Abati orchestrated the return. He wanted it badly, I guess. Opting against letting disappointed Nigerians manage their despair quietly, only few days ago the spokesman published an essay he titled The President Jonathan they Do Not Know. In this piece, Dr Abati made a bold albeit unconvincing attempt to launder the presidents image. In fact, its to me an unnecessary work, which was destined to attract if anything, more flaks than commendations. It did. The presidents spokesman, has through his tactical miscalculation, resurrected the hitherto hibernated grudges against him, and his principal. In soccer, this is akin to an own goal.
While I will not duel further on this, I do wish to posit that President Jonathans government has though earned some marks in an area or two; it has come disappointingly short of expectations in general considerations. Hence, much to Abatis frustration, the swift loss of loyalty among the presidents friends on the social media I mean the same set of Nigerians he first made his substantive Aso Rock residency ambition known to.
I remain in shock that a gargantuan pro-masses advocate of Abatis calibre appears to be a loss as to the reasons for the scathing criticisms the president seems to suffer on a regular basis these days. The erudite Dr Abati surely has acted true to my prophecy in my July 2011 piece which I titled, Dr Reuben Abati: Its Hard to Say Goodbye.
Well, perhaps, by stating the reasons as to why people like me remain disappointed with this administration thus far, the picture would become a bit less blurred before the former Guardian Newspapers top shot.
Firstly, the government has never failed in advertising its determination to stem the ugly tide of corruption in the land. Seductively worded scripts on the war against this disease have been read by the president, the vice president, state governors, ministers, legislators, and just about everyone connected with the government. But, as though Nigerians are being deliberately considered as irredeemable mumu, the more the government speak, the less the people see.
It is a settled fact that Nigerians love the EFCC as an institution. They wish to see an EFCC that barks loudly, and then bites mercilessly; an EFCC that would guarantee the sights of influential politicians behind bars; an EFCC that would become the cornerstone for anti-corruption and prudence in public service. Nigerians want to see an EFCC that would recoup trillions of our stolen common wealth stashed in banks and converted to choice properties across Nigeria, America, Switzerland, Britain, Dubai, and elsewhere.
President Jonathan met a struggling EFCC, an institution fighting to win back the trust of Nigerians; rather than reinforce it, this government instead seems to be working assiduously to hasten its collapse. Ibrahim Lamorde may not be a weak man per se, but he does definitely need the fortification and protection of Mr President to go after the most powerful ones in the land. Today, only few Nigerians know the name of the incumbent EFCC Chairman. I do not need a dibia or babalawo to tell me even fewer Nigerians could recognise his portrait when one is displayed. Juxtapose this with a certain Nuhu Ribadu, and a glaring sign of yet another vital institution that has since shed its skin of relevance, and now at the precipice of oblivion flashes at your face.
The way things stand, it doesnt seem a bit that this ugly downward spin of the EFCC would change anytime soon, but, if the president could reverse this, he surely would win back some new converts to his flailing Transformation movement.
There is yet another set of Nigerians whom the president has since side-lined, much to his own disfavour. These are the fellows who neither want Boko Haram to be celebrated nor pampered. I, too belong here. Like many, I believe that the president has the powers, and the instrument to adequately contain Boko Haram. The only item amiss is the willpower to do this.
Boko Haram was never in the stature of Al Qaeda. Boko Haram was a group of illiterate local outlaws with a poor understanding of the good faith they profess. Unfortunately, this government mismanaged their lawlessness, and in the process handed relevance, and value to a group of unskilled pastime criminals.
Granted, every leader has his own strategy and personae but, in this circumstance, I feel right to say that Boko Haram would have since become distant history if we had the likes of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in power. Rather than tame, this government has only succeeded in nurturing a hungry domestic pussycat to become a wild terrifying tiger.
I still cannot fathom the motivation behind allowing defenceless Nigerians to continually live in tangible fear, and die cheaply in the Northern half of the country, no thanks to Boko Haram.
Some utterances credited to the president, the defences of the Minister of Information, the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, and the events surrounding the ouster of General Azazi as NSA suggests to many that the characters behind the new Boko Haram menace are not ghosts after all. It appears to a large extent that the government has a healthy dose of information; information that could be harnessed towards a satisfactory solution.
Things have gone pretty bad, but if Mr President could deliver Nigerians from the scourge of the regrettably new improved Boko Haram, he surely would have succeeded in deleting the trending word, clueless (as used by Dr Abati in his piece) from the books of quite a lot of Nigerians.
Thats two. Now, the third reason President Jonathan has lost popularity is the petroleum subsidy subject. Nigerians want to know everyone involved in this monumental fraud; I mean the real ones. Nigerians wish to see these influential fellows answer to their crimes; Nigerians want to see these big men face justice, and Nigerians want to see our stolen funds returned, and invested in infrastructures across the land.
The seemingly well-rehearsed distractive drama starring the hypocrite, Farouk Lawan, and Femi Otedola, the son of former Lagos State governor further complicated issues, and alludes to a pre-meditated plot to rip off the remnants of every outstanding living substance out of the massive subsidy fraud.
Reports have since surfaced that the government would settle for a plea bargain. This, if true, would not only be disgraceful, but also unfair on the petty criminals behind bars in our prisons today. There is no justification whatsoever in seeing a man accused of stealing (items worth) a few thousands of naira sentenced to a lengthy jail term, yet, fellow compatriots who swindled the nation of billions or trillions of naira allowed to freely and casually negotiate their freedom, or worse still, continue to live unpunished. I do know that even the holy ones in heaven are averse to such double standards.
Dr Abati in this article of his, made efforts to sell the presidents simple and unassuming nature, broad spiritual disposition, routine chores, and even advertised his surprisingly modest menu, but, with due respect, what I, nay most Nigerians desire at this time is neither presidential simplicity nor presidential spirituality; what we crave for is presidential action, period. Nigerians are tired of fine speeches, foreign trips, loads of committees, and probe panels that yield no visible results.
Its high time our president stood up for what he believes, and what he passionately wants; he needs to put an end to this very simple posture of his where he seems to give the impression to the public that he truly wishes to transform Nigeria but some others actually dictate the tunes much to his own displeasure; displeasure? Yes, that is if he or his close allies truly, very truly bear no hands whatsoever in all these unpopular, anti-people complications.
August 31, 2012
This celebrated institution will now be known and addressed as Moshood Abiola University Lagos, which yields MAULAG or MAUL or MAU as an acronym as against the rather more fashionable UNILAG.
True to the reputation of modern day South West, and Lagos in particular, this particular pronouncement is already generating all the fuss as though it were a matter of hyper urgent national importance. Reports of street protests in Lagos against the re-naming have emerged. The social media and the conventional mainstream Nigerian media are almost nearing saturation point with lots of microblogs and opinions on the development.
With due respect to the institution concerned, truth be told, this fast and harsh reaction is an overkill. We have had famous national institutions re-named after national heroes before and still will many years to come (if we survive these perilous times). Heaven was not let loose when National Airport Abuja was re-named after Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe following the demise of the former Head of State. They may have been, but I am yet to read about any disapproval from the students or politicians when the famous University of Ife was re-named after Chief Obafemi Awolowo many years ago.
Or, more recently, there were not too many ripples when a serving federal minister used his powers to rename the entirety of an emerging posh district in the Federal Capital Territoryafter Dr Goodluck Jonathan. Granted, UNILAG is a university with a mountain-high celebrity status, but in all sincerity, what differences exist between all these name changes? Are they not siblings of the same parents? I mean null issues with respect to the mammoth national challenge before us?
The late Chief Moshood Abiola, the aare ona kakanfo of Yoruba land was a popular, loved, and highly respected Yoruba man while on earth. He died on the altar of democracy in his rational pursuit of the presidential mandate handed to him by the Nigerian people. The righteous struggle that consumed him did not spare his adorable wife either. Mrs Kudirat Abiola was shot and killed by wicked proxies of darkness.
Commendably, till date, the late flamboyant billionaire is venerated by politicians and activists especially in the South West. Some states honour him annually with a Public Holiday and series of democracy-themed events to advertise the valour of the man, MKO Abiola and wife.
So how does renaming a university you love after a man you love become an item that generates hate as to clutching everyone’s attention willy-nilly? Why is there such a vehement resistance to honouring a man you and I have always mentioned as a national hero? Or, democracy martyr if you like? Is it to infer that some persons never truly loved this icon though they feign it all these years? Or, is it a case of a right message coming from a wrong messenger?
