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PDP 2018 PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY: FORETELLING THE OUTCOME

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Primary

Nigeria’s main opposition political party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) lost power to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015, after ruling the nation for 16 years. As the 2019 presidential election race gains speed, the PDP has vowed to regain power in 2019, but two major challenges stands in her way. The party must present a credible presidential candidate and defeat incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari at the polls. Thirteen political heavyweights are struggling for PDP’s ticket and efforts to present a consensus candidate proved abortive. The party is on the verge of conducting a presidential primary to elect the one who will confront Buhari. This piece weighs the chance of the candidates and foretells the outcome.

 

The thirteen aspirants jostling for the PDP presidential ticket are former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Senate President Bukola Saraki, Governors Aminu Tambuwal and Ibrahim Dakwambo of Sokoto and Gombe States, and ex-Governors Attahiru Bafarawa, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Ahmed Markafi, Jonah Jang, and Sule Lamido of Sokoto, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau and Jigawa states respectively. Others are former Senate President David Mark, former Minister of Special Duties, Taminu Turaki and Stanley Osifo from Edo State. The PDP presidential aspirants are mainly northerners. The party zoned the ticket to the north in order to lessen Buhari’s vote in the region. The two digit number of aspirants struggling for PDP’s ticket is an indication that the party’s umbrella is large and strong enough to manage all manner of persons, burden and character.

 

Except PDP presents a credible candidate to Nigerians, it will be difficult for the party to regain power in 2019. The states with the highest number of registered voters such as Kano and Lagos are being ruled by the APC. PDP is in control of 14 states, including Kwara, Bayelsa, Abia, Gombe, Ekiti, Delta, Ebonyi, Akwa-Ibom, Rivers, Taraba, Cross-Rivers, Enugu, Sokoto and Benue states. The national convention and presidential primary is scheduled to hold in Rivers state.

 

On how the presidential candidate would emerge, PDP’s Electoral Guideline states that “aspirant with the highest number of votes at the end of the voting shall be declared the winner of the primary. The document further states that “each aspirant must be nominated by at least 60 persons from not less than two-thirds of all states of the federation who shall be registered voters in their respective local government areas and also registered members of the party”.

 

The ruling APC has conducted her presidential primary and Buhari returned unopposed. The emergence of Buhari’s candidacy is common among incumbent presidents and governors. Scores of them do everything humanly possible to avoid primaries despite being in control of the party and the state. Competing with them is often considered an affront and such challenger would either be hounded or prevailed upon to step down. Managing the party to ensure there’s no contender and awarding automatic tickets to incumbents is the bedrock of disaffections and defections. This ruined the PDP under the leadership of ex-president Goodluck Jonathan. This also triggered a mass defection from the APC to the PDP recently.

 

Four out of the thirteen PDP presidential aspirants – Saraki, Kwankwaso, Tambuwal and Atiku – are APC defectors. These men would probably not have defected if they are sure of a free and fair presidential primary contest against Buhari. The desire to fulfill their ambition of ruling Nigeria made them dump the APC for the PDP. Some of them know they can’t win, but having the opportunity to test their popularity in a free, and fair primary makes them feel fulfilled.

 

The north-south unconstitutional, but conventional power rotation in Nigeria also pushed most of the presidential hopefuls into the PDP. Northerners nursing presidential ambition would be restricted by zoning if do not try their luck now. The ruling elites have technically zoned the presidency to the north and power is expected to return to the South by 2023. The implication of such is that if the northern aspirants postpone their ambition, remain in the APC, and Buhari earns another term to rule till 2023, virtually all the waiting aspirants may never have the opportunity to become president again. They apparently have to wait till 2031, after the south must have ruled for eight years. By 2031, majority of those currently interested in the nation’s top job would have become old and unfit.

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Atiku is 71, Lamido is 69, Turaki is 61, and Markafi is 62. If you add 12 years (2019-2031) to the age of all the aspirants, you’ll realize that many of them cannot really afford to wait, especially with the rising advocacy of not too young to run. The either-now-or-never desperation would make the PDP primary a very keen contest.

