Saturday Life Lines By Seye Arowolo

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What We Do Matter

Published on 16/01/2021

I have laughed so much this past week remembering two different stories.  One was the story of the Lion whom all the other animals agreed to make their Treasurer at a Summit of the animals.  When they adjourned and were going home, one of the leaders at the meeting noted that the Lion was moody and challenged him that he ought to be happy with the office of the Treasurer given the Summit resolution that would make the Lion the keeper of all the games that the other animals kill.  The Lion answered that the observation was correct but he was only downbeat because he feared the day the Summit would appoint someone else to that office!  “He who is not contented with what he has would not be contented with what he would like to have”.

The second story that made me laugh was that of a Rich Man who petitioned the King of his City that the King must punish a notoriously Poor Man who was living in the same City as the Rich Man.  The offence of this poor man was that the Rich man found him loitering outside the wall of his fence and asked him what he was doing.  On looking closely, the Rich Man saw that the Poor Man was holding a plate of “Garri/Eba” (made from cassava flakes) but without any stew or soup and appeared to eat same.  The Rich Man was baffled and asked the Poor Man with what stew or soup he was eating the “Garri/Eba”.  The Poor Man answered that many times he had walked past the wall of the Rich Man’s house and his nostrils had been invaded by the aroma of the delicacies that wafted from the Rich Man’s kitchen.  He claimed to have savoured the aroma to such a point that he could actually felt the “taste in his palate” and thus the decision to bring his plate of “Garri/Eba” to the wall of the Rich Man’s house and engage the aroma for his lunch.  The Rich Man shrieked in anger and requested the man to be arrested and dragged to the King. On the way, he formulated his petition.  The King having listened to the petition asked the Rich Man what he would like the King to do on the matter.  The Rich Man requested that maximum punishment befitting of someone who committed a misdemeanour should be meted out to the Poor Man.  At that time, this was 80 lashes of the cane on the bare back of the offender. 

The King ruled that truly the Poor Man was guilty of a misdemeanour because he was eating his Eba with the aroma from the Rich Man’s kitchen without any prior consent, permission or approval by the Rich Man.  Accordingly, the Rich Man would be entitled to apply 80 lashes of the cane to the Poor Man.  The only caveat would be that since it was the aroma from the kitchen that the Poor Man ate his Eba with, the Rich Man would apply the 80 lashes of the cane to Shadow of the Poor Man.  The King ordered the Poor Man to stand in such a way that the light of the Sun would fall on him and cast his shadow.  He also ordered that his top should be removed so that the Rich Man could have access to the bare back of the Shadow of the Poor Man to apply the 80 lashes!  According to Lao Tzu, “Manifest plainness, Embrace simplicity, Reduce selfishness…”

People generally agree that what we do affect others in many ways.  However the degree of that impact is what most may not be able to fathom or imagine. To live responsibly is to live in the consciousness of this fact always.  There is a way in which life reflects back to us what we do especially those in the lime light.  Like I opined in previous editions of this column, “when it comes to celebrities or very important personalities whether home or abroad, we don’t sometimes realise that we have developed some emotional connection with them…” and I continue to “marvel at how you sometimes impact people with your actions unwittingly.  Sly, Sylvester Stallone and Ryan Coogler the writer director of Creed I are several generations apart.  Ryan’s father made him watch the Rocky series whilst growing up because the Dad was an ardent fan of Rocky.  Ryan saw an opportunity to extend the Rocky story and legacy further. And this is turning into another major box office wonder worldwide and a profitable franchise. The talk of Creed III is on as we speak.”

I am not sure I understand this strength of connection amongst people but it is heart-warming when good but not perfect people get appreciated in a totally unexpected way.  And so I stumbled on a YouTube video involving Ian Wright. 

Ian Wright is “an English, former professional footballer, and television and radio personality. He is currently a commentator for BBC Sport and ITV Sport. He enjoyed success with London clubs Crystal Palace and Arsenal as a forward, spending six years with the former and seven years with the latter. With Arsenal he lifted the Premier League title, both the major domestic cup competitions, and the European Cup Winners Cup.  Known for his speed, he played 581 league games, scoring 387 goals for seven clubs in Scotland and England, while also earning 33 caps for the English national team, and scoring 9 international goals”. 

In that YouTube video, it was alleged that all the memorabilia of this illustrious career was carried away by Ian Wright’s estranged wife and after many years these items began to be sold on Amazon.  The point of this story was that the owners of a Sport Kit Store in London wanted to appreciate Ian Wright for his inspirational lifestyle on and off the pitch and thought of no better way than to buy back the memorabilia that had been sold on Amazon.  Ian Wright was then invited to the store and he could not believe his eyes when he saw all the memorabilia that had been recovered which he though had been lost for good!

Similarly Iron Mike Tyson’s redemption story.  As at 2004 December, Iron Mike Tyson could not afford a Xmas lunch of $5,000.  Iron Mike Tyson’s redemption had to do with Todd Phillips of the Hangover movies. 

When Mike Tyson won his first heavyweight boxing title in 1986, he became the youngest champion (20 years, four months) in the history of the sport. But it didn’t take long for Tyson’s personal demons to get the better of him. By 1990, he’d lost his championship belts, divorced from his wife Robin Givens, and fired his trainer. Two years later, he was convicted on rape charges and sentenced to six years in prison. At that point, Tyson looked like he’d lived the entire Raging Bull story in less than 10 years.  In 2003, the man who’d earned over $400 million in his career filed for bankruptcy, at that point some $23 million in debt. And a younger generation began to know him as just an ex-boxer with substance abuse problems and money issues. 

But the legend of Tyson’s days as the king of Las Vegas — complete with a 550-lb pet tiger — remained fresh in the minds of many.  So when Todd Phillips got the green light to shoot The Hangover (2009), a Tyson cameo struck the director as a great idea.”

According to Todd, “We didn’t cast him because he was a convicted rapist.  We didn’t cast him as a sensationalistic thing, either.  We cast him because the story took place in Las Vegas. I had heard Mike Tyson had seven tigers when he was living in Las Vegas. It’s a true story, and it just sort of made sense. He played Mike Tyson in the movie.”

Like the saying, the evil and the good that men or women do will follow after them.  Let us be guided.  It can be you being appreciated in this way.  In this spirit, I would like to reiterate that these are the perilous times; let us be stringent with observing the Covid-19 standard protocols.  Covid-19 is real.  Stop being a doubting Thomas.  You do not need to learn from your disobedience.  Let it not happen to you before you see the light and heed the warning.  It may be too late at that time.  Stay safe. 

Oluseye Arowolo is a tax adviser and writes on diverse topics in his pastime.  You can reach him by email: seyearowolo7@gmail.com

Perilous Times And Gists of The Market Place

Published on 9/01/21

These are the perilous times and the events of the opening days of January 2021 already bear this out.  If you retained doubts about the existence and virulence of Covid-19, the current wave and the alleged new variant of the Virus is surely not joking.  More than ever before, we are now seeing casualties very close to home.  Whilst for the better part of 2020, many of the infected cases and deaths might have been very distant, many more households are recording infections and one or two deaths from Covid-19 complications in these early days.  Please stop the spread by accepting this reality and being stringent with observing the Covid-19 standard protocols.  Do not be the Achan or Korah that destroys your family or posterity.  Do whatever you can to avoid being the unfortunate “contractor” of the Covid-19 scourge into your family.  These are the perilous times.  We are not up to 10 days in January, many have died from Covid-19.  Let their deaths warn you and encourage you to do more to protect yourself and your family. 

2021 is already revealing the bundle of packages of vicissitudes that it has in a mix bag of comedies, tragedies and melodrama.  The unfolding events on social media remind you of the description of the Athenians during Paul’s first visit: “The Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or hear something new”.  Athens and its Areopagus must surely be the precursor of the social media.  So what is new?  Plenty. 

Barely did we conclude “Happy New Year” pleasantries when the story of Africa’s richest man and his bum took over the social media.  Many who only saw the man in one dimension (business and financial life) were shocked to realise that the man also has a social life and eats “snails” like the rest of us.  Discovering that Africa’s richest man could also be found vulnerable on the laps of a woman became the kind of justification that those who have made that type of adventure their only dimension, were looking for.  The “news” did not even measure up to a scandal that the man should worry himself about really.  In fact, Kemi Adetiba treated this kind of situation well in the “King of Boys” through Jide Kosoko’s character.  In any case, the story underscores why you cannot be too careful when it comes to what you do in the closet and who you do it with.  These are perilous times.  You don’t want to be the gist of the market place especially for the wrong reasons. 

We had not finished munching that story when the “Paternity Saga” involving Adam Nuhu/Tunde Thomas/ Moyo Thomas triangle broke out.  The gist was that Adam Nuhu was the father of the two kids that Moyo purportedly bore for Late Tunde Thomas and that the discovery was part of the series of factors that led to Tunde Thomas death.  Adam Nuhu was the Managing Director of FCMB.  The Bank has had to replace him with Mrs Yemisi Edun to manage the impact of this development on the Bank’s brand perception.  Even then the troll on social media merely changed from “your wife and I” to “your husband and I”, a parody of the bank’s tag line of “My Bank and I”. 

These are perilous times and this very sad situation has led to sporadic calls for paternity verification through DNA testing and admonitions to men/husbands/fathers not to sleep with both eyes closed in case their wives have played a fast one on them regarding the offsprings of the union.  This matter is like a man holding a gun.  If the game appears in front, shoot it; if it appears from the back, shoot it; if you are alone, please reflect well before you take action.  Am I suggesting that this matter is also like when the anopheles mosquito perches on a man’s private part, you do not slap it with force to avoid breaking the scrotum and/or destroying the testicles?! 

It is a Pandora’s box; don’t open it if you cannot handle the genie that will come out.  If your marriage is more than 20 years, don’t bother to go for any DNA test on the children; accept the beautiful children who call you “Daddy/Father”; don’t lose on all angles.  You have by that time invested your hard earned resources on their maintenance and tuition and you prime yourself to eat the fruits of your labours; hopefully they will bring the fruits.  If your marriage is less than or equal to 5 years and you think is worth it, go and do the paternity verification and also establish that you do not have previously undiscovered fertility problem.  It is possible that even when you do not wish to undertake any paternity verification your hand is forced by the “true biological father” of the kids if he comes after 20 to 30 years of marriage to make a claim.  This is where the law seems to provide some form of relief by stating that the consent of an adult child is required before anybody can insist on verifying his paternity.  If he/she objects to such paternity claims from a third party, your twilight ends in happiness and you will not be disrobed or suddenly become a twilight barren.  Obviously, you would ponder how such a third party could be that brazen to make such bold claims because if there is no fire, where is the smoke coming from?  These are the perilous times.  Aspiring couples should carry out all relevant tests and after doing this, remain vigilant.  They will not get us.  It is not a pleasant experience to discover in some cases that all the kids are not that of the man at all biologically.  Many are still looking for the answer to the question why and how did such happen? What could have been the cause? What could be the man’s offence that warranted that kind of punishment from the woman?

Whilst one government is adjusting electricity tariff downward as part of Covid-19 relief measures, the Nigerian government is dissipating significant energy to convince the public why electricity tariffs had to be adjusted upward.  The pattern of approaches of the two governments has made Nigerians to keep wondering still in 2021 what exactly the benefit of being a Nigerian is.  As a citizen, you are struggling to identify or pinpoint that exclusive benefit that makes you proud to be a Nigerian.  These are indeed the perilous times.  Let us be careful at home and adopt demand side management practices to reduce or mitigate our energy costs.  Turn off electrical appliances or bulbs not in use and occasionally check that some neighbours have not “hooked on” to your supply making dubious praises to the Almighty Father at your expense!

Let us remain watchful in 2021 for these are perilous times and may we not become the unfortunate gist of the market place. 

Oluseye Arowolo is a tax adviser and writes on diverse topics in his pastime.  You can reach him by email: seyearowolo7@gmail.com

Appreciate Yourself, But Do Not Hype 2021

Published on 26/12/2020

A New Year often signifies to many the beginning of another annual cycle.  There is always that palpable enthusiasm that the New Year will be much better than the outgoing year.  That period is usually a season of “great positive expectations”.  No doubt, an appropriate dose of positivity, optimism and conviction is needed to go through life, to weather its storms, overcome its challenges and sing a new song.  It is this thinking that fuels the culture and the number of participants at watch nights.  A load of sentimental expectations are then crafted as prayer points or wish list for the New Year.  But I have always been wary of sentimental expectations.  Life itself is a continuum meaning that many past events are connected with the present although what you do in the present can break their connection to the future.  And I think this is where Dr Tai Solarin and I share something in common. It is our protest against sentimental prayers.

In the article titled, “May Your Road Be Rough”, which was an article published as one of the passages in “Practical English” for Secondary Schools in those days and contributed purposely to demystify sentiments at the turn of the year, renown educationist and social rights activist, late Dr Tai Solarin narrated his protest against many of his mother’s prayers.  He claimed that many of the things that his mum would repeat in her prayer points were often contrary to the realities of their experiences in the year.  Hence, he never said “amen” to many of such prayers.  These are the feel good prayer points which often lack scriptural foundation.  My friend had a dilemma one day.  When he got to Church, the Minister conducting the prayers requested congregants to thank the LORD that they were not stricken with sickness nor their relatives. My friend had a dilemma because his mum was actually then stricken with sickness!  I asked him to simply acknowledge that she was sick (for a fact) but thank the LORD that she was on her way to recovery!

No one should therefore delude himself that the disruptive impact of Covid-19 on individuals, families, businesses, communities and nations which shaped the year 2020 will not have overflowing impact in 2021.  We are all aware that the UK, the US and other developed countries are experiencing Tier 4 Covid-19 spread at the moment and the statistics in number of infected cases are going through the roof again.  In Nigeria, the Federal Government has again shut down all bars, night clubs, pubs, events centers, recreational venues, as well as restaurants except those providing services to hotel residents, takeaways, home deliveries  and drive ins.  Restriction on movement between 12am to 4am is back.  Reduction in crowd capacity is back to 50 persons.  Admonition on maintaining social distancing, wearing facemasks (or risk jail term) and always sanitising your hands continues. 

The challenge for everyone whether or not you have been able to create and capture value in year 2020 remains to respond, find a way to thrive and recover all that the “cankerworm, locust and grasshoppers may have eaten up”.

It is life’s reality that no one event affects individuals, families, businesses and nations the same way.  This is possibly because we are on relative points on the spectrum of capacity, strength, power, resources, development and resilience.  It is therefore not surprising with the eruption in infected cases and the likelihood of the return to international flight restrictions to check human mobility and spread of the new Covid-19 variant, that there will be some trepidation approaching the year 2021. 

Clearly 2020 is generally a year of adversity even though there are evident pocket of opportunities for many.  But these opportunities and those that profited therefrom are not significant to change the whole narrative for 2020.  For many of us who have been spared the terror, anguish, death arising due to complications from Covid-19 or isolation by reason of contact with an infected person, there is one thing that we must not forget to do.  It is to appreciate “ourselves”.  I got this rude awakening when I was completing my dissertation at the final year at the Faculty of Law of Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife in 1997.  I had appreciated all the usual entities: God, parents, relatives, friends, seniors, lecturers/professors, supervisors, etc and it then dawned on me that I had not appreciated my “innerman” or “spirit man” that propelled me through the challenges of a 5 year programme turned 6 years due to incessant ASUU strike and shutdowns from student protests.  I appreciated myself for the determination to succeed at all cost afterall the man who will eat the honey in the rock will never be discouraged by what happens to the blade of the pick axe. 