Pressed to choose, I would opt for the latter as the reason for this reaction. There may be problems with the intents or processes leading to the pronouncements, but methinks there is not a single problem with the new name as it were. This is a null issue. The problem is with the messenger I guess.
To say President Jonathan is not popular in the South West is only stating the undeniable obvious. Hence, tactics would suggest that he acquires the buy-in of the darlings of the region before opting to change any public establishment be it a school, an airport, a stadium, or even a culture of doing things. And this is irrespective of the powers he – the President – has over the object of change in question. Sad? Maybe yes! But that’s the reality of the day – at least for the sake of a calm polity.
I may be wrong, but my heart and my head tell me many an institution would be proud to have their school bear the famous name Moshood Abiola. A quick attestation to this is the visible pride expressed by my friends who graduated from the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic in Ogun State whenever they hear or see the acronym M-A-P-O-L-Y.
Well, whatsoever shape this develops into, and no matter the vehemence of the condemnation of the name change, upon deep reflections, one feels the street protests by the university students as reported are rather unnecessary and ultimately baseless as students have not been known to determine such issues in Nigeria.
The barrage of vile criticism against the actions on the social media quite sadly too counts for only little. Such energies should be concentrated on the good campaigns against bad leadership and unabated corruption in the land. Let our crusades be against the legion of thieving politicians and not some banal change of name. This is with all due respect to this great institution which I must confess I dream of attending some day – when I grow up.
Thoughts stretched, one must concede that it though unfetters some mid-level curiosity to note that while the president eulogised the slain Chief MKO Abiola early on in his long address, he somehow managed to delay this solemn change of name proclamation until the ultimate paragraph. This together with the suddenness of the change connotes to a wandering mind a rather doubtful deliberate intent to split the ‘house’ equipped with the fore knowledge of a divided response to this pronouncement.
On the basis of this believability, this is yet another trying time for the organized opposition to exhibit the often misplaced political maturity to stay calm in an agitated environment. There is the need to stay united and to jettison pedestrian issues to concentrate on real matters.
Again, I may be wrong. Hence, I leave that to the skilled political minds who may desire to run a detailed inquest into the dynamics of a divided core opposition vis-à-vis the importance of Lagos State nay the South West to the powers controlling the centre, a little less than three calendar years from this day.
As with every change, having spoken with a few, I imagine the unease in some of my friends – who are extraordinarily proud of their university name – to forcefully adapt to this sudden change from the old UNILAG to the new MAULAG. Or, perhaps MAUL. Anyway, there is no reason to lose sleep over this, because like the UNI-IFE name change many years ago, everyone will get used to this sooner rather than later. Let this be considered a sacrifice to honour a good man.
I would have ended this piece by reproducing William Shakespeare’s famous ‘’what is in a name?’’ rhetorical question, but I prefer to close out by respectfully chanting Goodbye to the University of Lagos for the last time! And Welcome to the Moshood Abiola University Lagos for the first time!!
Happy Democracy Day Nigeria!
May 30, 2012.
How about if we had these special fluids entirely lying beneath the lands and waters in the South East? We surely would have created another bullish and industrialised Israel in that part of Nigeria while other Nigerians lay tearfully at their mercy!
But perhaps, the biggest ‘if’ would be contemplated if Nigeria’s petroleum reserves were buried in the Northern half of Nigeria. Surely the entity called Nigeria would have been reversed by 180 degrees to the pre- 1914 amalgamation status engineered by the colonial masters. Non-Northerners would have been hurriedly ferried back down South – dead or alive.
But, having our petroleum blessings in the South-South region is by far the most evident manifestation of God-the-Creator’s unparalleled sense of awareness. By enriching the lands and waters of the most people-centred, seemingly weakest, least wise and most disunited sets of people in the country, the omniscience God has avoided several civil wars, unquantifiable losses and capacious blood spills.
They too are no saints though; they have their loads of problems too; chief among which is the psycho- disease of sycophancy. But they are the generous ones; the patient ones, and by far the most tolerant Nigerians there ever can be. These are the oppressed Niger Delta people. The South – South people of Nigeria.
For many years they whimpered, they yowled and they fearfully challenged their compatriots from the North, the West and of course, the East. They complained bitterly of deliberate conscienceless marginalization occasioned by their disadvantaged demographic minority. Their case has never being helped by the seemingly innumerable fractionated ethnic groups scattered all across their tattered marshy fields and contaminated water pockets.
Their waters bear the geese that lay the golden eggs and their land serve as the well-fertilized farmland that feed Nigeria. The nation – unless anything absolutely extraordinary happens – cannot survive without the produce of these people.
Yet still and ironically and inexplicably so, these fertile lands are the least developed, these productive waters are the most impure, and these generous people by far the least catered for. The country has been unfair on these people. Their plight is about the most eye-catching ignoble advertisement of injustice on a people.
They sought for answers to many questions; they demanded actions in lieu of the usual rhetoric. They asked for rights in the sea of unjust denials. They politely demanded justice from a system that had nothing but injustice for them. On the altar of redress the brave Ken Saro-Wiwa, his kinsmen from Ogoni land and others had to painfully give up their own today that others might get a better tomorrow.
These few brave men dared to say no when a ‘no’ had to be said and for this they paid the ultimate price. No thanks to the dark-goggled maximum ruler General Sani Abacha – a man Nigeria had the rather irreparable misfortune of having to mislead us.
On the blood of these martyrs and a few others, one patient man, Dr Goodluck Jonathan proudly sits atop the nation’s most expensive seat as President and Commander in Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces. He has walked his way into the history books as the first man from the super-rich Niger Delta region to hold that office.
Today, the Niger Delta people need not send emissaries to Abuja to explain their plights to one man who scarcely appreciates their insupportable privations. They already have a Niger Delta – thorough bred; an illustrious knowledgeable son of the soil who at least going by his title, has attained the peak of academic distinction up there at the most powerful office in Nigeria.
But, Dr Jonathan’s presidency would not last eternally. Barring any drama, he would vacate office on May 29, 2015 – just about 1,152 days only to go! And at that time, every good work he failed to do for his beloved Niger Delta people might never be done in his lifetime and perhaps much longer afterwards.
The South-South zone is a distant minority in Nigeria’s political calculations; hence, it is rather crystal clear that the Niger Delta would not produce another president any time soon after 2015, unless perhaps Dr Jonathan decides to test the oneness of Nigeria by creating a risky Balkanization-threatening upset.
It is for this reason and more that the president has to as a matter of utmost urgency see to the pitiable plight of his dying people. He must make concerted efforts to genuinely protect them and positively change their lives forever.
Their predominant occupations are fishing and farming. These arts must be positively encouraged. Water and land pollution by petroleum-based pollutants and such other impediments to profitable fishing and farming must be apolitically discouraged and vehemently scuffed.
Bridges must be built, roads must be constructed and genuine employment opportunities created for the suffering people. Their brilliant kids must be encouraged by scholarships. Their schools must be renovated and qualified teachers mobilised to give these generous but poor kids qualitative education; their hospitals must be equipped and medical personnel attracted down to renew the health of the dying altruistic people.
Utilities as basic as potable pipe-borne water, electricity, toilets, and yes toilets must be provided for some of these people. It is perplexing to know that as deep into civilisation as 2012, some people in the hydrocarbon-rich Niger Delta still drink from the same petroleum-polluted water into which they still defecate and urinate. And many others still respond to the call of nature by means of pit toilets!
I have great friends from just about every part of Nigeria, some of whom are from the South-West so I have no reasons whatsoever to generate any controversy against them. But it is only true that one cannot compare the quality of the patchy schools in the primitive Niger Delta settlements to the ‘Ivy League’ schools in some civilised states in the lower left region of Nigeria. Thanks to that great visionary I have always adored.
While the latter are manned by loads of sophisticated foreign-trained teachers, the former are either left to manage some humble local College of Education graduates as teachers, or rely completely on the few serious-minded National Youth Service Corps members to learn anything useful.
Without going into history to establish the reasons for the imbalance, I feel it’s quite an easy sell to argue that the average rural Niger Delta graduate would be somewhat disadvantaged at general merit-driven knowledge-based exercises and exposure – centred challenges. The most glaring instances of these are the outcomes of just about every examination or recruitment exercise across Nigeria: the South-Westerners seem to always dominate in performance.
Going forward, methinks the principal reasons for this lag (of the average rural Niger Deltan scholar relative their counterparts elsewhere) is the dearth of quality in most schools in terms of infrastructures and personnel. There is no debating the fact that one cannot give what s/he doesn’t have. So even if the teachers and students give their best, chances are, their ‘best’ might not be good enough compared to the ‘best’ of others who are in competition with them.
