Wednesday, September 30, 2009


So there I was last week, preparing to compose this special Nigerian independence anniversary post and then suddenly realizing that I was in a dilemma of sorts. You see, I desperately desired to write a motivating and optimistic piece about the ‘celebrant’, yet one that was truly newsworthy. I had been trying for over two hours, it was now 12.42am and I was nowhere close to a solution. I made a mental note never to criticize CNN again for its failure to report cheery news emanating from Nigeria. Cheery news is hard to find.

I tried all manner of permutations; sector by sector, region by region, and each time I came to the same conclusion- NOTHING GOOD IS HAPPENING. Power supply is as erratic as ever, staggering facts revealed this week that Nigerians spend as much on fuel and diesel as our entire 2009 capital budget; roads are in bad shape, a trip from Lagos to Benin by road averages 6 hours and 42 police check points; the knowledge sector is in shambles, universities are closed and have been so for over three months at a time when the knowledge industry in other nations is powering a ‘soft revolution’ by overthrowing mineral resources as the chief source of revenue and employment. Yet nothing good seems to be happening here. Amnesty was supposed to give hope but there are ripples already, some who dropped arms are threatening fire and brimstones as they claim that the government is reneging on key aspects of their agreement. The Niger-Delta remains ever contentious, with the only difference being that there now exist a comatose Niger-Delta ministry headed by an incompetent. Maurice Iwu still reigns supreme in INEC and continues to wreak havoc on our electoral system with the most recent example being the Anambra APGA about-face. Our national assembly has even become more toothless and corrupt. And now, sports and particularly football that used to be a periodic source of consolation for Nigerians has unsurprisingly caught the ‘Yaradua flu’. So nothing good is happening.

But football- that most cherished of all sports- taught me something about Nigeria. NIGERIANS STILL HOPE. That was an important lesson. Even though we are always the least prepared of all teams, Nigerians always watch every football match with hope and ridiculous optimism. We believe that on a ‘good day’ we can beat anyone; the fact that oppositions spend more in preparations mean little or nothing to us. We refuse to give up on our soccer stars even though the ‘good days’ come less often. We get disappointed for a fleeting second only to get set to cheer them on the next time with renewed hope and more ridiculous optimism. On the face of it, this does not seem like much but it tells me that Nigeria is not finished yet. That means, just as it happens sometimes in football, Nigeria and Nigerians have what it takes to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. We have ourselves. We have Nigeria.

But as we clock 49, it’s about time that we begin to match hope and faith with tangible actions. Let us remember that a country does not always get the government it deserves; it gets the government that it demands. The more I see the ‘people power’ in other nations, the more I conclude that it could happen right here in Nigeria, if only we could overcome our intense risk-averseness as a people. The power of the American people is being heard loudly in their ongoing health care reform debate, in their tea parties and in their uproar which led to the sack of a key Obama adviser, Mr. Van Jones; the power of the Iranian people in spite of the repressive regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad led to their voices being heard all over the world and shook the foundations of the Iranian political establishment after the June 12 fiasco; we still remember the power of the Ukrainians that fuelled the Orange Revolution which forced the hand of the government of the day in 2004 and placed the people’s choice, Viktor Yuschenko, in power. Remember that theirs was a revolution without a single gun fired. In Nigeria, the Macaulay’s, Azikiwe’s and Enahoro’s gave their all that we might gain it all. The best gift we can give to our nation in commemoration of our independence is a solemn commitment never to let the labour of our heroes past to be in vain. And that means doing all it takes including civil disobedience, bold actions, strikes, protest, hecklings, honesty, integrity, voting, being thrown in jail and citizen journalism (take pictures with phones and cameras and place same in the media and online in order to stimulate actions and reactions). Do not think for one moment that our actions will favor only the elected officials who might come in from our efforts; it will favor us all. Because even if the officials fail to live up to our expectations, our previous experiences will embolden us; it will cause us to ensure that we are heard again and again until gradually change begins to flow in droplets and trickles and then in torrents and downpours. Only then would we know what it means to be called free. Continued confinement in the cozy enclave of a cocoon will only serve to delay and frustrate the revelation of the magnificent butterfly. Cocoons aren’t beautiful, butterflies are. But the more we choose to love our comfort zones, never risking anything, never sacrificing anything for the greater good; the more things will remain the same- ugly and uninspiring. But if we choose to hope and act and give and live, soon the sun will rise and something good may come. Happy Independence Nigeria! God bless Nigeria.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


When United States president, Barack Obama made his historic visit to Africa and failed to touch down in Nigeria, it was widely reported as the ultimate snub. What credentials could Ghana boast of to deserve such an unprecedented honor at the expense of a true African giant like Nigeria? The reasoning among our political elite was that first, they ignored us when they invited the top 20 nations in the world to Washington at the height of the global economic crisis, then Obama fails to include Nigeria in his African itinerary, and just recently the US secretary of State, Hillary Clinton visited Nigeria and didn’t have a word of compliment for the nation’s leaders. So my guess is that as a form of pay-back for the cockiness of the Americans, Yaradua and his advisers decided to cancel- at the last minute- his state visit to America on the invitation of the UN, as well as the United States president and instead will now make a state visit to Saudi Arabia, the second time he would be visiting that nation in as many months. As I said the theory of a pay-back is just a guess, but the more I try to imagine a more plausible reason, the more confused I become as to the rationality of this move.

Over 100 world leaders would be in New York this week for the United Nations General Assembly meeting and yet Yaradua opts instead to shuttle to Saudi Arabia in order to ‘hold talks with Saudi King Abdullah as well as participate as a special guest of honor in the opening of the new King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.’ The irony of it all is numbing. The leader of a poor, backward, third world nation has a rare opportunity of addressing an assembly of fellow world leaders as well as having a one-on-one with the most powerful leader in the world- who coincidentally is the leader of our most strategic trading partner. He spurns it in favor of attending the opening of a university in Saudi Arabia at a time when all his nation’s universities are on strike. I would consider it laughable if it were not so foolish. As a result of this warped placement of priorities, Nigeria will not only miss the opportunity to have our voice heard in the proper slot allotted to our president but we would also miss a lot of perfect negotiating opportunities. The opportunity to campaign for Nigeria’s election for a permanent seat in the UN security council by the president among his colleagues is lost; also the luncheon to be hosted by Obama for African leaders to strengthen African economic and social development especially in the areas of job creation, creation of a more conducive environment for trade and investment and agriculture would not have our president in attendance. Our president would also be absent when President Obama hosts member states of the UN which contribute to the UN international peace keeping missions. Even former president Obasanjo in spite of his many flaws, would have made a better choice. The questions that need to be asked and answered are these: What criteria were used to adjudge the meeting with King Abdullah as more vital and strategic than the ones President Yaradua would have held in NewYork? Why wasn’t the Vice-President sent to NewYork instead, considering that the UN hierarchical structure would have better recognized him than the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ojo Maduekwe who has been assigned to represent the president instead(The minister also represented the president last year at the UN general assembly)? Is this president still capable of making sound decisions on behalf of this nation? If he is, why does he fail to explain the reasons for these kinds of radical decisions? Do the president and his cabinet even know the details of their job description? And I ask this for a reason. During the recent festivities, the minister of the Interior, Dr. Shettima Mustapha said in an interview with the NTA that “As Minister of the Interior, I have to be close by the president as he celebrates especially as he performs the eid, otherwise I would have travelled to Maiduguri.” Obviously the minister thinks that the position of minister of the interior refers to the interior of Aso Rock. Another example of the kind of 'smart' guys that lead this nation.


