Archive for November, 2015

By Pius Adesanmi

Elite disconnect – the existential prison which creates the delusion that life, for 180 million Nigerians, is exactly what your life looks like on luxury private jets and yachts, royal suites of five-star hotels, villas and chateaux in the choicest parts of Abuja and Lagos, government house, etc. You have hardly ever met anyone who does not exist inside this bubble. Those who live outside of it but come in to provide you daily domestic services as aides and servants are required to filter what they bring to you from the outside world.

Elite disconnect is a medical condition.

Your world is reduced to a bubble. A bubble of perception. An existential bubble.

The worst case of elite disconnect in recent memory comes from Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the current Emir of Kano. As Central Bank Governor, he was on President Jonathan’s side of the oil subsidy argument before things fell apart between the two of them; before he said some very rude and condescending things to and about the President; before the President tried to destroy him to teach him a lesson; before fate rescued him from the heavy price he would have paid for rudeness and condescension to an elected President.

Before all of these things happened, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi had wondered aloud what the fuss was all about when people claimed that the high cost of petrol was having a disastrous impact on their ability to use their generators. Generators use diesel, not petrol, Sanusi had quipped.

Although he later apologized, the damage had been done, the point made. A member of the elite was so disconnected from what 99% of Nigerians call life that he had no idea that not everybody used the sort of diesel-guzzling soundproof Mikano giant generators they use in his closeted bubble of privilege and luxury. He had no way of telling that in the Face-Me-I-Face-You rented apartments of Oshodi and Mushin, the small I-Better-Pass-My-Neighbour generators of the little people run on petrol and not diesel.

stealing

Elite disconnect is not limited to how it manifested itself in SLS. Disturbing signs of it are already apparent in some of the public utterances of President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo. The effects of being closeted in Aso Rock, receiving only filtered rosy news about the rest of Nigeria from aides, are beginning to show. Last week, I was at the 2015 edition of the Ake Arts and Book Festival, one of Africa’s biggest literary festivals organized annually in Abeokuta by the novelist, Lola Shoneyin.

The country I saw was one in which pain, poverty, and lack are still very much the defining features of the daily lived experience of the people. Inflation is through the roof. By the time I bought N5000 airtime and drank a couple of beers and pepper soup, I had blown my first N20, 000 within minutes of landing in Nigeria. Yet, Governors are grumbling about N18, 000 minimum wage. A Nigerian is expected to live for a month on less than what I had blown on beer and recharge card within an hour! Electricity is next to none existent. And fuel scarcity had nearly brought life to a complete halt.

Yet, the very week I was in Nigeria contemplating these things and gnashing my teeth, Vice President Osinbajo was at the graduation of Senior Executive Course 37 of the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPPS) in Kuru, where he declared, echoing his principal, that Nigeria has now “entered its glorious era.”

Glorious era? Whatever it is that President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo are drinking in the Villa, I certainly want part of it for their definition of glorious era would be patently funny if it weren’t so tragic. But I cannot have what they are drinking. What they are drinking is a brew called separation from reality. They are not lying when they say that Nigeria has entered its glorious era. They genuinely believe this because that is all that they see about Nigeria in their filtered bubble. That is what elite disconnect is all about. I doubt if their daily itineraries even allow them to see the fuel queues.

As Vice President Osinbajo was delivering the great news of Nigeria’s glorious era in Kuru, President Buhari was on his way to Iran for a meeting of gas exporting countries. What will be lost on the President in Tehran is that all the other Presidents he will be meeting cannot speak of a glorious era in their countries if the people were unable to get petrol and gas.

If elite disconnect manifested as lively ignorance in Sanusi’s instance and cute cluelessness in President Buhari’s and Vice President Osinbajo’s instances above, it comes across as crass arrogance and unbridled entitlement in the case of Diezani Allison-Madueke, immediate past Minister of Petroleum. She is battling cancer in London. I wish her well. May her creator and medical science heal her. Illness is usually a humbling occasion for sober reflection. Not for Madam Diezani. She has granted an interview to Dele Momodu to absolve herself of any wrongdoing in her service to Nigeria. That is fine.

