Archive for August, 2012

By Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai 

 
Eleven thousand, eight hundred and eighty-six (11,886) abandoned projects that will cost an estimated N7.78 trillion to complete! These alarming figures are from the report of the Presidential Projects Assessment Committee (PPAC) set up in March 2011, by President Goodluck Jonathan to look into cases of abandoned federal government projects. If the government does not start any new projects, it will take more than five years budgeting about N1.5 trillion annually to complete them all – and that is assuming no cost-over runs or delays!

Ordinarily, these figures should compel the government to accelerate the completion of all ongoing projects, or at least focus on high priority ones. Unfortunately, this has not been the case: Government would rather continue the weekly charade of awarding new contracts or re-awarding old ones at higher prices during its weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meetings.

As trillions of naira are being wasted in the name of public projects, it is important to understand issues like how projects are initiated, bid for, negotiated and awarded and why they get abandoned. Who and what are really responsible for abandoned projects? Are poor planning, haphazard procurement, and incompetent project management the key causes or is it financial mismanagement? In spite of mobilization fees already paid, why is nobody held accountable when projects are not completed? How far can the Bureau of Public Procurement or other agencies with requisite mandate go to address the root causes of abandoned projects?

There is a need to briefly examine how projects are initiated and contracts awarded. The first step ought to be conception of projects that fit within a scheme of national vision, strategy and development programs. As we have stated in this column, a 27-page “transformation agenda” tucked away in the website of National Planning Commission falls short of this. This “agenda” is largely inconsistent with the Federal Ministry of Finance medium term sector strategies and budgeting priorities for 2011 and 2012. Most projects are therefore conceived out of nowhere and lacking in internal coherence and consistency with other programs.

Next is to plan and design the project in detail. Assume a road is to be constructed between two locations, the rights-of-way must be surveyed, levels taken, alignment finalized, road designed, and detailed drawings, bills of quantities and other bidding documents prepared prior to inviting pre-qualified engineering contractors to submit competitive tenders. The design development process can take anything between some months to more than a year, while it takes a minimum of 5 months from advertising invitations for bids to presentation to the FEC or other approving authority. This suggests that design and procurement processes for any project ought to start at least a year or two before being budgeted for. This only happens in a few foresighted agencies (MDAs).

Typically, nothing happens until the budget is passed and cash backed, then the implementing MDA begins the fire brigade work of compressing this timeline into a few weeks! Most MDAs wait until projects are included in budget or the budget passed before they start project surveys or design or the procurement process. When an MDA spends at least 5 months on procurement, how much time does the contractor have to execute the project and draw down the funds before the financial year runs out? This becomes a big issue as MDAs are required by law to return all unspent funds to the treasury by the year end.

To understand why projects get abandoned, we must also understand the pervasive lack of continuation in policies as occupiers of political offices change. Whether it is long term development plans or contracts for critical infrastructure, the repeated practice in Nigeria is that once new people are in office, policies or programs of the previous administration are abandoned. This unwillingness to ensure policy continuity is the root cause of nepotism, corruption and impunity, as officials often re-award such contracts to cronies and generous campaign donors at inflated prices.

In this regard, the “democracies” have not fared better than the military in policy consistency. From Obasanjo’s NEEDS, to Yar’Adua’s Seven-Point agenda, and now, Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda – there has been continuity of policy inconsistency within the same ruling party – and turning projects that would have ordinarily benefited the populace into drain pipes. Critical examples are the N52m Zobe dam in Katsina, commissioned in 1983 by the Shagari regime; not only has several times the original amount been spent on the project, it has not pumped up a single liter of water. And the Ajaokuta Steel Complex which has gulped about N675bn, but still not produced much steel.

When projects are abandoned, the usual reason given is lack of funds, though often it is the pre-contract mishaps already alluded to, and project management deficits that are the fundamental causes. How can funding constraints be blamed for project failures? Should one not wonder why a project is approved in the absence of adequate funds? In fact, section 4 (2) (b) of the Public Procurement Act 2007, states plainly that all procurement shall be ‘based only on procurement plans supported by prior budgetary appropriations; and no procurement proceedings shall be formalized until the procuring entity has ensured that funds are available to meet the obligations and has obtained a “Certificate of ‘No Objection’ to Contract Award” from the Bureau’. Simply put, the law requires that no contract should be awarded if funds are not available for it from the onset!

It is intuitive that abandoned projects fuel corruption and reduce public confidence in governance. The excuse of inadequate or delayed funding may sometimes be contrived. Such an inference could be drawn as abandoned projects are more often than not re-awarded at unjustifiably over-bloated sums. The increased costs are subsequently justified by blaming inflation, exchange rates, labour and materials cost increases amongst others.

If we intend to check the abnormality of abandoned projects, the relevant laws have to be strictly adhered to. Section 63 (1) of the Public Procurement Act which states thus: ‘In addition to any other regulations as may be prescribed by the Bureau, a mobilization fee of no more than 15% for local suppliers and contractors and 10% for foreign suppliers and contractors may be paid to a supplier or contractor …’ must be firmly applied. According to the PPAC, it is not uncommon for contractors to be paid mobilization fees in excess of 50% of the contract sum, often in apparent violation of the law.

While the Executive arm of government is largely to be blamed for abandoned projects, it is not alone. The National Assembly (NASS) is liable as well by unlawfully and unconstitutionally inserting new, unplanned projects into Appropriation Bills expecting them to be implemented. The NASS has joined the executive branch in ignoring the funding needs of existing projects to completion and commissioning. Take the Zobe dam mentioned; does the representative of that constituency not have the responsibility to pursue and ensure the strict completion of projects in his constituency? If the focus of the government is on development and service to the people, why should officials seek approval for new projects when unfinished ones do not enjoy adequate funding and sound project management?

The Public Procurement Act 2007 established the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) with the National Council on Public Procurement (NCPP), as the regulatory authorities saddled with the oversight functions of monitoring procurement and implementation of federal projects across the country. These statutory functions have been hampered by lots of challenges, including the late passage of the annual Appropriation Acts by NASS and abandonment of the procurement processes by the relevant MDAs if favored bidders turn out to be unsuccessful.

If properly sustained, the Due Process and Certification Mechanism started by the Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence Unit under Oby Ezekwesili, would have been one of the many benefits of the legislation. This has however not been the case because of policy discontinuities and the cravings of politicians to have unfettered discretion in awarding contracts.

The federal government needs to, as a matter of urgency, comply with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act. The government must curb the temptations or pressures to embark on new projects when so many remain uncompleted or abandoned. Desirable projects must be continued irrespective of whichever administration initiated them. The NCPP, which is yet to be constituted, should be urgently inaugurated to superintend the activities of the BPP, as opposed to the current scenario where the FEC usurps the Council’s statutory functions.

As you read this, the Federal Ministry of Finance recently announced the release of N300 billion for capital projects for the third quarter of 2012, bringing the total release for capital projects so far this year to N704 billion out of nearly N1.5 trillion for the year. Most citizens will not feel the impact of this amount because the planning, procurement and project management processes are still fraught with nepotism, corruption and impunity that many projects may end up on the abandoned projects list – after billions have been paid as fungible mobilization advances. Our nation must do better. We must demand that our leaders do better!

Abati’s Unnecessary Necessity

Posted: August 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

By Victor Ehikhamenor

As much as I cringed reading some of Dr. Reuben Abati’s words this past Sunday in The Guardian newspaper, a sense of eiyaaa overwhelmed me. It was so obvious that the task before the erudite ex-columnist was to catch a porcupine with bare hands.

Abati’s piece reminded me of my mother when I was in primary school. I was flogged silly by the labour master for not bringing “handwork” to school one time and hell almost broke loose.