As I mentioned on a previous post, WHY I SUPPORT THIS ASUU STRIKE, “…only a non-discerning optimist can delude himself into believing that this government will concede anything tangible once the strike has been called off and the lecturers are back in the classrooms.” As if to buttress my point, staff of the nation’s unity schools joined the striking party last week again because contrary to the promise made by the Minister of Labor and Productivity that consequent upon their calling off the strike, the education ministry would address their demands within 30 days, nothing has happened, more than 100 days later. I guess ASUU can learn a lesson or two from that.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


It’s been exactly six (6) weeks since the Nigerian government’s amnesty program for militants was kick-started. That means two (2) more weeks left before the expiration of the offer and a lot done already to effectively access the successes of the initiative so far or the lack thereof. To be candid, the visible effects of the amnesty offer have been mostly positive. Some key militants have dropped their arms and embraced the process, among them General Boyloaf, Soboma George and Young shall grow. According to the government, around 5000 militants have taken advantage of the amnesty program, surrendering more than 100,000 rounds of ammunition and hundreds of weapons. Nigeria is once again meeting its OPEC quota, not to mention the much needed revenue in-flow. Also, there has hardly been any incident of kidnappings and the usual blowing of pipelines and other oil and gas facilities has receded remarkably. The most notable of the militant groups, MEND, unilaterally declared a cease fire even though it (MEND) has not formally accepted the government’s offer. There really has been calm, but with 14 days to the close of the offer window it feels like it’s just a CALM BEFORE THE STORM.

“NOBODY IS IN THE CAMP AGAIN. EVERYBODY IS IN THE COMMUNITY WAITING FOR REHABILITATION.” Those were the words of the second in command to ex-militant leader Young shall grow on AIT’s FOCUS NIGERIA. And he is right. What normally should happen after a package like this is rehabilitation and reintegration into the society. It is not for nothing that rehabilitation of criminal offenders is a huge deal in many nations; according to daily Texan online, more than 50 percent of all crimes are committed by re-offenders and only 35 percent of inmates do not make their way back to prison upon their release in America. For most serious offenders, the reason why they do not return to jail is that the time spent in incarceration was spent productively in changing vital aspects of their personality and in education. Thus, the way the Nigerian government handles the rehabilitation and reintegration stage of the amnesty program would determine if the successes recorded so far have come to stay or if we shall yet return to the pre-amnesty days. Let us not be deceived, a lot of arms are still out there, some belonging to those who have supposedly dropped their guns. I don’t believe that the few arms collected so far have been all that was used to unleash the terror the past. The ex-militants have not been totally honest and for good reason too- our government lacks integrity, just ask the unions like NLC and ASUU which have entered into negotiations with them in the past. As a rule of thumb, our government mostly says what they don’t mean and mean what they never say. So the militants are playing fair game in their skepticism of the government. But Yaradua’s government has a window of opportunity to prove that it is sincere by its handling of the rehabilitation. The situation now where already some ex-militants are protesting on the streets over the government’s failure to keep its own side of the bargain is dangerous.

The militants should not be treated like refugees, remember that most are used to easy cash since they realized the power of the muzzle. The present rehabilitation camps- at least the ones I have seen- are an eye-sore with over packed hostels and over grown weeds. As usual the government approach is steeped in confusion. There already is some finger pointing between the Bayelsa state government led by the governor, Timipre Sylva and the federal government led by Mr. Timi Alaibe who is Yaradua’s special adviser on Niger Delta issues as to who did what and who should be doing what. And of course there is the usual dearth of ideas. Mr. Alaibe says the government will engage the militants in focus group discussions and one-on-one discussions as to their aspirations and will do for them whatever they want. According to him, “If your aspiration is to go abroad on a scholarship, the federal government will grant you a scholarship.” Really? Such grand statements amount to placing the cart before the horse and can only come from an ignorant government. We seem to forget that some of these boys have psychological issues now as a result of their long romance with violence, some are drug addicts or sex addicts and yet nothing is being mentioned about rehabilitation counseling and psychological assessments to test for mental or physical disabilities. What programs are being planned to teach them values and principles before you load them on the next flight abroad and then expect that they would simply embrace honest work and do you proud.

Mr. Alaibe also mentioned that the government would ask the communities about what their aspirations are and then would meet those aspirations. Note that he said this in a place where there is no access road to that community from the state capital; a place where the militant whose surrender prompted Mr. Alaibe’s visit is the highest employer of labor. What other aspirations could such a community possibly have than the obvious? One of the road cleaners in the employ of this ex-militant put it succinctly, “You want our children to drop their guns, so now you must come and take care of us.” By now, the tractors should have begun to move in to prove government’s good faith and perhaps cause the more pessimistic of the militants to reconsider their hard line stance. But the tractors are in Abuja- with Mr. President- sick from idleness. The truth remains that no matter how many ex-militants you send abroad, as long as the root causes of the militancy remain unattended to, it’s only a matter of time before more bitter youths fill the vacuum they leave. As long as the government remains on strike, there will be more jobless undergraduates to recruit. Yaradua’s government has never been known to seize the initiative or even ride on the crest of a momentum. But it doesn’t take a hero to see and perform some of the immediate and strategic things that should and must be done in order to ensure that the meteorologists are proven wrong this time and the present calm brings not turbulent storms but ushers in even more calm.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has never been strong candidates to win a popularity contest in Nigeria, and honestly their present strike action would not help matters at all. They are no saints. But then, neither is Yaradua’s government. As the back and forth between ASUU and the Federal government continues, it is ASUU- not the government- that is being picketed, pressured and lampooned by most, thanks majorly to government’s effective propaganda as well as ASUU’s general inarticulacy. Suddenly, ASUU bashing has become a fad. ASUU’s position may have been disjointed sometimes but they are not fools. If they dare call off the strike before their demands are met, it is highly improbable that they would be able to muster again the kind of widespread compliance that they have managed this time, if and when this government reneges. That would be rather unfortunate because only a non-discerning optimist can delude himself into believing that this government will concede anything tangible once the strike has been called off and the lecturers are back in the classrooms.

I support this strike for equity sake. Common sense would tell you that when individuals determine whether the compensation they receive is fair compared to their coworkers’ compensation, any perceived inequality will affect their motivation, thus they will act in a way that restores the sense of equity. This strike action is intended to rectify the disparity and inequity between Nigerian lecturers and their African counterparts as well as other Nigerian public servants.

INEQUITY IN COMPARISON WITH OTHER AFRICAN UNIVERSITIES: It is funny how successive Nigerian governments love to label Nigeria as the ‘giant of Africa’ on every single issue apart from those relating to the government’s responsibilities towards its citizens. ASUU has argued- and I agree- that the wide gulfs between lecturers pay in Nigeria and other African nations is unfair and is responsible for the mass exodus of smart lecturers from Nigeria to countries like Kenya and Botswana for example. The salaries of academic staff in this nation are among the least anywhere in the world. How sad! Even though the strike action affects and disturbs me just like every other Nigerian student, I cannot in good conscience argue that ASUU’s clamor to be paid at least up to the African average is too much to ask. The inequity and subsequent brain drain is responsible for the saddening fact that the University of Benin for instance which is ranked as the best Nigerian University is only 61st in Africa and 6662 on the world rankings. That’s what you get when your best minds are herding away in droves in search of greener pastures.

INEQUITY IN COMPARISON WITH OTHER NIGERIAN PUBLIC SERVANTS: This is where logic is turned on its head. Let me explain and maybe you would have better luck making sense of it. An average university professor earns about N321 589.88 monthly and ASUU is demanding that this is upped to about N525 010. Huge leap, you might argue. That is until you consider that local government councilors -many of which are stark illiterates- earn about N1 129 647.92, more than double of what ASUU is demanding for the PROFESSORS and about 251% of what PROFESSORS earn now. Special advisers to President Yaradua earn about N1 902 742, over 400% more than PROFESSORS. You will rethink your stand when you realize that the Minister of Education, Mr. Sam Egwu earns about N2 659 650; yet he begrudges ASUU for demanding that their professors earn up to a quarter of what he earns. Not to mention our ‘distinguished’ senators and ‘honorable’ members. So where is the justice and why must our dons wait until they get to heaven before they receive their due reward. Things have got to change. Nigerians should stop whining about ASUU and start demanding that our government do the right thing. If the extravagant pay of some of these public servants is cut, we would not even need to bother about further depleting the nation’s already lean purse.