No year is a bed of roses.  Even if it is, it must be remembered that roses have thorns.  What we have no control over is the content of the package in any year.  Will the positive experiences be more than the adverse experiences individually or collectively as families, nations and across the globe?

Nevertheless, there is always one thing that we always seem to have control over no matter what.  It is our attitude.  And this is not “attitude” in the sense of “being rude, uncouth, arrogant or proud”.  I would like to borrow the immortal words of Charles R Swindoll to describe the sense of attitude that I am engaging here.

“Attitude, to me, is more important than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do.  It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill.  It will make or break a company… a church… a home.  The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we embrace for that day.  We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people act in a certain way.  We cannot change the inevitable.  The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.  And so it is with you… We are in charge of our attitudes.”

Ultimately, our attitude to 2021 will be our choice.  Neither negative people nor negative circumstances should control our attitude.  It is ultimately up to us to choose the attitude with which we will run our race in 2021.  Life is like a refiner’s fire. It happens to us. It throws whatever it has got with full force at us whether or not we expect it, whether or not we bargain for it, whether or not we prepare for it; and that other one we like to complain about, whether or not we deserve it for good or for bad.  Our spirit is called the inner man. It is our greatest resource. Nothing must break this man. We know that betrayal, depression, tragedy etc can break this man. We must not let this happen otherwise the will to fight on, the will to believe, the will to hope, the will to recover, the will to overcome etc is destroyed. 

And whilst the tyranny of comedians in government, across all levels, continue in Nigeria, we must not let Nigeria break us in 2021.  Manage your expectations, consolidate on your response and recovery program, engage intentional thinking for solutions to recalcitrant challenges and fortify your determination to succeed (never ever give up) so that in the end you will return in 2021 December full of thanksgiving!

Oluseye Arowolo is a tax adviser and writes on diverse topics in his pastime.  You can reach him by email: seyearowolo7@gmail.com

Kankara Abduction: Another “Season” Movie

Published on 19/12/2020

At times you wake up and feel like cursing the day you were born in “the geographical expression” called Nigeria; you feel like raising a huge lamentation at the way issues are managed in this country.  You expect each passing day to feel you with hope and strengthen your optimism about the future, alas it is the other way round.  You don’t even realise when you join the recent chant, “who made us like this?”  Just take for example this week’s saga of the capture/abduction and release of the schoolboys of Kankara, a hitherto sleepy town in Katsina State that has jumped into national recognition. 

Kankara a very sleepy town in Katsina State came into global consciousness this week as a result of the unfortunate abduction of three hundred and forty-four (344) students from Government Science Secondary School by suspected rebels from the Boko Haram extremist group.  This was on Tuesday 15 December 2020. 

However, “miraculously” “all” the over 300 abducted schoolboys appeared to have been released about a week after.  Whilst this “release” or “the process resulting in the release” leave many unanswered questions, what is not deniable is the relief that swept across the nation especially amongst those who are parents that many homes have been spared the ordeal of another endless vigil and anguish. 

The abduction of the 274 Chibok girls on the night of 14-15 April 2014 is still very fresh in our memories 6 years on.  Not only the incident but the disastrous management of the whole matter by the then Federal Government of Nigeria.  Chibok was another sleepy town in Borno State, a State at the center of the Boko Haram scourge. 

If the Chibok abduction took place in the night and you wished to excuse the lack of appropriate advance intelligence before the execution of the abduction plan, how do you excuse the broad daylight abduction of 344 schoolboys and their transportation across military routes and inter-state lines?  If you wish to blame this latest abduction on the enemies and detractors of the President, how do you excuse the statement of the President’s Special Media Assistant, Garba Shehu, that only 10 boys were abducted? 

In that statement, Garba Shehu completely suppressed the fate of 333 schoolboys! And for me this was the most dangerous statement or reaction from the PMB led government to date on this matter.  When has information management turned to purveying dangerous falsehood? Where is the human feeling? Where is the empathy? Is this what power does to you? Must we descend to playing politics with everything even the lives of our children? Even if it was only one (1) schoolboy that was abducted, is the Government suggesting that such a young life is acceptable collateral damage?

Whatever the perspective to the abduction of the schoolboys in Kankara, one inevitable conclusion is that in Nigeria incompetence rides on stilts across every sphere of the nation’s public affairs.  The mediocrity is too much; it is suffocating.  Unfortunately, we are in the vicious cycle of tolerance of our leaders for failure rather than the quest for excellence, the ever willing attitude to excuse non-performance/poor performance than to punish it as well as a sheer lack of competitiveness and fervor for national dignity.  

I remain resolute in my conviction that “incompetent leaders are killers. Indeed murderers. They kill dreams.  They kill aspirations.  If you let them, they can completely kill the future”.  Nigeria is presently in an avoidable wilderness as far as social, political and economic development is concerned and there is a dire need for forward thinkers.  Those who will be devoted, dedicated, diligent and committed to seeking and implementing effective solutions to Nigeria’s myriads of problems.  There cannot be change without change in personnel to those who have capacity, competence and commitment to provide qualitative leadership.  As such, we must collectively leverage the energy of the moment to deliver a solution that ensures that come 2023 we can vote out non-performing politicians.

Having said that, we are again in that “season” (December & January) when “moderation” is always advised.  Moderation in excitement; moderation in spending; moderation in celebration; moderation in drinking; moderation on the road whilst driving etc.  Unlike any year before 2020, we must maintain the use of facemask, ensure social distancing and keep sanitising our hands as frequently as possible whilst luxuriating in reunion with relatives and friends who come to visit during the end of year/new year season.  This is the legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic from 2020. 

And talking of reunion, at a recent dinner, one of the guys at my table made a significant remark, well an observation. He wondered why the poor countries based on all economic and development indices, act as if they are rich with a “money miss road swagger” whilst the truly rich countries act with moderation.  

Of course, I reminded him of the following Yoruba expressions which contrasts the mannerisms of the poor with the moderation of the rich:

“Olowo jeun jeje, otosi jeun womu womu” (the rich quietly munches his meal, but the poor does same noisomely)

“Olowo arin jeje, otosi arin sua sua” (the rich walks gently, but the poor marches on loudly)

“Nigbati Olowo ba n je buredi, ti driver wa n fa turkey ya e o ri pe o m be, o n koja aye re ni” (when the rich is having slice(s) of bread, but the driver is tearing roasted turkey, then the driver is jumping like grass-cutter)

Whoever sleeps on a bicycle whether stationary or moving, the Yorubas say he is exceeding his measure – Ikoja aye, orun ori keke!

We are in another season” movie at the national level, please let us not exceed our measure during this season.

Oluseye Arowolo is a tax adviser and writes on diverse topics in his pastime.  You can reach him by email: seyearowolo7@gmail.com

Animal Sense, The Challenge of Akin, Eze and Sanni

Published 12/122020

I have always found stories from the animal kingdom very interesting and instructive.  Take for instance the story in which the Lion, the King of the Animals was ill and many animals went to pay him visit at his den.  Then the Tortoise also took the trip to the Lion’s den.  However, he did not enter the den.  The Lion noted that Tortoise stayed outside to pay his homage and to ask after his health and prayed for his greater recovery.  The Lion then urged the Tortoise to come inside the den rather than to stay outside.  The Tortoise responded that he was happy to stay outside because he could only see the footprints of the earlier visitors going into the Lion’s den without any set of footprints leaving the same den!

And so it was during the week that “the former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reform task Team, Abdulrasheed Maina collapsed during his prosecution at a Federal High Court Abuja on Thursday”.  This led to the Court having “to rise abruptly to enable the officials of the Correctional Service and relations of the former pension boss to attend to him”!

Not many months ago, the acting Managing Director of NDDC “fainted” under the barrage of questions thrown at him at a Senate Inquiry into the mindboggling corruption at the NDDC.  One is not sure whether we are getting better or worse at these ridiculous cop out tactics.  At times one wonders at the veracity of such statements as,” the more things change, the more they stay the same”.  This “fainting performance” is now getting boring.  I urge the invention of other creative and innovative tricks to hoodwink or delay justice. 

But as I reflected on the latest “fainting performance”, it was the lyric from “Beasts of No Nation” that erupted from my subconscious.  This is not the 2005 novel nor is it the film adaptation in 2015. 

“Beasts of No Nation” was the first song the Abami Eda (the strange one), Late Fela Anikulapo Kuti wrote in 1986 when he was released from prison after serving two years from a five year prison sentence for trumped up foreign currency violation charges.  In this Album, the Late Fela Anikulapo Kuti introduced us to a “foolishness” called “animal sense”. He cited one veto vote equalling 92 or more as an illustration of this “animal sense”.  And then roared, “These disgusing leaders na wah for them; Many leaders as you see dem; Na different disguise dem dey oh; Animal in human skin; Animal I put u tie oh; Anima I wear agbada; Animal I put on suit oh”!

Suddenly the title of the iconic book “Akin goes to school” dropped into my consciousness.  It did not settle yet when a flood of questions besieged me.  It was not only “Akin” that went to school.  “Eze” did too in the East. And “Sanni” in the North.  I briefly luxuriated in the nostalgic excitement that being enrolled in a School to be taught by the white man brought to our people at the time.  I could recall how it became a thing of pride and a status symbol to know how many educated persons you had in your family.  The significance of first to do this, first to do that that was compelling in the healthy rivalry it generated.

As in all things in life; it is not how far but how well.  After all is said and done, the question anyone will ask you remains,” where are you now?”  It is true Akin went to school. It is true Eze went to school. It is true Sanni went to school. In the Nigeria of today, would Akin, Eze and Sanni feel justified that they went to school?

Maybe justified is not the appropriate word. Akin, Eze and Sanni would be about 70 years or more today. Would they feel fulfilled looking at the mess our country is today by reason of incompetence everywhere driven by greed and hypocrisy?  In our country Nigeria, we continue to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  

The “Sorosoke Generation” have now joined a number of our icons in perpetual trench fighting to crystallize in reality the dream of a better Nigeria and to recover the pillars that used to point to the great potentials of our country.  The struggle therefore continues.

Oluseye Arowolo is a tax adviser and writes on diverse topics in his pastime.  You can reach him by email: seyearowolo7@gmail.com

Between Maradona and the Evil Genius in our midst

Published on 05/12/2020

Honestly, I did not expect to be writing so soon on another death.  But Diego Maradona, whose passage can not go unnoticed, died in the last week of November at the age of 60.  Whilst it is not common to compare an individual to a nation, it is worthy to point out that Diego Armando Maradona was born in October the same month that Nigeria gained Independence.  In the same time frame that Nigeria has struggled to fulfil the dream of the nationalists, Diego Armando Maradona has gone ahead to establish his legend status in the pantheons of football divinity with his achievements in the game at International and Club levels.  It is no mean feat to be voted joint winner of the FIFA Player of the 20th Century with Pelé (Edson Arantes do Nascimento) at an award ceremony held in Rome on 11 December 2000.  The FIFA Player of the Century was a one-off award created by FIFA to decide the troubling question of who the greatest footballer of the 20th century was. 

Whilst many would talk or write about the exploits of “the Golden Boy” in the 1986 World Cup held in Mexico, my unforgettable experience of his genius as a footballer was at Italia 90 when Italy hosted the World Cup and played Argentina in the Semi-Finals.  This edition of the World Cup can be properly described as Diego Maradona’s world cup as far as the Argentina squad of that year was concerned.  It was a weaker team than the team that won the World Cup in 1986 and which many would suggest rode on the incredible skills, the passion, the courage, the intensity and the determination of Diego Armando Maradona to get to the finals.  Italia 90 was when I became an ardent follower of Radio Sports commentary and could not forget the matches that Argentina played from the Round of 16 when they met Brazil all the way to Finals. 

Against Brazil it was like a déjà vu.  The commentary went like “And now Maradona on the ball, he has two men to beat, he beats them roundly continues his run and slots a pass to Cannigia…”; that move led to the only goal of the match and Brazil exited the competition.  Similarly in the Semi-Finals against one of the best Italian teams the world had ever seen, Argentina against all the odds won through penalties.  But the story of that game was not the penalties.  It was that Italy had led for the greater part of the game by one goal until that déjà vu again.  I was torn between Italy and Argentina.  I wanted Italy to win because of the ensemble of quality players of their generation and at the same time I wanted Argentina to win because of Maradona.  But almost like in the Brazil game, the Radio Commentator declared, “Maradona has two men to beat and he beats them…” and I knew this move would likely lead to an equalizer and that was what happened. 

Looking back on this game, a writer noted and I agreed with him that, “the host nation had gone to every length to organise a spectacular tournament, one they had no hesitation in calling ‘The World Cup of the Modern Era’. Ten of the country’s stadiums had been re-modelled for the event and two new ones built, while the opening ceremony showcased Italian style at its best and the official tournament song proved especially catchy. With all the World Cup’s previous winners in attendance, each fielding their star players, it promised to be quite a competition.  [Nevertheless] Italy feared Argentina. Despite heading into the game in better shape than the reigning world champions, the mere presence of Maradona made them doubt their chances of success. Though hampered by injury, he remained the undisputed king of world football, while his magical touch was still very much intact. There was also little question that the diminutive genius would be inspired by playing in Naples, his home from home.” 

Maradona was an advanced playmaker who operated in the classic number 10 position.  Maradona was the first player in football history to set the world record transfer fee twice: first when he transferred to Barcelona for a then-world record £5 million, and second when he transferred to Napoli for another record fee of £6.9 million.  He was most famous for his time at Napoli and Barcelona, where he won numerous accolades.  He led Napoli to 2 Italian Championship, 1 Italian Cup, 1 Italian Super Cup and 1 UEFA Cup Winner.  His unforgivable sin in football was Argentina’s game against England at the 1986 World Cup quarter final where he scored both goals in a 2–1 victory over England but dared to score one of the goals with what he claimed to be the “Hand of God” while the second goal followed a 60m (66 yard) dribble past five England players (and ended up being voted “Goal of the Century” by FIFA.com voters in 2002). 

Maradona like every true great divides opinions.  He was not perfect. He had clay feet like all of us.  His greatness magnified his flaws which in turn amplified his humanity.  But there are still lessons the discerning can learn from how he lived. 

Diego was a devoted Argentine, an incredible patriot who used all that he had to elevate his nation.  In this, he differed from the “Evil Genius” of Nigerian politics who was given and adopted the alias “Maradona” because of political maneuvers reminiscent of the maneuvering, mesmerising slaloming and weaving runs from the incredible dribbling skills of Diego Amando Maradona.  The Nigerian “Evil Genius” and “Maradona” was the best prepared of his generation for political leadership.  However, he deployed his humongous capacities and that of his cronies to sabotage the Nigerian nation through scant regard for proper values and relentless execution of destructive symbolic policies and actions.  In the 8 years he bestrode the political landscape, moral compromises and decadence became the new normal typified by sleaze and the syndrome called “settlement” or in slang language called “Egunje”.  One Maradona brought his nation to glory on the global stage; another brought his country to its knees morally, socially, economically and politically with the unconscionable annulment of the first recorded generally free and fair elections held on 12 June 1993. 

