Saturday Life Lines By Seye Arowolo

seye banner
A

Time Defeats Everyone

Time defeats everyone.  The expression “Father Time is undefeated” is famous in sports circle.  No matter how great or powerful anyone is, you get old and weak.  Thus, when Adonis asked Rocky Balboa, “if my father was that good, how did you beat him” Rocky answered, “Time beats him.   Time takes everybody out; time’s undefeated”.  Whatever it is, whoever you are, it will all and we all come to an end.  This is the sad reality of existence.  We are time-bound.  In time, we all come to an end.  A man born of woman is of few days said the holy scriptures.  A voice says, “Cry out!” And I asked, “What should I cry out?” “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flower fades.  Such is life. 

These were the musings on my mind when watching the retired General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) trying to reconstruct the history of the time in which members of my generation lived through.  I was in Junior Secondary School 1 at the Government College Ibadan when IBB in a palace coup snatched the reins of power in Nigeria from Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (as he then was) to set Nigeria on a course that it had never recovered from politically and economically from 1985 to 1993 when he famously claimed to “step aside”! 

He has had to use the occasion of his birthdays since that time to remind Nigerians that he is still around and this years was no different. He granted an exclusive interview to the Arise TV media team on Friday 6 August 2021 a week to his birthday which came up on Thursday, 12th August 2021.  However, on Wednesday, 11th August 2021, Mohammed Fawehinmi, the 52-year-old firstborn son of the Late Senior Advocate of the Masses and of Nigeria, Chief Gani Fawehinmi ( the lawyer and human rights activist) passed away.  Is this just coincidence or some quirks of fate? 

The Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi was a thorn in the flesh of the military adventurists in power during his lifetime.  According to The Independent newspaper of UK, Chief was fondly referred to as “the people’s lawyer” and “Senior Advocate of the Masses” who 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

Chief was the arch harasser and troubler of the IBB regime over the dastard and callous murder of the celebrated journalist Mr Dele Giwa.  Chief was determined to unravel the perpetrators of his murder and bring them to justice, a cause he pursued till his death. 

Many die without creating any whimper of national interest or reflection. As at Wednesday, 11 August 2021, 4.3 million deaths were confirmed globally from Covid-19 excluding deaths from other causes.  These are human beings who have died unsung, unlike Mohammed Fawehinmi.  Such was the legacy of his Father’s life and time that majority of Nigerians expressed sadness at the news of his death. 

His death again hangs like a dark cloud on the 80th birthday of his father’s arch antagonist, the retired General IBB.  I watched IBB during the Arise TV interview with sadness at his several missed opportunities for accomplished greatness and not as the Evil Genius that organised and truncated one of the freest and fairest presidential elections in Nigeria’s history. With his infamous annulment of that democratic transition, he embraced infamy, played himself out and “stepped aside” into darkness.

I attended the 70th birthdays of two respected and highly honourable gentlemen a few years ago.  In the case of the first man, I went through the birthday programme and did not see any picture of his very massive mansion; I did not see the picture of his Bentley; I did not see the picture of his wardrobe filled with clothes wristwatches, shoes, chains and other paraphernalia of “power dressing”.  Littering the birthday programme were pictures of the children at the many happy milestones of their lives: when they were born, when they first walked, at first birthday, age 5, in primary and secondary schools, at matriculation and graduation, at their weddings etc.  Then it struck me.  These are the real and true memories of life as a man, husband and father.  These are the memories and those of others you impact that no one will take away from you even death.  These fit snugly and compactly within the final resting place: the casket.  Life is that simple.  

In case of the second birthday, the realisation that the celebrant was 24 years before was my agemate hit me in the solar plexus.  It made me realise that in 24 years’ time I would also be celebrating my 70th birthday what then would I say I have lived for?  It became clearer to me that we must strive to live a life of positive impact. 

Majority of the people in my generation were exposed to the adverse consequences of the “maradonic” political manoeuvrings, social engineering and economic policy flip flops of the IBB years.  Many died out of depressions, others lost their businesses, their homes to collaterals and have not recovered to date.  Definitely, it will take their “church mind” to be able to have charitable feelings towards IBB and many of a kind. 

This is the struggle of many people with the apparent injustices and unfairness that attends the way the pendulum of life swings.  Many have wondered why those they perceived to be wicked continue to enjoy the good life till old age whilst those they have oppressed or those that could have changed that stories often die prematurely or never privileged.  This dilemma has provoked whether one should indulge in the unbridled pursuit of material prosperity at the expense of a good name or try to leave a good name.  Would you rather be IBB or an Obafemi Awolowo? Would you rather be Hushpuppi or Wole Soyinka/Chinua Achebe etc?

Yes, the collapse of values in our nation accentuated by material lack (which has made the country the poverty capital of the world) has projected the necessity for riches and material accumulation beyond living a life that speaks to integrity.  This abysmal and abnormal situation has resulted in subcultural slangs and slants that such as “who honesty/integrity/good name epp?”.  But then something in us always bring us back to those qualities that we appear to temporarily neglect.   We still come back to look at integrity.  We still ask somehow, “which Arowolo is yours”?   A good name is thus about “your reputation and the character you possess inside. It identifies who you are from a moral and ethical standpoint.  Essentially it is what you are all about”. 

Edward Joseph O’Hare, aka “Easy Eddie” (September 5, 1893 – November 8, 1939), was a lawyer in St. Louis and later in Chicago, where he began working with Al Capone, and later helped federal prosecutors convict Capone of tax evasion. In 1939, a week before Capone was released from Alcatraz, O’Hare was shot to death while driving. He was the father of Medal of Honor recipient Butch O’Hare, for whom O’Hare International Airport is named. 

This is not the real story.  The real story was what motivated him to assist the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Easy Eddie as he was fondly called had all the money he could ever dream of working with the Chicago Mafia.  But he was concerned with the legacy of life he would be passing on to his son.  He decided to cooperate with the FBI’s investigation into the Chicago Mafia.  Through his testimony, the FBI made critical arrests of the Chicago Mafia henchmen including Al Capone.  He helped the FBI knowing fully well that he would be killed.  And so, it was on 8 November 1939, he was gunned down in a hail of bullets.  He paid a very high price to give his son an example of a father he could be proud of. 

There was a man in the US Airforce during World War II.  He was in a Battleship called USS Lexington.  He took off with his squadron leader to fight the Japanese.  As they were fighting, he realised that someone on the ship forgot to fuel the tank of his fighter plane.  He was given permission to return to USS Lexington to and refuel.  On his way back he saw 9 Japanese bombers approaching the unsuspecting USS Lexington to attack it.  He was alone and those on the Battleship were oblivious of the looming danger.  He decided to attack the 9 Japanese Bombers. After a furious exchange of bullets, two of the Japanese Bombers crashed into the ocean leaving 7 Japanese Bombers. 

By this time, he had run out of bullets but still determined that he would engage the remaining 7 Japanese Bombers.  Whilst they kept shooting at him, he kept using the wings of his fighter plane to knock their wings till he downed three more Bombers into the ocean.  By this time, the 4 remaining Japanese Bombers had concluded that he was insane and decided to abandon their mission of destroying the USS Lexington.  At this time, those on the Battleship had become aware of the furious battle in the skies and witnessed the solo resistance by one of their own.  His name was Butch O Hare, the son of Edward J O’Hare (Easy Eddie).  It was after him that the O’Hare Airport in Chicago was named.  He was one of the greatest heroes in American history.  He was the first person in the US Airforce to be awarded the US Congressional Medal of Honor.  That is a strong foundation from Easy Eddie.  What are we giving our children? Are we giving them this quality of foundation. 

Power, material accumulation etc everything in life is transient.  Time defeats everyone.  Time defeats every status.  Time defeats every accolade.  I saw a news headline on Friday about the immediate past Chairman of FIRS.  The reporter noted, “once famed as the tax czar of Africa turned 65 years old on Thursday, 12 August and barely made much of his new age despite a deluge of congratulatory messages received”! 

Margaret Attwood in Moral Disorder & Other Stories concludes thus, “In the end, we’ll all become stories.”  We can influence the kind of stories we become.  After all, a man’s reputation is known at the end of his life.

It is still Saturday Life-lines.  Covid-19 is real.  Let us keep observing the relevant protocols always.  We will not be unfortunate in the many years we have left. 

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

Tunde Kelani’s ‘Ayinla’ As a Pandora Box

I have a feeling of déjà vu writing this column this weekend and on this subject.  The reason would soon unfold. 

Mr Tunde Kelani popularly known as TK, is a filmmaker, storyteller, director, photographer, cinematographer and producer, who is synonymous with quality movie productions in this part of the world.  That he was one of those who changed the face of Nigerian Cinema in this generation is an understatement.  Of course, the impact of the contributions of the Bruce Family in that transformation must be deferred till some other time. 

TK as fondly called has a highly recommended filmogragphy to his credit.  Between 1993 and 2015 he had about 15 movies to his credit.  Movies like “Ti Oluwa Ni Ile, Ayo Ni Mo Fe, Koseegbe, O le Ku, Saworo Ide, Agogo Eewo, Thunderbolt (Magun), White Handkerchief, Arugba, Maami, Campus Queen, etc.   

When it was rumoured that TK was working on a biographical movie and the subject of this movie is Alhaji Ayinla Omowura, I was excited beyond measure and there and then made up my mind that I would watch the movie once it comes to the cinemas.  I watched the movie on Wednesday, 21 July 2021, at the Genesis Cinemas, Maryland.

The reason for my excitement is that I have always thought that the Egunmogaji, the President of All musicians (President Akorin as he called himself in his album titled “25 X 40”) deserved this and more.  

About 8 years ago precisely, 9 August 2013, I attended a 3-Day International Conference programme organised by the Center for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC) with the theme: “D O Fagunwa – 50 Years On” in Akure.  The conference was organised by Ondo State Government in conjunction with CBAAC, Lagos; the D.O Fagunwa Foundation and the Fagunwa Study Group.  This conference attracted many dignitaries from within and outside Nigeria including late Fagunwa’s family members, academicians, politicians, literary icons and top government officials. 

Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, who was the keynote speaker, delivered a lecture on Fagunwa’s Forest Tapestry: Heroes, Heroics, Morals and Moralists in which he x-rayed the characters in some of Fagunwa’s books and linked them to the ills in our society today.  Other eminent personalities present actively provided multilateral perspective of Fagunwa’s works.

I left the programme filled with appreciation to the organisers for celebrating D O Fagunwa in this way and bringing his works to contemporary relevance.  I wanted a similar event to be organised for Alhaji Ayinla Omowura and pondered in my mind: when or who will do the same for him?  That day I wished the organisers would think of moving in that direction.

I was still 6 years old when Alhaji Ayinla Omowura died on 6 May 1980. However, many of his songs that I listened to in.my adolescent years made me picked interest in him and sought more information about his approach to music.  Alhaji had many aliases and earned the moniker, Hadji Costly because of his flamboyant dressing in agbadas made of high quality Swiss lace and gold jewellery.  His other aliases include Egunmogaji, Anigilaje, Omo Wuramotu, Alujannu Elere and Agbejapa Oba, which demonstrated his status as the enfant terrible in music of the time.

Waidi Ayinla Yusuf Gbogbolowo better known as Ayinla Omowura was a Nigerian Apala musician born in Itoko, Abeokuta in 1933.  Alhaji Ayinla Omowura was the son of Yusuff Gbogbolowo, a blacksmith, and Wuramotu Morenike.   He did not have formal education and started out working at his father’s smithy but left and went on to working several jobs as a driver, butcher, carpenter and bus park boy.   He was however discovered by Adewole Alao Oniluola, who later became his lead drummer and started an apprenticeship in Olalomi, an Apala variant.  

Alhaji Ayinla Omowura was enlightened about current events and had a command of puns, proverbs innuendos and metaphors. He was a social commentator, critic as well as a moral instructor.  He often served as a mouthpiece for passing on government policies to the masses and was also a messenger of the masses back to the government.

In my view, there are three factors that contribute to the success of our musicians in Nigeria.  And when I say musicians, I am not referring to those who recycle songs in “owambe” parties.  I am referring to those who go to studios and release albums consistently.  Of course “consistency” is now under pressure as some release one annually, in two years or longer.  

Whatever the case may be, the first factor is the musician’s power of composition. I am aware that these days there are song writers who offer the musician their composition.  But, a musician worth his salt must also be able to compose himself to avoid being held hostage.  How prolific the musician is therefore matters.  Alhaji Ayinla Omowura released 22 Long Play albums (LPS) between 1972 to 1980. 

The second factor is a good band. In this we are talking of band members that can key into the vision of the musician for the arrangement of the song, the beats/percussions and rhythm.  A very good example of this factor is Alhaji Kollington Ayinla who brought in new band members and went on to deliver a series of evergreen records  between 1990 and 1996 such as American Yankee, Fuji Ropopo, Ijo Yoyo, Fuji Megastar, Lakukulala, Arewa etc. 

The third factor is a solid record/production label with an effective promotion platform.  The impact of a solid record/production label can be illustrated by what Kennis Music did to transform the lives of many of the younger Hip Hop, R&B etc musicians of this generation. 

Alhaji Ayinla Omowura was unparalleled when it comes to dexterity in composition and style. How he evolved his style or came about it was a polemic I was looking to be answered through TK’s “Ayinla” movie. Up till now, his style of Apala, which was a fast paced, fast tempo rhythm and beat remains relevant with a very contemporary appeal. 

TK’s “Ayinla” movie did not seem to offer an insight into this polemic. It did not also appear to provide the context for why the musicians of that era leaned on Spiritual advisors from traditional religion practices and as such may have inadvertently portrayed “Ayinla” as naturally fetish person.  

Regardless, Ayinla Omowura was a gifted and very talented musician.  I am not very sure any metaphysical or astral support can take anyone that far without having an underlying musical talent.  Indeed, legend has it that whenever Ayinla Omowura was about to release his album, his fans comprising mostly of artisans close work early on that day to be where they would listen to Ayinla’s new album release first hand. 

So why do I think TK has opened a Pandora’s box”? I must quickly say that this expression is not original to me. It was uttered by the no less honourable gentleman Dr Christopher Kolade when yours truly led a team of my classmates to interview him for our Legends of GCI Interview Series project.  He is an alumnus of Government College Ibadan (GCI); veteran broadcaster and one-time Director–General of the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation; Chief Executive and Chairman of Cadbury Nigeria Plc and formerly the Nigerian High Commissioner to The United Kingdom among many other positions.  He told us that the project we embarked on is epic and at the same time we are opening a Pandora’s box; because for him, there is no GCI Old Boy of their generation that was not a legend!

The movie “Ayinla” and its memorial essence has therefore made me ask: how and who will tell the stories of many other credible and illustrious Nigerians pre and post independence. Where do you even start? And this is where I may have to borrow something from Alexander Abolore Adegbola Akande, popularly called 9ice, a Nigerian musician, songwriter and dancer, who is known for his powerful use of the Yoruba language in his music as well as his proverbial lyrics and unique style of delivery.

His track titled “Street Credibility”, and where he asserted that “the most street credible” people come “out of Naija” is instructive for the potential list of people that may be in the “pandora’s box” waiting for their stories to be told. 

Wole Soyinka, the Nobel Lauraeate – out of Naija

Chinua Achebe, the literary icon – straight from Naija

Chimamanda Adichie, literary golden child – out of Naija

Fela Anikulapo Kuti (abami Eda, the strange one) – out of Naija

I.K. Dairo (MBE) – straight from Naija

Victor Abimbola Olaiya – Out of Naija

Laolu Akins (Opa Aje, Winds Against My Soul) – straight from Naija

Wale Ogunyemi (BBC Radio Theatre)– out of Naija

Wale Akinwale (BBC Radio Theatre) – straight from Naija

Bode Sowande (the Flamingoes) – out of Naija

King Sunny Ade (68th best guitarist in the world) – straight from Naija

Apostle and First General Evangelist Joseph Ayo Babalola –out of Naija

Apostle Moses Orimolade – straight from Naija

Pastor Adeboye – out of Naija

Bishop Oyedepo – straight from Naija

Archbishop Benson Idahosa – out of Naija

Pastor Tunde Bakare – straight from Naija

Pastor W.F. Kumuyi – Out of Naija

Prophet Obadare – straight from Naija

King Jaja of Opobo – out of Naija

King Ovoramwen – straight from Naija

Reverend Ajayi Crowther – out of Naija

William Sapara – straight from Naija

Rotimi Williams – out of Naija

Akintola Williams – – straight from Naija

Mrs Olufunmilayo Kuti – out of Naija

Chioma Ajunwon – – straight from Naija

Bolanle Awe – out of Naija

Dick Tiger – – straight from Naija

Obafemi Awolowo – out of Naija

Moshood Kashimawo Abiola – straight from Naija

Aliko Dangote – out of Naija

Ayodele Awojobi – straight from Naija

Ojetunji Aboyade (the economist) -out of Naija

Hogan Bassey – straight from Naija

And so on and so forth…(you are free to add)

Who will tell their stories?  This is why TK has opened the Pandora’s Box.  In any event, there are always lessons to learn from stories of from the lives of those that have gone ahead of us.  From “Ayinla” one can learn about dedication to one’s craft, need for innovation, the need for discipline when it comes to the matters of the flesh and from the circumstances of his death, a reminder that those who cannot milk the dairy can overturn the bucket of milk ( awon eni ti ko le fun wara, won le da wara nu) and also when you know that you put on a white apparel avoid a muddy place (aso funfun lo wo jinna si alabata) and if you know you are carrying palm oil , avoid the stony place ( to ba gbe epo lori jinna si oniyangi).

It is still Saturday Life-lines.  Covid-19 is real.  Let us keep observing the relevant protocols always.  We will not be unfortunate in the many years we have left. 

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

Abba Kyari’s Feet of Clay and Other Stories

Published on 31/07/2021

For those who know or have heard of DCP Abba Kyari and his exploits, it was rude shock mixed with sadness when the news broke that he had been implicated by Ramon Abbas aka Hushpuppi.  You would recall that Ramon Abbas who was arrested in Dubai, the United Arab Emirate (UAE) in June 2020 and repatriated to the U.S. to face trial, recently pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering involving the proceeds of the fraud and other schemes that have been uncovered against him by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  This offence attracts maximum imprisonment of 20 years with full restitution and other punishments. 

It was how DCP Abba Kyari’s name could come up in Hushpuppi’s narrative that has been heart rending.  DCP Abba Kyari has been regarded as a “supercop” in the Nigerian Police.  Some of his accolades include Triple IGP Commendation Medal for Courage 2012, 2013 and 2014; Africa’s best Detective of the Year 2018, Best Police Officer of the Decade Award, and Presidential Medal for Courage 2016. 

No doubt, DCP Abba Kyari is a fine police officer notwithstanding the current allegation by Hushpuppi.  It is expected that the investigation ordered by the IG would either validate Hushpuppi’s claim or vindicate DCP Abba Kyari’s denial.  Life is surely full of ups and downs and you cannot go through life and not face some shaking.  One can only hope that DCP Abba Kyari would overcome this present ordeal.  A friend complained that no one has come out to vouch for DCP Abba Kyari.  I am very sure no one will come out publicly to pledge their support.  The US and the FBI is involved in this matter. No one will wish to be labelled as an accomplice or accessory in this matter and be “marked” for life in the records of the US.  This is not the time anybody will not be circumspect. 

Should Hushpuppi’s claim end in validation, then the feet of clay has again appeared as it normally does in the life of anyone who pretends to be who he or she is not.   How far can anyone run on a feet of clay? The feet that runs the owner into destruction, the abyss of rejection, shame, social leprosy, public disgrace, bankruptcy, loss and ultimately, regrets.

Adam…the feet of clay

Cain…the feet of clay

Achan…the feet of clay

Moses…the feet of clay

Gehazi…the feet of clay

Samson…the feet of clay

Saul…the feet of clay

Nebuchadnezzer…the feet of clay

Judas…the feet of clay

Bill Clinton…the feet of clay

Tiger Woods…the feet of clay,

Dominique Strauss-Khan…the feet of clay

Eliot Spitzer…the feet of clay

David Petraeus…the feet of clay

Just like how shocking and sad the allegations by Hushpuppi are at the moment in relation to DCP Abba Kyari (not minding the trolls on social media), the whole world was greatly shocked when it learnt in 2012 that Lance Armstrong, the racing cyclist had admitted using performance enhancing drugs after a doping investigation. 

At age 16, Armstrong began competing as a triathlete and was a national sprint-course triathlon champion in 1989 and 1990. In 1992, he began his career as a professional cyclist with the Motorola team. He had success between 1993 and 1996 with the World Championship in 1993, the Clásica de San Sebastián in 1995, Tour DuPont in 1995 and 1996, and a handful of stage victories in Europe, including stage 8 of the 1993 Tour de France and stage 18 of the 1995 Tour de France. In 1996, he was diagnosed with a potentially fatal metastatic testicular cancer. After his recovery, he founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation (now the Livestrong Foundation) to assist other cancer survivors.

Returning to cycling in 1998, Armstrong was a member of the US Postal/Discovery team between 1998 and 2005 when he won his seven Tour de France titles.  Armstrong retired from racing at the end of the 2005 Tour de France, but returned to competitive cycling with the Astana team in January 2009, finishing third in the 2009 Tour de France later that year. Between 2010 and 2011, he raced with Team Radio Shack, and retired for a second time in 2011. These wins and titles would be later stripped after the doping investigations.

Armstrong became the subject of doping allegations after he won the 1999 Tour de France.  For years, he denied involvement in doping. In 2012, a United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) investigation concluded that Armstrong had used performance-enhancing drugs over the course of his career and named him as the ringleader of “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen”.   While maintaining his innocence, Armstrong chose not to contest the charges, citing the potential toll on his family.  He received a lifetime ban from all sports that follow the World Anti-Doping Code, ending his competitive cycling career.  The International Cycling Union (UCI) upheld USADA’s decision and decided that his stripped wins would not be allocated to other riders.  In January 2013, Armstrong publicly admitted his involvement in doping. In April 2018, Armstrong settled a civil lawsuit with the United States Department of Justice and agreed to pay US$5 million to the U.S. government after whistleblower proceedings were commenced by Floyd Landis, a former team member.

Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven consecutive Tour de France titles from 1999 to 2005. 