Handwork required tedious work, and it was a necessity and part of the school program. At this particular occasion I came to school empty handed and the labour master could not bear my audacity of hoping he would not ask me for it.

When I had no tangible reason for not bringing handwork, he went berserk and finished an entire cane on my bare legs and sent me home. My mother, seeing the cane marks all over my legs as if I was a runaway slave, decided to go to my school and start a civil war.

She was literally flying out of the door when my father stopped her. And what I will never forget was he reminded her that -Yes it is true that the punishment was excessive, but Victor did not do what was required of him, hence the punishment.

My mother could not defend that position, she dropped the case reluctantly and treated my wounds. And I went to school with my handwork the next day.

Somebody, an editor or a personal assistant, should have stopped Abati’s “The Jonathan They Don’t Know” before it made it to the public space. Not that the president’s spokesman should be censored, but this particular offering was necessarily unnecessary.

I don’t know if Abati realizes there may be an incontrovertible “handwork” missing from “them” that is making his labeled “they” cabal i.e. “the cynics, the pestle-wielding critics, the unrelenting, self-appointed activists, the idle and idling, twittering, collective children of anger, the distracted crowd of Facebook addicts, the BBM-pinging soap opera gossips of Nigeria” scream and lash out like my labour master. Abati couldn’t have forgotten so soon that he was once a “they” before he became “them” and he should have a better communication stratagem to handle “they’s” restiveness.

I don’t know Abati personally; I have only met him through his writings, in the past as a hard-hitting fire spitting critic/columnist and in his current reincarnation as the president’s image Laundromat/megaphone.

The more I read him these days the more it is clear to me that it is not easy walking with a left-leg shoe on a right foot. Many people knew exactly where Abati stood in the past and now that his pendulum has swung to a different direction, they are not heedless either.

Nigeria may be a country that needs Lasik surgery for its myopic malady, but Abati’s potshots at government are too recent to recess into the abyss of the national sub-conscious.

When Dr. Abati joined Dr. Jonathan, if I knew him well I would’ve congratulated him with a handshake. I am not averse to serving one’s country under a democratically elected government, and Nigerians voted for President Jonathan en masse.

If the best minds shun public offices, hoodlums and political agberos take over the country and turn it to a madhouse – and we have seen that happen too many times.

The only way Nigeria can begin to build itself from debilitating socio-political rubbles is when people like Abati accept public office and serve the entire country in truth and honesty, no matter the challenges.

Abati has a job to do and I respect him tremendously for attempting to do it the best way he thinks, but you cannot dance atilogwu to owambe drumming. He wants to maintain his old dance steps in a different disco hall and it is painful for many Nigerians to watch. And I do not want to believe that the arrival of an “attack lion” in the Villa has put peer pressure on the once calm and calculated intellectual.

The president’s spokesman cannot afford to be rattled to the extent that he lists the president’s table menu of boiled plantain and cassava bread just to prove a point. Or even direct vituperations at “they” that voted his employer to power.

Angry responses to critics do not shoo them away, it energizes them. This is a country where in the past, military guns and letter bombs couldn’t shut critics’ mouths. The pen is mightier than the sword, but both “they” and “them” are equally armed with that same pen now. And Abati’s latest criticism is like tying raw meat around one’s neck and walking around in a hungry lion’s den.

Words are too powerful to be misused and this is something Abati knows too well. The words -“The thing about the President’s critics is that they just cannot accept that someone with his simplicity can be President,” is way too pedestrian to explain away a people’s SOS cry for good governance.

The ever lingering woe with President Jonathan’s administration is simply and squarely miscommunication. I find this ironic, considering that he is Nigeria’s first Facebook commander-in-chief and the least unflappable. Trying to deflect beer parlour and internet “gist” and genuine criticism of President Jonathan in a day’s work will not cut it.

That Abati is an intelligent man is unquestionable, but he must help the president articulate some of his successes so far, not just in traditional media but also in the social media arena that was once courted by him.

Abati was not hired as an attack dog/lion and he should not suddenly be goaded into one. And for the record “they” do not particularly care if the president wedges his head in bed with a bottle of VSOP Ogogoro as long as the country he governs is moving towards the right direction.

Thisday|amebo|burningpot

There is urgent need for government to declare a state of emergency in the educational sector

The Nigerian National Office of the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) recently released the results for its May/June 2012 examinations. The outgoing Head of the Nigerian National Office (HNO), Dr. Uyi Uwadiae, who made public the results said that 649,156 candidates representing 38.81 per cent obtained credits in five subjects and above, including English Language and Mathematics. A total of 1,649,156 candidates nationwide sat for the examinations.

Going by the figures released by WAEC, about 39 percent of the candidates were successful in the examinations, something Uwadiae described as “eight per cent improvement” over that of last year. Yet the fact not underscored is that of this number only 472, 906 candidates obtained five credits including English Language and Mathematics. That in effect means that on the overall, just 31 percent passed with five credits.

Against the background that over the past five years Nigeria has consistently recorded an annual less-than-40 per cent success rate in these examinations, such consistence in mass failure shows that something is dangerously wrong with the educational system and/or the environment that churns out annually a generation of illiterate young boys and girls. We therefore believe very strongly that the nation’s educational systems, especially the public schools system from the primary to tertiary, have failed the youths of this country.

Unfortunately, those in authority at all levels of government have only been paying lip service to the improvement of public education system in our country. Yet the advent of highly expensive and difficult-to-afford private schools (at all levels) had effectively sealed the fate of poorly funded public schools with the result that only unqualified teaching staff populate the public schools. Others who share in the blame for this ugly situation are the teachers as it has become standard practice for them to use the period of examinations as the best time to negotiate with the government. Most public school teachers also spend their time engaged in things not related to their job during official hours in the effort to make ends meet due to poor remunerations.

The students themselves have a good share of the blame for the woeful performances recorded in WAEC and Senior School Certificate examinations annually. Since the advent of the social media like Mobile Phones, Blackberry, Facebook, Twitter, etc., the Nigerian youth have become so addicted to these gadgets that they no longer have time for reading and preparing for their examinations. Also, the use of the social media short messaging system or texting language which permits all kinds of acronyms or abbreviated words has corrupted many that they sometimes assume that it is normal to use such forms of expression in real situations like examination. Furthermore, over dependence on “expo” has destroyed the confidence of many students.

In view of all these factors, we reiterate our earlier call that government should as a matter of urgent national interest declare a state of emergency in the educational sector. The government for instance has a duty to improve the working conditions of the nation’s teachers who must not always have to go on strike in order to obtain a favourable consideration of their plight. The schools themselves must be equipped to meet basic standards to adequately prepare students, especially in the sciences. Unless something drastic was done, and urgently too, the future of the nation’s human capital must have been seriously and irreversibly compromised while the negative social consequences can only be imagined.

Things must not continue this way as it is very obvious that not every parent can afford the cost of private school education for their children and wards. All stakeholders must therefore join hands to revert the ugly trend.

Megawatts Of Controversy

Posted: August 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

Image
The Verdict According To Olusegun Adeniyi

“I understand that Prof. Barth Nnaji is going to man the power sector. He is a man for whom I have tremendous respect (and he comes with impeccable credentials for the job). But he is also an operator in the sector which immediately raises a serious issue of conflict of interests…”

When I wrote the foregoing upon resuming this page after my return to the country in June last year, at a time names of ministerial nominees had just been sent to the Senate for confirmation, there were some angry reactions from supporters and friends of Prof Barth Nnaji. Yet it was obvious from the outset that his appointment as Minister of Power was fraught with risks. In terms of pedigree, he is one of the few round pegs in round holes in the Federal Executive Council. And he did the correct thing by resigning from Geometric Power and putting his interest in a blind trust, which is perfectly legal and transparent. The challenge, however, remained that in a society with a thriving rumour industry, Nnaji had unwittingly provided a weapon of blackmail for his enemies, especially in a high-stake sector like power where there are too many powerful interests to contend with.

