moral musings, Nigeria, Nigeria, dear native land!

Of Nations and a Continent

Africa!The s**thole statement accredited to Mr. Trump has received enormous attention, and rightly so. Till date, he has refuted using the alleged words.

This is not quite my concern here. My concern is more of this crazy, unfortunately popular, idea of lumping of nations in Africa and referring to them as a continent when in essence what is often meant is some disparate or few nations. It is almost as if the unbelievable ignorance which Neanderthals would surely have grown out from, were they to survive, continues to fester. Or maybe they did!

I mean it is simply ignorant of any individual worth a name, popular or not, to lump nations of a whole continent together when describing, especially in negative terms, the situation of a country or at best some few countries. This unlearned attitude has also being popularized by the media, the supposed fourth estate which is actually supposed to know better. You begin to wonder if this attitude is therefore a deliberate attempt, changing the discourse from mere ignorance to culpable ignorance and mischief.

In any case, it is never too often to repeat, even if for the umpteenth time, that Africa consists of 55 nations (with the recent inclusion of Morocco), independent countries with clear sovereignty. It is mere foolery to cover a whole continent  with an unjust blanket name when actually one is just referring to a few. Nobody would accuse Asia of being the hotbed of terrorism when intending to refer to a specific country, Afghanistan for instance! That would be stupid ignorance of the highest order, right? I thought as much.

Again, if it did not matter, perhaps President Trump himself would not have singled out Norway as a “desireable” country for immigration to the United States. He could easily have said “why don’t we have people from Europe come over here!” Rather he is alleged to have desired citizens of Norway. Specific name, specific country. Why is is to difficult to know such specificity runs across board?

Ignorance is a disease, a chronic one too. Let us not let it fester. When next anyone speaks of a country in Africa, be specific and talk of the particular nation. Unless you are talking of a phenomenon that is proven to include every single 55 nations of Africa, do not be caught in the ignorance of over-generalization.

It is evil enough to speak of people with such derisive language. It is unpardonably ignorant to speak of  a continent as if it were a nation. If we have gone to school, let us show we have and not display intellectual and moral darkness while describing an entire continent with dark, ignorant perjoratives.

Advertisements
Standard
Nigeria

…You’ll be glad you read this, Nigerian or not

Insight into the future of Nigeria, or what should be its future anyway

By Dele Olojede

It’s early days yet, in the life of a new government. The voters have played their part by finally getting rid of a catastrophically inept and almost certainly corrupt president. It is now time for our new leaders to play theirs.

Political life is generally characterized by high hopes rapidly followed by crushing disappointment. And if this is to be our fate, then why not be disappointed by failure to achieve lofty goals? There’s honour in failing while tackling the impossible. Failing at small potatoes, on the other hand, is a destroyer of the soul.

Cliches are sometimes useful, so lets employ a few. Go big or go home. Shoot for the moon. Swing for the rafters. Or, as the impossibly ambitious motto of Modakeke High School declares, aut optimum at nihil: Either the best or nothing.

So, here are my 10 big ideas for the next 10 years:

1. FOUR LINES TO HEAVEN:

Build the four lines from which will rise a modern, wealthy country: gas lines, grid lines, fibre lines and rail lines.

We have gas fields holding deposits that are pretty much inexhaustible for our domestic purposes for the next several generations. Pipe it across the country from the coast, to fuel new power plants. I will not go so far as to say forget about coal and hydro and solar and wind— those are useful too, but with the exception of coal, are largely boutique operations, at least for our immediate needs. Those should be pursued by local authorities for the purpose of plugging gaps in the system. Gas is cheap; gas is environmentally better than coal, and we have enough of it to power the whole of West Africa, of which more later.

And then we need a new grid. The other big gap in our plans to generate and deliver enough power to the economy is an antiquated grid that currently can’t carry adequate power where it’s needed— even if we manage to generate what we need.

Layered on top of that grid should be a dense fibre optic network, delivering blisteringly fast connectivity— the lifeblood of the modern economy— to all parts of the country. Let’s make bandwidth a commodity— a cheap, ubiquitous commodity— and set the people free. It removes one big obstacle to unleashing the ingenuity of our young population. We have no telecoms legacy. We leapt straight to digital mobile from almost no fixed lines. We oldies won’t necessarily know what to do, but the youngsters know, believe me. Free them. Let freedom ring. From the towering plateaus of Adamawa to the mangrove swamps of the Delta, let freedom ring.

And finally possibly the most important of the Four Lines— a railroad network built substantially from scratch. Hire a rail czar. Set a big objective for our country to build 10,000 kilometers of railroad over the next 10 years. We have enough financial engineers to figure out how to pay for it. We need real engineers to build it. Let’s not be stupid. Let’s go find them wherever on the blessed planet they happen to be. Put hundreds of thousands of Nigerians to work laying steel and wood and clearing forests and surmounting ravines. Work 24 hours a day with three-shift crews. Measure progress daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. Let the whole country collaborate, for a change, in building something substantial together.

Start work crews in Maiduguri and Calabar and Lagos and Sokoto. More than 100 years ago the Sultan pleaded with the Brits to bypass Sokoto as the old colonial rail line sneaked up from the coast, fearful that it would bring unwelcome modernity and rank degenerates to his domain. The result is that the line terminated at Kaura Namoda. Sokoto became a backwater, largely economically isolated and subsequently it withered on the vine. Cities such as Kano and Maiduguri, plus the upstart Kaduna, soon surpassed Sokoto in importance. Today Sokoto has a few baobabs and a Sultan. Who cares about baobabs and Sultans? Set the people free. Give them a chance to make a living and educate their children. Bring a new express train to Sokoto (and to Mambilla Plateau and my good old hometown of Modakeke.) Connect the whole of our country. Move people and goods cheaply and safely. Put the people to work. 10,000 kilometers in 10 years. Go big. Do something useful. Don’t be a stupid politician. Be a builder. Lead.

2. DIGITAL NATION

When Kennedy saw the Russians send the Sputnik into space, the young president boldly announced that America was going to put man on the moon within a decade. Was he absolutely certain this was achievable? No. Instead, he knew he led a country with a can-do spirit, and if you set the goal large enough and impossible enough, the humans of America (of that time) would find a way to achieve it. Within seven years of the speech, Neil Armstrong took ‘one small step for man; a giant leap for mankind.’

So how about this relatively modest proposal? President Buhari should go out on a limb and announce that every Nigerian man, woman and child, in every village and every hamlet, in every town and every city, will be biometrically identifiable in a giant data base within the next four years. He should then hire the people, and recruit the allies and collaborators, to deliver this biometric national ID card to every Nigerian. The Indians are attempting it right now. But we are better than the Indians! We are better, certainly, than the retrograde Americans and Europeans and can leapfrog every nation to establish without a doubt who we are, how many we are, where we live, what our ages are, what we do, and thus unlock the door to progress.

A national biometric ID for every 180 million of us changes everything. Put simply, it means we are no longer flying blind. It means we know for sure how many children will enter the school system next year and the year after. It means we can measure. This is the biggest of all Big Data. We will know how many have prostate cancer or live in the cities or till the soil or work in the government. It will mean the end of ghost workers and ghost hospitals. My friends in Kaduna, racing at warp speed to rescue their state, just recently discovered entire ghost schools, complete with ghost principals and teachers, but somehow earning cold hard cash. It may be true that there’s no magic bullet on earth, but this is as close as you are going to get to one.

Impact on the banking system and availability of credit? Immeasurable. Crime prevention and control? Planning for public housing or mass transit or public health? Government transparency? Election integrity? Please, people. This is a no-brainer. Sure there are potential downsides, especially around privacy. But we are smart enough to figure out how to mitigate that. See clearly what is before you. We can have at least 99% of Nigerians biometrically identified by the time the next election rolls around. And that is in less than four years.