The story of Lance Armstrong represents an open (very public) reminder to us to deal with this feet of clay in all of us.  Are we not all dust? Of Judas it was said, “let another take his bishopric”.  We must fix the little foxes before they fix our vines. The loss of all things including honour may be a small price to pay in working out eternal redemption.  Let him that thinks he stand, check that his feet is not of clay. This is the heed to take.  By the way, if you say that someone has feet of clay, you are drawing attention to a hidden weakness, which could cause his or her downfall.

As we are still trying “to settle the matter” of DCP Abba Kyari and the “odoriferous” allegation from Hushpuppi (to borrow that word from Hon Patrick Obahiagbon), the news broke this morning that veteran cross-over actress Mrs Rachel Oniga had passed on from a heart related ailment.  I have been an ardent follower of the developments in and out of Nollywood since the year 2000 when I became gainfully employed and did not have to depend on anyone’s handouts for my needs and wants. That year marked the end of Family Support Programme (FSP) in my life.  In the decades that followed, Nollywood churned out a lot of massive films and Rachel Oniga was one of those actresses I was always on the look out for.  Her mastery of the Yoruba language in delivery always reminds me of Christy Essien Igbokwe the famed Lady of Songs in her dexterity as a Yoruba speaker!  The two people I revered the most in my life Mrs Eunice Aduke Olateju (my grandmother) and Canon Michale Ladapo Arowolo (my grandfather) passed on at the age of 64 just like you Racheal.  Sleep on Racheal Oniga.  It is my hope that we meet at the feet of Christ where we shall part no more. 

As Naira crosses more than N510 to 1 dollar, I hope the CBN is not inadvertently creating new gatekeepers in the system by shutting out BDCs.  One would have thought that no one throws the baby away with the bathwater.  There may be erring operators no doubt, there is also a way the Regulator can and must handle violations without creating further shocks in the system. 

In closing, Yorubas are rich in proverbs.  It is one of such proverbs that popped up in my mind and has continued to perch.  “Eni to je ogun ewu ko le mo iyi agbada n la” . Immediately it popped up, that Segun Adewale track of the same wordings just wafted to me. If I may translate, it means he who inherits a simple top (buba or shirt) would not know the value of a flowing apparel.  

This is the fate of many that just find the good life, good fortunes, valuable possessions, a profitable practice, thrust upon or bequeathed to them; they often run same aground.  Something they did not suffer for. They were not their to witness the pains and sacrifices to value what they inherit.  Until they destroy it, they will not stop.  Wise actions are always far from such people. Their creed is “lau lau” (recklessness).

Ile ti a fi ito mo, iri ni yoo wo (a house built with sand mixed with saliva will be destroyed by the dew).  E je ka ranti atubotan (let us remember the end of all things and properly evaluate our character and actions.

Aabo oro ni ti omoluabi, ti o ba de inu re yoo di odidi (a word is enough for the wise).

It is still Saturday Life-lines.  Covid-19 is real.  Let us keep observing the relevant protocols always.  We will not be unfortunate in the many years we have left. 

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

The Dog Who Loves His Mother & Other Stories

Published on 24/07/2021

So many things happened this past week.  From the once in hundred years style of celebration of life of the late mother of Obinna Iyiegbu popularly known as Obi Cubana or Okpataozuora to the arrest and extradition trial of Chief Sunday Adeyemo in Cotonou and the cheerleading mocking declaration by the notable Joe Igbokwe that “Juju” has failed if “Igboho Oosa” could be arrested or even found on the run! Let me approach the issues one by one and draw some lifelines.

On 8 May 2016 which happened to be Mothers’ Day, a colleague of mine provoked me to write a post on that day.  He asked us to listen to a recent single just dropped by Daniel Kiss titled “Mama”.  At the time to me, Daniel Kiss must be the latest in the long line of musicians doing a number for “mothers” of the world.  Remember the evergreen number “Sweet Mother” from Nico Mbaga.  It is normal to celebrate Mothers. Fathers must simply give up on this. We are naturally disadvantaged. Mothers have been equipped to be mothers in all ramifications. Nothing can be done.

Of course, our lack of emotional engagement with the kids as fathers in those days probably also contributed to this disadvantage.  Fathers were cast as one to be feared and be distant from.  Though these days we are rebranding, precedents have already shaped folklore.  I remember when Mum buried her mother, after the burial, her father called her to tell her that she must not do less anytime he obeys the call to glory.  He was impressed at the execution of the burial arrangements.  There is no cost that anyone will spare for a good Mother or Father depending on their relative impact on your life. 

If this was true for humans, you can then appreciate what it was in the animal kingdom, where a resolution was adopted that every animal should kill its mother.  But the Dog loves his mother and he could not bear the thought of killing his Mum for whatever reason.  He then thought of a way of escape. He sent his mother to space.  Armstrong may be the first man and father in space and ever before Jeff Bezos would pay for a similar trip, the Dog already paid for such a trip for his Mother to the moon.  And the Dog made periodic visits to his Mum in space with a secret caller tune to announce his arrival.  That is the “Alujonjonkijon” single.  That there may not be a similar story in folklore about a Father is not where I am going.

A polemic arose about 6 years ago in my discussion with some of my classmates.  It had to do with what right does anybody have to dictate the direction of spend of another’s funds especially riches that are traceable to clear exertion of the industry by the owner? Can you say that what another spends on anything (woman, car, wines etc) is too much? If you say it, is it a fair comment? Who decides what is too much? How is it too much? When is it too much? Can you tell anyone really what he should do with his money if it does not come to his mind to do the same? Can you define good works for another? What if he is satisfied that he has created business platforms through which some are earning clean and honest living along with their dependants?

To relate this six years ago conversation to what happened in Oba Anambra State last weekend, a number of issues have been raised from how did he make his money? How can he and his friends spend money in that manner? What do they even do? One commentator even compared the burial and its celebration format to that of another burial that took place in Lagos with the crème de la crème of our society were there which was quiet, reserved and not raucous as the Oba burial.  Some said that it would have been a better celebration if Obi Cubana had built a hospital or such other enduring facility or institution in honour of his late Mother.  So many suggestions and ideas were canvassed on both print and social media.  Some attributed the celebration format in Oba to our loss of values as a society.  In fact, one of my friends was so angry that such a display of wealth can corrupt the many young children and adolescents in Oba who may be inspired further to get rich or die trying so that they can be in a position to do the same for their parents and so on so forth. 

But we all recognize that poverty is not good.  “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

I am so much closely aligned with the resolution of Arkad as captured in the book, “The Richest Man in Babylon” where he asserted, “wealth is a power.  With wealth many things are possible.  And when I realised this, I decided to myself that I would claim my share of the good things of life.  I would not be one of those who stand afar off enviously watching others enjoy.  I would not be content to clothe myself in the cheapest raiment that looked respectable.  I would not be satisfied with the lot of the poor man”.  Like in everything, there are levels. So there are levels even in riches.  In my “What Does Being Rich Mean To You?” I contended,” Whilst the well documented riches of Solomon or that of the richest man in Babylon or that of John D Rockefeller, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, Elon Musk and many others who litter ancient and modern history hold some appeal, I feel a bit nervous framing my ideas around their staggering and mind boggling acquisitions.  Now to how rich.  “Not super rich. Not filthy rich, stinking rich.  Not Bill Gate rich; Not Jeff Bezos rich; Not Dangote rich {Not Elon Musk rich}[1].  But rich enough to …be looking at the price of almost anything that takes your fancy; …live where you want, go where you want, do what you want, meet who you want…buy the only two things apart from health and love worth fussing about in life: Time and the option of not having to be in any particular place on any particular day doing any particular thing in order to pay the rent or the mortgage.”

I will be the first person to admit that what happened in Oba Anambra State last weekend was unusual.  The way money was “disgraced, marched on” openly at the event was uncommon in any culture anywhere in recent history.  But I will struggle to go to the extreme of condemning the celebration format adopted.  When people are happy at times, restraints could be thrown to the wind.  Someone was happy many years ago and danced to the point that his “rod of Moses” (or third leg) was dangling visibly and probably seductively to the thronging young maidens in his entourage a situation which occasioned both a rebuke from and curse for the concerned critic.  I have since last week raised the following questions in my mind on this matter knowing fully well that majority of those who have come out to blast Obi Cubana’s celebration format may even do worse if the situations were reversed.  Is the celebration style inherently obscene? Would it affect a conclusion of “obscene opulence” if the celebration had been private? Is it obscene because it was made public? Is it obscene because of Nigeria’s poverty statistic? Is it obscene because the white man would not typically spray money in this way? Is it obscene because Obi Cubana is a Black man? Is it obscene because the “social media” and other media platforms only project what appeals to our vanity? Other achievements by Blacks or Nigerians to what degrees have these trended on social media anywhere in the world?  What happened in Oba last weekend only shows the kind of news that we like to follow.  We like spectacle and Oba Cubana and his friends gave us the kind of spectacle that we love as a people!

When I wrote on “The Man From Nowhere”, an article which focused on Chief Sunday Adeyemo, aka Sunday Igboho, Igboho Oosa, I submitted as follows,” I would hate to see Sunday Igboho demystified prematurely and abandoned.  He is a very natively intelligent and smart man.  Even though I know he has made up his mind to make the ultimate sacrifice with respect to the liberation of the Yorubas, I would still urge him not to throw caution to the wind.  He should be careful because “ehinkule ni ota wa, ile ni awon aseni n gbe” (the most dangerous enemies are the fifth columnists, those closest to you).  There is no other countermeasure to betrayal other than vigilance and caution”.  Chief should continue to handle the issues around him with the native intelligence that had seen him survive thus far.  He should be discerning of the traps that the Government would try to lay for him through friends and foes.  He should be very strategic in the way he engages going forward.  After the Almighty God, the next powerful entity is human government.  The Chief has refused to be goaded into displaying any metaphysical powers that he has been reputed to possess so far, he should keep resisting that temptation.  What they would like to see is to be able to attribute some deaths directly to him and place him on trial for murder.  He should not throw his life casually away.  I have raised it before in the article “#ENDSARS or Corona Leaders?” and will raise it again:

“…Nigeria is 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 enmass.  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.  I concluded from his experience at the time with certain questions: 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”.

Just like Obi Cubana, Chief Sunday Adeyemo may also have chosen how he wished to engage in this struggle and at whatever cost.  It is his life and it is his choice if he continues in spite of anyone’s concerns to the contrary.  People must be permitted to do what gives them satisfaction so long as it is not patently against the law. 

It is on this note that I must recall a folk story that Chief Ebenezer Obey popularized in his evergreen Album, “Aimasiko”.  It was the case of the Tortoise, the Monkey and the Tiger.  The Tortoise and the Monkey were going for an occasion on a certain day and the Tortoise began to offer prayers in the direction of not being implicated or being unfortunate.  The Tortoise would sigh and say “May we not be implicated” rather than for the Monkey to respond with Amen, the Monkey continued on the journey with the Tortoise in silence as if there was no merit in the prayers that the Tortoise offered.  The Tortoise felt slighted.  Sequel to his outing with the Monkey, he prepared some delicious candies and went on a visit to the Tiger where he presented him with the candies.  The Tiger loved the candies so much and asked the Tortoise where he sourced the candies.  The Tortoise did not waste time before informing the Tiger that it was the Monkey’s faeces that was that sweet.  The Tiger believed the story and laid an ambush for the Monkey to force him to produce his famously sweet excreta.  Whilst the prayer of the Tortoise is eternally true and is worthy of an Amen by the Monkey, what is very dangerous is that an animal of the prestige of the Tiger can be “conned” into believing that the candy was from the Monkey’s excreta and the Tiger was prepared to eat the Monkey’s excreta for that reason!  There are so many stories in the Animal kingdom that warns us to be sensitive to and discerning of deceitful peers. 

It is still Saturday Life-lines.  Covid-19 is real.  Let us keep observing the relevant protocols always.  We will not be unfortunate in the many years we have left.


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

My Encounter With Contentment

Published on 17/07/2021

Before I engage the subject matter of today’s column, there is a need to quickly touch on an issue.  And it is not the fact that Italy won the EURO 2020 trophy on Sunday, 11 July 2021, defeating England on penalties by 3:2 or that rather than “it’s coming home”, the trophy ended up “going Rome”; it is the man Roberto Mancini that I want to touch on because of a parallel that appeals to me critically. 

As a player, Roberto Mancini operated as a deep-lying forward, and was best known for his time at Sampdoria, where he played more than 550 matches, and helped the team win the Serie A league title, four Coppa Italia titles, and the European Cup Winners’ Cup. He was capped 36 times for Italy, taking part at UEFA Euro 1988 and the 1990 FIFA World Cup, achieving semi-final finishes in both tournaments, although he was never put onto the pitch during the 1990 tournament.  In 1997, after 15 years at Sampdoria, Mancini left the club to join Lazio, where he won a further scudetto and Cup Winners’ Cup, in addition to the UEFA Super Cup and two more Coppa Italia titles. Alongside Gianluigi Buffon, he is the player with the most Coppa Italia titles.  As a player, Mancini would often give team talks at half-time. Towards the end of his playing career, he became an assistant to Sven-Göran Eriksson at Lazio.

His first managerial role was at Fiorentina in 2001, at only 36 years old, winning a Coppa Italia title. The following season, he took over as manager at Lazio, where he guided the club to another Coppa Italia title. In 2004, Mancini was offered the manager’s job at Inter Milan, with which he won three consecutive Serie A titles, a club record; he was dismissed in 2008.   After being out of football for over a year, Mancini was appointed Manchester City manager in December 2009.  He helped City win the FA Cup in the 2010–11 season, the Club’s first major trophy in 35 years, and their first league title in 44 years in the 2011–12 season.  Regarded as a cup specialist, Mancini has reached at least a semi-final of a major national cup competition in every season he has been a manager, from 2002 to 2014.  He holds a number of records, including most consecutive Coppa Italia finals from 2004 to 2008, with Lazio once in 2004 and with Inter Milan in the following four seasons. 

Roberto Mancini was appointed the Manager of the Azzurris in May 2018  after Italy had failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and since that time he had gone on unbeaten with the Italian national team in 34 matches, a run which culminated in lifting the Euros 2020 trophy by the team in the mood and in imperious mode.  In his Managerial team is the man called Luca Vialli, one of Roberto Mancini’s teammates from his days with Sampdoria as a player. 

It is noteworthy that when Roberto Mancini was going to work with Manchester City as a manager following the sacking of Mark Hughes, he invited David Platt another of his team-mate from Sampdoria who was hired as first team coach at Manchester City on 1 July 2010.  On 14 May 2013, Platt left his assistant manager role at Manchester City following the departure of the manager Roberto Mancini.  When Roberto Mancini was sacked as Manager of Mancity at the end of the 2012/2013 season, I dropped a post on my Facebook wall titled, “Omo Aijeberi (A man & his honour)”.  Please permit me to reproduce that post in this column:

“One cliche that the English have bequeathed to us is, “A man and his dog”. This was born out of the English’s exceptional love for pets especially “dogs”. One of the familiar sights in the colonial era was seeing the English overlord in the evening strolling down the street with an arm around “madam” and one hand holding the leash of some exotic dog. If madam was not available, it would be the man and his dog.  It is no longer news that Roberto Mancini (“man sinning”) has been sacked by Mancity because he “sinned” – he failed to achieve the targets set for him. This is not my issue. It is the lesson from David Platt’s decision that concerns me.  David Platt decided to leave Mancity after his friend was sacked despite that Mancity would love to have him continue. It was Roberto that brought him into the job. If his friend through whom he served Mancity has been sacked, what else is he looking for in Mancity, he must have asked himself.  I have always been curious about the two men’s relationship.  They played together in Sampdoria but Platt was not the only player that played with Roberto.  Not many will invite another to “come & chop” when such opportunities arise.  Let us respect the people that we have course to meet and interact with daily. Let us show maturity and understanding in our dealings with men.  We part to meet and we meet to part but we owe ourselves that our conscience be void of offence against anyone.  Clearly, David Platt has demonstrated honour, value of friendship, loyalty to his friend over transient benefits. He has shown he is not a desperado. Nothing lasts longer than divine endowment. “Ko si ohun ti a n je ti ki tan, a fi ola olorun”.  For me this is well appreciated. Men driven by character are not many!  If Platt had behaved or acted otherwise, he would have attracted the label “omo aijeberi to n ja epo si aya” that is, it is he who is licking a delicious stew for the first time that has droplets on his chest!”

What is it about Roberto Mancini and his teammates from his playing days at Sampdoria? Why is Mancini this way? It is intriguing that Roberto always finds ways to make his friends (who in a sense have become his brothers) to be part of his great achievements.  In 2021, it was the turn of Luca Vialli.  This is a great example of how a man (including woman) should behave with his/her friends.  We should grow or rise together. 

I have always liked to look the part with my dressing.  I don’t know where I got this attitude from.  But whilst growing up I did not have so many clothes as I would have liked.  I was also a victim of untraceable theft with the few ones I had such that by the time I was rounding up my programme at the University, I had one corduroy trouser and two shirts.  During this period, a particular verse of Scriptures came alive for me and I wondered why such a scriptural verse should apply to me.  And this marked the beginning of my encounter and struggle with “Contentment”.  The scriptural verse which became “repugnant” to me was Luke 12:15 which states, “Take heed and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life doth not consist in the abundance of things which he possesses”.  Given my state of lack at the time, I denied that this verse could apply to me.  How could you say this to a man suffering lack? And for many years I avoided reading Luke Chapter 12! 

Our society has grown so materialistic that an immediate measure of your value is your outward possessions.  We have fallen upon a day and age where there is collective loss of time-honored values and the pressure to become rich quick or die trying is the latest trend.  No one is interested in delayed gratification; everything must be realised in an instant!

In such an environment where the measure of your worth is in the “abundance of possessions” learning to be “content” will be very difficult.  The visible projection of wealth and its benefits constantly remind those who lack of their want.  Like one of my brothers will say, “Money powers respect”.  Thus, the challenge of “Contentment” can only be a personal journey and nobody’s journey will be the same. 

“Contentment” is that freedom to be who you are, to enjoy who you are and live the life you are destined to be.  It is that peaceful ease of mind; a longer lasting but deeper feeling of satisfaction and gratitude.  It is that virtue that enables us to enjoy our family and friends.  It makes us more accepting and appreciative of others.  It allows us to love others for who they are; it helps us see that joy does not come from our possessions or even our life situations.  It enables us to accept first the uniqueness of our race in life and equip us to run that race to the finishing line.  Contentment allows us to stop comparing ourselves to others and it allows us to break the cycle of wanting more.  It lets us to be grateful and happy for all that we have.  Contentment manifests in satisfaction, lack of envy, discipline and abhorrence of greed and corruption.  Humility is a special attribute of Contentment. 

Contentment however is not complacency.  It is not fatalism.  Being complacent means to refuse to work to improve.  That is not contentment.  Then how do you develop “contentment” or learn it?

First step is by practising gratitude.  Gratitude is an essential element of contentment.  No one can develop contentment without gratitude.  “It’s a funny thing about life, once you begin to take note of the things you are grateful for, you begin to lose sight of the things that you lack (Germany Kent). 

Second step is by taking control of one’s attitude.  One’s happiness in life is solely based on one’s decision to be happy.  “A man is happy so long as he chooses to be happy ( Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Cancer Ward)”.

Third step is to stop comparing one’s life to others.  Comparing one’s life with someone else’s will always lead to “discontentment”.  There will always be people who “appear” to be better off than you and “seemingly” living the perfect life.  But be advised, we always compare the worst of what we know about ourselves to the best assumptions we make about others forgetting that their life is never as perfect as our mind make it out to be.  You are unique.  You are special. Your life is different.  The fourth step is to be content with what you have but never with what you are.  Never stop learning, giving or discovering.  Take pride in your personhood and the progress you have made but never become so content that you cannot find room for improvement.  The largest room in the world is the room for improvement.  The fifth step is to help others.  When you do, you will appreciate what you own, who you are and what you have to offer.  Contentment is the bedrock of a great character. 

Character defines the man.  Your character will define you.  What kind of character you are is shown in your behaviour or actions towards fellow men.  “By their fruits, you will know them” is the yardstick set by the Holy Scriptures.  Your character is the spring that feeds your behaviour or actions. If the character is polluted or flawed, your behaviour would be less than acceptable.  According to Mr. Tola Adeniyi, a former Managing Director of Daily Times of Nigeria, “Character is everything.  However good you may think you are, however hardworking you may be, if you are lacking in Character, you may as well…[be nothing]!”

Let me conclude this “Encounter with Contentment” with the following very apt observations:

“It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.”― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

“Many people lose the small joys in the hope for the big happiness.”― Pearl S. Buck

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough”― Oprah Winfrey

“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.” ― Socrates

“We are not rich by what we possess but by what we can do without.”― Immanuel Kant

“The greatest wealth is to live content with little.”― Plato

“You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.” ― Charles Spurgeon

“If all our misfortunes were laid in one common heap whence everyone must take an equal portion, most people would be content to take their own and depart.”― Socrates

“I think instead [of happiness] we should be working for contentment… an inner sense of fulfillment that’s relatively independent of external circumstances.” -Andrew Weil

“It’s up to us to choose contentment and thankfulness now—and to stop imagining that we have to have everything perfect before we’ll be happy.”― Joanna Gaines, The Magnolia Story

“Thankfulness creates gratitude which generates contentment that causes peace.” ― Todd Stocker

“He who is greedy is always in want” ― Horace

“A contented mind is the greatest blessing a man can enjoy in this world.” –  Joseph Addison

“You will never get everything in life but you will get enough.” ― Sanhita Baruah

“Within what is allotted to us, we can have spiritual contentment.”  ― Neal A. Maxwell, The Complete Works of Neal A. Maxwell

“Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have.” ― Sanchita Pandey, Voyage to Happiness!

“Fortify yourself with contentment for this is an impregnable fortress.” ― Epictetus, Enchiridion and Selections from the Discourses

Let me also make “waka pass” at the issue of the floods threatening to overflow Lagos and the concomitant implications for vehicular movement in the metropolis.  This a seasonal occurrence and it beggars belief that our government appear not to have or deploy proactive measures to arrest or contain the floods and their impact.  We show our higher intelligence as human beings when we plan for the inevitable or unavoidable.  We cannot blame the forces of nature or the gods for our failure to plan against adverse impact of relentless rainfall.  Our foolishness as possessors of higher intelligence is heightened by any comparison with the ants in the admonition that beckons to the slothful to go to the ants and take learning or receive instruction, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise, which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provides her meat in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest”.  The Yorubas captured this well many years ago: The great flood has no qualms in destroying an estate, it is the Landlord that will mount appropriate barricade (agbara ojo ko ni ohun o ni ile wo, onile ni ko ni gba fun).  Let this be an admonition to our great people in government.  Let an issue that is a no-brainer not lead to a conclusion of “no brain” in government!

