Category Archives: Editorial

Obiora Agbasimalo: Unveiling the profile of a responsive & responsible leader

Obiora Agbasimalo, who will be 40 years old in October 2021 was born the first of four children to an engineer father, Mr Emmanuel Agbasimalo and a retired civil servant mother, Mrs Ada Agbasimalo, who is also an author.

His primary education in Lagos was at Chrisland Nursery and Primary School, his secondary education at the International School University of Lagos and his university degree from Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife, where he obtained BSc Management Accounting, graduating with a Second Class Upper Division.

Two months after his National Youth Service in Yobe State in 2005, during which he had a brief stint as a teacher in a primary school, he was employed by Zenith Bank and over the past 15 years built a successful career as a high-flying banker, becoming a chartered accountant after obtaining his ACCA certification and also MSc from his alma mater in 2015.

Agbasimalo, who is married to Eucharia with whom he has two children, both boys, in keeping with his Anglican background, remains active in evangelism, preaching the word of God at every opportunity.

He is an active member of the Good Samaritan Society in his church, a group renowned for humanitarian activities towards indigent patients who are unable to pay their medical bills in government hospitals, namely Gbagada Federal Hospital, Federal Medical Centre Agege and LASUTH. In addition, Obiora Agbasimalo is also an active volunteer and donor of cash, clothes and kind to charity organizations. He is Financial Manager and brain behind the strategies for all Projects in Oga Ndi Oga Foundation, (ONOF), a non-religious, non-political, non-profit charity and private foundation that is active in Anambra State and renowned for its far-reaching programmes in the areas of healthcare and poverty alleviation, women and youth empowerment, back-to-school campaign and scholarships.

His 15-year banking career is built on a track record, starting from his first year when he was an outstanding team member of the marketing unit till the present, that he is the bank’s highest earner of income in its zone, managing a portfolio of about N4billion and close to 20 million dollars in customers fund, aside from fixed deposit.
With such an impressive CV, Agbasimalo is a prime candidate, and target of headhunters for high profile positions in the financial sector. However, he has set his mind on moving on to a sector where he can make maximum impact.

And of this, he has hinted at a future preoccupation: Youth development and social regeneration.
“I feel it is time for someone with fresh idea to come on board and make an impact especially in the area of youth development, waste management and control and most importantly structural development,” he said.

An avid student of political geography, a stickler for training and a lover of movies, his future ambitions include doing “some humanitarian work towards helping the young Nigerian youth.”

Agbasimalo is also an advocate of a cleaner city. “I detest seeing dirty gutters and environment, especially on the streets. These wastes can be recycled and converted to useful materials as is already being practised in Europe with the use of some technology that converts plastic bottles and some waste to useful building materials,” he articulated.

Driven by altruism, Obiora Agbasimalo has silently built a reputation that endears him to the public as a man of action, a man of his words, a man of good deeds.

Fire Isa Pantami Now!

‘In an era of terror, the nation cannot accept a serving minister spewing, at a mature age, rhetoric of religious hate’

The allegations against him are incredible, damning and incurably damaging. It is simply incredulous that a man who is not just a member of the country’s highest decision making organ, the Federal Executive Council (FEC), but also heads one of the country’s most critical and sensitive ministries could allegedly have sympathies for notorious terrorist groups and their nefarious agenda.

Trouble began for Dr. Isa Pantami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, when a local news outlet reported that the minister had been placed on a United States watchlist for his alleged links to terrorism. The minister’s first reaction was to deny the allegation and threaten to sue the newspaper and any other medium that published the story, while also demanding a retraction and apology.

However, both audio and video recordings began to circulate widely on social media, indeed documenting how the minister, at various stages of his career as an Islamic cleric, actually expressed views that not only bordered on religious extremism but also espoused an endorsement of the murderous activities of terrorist groups. For instance, in one of the allegations against him, Dr. Pantami was found praising the late Osama Bin Laden, founder of Al Qaeda, and saying that even though the latter was liable to make mistakes as a human being, “I still consider him a better Muslim than myself”. So, a terrorist leader like Bin Laden, who had the blood of thousands on his hands, once enjoyed the admiration of a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

Another audio and video recording emerged in which, during an Islamic sermon, Dr. Pantami volunteered to lead a force of the Sharia police, Hisbah, to Shendam in Plateau State, where there had been bloody religious clashes, to fight in defence of Muslims. Another document revealed that in 2010, at a meeting of the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI) chaired by Pantami, it was agreed that Christians should be prohibited from building churches in city centres across northern Nigeria. Surely, a person with this mindset cannot see himself as representing all Nigerians, irrespective of faith, in government. It is noteworthy that even though majority of the people in the north are Muslims, millions of Christians also live in the region.

