#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: email@example.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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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: email@example.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.
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).
Which way Nigeria?
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
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”. 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?”
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!
No Wonder! Check, your wall may have broken down
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”.
Wake up! Death, not your reformer
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!
Reflections on International Youth Day
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”
Our National Comedy Series
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!
Where Are You Now?
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.