Impossible, you say? Wrong. Do the math. We are approximately 180 million people (we will know for sure after this exercise.) The electoral commission already can positively identify around 80 million of us. The banks have another 50 million or so, from the recent mandatory account verification exercise. Much of the sprawling federal civil service also has, what, another 3 or four million? Then you have the inept national ID agency, which has managed to issue fewer than 10 million over the past 30 years. (The agency officials recently rushed to the president’s office to issue him his very own ID, completely missing the irony.)

If you put it all together, that’s roughly 150 million instances of positive identification. Now let us assume there is significant overlap, say of 50 million, right now, today, you already have 100 million Nigerians you can positively identify, without a shadow of doubt. You just didn’t know you could. Integrate all these databases. Then over the next four years use the law to roll in those outside the system. Every school enrollment, every attempt to register a business or buy an air ticket or get on an Ekene Dili Chukwu bus, or check into a hotel or a hospital, or receive fertilizer from agric support workers, or obtain a loan or drive a motor vehicle— all will require a national ID. You may not even need four years to cover 99% of your population. Recruit Google as a collaborator if you must. Or Microsoft. Or my friends toiling diligently in the fields all over India. Don’t stand guilty of pusillanimity. Kennedy put man on the moon, but only after he was already dead. This you can do in your lifetimes. Act now. Don’t be a disgrace to coming generations of African people.

To deploy another useful cliche, this is a GAME CHANGER.

3. TURBOCHARGE THE ECONOMY

The president and his new cabinet (where is the economic team??) should set a target of achieving a per capita GDP of $10,000 over the next 25 years— or 10% GDP growth per year for the next 25 years. Think about it; if you did this, no one could ever accuse you, ever again, of being low-life, dissembling, unambitious politicians. This is the big one, people. Clear goals concentrate the mind, and extended concentration yields solutions. Figure it out. Faithfully implementing ‘Four Lines To Heaven’ (Big Idea #1) is guaranteed to get you there.

Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. We need this more than anything, because here, my fellow citizens, we are talking about lifting 100 million people out of absolute poverty. We all know, or should know, that poverty is man-made, and so is wealth. Read Karl Popper. But read Armatya Sen too. Assemble the people who can get this done, whether Nigerian or not. Do not mistake the means for the end. Poverty is a crime against humanity. Each day that extreme poverty is not being single-mindedly eliminated from the beloved country is each day that our leaders are committing a crime. Come on, people. Are we not now Nigerians? Do we lack the balls to solve gigantic problems? Stealing oil money is cheap. Giving a child a chance to grow to his fullest potential, now that is a job for real men (and many more real women.)

4. DUMP OIL

Get out of the oil business, now. The government, for our purposes and in recognition of our circumstances, should get the hell out of oil. The cheap money has poisoned us. Perspective has been lost, though not irretrievably. There are stories of $700m in cash being found in the home of the former oil minister. Credible allegations abound of billions of dollars stolen, perhaps as much as $150 billion over the last 10 years from the oil sector alone. We have enough wealth to go round if only we have some bold leaders. We wouldn’t need Save The Children to deliver mosquito nets to our villages because we can already afford it— if we don’t steal the money first.

Here is my logic: oil is a commodity, like wheat, or groundnuts or rice or tanzanite. Why is the government not in the bread business? Or the tanzanite business? Or the orange juice business? Or the pork bellies business? There is nothing special about oil! Apple is not in the oil business, and Apple has cash reserves of $150 billion. Nigeria, in totality, has cash reserves of about $40 billion. Wake up! Oil is killing you. Get out while you still can. Spin off the national oil company, the NNPC, and list it in London. Force it to follow the rules. London is admittedly crooked, but not quite as crooked as Abuja and Port Harcourt. Sell off your other joint venture assets via auction. That includes your half of NLNG, the giant gas concern, which alone gives you some $40 billion in cash. Roll the cash into implementing ‘Four Lines To Heaven.’ Read Ibn Khaldoun’s ‘The Muqaddimah.’ Heed my words, O King. Tax the oil company. And you don’t need to tax them any more than they are taxed in various countries, including what the US government calls the ‘windfall tax,’ for when the oil gusher is really pumping cash. Tax the sector as any other business. You will attract more investment and your tax revenues will leap. You will make more money than you are doing now, and also, just as important, you will drain the swamp.

Crooked people always end up being in charge no matter what you do. The cash is too free, too large, and too tempting. Under its influence, even good people don’t remain good for long. Shut down that pipe.

This takes real courage to do, Mr. President, because it goes against your own instinct and experience from 40 years ago. It also is difficult because all your allies will be whispering in your ears, sounding all sweet and reasonable, using such stock phrases as “national interest,” “commanding heights” of the economy, “local control,” “national destiny,” “strategic sector.” You may safely dismiss all of this nonsense. These are people who by and large are thinking ‘It’s Our Turn To Eat,’ to borrow the title of John Githongo’s book about political corruption in Kenya. Oil by itself alone means nothing to us, Mr. President. It is not the end that we seek, only one means of getting there. Our objective is to have the resources to build our citizens, real citizens, so that they in turn can build a real country. Our objective is not to control oil, but to generate the revenue from that and numerous other sources so we can accelerate the efforts to modernize our country. Oil is no more important than roasted plantain; you just make more money from it more quickly. Be a regulator. Be a very good (and wise) regulator. Do not be a regulator and an operator at the same time. No matter your good intentions, you will never be able to rise above that inherent contradiction. Again, I implore you to read Ibn Khaldoun. I am happy to send you a copy.

5. RETURN TO LOCAL POLICE

Let’s state this very clearly: it is insane to centralise ALL policing functions. How do you fight burglary, rape, noise, sanitation violation, illegal occupation, traffic violation, pickpockets and neighbourhood gangs, from a command and control centre in the federal capital?

Policing is a local function. It belongs at the local level, just as most of its duties at the moment are actually constitutionally allocated to local authorities. Burglary is not a federal function. Nor is trespassing. Let us, carefully but not ponderously slowly, return most policing functions to state governments. The best and cleanest way to do this, perhaps, is simply to dissolve the current Nigerian Police department, and send its various components to the states where they are already deployed. The government of a state should have law enforcement capabilities (in addition to taxation responsibilities), without which it cannot be properly called a government. In colonial times and the first five years or so of independence, policing functions resided almost entirely at the local level. Our history of military coups has centralised everything and debased the system.

Some will argue that this might be too volatile, that we have too many demented state governors and sundry potentates, and they will simply use police to repress their opponents. I say, perhaps. But we are not without means. First, let’s run a pilot in two obvious territories, Lagos and Abuja, maybe Kaduna too. Vest policing functions fully in the respective governments. Lets see how things work out over three years, then set another five years to slowly transfer the police apparatus to the remaining state governments, based on a readiness certification by the attorney general. Second, let the centre legally retain claw-back powers in cases of egregious abuse. In other words, upon the certification of the attorney general, the federal government can legally (re)assume direct control of the police in a particular state where extraordinary abuse of police powers has been established. You could also subject the attorney general’s certification to a validation by a federal appeals court panel, to prevent potential abuse even by the attorney general. Some may recall that, at the height of the civil rights movement in 1960s United States, the attorney general (Robert Kennedy) ‘federalized’ the national guards (normally under control of the state governor) when some governors in the south (Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, among others) openly disobeyed court rulings to let black students attend university with whites. One of the more famous pictures from the era is of my sister Charlayne Hunter-Gault, the longtime New York Times, CNN, and New Yorker Magazine correspondent, who can be seen in those old black and white photos being escorted to class by federalized guards at the University of Georgia :Dignified, beautiful African woman braving the feral dogs of white supremacy.

What we need is nothing less than a complete refurbishment of the state, so that it can work for the ordinary citizen. We can do this. Or else we can tell the same old stories of impotence to our grandchildren in 10 years time.