This is where the President of the Nigerian nation and ‘incumbent father of the Niger Delta region’ comes in. This is where his people need his urgent attention. He must maximise his influence on his ministers and on the state governors some of whom to me are still sleeping freely snoring away in office while their people look, cry and die.
The President must push the Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC, the Ministry of the Niger Delta and every other Niger-Delta-focussed organ, agency, instrument or machinery to work swiftly and assiduously for the dying people they have been gainfully hired to serve.
It is worth repeating that these people need just about every basic amenity that has become pedestrian in some other big cities. They do urgently need good schools, good teachers, equipped libraries, modern laboratories, clean potable water, solid bridges, tarred roads, and recreational facilities. The air they inhale and the water they drink are as impure as the fish and crops they now eat. Expectedly, they would always be susceptible to illnesses. Therefore, they need modern hospitals and qualified personnel to man them.
Furthermore, beyond banal political rhetoric, feigned passion and beyond the frivolities of some futile post-Amnesty indulgences, it’s high time the Commander-in-Chief and every descendant of the Niger Delta in positions of authority genuinely empowered their browbeaten people. How else? The landing ports!
Revamp the sea ports and the airports. The Lagos airport did not grow to become the most important air-based personnel and freight conduit in Nigeria today by mere serendipity. People engineered it! Powerful people made it that way. Ditto the Lagos sea port.
Broadly speaking, it is a strategically beneficial idea having Lagos sea port and airport, but beyond Lagos, there exist other time-tested established sea ports in Port Harcourt and in Warri. These poorly functional Niger-Delta based ports could be empowered to adequately complement Lagos. Similarly, the dysfunctional Port Harcourt International airport could be upgraded beyond its present misfit name to a truly international status.
I have never been a president and I might never be in my lifetime but I do know that a president is a leader, and every good leader must be influential. And I also know that with this singular component of influence all too many could be achieved.
These just and modest demands may be tough to effect but are truly possible to achieve by Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, a well – learned PhD holder; ex-Deputy Governor; ex-State Governor; ex-Vice President; ex-Acting President; and incumbent President and Commander-in-Chief of Africa’s largest petroleum producing nation.
Ultimately, I posit with all due respect that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has in his hands the golden opportunity to become to the South-South that which the great Chief Obafemi Awolowo is today to the South-West. His office also stands him in a stead to become the most outstanding object of ridicule as the most notable failure figure in the Niger Delta should he exit the exalted seat of power without changing the lives of his dying people for the better – for good. That too is another option. I pray my president opts for the former.
Philips Akpoviri, April 4, 2012
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The Minister of Trade, Mr Olusegun Aganga, another very brilliant Nigerian technocrat joined in the crusade to bring down the cost of running the government. Our obdurate one-man-squad Central Bank Governor, Prince Lamido Sanusi was not left out of this supposedly pro-people agenda.
We thought that with such queries, the cost of governance would be forced down, and the volume of naira available to uplift the deplorable living condition of the dying masses be inevitably increased. Hurray, the Dream Team is here we so chorused.
Not so fast! That was what we got as feedback. There is no doubting the fact that these three honourable Nigerians made key inputs into the 2012 budget. It may even be true to say this trio prepared the 2012 budget almost single-handedly. When it comes to money management matters, who in the Federal Executive Committee can match the famed trio of a former World Bank Managing Director, a former Director of the world’s famous Gordon Sachs bank, and the 2010 World Central Bank Governor of the year?
Good, they diligently prepared the budget. Their sky-high intelligence and seeming infallibility notwithstanding, it fell short of my huge expectations. At least not after the bulky hope they precipitated on assumption of office.
Today, President Goodluck Jonathan’s economic transformation model has this trio as his limbs while the Western financial institutions serve as the heart. Recent history has made it incontrovertibly clear that the West is not always right when it comes to economic matters. So their admonitions may be listened to but must not necessarily be seen to be sacrosanct. Ask the Greeks. Ask the Italians. Then ask the Chinese and the Japanese – and the South Koreans.
There’s so much to gain when you dig deep to resolve your challenges within without capitulating to absolute rented intelligence.
The world is yet to recover from the economic ditch the most brilliant brains in the world threw us into. They plotted many curves, propounded many theories, they had intentioned to reduce the pain in the land, but in the end they disgraced intellect as they got the reverse. And as always, the poor ones who occupy the lower strata die first.
Meanwhile, the 2012 subsidy removal item was not among Dr Goodluck Jonathan’s copious campaign promises upon which he swore “never ever to let you (Nigerians) down”. Rather, it is a West-influenced emergency policy. The terrible economic situation across Europe has proven again that they are not always right! Perhaps we can start counting our teeth with our tongues.
Today, our brilliant minds opine that the 2012 removal of fuel subsidy is the solution to Nigeria’s economic woes. Why should I not think that this too shall fail?
They screamed that the cost of running government was too high in 2011 and before. We agreed because we had already lost our voice following years of screaming. We anticipated a big cut. But, no! In 2012 by some strokes of incomprehensible calculus impregnated in some mysterious Adam Smith’s theories, this value was almost surpassed in the 2012 budget.
They have asked the scores of millions of suffering and dying Nigerians (apologies to Fela Anikulapo-Kuti) to go make huge sacrifices to secure the future of Nigeria. We agreed because we have shown how tough we are and how willing we are to make sacrifices for the good of everyone and our unborn children. But what did they do? They still showed no willingness to make the least of sacrifices themselves. Their paycheques, absolutely otiose foreign trips, corruption-propelled security votes, wasteful personal pilgrimages, et cetera still remain intact.
They neither buy petrol nor pay for car maintenance from their earnings. We do. They live in palatial houses with full complements of electric power. We do not have that much good luck! We buy our generators ourselves, fuel it ourselves, maintain it ourselves and withstand the debilitating health hazards of its noise and fumes ourselves.
We rely completely on God for our security and our family’s. They have first class security operatives, high efficiency surveillance gadgets, complemented by all of the few capable policemen in the land to protect themselves. We have lost count of the poor men, women and children who have been hurried to their graves by Boko Haram. Yet we have not heard of any slain minister, governor, senator or so. Not even their family members! They are well protected in their heavenly Nigeria. We are not so lucky in this hellish one of ours!
Though we know PMS sells lower in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and some other major oil producing states like Nigeria, our aristocratic leaders have preferred to use other friendly examples to justify subsidy removal. They told us petrol sells far higher than 65 Naira per litre in the UK, US, Korea and others. We agreed. That we already have known. But they should equally agree with us that they know that none of these countries have a minimum wage as miserably and inhumanely low as #18,000 Naira per month. A paltry sum our State Governors almost never agreed to pay.
They are quick to compare us with the Americans when it comes to prices. We say we are ready for the juxtaposition of facts. Prof Okey Ndibe is a Nigerian born Professor who has lived in the US for several years. There are many things he know about Americans. Hear him: “The American president as well as U.S. governors must pay (from their annual salaries) for their families’ personal meals and other domestic needs. The only free meals (emphasis mine) President Barack Obama eats in the White House are those served at formal state functions. Otherwise, he and his wife receive a monthly bill – and pay – for food, drinks and other services they consumed or used.”
That’s America. In Nigeria – a country where over half of the citizens live under $1 (one dollar) per day – the families of the President and the Vice President will reportedly spend approximately one billion naira on feeding in 2012. That’s a whopping over two and half million naira everyday on food alone – for just two (officially) monogamous families! That sum can feed my entire community for a lifetime! But no, our search for such good luck has only led us to find more patience.
We must compare likes for likes. If we want American price regimes for commodities, then we must be ably prepared to enable commensurate American conditions. No smart games!
Perhaps, this table from the Linda Ikeji (http://lindaikeji.blogspot.com/) puts my point in context.
They sermonise that change from the status quo is the only way to go. We agreed. We showed our willingness to go that path but politely – and logically so – have asked them to lead the way. Is it not basic knowledge in change theory that changes must be seen to transcend downhill?
Change is a concept that increases the entropy of the system, and prompts a vital component of sacrifice from its constituents. Provided a system is not totalitarian, for a change to see the light of day, it must be evidently perceived to simmer down from the head.
Based on this elementary hypothesis, I humbly say, Mr President, honourable ministers, executive governors, distinguished legislators please lead the way. It’s not a big ask to show us your own side of the sacrifice you urgently require of us. It is as simple as that.
Continued on part 2.
January 06, 2012.