The concluding part of that interview, now published, is a voyage into elite disconnect and hubris. Mrs Diezani basically makes a case for why Nigerians ought to be grateful to her for the routine of obeying the law and rules and doing her job by not wasting funds after they had lost the election! It is the sort of constipated, nonsensical, and condescending reasoning that has made supporters of the last order insist that President Jonathan be awarded a Nobel Prize for conceding an election he lost. So, what global prize do we award Diezani for not stealing or wasting money she could have stolen or wasted after the election? Mrs. Diezani clearly doesn’t get it. She doesn’t get it because of elite disconnect.

Can President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo do something about their own incipient elite disconnect? Yes they can. They must defy their aides – political aides are the unpatriotic lot who separate their principals from reality in Nigeria – and pay immersion visits to the real Nigeria from time to time.

Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El Rufai, once told me a story. He was very emotional when telling it. He visited every village in Kaduna during his gubernatorial campaign. In one village, he ran into an old friend he had not seen since they were in elementary school. The friend is a poor village farmer now. El Rufai gives him one thousand naira. The friend marveled at the sight of the naira note and told El Rufai that he had heard about 500 and 1000 naira notes but had never actually seen any in his life.

El Rufai told me that it was a humbling experience to be in the presence of a Nigerian who had vaguely heard about the existence of such naira denominations but had never actually seen them. It was an emotional moment for the governor and he told me it was something that will always have a direct bearing on his view of governance.

There are Nigerians in villages who have never seen a N500 note because they have never transacted business in anything that would involve more than the N200, N100, and N50 denominations. When was the last time President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo met and shook hands with a Nigerian who has never seen a N100 note? That Nigerian exists. He is in our villages and urban slums. To prevent elite disconnect, you have to cut through the crap that your political aides feed you about Nigeria’s glorious era, you have to break protocol once a month and go in search of such Nigerians. They will keep you grounded.

If you search hard enough, you will find a Nigerian who has never seen a N50 note.

You are his President and Vice President.

Find him.

Try telling him that Nigeria has entered a glorious era.

Advertisements

Arise o’ Corper shun

Posted: November 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

By Prince Charles Dickson

It’s Sunday and I am watching the collation of results for the concluded Kogi state gubernatorial elections, while many where concerned with whether the broom or umbrella was heading to the Government House, I was concerned like my friend Uncle Freddy with the “numbo-jumbo” of the dudes called returning officers, a host of them senior lecturers that could barely read, possibly write English.

Some struggled to tally the total of figures for the local government they supervised. And memories of our beloved Prof and Vice Chancellor during the last Presidential elections, who needed movie red headlight to read his own handwriting surfaced.

Still in the Kogi state light, it was sad‎ to see respected columnist, opinion and thought leaders bamboozle Kogites to the fallacy that they were laid bare between the devil and demons, when indeed there are 24 other parties, one of which could have provided them with a near saint.

Let me quickly state, I am not one of those that consider English language as a sign of civility, knowledge or even common sense, but I add that generally our education has been thrown to the dogs, and it is the essence of my admonition today.

So, to my brief, which is the story of three Corp members, Abdul, Chukwudi and Balogun. A blunt and bitterly truthful of our current situation in Nigeria.

The National Youth Service Corps was introduced by the Gowon administration, a short summary of the programme: a one year period for graduates ‎of our tertiary institutions to integrate and learn, and contribute by being stationed in a state other than where they studied, and where they hail from.

Over the years from one set every year, we now have batch A and B, soon there may be even a C and D batches, with the pace at which our institutions are churning graduates out (whether baked full, half or quarter).

Now young adults wait for one year, because one set is still on, and their respective schools did not meet the required dates. So, like Chukwudi he graduated in 2013 his school had issues releasing their results, internal strikes, and he finally made it to camp in 2015.

For the young lad and graduate of agricultural extension services, first shock was, he was posted to a law firm, for me, I thought he could make valuable inputs in agriculture related litigation for the firm, however the firm turned him down.