6. SCRAP ‘FEDERAL CHARACTER’

I bet many people are just finding out for the first time, as the new cabinet is slowly assembled, that the constitution requires the president to choose at least one cabinet minister from each of the 36 states of the federation.

Each time I reflect upon this, I have new respect for the many talents of my country for self-injury. Naturally, Nigerian politicians, fashioned from the same crooked stick as politicians everywhere, have taken full advantage of this to name unwieldy cabinets the size of all soccer players in the English Premier League combined. A number of years ago I was part of a team from the Aspen Institute that presided over a two-day leadership seminar for President Olusegun Obasanjo’s second term cabinet. My friend Nasir El-Rufai, then minister of the federal capital and now governor of Kaduna State, had asked us to do it. Now a typical Aspen leadership seminar is designed as a Socratic dialogue among 20-25 people sitting at a round table as if at Plato’s Academy in Athens, with ideas bouncing back and forth like a ping pong— “a dialogue, not a monologue,” as my old friend Keith Berwick is fond of saying. But Obasanjo showed up with 76 cabinet and cabinet-level officers in an auditorium, with himself at the high table, pontificating for two long days. Clearly a cabinet of 76 is no cabinet at all.

Let us do the sensible thing and slash the cabinet to no more that 18 ministers. We should of course remove the offending constitutional provision but, this being a cumbersome process, we can in the meantime declare many key departments as cabinet-level agencies without in reality being actually part of the cabinet, as a workaround. The cabinet should be built for deliberation and for setting priorities in the executive branch. It should not be a bazaar of dozens of people meeting once a week for the purpose, as it has been thus far, of ratifying contracts and preening for the presidential affection. The old western region, roughly one-quarter of the country, was run by 12 ministers and a premier, and they delivered free education and built probably the most egalitarian corner of our country. Now we have a central government with high officials and ‘honorables’ coming out the wazoo, and 36 state governments with hundreds and thousands of ‘big man’ officials complete with police outriders and flashing blue lights and wailing sirens, the best to impress the wretched multitudes.

Can we just calm down and dramatically shrink everything? Look for the smartest people, and let them run things, without caring too much whether they speak Igbo or come from the savannah. Geography is not destiny. Keep the goal clearly in front of you. Are you trying to educate children? Does it matter if the math teacher is from Ghana? Are you trying to fly a plane from Calabar to Kano? Does it matter if the pilot is from Kafanchan? Is the Central Bank governor highly competent and of sound mind and character? Does it matter if he is Kanuri?

We shouldn’t even have to be discussing this, but here we are, a benighted and slightly deranged people trying mightily now (I hope) to get themselves together. About four years or so ago my wife and I were invited to the carnival in Rio. Our hosts threw a nice lunch party at their splendid apartment overlooking Ipanema beach. One of the guests was the Brazilian Central Bank governor. He was not Brazilian. Gov. El-Rufai has a couple of Yoruba guys among his senior aides. He’s been under attack ever since for selling the “indigenes” short.

In principle it is preferable to create the perception and, where possible, the reality of having people from all parts of our country participating in all spheres of national life. But this should be a politically enforceable proposition, not a legally mandated one. The first question always should be, is the person the best available for the job? Luckily for us this is not hard at all. We have talent from every nook and every cranny of the beloved country— and millions more in the Diaspora creating a huge pool of talent. The US Census bureau reports that Nigerian-born or Nigerian descended people in the United States are the best educated group in the country, producing per capita people with more bachelor and graduate degrees, including PhDs. We have no shortage of talent if we care to look for it. The problem is that many people, not having the requisite diversified social networks, make too little effort to seek such talent. A lot of people from southern Nigeria, especially the Lagos crowd, are guilty of this myopia. Seek, and ye shall find. Several years ago when we were trying to build the leadership as well as other staff of NEXT newspaper, Amma and I were determined to have many women running things, in addition to having editors and reporters from all parts of the country and of all backgrounds, familial and academic. We achieved something around 40 percent women, including the editor of the paper, who also happened to be a Fulani woman from Kano. We did not have to sweat too much to get her. We had a network of friends who naturally suggested candidates who were from all over. In this particular case, thank you, William Wallis, for bringing Kadaria Ahmed to our attention.

7. SET THE PEOPLE FREE

Eliminate all visa or residency requirements for all ECOWAS citizens. Allow a completely free flow of people and goods in our West Africa region. A potential megalopolis of hundreds of millions of people is already responding to the gravitational pull of Lagos along the coast as far west as Abidjan. Make it a reality. Be bold. If you are a little queasy in the stomach try this for three years initially and see what tweaks are required. Then go hell for leather and remove these artificial and ruinous border posts. Create a single ECOWAS market. You don’t necessarily need to create a single Eco currency. The Nigerian naira, backed by Africa’s largest economy, will be the de facto exchange instrument anyhow (while preserving the authority of local central banks to respond to exceptional situations, something that could have saved Greece.) While you are at it, begin construction of a Dakar to Douala coastal railway.

You might want to consider going even bigger. Offer citizenship to all Diaspora Africans, particularly targeting African Americans, at least those who would like to have it. Dual citizenship is legal in America and Nigeria. Use it. You will have a powerful constituency in the world’s most powerful country. You will have a steady inflow of talented and entrepreneurial people. Grant them the 40 acres and a mule, even if only metaphorically. They are descended from these parts anyway, so what right do we have to deny them their birthright? Besides, with such a natural constituency, it would be hard for the US government to screw with you. Think Israel. Play smart. It’s a win-win.

8. THIS LAND IS MY LAND (REALLY)

Account for every square centimetre of land in the entire territory of the federal republic. Issue certificates of occupancy to all identifiable land owners. End the vagueness of communally held land and its capacity to generate endless dispute and violence. Where a community, rather than an individual or corporate body, does historically lay claim to the land, create trusts to legally hold the property. A nationwide electronic geographic information system will do more than end violent disputes and endless court cases; it puts money in people’s pockets by making land easily fungible. My father’s house in Modakeke is worth almost nothing because there is no legal title to it. So is my friend Nosa Igiebor’s 1,000-hectare family land in Benin. Read or reread Hernando DeSoto’s ‘Mystery of Capital.’ It was relevant yesterday; it is even more so today. Don’t make a mockery of most families’ principal asset when this can be turned into wealth. It is relatively easily done. My friend Nasir El-Rufai accomplished this in Abuja, when he was federal minister of the Federal Capital territory from 2003-2007. Now that he is governor of Kaduna State, he’s planning to do the same thing. Land is a state issue, so the federal government can nudge the laggards in the right direction by creating a fund to underwrite electronic land registration for any state that needs help. Stop manufacturing mass poverty and do the right thing.

9. NEITHER HONOURABLE NOR EXCELLENT BEFORE THE FACT

Please, tone down the big man show. It has worn thin. You don’t need a 10-car convoy to move around, accompanied by a thousand police officers. You can fly economy domestically and your spouse will still love you. Carry your own bag. You don’t need to jump the queue at the airport. Stop calling yourselves honourable or excellency. Let us judge, at the end of your tenure, whether you have been excellent or honourable. Bring more young people into the highest reaches of government. The rest of the world knows that your best trained people aged 35-45 are in the sweet spot for maximum productivity. I am older than Barack Obama and David Cameron and Matteo Renzi. Stop this ageist nonsense, my fellow golden oldies. We need high energy and creativity and an instinctive feel for how today’s world works. Our smart young talent, given massive responsibilities right now, will be in a position to run the whole thing in four years’ time.

