Archive for February, 2013

By Prince Charles Dickson

A certain man had died
In the town of Bethany
And Lazarus was his name
The Bible says he was
A man that Jesus loved
And his sisters thought
It was a shame
Mary and Martha longed
For Jesus healing touch
To come and raise their brother
Cause they loved that boy so much

With the above lyrics of a song by Carmelo Domenic Licciardello known by his stage name, Carman. I start this week’s admonition…very quickly let me say that ‘Lazarina’ is the female version of the name Lazarus as coined by me. Lazarus is the subject of a miracle of resurrection in the Christian Holy Book the bible, for additional reading and understanding; you may want to see John 11 for the full story.

While the biblical Lazarus was dead for four days; our own Nigerian version, Lazarina took it full throttle–seven whole days. Well the truth however is that I am not concerned about whether my president’s wife died, whether she is dying or otherwise, I am however concerned how her story is a metaphor for all that is wrong, and though I have discussed similar issues and in the last one week there has been several commentaries on the matter, I won’t relent in repeating them.

I am told a lie is a type of deception in the form of an untruthful statement, especially with the intention to deceive others. To lie is to state something with disregard to the truth with the intention that people will accept the statement as truth.

A liar is a person who is lying, who has previously lied, or who tends by nature to lie repeatedly—even when not necessary.

The three definitions suit the current group we call leaders…particularly the third one. I really do not blame them so much because as a people we have become accustomed to accepting lies as statements of truth.

There are several types of lies…like the big lie, a lie which attempts to trick the victim into believing something major and likely be contradicted by some information the victim already possesses, or by their common sense. When the lie is of sufficient magnitude it may succeed due to the victim’s reluctance to believe that an untruth on such a grand scale would indeed be fabricated.

So why do our leaders and their ilk lie–they simply lie because they simply have no regard for those they govern, it is a reflection of their style of governance and the kind of value system that they have built.

El-Rufai, writes his book, for many it’s not just about the accidental public servant, it is about accidental lies told in the book. Obasanjo lies, Atiku lied, IBB lied, and Jonathan and his cassava bread empire are lying every day. They lie about who signed an accord and who did not accord it honour, almost the whole 36 governors lie, they are lying and continue to lie.

Lying has become a national pastime, they steal monies for development go abroad to cool off but they lie that they are seeking partnerships and foreign investors. A pen robber steals billions, lies about his innocence and goes to court seeking an injunction stopping his arrest/trial to prove the same innocence.

As parents we tell bared-faced lies to our kids, even the old age culture of explaining to our loved ones by truth that finances are poor has long deserted us. So we lie to the poor kids about school tuition by telling them tomorrow when indeed tomorrow never ends– some call it faith. You answer a mobile call while in Garki, Abuja and lie that you are in Yenogoa Bayelsa.

We are lied to about Boko Haram, they hate education but never have attacked the University of Maidugiri, they are Islamic fundamentalists, yet the entire Koran nowhere supports suicide, or robbing of banks, or attacking an emir.

We are a generation of liars, that’s why ’their god” blesses them with private jets while the congregation treks and are disciples of unbearable hardship.

They lie about subsidy, about PIB; we are treated to all sorts of lies that deny pensioners their sweat at old age while higher beings with the ability to lie loot them blind.

The metaphor of Dame Lazarina is a reflection of our nation, many of us out of our religious sanctimonious behavior advocate thanking God for her life but forget the place of liars as advocated by the Holy Bible–“All liars would go to hell”.

As much as I am miffed about our leadership that lies, what about followers that are products of lies. Indeed Lazarus rose from the dead, and we can read the whole story and context, but how about the 9-Times-A-Month-Surgery resurrection story of Lazarina, and her friends who were already selling her properties?

And you tell the world how they loot, buy houses, cars, and jewelries, they call us opposition and see-no-good followers and noise making citizens. But while they are yet dead, their friends start to sell properties they initially claim they do not have.

This admonition is not just about lying, the lies and the liars, it is so much what the product of these lies have become…The implication of Dame Lazarina’s resurrection, are many but not limited to the few I will just mention.

When they resurrect from their mind-blowing death—they boast that 100 political parties put together can never defeat the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, come 2015 presidential election.

For those of us that have not died and resurrected you may not really understand the way of the dead, they not only see ghosts, they are used to illusions whether true or false, imagined or real. Bode George resurrected from Prison, we know where he is now.

Tony Anenih has resurrected and maybe PDP Board of Trustee chairman. Did you see how Bamanga Tukur resurrected, or is it the resurrection of Ahmadu Ali, Journalists call it the return, those who know better call it resurrection so are you surprised when billions disappear, it is simply the way of ghosts—the way of people that resurrect. Monies meant for development simply disappear, they lie, they die and again they resurrect, the circle continues. When a goat’s day “to die” arrives, it says there is nothing a butcher can do to it. Whether we keep listening to Dame Lazarina’s resurrection tales only time will tell.

20130225-014213.jpg

Advertisements

By Josiah Idowu-Fearon

As in previous articles, this piece is written for those who wish to see Nigerians united in spite of their religious differences. It is the hope of the writer that, reading this piece will open up discussions between those who profess these two faiths ( Islam and Christianity)and, eventually, result in deep respect for each other’s faith practices and lead to a more eirenic relationship.