It is still Saturday Life-lines.  Covid-19 is real.  Let us keep observing the relevant protocols always.  We will not be unfortunate in the many years we have left. 

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

The Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

Published on 10/07/2021

For the title of this weekend’s submission, let me borrow from the 1958 American drama film directed by Richard Brooks. It was based on the 1955 Pulitzer Prize-winning play written by Tennessee Williams and adapted for the screen by Brooks and James Poe. The film had the legendary Elizabeth Taylor and others stars. It was titled “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.”

The claim that it must have been Chief Sunday Adeyemo aka Sunday Igboho that turned into a cat (whatever its colour) to escape the clutches of the night raiders of his premises last week may sound very preposterous and trigger an inference of another comedic episode in our national political firmament.  Beyond this, however, is the truism that we are always a product of our environment no matter who we are or where we are. 

Indeed, this theory by the DSS who claimed responsibility for the attack on Chief Igboho’s house that it may have been Chief that transformed into a cat brought to my mind an encounter with some police officers at Police Check Point in Mile 2 in 2015.  My office had just finished a three-day strategy and away day at the Golden Tulip in Festac and was going home when I was pulled over.  Because of my fatigue, I admit I was very brusque with the Police Officer that attended to me.  He however responded calmly and with unusual courtesy throughout our engagement.  He informed me that they were just carrying out routine stop and search and noted that I should have seen they were not carrying any weapons to which  I snorted that Nigerian Police Officers do not really need to carry any physical weapons; all they need is to stretch their hands into the sky and any gun of their preference will appear in their hands.  The Police Officer laughed heartily and asked whether I was a theatre art practitioner or had watched too many Africa Magic Yoruba movies.  We parted ways on that note. 

As a young boy growing up in the early Eighties to early Nineties, the films by late Chief Hubert Ogunde, titled “Aye,” “Jayesimi” and Aropinteniyan” and other home movie productions which fed off them (like Opa Aje and Koto Orun by Alhaji Yekini Ajileye Productions) thrived on astral incarnations or the transformation of characters with supernatural powers into cats, birds and other entities.  This has reinforced our cultural reflex to these possibilities. 

It is against this backdrop the theory is emerging that there might be a role for deploying what has been described as “strategic spiritual intelligence and warfare” in the fight against insurgency in Nigeria.  A very strong voice in this push is no other than Professor Osisioma BC Nwolise.  He first raised this dimension in his inaugural lecture of 2012/2013 titled “Is Physical Security Alone Enough For The Survival, Progress and Happiness of Man?” at the University of Ibadan and consolidated this thought in the book titled, “Strategic Spiritual Intelligence In The Intelligence Process”

It is not impossible that due to the close work that Prof Nwolise had done with the Nigerian Defence Academy, his “theory” had found a connection with the then Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Tukur Buratai.  The Army General on 30 September 2019 advocated for spiritual engagement of the negative ideologies of Boko Haram and the Islamic State of the West African Province (ISWAP) terrorists in Nigeria by religious groups during a seminar of the Nigerian Army Resource Centre, Abuja, themed, “Countering insurgency and violent extremism in Nigeria through spiritual warfare”.  And as Dr Reuben Abati noted in the article titled, “The Spiritual Solution to Boko Haram”, ‘Terrorism being an asymmetrical war, not even the smartest Generals know when or how any war against terror will end. What we know is that Nigeria has a terrible task on its hands, it is like fighting the Devil, in an unknown space, where there are no rules, and the enemy wears a mask”

The possibilities of a spiritual engagement should not be dismissed.  The Western Powers have not dismissed these possibilities and have openly embraced the roles of clairvoyants and other paranormal experts in bids to secure strategic advantages or edges in the game of power.  The Nigerian State can do the same. 

Presently, the Nigerian State is yet to translate this proposal into a strategy, with proper coordination and management. It is imperative to define the nature, type and quality of spiritual warfare the Nigerian military is asking for or how we can deploy all the spiritual resources, agents and organizations in the country to achieve results and defeat Boko Haram and allied insurgencies.  Looking at the profile of the individual Dr Reuben Abati suggested as the first or pioneer Counter- Spiritual Warfare Coordinator or Adviser and Head of the Spiritual Counter-Insurgency Rapid Response Division, there is no doubt in my mind that the person is none other than Baba Iyabo, Chief Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo!

The news broke during the week that a judge of the Federal High Court had ruled that the former Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun did not need an NYSC certificate to be appointed a minister or elected into a legislative house at either the federal or state level.  The Former Minister came out claiming that she had been vindicated.  Given that the judgment did not address the issue of forgery, would advise her like someone had done not to push her luck.  The judgment did not vindicate her either on moral grounds. Should she have gone to procure a forged certificate whether of exemption or discharge?  The elements of forgery are established and it does not matter if the reason for the act became unnecessary in hindsight.  No armed robber will be absolved just because there was no money in the vault after all!

I also stumbled on birthday wishes to the Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), the then Dr Dipo Fasina, who is 74 years old this year.  Even though I was surprised because I know that Prof’s birthday is 23 January, I joined them to wish my old lecturer a wonderful birthday at 74.  And this will prompt me to share this memory. 

Those of us who graduated from OAU knew Dr Dipo Fashina, the irrepressible ASUU campaigner. His popular alias was Jingo.  One of the courses he took us was Logic & Evidence.  He was a gifted lecturer and his classes were always fun. His examples were riddled with funnier names like Bongo, Bamboko, Abalaka (even before this name was given prominence by the HIV cure professor) etc.

One of the remarkable topics was the one on “Fallacies”.  We understood that “Fallacies” could be formal or informal, conditional or questionable.  There are many different informal fallacies, but a few basic types. For instance, material fallacies is an error in what the arguer is talking about, while verbal fallacies are an error in how the arguer is talking.  The fun remained in the informal fallacies because of their descriptions and Latin shorthand.  Examples include:

Appeal to pity (ad misericordiam)

Appeal to fear  (ad baculum)

Appeal to people (ad populum)

Appeal to authority (ad verecundiam)

Irrelevant conclusion (ignoratio elenchi)

Appeal to person (ad hominem)

Appeal to ignorance (ad ignorantiam)

Assuming the Answer (petitio principi)

Circular reasoning (circulus in probando)

False cause (non sequitur)

Complex question (plurium interogationum)

Worthy of mention amongst those that have no Latin acronyms are:

Hasty generalisation

Affirming the consequence

Genetic fallacy

Denying the antecedent

Begging the question

Based on recent developments, appointments into key positions in our country now favours the corrupt.

 “A” is corrupt. Therefore “A” will be appointed into a key position shortly.  This is the fallacy called “Appeal to Corruption”. Brand new, just created! 

As a teaser for my next week’s contribution titled, “My Encounter With Contentment”, let me wrap up this week’s article with this story by Khaled Hoseini from the book, ”The Kite Runner”:

“That same night, I wrote my first short story. It took me thirty minutes. It was a dark little tale about a man who found a magic cup and learned that if he wept into the cup, his tears turned into pearls. But even though he had always been poor, he was a happy man and rarely shed a tear. So he found ways to make himself sad so that his tears could make him rich. As the pearls piled up, so did his greed grow. The story ended with the man sitting on a mountain of pearls, knife in hand, weeping helplessly into the cup with his beloved wife’s slain body in his arms.”

It is still Saturday Life-lines.  Covid-19 is real.  Let us keep observing the relevant protocols always.  We will not be unfortunate in the many years we have left. 

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

The Igbos and The Nigerian Federation: Need for a change of narrative

Published on 03\07\2021

No doubt the biggest news of this week was the arrest, capture and repatriation from far-away Kenya of Mr Nnamdi Kanu the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB,  who had jumped bail.  This development not only brought back the usual narrative around the Nigerian civil war, the Igbo losses and the debacle of the post-war inter and intra ethnic relationship in Nigeria especially the perennial feeling of isolation and marginalization by the Igbos. 

4 years from today, I will be 50 years of age.  In the period up to now, I have taken the time to review most of the major materials, books and articles, around the Nigerian civil war to enable me to form a personal opinion.  And I suspect that this exercise has been why some agemates/classmates and some seniors have always somehow found my views a bit unusual.  When you raise a point from an unusual perspective, those who have not paused to think in that direction, sometimes look at you strangely and if you are not courageous and convinced in your view, you may even doubt yourself.  I have decided to share certain elements of my views in this article and why I have taken the position I have continued to take when the issue of the Igbos and their almost perennial desire to secede or for self-determination comes up for engagement. 

We all agree that Nigeria like every other nation of the world has problems.  There is no human problem that is not surmountable once you can take the time to reflect, identify the root cause and come up with the most appropriate options that should resolve those problems.  Mr Nnamdi Kanu and his IPOB group (like all other socio-cultural organisations in Nigeria) emerged against the unresolved context of social inequality, unfair access or distribution of the commonwealth and other perceived injustices against his people, “the Igbos”, within the Nigerian framework and the helplessness of a possible “no light at the end of the tunnel”. 

The likes of Mr Nnamdi Kanu, Chief Sunday Adeyemo and others making separatist calls are evidence that there is something wrong with the Nigerian state as presently constituted.  Whilst some of us may not agree with the approaches that these men have adopted to tackle the “problem with Nigeria”, the reality is that the problem(s) exists and cannot be wished away.  It shows that these men have stood to be counted and a rider or possible argument would be that if you know the right way out of Nigeria’s problem but have not stood to be counted, what have you done? 

The questions facing the Igbos are clear: do we stay or exit the Nigerian Federation? If we stay, on what terms? If we prefer to exit, how do we achieve this?  Who do Mr Nnamdi Kanu and Chief Sunday Igboho and other similar personalities speak for? How did they get to ascribe this role to themselves? If we did not appoint them for this purpose, then we must tread cautiously before we emotively follow them.  The issues they seek to resolve will not disappear or be resolved overnight. 

One of the reasons I dismissed IPOB under Mr Nnamdi Kanu and the secessionist or separatist agenda is that I did not see a clear articulation of any plan that avoids the error of the original Biafran gambit by the late Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu.  The path of wisdom dictates that once beaten twice shy.  There must be a proper, robust and dispassionate interrogation of why the original Biafra exit approach failed.

 For me, the plan to disengage from Nigeria must be mapped to the minutest granular detail by evaluating all the potential scenarios of responses from the other groups. More especially as it concerns Igbos real estate and other financial investments belonging to Biafran people in the other States of the Nigerian Federation.  This is after all one of the sore points of the so-called “No Victor No Vanquished” within the 3 Rs of the official policy of “Reconciliation, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation” after the Nigerian civil war.  Just as Biafra will like to nationalise or appropriate assets belonging to the Federation in its geographical boundaries, all private assets of Biafrans in the other States of the Federation may also be confiscated.  

It thus become imperative to pursue a well-thought-out but radical exit plan and avoid a repeat or recurrence of the half-baked declaration and exit of 1967. As that war progressed, it became clear that the Biafran leadership had run out of fuel and ideas to swing the tide of battle in its favour.

If the Igbos want to go and IPOB wishes to be the herald, they must make the transition a bit painless for their people as much as and as far as is possible.  Just as in 1967, IPOB cannot take it for granted that the exit plan will not be resisted and opposed by the Government of Nigeria.  If this happens, Biafrans must be ready to incur losses. 

The question then would be to what degree has the IPOB plan taken account of these potential losses and how would these losses again be mitigated?  Even when an exit as contemplated by IPOB was divinely triggered in the case of the Israelites out of Egypt, human beings being who they are did not take a long period of deprivation before they began to second guess the decision to leave Egypt.  Would today’s Igbos not do the same once the promised Eldorado fails. IPOB and its leaders will be amazed at the number of non-believers in their movement.  This is human nature.  Poverty, inequality, unemployment and social injustice do not speak the Igbo language.  They only respond to well-articulated, calculated and executed economic plans for growth, development and social equity. 

Frederick Forsyth is an English born novelist. He is also the author of notable bestsellers like The Day of the Jackal, The Odessa File and Dogs of War. Above all, he is a friend of the departed one, the Late Ikemba of Nnewi, Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.  Frederick Forsyth dedicated two books to Ikemba’s life and times: Emeka the biography and the Biafra Story. He drew his inspiration for the Dogs of War from the Biafra civil war.  Regardless of the gathering storm, there must not be another Civil War in Nigeria and this is not because of cowardice.

If the Igbos must stay, therefore, there is a need for them to stop pushing “we are the only victims” of the Nigerian civil war narrative.  The South-East must acknowledge where they were wrong with the ill-conceived move.  Going to war was not the only alternative to redress the wrong of that time. 

According to Professor Okey Ndibe, a novelist and political columnist based in the United States of America, “A lot of those pushing for Biafra was born after the war that bore the name of their fantasy. For them, then, Biafra was simply and purely an idyllic paradise, aborted by Nigeria with great help from an unlikely coalition of British, European and American firepower and diplomatic muscle. True, Biafra embodied the aspirations of a people who felt unjustly besieged. But any history of Biafra that neglects to explore some of the abuses perpetrated by some Biafran officials would be a whitewash“. 

In which case, when anyone is quick to push in our faces the losses the Igbos who triggered the war suffered, I have dared to ask them if the losses were one-sided.  When pitching the 2-3 million lives lost on the Biafran side, did no one die on the Federal side? What makes the Igbo life more valuable than the Yoruba/Hausa lives lost in the war? Can the Biafrans restore the dignity of many of our aunties defiled during the war?

If we keep going on and on as if the Federation made the declaration of war following the secession, we can never get anywhere in true reconciliation and this is the wisdom in Professor Okey Ndibe’ submission. 

In Chief Benjamin Apugo’s view, “The civil war ended a long-ago time and we are all Nigerians. No reasonable human being should come out today to talk about Biafra. Our people have to speak up and make our children understand the situation of things.  Those things they should be protesting for are employment, roads, water, airports and other amenities that are lacking in the zone. If they are agitating for these things, they should not block roads; they should talk to the government of the states in the South-East, not the Federal Government.   My advice to our children is that they should forget about hoping against hope. We have cancelled Biafra. Let them look for the betterment of this country and themselves. They should avoid this protest because it will not yield any fruit. Their leaders will not fight more than Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and Joe Effiong, who despite their efforts, Biafra failed in the end.

I am ideologically opposed to, unrepentantly and irreversibly against a civil war that could only benefit politicians and their businessmen cronies. I am against such a war because the road to peace would in the end be paved through dialogue. 

If we are still going to “jaw-jaw” why embark on “war-war”? Would this just mean that we are trying to flex muscles without regard to loss of lives, property and other tokens of human existence?  If we are poorer before such a war, most likely we will be poorest after such a war. As this type of war protracts, the rationale for the war gets confusing or completely lost. 

Therefore, the only war I support is any war that seeks to exert pressure on the politicians for good governance and performance in public office.  Accordingly, I support any war against:

• Corruption

• Indiscipline

• Incompetent leadership

• Election rigging

• Unemployment

• Poor infrastructure

• Religious bigotry

Any war to clean our national life secures my support. Any war to deepen our Nigerianness secures my support. Any war which ensures that both simple and complex processes work in Nigeria secures my support. Any war which dislodges the ubiquitous “X-factor” of utter mediocrity, indiscipline, disrespect, selfishness and corruption secures my support.  The consequences of such a war are better than the type the current drumbeats seek to trigger. Thereafter, when we say “Naija”, it should no longer be as an expression of reference to mediocrity, indolence, incompetence, disorderliness, triviality, insensitivity, visionlessness, empty religiosity, selfishness or pure hedonism but an affirmation or celebration of its people, ways, and quality of life. 

It stems out of my belief that the reason why we fixate on tribes, religion and many other instruments of divisiveness is that this Nation has not been fortunate to have capable, competent, selfless and committed leadership that harnesses all the strengths and weaknesses of the more than 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria to create a Nigerian citizen. It gives me a sense of deja vu that today that Facebook reminds me of what I wrote on my wall on Prof Chinua Achebe at his demise.  Emeritus Professor, Albert Chinualumogu Achebe, passed on at the age of 82.  However, the “Trouble with Nigeria” persists.  For me, Professor Achebe had two profoundly abiding seminal works: Things Fall Apart and “The Trouble with Nigeria”. 

The real tragedy of Prof Achebe’s demise was not failing to win the Nobel Prize for Literature but that he joined the ever-expanding list of a generation of men and women who failed to witness/experience the realization of a Nigeria of their dreams: a country which assures enabling environment for economic prosperity and true freedom.  Prof Achebe conducted a surgical diagnostics of Nigeria and documented this for posterity in the book, “The Trouble With Nigeria”.  At the time he passed on, Mother Nigeria was yet to find that “son” or “daughter” to deliver her from these “troubles”.

According to Professor David Aworawo, “there is no Igbo secession attempt that can be successful now or in the foreseeable future. For them to achieve it they’ll need to fight a war with the Nigerian State which they stand no chance of winning.  I personally do not think that secession is in the best interest of the Igbo or the rest of Nigeria. What need to be addressed are the poor quality of leadership in Nigeria as a whole, the defective federal system and the inequities which have engendered centrifugal forces. Everyone should be happy within the Nigerian state if we manage to successfully tackle these”.

If the answer remains in how we play politics, then it is high time the Igbos in Nigerian, attempt a different approach to their politics. 

It is still Saturday Lifelines.  Covid-19 is real.  Let us keep observing the relevant protocols always.  We will not be unfortunate in the many years we have left. 

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

The dance of hypocrites and other matters

Published on 19\06\2021

There were four news items that caught my attention in the past week. First was the fact that the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (OBJ) wrote an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) and this was after he had entertained series of gratuitous interviews with various media (print and electronic media). The second was the fact that in response to food inflation which has impacted the prices of food items in the market, it was reported that Nigerians who cannot afford a tuber of yam can now make do with slices from the tuber to meet what they can pay. The third was the lamentation by one Chester Ewurode who was at the 1 year remembrance of Senator Adebayo Osinowo and noted that many of those who thronged and benefited from the man before his demise were conspicuously absent at the remembrance program. The fourth was the June 12 protest in some parts of South-Western Nigeria.

Upon reading another letter from Chief, my immediate reaction was that famous retort, “Ajala, who beat you? (Ajala, ta lo na o?)” and this made me recall an article written by Simeon Kolawole six years ago titled, “Obasanjo As Nigeria’s Moral Compass” excerpts of which I reproduced on my Facebook wall under the caption, “The dance of the hypocrite”. In that article, Simeon Kolawole asked the following questions relevant today as then:

“How does Obasanjo do it? Can anyone help me out? He has a word on every issue. He expresses his opinion so forcefully, so eloquently and so mischievously that you just cannot ignore him. He loves to criticise what he is patently guilty of. He loves to vilify anyone who does not worship at his temple. There is no accusation Obasanjo throws at anyone that he himself is not double guilty of. He has launched ferocious media attacks against most of his successors — President Shehu Shagari, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Jonathan. Only Gen. Sani Abacha pre-empted him by throwing him into jail before he could open his mouth.

Obasanjo complains about corruption and Nigerians hail him. What’s his moral high ground? Can someone tell me? Has anybody never heard about the Halliburton and Siemens scandals? The damning reports are there in the attorney-general’s office. Does the name Dr. Julius Makanjuola ring a bell? Under Obasanjo, he was the permanent secretary of the ministry of defence implicated in a N421 million scandal. Mysteriously, the case was abruptly closed with Nolle Prosequi (no further prosecution) — the first in Nigeria’s history.

Well, Obasanjo went on to set up the anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), headed by Malam Nuhu Ribadu, which — in fairness — did kick the backsides of many politicians. But EFCC could not tackle Obasanjo’s own corruption: from the obscene fundraiser for his private library to his shareholding in Transcorp — a company that was getting juicy stuff from a government superintended by Obasanjo. Have we all forgotten the scandalous waivers granted to all kinds of human beings, officially defrauding our treasury billions of dollars?

Does anybody remember that Obasanjo was in power for eight years and we kept importing fuel, with PDP financiers getting the contracts through local and foreign fronts? Forgotten so easily? Does anybody remember how much we spent on repairing refineries that kept “knocking” for the eight years that Obasanjo was in power? Does anybody still remember Obasanjo saying on national TV that he did not know the price of kerosene and it was “unacceptable” that it was more expensive than petrol? How does Obasanjo get away with hoodwinking Nigerians?

Do we still remember that Obasanjo did not resolve the electricity problem for eight years? Do we still remember the “$16 billion spent on power without results” for which Obasanjo arrogantly refused to appear before the House probe panel? Is it that we have forgotten that the damning report was killed? Do we still remember that Obasanjo did not add one coach to the railways throughout his tenure despite spending billions of dollars? Does anybody still remember how many federal highways were in terrible state for the eight years that Obasanjo spent in power? Have we forgotten the Benin-Shagamu road saga? Just like that?

When Obasanjo discusses insecurity, I cringe. From every available evidence, Boko Haram started right under his nose. If he had aborted the foetus, maybe we wouldn’t be engaged in fire-fighting today. I have heard many Nigerians say, perhaps innocently, that if Obasanjo had been in power he would have crushed Boko Haram by now. Really? How well did he crush the less complex militancy in the Niger Delta? Was it not under Obasanjo that the militancy started in 2004 and flourished?

To the best of my knowledge, militants were bombing oil installations and kidnapping oil workers with ease under Obasanjo. At a stage, daily crude oil production fell to about 900,000 barrels — from the height of 2.5m. In fact, we were later told that why Obasanjo picked Jonathan as the running mate to Yar’Adua was to appease the Niger Delta. Of course, nobody was appeased. The attacks continued until Yar’Adau offered an amnesty deal. How these facts conveniently escape us is beyond my understanding.

Insecurity? Abacha’s regime aside, more Nigerians were assassinated under Obasanjo’s watch than at any time in our history. The abridged roll-call: Chief Bola Ige, a serving minister; Chief Marshall Harry,
co-ordinator of the Buhari presidential campaign in 2003; Chief AK Dikibo, PDP chieftain and ally of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar; Chief Uche Ogbonnaya (OGB), an ANPP senatorial candidate in Imo state in 2003; and Mr. Barnabas Igwe and his wife, Amaka, in Onitsha. The assassins were never unmasked. What is insecurity?