10: FOCUS ON SYSTEMICALLY IMPORTANT ISSUES 

This is far more rewarding than dissipating energy on the small stuff. It doesn’t take you away from fighting corruption or securing the citizen against the scourge of casual violence, or fixing schools or stocking the village dispensary. You can walk and talk at the same time. I was going to say you can talk and chew gum at the same time, but Dr Joe Abbah objected once on the basis that that it might not present a pretty picture (he may have used the word ‘disgusting.’). We have the outlines of a cabinet now. On the surface it doesn’t look like the world’s strongest cabinet but there are enough ponies in there to start galvanizing the country in a certain exciting direction. There are talented men and women in there. Let’s seek perfection by all means, but progress is nothing to be sniffed at either. I can’t believe that I find myself quoting Donald Rumsfeld, but it is true that you go to war with the army you’ve got. Make this moment count. Get to work, my friends. Lead wisely and well, and we will follow.

Also, try to have dinner most nights with your family and stop lurching from one political meeting to the other at all hours of night and day. Leave room for slow thinking on an early morning walk. Read for fun. Learn to play golf. Be exemplary citizens and we will take our cue from you.

Standard
Nigeria

Summary of our past, indices of our future

“And when Impunity mates Immunity, they produce an inscrutable offspring called Imuniti (Unarrestability).”

Never againQuintessentially Niyi Osundare. I thank God for such lovely minds in my country. A good recapture of our murky recent past, to which we can not afford to return. Goodluck to the new administration in putting together a pack of knowledgeable women and men of integrity to get us out of the wood at this most critical time. Beware of three things as you go about it: the appointment-seeking politicians, the lawless lawmakers, and the dark-hearted cabals who stand to lose as you attempt reforming Nigeria. Most importantly, never let the enemy be from within, the greatest bane of this passing, regretful administration.

This is long, but worth your time. Please read.

Too Big to Fail

No national election in Nigeria’s notoriously chequered history has commanded the kind of widespread and nervous international attention that characterized the March 28, 2015 Presidential polls. At the continental level I daresay that only the South African election of April 1994, the very first democratically arranged election that signaled that country’s liberation from the odious Apartheid stranglehold and ensured her membership of the civilized human community, had enjoyed the kind of feverish apprehension and anxiety that the world lavished on the Giant of Africa in the first three months of this year. The fears were profoundly genuine, for the consequences of failure were too grim to contemplate.

As early as the last four weeks before the polls, Nigeria had become a Mecca for international crisis-prevention/control  diplomacy, with the streets of Abuja quaking under the powerful weight of some of the world’s most significant figures. Kofi Anan, former Secretary of the United Nations, joined hands with Emeka Anyaokwu, former Secretary of the Commonwealth, to broker a ‘Peace Deal’ between the two gladiators in Nigeri’s electoral battle: the incumbent President Jonathan and his never-say-die opponent General Muhammadu Buhari. None of us ordinary folks could say for sure what went on behind the proverbial closed doors, but the picture of smiling gladiators locked in ostentatious embrace exacted front-page prominence in Nigerian newspapers and hit the electronic media with viral alacrity.

Prominent ex-Presidents from Africa were not left behind: the cerebral Thabo Mbeki from South Africa; the avuncular John Kufuor from Ghana. Nor must we forget our own Abdusalam Abubakar, Nigeria’s former head of state whose suave and smooth operation and shuttle diplomacy were conspicuously registered in the traffic between Aso Rock and the rest of the world throughout the election period – and after. Then came John Kerry, the American Secretary of State, who voiced his own concern and concluded his brief with a telling warning: any Nigerian politician seen to have contributed to the frustration/disruption of the electoral process should count themselves thereafter unfit for the American visa. Some observers might have considered Mr. Kerry’s warning threatening, even patronizing in its chilling import, but the American statesman knew what he was talking about, and was sure his target audience, the thieving, greedy Nigerian political gang, knew what the denial of such a valuable visa portended for their access to those foreign bank accounts which thrive on their loot from the Nigerian treasury.

Mr. David Cameron, British Prime Minister, registered his own concern; the European Union was not silent, while Mr. Bank Ki Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, cabled across the anxiety of the world community. A few hours to the election, President Obama broadcast his own message by video to the Nigerian people and their rulers. The burden of his broadcast was so urgent, his tone so affective that I was afraid he might slip into ‘My fellow Americans’ in the course of his address. But he never did, though he reminded Nigeria its preeminent place in the world, its fabulously endowed people, and the reason it cannot afford to fail.

Yes, too big to fail. I hope we still remember that phrase which crashed into American parlance about seven years ago as rationalization for rescuing the leviathan banks and corporations whose outrageously criminal practices plunged the United States, and by extension the rest of the world, into the kind of economic recession never seen since the Great Depression of the early 1930’s. Just as those Oligarchs of Global High Finance capital could not fall without taking the rest of the global economy with it, so Nigeria could not unravel without overwhelming the rest of Africa with its debris. And who wants another Ivory Coast, another Sudan, another Rwanda on a continent noted for its sanguinary saga. Who wants another flashpoint in a world still choking from the heat of the conflagration coming out Iraq, Syria, Yemen, the Israel/Palestinian Middle East? Thus the world rallied to douse the embers of the ‘Nigerian problem’ before it flared into a blaze. So what ensued was a running mix of global altruism and the age-old protocol of enlightened self interest.

Slowly but steadily, the countries of the world, especially the most powerful and arrogant among them, are beginning to realize more than ever before, that nations bleed into one another; and that a mild sneeze in a remote corner of the planet could eventuate a global influenza. As the Yoruba say, ti aladugbo re ban je kokoro buburu to o o soro, here huru ofun re ko nii je korun d’ojuu re (When you see your neighbor swallowing an itchy insect and you pretend not to know, the nuisance of his cough will prevent sleep from coming near your eyes). As Sami Disu said so succinctly in his piece in Saharareporters, ‘Nigeria’s politics is every African’s business’.

A logical question to ask at this juncture is this: why is the March 28 election regarded with such trepidation by Nigerians themselves and other people from the rest of the world? The answers to this question are as Nigerian as the Niger which lends the country its name. Here is a country inhabited by about 180 million people with over three hundred contending ‘tongues and tribes’, each insisting on its own share of the national cake which none of them is inclined to bake; a country where the surest route to personal wealth and influence is the possession of political power; where that power is characterized by absolutism and impunity; a country in which what you need to hold on to power indefinitely is the possession of more power; a country where power comes without responsibility, control without restraint; a country where the rulers are thieves who live beyond the law; a country where the ruled are too ignorant, too poor, too disunited to kick and too ready to connive in their own abasement; a country, in short, where power is not just the ultimate aphrodisiac, it is also the wine of absolute forgetfulness.

Any wonder, then, that in this country elections are a do-or-die (or, better still, do-and-die) affair, a case of boo ba, pa; boo ba buu lese (if you catch up with him, kill him; if you cannot, poison his footprints). In Nigeria, politics is a winner-take-all arrangement; the possession of power is the beginning and the end. Incumbency is a lifelong endowment, something which, like the traditional Kabiyesi, you hold until you die in your ripe old age, and then pass on to your children. Only fools and weaklings allow themselves to be beaten at the polls. Incumbency is the surest source and guarantee of further/longer incumbency. When a chieftain of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, boasted a couple of years ago that his party was set to rule Nigeria for 60 years, he intended no exaggeration and he sensed no misnomer. He was just being a representative inmate of Nigeria’s political asylum and successful student of Nigerian history. By his party’s ‘mission and vision’ (to quote that tirelessly Nigerian cliché), his  ambition was Lilliputian , his vison egregiously myopic; for their party, the PDP, was bound to rule for ever (did I hear someone add ‘and a day’?). And the crooked logic of Nigeria’s political history was on their side; for until the miracle of March 28, 2015, no incumbent Nigerian government had ever been unseated/defeated at the polls. In other words, since independence in 1960, Nigeria had never achieved a peaceful transfer of power.