 

The star-studded race would be very fierce as veteran contestant Atiku Abubakar seems to only have this one last opportunity. Atiku has failed to achieve his presidential ambition on three attempts, but he has remained consistent in his pursuit. He has traversed the country, making consultations and selling his programs to vote-determining groups and individuals, including former and serving governors and legislatures, religious and traditional leaders, business moguls, and the international community. His advocacy for restructuring is also earning him admiration across the country.

 

The major obstacle to Atiku’s candidacy is that many see him as a political migrant that jumps from one party to another. He is also competing with a go-getter like Saraki, younger aspirant Tambuwal, and loyal party man like Dakwambo. Be that as it may, Atiku would get the party ticket, if the delegates top voting criteria is the financial capacity to fund campaigns and preference for someone who is popular across Nigeria. Atiku is virtually the only candidate with no other alternative. Majority of the other aspirants have picked governorship and senatorial forms through surrogates.

 

PDP has been copying APC’s strategy lately. A number of regional political parties merged to form the APC and defeat the PDP in 2015. Adopting a similar strategy, the PDP has aligned with about 40 parties with the sole goal of fielding a joint presidential candidate to defeat the APC in 2019. APC members picked their National Chairman, Adams Oshiomole from the South-South and the PDP did same by going for Uche Secondus. APC presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari is from the northwest, will PDP also present a candidate from the region? Most likely.

 

Aspirants from the northwest are Sule Lamido from Jigawa state, Rabiu Kwankwaso from Kano State, Ahmed Markafi from Kaduna State, Aminu Tambuwal and Attahiru Bafarawa from Sokoto State, Taminu Turaki from Kebbi State and Datti Baba-Ahmed from Kaduna state. 7 out of the 13 presidential aspirants are from the northwest. 4 out of the 7 are ex-governors and one is a serving governor. If PDP decides to have a north-west candidate, Kwankwaso, Tambuwal or Markafi will get the ticket.

 

Kwankwaso is the former governor of Kano state which has the highest number of registered voters. He is very influential in the northwest and has a formidable political structure and followers across Nigeria – the Kwankwasiyya Movement. The PDP may offer Kwankwaso the ticket in order to harvest Kano’s massive votes and reduce Buhari’s support base in the victory deciding northwest region. Markafi is a credible alternative for Kwankwaso. If PDP’s top selection criteria is based on party loyalty, Markafi would get the presidential candidate ticket. Markafi is the ex-Caretaker Chairman that wrestled the party from the grip of Ali Modu Sheriff, the former National Chairman. Tambuwal is another credible choice. He is ‘young’ and has one thing other aspirants from the region don’t have: immunity.

 

Incumbent Governors Tambuwal or Dankwambo of Sokoto or Gombe state will get the ticket if PDP considers it essential to safeguard her presidential candidate from political prosecution. Tambuwal and Dakwambo has immunity from arrest and prosecution till their tenure ends on May 29, 2019. This implies that both would be enjoying immunity during the electioneering period and cannot be arrested, detained or prosecuted if they are the PDP presidential candidate. PDP must note that the ruling APC is intolerant of the opposition and any candidate presented would most certainly be invited to answer one charge or the other, in order to decimate him, except such person is protected by constitutional immunity.

 

The Idris Kpotum led police is inefficient in tackling insecurity, but extremely skilled in hounding the real and imaginary oppositions of Buhari and the APC. The near arraignment of the Osun PDP gubernatorial candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke on the eve of the election and the persecution of Senators Bukola Saraki and Dino Melaye are notable instances.

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Saraki will be the PDP presidential candidate, if the party is shopping for someone that can combat the APC and their hounding tactics. Saraki has defeated the APC’s effort to decimate him on several occasions. He emerged as Senate President and has occupied the position for over three years without the support of the APC leadership. Recent efforts to remove him when he decamped from the APC to the PDP was also unsuccessful. He was arraigned for false asset declaration and the Supreme Court gave him a clean bill of health. Efforts to embarrass him with alleged complicity in the Ofa bank robbery also proved abortive. Saraki’s triumph against the APC has enriched his political clout and earned him admiration and accolades. His ability to retain majority support in the Senate despite the many troubles shows that he is a seasoned administrator and can keep Nigerians united.

