Posts Tagged ‘politics’

By Prince Charles Dickson

Sometimes, I sit and look: sometimes I look and sit: and sometimes, I just look, I don’t sit…and some other times I don’t sit, I don’t look…I just stare at the distance spaces—not looking, not sitting, just staring—Segun Oruame

The man died, he was 95 years, there would be no Mandela, I offer my heartfelt sympathies to the people of South Africa in this moment of grief.

Beautiful words have been used, eulogies are countless, in the social, and conventional media even those that cannot spell his name “Rolihlahla” have had a word or more to say.

I consider myself privileged to be part of a generation that witnessed the passing away of a man that was loved by friends and foes in different measure, for different reasons.

I cannot recall, when a prostitute celebrated a man, in like manner a president, a mechanic, a footballer, or an activist, such is the love that the world had for this one man, from India to Canada, Abuja to Adelaide.

I will not be writing a tribute, nor will this be a eulogy, I am not fit, I am not South African, and wont cry more than the bereaved. Also many persons in the last few days and weeks to come would be drawing lessons that can be learned from this great man. So there would be no need to sound repetitive and hypocritical.

Here in Nigeria, I have read the briefs of the likes of Chris Ngige, Tinubu, Orji Theodore, Atiku, Jonathan, PDP chiefs, APC maids and mere mortals, whose several lifetimes may be difficult to replicate one man’s 95 magnificent years. I have also seen some comical comparisons, and all I can say is “what a life”

I read Obasanjo talk about what Mandela told him, “Certain that his task was completed, Mandela modestly refused to seek re-election after his first term in office as his presidency elapsed. I still recall his pragmatic words when he said to me ‘Olu, show me a [reasonable] place in the world where a man of 80 years is running the affairs of his country’.

“This, to me, reflects an unequaled sense of modesty for a man who spent 27 of the prime years of his life in prison for a just cause.”

After reflecting so hard on those lines, I share in my admonition in the next few paragraphs what Madiba told me, specifically what Tata said to me about Nigeria.

Mandela shortly before he passed on, asked me if it made sense to my leaders, the PDP, the opposition, traditional rulers, and clergy, opinion leaders and the so-called elder statesmen, that Nigerian children were at home for more than six months and what was more important was 2015, the next election and the best we off, is exchanging ‘mouthicufs” while a future was being negotiated away.

He told me that he could understand that as Journalists, sometimes we are tied by words for purposes of marketing and often break the rules—but really he did not understand what we meant by…for example ‘ASUU “vows” to continue strike ‘, what kind of vow is it?

Just as it makes no sense that government issues ultimatum for universities to resume, and then teachers defy presidency and shun classes…He asked me to sit and look, or look and sit, and tell him if it made sense.

He wondered why Nigerians were carefree, and easily manipulated, we talked about Adams Oshiomhole, I was surprised he knew the governor, and I told him, I am not a fan of the opposition as currently composed. He smiled and asked can we get saints from sinners, in local parlance they say it is the same market. Talking Adams, for those that watched the soap, “go and die”, the sequel,  “N2Million and the tea breakfast”, you would understand.

He asked me where did the governor get the N2million, and what was the reasoning behind the figure, and how about other widows, what is symbolic, why do we play politics with lives and reality. Does the governor run a charity?

I told him like a number of states in Nigeria, Edo is owing arrears of one thing or the other, apart from salaries, but state CEOs are giving away widows’ mite of N2Million and more to widows, spinsters, girlfriends, etc. It is no big deal, that’s how legends are created in our own world.

He asked me, when would we get leaders that love this nation, or as they say, if we get what we deserve, it implies Nigerians do not love their country. And I dare agree with the legend, we do not: that is why we were the first nation to declare a three days mourning, leading the way for Mandela, when indeed several spheres of our national lives is in mourning and we have refused to mourn.

Thinking about Tata, as his people fondly called him, I was moved by the testimonies of the ordinary lives he touched, those calls when they had a baby, or got married. The simplicity of a great man, and the greatness of an ordinary man, reconcile that with the many that are dead because of one government convoy, or leadership irresponsibility.

The man lived as a legend, died as one, he was still human, recall when he wanted 14year olds to vote, or when he was adamant about his successor, and many other wrong steps he took, but indeed he is living a South Africa with so many good memories, a world with so much to ponder on.

Who are the legends of the Nigerian cause, so many of them, just in case we need reminders—Legend of the pension thief, legend of highly paid legislators that do nothing, legend of strikes in education, health, aviation and more. Legend of Boko Haram, legends of ghosts, the list is endless.

In Nigeria, we are blessed with very virile minds, intellects, academicians, but we lack leadership with purpose and a humane heart, in the words of Leonardo da Vinci, there is so much shouting, there is no true knowledge—will Nigeria celebrate her own Mandela, I just stare at the distance spaces—not looking, not sitting, just staring—only time will tell.

By Prince Charles Dickson

One who hears and repeats a curse of the king is really cursing the king

A few years ago, the Bureau for Public Enterprise BPE sold NITEL the nations elephant telecom company to a building in Switzerland, it was a building housing a church, all the dance and drama. We soon let go. Just a reminder it was called PENTESCOPE. Only this year, the father of a white cloth wearing former Honourable bought the NITEL house…The NITEL story remains a tales by moonlight, plenty lies, half truths, misinformation, propaganda, a pot pourri of sorts. 

How about the Steel Rolling Mill in Jos, Plateau, it was ‘racketeered’ in that sweet sounding word privatization. The likes of Andy, and his cohorts bought all the assets, renamed it Zuma, today the only functional thing is the housing estate. The factory and machines have been vandalized. 

There was that drama of Daily Times, publishers of that ole time newspaper.  Before I go far, a former Managing Director of the once pride of publishing told me “Charlie, Daily Times is like a big elephant, everybody comes and cuts his/her own and goes away.”

You need to appreciate that statement in context, at a time in point Daily Times had properties virtually everywhere Nigeria had a presence in the world. All that changed as all that was left of the elephant was sold to some clowns and the rest is history. 

Today, my admonition is on our power sector, I am sure you are wondering the ‘…masquerade’. As we round up the year, I recount 27 promises from over a dozen public official. That the power supply would get better, and indeed on some odd occasions I and many Nigerians have enjoyed more than 8hours of electricity. But don’t forget, it was not the norm, it was an exception. The President, his aides, and ministers made these pledges. 

It is an interesting masquerade, recall a top aide, who blamed witches for power outages. Have we not since forgotten the Minister who resigned and the controversies. 

And then the many Chinese loans taken, yet we are on the same track, the Power Holding Company of Nigeria has been sold and the drama has only begun. But if you know Nigerians and Nigeria, it is only a repeat episode, nothing new. 

Most of the new owners have simply bought PHCN properties for peanuts. Owners that have no required expertise, distribution companies aptly called DISCOs that see the venture as new ‘oil wells’. 

Looking at the best effort of government or the DISCOs, I simply recall those days when we read, there is this novel by Adaora Ulasi, Many things We don’t understand. It is a book I read many donkey years ago. What captivated me then, was not just in the story but that title. 

Yes I am talking about PHCN, former NEPA, onetime ECN, for those old enough to remember. Now Distribution Companies, the power sector and these Discos are just a repeat episode–things we never may understand. It’s an ‘Up NEPA’ Masquerade, nothing new, yet when it comes out it engages our fancy, our fears, and enthusiasm. 

Like why we can’t get 18hours electricity in a nation with so much resources both human and financial. Like how do we expect to get the desired megawatts with generating and transmission points that are run ala Luggard. 

How do we get electricity when a third of consumers don’t pay bills, infact stranger than fiction some state government houses owe several millions in bills. 

I kindly ask us to reflect as the year end, what matters to us. As a nation, as a people, both the led, leaders and those who are in the business of dealing with us–what are our values, what drives this nation and her people?

What is the Nigerian dream, as we gravitate towards the centenary, there are complains, grumbling, disaffection and conflicts. 

To some its Goodluck Jonathan, to others, it is the institutions, others blame the opposition, the opposition blames government. The people blame the leaders, the leaders blame leaders. 

What is the Ijaw nation’s dream, is all the political-economy of the SouthWest about the Tinubu Monarchy, and in the North, is it not a betrayal republic, one of a people that has let itself and people down and then as usual lie to its people.

