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Esie Museum and My Disappointment With Lai Muhammed – By Abdulrazaq O Hamzat

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A few days ago, I took a trip to Oro town in Irepodun Local Government Area of Kwara State, the home town of Alhaji Lai Muhammed, the Honorable Minister of Information and Culture.

The trip was a courtesy visit to meet with political associates of our group, Kwara Must Change, some of whom had traveled down to Kwara from Lagos.

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Within my short stay in Oro, what I heard, from people, whom I had assumed to be Alh. Lai’s supporter is, to say the least, disappointing.

With bitterness written all over their faces, they narrated different tales of Alh. Lai’s misdeeds and misdoing, which cannot be regarded as a rant by foes. However, what they said or did not say is not the reason why I feel disappointed in the minister, but what I saw in Esie museum, the first museum in Nigeria with the largest soapstones in the world. adsbygoogle || []).push({}); To put it mildly, I encountered what broke my heart in the minister’s home town.

In 2015, when Alhaji Lai Muhammed was nominated as minister of the federal republic, his major opposition came from Kwara South. At the time, many accused him of not being a Kwara based politician, a claim I found to be very unreasonable.

However, as ridiculous as that argument seem, the agitation against Alhaji Lai was so much that I had to become more like his unofficial spokesman.

Even though I do not know him personally, nor try to even get to know him, I saw myself always defending him and in the process, stepping on many toes. Maybe, just maybe this is why the outgoing state government always insisted that Kwara Must Change is being sponsored by Alh Lai, a claim far away from the truth.

After Alhaji Lai became minister of Information and Culture, the attacks against him didn’t subside. A lot of people from Kwara, particularly Kwara South continue to describe him with demeaning adjectives.

In 2016 specifically, we had what can be described as heated exchange with a lot of people on the social media about Alhaji Lai Muhammed which pitched me against the outgoing Kwara South Senator, Distinguish Senator Rafiu Ibrahim.

I recall vividly that within the heated exchange and in an attempt to defend Alhaji Lai Muhammed, I made a particular reference to the daughter of Senator Rafiu, a reference he found very offensive. To express his annoyance with my reference to his daughter, the senator had to send me a private message, urging me to desist from bringing his daughter into a political discussion on the internet. We disagreed fiercely and later agreed mildly with no love lost.

So, it saddens and humbled me, to realize that Alh Lai may actually be guilty of some of the allegations made against him by many of our comrades in Kwara South.

While in Oro and still finding it hard to believe many of the things said about Alhaji Lai, we decided to take a walk to Esie, where we have the Esie Museum, the first museum in Nigeria and the one with highest Soapstones in the world.

Esie is the center of culture, not only in Kwara State and Nigeria but also in the whole of Africa. Esie became famous for the existence of the Esie Human Stone Images whose existence has attracted the attention of tourists and scholars around the globe.

As a result of the unique discovery of the Ere Esie, the first national museum in Nigeria, in which the colonial government placed great premium, was erected in 1945.

For years now, different groups have been advocating for improvement and investment in our tourist industry and with the appointment of Lai Muhammed as minister of information and culture, one would expect that the man who came from a cultural area like this would find it appropriate to give this historical center the deserved attention.

This museum is one that requires just a little bit of attention by government and investment and it would become self-sustaining, but unfortunately, nothing absolutely have been done.

What this basically means is that the first national museum in the whole of Nigeria, with the highest soapstones in the world, is located in the home town of the Honorable Minister of Information and Culture and yet, the place got no attention whatsoever.

It was also reliably gathered that since becoming minister, Alhaji Lai had never visited the Museum, not to talk of giving it the required attention. I must then ask, how would Alh. Lai, minister culture, if Nigeria’s cultural centers are deserted like plague?

As I walk away from the historic museum, what continues to bother me was that, if the first museum in Nigeria, located in the home town of the Minister in charge of it could not get the required attention, not even an ordinary visit, what hope do other museums across the country have?

If Alh Lai cannot help his home town shape its historic asset in the interest of the nation and the benefits of his own people, what else can he do? This is really saddening.

I later learned that despite the total neglect of the museum, the management of the historic center is doing its best to keep the place alive and functioning.

