Archive for August, 2015

By Prince Charles Dickson

Chains by any other name would still hurt as much—anonymous

As a person I am a cautious optimist on “project Nigeria”, although it is one that I put my whole heart on, despite the counsel of a statesman who once told me “Nigeria was not worth dying for…you must live for it”.

Nigeria despite very recent efforts, remains a nation that simply does not know where it is headed to, or does not want to face what I term, realistic, reasonable and responsible approach to its diversities.

Let me start this way, did you hear that Mr. Buhari appointed a Department of State Security chief from his village? Are we aware that every time that Mr. Buhari sacks a Yoruba man, he replaces him with a Yoruba, and when he sacks an Igbo man he replaces him with an Hausa man, and if a Fulani man is removed he is replaced by a fellow Fulani brother?

Okay, I am sure we have heard Don Fayose of Ekiti state scream alongside many that the “woman boss” of the Independent National Electoral Commission is the President’s in-law, or that an Igbo Secretary to the federation could not be announced because Tom was still looking for Jerry.

How could we forget all that zoning drama that characterized the emergence of the leadership of the 8th National Assembly? One, which the Egbas, Ijebus, Ijaws, Ikweres and Nupes totally lost out…because Ali Baba has one more thief amongst the original 40.

How could I forget the whole brouhaha of the 97% that voted for me and those 3%? How about the debate that Kachichukwu of oil monopoly giant NNPC being Igbo, or not being really Igbo…

Not loosing hope on Nigeria

Not loosing hope on Nigeria

The ethnic conundrum of our existence continues to hunt and haunt us being one of the major obstacles to the existence of the Nigerian state. Beginning with the transition from colonial to neo-colonial dependence, military and back to the current brand democracy. The conflict spiral generated by ethnicity can be seen at all the critical phases in Nigeria, its democracy, the party system, the electoral process and the sharing of the national cake via offices and resources.

Almost all our conflicts, controversies and interests all narrow down to who is from where…? Even the way we are reported: Mr. Buhari from Muslim North, or Mr. Jonathan from predominately Christian South.

The truth is that as much as some form of true federalism or on the extreme confederacy, resource control and largely self determination is desirable, however the complexity of ethnicity in Nigeria can only be properly understood in the context of power struggle among various factions of the ruling class, especially within the context of the lower class’ ignorance through manipulation. The empirical fact being that ethnicity cannot be deconstructed because we have a faulty form of state and a morally bankrupt class in power.

Ethnicity has been also constantly shifting because of a fluid and dynamic nature of changing interests, for example a hitherto unknown South-South (which contextually in English is wrong) or a salient Northeast, then a newspaper Middle Belt, a political one, and also a geographical Middle Belt remain real. It has simply varied as demands change or as the social injustice is perceived, from the rigid North/South and Christian/Muslim divide.

It is difficult to prefix a particular political tendency to the collectivism of an ethnic group because as the Nigerian example suggests, different political tendencies can be expressed within a particular ethnic group, like the differences between the Ohaneze ndi Igbo and MASSOB and that of the Afenifere fon awon Yoruba and the OPC.

It has been recently easy for everyone to have an understanding of the term ethnicity within a narrow conceptualization. This is rather a faulty assumption. For one, there is a tendency to conflate ethnicity with other social phenomena that share similar features especially those that fall within primordial and communal identities like tribalism, favouritism, the Biafran struggle, Resource control, MEND, BOKO HARAM, MASSOB, OPC et al.

There could also be the tendency to see ethnicity as the natural outcome of existence of ethnic groups, which again is wrong, the fact that like any other portmanteau word, it can serve as a euphemistic substitute for other appellations has led to abuse, precisely as it has no independent existence of its own. It has been driven by class interests or the quest for power. In our Nigeria today as always it has taken greater meaning in the competitive situations where available resources are scarce in relation to the interests that grow around them.

The major issue in the ethnic struggle is the phenomenon of politicized ethnicity. More often than not, ethnicity is invoked by interests, which are not necessarily described in ethnic terms.