Which was why Nigerians were scared and the world was frightened. On the one hand, you had a thoroughly dysfunctional, roundly disaffected ruling party bent on fulfilling its ever-ever mandate and holding on to power by all means. On the other, you had an opposition party that emerged from a mongrel conglomeration of competing interests just months before, emerging as a cohesive, well- articulated political machine ready to lock horns with the hysterically hyped ‘largest political party in Africa’. You just cannot help remembering Duro Ladipo in the legendary Oba Ko So: Ogun ree o/Ogun repete (War has come/War, war plenty). The world saw the potentially disastrous disconnect between the PDP’s desperate bid to hold on to power and the opposition party’s resolve to wrest it from them. Every thinking and feeling human being knew for sure that four more years of the PDP government would reduce Nigeria to a state more horrifying than the one the world had ever witnessed in the failed states that litter the  African landscape.

But the largest party in Africa was so sure of victory, relying on its absolute control of all the armed and security agencies and the petrodollar-saturated treasury of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as source of endless bribes. Like its ignoble forebears, the Nigerian National Democratic Party (DEMO) of the sixties and the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) of the eighties, the PDP scoffed at Nigerian people’s impertinence, believing as was the wont of its predecessors whose thrasonical bragging was ‘e se tiwa, e o se tiwa, a ti wole’ (whether you vote for us or not, we are already in). You had the typical case of a party whose unprecedented corruption and ineptitude had already damaged the destiny of the country, but which lived under the perilous illusion of its indispensability, even inevitability. How do you evacuate this fat jigger stubbornly lodged in the nation’s flesh without a bloody collateral damage to the body-politic?

Given Nigeria’s political history and electoral pedigree, the world had every reason to think that the ‘end-time’ (in the lucratively prolific vocabulary of Nigerian Penticostalism) had arrived. Afterall, the election year is 2015, that year generally believed to have been predicted by America’s Nostradamus as the year of Nigeria’s unravelling. Thus, so many factors combined to ratchet up the situation or, to ‘heat up the polity’ and hike the national temperature, and all kinds of measures were taken to circumvent a coming Apocalypse. The religious among us went down on their knees; the secularly savvy went to work trying to avert an Armageddon. The international community threw in their weight, thinking without loudly declaring that Nigeria is too big to fail.

Which was why, when the dreaded March 28 came at last, the elections were held, and four days later they produced a clear winner, and in a stunningly unprecedented manner, the incumbent President conceded defeat, the world went to bed that night and slept with both eyes closed. The universe heaved a sigh of relief, Armageddon shifted a foot backward, and Nostradamus black-flagged March 28 in its logbook on Nigeria. A torrent of congratulatory messages began to pour in as if we were back to October 1, 1960, the day of Nigeria’s independence. Surprise and gratitude, exhalations and exhilarations. Ibi a wofin si/Erin o gba be/Erin yan falala/Erin lo (The Elephant has avoided/The ditch dug for its entrapment/ The Forest Giant strode royally/And went his way).

Over there in faraway America (well, maybe no longer so far in this era of cyber twit and twang and diasporic dispersals!), I was surprised at the number of messages congratulating me as though March 31, 2015 were my birthday, messages from people of different colours and creeds, cultural temperaments and  political persuasions. An obviously elated compatriot shouted throatfully ah, ope ooo, (Oh, thank God) Nigeria has dodged the bullet!’  Colleagues and students at the University of New Orleans went from the earlier voicing of concern to the expression of full felicitation. Some had either attended or heard about my lecture on Nigeria’s election history delivered on campus just three days before the election (thanks to the World Council of New Orleans, the University of New Orleans,  and my colleague in the English Department, John Hazlett, who made it happen); others had gleaned their information from the internet media saturated with news about the Nigerian polls. My friend John Enahoro Ohierhenuan, professor of Economics, cerebral and patriotic as ever, breathed a sigh of relief that sent my patient cell phone into joyous vibration. Syl Cheney Coker, the poet of Sierra Leone and griot of Africa, left this highly quotable message on my phone: Congratulations to you and all Nigerians, my broda! This is splendid! All being well, Nigeria can now start to lead the continent!

‘All being well’: the pan-Africanist poet-philosopher qualified his message with cautionary sobriety. There is a ceteris paribus conditionality to that phrase, a telling invitation to deep meditation  which must engage our attention as we now move from the election of a President to the erection of solid pillars for the Nigeria House. How do we ensure that all will be well? Surely it cannot never happen if we continue on that old path that is leading the country to sure perdition. It cannot, if it is going to be business as usual.. . . .

Never Again

Through the hurly burly of the polling day,  March 28, beyond the pandemonium of party warlords and overwhelmed electoral officials, out of the folds of waiting voters winding down the street like a restless python, two women emerged with an urgent message for a roving video camera. Holding up their Personalized Voter’s Cards (PVC’s), they said something to this effect: se e ri kini yi? Oun la ma fi gba ijoba ole to wa mbe yi kuro. Ti ijoba to mbo o ba daa, oun la ma fi gba oun naa kuro (You see this card? It is what we shall use to sweep out this government of thieves. If the coming government is not better, we shall use it to sweep them away too).

Now, before you let loose a whirlwind of conventional assumptions, hear this: by their general disposition and appearance, these women did not look like the typical sophisticated university graduates mouthing political platitudes  from Plato or Thomas Payne. These were thinkers whose aspects were as natural as the earth on which they stood. They were graduates from the university of life, of the hard, merciless Nigerian life. Their declaration demonstrated an unforced wisdom about the inherent and practical power of electoral democracy that had eluded Nigeria for so long. There is a certain sense of empowerment, a certain measure of political self-worth in their electoral behavior beyond the meretricious sloganeering and coded lies of the political hustings. Implicit in these women’s declaration is a moral-existential chronological sequence that can be read along these lines: before-and-after, once-upon-a-time, and never-again. It is on this sequential grid that I intend to peg my points in the remaining part of this talk.

Once upon a time we had a government that saw no difference between wrong and right, fair and foul, the decent and the decadent, the civil and the evil; a president that saw no connection between stealing and corruption; a leader who felt so blissfully at home with dubious people and fugitives from the Law. In fact, corruption seemed to be the grand open sesame to the chambers of power, the prime qualification for the most important appointments, the tie which bound the powerful and the ruthless. Rather than serving as that high temple of state from which all goodness flows, our presidential villa became the bulwark of the beastly, the den of the desperado, the last, unfailing refuge of fugitives from justice. When a Minister of Aviation who squandered 1.6 million dollars of our money (that works out as 800,000 dollars per car!) on the purchase of two bullet-proof cars for the safety and comfort of her royal self, provoked a hell of protest and was pursued through the streets of the nation’s conscience, she found a ready refuge in Aso Rock and a pliable and sympathetic President who told her: Be not afraid. The favoured Minister romped along in office until a cabinet reshuffle gimmick eased her into the quest for higher trophies. That fortunate ex-Minister is today senator-elect of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Logical conclusion to a typical Nigerian narrative, did I hear you say? The March 28 election was a way of saying Never Again!

When the governorship race was about to start in Ekiti and Osun states, and the ruling party’s field was swarmed by all manner of gubernatorial hopefuls, the largest political party in Africa reached out for the most tainted of the lot and told the bewildered world: these are the two sons in whom we are well pleased. Today, one of those sons is living out that vote of confidence by ruling one of the nation’s most enlightened states like a medieval jungle. There is no crime of his that is wrong in the President’s eye, no violation by him is considered outrageous. As governor-elect, he led a crowd of ‘party faithfuls’ (called thugs by some ignorant opposition media), beat up judges, tore up their robes, destroyed their dockets, trashed the proverbial Temple of Justice, and got all the workers fleeing in different directions.