For example, it was said that every children’s day, 27th May of every year, the center organizes children’s day celebration, where it promotes Nigeria’s cultural values among children as well as create forum for children from different background to meet, interact and learn. Over 1000 children from various parts of Kwara often participate in the programme and this year’s children day celebration will come up next month.

Let me conclude by saying that, should Alhaji Lai Muhammed finish his tenure as minister of information and culture without seeing to the proper development of Esie national museum and make it an attractive historic center with sustainable public and private funding mechanism, he would really have been a very huge disappointment.

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Kwara’s Growing National Profile

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Gov. AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara
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By Abdulrazaq Hamzat

Before transition into a people’s government, through the otoge political revolution in 2019, the only thing most people outside the state of harmony knows about the state is its political godfatherism.

Fortunately for Kwara, things are changing and the state’s national profile is taking a new look.

In this past months, I have been traveling around the country, from Kogi, to Lagos, to Abuja.

As you all know, we have been accostom to the popular saying that the world is a global village, but nothing reinforces such claim and brought it close to home like the experiences I had traveling around the country lately.

It all started in Lagos, while in midsts of Nigerians from different parts of the country. A conversation about the current state of affairs in the nation began and soon after, the conversation was narrowed down to the issue of lawmakers in the country.

To my greatest surprise, one of the individuals in the gathering made reference to the Legislative Watch Assessment Report, produced by Grand Plan in partnership with Kwara Must Change, which was piloted here in Kwara State.

When I first heard reference being made to this report, it was kind of surprising because the person making this reference is from Kano and I was surprised that a project done in Kwara State could have such impression on somebody from far away Kano. So, while asking questions to probe what this individual really know about Legislative Watch, the other individual who came from Nasarawa State jumped in and also spoke glowingly about Legislative Watch and the impact it made in their state.

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According to him, the project was trending in Nasarawa for weeks.

When I said it’s just a Kwara report, both individuals strongly disagreed. That project is beyond Kwara, it is a report like no other and it’s impact was felt all across the federation. They concluded.

While these conversation were taking place, they never knew I had anything to do with the report. So, it was a shocking moment for them, when I said that we did the project and that I was the lead researcher. They went berserk in excitement, looking at me strangely and affectionately and I began to feel excitedly scared for myself.

It was at this point that I thought of bringing up conversation about the national perspective of Nigerians about Kwara State and the current administration in the state.

Even when you know the truth, sometimes, it is always good to aggregate opinion of independent third parties that are not connected to the players or affected by their prejudice.

Fortunately, all of the people in this gathering have nothing but praise for the Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq led administration in Kwara State. Some of them even compared his activities to that of their own state and concluded that Kwara State is at the forefront in governance.

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This encounter spurred my interest in wanting to have a real feedback about national perspective of Nigerians on Kwara State.

So, I decided to make a delibrate random survey anywhere I go about Kwara State.

In Lagos State, I asked 15 people about their perspective of the Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq led administration in Kwara State.

While 3 of them do not have any real opinion because of limited information, 10 of them spoke about the state in glowing terms. The remaining 2 were critical of the state due to the ongoing dispute between the ruling party.

Although, out of the two individuals critical of Kwara State because of the ongoing dispute between Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq and Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, one praised the governor for taming the minister, noting that he belongs to the same constituency with the minister in Lagos and they have also been looking for ways to deal with him.

In Kogi State, it was positive feedback all through for Kwara State, amongst the 5 individuals sampled.

Furthermore, at the federal capital territory in Abuja, Kwara State is seen as one of the top 3 performing state in the country.

Amongst the 20 individuals sampled, only 3 were critical of the government in relation to it’s ongoing dispute with information minister and the opposition leader, Dr. Bukola Saraki.

While 17 individuals spoke positively about the government and its performance, 3 individuals think the situation with the opposition leader, Dr Bukola Saraki could have been handled with more diplomacy. They also think the dispute with Alhaji Lai Muhammed was unnecessary. However, when they were provided with context to both issues, they seems to understand it better.

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In all, Kwara State is now a state of interest for many across the federation and whatever happens here makes alot of impact in other states.

The administration of Mallam Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq is also seen as a leading light in terms of governance and we must encourage the government to continue to improve on its chosen path until the state get to its promise land.

While it is always good to criticise government projects and policies, such criticism should seek to add value to governance, not diminish it. Valid criticism doesn’t hurt anyone, it strengthen us all and make good governance a reality, not a dream.