Let us share this fable as I conclude: A master was strolling through a field of wheat when a disciple came up to him and asked, “I can’t tell which is the true path. What’s the secret?”

“What does that ring on your right hand mean?” – asked the master.

“My father gave it to me before dying.”

“Well, give it to me.”

The disciple obeyed, and the master tossed the ring into the middle of the field of wheat.

“Now what?” – shouted the disciple.

“Now I have to stop doing everything I was doing to look for the ring! It’s important to me!”

The ring is the masquerade, it is important to us, but it can be thrown away, and indeed it has been discarded many times. We stop everything we are doing to look for it, but we don’t even know why, yet it is important. 

Nigeria, Nigerians, don’t understand many things, we are a repeat episode, yet we desperately desire change. We have watched as university teachers’ union stayed on strike and five months counting. We have seen these same strikes in the past. Meetings, meetings, agreements, and broken promises. All repeat episodes, all masquerades. 

Finally these three things: 1) Masquerades are often from the community, the same people you eat, play, work and discuss with. Yet, they hide their faces and scare you, poke fun at you, and chase you…

2) A repeat episode, many a time, you have watched it, you know what to expect, how it will end, what happened. Yet, you are still addicted to it, like the yearly masquerade you want to see it again, even when you are being fooled.  

3) Many things we don’t understand–because we choose not to. Like the power masquerade, good governance masquerade, and corruption masquerade, ethnic card masquerade and more–Are we ready to shed the deceit, and get it right, only time will tell.

By Prince Charles Dickson

Yau da shi ya sa allura ginin rijiya (Hausa axiom) literally means doing a thing little by little made it possible for the needle to dig a well. 

In recent times I have read and watched with sadness the division in Nigeria. And this week, this is my admonition. 

For example, the one tablet-solves-it-all called the National Dialogue has not started but the feelers are ther–we won’t discuss our unity, let’s increase derivation, we shall use ethnic nationalities, no we have majority- arewa tackles ohaneze, afenifere blows arewa, middlebelt gives upper cut to allbelts. 

We are told by some who have seen the 1914 marriage certificate with a divorce clause after 100years. We are also aware of the ‘Nigeria will break 2015’ prophecy. 

Forced Marriage 
In the words of my brother Tope Fasua, what is special about Nigeria’s forced marriage, as different from other forced marriages all over the world – and is every country not a forced marriage. 

Civilization is about forced marriages, the only difference sometimes is the form of ‘force’. But substance over form, all countries have been forced to be together. 

There must then be something innately wrong with us, why you make so much hue and cry on one spot, complaining about a forced marriage and the need to dissolve the marriage, when we are all the offspring of such a marriage.

Can one liken the situation with that of a grown adult, who keeps complaining about the conditions of his birth, his ‘wrong parents’, his being born in the wrong place, rather than moving on? 

Is that not the difference between a Steve Jobs, who was born illegitimately and in penury, put up for adoption to not-so-rich foster parents, and who slept on the floor as a squatter in university, dropped out and made something global of himself, and many area boys in Lagos, Aba, and Kano, who chose to take to drugs and area-boyism because ‘their parents were not supposed to have met in the first place’..? 

Is there a possibility that even as we repeat this ill-informed, ego-induced, short-sighted, tunnel-visioned baloney about ‘FORCED MARRIAGE’, we are also telling our own children to start to put the union of their parents under the microscope, in order to find out whether the marriage was forced, or whether their parents were handsome enough, or whether their mothers went to enough school, in order to decide whether they will become street urchins or whether they will fight hard in the world to make something of themselves?

It’s the cockiness Nigerians spew out that i detest with everything in me. 

Cockiness such as when Chairman of the Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF) and Governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu, alleged that  over 400 northerners may have betrayed the region after collecting money to back President Goodluck Jonathan’s second term. 

One wonders how such characters and the likes of Dokuboh, Clark, get public space, well its ‘public’. 

For ‘Worsetest’
I would tell us a fable–In a forest, a pregnant deer is about to give birth. She finds a remote grass field near a strong-flowing river. This seems a safe place. Suddenly labour pains begin.

At the same moment, dark clouds gather around above & lightning starts a forest fire. She looks to her left & sees a hunter with his bow extended pointing at her. To her right, she spots a hungry lion approaching her.

What can the pregnant deer do? 
She is in labour! 

What will happen? 
Will the deer survive? 
Will she give birth to a fawn? 
Will the fawn survive? 
Or will everything be burnt by the forest fire? 

Will she perish to the hunters’ arrow? 
Will she die a horrible death at the hands of the hungry male lion approaching her? 

She is constrained by the fire on the one side & the flowing river on the other & boxed in by her natural predators.

What does she do? She focuses on giving birth to a new life. It’s not just bad or worse–Her case is ‘worsetest’

The sequence of events that follows are:

– Lightning strikes & blinds the hunter.

– He releases the arrow which zips past the deer & strikes the hungry lion.

– It starts to rain heavily, & the forest fire is slowly doused by the rain.

– The deer gives birth to a healthy fawn.

For Better…
In Nigeria a lot is wrong, many persons with negative thoughts and possibilities. 

But some thoughts are so powerful positive they overcome us & overwhelm us like the golden eaglets victory in Dubai, or Super Eagles qualifying for the World Cup. 

Maybe we can learn from the deer. The priority of the deer, in that given moment, was simply to give birth to a baby.

The rest was not in her hands & any action or reaction that changed her focus would have likely resulted in death or disaster.

We have to roll up our sleeves and move on to a focus. The problem we have is not about any union. It is about the IRRESPONSIBILITY, THE VISIONLESSNESS, THE GREED, THE MENTAL ILLNESS, THE COWARDICE of the few who had and still have the opportunity, even me and you…but we fight Christians, fight Muslims, fight Idomas, Nupes, Beroms, and what not.  

I may not agree with you but will not deny you the right to that opinion. We certainly have a right to be wrong–but for how long, if we want change. It will come like the needle, very slowly, but do we want change and what are our priorities–only time will tell.  

 

 

By Olu G. Adeyinka

 

First. Let me do what I have never done before in this series on RLV. I want to thank, sincerely, the many people who sent me email asking me deep seated questions on the last 3 parts of the series on Tithe. Many of whom are ministers with a true heart for God. One senior Pastor said “I will find a way to readdress this issue with the Church members because I see the truth you presented tallied with God’s word”. Isn’t that a delight? Many wants to continue reading the series to see if all their questions will be answered. I do not promise to answer all questions, but will present the Biblical truths without fear or favor. Thank you for the encouragement.

We must acknowledge here that the only possible excuse that can make Tithe or Tithing appropriately acceptable or doctrinally plausible in the New Testament dispensation is to present it as an everlasting or eternal principle of God. That is exactly what the pulpit has done successfully in the last 200 years of Church history. They have successfully fixated on that aspect and  pushed it down the throat of believers perfectly with the mention of Abraham and Jacob. Some even referred back to the days of Cain and Abel as when Tithing actually began. I have heard several messages on the eternal patriarchal chain of ‘Tithers’ from Adam to Moses and to the popular misread and misapplied Matthew chapter twenty-three. The brinksmanship of the Evangelical pulpit and the competing Orthodoxy clergies in establishing the teachings on Tithe are continued from generation to generation is not totally innocent. The second tool that have helped in securing a ‘place’ for Tithe is the passage in Malachi chapter three, where God’s anger was registered around the topic (again a complete misapplication of the scripture). The final instrument being used to capture the harvest of Tithe is the FEAR tactics deployed.

 

Believers are simply fearful folks! Many of us are so afraid of the preachers that even God cannot compete with them. We do so many things right before the “man of God” and do worse things in the secret where the man is not present, yet we claim we know God who sees all things. The Church is very TIMID! We have doubts, but will rather ask amongst ourselves where such doubts could not be clarified. When we eventually get so bold to ask our pastors, whatever they say, along with an unqualified passage of the scripture is suffice for our ignorance. That is why the Church is in dark corners but claiming to be in great lights. We claim we have deep revelations when we actually grope in darkness of self consciousness

In the last part (part 3), I refuted the teachings that Tithe is even an Old Covenant doctrine. It was never an Old Mosaic law of covenant, but an appendage or an attached instruction to have enough provisions for certain people. And that in itself is enough to make it sacrosanct, but not enough to make it a covenanted law.