Even when his efforts led to significant improvement in the power sector, and he was making the right calls, I have always believed that at some point Nnaji’s appointment would unravel. What I did not envisage is that it would unravel in such a dramatic fashion. By his own account, Nnaji was confronted on Tuesday afternoon by President Goodluck Jonathan with the allegation that he was using his company as a proxy to buy shares in one of the companies being privatized under his watch. Given my little experience in the corridor of power in Nigeria, when things get to that point for a minister, you either jump or be pushed. Nnaji, at least going by Aso Rock statement, was clever enough to opt for the former.

What happened, however, came as no surprise. Prior to Tuesday’s resignation, there had been reports that participation by two companies in which Nnaji has considerable interest had compelled the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) to cancel the technical bid evaluation process conducted for Afam power plant and Enugu Disco. To be fair to him, it was Nnaji who actually brought it to the attention of the council (of which he was a member) that O & M Solutions of Pakistan, one of the consortia bidding for Afam, had worked as a contractor for Geometric Power.

But aside the Afam Power station issue, Geometric Power equally has minority stake in Eastern Electric Nigeria Limited, which submitted technical and financial bids for Enugu Distribution Company Limited. So, effectively, Nnaji had interest, albeit indirectly, in two transactions in a sector which he superintended. There was no way that was not going to be a problem for the government.

What I find difficult to understand, however, is how Nnaji could imagine that all the intricacies surrounding these transactions would not have been exploited by government’s opponents (and his) if any of the companies to which he was associated had won the bid. When asked if Geometric Power would withdraw from the consortium bidding for Enugu Disco, Nnaji said: “As far as I am concerned, the bid is still alive. I know that they set up a new committee to re-evaluate the bids, but I don’t know if the process will still be fair after what has happened.”

What nobody should, however, take from Nnaji is his commitment to power sector reforms in Nigeria. It was this that, in the first place, led to his investment in Geometric. He was a hands-on Minister of Power who did the best he possibly could under a very hostile operating environment. Now that he has resigned, there is need for the president to move quickly to appoint a substantive, not acting, successor. Efforts should be made to get someone who not only understands the sector but who also has the capacity to drive the on-going reform in such a manner that will ensure transparency and quick consummation of the privatization exercise.

Whoever emerges as successor to Nnaji, there are still issues to contend with. The first one has to do with the ineffective coordination between stakeholders in the power and gas sectors, leading to delays in the implementation of the Independent Power Projects (IPP). The fact that the Minister of Power has no control over gas which is under the purview of the Minister of Petroleum has been a contending issue and the government must find a way to resolve that lacuna. To put it mildly, both Nnaji and Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke had been working at cross-purposes in a sector as critical as power supply.

When THISDAY Editorial Board recently had an interview session with Nnaji, he alluded to this while speaking about his frustration concerning gas availability for which he has no control yet the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was quick to respond by disputing his claims. This lack of synergy between the two ministries would have to be addressed for the power reform exercise to work. If the government is serious, we may need to bundle electricity and gas administration as it is done in some other countries. For instance, the United Kingdom bundled the Office of Gas regulator and office of the electricity regulator in 2001 into OFGEN when it realized the inefficiency and lack of coordination of keeping the two intersecting points separate. This is more imperative in Nigeria given that most of the power projects depend almost entirely on gas for electricity. There is also need for the ministry to synergize better with the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC).

What is perhaps the most serious issue and will require tact from whoever replaces Nnaji is that of labour. Union leaders in the sector, apparently with the support of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) workers, are currently at loggerheads with the government and had fought Nnaji to a standstill. The National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) had claimed that government had been deducting 25 percent of the workers’ salaries as pension over the years. They are therefore demanding the payment of an outstanding N443 billion which the Ministry of Power strongly disputes. Clearly,the issues go beyond pension, as there are interests within the union working against the privatization exercise but it is also clear that there is a breach in the implementation of the National Pensions Act by the Ministry of Power on the entitlement due the workers. All these are urgent issues which make the appointment of a Minister for Power very compelling.

As we move on to privatized electricity market, it is also important that whoever succeeds Nnaji should focus on rural electrification and renewable sources of energy as well as other major policy issues about energy efficiency and security. Aside the issue of privatization, the current reform in the sector, especially by the NERC, is based on cross subsidies. This means that the industry maintains a discriminatory tariff structure for different categories of stakeholders. The essence is to redistribute income, create access for the poor and fix market imperfections.

Unfortunately, the timing of Nnaji’s resignation is most inauspicious as it may not give confidence to investors in what is clearly a very capital intensive sector. So whichever way we look at it, Nnaji’s exit and the other issues around the sector may yet be one of the most debilitating controversies faced by this government; except the president acts very quickly to appoint a worthy successor to the former minister.

Who Shall We Believe?

There is this joke that Nigerian security operatives can make a person to admit to a crime he/she did not commit and we have seen evidence to that over the years. But the current situation where two different groups would “confess” to killing one man on the same date, at the same time but for different reasons is a new feat. Last week, the State Security Service (SSS) paraded for the second time a group of six men who have allegedly confessed to killing Comrade Olaitan Oyerinde, the Principal Secretary to Governor Adams Oshiomhole in an armed robbery operation gone awry. And on the same day, as a sign of petty rivalry, the Police also reiterated its claim that the men in its custody indeed “confessed” to killing the same man in an assassination operation sponsored by Rev David Ugolor.

For me, there can be no greater evidence of the state of our national insecurity today than this shameful situation. What is so galling is that the two agencies are playing this sordid game in the public, disgracing themselves and our country with nobody calling the institutions to order. Even if one refuses to join issues with the security agencies over this bungled homicide investigation, what is very clear to sane people is that in this matter, both the SSS and the Police cannot be right. Yet both can even be wrong.

I sincerely believe that President Goodluck Jonathan should wade in by calling both the DG of SSS and the Inspector General of Police for a meeting over this matter. That should help in determining who is lying and Nigerians should enjoy the benefit of being told the truth. If the two agencies cannot collaborate on a murder investigation, how do we then expect them to work together on bigger issues like terrorism?

Congrats General Dambazau

Lt General Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau (trd), the immediate past Chief of Army Staff and a doctorate degree holder in Criminology, has joined the Harvard University Weatherhead Center for International Affairs on a one-year Fellows Programme. As one of the 20 distinguished personalities drawn from 15 countries, and the only African, Dambazau becomes the 7th Nigerian (and the second retired military officer after the late Joe Garba) to be selected for the programme this reporter attended in the 2010/2011 academic session. Aside other activities, he will be conducting his research on “Current conflicts over land in Nigeria and the impact on ethno-religious crisis”.

While I look forward to joining Dambazau and his new colleagues next April when Harvard will hold the first reunion of former Fellows of the 54-year old centre (“to audit classes, hear from accomplished Ph.D. candidates about their thesis research, attend a dinner and participate in a conference entitled Searching for Balance in an Unstable World”), I wish the General and his family a most rewarding experience in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

By Olumide Goodness Adeyinka

The deadly bickering and the infernal acrimony that has bedeviled the relationship of Christians and Moslems over the years can correctly be traced back to the very seeming reductive understanding of the issues bordering around the story of Abraham who fathered both Isaac and Ishmael through two mothers called Sarah (being the only legal wife of Abraham) and Hagar (who is a resident servant to Sarah in Abraham’s house). The invidious and often fatal encounters of presuming that one religion is superior or more acceptable to God is another error of judgment that has blighted two brethren from the same father and their descendants over the years.