And this is not to say that increased pay is all our lecturers are demanding, but on the face of that alone, they are fighting a just cause. Let us understand these facts and start rallying behind ASUU. How long would we be satisfied to just turn around and be whipped? Dr. Andrew Efemini is a lecturer in the University of Port-Harcourt and has a Phd in philosophy. He is also the chairman of ASUU in that university. Thanks to our government’s insensitivity, he now spends this free time working as a bus conductor. I do not care whether his action is just a mere public relations ploy. What I do know is that there is a cause. A nation that despises its academicians must be ready to watch from the sidelines while other serious minded nations set the pace and blaze the trail. Traditional rulers, concerned parents, distraught students, everyone should start calling on our government to wake up from their slumber and call off their strike because in reality, ASUU isn’t on strike- our government is. We should be ready to make sacrifices and endure pain for future gain. If we don’t pay, subsequent generations will pay; either way, to chart a new course for this nation in the education sector or any other sector for that matter, somebody’s got to pay.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


If a company- let’s say Ford- posts huge profits in a financial year, it makes perfect sense for the salaries and allowances of its employees to go up; but if that same company starts losing big time- as was the case with Ford- it makes perfect sense as well for jobs to be cut. All those who for love of the company decide to stay, must make sacrifices in form of pay cuts, so that the company might live. That’s common sense as I used to know it, but in Nigeria common sense stands on its head. Let me explain. The year 2007 and most part of 2008 were some of the best times this nation ever had in terms of oil revenue accruing into the government purse. Oil was posting record highs in the international market, most of our debt had been written off and we had a healthy foreign reserve. So, the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), which is constitutionally empowered to determine, fix, review upward or downward the remuneration package of political office holders decided after a little prodding from high places that ‘due to changes in the basic fundamentals of the Nigerian economy, external reserves, GDP growth rate and rate of inflation’, there was a need to modify old salaries and allowances. These modifications were in the form of very generous- too generous- raises in the basic salaries of certain public, political, legislative and judicial office holders as well as increases of about 25% to 400% in the allowances of these public ‘servants’, not to mention the introduction of new allowances that were not included in the old package. The increases were outrageous even in those good times, prompting media and labor backlash – but they were not to be deterred. Now, in these lean times, some of them rediscovered their brains and charged the RMAFC to cut their salaries and allowances. How generous! For once, common sense seemed like it was going to prevail. But guess who comes around and spoils it – the SENATE. The distinguished upper house of the Nigerian legislature came out through its spokesman, Ayogu Eze and rejected the proposal by the RMAFC for it to reduce members allowances, they posited that not a dime of their exorbitant allowances should be touched but ‘graciously’ and ‘magnanimously’ proposed an alternative – a cut of only 10% from their basic salaries.

Before the salary hike in 2008, an average senator earned about N800 000 (eight hundred thousand naira only), it was increased to over N2 000 000 (two million naira only) an increase of over N1.2 million. A 10% cut in their basic salaries therefore, will amount to N200 000. Fair enough? Absolutely not – and it would be clear to you after you see what they take home as allowances. These Are The Facts. In addition to paying the salaries of all 109 senators in the national assembly, the Nigerian taxpayers pay their rent (accommodation allowance) and furnish their homes (furniture allowance); the taxpayers give them a generous car loan and maintain the car for them (vehicle maintenance allowance); we pay their domestic staff and their office staff as well; we robe them (robe allowance), pay their PHCN bills (utilities allowance), recharge their phones, pay their entertainment bills (entertainment allowance) and even buy them newspapers and periodicals. (See the table below for breakdown). All these make me wonder what on earth their salaries exist for if every single need of theirs is taken care of by the taxpayer. Is the government a charity? Are public officials supposed to be our dependants? Is this nation a socialist state? These questions are increasingly becoming fundamental. It costs taxpayers approximately N30 million (a conservative figure) to take care of a single senator in a year and there are 109 of them, so you do the math. Now if they receive just N2 million as salaries, it therefore means that the remaining N28 million constitute allowances entering into their ‘distinguished’ pockets. And all of that- N28million- they do not want to be touched.

Isn’t it preposterous that unions are embarking on industrial actions in their droves every day and yet our senators are not ready to let go of something tangible? They delude themselves into believing that their mediating between the striking unions and the government is effective or even necessary. It isn’t. And that’s because what they are screams so loudly that what they say is but a whisper. This is not to say that the reps or ministers are earning any less, as a matter of fact, each member of the House of Representatives and each minister pocket about N25 million and N28 million respectively every year. But for all I know, the ministers have accepted their cuts and the reps haven’t spoken yet (it would be interesting to know what they think). But our senators have spoken and in so doing have shown once again their colossal insensitivity and exhibited unquantifiable greed.

Salary/Allowance            Pre-2008             Post-2008                RMAFC recommendation
*Basic Salary                     N810 560             N2 026 400              SAME
*Accommodation            N810 560             N4 052 800              N3 039 600
Allowance(every 4yrs)      ------                   N6 079 200             N3 039 600
*Vehicle loan
repayable after 6yrs)         ------                   N8 105 600             N5 066 000
Maintenance                      N243 168              N1 519 800             N1 013 200
Staff Allowance                     ------                   N1 519 800             N1 013 200
Allowance                            N81 056                N607 920                N405 280
(electricity, water,
gas, telephone etc)           N162 112              N607 920               N101 320
Allowances                            ------                     N303 960              N101 320
(every 4years)                      ------                      N5 066 000          N2 533 000
*Severance Gratuity          ------                      N6 079 200          SAME
Allowance                               ------                      N202 640              SAME
*Personal Assistant            ------                      N506 600              SAME
Overseas Travel
Allowance)                            ------                       $600(per day)    SAME
*Duty Tour
Allowance                              ------                    N23 000(per day)   SAME

Courtesy: Thisday (19/07/09), Economic Confidential (April2007), Daily Sun (27/09/08).
NB: This table is not conclusive as some allowances have been omitted due to unavailable figures.

If we could just return for a minute to the analogy I used at the beginning, Nigeria being akin to Ford. When the going was good, senators and indeed all political office holders had their pay rise. Now the going is tough and the road is rough- some states even find it difficult to pay the salaries of its civil servants not to talk of contractors- so what is the right thing to do? It’s simple: Distinguished Senators, ACCEPT THE PAY CUT OR HONORABLY RESIGN AND GO INTO PRIVATE PRACTICE. If as a result of your love for this nation, you decide to remain a senator, then you must be ready to make sacrifices just like the employees of a distressed company. Mr. Yaradua must make sure that he vetoes anything that emanates from the legislative arm which distorts in any form the recommendations of the RMAFC. It is easy for Senator Joy Emordi to criticize the ‘unpatriotic zeal’ of the members of ASUU because they demand their rights. I would take her seriously when with the same kind of vigor; she calls on her colleagues to accept the pay cut for the good of this nation. It’s high time the senators learn to fight for someone apart from themselves. It’s high time the upper house stopped- in the words of Bill O’Reilly- being pinheads and start being patriots. The media shouldn’t grow weary of pointing out these anomalies. By the way did I mention that I would prefer if most of those allowances are abrogated all together, especially the newspaper/periodicals allowance, chiefly because I am not sure that our senators read at all. If they did, I am sure that their reaction would have been completely different. And that’s the way I see it.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Unanswered questions at times question my hopes and belief in a future where I would live in the Nigeria of my dreams. In the cause of a knowledge project I was undertaking on the American Capitalist model, I came across a chilling quote by former American president, Woodrow Wilson (1919): “I am an unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my nation. We are no longer a government of free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men.” Because I am configured to relate my learning experiences at all times with the Nigerian situation, something in me snapped on reading that quote. It wasn’t like I or anyone else for that matter was unaware that our government is an oligarchy, but the quote which became to me like a confirmation piqued my curiosity as to the tightness of the stranglehold and the faces behind the manipulation of this nation. So I have been asking very simple questions and I need honest answers from anyone. That is responsible for my Socratic-style inquisition in this piece.

Why is it so hard to bring those ex-leaders to book, which for 8 years in the last dispensation looted and pillaged the treasury with impunity? How come some of them are strutting in the corridors of power in this rule of ‘lawish’ government? Is it because they are assumed innocent until proven guilty? Or could it be that in the analysis for 2011 and beyond, they are still seen as relevant, as they have the much needed big bucks and control large voting (or ‘thugging’) blocks? If the latter is the case, is it that it is these same people- and not the average citizen- who pays the piper and hence dictates the tune? How come even the few who have been convicted end up with a slap on the wrist (like former governor Lucky Igbinedion who for all his troubles was fined a paltry N3.5 million by the courts)? I just want to know. Why it that heads have still not rolled after the Tompolo list came to light (or rather almost came to light)? Whose names are really on that list? Should Nigerians- whose wealth, livelihood and security came under serious threat- even know the faces and corporations and probably nations that fuelled the domestic terrorism engine of Camp 5? Why have I stopped seeing some of this news on the media? Why are so few asking these questions?