In a 2006 speech, Pantami publicly offered his condolences after the death of al-Qaeda’s leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqaw. In another audio clip, Pantami was emotion laden as he described the insurgent terrorists as “our Muslim brothers” who did not deserve to be “killed like pigs”. In another recording, Pantami said he was happy when infidels were massacred. With the mounting and apparently irrefutable evidence against him, Pantami got off his high horse and opted for a different course of action from his earlier denials and threats of legal action.

While admitting that he actually expressed the views attributed to him, the minister, in a seemingly remorseful tone, said, “Some of the comments I made some years ago that are generating controversies now were based on my understanding of religious issues at the time, and I have changed several positions taken in the past based on new evidence and maturity. I was young when I made some of the comments. I was in university; some of the comments were made when I was a teenager”.

But how genuine is Dr. Pantami’s purported repentance? If he was truly penitent, why did he initially seek to bluff his way through by issuing threats of court action against mediums that published the allegations against him? Should he not have come clean right away, admit his guilt and seek forgiveness and another chance, especially now that he blames immaturity for his past indiscretions? The reality is that no one can have access into the inner recesses of Dr. Pantami’s mind. When he claims that his views have since evolved and he is now a more mature and different person, we can only take him at his word. But then, there is also the strong possibility that the minister, confronted with undeniable evidence of his indefensible past utterances, is now sounding apologetic to keep his job in the face of mounting public pressure that he be removed from office because he constitutes a serious threat to national security.

This is why we are dismayed that the presidency, through a statement by presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, peremptorily gave Pantami a clean bill of health, saying that it stands by Pantami on the issue. According to the presidency, “The Minister has rightly apologised for what he said in the early 2000s…Today, there is an unfortunate fashion in public discourse that makes leaders in politics, religion and civil society liable in the present for every statement they have ever made in the past – no matter how long ago and even after they have rejected them”. The presidency may indeed have cause to believe that Pantami’s remorse is real and that he is a changed person. But there is also the obverse that he is only now effecting change to keep his high profile job. If that is so, the security of the entire polity is put under severe threat and the blame for any untoward repercussion must lie solely on the presidency.

Pantami’s claim that he made the offensive statements in question when he was a teenager and less immature falls flat in the face of scrutiny. He made some of the utterances in his 20s and 30s. So, he was in a position to know the implications of what he was saying. The exposure of Pantami’s past extremist sentiments and bigoted mindset has so damaged his credibility that it is an embarrassment that he still continues to sit on the FEC. Other members of the council have a duty to press for his immediate removal from office as they will be guilty by association if he is allowed to continue as a member of that august body.

As a member of FEC, Pantami has unfettered access to information critical to our national security. Even more, as Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, he oversees agencies that are responsible for data bases, both of Nigerians and expatriates in the country. Can a man with a record of sympathy for terrorist groups, as well as expressing extreme religious views in the past be trusted with overseeing the databases of the armed forces, intelligence offices and Nigeria’s satellite infrastructure, among other critical agencies that Pantami supervises?

Given the revelations as regards the minister’s past, it is difficult to comprehend how he successfully scaled through the background security checks that must precede any person’s appointment to high office. This is an indication that either the security agencies are not diligent in carrying out this task of screening candidates for appointment to high offices, or that they bury information likely to threaten the chances of potential appointees for whatever considerations. Another indication is that the National Assembly is not thorough enough in screening those selected for appointment into key offices in line with its constitutional responsibility. The screening processes tend, in most cases, to be cavalier and perfunctory. This is surely why we have a Pantami sitting on the highest decision making body in the land.

Again, the citizenry who have the kind of information being circulated now against Pantami should have made such available to the security agencies and members of the National Assembly right from when his name was announced as a nominee for appointment as minister. There is no doubt that the Pantami case also exposes a serious shortcoming on the part of the media, which also has a responsibility to thoroughly investigate the background of nominees to high office and duly publish their findings. Perhaps if he were a private citizen, Pantami’s apology would have been appropriate and sufficient. But he is a public officer who holds a ministerial portfolio critical to Nigeria’s security. Thus, an apology is clearly inadequate here. Pantami’s blaming critics of the ongoing National Identification Number (NIN) being undertaken by his ministry as being responsible for his current travails is childish and diversionary. He must take the path of honour and resign now. President Muhammadu Buhari ought to give him that option or fire him forthwith in the national interest.

