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Diamonds for the senator


Olakunle Abimbola

SENATOR Oluremi Tinubu, sitting senator for Lagos Central, packs sparkling diamonds — and that’s not just for turning 60 on September 21; and basking, as it were, in the sparkle of it all.

Even with her own radiance, the senator’s diamonds sparkle more in others, mostly youths from humble homes — thanks to the value she has added to their lives.

She may now sit in the not-so-popular red chamber, of the National Assembly.  But Mrs Tinubu’s legacy, as passionate youth and gender mentor and equal opportunity crusader, of example and excellence, was cemented since her days as First Lady of Lagos State (1999-2007)

If you doubt, ask the bevy of one-day Lagos State Governors, mostly kids from humble homes, graduates of Lagos State public schools, who were Spelling Bee contest laureates, Senator Tinubu’s project, as First Lady.

Of this brood of 51 (from the official list of one-day governors, spanning 2001 to 2018, most times featuring each year’s winner and the two runners-up) two, for different reasons, stand out.

Chukwuebuka Anisiobi, the first-ever Lagos one-day governor in 2001, is the dean of them all.

Now a rig manager with OES Energy Services (a stand alone oil upstream firm, which used to be part of Oando Plc), he remains the proud dean of Spelling Bee winners, making quality contributions to national development, as a young professional.  His two 2001 runners-up were Kelikume Oliseh and Rhoda Olateru.

But even more remarkable, in grabbing with two hands, that rare opportunity to make good, which Spelling Bees offered talented teens in Lagos public schools, was Alexander Ezenagu.

In 2004, Ezenagu wasn’t the winner, or even the second-placed contestant.  Those were Tolulope Esan (2004 one-day governor) and Tobi Balogun (the “deputy”). He placed third, representing Bolade Grammar School, Oshodi, Lagos — and you can link the school’s locality to its probable demographics.

Yet, that win propelled Ezenagu.  He would go ahead to earn a first class in Law from the University of Ibadan; and another first class at the Nigerian Law School.

But all those were mere morning, on a long, brilliant and sparkling academic day, as Ezenagu would, by sundry scholarships, go ahead to earn an LL.M in commercial law, from Cambridge University, UK.  He would crown it all with a PhD in international tax law, from McGill University, Canada.

Dr. Ezenagu now works for Qatar Foundation, in Qatar, as assistant professor at the College of Law, Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), owned by the Qatar Foundation.

Now, look at his trajectory: from Bolade Grammar School, Oshodi, Lagos, to Ibadan, Nigeria’s premier university, to Cambridge, a global Ivy League university, and Canada’s McGill University! That is the quintessential Oluremi Tinubu sparkle!

Now Ezenagu faces a glittering global career in international tax law, transfer pricing, tax planning, investment advisory and commercial law advisory and practice, as part of Nigeria’s ever twinkling Diaspora.

No happenstance — this humble-local-to-global-renown story.  Rather, it’s a product of Spelling Bee, quality public education thinking, from a First Lady, an extra-constitutional honorific that nevertheless, for Ezenagu and co, made stellar personal developmental difference.

That both Anisiobi and Ezenagu responded to emails sent to them in virtual minutes, just underscores how the senator sparkles, much so brightly, in the hearts of her grateful brood of mentees, who she adores, like a loving mom.

The Spelling Bee contest was well and truly revolutionary — and Anisiobi, Ezenagu and co, kids from different ethnics, in the Lagos public school system, but who belonged to a common tribe of limited opportunities, are grateful and living proof.  Their grooming and honing, post-1999, is proof all is not entirely dreary for Nigeria at 60, as the jeremiad ensemble love to drone on and on, on the eve of Nigeria’s own, to be fair, rather non-sparkling diamond!  Still, passionate jeremiads, as end in themselves, hardly change anything.

In contrast, Spelling Bee, and its midwife, the New Era Foundation (NEF), show what heights Nigeria can scale, if individuals, in or out of government, can buckle down to our collective challenge, and give their all without stint.

That is the Oluremi Tinubu ultimate sparkle; and the enduring legacy she left, as First Lady, in Lagos public education.

Tershaku: My Benue CJTF story

IN “Felled: Benue’s Fulani herdsman!  (15 September 2020), Alhaji Aminu Yaminu aka Tershaku, came across as metaphor for the tapestry of Benue’s politics of violence, which underscores its violence of politics: dummy killings, proxy guilt and sickening ethnicization of crime, that leave the majority clutching at the gory straw.

It would all appear a grim parody of the French playwright philosopher, Jean-Paul Sarte’s famous quip: hell is other people!

But after reading the story, a sad but measured Tershaku got across, pleading his innocence, his tone echoing another famous quip in English literature: more sinned against than sinning — from Shakespeare’s King Lear, and later, Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

That set Ripples on a columnist’s nightmare — could the column have inadvertently hurt an innocent citizen?  Though the Alhaji hung up after being asked about an alleged “wrongful arrest”, a claim by one of his confederates who goes by the Facebook name of Swi Swi, Ripples decided to present Tershaku’s own story, from an unnamed document Tashaku sent to Ripples’ WhatsApp account.

“Alhaji Aliyu Tershaku was a great messiah that God sent to Benue State,” the document wrote of his involvement in the Benue Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF). “Alhaji Tershaku worked hard by ensuring there was peace, in our communities by introducing CJTF.  He ensured that there was peace between us and our invaders.”

The document also claimed that way back in 2013, the CJTF was a pact reportedly entered into by Benue and Nasarawa state governments, and secured by the then DIG Operations.

The document also listed other eminent Tivs, reportedly privy to that initiative: Gen, Atom Kpela (rtd), Abu King Shuluwa, Tor Sankera 1, (Sankera was the zone where the Gana terrorism bit most), Prof. Daniel Saror, the late Dr. Sule Abenga (then Ter Makurdi), David Iorhemba (former Speaker House of Assembly), Surveyor John Tondo (former commissioner for Land and Survey), (then) Attorney General and commissioner for Justice, President and Secretary Mzough U Tiv, and Adviser on Special Security to Governor Suswam.

Beyond sainthood or devilry, however, both the Benue CJTF and the South West Amotekun push, to better secure the people, a radical restructure of the current one-Police federal civil security system.

That is the disease.  Every other thing is a symptom, though fast growing into grave distractions.

Strike Suspension: It’s unfortunate, but dialogue is Key ― C’River NLC

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