As Claude Ake once put it, “conflicts arising from the construction of ethnicity to conceal exploitation by building solidarity across class lines, conflicts arise from appeals to ethnic support in the face of varnishing legitimacy, and from the manipulation of ethnicity for obvious political gains and not ethnic problems, but problems of particular dynamics which are pinned on ethnicity”. This is the Nigerian situation.

The contradictory tendencies of ethnicity are obvious today and the need to provide important safeguard against centralization and authoritarian tendencies has once more arisen. The problem we have is that the mobilization of ethnicity as a way out has more often than not been for some few people’s material benefit and this has given rise to the questions of citizenship rights, statism, indigeneship/settler palaver. To an extent this has become a veritable tool that is internalized and used as a crisis generating mechanism and obstacle to democracy.

Deep ethnic fears generated by in-built structures that promote unequal access to power and resources is being exploited, and is part of the government’s dilemma at all levels.

In Plateau, the Beroms were culprits, in Kaduna, it was the rest against the southern Kaduna patriots, in Imo, in Rivers, go to Akwa Ibom or Lagos or Ogun States, it is same difference.

You and I, need to think Nigeria without loosing our identity, we need to be the change we want to see, Nigerians need to become noble in understanding themselves: are we ready—Only time will tell.

By Prince Charles Dickson

The West African Examination Council WAEC in the last few weeks had engaged not less than 15 states in a war of words over debt owed the exam body by the states. The height of the war was a threat by the body not to release the result of students from such debtor states.

Days after, newspaper headline read: “WAEC to Release Withheld Results…as Debtor States Pledge to Pay Up”. Interestingly, the pass rate of the exam by over a million Nigerian students was barely 39%, and it was an improvement from last year’s result.

In another report, the percentage of failure was equally on the high side, as the Legal Council released the Law School results. While members of the Council say that the results were not as bad as reported, newspaper reports quoting the council say that the failure rate was well above 50%.

WAEC-CV

It is not any better with the nation’s Medical Schools…with a sizable number of the schools having accreditation issues, and in some cases like Benue State University, Abuja University: They have not been able to graduate medical students in well over a decade.

Another newspaper headline was “Ogun sacks perm sec, five others for ‘offensive exam question’”.

The story in full: Those sacked were a Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Folashade Oresegun, three directors and the examiner, Mr. Adegbenro Joel.

Joel was said to have prepared an English Language question for the third term Unified Examination for Public Senior Secondary School students, which took a critical look at, alleged negligence of the education sector by the government.

The alleged offensive examination question (comprehension) read, “There is no arguing about the fact that the government is merely paying lip service to the development of education. It is true that a lot of money is being spent on the education sector but, with little or no impact felt by the people, except where we want to deceive ourselves.”

It continued, “Many schools run by the government, which were formally known for academic excellence have suddenly lost their prestige and are living on past glory. No wonder many parents and guardians are left with only one option, to withdraw their wards from these schools to other ones that are better managed.”

The students were expected to read the passage and answer questions put to them from it.

Though no particular government was mentioned, the state government was reported to have been angered by the way the examiner appeared to have indicted the government and ordered their sack.

The Head of Service, Mrs. Adekunle in reacting to the development told journalists, in sacking the “sackees”, due process was followed, explaining that the action was taken after a panel set up to investigate the issue found the officers guilty.

WHAT A SHAME, and I purposely put this in cap letters, to underscore how low we have descended.

Let us take a backward journey to Plateau state, the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Julius Okojie, could only decry the inability of Plateau State University, Bokkos, to graduate students since inception in 2005.

Okojie, expressed his displeasure when Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong visited him in Abuja, he attributed the problems to lack of accreditation and political issues.

According to him, there are defective governance structures; no vice chancellor, there is no governing council; no programme is accredited and students are in final year. If you beat that, the school has no registrar, no bursar!

Over the last few years the nation’s educational sector has been under heavy scrutiny, sadly the political shenanigans across party divide continue to debate about who is most corrupt.

No one is really bother about the state of our education; we are so concerned about NNPC audit, how Jonathan failed, or APC will rule for 26 years according to Rochas, or throwing tantrums on Baba Go-Slow.