The Nation (Editorial)

Day two Southeast governors shouted at each other  


So much has been said about the alleged delay of Southeast governors to set up a regional security outfit to contain rising insecurity in the zone.

Critics say they created the vacuum that enabled the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to establish its security outfit called the Eastern Security Network (ESN), thus creating unnecessary tension and loss of lives.

They also claim governors were unable to do what their counterparts in the Southwest have done because of personal or political interests.

What such critics don’t know is that the delay may have been because of personal disagreements more than suspected external pressure on them. We learnt, for instance, that at one recent meeting in Enugu, two governors sharply disagreed over the type of security outfit that would be good for the zone.

Sources say one of them was so upset with the idea the other advanced that he confronted him personally as the two made to leave the venue of the meeting.

The other governor, also angry at his colleague’s expressed views, did not hide his feelings.

As our source puts it, “it was a bitter encounter. Their Excellences exchanged very hot words before they left. I cannot tell you what they said to each other, but it amounted to shouting at one another. It was all about their different views on the type of regional security outfit that would serve our area better. While one wanted something novel, the other said what he had in his state was working and should be adopted by all in the region.”

But now that General Obi Umahi (retd), leader of the Southeast Security Committee, has said all is set to flag-off the much-awaited regional security outfit, it remains to be seen if the governors have fully resolved their differences.

N-power: Sadiya Umar Farouq delivers a fitting exit strategy – Dapo Bruce

It was the English bard, William Shakespeare who wrote the enigmatic play “All’s Well that Ends Well”, which is regarded alongside “Measure for Measure” and “Troilus and Cressida” as Shakespeare’s problem plays on account of the heroes and heroines who are flawed in many ways.

A consideration of the trending news about N-power, one of the Federal Government’s flagship National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) will lead one to the same conclusion; all is well that ends well because despite some flaws in its original design, especially around the exit strategy, Sadiya Umar Farouq, in whose ministry the programme is now domiciled; and her team have found a fitting denouement.

The introduction of the N-power programme was greeted with joy and applause especially among Nigeria’s teeming and unemployed youthful population. As part of the NSIP, the N-power was critical to the realization of the Buhari’s administration’s vision of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty over 10 years.

According to the NSIP website, the N-power programme “is designed to assist young Nigerians between the ages of 18 to 35 to acquire and develop life-long skills for becoming change makers in their communities and players in the domestic and global markets and given a stipend of N30,000 monthly.”

Ambitions and audacious were words employed by pundits to describe the vision but there was method to the FG’s seeming “madness”.

As at July 31st 2020 when N-power Batch A and B beneficiaries began their transition and exit from the programme having spent over 40 and 24 months respectively on the programme, there was much to applaud.

The dream of up skilling the beneficiaries to make them suitable for employability and entrepreneurship had been largely achieved. In fact, of the 500,000 beneficiaries in Batches A and B, about 109,829 beneficiaries had set up small scale businesses as at July 2020. This number, approximately 22%, according to the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, were running small but thriving businesses in their communities and some were eagerly on boarded as aggregators for the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme, another component of the NSIP in a clear case of the NSIP providing a pipeline of skilled labour for the NSIP.

This is significant in a country like Nigeria where statistics from the CBN tell us that small and medium scale enterprises contribute 48% of national GDP and also make up 98% of businesses in the country which provide employment to 84% of Nigerians.

Aside the 109,829 entrepreneurs, many beneficiaries of the programme have also found employment in the organized private sector after passing entrance and psychometric tests of those companies.
The ministry highlighted these achievements via a series of mini-documentaries entitled “N-Power Success Stories” which ran on their social media pages.

These successes are not easily obvious if you monitor chatter on social media especially on twitter where N-power Batch A and B beneficiaries are very vocal. Their tone is often angry and the conversation usually around exit plans and unpaid stipends.

The complaints reached a crescendo in June 2020, when the ministry announced plans to begin enrolment for Batch C and the transitioning of Batch A and B. The beneficiaries of Batch A and B demanded clarification regarding the exit plans.

That clarification has now been made. A news report in Vanguard of January 21, 2021 announced – “FG offers former N-Power beneficiaries exit strategies” and according to the report Batch A and B beneficiaries now have three (3) exit options.

