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?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Things happen every day, every second. In my life. In yours. In this world. The child is born, the man dies; the book is launched, the reviews are bad; the old order change, the new is heralded; the governor is recognized, the people don’t give a hoot; violence erupts, a state of emergency is declared. Things happen every day, every second. Some make the news, many don’t. Who cares? I do. And sometimes taking it all in is rather overwhelming. So with this blog and my entrance into the blogosphere, I finally have the opportunity to share some of my thoughts with any one else who cares, on some of the goings-on that I think are worthy of my thoughts. In my life. In yours. In this world.
The way I see it is strictly going to be that- the way I see it. I don’t claim to know the way it is or even the way it should be. What I do know is how I see it. Because many times, the way we think it is, is unwittingly shaped by intense propaganda and excellent PR gimmicks. And the way we think it should be is more or less determined by our peculiar ideologies and idiosyncracies, traditions and conventions. This blog is going to be shaped by some of that as well, and that is why it is the way I see it, after all has been said and done. So, if you think you’ve got the balls to stomach my point of view without having bellyache, then check this space. Let’s do this.