Paraphrasing late Tai Solarin, a good many of us spat on the education we had yesterday, and off course what passes for education today. And certainly, a large stratum of our society looks back, nostalgically, at the quality of yesterday’s education”.

By and large, however, while most of us believed that there was very much missing in the content of our yesterday’s education. What we have today, in spite of innovations and the bold attempts to re-orientate it, remains, as it was yesterday, orthodox, slow foot, and myopic.

Our educational system today only attempts to sharpen the head to near pin end quality, however the possessor’s limb is atrophied by long disuse. Our education is money centered. It is an education, which goads the possessor asking, “What can my country do for me?” not as J.F. Kennedy requests immortally, “what can I do for my country?”

With the kind of scandals in our education, kids we send to Uganda, Dubai, Malaysia, and soon Chad may soon define the quality of education we want for tomorrow…

We do not have an education in which a possessor wants to elevate the less privilege that surge him round.

Today what is the value of the education given to a young man who lives or is doing his mandatory service year in a guinea worm infested area and yet is incapable of causing a revolution in the lives of the villagers by transforming their drinking water into healthy supply?

Please what is the use of education given in physics to a young girl when the lights go out, she does not know what to do to get light again.

Today how many young persons want to go home and at the beginning of the year cut the bush in readiness for the new year’s planting; making of garri or pounding the yam or preparing the ‘ewedu’ soup. If these children do not participate how can they be integrated into the society, if all the values they see are big cars, big mansion, how they integrate should not be surprising.

Every graduate desires Shell, Chevron, MTN, GTBank, Immigration and the Ministry of this and that, baring those not in politics as educated thugs.

While government at various levels goads their roles in educating its citizens, I advocate government’s participation as matter of social contract and responsibility to the people. That way we could boast an education that ‘LIVES’.

Can the education being given to our children today, give us a newer and nobler Nigeria, is our current education alive, or are we overtly more concerned about stealing being corruption, when the kids cannot spell corruption—Only time will tell.

By Prince Charles Dickson

Politicians should serve actually two terms, one in office, the other in jail—Anonymous

As a Psychologist by academic qualification, we say that that the way you feel affects the way you interpret the world. This statement I am of the factual opinion affects Nigerians.

For instance, if the words rake, take, and cake blinked on a computer screen for 1/30 of a second, which would you recognize?

If you’re hungry, research suggests that all you see is cake. Add corruption to that same list, and as a Nigerian, that word may attract more attention to you.

As Nigerians we like to think that we’re totally logical when we make decisions. However the sad reality is that we are not. Truth is that over the past few decades, social science has uncovered a staggering number of cognitive biases that shape our behavior — whether we know it or not.

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Nigerians are masters of these cognitive biases, so our lives as a people is a paradox; for example Fashola, ex-governor of Lagos state was seen as the epitome of performance but in one stretch he has been accused lately of many acts of “corruption”.

Let me not go to Wike and Amaechi, both of Rivers state, the paradox of both men depends of ones state of mind, the question, are they not “crooks”, is answered depending on which side you are.

Let me help us understand, it is said that to go anywhere, you must go halfway first, and then you must go half of the remaining distance, and half of the remaining distance, and so forth to infinity: Thus, motion is impossible.

The dichotomy paradox has been attributed to ancient Greek philosopher Zeno, and it was supposedly created as a proof that the universe is singular and that change, including motion, is impossible (as posited by Zeno’s teacher, Parmenides).

While people have intuitively rejected this paradox for years. It reminds me of a recent statement credited to Mr. Buhari. “People accuse me of, becoming President with stolen funds. That Amaechi and others sponsored me with stolen funds from Rivers State treasury. In all honesty, I cannot deny that. I knew they were thieves, and the last administration couldn’t prosecute them. But because Nigerians believe I can prosecute them… was the reason I accepted to be sponsored by them; howbeit with stolen funds. If I had refused to be sponsored by them, Nigerians wouldn’t have a President that can save them from corrupt leaders. I accepted, because of Nigerians, and I will not spare any one sponsor”. One huge paradox!