Here, we will look critically at Abraham and Jacob, a major link that has made Tithing seem eternal and presentable in our days. We must set some parameters of history about the two patriarchs of the faith we profess, first.

Abraham was born an Idolator. He worshipped the moon-god along with the traditions of his father Terah in the Chaldees before God called him and made him a believer in the one and true God (Joshua 24”2-3). The very common pagan tradition that is as old as man is for the army generals to consult the gods before going to war. They make ablutions and vow as to what to do for the gods if and when they return. Abraham also came from that tradition of paganism. Remember, he had learnt it for 75 years before God Almighty started with him. Here is the scripture, in the Genesis Fourteen chapter.

 

“And the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley), after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him. Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all. Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.” But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’– except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion”. (Genesis 14: 17- 24).

What Abraham did was very consistent with traditions then. The encounter he had with Melchizedek, king of Salem, in this storyline was overwhelming to know that Melchizedek was a priest of the most high God. Melchizedek blessed Abraham and told him the reason why he won the war – “And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand”. A priest of God just told Abraham that God fought and delivered Abraham’s enemies into his hands, and he prayed for Abraham too. It must be a miracle for Abraham and his limited men (318) to have defeated strong armies of four powerful nations. It was just right for Abraham to be a blessing to the man of God, and he settled to give Melchizedek a tenth of all, which is now called Tithe (in the parlance of the pulpit). Here is the difference.

 

The tenth Abraham gave to Melchizedek was not a new harvest or stolen properties or added ones. It was all recovered properties stolen by the four powerful kings who were oppressors. What Melchizedek got from Abraham was not any property of Abraham, no, it was all properties of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah and other three cities. The issue to consider is that the people would have lost all of their properties if Abraham had not been helped by God to recover it all. Now that all was recovered, what old tradition stipulates was to present a tenth to the gods. Mind you, the people of Sodom et al are not believers in the one true God, and they would have given the tenth to their idol that was not able to deliver them anyways. Now that Melchizedek presented himself, it was just right to present him with the tenth of all the spoils. Abraham could have been entitled to the tenth as a war merchant, but he gave it to the priest of God.

It is didactic to learn that nothing of all Abraham gave was his. Nothing! It is also important to note that the tenth given to Melchizedek by Abraham cost him nothing except the war that God gave him victory on. It is also instructional to observe that Abraham never took any of the spoils home to himself except his 318 men who were allowed to take their portion. Actually Abraham made a statement that completely makes the case a vow as he said to Bera, king of Sodom –

“I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich”.

That was a very powerful statement of vow Abraham made before the battle. He never took anything even though he was asked to keep everything, except that he gave the tenth to the priest of the most high.

Now, for those who claimed this was Tithe demanded by God, it is important to note that Abraham had nothing in the deal from the onset. For those who will claim Melchizedek represents the ministers of these days, it must be noted also that Abraham had many other enriching encounters after this episode and never again paid any tithe to anyone. It was a vow!
Let someone tell me how this story validates what the Church calls the tithe today? How is this event related to Abraham’s hope or faith for God’s provision tomorrow?

The Tithe of the era of Moses was not attached to man setting a goal and conditions. It was a mandate the farmers (only land related husbandry) were obliged to pay without condition. It does not have to do with the size of your harvest or anything. God’s promise of increase is done after you fulfill the Tithe. In the case of Jacob, God was not involved at all. It was a private dealing Jacob had with God, called a vow. Tithe is not a vow!  Jacob asked God to bless him FIRST, and then he will give God a tenth of such blessings in return. Hear Jacob.

“Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You”. (Genesis 28: 16- 22)

 

God appeared to Jacob in a dream and made some promises that were profound. The promises were not attached to any condition other than what God had promised Jacob’s descendants. The dream experience was very surreal for Jacob. It was the first of an encounter that is providing him an opportunity to hear God speak, and he was dumbfounded. Jacob was so reverent of that encounter that he reduced God to that location and poured oil on a stone (idolatry). However, he tied God Almighty into it, and then made a vow (which was out of doubt, really). God just made a declaration to bless you, and now you are attaching a mundane earthly reward to God who owns the earth and the fullness therein. God bypassed all the mistake of Jacob to honor His promise.
Could it be that Jacob forgot Tithe was a compulsion before making it a vow? Why was he not aware of Tithe since he grew up with a father that walked with God, and a lineage of Godly people?

The part that is most interesting is that all we know was that Jacob made a vow. We never saw where he fulfilled the vow he made. I guess, all the vows Jacob made was out of flesh, and God was not attaching any importance to that kind of vow when already a pronunciation of blessing had been made. God never asked Jacob for it because God does not feed on vows (though we should have enough integrity to stand by what we vow).

Where was this notion of Tithe as a generational eternal covenant coming from when no mention of it even when God was providing the Israelites free food in the wilderness? Joseph had the whole land of Egypt and never heard of Tithe from his godly parents or grandparents, really? The same Jacob worked for Laban for 20 years, and he kept the entire Tithe to himself and God still blessed him, right?

 

Nobody should stand on God’s word to pronounce Abraham or Jacob paid any Tithe at any time in their lifetime. The pew should also learn that the attempt to tie in Abraham and Jacob into the frenzy of Tithing was to ‘make holy what was not holy’. Until the book of Leveticus, no mention or instructions on Tithe was ever given by God Almighty. None whatsoever!

Next time we will look at the first mention of Biblical Tithe and explore what God was saying, and to who. Please do read parts 1 through 3 and this part to come along.

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

 

By Nelson Ekujumi

Recently, our media space was awash with news about a young Nigeria Daniel Oikhena, who stowed away in the tyre compartment of an airline from Benin to Lagos, and thus, the breach of security at our airports was once again highlighted by this ugly incident.

However, one is astonished and upset that this youth, whom we all ought and should condemn for being a deviant by putting his life as well as passengers on that flight at risk is being celebrated and rewarded by the people in authority against our norms and values which recognizes and encourages reward for good and responsible conduct.

One is being forced to respond to this untoward act by the government of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole because of the long time implication on the psyche of Nigerians and most especially our youths who have unfortunately been deprived the priviledge of mentorship which they should ordinarily have, but now have to cope with our distorted ways of doings and are thus left at the mercy of their own initiative about societally approved values and norms which seems lost.

I feel sad anytime I look at the vulnerability of our youths to social vices because of a dysfunctional and disoriented society that they have found themselves in. Today, pitiably, our youths are involved in all sorts of crime because of lack of guidance. At times, I wonder if this was not the same society I was given birth to and grew up in. I remember vividly well, my primary school days in the late seventies and secondary school days in the early-mid eighties when our social values had stricter control and were a means of moulding the character of youths rather than the force of coercion by the law. This was a period when as a student, the norm was ostracization from your peers if you were even alledged of academic misconduct unlike what obtains this days when you are seen as a big boy or girl if you are involved in examination misconduct.

Those were the days when people were respected because of their honesty and integrity rather than what obtains now in which societal recognition is bestowed on someone because of the amount of cash in his wallet irrespective of the means of acquisition. Truly, this are perilous times for our youths and our country, but as our people say, “Orisha bi o le gbe mi se mi bi ose ba mi” literally meaning, “The gods, if you cannot help my cause, restore me to the status quo rather than worsening my plight”

It is in the light of the above quote that I want to admonish the Comrade Governor, that what he has done by the award of scholarship instead of a referral to a juvenile home by the appropriate state organ is a disservice to the good upbringing of our youths because whatever we do today, becomes history tomorrow. By rewarding the deviant Daniel, our political authority are sending a wrong signal to our youths that the only way to be rewarded or recognized by the state is to do something against the norms and values of civilized conduct as epitomized by young Daniel.

However, one’s anger against the Comrade Governor who has an ally in recently freed kidnap victim Mr. Mike Ozekhome (SAN) has been mitigated by the public condemnation that greeted his illogical call of amnesty for kidnappers, though we can excuse him because he must still be suffering from the trauma inflicted on him by his abductors, and the most appropriate thing would have been to seek counseling rather than making a call that runs contrary to our traditional norms and values.

Thus, we must all come on board now to speak out against this dangerous trend which is capable of destroying our society, lest posterity condemn us of being culpable by conspiratorial silence.