I would also like to know why it is easier for our government to announce an amnesty deal for militants in the Niger Delta than to implement most of the recommendations of the Ledum Mitee led committee on the Niger Delta situation. Are they really sincere or are they trying to claim the morally higher ground as the ones who offered a favorable deal for peace in the region? Why are independent committees and panels like the Electoral reform committee even set up, when the government has no intention of accepting the crux of their recommendations from the get goes? How come it has proved rather difficult over the years to revive the nation’s power sector even when it is obvious that it is the lifeblood of the nation? Is it true that some are benefitting from the pervading darkness? Who -if any- is benefitting from the death of the textile and other manufacturing industries and from the import economy that we survive on? Are we cursed? If not can someone tell me what the cause is?
Can someone tell me why my government thinks that removing one car out of the myriad a certain politician in Abuja has will make me feel better? Or why a marginal cut in their salaries should inspire confidence in me as though the salary was ever the major conduit pipe. In fact how come politicians earn so much in Nigeria when they aren’t the most educated or the hardest working? Why does the government of our nation at all levels thrive on mortgaging our future and hemorrhaging our economy by placing round pegs in the square holes of government ministries, departments and agencies just for the sake of political patronage and compensation?

I could go on and on, but that would bore you. I have consistently maintained that things are not always the way they seem. In Nigeria more than anywhere else, this is true. And the thing is that the more you look, the less you see; the more you listen, the less you hear. I have looked and am still looking; I could easily come up with answers the way I see it but I might be wrong. So today, I don’t see anything. All I need are answers. Who are the one percent that pulls the strings which controls the rest of the 150 million in this nation? And what can we do about it? Answers anyone?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


In terms of political symbolism in Nigeria, this week ranks as one of the most, if not the most symbolic of weeks. Ten years of uninterrupted democracy! Who would have thought it was possible? In keeping with tradition, there will be lots of official and media commentaries on the state of democracy in the nation and the scorecard and overall performance of our present crop of leaders. Sadly, there is hardly any of our leaders that will get positive reviews; least of all Mr. President. As a matter of conjecture, if a poll is taken to determine his job approval rating, it will lie somewhere below 25 percent. The reason is not farfetched- he has not delivered. His scorecard in two years is child’s play compared to what President Obama achieved in 100 days.

Exactly two years ago, on the day President Umaru Musa Yaradua took his oath of office at the Eagle Square, he gave an inaugural speech that I considered brilliant by Nigerian standards. I remember more than anything else the closing lines of that speech: “The challenge is great. The goal is clear. The time is now.” Two years and many speeches down the line, the challenge is greater, the goal is fuzzy and only God knows the time. Recently I stumbled upon that speech again, and I realized that the president was ‘economical with the truth.’ I would give facts to that effect by sampling excerpts from that speech he made on Tuesday, May 29, 2007 in Abuja.

“We already have comprehensive plans for mass transportation, especially railroad development. We will make these plans a reality.”
From what we have seen these past two years, it is clear that that was not the truth. He actually didn’t have any (comprehensive?) plans, not to talk of making them reality. What he thought was a plan, was the plan to reverse previous plans by those who had thought. He stalled the $8.3 billion contract for the modernization of the country’s railways that was awarded in the last dispensation to a Chinese firm. The new developments and progress in that area have only come in the sustained level of rhetoric and speeches.

“Over the next four years we will see dramatic improvements in power generation, transmission and distribution.”
We have gone two years now out of the four and what we have seen in the power sector aren’t dramatic improvements but loads upon loads of drama. From the power probe, to the probing of the probers, to the rural electrification scam, Nigerians have been entertained with high budget dramas. Yaradua declared a state of emergency in the sector and since then all we have received are emergency declarations and emergency promises. The latest is the promise of 6000MW by December. I wish they mean business on this one but the one thing I have realized about Nigeria is that promises are the easiest things to make and break because at the end, no one holds you accountable; it does not determine your chances at the next election. So why bother?

“I will set up a panel to examine the entire electoral process with a view to ensuring that we raise the quality and standard of our general elections and thereby deepen our democracy.”
It is in this area of electoral reforms more than any other that Yaradua has been afforded the most opportunities to prove his sincerity. Unfortunately he has come up short time and time again. The truthfulness of the above statement itself is a matter of debate because he didn’t set up a panel. He set up 3 panels. First, the panel headed by Justice Mohammed Uwais, whose report was reviewed by the Shettima panel, whose white paper was further reviewed by another panel headed by Mr. Fix It- Justice Minister Aondoakaa. That makes three panels whereas he promised us just one. The final report from which he has forwarded some bills to the national assembly, needless to say doesn’t exactly look like the original. His fierce resolve to retain his powers of appointing the INEC chairman is at odds with the original recommendation of the Uwais panel. Also, President Yaradua failed to rise above the fray of petty partisanship and do or die politics recently when he chose party supremacy over statesmanship in the sham of an election conducted some weeks ago in Ekiti State. I know he is not the INEC chair, but you must be kidding if you think that the president cannot influence INEC as presently constituted. His frequent one sided meetings with PDP chieftains in the build up to a multi-party election is the road to bias and compromise.

“The crisis in the Niger Delta commands our urgent attention. Ending it is a matter of strategic importance to our country. We have a good starting point because our predecessor already launched a master plan that can serve as a basis for a comprehensive examination of all the issues.”
Whatever happened to the Niger Delta master plan? If I should hazard a guess, it would be that it has gone with the wind just like the report of the committee- headed by Ledum Mitee- set up by this same government to look into all past recommendations on resolving the Niger Delta issue and come up with a workable blue print that will serve the interest of the people. The newly created Niger Delta Ministry is visible only in name and not in action. Nothing positive seem to be happening in that area. Now, there is full blown hostility between the military and the militants causing unquantifiable havoc in the region.

“We are determined to intensify the war against corruption.”
Forget about the media antics of Madam Waziri on the number of convictions that have been secured by the EFCC under her watch. Forget about the posturing of the attorney general of the federation. The grim truth remains that the war on corruption is gradually dying under this government. To a large extent Nigeria has become like India where criminals and fraudsters, are resuscitated, given political make-over and even rebranded. How sad! All those celebrated cases which heightened the expectations of Nigerians that indeed a Jeremiah had come to judgment have been swept under the carpet. The cases involving the past governors, Siemens, Halliburton, Ekiti INEC are either dead or are at various stages of dying. I know they are supposed to still be under investigation, but we know better.

President Yaradua still has two years left. If I were him I would strive to leave a befitting legacy. But then am not him. However, if he decides to change, I am ready to swallow some of my words and commend him. They wouldn’t give me indigestion. After all I was among his few initial admirers. But let me ask you: TWO YEARS DOWN THE ROAD AND TWO YEARS LEFT TO GO, DO YOU BELIEVE MR. PRESIDENT?

STAN’S NOTES: I apologize for my long absence and my inability to bring you my interview with Dr. Anyaeji. I finally realized that juggling four key roles isn’t easy. The interview will still come, but at a later date. Thanks.

Thursday, April 30, 2009



The Nigeria that you lead is a land of too many critics. Whoever came up with the concept of free speech had obviously never met with Nigerians. That is why I salute your unusual courage and humility in even seeking to serve these people as their ‘servant leaders’.

They have come again. This time, they say the rainy seasons are here and most roads are still in a state of total disrepair and dilapidation. They are up in arms against you, complaining bitterly and ceaselessly about the traffic jams, the loss of man hours, the difficulty in transporting goods, the loss of revenue to government coffers (as though you are not the government), the road accidents and the general inconveniences and untold hardship that they go through daily. However, they haven’t bothered to see the other side of the story and appreciate the benefits of bad roads to them. What an ungrateful people! If they did, am sure they would revere you all instead of this reviling. As a concerned citizen, I adjure your high mightinesses not to listen to these alarmists; do not buckle under their pressure and don’t consider for even a minute the repair of any of these roads.