 

Saraki, Atiku, Tambuwal and Kwankwaso are in good position to pick the PDP presidential ticket, but the major hurdle before them is passing the loyalty test. Happenings in the coming days would reveal whether the PDP has forgiven them for the embarrassing defeat their defect caused the party in 2015. Even if the party forgives them, would ex-President Jonathan, who lost power in 2015 ever support their aspirations to become the PDP presidential candidate? Will he support and work hard for the electoral victory of these persons should any one of them become the PDP candidate?

 

David Mark’s political influence has waned tremendously after he lost his Senate President position to Bukola Saraki. Other aspirants like Sule Lamido and Jonah Jang has a weak political outreach and corruption baggage hanging round their neck.

 

PDP’s ticket might eventually be given to one of those who made the party lose election in 2015. If such happens, the loyal aspirants that stood by the party during crisis will be aggrieved. The PDP National Working Committee must have a strong crisis management and post-primary unifying strategy in place. APC is fasting, praying and eagerly waiting to profit from a post-primary crisis in the PDP. Any implosion in the PDP would make Buhari get an easy win in 2019.

 

The PDP delegates and party hierarchy across the states and the national level would be supporting candidates based on their experience, age, party loyalty, nationwide support and integrity. The party delegates would most likely avoid thumbing those standing trial for corruption cases in order not to play into the hands of the APC. Unlike inter-party contests, delegates decision on the candidate to elect changes frequently during intra-party elections, especially in governorship and presidential primaries. A lot of negotiations, alignments and realignments occur few moments to voting and such could alter existing permutations.

 

For the reason that delegates voting intention during party primaries are easily influenced and instable, the pundit too will be flexible. Out of the thirteen aspirants, the pundit will select three that’ll most likely win the primary. From analysis and findings, Aminu Tambuwal may emerge the PDP candidate because he is from the northwest region, he is of a much younger age and he has immunity from prosecution. The immunity makes him a better choice than Kwankwaso. Tambuwal passed majority of the pundit’s measures of assessment; he is therefore ticked as the most capable aspirant PDP can use to defeat Buhari. Atiku Abubakar may win the party’s ticket based on his far-reaching networks, rigorous campaign and financial strength. Saraki may also emerge as the PDP presidential candidate based on his strong rapport with the delegates, especially the legislatures.

 

Nigerians don’t often reward loyalty. If the PDP delegates are rational thinkers, Markafi who has shown unflinching loyalty to the party and managed it successfully under intense political troubles should pick the ticket. He is from the northwest region, experienced and not standing trial. PDP is now a beautiful bride for the aspirants that decamped in 2015 because the party is now stable and formidable. People who defected from the party won’t have returned to seek a presidential ticket if Markafi had not managed it successfully. None of those who abandoned the party during turbulent times worth the presidential ticket.

 

By Omoshola Deji

*Omoshola Deji is a political and public affairs analyst. He wrote in via moshdeji@yahoo.com

 

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Opinion

Teenage Crime Rising With Emergence Of ‘Awawa,’ ‘No Salary Boys’

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 Lukmon Akintola

Lagos

*Police Arrested 341 Suspected Teenage Cultists From Different Locations

* Over 64 Million Youths Unemployed, 1.6 Million Under-Employed – Researcher

*Crime Rate Has Reduced In Lagos State-PPRO

“They asked me why I wasn’t with my Automatic Teller Machine card (ATM), beat me and hit my chest hard. I had to do an X-ray to see if my chest bone was not broken because I was feeling pains there for days. I was only comforted when the X-ray result came out and it was nothing serious.”

This was part of the ordeal narrated by a female banker, who was victim of an attack orchestrated by some teenagers in Igando during the week.

Narrating her ordeal, Adesola told Saturday INDEPENDENT how she was attacked by boys who took her phone and the little cash she had on her after hitting her with an object on her chest.

If you think that Adesola’s case is pitiable, the case of a graphic artist attacked along Agidingbi road on his way home early this month would shock you.