I believe the most portent instrument of world divide now is the two religions of Christianity and Islam. It has pitched the world into two factional and ever-increasing rancorous purview of history.
What God, the eternal creator and ever-knowing deity intended for a display of His powers and influence had been turned into plowshares of war and acridity. Let me say this without any equivocation that God has NO RELIGION and has prescribed none to serve him. God never appended one as a means of accepted service outside His eternal intent to have humanity served with all godliness. Jesus summarized it all in the two laws of love and faith – Love your neighbors as yourself and love God with all your heart. That fully comprehended is the “religion” of God and His Christ.

Please read: http://www.emnnews.com/2011/09/14/the-east-west-divide-indoctrination-and-our-destiny-as-a-people/

Very often than not, one sits to listen to how sermons or preachments are delivered within the enclave of the “Church” on the story of Sarah and Hagar, and my stomach turns in anger of how simple statements of biblical introductions of persons are general taken out of context just to satisfy the urge to prove a point of superiority. I have said it times without number within my realm of influence that the Church of Christ is not a CONDEMNING setting to prove anything. Christ was not condemning the world but RECONCILING the world to God (John 3:17), so the job of the followers of Christ is to reconcile and not judge to condemnation.

More disheartening is the mannerism with which two wonderful creatures of God became separated with one praised and the other condemned through generations. God never created Sarah superior to Hagar but the situation of life subjected Hagar to become a slave to Sarah at a time. That in itself, as we know through history, does not mean a servant is out of God’s eternal plan or destiny. Joseph was a slave at a time! Reading Hagar and her son in the Bible is sound wisdom enough to propel the understanding of how God evolve destinies and separate men all for His own glory altogether.

What preachers of the Bible had over the years transferred through generations to mean God’s rejection of Hagar and her son Ishmael is ridiculous and preposterous in the middle of the abundance of documented evidence to suggest otherwise. To insinuate or proffer that Hagar and Ishmael were abandoned or rejected is fraught with manipulative opinions to applaud an agenda of diminutive expression of the generations through that line. The attempt here is to justify the scriptures as inerrant and infallible in upholding the truth and correcting the errors of the past presently been heralded as facts.

Genesis 16:1-15

The first misreading and misinterpretation in the story is the general assumption that the intimacy between Abram and Hagar is ungodly. There is nowhere in the scripture to suggest that except an agenda to bring that understanding as scriptural in context. The practice at that time was for mistress or masters to obtain children by their maids or servants. Hagar was one maidservant out of many that Sarah wanted to have her children by. To now assume that the move by Sarah to give Hagar to Abram was not divine is to accept a shallow understanding of the total picture of God’s word in eternal purpose in creation. Why do we then apportion blame on Abram except to diminish the import of the big picture that became clearer later? Isaac, no doubt could not have been the first born-child of Abram if he will be the fore-bearer of the second Adam who is Christ (a life-giving spirit). I remember preaching a sermon on this topic in 1996 called the “Mystery of the Second Birth”.

That mystery was operating from the beginning through the first Adam and the second Adam, Cain and Abel, Moses and Joshua, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, Manasseh and Ephraim etc. It was all about Christ and His prominence in birth. Allegorical exegesis of their birth is deeply spiritual than literal.

For as long as we preach the unknown and the predetermined assumptions of our desire to fault and judge we miss the divine insight that such rich stories provided us in the first place.

The second misreading and misinterpretation in the story is the literal description of Hagar as a bondservant or maidservant of Sarah by the Bible. The truth is that is what Hagar was to Sarah. That in itself does not interpret to mean that is the true state of Hagar to God. Hagar, as far as God is concerned is NOT a bonded woman, even though that was her situation or position as it were. God never created a bondservant; He created precious beings that carry His purpose to fulfillment. Until we realize that Ishmael and Isaac were all fulfilling the mandate of God in all humanity so that both the “free” and the “bond” will have their destiny in God ultimately.

When Sarah referred to Ishmael and his mother as Bondservant and her son, it was a statement of fact as it relates to their identity then at that time. God never called Hagar or Ishmael as bondservants. No!

The privilege Isaac had was by grace, and accentuated by the mystery of God’s choice in election.

Another misreading and misinterpretation is about Ishmael himself. He was a legitimate SON of Abram. The politics of survival and relevance played by both mothers not withstanding, God had a purpose in both Ishmael and Isaac. At birth, what Ishmael will be has been set aside before he was even given to Abram and Hagar.

In Genesis 16: 9-16, clearly was it stated in very noble choice of words what destiny awaits Ishmael. Two words came to mind in the expression “Multiply” and “Exceedingly”. The characterization of Ishmael and his generations as a “wildman” is as a result of the past and foreseen abuses he will face.

In Genesis 17:15-27, God had to visit Abram to change his name alongside Sarai. The past errors were erased and a new beginning was to start. Here was where God elucidate His intention to have a second son for Abraham through Sarah in the name of Isaac. However, the reference purpose of God was to make Isaac carry an eternal covenant through redemption will come to man. Even at that, Ishmael will be blessed, will be fruitful and will multiply exceedingly. He will actually become a great nation with 12 princes (as Isaac through Jacob). The eternal wisdom of God surpasses out short-circuited tale of condemnation.

The question then becomes, who among us will make God change what he has already written in purpose to make Ishmael become great? Why then do we ask and pray for a people blessed of God to diminish or be erased from the planet of existence? Are we praying the mind of God or wishing God will approve our agenda to make a religion superior to others when He has only asked that we understand His eternal purpose in diversity yet ONE world of God’s people.

The final misreading and misinterpretation is when we are more disposed to claim our space in religious piety all in the name of practicing Christianity. Islam has become a target of hate, and invariably the people of that religion have become a emblem of severe hatred.

It must be stated clearly here that Jesus Christ NEVER left us a religion. No! That was what He fought when he was alive on the earth. Remember, God gave Moses the commandment and instructions, but never gave them a religion of Judaism that they made to be exclusively theirs without incorporating any other people. They become proud and arrogant in it, thinking it is acceptable to God. Jesus came and demolished all their emblem of religious rites in order to set in motion the true worship of God. Christianity has gone into the same exclusivity where only ours is right and none other. Christ is right, none other, but the mistake has always been that since Christ is included in the nomenclature of “Christianity’ the assumption is heavy to play the game of divine acceptance.

My intent is not to approve any faith but to assuage a more profound understanding of what we read in the Bible, and know that Christ did not leave us a religion of condemnation but a faith of God where all men are linked back to God (not in our Churches) but in their hearts through the laws of love of God and our neighbors.

I will continue on this later.

Olumide Goodness Adeyinka can be reached at nigardgroup@yahoo.com

By Olumide Goodness Adeyinka

Within the drapery of the dark violent years of Nigeria’s history when evil reigned around governance and the masses, it will be said that the torchbearers of the campaign to settle evil with evil are the comradeship of the masses, those who flag the banner for regional balance of evil and violence are those trusted with the voice of the people. (OGA).

When a nation loses her voice, and the voice of any nation are the voices of the few radicals within that only see how things can be done differently and better, then such land becomes a stable for the gatherings of vultures. The dead is the place for the vultures!

I remember very vividly the POLITICS of the agitations of the Niger/Delta militant forces sponsored by the then undemocratically selected executive governors of the South-south states led by the Governor-generals then, James Ibori and Alams, to cause untold hardship on the Nigerian people by blowing up oil installations and making the nation lose several billions of dollars in earnings. I remember when it became a national concern, when several other splinter militant groups came up one after the other when some of their principals were arrested. I remember when the popular voice in the South-south then was that of support and solidarity to the legitimate plight of that zone. When some of us also supported by default the kidnapping of oil expatriates in that area just to sensitize the foreign oil companies of their brazen neglect of the people in the oil zones.

