using it “to appease the increasing agitation of our Igbo compatriots who have been completely marginalised,” Lakemfa betrays a distasteful non-apprehension of the fundamentality of the Igbo question. On the owners of the WTO applying pressure on Nigeria, a cardinal matter is raised that Lakemfa studiously ducked: which of the dog and its tail wags the other?

I have known Owei Lakemfa since our undergraduate days at Ife more than four decades ago. We, thereafter, were journalistic colleagues. We are constantly in touch. He is a dear friend, an unrepentant champion of labour and a spirited fighter for the underclass. But his submissions on the WTO and Okonjo-Iweala beggar belief. 

Lakemfa called Okonjo-Iweala a stooge of the West. For me, people can call people whatever they like. But in supposedly important considerations, labelling must be contextually demonstrated. Lakemfa did not achieve this by quoting Okonjo-Iweala’s reaction to the January 1, 2012 fuel price increase: thus: “I told my husband that I was sure that I would be blamed if things did not go right because everyone would feel that in my rush to implement so-called neoliberal policies informed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, I had rushed the President into this decision.” Is the adjective “so-called” of no import to the context of the quotation?

There are two more points to examine. One is the 2005 debt repayment to the Paris Club. Nigeria owed the Club $30 billion. An Okonjo-Iweala deal had Nigeria pay $12 billion in one fell swoop, to clear the crippling debt overhang; the Club wrote off $18 billion as aid. Lakemfa doubts the economic wisdom of the deal.

“First,” he says, “there was the controversy whether these debts were verifiable.” Secondly, he asks, “whether it made sense for an underdeveloped country to make a bulk payment of $12 billion.” Thirdly, he states that, “the main controversy was whether in paying the Paris Club, Nigeria needed ‘Consultants’ or ‘Advisors’ who were paid huge commissions. Nigerians asked Okonjo-Iweala to name these middlemen and exactly how much they were paid. This, to the best of my knowledge has not been done fifteen years later.”

In my view, this matter of the Paris Club debt repayment constitutes the weakest link in the chain of Lakemfa’s submissions. The debt repayment deal was in 2005. Lakemfa should not be asking 15 years later whether or not the debts were verifiable. He should have done the verification. The Debt Management Office in Abuja is the custodian of Nigeria’s debts. Why didn’t Lakemfa check the veracity of the Paris Club debt with it? Lakemfa should also have delved into the arithmetic of debt repayment and debt servicing, in order to determine whether or not the outright payment of $12 billion was a service to capito-imperialists, and a disservice to long-suffering Nigeria. He should have identified the ‘Consultants’ or ‘Advisors’ paid huge commissions on the deal, and determined whether or not the commissions were outlandish. He did none of these but chose to obfuscate critical national matters with conjectures.

Mr. Lakemfa’s diffidence is not because he does not know that the politics and economics of debts a thousand years old are still being rigorously investigated to this day. He chose to wage a personal war disguised as national in import, firing his assault rifle at burst, raising a cacophony but missing his target for the simple reason that his weapon was emitting blanks.

Owei Lakemfa charges that Okonjo-Iweala was one of the main forces that drove the Obasanjo administration’s privatisation process in which choice public property like the profit-making Nicon-Noga Hotel (Renamed Transcorp) were sold. Lakemfa’s “primary point on this issue is that the funds realised from these prodigal sales were not accounted for by the Iweala-controlled Finance Ministry or any other government arm, nor were Nigerians told the public projects on which these funds were expended.”

Lakemfa may not know that Transcorp makes profit today than ever before, and that the Federal Government owns 49 percent of its shares, its interests overseen by the Director of the Bureau of Public Enterprises who sits on the Transcorp board. Lakemfa compounds his difficulties by the indefensible inability to demonstrate the sales prodigality of his fulmination.

It was Dr. Okonjo-Iweala that introduced the Treasury Single Account (TSA). It was Dr. Okonjo-Iweala that introduced the monthly publication of all monies paid to States from the Federation Account. These were giant steps of transparency. It is disreputable to minimise these record-setting achievements on the glib charge that a Finance Minister does not know the number of litres sold every 24 hours by the Ijaniki Petrol Station in Ipetumodu.

In damning Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala and laboring to rubbish her chances of becoming the D-G of the WTO, Mr. Lakemfa makes this conclusion: “On the shark WTO, while it is true Okonjo-Iweala is a Nigerian and an African, but of what comfort is it to the forest that the handle of the sharp axe cutting down its trees is made of wood from the forest?”