“I had just finished from work on Friday night and was going home. I boarded a tricycle with two other passengers inside. On getting to Anchor Event Center, the rider turned to a secluded part of the road, and before I could say anything, two of the passengers started attacking me when I tried to resist, they brought out a dagger threatening to kill me. I had to think fast and let them have their way. On the night, they collected my phones and the cash I had just withdrawn from the ATM. It was a night I would want to forget in a haste,” he said.

There is no arguing the fact that the youths of any nation are its future. Given the opportunity to develop into bright prospects, they become the crop that makes the country a dreamland. If not, the disaster that awaits is better imagined.

Devoid of opportunities to make the best out of life and based on the above analogy, it won’t be far from the truth to say a disaster seems to await Nigeria.

In recent years, very few Nigerian youths can boast of an enviable or laudable achievement with some of those who have achieved subsequently finding themselves drowned by the worsening economic situation.

A cause of concern is the way Nigerian talents continue to leave the country in their droves and in their prime.

However, of more concern is the bulk of unemployed Nigerian youths turning into undesirable elements, as the average youth has been involved in almost every crime imaginable including kidnapping, armed robbery, murder to mention a few.

Nigerian Youths, A Disaster In Waiting?

There appears an increase in youth-related crimes in recent times, as criminalities such as ‘One Chance’ have been orchestrated mostly by young boys. There have also been cases of murders, armed robbery and other heinous crimes committed by young boys.

The Lagos Police Public Relation Officer (PPRO), Bala Elikana while speaking with Saturday INDEPENDENT revealed that undercover patrolmen and stop and search strategies are being used to battle ‘one chance’ via tricycle, adding that policemen are now strategically located at different points and 12 of the criminals had been arrested in the last two weeks.

Despite the intervention by the police, there are still, countless tales of teenage boys unceremoniously robbing victims in Lagos State.

The case of the notoriously famous ‘Awawa Boys’ who have ravaged the Agege part of Lagos with unpalatable exploits are legendary.

Described as marauders, they move in pretty large numbers of between 50 and 100 wielding small but deadly arms such as razor blades and stitching awl.

Small axes, handguns, and machete are used for settling scores with rival groups. They are also known for their abuse of drugs, as an average Awawa Boy takes a cocktail of drugs ranging from Skunk to Indian Hemp, Codeine, Rohypnol, and Tramadol. Tagged Awawa Boys, the group which many consider a male cult sect also have female members.

Their crimes range from rapping, forcefully obtaining personal belongings of unsuspecting road users, bugling of shops among others.

‘Awawa Boys’ are however not the only group in Lagos State known for this criminal act, as another sect known as the ‘No Salary Boys’ have also taken over the Ijegun and Aberonje axis of Lagos State.

Ajayi Moses (not real name) who once encountered the ‘No Salary Boys’ recounted the experience. Describing their modus operandi, he told Saturday INDEPENDENT that they often line up on the road accosting innocent passers-by. Numbering between 60 and 100, they rob passers-by of their valuables such as bags, purse, and phones.

Further, he said that the ‘No Salary Boys’ often operate in the morning and go to the extent of seriously injuring their victim who resists them, adding that their operations are usually on and off.

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According to him, they might operate for a while; disappear for months only to resurface again.

“The ‘No Salary Boys’ are mostly made up of young boys of between 15 and 25 years, and they commit serious havocs,” he said.

But how did we get here, when did the average Nigerian youth turn to a life of crime?

The Theory

A research paper written by Anthony Abayomi Adebayo and titled ‘Youths’ Unemployment And Crime In Nigeria: A Nexus And Implications For National Development’ blamed the swing of Nigerian youths from a positive path to negativity on unemployment.

According to Adebayo, “Unemployment has become a major problem tormenting the lives of Nigerian youths and this poses a serious risk to society. The phenomenon of youth unemployment is devastating to both the individual and the society as a whole both psychologically and economically.”

The interplay between unemployment, youth-related crimes and the magnitude of the danger which it poses to the society is indeed shocking.

According to available statistics, over 64 million youths were unemployed and over 1.6 million under-employed as of 2010, causing frustration, dejection, and desperation. Today, the statistics has definitely increased.

Nigerian Youths Are Lazy

This is typified in the words of the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, when he was quoted as saying that Nigerian youths are lazy while delivering a keynote address at the Commonwealth Business Forum in London in 2018.