As a matter of urgent national security importance, Nigerian roads must maintain its leading role as the backbone of the government’s welfare policy for our daring policemen and mendicant citizens. Those clamoring for road repairs do not have the interest of these patriots at heart, otherwise why can’t they see how helpful the slowing down of vehicles at potholes is for beggars, men of the police force and their numerous dependants. They also have not noticed the huge savings that the government is making from this scheme. The alternative which would be to draft and implement a huge social welfare policy for them is not desirable at this point at all. After all the little N20 or N50 that motorists drop do not take anything from them, they should stop complaining and see it as Police Compensation and Appreciation Package (PCAP).

It is a known fact that Nigerians have abnormal and irregular eating habits. Bad roads come in handy in taking care of one aspect of this anomaly. Take for instance the man who takes 6 wraps of ‘eba’ or ‘akpu’ before setting out for work in the morning. Ordinarily, this man would be heavy and lazy in the workplace, thus affecting his productivity and contribution. But thanks to our roads, the digestion process would have been long completed even before he gets to the office. Your critics won’t be able to come up with a more effective health policy.

Furthermore, our rugged roads and landscape could serve as a huge revenue source and foreign exchange earner for the nation, unlike what the critics desire to make us believe. Surely you are aware that amid fears of a terrorist attack last year, the Dakar Rally was moved from Dakar, Senegal to South America for the first time. Nigeria can immediately bid for its return to Africa, but not in Dakar anymore but in Benin, Nigeria or some other Nigerian city noted for extremely bad roads. The kind of roads and terrain the competitors in this automobile race traverse cannot be found in South America or even Dakar but in Nigeria’s Niger delta. We could realize millions of dollars yearly from tourist visits alone. The issue of terrorism doesn’t arise because even though there has been a campaign of calumny against us by foreign embassies no terrorist attack has occurred within our shores.
We could even take it a step further by having a subset of our rebranding exercise- NIGERIA: GOOD PEOPLE, BAD ROADS. In this subset, we will brand our bad roads in such a way that those who have good ones would be humbled and pity their lot. Trust me, you will catch their attention. They will begin to see our bad roads, not as the problems they want to see and make it to be but as assets that they truly are. The wisdom in this is that the money you could have used to do these unnecessary roads can then be channeled into paying the lobbyists and marketing firms that will push this into new frontiers for our great nation. In a few years, it would spread like wild fire and countries would be falling over each other to copy our model. For once, we would be taking a leading role in innovation.

Listen no more to their folly; after all good roads did not stop the winds of recession from blowing in other climes. We have more important things to do with our money. There are still political daughters left to be given out to opposition governors in lavish ceremonies. As you know, these ceremonies are imperative if we must foster political and inter-state unity and if we must move towards a one-party state just like other reasonable nations like Singapore. Furthermore, there are still investigative and reform committees to be formed and funded. You don’t have to accept their recommendations, let there just be a semblance of relative motion, whether it is forward or backward motion doesn’t matter. After all perception is everything.

Once again, I salute your Excellencies for your patriotism and service. I anticipate no change in your approach to governance. Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Sincerely yours,

STAN’S NOTES: This post is dedicated to all Nigerians that go through the torture of plying Nigerian roads- basically all Nigerians. The government announced some road projects this week. Let’s hope they mean business.
Check this page on Thursday 7th May for my controversial interview with a renowned university don. Thanks.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Some older folks say that there used to be a time when Nigeria was sane; when there was a sense of patriotism, and when moral decadence was an exception and not the norm. I have never lived in that Nigeria. However, I believe strongly that someday I will. A recent experience showed me just how hard it’s going to be to see that Nigeria again.

I value my sanity a lot. That’s why on gaining admission into the university, I never considered residing in the hostels. The chaos, randomness and disorderliness were and still are far above my threshold level. So, my brothers and I rented a flat in a more serene environment outside the campus. However, the sanity and sanctity of my sanctum was seriously threatened recently. Let me explain.
The flat adjacent to ours has been unoccupied for a while and so we were expecting neighbors anytime soon. But not the kind we saw and definitely not the number. On that particular Tuesday some three weeks ago, about 40 people -boys, girls, and men- walked into our compound with their luggage and sat in front of the empty flat, obviously waiting for the keys. They looked like strangers and sounded like strangers too, with their heavy Ibo accent (keep in mind that this was Benin). It was confusing and amusing all at once. They looked like pilgrims going on hajj; just that this wasn’t the Murtalla Mohammed Airport - it was my house. Needing an explanation for the intrusion, we walked up to the one who looked as though he was in command, coordinating and controlling affairs. “Please, what’s going on here?” ,we asked. “Who are you?” ,he replied/questioned back. We introduced ourselves. And then he released the bombshell: “These are my students for the WAEC exams.” The meaning of that statement registered in our minds immediately and after one or two other questions and clarifications, we walked away, while they -all 40 of them- got the keys and settled into the flat.

The full gist was that this young man, who identified himself as a student of the University Of Benin -maybe with the help of accomplices- was running an ‘advanced examination malpractice crime syndicate’, where he arranged with students/desperate people in need of a certificate from the Eastern part of the country. Their ages obviously did not matter because some looked as young as 18 while others looked as old as 40. And all these ‘special candidates’ were to write their exams in ‘special centers’ where he and his accomplices would perform ‘special miracles.’

It is highly probable that my narration would seem ‘normal’ to a lot of Nigerians, a unique testament to how degenerate most have become. I don’t even think some of these people thought there was anything wrong with their actions because the loudness and intensity with which they prayed and sang praises in the mornings was like a farmer thanking God for a bountiful harvest. One of them –a PHCN staff in Onitsha- sounded to me like the victim. Hear him, “I didn’t make my English in WAEC, so they haven’t promoted me. That’s why I am doing this.” I am sure he expected me to say “eiyaa”. Instead I silently wondered what his wife thought. She probably supports. And so it is that generally the consciences of many Nigerians have been seared, we no more feel a thing. Values and principles seem so ‘old school.’ It ought not to be so.

The National Policy on Education (1981) identified citizenship education as:” a basis for effective participation in and contribution to the life of the society; character and moral training, and the development of sound attitudes; developing in the child the ability to adapt to his changing environment.” Even a blind man can see that like ‘Old Roger’ in our nursery school rhymes, citizenship education as defined above is ‘dead and gone to the grave.’ But if Nigeria is ever going to stop dawdling, it must resurrect. How? I wish I had all the answers but I don’t. One thing I do know is that good men must ‘take back their country.’ Good parents must teach their kids citizenship education on time and they too must practice it. Good teachers must not compromise on standards and values. Good law enforcers must bring all those culpable to book. In short, every good man/woman must play his part. One Nigerian musician put it very well in his song:
Mr. President- lead us well;
If you be governor- govern us well;
If you be senator- senate am well;
If you be police- police well well no dey take bribe.

As for those ‘special students’, they were chased out of my compound three days after their arrival by policemen. It turned out that my landlord was misled. They probably went somewhere else in further pursuit of their cause. Whither Nigeria?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

UNIben disUNIted

Even now, a casual observer walking within the school walls wouldn’t think anything was wrong. The hostels are still rowdy, lecture theatres are still packed full and the school’s famed social life is booming as always. But all is not well in the University of Benin, Nigeria, for beneath the semblance of normalcy is a riveting political battle as fierce and intense as it is shocking. And it all began the day Prof. Emmanuel Nwanze, the immediate past vice-chancellor, retired or possibly a short while before that.

Prof. Nwanze’s five year tenure ended on February 9th and as directed by the then minister of education, Dr. Igwe Aja-Nwachukwu, he handed over the reins to the deputy vice-chancellor (admin), Prof(Mrs.) Uche Gbenedio albeit in acting capacity. The move was in line with convention in federal universities in the last one year, where in the absence of a governing council, the federal government appoints an acting vice-chancellor. In all the cases that this has happened, the deputy vice-chancellor in charge of administration was appointed and in all the cases, it wasn’t a problem – until UNIBEN. Opposition to Prof. Gbenedio’s appointment was swift and emphatic and it came from two fronts – the legal and the ludicrous.