SEE US IN TEARS; IN SEARCH OF GOODLUCK WE FOUND PATIENCE (Part 2)
By Philips Akpoviri.
Continued from Part 1.
As I have remarked elsewhere before, the benefits of an Ijaw man living in a shanty in the creeks is access to sweet free fresh fish. The Hausa man tucked in a mansion somewhere upland will pay dearly for the same or perhaps less fresh item. So let the benefits of our being hydrocarbon-rich Nigerians be to enjoy cheap petrol.
Lest I forget, the same leaders have bragged about the fact that following their genial amnesty initiative, Nigeria’s hydrocarbon export hit record volumes in 2011. Nigeria has always been Africa’s largest oil exporter, the peace in the Niger-Delta and the accompanying positive spin-off effect on the production should only normally be a palpable blessing. No, not so! Our national debt profile is reportedly growing even more robust by the day.
They say, we spent 1.3 trillion naira on subsidy in 2011 alone. It’s too high a burden to bear they cried. They removed this from the 2012 budget but we are still searching for the part of the budget where this massive sum was captured in lieu of subsidy. Worse still, we did not see any proportionate increase in the capital expenditure plan to account for such a ‘windfall’.
By the way, what is the guarantee that our leaders are telling us the truth? They have argued that Nigeria averaged 250 to 300 billion Naira per year on subsidy prior to the Dr Jonathan days. But in 2011 under President Jonathan this sum somehow skyrocketed to 1.3 trillion. How? Where are the records? Who disbursed and who received these moneys?
Why should I not think that these figures were synthesized by the pro-rich economists to hoodwink the ever gullible Nigerian majority? If they are real figures, where are the records? All current affairs-savvy Nigerians have a clue as to how things work in the petroleum sector and how we have not been able to get accounts ironed out. Not even after the huge funds that have been lavished on the comical probe panels and Committee sittings which always end without tangible results.
A whopping one trillion naira is in question here. If the records are straight on this, we should have the names of the culprits precisely written in some books. Nigerians have been known to serve jail terms for stealing only a few thousands of naira, why is no one paying the price for defrauding the Nigerian state of this intimidating volume of money?
If the Nigerian Police, the EFCC, ICPC and all such law enforcement and anti-corruption institutions choose to give a blind eye to this, then they are bound by common moral justice to equally forgive every inmate in all Nigerian prisons or detention facilities accused of stealing. Rich or poor, we are all Nigerians, so, the tacit pardon should be flat across board. Period!
These senior fellows must really be thinking we lack grey matters. Otherwise how can one explain the illogicality and phoniness of the action of the Federal Government setting up a committee saddled with the responsibility of engaging stakeholders nay Nigerians on the issue of subsidy removal only after effecting the removal of the subsidy!
One great writer, Dr Reuben Abati once had this to say on a similar anomalous action taken few years ago. Hear him: “The mischief and dishonesty are obvious: why set up a committee to seek the input of stakeholders when a final decision has already been taken?”
The same critical Dr. Abati issued the publication announcing the formation of this similar committee this time! He has roundly metamorphosed true to my thick fears as I captured in my piece http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/guest/dr-abati-it-s-hard-to-say-goodbye.html (which I published immediately upon his appointment as Special Adviser on Media to the President). May God be with him anyway.
Now they have erected a Subsidy Re-investment Committee headed by the respected Sir Christopher Kolade. He is though a great man but clearly not in a good position to superintend against the monstrous magnitude and volume of corruption in Nigeria today. Suffice to say that this appointment is not only ludicrous but also smacks probable intent to deceive.
Because these bad smart guys own contracting companies and good friends across the sectors; they will still be the ones to secure the contracts from the Re-investment Committee as they will run rings around him. They will secure the contracts. And they will inflate the cost, steal and abandon the projects again! And again!! And again!!!
If a dynamic 54-year old President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces adequately equipped with a Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate degree still find it this difficult to tame them, what makes any sane Nigerian think that one 80-year old baba can stop these agile, brainy corrupt men all of a sudden? How?
At this juncture, I do submit therefore that I am not entirely against subsidy removal. It surely cannot last forever.
But it is only right to put first things first. Logic must never be enabled to stand on its head!
Hence, I re-state the obvious: firstly, the nation’s leadership should take the lead in the quest for change by manifesting their personal sacrifices. The UK under the incumbent Prime Minister, David Cameron did it; Obama’s US has done it. Their sacrifices are ubiquitous on the web.
Secondly, our dear President must show a great political will required of a great leader to combat corruption. Kindly excuse my fair-intentioned comparison, but truth is he saw Muhammadu Buhari do it nearly three decades ago; he’s got the same instruments – and ability – so why not use them?
The President is the General Overseer of the nation and the national leader of the ruling PDP. He must use his political machineries to ramp down the cost of governance. Singapore’s incumbent leadership showed us the way only a few days back.
Finally, we are in a democracy. It is absolutely necessary to win the confidence of the majority before executing such earth-quaking reforms. Objective consultations, long-range planning, sensible palliatives and a general improvement on the deplorable living condition of the sick and dying masses must be made manifest.
Unless these ‘miracle workers’ who kept the missing #1, 000, 000, 000, 000. 00 die all of a sudden the same fate awaits the subsidy savings upon its removal. It will be a case of still birth.
Anything other than these, I reluctantly predict will lead us further down the lane to doom. We shall be disappointed; we shall cry even harder – and die even sooner than expected. Because I truly love this country, I hope I am wrong; I pray my prediction is wrong.
May the soul of Mr Mustapha Muyeedeen Mofoluwasho Opobiyi murdered in Ilorin during the anti-subsidy removal protests rest in peace. Amen. May God lead our leaders right.
January 07, 2012.
Expectedly, the West, in her pursuit of freedom, and equal rights for all peoples, had prior to the passage of this bill, sounded an unambiguous caution to sub-Saharan African leaders that they may withdraw aids to States where homosexuals are haunted or treated unequally with their majority heterosexual compatriots. They repeated same threats few hours after the pronouncement by Senate President David Mark.
But he did a first. Senator David Mark did what many Nigerian leaders in today’s political reality can ever imagine let alone do. He not only personally superintended over the passage of the bill, he rubbed it in by calling the bluff of Mrs Hillary Clinton and her President, Mr Barack Obama. Yes, he dared the United States of America. The Senate President openly challenged Britain, Canada and other pro-gay Western powers by handing them a strict warning not to “interfere” in the governance of our own country as Nigerians do not meddle into theirs. In fact he straightforwardly and daringly asked them to go “to hell” with their aids.
In that respect, that is not a bad one from the Senate President. I have always said that Nigeria’s challenge is a local problem and can only be cured locally not Westerly. We can learn from their gaffes and give ears to their counsels but their opinions must not continuously form the basis of our crucial decisions and national development.
That said, what next for homosexuals in Nigeria? Go fit their neck in the noose? Go quietly serve a 14-year jail term? Or seek asylum in Western lands? The latter as I hear is already being heavily exploited by even non-gays. Is the West geared up to accommodate the legion of asylum seekers on the altar of gay rights? This is where the discourse starts.
The author, just like every other archetypal Nigerian firmed in the conservative Nigerian society’s moral roots disapprove of the conception of a man making love to another man or a woman doing the thing with her kind. One feels it is a contemporary sexual aberration that with due respect to gays seems palpably nauseating.
Our world of today is faced with loads of fresh challenges moral values. Homosexuality is one. Bisexuality, transgenderism and bestiality are others. Hate we may, but the unblemished truth is, homosexuality might be a modern Western invention but has today become a present-day human reality.
How about bisexuality? I remember reading sometime ago that one of the biggest misconceptions straight people have about this subject is that they assume that once one is married to the opposite sex, s/he is by default heterosexual and may never be gay. Lie! In order to disguise their true orientation, many have been known to get married to a spouse of the opposite sex – and even birth kids – yet continue their amorous adulterous affairs with their gay boyfriend or lesbian girlfriend who many a time are close family friends.
Come to think of it, if we could cry this loud at the practice of homosexuality, our reactions to the steadily mounting act of bestiality would definitely be better imagined than real. It may still be unthinkable in Nigeria, but in some other climes, humans have now been known to physically indulge in sexual intercourses with animals. I will not elucidate on this weird condescending human sexual (mis)adventure.
I have deliberately opted out of the idea of discussing transgenders – yet another unconventional group incidental to the homosexuals. I feel it is otiose discussing fellows who voluntarily subject selves to long medical procedures only to get artificial physical transformation to the opposite sex.