 

By Lawrence Nwobu
 

A nation is like an individual; driven and shaped by certain values and propelled by ambition to success or the lack of it to mediocrity and failure. A few days ago I was discussing with some friends over the Nigerian quagmire and one of them suggested that “if all Nigerians were evacuated to the Unite States of America and all Americans were evacuated to Nigeria, in

a few years the Americans would turn Nigeria into one of the most prosperous countries in the world while the Nigerians would turn America to a failed state.” His argument was premised on the logic that the people and consequently the leadership of a society determine the outcome in the success or failure of that society. It is difficult to fault his logic for try as we may, we cannot deny that there are certain predominant attributes of the Nigerian people and leadership that has helped to create and sustain the tragic society and failure Nigeria is.

America has been a democracy since 1789 and since that time, there have never been cases of organised election rigging, census rigging, electoral thuggery and other such fraudulent shenanigans by different generations of American leaders. America has since its founding been an ambitious nation that set out to be the best in everything. From exemplary public leadership, democracy and the rule of law to science, technology, arts, sports, commerce, entertainment and military prowess America continues to lead the world. Ambition and the predominant values of justice, freedom, dignity and the rule law of the American people and leadership created the success story and American dream America is for the world. America is consequently the most advanced and prosperous nation on the face of the earth. The nation where your dreams can be fulfilled and you can be all that you desire to be. The nation that unleashes the best of humanity. 

 

By contrast Nigeria became enmeshed in crisis from the very beginning. No sooner did the British colonial authorities depart in 1960, than all shades of fraud and lawlessness was unleashed. Elections and census were massively rigged, political thuggery and violence became routine and just 6 years after independence there was an explosion of violence that culminated in a bloody conflict. Since then different generations of leaders have continued in the same pattern of dictatorship, brutality, election rigging, census rigging, thuggery and massive looting. Unlike America, a lack of national ambition and the predominant values of self hate and an entrenched culture of injustice, wickedness, fraud and lawlessness of the Nigerian people and leadership have created the failure and nightmare Nigeria is. Little wonder Nigeria is the most corrupt and one of the poorest failed states in the world. 

Given the abundance of human and material resources, there is no limit to what Nigeria could have been. But Nigeria has failed in spite of the abundance because the lack of ambition and predominant values of injustice, corruption and self hate amongst others embedded in the Nigerian people and leadership cannot create a successful society. Like my friend suggested; if you moved all Nigerians to America and handed America over to them with the entire infrastructure already built, the same factors would ensure that America would collapse in a few years and become a failed state. Likewise Nigeria would become functional and prosperous in a few years if all Americans moved to Nigeria because the ambition and values of the American people and leadership would create a successful society anywhere. Nigeria has thus become a failed state crippled by corruption, injustice and trapped in unprecedented social unrest because of the values of those who inhabit it. With a different set of values and fundamentals Nigeria could have the best roads, state of the art rail system, some of the best schools, hospitals and social welfare for the unemployed and underprivileged. 

Nigeria could have been an example in democracy, with free and fair elections at every level elevating the dignity of the human person and showing the world an example of best practice in an African democracy. Nigeria could have been a technologically advanced nation, producing goods and being part of technological innovations. Nigeria could have been a major tourist destination with millions of visitors each year coming to visit an African success story, a black Mecca of sorts, a proud and successful black nation taking her place among the comity of nations, holding her head high and giving pride and dignity to black people across the world. Nigeria could have been a secure, harmonious and prosperous nation enjoying modernity and life in an advanced, civilised and thriving society invested in the rule of law. Nigeria could have been a dream, just like the American dream, a nation where people are given every opportunity to succeed. A nation that invests in her people and brings out the best in them. A nation that dignifies and humanises her citizens, a nation where people from all over the world will choose to come and live. A great nation and an African miracle. 

But alas we are in Nigeria and Nigeria is a failed state because our values have made us only capable of creating a nation that dehumanises her own citizens, a nation that brings out the worst rather than the best in her citizens, a nation that is entrenched in injustice, a nation that impoverishes and destroys her own citizens, a nation that self destructs. This is the story of Nigeria, a nation that could have been one of the richest, harmonious and technologically advanced in the world, yet today lays prostrate and crippled as the laughing stock of the world, as the shame of the black race, as the greatest human phenomenon of failure, because we have no ambition and we allowed injustice to become the defining aspect of our values and therein lies the difference that gave Americans a dream and Nigerians a nightmare! 

Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu

Email: lawrencenwobu@gmail.com

 

Seyi Olu Awofeso

 
 

NIGERIA’S Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) announced last year that between 2007 and 2010, it recovered stolen assets nearly worth two (2) trillion Naira.

This teary figure of thefts will trench close to N4.7 trillion – equivalent to past year’s federal budget – if additional recoveries made in 2011 and 2012 are totalled up, considering that N1.7 trillion was stolen under Nigeria’s Oil Subsidy Subvention Scheme in the year 2011.

On these figures, Nigeria is direly miring in a theft pandemic of un-precedented proportions.  For openers, no country of its size can survive this level of banditry, with its government officials living by plunder, and, with a middling and mostly poor 160 million plus population seething on edge.

According to Forbes magazine of last September the impact of stolen wealth in Nigeria is telling. ““The acquisition of private planes in Nigeria since civil rule began with General Olusegun Obasanjo as President in 1999 has been unprecedented,” said Forbes magazine. “Over 130 new private planes were acquired since 2007 at an average cost of $50 million per plane. Between March 2010 and March 2011, in just one year, Nigerians spent $225 million on private jets. But while a few dozen Nigerians are spending millions of dollars apiece for private jets, the poverty level in Nigeria is on the rise; with almost 100 million Nigerians, out of a total population of 170 million, living on less than one dollar a day.”

Paradoxically, along with Kenya, the Nigerian government was the early bird to sign on the first day – December 9, 2003 – in the city of Merida, Mexico, when the United Nations Convention against Corruption was laid on the table for countries’ voluntary signatures. Nigeria’s National Assembly later ratified it a year later, on December 14, 2004. By jumping ahead to sign and ratify, the Nigerian government flattered to deceive, by suggesting a readiness to stop stealing and start living up to the creed of its definition as “a government”.

But after well-nigh on ten years since signing the Merida Convention, Nigeria instead soared into stratospheric thefts, facilitated by “public officials”.  For hardly had its signature ink dried than the government returned to its stealing ways.  Now, whether by telepathy or conspiracy, no court of law in Nigeria has invoked the Merida Convention as its guiding, never mind governing principle. So, the Merida Convention seems officially deemed in Nigeria as mere rhetorical flourish – like an international law the Nigerian government only charily signed to fulfil all righteousness, without intending to obey its ban of official thievery.

Article 3 of the Merida Convention applies to all signing countries in the “prevention, investigation and prosecution of corruption, and to the freezing, seizure, confiscation and return of the proceeds of offences established in accordance with this Convention”. But pertaining “prevention” of corruption – as Merida Convention’s first injunction – Nigeria blithely ignores that, with no effective measure emplaced to stop thefts occurring in Nigeria’s government offices. In consequence, thefts and bribes in the 36 states of Nigeria now overwhelm the putatively under-staffed EFCC, as official thefts soared to dizzying levels in Nigeria, with entire sub-treasuries being shovelled away in incredible thefts.

“The situation in Nigeria is long past the happy hour. Nigerians pray for good Nigeria every day and this prayer translates into curses on their executioners because these do not want Nigeria to progress given how they are relentlessly raping her present and looting her future. It will soon be season for purgatory in Nigeria. When the hour comes, ignorance in leadership will not be acceptable in extenuation of damnation, and, this will be regardless of which ethnic group a criminal leader hails from,” Quansy Salako, an American resident, wrote on December 12, last year.

As instance of this counter-intuitive escalation of thefts, after signing the Merida Convention, Nigeria’s Police’ 32 billion Naira pension fund was entirely shovelled away last year by John Yakubu Yusufu, a former Director of the Police Pension Office. “His was let off by the Judge and fined N750, 000 (about $5,000). The rich irony of stealing from the Nigerian police aside, the opportunity cost of this grand larceny to the commonwealth and well-being is astounding”, said Tunji Lardner, a newspaper editor in Nigeria.