One; 200,000 beneficiaries will be on boarded on the Shared Agent Network Expansion Facility (SANEF) scheme operated by the Central Bank of Nigeria. The SANEF scheme is, according to the Vanguard report, “a project powered by the Central Bank of Nigeria, Deposit Money Banks, Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement Systems, Chattered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, Licensed Mobile Money Operators, and Shared Agents with the primary objective of accelerating financial inclusion in Nigeria. Under the scheme, the beneficiaries will be trained in different areas including customer service, transaction settlement, liquidity management, anti-money laundering, among others, while government would facilitate the initial funding for the scheme for each beneficiary.”

Two; another 30,000 beneficiaries who served under the N-Agro have been employed under the “Mass Agric programme as geospatial experts and enumerators. The goal is to engage the beneficiaries in the geo-mapping of farmlands and the enumeration of farmers, across the country for the programme. The Mass Agric programme is a component of the Economic Sustainability Plan designed to, among other things, engage millions of farmers, cultivating thousands of hectares of land across the country.”

Finally Three; “N-power beneficiaries are offered the option of applying for a proposed GEEP loan to fund their small businesses. Joint collaboration is encouraged to form registered cooperatives in line with earlier established GEEP loan requirements.”
With these three exit options, N-power beneficiaries can put their new found skills to use as gainfully employed Nigerians or as entrepreneurs thus helping to realise the vision of the NSIP.

It has taken time and there have been hiccups along the way but what is important now is to acknowledge that a fitting exiting strategy has been arrived at and those coming in Batch C and subsequent batches would have a smoother transition.

All’s well that ends well, indeed.

*Dapo Bruce a public analyst writes from Lagos

APPRAISAL OF  A QUINTESSENTIAL MAN: HON EMEKA ONUNZE

Hon Emeka Onunze, (TATA) as he is fondly called, was born in the early 70s into the family of late (Chief) Patrick Ngwunwa Onunze and Lolo (Mrs) Queen Onunze of Umuokoh in Umuebor Umunevo Ogui Nike town, Enugu North Local Government Area of Enugu State.

Hon Onunze happens to be the third son of late Chief Patrick Onunze and last born of family of six.

However, Hon. Emeka Onunze got his first Primary School Leaving Certificate (PSLC) from Ekulu Primary school, Enugu and later proceeded to College of Immaculate Heart Conception (CIC) Enugu, where he obtained his Senior School Certificate and other diploma certificates.

Onunze, a man with vast knowledge in business management has invested in the business of exchange of goods and services and was conspicuously flourishing on that path, and later entered transport business with several employees operating under him within Enugu State and beyond.

The transport system under his watch, has thrived even till he occupied the enviable position of LGA chairman, following his requisite skills in management and adminstration purposes.

Onunze from his humble beginning has engaged in other business empires, but choose to adopt transportation business as his mainstream of economic empowerment through which many have been able to earn a living today in our society.

As a dogged, astute and worthy son of Ogui Nike, Hon. Emeka Onunze has attracted a chieftaincy titles to himself, following his magnanimous and philanthropic programs in the society. Among these are Ezeomoge nke mbu n’Nkanu and Efi Newero Odudu nke mbu n’Nkanu Land.

Certainly, this titles came as a result of his philanthropic contributions towards the growth and development of the society, especially in the aspects of human capital development.

Hon Emeka Onunze is an ideal modern philanthropist as many call him ‘Omeogo nke mbu N’nkanu’ has in many occasions meted out love and care to his kinsmen and others in Enugu State. He has been a pivot towards eliminating and solving complex issues in many lives that comes across his ways ranging from financial assistances, scholarships, payment of hospital bills.

The indomitable leader had also in many ways showed high-level of optimisation and patriotism in all ramifications.

It is also pertinent and worthy to note that, Hon. Emeka Onunze had attained several leadership positions in various capacities before he was elected council chairperson, Enugu North Local Government Area. First, he was one time Ward councilor, a position he used to touch many lives in Enugu North LGA, Umunevo Ogui Ward 2 precisely which his achievement was very substantive, as such still paving way for him for other recommendations since he left the office.

As a proactive leader, Hon. Onunze was elected as Provost, Umunevo Town Union, a position he held until he became the Council Chairman, Enugu North LGA during the 2020 Local Government polls in Enugu State.

The amazing, lovable and caring man Emeka Onunze equally have other talented gifts apart from leadership prowess. This talent has giving him the opportunity of featuring and playing for many football clubs in Enugu and Beyond such as Vasco Dagama. Also, as a social being, Hon. Onunze had traveled and lived in several locations across the world which includes Turkey etc.

Onunze is indeed a quintessential leader and a man of multiple and credible character.

Ifebuchi, Williams Chime writes from Enugu.