So the Nigerian motion, from a mathematical perspective, the solution — formalized in the 19th century — is to accept that one-half plus one-quarter plus one-eighth plus one-sixteenth and so on … adds up to one. This is a similar situation to saying that 0.999… equals 1. It simply means that there is nothing necessarily different from either Dasuki, or Daura, nothing different from the “uncommon wayo” of ex-governor Akpabio in Akwa Ibom state and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of Kano state who took “common” steps to stop EFCC from arresting him. Nor is Simon Bako Lalong, any different from Jonah David Jang, and Joshua Chibi Dariye…because if you looked deep enough you would see John, Jonah, David, Simon and Joshua all like bandits in abuse of the law…

But this theoretical solution doesn’t actually answer how an object can reach its destination. The solution to that question is more complex and still murky, relying on 20th-century theories about matter, time, and space not being infinitely divisible.

So whether Nigeria has been transformed or is changing, it is still largely a paradox. For example the Naira falls to the Dollar, the Central Bank governor should be sacked, and if the reverse happens, Mr. Buhari is praised.

The Peoples’ Democratic Party PDP cannot see anything good about the All Progressive Congress, APC, and the APC continues to hit hard on the PDP, two schools and a paradox, the Jonathanians, persecuted, the “Sai Babaist” believing we are on a mission to restore Nigeria.

I will give us another paradox, if you restored a ship by replacing each of its wooden parts, would it remain the same ship?

It’s a classic from ancient Greece; the Ship of Theseus paradox gets at the contradictions of identity. Plutarch famously described it.

The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned from Crete had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their places, in so much that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.

So for Nigerians, we need to ask what are the common problems we need to see; ethnic colors or unity, change or transformation, North or South or Nigeria. What part of the ship is new or is change, or is it “same difference”.

I would end with the paradox of numbers; we say there is something interesting about every number.

After all, 1 is the first nonzero natural number; 2 is the smallest prime number; 3 is the first odd prime number; 4 is the smallest composite number; etc. And when you finally reach a number that seems not to have anything interesting about it, then that number is interesting by virtue of being the first number that is not interesting.

The Interesting Number Paradox relies on an imprecise definition of “interesting,” making this a somewhat sillier version of some of the other paradoxes.

So, it’s interesting that when Buhari comes to power it is the Muslim North; Jonathan was the Christian South, when Badeh and crew were service chiefs they did not sing “no equipment” or “resign” but now they are talking.

It is a paradox that ex-NSA chief Sambo did not show us pictures of arms bought, but now we see it everywhere; it is now we are talking agriculture because “oyel” money don dey finish.

So, Tinubu is corrupt, Saraki is a thief and a foreigner, Rotimi betrayed his people, David Mark is hmmmm, Obasanjo suffers “hear me” syndrome, and Abati’s phone is not ringing again—Nigeria, and Nigerians a great contradiction, but for how long—Only time will tell.

By Prince Charles Dickson

Underneath the Mango Tree
Me honey and me can watch for the moon

Underneath the Mango Tree
Me honey and me make boolooloop soon

Underneath the moonlit sky
Me honey and I can sit hand in hand
Underneath the moonlit sky
Me honey and I can make fairyland

Mango, banana and tangerine
Sugar and ackee and cocoa bean
When we get marry we make them grow
And nine little chilґ in a row

Underneath the Mango Tree
Me honey and me can watch for the moon
Underneath the Mango Tree
Me honey and me we plan marry soon

Mango, banana and tangerine
Sugar and ackee and cocoa bean
When we get marry we make them grow
And nine little chilґ in a row

Underneath the Mango Tree
Me honey and me can watch for the moon
Underneath the Mango Tree
Me honey and me we plan marry soon

Underneath the Mango Tree
Underneath the Mango Tree
Underneath the Mango Tree
Underneath the Mango Tree

In Nigeria, to say that we are clowns, comedians, angry people, happy people religious people—more than that a people that do not know what they want, would be stating the obvious. We are equally nice and intelligent people–Simple put: a conglomeration of the good, very good, and infant excellent. The bad, nauseatingly bad, and off course the ugly.

mad shekau

I know a soldier in some city, near the Boko zone whose job is to, guide a power station, he wears his military gear only once a week, based on how he feels, half the time, his only on his trousers, with a white shirt wooing young community girls for his “third” leg’s pleasure.