I remember it was within reasonable accommodation then to ensure fairness, especially with the attitude of the multinational oil institutions. It wouldn’t have been necessary if we had a government that knows its duty to the Nigerian people. Alas! We do not have one. The simple justification then was to empower the people to fight for their existence, and ensure that what is expedient is done to alleviate the sufferings of the people of that zone. It was when it got to the scale of rascal absurdity that some of us felt it was time to get the militants to drop their selfish anti-masses agenda of enriching themselves while their people were still suffering in silence. However, behind the scene was an agenda by the then South-south governors to ensure that they used the militants to score a political point that has ensnared us as a nation and blighted us as a people.

The agenda then was to force the government to dialogue and negotiate with the militants so as to calm the frayed nerves of the notorious gangs called militants. The government of Yaradua then, which was heavily indebted to James Ibori, kow-towed the selfish agenda with the magnanimity of his gentle heart and succumbed to the heavy price of paying the comradeship of violent men and women billions of dollars to keep them abroad in schools. Unfortunately, the foot soldiers of the militancy that were sent abroad were NOT the problem. The price of amnesty is of eternal value to Nigeria because it will forever be a reference point of setback to the unity and peace of Nigeria.

Unfortunately, the death of Yaradua in the middle of the confusion became an absolute minus to any sensible solution to the quagmire. Goodluck Jonathan was part of the whole scheme of things as the deputy governor of Bayelsa state. He was in the knowing from the get go! More unfortunate was his ascension to the acting position of the presidency. Most unfortunate for Nigeria was his threatened selection and eventual comic victory at the presidential election. It is an election that has defied logic and simple arithmetic. It was a victory for the rogues and rapscallions of the militancy in the South-south, but was laundered as a victory for the people of the region. What an absurdity of history today!

Now, in the presidency of Goodluck Jonathan, it is wearying to see that some of the wise Nigerians are caught unaware of the fact that Tompolo, Asari Dokubo, Tom etc were more active in the selection process and eventual victory of GEJ; and so deservedly should reap what they have sown. Frowning at their reward now is sickening, when it should have been foreseen in the months preceding the election. It is hopeless crying over spilled milk! Guys, we cannot do anything about it, actually there will be increases in their allowances and stipends at the damnation of any reasonable voice in Nigeria.

That said, the notoriety of the on-going dialogue and negotiation between the Islamic sect, Boko Haram and the federal government is not strange. It is a script well written by the Northern elites to score a balance in the economic game of impoverishing our commonwealth. Should it not make sense for them to feel a good turn deserves another? If Yaradua could approve settlement for the militancy of the oil fields, why shouldn’t GEJ settle the Northern Boko Haram insurgency even though the only field of agitation possible is religion? It would have some sense if the Boko Haram malady were about the moribund textile industries of the North or the abandoned agricultural mien of the zone. But since the urge for a dogmatist portentous economic balance was more superior to collective reason, religion became the only banner for agitation.

Suffice it to say that the Boko Haram palaver was a creature of necessity doctrine put in place to balance a South-south tilting economic superiority over the North.

What is good for the goose should be good for the gander is the prevailing argument that is popular now within Northern elites and leaders. The old voices of reasons within the enclave of the North are disappointingly leading the clamour for dialogue and negotiation with Boko Haram. Preposterous, to say the least!

This is my beef. That the trusted voices of reason have all sounded the crooked call for ‘amnesty’ using other verbiage that is not only strange but also ludicrous. The once-upon- a- time voices of hope and balance, the voices of reason and truth are now in the camp of posturing for a total dialogue with a group that has committed more evil than every other gang of its equal status in the past put together.

Where is the justice in balancing the evil of the past, no matter how disheartening and offensive it is, with present evil going into the future? Where is the patriotism or nationalism in it? It is so clear to anyone who can see that the evil done with the granting of amnesty to the fake and cowardice regime of oil militancy in the South-south will live with us as a bad taste in the mouth for generations yet to come.

To now add to that injury with the present behind-the-curtain dialogue and negotiation with the Islamic religious sect (what they call themselves) Boko Haram will be to quicken the process of tearing this nation to pieces in few years time. I can tell you the Ndigbos will come up with theirs and OPC will champion one for Yoruba too. Igbiras are already telling us they can act too, so will the middle belt lend their voice. The spiral domino effect will not only outlast Nigeria but will send us out as refugees in Ghana, Cameroon, Niger republic and Chad.

As a people, we must endeavor to be upright and just in issues bordering our common existence. Regionalism and ethnicity is a bane of any community of diverse people, so we must frown at the argument that makes us popular with our people at the expense of the Nigeria entity that we all claim to fight for in the past.

As it is now, my least concern is the billions of dollars rolled out to Tompolo, Asari Dokumbo and other GEJ boys since I know all they will do with it is buy common toys all over the world. Somehow, it will enrich the economy of other nations, and may be lift them out from the present global economic meltdown. My concern is the repeat of the mess within the very weak and delicate economic structure we now have.

The question to be asked is, how much development has come to the South-south since GEJ’s term of paying billions out to few entities? None! Nana. Zero. If we pay the Northern Boko Haram to stop unleashing terror on the people, the Northern people will NOT benefit from such, only few individual will!

Finally, it is not what you have done in the past that will count for you but what you did to the end. Regional politics should be dropped when serious national issues are been tabled for decision. The voices of the people should not be drowned by the agenda of the few people who are filled with greed and avarice to enrich themselves at the expense of the masses.

It will be said that I spoke!

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It first came as a rumour a few weeks back when a national newspaper broke the news that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was to introduce the N5,000.00 ‘super note’ to the Nigerian currency. The apex bank’s official promptly discountenanced it, stating that there was no such plan. However, it is now official that the board of the CBN has decided to introduce N5,000.00 note as Nigeria’s highest denomination of currency. Also in the offing, is the restructuring of the Nigerian currency which entails the conversion of the N5, N10 and N20 notes into coins. The new coins are expected to complement the existing 50k, N1 and N2 coins which though, have been long out of circulation.

So many rather disquieting issues have arisen from this decision of the CBN that a welter of condemnations and controversy have trailed the announcement. The first question being raised is, what is the point of a higher denomination note now and why such a costly review of the nation’s currency?

The CBN noted that higher currencies are more economical. But opposition parties, labour unions and financial experts have risen as one to query the rationale for what is considered a wasteful venture in the face of numerous pressing national problems and an obvious paucity of funds. What major economic value would this imbue the nation? That seems to be the refrain from every quarter.

Many have also pointed out that the new ‘super note’ flies in the face of a key component of CBN’s on-going reform which advocates a cashless economy. For about six months, the apex bank had embarked on a massive campaign designed to make Nigerians carry less cash and, in its stead, use virtual money products such as cheques, ATM card, debit and credit cards as well as online cash transactions. Limits were even set on the amount bank customers could withdraw or deposit. The entire purpose is to reduce the use of cash which is very expensive to produce and even more so to distribute and manage on a daily basis by the apex bank. Nigerians are just beginning to get attuned to dislodging cash from their consciousness and now CBN is about to throw in an alluring big ‘note’.