It all boils down to the point earlier made, namely that Owei Lakemfa was dubious about his objective. Had clarity of thought attended his writing, he would have rejected altogether the WTO that he termed a shark and a sharp axe felling Nigerian, African and Third World trees. If he were not guided more by his heart than his head, he would have gone far beyond execrating Dr. Okonjo-Iweala to index his accusations and insinuations on concrete facts. His attempts at diminishing Okono-Iweala fail woefully. They fall far below the standards of rigour taken for granted in his previous submissions. Lakemfa knows, or ought to know, that caprice is the instrument of least value for determining Nigeria’s place at the WTO and the international community as a whole.

 Iloegbunam is the author of Ironsi: Nigeria, The Army, Power And Politics.
 

South West has lion share of Covid19 infections in Nigeria

South West has lion share but three out of every four cases in Nigeria are found the three regions – South West, South South and North West.

Almost half of all cases of Covid19 that occurs in Nigeria’s comes from the South West region, figures from Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) show.

The region has 48% of the 39,977 confirmed cases, with one out of every three cases occuring in Lagos alone.

South South region surprisingly folows in second place, buoyed by figures from Edo, Rivers, and Delta States (See Table).

Enugu Metro drew attention to the surge in the three South South states, two of which have now reached the top five on the infections table.

Kaduna and Kano from the North West complete the triumvirate of regions that are now seen as epicentres.

Three out of every four cases in Nigeria are found the three regions – South West, South South and North West.

States in the region also occupy the top 10 spots (see table).

Lagos maintains lead with 123 new cases

NCDC confirmed 433 new cases of Covid19 last night and Lagos maintains its lead with 123 cases.

Regular running mates FCT and Oyo dropped further down as Kaduna grabbed second place with 50 cases.

Rivers (40) and Edo (37), came third and fourth respectively.

South East records 66 deaths overall

As at yesterday, 25 July, Covid19 has killed 66 persons from the South East, the NCDC figures show.

Ebonyi State has the most deaths at 24, followed by Enugu (17), Anambra (12), Imo (9) and Abia (4).

Test for Covid19 in Enugu: Govt creates self-test tools

Residents of Enugu are checking their health status against the Coronavirus using a new platform introduced by the State Task Force on Covid-19

Task Force chairman. Ikechukwu Emmanuel Obi who is also the health commissioner broke broke the news today in a statement.

The self-assessment platform gives an idea whether symptoms being experienced are enough to go for proper diagnosis or to call the authorities.

The platform is known as the “Enugu State COVID-19 Assessment Platform.”

Anyone with a smartphone or without one can access the multimedia platform, he said.

Smartphone users log on to this internet address to access the service: https://enugu-covid19.eclathealthcare.com.

The visitor answers a number of questions regarding how they feel once the website opens.

The platform points them to the next course of action after answering questions.

On the other hand, people with ordinary GSM numbers call a number or send a text message.

The telephone number to call is 01-440-0037 while the text code is *723*19*12#.

Callers answer simple questions in Igbo, English, or Pidgin.

‘Online Test for Covid19 not a diagnosis’

 State Health Commissioner, Dr. Emmanuel Ikechukwu Obi, said today that the platform captures those with Covid19 symptoms at the early stage.

The State Government and e’Clat, an Interswitch Health Tech company, are collaborating on the project, he also said.

The self-assessment is not a professional health diagnosis but helps “to determine risk of exposure to the disease, he said.

Residents’ responsses are monitored by the State Ministry of Health on a dashboard while the State Emergency Operation Centre promptly does follow ups.

Figures released by NCDC last night show Enugu with 21 new cases of Covid-19.

The figures raise total infections to 726 with 17 deaths and 371 patients discharged.

Enugu Test for Covid19

The telephone line also options for English, Pidgin and Igbo Languages. 

Ndubuisi Egbo, the Nigerian coach making history in Europe

Culled from ESPN

Ndubuisi Egbo, the Nigerian coach who guided Albania’s KF Tirana to top flight triumph in their centenary year, has made history as the first African coach to lead a European team to a league title, and qualification for the UEFA Champions League — or any European competition, for that matter.

For a team that has now won the Albanian league title 25 times — more than any other club in the country — Tirana being crowned champions again was a huge achievement and a relief, given they were nearly relegated the season prior.

Additionally, their triumph is unexpectedly resonating across Africa, and for good reason.

Egbo is still coming to terms with the achievement — especially given that he had taken over as manager with the side in perilous waters in late 2019.

“It’s unexplainable,” Egbo told ESPN.

“I am still trying to let it sink in because I didn’t know how huge the success of what God used us to do was until I started hearing I’m the first African coach to achieve this feat. Many people from Nigeria, Egypt — where I played before — and other places have been reaching out.”

Success might easily not have happened, however.

In 2014, the former Nigeria goalkeeper joined the club, for whom he had played, as goalkeeper trainer and assistant coach.

He was asked five times thereafter to step in on an interim basis when a manager was sacked — handed the reins for a combined total of five games, with four losses and one draw.

He declined previous offers to take the job on a full-time basis: “But I told them it is a big job, so I would wait for the right time to get more experience.”