Abdulrazaq Hamzat writes from Abuja, Nigeri

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AfCFTA: Spotlighting The Emergence Of One African Market

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By Joshua Olomu

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), with its secretariat in Accra Ghana, is a free trade area with 54 of the 55 African Union (AU) nations as participating members.

It was created by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement brokered by the AU, and was signed by 44 of its 55 member states in Kigali, Rwanda on March 21, 2018.

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The free-trade area is reputed to be the largest in the world in terms of the number of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organisation.

The AfCFTA initially seeks to reduce trade barriers between the different pillars of the African Economic Community, and eventually use these regional organisations as building blocks for the ultimate goal of an Africa-wide customs union. adsbygoogle || []).push({});

The free -trade area was expected to come into effect after 22 of the signing countries ratified the agreement which occurred in April 2019 when The Gambia became the 22nd country to ratify it.

It came into force on May 30, 2019, as the required 22 countries threshold had deposited their instruments of ratification.

As of August this year, there are 54 signatories, of which at least 30 have ratified and 28 have deposited their instruments of ratification.

On August 18, 2020, AfCFTA Secretariat was commissioned and handed over to the AU by the President of Ghana His Excellency Nana  Akuffo Addo.

The Secretariat, an autonomous body within the AU system, will be responsible for coordinating the implementation of the agreement, with Mr. Wamkele  Mene, a South African, as its first Secretary-General.

The Secretary General is expected to provide leadership and technical support for AfCFTA Secretariat, management of its day-to-day activities and the implementation of the AfCFTA Agreement, among other functions.

Although the Secretariat has independent legal personality, it is expected to work closely with the AU Commission and receive its budget from the AU.

The general objectives of the AfCFTA agreement  is to create a single market for goods and services, deepens the economic integration of the Africa continent and  establish a liberalised market through multiple rounds of negotiations.

Among other objectives, the free trade area is expected to pave the way for creating a customs union and grow intra-African trade through better harmonisation and coordination of trade liberalisation across the continent.

It is geared towards achieving competitiveness of member states within Africa and in the global market and to encourage industrial development through diversification and regional value chain development, agricultural development and food security.

The AfCFTA is set to be implemented in phases, and some of the future phases are still under negotiation.

 Some areas of  the agreement were found on trade protocols, dispute settlement procedures, customs cooperation, trade facilitation and rules of origin, which covers goods and services liberalisation.

 There was also agreement to reduce tariffs on 90 percent of all goods, and each nation is permitted to exclude 3 percent of goods from this agreement.

However, as trading among countries is expected to commence on January 1,2021, economic experts, industry watchers and players have continued to express concerns if the continent was really prepared  for  ‘One Africa Trade.’

They noted that although it was envisioned that the free trade area will lead to increased competition, innovation and prosperity for Africa, countries should beware of anything that would undermine local manufacturers and entrepreneurs.

They expressed concern if the agreement adequately envisaged anti-competitive practices such as dumping, as surge in imports will likely threaten output, jobs and investment in the manufacturing sector and local infant industries.

However, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa ( ECA) said  that AfCFTA  will  harmonise investment rules between its member countries and the rest of the world in order to create equal opportunity.

Mr Stephen Karingi, Director for Regional Integration at the ECA, said that investment protocol  and   regulations  that would provide level playing field for members were being put in place.

Karingi said :“The AfCFTA is a very deep and broad agreement that is not just focusing on trade in goods and trade in services.

 “It is looking at those issues that would make this regional integration functional through competition policy, intellectual property rights, investment protocol and also e-commerce.”

The AfCFTA, Secretary-General, Mr. Wamkele  Mene, said Africa was open for business and mutually beneficial investment thereby creating decent jobs and improving livelihoods.

According to him, the AfCFTA should not be perceived to be benefiting only a handful of relatively industrialised countries in Africa but all African businesses.

He therefore emphasised the need to empower women and young people in Africa as they often face significant challenges when attempting to benefit from trade agreements.

He said: “I therefore intend to take concrete steps to ensure that women and young Africans are at the heart of implementation of the AfCFTA.

“In due course, I will announce specific measures that can be put in place to enable women, young Africans and SMEs, to benefit from the AfCFTA to achieve the objective of inclusive benefits of the AfCFTA.”