Let’s start with the ludicrous. Certain folks reasoned that since the outgoing VC was a Delta Igbo, it was sacrilegious for another Igbo -Mrs. Gbenedio- to serve as acting VC. Leading this school of thought were ethnic champions like the Benin Forum, Edo Citizens Forum and the Concerned Edo Citizens. This tribal argument obviously makes no sense but is symptomatic of the general Nigerian disease where in the words of renowned journalist and publisher of Ovation magazine, we “continue to stick to our primordial systems of zoning and federal character. And continue to treat fellow citizens as foreigners in their own country.” I couldn’t agree more. For one, Uniben is a federal institution and by law is not bound by their sentiments. But even more importantly, it is a university – one of Nigeria’s finest. Universities are supposed to be champions of meritocracy, excellence and sound work ethics. A hodge-podge of the best and brightest minds a nation has to offer. That a group of local champions most of whom have no affiliation at all with the institution apart from geography would champion such a selfish and myopic cause is truly disheartening. The fact that these same kinds would leap for joy that a Kenyan black duly occupies the white house says a lot about the hypocrisy of man.

The legal angle was introduced by a faction of the university’s ASUU branch led by Dr. Ilevbare whose grouse was that the appointment did not follow due process because Prof. Gbenedio’s tenure as deputy vice chancellor had expired as at the time of her elevation making her ineligible to be selected as acting VC. At the beginning, it seemed like they wouldn’t be having their way because the new governing council –inaugurated in March- was only interested in filling the vacant position of substantive VC, even requesting for applications from suitably qualified and interested candidates. At that time the governing council didn’t seem to have a problem with the acting VC. Not until they too ‘realized’ some weeks later that her appointment did not follow ‘due process’ (that word again). The council led by the new chairman Prof. Mmuendaga Jibo therefore mandated the university senate to conduct a proper election, effectively overruling the visitor to the university, President Yar’adua, on whose behalf the former minister had appointed Prof. Gbenedio. Battling desperately to save her job, Prof. Gbenedio went to the courts and obtained an order restraining any one from removing her as acting VC. But the governing council and senate-eternal champions of due process- ignored the courts, went ahead and elected a new acting vice chancellor in the person of Prof. Emmanuel Kubenje, the provost of the college of medical sciences. Not done yet, they punished Mrs. Gbenedio by suspending her from all the university’s activities and placed her effectively on half salary for daring to take the school to court without giving the school community the mandatory 30 days notice prescribed by the school rules.

Needless to say, this is a needless battle. Honestly, I am amazed at the amount of fuss and controversy the issue of who becomes ‘acting’ vice chancellor is generating. I would have expected that the governing council of the university be more interested in immediately ensuring the emergence -- by due process of course -- of a substantive vice chancellor so that the business of running the institution is unhindered. Also, the measure meted out to Prof. Gbenedio is too severe. She isn’t just some opportunistic school teacher. She was the first vice chancellor of Benson Idahosa University and until her elevation and demotion, was the deputy vice chancellor of UNIBEN. If this is about due process, then she must be given her due.

One of the most brandished achievements of the former VC was that the school ran an uninterrupted calendar for 5 years (the first time that has ever happened). This feat was as much his doing as it was the students’ and for now, the students are surprisingly quiet. That’s a good sign. The students’ union government recently released a circular, stating its neutrality in the whole affair and its ready disposition to accept any one who emerges as the VC. That’s also a good sign. How long the students maintain this level of maturity is another matter. Fingers are crossed but ears can still hear the rumblings in the cloud, senses can feel the disunity in the land. And that’s never a good sign.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Happenings in Nigeria and across the globe have been occuring at a dizzying pace. The politics of election re-trials, the propaganda war in Edo state, the PHCN delusion in Kwara state as well as the meeting of world giants in London minus the so-called giant of Africa etc. are just some of the many updates in the polity. However, and rather unfortunately, I wouldn't be able to 'blogcast' my take on these issues because I am on a much needed and compulsory therapy. Perhaps I would be able to share some of my experiences at a later date. I trust you understand. My regular posting will resume on April 14th. Thanks.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


The class was eerily silent as Dr. Anyaeji delivered his lecture last Tuesday. It wasn’t surprising. Our brilliant lecturer was at his controversial best. In response to a classmate of mine who mentioned that the writing on the board was barely visible (the marker had almost dried off), he smiled wryly, retrieved his phone from his breast pocket and with his characteristic bellowing, he burst into a diatribe, “This morning I received a text message from some creatures that call themselves the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I hope it is the last of this kind of texts I would ever receive in my lifetime.” He had everyone’s attention. “Nigeria: Good people, Great nation” he read. By this time my easily excitable course mates were reeling with laughter. “It is great nation that caused the marker not to write clearly on your white board, not me” he answered with finality. That was the first time I heard the new slogan for Nigeria’s latest foray into the discipline of “brand engineering”.

Unfortunately, my sensational lecturer is not the only skeptic- and rightly so too. Nigeria’s previous attempts at rebranding have been misadventures. A case of ill-branded men branding (or rebranding) an ill-branded nation. Perhaps in that regard this particular case is an exception. The initiator of this move – the inimitable Dora Akunyili – has perhaps the strongest personal brand amongst Nigeria’s government elite. Whether that translates into any advantage at all is left to be seen.

It is generally agreed that amongst other objectives, a good brand must
1. Send out a clear message
2. Confirm its credibility, and
3. Tap into the emotions of its target prospects.

Even though some have argued that the budget of N150 million budgeted for the rebranding exercise is paltry, I believe that with effective and transparent management, an effective campaign strategy and with support from relevant bodies, a clear message could be sent and thus objective1 could be satisfied.

Achieving the other two objectives is another ball game. They cannot be achieved even if the budget is quadrupled. Reason: Credibility cannot be bought; it must be earned. Even Mrs. Akunyili cannot single handedly spearhead the realization of this objective as was the case at NAFDAC. No matter how honest her intentions are, it wouldn’t make sense to the greedy godfather who wants returns on his investments in his godson; neither would it make sense to the governor who wants to stash away as much cash as “stashable” so that his offsprings down to the fifth generation can retire at birth. You see, the ability of this brand to confirm its credibility will depend on those with higher security clearance than Madam Minister e.g. Oga president. And if those above continue to be above the law, it is enough incentive for the “yahoo boy” or the drug peddler or the bunkerer to continue treading in his own path. It is a simple case of follow the leader.

Tapping into the emotions of Nigerians or outsiders for that matter could even be more difficult. It was Dr. Anyaeji again who said “Patriotism isn’t an input, it is an output.” Personally I think it is a bit of both. But pray tell me how to tap positively into the emotions of my friend’s mom who spent the night changing spots so that the rain from the leaking roof wouldn’t wet her new born; or my classmates who have been made to believe that simple learning aids like markers or dusters for the board are inaccessible. How do we lash into the emotions of the man who spent 3 hours in traffic for a 30 minutes journey; or Dr. Anyaeji who believes that blacks are monkeys because of the consistent disappointing episodes he has seen in his life time? No marketing technique can do that.

However, let me quickly add that we must play our part in giving this initiative a chance to succeed. Do your own bit. Support the government. That is your input part of patriotism. See the slogan “NIGERIA: GOOD PEOPLE, GREAT NATION” as a statement of faith that could be reality in our time. Don’t be quick to write it off as some have so hastily done. On that score, I disagree with Dr. Anyaeji.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


The crunch! From Iceland to Ireland, America to Costa-Rica, everywhere you go, the tale of woe is the same –record losses, job cuts, and nationalization of financial institutions. Thanks to the economic meltdown, words and terms like ‘credit crunch’, ‘global financial crises’, ‘recession’, ‘depression’, and ‘bail-out’, have become permanent components of our lexicon. Only a first time visitor to planet earth would not have come across any or all of these words. Contrary to our initial expectations, Nigeria is badly hit. The effect of the crisis on Nigeria is becoming increasingly devastating –low oil prices, a depreciating naira and declining revenue. The revenue to government is declining at such a rate that it is becoming increasingly difficult for many states to even meet the wage bill of their workers. Perhaps certain governors - like the one in the Adamawa state government house with his whopping 13000 special assistants - would begin to think of more productive ways to engage the creativity of the populace for increased revenue.