Egbo was asked to fill in, once again, on a three-game basis when yet another manager was fired, after a run of poor results left the club languishing in eighth place and contemplating the real threat of relegation.

His first game in charge was a derby against Partiziani last December, a team that Tirana had not beaten in six years.

“Everybody thought we were going to lose, like, 5-0,” Egbo recalled.

“We played at the national stadium, and it was a big occasion; the atmosphere was great, the stadium had just been renovated with new grass and all. It made me feel like I should go back to being a player again. So I told my players they needed to show that they could play with the best, and win.”

Win they did, recording a 2-1 victory after a late goal; they also won the other two games under Egbo, and, the ship steadied, he was ready to hand over the reins to whomever the new coach would be.

The club had other ideas, however; Egbo was asked to stay on, and he accepted the position “after speaking with my family and my spiritual adviser.”

Divine guidance or not, Egbo guided the team to a 16-game unbeaten run, with just one draw, that took them from the relegation playoff positions to within touching distance of the title, nine points ahead of second-placed Kukesi.

Egbo says he dug into his Nigerian roots to turn things around.

“When I took over this time, I felt like I had got the experience passing through many coaches, learning from all the coaches that I have worked with in the club, coupled with everything I have learnt from my career and all the coaches I worked with — especially back home,” he said.

“Coaches like Christian Chukwu and Joe Erico, one of the best coaches I have gone through in my career, who taught me more than just about football. And his lessons got me to where I am today.

“Also his playing pattern. They used to say back then that if you don’t come to the stadium on time, you won’t see our first goal. That is the way I have my team playing here. We attack as a team and defend as a team.”

Egbo said he had to do a lot of “psychological work” with the Tirana players, whom, he said, “had lost the winning mentality, they had lost character, they had lost personality.”

“They were completely down and knocked out, and you can’t imagine the psychological work that we did just to get them back,” Egbo explained.

“I played for this team, and in two out of the three years we won the league, the cup and Super Cup; we needed to bring that winning mentality back, and that is what we did.

“You need to put fear in opponents, and when you get into a game, you have to enter like a king into the arena. It’s your arena, and no one else should command it apart from you.

“[This is the] winning mentality every team should have, and this is the mentality and culture of this team, KF Tirana. This is a team that when they go away, they go to get a win and not a draw because draw away is like a loss.”

It worked, but there still were those who tried to diminish Egbo’s abilities and results.

“They attacked me many times, saying things like ‘he doesn’t have experience,’ ‘he is just a goalkeeper coach,’ even though I took the UEFA Pro Licence [the highest coaching certification] before some of them that are analyzing me,” Egbo said.

“They have other local coaches that are coaching in the league, but they don’t attack them the way they attack foreign coaches.

“They have an Italian coach in one other team and same thing is done to him, but because he is European, his attacks aren’t as much as mine. Because I’m a Black man, the attack is more because they can’t accept it.

“These are the things that make it very difficult to be able to work. You need patience, you need endurance, you need the grace and will of God to succeed.”

Egbo’s accomplishment comes at a time when the world is confronting social justice issues sparked by the killing in the United States of George Floyd — and at a time that features growing calls for more diversity in sports leadership positions.

“I believe it is a calculated time,” Egbo said of his success.

“It’s God’s timing that He made everything to work out this way. One hundred years of the club, and for a foreigner to come and do it, that is unimaginable. That is why many of them can’t accept it in Albania; they can’t accept that a Black man, a foreigner, will come and win the league… they tried everything to ensure it doesn’t happen.”

Countering the critics, Egbo said he received support from fellow coaches, fans and his club hierarchy.

“There are a lot of good people here, people who are supporting me, young Albanian coaches sending me messages,” he said.

“They keep pushing me and supporting me, even though they won’t do it in the open but from behind, because they don’t want to put themselves in trouble with the authorities or other coaches that are bigger than them.

“The good people will help you, and the bad ones will give you experience and push you further to achieve your aim and objective. So, every one of them is part of our story… [criticism is] like an encouragement for me, and to show me that I have something in me that they are jealous of and I need to continue to do my best to continue to do this.”

With one goal achieved, the next target is the UEFA Champions League: Tirana will compete in the playoffs for a chance to make the group stages.

“First of all, our objective is to reach the group stage, and from there, we would set another objective for ourselves,” Egbo said.

“Because no Albanian team has been able to do it. So we are expecting that we can go into the group stage. That would be a huge achievement for an Albanian team.”

That is still some way out, however; for now, Egbo hopes that his achievements can open the door for other African coaches.

“I hope this achievement isn’t only for me,” he said, “but it will help other African coaches to be given opportunities to showcase what they can do and to be an encouragement to push them to do more for themselves.”

Source: As featured in ESPN