Last Wednesday (Ash Wednesday) Christians all over this country joined millions of others all over the world to begin a forty-day fasting period called Lenten Season. The Muslim equivalent to this religious duty is Ramadhan. Are there similarities in their observance, do they have similar expectations during and after the periods and could faithfulness to the expectations bring about individual transformation, unity among Nigerian Christians and Muslims leading to even development especially in the Northern parts of the country?

In the Christian liturgical calendar, Lent is the penitential period of 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter. Traditional Christian observances of Lent include fasting and penitence, both in preparation for Easter and as a way of spiritually “joining” Jesus with the fasting and meditation he did in the wilderness. For early Christians and for Eastern Orthodox Christians today, the rules of fasting are strict: just one meal a day, in the evening, and no meat, fish, eggs, or butter is permitted.

Origins of Lent:

The name lent is a Germanic word originally used to refer to the spring season generally. Over time, it replaced the Latin quadragesima, which means “forty days.” Lent lasts forty days because, according to biblical accounts, Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days of fasting, meditation and reflection before beginning his ministry ( Lk.4:1-12). In Western Christendom as well as in Africa, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday; for Eastern Orthodox Churches, it is called “Great Lent” and begins on Clean Monday (one of my uncles, though an Anglican, follows this tradition).

Sultan of Sokoto and Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, CAN President

Lent & Ash Wednesday:

Where do the ashes come in for Ash Wednesday? It was traditional in ancient times for people engaged in special times of fasting, prayer, repentance, or remorse by rubbing ashes on their foreheads as an outward symbol of what they are experiencing internally. This custom entered Christianity through Judaism, and Christians today may apply ashes on their foreheads to mark the beginning of Lent. Ideally, one should use ashes from the burning of palm fronds from the previous year’s Easter celebrations.

Lent and Fasting Today:

In Western Christendom today, the strictest fasting rules were eliminated in the Roman Catholic Church in 1966. Only Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are required to be strict fasting days for Roman Catholics. Penance, however, is still observed and marked by alms giving, devoting time to prayer and Bible reading, and other forms of religious study.

In the Anglican communion, Lent and Fridays are set aside as days of fasting and abstinence, however, individual Anglicans are free to determine for themselves what particular measures of abstinence they will follow in the observance of these days, though certain parishes and dioceses are more encouraging of fasting than others. While in Kaduna diocese for example, everyone is encouraged to fast all through the Lenten season, in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney its people are discouraged from fasting during Lent. During the early days of the church, this period was also one in which those who wanted to become Christians prepared for their baptismal rites.

Days of Lent:

Calculating the days of Lent varies between Western (Protestants, Catholics, Anglicans) and Eastern (Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, eastern-rite churches affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church) churches. In Western churches, Sundays are skipped when counting because Sundays commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. In the Catholic Church, the official end of Lent occurs on Holy Thursday with the mass of the Lord’s Supper.

These details are presented here to inform our readers that in the Christian faith, this annual ritual, unlike the Muslim equivalent is not an obligation as we shall see from the Muslim ritual equivalence in Islam. However, it would be educative to note some of the common practices between the two faith traditions.

Ramadhan. In Islam, this season is the prescribed period when every Muslim is expected to faithfully observe the forth pillar of Islam. This observance involves fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, which is probably the most notable time for fasting among Muslims. In Islam, fasting for a month is an obligatory practice, from fajr (dawn), until the maghrib (dusk).

Muslims are prohibited from eating, drinking (including water), and engaging in sexual activity. They are also encouraged to temper negative emotions such as anger and addiction. By fasting, whether during Ramadan or other times, a Muslim draws closer to God by abandoning bodily pleasures, such as food and drink. This makes the sincerity of their faith and their devotion to God all the more evident.

The Qur’an states that fasting was prescribed for those before them – the Jews and Christians- ( Baqarah: 183-185) and that by fasting a Muslim gains taqwa, which can be described in one word as ‘God-consciousness’.

Similar teachings on the main event of the two seasons: Fasting

A significant number of Christians within mainland Christianity and most Muslims believe that fasting is more than abstaining from food and drink. Fasting also includes abstaining from any falsehood in speech and action, abstaining from any ignorant and indecent speech, and from arguing, fighting, and having lustful thoughts. Therefore, fasting strengthens control of impulses and helps develop good behaviour. Particularly during the Lenten season and the sacred month of Ramadhan, believers strive to purify body and soul and increase their taqwa (good deeds and God-consciousness).

This purification of body and soul harmonizes the inner and outer spheres of an individual. Christians and Muslims who take part in the observance of these seasons, aim to improve their body by reducing food intake and maintaining a healthier lifestyle. Over-indulgence in food is discouraged and eating only enough to silence the pain of hunger is encouraged.

On a moral level, believers strive to attain the most virtuous characteristics and apply them to their daily situations. They try to show compassion, generosity and mercy to others, exercise patience, and control their anger. In essence, by observing these important seasons and the religious duties prescribed, Christians and Muslims are trying to improve what they believe to be good moral character and habits.

Fasting is the soul of prayer; mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. Let no one try to separate them; they cannot be separated. If you have only one of them or not all together, you have nothing. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others you open God’s ear to yourself (St. Peter Chrysologus, c. 400-450, Bishop of Revenna).

Our appeal:

Over 80% of Nigerians belong to one or the other of these two religious traditions with such excellent common rituals. If we are so blessed with such rich religious practices, it becomes incumbent on Christians and Muslims to live-out these rich religious disciplines. We challenge Christians and Muslims in this country to become humble and begin to respect each other’s religious traditions which, as shown above, have a lot in common.