The President of the Federal Republic saw nothing wrong, heard nothing wrong, felt nothing wrong, sensed nothing wrong about this unspeakable abomination. Neither did his Attorney-General, the nation’s chief law officer under whose purview the desecrated Temple of Justice fell. Neither did the great PDP, the largest party in Africa. As if that were not enough, that state has not had a legal, functioning Legislature since seven assemblymen out of 26 constituted themselves into a phantom majority while the real legal majority was been hounded into exile. Nigeria under the PDP has become a nightmare, a fairyland in which the quantitative measure of numbers depends on who does the counting. For instance, in the magical arithmetic of the Nigerian Governors Forum, 16 is considered greater than 19 (Governor Jang, and Governor Akpabio, are you still counting?), and in the hideous jungle of the 26-member Ekiti legislature, a phantom majority of 7 members has minoritized the remaining 19 by impeaching logic and commonsense.  Nigeria’s power calculus is bedeviled by a perilously bizarre arithmetic. Is it not astounding that Nigeria’s politicians keep thinking that something good can ever come out of this perverse, illogical machination  that our rulers can live in these odious sins and expect benefaction to come apace? A nation run by lawless lawmakers is a dying country. Those women have been witnessing Nigeria’s steady drift towards the edge of the cliff; and that is why they said it loud and very clear: Never Again.

Still on the Land of the Learned, the Land of Honour. Wind back the reel to that explosive tape about the June 21, 2014 election and the scandal which has now qualified it as Ekitigate. Thanks to Saharareporters, (that bold, irrepressible online medium that has given Citizen Journalism a new, empowering mission), the whole world heard and knew how that election was wangled and won. We heard a Minister of State of Defence blackmail an army General into working to ensure a PDP victory (You know I am Minister of Defence and you cannot get your promotion without it passing through my desk…. If by this time tomorrow I am a happy man, the sky will be your limit). We heard the PDP’s gubernatorial candidate shouting down a military General for not being cooperative enough about the rigging plan. We heard the General insulted, assaulted, threatened, and literally forced down on his knees. We heard him, a Nigerian Army General, collapse under indecent pressure, babble like a baboon, and vaporize into shameless acquiescence. We heard the plans being hatched to ‘fix’ the officers of the other party and the special ‘stickers’ that would help the PDP circumvent the restriction of movement on polling day. We heard the gubernatorial contestant talk about INEC ‘software’ and special computers. We heard the Defence Minister talk about the ‘token’ for the General as the military man was about to depart. We heard the gubernatorial contestant boast about his privileged, compromising contacts with the country’s Chief of Army Staff. We were left in no doubt that all the participants in this felonious conclave derived their mandate from the Presidency.

If these revelations were shocking, far more stunning was/is the reaction and non-reaction of all the vital organs of the Nigerian state involved in this criminal scandal. The participants began by denying they were ever present at the meeting; but upon the presentation of further, incontrovertible evidence, they took to seeking refuge in childish prevarications and legalistic bluff. In an interview with Wall Street Journal, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria dismissed Ekitigate as mere ‘fabrication’ utterly unworthy of investigation, then went ahead to nominate his minister of defence who presided over the crime, for a ministerial position to an equally depraved Senate which steam rolled it to an uproarious approval. Lawless lawmakers!  The other organs of government followed suit. And I ask: how could the Nigerian Army have turned a blind eye and deaf ear to the disgrace and most unprofessional acts and behavior of Aliyu Momoh, its own Brigadier General? A General of the Nigerian Army once reputed as one of the most professional on the African continent?! How could the Nigeria Police have failed to investigate the disarming of their personnel by the soldiers as recommended by the Ekitigate gang? What about INEC, the organization whose national assignment brought about that secret meeting on the eve of the June 21 election: has it tried to investigate what ‘software’ and ‘computer’ were mentioned at that meeting, and the possible collusion of its staff in the rigging plan? The outgoing government connived with evil, made evil-doing attractive, profitable, even inevitable, and actively promoted its spread. In his body language, official policy, and sundry pronouncements, President Jonathan sent clear signals that Corruption had a well-cushioned chair at his cabinet table. Campaign time, and the President was widely reported to have hit the ‘battleground states’ with trunkloads of dollars. (I heard some Obas and Ezes fainted upon seeing the American dollar in such astonishing quantum). The decay at the top trickled down the body-politic. Like the proverbial fish, Nigeria’s rot began from the head. The country was heading for the purgatory of moral dissolution. And that was why on March 28, those women affirmed with dogged resolve: No more business as usual, Never Again!

At the root of all these anomies is the monster called Impunity. Impunity is the vilest enemy of the Rule of Law, since by implication, it is actually tantamount to the rule of lawlessness. It is the blind bluster behind the I-don’t-give-a-damn braggadocio, the tragic demonstration of l’etat ce moir (I am the State), the practical indication of tani yo mu mi (who will dare arrest me?); it is the sinful spouse of Immunity. It was an uncontested truth that in Nigeria you could commit any crime and get away with it as long as you were in the President’s party, or so long you knew someone who knew his wife.  And when Impunity mates Immunity, they produce an inscrutable offspring called Imuniti (Unarrestability). No empire has ever risen and fallen without the active agency of Impunity. No powerful individual has ever fallen into the ditch without its affliction. Those women would like us to bury Impunity in the grave of Once-upon-a-time. They are itching to hear something from  Nigeria and the in-coming government: Never Again!

That peaceful night on the 14th of April in the year 2014, in Chibok High, a bunch of happy girls were preparing for their final exam, their hearts throbbing with faith and fear, the lamp of hope burning in their eyes, their dreams firm but quite unripe. And the insurgents crashed in with guns and bombs. They saw the book as abomination and pronounced a fatwa on knowledge. They corralled the astonished girls into a corner of the field, ransacked their dormitory, looted the offices, burnt down the school, then loaded the girls into buses and trucks for a long, long journey into Sambisa Forest and what is now looking like painful eternity. While all this was happening, was there a government in Nigeria? Where were the security forces, the soldiers, the police, the Department of State Security and suchlike functionaries routinely recruited by the ruling party for the rigging of elections and the subversion of lawful causes? In these days of ubiquitous cell phones and other miraculous gadgets of instant communication, how come the President didn’t know; the state governor didn’t know; the State Police Commissioner didn’t know; the Inspector-General of Police didn’t know; the National Security Adviser to the President didn’t know; the Director of State Security Services didn’t know; the Civil Defence didn’t know; the Federal Road Safety Corps didn’t know. . . .? And, for over 80 miles from Chibok  to Sambisa, those buses and trucks bumped along the road, passed through the villages, and no one sensed that a great crime was being committed. And it took the President 19 days – yes, two weeks short of 5 days – to finally acknowledge that a hideous tragedy had happened in the land he swore to defend and to citizens he had sworn to protect. And it took a #BRING BACK THE GIRLS hashtag and an angry request from every corner of the globe to ginger the President to some semblance of action, just as it took him a looming presidential election to embark on a rescue mission that was almost one year late. The whole wide world laughed at and wept for Nigeria, wondering just like me: is there any government in that country? The Giant of Africa became a gigantic embarrassment, but its rulers carried on as if it was business as usual. And so those women affirmed with their eyes on the coming government: Never again!

Never again. Never again. Never again, the criminally fantastic remuneration of Nigeria’s public officials: the huge, undisclosed salaries and constituency allowances of our legislators from overfed senators to over-pampered local government officials; from secret security votes to crippling severance packages. Nigeria spends about 60% of its earnings on the maintenance of a club of  prodigal, parasitic, unproductive public officials whose aversion to moderation and temperance has turned the country into a moral wilderness. Dear Incoming Government, we demand FULL disclosure of the remunerations and allowances of all public officials, the reinstatement of fiscal regulations and fiscal discipline in all public offices, a new mentality that public service is not a ‘chop-chop’ bonanza. President Buhari, promise us that those days are gone when the national budget carried a vote of one billion naira for State House meals and snacks; and almost 900 million naira for the running of Presidential Villa generators. Outrageous expenditures of this kind are not only destroying the Nigerian economy; they are also depleting the stock of our moral capital. In a way they constitute the fiscal arm of Impunity, that monster we tried so desperately to unmask earlier in this lecture. And this is why those women said Never Again!