Abdul, a graduate of economics from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, on getting to the Government Secondary School he was posted to, he was turned down…the operational word is ‘rejected’. He told me he would have preferred his first choice of service, which was Kano.

Indeed I learned from him that they now have an offer of three choices for the mandatory one-year programme. My thoughts, with three choices, many a number would serve in same state they schooled or even hail from.

This itself is against the very spirit for which the service was initiated. I recall when this intervention started state governments not only picked best Corp members, but equally sponsored matrimonial conjugation for Corp members who found love in the state during the year.

However, for many it’s one month of Sodom and Gomorrah at the camp for these young adults, as wild oats are sowed indiscriminately. Talking about the camps, many states sites are not worthy of being used of old Nazi camps. Some governors even use the camps as tools for laundering state funds…Sadly so.

Then, to Balogun, I could not call him a young adult, with beards all over and his matured baritone voice; all I could see was a fake eaglet. He confessed he was pass the official age, but “sir, I am better than those that are serving their second year on purpose.” I shuddered almost in shock, because very little shocks me, after all two years ago, a completely fake camp was discovered somewhere between Nassarawa state and Abuja FCT, with kits and all the administrative paraphernalia.

Is it not the Nigeria that geography graduate said Canada was in Europe, and the two biggest countries in Africa were Asia and Nigeria.

Anyway, Balogun, despite his age, had a supposedly good certificate, if you know what I mean, but he was ‘rejected’ by the local government authorities where he was posted.

His case is not peculiar, in many states; it’s all rejection galore, from economic reasons to issues bothering on the quality of these graduates.

For the Corp authorities, it’s so sad how arrangements are made in higgledy-piggledy manner, leaving these youth and adult Corp members to all forms of exploitation. Women both young and adult are exposed to the whines and caprice of hunters, who attack them in their vulnerability.

Besides all these, it’s sad to see what I refer to as common corruption, such as what is referred to choice posting, where for a good greasing of the hand you determine both state and place of primary assignment. There are also cases of those that do not even serve, but grease the necessary hands.

Countless women manufacture some change of name document so as to circumvent the system. Age cheats everywhere; heavily pregnant and nursing women litter the whole place.

I started this admonition with the clowns that could barely collate and properly read election results from Kogi state. I end with the following narrative; recently a Nigerian governor blamed the rains for his inability to do a single road in seven years. It was same governor whom I recall in the early days of his administration questions were raised about his primary and modern school qualifications.

The current picture is one of symptomic failure in the systems and institutions, we need a total overhaul of the system, the Minister for education, the NYSC(to be or not) have an unenviable task, whether we want to repair, pretend all is well, or just deal with it–only time will tell.

By Prince Charles Dickson

Robbers enter a house, asks for all the money and valuables. After they collect what they can, they give the man of the house a gun with instructions to shoot his wife or else he be shot himself. The man gets the gun, points it at his wife and hesitates…He is thinking of what he has gone through in life with his wife and how she has suffered and sacrificed for him…

He hands back the gun and says, “I am sorry I can’t do this…”The boss of the robbers silently grabs the gun from him and passes it on to the wife with the same instruction. The wife gets the gun and without any single hesitation points to her husband’s head and pulls the trigger…But alas, the gun had no bullets in it…The robbers get their gun and walk out of the house laughing.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

  1. If you were the man in that house how would you react towards your wife?
  2. If you were the wife, what explanation can you give to your husband!
  3. If you were invited to bring peace between the couple, what advice would you give?

I have chosen the narrative above to illustrate how difficult the task of a judicial system can be, besides the questions for discussion, one would agree that there are more questions than answers in the narrative, and if we have a hundred persons, we possibly would get more than a score totally different perspectives.

And that indeed is the law, and like Americans would say, “the law is an ass”, and another sage would say, ”one law for the rich, another for the poor.”