There is also the concern that the new note will only drive inflation. It has been suggested that the introduction of higher face value notes by any country signposts inflation. Examples of countries like Argentina, Peru, Zaire, Angola and Zimbabwe have been cited where raging inflation had driven currency notes to be printed in higher and even higher notes to no avail. Time was when the highest note in Nigeria was the N20 and coins were in common use. But coins disappeared in Nigeria as the currency denomination got higher. Attempts to reintroduce the coins a few years back failed because they could hardly give value anymore. And they are so cumbersome to carry, to boot. They disappeared naturally out of disuse. Why would CBN spend so much money to mint new coins when it had not determined why the last ones failed?

We dare say that this is another disappointing move by the CBN under the headship of Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. We have witnessed too many policy flip-flops under his regime of a seemingly endless reform in the last couple of years. More worrisome, neither the banks nor the financial system has been the better for it. We therefore urge Sanusi and members of the board of the CBN to take another look at this higher currency policy and indeed all others that seem inimical to the system, with a view to acceding to the will of the people.

Rescuing The North

Posted: August 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

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Engagements By Chidi Amuta

The critical national security challenge of the moment coincides with an incremental meltdown of the geographic North of the country.  As we speak, nearly the entire region has been seized by a new normal: suicide bombings, assassinations, routine acts of arson, carnage and the elevation of violence into the dominant language of social interaction. Tragedy no longer makes news. More debilitating is the gradual de-coupling of half of the nation from the national economy through a psychological hindrance of the free movement of persons and economic factors.

For now, something rough and frightening is restlessly haunting the North and we should all be concerned.  Any crisis that affects one section of the country makes us all incomplete whether we live in Badagry or Birnin Kebbi.

While we are at it, an untidy sectarian wall is gradually being erected among Nigerians. From being simply citizens of one country, Nigerians are being forced to see themselves as either Christian or Muslim.  Meanwhile, the politics of insensitivity to the plight of the masses persists just as Northern political leaders jostle for vantage positions in relation to 2015.

Federal response has followed familiar roads: troops deployment, expressions of intention to dialogue with a faceless adversary etc. Even more tragic, repeated meetings of Northern governors and political leaders have turned out clueless on how to stem the violence and re-integrate the region into the nation. Instead, the loudest noises from the region have been about sharing of oil money, derivation quotas and loud opposition to proposed constitutional changes that should make Nigeria work better.

One or two members of the so-called Northern elite have gone as far as alleging that Boko Haram is the result of a lopsided revenue and derivation formula. Implication? Throw more billions of naira into the gaping pockets of the same opportunistic and unimaginative people who vicariously created Boko Haram in the first place. A handful of more enterprising ‘Northerners’ have set up shop as negotiators or mediators between government and the violent jihadists. I see a business plan, not a patriotic interest in national security in this whole enterprise of dialoguing with Boko Haram.

Only last week, however, an impressive array of mostly Northern notables was convoked for the purpose of finding solutions to the unrelenting violence. These efforts are impressive displays of concern. But among this gamut of views and propositions, there is nothing on the table that suggests that we are prepared to admit the origins of the crisis or intelligently engage on permanent solutions.

While we grope for solutions, to my mind, the region faces three distinct possibilities:  First, increased federal security effort could produce a temporary restoration of the pre-existing order of inequality secured by force.  Second, the regime of insecurity could become institutionalised to the extent of the region becoming more like Somalia and thus become effectively de-coupled from the rest of the federation. The latter would be characterised by periodic fire fights between armed factions and the rise of warlords. With the characterisation of elements of Boko Haram as part of an international terrorist organisation by the US, we may soon play host to drone attacks on suspected terrorists targets in Nigerian territory.  The third more positive possibility is an internal political revolution in which a new leadership emerges to seriously address the challenges of development and modernisation of the region, literally continuing from where the late Sar’dauna of Sokoto left off in 1966.

Most interpretations of the turn of events in the North are mostly as foolish as the blind quest for solutions in wrong directions. The anomy in the region is not exclusively a failure of security. The North is as insecure as the rest of Nigeria and people are not strapping explosive belts around their waists in other parts of the country. It is also not necessarily a political pressure to get a Northern president in 2015. How come Boko Haram has targeted key Northern leaders including, most recently, some traditional rulers and key politicians? It is true Al Queda and other fundamentalist anarchists seek fertile ground in places where poverty and desperation drive people of friendly faith to buy into their theology of mindless bestiality. But the Nigerian show of repeated violence is not strictly theirs; our strategic position vis-a-vis Western interests is mostly marginal but our weak security infrastructure makes this place attractive to casual anarchists, be they Boko Haram, kidnappers or glorified  oil thieves erroneously dubbed Niger Delta militants.

To my mind, Boko Haram is a direct repercussion of years of misguided policy, irresponsible politics and atrocious governance by both the federal authorities and the various governments of Northern states. All our efforts in the search for solutions to this tragedy must therefore be anchored on how to redress the repercussions of bad leadership first by the Northern elite and vicariously the federals.

There is a historical puzzle about the turn of events in Nigeria’s Northern half.  The two factors that have contributed to prosperity, modernisation and progress in other parts of the world have been abundantly present in the North of Nigeria, namely, Islam and military rule. For over four decades, Nigeria was under military rule and 95 per cent of the leaders were Northern officers. Roughly 50 per cent of Nigeria is unarguably Islamic.  In Asia and parts of Latin America, military rule modernised economies and provoked modernism and democratic reform. In Malaysia, Indonesia and the Gulf states of the Middle East, Islam and oil wealth have fuelled modernisation and major economic development. How come that in Nigeria, these factors have ended up breeding swarms of destitute and jobless youths driven to the limits of desperation mostly in the Northern half of our country?

Let us reduce the argument to the real world. Let us take an inventory of technicians, tractor operators, plumbers, mechanics, tailors, bricklayers, IT operators, serious traders from the North. In short, let someone carry out an audit of the percentage of the national stock of skilled manpower that is from the North. It is not enough for some Northern governors to insist that they have been budgeting for education and infrastructure over the years just like their Southern counterparts.

What type of education have they been providing? What accounts for the low level of entrepreneurial education in the region? How come the region remains unattractive to foreign investors even from point of view of available indigenous manpower? The Nigerian Diaspora is burgeoning. Let us find out what percentage of that potent force is from the 19 Northern states.

The inconvenient truth is that the North is not quite like the South in many senses. The cultural and religious divide of the country between the two dominant faiths of the world poses a different set of development challenges for the two halves of the country.  Incidentally, it was only in the First Republic under the late Sar’dauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello (Allah bless his heritage!), that this realisation was brought to bear on the philosophy of governance and development strategy in the old Northern Nigeria. That is why the glorious era that we keep referring to – the age of the groundnut pyramids, the cotton piles, the super competent public servants and the openness and tolerance of the people to all faiths coincides with this era.

With military invasion of governance and regimental political unitarism, the recognition of the peculiarity of the region was smashed. In its place was introduced an array of faulty assumptions: equality of states, even development, unmediated western education, oil as king, the politics of laziness and constitutional entitlement to oil money and a very unscientific affirmative action. These are the sins that we are now paying for.

The imperative of the moment is to take a look at the development strategies that have been adopted over the years in the North and see the extent to which we have adapted this to the cultural needs of the region. We are not the only country in the world with a huge Muslim population. Why are the others making progress and we are making orphans and widows? Why are the Gulf states taking giant leaps in development to the acclaim of the rest of the world? Why is Turkey, a predominantly Muslim country with a secular constitution, now one of the world’s favourite destinations for investment and a source of expertise? Why have Malaysia and Indonesia made the giant economic leaps we know in spite of their impossible geographical constraints?

The classic irony of the plight of the North is that a region that has produced ‘the richest man in Africa’- Alhaji Aliko Dangote – also boosts of the smallest concentration of entrepreneurs per square kilometre than the rest of the country! How come?