Like a commentator aptly remarked, “Today the Nigerian state stands in the season of harvest for all of its many carelessly sown seeds. The sowing and nurturing went on diligently for decades. Some of those who used the days of their youth to sow the wind in Nigeria are facing the whirlwind today. Some of them also, fortunately, have the chance to make amends. The person who, as a young man in the leadership of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), created a militant and mercantilist medical position is now Health Minister. He is struggling today to drag his misguided colleagues back from the wrong road he paved with great energy and enthusiasm decades ago. May help reach him.  President Olusegun Obasanjo, Gen. T. Y. Danjuma, Dr. Yakubu Gowon, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Late Gen. Shagaya and many others in our national history joined hands to create the Nigeria we are living in today. Most of them are stupendously wealthy. They are also among the main drivers of Nigeria`s Old Boys Association in power. They have been elder statesmen for decades, but their eldership and statesmanship were largely self-proclaimed. Their presumption, in always stepping forward to chart new courses for the nation, but without taking responsibility for the misfortunes they consistently inflicted on the nation in the past, verges on the legendary.”

Having said this, Diego Amando Maradona’s life and time also underscores the need to use our time well.  Every individual regardless of his race is on the earth for a limited time.  And so it was that when I attended three weeks ago the 70th Birthday celebrations of a distinguished Old Boy of my school, Government College Ibadan that the need to use well whatever time Providence allots us, hits me.  The celebration was combined in-person and virtual ceremony.  What hit me like a bolt of lightning was that 24 years ago, the same Old Boy and his very dear friends of the 1963 Set were 46 years old just like I am this year!  Same 24 years ago, Diego Amando Maradona was 36 years of age!  A time must surely come when we must ask what did you use your time to do?

Therefore, no matter the micro- and macro-economic conditions of our nation whether self-inflicted or not, we will not be excused from the responsibility to use our time very well. Whatever we must do, we must use our time very well so that when we look back on such years we can truly be full of real thanks.  Adieu Diego; Adieu Armando; Adieu Maradona!

Oluseye Arowolo is a tax adviser and writes on diverse topics in his pastime.  You can reach him by email: seyearowolo7@gmail.com

Jerry John Rawlings: The little Things and the future of the boy child

Published on 21/11/2020

When it comes to celebrities or very important personalities (VIPs) whether home or abroad, we don’t sometimes realise that we have developed some emotional connection with them until a tragic event like illness or death occurs.

Take for instance King Sunny Ade. Around 1990/1991 when he was ill for a protracted period and the National Television Authority (NTA) Ibadan would be playing many of his tracks during any of their interludes, I realised then that I loved KSA and did not want him to die. Even if he would eventually die not at that time. Every time I heard any of his tracks from the TV box, I was moved to tears. But I have never met KSA one on one even till date.

Ditto late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola (MKO). If I see any clip of his or hear any song track (and there were many) from musicians of all genre in Nigeria to celebrate and promote him during the Hope 93 campaign, I am also moved emotionally by the way a great life was brought to ashes. I never met MKO one on one till he passed to the great beyond. The injustice of the annulment of the June 12 electoral results, the indignity he was subjected to in the various prisons and the decimation of a previously thriving business empire by wicked forces continues to get to me. Shall I say more?

I was at my desk that fateful Saturday morning in my room at the Belmont Hall University of Dundee during my Masters Programme at the prestigious Center for Energy Petroleum, Mineral Law and Policy and as it was my custom, “booted” my laptop to review Nigeria-related news stories from Nigeriaworld.com. Suddenly I saw the headline from ThisDay Newspapers, “Okadigbo dies at 61”. My first reaction was shock and the question “how?” forced itself into my consciousness. Not because I was a fan of Okadigbo’s politics but I realised that I have been impressed by his courage, singlemindedness, his articulateness and capacity for the dramatic. He evoked the image of the politician that Late Professor Chinua Achebe etched eternally in the book, “ A Man Of The People”. But I never met Rt Hon Chuba Okadigbo before he passed on. I was however intrigued by ThisDay account of his impeachment as Senate President at the time. ThisDay reported that “at 6pm Okadigbo picked up his Bible and read a verse to himself”, a day after Chief Olusegun Obasanjo had declared at Okadigbo’s Apo Quarters, “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain…”!

And so it was for me with Jerry John Rawlings. I must confess that I never took any serious interest in Jerry John Rawlings until about one or two years ago. Yes, whilst growing up I was aware (through folklore) that he led some form of “revolution” in Ghana at the age of 27. So many of the military coup adventurers were very young and this was an era that unconstitutional take-over of government was widespread or fashionable across Africa. It was a function of which was the more daring group. But it was however the clip that circulated about him on social media when he came down from his car to resolve a traffic gridlock during one of his trips on the streets of Accra that got me interested. A former President coming down of his car to resolve gridlock by passing traffic directly? This is not common in Africa, a travesty in Nigeria! This is not a value or virtue known with or common with a black man. Let me apologise but my theory was that somewhere there is white blood in him! Whereupon I got my phone and to verify my haunch vide google search and I was validated. Jerry John Rawlings was born to a Ghanaian mother, Victoria Agbotui and a Scottish father James John Ramsey!

Since his death on 12 November 2020 from complications arising from Covid-19 alleged to have been contracted during his mother’s lavish burial, so many articles have been written about his life and time as a man, father, husband, soldier, politician etc. However many have expressed disappointment at the fact that a woman came out to declare that JJR had a second family other than the official family he ran with Nana Konadu Agyeman. Should this diminish the man?
This development and reactions only reflect our emotional connection to VIPs when we hardly know them or only exposed to a limited facet of their lives. Because of our admiration for their personality, their work or actions, we sometime impute or project a profile of perfection. Whilst we hold the right to express opinions, we must refrain from judging.

For me the simple things, the little things, the symbolic things matter in our VIPs whether current or past. Their life and lifestyle choice, actions and personality affect us more than we ever care to imagine. Accordingly, they must realise such a position of responsibility that they continue to occupy in and out of power and help us to return to positive values and character formation as the bedrock of the transformation that we seek in our nations. The need to be considerate of others; to moderate greed, avarice and rabid materialism; to promote contentment and enjoyment of simple pleasures of life; dignity of the human person; avoid the foolishness of morbid accumulation via wanton corruption or misappropriation of the patrimony of the commonwealth cannot be over-emphasised. Values make the man. Character defines the man. What kind of character you are is shown in your behaviour or actions towards fellow men. Character is the spring that feeds our behaviour or actions. If the character is polluted or flawed, our behaviour would be less than positive. JRR has finished his course in life bravely as any man should and should be ready to give account before his Maker.

The world celebrated the International Men’s Day on 19th November 2020. The IMD is an “occasion to celebrate boys and men achievements and contributions in particular to their nation, union, society, community, family, marriage and childcare. The broader and ultimate aim of the event is to promote basic humanitarian values”. However, it is becoming a major
concern whether or not the “boy child” is not being neglected in the quest to emancipate the “girl child”. The following excerpts put the issue in focus:

“Society has, of late, focused on the girl child in turn is rapidly suffocating the boy child. There has been great neglect of the boy in society today. In Kenya today no news is reported when a boy is sodomized, abused, abandoned, mistreated or even decline their right to education. The welfare of this humans has greatly been ignored and they been left out in many projects as the girl child is fore grounded. Since our independence the government has been following policies geared towards social equality and non-discrimination. In the education sector considerable efforts have been made to ensure that regional, special needs and gender disparity are all addressed but statistics from various counties in the country show that the girl child has been fore grounded at the expense of the boy child thus reserving the gain so made. Being a lady am expected to be in the front to support all activities geared towards developing the girl child but I would like the children I will bring to this world to have equal opportunities and neither of them should feel neglected, intimidated or discriminated. I want my children to know that they are both equal before man and God.”

Based on my observation, it will take a certain quality of “boys to men” to be ready to engage the “girls to women” if this imbalance of attention continues. The author drilled into the heart of this concern when she asserted further that:

“We should all join hands and support for better future wives and husbands. We should empower the boy child to strengthen the future fathers. It is sad that the boy child to choose his own future and chart his course without much guidance from the society. The neglect of this cannot go unnoticed. In his bid to find his bearing, the boy child has now with vice such as drugs and substance abuse, sexual abuse and dropping out of school. The boy child to be no more just like the white rhinos in Africa if empowerment programmes continue to neglect the boy-child and out of frustration will push him to underground criminal activities.

“Reports of boys joining terror gangs and terror groups such as alshabab fill the media every time an attack is reported, some parents remain wondering how their well- behaved boy came to think of joining such a dangerous group but what do you expect of him if at all you continue to concentrate on girl and keep telling them be a man and stand up for yourself, how many more of our young men do we want to lose before we realise that enough is enough and we have to stand up and protect this species of humans that is slowly degrading out of our own ignorance. Both genders are equally for the success of the society and country. Boys need counselling and guidance through their passage to manhood. Conversations of how we can support the boy child should start at the family level. If we allow the boy-child to continue struggling with poverty, unemployment, and dependency, not only will our country suffer economically but we will also lose the contribution of a major part of the society”!

If the above is true of Kenya, it is no less true in Nigeria. This should be the real agenda and inquiry of the IMD or International Father’s day going forward for Nigeria.

Oluseye Arowolo is a tax adviser and writes on diverse topics in his pastime.  You can reach him by email: seyearowolo7@gmail.com

What is happening to Poverty, sir?

Published on 14/11/20

Two differing strands of thoughts collided in my mind this week.  This is probably due to the threat by PENGASSAN to create another nationwide crisis almost immediately after the blindsiding #ENDSARS protests and the socio-economic implications of all these “arelu” (that is, unfortunate happenstances in quick succession). 

First strand of thought was that I remembered one of my very good seniors from the Faculty of Law, Obafemi Awolowo University, Mr Wole Adebayo.  He was a year ahead of me.  He is gifted in oratory. His approach to issues is very cerebral and it was always inspiring to listen to him.  What else do you expect from someone who spent his childhood and adolescence in the company of the great Kongi, Professor Wole Soyinka, who happened to be one of his father’s friends.

He wrote his dissertation titled “Integrative Trends in International Trade Relations” in four days.  He was then staying in my room in Awolowo Hall so I know this for a fact.  He gave me the privilege of proof reading the dissertation.  However what is relevant to this column this week was in the “Acknowledgment” page of his final year dissertation where he had this to say about his mother: “and to my mum, who made poverty a distant concept of mere theoretical curiosity”.  When can or will poverty become a distant concept first for majority of Nigerians? And when can or will it become a concept of mere theoretical curiosity as a living experience?

This led me to remember what President Muhammadu Buhari said in his Chatam House address in 2015, “A development economist once said three questions should be asked about a country’s development: one, what is happening to poverty? Two, what is happening to unemployment? And three, what is happening to inequality? The answers to these questions in Nigeria show that the current administration has created two economies in one country, a sorry tale of two nations: one economy for a few who have so much in their tiny island of prosperity; and the other economy for the many who have so little in their vast ocean of misery. Even by official figures, 33.1% of Nigerians live in extreme poverty. That’s at almost 60 million, almost the population of the United Kingdom”.  This was the situation as at 2015.  What is the situation today? 3 out of 5 Nigerians live in poverty.  But it is important to define what type of “poverty” that detains us here.  Not the poverty that prosperity gospel preachers attribute to a curse or spirit of poverty. 

According to Wikipedia, “Poverty is the state of not having enough material possessions or income for a person’s basic needs.  Poverty may include social, economic, and political elements.  Absolute poverty is the complete lack of the means necessary to meet basic personal needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter.  The floor at which absolute poverty is defined is always about the same, independent of the person’s permanent location or era. On the other hand, relative poverty occurs when a person cannot meet a minimum level of living standards, compared to others in the same time and place. Therefore, the floor at which relative poverty is defined varies from one country to another, or from one society to another”

No wonder, the first of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in 2015 is the eradication of poverty.  The SDGs are a collection of 17 interlinked goals designed to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all”. The SDGs were set in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly and are intended to be achieved by the year 2030.  SDG 1 is to: “End poverty in all its forms everywhere”. Achieving SDG 1 would end extreme poverty globally by 2030.  The goal has a total of seven targets: five to be reached by 2030 and two that have no specified date.[1]

It is noteworthy that just 10 years away from 2030, Nigeria has the ungainly reputation of being the poverty capital of the world.  Nigeria has exceeded India as the country with the largest rate of people living in extreme poverty.  According to the United Nations, “extreme poverty is a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income but also on access to services”.

The challenge of poverty in Nigeria can be and has been traced to three primary factors.  These factors have destroyed Nigeria’s economic framework.  These factors are:

  • Corruption: No doubt, corruption is the major reason why poverty is at such a high rate in Nigeria. In fact, many economists have declared that it is the “single greatest obstacle” that prevents Nigeria from prospering. Corruption is present in the everyday lives of citizens from businesses to the government. Consequently, poorer communities are suffering and the economic structure has experienced disruption.[2]  Take the recent case of the palliatives that were intended as relief packages to poor Nigerians but were warehoused for selfish objectives by some of the political elites. 
  • Unemployment: The high rates of unemployment also lead to extreme poverty. Unemployment typically exists among the younger population. In fact, only about 44.6% of young people have employment, leaving more than half of the population is unemployed. Not only does the country suffer from a lack of employment but it also suffers from a lack of development, progress and diversification of its industries.[3]
  • Inequality: Nigeria is 157/157 on the inequality index.  Thus, while Nigeria may appear to have plenty of resources, these resources are typically reserved for the wealthy who can afford them. Along with this, corruption within the government leads to further inequalities between the political elite and to those living in poverty.[4]

You challenged us in 2015 to ask these questions: what is happening to poverty? What is happening to unemployment? And what is happening to Inequality?  Your answer then was that “The answers to these questions in Nigeria show that the current administration has created two economies in one country, a sorry tale of two nations: one economy for a few who have so much in their tiny island of prosperity; and the other economy for the many who have so little in their vast ocean of misery”.  But are the answers any different now?  We are waiting sir. Nevertheless, whilst we wait for your answer,  may I suggest that aaway out of the current level of poverty finds itself in the reversal of the challenges highlighted. That is, entrenching transparency, reducing corruption to the barest level and as much as possible create a system of equality.

Until this this achieved, the 2015 challenge lingers with the questions.

Oluseye Arowolo is a tax adviser and writes on diverse topics in his pastime.  You can reach him by email: seyearowolo7@gmail.com

ASUU Strike: Time To Change the Strategy

Published on 07/112020

We are in very interesting times.  This week has been dominated by the elections taking place in the United States of America with many Nigerians staying glued to cable and satellite television channels monitoring the progress of the elections and its outcome.  There is obvious bias for the Democratic candidate by Nigerians who feel strongly that the visa restrictions imposed by the Trump administration on Nigerians looking to travel to the US will ease off with a Biden presidency.  One can only wonder that if many of my countrymen engage similar degree of interest in how we are governed in Nigeria, maybe Nigeria’s progress on the spectrum of good governance would have been more encouraging and the youths of our nation would not have had to “sorosoke” (speak out loudly) by way of a “revolt” on 8 October 2020 with #ENDSARS protests nationwide. 