While the President’s position attracted a lot of criticisms from youths across the country who maintained that they were not lazy and that the government had created little or no opportunity for them, there were those who agree with the President’s position.

A former Minister of Information and chieftain of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Prince Tony Momoh defended the president in the heat of the criticisms he suffered after making the comment.

Stating that the President was indeed right that some Nigerian youths are lazy, Momoh said a lot of them are sitting at home doing nothing.

While it is indeed difficult to hastily generalise that Nigerian youths are indeed lazy, there is a crop of them who are indeed not only lazy but have turned a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.

Who Is To Blame?

Poor parenting has also been identified as a cause of the increase in youth-related crimes.

Ibilola Noibi, a resident of Ajah, Lagos State who described himself as a Life Coach told Saturday INDEPENDENT that since charity begins at home, parents should take responsibility for what their children become.

“Parents train their children personally before they are exposed to the world, so anything that they become is their handwork. Larry Winget’s book titled ‘Your Kids Are Your Own Fault’ tells it all.”

There are, however, those who believe that religious organisations such as mosques and churches should also share some blames in the high rate of crimes by young boys.

Their position is hinged on the fact that churches today are more concerned about preaching prosperity than preaching salvation, while mosques are more interested in preaching hate against other religions; hence youths are more concerned in living the life painted by their religious leaders.

However, Pastor Ruth Akinfiro, Resident Pastor of New Covenant Assembly Power Pentecostal Church, Egan in Alimosho local government area, Lagos State has a different opinion.

Asked if the church should be blamed for the crisis at hand, she said: “It is a yes and no answer. We cannot absolutely blame the church when youths derail but to a large extent a lot of things the church counts as irrelevant affects the decisions of the youths. For example, we allow the culture of indecent dressing, a lifestyle of drinking; we celebrate all types of dances. The youths troop into churches and they are never corrected for the additional lifestyles like smoking and immorality added to the permitted one like. All of those kinds of messages have left the church because the churches want to be populated so they encourage youths to come in raw.

“Godliness is no longer core, modesty has left, and strange cultures are imbibed. Internet fraudsters are celebrated in churches today. However we won’t rule out parental factor, charity, they say begins at home. Parents have become children to their children. Since the children take care of their welfare at a tender age, no one cares how they make money. Such children corrupt other children with their bad training. At 14 or 15 years, youngsters are carrying family responsibilities. No one cares how they go out of their way to achieve this. The church has a role, the home has a role. However, some religious institutions and some families have failed in their roles, hence the rise in derailing youths.”

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Nigerian Police Force

Elkana, who does not agree that there has been an increase in crime rates in Lagos State concurs that the state has witnessed some cases of youth-related crimes in recent times.

He explains the efforts of the force to curb crimes in Lagos State thus: “most of the crimes we are witnessing have a link to the youthful population when you talk of cultism, robbery, and kidnapping. Kidnapping has even gone down in Lagos State and those we had in the past had to do with the youths. The cases we now see every day that has to do with the youths is violence resulting from cultism and gangsterism.

“Cultists form themselves into gangs and you see them attacking each other, injuring each other and even killing each other. While attacking each other, innocent people become victims of their attack,” he said.

Explaining why youth-related crimes have been consistent, he explained that most of these gangs engage in drug abuse, and to sustain the drug lifestyle they go into robbery, and housebreaking to get things like money and phones that they can use to sustain their life. Elkana also revealed that they also make use of tricycles to rob people all in a bid to get money to sustain their drug life.

“We have launched quite a number of programmes and operations, one of such is ‘Operation Crush’ which the Commissioner of Police launched. ‘Operation Crush’ is about taking the battle to the doorstep of the cultists, identifying them using intelligence leg approach, apprehend, investigate them and charge them to the court,” Elkana stated while explaining the moves by the Police to curb the menace of youth crimes.

The Lagos PPRO further explained that ‘Operation Crush’ is aimed at uprooting cultists and gangster activities wherever they operate in Lagos State, adding that the operation has already succeeded in arresting massively those involved in cultism and gangsterism in Lagos.