The crush! Not like this is any consolation, but last week Forbes magazine released its list of the world’s dollar denominated billionaires and the verdict is that the rich also cry. All the billionaires in the top 10 saw huge losses in their worth this past year and they weren’t the only ones. Whereas the Forbes list contained 1,125 billionaires last year, it’s just 753 this year. And as the facts show, when the big boys lose cash, they lose big cash – cash that could finance nations. Warren Buffett and Carlos Slim - No.2 and No.3 respectively - both lost about $25 billion, roughly equivalent to the GDP of Nigeria. This made me reconsider a particular audacious remark I heard some time ago, that a time would come when nations would be sold off to powerful rich individuals who would then oversee these nations as their personal estate. Is that possible? I would like to know what you think.

The lunch! Two Nigerians, despite the crunch were not crushed, as they made it into the exclusive list. They were Alhaji Aliko Dangote and Mr. Femi Otedola. Whereas Otedola is a new entrant, Dangote’s rating on the list improved from 334 last year to 261. As my mentor, Johnson Abbaly would say, “crunch or no crunch, those who have the stuff will always have lunch.” And as the Bible says, “When men are cast down, there is a lifting up.” This should serve as lesson for Nigerians - people and government alike – that much progress can still be made even in the midst of the famine. The truth is that a new world order would most definitely emerge after this crisis and the nations and people who will set the pace then, would be those who are driving onwards now to that future with determination and a plan. It’s going to be a case of getting shaped up or getting shipped out. Dare or be doomed.

The punch! For some time now, the chairman of the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal commission (RMAFC), Engineer Hamman Tukur, has been involved in a running battle with his commissioners. There have been accusations and counter-accusations. While he has been accused (by them) of unconstitutional handling of the commission’s affairs and high-handedness, they have been accused (by him) of partaking in an illegality by collecting an allowance that was more than their due and yet refusing to refund. Last week, things got a whole lot messier. A meeting convened by the chairman to discuss President Yaradua’s proposal that the commission come up with a workable formula for the downward review of the salaries of political office holders turned into an avenue to showcase brute force and gang rascality. According to reports, in the course of the meeting which was held at the national headquarters of the commission, a heated argument ensued culminating in the beating of the chairman by at least 20 of the commissioners. After raining enough punches on their chairman, the ‘distinguished’ commissioners fled the scene of the incident just before the arrival of the men from the Nigerian Police Force. Ouch!

The hunch! On a lighter note, I finally get why my secondary school English teacher was insistent that I learn the right pronunciations for words ending with ‘ch’ and ‘sh’. She had a hunch that I’ll need to use them often in times like this.




Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Only the die-hard followers of this blog (if any) would have noticed that the ‘ABOUT ME’ section in my profile on this page has undergone a minor surgery. For those who didn’t notice, it used to read thus: ‘I currently serve as the Chief Strategy Coordinator of Achievers Consortium Int. in the University of Benin.’ Now, there is no trace of that line.              

I recently served out my tenure as the Chief Strategy Coordinator of Achievers Consortium, University of Benin nexus. And, if truth be told it was the most exciting, exhilarating, daunting and daring one year of my life. For clarification purposes, Achievers Consortium is a purpose base, Christian, intellectual movement that is set to bring about, is bringing about and would bring about the change that Africa and Nigeria needs. We’ve always believed that the change we need would not come from abroad or afar and most definitely would not be brought about by angels, apes or aliens. If we must see change, then we must be that change. So by combining sound intellectualism, practical skills and creative enterprise with sound passion, belief and deep spiritual truths, we cause divinity to meet humanity.

Certain events that transpired and thoughts that crossed my mind in the weeks preceding my hand-over, caused me to see firsthand the reasons (at least some of them) why men like Yoweri Museveni, Robert Mugabe, Muammar Al-Qaddafi and Olusegun Obasanjo  try everything within their means to keep power. It isn’t so much because they need to milk the state some more of its resources, or because they are too materialistic in their pursuits. But many times, it actually is as a result of a certain messianic complex that begins to form within man when he occupies these kinds of positions, where he begins to see himself as the very embodiment of salvation for his people. He begins to see this institution that he has worked so hard for and invested his emotions and time into, as his personal property, to be guarded by every means possible and by any method obtainable. Apart from that, he begins to fear – fear what history would say about him, his mistakes, his weaknesses etc. And he reasons that his interest would be best served by staying put and trying to correct all the ‘correctables’ and straighten all the rough edges. Unfortunately, he would never succeed.  

I don’t have all the answers, but I believe the solution to this, at least from the individual’s perspective lies in trust. Trust in the source of the mandate. If the mandate comes from the people, trust their constitution (the constitution of the land) and let go. If it comes from God, trust Him and let go. Because letting go is not losing out. It is letting God.

Congratulations to the new leaders of Achievers Consortium, Uniben nexus, especially my friend and dear brother, Isaac Ajamah, who was a pillar of support to me and now my successor. Isaac, you are more than capable. And when the God factor is added, you are in fact a super-man. It has been a long time coming. Kpele.

Monday, March 2, 2009



 If ‘Nigeria’ was the name of a blogger, I am certain that he (Nigeria) would have chosen a grandiose title for his blog page. He would no doubt have gone for a title that lends credence to his colossal aspirations but says nothing about the how of getting there. A title like READY OR NOT, 2020 HERE I COME WITH MY VISION 20 2020 or perhaps ALL HAIL THE BIG BROS would do just fine for him. But if he was an honest blogger, he would settle for a more befitting title like RHAPSODY OF ABSURDITIES because in Nigeria, absurdity is produced and packaged at the speed of light.



Last week, Olusegun Mimiko was pronounced governor of Ondo state by the Appeal court after a protracted legal battle with the then incumbent, Olusegun Agagu. As should be expected, there were celebrations galore in the state. Then the illogical occurred. Three men died and two others were injured in the victory celebration. Unfortunately, this wasn’t an isolated incident. When the comrade governor, Adams Oshiomhole was declared as governor of Edo state last year, 5 persons died. Two died as they were celebrating along the road, two others fell off a moving trailer and died while celebrating on it, while the last –a motor cyclist- lost his life after he ran into a ditch while celebrating the victory. Not even Obama’s momentous victory was so received. That perhaps explains why we are the happiest people on earth.



Fallout from the Appeal court judgment last week was the revelation that the ex-secretary to the Ondo state government accepted to pay compensation to a 300 level student of the University of Ibadan who was killed while rigging elections. I silently wondered how much compensation would be worth that life and cursed the foolishness of the student, as well as the poverty of the land. Not the material poverty per se, but, the pervasive moral poverty- the poverty of the mind. A poverty that stems from the defective education received by Nigerians- an education that has failed to instill patriotism and moral values in the Nigerian child.




Never before has the word ‘scapegoat’ been applied so literarily than in Kwara state, Nigeria, where a goat was arrested and paraded before the media as a robbery suspect. I wish I could sugar-coat this to make a bit of sense, but I can’t. It’s as ludicrous as it sounds. It so happened that last month, men of the Kwara state police command arraigned a goat as a suspect for the attempted theft of a ‘Mazda’ car. According to the Force public relations officer, Mr. Tunde Mohammed, the goat was a man who in an effort to escape arrest while trying to steal the car, transformed (or is it transmuted?) into a goat. Need I say more?


The way I see it, if ‘Nigeria’, the author of the blog -RHAPSODY OF ABSURDITIES - were the subject of a Hollywood blockbuster, the movie won’t be a tragedy. Neither would it be a comedy. My guess is that it would be an absolute absurdity.  

Monday, February 23, 2009


To those who never see any reason to be proud about Nigeria, I have three words for you: SHINE YA EYE. Despite our knack for the absurd, our penchant for greed and avarice, our collective amnesia and gross inability to learn any lessons whatsoever from the past, there is still lots of good being done by the "Nigerian" ,albeit hardly mentioned. From time to time, I intend to celebrate Nigeria, Nigerians, Nigerian brands, the Nigerian dream, “Nigerianness”, and everything Naija because I am a passionate believer in MADE IN NAIJA; CELEBRATED WORLDWIDE. So if you are like me, you could post a comment on your proudly Naija moments or brands or people. It would be there for all to see and I would highlight some spectacular ones in the future. Read on.