It has been observed that there has been a significant increase in the goodwill messages sent to the Christian community when the Lenten season took-off on ash-Wednesday. It should not go unnoticed, the message from His Eminence, The Sultan of Sokoto, the Spiritual Head of the Muslim Umma in Nigeria. We do hope that the discipline of this Lenten Season will continue to play out as we pray for one another, study our Bible with the determination to live it out and go out of our way to show mercy to those around us who are suffering.

Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Ph.D.(ABU) Diocesan bishop of Kaduna (Anglican Communion).

…As Jonathan Resigns?

Posted: February 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

By Prince Charles Dickson

Fellow Nigerians…

Surrender is not defeat.

I do not know how to start this, but I have started it and indeed starting is what matters. There’s always a first time and this is the first time, it is not just going to be the first time in Nigeria, but Africa.

Few years ago, I was just an ordinary me, gradually by the twist of fate, destiny and whether we believe it or not, by God–I became deputy governor, soon I was governor and then I was vice president, and I soon became acting president.

I recall too well, all the goodwill, all the efforts, the save nigeria group, the human and my apologies inhuman rights community who fought the cabal and then without shoes despite the irregularities you voted me overwhelmingly and I became your president.

You would note this is my first time acknowledging that Jega’s INEC wasn’t perfect but I still won.

I have always had Nigeria at heart, over 160million of you. But what could I have done, with moles everywhere, a party like the PDP, and with opposition like (need I mention), all willing to sell the soul of this nation for a mere spoonful of porridge.

I am the least the problem of Nigeria. I agree that I am your president, but the truth is that you are the problem. Yes, Nigerians are the problem of Nigeria…

In the few years I have been president. I have seen things, I have seen how the fertilizer cartel operates, I have watched on as Boko Haram ravage the North, because of a few and the price we have paid and keep paying for long time neglect of our people.

Each Wednesday I have supervised all sorts of contract awards, not once have I seen an Ibo in my cabinet fight a Muslim or an Hausa man fight a Christian for contracts hardly executed and by companies acting as fronts for same people that criticize me.

It hurts me as I address you knowing I cannot make the refineries work, I cannot, because it is not about subsidies but rather thousands of illegal refineries run by big shots in the Niger Delta and the need for billions to keep the party running.

I have been your president even when my spoken English was terrible or my explanation incomprehensible. However our problems are beyond all I have said and haven’t said in my media chats or interview with Amanpour or whoever that pours.

As I speak to you, I see a nation that is beautiful, one not just with potential but is indeed living its potential. A Lagos living its ‘eko oni baje’ axiom and Kano living its potential. One in which we ‘co-epted’ we 36 states competed and co-operated.

I do not know so much about state police, indigene/citizenship rights and all those constitutional matters. But I know that we need a National Assembly that is indeed national by its schedules and the job it does not by the billions of naira it earns for doing little.

As your president I can barely look you all my dear Nigerians in the face and say I have worked or my ministers, advisors and assistants, either the special ones or the senior ones. We have failed or at best done little.

It remains a painful journey…everyday I go through past files at the villa. I wonder what went wrong and how we just can’t get it right. My immediate boss Yar’adua had good intentions, Obasanjo too had good visions, even the military with all the ‘fellow Nigerian speeches’ meant well for Nigeria. But why are we here…

Here where my wife is compared to Michelle Obama, here, where I painfully read same boring templates condoling families because people won’t do their jobs.

Managing a police that hates its own, an army that cannot even help during floods or is it a custom service simply serving itself. Despite all the funds approved for the immigration I can’t begin to tell us, about illegal entry points or illegal immigrants.

Like you all, I love Nigeria. It’s our only nation. We want it to work and it can work. We need purposefully leadership, not promissory notes by a conglomeration by whatever name and make-up.

My party may not be able to offer it, but only Nigerians can offer it, we have the ability but as I speak to you all. My question is are you ready, do we as a people want to make change and are we going to shift for it to happen or we are just going to keep wishing.

It is unfortunate that I could not keep my promises to you all as a people, however I want to tell you it is not just about me, it also about whoever is in charge as your local councillor or local government chairman.

If the tiers of government did their job, I may not have been addressing you all today. If the councillor did his beat, chairman, legislator, minister, or governor was patriotic enough, I would not be the most criticized president.

If our wealthy people would give as little 10%, not that they are under compulsion, if you would obey the traffic rules though you were in a hurry. If you and I would just not be Farouk or Femi, maybe if I had governed and we all govern when given the opportunity on merit, not as Niger Deltan, Fulani, Nupes, Ibos or Yorubas there still maybe hope for Nigeria.

I have a lot to say to us on this once in a lifetime occasion, but really it’s tense enough and I don’t want to add to an already charged atmosphere…I Abdul-Jonathan Omo-Goodluck Chidiebele hereby resign as president of the federal republic of Ingeria

And all of a sudden, I woke up sweating profusely, it did not happen, I have been dreaming lately since I started taking the local concoction for my malaria, as I could not afford good hospital care. There is hope for Nigeria, as long as we recognize there is a problem. The solution may not be far away, but only time will tell.