“I ran some numbers indexed against Nigeria’s 2012 national budget and came up with these figures. Yakubu’s haul is 536.89% of the budgetary allocation for the Ministry of Police affairs and 777.31% of the budget for the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), which in lay terms means that Mr. Yakubu can personally afford to run the Police Affairs Ministry and the ICPC for five and seven years respectively – two of the instruments of state expressly designed to uphold law and order and put criminals like Yakubu behind bars for a very long time. Equally stupefying is the fact that this one man (Yakubu) and his cronies stole the equivalent of 48.07 of the National budgetary allocation for Universal Basic Education, which means that perhaps half of Nigeria’s school age children running into the tens of millions could technically be denied an education because the system we have co-created allows and encourages people to steal from the commonwealth with no real fear of consequences”, Tunji Lardner added.

Indeed, in Nigeria, ten years since signing the Merida Convention, no concrete legal consequences follow official thefts. A former Edo state Governor, Mr. Lucky Igbinedion was just one of the two ex-Governors convicted so far, but whilst the other convict later received laudatory presidential amnesty with full pardon, Lucky Igbinedion was immediately let off with a slap on the wrist in 2008, equivalent to a judicial wink, added by a fine of a mere ₦3.5million, equivalent to 21,000 United States dollars, for an admitted indictment of 25 billion Naira fraud, equivalent to 167.5 million United States dollars.

Till date, there’s no official statement on whether the 25 billion Naira he made away with has been recovered. As a policy, accounting for recovered thefts has proved impossibly difficult for Nigerian government officials for any number of reasons. For example, there’s no straightforward financial account of the money recovered from Nigeria’s past head of state, General Sani Abacha, who stole $5 billion, equivalent to the annual budget of Nigeria’s federal government. “The money was likely re-stolen by the Obasanjo administration”, a canny foreign observer wryly rasped, after detecting no precise figure officially admitted as received by the Nigerian government which instead continually diverted attention by jousting endlessly with Swiss government on some alleged remainder sums, asserted by Nigeria, but denied by Switzerland, as the outstanding “Abacha loot” still cached in Swiss banks’ vaults.

This criminal culture of routine non-accountability suggests sheer shambles inside Nigeria’s government offices as much as it indicates an overarching fraudulence which already has robbed Nigerian officials of slenderest credibility for honesty. “The financial revenue Nigeria received for the whole of last year (2012) from the sale of crude oil is more than the total foreign aid the entire sub Saharan Africa received in that same year. So, where is the money? Where is the improvement in Nigeria?” asks British Prime Minister, David Cameron, in obvious exasperation at Davos on 23rd January this year.

“The educated ones are now the fools in Nigeria. They are dreaming. But go and read ‘This house has fallen” written years ago by a Jewish man who was opportune to go through Nigeria for some weeks. A country without laws is no longer standing. A country without infrastructure, non-functional power, no water, no road, no economic future, is a dead place. And your educated ones still can’t read the handwriting on the wall. You are fools!” howled a blogger, Nathaniel Okonkwo, on 19th January this year.

A few months ago at a Senate hearing, incorporation papers filed in 1998 by Malabu Oil Limited were officially declared stolen from inside Nigeria’s Company Registry – styled the Corporate Affairs Commission, entrusted by the Companies Act of 1990 to keep all charter papers of incorporated companies in perpetuity.  Once that news broke, foreign banks took notice that in Nigeria it is possible to advance a loan to a Nigerian company which may later turn out to be non-existent.

“We talk about corruption as if it is the cause of our problems in Nigeria”, said Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan. “No – yes, we have corruption in this country; but the government has also been fighting corruption, and, we have discovered that most of the issues called corruption are not corruption. I remember the last meeting we had with the Chief Justice of the federation. This was when i tried to bring the heads of the three arms of government together to see how we will collectively suppress corruption. And of course, we analysed the cases in court and discovered that about 80 per cent of them are not corruption cases. Sometimes, the way we mention corruption makes it look like when indigenes of some villages in the Niger Delta blame the death of a person on the activities of witches or spirits.”

But in reality though, official fraudulence scuttles business confidence in Nigeria, even as Nigerians shrug and carry on in false courage as if nothing doing, despite that similar paper fraud had wiped out two-thirds of Nigerians’ investments in the country’s stock-market in 2008, matched then by alleged technical insolvency of half a dozen commercial banks which illegally trafficked their own shares to create a false market so as to bolster share prices even as their capital dwindled through internal thefts by their directors.

The Chief Executives of Oceanic and Intercontinental Bank(s) were arrested and indicted in court for personally fleecing 2 billion United States dollars, but since 2008, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has not accounted for recovery of the bankers’ stolen funds, claiming it wishes to preserve common law confidentiality of the legal fees the CBN paid its hired lawyers to pursue recovery, despite a judicial order issued by the High Court to the Central Bank to forthwith tender the account in court – such judicial order legally overriding any common law attorney-client privilege.

Demurring, and rather than render account to the court, the Central Bank chose to pay lawyers more legal fees to file an appeal for a non-disclosure injunction against any duty to account. Meantime, the Central Bank struggles to minimize the infamy of a whopping two billion Naira stolen away from its subsidiary security printing presses, early this year.

Such far-ranging murkiness beclouding Abacha’s loot, the Malabu Oil incorporation papers and Cecilia Ibru’s recovered stolen assets, together, only further worsen Nigeria’s image as a country governed by thieves. But who cares?

“As a people we must abhor corruption – the cancer that now afflicts all of us, which, if allowed to persist, will destroy us,” Ahmed Joda, a former federal permanent Secretary said warningly on 15th January, to show he cares even if most other Nigerian officials rather hug stealing as a way of life. “The examples of our present leadership to the younger generations – whether in the executive, legislature or the judiciary can only ruin us. As a people, we must make clear to our leaders that we can no longer tolerate their unbecoming conduct. We must not leave the situation unattended for street mobs to impose the solution.”

Well, Nigeria’s federal parliament also hollered mid last month to show it cared, as the House Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, noisily ordered all past EFCC Chairpersons to appear before a House Committee and account for all recovered assets. “Tambuwal’s directive is of course a no-brainer”, a British journalist quipped. “The duty to account correlates with official duty capacity which no past EFCC Chairperson has.”

By that token, it follows there are but odd chances of Nigerians ever getting value for tax money, for so long as a duty to render honest financial account to the taxed public is officially refused by Nigerian government officials, elected and appointed.
“Nigeria is a country perhaps,” a witty observer tartly mused.
 

Seyi Olu Awofeso is a Legal Practitioner in Abuja

 

By Tim Newman

 

Okay, so now I’ve got a post about Melbourne out of the way it’s time for me to say a little something about Nigeria.  With the exception of a week in October when I need to clear out my apartment, I’ve pretty much left Nigeria.  My assignment there officially finished on 31st July, although I will have to return for business trips over the course of the next 3 years because the project I am on in Melbourne is for Nigeria.

Somebody once said that there is much to write about Russia, but when one tries you can never find the words to write the first line.  Nigeria is much the same, and indeed there are many similarities between the two countries.  I have tried to describe Nigeria to people who have never been there, and failed on most occasions.  A colleague of mine stopped telling people back home about the place because he was getting a reputation as somewhat of a bullshitter, even though he didn’t exaggerate anything.  I was at a seminar in Paris some time ago and I was describing the working life in Nigeria to a group of Frenchmen.  One of them quipped that I was exaggerating and that “it couldn’t be that bad”, which prompted another Frenchman, sitting beside me, to nudge me in the ribs and remark “wait until he does his Nigerian assignment”.  He was based in Port Harcourt.

Nigeria has a reputation, and I knew about it before I arrived.  Most of what I’d heard proved to be completely true.  Almost all of it, in fact.  To get a general picture of Nigeria, just read the news, and you’ll not be far wrong.  It isn’t a place like Russia, the US, or France which surprise visitors when they see the contrast between what they’ve imagined (based on exposure to their tourists or foreign policy) and the individuals they encounter.  But beyond the general picture, there are some subtleties worth mentioning.

It’s first important to understand that degree is as important as form.  Russians, faced with criticism of corruption in their country, often retort that corruption is found everywhere, even in the UK.  Which is true, but in many countries it does not infest every authority, office, and institute like it does in Russia.  It is the degree, or extent, of corruption which makes Russia different from the UK, not the form.  Understanding this concept is important in describing Nigeria.