How did Obasanjo become our moral compass? How did he become such a highly sought-after role model? Has anybody ever managed to read the affidavit Obasanjo’s own son, Gbenga, filed while seeking a divorce from his wife on the ground of incest and adultery? It doesn’t matter? Has anybody ever taken time to read the letter Iyabo wrote to her father, giving graphic details of his megalomania and duplicity? It doesn’t matter? Has anybody ever done a recap of the blatant rigging of elections under the “saint”? It doesn’t matter?

Obasanjo pontificates on impunity and we hail him. What happened to us? Dr. Chris Ngige, as governor of Anambra state, was abducted by Obasanjo’s associates. Have we forgotten the illegal impeachment of Alhaji Rashidi Ladoja as governor of Oyo state? What about the impeachment of Chief Joshua Dariye as governor of Plateau by eight out of 24 lawmakers? For three years, Obasanjo unconstitutionally withheld Lagos council allocations because of political differences. It took Yar’Adua only a few days in power to undo the impunity.

They say, ‘Oh, Obasanjo is a patriot. He has the best interest of Nigeria at heart.’ Really? Can Obasanjo look up to heavens and say, solemnly, that he had the best interest of Nigeria at heart when he was picking his successor? Such a character cannot be my own moral compass. With a moral compass like Obasanjo, though, Nigeria is doomed and damned.”

That Nigeria is the most populous black nation has become axiomatic. That Nigeria will be the 3rd largest nation by population by 2050 is projected. However, for population to make sense as an index of power in the international system, it requires that nation to be able to feed its teeming population. Whilst population is the very base of any society, food is critical to its survival. A state actor which cannot feed its population is weakened already in the international system. It is therefore disheartening that the capacity of hardworking Nigerians to feed themselves and their families is getting decimated daily through inclement political economic environment. A concomitant tragedy is that the government does not even appear regard the disparity in population growth and its economic growth rate as a big problem to warrant an evangelical zeal in making this focal point of serious economic discussion.

Can someone please ask Chester Ewurode: what do you expect? It is inherent in human nature to feel entitled to whatever benefit is done to them and not to be grateful. If 10 lepers were healed and they had not gone too far away from Jesus Christ such that you could excuse them on the logistics and associated cost of returning to Jesus’ location, how come just 1 leper returned to Jesus to offer his heartfelt gratitude? If this could happen to Jesus Christ, who then is Senator Adebayo Osinowo?. The lessons we can glean from the story of Senator Adebayo Osinowo and many others before him are many. We need to temper our messianic tendencies. Those who used to throng the Senator when he was alive, did they not continue to survive after his demise? We must always remember that it is because we are there that they find us to call. Once we are no more, they will find others to call.

Every 12 June  must bring reminisces and introspection on the events leading to, during and after the annulment of one of the fairest and freest  elections ever conducted in the history of our nation. Until Nigeria as a nation matches our dream of a true nation where equity, fair play and social justice reigns, one may have to continue to ask the question: what did the heroes of the past labour for?

This in every sense of respect is not the nation Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo denied himself of women of easy virtues to burn the midnight oil in search of enduring solutions to better the life of the average Nigerian for. This is surely not the Nigeria that Late Chief Anthony Enahoro (even) in his old age spent years in the trenches for. This is strictly not the Nigeria Fela Anikulapo Kuti died for. This is obviously not the Nigeria that Late Chief Gani Fawehinmi went severally to prison for. This is not the Nigeria that the Late Dr. Beko Ransome Kuti, Late Dr. Olikoye Ransome Kuti, Dr. Tai Solarin etc died for. This is clearly not the Nigeria that Wole Soyinka went to prison and continually go into the trenches for. And many more who stood by their ideals till death because of Nigeria. This is absolutely not the Nigeria MKO died for in the quest to reclaim the mandate enthusiastically and freely given to him by Nigerians.

Personally, I prefer to have MKO alive than in death. When he did not have political power, he touched too many lives not only in Nigeria but globally through his philanthropy. I do not have any doubt that he would have continued to so do had he been alive!

Is our National Anthem then romantic? It would appear so because it is in the nature of National Anthems to arouse patriotic awareness. But then there is an implied snub to the “labours of our villains past” and present. According to Hegel, life is a duality. Words and opposites. As you have heroes, you must have villains. In fact, one man’s hero is another man’s villain. It is important that a man does not casually throw his life or everything connected with it away especially in an environment where there are only “a few good men”! We must dedicate efforts and struggles towards increasing the number of such men until a critical mass is attained or gain leverage where the most devastating blow can be dealt to the villainous axis of evil doers.

It is from this perspective that I have looked at the annual June 12 protests and wondered if the symbolic nature of these protests are not lost on the current “politricians or politricksters” at the helm of governmental affairs in Nigeria. Any protest that does not uproot or engage the foundation of the current structure of power in our nation is a comic relief to the oppressors. And I do not see any change until those who are sustaining the current structure that perpetuates mediocrity in governance become afraid of an enveloping tsunami that will sweep them out of power. 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.

The True Protest for me is the one that changes this vital statistic by ensuring that those eligible to vote go out and exercise their right to vote when the time comes again in 2023. True Protest for me is one that changes 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. We must care enough for a significant number to fight for the soul of this country whether as one united nation or fragmented units.

Having said that I need to leave my readers with this poser: Which one is worse:

Is it someone who does not know at all?; or
Is it someone who thinks he knows but does not know he does not know?; or
Is it someone who does not know that he does not know?

It is still Saturday Life Lines. Covid-19 is real. Let us keep observing the relevant protocols always. We will not be unfortunate in the many years we have left.

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

A Country Becomes A Shakespearean Tragedy

Published on 12/06/2021

No doubt the biggest news of the past week is that the Presidency agreed for President Muhammadu Buhari to engage in a media chat after a long-term absence of this opportunity.  Indeed, since the 2019 elections, PMB has not had a sit-down with any section of the Press for a chat.  The platform of this auspicious event was the Morning Show on Arise TV.  The anchors included the inimitable Dr Reuben Abati. 

Watching the President during the one and a half hour session reminded me of someone trying his best to show that he is in control or in charge of his mental faculties; someone trying to show that he knows what he is doing; someone trying to show that he is not in a vegetative state as he had been portrayed; someone trying to show he is in tune with what is happening in the country and the world at large; someone trying to show he has given his best even if he is not been appreciated for it.  And this was when it struck me that the unfolding tale of Nigeria since 2015 of PMB’s election is looking like a Shakespearean tragedy.  It is understood that William Shakespeare owed his dramatic approach in this context to Aristotle’s theory of tragedy.

According to Aristotle’s theory, “a tragedy is the imitation of an action that is serious and also as having magnitude, complete in itself; in appropriate and pleasurable language; in a dramatic rather than narrative form; which incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish a catharsis of these emotions”.  A Shakespearean Tragedy thus have 10 elements at a glance.  First is the Tragic hero.  A main character cursed by fate and possessed of a tragic flaw.  Second is the ‘struggle between good and evil’.  This struggle can take place as part of the plot or exist within the main character.  Third is what is called “hamartia”.  The fatal character flaw of the tragic hero. Fourth is the ‘tragic waste’.  The good being destroyed along with the bad at the resolution of the play.  Often played out with the unnecessary loss of life especially of “good guys” characters.  Fifth is ‘external conflict’.  This can be a problem facing the hero as a result of the plot or a “bad guy” character.  Sixth is ‘internal conflict’.  The struggle the hero engages in with his her/fatal flaw.  Seventh is the ‘catharsis’. The release of the audience emotions through empathy with the characters.  Eighth is the ‘supernatural elements.  Magic, witchcraft, ghosts etc.  Nineth element is ‘lack of poetic justice’. Things end poorly for everyone including the “good guys”.  And finally the tenth element is ‘comic relief’.  One or more humorous characters who participate in scenes intended to lighten the mood.  And if I may, there are too many of these tenth elements in the Nigerian tragedy. 

Despite every attempt by the President in his “Morning Show” interview to project strength and capacity, his responses showed the tragedy of someone already overwhelmed by the myriad of issues besetting his regime from all fronts.  At a point I could only pity PMB because I tried to understand his frustration.  As he sat there facing the cameras, he would have thought like someone in the past, “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:  We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn”.

How quickly ovations can descend into vilifications!  This was the same PMB that somebody trekked to Abuja to congratulate at his inauguration in 2015.  This was the same Buhari that somebody sang “4+4” and dared the corrupt to remain in Nigeria should Buhari be elected for the second term! Alas, few years after, only noises of “PMB Must Go” and protest marches rent the airwaves.  Captions similar to, “The Sad Chronicles of A Failed Messiah” pervade the print and electronic media.  I shook my head in disbelief at the “vanishing messiah” and how the lifeline is slipping through his fingers in the torrents of flood hell bent on carrying him away. 

My sadness was heightened when I remembered the host of civil servants who have been doing there best to make sure that Nigeria has a system that works but whose efforts are drowned by those who have a contrary agenda aided by a conniving ruling elite. 

A critical farce in all of these is the penchant to blame corruption.  We cannot keep attributing every ineptitude to corruption.  Only 6 nations in the world (Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Sweden, Singapore and Switzerland) are perceived as the top 6 least corrupt nations in the world ranking consistently high among international financial transparency.  Thus, every nation battles with some level of corruption or the other.  In 2017 I wrote on my Facebook page a post titled “F**K The Law” and submitted that, “the Nigerian government claimed it has identified 55 Nigerians who were responsible for the diversion, misappropriation or embezzlement of #1.35 trillion between 2006 and 2015 and some other amounts in foreign currency. Yet none has been convicted or killed.  Whosoever cares to listen, the average citizen is tired of insensitive statistics. How many talk shops do we want to hold since 1999, the year of ICPC or 2003, the year of EFCC without conviction of any serious elephant offenders?  Anti-corruption in Nigeria is not a subject in which the law must be seen as an ass that perpetually miscarries justice. It is an issue where any barrier whether in law, system, processes, human, psychological, spiritual must be eliminated or purged completely. The law must be the powerful instrument that delivers justice very swiftly without fear, ill will or favour.  Nigeria must be rebranded as a country where violation of rules attract very swift consequences in legal, social and economic sanctions with appropriate denial of benefits and privileges of a citizen. Such must be swiftly withdrawn from such violator or offender.  Having said this, whatever way the government has implied been endorsing corruption in the civil service, it must also check itself. You cannot be fighting corruption when everyday your acts of omission and commission incentivise corruption. Awon kan o le ma gbadun, ki a wa kan ma suffer due to unpunished acts of corruption”. 

In “No Peace Without Justice”, I submitted that, “All the tribes and their role-actors or representatives are guilty of the current state of the nation’s socio-economic and political system after 60 years.  We must forgive one another.  All the tribes need healing.  Nigeria will not change purely or simply through prayers.  Nigeria’s problem has remained not only a failure of character and values but an abiding lack of will to find the right formula to form a modern multi-ethnic democratic nation.  Nigeria’s experience will not change without change in personnel to those who have capacity, competence and commitment to provide qualitative leadership.  Further, no society is without its deviants and it is a failure of the political and social systems if deviants thrive better than non-deviants.  This definitely cannot be justice.  Leadership is 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.  We must pull down the financial barriers that hinder capable Nigerians from being part of the electoral process or system.  No honest competent man will spend 100 billion hard earned naira to contest a presidential election!”

It is still Saturday Life Lines.  Covid-19 is real.  Let us keep observing the relevant protocols always.  We will not be unfortunate in the many years we have left. 

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

We All Need To Grow With Time

Published on 05/06/2021

Whilst age, length of engagement in public affairs, experience and exposure matter to attaining the status of “elder-statesman”, capacity, competence, character, maturity, sobriety and gravity define the quality of such status. 

This past week has been dominated by the statement credited to President Muhammadu Buhari on the civil war that occurred between 1967 and 1970 in Nigeria. The issue of the Nigerian civil war has always been a very sensitive subject which evokes all kinds of memories, recollections, perspectives and narratives. This statement by PMB brought immediately to my mind a number of apposite adage by the Yoruba People of the South Western Nigeria.  

First is that the quiet or silent person is never misquoted or never misspeaks (“A kii dake ka si wi”). Usually PMB is taciturn.  The second adage is that when the young man or woman rejects the pounded yam prepared from yesterday, the elders in the house recounts a story of how his or her mother exited the family. “Bi omode ba ko iyan ana, awon agbalagba a fi itan bale”.  PMB has been provoked and this triggered an outburst.  Is this outburst really necessary? Was the timing wrong?  Well, the third adage is the one that the Yorubas have again adopted to describe an elder who lacks the maturity, gravitas and capacity to handle complex affairs of intra family relationship.  That term is “agba ti ko to ile”.  The Yorubas wrapped this up when they offered again that, “if the fox has boils around its eyes, it is not the fowl that will make the announcement” that is, “bi oju akata ba n le wo se enu adiye lo ye ka ti gbo”?

A wise elder would consider the impact of his statement before ventilating them or the impact of his story before rendering it.  The insensitivity of the outburst has led to a deletion by Twitter Inc of the tweeted statement by PMB and this has in turn provoked the Federal Government to impose a ban on the use of the platform in Nigeria. 

At a personal level, it is important for everyone of us not to lose our heads on the current political economic situations that Nigeria finds itself.  This is because we owe ourselves the duty to grow with time.  “No one of us can is powerful to stop the march of time or slow it down”.  Our life’s story is unfolding simultaneously with the story of Nigeria.  We must however not allow ourselves to be distracted or sidetracked into nothingness or emptiness.  The late Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, in the Commencement Speech of 12 June 2005 at Stanford University shared three stories.  It is the first story on connecting the dots that is of interest to me in this column this weekend. 

As Steve Jobs claimed, “I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit.  17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life.  So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting. It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned Coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:  Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and sans serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.  None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But 10 years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backward 10 years later.

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life”. 

This story Illustrates growth.  Few enduring things are achieved overnight.  Nature speaks and it speaks to the process of growth.  This becomes important in an era where delayed gratification appears to be quaint and the desire to become anything overnight is the “in thing”.  No wonder Napoleon Hill wrote the book, “Think and Grow Rich”.   Becoming rich has a process of growth embedded in it.  No matter how aggressive you are to realize a better future, it does not materialize without a process.  We all were babies at some point depending on the mother and later both parents for all our survival needs.  We needed to be backed or carried to move around. Later, we began to crawl before we took our first steps in an attempt to walk and later we stabilized in the process of walking. Year on year we attained teen age and later became the adult that we are today.  All these stages were in the process of growth. 

I could also recall when I graduated from the University and came to Lagos to seek employment.  There was a time I could only afford a bus to move from one point to the other. In this period and on a bad day, I could stand for hours at the bus stop before finding the bus going to whatever my destination was at the time. After a process of time, I could afford to get from one destination to the other by simply flagging a taxi and later engage a car hire for a whole day service. After some time, I got my car and the rest is history. I cannot remember when last I had to stop at a bus stop to be able to get from one point to the other.  Similarly from squatting at a time, I progressed to securing a three bedroom apartment and then after some years bought my own residential property.  Whilst there are many whose trajectory may deviate from these experiences, a close look at their lives would show some other elements of the growth process. 

Time remains our most valuable resource and whenever we say time is money, let us always remember that there is no period in life when time was not money.  When we could only afford to trek, time was money; when we could only afford to go on a bike/bus, time was money; when we could only afford to go in our own cars, time was money; when we could only afford a plane ticket, time never ceased to be money.  Our life is tenured, let us get the most out of the time we have.  “Lost time is never found again,” according to Benjamin Franklin.

It is still Saturday Life Lines.  Covid-19 is real.  Let us keep observing the relevant protocols always.  We will not be unfortunate in the many years we have left. 

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

The Colour of Hubris

Published on 29/05/2021

One unsolved riddle of this past week was why President Muhammadu Buhari could not attend in person the burial of the late Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt General Attahiru Ibrahim and 10 other officers.  Only for the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity, Mr. Garba Shehu to attribute the conspicuous absence of the President to restrictions on vehicular movement that VIP movement occasion.  In his words, the President “does not like this idea of closing roads, security men molesting people on the road, whenever he is out for an event outside Aso Rock”.  In this same week, a clip of a verbal altercation between a woman and the former First Lady of Lagos state, Senator Remi Tinubu, at the south West Constitution Review hearing made the round on social media and the controversy whether or not the Former First lady had the right to call a fellow woman “a thug” or a “dog” became the subject of discussion. 

These two issues spotlight what should be appropriate behaviour in governance generally and in symbolic dimensions.  It is natural for Nigerians to have expectations of responsible and decorous behaviour from those who have been elected to serve them if indeed those elected recognize this dimension of leadership.  It is not misplaced expectation for the Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) to attend in person the burial of his COAS and other officers who perished in the unfortunate airplane crash as they were at the time in the service of the nation.  It is thus a natural consequence for Nigerians including the family of the departed to raise eyebrows if the C-in-C was not there to pay his last respects to the departed.  For the family (nuclear and extended), this is the least that could be done to identify with their irreparable loss and sorrow.  This is the least that could be done to bring emotional relief and re-assurance to the surviving spouses and children.  Such symbolic actions go a long way to demonstrate that the direct report to the COAS appreciates the ultimate sacrifice made in the service of the nation and not mere “one spanner loss”. 

Whilst Nigerians expect more generally from the political elites, a demonstration of visible and tangible empathy in the face of the current and present economic morass is the least that they wish to see in the immediate and short term.  Therefore, calling a fellow woman or fellow man “a thug” (or if another account is believed, “a dog”) is completely unacceptable no matter who you are relative to the target of those uncouth words.  Nothing to gain from perpetrating attitudes of oppression based on benefits of the commonwealth accrued at the expense of the same Nigerians whose lives are meant to become transformed or positively impacted from your leadership. 

In my article titled, ”What Is Happening To Poverty?”, I contended that “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”.

Food inflation is about 25% and the implication of this for households is real and not imagined.  There is now widespread hunger in the land.  Arrogance of political authority or opulence derived from same is not what the average Nigerian wish to see on display from political elites or functionaries.  Nigerians are genuinely worried because situations have never been this bad.  The situation right now appeared worse than the worst of the Structural Adjustment Policy period.  Those who witnessed that era growing up should be able to appreciate the comparison.  There is no Nigerian who does not identify with Mr Ryan North’s aspiration and wish to say like him, “I’ve wanted since I was very little to not have to worry about money. I’ve never been poverty-level poor (I mean, there’s been years where I’ve been officially beneath the poverty line, but that wasn’t poverty: that was being a student and living the Student Lifestyle), but I’ve been in a place where you know you can’t afford a… better-quality food, where you can’t do certain things because of money, and I’d prefer not to have those problems if I can. I sort of have troubles with money in general, with how it determines so much of our lives but with how we all try to ignore it, but I would like to be (and stay) in a place where I can pick up some new comics and games and not worry about how much they cost. This is terrible; you’re asking me where I want to be in the future, what I want my life to be like, and the only thing I can tell you is “Man, all I know is I don’t want to be POOR.”

Whilst no one nation is free of crisis (even the most developed nations), the nature of the crisis as well as the response from its political elites or leadership has mattered.  It is in the nature of the crisis and the response from the political leadership that the stark difference between the developed nations and the developing or regressing countries like Nigeria has shown.  Nigerians don’t feel valued as citizens.  Unfortunately, a growing perception that the citizen is on his own has continued to give rise to an excessively morbid survival syndrome such that very few Nigerians are not waiting for an opportunity to raid the national or sub-national treasury to “transform their fortunes” if the opportunity presents itself.  No nation will survive or make progress with this type of system.  A system that no longer gives hope for self-actualisation nor appropriately reward industry.  A system where it is cheaper to profit from criminal behaviours or associations than from clean and honest exertions. 

These are some of the issues that have exacerbated the growing hunger and pervasive insecurity in the land whilst the political functionaries appear to be snoozing and not sufficiently concerned because they are feeding off the current unfair system. 

It is still Saturday Life Lines.  Covid-19 is real.  Let us keep observing the relevant protocols always.  fortunate in the many years we have left. 

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

The Habits of Hindrance & Paul’s Plan B

Published on 22/05/2021

Stephen Covey’s greatest contribution to the conversation on human progress is the uncovering of the impact of habits on our lives.  Till he died, he laboured strenuously to demonstrate how habits can make or mar an individual’s life. As it is true for an individual, so it is true for a nation.  On the collective therefore, every group or society establish its own dynamics and certain habits evolve or are formed peculiar to that group or society.  And this is one factor that the current political leadership of our Nation has ignored in the quest to evolve a truly Nigerian ideal.  Of course, one understands the vengeance of the truism “Nemo dat quod non habet”, no one can give what he does not have and if I may add, no matter the strength of desire or will. 

Those who know how to say the right things with eloquence and great profundity have never been in short supply in Nigeria.  Only the doers of the right things have been scarce.  So when the Lead Pastor of House On The Rock, Pastor Paul Adefarasin concluded that the situation in Nigeria is hopeless and proffered “the great escape” as his inspired “Plan B”, it was obvious to me that his idea of “Plan B” is not for everyone and definitely not for the masses of our people.  It is better for the masses of our people to accept that they have fallen into the “miry pit”. 

This “Plan B” of Pastor Paul Adefarasin can only be of interest to middle income earners and above or other upwardly mobile segment of our working population.  Whilst every nation of the world benefits from reasonable doses of legal (or “legitimized”) migration, wholesale stampede from one country to another (not as a result of any cataclysmic event triggering the for asylum) creates different kind of reaction or response by the “receiving” countries.  It will always be precarious for a nation where the general attitude of its professionals is to trigger “the great escape” in times of crisis.  This to me is potentially one of the reasons Nigeria has remained in her present morass. 

No wonder Peter, not Peter the Apostle; not Peter the Great but our own Peter Enahoro, the ace journalist and former editor of Daily Times in his book first published in 1966, “How to be a Nigerian” drew attention to some of the other habits that have hindered Nigeria as a nation.  “So, when a Nigerian is invited to arbitrate, he knows that he will be condemned by both sides if he does not find fault with either side to the dispute and praise both for their infinite patience at the same time.  Thus, he will lean over backwards to blame the obviously innocent party and pick on trivial trespass so that he can be seen to have been fair.  The result of this arbitration would then be a compromise between a lasting scar and a fresh wound.  The arbitrator’s equivocative upbraid of the guilty party is enough to instill a sense of guilt; yet his censure of the innocent party is sufficiently unfair to arouse fresh hostility.  The result of this arbitration would then be a compromise between a lasting scar and a fresh wound.