Even Saudi Arabia that hosts Islam’s holiest sites is embracing modernity while we remain cocooned in ancient customs and hold our people down with oppressive theologies? Put simply, why has the Northern political elite found it impossible to come up with development strategies that are based on the cultural identity of the region? All meetings of the so-called Northern governors over the years have never been development oriented. And yet, it is to the prosperous cities of the Gulf states (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Mecca and Medina) and Europe that these same leaders escape either on lavish vacations or to invest whatever wealth they accumulate in public office.

The solution to the crisis of violence and insecurity in the North may not be as farfetched as the authorities are making it appear. The prerequisite is the humility, on the part of the Northern political elite, to admit past missteps and the intellectual curiosity to ask the correct questions from the right quarters.

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By Raheem Oluwafunminiyi

In the last couple of weeks, the Presidency via its media inner circle has been having it tough with critics, most especially the hard-nut-to-crack opposition parties, the ‘army of sponsored and self-appointed anarchists’ and also ‘the twittering, pinging, Facebook crowd of the new age’.

This tough battle between the President’s men and the rest of the public is coming at a time when Nigerians more than ever before now see their leaders as some bunch of untrustworthy men who had promised heaven and earth, yet fail to send down the rain (apologies to Majek Fashek). It is for this reason why few individuals had to be recruited or to be ‘official’, appointed to help give credibility to a government believed to be the most cursed in the world. Of course, such appointments couldn’t have come at a better time, most especially when confusion within the presidency has further cut off whatever filial affection the vast majority of the people initially had felt with the government of the day. Okupe and Abati are one of such.

Abati, not known to be politically naive went all out few days ago to lash out at almost everybody who he believes ‘don’t even know why or how they should attack the President.’ This writer would not want to believe, like Abati claimed, is Mr. Aleseju! If Alaseju, however, is the Yoruba appellation that would simply make Abati see the obvious through this writer’s piece, then the better for us all. It is quite ironical that Abati claimed the Jonathan is a grossly misunderstood President, while arguing too many people are unfair to him, criticize him out of ignorance, abuse him out of mischief and lashing at the opposition who ‘doesn’t make things easy at all’. But if President Jonathan had not removed subsidy from fuel in January, had stopped the Boko-Haram menace, even though all to no avail, he continuously promises he was committed to nipping the menace in the bud, had fought the oil cabal who cheated the government and the vast majority of the people of their commonwealth and created an enabling environment for employment amidst other leadership responsibilities, nobody would give a damn. Since the country has moved from fry pan to fire in the last 15 months, with little or nothing to show for the growth and development of the economy and the social uplift of the people, who else is supposed to be make things hard for the President?

It is quite ironical that people like Abati who began his career as a public affairs commentator and fighter of reckless governments and their visually impaired policies is now the one who looks into the eyes of his progeny, claiming they are ‘wasting their talents lending relevance to thoughtless conclusions’. Abati got it all wrong with most of the issues he raised to support his paymaster. Abati claimed nobody was more committed to the Nigerian Project than President Jonathan, yet the Nigerian project is fast crumbling before our very eyes. The Ogoni and Bakassi secession threats are just one out of the many signs of a possible break-up as predicted by the US, while Boko-Haram have obviously made the country or the North ungovernable. If the President faces ‘unforeseen challenges which his administration has had to contend with,’ what exactly are the things he has done and intends to sincerely do ‘to positively transform Nigeria?’ It is not enough to proclaim words or make assertions like Abati did in his piece, without laying bare to

Nigerians facts, therefore, the claim that ‘ordinary Nigerians know and appreciate this’ is balderdash.
If Abati had left the issue of the opposition out as critics of his paymasters, it wouldn’t have bothered much this writer, but because Abati failed to understand that these ‘leaders of the opposition who claim that the President has lost the support of Nigerians’ were only speaking the minds of millions of Nigerians, it can never be possible that they ‘represent only themselves and their selfish interests’. Abati should go out and get the performance and support ratings of his paymasters from Nigerians and see how well the opposition would have performed in the public opinion test. The Northern part of the country believes they do not have a leader since Boko-Haram keeps decimating them in their hundreds and by the day, the South-West who seem not to forget history still recall the subsidy removal and how the cabal still breath the air of freedom or where was Abati when tempers rose in that region as a result of the renaming of the University of Lagos to Moshood Abiola University through executive fiat? Kidnapping continues unabated in the South-East with a university Vice-Chancellor recently released from the kidnappers den. Many more scenes of violence and insecurity permeate that region with no viable solution insight or is the President still not committed to eradicating the menace? The South-South faces threats of secession, while skirmishes of militancy are felt week in and out. In short, with the unforeseen challenges which his administration has had to contend with, the opposition couldn’t have been wrong when they claimed ‘the President has lost the support of Nigerians’. Such statement of course does not portray them as pursuing selfish interests but patriotism to the nation and sincerity of purpose.   

This writer wants to believe Abati was being economical with the truth when he argued the President ‘knows Nigerians want infrastructure. That is why he is telling Bi-Courtney to fix Lagos-Ibadan Expressway or get out. That is why he is telling a particular Minister to fix the East-West road and get it fixed quickly.’ Bi-Courtney should not be told to fix our roads; rather, the company should be blacklisted while those who manage it should be prosecuted for inefficiency and flagrant abuse of contractual agreement. The particular Minister who has continued delay on the East-West road should be sacked for not doing his job and made to face the full wrath of the law for causing unnecessary accidents on that road. With Bi-Courtney and the particular Minister, Nigerians are sure going to wait a very long time to get the needed infrastructures needed to survive. Abati should have told us when an infrastructure like our moribund refineries would start working; he should have told us when infrastructures like good hospitals would be built across the federation, he should have told us when infrastructures like portable borehole would be erected in places like the North rather than just displaying ethical professionalism.

If truly the President ‘has directed the relevant agencies to get corrupt persons to answer for their misdeeds,’ why have Nigerians not seen or heard of a high profile case prosecuted by the EFCC? The oil cabals still walk free and Abati knows this. The EFCC under its first Chairman had case files of former governors, yet nobody hears anything about it. The fraud in the Pension Office and Security and Exchange Commission still begs for prosecution, yet Abati claims what is not.

Of what benefit is it to Nigerians if the President runs a modern and open Presidency, gets access to Facebook, Twitter, email, SMS, BB, reads and writes, yet failed to feel the pulse of the people during the subsidy removal saga? Where was Mr. President when the intelligentsia, his immediate community and others asked that the rule of law should prevail at the last gubernatorial election in Bayelsa? Was that election not fraught with the highest form of impunity even when Nigerians pleaded for a level playing field? If the President needs the support of the people to do his work, how come he has refused to re-instate the President of the Court of Appeal, despite pleas from the masses? Of what benefit is it to Nigerians if ‘President Jonathan was the first Nigerian leader to appoint a woman as his Chief Economic Adviser and took affirmative action in political appointments to a higher level by reserving 35% of all appointive positions in government for our women folk’, yet more than 55% of Nigerian women are faced with poverty, disease, neglect and live below a dollar?    

Abati loves to talk, talk, talk, bringing out issues without hitting on the facts behind the issues. If truly the President does not spends billions on feeding and since he has enjoyed the privilege of eating at the President’s table, Abati should have been more sincere to have told Nigerians in his piece how much was allocated for feeding in the President’s 2012 budget. But for the outcry which was later cut to N700 Million, almost N1 Billion would have gone down the drain in feeding the President. What 150 Million Nigerians need is how food can get to the tables and not some stories of the ogogoro Mr. President consume or does not.  