The out-going government gave us transformation without change, motion without movement, preachment without propriety, sermon without self-reflection. It happened that way because its functionaries tried to transform the country without first transforming themselves. (Many of them were un-tranformable, positively speaking) Their effort bottomed out as falsehood and arrant hypocrisy. The ‘change’ promised by the new government must not be another buzzword mouthed to titillate the lips and caress the ears of the desperately expectant. Our educational system is crying for change, beyond the present proliferation of universities and the democratization of illiteracy. Wanted: a functional and qualitative healthcare regime (Indian hospitals are groaning from the swarm of Nigerian patients); roads which take us to our destinations, not to untimely graves; decent, affordable housing; a meaningful employment programme that would stem the present brain drain and stop our youth from ‘doing work’ in the brothels of Italy or perishing in the turbulent waters of the Mediterranean. We must break the NEPA (power outage) jinx, put the hum back in our factories and put an end to our age-old pathology as a brainlessly dependent society that consumes without producing but puffs under the ridiculous illusion of being ‘Africa’s largest economy’ when, in actual fact, it is Africa’s largest dumping ground for the products of other countries. Nigeria is eager for the end of darkness. Ignorance kills a nation almost as fast as Mediocrity, its Mephistophelian collaborator.

For a change, let us try a knowledge-driven government. General Buhari, make yourself and your government friendly to positive ideas and the women and men who generate them; surround yourself with people who are not scared of thinking, of asking questions. And then, the proverbial elephant in the room so invisible because of its gigantic presence: the National Question. Frederic Lugard’s leviathan contraption is still creaking dangerously in all its ethnic joints. The 2014 National Confab, for all its opportunistic timing may well be the Jonathan government’s lasting legacy. Both the initiative and reason for its convocation must never be ignored; its implementable portions must be given all the urgent action it deserves. Something drastic has to be done about the perilous crack in the Nigerian House if the country is ever going to advance from its standing as a mere geographical expression to the enviable status of national integration.  Observe every word of that old but ageless admonition: be the change you seek.

Nigeria has enough resources to make life reasonably comfortable for all of us if only our rulers would steal less, and think more of us and the future of our country. No country can ever be happy if it is a land of ten millionaires and a hundred million paupers. And that is what Nigeria is and has been. And that is what it must NOT continue to be.

For these desired changes to take place, WE THE PEOPLE of Nigeria must carry our fate in our own hands. For too long we have heaped all the blame of our political backwardness on our leaders (rulers would be a better word!). Time we began to take some responsibility for our tragic connivance in our own woes. Ignorant about our rights, apathetic about the necessary political action, buyable, sellable, pushable, and therefore disposable like used tickets, we the people have conceded the power of absolute power to our rulers who, in turn, have abolished the people and elected themselves; for this is precisely what happens when we help rig them into power after succumbing to their base inducements in form of monetary and other material bribes, and a cynical exploitation of ethnic and religious affiliations. The change we seek will never come until  we start holding those who rule us accountable; until we start  holding their feet to the fire, in a manner of speaking. This may sound too plain and too simple, but we can only be ruled the way we want/choose to be ruled. When a ruler commands you to jump for no good reason and all you ask is ‘how high?’, next time s/he will ask you to sink below the surface of the earth. Unquestioning obedience is a symptom of delinquent followership; Nigeria has a life-threatening bout of that disease.

Like those two women we encountered in the middle of this lecture, let us say Never Again! Let us also hold our voter’s cards aloft, wave them in the air and tell the coming government and all the governments after it: with these cards we swept off the perverse government that has held us down for so many years; if you do not want us to do the same thing to you, kill Corruption before Corruption kills this country; start building with us the just and egalitarian society in which leaders lead by following conscientiously and followers lead by insisting on their rights and doing their duties. Let us remember the  miserable dungeon into which the PDP and its government have dumped this country, and join those women by saying Never Again!

     Yes, Nigeria may be considered too big to fail; let us make sure she is not too dysfunctional to succeed.

      I thank you for your valuable attention

Niyi Osundare

New Orleans

May 10, 2015.

(Christ’s School Distinguished Alumni Lecture, May 17, 2015, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria)

Standard
Nigeria

Incoming National Assembly may not pass the PIB – Senator

Image result for Incoming National Assembly may not pass PIB – Senator

Punch Newspapers has reported that the current Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Senator Ahmad Lawan “has expressed fears that the Petroleum Industry Bill may not be passed by the incoming eighth National Assembly” unless issues within the same bill are rectified. Well the Nigerian people who have elected you all to the Senate, hoping that they have done the right thing and that you are there for the Nigerian interest say “do what you got to do QUICK and pass this bill”! You see why the success of even the best well-meaning government depends so much on the political-will and integrity of its policy makers? They will be the albatross of Mr. GMG and his cabinet. This Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB)  goes to the heart of the restructuring of the destructive behemoth called the oil industry of Nigeria, a blessing turned to a curse, and yet is stalled year after year. Well, if APC likes, joke with this issue of who leads the pack of the Senate and House of Representatives. Continue zoning and un-zoning rather than bringing on board the best men for the job. The cabal and profiteers from the misery of the country are playing their game already. Of course it is their focus to keep good policies from passing and thus keep the status quo the same. I am sure the incoming government sees well how this scheming is already playing out. The question is if it is visionary and strong enough to take it on right from the onset. Michael Oluwagbemi’s article (Managing The Goats: On Corruption, Repercussions And Sabotage) says it all about the wise way to go. I do hope the expertise of Osinbajo and the tenacity of Buhari are up to that task.

@bimboamole

Standard
moral musings, Nigeria, Nigeria, dear native land!

US announces $20mn police body-camera program

Reason beginning to prevail. Transparency is the watchword for a government that really wants to do its job, and this is one way for the police to be made transparent not only to “claim” to protect citizens justly, but to “seen” to be protecting citizens justly. A watchword for the incoming Nigerian government. Transparency. Total enforcement of the Information Act in all public institutions.

 

Standard
moral musings, Nigeria

Over 200 girls rescued from Sambisa forest

Image result for 200 girls rescued in nigeriaIt is joyful to learn that the Nigerian Army yesterday rescued over 200 girls and women from the dreadful hands of Boko Haram when it raided some camps in the evil Sambisa forest, North-East Nigeria.

Even though an Army spokesman says the over 200 persons are not necessarily the Chibok girls who were abducted a year ago, it is still encouraging to know that the nuisance of this crazy scourge is being gradually dealt with and people’s dignity is being restored.

We look forward earnestly not only to the restoration of the Chibok girls, but the total dismantling of this reign of terror, and the bringing to full justice their perpetrators and sponsors.

We look forward earnestly… we stand vigil with the distraught parents… with the distraught nation.

@bimboamole

Standard
dear native land!, Nigeria

No Victor, No Vanquished.

Image result for buhariIt is a happy time in Nigeria and for many Nigerians. After many travails and years of patient suffering, the will of the people has had its way. Millions of people around the world can hardly believe that an incumbent democratic President contesting for a re-election in Nigeria can ever be defeated and cast aside by the votes of the electorate. It has never happened in her democratic history. It is indeed a happy time, a victory of Nigerians.

Victory of Nigerians. That is important to note for this election has not quite been about the one who has now won the election. We have argued at several times that erstwhile General Buhari who now becomes a democratically elected Mr. Buhari is merely a figure for a greater tidal change washing through Nigeria. The people are seeking for a change in their lives. They are tired of a life of a slave in their own country that supplies the world of energy resources yet lacks energy within herself and her people.

Yes, they saw in General Buhari a figure of a past leader who is resolute and true, dedicated to his words and capable of giving a direction, yet his election and choice goes beyond him. It is much more about the unquantifiable search for a change and for a real meaningful change. This is why the duel is not yet won by anybody. There is indeed no victor nor vanquished.  It is not the North that won, it not the South-South that lost.