I equally know a community that has long been host to the now popular Joint Task Force JTF…most girls in that community debate on how many soldiers they have “laid”.

I also know several generals that are half drunk in the 30-day month on various liquor, on a how much they can afford basis. I know some of them that are broke before the month is half by. Just like I know those that have acquired stupendous wealth as middlemen at the Ministry of defense.

I know those rank and file officers that are in the records and pay offices with enormous and questionable wealth, kids schooling abroad, and wives and concubines enjoying vacations in Dubai, and Seychelles.

I know officers that are “officers because the passed some “doctored” classroom exams, so from rank to rank, they have not witnessed real combat, or at least have something worthy to commit to the Nigerian armed forces.

I know Nigerian officers that have excelled in foreign missions–just like there are those that have either shot civilians, or broken several laws because of the uniform they adorn.

I have seen many soldiers that do not have the complete gear, or officers engaged with hunting Dane guns, naval officers that cannot swim, and air force pilots that make witches laugh when the fly a plane.

The new army chief, Major Gen Tukur Buratai has ordered immediate the review of cases of mutiny against soldiers with possible recall and reinstatement of the affected men…speaks volumes of our “mango tree” army.

I have lately seen “crying” generals like Mr. Badeh, who’s hometown was briefly home to the dreaded Boko Haram group.

The man who let us know that activities by fifth columnists within the military that leaked sensitive information and operational plans to the terrorist sect hampered the fight against the insurgents.

Yet, he did not resign or find anyone guilty.

According to a Premium Times report, he said the activities of saboteurs within the military led to the unnecessary deaths of many soldiers and officers who unknowingly walked into ambushes laid by Boko Haram who had prior knowledge of troops’ movement.

Yet, soldiers were being court marshaled for offenses beyond them.

Speaking at his valedictory service Mr. Badeh also blamed successive governments for neglecting the military over the years thereby reducing its capability as a fighting force of note. He said unlike the situation the Nigeria military found itself in, an effective military is built during peace time and adequately trained to combat future threats. He also blamed previous governments for listening to foreign advice to cut the size of the Nigerian military.

“Permit me to also add here, that nation’s militaries are equipped and trained in peace time, for the conflicts they expect to confront in the future,” he said.

“Unfortunately that has not been our experience as a nation. Over the years, the military was neglected and under-equipped to ensure the survival of certain regimes, while other regimes, based on advice from some foreign nations, deliberately reduced the size of the military and underfunded it.

“Accordingly, when faced with the crisis in the North East and other parts of the country, the military was overstretched and had to embark on emergency recruitments and trainings, which were not adequate to prepare troops for the kind of situation we found ourselves in. It is important therefore for the government to decide on the kind of military force it needs, by carrying out a comprehensive review of the nation’s military force structure to determine the size, capability and equipment holding required to effectively defend the nation and provide needed security.”

“The achievements recorded are largely due to the commitment, patriotism and fighting spirit of our men and women in uniform who saw the fight against terror as a task that must be accomplished no matter the odds and in spite of the campaign of calumny against the military by a section of the media with their foreign collaborators.”

While I would call Badeh and his many colleagues “under the mango tree” generals. Many of them fought a good fight; many soldiers have given their lives in the fight against insurgents and to protect Nigerians.

However, the nation must and is paying the price of mediocrity, the nation will continue to pay for its “bias and political correctness” in shaping its military.

A nation where her generals are classified by religion, faith, creed and ethnic colors would have an under the mango tree force, that are experts in “mess” parties, crass corruption and be constantly defeated in the face of real warfare.

An armed force full of in fighting would produce very little, whether there is a change of name in operations, or tactics, little would be accomplished. Service generals would come and go, but until the core of the issues are addressed—The boko Haram conflict is not anywhere near the end, issues such as recruitment, intelligence, cooperation amongst sister forces—we will continue dancing under the mango tree, and for how long—Only time will tell!