Nigeria, the largest market in Africa, with a population of over 200 million people, was among the last nations to sign the agreement on July 7, 2019 at the 12th Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union on ACFTA, and on November 11, 2020 its Federal Executive council approved its ratification.

At that time, the Nigerian government said its non-participation was a delay and not a withdrawal, as it was consulting with local businesses in order to ensure private sector buy-in to the agreement.

However, following the signing of the AfCFTA agreement, President Muhammadu Buhari, directed the constitution of a National Action Committee.(NAC) on its implementation.

Otunba Niyi Adebayo, Honourable Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment,   is the Chairman of the NAC,with  Mr Francis Anatogu, the Senior Special Assistant to the  President on Public Sector as its Secretary.

The mandate of the NAC is to coordinate relevant MDA’s and stakeholder groups to implement the trade readiness interventions detailed in the AfCFTA Impact and Readiness Assessment Report, including projects, policies and programmes.

As AU member countries look forward to starting the ‘One African Market’ on January 1, 2021, it is expected   that the continent becomes an investment hub and bring even prosperity in the long term.

Author Profile

Abdulrahman Obaje
Abdulrahman Obaje
Prince Abdulrahman Obaje is a Media and ICT Consultant, Journalist, online marketer, social media strategist, Mathematician and Computer Scientist based in Abuja, Nigeria. He is the Founder and the Publisher of The Informavores!. You can reach me on +234 805 939 5252 or send i-witness report directly to me on news@informavores.com.ng.

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African Women Entrepreneurs in Covid -19 Era

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Ebere Agozie

In spite of the giant strides Nigerian women have been making in the world of business, a new reality is staring them – along with the rest of humanity – in the face: COVID-19.

The prevalence and astonishingly rapid spread of the virus had the whole world literally hyper-ventilating, wondering what had hit it.

At first, there was fear that, given the predominantly rural setting of Africa, and given also the fact that awareness about the pandemic has been slow in catching on, the worst was about to happen.

The expected annihilation may not have happened on the scale feared in Africa, but the presence of the coronavirus in the continent has remained a huge cause for concern.

This is especially so for women whose case is further exacerbated by the very nature of African culture.

Incidentally, many of the recommendations given by health experts as to the required distance between people have of course to do with what makes life pleasurable.

Going by the above observation, one wonders how women will be able to stick to these recommendations, considering the roles they play in the society.

In Africa where there are basically no institutions that take care of the elderly and children with special needs, the challenge of taking care of them is dumped on the door step of women.

Women as care givers do not only take care of the young children at home, feed and bathe them, but also their husbands and their aged ones.

Even as the typical belief or culture of African women revolve around domestic chores, some of these women are also the breadwinners of their homes and so must go out to work to put food on the table.

African women are very enterprising, and this could primarily be put down to the prevalent poverty in the continent and the need to ensure the welfare of their families.

There are those that are involved in subsistence farming, there are others that engage in petty trade and commerce, there is the working class, and there are those that are the corporate world, albeit not many of them in this last category.

There are equally the full-time, stay-at-home housewives, although this class is shrinking by the day as, increasingly, women in Africa perceive the need to get involved in fending for the family.

In this attempt to examine women entrepreneurship in Africa today, we will look closely at the Nigerian situation.

With regard to enterprise, Nigerian women can be spread into four categories.

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The first group is the full-time housewives, the stay-at-home housewives. As the name implies, these women simply stay at home to take care of the family, raise the children and generally run the home, while the husbands go out to earn a living.

Most of them are to be found in the northern parts of the country, mainly due to religious constraints since, by reason of their religion, they are not expected to mix very freely with the public, among whom there usually a lot of males.

This set of women is no longer as large as it was in the recent past as the increasingly dire economic conditions faced by most Nigerians make it necessary for more hands to be on deck in providing for the family.

Simply put, staying at home and waiting for the husbands to, as it were, bring home the bacon, is becoming less attractive by the day. It is a luxury that most families can ill afford today.

A second category is the petty traders and the subsistence farmers. This sub group is the most prevalent in our society. They make up the bulk of women in Nigeria and are found in far flung parts.

Nigerian women are so focused, so family-centric, that even when they go to toil in the farm for the family, they would still come home to cook for everyone.

Women farmers may be the predominant group, but one class that seems to be surging recently is those engaged in petty trading.