There is no getting away from the fact that corruption in Nigeria has infested almost every aspect of life, work, and society.  I can’t think of a single area where I didn’t encounter a scam of some sort.  Some of them were pretty normal – policemen hassling motorists for bribes, for example – with others being less common elsewhere.  Filling brand named alcohol bottles with local hooch was widespread practice.  Not so bad in itself, but these were being sold through supposedly legitimate suppliers and turning up in established bars.  Others were unique to Nigeria.  I knew a guy in charge of oil shipments for a foreign oil company who received a call from somebody in the authorities saying he was not going to release the multi-million dollar cargo until somebody had bought his cousin $10 worth of phone credit.  My acquaintance found himself going to the shop, buying a phone card, and handing it over to some scruffy bloke who showed up at his office in order to allow his crude oil out of the country.

The corruption, theft, and graft can take many forms: falsifying a CV (I don’t mean enhancing, I mean pretending you’re a Lead Piping Engineer of 12 years experience when actually, until yesterday, you were a fisherman); selling positions in a company; stealing diesel from the storage tanks you’re paid to protect; issuance of false material certificates; impersonating an immigration officer to access an office, from which you then tap up the people within to fund your latest venture; selling land which isn’t yours; deliberately running down the country’s refining capacity in order to partake in the lucrative import of fuels; falsifying delivery notes of said refined fuels in order to receive greater government subsidies; deliberately restricting the country’s power generation capacity in order to benefit from the importation of generators (which must be run on imported fuel); theft of half-eaten sandwiches and opened drink containers from the office fridge; tinkering with fuel gauges at petrol stations to sell customers short; conspiring with company drivers to issue false receipts indicating more fuel was supplied than actually was; supplying counterfeit safety equipment; falsifying certificates related to professional competence (e.g. rope access work); paying employees less than stipulated in their contract (or not at all); cloning satellite TV cards, meaning the legitimate user gets their service cut off when the other card is in use (the cards are cloned by the same people who issue the genuine cards); the list is literally endless.  There is no beginning or end to corruption in Nigeria, it is a permanent fixture.

Nepotism is rife: family members are employed and promoted before anyone else.  Outright theft is rife: from a pen lying on a desk, to billions from the state coffers. Dishonesty is rife: from the state governors to the street urchin, lying to enrich yourself is the norm.  You name the scam, it is being done in Nigeria.  Eventually, nothing surprises you.

As I said before, you’ll find such practices everywhere, but to nowhere near the extent found in Nigeria.

Apparently it wasn’t always like this.  There was a time, probably from around the 1970s to 1990s, when Nigeria had a reasonably diverse economy.  Besides the oil and gas, they had agriculture, manufacturing and assembly (Peugeot set up an assembly plant in Nigeria in the mid-1970s), brewing (there is a both a Guinness and a Heineken brewery), refining, construction, and pharmaceuticals.  Some of these survive today.  There were decent universities, and students wishing to graduate had to apply themselves.  Security wasn’t much of a concern to the average citizen.

I don’t know the details, but at some point in the 1990s one of the military dictators decided to flood the place with oil money in order to buy support.  This had the effect of drowning every other form of enterprise and ensuring that oil and gas was the only game in town.  This is bad in itself, but by no means unique to Nigeria.  What was worse is that this quickly instilled a mentality across Nigeria that there was a lot of money up for grabs, and getting your hands on it wasn’t in any way related to honest efforts or applying yourself to something constructive.  Nigeria became a place where if you’re not getting your hands on some of the oil money, either directly or indirectly, then you’re going nowhere.  With oil money washing over the whole country like a tidal wave, soon everyone was trying to secure their own piece of the action, using fair means or foul.  Imagine throwing a huge box of sweets into a playgroup shouting “Grab what you can!”, and the chaos that ensues will be similar to what happened to Nigeria on a national scale.

At least, this is what I gather happened – I may be wrong – but for sure, the current situation reflects what I’ve described.  The economy is funded almost exclusively from oil and gas revenues, and everything else is merely feeding off that.  The new hotels in Lagos, the growth of capital city of Abuja, the importation of luxury goods, the Audi and Porsche dealerships, the sky-rocketting real estate prices, the money earmarked for infrastructure projects, the increase in flight passengers, all of it is directly or indirectly linked to the oil money.  Okay, maybe there is some hyperbole in there.  Agriculture still makes up the lion’s share of GDP, and the services sector is booming.  Advertising is a big industry in Lagos, although the most common thing you see advertised is advertising space.  But nobody is going to get anywhere herding cattle, picking pineapples, or working in a sawmill.  Even the owners won’t be earning that much, not if that’s their only income.  There is very little opportunity to get rich, or even advance, unless you are somehow connected to the supply of oil money.

One of the results of this national free-for-all is the formation of groups, societies, associations, and unions whose raison d’être is to obtain as much money and benefits for their members as possible.  This isn’t much different from Europe in respect of trade unions, but groups and subgroups form at micro-levels with sometimes comical precision.  The Lagos Association of Road Maintenance Engineers, Roundabout and Lay-by Division, 4th Department.  The Nigerian Association of Water Truck Drivers, Lagos Chapter.  Membership of one or more of these associations is both essential and compulsory: essential because an individual would get trampled very quickly in the general melee of Nigeria, and compulsory in the sense that you have almost no chance of being allowed to quietly ply your trade without paying dues to some group or other.  It’s not clear what the legal standing of a lot of these groups is, but it’s often hard to tell how they differ from a standard extortion racket.  One of the most powerful unions in Lagos, the transport union, used to shake down any okada (motorcycle taxi) driver passing through their checkpoints, claiming the money was used “to protect them from the police”.  I doubt the money was used in such a manner, but people do need protection from the police in Lagos.  Not that the okada drivers had any say in the matter: membership was automatic, and the union muscle would beat any non-compliant driver or confiscate his vehicle.  The power of the oil and gas workers unions is legendary, ensuring their members enjoy pay and benefits which are the highest of any local staff in the world, and often outstrip those of the expatriates.

This in itself might not be so damaging, but ubiquitous to all competing factions is a rapacity the likes of which I doubt can be found anywhere else on such a scale.  There is a culture so prevalent that it is a defining characteristic of Nigeria whereby no amount is ever enough, and no sum too small to be pilfered.  There comes a point in the career of most people who have gotten rich, either legitimately or otherwise, where they stop chasing the small stuff and are only interested in adding to their pile if the increase will be substantial.  The police chief of a sizeable Thai resort town has his fingers in many pies, but he’s not interested in shaking down street vendors.  His minions might in order to supplement their salaries, but generally once the boss has his cut of most of the action, he’s not interested in sweeping up every last baht.  As a result, commerce can continue relatively unmolested.  The same is roughly true amongst the Sheikhs of the Middle East.  Bung the Crown Prince a few million for the contract, and he’ll allow the project activities to go ahead pretty freely.  He’s not interested in making an extra $10k by insisting you hire his brother’s lorry fleet to transport the gravel.  Such restraint may also be practical: the dodgy official in the UK isn’t going to be interested taking pennies if he risks getting fired or going to jail, he’ll have a minimum price he’ll work for.

But Nigeria has the same problem I saw in Russia: an almost pathological insistence of securing for yourself 100% of everything that is available, and not a kopek or kobo less.  I have observed before that Russians would rather have 100% of nothing than 50% of something, and the same is true – but on a far greater scale – in Nigeria.  The inequality in Nigeria is horrific.  The middle-classes are tiny, those who are neither stinking rich nor mired in poverty.  As it happens, most of the Nigerians I worked with fell into this category: lucky enough to have well-paying jobs, but not ordering Porsche Cayennes for each family member.  Statistically, almost all Nigerians are dirt poor.  A very few are stinking rich.  Again, a manageable problem in itself, but the rich haven’t finished yet.  Indeed, they’re only just getting started.  I spoke to a couple of Angolans in a seminar once, and they said that although their ruling classes had enriched themselves immeasurably, they were at least spending some money on the country, and improvements were noticeable.  The reason the Russians accept with a shrug the siloviki helping themselves to millions is because they (rightly) feel this is inevitable and – more importantly – life is actually improving in Russia and has been doing so since they came to power.  Sure, it’s a slow improvement and life is still hard, but they are at least moving in the right direction (for how long is a discussion for another post).  There have been improvements in infrastructure in Russia, the new Sheremetovo airport to name one example.