20130218-102244.jpg

I Am Un-SURE About Nigeria

Posted: February 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

By Prince Charles Dickson

‘Its near impossible to wake a man pretending to be asleep, as it will be foolhardy for a dog not to bark, because the owner may mistake it for a goat and offer it to the gods as thanksgiving sacrifice’–Local proverb

Within the week I came across the news item “SURE-P board spends N70bn on infrastructure in 6 months– Kolade”.

He said “Although we were inaugurated in February, we did not get the first release of funds to our committee until July.

So, this means that the first six months of the year had passed and the remaining six months of the year, we actually did work to the tune of over N70 billion. If we had N180 billion for the whole year and we spent N70 billion-plus in six months, you know that it means that we worked at the rate that we are supposed to work.”

Interestingly my admonishment this week is not so much about the Subsidy Reinvestment And Empowerment Programme (SURE) but a nation that is so un-SURE of its actions and inactions.

It is painful that one has to week in and out harp on the problems of a nation so great in potentials and yet offering little in deliverables.

Nigeria, I dare say and agree is big, despite the politics of census figures-relatively we are at least a 150million strong nation, whatever the spread we use. The reason for false figures being our feeding -bottle styled federalism. Having stated this fact, I am SURE that N70billion was spent in 6months according to Mazi Christopher Kolade.

Yet I am un-SURE how it was spent, I can’t understand how it has “mitigated the immediate impact of petroleum subsidy discontinuation on the population, particularly for the poor and vulnerable segments”.

I am SURE that on the contrary Nigerians have barely bought the commodity at the so-called regulated price and have at regular intervals suffered artificial disappearance of the same commodity and its allied products.

In the last few years our money has continually lost value and been on a free-fall but I am SURE it’s not exactly so bad that N70billion has become 70kobo or just N700. So how N70billion is spent in 6months without an “economic transformation through investment in critical infrastructure projects is what I am un-SURE of.

I am so SURE that in the last few years despite the best of efforts, from SAP to PAP, NEEDs to SEEDs, NAPEP to PEPSI (if such exist) government and its agents, leadership and politicians, civil servants and technocrats have failed to successfully develop a functional “national safety net programme that is better targeted at the poor and most vulnerable on a continuous basis”.

The talk of politics is the merger of ACN, CPC, ANPP, and part of APGA into the All Progressives Congress or Armoured Personnel Carrier APC, I am SURE it is a welcome development, but un-SURE how much it has to offer, given the composition of the dramatis personae. Already the matter of sharing a yet to be baked cake in terms of positions is in the boiler. So the question is what then is a SURE political permutation capable of steering the ship of leadership to the right path?

Almost a year gone now, we are SURE Femi gave the bribe, Farouk, and Emenalo were collectors but till date we remain un-SURE as to the exact end of all the grandstanding called trial of subsidy thieves.

I am un-SURE why pensioners are not paid but SURE that when N32bn of their fund is stolen and nothing happens to the suspects and thieves responsible, two things happen: 1. The pensioners continue to suffer and 2. New pension thieves recruited.

15years ago I was SURE we had problems, big ones for that matter, however I am un-SURE on how to relate it to 30 gunmen attacking a police station in Kano or the shooting of health workers.

I am so SURE and many would agree that prostitution is one of the oldest trades but I am un-SURE how N5bn will be used to rehabilitate them.

How we have repeatedly done same thing with different names with the hope of getting new results is something I am not SURE of –we express surprise at the police academy feeding anomaly because I am SURE many have forgotten that it is the same Police College, that a mad man reportedly told an AIG who asked if he was interested in attending “Am I mad?”.

I am un-SURE which is our major problem thieving leaders, docile populace or crooked followership, I am equally un-SURE if corruption tops the chart of our “things to tackle list” or it is ethnic parapoism, jingoism or nepotism. I am SURE religion without faith is a problem, neither do I doubt that part of our problem is mutual suspicion to a point of analyzing the ethnic composition of a national soccer team.

Yet I am SURE the same soccer team unites us, but we cannot play soccer every week that I know, however the unity it breathes we have refused to exploit.

I am so SURE of the millions of Muslim faithfuls running to the Massalachi for Jummat prayers, and equally certain about the millions that shout Hallelujah on Sunday. Still I find it intriguing that between Monday-Thursday I am un-SURE of those that commit all the killings, robberies, kidnap and more.

We are SURE when we fill forms that we are either Christians or Muslims but when we steal we are suddenly un-SURE or is it the reverse?

I am un-SURE of the motive of killing health workers or doctors, or attacking the revered Kano emir, can’t be SURE I know why those boys were killed in Alu and Cynthia was killed via facebook but it is Nigeria, suspects are paraded, sometimes charged, all is wishy-washy and be SURE it all goes away.

I end by stating that I am SURE that endless hope is better than a hopeless end but hope in certain terrains is a dangerous opium, better imagined than experienced. We find ourselves in a precarious state by virtue of our uncertain certain nature, we are not yet ready, if we ever will–only time will tell.

20130211-135414.jpg

Image
By Prince Charles Dickson

Ronald Reagan once said “Government is like a baby, an alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other end”. And I add a big head that thinks it knows it all and then treat us all like the anus that brings nothing but…forgetting that a closed anus is recipe for disaster.

Photocracy–It is a style of government in which people who should be leading and governing are engaged in all manner of phototricks, some say ‘photo-shoped’, like Tinubu in that democratic convention in United States, Suntai and we know the rest, Chime too and some three wise men. 

In ‘photocracy’, it is not restricted to governance by photographs, it includes by telephone calls, by cabal, by cabinet and governance from anywhere. You can add leadership by total disappearance too or by lies, like Dame…hospital can turn vacation. 