What is considered a right verdict would vary, and in almost every nation there is a political narrative and intervention required of its judicial system, its judicial officers and the law itself. However not to the extent that all that comes from it becomes laughable, like is the current case in Nigeria.

So again, it’s the same old, same old, the Nigerian judiciary once more is in the news…tribunal rulings have not gone the way of the opposition, and how time flies, who would have written a script like the one playing out, the opposition being the People’s Democratic Party PDP.

20130404-170451.jpg

But quickly, let me ask, why are we surprised, it’s not like the governing All Peoples Congress APC in bringing change, has changed all the personnel that run the nation’s judiciary, however unfortunate, truth be told we are again witnessing unimaginable verdicts, in tribunals, while rulings at all levels of the courts have been nothing less than ‘jankara’ rulings.

While the Nigerian judiciary whether bench, bar or the beer has produced world greats in terms of legal minds, from Justice Elias, to Oputa, like Timi the law, and Gani the people’s SAM. The same judiciary has been in the last few years been nothing but disgraceful.

As I write this admonition, I state categorically that the malaise that is dealing blows on the Nigerian judiciary is episodic of our health sector, politics, engineering field, sports arena, you just name it, and you cannot but frown with angst.

Let me at this point quip in, that I am not learned, but importantly neither am I unlearned. Lest I am sued for defamation, let me state quickly that if I mention names at this junction, they are not real, but only bear a resemblance, which is only a coincidence, our judiciary has served us cases of several judges sacked for collecting bribes, this was unthinkable in the past, but these days, I even hear a prominent judge abi na justice that had “chuachua” (bribe) added to his/her name.

It is now not uncommon to hear, the justice is married to the brother or sister of the defendant, complainant and what have you, and this is when the lawyer is not outrightly asking you for “something” for the man who decides your fate.

And before you think that the problem is the bench, nope, it is the law and it’s practice that has become bastardized; agree that Nigeria while remaining the land of very great men and women, it is also the land of fakes, fake doctors, fake teachers, fake engineers, fake leaders, so I was not surprised when only last week the bar or sorry I meant the NBA, anyway they are the same stated “Sequel to the introduction of a Stamp Policy, the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has discovered no fewer than 1,000 fake lawyers across the country.”

The association’s Stamp Policy was introduced to curb the infiltration of quacks into the legal profession, but it is beyond stamps. What happens when lawyers place same stamp on illegalities, it simply becomes legitimate, and it’s happening nationwide.

I have met very good lawyers, same way I have met some, you wonder if the have a diploma in law from a polytechnic, that not being an illegality, you smile wryly at examination malpractice being reported at the Nigerian Law Schools.

We operate a judiciary except for barely Lagos, and the FCT Abuja, still thrive using the old IBM typewriter, judges complain that they have to handwrite their judgments, even in Lagos, on several occasions there are power outages during hearings, and one can only imagine, visited a magistrate court that was not fit enough to be used as kitchen.

I conducted a small fraud check, I collected an affidavit from Abuja, collected another on the same matter in Bauchi, and got another from Kaduna, it was so easy, as digitalization remains a myth.

Not only are our laws steeped in the 18th century, but also the corruption within the system is ebola-like.

While one may heap all the blames on the judiciary, the question is, how much can it really do, when it lacks autonomy, it’s November, some state judiciary have only been able to shake their waist with monies last collected in February, so how do they survive, judicial workers going on strike at the expense of the innocent, while the guilty ones are not spared either.

The axiom that the courts are the poor man’s resort in Nigeria, is only on paper, as justice has become indeed, how much of the waist one can twist, would the much touted change see the judiciary or we will continue to be subjected to the macabre dance of our judiciary—Only time will tell

By Prince Charles Dickson

So last week, I shared with us that story about how a young dumb boy made a sacrifice for the sake of his brother. I think it would be fair to give a quick summary for those that missed the story, as today’s admonition is a continuation or rather an interpretation of that story.

The story was about a lad whose brother pilfered other people’s items, and how he was nearly mobbed to death by those who thought he was the thief, unknown to them, he was protecting his brother. It is a story of sacrificial love, and in the next few paragraphs, I would share with us, a few reasons why we may be far from the desired change.