And talking of #ENDSARS, the “rumour” making the rounds is that the Federal Government (FG) of Nigeria has launched an investigation into the coordinators and financiers of the #ENDSARS protests picking them off for interrogation one by one.  The amazing effectiveness of this alleged “manhunt” calls to question the poor handling of many perpetrators of economic and financial crimes in the Nigerian nation who are (sadly) still very much at large almost beyond the capacity of law enforcement agents.  It is incident of this nature that undermines the trust that citizens should have in their government.  Our government has failed, refused or neglected to call out and punish those who “warehoused” Covid-19 palliatives without distribution to intended beneficiaries but the same government has the resources to chase after the coordinators and financiers of #ENDSARS protests nationwide, whose only “crime” or “offence” is a struggle aimed at drawing the attention of our political functionaries to the basics and necessities of good governance; to remind them of the social contract and the obligation to serve the nation properly and effectively. 

Whilst the temptation to stray into the issues and non-issues of the American elections exists, for me, the threat by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to shut down the universities for the next 5 years is a more urgent, clear and present danger to academic pursuit at the tertiary level than the American elections.  Even then space afforded by the Editor in this column cannot allow for an exhaustive examination of ASUU’s progressively unpopular position. 

No doubt ASUU has been at the forefront of the advocacy and struggle for the redemption and restoration of the Nigerian educational system particularly the tertiary institutions to its former glory days first and its upgrade to meet the 21st century requirements and expectations.  It however often confuses that struggle and defeats the objective in the mind of the public whenever it has allowed the government to reduce the narrative of the struggle to wage increase.  Between 1999 and 2020, ASUU has gone on strike 15 times in 21 academic years excluding the current one: 1999 (five months); 2001 (three months); 2002 (two weeks); 2003 (six months); 2005 (two weeks); 2006 (one week); 2007 (three months); 2009 (four months); 2010 (five months); 2011 (two months); 2013 (five-and-a-half months); 2017 (one month) and 2018/19 (three months: 4 November 2018-7 February 2019).

I make bold to state that there is no graduate of the last 30 years minimum that did not “suffer” loss of academic time due to ASUU strike actions in the Nigerian Universities for the same perennial reasons.  It is in empathy for the ASUU struggles that my initial reaction to the #ENDSARS protests was anger.  To me, “whilst the effect of police brutality is immediate on the affected individual(s), the effects of a dysfunctional sector like education and health for instance are for a lifetime. I was angry because this kind of protest had not been staged to complement the struggle by the Academic Staff Union of Universities to salvage our educational system”.

However, Nigerians have grown weary of ASUU’s incessant impasse with the FG and have raised questions which ASUU has refused to address either because it does not have the answer or does not appreciate the import of the answers for its public image and perception.  For instance, ASUU has kept eerily silent on the claim by TETFUND that each Federal University has been receiving N1Billion every year for infrastructure development in the past few years.  How have these funds been accounted for? CBT Centers charge up to N6,500 whilst official JAMB fee is N4,000.  If JAMB is remitting N7Bn on exams for 1.7 million candidates, can we estimate how much Universities make from Post-UTME, Diplomas, Post Graduate programs and other internal revenue? In a year, Ekiti State University claimed it made N6bn but a Federal institution in Lagos claimed it made less than N3bn.  Universities accounts abroad are made public.  Why does ASUU not ensure the same level of transparency in Nigeria?

The biggest issue is the implication of an “indefinite strike” on the prospects of timely graduation of current students and the aspiration of prospective students for admission into tertiary institutions.  The unwitting (or probably deliberate) consequences of the so-called “indefinite strike” which translates to significant loss in academic time and sometimes renders graduates ineligible for employment on account of age despite having 2’1 and above, has cast doubt on the genuineness of ASUU’s sensitivity and concern for the present and future of students of tertiary institutions. 

I remain eternally grateful to the Faculty of Law Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, which mitigated the impact of ASUU Strike and other University closures by facilitating what was described at the time as a “condensed academic program” for my graduating class in 1997.  Without that intervention, it would have been difficult to gain admission to the Nigerian Law School in April 1998 or to be able to graduate at the age of 25 still a year below the maximum qualifying or eligibility age of 26 years for tier 1 employment opportunities with multinational companies!

It is imperative for ASUU to give due regard to this incalculable cost on their students and revisit the strategy or tactics of indefinite strike action in its engagement with the FG of Nigeria or any States of the Federation.  Furthermore, there is a need for the FG to stop playing with the educational future of Nigerian students because its unremitting impasse with ASUU naturally affects the academic performance of students and create a lot of psychological set back to them.  Governments at all levels need to show great attention and sensitivity in the area of education to disabuse the average Nigerian of the perception that government has allowed a dysfunctional educational system to persist because most of the children of our politicians do not attend Nigerian tertiary institutions and therefore, not their cup of tea whatever happens!

Oluseye Arowolo is a tax adviser and writes on diverse topics in his pastime.  You can reach him by email: seyearowolo7@gmail.com

Much Ado About Palliative & WTO Director-General Appointment

Published on 31/10/2020

One of my favourites Arabian Night Stories is Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.  This was the story of a gang of thieves who hid their loot in a secured place with a secret access password.  Unknown to them, Ali Baba eavesdropped this secret password and got access to the hidden loot and began a systematic withdrawal of the loot from the “warehouse”.  Ali Baba was a poor woodcutter who improved his position thereby. 

Whilst the “looting” spree that erupted late last week almost nationwide necessitating a curfew especially in Lagos may not be justified after “hoodlums” hijacked the peaceful #ENDSARS protests in Nigeria, one fact remained undeniable.  That fact is that the massive food palliatives that the Federal Government made available to the States of the Federation were not distributed to intended beneficiaries, Nigerians.  The question then arises whether the “looting” of the various warehouses across some of the States of the Federation were actually random acts by “hoodlums” or targeted systematic breach of the “warehouses” to release the food palliatives that had been placed under secure lock and key by politicians. 

The incident which exposed our politicians as mean and double faced became even more sad when some lawmakers (State and Federal) who were caught red handed with the branded food palliatives alleged that they intended to distribute to intended beneficiaries in their constituencies during their birthdays and other celebrations!  These acts of subterfuge have been made possible due to lack of emphasis on accountability and transparency. 

It is even more baffling that the decision to “hoard” the food palliatives appeared to be with common intent amongst the politicians regardless of party affiliations.  Nigerians expect serious accountability across the whole chain of Covid-19 response and the relief process and where anyone is found wanton, appropriate consequences should follow.  These are some of the actions that can help deal with those who resolve to act with impunity. 

What has happened with the palliative is a simple demonstration that the existing old order political arrangement do not intend to repent and implement a Nigeria that works for all.  And since change is overdue, there cannot be change without change of personnel.  Leadership is a serious business.  And as such recruitment into this role must be defined by competence, capacity and commitment.  Incompetent leaders are killers. Indeed murderers. They kill dreams.  They kill aspirations.  If you let them, they will completely kill the future.  The youths of the “Sorosoke Generation” and patriots of the “Gbenudake Generation” must not allow this to happen.  Aluta Continua, Victoria Asserta!

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is the primary institutional framework for global trade relations.  Trade relations within the WTO follow three fundamental principles: (i) non-discrimination through the Most Favoured Nation principle; (ii) free trade through the reduction/elimination of tariff barriers; and (iii) reciprocity.  One of the principal organs of the WTO is the WTO Secretariat. 

Given the diverse membership of the WTO platform and the relative difference in political and economic power of member-states, the question of who occupies the office of the Director General (DG) of the WTO Secretariat becomes very important.  The DG is head of the WTO Secretariat.  The Secretariat has 625 regular staff in Geneva.  The Secretariat is expected to “provide top quality and independent support to WTO member governments and to serve the WTO with professionalism, impartiality and integrity. 

The nomination of Dr (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (NOI) becomes very unique for many reasons.  However, the reason that concerns us here is that this is the first time an African and a female would be in contention for this office.  Obviously, she is a very distinguished Nigerian with significant and well verified accomplishments and this has made Nigerians interested in what happens with her nomination and made them suspicious of the position or “opposition” of the US to her emergence as the Secretary General of the WTO.  Some have demonized the Donald Trump presidency for this situation and compared this to the challenge thrown in the path of Dr. Akinwunmi A Adesina to becoming the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) for a second term. 

However, the reality is that the US cannot be indifferent to who becomes the Director-General of the WTO even if NOI, who is “Nigerian born” has American citizenship.  The subplot of the trade war with China and the relative coolness in US trade relations with Nigeria may not permit the US to support a candidate that China and many other developing countries put their weight behind.  US, like any other country should, will and must continue to act in its strategic self or national interest. 

One thing however that many Nigerians keep forgetting is what Professor Akinjide Osuntokun once said; that to be relevant as a State actor on the international system, you need Power.  He asserted thus, “Power is at the root of international relations.  This power may be military or economic.   To be taken seriously, Nigeria and other African States must aspire towards power through industrialisation, particularly having the right kind of defense industries, right leadership and ability to deploy troops in foreign lands and above all robust economy.  Nothing succeeds as success; if Africa is strong the world would take notice”. 

This issue therefore goes beyond mere sentimental identification with or cosmetic clinching to NOI.  Is Nigeria presently well positioned to take advantage of her position even if she clinches the role assuming she can influence anything for Nigeria?

Curiously though, during the week one of my friends summed up the contention as follows, “this is one reason we should reflect deeply in Africa.  No other continent will offer us a better deal. NOI would not have been nominated for this position by any western country even if she had their citizenship.  She is a US citizen and the US is her main adversary on the road to making history.  When we see moving to western countries as the solution to our major issues, we should also take the bigger picture into perspective and not burn the bridge to home. Even if we do not need that home goodwill, the generations coming behind may find it helpful.  Nigeria and Africa must learn the game and play it well.  We should get our productive capacity ready to maximize and optimize opportunities.  One DG position would not create jobs for the 100millions we seek to lift out of poverty neither would a DG position improve our approach to domestic business environment reforms. We get to make Nigeria work.  In fact, the position makes no difference to the ordinary Nigerian in any way”. 

To conclude, we should always remember as Nigerians if we do not continue to work towards making our nation better; we are unlikely to get a better deal from foreign residence or citizenship when we look at the bigger picture.  

Oluseye Arowolo is a tax adviser and writes on diverse topics in his pastime.  You can reach him by email: seyearowolo7@gmail.com

#ENDSARS: The Changing Narrative and My Problem with Karma

Published on 24/10/2020

After almost two weeks of the #ENDSARS protests in Nigeria, three critical facts (and there may be more depending on focus)  remain undeniable.  Fact 1, Nigerian youths have sent an unmistakable message to old order politicians currently in power in the country.  Fact 2, the narrative of the protest is changing.  Fact 3, innocent lives have been lost once again in the journey to bring Nigeria to a state where good governance can be taken for granted. 

No life is trivial and that is why all over the world right, to life is a fundamental.  It cannot be violated at will.  So solemn, so grave, so sober is the appreciation of loss of any human life.  I commiserate with every family who has lost anyone and anyone who has lost a brother, friend, fiancé, sister, fiancée or whatever description during the tragic unravelling of the protest on Tuesday, 20 October 2020.  May the Almighty God comfort those who have lost loved ones and grant the deceased eternal rest. 

It was a protest to end police brutality.  There were 5 for 5 demands.  Later, 7 for 7 demands.  Whatever the number, the demands were presented.  The demands were received by the Governor of Lagos State, who hand carried same to Abuja.  The demands were submitted.  The demands were acknowledged by Aso Rock with a promise to review and adopt modalities for implementation.  So how, where and when did the protest unravel into tragic anti-climax? 

The answer to the “when” was the “crocodile smiled”.  What about how?  This was probably when #ENDSARS agitators insisted on continued protest until the demands were effected visibly and tangibly.  Whilst #ENDSARS is a struggle that leveraged extensive collaboration nationwide amongst different groups, the central theatre of operation was Lagos with Lekki Tollgate and Alausa being most prominent spots. 

#ENDSARS had garnered positive momentum globally and for about 10 days trending at No 1 on Twitter.  With the insistence on indefinite protest, it was inevitable that the government would launch a counter measure.  No government likes to lose face.  And to do this, a justification would be required.  And there would be no better justification to attempt to disperse protesters than when an otherwise peaceful protest turned into chaos and pandemonium.  The popular theory and belief was that this was the handiwork of government.  But could this have been averted by the Youths?

There was a level of arrogance that crept in and in that arrogance an isolationist slogan was adopted which separated the generations into “Sorosoke” and “Gbenudake”.  The Gbenudake generation were labelled as failure because of perceived docility forgetting that the foundation for the current 21 years of uninterrupted democracy was laid in the blood, sweat and tears of named and nameless heroes who dared to challenge the military apparatchik of the time. 

In my view there are two fundamental considerations that were ignored when adopting the position to continue the protest despite government assurances that the demands would be carefully reviewed and modalities for implementation worked out. 

The first consideration is that there is a democratically elected government in place in Nigeria.  The International System is aware of that status. It must be expected that the government whether at Federal or State levels would have a response which may be rational or irrational.  If the ENDSARS “movement” had leveraged experiences from past liberation struggles, it would know that government will not sit back idly and make it lose face.  The disruption of the peaceful protest (whether by government sponsored hoodlums as is being alleged or by hoodlums who see an opportunity created by the peaceful protesters to exhibit what they know to do) would appear to have turned the narrative back to government.

The second consideration that appeared to have been ignored is that the journey to Nigeria’s transformation will take years. 

It will however be achievable through a process of incremental entrenchment of positive actions.  As I contended last week, the #ENDSARS protests should not be “overdone”.  Liberation struggle requires tact and must be prosecuted with minimal personal costs as far as is possible.  Contrary to the optimism of the “SoroSokes”, institutional reforms, economic growth and development, societal transformation are not Indomie noodles nor achieved by a “let there be light” fiat.  Cool heads are required.  Clear agenda with milestones are required.

The transformation journey must be approached as a process driven and structured agitation.  The goal must be to recognize, preserve and work through the current democratic order which way was paved with the blood, sweat and tears of heroes who were shot by police and soldiers under the military regime 21 years ago.  The Youths must be interested and committed to refining the political system by deepening Nigeria’s democratic processes, practices and institutions. 

The Youths can start with:

  • Mobilizing the Youths of voting age to register massively in preparation for the next electoral cycle in 2023 with valid voters cards as evidence
  • Ensuring before 2023 implementation of the various white papers on electoral reform as it pertains to party funding and campaign financing especially
  • Enabling Nigerians in the diaspora to participate in the electoral process through voting

I insist that there cannot be real change in Nigeria’s political governance and economic performance without change of personnel effected through the democratic process.  No one can give what he does not have or beyond his capacity.  Youths can leverage their number for this purpose.  Massive mobilisation of youths to register with INEC and be given voters cards is a massive signal to old order politicians especially if these will turn out enmass in 2023 to vote out non performers and vote in those they consider capable and competent.  The political space must be such that no one needs to spend to spend N40billion on political campaign nor become bankrupt because they want to serve the nation.  This will in one fell swoop destroy the specter and shadow of godfatherism in Nigerian politics and demonstrate that real power to elect rests truly with the people.  Such a development will encourage only those who are competent, smart, intelligent, visionary, capable and committed individuals to venture into the serious business of political governance. 