In Nigerian-styled way of doing things, photocracy is also a situation when you see pictures of tarred road, hospitals, sports complex, schools and more on the pages of newspapers, online media, and on tv stations, yet nothing of such exists.

In photocracy, our leaders see beautiful photos of those places they visit abroad, yet their blurred memory cannot replicate such. 

Join me, as we take an admonition on a little aspect of this solely Nigerian phenomenon. 

It is 2013, and 2012 is far gone and for many 2009 seems like ages already; I call it the ‘photocratic’ year with its drama. It was the year of the cabal, those who ruled from Saudi, the Turai era, the enough is enough rallies, and early morning of the Save Nigeria Group…

Then I stated I felt sorry for Nigeria but truth is that, it is a waste of empathy…because despite all the best of efforts, we have made out a custom of taking few light steps forward and several giant leaps backwards. It’s still the same today.

Then, late Yar’Adua was gone for over two months before BBC came with that 59seconds drama, with love from Jeddeh. 

Infact a friend swore then it was the work of a master ventriloquist. I recall then in the light of the problems besieging the nation, the president that BBC spoke to, left all the important issues facing the nation, he was silent on muttalab, left the saga behind his budget signing and was addressing a ‘no-longer super eagles’ wishing them luck and sadly they lost.

It was in the middle of protests to force him to hand over power to his deputy, and his voice surfaced in far away United Kingdom telling super eagles to go ahead.

We forget so soon, learn slowly…then we were told by the then reigning Mr. Fix It (Aondoakaa) that the man can govern from anywhere, Labaran Maku said same of Jonathan early last year too…

An entire National Assembly, Ministers, Governors, kitchen and toilet cabinets and no one then could tell Nigerians the truth…infact 99.99 percent of that group did not even know the truth, so how do you give what you do not have?

Reason continues to clash with interest and we are tied with the rope of those that do not believe in the constitution, those whose rule of law is greed, primitive accumulation of wealth and reckless display of such, a group that has elevated madness to a habit and stupidity a culture.

No one takes into cognizance how much we keep loosing as a nation to this governance system called ‘photocracy’–a government by photo, telephony and disappearance laced with all sorts of ‘phototricks’.

To keep sanity and balance, a level of self-denial is needed as one watch Taraba leaders visit Suntai, make telephone calls, and snap photos. A government delegation that visited simply muted, except for some Suswam song from Benue.  

To understand photocracy you need to recall a certain Mallam Tanimu Yakubu lied to an entire nation that then President late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua called key government officials, including then Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan, on phone and spoke for five minutes each. 

Same way Chime of Enugu is calling a few and posing for a few on camera…and each week, someone tells us, he is coming back next week and in ten days.

Some mulls just jet in and out to everywhere and anywhere and tell us they just came in from one investment tour or visit. We talk of health tourism; nobody has told us how much the absence of key government officials is costing Nigerians. Who pays the travels, estacode, medical bills, girlfriend/concubine allowances and the cost of all the lies?

On numerous occasions I have stated that government people have the fundamental human right to be sick, they are human, but the fact remains that their health cannot be placed above the well being of hundreds of thousands and millions in cases.

Let me be naive, who is and why are we afraid to do the right thing, why are we always looking for other countries approval, and acceptance, why are we a timid people, why are we never doing the right thing.

What in this whole episode called Nigeria is political correctness? Every issue that is raised in respect to moving our nation forward is narrowed down to north-south, Christian-Muslim, however when our leaders steal, it has no coloration. My take is that the leaders of the country are only united in looting the state treasury. And then we fight across our naive idiosyncrasies, while they watch us.

It’s our failure at home that has made U.S, Europe, parts of Asia and Africa so relevant to us. We have to send our children there because the universities at home have failed. We have to look for jobs there because there are none at home. Some people even feel inferior to them and will rather live abroad at all cost- in their minds, by doing so, they’ve become superior human beings. All photo-tricks…

A great nation with wonderful people, some of the best brains in various spheres of life, yet governed by a few bunch of criminals, a nation where election posters appear from a skyless night and yet to be circulated currency vamoose. We keep keeping on and hoping against hope, only time will tell. 

By Chinedu Ekeke

If you want to know why President Goodluck Jonathan is such a woeful performer, read the men around him. They collectively approach public discourses with a signature demeanour: unstately utterances. They have made a religion of banality, and to it they have remained faithful.

Reuben Abati is one of these men. He is the President’s official spokesperson. Yesterday, he published an article laced with innuendos and thrown at former government officials who he accused of cant in their criticisms of his boss.

The entire piece smacked of pettiness, throwing up his apparent inability to bottle up his frustrations. He touched on an area that has since become a pastime for the entire publicity team of the Jonathan
administration. They seek to hush critics up by accusing them of envy. Once you point out an ill of the government – and there are countless of them – you are immediately accused of being envious of, or angry with, the government because you weren’t invited to ‘chop’. This was what Abati meant when he said, “ And so they will stop at nothing to discredit those they think are not deserving as they imagine themselves to be.”

But this is a cheap blackmail, because the same author of that piece knows that, from the inception of his administration, even as an acting president, Goodluck Jonathan pleaded with many of these his latter day enemies to take up appointments with his government, a request to which they turned down. The line of blackmail, apart from being erroneous, raises a more critical question about the Jonathan presidency in particular, and the entire government in general. If this government isn’t just about all money and no work, why should people be envious of those in it? And then, who says everyone of Jonathan’s critics is interested in a government job?