Meanwhile, make no mistake about this: the author is a proud full-blooded heterosexual, happily nuptial-knotted to a woman, and asexually relishes the companies of such wonderfully created complementary mortals. This thoroughgoing straight fellow is also an unrepentant realist and an unpretending pragmatist.
However, the truth must be asserted. Issues must not be x-rayed solely within some parochial primordial considerations but on the broad premise of reality –as they actually are and how they interrelate with every other element within. Victimization is victimization even if the victim is a condemned sinner.
Granted, homosexuality is an irregular sexual orientation which with respect to our cherished mainstream culture is somewhat a deplorable aberration, but definitely not a crime in itself as the distinguished Nigerian Senate seeks to make us believe. One is neither a trained criminologist nor an expert in law, but I feel confident to opine – with due respect to the Senators – that homosexuality is not justifiably criminal. I am willing to take classes here anyway!
There are homosexuals in our society and always will be. And chances are, the numbers will keep going on the ascendancy every day, every time, everywhere. The 14-year jail term and such other provisions appear to me more as strategies aimed at the intimidation and persecution of an eccentric unpopular minority by an unsympathetic overwhelming demographic majority than as a conscientious remediation of a societally objectionable act.
But how did we get here? Man has got oodles of abilities to invent, but I wish to reference a sensible line that forms a selling slogan of Pirelli Tyres – the popular tyre manufacturing company – “power is nothing without control”. Therefore, ability is not enough as control too is essential – perhaps equally as essential. In my opinion, these insalubrious acts of copulation are by-products of modern man’s unreasonable quest for boundless liberty and limitless freedom in an all-of-a-sudden “free world”.
Referenced to the bible-based days of the old Sodom and Gomorrah, a few years back, this practise was tagged sodomy and considered an act of the Devil by Christians. Today, the tune has changed. Christianity has become disunited on the place of homosexuality in the religion. The controversy has occasioned some reformations and deformations in some ecclesiastical arrangements triggering reviews of dogmas to either accommodate the practice or accentuate objection (to the practice).
Christianity, the hitherto foremost and firmest opposition to homosexuality now showcases faithful homosexuals not just amongst the packed laity but as high up in the religious hierarchical order as pious priests and saintly bishops of dioceses. Now, same-sex marriages have become routine events in some churches.
Dear straight Nigerians, do you still honestly need anyone to convince you that homosexuality has come to stay in the world?
Be not surprised, the global LGBT (Lesbian – Gay – Bisexual and Transgender) movement is one of the most heavily funded causes in the world today. A lot of rich, influential and famous figures contribute heavily to the gay rights crusades. For those who may not know this, know now that some of the most celebrated actors, sportsmen, statesmen, actresses, singers, politicians, journalists, and even world figures are gays and lesbians. Others are earnestly sympathetic to their cause. Very many more are bisexuals.
Come to think of it, have you not wondered how quickly the anti-homosexuality debate in Ghana, Uganda and Nigeria spread across the globe – and the powerful threats and rejections that followed pronto? Does it not surprise you the volume of media coverage gay rights campaigns and the condemnation of anti-gay initiatives get in the Western media? That should give a clue as to the futility of the crusade against homosexuality.
You may persecute them – many have suffered abuses and tortures; you may chase them away – many have fled their home towns and countries; you may imprison them – many have suffered more agonies than that; you may subject them to what according to a CNN documentary some South Africans call “corrective rape” – a dehumanizing ordeal which most of them continue to withstand. You may even slaughter them – just as several of them have been murdered.
But as it stands, homosexuality, as hard as you and I disapprove of it, has come to stay in the world, in Nigeria, in your state, in your city, and who knows in your work place – and possibly in your (extended) family.
You had better join me to tow the conclusion of some Christians to say it is perhaps an unmistakeable sign of the End-time. In case you find that to be too religious a line to cling to, you may quietly adopt that which I too have already incorporated which is the recently repealed US Military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy in dealing with friends, colleagues, associates and acquaintances. You may never know.
This will save you the rather spontaneous temptation of treating people prejudicially on accounts of their sexual orientation. Or, better still, like other people’s nasty characters, you may just learn to live with it since you cannot change them. Because, like prostitution, you cannot wipe out homosexuality from the face of the earth. Neither can we simply wish it away! I wish we could, but, no. Never! I’m sorry.
December 18, 2011.
Christianity, Islam, African Traditional Religion, Judaism, name it, most Nigerians are simply incurable religionists so it is otiose hammering the fact that Nigerians will almost never miss out of these holy pilgrimages; in fact, chances are, the Nigerian contingent to such adventures would most probably be one of the largest among the participating countries every year.
Well, I believe that our country needs God to survive and thrive, so this is good. I commend these faithful fellows for the huge sacrifices they make to do these pilgrimages. May they reap the good rewards bountifully. Amen.
But, make no mistake about this: my compliments are exclusively reserved for those godly Nigerians who save and pay for such trips from their pockets. I mean our compatriots who truly understand the importance of a pilgrimage or Hajj and set aside a chunk of personal fund to make this happen. I have absolutely no reason whatsoever to hail those who wait for and push the government to sponsor them to embark on pilgrimages to Mecca or Jerusalem or Rome or wherever.
Come to think of it. Why would the government arrange and sponsor pilgrims to religious pilgrimages? Do the pilgrims really do the state or the Nigerian people any particular favour by embarking on such trips? Christian and Muslim pilgrims alike, do the religious faithful not go for their very own spiritual advancement?
Even toddlers in Nigeria are conversant with one of the most common Christian mantras, salvation is personal. Definitely, salvation is, should be and must be a personal baggage. This I completely agree with. So, if salvation is personal, why would anyone seeking his / her personal salvation wait for other people to pay for this? Why should anyone who sees embarking on a holy pilgrimage to Mecca or Jerusalem as good enough for his / her salvation wait upon the government to use everybody’s money to pay for such entirely personal trips?
Meanwhile, I feel a bit of self-introduction would do here. The author is both a practising Christian and a young Nigerian dissatisfied with the way and manner the Nigerian state is managed. Dissatisfied with the poor state of health care across the land; dissatisfied with the death trap-infested paths we call roads; dissatisfied with the hunger staring at millions in the face; dissatisfied with living in seemingly perpetual fear not knowing where and when the next bomb would be detonated; dissatisfied with the glaring reality that fuel subsidy – the only favour the poor masses benefit from Africa’s largest oil producer – shall be removed whether or not the poor powerless plebs say no.
Too many times, we heap the entire blame of a heavily mismanaged Nigeria at the doorsteps of the leaders. This might not be wrong a conclusion, as I agree with the school of thoughts that propagates leadership as the bane of Nigeria’s woes. But we have to check within ourselves to see those things we too do wrongly. Or better put, the loopholes we the followers take undue advantage of owing to observed inept leadership. There are a few ways to do this.
One of which is discontinuing these government-sponsored or government -subsidized international jamborees called pilgrimages. Let the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), NASFAT, big mosques and churches, and all such other religious entities coordinate (and fund) deserving pilgrims from their flock without bothering the state governors and the president for sponsorship or subsidy.
Similarly, the Pilgrims’ Welfare Boards scattered across all the Capital cities of the country should be proscribed. I am of the opinion that the welfare of pilgrims will be better managed by their own religious leaders directly in their mosques and churches. So, let the senior pastors, the chief imams, the bishops, and their ilk set up and manage their appropriate Pilgrims’ Welfare Board to cater for their own pilgrims. Should it be necessary to get a central coordination, CAN, and its Islamic equivalent can provide this – without bothering the State governors or the country’s president. This will save the government several millions of Naira spent on office spaces, vehicle maintenance, staff emoluments, and all such other costs incurred in running this non-fund – generating seasonal Board and the priceless time that goes into administering them.
By the way, if one may ask, how are the thousands of Muslim pilgrims to Mecca and Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem selected every year? Perhaps, I have not been observant enough, but I am yet to see a newspaper advertorial calling on financially incapacitated intending pilgrims seeking government sponsorship or subsidy to apply. Is ‘man-know-man’ not central to the selection process? Is it not a sound and plausible deduction to say that such trips are cheap but smart ways to secure some ‘insurance’ from some otherwise risky corners? Do powerful politicians not use such ‘favours’ as baits to gain undue political support? I might be wrong, and if I truly am, kindly excuse me.
Meanwhile, the last time I checked Nigeria was a secular state. So what has a secular state got to do with expensive annual religious trips in favour of some (highly connected) Christians and Muslims? For the several decades and the millions sponsored already, what has the Nigerian state got to show for it? Nothing but Corruption! More corruption!! And even more corruption!!! Do we have any more gains? No! Sorry, yes, I almost missed this, how could I? And Boko Haram too!