Does this name- Dr. Louis Obyo Nelson – ring a bell? If it doesn’t now, soon enough it would. REASON: Diabetes sufferers all over the world are estimated to be in excess of 100 million, and this Nigerian - from Nsit Ubium Local Government Area of AkwaIbom state - has produced a drug, officially recognized as cure for the dreaded disease. That’s what I call demanding the impossible. Dr Nelson has already received a patent for the drug by the United States patent office, in addition to getting initial nods from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

As is to be expected in Nigeria, this announcement has generated mixed feelings. While some have extolled the good doctor to high heavens, others have thrown all caution and condemned with venomous intensity. Even the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) has not been left out as it expressed reservations over the discovery. In a strongly worded statement from its president, Mr. Anthony Akhimien, it (PSN) said among other things that medicine is still battling with the disease and that “there is no cure.” The statement sounded as though diseases come pre-packaged with their cure. It is instructive to note that at some point in their history –even if for just a second – every disease was incurable until men like Dr. Nelson did something about it.

I don’t care about the politics of the discovery and even though there still remains a clinical trial before it is rolled out, am just enthralled by the “Nigerianness” of it all. Check this out.
The man – Dr. Louis Obyo Nelson – is a Nigerian. His first degree and doctorate degree in molecular and computational chemistry were both acquired from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. The drug –AD1, a herbal anti-diabetic phytopharmaceutical – is produced from a herb predominantly found in the eastern part of Nigeria. The laboratory work and research were done using facilities at the Pharmaceutical Research Institute at Idu Karmu, Abuja, Nigeria and the University of Calabar, Nigeria. The researchers were/are Nigerians. The production of the drug will be in Nigeria. Finally, the drug would be marketed worldwide from Nigeria by a Nigerian company. What more is there to be said?

In his inaugural address on May 29, 2007, President Yar’adua said, “We are Nigerians! We are a resourceful and enterprising people and we have it within us to make our country a better place. Let us set aside cynicism…Let us discard the habit of low expectations of ourselves…Let us stop justifying every shortcoming with that unacceptable phrase ‘The Nigerian Factor’ as if to be a Nigerian is to settle for less.” The way I see it, I agree with him – hook, line and sinker.

Monday, February 16, 2009


They say people mimic the opinion you have of them. As I walked home after my latest visit to their office, I could hardly suppress my anger because MTN Nigeria had succeeded -once again- in validating that statement. I must confess that I have never liked MTN. Initially it was as a result of hearsay but gradually my irritation began to stem from available facts. However, I still went ahead and bought an Mtn line precisely four months ago. Frankly, nothing I heard or read could have readied me for my experience ever since.

After my first two days in the MTN family I was sure my worst fears had come upon me. My entry coincided with a massive technical malfunction where there was hardly anyone on the network (at least in Benin) that could successfully load an MTN recharge card. I felt it was a befitting welcome to their critic number one and so brushing it aside I moved on. But how can you beat the fact that for four months, I have been unable to connect with their customer care lines despite trying repeatedly. The way i see it, no matter how populous a network is, that is totally unacceptable. Yet this was nothing compared to my most recent experiences.

The difference between 10 and 100 is a whole lot especially in monetary terms. But MTN either doesn’t agree with this or is grossly incompetent or worse still, dubious. There is no other way to explain why (or how) on checking my account balance, MTN’s invitation that I join the MTN treasure hunt stated that all texts cost N10 (ten naira).I sent the text, checked my balance and received two shockers. First, my call credit was N100 short and second, as if by magic the invitation now read differently. In the place of “all text cost N10” was “all text cost N100”.Immediately I caught the drift and despite their repeated entreaties to play more and win more, I counted my loss and avoided that game like a plague. But trust MTN to locate you “everywhere you go”. I came to Port Harcourt and as if I had not had enough, I fell right into their hands again. This time I mistakenly scratched off some of the numbers on the N200 recharge card I bought. In spite of their antecedents, I honestly thought rectifying that fault would be a routine affair. I was wrong. As usual connection with their customer care line was impossible (I tried for 2 days).So I set off for their office along Aba road in Port Harcourt. I don’t know what offended me the most-the fact that they could not take care of it right away or the sheer arrogance of the representative who attended to me. Anyway, after I had written my name, address and phone number he promised that my account would be credited with N200 before the close of the next working day. I had to exercise all the restraint I could muster to keep them from fouling my mood. As I turned to leave, I said to him (the customer care rep),”I hope I would not need to come here again to complain on this issue”.”No, you won’t”, he said, “Unless you just feel like coming”. Just as I feared, it was not done and I had to go back to that office even though I didn’t “just feel like coming”. By now, I had come to expect only the most bizarre from MTN and so I wasn’t the least bit surprised when I arrived at that office, made the same complaint, and was told that my line had an error (whatever that meant).He offered to load the card into his phone which was error free (I suppose) and then transfer it into mine before the end of the working day. Of course he did not deliver and so I had to visit that office for the third time over the same issue. This was the final straw.

Mr. Customer care kept me waiting for 20 minutes because he couldn’t locate my recharge card anywhere. I decided that -rather than going through another cycle of empty promises-if the recharge card is found, I’ll take it and leave. He found it and gave it to me, I said a nice thank you to him and walked away half expecting him to call me back and offer an apology. He didn’t. So I walked home, with my worthless recharge card tucked away in my wallet as a souvenir.

Friday, February 6, 2009


It is true that all 140 million Nigerians think we know all of Nigeria’s problems and all the possible solutions to all the problems, all the time. There is no other explanation as to why we argue and analyze with so much fervor and conviction. Our values determine the tenor of our arguments, and that unfortunately, is where we have a serious problem.

Yesterday, I had to embark - once again - on a 5hour journey from Port Harcourt to Benin by road. Not the most delightful experience to look forward to. As usual, I carried along a book. I reckoned that if I was going to be stuck in a bus for that long, I might as well make it productive. It wasn’t to be, thanks to Jaja - the very loquacious fresh graduate who sat next to me in the bus. Immediately we set off, he engaged the driver in a ceaseless discourse on the state of the states from Edo to Delta to Rivers. I recognized that trying to read under those conditions was foolish, so instead, I listened with sealed lips as their discussions progressed. What broke my stoic silence was a point Jaja made with so much passion. I felt right away that it was my duty to correct - or at least attempt to correct - such a flawed (in my opinion) value placement.

According to him, the best way to empower youths was to send them abroad to universities and colleges on scholarships, so they could gain the “much needed exposure”. “Why not invest in your own schools?” I asked, “That way, you empower as many, as against a few that could be sent abroad”. His ‘brilliant’ response was that Nigeria still has a long way to go and so instead of intervening in universities, we should develop other sectors of the economy and then, foreigners will come here and set up befitting universities. I cringed in disbelief. He was supposed to be a graduate. How many can be sent abroad? 100? 1000? 10000? What is that against so many? I pointed out to him that no great nation on the face of the earth became what it is today without having first placed a priority on education. He wasn’t convinced. I brought to his notice a statement made by the mayor of Newyork, Michael Bloomberg in an article he sent to Newsweek magazine which appeared in the November 3rd 2008 edition. He said, “America became an economic superpower because we have always welcomed the best and the brightest and because our top quality schools have always produced the best and the brightest”. These developed nations will do all in their power to retain the smartest among those we send, to power their own economies. Jaja remained adamant and even posited that exposure was the reason companies like Shell still spent millions yearly in re-training graduates abroad. Not even the words of the CBN governor - that over 60% of Nigerian graduates are unemployable and so need to be retrained if they manage to find a job - could persuade him otherwise. He is a Nigerian-we all think we know all the solutions to all the problems, all the time. I rested my case.

Don’t get it wrong. I have no problems with the government sending young, smart Nigerian students abroad on scholarships for the exposure and experience. I even have friends that have benefitted and remain grateful. Also, well established tertiary institutions all around the world do exchange programs, while not ignoring their own development. These are all win-win situations. However, the way I see it, in the absence of a win-win situation for all parties, a choice between a few and the many is no choice at all. Because when it comes to developmental issues, government is obliged to align its policies to the yearnings of the greater majority. The fact that nations like Ghana, Botswana and South Africa allocate amounts to their education sectors that as a percentage of their total budget, is more than double what Nigeria allocates, is worrisome enough. As a nation, our attitude towards education must change if we would stand a chance in the world system presently shaping up. Education is not an abstract phenomenon to be considered after every other thing. It is priority. But then, this is my view and I am one of the140 million Nigerians who think we know all of Nigeria’s problems and all the possible solutions to all the problems, all the time. So, what do you think?