Abati has every right to fight for his paymaster, however, what Nigerians need at this critical period in the country’s history is how insecurity would be tactically tackled, how the millions of unemployed youths would be employed, how Boko-Haram would be reduced to a toothless Bull Dog, how power generation would get to 44,000 MW, how corruption would be doggedly fought, how the emergence of powerful oil cabal would be a thing of the past and how our roads, hospitals, education sector and all other facets of the society would return to its past glory. If these are not achieved soonest, Abati must be ready for more cynics, pestle-wielding critics, unrelenting, self-appointed activists, idle and idling, twittering, collective children of anger, distracted crowd of Facebook addicts and the BBM-pinging soap opera gossips of Nigeria and this time around, they would not be in competition among themselves to pull down President Goodluck Jonathan.


By Kassim Afegbua

Nothing can be as gazundering as the launch penultimate week of a particular type of Television that uses battery as its source of energy.

The product according to the brand owners LG was designed specifically for the Nigerian market and Nigerians simply because we have become a country of perpetual darkness, no thanks to poor and epileptic power supply by the Power Holding Company of Nigeria [PHCN].

On television, one could see the promoters of this insult dancing at our collective follies and reminding us of the durability of the batteries that would power the television in place of electricity.

One could see the effrontery with which they displayed their new product waiting to capture the Nigerian market. Do you blame them?

Really, I find this development very disturbing and benumbing. In an era where the Okupes of this world have started singing new songs of performance and improved wattage of electricity, boasting on television that a nation that wants to be one of the most developed economy in the world is just operating at the periphery of 4,600 megawatts, such a geometric increase from inherited 1,700 megawatts, one wonders why the option of a battery propelled television should occupy the sensibilities of any serious manufacturer.

And granting them the right to showcase this trash meant only for the Nigerian market is an admission of failure by government that irrespective of what they make us believe, power cannot improve in the country in the nearest future.

On the one hand, government is battling with the underhand dealings and sabotage of generator providers, seeing them as one of the factors militating against improved power supply while on the other hand; government is tolerating and encouraging the importation to Nigeria of a particular type of television that uses battery as power.

For those categories of Nigerians who cannot boast of power supply, and who now see darkness as light, such introduction might mean good news to them.

At least, it will help them to keep tab on issues around them and enjoy all the programmes and facilities that a television can provide; but as a nation that is on the “fast lane” of transformation, this is arrant nonsense. It is an insult on our collective sufferance and psyche.

It is a big shame. No matter what anyone may say as to whatever advantage this might convey to the end users, it is to me a complete disincentive to our national goals and objectives. Government will now be faced with the twin evil of battling generator importers and the importers of battery television. Since this is just a new product already launched, it is not likely that it will fizzle out soon.

And once this becomes popular as is often the case with anything new in Nigeria, Nigerians might just tell government to go to hell with its power boosting effort. Agreed that power serves different purposes other than just for watching television, but the television is a resource for most homes in keeping with the trends in the society and once it is understood that there exists a battery television, you can be rest assured that it will be the new craze in town.

LG or whatever name they call themselves should have intervened in the energy sector by helping government to find a roadmap around this energy crisis in a manner that will see them as partners in our collective effort to make meaning with the energy sector. All the mouthing of Barth Nnaji and co. as to the achievement of the present administration in the power sector is mere showmanship. This battery television has just told us that.

NIGERIA: GOVERNED BY MILITANTS AND SUPER-MILITANTS.

If we are truly a sane country, we will not be in the realm of the several absurdities that have occupied our sensibilities in recent past. Reading daily newspapers in Nigeria today presents one with a very sordid tale of the several contradictions that are freely on parade.

Imagine Nigeria under the grip of militants, ex-militants or whatever name one chooses to call them. Newspapers’ reports have it that some of the ex-militants enjoy government patronage to the tune of several billions of naira and dollars depending on the nature of the contract.

As we speak, our coastal security is in the hands of Tompolo ditto our petroleum pipelines that are said to be under the surveillance of the militants or warlords.

The ex-militants have taken over the responsibilities of the armed forces; Police, Navy, Air Force, and Army. I understand they have better knowledge of the topography of the Niger-Delta than the military and Police.

Nigeria is a country where criminality pays faster than rule of law and sheer intellect. It is a country where we celebrate absurdities to comic height and render awards to those who have undermined the system.

It is a country where a trained military officer will salute a bloody ex-militant and regard him as General. When you see the roll call of militants or warlords in the Niger-Delta, you have all manners of ranks; General this, General that, General Today, General Tomorrow, General Creek, General Pipeline, General Waterways, General Land ways, General Flying Boat, General Canoe.

All manners of names! I am not aware of any country where such a prestigious rank of a General is entrusted in the hands of those who have never be in the military or received any formal training in any of the Armed Forces. But in Nigeria, the fear of militants and ex-militants they say is the beginning of wisdom.

Boko Haram has taken its turn now with more dangerous approach than we had hitherto known in the history of armed struggle in Nigeria.

We celebrate corruption in Nigeria with pride. We rejoice when we see the corrupt being paraded before our very eyes. We give them awards and laurels.

We organize for them ostentatious ceremonies to announce the deepness of their wallets. Those who are respecters of law and order are treated with disdain. We sack the honest ones among us and keep the thieving ones in office. We expose the whistle blowers in our fight against corruption and protect those who are known to be big rats in government swimming in corruption.

For example, why is it difficult for Dr. Doyin Okupe to tell his story about contract or no contract fraud in Imo and Benue States? Why will PDP put up a vainglorious defense in support of an individual who is very much alive and being accused of corruption? I won’t be surprised if Dr. Doyin Okupe is given a national merit award or what is it called; national honours; OFR, MFR, CON, etc in the next edition of that wasteful exercise. It is a country where we reward those who are under-performing and reject those who are achievers in their different fields. It is a story that is scathingly painful but has refused to go away.

When I entitled this column; “Stomach Democracy”, some people were wondering what could have informed my choice of words. But with the realities on ground today especially the penchant to satisfy individual needs as opposed to the nation’s needs,I am sure the import of this would have dawned on all of us.

Rather than have rolling plans that will put under focus our future agenda for national rebirth and development, we prefer to oil the pockets of a few individuals who ordinarily should be cooling off in jail; with juicy contracts and patronages. With such reward for criminality, why would anyone deserve to see an end to the Boko Haram menace when they could see how much of patronages their contemporary ex-militants are enjoying now in the name of amnesty? It is the only reason why the militants have been preaching war.

Having taken so much than what they would need for their lifetime, they prefer to build new empires and fest their nest on their conquered territories. For a country still struggling to walk straight, too much money in the hands of ex-militants is an invitation to doom for the entire country.

Despite the obsession for stupendous wealth acquisition with such a conquistador lifestyle by the ex-militants, the rationale for their armed struggle in the first place, still exists in the Niger-Delta. There is still pollution, environmental degradation, oil spills, polluted streams and water, exploitation, bunkering, oil theft and other associated vices.

The quality of life has dropped for an average peasant in the oil rich Niger-Delta whilst their so-called elite class wallows in byzantine squander-mania. The reasons for taking up arms against a democratically elected government in Nigeria [which culminated in hostage taking and killing of innocent ones] have been defeated because the former bandits who have now become billionaires are now blinded to the challenges in the Niger-Delta. They now live in exotic hotels in choice locations across the world.

They live artificial lifestyles; life of fear of the unknown. They live for today and not for tomorrow because the petro-dollars will continue to roll in with exuberant ease.

That is the Nigeria story of today. A story of absurdities and incongruities. A story of the insane dictating for the sane. A story where intellect is subsumed in the aqua of hedonism and crass materialism, where money power speaks the language of power and not knowledge or ideas. That is the Nigerian story.