In most parts of the world, a price tag tells you the exact cost of an article on display in a market.  Not so in Nigeria.  There are no price tags; although there are prices.  What then happens is that the market mammy knowing that correct price of a dozen eggs is 5 naira asks 1 naira more; the customer knowing that he should rightly pay 5 naira, offers 1 naira less.  Both parties then haggle back and forth and compromise on 5 naira.

What about the civil servant? “The civil servant is underpaid, which makes service equivalent to servitude. On the other hand, the civil servant takes a razor sharp tongue to work with him and will snap like the jaws of a crocodile at the least provocation. Thus, why he is not civil, he is a servant. It is a rare compromise”

Oh, the Nigerian Diplomat. “He is another romantic compromise.  He has been carefully trained to believe that diplomacy is a compromise between a given policy and organised contradictions. Thus, in international conferences, the Nigerian diplomat has a lot to say but refrains from saying a lot. Which is most intriguing.  When a Nigerian diplomat rises to make a speech, he only intends to make a “brief clarification” and not to make a speech.  Later, a statement will be issued briefly clarifying the brief clarification which had been briefly stated earlier by the diplomat!  Nigeria’s entire diplomatic strategy will fall flat on its face if a Nigerian official were to be so undiplomatic as to try to be heard first at an international gathering.”

Really?  Then the task of our political leadership must include identifying such national habits that will not give flight to a new Nigerian ideal or vision.  As a matter of grave necessity, Nigeria (in whatever shape or form) must be organised around clear set of national values and reformed habits as a people.

The week ended on a tragic note with the crash on Friday of the Airforce plane which claimed the lives of Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt General Attahiru Ibrahim and 10 other officers.  They were in Kaduna on schedule for a military passing out parade.  A lot of conspiracy theories have been floated following the death of the COAS.  One thing is clear; Nigeria must put an end to military plane or helicopter crashes claiming the lives of very bright and competent officers. 

It is still Saturday Life Lines.  Covid-19 is real.  Let us keep observing the relevant protocols always.  We will not be unfortunate in the many years we have left. 

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

Nero’s Second Coming: Who is in Charge?

Published on 08/082021

Sometimes the Nigerian situation unfold like a movie.  At times, it unfolds like a nightmare you wish you can wake up from at the point those enemy forces are about to unleash their final attack on you.  The reality is that the Nigerian situation is not a movie, not a make-believe world of Matrix.  Lives are truly being lost on a daily basis; properties are being destroyed and it has increasingly become difficult for majority of our citizens to make a living.  This is not an exaggeration.  Nigeria appears to be drifting, moving from side to side, tossed about on the waves of vicissitudes like an abandoned ship or rudderless craft.  There is a sense of chaos.  Everybody just misbehaving as if there is no central authority to impose a semblance of control or order.  Bandits, killer herdsmen, Boko Haram jihadists are prancing about marching through target towns and cities without any challenge, abducting old and young and brazenly demanding and collecting ransom. 

It is not an exaggeration to assert that Nigeria has never been at this kind of precipice before in its 61 years after Independence and 107 years after amalgamation.   This is the classic situation for which the axiom was coined, “Nero fiddled While Rome Burned”.  History has it that in July of 64 A.D., a great fire ravaged Rome for six days, destroying 70 percent of the city and leaving half its population homeless.  Rome’s emperor at the time, the decadent and unpopular Nero, “fiddled while Rome burned.”  Not only did Nero play music while his people suffered, but he was an ineffectual leader in a time of crisis.

When the Great Fire broke out, Nero was at his “villa” at Antium, some 35 miles from Rome. Though he immediately returned and began relief measures, people still didn’t trust him. Some even believed he had ordered the fire started, especially after he used land cleared by the fire to build his Golden Palace and its surrounding pleasure gardens.  

The sense that Nigeria presently has no leader is too pervasive.  This raises the question, “who is in charge?”  In the movie, “Passenger 57” an 1992 American action thriller film directed by Kevin Hooks. The film stars Wesley Snipes and Bruce Payne, with Snipes portraying a security consultant who finds himself forced to foil a plot to free a captive terrorist during a commercial airline flight. 

Bruce Payne plays Charles Rane, the villain.  Rane is a legitimately terrifying character.  When he took over the plane, he shoved open the door to the cockpit and, gun in hand, asked “Who’s in charge?” The pilot answered “Me.” Bam. Headshot. No delay. He repeated the question. The co-pilot answered, “You are.” The co-pilot lived. For the rest of the movie, every scene in the cockpit has a blood-stained, brains encrusted window. Every time.

General Ibrahim Babangida once said, “We are not only in office but we are in power”.  He was believed and everyone appeared to comply.  Late General Sani Abacha once said, “if anyone tests our will, he will be decisively dealt with”.  Nigerians heard him right and believed.  In the current situation, it has been empty vows till date.  No one listens anymore.  We seem to lack someone to point to when the question, “who is in charge?” has been asked.  This is the tragedy.  How has the Federal Government and its apparatchik become this toothless, a paper tiger challenged openly by bandits, killer herdsmen and Boko Haram operatives.  Like we say in the world of idioms, many have slept at the wheels of governance and institutional responsibility.  I can only conclude this column in a manner similar to the edition titled,” Which Way Nigeria?”:

“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 Priest, Sonny Okosun, as an evergreen commentary on the confusion that reigned then and is even worse now in 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 till we reach the promise land; Lets save Nigeria, So Nigeria won’t die

Which way Nigeria is heading to, Inefficiency and indiscipline is ruining the country now,

Corruption here there and everywhere inflation is very high, Lets save Nigeria, So Nigeria won’t die

Let’s save Nigeria, So Nigeria won’t die”

On Women’s Day

We commemorate another Mothers’ Day this weekend.  For some it will be a day that they do not wish to remember or be influenced to celebrate. Let me clarify. 

There is no one under the heavens that is not born of a woman, even our Lord Jesus Christ, “eni ti mo fi t’owo t’owo daruko” as the Yorubas are wont to say.  The Immaculate Conception was vide a woman and delivery by a mother.  For blessed are ye among women was the message that rang out in greetings by Angel Gabriel.   

There is nothing life has not served in terms of experiences around motherhood. This has raised the question, “Who exactly is the/a mother?”. Is it the woman that carried the child to delivery for 9 months or the woman who raised the child to maturity?

For some, the two roles are combined in one woman and such children could be deemed lucky.  Some children are not that lucky.  Different women have had to play these roles in their lives with the inevitable associated consequences.  There are stories of sons and daughters abandoned at childhood and the biological mothers only surfacing when they are doing well.  In some cases, not surfacing at all and creating serious identity issues at times for the affected individuals.  There are cases, if you choose to believe them, of mothers who have surrendered their children to other “mothers of the world” sometimes resulting in death, suppression, transfer or exchange of potentially glorious destinies. 

These quite unpleasant experiences raise the question whether there is an omission or commission that a mother may make that a child should not forgive?  There are children who are alienated from their mothers presently whatever the reasons. Can’t they just forgive and embrace these mothers and learn to celebrate them every day and better on Mothers’ day?

Having said this, a mother’s influence is crucial in every one’s attempt to realise its destiny. In my case, what could and would I have been without my mother?  I use this medium to reach out to anyone who has an unresolved issue with his mother or even his/her father, to reflect on the sacrifices these roles require especially in the formative years of 0-18 years.  Forgive and embrace your mother/father and celebrate them on a day as this.

It is still Saturday Life Lines.  Covid-19 is real. Let us keep observing the relevant protocols always.  We will not be unfortunate in the many years we have left. 

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

Kadaria Ahmed and Other Pressing Matters

Published on 01/01/2021

I was initially going to capture the series of events that unfolded this past week under the title “No Man’s Land” because of a comical episode that occurred 18 years ago. But still permit me a little comical digression.

In those early years in my career when I had no car and often had to go to the office to clear some assignments over the weekend, I took a cab this fateful Sunday from Obalende to get to Gerrard Road in Ikoyi where my office address was at the time. When we got to Cameron a teenage girl probably 18 or 19 years showed me a piece of paper stating an address: “No Man’s Land, Ikoyi”. I immediately pointed out to her that the address was not complete, the name of a street would be required; that the only location that I knew then that ended with “Land” was Fantasy Land, which then was on Bankole Oki in Ikoyi. Could you call the owner of the address note? She did not have the number. I alighted at my stop and did not know how the taxi driver resolved the girl’s dilemma. This type of “nonsense” worked well about 18 years ago but this time the appropriate disposition has become “shine your eyes”.

Kadaria Ahmed came out swinging during the week and called out fellow journalists on the need to be more responsible and accountable in the way they report the news especially those bordering on ethnic relationships within the Nigerian polity and avoid approaches that can further exacerbate the divide or heat up the polity. Has she said, ”Don’t report the news as it is?” I do not think so but she has cautioned against adopting “salacious” “baiting” or “inciting” headlines.

Regardless of what anyone knows or believe about Kadaria Ahmed, it is imperative to heed those words as responsible journalists, family men and women and Nigerians who may not have anywhere else to go if and when the “shit hits the fan”. We cannot be “rejecting war in Jesus name” or declaring “God forbid” as they say but persist in beating continuously the drums of war.

History is always an important signpost for the present and the future. Those who ignore history are condemned not only to repeat but retweet it. It is the drums of War that are beaten repeatedly. The drums of peace often remind you of Osetura, the Chief Priest, the eponymous character defined by Late Chief Hubert Ogunde in his movies and his struggle against spirit-motivated physical oppression and wickedness.

War inflicts oftentimes irreparable losses. Whatever we have now has taken time to build. War is like fire. It razes down to ashes results of several years. In the long run, war makes no sense when it merely delivers Pyrrhic victory. As Takashi Kazuo pointed out in his book, “Studying The Wars”, it would take a state that experienced war for 5 years, 20 years to revert to pre-war conditions.

In the first Civil War, we had a competent, capable and forward-thinking Commissioner of Finance in the person of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. This time around we are already in dire straits economically. The economic fundamentals are very shaky and would be worse by virtue of any prolonged crisis.

If the story credited to Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (SLS) is true, then this story is reminding us as individuals and collective, to keep the dogs of War on the tightest leash. The ravages of War know “nobody” (using my American accent here). It will affect everyone for better or for worse. No case of “if I see the blood, I avoid you” from an economic perspective!

According to SLS, “Do you know that there is a town called Kwankwoso in the city of Kano? This town is where the former Governor of Kano State is from. This town was founded by an Igbo Trader who deal on groundnuts by name Chief Felix Okonkwo in 1927. This Igbo businessman named his Company located near the Kano railways Okonkwo & sons In 1927. The Kano indigenes then who were finding it difficult to pronounce the Igbo word OKONKWO mispronounced the man’s company as KWANKWOSONS which was later modified to KWANKWOSO. That name later became the name with which the total locality where Chief Okonkwo’s Company was located was referred to. This was how an Igbo man founded the Kwankwaso Town in Kano State. Now tell me how you think the children of Chief Okonkwo Felix who has been living and doing business in Kano for over 90years now can find it easy to leave Kano and relocate to the East”!

I think once beaten twice shy. “There was a country” was not the dying declaration of a broken elder for another war but an appeal for a more focused approach to realising the Nigeria that harnesses all our strengths as a multi-ethnic State.

I am ideologically opposed to, unrepentantly and irreversibly against a civil war which could only benefit politicians and their businessmen cronies. I am against such a war because the road to peace would in the end be paved through dialogue. If we are still going to “jaw jaw” why embark on “war war”? Would this just mean that we are trying to flex muscles without regard to loss of lives, property and other tokens of human existence? If we are poorer before such a war, most likely we will be poorest after such a war. As this type of war protracts, the rationale for the war gets confusing or completely lost.

Therefore, the only measure I support is any measure that seeks to exert pressure on the politicians for good governance and performance in public office. Accordingly, I support any measure against:

• Corruption
• Indiscipline
• Incompetent leadership
• Election rigging
• Unemployment
• Poor infrastructureo
• Religious bigotry

Any measure to clean our national life secures my support. Any measure to deepen our Nigerianness secures my support. Any measure which ensures that both simple and complex processes work in Nigeria secures my support. Any measure which dislodges the ubiquitous “X-factor” of utter mediocrity, indiscipline, disrespect, selfishness and corruption secures my support. The consequences of such a measure are better than the type the current drumbeats seek to trigger. Thereafter, when we say “Naija”, it should no longer be as an expression of reference to mediocrity, indolence, incompetence, disorderliness, triviality, insensitivity, visionlessness, empty religiosity, selfishness or pure hedonism but an affirmation or celebration of its people, ways, and quality of life.

Of course, I believe in Johnny Walker’s ethos: “Though I walk slowly, I walk surely”. But I also believe in “more haste, less speed” as well as to “make hay when the sun shines”. That is, no one will wait indefinitely.

Nigerians at this stage in the 21st century should not be accused of impatience at all. Indeed, they need to be impatient with charlatans; they need to be impatient with, nay intolerant of comedians in governance; they need to be impatient with those who want to take them on another roller coaster trip without discernible result/target; a wild ride that leaves them with emptiness; with shadows rather than substance; with deceitful words rather than concrete achievements.

On this note without delving into the merits of who was right between the factions within First Bank seeking removal of the Managing Director (MD) and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), I would like to salute the courage of the CBN Governor in coming out to confront Boardroom impunity that manifested in the “irregular” removal of the MD on Wednesday, 28 April 2021.

Pending conclusion of investigation, it is apparent that Mr Lanre Omiyinka alias Baba Ijesha, a very talented, versatile, under-rated and under-utilised actor of the Nollywood Yoruba sector, put himself in a very compromising situation with the under-age girl and daughter of Princess, the commedienne. Our government must use this opportunity to elevate awareness and education of our people especially our female children so they can always find their voices when subjected to any form of molestation. This is also a clarion call to mothers to be more attentive to their roles.

It is still Saturday Life Lines. Covid-19 is real. Let us keep observing the relevant protocols always. We will not be unfortunate in the many years we have left.

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

Pantami and His Steaming 20 Year Old Pounded Yam

Published 23/04/2021

If Alhaji Isa Pantami thought his alleged connection to terrorist groups would go away on account of his public regret for having expressed or documented those thoughts that brought upon him this present crisis, he has got another thing coming. 

The past week had been replete with calls for his resignation and or removal from the cabinet of President Mohammadu Buhari.  Incidentally, the momentum on the issue coincided with the return of PMB from his periodic medical check-up in the United Kingdom.  If also the Presidency thinks that its response through Garba Shehu, Special Adviser to PMB on Media, that Alhaji Isa Pantami’s situation is not as grievous as Mrs Kemi Adeosun’s certificate forgery will put paid to this matter, the Presidency must also have another think coming. 

The two situations are not similar.  To dare to compare them to justify the retention of Alhaji Isa Pantami in the PMB cabinet is a very bizzare attempt to obfuscate the issues.  How does certificate forgery compare with extremist views expressed in support of ideologies of terror groups such as Al-Qaeda and Taliban during lectures as an Islamic scholar in the 2000s with full awareness that these terror groups have scant regard for lives and properties in the pursuit of their very intolerant and destructive agenda? 

In the Constitutions of the Federal Republic of Nigeria since Independence, Nigeria is asserted to be a Secular State.  Secularism does not imply the absence of religions in Nigeria; but the absence of a State-sponsored religion.  It implies that citizens will have and be able to exercise free choice to religion without any fear, intimidation, victimization or favour.   Accordingly, Section 10 of the 1999 Constitution prohibits the adoption of state religion.  Section 15(2) of the same Constitution stipulates that national Integration shall be actively encouraged, whilst discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited.  It is these choices that terror groups frequently undermine. 

Whilst the Constitution states one thing, our realities are clearly different.  This is because our politicians have chosen to pander to all kinds of considerations in the quest for votes and “crossed” the lines of secularity many times in governance.  There are a number of detailed works that exist on this subject and I will therefore not detain myself by this in this column. 

For me what is important is what lessons for life that we can take away from the Alhaji Isa Pantami situation. 

Young or old, Nigerians are very opinionated people.  There is almost nothing on earth that a Nigerian does not have an opinion on.  But then, we must recognize that we remain accountable for whatever we think, say or do whether in passion and out of passion.  We must recognize that words are powerful and when we use them, we must use them delicately and responsibly.  Our words can trigger for good or evil.  We must recognize that words expressed today can have repercussions or validation subsequently. 

This is why the Yorubas always note that words are like eggs once they are released you may not be able to recall them.  And to call attention to consequences, they have also noted that a twenty-year old plate of pounded yam can be steaming hot and you wonder how it has been preserved!

25 years ago, Alhaji Isa Pantami was probably not in national limelight and did not think he could serve at ministerial level and ever become haunted by previous extreme views and statements. 

It is always risky for someone who has documented and expressed fervent thoughts on a matter as sensitive and bordering on religious intolerance to be trusted to have changed or recanted those views. 

The honourable thing for him to do is to excuse himself from the Cabinet and invest time in washing himself off this global perception as a terrorist sympathizer or promoter.  And that is if he indeed regrets the actions of his youth. 

To conclude, I must assert that people learn different things from life.  The difference in our circumstances of genealogy, birth, location or geography, education etc guarantees this diversity of life experiences.  Whether you like it or not, whether freely or by force, life will teach you something or you will learn something from life.  

However, it is not every lesson that life teaches or that is learnt that is profound.  Invariably, each of us is entitled to one profound conclusion or lesson of life in his lifetime.  For some, it is at the point of death, demise or decline that this lesson is learnt and they could no longer do anything about it, which in itself is a tragedy. 

“We’re all human, aren’t we? Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving.”  J.K. Rowling

“My experience of life is that it is not divided up into genres; it’s a horrifying, romantic, tragic, comical, science-fiction cowboy detective novel. You know, with a bit of pornography if you’re lucky.” Alan Moore

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” George Bernard Shaw

Life is surely full of lessons. There are too many sources of those lessons.  Let us take advantage of them and reduce the lessons from avoidable personal misadventure unlike Alhaji Isa Pantami. 

Covid-19 is real. Let us keep observing the relevant protocols always.  We will not be unfortunate in the many years we have left. 

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

Let Us Go Now, and Print More Money

Published on 17/04/2021

There is no better way for me to open the conversation in this column this weekend than to recall the immortal words of George Santayana, that philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist, originally from Spain but raised and educated in the US and who identified himself as an American, even though he always retained a valid Spanish passport. 

He once said, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  Those who do not remember their past are condemned to repeat their mistakes. Those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it. Those who fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors are destined to repeat them”.

We have been here before on the issue of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) printing money.  But before proceeding, I think it is important to commend Governor Obaseki’s decision and courage (whatever his motivation, if different from patriotism) to bring this surreptitious action of Nigeria’s CBN to public attention.  Governor Obaseki’s outcry came at a time when Nigeria’s inflation is at 18.7%, the highest in the last four years, with food inflation spiking to 22.95%.  “The galloping nature of Nigeria’s inflation is an indication of the dwindling purchasing power of Nigerians.  This implies that Nigerians spent more on purchasing goods and services in the month of March, compared to February.  The last time Nigeria recorded an inflation rate higher than 18.17%, was in January 2017 when headline inflation stood at 18.72%”.

The allegation that the CBN printed about 60 billion naira to make up for shortfall in the allocation to States is either a simplistic or simpleton economics; its role as the lender of last resort to the Government notwithstanding. 

My initial reaction was one of incredulity.  Is Nigeria already in Uganda’s Idi Amin? Are we already keeping company with Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela?  When the Minister of Finance informed Idi Amin that “the government coffers were empty”, Amin responded, “Why [do] you Ministers always come nagging to President Amin?  You are stupid.  If we have no money, the solution is very simple: you should print more money.”

According to Jon Miltimore, when the Socialist President Nicolas Maduro came to power in 2013 in Venezuela, shortly before the worldwide plunge in the price of oil, a commodity Venezuela relied upon heavily to fund the state programs enacted by Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, he simply began to print money because he lacked the funds to finance the social programs he inherited.  This action simply diluted the value of Venezuela’s currency, the bolivar.

In 2014, Maduro thought he could solve his problems by printing money.  As a result, prices soared.  By 2018, a two-pound bag of carrots was going for 3 million bolivars (46 cents). A roll of toilet paper: 2.6 million bolivars (40 cents). A five-pound chicken: 14.6 million bolivars. This economic phenomenon is called hyperinflation. 

Mr Kunle Oyatomi in his column “Matters Arising” of 5 September 2009 in the Vanguard Newspapers under the caption “Printing More Money Can Backfire” reacted to a simplistic suggestion by Mr Jimoh Ibrahim that the CBN then under the leadership of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (SLS) should print more money to bail out the FG from cash flow shortages. 

Mr Oyatomi had this to say at the time: “I am aware that Jimoh is not an economist but he has recorded such huge success in business that he could be considered an authority by practice on economic and money matters.  There would have been no need for me to make public reference to Jimoh, but for the fact that governor of the Central Bank, Mr Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, has gone public to make his decision known that he will do what Jimoh Ibrahim had suggested – print new money to bail out the economy.  Like Jimoh, I am also not an economist, but based on the experiences of other African countries that have gone that route, I find it uncomfortable to buy into that risk”

“Idi Amin of Uganda took the risk of printing new money to bail that country’s economy out of the doldrums but the exercise backfired so catastrophically.  It has taken Museveni over two decades to right the disastrous consequences.  Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe is still stewing in the fire of economic wreckage which was exacerbated by the decision of that country’s Central Bank to print new money for the economy to bounce back.  Each time Zimbabwe printed new money, the country’s currency drops in value.  Today the Zimbabwean dollar can buy nothing anywhere in the world except in bales of the currency to buy a hamburger”, Mr Oyatomi noted. 

And as such the “argument that Britain and America or any of the countries of the G8 decided to print money to get out of recession is no justification for us to do the same at this point in our own economic crisis. Our economy does not have the strength to absorb such risk.  The economy is in tatters, the infrastructure which can be relied upon for growth is non-existent, or is, at best, in a hopelessly bad shape. Where then is the back-up for such an exercise? This is too dangerous a risk to take”.