The clear and present challenge is to resist vociferously any attempt to reduce the narrative of the #ENDSARS protests to ethnicity, religion and other issues that old order politicians have leveraged to divide “Nigerians” or what the President said or did not say in his address to the nation or to dignify any old order politician like BAT.  Everything the “Sorosokes complain of and the “Gbenudakes” concurred with whether through the #ENDSARS platform or another comes under the general caption: bad or poor governance.  As such we must collectively leverage the energy of the moment to deliver a solution that ensures that come 2023 we can vote out non performing politicians.  I will tell you that floating a youth party itself is not the ultimate because Nigerians that I know may still vote for the old order politicians on the basis that the devil they know is better than the young Angels.  It is making sure that this does not happen that is more important. 

Anyone who loves Nigeria at this time should ensure that we are not derailed from the potential benefits of the #ENDSARS protest.  The hoodlums are enemies of Nigeria and must be pitied because they lack the capacity to appreciate the bigger picture of the #ENDSARS protests.  The Youths must remain in control of the real narrative of the #ENDSARS struggle in spite of the current attempt to make the “story of the hijackers the final headlines”

As Late Professor Chinua Achebe would be quick to remind us, “In the end I began to understand.  There is such a thing as absolute power over narrative.  Those who secure this privilege for themselves can arrange stories about others pretty much where, and as, they like.  Just as in corrupt, totalitarian regimes, those who exercise power over others can do anything”.  

The way of democracy is the voting power of the electorates.  If so, we must let the blood of those shot at Lekki Tollgate and other centers of the #ENDSARS struggle count as another cornerstone in Nigeria’s progressive journey to transformation.  There must be justice for every single one of these who lost their lives.  Karma is not sufficient. 

The interesting thing about Karma is that you cannot offer to it suggestions.  You cannot influence its timing or modus operandi. Several cultures have one theory or the other on Karma.  But one that seems to advance the concept and expose the injustice is that saying of the Yorubas that: before the land will claim the wicked, beautiful things would have been completely destroyed. That is before the wicked goes to the great beyond, he may have utterly destroyed even the future for many (“ki ile to pa osika, ohun to dara a ti baje”).  Take for instance, those who were destroyed in the IBB days are still waiting for IBB’s obituary and that is assuming they themselves have not died.  Again, what closure does whatever happens to the wicked do for me if he cannot directly connect the experience to his wickedness? He too may be able to act in submission to the Almighty God and not recognize that what he is passing through is a form of judgment or recompense.  A more effective “karma” is for our society to be able to impose and enforce consequences for wrong doing so that the role actor can immediately connect his action to the consequences visited on him. 

God bless Nigeria.

Oluseye Arowolo is a tax adviser and writes on diverse topics in his pastime.  You can reach him by email: seyearowolo7@gmail.com

#ENDSARS or end “Corona Leaders”?

Published on 17/10/20

This past week is important for several reasons.  At a personal level, it was the week that I turned another year in the land of the living.  All praises to the Most Beneficent, Most Gracious, and the Most Merciful.  It was the week of the International Day of the Girl Child.  It was also the week of “No Bra Day” (13 October) to commemorate Breast Cancer awareness in Nigeria; October being the globally accepted month for Breast Cancer awareness.  It was also the week Aisha Yesufu was trending as the next amazon in the mould of Mrs Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti.  But of course she was not new to social activism.

All these important global themes were crowded out in Nigeria by the #ENDSARS nationwide protests.  From the look of things, I may have to defer the treatment of these very no less important matters on girl child and breast cancer to next week

I must however make a very quick confession.  My initial reaction to the current protest nationwide tagged #ENDSARS was anger.  I thought the targeted issue was too narrow and was symptomatic of a bigger foundational issue of bad or poor governance.  If I can borrow the logic of MC EdoPikin, that cerebral comedian, in the difference between Corona and Ebola.  He asserted thus, “Bad government is the general overseer of them all.  Do you know that when Corona Virus got to the airport and saw our leaders, Corona said no need to enter Nigeria because our senior colleagues are here already.  You can wear nose masks to prevent Corona Virus, but can you wear nose mask to prevent Corona Leaders? Some virus are infected whilst some virus are elected.  Do you know that Corona Leaders have killed more people than corona virus.  Bad government is the general overseer of them all.  Bad government does not live abroad.  Bad government lives in Nigeria”. 

Whilst the effect of police brutality is immediate on the affected individual(s), the effects of a dysfunctional sector like education and health for instance are for a lifetime. I was angry because this kind of protest had not been staged to complement the struggle by the Academic Staff Union of Universities to salvage our educational system.  I was angry because this kind of protest had not been staged before to protest the poor conditions of service in the police (salaries, delayed payments, housing, childcare, general welfare, benefits etc).  No one is protesting the misappropriation of police pension funds.  I was angry because this kind of protest had not been staged before to generally enforce good governance? I was angry that this kind of protest has not been staged before to mobilize youths of voting age to massively register and obtain voters card and vote out poorly performing politicians. 

In my anger, I declared that the country was full of hypocrites.  And as I was watching the video clip of Aisha Yesufu, it was the image of Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi that floated across my spirit.  Chief Gani Fawehinmi gave all for the cause of the masses.  He “was one of the most famous figures in Nigeria.  During his life time, he was fondly referred to as “the people’s lawyer” and “Senior Advocate of the Masses”, he used his legal training and resources in fighting for justice for the Nigerian people.  Along with the likes of the Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, Fawehinmi became the loud conscience of 150 million people, a man for whom silence was never an option, and for whom there were no tyrants too big to be challenged. For over three decades he endured imprisonment, harassment and the climate of assassination created by the successive military regimes in battling causes which, even though they did not always succeed against totalitarian governments who controlled the organs of the law, served to focus national and international attention. He also took on the villainy and corruption of civilian governments, highlighting their illegitimate means of coming to power”. 

He founded the National Conscience Party (NCP) to seek for political power and entrench good governance for which he had fought all his lifetime, you would expect Nigerians, the masses to vote for him massively.  Same Nigerians he devoted his life and resources to serve still preferred the old corrupt political parties and their politicians that were not committed to good governance to the NCP. 

From his experience at that time, so many queries arise: Are Nigerians really worth fighting for? Is there any need to shed one’s blood recklessly for an unappreciative people? Do I really have this kind of calling where I will not bother what happens to my wife and kids physically, materially, financially, psychologically, emotionally etc because of the struggle for good governance?  I concluded that until we get to the point where those who want a change in the system equal or outnumber those who profit within the unjust system, such a struggle is not appealing to me and for my family. 

But on “calming down”, I accepted the #ENDSARS protest as a reflection of the deepening democratic credentials of this country.  Nigeria is a 21 year old democracy.  This is the longest we have had uninterrupted civilian democracy.  Babies born in 1999 are now 21 years old and have never lived under the jackboots of military oppression.  It is expected that their mentality and attitude to poor governance would be different.  Also those of us who were 25 years old or less in 1999 who at the time had grown up under the maladministration of military governments are now in our mid 40s having only nostalgic stories of a once better past handed over to us by our parents.  

#ENDSARS also mean for me that the apathy of Nigerians that sustained the current status quo may gradually be giving way to conscientious activism that will pave way for consistent pressure and demand for qualitative political performance and good governance.  That apathy that made Nigerians full of prayers without action and made Nigeria the capital of vain religiosity.  That apathy that made Nigerians tolerant of mediocrity and corruption. 

In “Reflections on International Youth Day”, I submitted, “Nigerians both young and old do not feel valued.  There is the perpetual feeling of being short-changed in the country called Nigeria especially when they keep being bombarded with revelations of mindboggling embezzlement, financial misappropriation, economic crimes and corruption by the politicians etc relative to the potentials of the country.  The path to restoration is for both the youths of Nigeria and those privileged to be in government to appreciate the size of the challenge the burgeoning youth population poses especially when situated against the estimation that Nigeria will be the 3rd most populous nation by 2050 just about 30 years from today.  There is need for more effective collaboration to invest in a system that works.  The youths have the energy socially and physically; they are inquisitive, they have a “can do” mentality and attitude, they are compassionate, they are environmentally aware, they have digital footprints (regular social media users) etc.  Nigeria is presently in an avoidable wilderness as far as social and economic development is concerned and there is a dire need for forward thinkers.  Those who will be devoted, dedicated, diligent and committed to seeking and implementing effective solutions to Nigeria’s myriads of problems including the youths.  “unless political leadership offers young people something to live for, social stresses can make them easy prey to those who offer them something to die for”

There cannot be change without change in personnel to those who have capacity, competence and commitment to provide qualitative leadership.  For instance, if those who changed SARS to SWAT truly have capacity to appreciate the issues in this protest, the direct, proximate and remote context of this protest, would they be proposing a change of name? This reflected a similar pattern of thinking that changed the color of the uniform of the police many years ago when the complaint was inefficiency and ineffectiveness! 

Accordingly, if the #ENDSARS protest does not result in increase in the number of youths of voting age who will register to vote before 2023, then the #ENDSARS is just another feel good social gathering, the impact may be transient.  To be meaningful the “youths” who have come out need to be encouraged to register to vote and obtain their voters card for that purpose.  Democracy guarantees the right participate in the electoral process, the right to vote and be voted for, peaceful and structured change of power in the society and not a rule of and by protest or rule of the mob. 

As at the 2019 Elections, there were 84,004,084 registered voters in Nigeria and this represents 49.78% of the population.  However, only 34.75% of registered voters turned out.  This is also a vital statistic that need to change or improve by those eligible to vote going out and exercising their right to vote when the time comes again in 2023. 

And talking of 2023, #ENDSARS must change the agenda of issues for engagement by the political parties and their politicians old or new.  Nigeria will only change when Nigerians are prepared to drive that transformation that is critically required and not waiting for a power external to them to do the heavy lifting or carry the burden for them whilst they simply take the benefit.  This must be the lasting legacy of the #ENDSARS.  We need to care enough for a significant number to fight for the soul of this country whether as one united nation or fragmented units. 

Having said this, one wonders if the same Corona Virus had not restricted the level of activities of Nigerians with many centers of engagement like the markets, schools, offices not on limited capacity, would the #ENDSARS protests be possible?

There are two outcomes these protests could deliver: either it produces the required results that catalyse good governance and accountability or it loses steam and becomes another means of entertainment for the high number of unemployed youths especially since the venue of the protests provide all of the entertainment they require.  Whilst it is “good” to occupy streets daily, the protesters should also bear mind loss of income, loss of productive man-hours etc.  Rather the “movement” should migrate towards enlightenment programs on the need to exercise power through the ballot boxes and vote out bad leaders.  This is the time to create youth pressure groups that will monitor government processes and speak up.  Whether we believe it or not, no government will tolerate these protests longer than necessary.  The #ENDSARS protests should not be “overdone” but should rather translate or progress to pressure groups that will become the watchdogs of government.

Oluseye Arowolo is a tax adviser and writes on diverse topics in his pastime.  You can reach him by email: seyearowolo7@gmail.com

If I were Laycon and other Stories

Published on 10/10/2020

Life unravels in seasons. Thus, you hear there is a season for every purpose. We also love the underdog. Thus, one of the endearing and enduring tales of an underdog triumphing is David and Goliath. A story that Malcom Gladwell has revisited with new revelations in his 1 October 2013 book titled “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants“.

As humans, it is very normal to celebrate winners, to seek to identify with winners, to be seen in their company and share in their moments of triumph. So, failure is often said to be an orphan and losers treated like pariahs. Even now that I am writing on Olamilekan Moshood Agbeleshe professionally addressed as “Laycon”, it is because he won.

The story of BBNaija Lockdown Edition 2020 will be defined by Laycon and his extraordinary victory. The desire for him to win by Nigerians at home and diaspora especially brand influencers on social media has a lot to do with his humble background and circumstances.

Reflecting on how he has been thrust into sudden stardom, fame, celebrity status and being feted by all and sundry made me recall one of my past articles titled the, “Tragedy of Mismanaged Opportunities”, where I argued for balance and discipline because only very few people do not have one great moment in the sun of life and what you do with that opportunity often matters for a lifetime!

If I were Laycon, I would say this is my season and make the most of it.

If I were Laycon, I will be guided by what happened to previous winners who are no longer celebrated.

If I were Laycon, I will make sure I obtain competent technical and fundamental financial advice.

If I were Laycon, I will not indulge in binging on any pleasurable experience of living to my detriment.

If I were Laycon, I will remember that former heavyweight boxing champion Larry Holmes squandered over $100m within two years of retirement visiting expensive restaurants with a large retinue of hangers on.

If I were Laycon, I will remember that in 2004 December former heavyweight boxing champion Iron Mike Tyson could not afford a meal of $5,000!

If I were Laycon, I will remember that the bigger they get the harder they fall.

If I were Laycon, I will remember that it is easier to destroy than to build; to scatter than to gather; to waste than to conserve; to fritter than to manage.

If I were Laycon, I will remember Yinka Ayefele’s admonition: ohun ti aye ba so e da o, niwon a fi bu e bo ba di ola…(people can use the same achievements for which they praise you to villify you).

The Priest and Presidency Tango

That was how the priest class picked up the restructuring chant during the week requesting President Muhammad Buhari to give it a thought. The argument generally is that there can be no unity, peace and progress without equity, fairness and social justice in the light of alleged nepotism, fulanisation agenda and non-Pan Nigerian interest.

But why am I not surprised by the response from the presidency? It takes a certain quality of leadership to appreciate the problems of the day and provide the requisite solutions. Unfortunately those lending their voices to the restructuring agenda are belated converts who are already tainted, who opposed restructuring when they had leverage to make the change they are now clamouring for or identified with the government of the time to thwart the restructuring campaign or generally connived to deceive the nation. Even then, does PMB look like Mikhail Gorbachev to anyone?

Whatever the sense in which the restructuring agenda is being canvassed, for me the greatest tragedy at 60 years of independence is the issue framed by Sanusi Lamido Sanusi at the launch of the book, titled ” Nigeria, Africa’s failed  Asset” written by Chief Olaniwun Ajayi:

“The Colonialists came, put that together and said it is now called the Northern Nigeria. Do you know what happened? Our grand fathers were able to transform to being Northerners. We have not been able to transform to being Nigerians. The fault is ours.  Tell me, how many governors has South West produced after Awolowo that are role models of leadership? How many governors has the East produced like Nnamdi Azikiwe that can be role models of leadership? How Many governors in

the Niger Delta are role models of leadership? Tell me. There is no evidence statistically that any part of this country has produced good leaders…The problem is: everywhere in this country, there is one Hausa, Ibo, Yoruba and Itshekiri man whose concern is how to get his hands on the pile and how much he can steal.  Whether it is in the military or in the civilian government, they sit down, they eat together. In fact, the constitution says there must be a minister from every state.