“In the first operation, we got 202 suspects from an operation. They were all arrested in different locations. Another operation got 100 suspects and we got 39 in another operation, so the operation is constantly identifying them where they operate and their membership, targeting them. We don’t just operate until we have enough information about them, where they operate, how they meet and where they meet, and then we strike and get them with precision. That has set the tide down.”

Confirming that traffic light robbery is another concern, Elkana, said that “the force had launched an operation using mostly undercover operatives, they don’t wear uniforms, they go on surveillance in mufti because traffic light robbers take advantage of the traffic build-up. They go in as if they are selling and within seconds they are robbing people. The operation has also helped and we have gotten over 70 of those traffic light robbers, and we have recovered over 20 arms from them over a period of time.”

Asked the nature of arms recovered from the robbers, Elkana said they were mostly pistols some of which are locally made and others foreign, adding that the force had also traced the source and arrested some of the blacksmiths producing the local guns.

 

Probable Solution To Increase In Teenage Crime

The researcher, Adebayo however, proffers solutions to the problem of youth-related crimes. According to him, the youths are the foundation of any society and contribute immensely to its development. The expert was of the view that the government should embark on huge investment in agriculture as well as encouraging youths to take advantage of the investment. He also charged the government to make Agric-business to be exciting, creative and innovative enough to stir and spur youth interest. He advocated for farm settlements for youths so that they could contribute their quota to national development.

“Many of the youths who migrate to urban centers in search of the elusive greener pastures end up being jobless in the city. Many of them eventually become criminals in order to survive. Consequently, rural-urban migration should be checked through the provision of essential social amenities that make life in the rural area attractive to the youths.”

Other strategic solutions for curbing this excess as proffered by the United Nation Office on Drugs and Crimes includes the use of sport to keep youths busy, while the creation of youth employment programs have also been encouraged. In the cities of New York, Boston and Chicago, the summer employment did help reduce the rate of crime arrangement among youths.

However, with Nigeria being a peculiar country, the possibility of the effectiveness of these solutions will have to be measured after they have been implemented.

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Opinion

An Account of the Corruption and Anomalies in the Nigerian Immigration Service

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One of the primary responsibilities of government is to provide – or regulate the provision of – efficient service to the populace. Successive Nigerian government has failed in this regard. It has become a convention to get inefficient service, despite paying high. Both private and public institutions are culpable, but the latter errs more. Public officials are more of exploiters than service providers. The uniformed ones are worse. You are bound to pay extra before being attended to. Such is the case of the Nigerian Immigration Service. This piece brings you a firsthand account of the anomalies and corruption going on at the passport offices.

I flew into Nigeria for some engagements and noticed my passport would expire in six months. This qualifies it for renewal. I had two options: renew it in Nigeria or abroad. I opt for the former to avoid the stress I faced to procure the expiring passport. Besides, it is more expensive to renew the passport abroad and I stay far from the embassy. Renewing a Nigerian passport abroad is an uphill task many try to avoid. The unethical conducts of the embassy officials would make you want to renounce Nigeria. But patronizing the embassy is better. You won’t realize this till you visit the passport offices in Nigeria.

“You can’t just walk in and get a passport”, my friends warned. They vowed I won’t get it quickly unless an immigration officer ‘assist’ me. ‘Assist’ means paying an officer to monitor and hasten the passport application process. Rejecting the suggestion made them recount the tales of people who failed to subscribe for assistance. They narrated how such person’s application hit the rocks with “no record found”. How their image gets captured wrongly – rendering the passport unusable – was also recounted.

Other persons I chatted also stressed the importance of ‘assistance’. They disclosed that applying without being ‘assisted’ can take you up to 5 months, while you’d get your passport between 1-14 days when assisted. I remained adamant, but succumbed when a contact said “I know someone (an immigration officer) who’ll do it fast for 30k. Pay the standard 18, I’ll add the remaining 12”. That silenced me. I couldn’t dissent. To overegg the pudding was unnecessary. I agreed, on a condition that I would pay all.