By contrast – and I challenge any Nigerian reading this to disagree – there have been no discernible improvements in Nigeria in the past decade (outside of Abuja, where all the politicians happen to live).  The infrastructure is crumbling, electricity shortages abound, Lagos airport is a national disgrace, project after project gets sanctioned but rarely started, never mind completed, before the funds disappear, and unemployment is rocketing.  I heard somewhere that 2m people are added to the workforce every year in Nigeria.  To do what, exactly?  There are no jobs.  One source of employment for young men was to drive okadas, until they abruptly got banned in Lagos last year.  The roads are now much better, but you now have tens of thousands of young men with no source of income and no hope for a job.  Since the ban came into effect, crime – robberies, car-jackings, burglaries – have increased by an order of magnitude, even in the rich neighbourhoods of Lagos previously thought to be safe.  It’s not difficult to see why.

Meanwhile, Nigerian senators – of whom there are 109 – enjoy an official package worth $1.5m per year, which they recently requested to be increased to $2.2m per year.  By contrast, the US President gets an annual salary of $400k.  Given the unofficial incomes of a Nigerian senator through graft and backhanders is probably 3-5 times that, we can probably estimate most of these guys are taking home something in the order of $4-5m each year.  Yet they put in for a 46% increase, in a country where 45% of the population lives beneath the poverty line.  This is hardly surprising for a group of politicians, and far from unique to Nigeria.  The problem is, this behaviour is repeated through every strata of society from the very top of the government to the lowest street urchin: whatever is there, I want all of it; and I want more.  I saw wealthy middle-class Nigerians move to ensure drivers did not enjoy a fringe benefit worth about $10 per week.  If you threatened to report a low-level official for corruption, he would usually tremble with fear of his boss finding out: not because his boss shuns corruption, but because he will want to know why the proceeds of this particular scam haven’t been coming to him.  We already had the example of a multi-million dollar oil cargo being held up until somebody’s relative received a kick-back worth $10.  If any amount of new money arrives in the economy – due to a new oil project, for example – those who are already wealthy, via their societies, organisations, unions, and political connections will ensure 100% of that new money will go to them.  Insofar as sharing and dividing the spoils goes, it is between groups who are already of the same wealth.  If any trickles down to the next layer, it is almost by accident, and to be corrected at the first opportunity.

I came to the conclusion about 2 years into my assignment that Nigeria is probably the only genuinely classless society I have seen.  Class is very different from wealth.  Upper class people can be dirt poor (bankrupt dukes) and lower class people can be fabulously rich (Russian oligarchs).  Class is about behaviour and attitudes, not wealth (a point made very well in Kate Fox’s excellent book Watching the English).  And insofar as behaviour goes, I didn’t see a shred of difference between the top politicians, down through the officials in the national authorities, through the middle class professionals, through the service providers, right down to the area boys.  The behaviour was identical across all strata: I want more money, and I will do absolutely anything to get it.  If you were to replace the politicians – let’s say our 109 senators from before – with 109 random people from the Nigerian citizenry, you would get no change in behaviour.  You could repeat the experiment a thousand times, and you would get no change.  There is no ruling class in Nigeria, there is just a set of rulers.  Where any change is expected to come from I don’t know.

I believe one of the root causes is the bizarre situation where being dishonest is not socially frowned upon.  Not really, anyway.  If somebody is caught with his hand in the till, he is not shunned by his peers.  The whole situation is treated with utter indifference, and sometimes admiration (if the scam is particularly imaginative).  Societal pressure plays an enormous role in shaping the behaviour of a population, probably more so than the brute force of the law, and whilst all Nigerians complain about the crime and dishonesty so prevalent in their country (it affects them far more than the expats), they remain utterly silent when a perpetrator is identified from within their peer group.  At best, you’ll get a shrug and a statement to the effect of “that’s just how it is”.  If you’re a Nigerian caught running a scam against your employer, your colleagues aren’t going to think any less of you.

In fact, the only behaviour I managed to identify which would cause a Nigerian to be shunned by his peers and made an outcast, is if he decided he wasn’t a believer and therefore wasn’t going to be showing up in church (or mosque) any more.  I don’t think I met a single Nigerian who didn’t attend either church or mosque, and religion plays an enormous – possibly the key – role in Nigerian society.  I’m not going to go into this topic, mainly because I’m not reflexively anti-religion, but I do suspect that a lot of Nigerians justify unsavoury behaviour during the week by going to church on Sunday and washing themselves of sin.  In this respect, the place is very similar to the Gulf States.

Now a reminder of what I said at the beginning of this post.  Degree matters.  You will find every type of individual in Nigeria, including the kind, funny, generous, honest, and everything else that is good in a person.  You’ll find lots of them too.  I had the pleasure of working with some great individuals, who were genuinely skilled, could apply themselves, held positions on merit, and were extremely well-mannered and respectful.  The team of Nigerians I managed was one of the nicest bunch of people you’d ever hope to meet, and easy to manage as well.  (My theory is that engineers are often like this: if you’re bone-idle and want to earn money dishonestly, there are easier things to do than an engineering degree.)  The problem these decent people have is that they are vastly outnumbered by those who are not.  For every Nigerian who is honest, well-mannered, and diligent you’ll find a hundred whose only goal is to get some money whilst expending the minimum amount of effort possible.  If they can use personal connections, lies, or trickery in lieu of learning a useful skill and applying it, they’ll take that option every time.  It’s a numbers thing: if 50% of Nigerians were more like 10% of them, the country would be okay.  And that’s the fundamental problem of Nigeria summed up in one sentence: way too many dickheads.

When I was bored in our morning meetings – which was on most days – I would canvas my team’s opinion on certain things, often the state of the country.  They were by and large in despair.  Nigerians are famously optimistic, but this is often through desperation.  Nowhere was this better demonstrated than on the occasion when a bank put a Christmas tree up on a roundabout with “presents” at the bottom, and the next morning all the presents had been ripped open.  If somebody thinks a box under a tree on a roundabout contains an X-Box, then you’ve gone way beyond optimism and into desperation or delusion.

My lads were a happy enough bunch – as Nigerians usually are – but had no hope of things getting better any time soon.  I ventured the suggestion that a return to military dictatorship might be on the cards, and I got no objection.  One of them explained that during the times of military dictatorship, it was only a handful of people at the top creaming off money.  Now, with democracy, it’s tens of thousands.  And during the military dictatorship, crime was much lower, and few had concerns about personal security.  Democracy is all well and good, but I’ve often said that it is a means to an end, not an end in itself.  I am sure the world will howl with outrage and impose sanctions should Nigeria undergo another military coup, but few can deny that democracy is failing to deliver peace, prosperity, and basic services to Nigeria.  I remain far from convinced that many Nigerians would not welcome such an event.

So what did I think of my time in Nigeria?  In truth, I didn’t like it, but not for the reasons you might think.  The worst thing, by far, was not being able to go anywhere and do anything at the weekends.  The security situation did not allow us to travel beyond a very restricted area of Lagos, and even if we could there wasn’t much to do.  I like walking about with a camera, camping, exploring by going to a town and drinking lots, skiing, driving around, visiting people, riding a bike, and hill walking.  There was no scope to do any of that in Lagos, for reasons usually related to security.  That meant for weekend after weekend after weekend there was nothing to do but watch sport on TV, go to the gym, and lie by the pool.  Those with families did whatever families do; the single guys went to bars and clubs and picked up Nigerians girls; guys like me – married, single status – didn’t do very much at all.  I used the time well, learned French, read countless books, improved on the guitar, and got fit.  Nigeria has excellent weather, and even better pineapples, but I would much rather have spent my time doing something else in another place.

Those restrictions were by far the worst aspect of my Nigerian assignment.  Insofar as the daily life in Lagos went, with all its challenges, that was manageable.  You get used to anything eventually, and at some point I was able to shrug off almost everything Nigeria had to throw at me.  I never quite got used to the traffic, so used to plan my day to avoid the worst of it.  Dealing with the Nigerians took some getting used to, a process that was eased considerably when I figured out they weren’t the most difficult factor to consider.  There’s rarely any point in getting upset about locals anywhere, because they are the raw material you have to work with.  If you go to Nigeria, you will have to work with Nigerians, so deal with it.  Some aspects of it were frustrating no doubt, but what can I do?  Nothing.