So, anybody that is still preaching that the problem of Nigeria is Yoruba or Hausa or Fulani, he does not love Nigeria . The problem with Nigeria is that a group of people from each and every ethnic tribe is very selfish. The poverty that is found in Maiduguri is even worse than any poverty that you find in any part of the South.  There are good Yoruba people, good Igbo people, good Fulani people, good Nigerians and there are bad people everywhere. That is the truth. “Stop talking about dividing Nigeria because we are not the most populous country in the world. We have all the resources that make it easy to make one united great Nigeria . It is better if we are united than to divide it.  Every time you talk about division, when you restructure, do you know what will happen? In Delta Area, the people in Warri will say Agbor, you don’t have oil. When was the Niger Delta constructed as a political entity? Ten years ago, the Itshekiris were fighting the Urobos. Isn’t that what was happening? Now they have become Niger Delta because they have found oil. After, it will be, if you do not have oil in your village then you cannot share our resources.  There is no country in the world where resources are found in everybody’s hamlet. But people have leaders and they said if you have this geography and if we are one state, then we have a responsibility for making sure that the people who belong to this country have a good nature. So, why don’t you talk about; we don’t have infrastructure, we don’t have education, we don’t have health. We are still talking about Fulani. Is it the Fulani cattle rearer or is anybody saying there is no poverty among the Fulani?”

Finally, whatever a society rewards is what it values. This reminds me of the situation of the man who found a briefcase containing $1m and located the owner to return this to him and the only thing that the then President could do to reinforce the value of honesty in the Nigerian society was to give him a handshake and no more. This is a significant loss of opportunity to demonstrate symbolically that our society values integrity. This is a very sad commentary.

A social media commentator puts the matter in focus as follows: if Naira Marley is the representative of the youth that the NPF chose to dialogue with on the SARS issue, Naira Marley and not Olaoluwa Hallowed, the youngest PhD holder in Africa; if Laycon is now the youth ambassador in Ogun state, with a three bedroom flat and 5 million naira to flex with. Laycon and not the best graduating student in OOU; if Gani Adams is the one leading a group to demand Oduduwa Republic on behalf of all Yoruba. Gani Adams and not Wole Soyinka our own Nobel laureate; then these three seemingly unrelated events clearly underscore where we are as a country, where our priorities lie and what’s important to us. Clearly it is not education. No matter how much schooling you’ve garnered under your belt, it is irrelevant in our society. Any wonder why the children of today are not really interested in education?”

Our society surely needs the kind of balance that ensures everyone’s role is properly appreciated and rewarded.

“Assuming without conceding that 3 bedroom bungalow costs N25 million plus N5million cash, that is costing Ogun State government tax payers’ money N30 million on the so call ‘Laycon’ after BBNaija has given him N85 million plus other benefits, TV rights etc, the governor of Ogun State is busy paying somebody who has already been paid more than enough instead of using the occasion of Teachers’ Day to roll out palliative care for Ogun teachers and students.  How come the youths will like to read, be focused and committed to their studies when they are watching all this? All of them want to go in for Multina Dance, Project Fame, BBNaija or Yahoo Mega Plus scam because they know it is the easy way to wealth without hard work and much ado”.

We can only reap what we sow as a society. There is a season to plant and a season to reap. If any nation sows the wind, such a nation should not be alarmed when it reaps the whirlwind.

Oluseye Arowolo is a tax adviser and writes on diverse topics in his pastime.  You can reach him by email: seyearowolo7@gmail.com

Nigeria: Ironies of a toddler @60

Published on 03/10/2020

In many cultures of the world, attaining age 60 is a significant milestone.  Such anniversaries are often referred to as diamond celebrations.  Individuals would often use such a landmark age to reflect over the course of their lives and seek to judge how robust their preparations are for the next 40 years in the minimum.  Nations, like individuals may choose to engage similar reflections.  Obviously, this would depend on the quality of political leadership in such nations. 

I actually sympathise with President Mohammadu Buhari (PMB).  I know PMB “belongs to nobody”.  Many of the issues PMB’s administration is grappling with have foundations in the failed policy choices or implementation from previous administrations post-independence.  If the optimism and promise that heralded Nigeria’s independence in October 1960 were anything to go by, the capacity of the nationalists across the regions. The story of Nigeria at 60 should have been one of a modern nation doing great and mighty things having laid proper foundations for economic prosperity and opportunities for several unborn generations.  Alas, this is not the case!

Respected late South African leader and nationalist, the Madiba, Nelson Mandela, had harsh words for the ruling class of the country the entire black race once looked up to for leadership when he captured his frustration and disappointment with Nigeria thus:

“You know I am not very happy with Nigeria. I have made that very clear on many occasions. Yes, Nigeria stood by us more than any nation, but you let yourselves down, and Africa and the black race very badly.  Your leaders have no respect for their people.  They believe that their personal interests are the interests of the people. They take people’s resources and turn it into personal wealth. … I cannot understand why Nigerians are not angrier than they are.  What about the corruption and the crimes? Your elections are like wars.  Now we hear that you cannot be president in Nigeria unless you are Muslim or Christian. Some people tell me your country may break up. Please don’t let it happen.”

The prospects of Nigeria for enduring greatness for Nigerians and the “Black race” at large were blighted by the greed of the political elites as well as by connivance and collaboration of the intelligentsia and the priest class.  The Late Ola Rotimi would be quick to remind us, “the gods are not to blame”. If Nigeria will ever grow up and fulfil its potentials or remain lame or a toddler at 60 and beyond, is in the hands of Nigerians. 

Political leadership is about people. This is in turn about access to and the cost of basic needs for the people.  Thus, the very simplistic parameter that citizens use to measure the performance of any government or political administration is the economy and what has happened or is happening to their pockets. No high sounding explanation on macro-economic indices inflation and exchange rate, for instance, will mean much to such citizens.

The Legatum Institute is the institute that devotes itself to measuring the prosperity of nations in the world.  In their most recent Prosperity Index, out of 142 countries of the world evaluated, Norway is said to be the most successful and prosperous nation.  Norway has been No 1 for 6 years consecutively. The United States of America is surprisingly No 10 in the list of these countries.  Two-thirds of the countries of Europe are in the top 30 of this list. That is a continent. United Kingdom is 13th and Germany is 14th. 

According to their survey, the two vital components of a successful country are: (1) the health of the Citizens and (2) the happiness of the citizens.  If a country is wealthy and powerful but its citizens live short, hurtful and unhappy lives, can anyone adjudge such a country as really or truly successful?

In relation to Nigeria, we can quickly ask after 60 years, what is the state or condition of our healthcare delivery systems? How many of our people can afford to take care of themselves health wise? How many of our Citizens are truly happy in Nigeria? If the President of Nigeria were to demand a referendum on how many of our adult citizens would like to continue to live in Nigeria, would the whole adult population not opt out of Nigeria? 

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states that the primary purpose of government is the security and welfare of the citizens. A government’s basic functions are to provide leadership, maintain order, provide public services, national security, economic security, economic assistance and generally create enabling environment for the citizens’ self-actualisation.  To build a nation therefore security, food, shelter and basic services must be provided first or taken for granted by citizens in terms of their availability and affordability.  Japan and Germany are best examples of nations built on relative socio-economic equality.  The gap between the “haves and the have nots” is not a gulf. Not as far apart as the East is far from the West or the distance between heaven and the earth.   Nigeria’s ranking on the Inequality index at 60 is 157/157.  3 out of 5 Nigerians live in poverty. 

On October 1, many Nigerians look to the Presidency for a Presidential address that would encourage and assuage their anxieties for the present and future.  The general feeling was one of disappointment in the tone and content of the President’s Independence Day speech.  There were questions and perceptions of nepotism, fulanisation agenda, business as usual in relation to corruption and others begging for answers (which did not come through) that can help to repair the fragile relationships amongst the major and minor ethnic groups in the “geographical expression” called Nigeria. 

At 60, Nigerians are not happy with the “scoreline’ or the report sheet of the nation.  More importantly, most Nigerians are not particularly convinced that the “next level” change in approach, strategy, or tactics will bring the transformation that is desperately required across every facet of national life.  What is surely unchanging is that if we keep doing things in the same way, we will be doomed to get the same results. 

“What do we need to change? How do we effect this change? How are we changing the systems, the processes and practices that have hindered our evolution as united Nigeria? How are we developing and empowering institutions of governance? How are we ensuring that the real “best” among us are serving at the political levels since no one can give what he does not have?” become  relevant questions so that our narrative at 70 and beyond may be different. 

Oluseye Arowolo is a tax adviser and writes on diverse topics in his pastime.  You can reach him by email: seyearowolo7@gmail.com

Hypocrisy of Victory

Published on 26/092020

When Major General Alabi Isama (Rtd) wrote the book titled the “Tragedy of Victory”, it was not simply to expose the outright lies or half-truths documented by General Olusegun Obasanjo in his book “My Command” (that would be too cheap) but to lament the undeniable evidence that the “labours of our heroes past” to forge a united, peaceful and progressive country may actually be in vain already.  

Many lovers of this “great” nation have died without seeing their dream country materialise in their lifetime.  One can imagine the frustration that seized hold of the Late Chinua Achebe and impelled him to write his epilogue, “There was a country” after the prologue in which he identified “ The Trouble with Nigeria” without any remarkable intervention by successive political administration in Nigeria to confront this “trouble” and resolve it for the benefit of the nation.

The frustrations of genuine nation builders have been well captured and analysed by Ayi Kwei Armah in the book titled; “The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born” in the examination of gnawing corruption, embezzlement, nepotism, befuddlement, that grip the whole society: the socio-political, economic and moral degeneration 60 years after independence.  The dominant “gleam” in our society today are the “luxuries of life that carry with it the moral condemnation of comfort achieved at the expense of other people’s hardship”. 

It is no longer news that Godwin Obaseki won the recent Edo State governorship elections amidst so many intrigues and political maneuvers between the ruling APC and the challenging PDP.  A subplot to the victory is the alleged resistance of “godfather politics”.  In the ensuing narrative after Godwin Obaseki was declared the winner, he opined that the “people have spoken”. 

It is the ease with which politicians abuse or pervert reference to “the people” that has remained, in my view, one of the polemics of “Democracy” as a system of government.  Whilst the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln spoken at Gettysburgon 19 November 1863 “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth” have often been adopted as capturing the whole essence of Democracy as a system of government, the slippery nature of the word “the people” is a concern. 

Thus, when you say “of the people”, which people are you referring to? Or when you say “by the people”, which people exactly? And when you say “for the people”, do we really mean the same thing? To what extent does the word “people” really qualify the masses when used by our politicians? Or Is this just mere window dressing or ego massaging of the masses and the real people are those in the cycle of looting, the cronies, the contractors and other classes proximate enough to benefit and shore up an unjust system?

The “hypocrisy of victory” in Edo State gubernatorial elections (to make a parody of that title from Major General Alabi Isama’s book) is the exchange, replacement or supplanting of one godfather for another.  The “hypocrisy of victory” is for the masses in Edo and beyond to think what just happened is victory for them.  It is important to assert that if Pastor Ize Iyamu had won, he would have equally preached that the “people have spoken” and again, we would wonder which people are these?! For the sake of argument, let us assume that the ordinary masses of Edo actually spoke, within which electoral system did they speak? What institutional arrangements are or need to be in place such that they can speak again in 4 years’ time as eloquently as they did in 2020 and not become muffled because Obaseki has consolidated power and become the “reigning godfather”?

With regards to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT), I have witnessed the several trolls against him on social media by those who think that politics and its elements exist in black and white.  Such people have forgotten that 1 + 1 is only equal to 2 in Base 10.  Once you change the base of the addition, 1+1 will no longer give you 2. 

The situation that BAT has found himself presently reminds me of an incident in 1985. 

In 1985, when General Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) took over the reins of power, he did all his best to befriend or court Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s fellowship, participation and investment in his administration.  However, the late sage blessed with the prescience of a prophet, distanced himself from IBB and declared that we may have seen the end of democracy. 

The media took on IBB and asked him why he had devoted time and effort to chase Chief Obafemi Awolowo.  He was aghast he could not believe that a journalist would not know the obvious answer. Well, he dignified the question with this famous statement: “Awo is the main issue in Nigerian politics”.  The antecedents of Chief Awolowo speak for him.  He did not become an issue by lazing about. He worked very hard and applied the gifts providence blessed him with in making himself formidable. 

Although not necessarily comparing BAT to Chief Obafemi Awolowo (that I have even mentioned this incident in this context is a travesty on the venerable sage; Chief Obafemi Awolowo is simply incomparable with any Nigerian politician living or dead), it is an undeniable fact today in Nigeria’s political firmament that BAT is the issue.  I do not know how we read the politics of Nigeria but it is apparent to me that we all need to avoid the pitfall of the single story or one-sided narrative.  If anyone would be fair, it would be necessary to probe how and why BAT got to become the issue in Nigeria’s politics.  It would also be necessary to eschew or separate “animal sense” when evaluating the narratives around the “Jagaban Borgu”. 

Whilst the daggers are drawn against BAT, I do not think the current system leaves him any other strategy to contend with his many enemies.  The way the Nigerian political class play politics, the various barriers to entry make some particular alternative options useless if you are the only one trying to adopt such options.  It is trite that every great destiny naturally attracts great opposition.  It is animal sense to revel in the hypocrisy of victory.  Apologies to Fela Anikulapo Kuti (the Strange One – Abami Eda) in Beast of No Nation (BONN).

Oluseye Arowolo is a tax adviser and writes on diverse topics in his pastime.  You can reach him by email: seyearowolo7@gmail.com

Which way Nigeria?

19/09/2020

Permit me to borrow the title of this weekend’s write-up from one of the works of the late Pan Africanist and renown revolutionary singer, Sonny Okosun, his 1984 masterpiece got me thinking once more about Nigeria and set the tone for today’s engagement with you all.

No doubt a lot has happened this week which may have grave implications for the political economy of this country.  There is the forthcoming Edo elections with all the usual shenanigans of the political class, their cronies and pretended followers which reflect that we have hardly learnt any lessons from previous electoral cycles or simply have scant regard for the law of sowing and reaping.  It is whatever we sow, that we will reap. 

There is also the state of our union as a Federation and the view that Nigeria is more divided now than at any time.  A number of groups promoting sectional interests have been gearing up to conduct public rallies by 1 October 2020, Nigeria’s Independence Day.  Some have even dared to challenge law enforcement agents to stop them from conducting the open rally. 

The mood of our nation remains very grim and bleak at the moment.  No other person than Professor Wole Soyinka, the fabled and famous “Kongi” has helped to capture this grim mood of the nation in the message titled, “Between Dividers-in-Chief and dividers-in-law” thus: “I embrace the responsibility to call attention to any accurate reading of this nation from whatever source, as a contraption teetering on the very edge of total collapse.  We are close to extinction as a viable comity of peoples, supposedly bound together under an equitable set of protocols of co-habitation, capable of producing its own means of existence and devoid of a culture of sectarian privilege and will to dominate”

Kongi has earned the right to be listened to not because of being Africa’s first Nobel laureate in Literature but because of his dogged commitment to social justice.  He is often fondly referenced as “Ko se pa, ko se kan loogun i.e. you cannot kill him, you cannot enchant him.  He was the first person to write off his generation in 1984 as a wasted generation.  “I compare today with dreams and aspirations we had when we all rushed home after studies abroad. We considered ourselves the renaissance people that were going to lift the continent to world standards, competitors anywhere.  It has not happened.  After a quarter of a century of witnessing and occasionally participating in varied aspects of social struggle in all their shifting temporal dimensions, pragmatic and sometimes even ideologically oriented goals, I feel at this moment that I can only describe my generation as the wasted generation, frustrated by forces, which are readily recognisable, which can be understood and analysed but which nevertheless have succeeded in defying whatever weapons such understanding has been able to muster towards their defeats.” 