Furthermore, I wish to state that I am one Nigerian who strongly believes that a good number of the pilgrims do not qualify to be termed pilgrims in the true sense of the word. It has been established time and again that some of the pilgrims embark on pilgrimages for the sole aim of bearing the Alhaji and JP titles (JP is a new acronym for Jerusalem Pilgrim) for the Muslim and Christian Nigerian pilgrims respectively. Some others proceed on pilgrimages on our scarce national bill simply for the asinine motive of travelling and shopping abroad. How long shall we continue to bolster other people’s economy in the name of pilgrimages to the detriment of ours?
As if that embarrassment is not enough, we have also read reports of abscondment, drug peddling, and such vices from pilgrims; the same pilgrims sponsored to Mecca or Jerusalem with our money at a time when over sixty percent of Nigerians live under one dollar a day. Shame!
On the flipside, I am yet to see where it is written that all Nigerian citizens practise only two religions – Islam and Christianity. One still has Nigerian buddies and acquaintances who practise Judaism; others who are Eckankar faithful. Yet still there are some Nigerians who still faithfully practise the original African Traditional Religion in the footstep of our forefathers. Without the least intent to sound sarcastic, these fellows definitely have their own holy places too.
We are all tax-paying Nigerians contributing to one coffer, freely enriched by nature’s gift of hydrocarbons, money-spinning waters and agriculture-friendly lands, protected and bound by the same laws. I am vehemently opposed to this unbalanced tradition of profligacy irrespective of the volume or form. But, if there must be government –sponsorship or subsidy to pilgrimages, why is sauce for the goose not sauce for the gander? Yes, the sexes may differ, but are they not both the same animal?
At this juncture, if I were in the National Assembly, I would probably have said that I do hereby move that these actions be taken as I have prayed and the huge moneys – running into several billions of Naira – uneconomically earmarked annually for these missions be channelled into more realistic, more collective and more purposeful people-based initiatives like poverty eradication, educational development, health facilities upgrade, road maintenance, food and potable water provision, power generation and the likes.
That said, I rest my case – for now.
The Gulf, November 14, 2011
I thank you for finding me worthy to address you today as you gather to hold the 2011 edition of your annual Capacity Building Workshop for undergraduates and fresh graduates in the South-South and South-Eastern regions of Nigeria. I commend your foresight to create and execute this noble not-for-profit initiative for yourselves, your friends and for country.
I also praise your sagacity for the perfect timing for the event. It only occurred to me a few days ago that the event shall run through our country’s 51st Independence Day anniversary. For those who are proud of the Nigeria we have today, you may chorus Hip! Hip!! Hip!!! For those who are not, you are at liberty to disregard. We may veer off into this incidental discourse in the course of the event later.
I am one young man privileged to have quite a few elderly friends or mentors as it were. Sometimes, they taunt me about how much opportunity they had that we never had – and never may. They joke with the fact that in their days even before graduation, multiple job offers hopefully chased them, but today many years after graduation, graduates hopelessly chase single job openings. They keep saying that most of them were offered scholarship even without asking, but today, millions seek scholarship but get none.
They are right. Yes, my elders’ claims are very true. True in their Nigeria that had their currency roughly at par with the British Pound Sterling; their Nigeria that was effectively administered by just three or four regional premiers; their Nigeria that had just four world class universities or so with only a few hundreds of graduates per year; their Nigeria that had Kano bubbling with groundnut pyramids, Ibadan exchanging Cocoa for cash, the tourist city of Jos shining with tin, and Enugu boasting of Coal; their Nigeria that had brilliant and passion-filled missionaries running schools for free. Of course, they must be right because they had the good luck to have the ‘Old School’ Naija.
They never had the misfortune of having a dysfunctional Nigeria that heavily and wholly relies on crude oil alone. They never had a Nigeria politically Balkanized into 36 states, 109 senatorial districts, 360 federal constituencies, tens of hundreds of state constituencies, 774 LGAs, countless number of government agencies expensively and unproductively superintended over by thousands of profligate leaders who care only little about the pathetic condition of the deprived masses.
My elderly friends never had the bad luck of actively facing a Nigeria with a population totalling half of the entire West Africa’s; they never had to experience a Nigeria with second-rate universities and polytechnics scattered all over the place churning out hundreds of thousands of graduates majority of whom are inadequately exposed to modern learning facilities, undeservedly peppered by incessant strike actions, and embarrassingly soaked in bloody pools of secret cult clashes. They never had a Nigeria with most public schools pitiably reduced to miserable glorified play grounds; they never had a Nigeria where academics see pedestrian political appointments as the height of professional accomplishments scheming never to return to class rooms. Indeed they never really witnessed a Nigeria where signed high-powered complimentary cards are far more valuable to employers than good academic qualifications.
Dear friends, it’s time for me to tell you the bitter but frank truth: that which many persons will never tell you; that which your pastors always pray against; that truth which you have always feared. Yes, the truth and nothing but the truth.
Be not deceived; know now that there are no much dream jobs out there! No jobs!! Work nor dey!!!
There are not enough juicy openings to conveniently accommodate and feed all you seated before me. No way! God forbid? Yes, of course, our God must forbid the fact that most of you looking at me right now would graduate only to return to your same old houses, reluctantly but helplessly relying on your parents for meals and up-keep, fervently writing applications day after day, and fraudulently altering your date of birth week after week to suit the ever changing and ever increasingly hard-to-meet demands of job recruiters. Again, God forbid! Yes, I agree God must forbid this one!!
You may disagree with the above, but don’t doubt the fact that a lady – about to wed – sat for the last NNPC recruitment tests spotting her flowing beautiful white bridal apparel – it happened live!
That said, I know how you feel about this. I can feel the deep panting of your hard-working heart resonating in tandem with your tear-filled, fear-laden eyes. Oh, no, now you are making me feel so guilty for telling you what many millions of young active Nigerians face out there every day – in Lagos, in Warri, in Abuja, in Bauchi, in Enugu, here in Port Harcourt – everywhere. But trust me, I am your friend and will almost certainly remain that. Wait a moment.
According to the National Universities Commission, Nigeria currently has thirty six (36) federal universities, thirty seven (37) State, and a whopping forty five (45) privately owned universities duly approved and operating. That figure is for the universities alone – not polytechnics!
The country still has about seventy (70) polytechnics scattered across virtually all the states of the federation. Mind you, this figure does not include certain special industry – tailored tertiary institutions like the Petroleum Training Institute, Maritime Academy, etc.
It was Professor Julius Okojie the Executive Secretary of the NUC who in November 2010 said, Nigeria has an average of 1.3 million secondary school leavers who sit for the mandatory University Matriculation examination every year. Again, take note – universities alone! Of this number, over 75% will – in fact must fail – the examination because the Universities can only accommodate about 300,000 students.
Expectedly, a large percentage of these undergraduates graduate out of the universities yearly. Ditto the Polytechnics and other special tertiary institutions.
On the flip side, ask yourself how many new staff do your dream employers Shell, the high paying banks, the embassies, Globacom, Chevron, MTN and their ilk hire – as direct staff – in a year?
The implication is that an approximate 300,000 students get out of the tertiary institutions to chase a paltry 300 jobs or so! To put this in context, 1000 graduates effectively chase just one job opportunity yielding a poor ratio 1000:1. Truth be told, some of this select few will be recruited based on ‘notes’ from high places, while a few will secure the juicy slots based on their high intelligence, academic performance and special abilities – and good luck too.
It is not my wish to scare you otherwise I would have told you that the blue-chip companies we all crave for seldom recruit fresh graduates from Nigerian schools these days. You may not believe this, but I tell you these dream employers of ours have highly skilled agents across Europe and America scouting for and recruiting Nigerians in foreign lands. The implication is that, the odds are stacked even higher against you and me the local products.
If graduates could face this, I live you to honestly figure out the fate of the millions of the poor and less-privileged secondary school and university drop-outs. Now you get a feel as to why the unemployment curve will almost keep going upward unless something new is done.
But, fellow young Nigerians, believe me as I say all hope is not lost. It’s not too late to escape from this dark tunnel. As they say, there’s light at the end of it albeit we have to move progressively towards the end of the tunnel otherwise we may never see this light. We only need to move!