We were welcomed by touts advertising ‘assistance’ when we visited the passport office. Most of them are agents of the immigration officers. Some officers were at the gate that day, and every other day. They were positioned as security, but seen scouting for new applicants; identifying them by their demeanor. The ideal thing is to direct applicants to a guideline or office, but they never did. They were asking them “do you know your way?” Answering “no” or making inquiries makes you prey. You would be connected to their partnering tout or officer to ‘assist’ you. Answering “yes” means you’ve already established contact with an officer inside.

We met an officer who charged me N35,000 for the 32 page passport, but we slashed the price to N30,000. The officer reluctantly agreed; persuading us to pay more. I paid N30,000. The original cost of the 32 page passport I applied for – lately before the issuance of the enhanced e-passport commenced – is about 18,000. Paying N30,000 made me unhappy till I eavesdropped that some people paid N45,000 for the same 32 page passport. That made me feel N30,000 was a good deal. I was somewhat glad. You would too.

My money did some work. The officer ‘assisting’ me fast-tracked the application. I did the face and fingerprint capturing within three hours. Don’t say I waited long! Capturing within such a timeframe isn’t possible without ‘assistance’; the applicants were over hundred. Nonetheless, the assistance wouldn’t have been necessary if the system is efficient, but those profiting from the inefficiency would not let it be.

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The officer ‘assisting’ me collected my file after capturing. Like every other colleague, the officer has a client’s record book. My data was added to several others contained therein. I was told to come for the passport in two weeks. Efforts to secure a faster date failed. I left and couldn’t return till after a month due to an interstate engagement.

I got back and need to return abroad. Having performed the bribe ritual, I wasn’t worried about the passport, but the cost of flight ticket. I searched for ticket and was lucky to get a good offer from a reputable airline. This got me excited. My eyes stared at the ticket as I reminisced my last experience with the airline, hoping to have a good time again. I was tempted to book the flight, but held back. Being confident the passport is ready isn’t enough, lay your hands on it, I counseled myself. That turned out to be my best decision in the year.

“Your passport is not ready, we don’t have booklet”. The immigration officer ‘assisting’ me uttered the next morning. I smiled thinking it was a joke, only to discover it isn’t. I became worried about my scheduled activities abroad. How do I explain to a foreign organization that I won’t return at the agreed time due to passport renewal delay, when such doesn’t happen in their country? Efforts to get the passport quickly exposed me to several other wrongs in the passport office.

There’s no orderliness and feedback mechanism. You must always be present, even for minor things. The officers are used to earning extra from ‘assistance’ daily. This affects their commitment to you. They no longer give you much attention after the first day, their attention is always on the new clients. They have so many clients that they struggle to remember their name and situation when they dial. This made me resolve to always visit the passport office to monitor progress.

My regular visits made me a familiar face to some of the officers. A narration of my engagements abroad and the implication of not travelling immediately only earned me pity, not solution. I discovered the officers have factions and an unofficial policy. The officer you pay is responsible for you; no officer will assist you even if they can, no matter how terrible your situation is. This immensely affected me.

The officer ‘assisting’ me, a senior one at that, no longer have strong links in the production room due to recent reordering of duties. Clients of those who have strong networks in the room were collecting passports. Then, I discovered my officer was greedy. Officers in the production room charge colleagues for speedy processing because they know they’ve been paid too. The officer just submitted my file without tipping. As the days passed, I got more disturbed as I receive emails to explain my absence abroad.

An officer advised I should explain my situation to the head of Service Compact (SERVICOM) – the complaint and efficient service delivery section. I met the head of SERVICOM after a long wait. “Who is assisting you?” he asked. My eyes popped. The SERVICOM head knows about ‘assistance’. Great! I answered and was told to summon the officer over immediately. I felt uncomfortable, thinking the officer may be reprimanded, but nothing happened. They both checked my application status and detected no problem.

The SERVICOM head therefore instructed the officer to regenerate my file. He promised to indorse and send it to the production room, but I must do something before that happens. I must have a flight ticket and get a letter from the organization am with abroad, stating why I have to return urgently. That got me infuriated. Booking has not helped most of the applicants I’ve seen around. Moreover, I can only show proof that I’m affiliated with a foreign organization and why my trip is urgent, but can’t get a letter from abroad.