Here’s the genesis. Obiageli Ezekwesili, former World Bank Vice President, was University of Nigeria Nsukka’s 42nd Convocation lecturer. There she observed that the two
administrations that succeeded Olusegun Obasanjo had squandered $67bn – a combined sum from our foreign reserve and Excess Crude Account. Deeply troubled, she complained that six years after the administration she “served handed over such humongous national wealth to another one, most Nigerians but especially the poor continue to suffer the effects of failing public health and education systems, as well as decrepit infrastructure and battered institutions.”

The government got jolted by that revelation. They were more troubled by the image of the messenger and the damaging impact it will have on their already grossly despised administration.

The conservative nature of Ezekwesili also added to their trouble. And her past in public service defined by a consensus on the strength of her character gave them the cold. She wasn’t known for criticizing their government publicly. Ezekwesili challenged them to a public debate on public spending. They are yet to take up that gauntlet. We know they won’t because they can’t. But their trademark template for responding to critics didn’t need editing. They pulled it out from where they’d dumped it in wait for a victim. They questioned Ezekwesili’s 10 month stint in The Education Ministry and sought to dangle figures before the uninitiated. For many Nigerians, it is a sin to hear “billions were allocated to” anybody or any agency. They cringe at
the money for the mere mention of its size, not the necessity – or otherwise – of the appropriation. For such minds, merely hearing that ‘billions’ were allocated to a ministry Ezekwesili headed has reduced her to ‘one of them’ who wasn’t also accountable while in public office. It doesn’t matter that the entire money wasn’t allocated to her person, or even her office; that all the agencies, about 22 of them, under the ministry were joint beneficiaries of the allocation and theirs were going straight to them directly.

But that was the original plan: vilify the saint and canonize the sinner. Rubbish the longstanding credibility of the messenger so as to render his/her messages undesirable. Labaran Maku did just that a fortnight ago. Abati jumped into the boxing ring yesterday to land his boss’s political foes a group punch. In doing that, he went pedestrian, too much of it, unable to rise above criticism of belly-saving, hardly able to elevate his thoughts beyond the jejune.

In an odd paradox, he scribbled those vile lines that underscored his expertise in intellectual dishonesty. “It is in the larger interest of our country that the government of the day welcomes criticism and political activism”. Really? But he had wished his enemies would stop talking, stop watching the government, and stop asking questions. Alluding to how it is done in other climes, Abati enjoined the quantity surveyor to return to his quantity surveying, the lawyer to return to his wig, and the teacher to return to the classroom – and, remain eternally silent about what happens in government, except, when (as I should think), there’s a need to rain praises on the government of the day. Mr Abati’s defence of his multi-million naira presidential-shit-cleaning job blinded his eyes to the one truth in participatory democracy: that even the best of leaders are criticized.

There is nothing unusual about Abati’s yesterday’s men claiming to “be better than everybody in the current government”. It is expected in a democracy. Daily, we hear Donald Trump dismiss an intellectual like President Barack Obama as lacking in ability. We see Republicans present the President of the world’s greatest country as a weakling. If a proven smart man like Obama can be dismissed as lacking in intelligence, what should be expected to be said of a man who has yet to prove, in words and in deeds, that he had a good high school certificate? What one proof does this current government have to show that they are better than any before them?

As his unbridled bile flowed out of his typing fingers, Abati sought to reduce an ordinarily commendable intellectual exercise – writing of memoirs – to an ignoble self-seeking adventure of those he railed on. While he accused them of jealousy, he unwittingly let out his, making it clear that any venture not undertaken by Abati himself doesn’t measure up to the sublime. Hear him, “They even write books (I, me and myself books packaged as cerebral stuff.)”. One is then forced to wonder what a memoir ought to be about. By definition, memoirs cannot be about they, they and they. Mr Abati should know this, except he has swapped bitterness with his hyped intellect. By the way, his predecessor in office, Segun Adeniyi, (by miles a more civil and sensible presidential media aide) published his own book when he left office, setting the precedence from which, we all know, Abati will copy. When he becomes a yesterday’s man himself– and that will happen as early as 2015 – and seeks to publish his, we will want to find out if his own memoir will be about a research on the big bang theory or the beauty of Disneyland.

But he left the real issues untouched, the real questions unanswered. Oby Ezekwsili asked that we be told what happened to our foreign reserve and excess crude account. That question hasn’t been answered. It should. The British Prime Minister stated that about $100 billion dollars accrued to this government from oil last year. How many poor Nigerians have been lifted out of poverty? How many jobs (in considerable millions) have been created? How many roads have been paved? How many housing units have been erected? Has our life expectancy improved in any way? What is Nigeria’s security situation as at today? Answers to these questions are needed, not name-calling and subliminal essays.

In a bid to do a lasting damage to his targets, Reuben Abati equally unwittingly highlighted his government’s culpability in the rapid growth of corruption under their watch. They know so much about how wasteful the former ministers, ex General this, Dr that, ex Honourable this and that were, yet their sleaze-hugging regime has refused to prosecute them and get our money from them. Isn’t it curious that a high profile presidential aide is aware that a former Aviation minister shut down Port Harcourt airport for two years with so much money flushed down the drain, yet there hasn’t been any visible effort by the government in the last three years to ask him questions about how the funds were used?