Not many of us would claim ignorance of the new term “body language” used to describe the change mantra of Mr. Buhari, the Nigerian president, and how many argue that it has been responsible for any visible improvement one can notice since the advent of the APC led government.

However the truth remains that there is still a body of stench, an odoriferous smell in the attitude of the everyday Nigerian, who is not willing to make any sacrifice.

We are all in the mob mentality mood, we all desire the change but not willing to change, we want others to change but we are not changing. There’s been a change of government but the civil servant is not changing, between a take home pay, that cannot take him home, and a living wage that practically kills him by all intent and purpose.

So, to him, it’s not corruption, but “his god” blessing him, in the face of hardship.

How many times have I asked how it feels, when a policeman says to you; “How are you, can I see your papers, I advice you tidy your papers, have a blessed day”. Strange, oh, very strange because this year alone despite the best of efforts by the Police High Command, almost half a dozen persons have been killed just for refusing to part with as little as N20.

Parents have a twisted picture of sacrifice, when they pay for their kids to get placement ion secondary schools, and yet we want to see change. While the quality of medicare available continues to drop, it is really sad when people tell you, except you know someone, even if you can afford it, you would not get any attention from our numerous teaching and specialist hospitals, which by the way are specials in nothing.

Mr. Buhari may have the best of intentions, but he sure has his job well cut out, when he is surrounded by a host of ungodly saints that are unwillingly to change, except for a change of chameleonic nature. Take the National Assembly, it has barely sat for 15 days, and been on recess for 12 weeks, and has gulped several millions of tax payers, no bill passed yet.

Amaechi with his moral baggage, Saraki with his own moral luggage, both men dividing Nigerians equally in a case of who is more corrupt, and who is not corrupt, and we want change, we want sacrifices made, but no one is willing to be that sacrifice.

We fight each other on the premise of our faith, we see a list and debate on the number of Igbos, number of Muslims, number of women, but hardly worry about those that are capable of delivering. It is a no sacrifice, except it suits us.

Every Nigerian is sharp, believing that nothing goes for nothing, you need to know someone that knows someone or else no admission into that school, an unemployed is asked to pay to get a job. Government fleece its own, and the citizens in turn fleece government the bazaar of corruption is mutual.

So, a neighborhood cries there is no electricity, but ask them to produce bills, of when last they paid, Lord Lugard would have been a teenager, and same applies to the power company that would send bills for electricity not provided.

We have millionaires everywhere even in our depressive and repressive economy because they are wealthy by acquisition, and not production. Every young person not only wants a job, but equally to be rich; the mindset is dangerously corruptly embellished. For example a young man pays to be a custom officer with the intent that it’s an investment that would be recouped.

I would end this treaty on sacrifice by sharing Shiv Khera, a renowned author and management trainer experience’s in Singapore.

“Six years ago in Singapore I gave a taxi driver a business card to take me to a particular address.  At the last point he circled round the building. His meter read $11, but he took only $10.

I said Henry, your meter reads 11$ how come you are taking only 10.

He said Sir, I am a taxi driver, I am supposed to be bringing you straight to the destination. Since I did not know the last spot, I had to circle around the building. Had I brought you straight here, the meter would have read $10.

Why should you be paying for my ignorance?

He said sir, legally, I can claim 11$ but honestly and ethically I am entitled to only 10.

In my opinion he probably did not go to school beyond the 8th grade, but to me he was a professional, and equally reflected the larger Singaporean spirit. To me his behavior reflected pride in performance and character.

In Nigeria, we have Taxi drivers that have returned millions, but the truth is that like many honest Nigerians, rather than the norm, they remain exceptions, ordinarily the change mantra of the current administration should echo beyond campaign gimmicks, but sadly it may all well be just a hullabaloo with no one willing to make the sacrifice.

Are we ready to make personal sacrifices for the general good, do we see that Mr. Buhari needs help, or we are just on a wish plane—Only time would tell.