What then is the way out? Simple! I propose two solutions. Firstly, we have to enthrone a forward-thinking, people-centred leadership. We need a leadership with the skill and will to chart a new national order and ingenuity to develop an up-to-date model where literacy level rises in inverse proportion to unemployment level. But, this shall be a broad subject for another day.
Secondly, it is pertinent to develop a proactive-thinking self. By this, I mean assuming full control of self, actions, everyone and everything around one’s self with the right attitude and at the right time – that right time is now! I mean a prompt and sincere realisation of the fact that the systemic design for us is poverty and despair – and death. But, that we as super machines, made in the image and likeness of God have within us the adequate wherewithal to bravely confront and victoriously overcome these challenges one after the other.
This is why we – individually and collectively – need to pause, to re-consider the notion of entrepreneurship. We need to give a thought to doing our own businesses too. We need to stretch ourselves to put our creativities and abilities into action. It no doubt, bears enormous challenges and pitfalls, but it also carries huge prospects for us and our dear country. This is a veritable pathway towards our individual financial prosperity and collective economic salvation.
I have a feeling that a brand new crop of Nigerians will leave this venue at the end – a clever crop that will see wisdom in venturing into commercial agriculture; a tech-savvy crop that will take full advantage of our highly technologized world of today; a creative crop that will show intelligence in starting small to grow big. Yes, I see a crop of young Nigerians who will be determined more than ever before to take their destinies into their own poor hard-working hands.
This is why we are here. The invited resource persons have graciously resolved to teach, guide and mentor you through this liberation avenue. I pray that your expectations will never be cut short.
Thank you for the opportunity and for your rapt attention. Have a good time.
Port Harcourt, September 30, 2011.
By Philips AKPOVIRI, NNP – August 28, 2011 –The free-for-all battle between Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and Justice Isa Ayo Salami, the President of the Court of Appeal (PCA) has reached its final albeit weirdly illogical conclusion: the honourable Justice Salami has been suspended by his contemporaries in the National Judicial Council (NJC) and evicted from office by President Goodluck Jonathan.
I will be forward here to declare that I have since queued behind the gritty Justice Salami in his tribulations occasioned by his dangerous determination to expose corruption in high places. One sees him as an unsuspecting victim of political duplicity, because just like a few other Nigerians who naively take the words of politicians seriously, Justice Salami got carried away by the deafening anti-corruption song blaring out of Aso Rock. Following the lyrics of this motivating but ill-intentioned song, he moved so high to turn words into action by battling corruption in very high places with all his might but little did he know that he would sooner rather than later add his career and reputation to that – and would be repudiated by the very artists and producers of the sweet song. O’ no dear Justice Salami!
It all started with the Sokoto State 2007 ubernatorial election legal tussle between the incumbent PDP governor and his ACN challenger. The case has since been concluded in favour of the PDP chieftainas expected but not without a few yet-to-be-resolved controversies. Chief among which is the unexplained fact that the final determining judgement was not passed by the Appeal Court as stipulated in the country’s constitution (at that time) but, and shockingly so, by the Supreme Court headed by the accused, Justice Katsina-Alu.
By the way, the office of the President of the Appeal Court is by no means just any other office; it’s one stool that needs an occupant who is sane enough to not enjoy blabbing; modest enough to avoid cheap popularity by crying wolf where none is within sight, and who is rational enough to avoid deriving any pleasure by mortifying his boss. The holder of such an esteemed office must be a noble and honourable personality whose words we can take to the bank.
So I picked more than a normal attention to Justice Salami’s incredible revelation that the CJN mounted immense pressure on him to make the said law case go in the way of the ruling PDP-affiliated incumbent governor. A pressure Salami withstood and never yielded to. The CJN, sensing the impending victory of the ACN candidate at the Appeal Court, reportedly shunted the judicial process as he abruptly yanked off the PCA of his duties; disregarded his panel, and adopted the case. This done, there was bound to be only one outcome: victory for the ruling PDP.
It didn’t end there. The CJN again made substantial efforts to strip the PCA of his enormous powers for good by ‘elevating’ him to the Supreme Court (to become the apex court’s newest, least powerful and most junior member). A banal position relative to Salami’s then incumbent office where heheaded the second most powerful court in the country, and served as the second most senior judicial officer in the country’s legal hierarchy. In fact, it was this suspicious promotion that prompted Salami to premiere this strange Nollywood movie that would have been more enjoyable if Pete Edochie and Olu Jacobs rather than Salami and Katsina-Alu were the lead characters. This scene ended with the dogged Salami successfully retaining his stool as the PCA.
Before the thick dusts settled down, the media became awash with new sets of allegations, this time against Salami. These came from PDP chieftains in some states where Salami’s Appeal Court had successfully thrown out PDP governors in favour of the opposition parties’ candidates following years of legal battle. They accused Salami of doing the bidding of the South-West controlled Action Congress of Nigeria party and in particular, dancing to the tunes of the Yoruba nation’s most powerful politician alive, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
One is not a judge, but if I were asked, it would have come as a no surprise had the PDP lost 20 of the 36 state gubernatorial election legal brawls. Nigerians even with our chronic proclivity to forget events cannot help but remember the 2007 ‘‘Do or Die’’ sham called elections superintended over by the infamous Professor Maurice Iwu where he almost singlehandedly railroaded the entire nation into the theatre of talks called PDP. Only few would disagree that this party almost never won any state freely and fairly in 2007. So, it makes no sense for the PDP in Ekiti, Osun, and such other places to sound maligned and oppressed. Truth is, when a wise thief loses a stolen item he does not scream thief! Ole!! Thief!!!
My opinion notwithstanding, following all the controversies, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) set up a panel of enquiry to look into the issues squarely and fairly. The NJC did same. As normal with Nigeria, more controversies would erupt from this. After all the submissions, investigations, interrogations, and all such processes, the NBA panel indicted the CJN and absolved the PCA of any misconduct. Conversely, the NJC panel cleared the CJN of any wrongdoing but accused the PCA of misconduct. In the final analysis, the NJC warned the PCA and directed him to apologise to the CJN within seven days, an apology which would in effect make Justice Salami liable to grave legal penalties thereafter following libel and perjury since it would make his bold corruption revelations as untrue, baseless, unreal, and defamatory.
Trust the brave Salami. His types are rare and that is if they still exist. He defiantly swept the NJC’sunethical recommendation to the nearest trash can and bent over to start a fresh legal battle this time against the very ‘owners’ of the law. Seeing the posture of Salami and the strong body language it connotes to the Nigerian public coupled with the concrete determination to play out a suspicious script, the NJC met yet again to demonise Salami, and expressly recommended his outright removal from office and immediate mandatory retirement to the President. And with PDP in power, only one outcome was sure. Aso Rock has since “suspended” (the word suspension in effect means sacked because in Nigeria semantics is everything) Justice Salami from office and named his replacement who has since been sworn into office.
It is noteworthy that NJC’s recommendation for Salami’s removal from office and his dishonourable sudden retirement was taken in the face of Salami’s suit against the controversial decision. Salami had gone to court to contest the NJC’sshamefulimmediate mandatory recommendation yet they (NJC) the supposed pinnacle of the rule of law disregarded the suit and proceeded to do what they deemed fit. I read at a point that they discarded Salami’s suit over his failure to append his signature to the suit or so. This simply cannot be true as Salami – the President of the Court of Appeal – cannot fall for such school boy errors. Even if this were true, the NJC is anorganisation of judges and senior lawyers but as much as I know, only a competent court of law can strike out a law suit.
I need not study law to know that the NJC is not a law court, yet they threw out a law suit raised by no less a man as the PCA – the second most powerful law professional in the country, andblatantly proceeded to suspend the same fellow. They did not stop here. They also raised and forwarded a correspondence to the President to order the immediate removal of the PCA from office complete with his mandatory retirement from service.
A few days from today, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu will retire from service as he will attain the mandatory retirement age this month. Rumours have it that it is for this reason that the stubborn anti-Establishment Salami must be removed from office at all cost – the same rationale behind his attempted ‘promotion’ out of his commanding position some months ago.
It’s saddening but this is Nigeria. This is my dear sorry country where only hypocrites confidently say la vie est belle even when the righteous are persecuted. This is a nation where your friends and contemporaries blame you and dump you for saying nothing but the truth. This is a land where logic almost never ceases to stand on its head.A disjointed country standing downside up. It’s such a shame!
I will not end this piece without commending the President and members of the NBA. I praise the courage and bravery of Barrister B. Dawodu and his colleagues at the Bar in the face of pure undeniable persecution of a man who though is not a member of the Bar, but a role model for all judges, shining light for all NJC members, fearless promoter of the rule of law, enhancer of faith in the judiciary amongst the browbeaten Nigerian citizenry and mentor to all aspiring legal practitioners.