What infuriated me more was that some of the expats I encountered were hopelessly unqualified and too inexperienced to be there.  Nigeria is a difficult place to attract talent to, and as such – like a lot of oil towns worldwide – those who end up coming are usually way below the standard that should be demanded.  Unbelievably, incompetence and stupidity seem to be imported at great expense into Nigeria.  This annoyed me considerably, as it did when I encountered a similar state of affairs in Sakhalin.  If you are going to come into somebody else’s country on the basis that you have skills they don’t, you’d better make damned sure you have those skills and they are on full view.  If I had a quid for every time I’ve seen somebody fail this basic test in the oil business, I could retire and bump yachts in Monaco with Roman Abramovich.  I’m pretty sure I upset a few people in Nigeria, and maybe there were a few who didn’t want me there, but nobody could accuse me of not adding value.  Nobody could point the finger at me and ask “Why, exactly, do we keep this guy?”  If nobody else, the lads in my team didn’t mind me.  I gave them direction, support, and cover and got somewhere close to the best out of them.  What infuriated me more than anything was coming across a Nigerian with a reputation for being useless, and on further investigation learning that they’d never been given a job description, never been given any meaningful direction, had no understanding of the context of their job in the department or the department in the company, and had just been plonked at a desk and expected to do something.  I came across this far more than I should have, and it pissed me off.  Fair enough, if somebody is useless then call them useless; but first you have to give them every opportunity to succeed, and only then can you call them useless if they don’t perform.  Hey, you could even call this practice management!  There was a serious lack of it in Nigeria.  How many half-decent Nigerians are shoved in the corner of an office and written off as useless in this manner I don’t know, but I’ll bet it’s a lot, and it does the place a serious disservice.

As final proof that I didn’t dislike the place that much, I signed up to another 3 years of involvement when I had the opportunity to get out away from Nigeria for good.  I learned some things during my assignment in Lagos, and that knowledge is useful.  I know Nigeria, and what it’s like to work with Nigerian companies and Nigerian people on a Nigerian project.  A lot of people don’t.  I’m used to it, it doesn’t hold any mystery or reason for fear as it did when I first arrived almost 3 years ago.

I’ll be back there at various points in the future, but honestly I hope I don’t have to live there permanently again for the reasons I stated.  I don’t consider it 3 years wasted – far from it – and I didn’t hate it.  There were moments, plenty of them, where I positively enjoyed it.  And as assignments to Nigeria go, that’s not too bad.


By Prince Charles Dickson

“Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worse kind of suffering”. ~ Paulo Coelho

Karl Marx said that to conquer a nation you just have to block the transfer of values, morals and beliefs between generations.

Solomon said, in the holy books ‘The righteous man walks in his integrity; his children are blessed after him.’ (Proverbs 20:7 NKJV)

Our kids are like mirrors, they reflect what they see and it’s hard for them to see anything good in the larger Nigerian society.

We live in a nation that is increasingly become a joke, the only comfort is that it can be viewed as a serious joke by a few. Taking us serious is increasingly becoming difficult.  If we are not faced with the serious issue of the ‘Facebook killers’, we are left to clown about whether our president drinks ogogoro or kaikai.

Karl Marx was bothered about the blocking of values, in this week’s admonition I am concerned about the kind of values, morals and beliefs that we are exposing the current generation to… Well, less I bore us; I would only say before I pour out my heart, those that have ears let them hear or ‘they’ may as well refer to me as ‘them’.

While many battle to see the next day we are entertained by a retinue of presidential aides who not only are privileged to see the president but also to eat on his table, a N2BN table a year, off course, when Mr. President is not fasting.

Last month it became public knowledge what many of us knew, that we were buying peace, while massaging war. It was all over the media that billions were being paid ex-militants as contracts to protect pipelines. A newspaper banner aptly captured it ‘millionaire ex-militants’.

Let us share these perspectives, how do we explain a society that justifies such bizarre arrangement,  a Nigeria where you fill forms for YOUwin programs, while the real winners are militants both repented and serving.

How do we explain a society where you enroll for the National Directorate for Employment to learn a trade, when ex-militants go to places like Italy to study Mass Communication and welding?

How do we rationalize a nation where the super rich are the same politicians that are asking for belly belt tightening measures yet getting fed fat on the collective wealth of all? Responsible people struggling to eek out survival; their leaders terrorizing them with concubines/mistress/girlfriends and several wives, and affluence.

How do we explain to our children that between the bomb-throttling Boko Haram and government; an argument whether or not there is dialogue. These days, maybe not many know that most robbery gangs are made up of graduates of different classes from our various universities.

Whatever the line of justification, the president has said his government is willing and is talking with Boko Haram. I agree, it should, at least it talked, is talking and paying ex-militants. I hope they will talk with MASSOB, hope it will negotiate ‘kidnappers haram’ when that group registers its business.

Most of us reading me are members of a docile Nigerian society, our parents screamed at us and threatened us, they guided us and scolded us, we respected them to a sizable proportion, but we are equally held hostage by a growing generation that wants the television remote from us, they take the car keys for those with such luxuries. That generation will not be bean cake.

In our Nigeria, crime pays, it is no use overstating it, but for how long, I know a state that owes workers four months salary and the governor went-a-Germany, looking for investors. How do you explain the state that has spent N2bn plus feeding her citizens during Ramadan and now has left the same citizens hungry, after all Ramadan has come and gone?

I stand to be corrected, with unarguable facts, Barth-megawatt-Nnaji minister leaves, electricity drops, PHCN workers do thanksgiving, Barth says he resigned to protect Jonathan, FG says his resignation won’t hurt privatization. Meanwhile NERC says immediately the rains stop, electricity will go with it. Just this small confusion explains the nation Nigeria.

All these goes on, while pipeline security officers collect their monies, one wonders the job of the police, army, navy, air force, civil defense, STF and JTF.

I will end this essay, with this short story; recently I was at the barbers’ shop in the nation’s capital grumbling as to why I had to have a hair cut for N500. Done with the haircut, I noticed a skinny character but oiled by some misplaced wealth.

He had a special assistant or so, at least the man had to be, the guy was holding a bag bulging with notes and phones, and that special assistant, had a personal assistant who clutched on to the clipper bag with some keys.

In local parlance, ‘to cut a long story short’, the least each person got was about N20,000, there were about 8 persons in the shop. After the bazaar, he left in a very big car like my son would say. I asked who he was, I was told, “you don’t know chief …chief T.

I have not mentioned any name, but the name starts with a T, he was/is a prominent pipeline security officer, that much I knew, did I also collect ‘my share’ or was there an urge to apply for the post/contract of pipeline security…? All I can say is welcome to the Federal Republic of Pipeline Security Officers…the kind of change we want is ours, a generation is watching, whether justified or not, only time will tell.


By Hillary Okoronkwo

In the US, the highest denomination ever printed for use in circulation was $10,000. Other high-denomination notes were $5000, $1000, and $500.

The present denominations of US currency in production are $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100

Printing of high-value notes was suspended in 1945. Banks were allowed to distribute large bills up till 1969.

President Nixon issued an order in 1969 halting the practice because large bills were being heavily used by organized criminal groups like Nigeria’s PDP to screen illegal transactions.

The last time that CBN attempted a major currency do exercises, Professor Chukwuma Soludo’s plan to shave two zeros off every Naira note sailed into tempestuous waters.

It fell flat because Soludo exceeded CBN’s powers and did not seek the president’s approval.

Sanusi reportedly sought and obtained president and Mrs. Jonathan approval in December of 2011

In the US, Per Capita Income is about $40K. In the UK, it is about 20K Pounds Sterling. In Nigeria, Per Capita Income is about $2.6K (N390,000)

I just realized that my laptop does not have British Pounds or Nigerian Naira signs. Listen up Mr. Dell, this is not right.

If Sanusi succeeds, the highest circulating currency in the US, UK and Nigeria will be 100, 50 and 5,000 of the respective countries’.

The ratio of Per Capita Income to the highest circulating currency in the US, UK and Nigeria will be 400, 400 and 79 respectively.

Unpaid critics like me will argue that Sanusi’s move will further encourage corruption and weaken the banking system. How much more of the above national calamities can we afford?

I remember when the Governor of Central Bank used to be well respected. I remember Ola Vincent and really no one else. Just to put it into perspective, “Muri” was the highest denomination that I remember.

Of course I recognize that the issues are much more complicated than this high level analysis

Is it more cash or cashless society? I deserve to know. Mallam Sanusi, call me maybe?

And the beat goes on!