He said they left the country in darkness with less than “2,000MW electricity generation, abandoned independent power projects, mismanaged power stations, and uncompleted power stations”. I don’t know the wattage the Obasanjo regime – which cabinet members were largely targeted in the scathing commentary – left Nigeria with, but I do agree that we didn’t get results commensurate with the investments made in electricity generation and distribution. That raises a poser: what has the Jonathan presidency done to obtain explanations from that regime? Why has nobody been probed? Why haven’t Obasanjo, his energy minister and other key actors in that mess been prosecuted?

Abati was not done with his official indictment of the government he was out to defend. He said, “They complain about the state of roads. Most of the contracts were actually awarded under their watch to the tune of billions!”. Oh, so they know? And what has Jonathan done about the contracts and the bad state of roads? Nothing! The only reasonable answer is Jonathan’s legendary it-could-be-me syndrome, the real reason behind his public romance with the corrupt. His modus operandi isn’t difficult to figure: You steal, he keeps quiet, hoping that you reciprocate with your silence as his government meanders sluggishly through the track of cluelessness to the trail of sleaze, making him complicit in the bumblings of past years and the organized corruption of the moment.

On the roads Abati unashamedly mentioned, maybe I should quickly remind him that two of the key actors in the events that sustained Nigeria’s present state of roads are his boss’ closest and open consiglieres as we speak. One of them, Tony Anenih, served as Works minister in Obasanjo’s first term in office and ensured that neither new roads were built nor old ones repaired despite having received as much as N300b appropriation from the federal budget. And to reward him for his legendary impunity, Jonathan recently appointed him board chair of the very juicy Nigerian Ports Authority from where the flamboyant criminal Bode George, another of Jonathan’s consiglieres and hero, raised his hubby of stealing to a profession.

The other key actor in the current Nigerian state of roads is Diezani Allison-Madueke, the government’s Petroleum minister. She once served as minister of Works under Yar’Adua during which she wept publicly on sighting the mess Anenih and others left of the Lagos-Benin expressway. But her penchant for non-performance was stronger than her emotional outburst. Contracts were equally awarded to the tune of billions, yet roads in deplorable conditions persist. Of course old habits hardly die. Under her watch as Jonathan’s petroleum minister, Nigeria has witnessed the grandest scam known to man, and for all intents and purposes, it does seem as though she is just starting. With a boss who urges her on with a presidential stamp of approval, we might still witness more earth-shattering scams under her watch.

So rather than show leadership, the Jonathan government is only out to arm-twist critics with allegations of sleaze which hardly come up until questions are asked about how they run Nigeria’s affairs. It is therefore the fault of Jonathan that yesterday’s men – especially the ones with unmitigated chutzpah in spite of being grossly unworthy – still are free to cast aspersions on him. Abati thinks they have cases to answer? It isn’t my grandmother’s duty to make them answer. If Jonathan isn’t protecting and growing corruption, let him prosecute whoever those unworthy ones are.

Abati’s tirade comes across as the real frustrations of a tomorrow’s yesterday’s man, the lamentations of a troubled former beloved who is trapped in the abyss of an unpopular regime in a maze.

Some of us understand his worries, and have since advised those who care to listen: don’t take him seriously!

Chinedu is on Twitter as @Nedunaijahttp://www.ekekeee.com/?p=4971

By Reuben Abati

A loosely bound group of yesterday’s men and women seems to be on the offensive against the Jonathan administration. They pick issues with virtually every effort of the administration, pretending to do so in the public interest; positing that they alone, know it all. Arrogantly, they claim to be better and smarter than everyone else in the current government. They are ever so censorious, contrarian and supercilious.

They have no original claim to their pretensions other than they were privileged to have been in the corridors of power once upon a time in their lives. They obviously got so engrossed with their own sense of importance they began to imagine themselves indispensable to Nigeria. It is dangerous to have such a navel-gazing, narcissistic group inflict themselves with so much ferocity on an otherwise impressionable public. We are in reality dealing with a bunch of hypocrites.

With exceptions so few, they really don’t care about Nigeria as a sovereign but the political spoils that accrue from it. And so they will stop at nothing to discredit those they think are not as deserving as they imagine themselves to be. President Jonathan has unfairly become the target of their pitiable frustrations.

Underneath their superfluous appearance, lies an unspoken class disdain directed at the person and office of a duly elected president of the country. It is a Nigerian problem, perhaps. In the same advanced societies which these same yesterday men and women often like to refer to, public service is seen and treated as a privilege. People are called upon to serve; they do so with humility and great commitment, and when it is all over, they move on to other things.

The quantity surveyor returns to his or her quantity surveying or some other decent work; the lawyer to his or her wig and gown; the university teacher to the classroom, glad to have been found worthy of national service. When and where necessary, as private citizens, they are entitled to use the benefit of this experience to contribute to national development, they speak up on matters of public importance not as a full-time job as is the case in Nigeria currently.
What then, is the problem with us? As part of our governance evolution, most people become public servants by accident, but they soon get so used to the glamour of office that they lose sight of their own ordinariness. They use the system to climb: to become media celebrities, to gain international attention and to morph into self-appointed guardians of the Nigerian estate. They mask self interest motives as public causes and manipulate the public’s desire for improvements in their daily struggles as opportunity for power grab.