If there was any victor at all in this duel, it is the Nigerian people whose will has come to bear, whose votes have become powerful than a National army or the fear of Boko Haram’s bombs. The victor is the resilience of a people whose national resources can afford them a beautiful, comfortable life but who have suffered ignominy and misrule for decades of years. Nigerians are the true Victors. You cannot all be named! From the good minds and individuals in the opposition party to the several others across the divide, from the millions within and millions in diaspora, congratulations to us all. On such a day like this one would also want to remember the likes of Moshood Abiola, Ken-Saro Wiwa, Gani Fawehinmi and many others who have gone before us for their contributions to the democratic gains of today.

Having in view the aforementioned fact that we cannot possibly name all those who have been instrumental to the success recorded by Nigeria today, let us all the same recognize three main individuals who are men of the moment as far as Nigeria Election 2015 is concerned.  Their special recognition is necessary not only for the sake of history but for a multiplication and repetition of such sacrifices that they have made, so that it can become seeds to be further sown for a more fruitful future.

1. First on the list is the President-elect, General Buhari himself. Consider the campaign of hate and deceit against this man in the past few months. Consider also the fact that, like one with a Lincoln-syndrome, this is the fourth time he is contesting the position of democratic President. This man has more than enough to live on, yet he is known to be very frugal and simple. He is therefore not looking for position to enrich himself.  In spite of that he chose to suffer these insults and calumny of many, some of whom are now shamelessly beginning to pander to his side. It is a shame one can call them brothers but for a re-building of a new Nigeria, that is what they indeed are.

Buhari has thus won a temporary name for himself with this development. It is for him to now make that name permanent and not disappoint the people. Buhari Sir, the people voted for change; if they voted for you it is because they voted for change. That should keep ringing in your mind. The hope is that you will surround yourself with great minds (which abound in the country) and beware of the sycophants who indirectly worked towards installing you by pulling poor Mr. Jonathan down with their selfish and sycophant prodding and hosannas.

It is time for you to stand up and keep faith with the yearning of nobility and performance that fuelled the people’s choice of you. I need not tell you that many are already around you, dancing with so much zest, whose desire is merely some stomach infrastructure. Be careful sir, and be true to what is expected of you. Nigerians who chose you are now awake more than ever with the strength of the PVC (Permanent Voter’s Card) technology and its allies whose future is so bright and its power beaming. So also is the ruling party that is now becoming an opposition party going to be watching you keenly. No matter how you see it, you cannot afford to fail.

2. The second man to give kudos in this whole development is the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Attahiru Jega, together with his team of staff. On behalf of all Nigerians, and indeed on behalf of several millions around the world praying for and wishing Nigeria well, I sincerely thank you and your team. This election, like many worldwide, has had its challenges and imperfections. It is our hope that they shall serve for a better performance, particularly in the forthcoming Governorship elections in April. The PVC has brought a new dawn to the political clime of Nigeria and in spite of its shortcomings, it is internationally acclaimed as the way to go. A better political stage is indeed being laid out here in Nigeria, and the hope is that things can only go better. Thank you for your gentlemanliness. At a time that many have made thuggery and unruly ways the hallmark of politics (even in the collation hall!), thank you for making Nigeria proud.

3.  I would like to propose that the incumbent President deserves commendation for his humble and matured acceptance of defeat in this election. That is a hallmark of a good fighter. But much more, it is a sign of someone who has the good of Nigeria at heart. At a time when the elders were stoking up the heat of rejection and hate, and the FFK’s threatening fire and brimstones, President Goodluck Jonathan was one of the very first persons to congratulate the President-elect. Thank you for this very matured decision. Those outside of that office might not know its import or the strength of mind needed to make that submission. But several individuals in position of power and anyone who has tasted authority knows how humanly difficulty it could be to give it up, particularly in the present Nigeria. It is a cultural dirt that we hope will soon be gradually washed away.

Be that as it may, gentlemanly as this singular action is, one can not however forget to say much more was expected from the President in the past. My argument always, in my little knowledge of President Jonathan and I stand to be corrected, is that this man was never the one thirsting after power like a carnivore for meat. He was only being goaded along to satisfy a few who wanted to maintain the status quo which was favourable to them even if inimical to tens of millions of Nigerians. I argue that the President should have resisted that goading, if indeed he was the president, rather than keeping on and allowing the nation bear the brunt and the world laugh us in the face. The cabals working at different fronts of our national life and somewhat keeping the President under ransom should have been resisted by him and exposed. If he could not do that, then he should not have accepted to be President talk less of re-contesting to be one. Lesson for another day maybe, but then this honourable acceptance of the people’s will is indeed gallant and praiseworthy.

Way forward.

In any case, it is now time for work. It is time for a new dispensation. It is time to leverage on the newly but surely growing tempo of desire for a change among Nigerians. A true leader is now needed more than ever. It is therefore time for Mr. Buhari, more than ever, to show his magnanimity and shepherd this country to green fields.  Your manifesto and that of your party is in the hands of Nigerians and they are waiting anxiously for your keen actions on same.

Surely this is not about giving the people water and light. Big do as that might seem, the Nigeria that would be meaningful in this dispensation is not one in which the government beats its chest for providing the basic necessities of life.  That is what our fore-fathers worked at providing for hundreds of years in history, though I  must say we have not quite done well even in that area. You only need to look at the quality of our energy, health and education infrastructures, to mention a few, to concur with that.  The irony is that the young ones dancing for victory today are doing so within the Fela state: “suffering and smiling.” What with the deluge of ridiculous English grammar that we have witnessed in the media in the past few months! It tells us a lot about the state of our education sector, like other sectors. But I digress.

All the same, at this juncture in Nigeria much more is needed if the country is to favourably compete with the committee of nations. What is urgently and necessarily needed is the setting up of a Nigeria which is run on good policies and merits; a Nigeria to which anyone can crave to come because his right is protected and his interest secured.

This is the sort of Nigeria that would bring in the much-needed foreign investment and promote trade and diversification of our economy. It is a Nigeria in which the rights of subjects, the dignity of individuals, the contracts of businesses will not depend on the changing moods of some Director General or Inspector General or Governor of a State. This is most important. To make Nigeria run on efficient and internationally credible policies must be a guiding vision of Mr Buhari and his eventual cabinet. This way Buhari would have built a Nation and not just lead for the next four years. He would have built a virile nation which can be further developed by subsequent governments, a good foundation having being laid.

This would seem to be a key factor to the success in the so called first world countries. It is not that they do not have their own problems. It is not that there are no incidents of corruption or some misrule. It is rather that such nations have enduring structures which are able to keep the country running always, and whenever such incidents like corruption and misrule show their heads, these capable and enduring structures are able to deal with them and ensure justice and equity. Of course one of such structures is the constitution. That one needs a revisit as quick as yesterday.

To me this is the Hercules’ task before Buhari. Build a nation, not just lead or rule. Revisit  the issue of having a true people’s constitution than the forced and incompetent rules we have right now. And let us begin to rebuild this nation anew, ridding it of mediocrity at all fronts and truly developing our people. It is time for us to wake up from the mediocre sleep of a kitchen cabinet of some President’s wife and be guided by policies and principles which apply to all, high and low.

It is about time Nigeria maximized the several potentials within her reach. It is time for Nigerians to be consoled from the many night-years of suffering and living on the legendary two dollars per day. It is time for Nigeria to truly rise up and unshackle herself from self-inflicted shame which even trails us abroad, with governments of less than half of our GDP refusing qualified Nigerians visa to their countries!

There is a big task before the incoming President and it sometimes makes one shudder. But a good man of vision and resolute mind can accomplish this task. It is that man that Nigerians hope they have elected.

Standard