There is no better way to conclude this column this weekend than to borrow the conclusions of Jon Miltimore and where you see “Americans” just replace with “Nigerians”:

“Ominously, we seem to be taking the wrong lessons from this.  An emerging economic school of thought, Modern Monetary Theory, suggests that a wish list of government programs can be financed simply by creating more money.  Life would be grand if printing money could actually solve our economic problems, but it doesn’t work that way. Money is simply a medium of exchange that makes it easier to trade; it has no real value in itself and is subject to the laws of supply and demand like anything else.  Increasing the supply of money devalues each dollar… Throughout history—from Ancient Rome to Weimar Germany and beyond—governments have found it convenient to use the printing press to purchase commodities, fund programs, and fight wars they can’t actually afford.  Pumping out new money also blows up economic bubbles that inevitably (and painfully) pop.  It is easy to mock politicians like Amin and Maduro who saw printing money as a viable solution to their floundering economies.  But before doing so, Americans should take a careful look at some of the spending and monetary trends in their own economy. If they don’t, they may one day find themselves in familiar straits”.

As Nigerians welcome President Muhammadu Buhari back from his medical tourism, one can only hope he is better rejuvenated and reinvigorated to handle skillfully and resolve competently the issues circulating around our polity bearing in mind that common axiom or maxim, “Nemo dat quod non habet (no one gives what he does not have)”. 

Next week I will attempt to address an allegation of the “enemy within” which fingered Alhaji Isa Pantami, incumbent Minister for Communications and Digital Economy in relation to the Boko Haram group, the statement credited to Kim Jong Un of Korea that Nigeria should be sold to North Korea and he would turn the country around for good and the why Twitter decide to pitch its tent with Ghana. 

Covid-19 is real. Let us keep observing the relevant protocols always. 

May we not be unfortunate in the many years we have left. 

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

Death and Power of the Equaliser

Published on 10/04/2021

Arguably the biggest news of this past week is the death of Prince Phillip, who was married to Queen Elizabeth II for more than 70 years.  He died at the age of 99 years. 

Death is always significant and always affects.  It has implications for the departed, his circle of influence and humanity at large.  One fact is that it stridently reminds everyone of our respective appointment.  He is the great leveller. 

Death is called the Leveller because Death shows no distinction and he carries off everybody alike – high and low, rich and poor, strong and weak – reducing them all to dust.  He is an equalizer in whose eyes everybody is equal.  This reflection made James Shirley to pen the following evergreen poem captioned “Death The Leveller”:

“THE glories of our blood and state          

Are shadows, not substantial things;       

There is no armour against Fate;

Death lays his icy hand on kings:

Sceptre and Crown

Must tumble down,        

And in the dust be equal made   

With the poor crookèd scythe and spade.

Some men with swords may reap the field,           

And plant fresh laurels where they kill     

But their strong nerves at last must yield;              

They tame but one another still:

Early or late

They stoop to fate

And must give up their murmuring breath             

When they, pale captives, creep to death.             

The garlands wither on your brow,           

Then boast no more your mighty deeds!

Upon Death’s purple altar now  

See where the victor-victim bleeds.            

Your heads must come  

To the cold tomb:            

Only the actions of the just          

Smell sweet and blossom in their dust”

The fact of dying or death in itself is a bitter pill.  There is no time losing a loved one is truly acceptable.  But Prince Phillip must be one of those mortals favoured in life and in death.  Anyone who is fortunate to live a quarter of his lifetime (25%) in good health and solid provisions, living the kind of life that exists for some in fantasy has achieved, not to talk of someone who is able to do 50% or more of his time!  

Prince Philip was a patron, president or member of over 780 organisations, and he served as chairman of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, a self-improvement program for young people aged 14 to 24.  He was the longest-serving consort of a reigning British monarch and the longest-lived male member of the British royal family.

He retired from his royal duties on 2 August 2017, aged 96, having completed 22,219 solo engagements and 5,493 speeches since 1952.  Philip died on 9 April 2021, two months before his 100th birthday. 

No doubt, he lived a life that many would love to experience.  On this occasion of Prince Phillip’s passing on to glory, we are reminded of the lamentation of Job that a,“ man that is born of woman is of few days and is full of trouble; He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he flees also as a shadow, and continues not” and the declaration of Isaiah the prophet, “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field; the grass withers, the flower fades: because the spirit of the Lord blows upon it: surely the people is grass; but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

Such is our life on earth.  An abiding reality is that whatever happens to anyone in life, life goes on.  As Andry Lavigne once said, “There was no lasting happiness …You just need to be grateful when it comes …

There was no eternal sadness …You just need to be patient until it goes;  so, whatever happens, life must go on.. Just live and love your life ….because we are not immortal…”

A corresponding reality is that, “living is also not easy.  From the day we are born till the day we die, there is always something missing. Always something we are running after. Always something that we seek, want, need and desire. And we meet obstacles upon obstacles on our journey to be happy and satisfied. Sometimes it is the approval of our parents. Sometimes it is getting good grades. Sometimes it is finding a soul mate. Sometimes it is finding the right job. Sometimes it is having financial abundance. Sometimes it is following our passions. Sometimes it is reaching the social status that we cherish. You name it!”

Even then, there are certain experiences that beset you and inflict emotional incredulity, hurts and disappointment. But then, “maturity has more to do with what types of experiences you’ve had, and what you’ve learned from them, and less to do with how many birthdays you have celebrated”.

The Yorubas have a way of communicating these ideas especially to drive home the fact that “less is more”; “not everything that the eyes have seen, the tongue should speak about”; “not everything the hunter sees in the forest, he reports at home” or “not every insult deserves a response”.  Remember, “the rate at which a person can mature is directly proportional to the embarrassment” he can tolerate whatever the level.

“Onu kwuru njo ga-ekwu mma (The same mouth that condemns shall commend – once you succeed)”.

Covid-19 is real. Let us keep observing the relevant protocols always.  We will not be unfortunate in the many years we have left. 

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

The Tragedy of Speech Making by Nigerian Politicians and A Prayer from the Past

Published on 03/04/2021

A number of events pulled me back into writing about Nigeria even when I had prepared to discharge the burden on another issue I have titled as “Metaphors of Life”.  This would definitely have to be deferred till some other time. 

This past week has been dominated by news headlines on Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s birthday, his visit and address in Kano, the donation of 50m by BAT to traders affected by fire in a market in Katsina, to the latest medical trip by the Commander-In-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari to the United Kingdom. 

By way of reaction, some Nigerians revisited PMB’s February 2015 address at The Chatham House, incidentally in London, United Kingdom.  In that address, PMB made some very worthy statements that if he could have lived up to them, there would not have been the need to remind him of them today.  This amongst many other incidents in my experience triggered the focus of today’s column. 

I had my first live encounter with any politician ever around late 1999.  That encounter was with the late Cicero, Chief Ajibola Ige.  I was about to leave the Nigerian Law School, when my very respected brother Mr Lanre Alli intimated me about the creation of a Yoruba socio-cultural group by the name “Binukonu”.  He recruited me into membership of this organisation possibly because he appreciated my stance on Yoruba progress and Nigerian nationhood.  Of course, I have also never been shy with expressing my admiration for the Late Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo, the first premier of the Western Region.  I owe this man whom I never met physically at any time what I am and the quality of life I have today (no matter how small or big) because of the policy of universal free primary education he pursued in the West across a period of 30 years from 1957 till when he died in 1987. 

Back to Binukonu.  About 19 of us were the pioneer members.  19 very young lawyers and patriotic Nigerians under the leadership of the very vibrant Mr Dele Farotimi.  He had his way with words as unique as William Shakespeare.  It was from him that I first heard (and not only I but the Cicero) anyone use the word “expire” for the then maximum dictator, late General Sani Abacha, when he eventually gave up the ghost in 1998. 

Our group was formed at a time when the Alliance for Democracy was going through its internal crisis triggered by the selection (or election depending on the side of history that you are) of Chief Olu Falae as the Presidential candidate of the Alliance for Democracy in 1999.  We made a courtesy visit to Chief Bola Ige’s house in Ibadan as our first official action as a Group.  Our President drew Chief Ige’s attention to a paper which he delivered at an event at the Yoruba Tennis Club.  That paper was titled if I could recall properly, “The Yoruba Agenda and the Beckoning Glory of the 21st Century”

In that paper, Chief Bola Ige mapped out the next steps for the Yorubas within the Nigerian State.  On the strength of the vision enunciated by Chief Ige, the 19 of us prostrated before Chief Ige to forgive his colleagues within the AD for the error that was made in not being forthright with him on their preference for Chief Olu Falae as the presidential flag bearer of the AD and to focus on how to mobilise the Yorubas to realise the agenda.

Subsequent actions by Chief Ige made some of us realise that in Nigeria’s political firmament, the politicians are rarely men of honour.  Many just talk the good game but do not often deliver the good game; simply talkers and not doers.  You follow them at your peril.  Unfortunately, most of create our image of them based on what they say or what we have heard of them and at times ready to kill (friends, relatives, neighbours etc) or be killed (by them) for a phantom image of a political personality that we created which is a complete abstract from the real person. 

When Chief Ige realised that “Binukonu” was not going to be the political appendage or cronies of any politician or political party (our President and many of the boys were too fiercely independent minded), he blanked us out and failed to mention us in any of his speeches whenever he had cause to recognise upcoming youth groups in the South West till his death in December 2001. 

In “What Has Changed?” (a previous article in this column), I noted that 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”. 

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.  Indeed, there was an article aptly titled, “The Vanishing Messiah” under his “The Verdict According to Olusegun Adeniyi” Column at the backpage of This Day on Thursday which Mr Adeniyi wrote as a dirge on the Chief Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo government in 2001 (see “PMB’s Regress”).  The article was written just two years into Chief Obasanjo’s first term when it became clear that he had derailed completely from his inaugural address promises!  The Vanguard Newspapers also abandoned the practice of comparing the actions of the Government from 1999 to the Inaugural promises after 2001. 

These are the caliber of politicians we have in Nigeria.  Those who prepare and deliver speeches for show.  No intention to execute or deliver on the promises.  You hang on to those words at your peril.  If the speech is inspiring, it is only to make you feel good at that moment.  You may never experience the reality of those visions, dreams or exciting future expressed in the ink of those words.  They play with the present and the future of our people present and those yet unborn.  To them, politics is a game but they play to kill everyone and if or where you refuse to die, undermine your potentials. 

Whatever we do the character, the profile in terms of competence, capacity, commitment and the culture of the elites in Nigeria must change before Nigeria can get out of the woods as a nation.  We cannot continue to have politicians who continue to play with the present and the future.  As citizens we must care about politics because if we do not, Leon Trotsky contended that, politics care about us. 

Our fate as people is always ever impacted by the politicians.  Remember the latest poetic instalment from Dike Chukumerije where he submitted that “Nothing in society kills as efficiently as a politician in high office with low mentality”.

Regardless of what may be the immediate or remote causes of Nigeria’s current conditions, as far as I am concerned, all can be summarised in one word: the failure of leadership.  None of the rulers of Nigeria since the civil war unfortunately was able to rise above primordial issues of religion, ethnicity and other matters that have been used to divide Nigerians to provide clear, focused and competent leadership and management of the economy. At almost 61 years of independence, we are still going round in circles. Newspaper headlines of the 70s could as well have been published today given the regularity of sameness.  This is not only sad but depressing.  Why has none of the politicians from the most populous black nation on the earth risen to chart a different path for his multi-ethnic and religious people of Nigeria? Are there too many enemies of progress or what?

Having said all of the above, what is the prayer from the past?

The occasion was the return of Chief Obafemi Awolowo from London in 1982. He was met at the airport in Lagos by the Governors of the South Western States where the Unity Party of Nigeria held sway.  When they met him, he prayed thus:

“Let us pray the Almighty God, the Omnipotent and Benevolent, that he may rid our great country of incompetent rulers and bad and ill-motivated advisers and that He may imbue these rulers with insight and skill to perceive, even if dimly, the numerous rocks and icebergs that now lie in the path of our ocean voyage so that we may avoid collision with them.  In 1983, we pray that He should replace the captain and crew with a new team of patriotic, dedicated and inspired mariner and men who have the necessary skills to safely steer our ship to a prosperous and happy berthing. Amen” – Awo: Unfinished Greatness, Olufemi Ogunsanwo

This was 39 years ago.  It is not today that we started to search for competence in leadership; those who will take the leadership of this nation as serious business and have the capacity to deliver faithfully.  May the Almighty Father answer us in this generation! Amen

Covid-19 is real and still with us.  Let us continue to observe the relevant protocols.  We will not be unfortunate. 

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

What does being rich mean for you?

Published on 28/03/21

A video clip that circulated this week on social media in respect of a gentleman that had a case of corruption to answer in court has refocused attention on God and religion in Nigeria.  The video showed how meticulously the gentleman transformed himself into a sick person with crutches for support.  After the charade in court, he got back home and commenced observance of his prayers apparently praying to God Almighty. 

Dominant thinking is not necessarily correct.  We owe ourselves a duty to correct such wrong thinking whenever we confront it.  I choose to confront this before proceeding with the issue in focus this weekend.  I insist that the ALMIGHTY GOD has NEVER been the problem of this nation.  It is whatever anyone, a people or a nation sows that he/they will reap.  I remember this episode of “OMOBA” cartoon in The Punch those days.  “Cocoa farmers turn to the gods – News”. OMOBA quipped quoting a title of a book by Late Ola Rotimi,” But the gods are not to blame”. 

We must stop blaming religion.  Nothing is wrong with religion.  We must focus on the practitioners who would rather pray than work.  God of the Bible/Koran is a perfect example of diligence, intelligence and consistency.  He worked 6 days in creation rested for one day.  There was no, there is no and there will never be indolence in the Almighty God.  God is always at work.  Prayer is just one means of invoking the resources of heaven for work. 

No man should therefore blame this indolent spirit that will rather pray than work; that will rather pray than study, on God.  Paul admonished Timothy, “study to show thyself approved as a workman”.  The whole of scriptures rail against the slothful or slothfulness.  Today’s Nigerians lack proper work ethics as a cultural orientation with total breakdown of a value system that once required us to show labour’s dignity.  Everyone is now looking for the shortest possible means to make money and reap material rewards not necessarily commensurate with what he/she puts in the system.  

We need to work against the endemic called “excusitis” that continues to provoke and promote indolence in our people.  We need to strive for a more just and fairer society in distribution of access to the resources of our common wealth, revisit the malaise of our educational system and infuse the curriculum with the right emphasis on the values and systems that will sustain the continuity of our society.  Impunity cannot continue to thrive and we expect no response in the formation of a survival attitude that enhances abominable manifestation of selfishness.  We cannot continue to celebrate those with questionable or dubious fortunes in the places that matter in the society and neglecting to bring them to justice and expect that way of life not to have recruits.  We no longer show proper outrage. People with very dubious character are now tolerated and given pride of place in our society.  What a shame!

Now to the subject of the day.  For a very long time, I have been trying to frame what being rich should mean for me. 

Whilst the well documented riches of Solomon or that of the richest man in Babylon or that of John D Rockefeller, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, Elon Musk and many others who litter ancient and modern history hold some appeal, I feel a bit nervous framing my ideas around their staggering and mind boggling acquisitions.

Even at that I feel that a net liquid worth of #100b minimum will give me more than 60+ years to my current spend in age if I can just make this happen. How do I mean? It will take you on the average spending #1m per day 3 years to exhaust #1b. You can do the further mathematics. I recall an episode where I shared the #100b minimum perspective and someone called me CJN!

Anyways, I was in this valley of difficulty of how to define my preferred degree of ‘richness’ till I decided in 2018 December to read a book in my library that I had bought more than 4 years before but did not get round to read.

What an interesting book! What a remarkable style by the author!  Talking about the book. The book is “How To Get Rich”.  The author is Mr. Felix Dennis.  “Mr Felix Dennis made himself rich; very rich indeed.  As a matter of fact he is one of the richest self-made men in United Kingdom.”

But before I share with you what being rich means for me or the degree to which I would like to be rich, let me give you some interesting statements from the book:

“I cannot make you happy. I cannot make you healthy.  But I am pretty certain I can improve your chances of becoming rich; which in turn will improve your sex life. People who grow rich almost always improve their sex life. More people want to have sex with them. That is just the way human beings work”.

Now to how rich.  “Not super rich. Not filthy rich, stinking rich.  Not Bill Gate rich; Not Jeff Bezos rich; Not Dangote rich {Not Elon Musk rich}.  But rich enough to:

“…stop looking at the price of almost anything that takes your fancy”

“…retire or to work 18 hours a day or drink yourself to oblivion every night, if that is what you want”

“…smile sweetly or sneer at bank managers depending on what you had for breakfast that morning”

“…turn your relatives green with poorly concealed jealousy while they creep around with their hands out”

“…buy a massive yacht (I don’t advise it though) and sail away into the sunset like the owl and the pussycat for years on end”

“…live where you want, go where you want, do what you want, meet who you want”

“…buy the only two things apart from health and love worth fussing about in life: Time and the option of not having to be in any particular place on any particular day doing any particular thing in order to pay the rent or the mortgage”

“…begin to worry about taxes”

“…be respected by people in a peculiar way. Not the way they will respect Nelson Mandela or Marie Curie or Mother Theresa”

Money in sufficient quantities garners a different kind of respect for its owner, a difference rooted in the nature of envy.  Few of us have the courage to nurse dying children or to spend decades in prison fighting tyranny. And we do not envy those who can do such things even as we look up to them.  On the other hand, nearly all of us want money”!

Felix Dennis, thank you. I would like to be rich enough to just live wherever I want, go wherever I want, do whatever I want, meet whoever I want and ….(fill in that gap)!

Let me conclude on this joke I copied. I do not know the source.  But enjoy it anyway.

“Is there going to be a week when you will actually settle all your problems in life? NO

Is there going to be a Month when you won’t pay bills as an Adult? NO

Is there going to a stage in life when you will have no worries, no problem, no challenges? Certainly NO

So my advice is:

Once in a while, Remove 2,000-5,000 Naira.

Take a walk to the Woman or Mallam selling Roasted chicken or catfish

Tell her to give you 2 laps or one plate. Tell her to package it on TAKEAWAY

On your way home, buy Hollandia yogurt, or any good yogurt.

When you get home; Lock your door; Off your clothes,

Put “I can’t kill myself” by Timaya.

Please don’t sit on the chair, spread on the floor

And make sure you tear that chicken/fish as you listen to the song. Then dilute it with the Hollandia.

Or possibly nice chilled wine.

Problem no dey finish for this world.  So no kill yourself trying to solve everything without taking a break to relax and enjoy”!

Covid-19 is real and still with us.  Let us continue to observe the relevant protocols.  We will not be unfortunate. 


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

If Only You Can Fix Your Attitude

Published on 20/03/2021

When I reconnected with my very good brother, Lanre Alli, after his return from the UK about 10 years ago, what he told me shocked me.  He said, “Seye mi, (as he fondly calls me), Nigerians are wicked”.  I could not believe my hearing. Alli, was not given to frivolous or outlandish comments.  He must have a reason for lamenting this way I concluded within me.  As a returning “Londoner” who wished to create a platform for business in Nigeria, some Nigerians had fleeced him promising to perform but failing to deliver eventually. 

I recalled his statement about Nigerians this week when one of my friends was talking about some members in their Association who are owing dues as low as N100 per meeting to the point that somebody had to move a motion for the backlog to be written off or for someone to just pay it up! Where did this indulgent attitude of always trying to freeride on others sacrifice, funds or liberality come from?  There is much to analyse about this attitude of some Nigerians but I will not be sidetracked into this, this weekend.

When I was growing up, I was privileged to encounter two remarkable books. 

The first one is the Bible.  Despite the many stories in the Bible, one in particular captivated and enchanted my very young mind.  This was the story of Enoch and how he walked with God and did not die physically because “God took him”.  And the question was born in my mind, of course for a very selfish reason, “how can I, will I or should I walk with God” so that I will not die physically?  I never wanted to die even now. 

The second book was the book titled, “Makers of Civilisation”.  In that book, I encountered the stories of world famous scientists like Isaac Newton, James Watt, Michael Faraday, Thomas Edison, Alexandre Bell etc.  It was this book that made me to understand the principle of floatation discovered by Archimedes and his thrilling shout of “Eureka” that has continued to echo through time anytime the frontiers of darkness in any field of human endeavour are pushed back. 

This brings me to one of the greatest gifts of God to mankind.  This great gift is the Gift of Imagination.  It is through this gift, power or ability that everyone conceives anything he desires to bring to pass.  It is this gift, power or ability that enables mere mortals like you and me to dare to “speak of those things that be not as if they are”.  It is this gift, power or ability that enables you and I to “create or fashion the world according to our image and likeness” and to “rule that world”

It is the exercise of this gift, power or ability that produces the image of how or what anyone wishes to be.  Therefore, it is normal for everyone to have dreams.  However, the real or true demonstration of this ability is to believe in your dreams regardless of any real evidence to the contrary.  This is why Cristina Ronaldo continues to say that he believes he is the best footballer in the world whether anyone agrees with him or not.  According to him, “In my mind, I am always the best”

But we sometimes have doubts too in our minds.  Someone said, “if your dream does not terrify you, then it may not be big enough”.  It is normal for everyone to have doubts about his dreams especially when you consider such factors as your family background, perceived lack, perceived limited opportunities/resources, unfulfilled wants and desires etc relative to what you consider to be the better lifestyle, circumstances or environment etc you require or desire. 

It is possible that you are reading this magazine and you have considered everything and you have come to the conclusion that you cannot make it.  For example, you are probably saying, “how will you make it when your parents have not been paid their salaries? When their business is not going on so well? When the landlord harasses them? When they fight all the time? When they have separated? When they have broken up? When they are always late to pay your school fees? When you are an orphan? When nobody plans with you? When nobody shows any interest in you? When you have no confidant, no one to talk to? When you do not always get to have breakfast, lunch or dinner? When you do not always have new clothes? When you do not always have the comforts required to succeed? When your school does not have a functioning laboratory or other theatres for practical arts or commerce? When your school does not have the full complement of the teachers required to teach? When the teachers available do not teach to understand or lack sufficient interest in the subjects they teach or effective teaching methods? When the Government does not prioritise education? When the whole educational curriculum is upside down? When nobody seems to appreciate what you are going through? etc.

The challenges that will attempt to stop you in your tracks are endless.  But I must again tell you today that you are not the only one who is going through or who has had to confront any or many of these and other challenges in their grass to grace stories.  Whatever it is that you think you are going through in your life, someone somewhere is going through the same and has overcome.  “Eni ti ko ba ti gbo ti enu Ega, ni yoo so wipe Eye n pa ato”

Nothing is new my friends.  Would you believe if you were told about the following true life incidents how:

  • Colonel Sanders, the founder of KFC was turned down 1009 times when trying to sell his chicken recipe at the ripe age of 65 years?
  • Sylvester Stallone was rejected 1500 times whilst trying to sell his script and himself for the now famous movie franchise Rocky?
  • Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times to create the light bulb before succeeding?
  • Winston Churchill was defeated in every election for public office until he finally became the Prime Minister at the age of 62?
  • Stephen King’s first novel, “Carrie” was rejected 30 times before it was published?
  • PMB failed three times before finally succeeding in the quest to become Nigeria’s president?