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I contend that it is unreasonable for Nigerian immigration to be directing Nigerians to get a letter from foreign institutions before they can be issued a passport. The noisy room suddenly went silent. Unbothered, I stated that the passport is my inalienable right and no foreign institution would persuade Nigeria before I get it. The room was still silent, an indication that I’ve either misfired or scored a hat-trick. It was the latter. I was told to only explain my situation in writing and provide evidence that I must travel soon. No foreign letter needed.

I returned the next day with my letter and supporting evidence. To my utter dismay, the passport office had no network to check my status. I was amazed, but the officers weren’t. They experience such regularly. No one could do a thing that day. The entire office was practically shut down.

We were all waiting for network when I overheard the officers discussing about a just released promotion list. They’re annoyed that many of the officers who participated in the promotion exercise and passed, without any query, were not promoted, because they’re Southerners. The Northerners, particularly the Hausa-Fulani were massively promoted and posted to promising places. They also complained about the lack of proper documentation in the Nigerian Immigration Service. Many retired and deceased officers name came out as promoted. The officers lastly discussed the new enhanced e-passport and how much they should be charging for ‘assistance’. No amount was agreed. I went home happy. The revelations made my coming worthwhile.

The next day, my officer advised I shouldn’t regenerate my file for one reason: the officers assigned to search files often declare them unfound without conducting any search. The officer collected extra N3,000 from me to tip a new contact in the production room. I was glad I didn’t ask the foreign body for letter and my predicament was earning me uncommon findings.

I later visited the passport office with Dr Akin, an erudite scholar and researcher who just landed in Nigeria. I briefed him of my past findings and tasked him for more. Dr Akin gathered facts from the applicants through informal discussions. His respondents revealed they’re being ‘assisted’ by different officers who charged them between N30,000 to N45,000, instead of N18,000. He briefed me of a septuagenarian who vowed it’s impossible for anyone to procure a passport at the official fee. The old woman shared her desire to see a working Nigeria, but regrets that can’t happen during her lifetime. I got my passport that day, about three months after applying.

The Comptroller General, Nigerian Immigration Service, Muhammad Babandede have to step up his game. He needs to inject more transparency, efficiency, accountability and discipline into the service. More passport offices need to be established and the existing ones should be provided with enough amenities. More seats are needed. Many applicants stood under the sun to collect their passport and the public address system was inaudible. Those in front have to repeat the names being called before others could hear. People were charged N50 for using the lavatory, why?

This piece is an advocacy for efficiency, not vilification. The passport office and persons were deliberately not mentioned. An encounter with me shouldn’t make them the fall guy. What is needed is a holistic reform, not punishing few persons for the wrongs being committed by virtually everyone in the service.

By Omoshola Deji

 

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Opinion

Big Brother Is All About Connection, Says Gifty Power As she Questions Show’s Credibility

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Big Brother Naija

The credibility of reality show Big Brother Naija has once again being brought to question.

This time, the person questioning the credibility of the show is former housemate Gifty Powers.

According to her, separate rules appear to apply for different people in the show.

In a post she put up, Gifty questioned why some people were purnished for breaking the rules of Big Brother, while others were left off the hook despite committing an equally purnishable offence.

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She wondered why Ike was issued his second strike in the reality show for intent to attack his fellow housemate Seyi, and the duo of Tatcha and Joe were also issued strikes after the pair were involved in a clash. While Mercy on her part received a final warning for damaging Biggie’s property when she broke the Oppo Mobile phone at a Saturday Night Party, but Seyi never got a strike or a warning for cursing Thelma and Ike on live TV, an offence which saw two housemates being disqualified in the last edition of the show.

Heritage Bank Plc

R-L: Fela Ibidapo, Group Head, Corporate Communications, Heritage Bank Plc; Omobolaji Mogaji, Media Sales Executives at Multichoice and Gifty Powers, Big Brother Naija’s housemate, during her visit to the bank’s head office in Victoria Island Lagos, weekend.

Recall that KBrule and Khloe were disqualified from last year’s show for breaking one of Biggie’s rules, which is ‘No Cursing’.

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Meanwhile, Seyi’s full name is Seyi Awolowo. He is from the popular Awolowo dynasty.

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