Even at that Kongi has remained in the trenches.  I have followed closely and have been inspired by the life and choices of Professor Wole Soyinka. I have been inspired by his dogged determination, selflessness and sacrifices in the pursuit of the emancipation of the masses of our people from the jackboots of maladministration, poverty, oppression, indignity in every form or manifestation. These were battles he had been involved in before I was born, during my youth and now that I am an adult he is still in the trenches today trying to create with other men of like minds, passions and spirits an egalitarian society wherein the providential blessings and endowments in human and natural resources that Nigeria possesses would be fairly and equitably accessed and not just for those who think they are born to rule. 

Nigeria’s problem has remained not only a failure of character and value but an abiding lack of will to find the right formula to form a modern multi-ethnic democratic nation.  In 2020, curiously enough, “Which Way Nigeria?” remains not just a song but an abiding relevant question left with us by the Ozzidi King, Sonny Okosun, as an evergreen commentary on the condition of the Nigerian State. 

Which way nigeria is heading to, Many years after independence, We still find it hard to start

How long shall we be patient still we reach the promise land; Lets save Nigeria, So Nigeria wont die

Which way Nigeria is heading to, Inefficiency and indiscipline is ruining the country now, Corruption here there and every where

Inflation is very high, Lets save Nigeria, So Nigeria wont die

Which way Nigeria heading to, Our ambition to become millionaires is ruining the country down, We all want to be millionaires we want to leave in the earth, Lets save Nigeria, So Nigeria wont die

Sonny Okosun died in 2008.  It is interesting that the album was released in 1984 the same year Prof Wole Soyinka described his generation as “wasted”! 

The real tragedy is that Nigerians especially the masses at the grassroots think and act as if to realise the Nigeria that works for all we will not need to change our attitudes and the quality of those we elect into power.  Presently, “men and women of poor character, low values and tunnel visions” whose god remains their belly have continued to find their way to power and their collective incompetence has perpetuated the tyranny of poor governance.  Whilst it is possible to argue that Nigeria remains like this because the citizens have either not shown the aggression required to demand accountability or are self-seeking hoping that one day they will be opportune to benefit from the current arrangement, I am always of the view that the responsibility of the leader is to transform his people, society and country to ensure a much better narrative and experience for all. 

If Kongi had the audacity to describe his generation as wasted and this in 1984 (and as I asked last week, what has changed?), how then should we describe my generation?  I was a mere 10 year old in 1984.  It is trite that Nigeria’s problem has been one of absence of committed, capable and competent leadership.  And whilst this is so glaring, political profiteers naturally have failed, refused or neglected to institute appropriate reform to fine-tune the recruitment of worthy or better candidates via the electoral system. 

This present situation therefore calls to mind the wordings of one of the hymns from the Anglican Orthodoxy,

“By whom shall Jacob now arise? For Jacob’s friends are few; and what should fill us with surprise – they seem divided, too

 By whom shall Jacob now arise? For Jacob’s foes are strong, I read their triumph in their eyes, They think he’ll fall ere long.
 By whom shall Jacob now arise? Can any tell by whom? Say, shall this branch that withered lies, Again revive and bloom?
 Lord, thou canst tell—the work is thine, The help of man is vain— O Jacob now arise and shine, And he shall live again

Oluseye Arowolo is a tax adviser and writes on diverse topics in his pastime.  You can reach him by email: seyearowolo7@gmail.com

Has Anything Changed?

Published on 12/09/2020

By next month, October 1 precisely, Nigeria will be 60 years.  Civilian democracy will be 21 years old.  As Nigerians, we tend to wonder if those in government truly care.  As expected, the various increases in electricity tariff, pump price of fuel and reduction in interest rate on savings are still causing ripples in the economic calculations and projections of individuals and corporations operating in the different sectors of the economy.

Questions have remained for many born post-independence as what exactly has been the gain of being a Nigerian. For those of us approaching 50, we have only experienced limited or no golden moments of national implications. Mostly, we have suffered and often had to live under an ever progressively declining micro and macroeconomic environment.  For instance, unemployment rate is 27.1% presently.  Poverty is 3 out of 5 Nigerians. 

Whilst Nigerians are not blind nor insensitive to appreciate the enormity of the challenges facing the country, what they cannot shake off is the broken trust between the leaders and the led.  “Trust is like a mirror (which) once broken you never look at in the same way.”  Chief Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo captured our plight in his inaugural address of 29 May 1999 when he said, “You have been asked many times in the past to make sacrifices and to be patient. I am also going to ask you to make sacrifices, and to exercise patience. The difference will be that in the past sacrifices were made and patience exercised with little or no results. This time, however, the results of your sacrifice and patience will be clear, and manifest for all to see”[1].  At the end of his two terms as President, Nigerians were still asking what changed and searching for the elusive dividend of democracy in their general wellbeing.  Same question is being asked of the incumbent administration that promised “change” in 2015 and took the change to “Next level” in 2019.  Alas, if the previous years have continued to be better than the present, then what has changed?

A nation where the citizens have continued to look to the past (chequered or glorious) with nostalgia has clearly not changed.  Nigerians want to believe.  Nigerians want to pay the price for socio-economic development.  Nigerians want to give it what it takes but when they are fasting and the leaders are revelling in merry making, it becomes inevitable that they will become demotivated.  They wonder why under an administration that makes anti-corruption a cardinal policy, incidence of mindboggling corruption has not abated.  If Nigerians will believe again, adherence to the principle that the “State shall direct its policy towards ensuring fiscal responsibility and accountability to Nigerians” must be evidenced with tangible proofs and not by lip service.  Government across all levels can no longer continue to indulge in one-sided comparative to justify introduction and implementation of policies that impoverish the Nigerian. 

The Nigerian, whether employed or unemployed, conforms to the same general pattern of human motivations as identified by Abraham Maslow.  According to Maslow, the physiological needs (food, clothing and shelter) are the physical requirements for human survival and as such must be met first.  It is instructive that the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy in Chapter II of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria stipulates amongst others that,” The State shall direct its policy towards ensuring – that suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, reasonable national minimum living wage, old age care and pensions, and unemployment, sick benefits and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizens”.  The following aspirations have thus always been significant to a Nigerian:

  • how his capacity to be more productive would be considerably enlarged to the very utmost of which his natural talents are capable if fully developed;
  • how he would be better fed, better housed, better clad, better provided with the comforts of life; and
  • how his mental, psychological and physical potentials would be developed and the economic and political affairs of the country would be so planned and organised as to enable him to acquire and enjoy many of the good things of life in this life and not in heaven.

The Nigerian seeks a socio-economic and fiscal environment which enables him to satisfy his physiological needs.  For instance, he wants to be able to provide or obtain reasonable answers to such questions as:

  • what quality of life is he expected to enjoy pre or post having a family?
  • how long will he have to work to buy his first car?
  • how long will he have to work to be able to afford a decent shelter?
  • how long will he have to work to move from a rented apartment to an apartment of his own?

These are legitimate aspirations which should influence a re-evaluation of the socio-economic and fiscal environment of the Nigerian.  Without this, our frustration at the parlous state of infrastructure and social service delivery systems will continue to manifest in the almost perennial lamentation and agony by young and old, rich and poor, “Nothing works in this Nigeria” or to put it more directly in the language of the millennials, “Who Nigeria Epp?”

Oluseye Arowolo is a tax adviser and writes on diverse topics in his pastime.  You can reach him by email: seyearowolo7@gmail.com

Let Not Nigeria Break You

Published on 05/09/2020

Life, as we know it in terms of our routines, is gradually returning.  The government has approved the full opening of schools.  It has also approved a number of international airlines to land in Nigeria.  It is noteworthy that KLM, Air France and Lufthansa among others are not yet approved.  Commencement of international flight operations from Nigeria signify that Nigerians can resume their much-loved junketing.  Businesses are also taking cues from these actions to gradually return their employees to their respective offices or workplace environment.  Amusement parks, gyms and cinemas can open at half capacity.  Outdoor event centres can also reopen but bars and nightclubs still remain closed. 

Amidst all of these developments however are the more proximate issues of the hike in electricity tariff, pump price of fuel, DSTV subscription rate, inflation rate, unemployment rate and reduction of interest on savings in banks to1.25% from 3.75% with excruciating implications for the average Nigerian.  All in this past week. 

And so I was on the plane before the lockdown and scrolled through the “New Movies section” to find Creed II. I was already fascinated by Creed.  I marvelled at how you sometimes impact people with your actions unwittingly.  Sly, Sylvester Stallone and Ryan Coogler the writer director of Creed I are several generations apart.  Ryan’s father made him watch the Rocky series whilst growing up because the Dad was an ardent fan of Rocky.

Ryan saw an opportunity to extend the Rocky story and legacy further. And this is turning into another major box office wonder worldwide and a profitable franchise. The talk of Creed III is on as we speak. But this is not where I am going. 

It was what Drago’s manager said to Drago in the first fight between Drago and Creed (Michael B Jordan) that jolted me.  In the second round of the fight, before Drago came into the ring, his manager told him,” Creed is afraid…it is time to break him…” with that he pushed him into the ring as the bell for recommencement rang.  

To break Creed comprised of two powerful jabs to the rib cage which crushed Creed and he fell on the canvas writhing in pain. From that point Creed was gone as he could not come up with any motivation to stay in the game. I was jolted.  I suddenly remembered MC Hammer in “The blood” with Bebe & Cece Winans.  Track 4, MC Hammer crooned in his intro rap:

“I can’t let them break me and break me by the hour, I got the blood I need, I got the blood of Mr Power…”

I did not grab this fleeting surge from the subconscious until I got into the second movie, “I can, I will and I did”.

This was the story of a foster kid Ben who was bullied by fellow school mates into the path of an oncoming vehicle and he became paralysed.  Every attempt to revive him mentally and psychologically proved abortive. And one of the characters in the movie spoke, “his spirit is broken”. And like a flash bulb moment, the scripture buried in my subconscious erupted,” for a broken spirit, no one can bear”.

Life is like a refiner’s fire. It happens to us. It throws whatever it has got with full force at us whether or not we expect it, whether or not we bargain for it, whether or not we prepare for it; and that other one we like to complain about, whether or not we deserve it for good or for bad.

I instantly saw the wisdom in the admonition, “Guard your heart diligently for from it flows all the issues of life”…And “he who falls in the day of adversity, his strength is small”.

Our spirit is called the inner man. It is our greatest resource. Nothing must break this man. We know that betrayal, depression,  tragedy etc can break this man. We must not let this happen otherwise the will to fight on, the will to believe, the will to hope, the will to recover, the will to overcome etc is destroyed.

So in the rematch with Drago, Creed presented Drago with a different match. He showed better movement and greater confidence. Then Drago’s manager said, “break him again”…Two dirty but more powerful jabs to the rib cage again. Creed was on the canvas writhing in pain. But this time around he aroused his spirit beyond the pain barrier and saw himself winning. He came back up on his feet, forgot the pain and launched jabs after jabs on Drago. He won the rematch. 

Let not Nigeria break you!

Oluseye Arowolo is a tax adviser and writes on diverse topics in his pastime.  You can reach him by email: seyearowolo7@gmail.com

No Wonder! Check, your wall may have broken down

Published 29/08/2020

Trending for the better part of the outgoing week was the face-off between Chief Femi Fani-Kayode Jr and a Daily Trust newspaper reporter, Eyo Charles.  It was a press conference and the Daily Trust reporter wanted to know how Chief was taking care of his expenses in respect of the nationwide project inspection he took on personally.

But the reporter was more direct when he said, “who was bankrolling” Chief? This word was the trigger for Chief’s anger. He flipped his lid and went into an outburst for which he had to apologise subsequently.  He diminished himself greatly in the encounter.  He went overboard.  He was so high up but brought himself so low.  He showed himself a bully. 

This is a critical lesson for us all.  Honour is earned.  No matter who you are or what you have or where you are, if you are not regarded as honourable, you have nothing. 

My Yoruba people of the South Western part of Nigeria are wont to say that after riches, you need honour and if in the pursuit of riches, you found honour, embrace it because when you attain riches, you will still need honour.  No one should engage in acts or conduct that diminish his honour. 

We must also heed the admonition that “embarrassment” when it is looking for victims, it is those who already have honour or who deserve honour that he seeks as target.  We must therefore be sensitive enough to recognise banana peels. 

A colleague of mine once told me, “a time always comes in a person’s life when he must choose how he must live – the principles by which he intends to live going forward”.  This is important because “No wonder” whenever adopted is an exclamatory expression which can draw attention to a person’s heritage, root, descent or family background whether for good or for bad reason.  

In this day and age when the pressure to become rich (quick or die trying) or celebrated for a good or bad reason is on, and where those that value the morals of old or who can impart same have dwindled, and “remember the son of whom you are” has become a quaint admonition or those who should give it appear tainted already or not to “give a damn”, there is no better time than now to reinforce the fact that your root will always matter.

I recalled many years ago one of the descriptions of the Woolwich Head’cutter’ by the British media is that he was a British citizen of Nigerian descent.  Many felt that this was a veiled slight on Nigeria. But, then is this not the reason why wherever we are, we must “remember the son of whom we are”?

We remain the brand and value ambassador of our family, physical and spiritual. Do not engage in acts that will make the public wonder which family you came from, which school you attended; which places you worked, what training you had etc.

Omo ajanaku ki i yara, omo ti erin ba bi, erin ni jo, omo ti eya ba bi, eya naa ni jo (The child of the elephant resembles the elephant and that of the monkey resembles the monkey). This is the law of kind. By their deeds we shall know them and who they belong. 

Several years ago, I made a personal vow regarding my family name that if I cannot enhance it beyond where I met it, I will not erode it either. I can always ‘maintain to sustain’.’Ko ni to ri mi baje’ remains my slogan.  A good man will leave a good heritage for his children. Silver or gold I may not have…but a good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.  Sherry Argov said, “I thank my beautiful mother…because making her proud is still the reason I get out of bed in the morning”.  Sidney Poitier, the first black actor to win an Oscar said in an interview, “I live by a certain code; I have to ensure a certain amount of decency in my behavioural pattern.  I have to have that.”  There are so many worthy global examples like Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela, Mohammad Ali, Bruce Lee etc.  As I write there are contributions on the FFK saga which are unravelling his family’s heritage in Nigeria. 

We all remain the brand and value ambassador of our families, schools, workplace, etc no matter our achievements.  It is a responsibility we do not graduate from. Let us be careful not to indulge actions that provoke negative “No wonder”.  And to always remember that “a man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.  He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and … A person who does not control his temper is like a city whose wall is broken down”.

Oluseye Arowolo is a tax adviser and writes on diverse topics in his pastime.  You can reach him by email: seyearowolo7@gmail.com

Wake up! Death, not your reformer

Published 22/08/2020

The last relatable incident to Covid-19 was over 100 years ago.  This was the Spanish Flu of 1918.  Suspected cases were estimated at 500 million.  Number of deaths was put at between 17,000,000 – 50,000,000.  Period of ravage was from 1918 to 1920.  As at today, August 19 2020, worldwide Coronavirus cases are 22,306, 538; Deaths are 784,353 and Recoveries are 15,047,779.  Out of 6,474,406 active cases, 6,412,363 (99%) are in mild condition, 62,043 (1%) are serious or critical.  Advances in medical science, advances in information and communications technology and applications with better and greater relative access to health care facilities will help mitigate casualty rates at the proportion of the Spanish Flu. 