What of Isaac Newton, what of Albert Einstein, world famous personalities, people who define greatness etc?  There are many more examples in Nigeria and the world that time and space would not permit us to mention. 

I have mentioned the above few examples so that you should not give up.  According to the Secret Footballer, “It is a fact of life that we are all different.  Everyone is different.  Each of us in this hall is different from everyone else”.  However, in our difference, we can all aim to end well. 

And this is why this observation by Charles Swindoll has remained inviolable for me.  According to Charles Swindoll,” The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.  Attitude, to me, is more important than facts.  It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think, 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 will act in a certain way.  We cannot change the inevitable.  The only thing we can do is play the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.  And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes”.

If you are below 40 years of age, you may be permitted to indulge in blaming others for your current negative circumstances but you bear FULL responsibility for the direction, process and outcomes of the next 40 years.  

The world will be under your feet if only you dare to fix your attitude.  Play the string you have and rise from whatever are the ashes of your situations.  Covid-19 is real.  Please let us keep observing the relevant protocols.  Arrival of vaccines should not make us drop our guard. 

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

We Must Stop Doing Stupid Things

Published on 13/03/21

I had planned to return to very soft issues this weekend.  But certain developments this past week would not permit. 

First was an opportunistic observation on one of the social media platforms I belong that,” It is really a sad state of affairs in our nation…not enough to pay for doctors or ASUU…Plenty for kidnappers and blockaders”

Second was the video clip that made the rounds showing the Former Governor of Imo State, Senator Owelle Rochas Okorocha and the incumbent Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma in very convivial mood in what appeared to be an attempt at reconciliation between the two “warring” men.  Two weeks before, there was a video in which the incumbent administration in Imo State sealed the Royal Spring Palm Estate owned by Nkechi Okorocha, wife of Senator Owelle Rochas Okorocha(sprawled on several acres of land on Akachi Road, Owerri) allegedly built with over 5billion by the former governor on a land belonging to the Imo State Government.  The video showing both governors in convivial mood would suggest that the Imo State government of Senator Hope Uzodinma may no longer be pursuing a further probe of alleged conversion of State funds or properties to personal use by his predecessor. 

Third was the notification of increase in the pump price of premium motor spirit from N162.5 to N206/209/212 per litre.  It is noteworthy that the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources came out to debunk the announcement made by the Petroleum Product Pricings Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).  I did not truly appreciate the impact of this latest purported but debunked increase until a close friend of mine called me and was crying on the phone out of frustration with Nigeria and its leaders.  The question posed to me was: what exactly has he benefited from Nigeria in the past 30 years of his adult life and what will be the hope for his kids and any other person’s kids who are unable to migrate to developed countries?

Whilst the first event already triggered a recall of a statement attributed to Dr Fareed Zakaria, the second and third event merely fermented that statement in my soul. 

Dr Fareed Zakaria is an Indian-American journalist, political commentator, and author. He is the host of CNN‘s Fareed Zakaria GPS and writes a weekly paid column for The Washington Post.  He has been a columnist for Newsweek, editor of Newsweek International, and an editor at large of Time.  He has published on a variety of subjects for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, The New Republic. For a brief period, he was a wine columnist for the web magazine Slate, with the pseudonym of George Saintsbury, after the English writer

Dr Zakaria was in Nigeria in 2012, the year of “Occupy Nigeria”, a socio-political protest movement that began on Monday, 2 January 2012 in response to the fuel subsidy removal by the Federal Government of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan on Sunday, 1 January 2012.  Protests took place across the country, including in the cities of Kano, Surulere, Ojota ( -part of metropolitan Lagos ), Abuja, Minna, and at the Nigerian High Commission in London.

The protests were characterised by civil disobedience, civil resistance, strike actions, demonstrations and online activism.  The use of social media services such as Twitter and Facebook was a prominent feature.  Post Occupy Nigeria and 2015, the Nigerian Government under President Muhammadu Buhari have increased fuel prices severally from the then N87 to the current N162.5 and the proposed N212.

Dr Zakaria made his remarkable statement whilst speaking on the topic “Africa’s Political Economy: The Challenge of Leadership” at the Night of Influence organized by Airtel Nigeria at the Eko Hotel & Suites in Lagos on 18th, November 2012. 

He said during his presentation that developing nations pass through 3 distinct phases.

  • When they stop doing STUPID things
  • When they start doing SMART things
  • When they start doing MODERN things

In his book, “Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at home and abroad”, he asserted whilst being a guest of Ben Wattenberg on the Think Tank Series titled, “Too much democracy”:

  • When we think about democracy, we should really think about not simply the electoral process but the inner stuffing of democracy, which is the institutions that produce liberty, separation of powers, the rule of law, courts and constitutions and that that inner stuffing is in many ways more important than elections. Anyone can hold an election. It is very difficult to produce institutions that preserve liberty.
  • The pattern of democratization over the last twenty years has been that when you hold elections early you put in place thugs, ethnic nationalists, religious leaders who have no interest in building the rule of law, in dividing power, in separating the branches of government that far from democratizing the country in a genuine sense, you end up with something that is not that much better than beforehand.
  • In most societies where you have had lasting genuine democracy you have needed as a kind of bulwark and base, a middle class that demands the rule of law, that demands a political voice. When you do not have that, democracy can flourish– of course there are exceptions–but by and large it will be weak.
  • If your per capita GDP is under three thousand dollars per capita GDP, historically countries that have gone democratic have failed and when you get to the higher range of that, if you are over six thousand dollars per capita GDP there is not a single example of a failed transition to democracy
  • It is easy to go from being a very, very poor country to you know, I do not know, a thousand dollars per capita GDP.  The government just has to stop doing stupid things.  But to really get to that middle income level, five, six thousand dollars per capita GDP, the whole society has to modernize. You have to develop a sense of the rule of law. You have to develop other institutions. You have to develop a modern, civic culture and so the numbers, four or five thousand dollars per capita GDP, are a proxy for that process of modernization. And my fundamental point I suppose is that you cannot get democracy, you cannot get a modern democratic form of government if you don’t have a modern democratic society.  The two are in an organic relationship with one another.

Dr Fareed Zakaria’s statements were very poignant in 2012, they remain potent today 9 years after.  As Nigerians, can we truly say that as a people we have stopped doing STUPID THINGS? For instance, we cannot continue to reward trivias whilst neglecting the important and say we are not doing stupid things. We cannot continue to tolerate mediocrity in governance or outright mis-governance or failure of governance and say we are not doing stupid things.  We cannot continue to pervert the electoral process and say we are doing stupid things.  We cannot continue to recognize and celebrate corrupt politicians and say we are not doing stupid things.  We cannot continue to tolerate or elect incompetent and incapable candidates into public offices and say we are not doing stupid things. 

The best among us cannot be holding the cap for the worst among us and say we are not doing stupid things.  We cannot refuse to be difference makers and say we are not doing stupid things.  We cannot refuse to interrogate known indices for growth and economic development across nations of the world and say we are not doing stupid things.  We cannot refuse to enforce the rule of law and say we are not doing stupid things.   We cannot tolerate a system where the guilty continues his swagger freely on the street and the innocent is serving undeserved punishment in prison and say we are not doing stupid things.  Law, justice and related institutions cannot be scoffed at and mocked and we say we are not doing stupid things.  Our system cannot be permitting unfair enrichment where few get more than they put in the system and we say we are not doing stupid things.  

Actor Akin Lewis used this example recently in an interview, “A boy says to his mother ‘Mummy calm down’, as he was being beaten, someone gave him 10 million Naira.  Another person came from Big Brother Naija, won so much money, goes to the governor, he gave him 5 million Naira and a whole bungalow; this is someone who just won 38 or 56 million Naira”! It is still Saturday Life Lines.  Wherever we are doing STUPID THINGS, let us reflect, identify and stop them.  Covid-19 is real and we should keep observing the relevant protocols always.  Till next weekend, hopefully I can be able to address the pending soft issues.  National life surely be like personal life.

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

PMB’s Regress: From “Sai Baba” to “Resign Baba”

Published on 06/03/2021

I saw a news headline sometimes this week about a proposed mass protest to compel President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) to resign as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.  Whilst I think this is a pipe dream, the type of aspirations that attract the retort “in your dreams”, it signifies a very concerning regression and complete loss of goodwill by PMB.  The ranks of those who believe in the capacity of PMB to turn things around or do better with his second term mandate has completely diminished.  It is derisive to hear many ask if there is a leader in Aso Rock. 

The news headline that I saw brought from the recesses of my mind the progression of PMB’s decline shared with me by one of my Classmates, nicknamed Cowboy, in February 2018.  I reflected this in my Facebook post of 8 February 2018 titled, “Baba, blame cowboy for this”. PMB’s progressive decline was captured thus:

IN 2015, it was SAI BABA

IN 2016, it was CHAI BABA

IN 2017, It was WHY BABA

IN 2018, it was KAI BABA

IN 2019, it was BYE BABA

Earlier in 2016, I had an ominous post to capture the general mood of the nation in October 2016 when I posted on my Facebook page thus: In one year, Nigerians moved from “Sai Baba” to “Sigh Baba” and may be enroute to “Sack Baba” if there is no positive real change soonest”.  This was on 19 October 2016. 

On 1st of April 2015, in another Facebook post titled, “Just Before We Get Carried Away”, I asserted: “Let General Muhammadu Buhari and APC know that in the same way the shouts and chants of “Sai Buhari, Sai Baba” rented the air before, during and after these elections, the Nigerian people shall be willing, able, ready and available to shout and chant with the same vigor, dedication and commitment, passion and creativity, “Sack Buhari, Sack Baba” if GMB and APC fail to deliver. Please tell them you heard this slogan here first!”

Now in 2021, the noise about to rent the air is “RESIGN BABA”.  It was only yesterday that the incompetence of the Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan government made the candidacy of PMB attractive with shouts of “Sai Baba” renting the air anywhere and everywhere the campaign team train rumbled into.  It was just yesterday that Suleiman Hashimu trekked from Lagos to Abuja when PMB won the presidential elections.  He did so and was received by the President-elect who was much delighted to meet him. 

These events reminded me of that aptly titled article written by Mr Olusegun Adeniyi as a dirge on the Chief Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo government in 2001, “The Vanishing Messiah”.  The article was written just two years into Chief Obasanjo’s first term when it became clear that he had derailed completely from his inaugural address promises!

Whether or not PMB heeds any call to resign, there have been discussions about a new “Nigeria”.  And this has got me thinking. 

In 2003, I was away from Nigeria to pursue my Masters Degree in the UK; that was 17 years ago. There I learnt that when having to deal with a broad issue like “new Nigeria”, it is very effective to ask the right questions to be able to focus the analysis.  Evidently so.  There has been no breakthrough or progress of worth or value in the world without someone asking the right question or questions.  I have also realised that we do not ask questions enough; when we ask, we sometimes do not ask the right ones.  Asking the right questions enable you to probe your environment, understand your limitations and what you need to do to address the gaps.

The following questions must agitate our minds if we will ever realise, “a new Nigeria”:

(1) What does “New Nigeria” mean? Do we have consensus on what “New Nigeria” looks like?

(2) Do we understand what “nation building” entails?

(3) What kind of “Youths” can be a catalyst for “New Nigeria”?

Let me throw in some statistics for good measure before providing further perspectives on each of the above questions.  

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. 

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, will 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 even if they claim Nigerians are the happiest people on planet earth? If PMB 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?

In any event, PMB appeared to have answered us on 23 October 2018 when he said that Nigerians who want to leave the country because they are fed up can go and allow those who wish to stay and salvage Nigeria to stay. 

Let me make a very quick point here. If Norway is the most successful nation of the past 6 years for instance and US is no 10 and UK is No 13, why do Nigerians still prefer to migrate to US or UK than go to Norway? Food for thought.  

Another food for thought. At the time of the British Empire, Great Britain’s population was less than 20 million.  And at the height of that Empire, it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power.  By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time, and by 1920, it covered 35,500,000 km2 (13,700,000 sq mi), 24% of the Earth’s total land area.

What is the image of our New Nigeria? Is this image shared by everyone?  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 and economic assistance.  To build a nation therefore security, food, shelter and basic services must be provided first. Is this our image of New Nigeria?

What is nation building? Who is a nation builder? How do you build?  A nation builder is one who by his or her actions add to the development of the country whether it is on a national or community scale.  The fact that someone is a politician or that the person has achieved personal wealth does not make him or her a nation builder. 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.

There are 4 attributes of nation builders:

(a) they accept responsibility for the Well-being of the nation

(b) they believe in the potential of the nation despite any evidence to the contrary

(c) they commit their energy and time to nation building

(d) they doggedly determine to do all they can to deliver the Nigeria of their expectations: how determined are we in this quest? Have we asked ourselves that we will not give up on Nigeria if it takes another 40, 50 or 100 years to get to target destination?

It is the above attributes that made Mr Richard Kramer, the first Managing Partner of the defunct Arthur Andersen in Nigeria say that the task of nation building is not for everyone.  We have been told that the youths are the future of this nation.  Some youths have driven the “Sorosoke Evolution”.  However, it is clear in my mind that not just any “Youth” can be the catalyst for a “New Nigeria”. The qualities of “Youths” that can catalyse a new Nigeria in my view are:

(a)  they must be truly young

(b) they must genuinely care for the nation or their fellow men

(c) they must be energetic in social and physical activities

(d) they must be willing to give everything

(e) they must be intellectually formidable

(f) they must be ascetic when it comes to pleasure

(g) they must be committed to social and economic justice and equality

(h) they must value education whether formal or informal.

No one can give what he does not have. Education develops citizens and citizens develop the nation.

To realise a new Nigeria, will require enormous sacrifices – mental, material, financial, spiritual and psychological.  We must be prepared.  Nation building is not child’s play.  We must be ready to deliver a structural blow to the status quo through the democratic processes.  We must not deceive ourselves that the answer is in mass protests alone.  We will not get competent, capable and committed leadership materials if we do not pull down the barriers to their access to the political system.  No honest capable and competent man or woman will spend 100 billion hard earned naira to contest a presidential election!

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

No Peace Without Justice

Published on 27/02/2021

We seem to have perfected the art of complicating the simplest things in this country.  How else do we explain the fact that President Mohammadu Buhari only chose the occasion of the 19 Northern Governors’ Forum that held this week to speak about the security crisis that has engulfed the nation since the turn of the year?  This was an apparent attempt by him to show a semblance of leadership on this matter.  However, this action cannot prevent us from asking why he has been silent for the past two months. 

What was this silence for? A silence that gave filip to the allegation that Aso Rock was the patron of the Fulani Herdsmen; a silence that denuded the President Buhari as the father of all; a silence that invalidated the claim that President Buhari belonged to nobody and reinforced the view that he was entrapped by somebody already; a silence that buttressed the sinking feeling amongst the ranks of remaining “Buharists” that Nigeria may not only be rudderless but also in the hands of a dozing or drowsy pilot locked behind a cockpit accessible only by minders and other retainers with self-serving interests.  It is not complimentary that the Commander-In-Chief only spoke after about 300 girls had again been kidnapped in a very preventable manner!

In a step that made you wonder who is co-ordinating the FG’s response to the hydra headed security crisis, an attempt was also made to arrest Chief Sunday Adeyemo a.k.a Sunday Igboho on his way to Lagos for a meeting.  Chief Igboho is the arrowhead of the resistant force against the atrocities of the Fulani Herdsmen in the Yoruba dominated South Western part of Nigeria.  Although the alleged arrest attempt failed, this can only raise the temperature of the festering tension and reinforce the perception of hypocrisy and double standards in the way the crisis and its resolution is being handled thus far.  Are we looking to de-escalate tension or escalate it?

The elements of the current security crisis are not new.  They have been festering beneath the surface in our protracted struggle for nationhood.  As a nation, we have continually paid lip-service to the multi-ethnic attributes, capacities and qualities that can strengthen us as ‘One Nation United in Peace and Progress’ whilst actively giving voice to the primordial factors that continue to pull us apart as a people.  Currently, we are on the brink of potential disintegration as a nation. 

After the gift of life, peace is another element that both the living and the dead seek after.  For the living, it does not matter their estate in life, dirt poor or stinking rich.  There is no one who does not seek or need peace.  Also at times, the objective of conflict is to secure enduring “Peace”.  Thus, peace must be appreciated in its different senses and relations. 

There really can be no better way to shape the conversation in this column this week than to declare in the words of Louis Farakhan when he asserted definitively: “There really can be no peace without justice. There can be no justice without truth. And there can be no truth, unless someone rises up to tell you the truth”.  In another sense, we were told that, “There can be no peace without justice and no justice without forgiveness”. 

But just like Martin Luther King Jr before me, I am also in a similar bind that made him declare,” I’m concerned about a better world [Nigeria]. I’m concerned about justice; I’m concerned about brotherhood; I’m concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth.  Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

What is this peace? What is this justice? And what is this truth? What is this forgiveness?

This “Peace” can be “a state of tranquility or quiet: such as, freedom from civil disturbance or where order was finally restored in the town or a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom”.  This “Peace” can be “a state of harmony, quiet or calm that is not disturbed by anything at all, like a still pond with no ripples”This “Peace” can be “a stress-free state of security and calmness that comes when there’s no fighting or war, everything coexisting in perfect harmony and freedom”.  This “Peace” can be “lack of conflict (such as war) and freedom from fear of violence between individuals or groups”.  This “Peace” can be “a state of being mentally and spiritually at peace, with enough knowledge and understanding to keep oneself strong in the face of discord or stress”.

What of Justice? Justice, in its broadest sense, is the principle that people receive that which they deserve.  Justice is the most important and most discussed objective of the State, and Society.  It is the basis of orderly human living. Justice demands the regulation of selfish actions of people for securing a fair distribution, equal treatment of equals, and proportionate and just rewards for all.  Thus, the attributes of “Justice” include impartiality, consistency, standing and trust. 

The word “Truth” equates with something that is real, that is honest, that exists.  Truth is not relative. It’s not subjective. It may be elusive or hidden. … But there is such a thing as truth and the pursuit of truth: trying to figure out what has really happened, trying to figure out how things really are.  It is the problem of being clear about what you are saying when you say some claim or other is true.  Who will tell PMB the truth? If he is told, will he appreciate the truth?

Forgiveness is “a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.  When you forgive, you do not gloss over or deny the seriousness of an offense against you. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, nor does it mean condoning or excusing offenses. Though forgiveness can help repair a damaged relationship, it doesn’t obligate you to reconcile with the person who harmed you, or release them from legal accountability.  Instead, forgiveness brings the forgiver peace of mind and frees him or her from corrosive anger. While there is some debate over whether true forgiveness requires positive feelings toward the offender, experts agree that it at least involves letting go of deeply held negative feelings.”

In the case of our nation, we must admit the following:

  • 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
  • Leadership is 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.  We must pull down the financial barriers that hinder capable Nigerians from being part of the electoral process or system.  No honest competent man will spend 100 billion hard earned naira to contest a presidential election!
  • 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
  • All the tribes and their role-actors or representatives are guilty of the current state of the nation’s socio-economic and political system after 60 years.  We must forgive one another.  All the tribes need healing. 
  • Nigeria will not change purely or simply through prayers.  Nigeria’s problem has remained not only a failure of character and values but an abiding lack of will to find the right formula to form a modern multi-ethnic democratic nation. 
  • Nigeria’s experience will not change without change in personnel to those who have capacity, competence and commitment to provide qualitative leadership.  Further, no society is without its deviants and it is a failure of the political and social systems if deviants thrive better than non-deviants.  This definitely cannot be justice. 

“Peace comes from being able to contribute the best that we have, and all that we are, toward creating a world that supports everyone. But it is also securing the space for others to contribute the best that they have and all that they are.” —Hafsat Abiola

“Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” —Ronald Reagan

“Not one of us can rest, be happy, be at home, be at peace with ourselves, until we end hatred and division.” —John Lewis

We will not simply think our way to peace. We cannot pray our soul into better condition. We have got to move and live our way there.  It will take our habits, our actions, our values as a society to get there. 

On this note I commiserate with all the families on both sides that lost anyone in the Fulani herdsmen crisis.  May the Almighty God comfort all and forgive the departed. 

And for those of us who still have our breath, let us remember that Covid-19 is real and should observe the relevant protocols always. 

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

Empty Vows, Walking Collaterals and BAT’s Miscalculation

Published on 20/02/2021

I was in the bathroom listening to the news this week when one of the headlines came up “Buhari vows to address Nigeria’s Security situation” (or something like that).  My mind made a quick flash to the many empty vows that the Federal Government had made since 2010 in relation to the virulent scourge of the Boko Haram group of criminals.  Let me amuse you.  If you do a google search of “Buhari vows…” related news headlines, you will find the following pieces and question where we are still today with all the vows and their subjects:

26 February 2015 – Buhari vows to crush Boko Haram…

1 April 2015 – Buhari vows to defeat Boko Haram…

2 April 2015 – Buhari vows action on Boko Haram, graft….

30 May 2015 – Buhari vows to defeat Boko Haram….

31 May 2015 – Buhari vows to tackle corruption…

22 July 2015 – Buhari vows to prosecute corrupt government officials…

14 October 2016 – Buhari vows to work towards…

21 August 2017 – Buhari vows to uphold Nigeria’s unity…

4 September 2017 – Buhari vows to pursue policies to change Nigeria…

30 March 2018 – Buhari vows to consolidate Nigeria’s ….

30 October 2018 – Buhari vows action against perpetrator…

28 February 2019 – Buhari vows to intensify efforts on security…

24 June 2019 – Buhari vows to end cycle of attacks …

18 July 2019 – Buhari Vows to create more jobs for Nigerians…

12 September 2019 – Buhari vows to eliminate corruption…

1 October 2019 – Buhari vows to take “Firm And Decisive action against …

3 March 2020 – Buhari vows to go after bandits

15 May 2020 – Buhari meets service chiefs, vows decisive action…

12 Jun 2020 – Buhari vows to protect Nigerians, National Assets…

30 November 2020 – Buhari vows More action to End Insurgency…

And so on so forth

Forever, action will speak louder than words.  The vows from our Commander- In-Chief have become meaningless and empty.  Whilst I recognise the necessity and relevance of briefings or reports which should have assessed the security impact of criminals masquerading as cause oriented groups under whatever guise, the absence of or the incompleteness of such a report should not deter a properly detribalised leader of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from coming out clearly to denounce criminal activities being perpetrated on Nigerians.  I watched with dismay a group bent on destabilising the unity of Nigeria and causing harm to Nigerians holding press conference without being rounded up after such a conference.  The inaction from the highest level of authority in the country, this ambivalence by the Commander-In –Chief is what is creating the spectre of walking collaterals in the nation.  Nigerians of northern origin have become potential targets of reprisal attacks because of the activities of certain criminals masquerading as herdsmen in the south.  Nigerians of southern origin could potentially become victims of retaliatory attacks in the North because of the need or responsibility by northerners to avenge their kinsmen for what could be wrongly perceived as ill treatment.