I vehemently support the pro-Salami campaign just as I unequivocally condemn the all-powerful cabal over their sinister machinations, but this is Nigeria. It is very unlikely that Salami’s removal and mandatory retirement would be reversed. It’s almost impossible to believe that the damage done to Salami’s career would ever be appropriately remedied. One is not even sure if another judge would rise any time soon to confront the powers that beas Salami did having witnessed the seemingly inglorious anti-climax of this case.
But one thing is sure, the author, like many other Nigerians see Justice Isa Ayo Salami as a fearless judge who: bravely stood for what he believed; clearly expressed what he knew; never gave in to intimidation at the expense of true justice;saw no sense in tendering apology when the reverse should be the case, and the new symbol for anti-corruption in high places in the corruption infested geographical space called Nigeria.
Lastly, to the family, friends and subordinates of Justice Salami, I say be not ashamed of the dishonourable end to his career. He was only used as a scapegoat by the powers that be to effectively caution against confronting The Establishment, but by this act of theirs, they have inadvertently presented him as the sacrificial lamb that exposed the rot in very high places, the banality in the anti-corruption rhetoric of President Jonathan and the ruling party, and the putrefaction in the nation’s judiciary – the now defunct beacon of hope for the now hopeless oppressed common man.
Nigeria, August 24, 2011
By Philips Akpoviri, NNP, May 4, 2011- I am neither an Imo state resident nor an Imo state indigene. I am of Delta state extraction – a proud Deltan but a prouder Nigerian. My friend who saw this piece prior to publication wondered my interest in Imo state and expressed his reservations. But should my not being a biological or geographical constituent of a system translate to my total disregard of the affairs of that system? I am sure the response is a categorical no.
I started this piece with the reproduction of the famous proclamation of one of my most adorable role models, Dr Martin Luther King Jnr which he made in Birmingham while serving one of his twenty nine jail terms. I had to do this because as expected, I would soon be reminded of the biblical portion that admonishes one to do away with the log in his own eyes before proceeding to remove a splinter from another man’s.
In truth, the Delta State gubernatorial elections bear quite a few similarities with the Imo state’s based on reports across the media and the election observers.
Just like Imo state, the Delta state 2011 elections have so far reportedly surfaced as one of the poorest advertisements of the Professor Attahiru Jega commendable INEC chairmanship. From reported ballot snatching to voter intimidation, from dubious results to blatant rape of justice; from gunshots to outright extermination of lives, from multiple voting to just about every evil that characterised the infamous Professor Maurice Iwu’s regrettable stint as INEC chairman resurfaced in quite a few places in my dear state. This of course includes the traditional thanksgiving service by the ruling party after the “successful elections.”
The questionable trend observed during the January 2011 Delta state gubernatorial rerun resurfaced in the April main elections. The rural riverine areas – which have hitherto suffered badly from rural-urban migration – suddenly and mysteriously, became overpopulated. These villages became so densely populated that they boasted more actual voters than the industrially more active, commercially more virile busy cities of the state. And these results – that would later determine the eventual winner – came so late as to further fuel speculations and logical suspicions.
Well, I, together with all other commentators that have expressed similar surprises might be wrong in our suspicion but not until real and irrefutable evidences precipitate to the surface, or the electoral tribunals and law courts take actions in this regard, we will be resigned to helplessly live with our reasonable questions.
That said, whatsoever I write about the Imo state election saga, I do with all certainty as I monitored the events live on ChannelsTV as the drama played out in the capital city of Owerri. It was obvious the Returning Officer Professor Enoch Akobundu was not in total control of himself as his mobile phone was active during the periods of waiting and uncertainty. He was at some point visibly jittery, sometimes in uneasy calm, while at least at one other time, abnormally aggressive.
I might be wrong, but in all sincerity, from what I observed, he appeared as someone under immense pressure from some powerful quarters. Although my heart pushes me towards a particular direction, my young objective mind cannot confidently say in whose favour the under pressure Professor was acting since no concrete information on the outstanding Local Government Areas were released at that particular time.
But it must be said that the not-so-brave or rather cunning Professor left too big a room for suspicion and rumour mongering. One would expect an academic of his stature to do the needful expected at such happenstance. One expected a Professor to under such conditions, be firm and straight-forward; calm the audience; do a recap of the results so far received and declared from all the other LGAs; pronounce the total votes each candidate had received already; while not pronouncing him the outright winner, state clearly the candidate in the leading position and the margin of votes; unambiguously detail the problems and controversies surrounding the elections and or the result from the four outstanding LGAs, and finally appeal for understanding and co-operation from all as he makes the declaration.
I have always wondered why some of the Returning Officers and Resident Electoral Commissioners are not as trustworthy and upright as their boss, Professor Jega. I still trust Jega, but definitely not his men in Delta, Imo et al.
Once again, just as he did in the Anambra Central Senatorial District elections between Professor Dora Akunyili of APGA, and Dr Chris Ngige of ACN, Professor Jega appears to have risen to the Imo challenge. In his characteristic self, he has taken his time to consult and seek legal advice from his team of legal experts on the way to go. It is clear that he has been advised to proceed to organise “supplementary elections” in the outstanding LGAs. This he has scheduled for May 6, 2011.
This development has brought to the fore questions on the legitimacy and constitutionality of the rescheduled supplementary elections in the light of section 178(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that an election to the office of Governor of a State shall be held on a date not earlier than sixty days and not later than thirty days before the expiration of the term of office of the last holder of that office (emphasis mine).
Some have also questioned the appropriateness of the terms “inconclusive” and “supplementary elections” arguing that these terms are alien to our electoral lexicon. Yet still, some others have labelled Jega as an accomplice and a conniver in the scheme to rape justice in Imo state.
But one thing we often fail to do is putting ourselves in the position of the man we attack. If you were Jega, what would you have done differently? If you were in charge of INEC what actions would you have taken? Definitely, no sane and fair umpire would hurriedly declare a winner after his Returning Officer – a fellow Professor – has made such controversial public pronouncement declaring the results incomplete and the elections inconclusive.
I am not a lawyer, and I will not pretend to be an expert in the practice or interpretation of laws, but I am convinced that INEC’s legal advisers did the right thing by advising Jega to organise supplementary elections with the understanding that the main elections with results from 22 LGAs satisfied the constitutional section 178(2) requirement irrespective of the timing of the supplementary elections in just 4 LGAs.
I pray that the candidate in the leading position prior to the supplementary elections would eventually maintain his lead even after the May 6 elections. Otherwise, a long, winding process of post-gubernatorial elections litigation – which by the new arrangement terminates at the Supreme Court – would arise between the main contenders. And as we have seen in several states already, Imo, and Delta states inclusive, such legal tussles become good reasons for the poor governors to perform woefully sighting distractions.
Meanwhile, the author is not oblivious of the fact that both former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the First Lady, Mrs Patience Jonathan – arguably the two most popular political faces of the Jonathan presidency thus far – visited Imo State few days to the gubernatorial elections. I do equally not doubt the fact that they were in town to rack up support for their loyal friend Governor Ikedi Ohakim who was in dire need of their support to remain in the State House. In similar vein, I remember that the Minister of the Interior, Capt. Emmanuel Iheanacho (rtd) was suspended by the President only few days prior to the elections in controversial circumstances. Though it might sound implausible, these popular figures might not be involved in the machinations thus far.
But, truth is, no man, no woman, no politician can successfully stop an idea whose time has truly come. If Imo State residents and indigenes as we hear see and read every day truly desire Owelle Rochas Okorocha to be their Governor, then Executive Governor of Imo State he shall be addressed come May 29, 2011.
I have read about Operation Wetie and I know that the nation cannot afford another round of such violence at this time. Hence, I appeal to Professor Jega to appoint only men of impeccable reputations like him to superintend over the Imo State supplementary elections and the process generally. If I were Jega, I would detail a Mike Igini and his likes to manage it, or better still go down to Imo state personally.
Being a positivist, I am confident the wishes of the majority of Imo indigenes and residents shall be upheld. Being a pacifist, I am confident that violence will not rear its ugly head in Imo state because only the right things will be done. And being an optimist, I reiterate my confidence in Professor Attahiru Jega trusting that he would not disappoint me and millions of other Nigerians as he continues his mission to give Nigerians the best sets of elections so far in the fourth republic.
May Vox Populi become Vox Dei in Imo State and in Nigeria.