They are perpetually hanging around, lobbying and hustling for undeserved privileges. They exploit ethnic and religious connections where they can or join political parties and run for political office. They even write books (I, me and myself books, packaged as cerebral stuff); if that still doesn’t work, they lobby newspaper houses for columns to write and they become apostolic pundits pontificating on matters ranging from the nebulous to the non-descript. Power blinds them to the reality that we are all in this together and we have a unique opportunity to do well for the taxpayers and hardworking electorate that provide every public official the privilege to serve.

Unsatisfied with the newspaper columns, they open social media accounts and pretend to be voices of wisdom seeking to cultivate an angry crowd which they feed continually with their own brand of negativity. They arrange to give lectures at high profile events where they abuse the government of the day in order to gain attention and steal a few minutes in the sun; hoping to force an audience that may ‘open doors’ for them, back into the corridors of power. These characters are in different sizes and shapes: small, big; Godfathers, agents, proxies. The tactics of the big figures on this rung of opportunism may be slightly different. They parade themselves as a Godfather or kingmaker or the better man who should have been king. They suffer of course, from messianic delusions. The fact that they boast of some followership and the media often treats them as icons, makes their nuisance factor worse. They and their protégés and proxies are united by one factor though: their hypocrisy.

It is in the larger interest of our country that the point be made that the government of the day welcomes criticism and political activism. This is an aspect of our emergent democracy that expands on the growing freedom of expression, thought and association but there is need for caution and vigilance, lest we get taken hostage by the architects of odious disinformation. Nigerians must not allow any group of individuals to hold this country to ransom and no one alone should appropriate the right to determine what is best for Nigeria. The accidental public servants who have turned that privilege into a life-long obsession and profession must be told to go get a life and find meaningful work to do.

Those who believe that no one else can run Nigeria without them must be told to stop hallucinating. The former Ministers, former Governors, former DGs, and all sorts who have been busy quoting mischievous figures, spreading cruel propaganda must be reminded that the Jonathan administration is in fact trying to clean up the mess that they created. They want to own the game when the ball is not in their possession. They want to be the referee when nobody has offered them a whistle. They seek to play God, forgetting that the case for God is not in the hands of man. One of the virtues of enlightenment is for persons to have a true perspective of their own location in the order of things. What they do not seem to realise or accept is that the political climate has changed.

When one of them was in charge of this same estate called Nigeria, he shut down the Port Harcourt airport and other airports for close to two years under the guise of renovation. The Port Harcourt airport was abandoned for so long it was overgrown with weeds after serving for months as a practice ground for motoring schools. It was reopened without any improvement and with so much money down the drain, and the pervasive suspicion that the reason it was shut down in the first place was to create a market for a new airline that had been allowed the monopoly use of the other airport in the city.
Under President Jonathan, airports across the country are being upgraded, rebuilt and modernized; in less than two years, the transformation is self-evident. Perhaps the greatest hypocrisy from our see-no-good commentators comes from the one who superintended over the near-collapse of the aviation sector who is now audacious enough to claim to be a social critic.

For the first time since 1999, the Nigerian Railway Corporation is up and running as a service organization. The rail lines have become functional from Lagos to Kano; Ewekoro to Minna, and very soon, from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, Abuja to Kaduna and Lagos to Ibadan. They couldn’t do this in their time, now they are busy looking for money that is not missing with their teeth. When questions are asked, they claim they invented the ideas of due process and accountability. They once promised to solve the crisis of electricity supply in Nigeria. But what did they do? They managed to leave the country in darkness with less than 2,000 MW; abandoned independent power projects, mismanaged power stations, and uncompleted procurement processes. The mess was so bad their immediate successors had to declare an emergency in the power sector. It has taken President Jonathan to make the difference.

Today, there is greater coherence in the management of the power sector with power supply in excess of 4, 200 MW; a better conceived power sector road map is running apace, and the administration is determined to make it better.
They complain about the state of the roads. Most of the contracts were actually awarded under their watch to the tune of billions! They talk about corruption, yet many of them have thick case files with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the courts and the police on corruption-related charges. One of them was even accused of having awarded choice plots of government land to himself, his wives, his companies and other relations when he was in charge of such allocations! Really, have we forgotten so soon?

These yesterday men and women certainly don’t seem to care very much about the Nigerian taxpayer who has had to bear the brunt of the many scandals this administration is exposing in its bid to clear out the Augean stable. They’d rather grandstand with the ex-General this, Chief that, Doctor this and ex-(dis)Honourable Minister who has no record of what he or she did with the funds the nation provided them to deliver results to protect our interest so that we don’t end up continuing to make the same wasteful mistakes.

It is enough to make you shudder at the thought of any of them being part of government with access to the public purse; but then we’ve already seen what some of them are capable of doing when in control of public money, authority and influence; and to that the people have spoken in unison – they have had enough. Nigerians are wiser and are now familiar with the trickery from these persons whose claim to fame and fortune was on the back of their public service.

Our point at the risk of overstating what is by now too obvious: We have too many yesterday men and women behaving too badly. We are dealing with a group of power-point technocrats who have mastered the rhetoric of public grandstanding: carefully crafted emotion-laden sound bites passed off as meaningful engagements. That is all there is to them, after many years of hanging around in relevant places and mingling in the right corridors, all made possible through the use/abuse of Nigeria. Our caveat to their audience is the same old line: let the buyer beware!

Reuben Abati is Special Adviser (Media and Publicity) to President Goodluck Jonathan

20130203-100134.jpg