 I may be wrong but I am of the view that a decisive statement that labels those who engage in illegal activities that cause harm or endanger any Nigerian in any part of the country as criminals and fit to be prosecuted and backed up by appropriate deployment of security agencies would have doused the tension that has engulfed the nation since the 3rd week of January 2021.  It should never be too complex to call a spade what it is. Whenever a straightforward issue suddenly becomes tricky, do not look further than to hypocrisy  or a penchant to compromise the truth and indulge in double standards.

Could Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu then be blamed for midwifing what is now becoming the most nepotic, insensitive and near incompetent administration in the history of Nigeria? After making several vows to tackle corruption, the Federal Civil Service is now worse for corruption than it was in 2015.  After making several vows to protect Nigerians, the Federal Government of President Muhammadu Buhari has become the patron saints of “herdsmen” who are carrying AK 47 and other automatic weapons in apparent pursuit of their trade.  President Muhammadu Buhari who vowed to tackle graft by government officials is now heading an administration where someone is trying to tell Nigerians that there is difference between “stealing and corruption, bandits and criminals “ (indeed, not all looters are thieves)!

Truth does not need to be sacrificed continually on the altar of false politics.  Any politics that does not elevate Nigerians’ welfare, security and dignity as citizens is bad politics and the purveyor of such politics is a disaster politician.  Many people talk the good game  but few are truly difference makers. And like we say in this part of the world, talk is cheap.

It is the Nigerian situation that made me realise with true sadness why it was possible for God to declare in Ezekiel that he was looking for a man and could not find one that could stand in the gap.  I used to wonder how this could be when we have over 7 billion souls in the world. How could it also be that when He was looking for someone who would be worthy to open the seal of the scroll in Revelations, none could be found (except the Lamb of course) with over 7 billion souls in the world?  

It takes a certain quality to be a difference maker and it appears such quality is in very short supply in Nigeria amongst those privileged at this moment to operate in the centres, theatres and corridors of governmental power in Nigeria.  I must assert once more that  incompetent politicians are murderers. 

Dike Chukwumerije has framed the issue in his latest poetic instalment which excerpts I have reproduced below:

Politicians in Power, who personalize the State

Who criminalize criticism, and terrorize dissent

Nothing in society kills as efficiently

As a Politician in High Office with low mentality

And no degree you hold, no grammar you speak

No decision you make to just face your work

No protest you stage can save you from those

Elected to make and enforce our laws

The way they see things is a wall around you

For you cannot drive faster than the person driving you

No matter your wealth, education or achievement

You are subject to the mentality of those in Government

Politicians in Office hold the yam and the knife

For to elect is to give the elected power over life

Which child will remain almajiri or become someone better?

These things are in the hands of the people in Power

Politicians in Office hold the farm and the seed

For to elect is to give the elected the power to decide

Whether Security operatives can murder citizens and walk away free?

These things are in the hands of those who run the country

So, if you are tired of it all, then strike at its roots…

If you are tired of needing a letter from a Senator to get a job

If you are tired of seeing your hustle frustrated by public policies

If you are tired of insecurity, then fix the politics

If you’re tired of the hunger, the anger, in our streets

If you’re tired of the number of children who die before age 5

If you’re tired of the dreams suffocated in our youths

If you are tired of this shame, then fix the politics

For until they are there in Public Office

Men and women with a heart for public service

No tribe, no tongue – just a commitment to build

A functional nation that fills us all with pride

Until they are there in the highest Office

Men and women with a heart for selfless service

No region, no religion – just commitment to Nation…

Until we elect them, we labour in vain.

Well, whilst we still have our breath, let us remember that Covid-19 is real.  Till next weekend when I will share with you how rich I would like to be, please 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

Reflections on Jakande And Realities of Our New Normal

Published on 13/02/2020

This week one of the remaining titans from the second republic, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, capitulated to the grim reaper.  He was buried on Friday 12 February 2021 according to Islamic rites.  A number of eulogies had already been penned by illustrious columnists and public commentators.  Alhaji Lateef Jakande already led a life of incomparable legacy in his simplicity of character, competence in the business of governance and indelible achievements which resulted from his dedication and application as an agent of transformation. 

The tragedy is not the fact that he died.  He will not be the first titan nor would he be the last.  His rank and file are already in the departure lounge awaiting the boarding call.  The tragedy is in the fact that it is difficult to find men of such timbre, men of such calibre, men of such stature, depth of intellect, depth of character, depth of values who are jostling to step into the shoes of these fallen titans or those waiting to join them. The tragedy is that these titans fell and still did not witness nor experience the Nigeria of their dreams to which they gave everything.  They tried not to “labour in vain” alas the dream of a powerful and prosperous nation bound in freedom, unity, peace and progress became a mirage and quickly diminishing. 

Alhaji Lateef Jakande, as your people, the Yorubas will say, “bi o ba de orun, ko se orun re; ma je okun, ma je ekolo, ohun ti won ba n je nibe ni ko ba won je (when you arrive paradise, prosper there; do not eat worms but join them to eat whatever is there menu in paradise)”.  Everyone that came in contact with LKJ during his lifetime bears witness that you did and gave what you could.  Sleep on Baba Kekere in the bosom of your maker. Lagos will never forget you. 

Our nation surely needs a rebirth. During the week, all kinds of thoughts bombarded my mind on the level of moral decadence that our nation has sunk into.  Even agencies of government that you could adjudge to be professional in their approach to the business of government before 2015, before the so –called anti-corruption policy/war, have backslidden terribly into the morass of corruption.  To open your file to even know what the content is, you must provide “palliative”; you must trigger a “stimulus”. 

Nigeria has now truly reimagined itself as a nation the Yoruba’s proverbially allege accommodates ‘the thieves and the lazy’ but this was not so “in the beginning”.  It was because it was not so in the beginning that Alhaji Lateef Jakande and some members of his generation could lead and govern with such commitment to probity, honesty, transparency and retired without morbid accumulation of wealth bearing in mind that “a good name is much precious than silver or gold”.   But then every generation must confront its realities. 

Our present reality is that youths of nowadays want to “get rich quick or die trying” and this has translated to rejecting men like Alhaji Lateef Jakande as role models.  This has led to the dominant mentality of seeing opportunities in public service as a route to personal material accumulation and transformation of private fortunes at the expense of true service to the people. Everything is now instant.  Instant wealth.  Instant glory.  Instant realisation.  Instant prosperity.  Nobody questions overnight success or transformation again.  Nobody asks “how did he earn it” or “where did he get it” anymore.  No more delayed gratification. 

Present generations have also seen that Nigeria is not a country that appreciates selfless service.  It is a country that pays lip-service to the “labours of heroes past”.  It is a country that abandons faithful servants.  A country that sends constant signals of if you don’t watch out for yourself nobody watches out for you.  It is a country that diminishes the legacies of legends; a nation that celebrates mediocrity in lieu of excellence.  A country that projects that she does not care.  In “If I were Laycon…” (one of the titles in this Series published 10/10/2020), I submitted that, “whatever a society reward is what it values”.  Nobody can then blame the youths if men like Hushpuppy and many other nuisances on Instagram or similar social media platforms become their role models.  The country’s leaders whether at State or Federal level always fail to capitalise on opportunities to demonstrate symbolically that our society values integrity.  Whilst this is a sad commentary, the reality remains that these leaders are only giving what they have.  No one shares beyond what he possesses.  You can only give according to your capacity or ability.  These present crop of leaders have failed not only in the task of governance but in preparing a succeeding generation for the future.  A nation which allows its educational system to be in perpetual chaos is not preparing anyone for a proper future of “service to the nation” but a vicious cycle of “service to self”. All these have conspired to become our own new normal.

Is it not ironical that Professor Wole Soyinka, an Octogenarian, who has lived his life for others and a living inspiration in our society, would be harassed at his residence by miscreants without appropriate reaction by the government?  It is WS we are talking about; a man whose art is dedicated to justice, liberation, human dignity and general welfare of mankind especially that of his fellow Nigerians.  Even at his age, he remains in the trenches to ensure a more egalitarian society where equal access to opportunities can be taken for granted.  However, it is becoming clearer, day by day, that WS is likely to join his ancestors without seeing the fulfilment of this aspiration in Nigeria!  Even then, we must remember that evil thrives or triumphs when good men refuse to act. As the great Kongi once asserted, the man died in him who in the face of tyranny and oppression keeps silent.

Well, whilst we still have our breath, let us remember that Covid-19 is real.  Till next weekend when I will share with you how rich I would like to be, please 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

What is good for the goose

Published on 06/02/2021

Aside from the hinterland where many “grass root” Nigerians still wonder what you are talking about when you mention Covid-19 and the need for face masks or to observe other protocols, most of us in the cities now know someone close who has either contracted the virus or died from complications due to the virus. 

No death is pleasant because death at whatever level or age is always disruptive.  Its effects are more severe when the departed is survived by a young wife and two or three kids who are still of school age.  Usually, in most of these cases, the departed would have died intestate, that is not having or leaving a Will. 

Whilst it is important to grief, I think it is more important to attend to certain critical matters simultaneously.  In other words, grief should not blind us to what must be done beyond making funeral arrangements.  First is to ensure that the surviving spouse gets what she is entitled to officially from the employer if the deceased was employed.  Nigerian law provides for 3 times the employee’s annual salary as group life benefits.  Secondly, the Spouse would need some support to process Letters of Administration (where the departed leaves no Will or Probate where there is a Will) to be able to access assets (liquid or fixed) left behind by the deceased.  This is usually a protracted process in Nigeria from what I know.  A bereaved spouse can be demotivated quickly if she needs to pursue this alone.  Thirdly, whether or not the departed has a Will, friends and well-wishers often come together to make financial contributions.  This is a laudable initiative which must be far reaching enough to put the surviving family on a good foundation to face the inevitable vicissitudes of life going forward. 

I have always been of this very firm view and persuasion that the “Ants” must not be wiser than me.  Why? Because the “Ants” know instinctively that they must make provisions for their present and future.  Accordingly, they “store their provisions in the summer and gather its food at harvest”.  It is quite uncomplimentary for a human being if the “Ants” show this level of commitment to proactive advance arrangements for the future whilst a human being walks on indifferently.  

An anonymous author once explains why geese move in V formation.  “As each bird flaps its wings, it creates uplift for the bird following In a V formation, the whole flock adds at least 71% more flying range than if each bird flew alone. Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone and quickly gets back into formation.  Like geese, people who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier than those who try to go it alone.  When a goose gets tired, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies at the point position. If people had as much sense as geese, they would realize that ultimately their success depends on working as a team, taking turns doing the hard tasks, and sharing leadership. Geese in the rear of the formation honk to encourage those up front to up their speed. It is important that our “honking from behind” be encouraging. Otherwise it’s just – well – honking.  When a goose gets sick or wounded, two other geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and provide protection. They stay with the unhealthy member of the flock until it is either able to fly again or dies. Then they launch out again with another passing flock or try to catch up with their own”. 

This is why the story of Joyce Vincent should remind us that even if Covid-19 imposes the obligation to observe social distancing, its emphasis on “isolation” is from the “virus” and to keep safe and not for us to stay in “isolation” totally disconnected from our close network. 

According to Wikipedia, “In December of 2003, Joyce Vincent died of an apparent asthma attack in her north London flat. The television was left on. The mail continued to be delivered. Her rent was set up to be automatically deducted from her bank account. The days rolled by and no one noticed she was gone.  Those days turned into weeks and the weeks into months. There were large trash dumpsters on the side of the building next to her unit, so the neighbors never thought much of the smell emanating from her flat. The floor was full of noisy kids and teenagers and no one questioned the constant thrum of television noise in the background.  Eventually, Joyce’s bank account dried up. Her landlord sent her letters of collection. These letters, like the others, simply fell into the stacks scattered about her floor. They went unanswered. Finally, with more than six months of overdue rent, the landlord got a court order to forcibly remove her from the premises. The bailiffs broke down the door, and it was only then her body was discovered. By then, it was January, 2006, more than two years after she passed away.  In that time, nobody ever came looking for Joyce Vincent. No family. No friends. No co-workers. No neighbor knocked on the door to see if things were all right. Nobody called. Nobody checked in. She was 38-years-old when she died.  This story is jaw-dropping in its social implications. It feels unfathomable that entire years could go by with no one noticing a person has died. Yet, these sorts of stories happen frequently. Chances are you’ve seen a news story similar to the one about Joyce Vincent. And they are all the same”.

As a writer surmised, “person lives alone. They lose touch with family and friends. They never meet their neighbors. They stay shut in with their television or computer for years at a time. The world moves on as if they are no longer there until one day, they are no longer there”.  Whilst this story of Joyce Vincent may appear incredulous, it happened.  But then there may be a corollary to this from the story of the man by the pool of Bethesda. 

I have often wondered why the man by the pool of Bethesda was totally deserted and abandoned by family (nuclear and extended) friends, school mates, neighbors etc. And this triggered the question: what kind of man was he? How did he live?  Of course, one cannot trivialize the burden of looking after an invalid but the resolve to provide succour may have to do with how he has impacted his significant other circle. 

So, how did he live? Was he very rich at one time but combined this season with polygamy? Could it be that he abandoned the first set of wives and their children and went with the youngest wife to a far country? Could it be that his sickness coincided with this period of elopement with the youngest wife?  Could he have been a scammer who had scammed spouses and other family members, friends, classmates, neighbors etc such that many even considered his sickness as a scam?  More importantly, was there no child that even felt a tinge of filial piety towards him? Even if you seek to excuse him that he might not have had a child, the question remains, how did he live that no one was interested in staying by him to help him?

There are so many questions that could be raised.  It is good to state that even the Yorubas, my people in the South West, do not envisage total isolation of an individual when they asserted boldly, “Kii buru buru ko ma ku enikan mo ni; eni to ma ku ni a ko mo (No matter how challenging the times are, there will always be someone who will stand by you)”.  In other words, there should always be someone with you in your moment of desperate need.  So, when you are “isolated” like our brother by the pool of Bethesda, do not blame us if we ask, “how have you lived?”  And this is very simple to appreciate once you contrast Bethesda with the case of the man with palsy whose friends broke someone’s roof to secure access for him with Jesus.  They never gave up hope that their friend must be back on his feet.  They were sensitive and did not miss the opportunity with Jesus.  This must be an indication of how he lived amongst his close network.  Let us take care how we live. 

In conclusion, Covid-19 is real. Let us be guided on the issue of vaccines so that in trying to solve one problem we do not create another one for ourselves.  Let us 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

The Man From Nowhere

Published on 30/01/21

My focus is not on that very interesting 2010 movie by the South Korean actor Won Bin titled, “The Man From Nowhere” but I have only taken the liberty to borrow the title to cover my range of cogitations this weekend. 

A number of events have taken place in the past two weeks in Nigeria which border on the state of security in our nation.  These events remind me that certain songs can only come to the world through the people that they came. Songs are very reflective of the totality of the circumstances, experiences and insight of the song writer/performer.  Out of many possible examples, take “Tongolo”, “Mo bo lowo won” “Fall in Love” and “Oliver Twist” by Oladapo Daniel Oyebanjo popularly called “D’ Banj”.  He popularised the use of the expression “Koko” (main point) and by asking the question “what is the Koko?” with a pun on that expression he became the “Koko Master”.  He also introduced the expression “water pass gaari” to in Nigeria’s discography and lexicon. In the track “Fall in Love” he contended that whenever the “Koko Master” falls in love, “you know say water don pass garri”. 

Normally, Goats (individually or collectively) do not have the courage to chase the Lion, but whenever you see a goat chasing the Lion whether in a dream or in reality, then you know say “water don pass garri”. This was the situation when on Sunday, 17 January 2021, a blaring news headline declared,“Boko Haram takes over Nigerian Military Base”!  Now when the “technically defeated” Boko Haram (BH) could mobilise the resources, muster the capacity and summon the courage to attack and take over a Nigerian Military Base, it is beyond reasonable doubt that the story of BH’s “technical defeat” has become a huge scam and what the Americans will describe as ‘bullshit”.  

In a country with so many retired generals and other knowledgeable people in guerrilla warfare and counter-insurgency, there is no basis for the challenge of BH to be intractable if there is no form of tacit support at the highest level of government.  And I am not attempting to trivialize the challenge of BH or the determination and commitment of its members to actualise at all costs their dastard aspirations within and against the Nigerian State.  It was therefore not surprising that the Service Chiefs have been “rusticated” to borrow the words University authorities use to take out students who have below par academic performance or involved in anti-establishment activities. However, their “rustication” came three years after it became obvious to most Nigerians that that crop of service Chiefs would not advance the fight against BH; events of the last 3 years already confirmed they were “rustic”.  The jury is still out on the newly appointed Service Chiefs who replaced them. 

Within the space of that development, the issue of the Fulani Herdsmen and the threat they have posed to farmers in the Southwest took another dimension with declarations from Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, the Governor of Ondo State requesting that certain Fulani Herdsmen should vacate the State forest reserve (which they trespassed) within seven (7) days as well as the declaration by Mr Sunday Adeyemo aka Sunday Igboho that the Fulanis should vacate the whole of Yoruba land during his intervention in the Igangan crisis in Oyo State.  Ultimately, the question “who is Sunday Adeyemo or Sunday Igboho?” must arise. 

The question “who are you?” or its counter-part in pidgin “who you be?” could either arise from a genuine desire to get better acquainted with you or to decide whether or not you deserve to be given attention by the arrogant or self-important.  I have had two experiences in relation to this question once in secondary school when I happened to score the highest in an Agricultural Science test (the subject teacher held back my script after distributing everyone’s script and asked “who is Oluseye Arowolo?” This was in Government College Ibadan.  Likewise at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife the Assistant Lecturer to Dr Dipo Fasina (popularly called Jingo), called out my Matric Number for scoring highest mark in the Logic & Evidence test at that time and asked who had that number.  He equally held on to my script after distributing the rest to my classmates.  But I digress. 

No doubt, the Fulani-Igangan crisis has brought Mr Sunday Igboho back in the news.  Now whether for the right or wrong reasons is a matter of perspective.  However, by drawing the line on the Fulani Herdsmen, he brought the issue to a threshold the politicians have been trying to dance “azonto”. He has always been that kind of guy. He has no time for hiding the truth under his tongue. I was on campus when he led the resistance forces of the Modakeke during the last Ife-Modakeke “fight to finish” crisis. I am therefore very familiar with him. It is from his exploits in that battle that his myth as a very metaphysically powerful man developed.  But the recent fire that gutted his house may throw a new dimension to how powerful he is or appears to be. Is he really that powerful as people claimed? I am not seeking to conduct that inquiry. 

However, the epitome of how metaphysically powerful a man can be was dramatised in “Opa Aje” a drama presentation from Laolu Ogunniyi Television Organisation (LoTo) productions in conjunction with the Ajileye Theatre Group led by late Alhaji Yekeen Ajileye in the late 80s/early 90s.  The Protagonist of that drama with more than 26 episodes at the time was Abija (played by now veteran actor, Alhaji Tajudeen Oyewole), a very powerful warrior with an omniscient spirit with the name Ajon that backed him up.  The Ajon tells him when his enemies are mounting or about to mount any attack.  I wonder why such was not the case with Sunday Igboho in relation to the fire outbreak?  Or is this another piece of the grand strategic plan in the war to liberate the Yorubas?  When my Dad, a Medical Doctor, was the Senior Medical Officer at the Primary Health Care Center in Ifetedo, the hospital had one security guard who from 12am would draw a line in the sand within a radius from the hospital and go to sleep. He would dare anyone with intent to commit an offence to cross that boundary.  Could Sunday Igboho not have deployed a similar tactic?  The snail must not begin to ingest water through the anus. 

I would hate to see Sunday Igboho demystified prematurely and abandoned.  He is a very natively intelligent and smart man.  Even though I know he has made up his mind to make the ultimate sacrifice with respect to the liberation of the Yorubas, I would still urge him not to throw caution to the wind.  He should be careful because “ehinkule ni ota wa, ile ni awon aseni n gbe” (the most dangerous enemies are the fifth columnists, those closest to you).  There is no other counter-measure to betrayal other than vigilance and caution. 

Nevertheless, the current crisis is another reminder of the most toxic problem facing our nation.  No matter how, where or when the discussion of Nigeria’s challenges occur or take place, it always come back to one factor: Leadership.  Thus when Martin Luther King Jr was asked what type of leaders a society requires. He was very clear in his mind the attributes that such individuals must possess.  He roared,” we need leaders not in love with money but in love with justice; not in love with publicity but in love with humanity”.  We must pay attention to that diagnosis from Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and not sneer at it because it remains the truth. One of our problems as a people is that, “We have not been able to transform to being Nigerians.  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? 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?”

I would like to conclude on two points. The first is to recall the “refrain” from the lyric of that that sage broadcaster, entertainer, performer, orator, Jack of all trades master of all, Late Gbenga Adeboye Jengbetiele in side 1 of his evergreen Album ” Supremacy”.  He asserted “Alagbara bi Olorun ko si, e je ka ma turi fun” (There is none who is as powerful as the Almighty God, let us submit to Him”).  The second point is to remind you my reader that Covid-19 is real. Let us be guided.  It is not for want of money that late Billionaire Bolu Akin-Olugbade died of COVID-19.  His brother Sunmade Akin-Olugbade in a recent interview with AsabeAfrika TV said with all the money in the world they could not get a hospital bed in Lagos because the beds were all filled up. By the time they got a hospital bed after paying N10m it was virtually too late.  I understand that N10m for a bed is relatively cheap.  Beds do go for as high as N50m per bed. 

Let us 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

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