There is hardly any part of the Nigeria, especially in the lower geographical half of the country, where you do not find women engaging in some form of trading or another.

In most communities it is common to see women displaying their wares just about everywhere you look.

Usually, you see just a few items – confectionaries, food items, soup condiments, and the like. But they know how far revenue from such efforts go in supplementing what the men bring home at the end of the day.

There are also other market settings which are generally dominated by women. These markets vary in size – from just a cluster of a few roughly constructed huts, to extremely large, well-organised and thriving markets that play host to thousands of traders, the majority of them, women.

Enterprising women range from just petty traders, to big time business women whose businesses run into hundreds of millions of naira.

Let us not forget also the working class women that abound in the civil service and in private concerns.

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A lot of women have built very successful careers in the public service and they, too, deserve accolades for contributing in steadying the ship of the Nigerian state.

It has actually been proven, over time, that women have shown a rare dedication and conscientiousness in the discharge of their responsibilities, such that are now much sought-after in many organisations.

They have also, by this dint of hard work, succeeded in climbing to the highest reaches of such outfits.

These women, however, are among the few who were privileged to have been highly educated and exposed to opportunities that got them to where they are today, leaving the majority of the non educated petty entrepreneurs to struggle daily to make ends meet.

Some of such women are Hajiya Bola Shagaya, an oil and real estate magnate, Uju Ifejika, and arguably the most prominent of them all, 65 year old Folorunsho Alakija, who found her fame and fortune in the oil and fashion industries.

Nigeria is truly blessed, not only in terms of her abundant natural resources, but also (with her large population) in terms of her huge human resources.

And a truly heart-warming proportion of this is made up of women.

All told however, the problem of Covid-19 has impacted rather heavily on Nigerian women, especially the rural dwellers, and just made their efforts to make ends meet more onerous.

It is therefore unimaginable that social distancing could be practiced here by majority of Nigerian women entrepreneurs.

Some of the women are stuck with men, some of who actually think that the coronavirus is an excuse by the governments to siphon public funds.

These men will always demand for sex from their women, even when they are sick, and of course there are also the factors of culture and religion, and so to them, #Social Distancing is not applicable.

Sometimes culture and religion give the women no chance of objecting and they are therefore forced to succumb to their husband’s advances, which sometimes come in the form of commands.

While #Social Distancing is part of prescribed ways of curbing the spread of #COVID-19, it is nonetheless going to be very difficult for some women trying to go about their lives to stay healthy while still carrying the burden of the people around them.

Most women interviewed lamented that their religions and culture have put much burden on them as women.

This has caused many of them to cast around for excuses on the back of indoctrination, almost amounting to brainwashing.

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Hajia Fatima Muhammad, a Civil Servant jokingly asked, ‘how can I observe social distancing when my husband will not keep away from me?’

Her religious and cultural beliefs made her feel that women are not supposed to have a say in such matters.

“If he gets infected and still wants to sleep with me, what do I do since I cannot say ‘no’ to him”?

When asked why she would not deny her husband sex until after the pandemic is over to focus on her business she said: “My religion and culture forbid that’’.

Mfon Effiong, a business woman angrily responded, I am a nursing mother, how do I breastfeed my baby?

“I heard more men are infected than women, and more women survive than men even though we still sleep with them and exchange bodily fluids.

“Besides God has seen the burden we carry as women and has thus given us strong systems. I will not be infected in Jesus name,’’ she declared.

From the foregoing, it is clear that the incompatibility of social distancing and the desire to drive women entrepreneurship in Nigeria, and indeed other African settings, is a quandary to most African societies.

There is no easy way out of this predicament and the real or perceived inequality in the society does not help matters, either.

It is therefore clear that the government organs responsible for public education, have their work cut out for them.

More than anything else, there is an urgent need for a much more aggressive grassroots education to let them know that it is about their health, and that of everyone around them.

Entrepreneurship in Nigeria, especially among women, will be the better for it.

Author Profile

Abdulrahman Obaje
Abdulrahman Obaje
Prince Abdulrahman Obaje is a Media and ICT Consultant, Journalist, online marketer, social media strategist, Mathematician and Computer Scientist based in Abuja, Nigeria. He is the Founder and the Publisher of The Informavores!. You can reach me on +234 805 939 5252 or send i-witness report directly to me on news@informavores.com.ng.

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