In Nigeria, there have been 49,895 confirmed cases, 37,051 recoveries and 981 deaths with the highest cases coming from Lagos (15,355 cases) with numbers from the Federal Capital Territory coming at a distant second at 4,730 cases.  It is interesting how the optimism of the early days of 2020 has evaporated globally, and every nation, corporation and individual is now only focused on one thing: survival; a situation which has made Jack Ma opine that if you survive 2020, then consider yourself to have made a profit.  Yet there is an irony I have witnessed in Nigeria with celebrated, dignitaries and top government functionaries who have succumbed to the cold hands of death from Covid-19 related complications.  There is no need to mention them, as their demise has been well publicised in the media. So you and I know some of these cases already. 

Death is always significant and always affects.  Effects for the departed, his circle of influence and humanity at large.  One fact is that it stridently reminds everyone of our respective appointment. In this dimension, death has been so free and fearless knowing fully well he cannot be avoided, and has no appeal to anything human or material.  If otherwise, so many of the “big men” would still be alive.  This is also why death is a leveller.  It does not discriminate between the rich or the poor.

Another effect is that it provokes an inquiry into how the departed lived; what did he stand for? What were his works, the choices and decisions and their impacts?  This latter effect often determines the reactions that attend the breaking news of anyone’s departure. And despite the injunction not to speak ill of the dead, it is usual that most are unable to contain their sorrow or excitement depending on how the departed touched their lives.  The letter from Chief Olusegun Obasanjo at the departure of Late Senator Buruji Kashamu (Esho Jinadu) would be a case in point.  I must quickly assert that how anyone lived and the perceptions therefrom are not absolute.  It is almost often that one man’s criminal is another man’s hero. 

There is this general feeling by some who seem to have ascribed some form of retributive justice to the Covid-19 scourge as it claims the life of one top functionary or another in a kind of “serves them/him right” indignation and blame for the parlous state of infrastructure and social delivery systems as well as depressing economic fundamentals in the country.  I last saw this kind of attitude in 1998.  June 8, precisely. I was then at the Nigerian Law School.  That evening the news broke that General Sanni Abacha had died.  The kind of jubilation and relief that news brought, till that date, remains unprecedented.  It was also the period the song “congratulations ore m’owo re wa (congratulations friend bring your hand for a handshake)” gained currency. 

We were moving from room-to-room in the hostel with excitement and the query, “have you heard?” with infectious and raucous joy because we felt that the expiration of the Late dictator would automatically pave the way for the installation of Late Chief MKO Abiola as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.  We were willing to be “on the march again” to bring back MKO “our Man”.  But that was not to be the case.  This would be a story for another day. 

Of concern for me, therefore, is the palpably erroneous thinking that Covid-19 or the death of the VIPs may signal a mind-set change in those privileged to manage the affairs of this country (across the three tiers of government, Federal, State and Local Government) and ensure economic transformation and equality of access to the Nigerian commonwealth by every demography of our population.  Social reform, political and economic transformation is not the focus of death operating via any outbreak of disease or infection. 

Death as a ‘person’ is an interesting study. It is almost unimaginable that there is a ‘person’ who has no other interest than his task.   He is not even ‘triangular’ like they used to say of the ‘Scripture Union (SU) members’ in those days.  Women do not ‘charm’ him.  He is the only ‘person’ that women whether voluptuous, gorgeous or skinny, with shapely lips and faces, shapely legs, long hair and the right contours have not been able to tempt. It is almost like he found women contemptuous.  He does not drink wine. He is satisfied with the blood he drinks.  He has no time for money and cannot be corrupted by it. He has no value system beyond killing his targets.  He appears to have ‘omni-present’ ability. If not, he does not experience a challenge in locating his targets. It is like there is a hidden, invisible ID number, or micro-chip or tracking device or GPS reader that announces everybody’s location to him.  He also appears to operate at a speed that is beyond that of light and intensity in achieving and executing his appointments in multiple locations at the same time.

Oh, what if death had other values than to kill? What if death had been a reformer? What if death had been interested in political, social and economic reforms?   All I would have done is to place a call to his hotline for the rescue of the nation from incompetent and corrupt politicians.  Death could have been encouraged to stage or initiate a ‘stealth’ operation (this is possibly saying the obvious since he operates in this manner routinely) to decimate political and economic oppressors so that incidence of poverty and diseases can be reduced in Nigeria and Africa at large.

Alas, death’s only interest is to make up his ‘kills’ count and strike targets off his hit list!   Nigerians wake up; death will not reform Nigeria for us!


Oluseye Arowolo is a tax adviser and writes on diverse topics in his pastime.  You can reach him by email: seyearowolo7@gmail.com

Reflections on International Youth Day

Published 15/08/2020

Wednesday, 12 August 2020, was the International Youth Day (IYD).  The IYD is an awareness day designated by the United Nations to draw attention to a given set of cultural and legal issues concerning the youths. 

The first ever International Youth Day was 12 August 2000.  The UN classifies young persons to be persons between the ages of 15 to 24 years of age.  Under the National Youth Policy adopted in 2009, Nigeria expanded the range to be between 18 to 35 years of age.  A number of programmes were initiated on Wednesday, 12 August 2020, nationwide by governments at all levels to commemorate the IYD.  I was privileged to attend and speak at one of such programmes. 

The IYD of 12th August 2020 provided a platform to review Africa’s and Nigeria’s youth challenge and look at whether or not the incumbent administrations across the tiers of government truly grasped the enormity of the challenge or have the capacity to resolve it. 

Africa has the largest concentration of youths globally.  65% of Africa’s population are below the age of 35 years.  In 15 Sub-saharan countries, 50% of the population is under the age of 18 years.  Africa’s youths in the world is forecast to rise to 42% by 2030.  This is in 10 years’ time.  Nigeria’s population is 2.64% of global population.  As at August 2020, Nigeria is estimated to have 206,139,589 people.  42.5% of Nigeria’s population is between ages 0-14 years (87,609,325).  88.2 out of 100 non-dependants are dependants.  This is a very high dependency ratio.  With unemployment currently standing at 33.5%, the spectre of dependency in the country becomes aggravated as many previously employed have lost jobs since the advent of the lockdown in March 2020 due to the spread of the Coronavirus disease.  Nigeria ranks 157/157 in the inequality index and 3 out of 5 Nigerians live in poverty. 

It is obvious that only a political, social and economic system that works can engage the youths of our nation.  It is an irony that despite the enormous human and natural resources that Nigeria possesses, the state of infrastructure and social service delivery systems in Nigeria has remained parlous resulting in the perennial lamentation and agony by young and old, rich and poo, “Nothing works in this Nigeria”. 

Nigerians both young and old do not feel valued.  There is the perpetual feeling of being short-changed in the country called Nigeria especially when they keep being bombarded with revelations of mindboggling embezzlement, financial misappropriation, economic crimes and corruption by the politicians etc relative to the potentials of the country. 

It is therefore very cheap for political leaders who are part of the problem to continue to regurgitate clichés that “the youths are the leaders of tomorrow” when the prevailing system is killing their dreams and aspirations; or that “Nigerian youths are lazy” when the system does not create the right opportunities or where it does, stunts their access to same.  It is also cheap for politicians to blame the youths solely for the uncharitable statistics on rape, cultism, advance fee fraud, obtaining by false pretences, narcotics, sex trafficking, illegal migration, cybercrimes etc. when the politicians have not been Spartan in their examples.  The reality is no society is without its deviants but it is cheap to ascribe the nefarious activities of a few in that class to define the whole demography.  It is a failure of the political and social systems if deviants thrive better than the non-deviants. 

There are 3 pillars of national development.  These are leadership, institutions and policy.  The most important of this three pillars and the one on which the other two depends is Leadership.  Leadership is a serious business.  And as such recruitment into this role should be defined by competence, capacity and commitment.  Leaders are appointed, selected or elected to provide solutions to the problems of their organisations or their society.  Incompetent leaders are killers. Indeed murderers. They kill dreams.  They kill aspirations.  If you let them, they can completely kill the future. 

A number of youth platforms or organisations were involved in the commemoration of the IYD and I have wondered what exactly have been their priorities.  What have been their role, activities or achievements in the pressure for good governance? Or have then reduced to mere foot soldiers of grandstanding politicians who know how to say the right things but will never focus their energies in making them a reality?

What values have they promoted within their communities that are symbolic enough for positive impact?  This is important because we are in a day and age where there appears to be collective loss of time-honored values of dignity in labour, accountability, transparency, contentment; where time honoured values have become supplanted by consumptive greed and rabid materialism; where the pressure to become rich (quick or die trying) or celebrated for good or bad reason is on; where those that value the morals of old or who can impart same have dwindled; and where “remember the son of whom you are” has become a quaint admonition and those who should render this admonition appear tainted already or no longer “give a damn”.

I was shocked to discover for instance that the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) was established in 1964, a whole 10 years before I was born and only heard of the organisation two weeks ago!

The path to restoration is for both the youths of Nigeria and those privileged to be in government to appreciate the size of the challenge the burgeoning youth population poses especially when situated against the estimation that Nigeria will be the 3rd most populous nation by 2050 just about 30 years from today.  There is need for more effective collaboration to invest in a system that works. 

The youths have the energy socially and physically; they are inquisitive, they have a “can do” mentality and attitude, they are compassionate, they are environmentally aware, they have digital footprints (regular social media users) etc.  Nigeria is presently in an avoidable wilderness as far as social and economic development is concerned and there is a dire need for forward thinkers.  Those who will be devoted, dedicated, diligent and committed to seeking and implementing effective solutions to Nigeria’s myriads of problems including the youths. 

Let me conclude with the words of Andrews Atta-Asamoa, “unless political leadership offers young people something to live for, social stresses can make them easy prey to those who offer them something to die for”

Oluseye Arowolo is a tax adviser and writes on diverse topics in his pastime.  You can reach him by email: seyearowolo7@gmail.com

Our National Comedy Series

Published 08/08/2020

On the 6th of August 2012, I posted on my Facebook wall, “Nigeria: A country of comedians in government”.  8 years after, neither the comedy nor the tragedy has abated.  Laughter is definitely good medicine in Nigeria (the country of the supposed happiest people on the earth) and that is why the stand-up comic sector keeps expanding with the entry of new acts almost on a daily basis.  Thus when the monstrous, the unbelievable, the incredible happens and you expect the most severe outrage from Nigerians, what you get are memes and plenty of GIFs on social media turning a serious issue of incompetent leadership into a comic relief of tragic proportions.

Take for instance the NDDC inquiry at the House of Representatives and the mindboggling revelations by the Minister of Niger-Delta, the enduring take away has been, “Honourable Minister, Off Your Mic…” and the fact that the acting Managing Director of NDDC “fainted” under the barrage of questions as an attempt to relieve the pressure and avert further embarrassment. 

One is not sure whether we are getting better or worse at these ridiculous cop out tactics.  At times one wonders at the veracity of such statements as,” the more things change, the more they stay the same”. 

Those of us who were nurtured on that famous Yoruba primary schools’ textbooks, “Alawiye” by the late venerable author, Joseph Folahan Odunjo, encountered many remarkable tales that you will naturally consider farfetched.  But not anymore with some of the “gymnastics” of the past 60 years from those who appear to have soiled their hands with the country’s patrimony. 

Until Andrew Yakubu and other distinguished suspects who buried money in overhead tanks, soak-aways and lately graveyards (“owo iboji” aye o!), the story of a man who hid significant amount of cowries in a pot and buried same in a farmland appeared preposterous at the time. These strange storehouses were effectively dramatized in Kemi Adetiba’s “King of Boys”.

The story of the tortoise who stole a measure of porridge and hid same under his cap and thereby scald his scalp making him bald, remained the kind of story restricted to the animal kingdom until Honourable Farouk Lawan stuffed his cap with a portion of the $600K he collected from Femi Otedola whilst keeping the remainder in his billowing babariga!

This is a tragedy of the Nigerian State where the man who picks the pocket of a fellow citizen for whatever reason is the “thief” and will languish in jail whilst his counterpart who has helped himself to billions in both local and foreign currencies is strutting about with impugnity running down the clock of an inquiry that will soon become a charade and lapse. 

This is an aspect of the problem I have recalibrated as, “Acquired Value Deficiency Syndrome (AVDS)”.  It is a disease that originated from the failure of government to engage in actions that make the citizens to appreciate that their welfare is the focus of government; that provides assurance that government is thinking about their problems/challenges and doing something to ameliorate their plight morning day and night.

This failure creates opportunities for those who play politics of intervention, politics of patronage, politics of deception, politics of the belly to enslave certain important but vulnerable segments of the society. It is AVDS that sustained Late Chief Adedibu’s brand of politics: “Amala Politics”; Ayodele Fayose’s “stomach infrastructure” and all those political coinages born out of greed for public purse but deceptively presented as love for the masses.

And whenever anyone engages in actions which reinforce a culture of perpetual dependence by the less privileged or the vulnerable class among our people, he is spreading AVDS.  So when you see anyone who has done what is agreed not to be right, engaged in gross misconduct or misbehaviour, shameful acts at local, state or national level but his relatives, kinsmen etc are carrying placards, placing advertorials in the newspapers in his support etc, this is AVDS. The whole nation is infected with this deadly moral disease. It is simply because of a failure of a system that cannot dispense justice, fairness and equity without reference to where a man comes from, who he is or what he is; a system where those who stage multi-billion naira frauds are granted judicial bails while pick pockets are jailed 50 years!

Oluseye Arowolo is a tax adviser and writes on diverse topics in his pastime.  You can reach him by email: seyearowolo7@gmail.com

Where Are You Now?

Published 01/08/2020

I was introduced to Emile Durkheim when I took an elective course in Sociology during my undergraduate days.  That was just yesterday. 

My fascination with Sociology is out of appreciation of the focus of its inquiry; which is society and its condition.  For instance, Durkheim’s seminal monograph, Suicide (1897) was a study of suicide rates in Catholic and Protestant populations. 

This pioneered modern social research and served to distinguish social science from psychology and political philosophy.  For his contributions to Sociology, he is considered the Father of Sociology.  In my view, Solomon would be his grandfather because of his seminal submissions in Ecclesiastes.

It is interesting how all of life’s achievements, qualifications, position, credentials, privileges, benefit, training, name it, are summed up in the question: “where are you now”?

Take for instance, you run into your classmates (which happens so frequently), after the usual exchange of felicitations/salutations and catching up on old days naturally this question surfaces “where are you now?”

It does not matter whether or not in times past you were not known to be the brightest, first class, 2’1, 2’2, 3rd class or pass!  Even the profession of faith is not shielded from exposure to this query. Imagine, you are boasting that you have known the Lord more than 10 years or more ago, the query must arise: “where are you now?” or when you point to someone and claim he is your boy, you may not escape the query: “where are you now?”

This question at times is a short hand for saying that the enterprise or transaction is about your current state and not storytelling as in tales by moonlight. 

Whatever the position you have occupied or your status in life (political, social, academic, spiritual etc), you must brace up to face this question always: “Where are you now?”

This is the summation of life’s struggles.

Oluseye Arowolo is a tax adviser and writes on diverse topics in his pastime.  You can reach him by email: seyearowolo7@gmail.com