Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Limit of Madness

I do not question anyone's right to practice his or her faith. I am perfectly comfortable with whatever you want to worship, it is your right; even God will defend your freedom to worship. 

What I quarrel with, is the idea that a public figure like Ahmed Sani Yerima, a former governor, and a current senator, would marry a thirteen year old girl, and the senate would declare that it is his private business.The senate has just missed a great opportunity to show some backbone. 

This fellow has a history of showing disdain for the laws of the land, he was the one who presided over the introduction of Sharia in Zamfara when he was governor. that he is in the senate speaks of the make-up of the institution.

It is a crime in Nigeria to have carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of eighteen. There are even two sections in the Penal Code that prohibit this.

This fellow in the past had married a fifteen year old, and because there was no consequence, he decided to lower the bar this time. I am not an Islam 'basher.' I have many friends who are adherents of that faith, and I respect their rights to practice their faith.

Senator Yerima would want to hide under the canopy religion, but that is beside the point. What he has done is prohibited by the law.The man has just broken the law, and nothing has been done. 
If Yerima were a poor welder living in Alakuko area of Lagos, the police would have arrested him by now, and paraded him on Crime Fighters, a program that violates the rights of accused before they have gone to court. what we are witnessing now is the consequence of no consequence for the actions of the rich and powerful.

As things stand now, we do not live in a law abiding society, we live in a jungle. The man was alleged to have paid One hundred thousand dollars as dowry, this is worrisome.That is not a dowry, that is what you pay to buy a sex slave. The amount is about Fourteen million naira. Could that be the cost of love, or the price of buying a person.

The rich and powerful in Nigeria have consistently shown their disdain for conforming to the law,sometimes they hide under the guise of religion to do so, in this case we must not allow this crime,this sin,  this odious and abominable act, to go unpunished.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Planned Development.

For some months now, I have been living again in Festac Town, Lagos. I grew up there. I lived in Festac from 1980 to 1992 continuously.

For those of us who were lucky to have live there from that period, it was like moving 'abroad' within Nigeria. The roads were excellent, we had excellent power supply, things worked.

For us then, Festac was better than Ikoyi, and Victoria Island,the two high brow areas available then. 
But it was not perfect then, running water did not get to all the homes, and people had to rely on hand-dug wells, and boreholes.We were told things would get better, and we believed.

This is the year 2010, and I am now back again in Festac, now it seems, the water supply is now one hundred percent borehole/wells/water vendors. The Festac water works is like an abandoned graveyard. 
There are weeds everywhere, and the pipes from the waterworks have dried up.
Sadly,the wells are not a better alternative; because Festac sits on land reclaimed from  swampland, it takes very little to foul any well or borehole.The resultant effect is water that looks like weak tea coming out of boreholes. I have also noticed that the water from the wells are very close to the surface ,and coloured, I believe by dead vegitation in the ground, (I think it is called tanning)

What is my grouse? It is that thirty one years after the town was commissioned, things have not improved,rather they have deteriorated. The roads are criminally bad, but we have to thank God for the Governor of Lagos, Babtunde Raji Fashola, for prodding local council politicians to fix roads.That is where some relief has come the way of Festac.

I have another home in Abuja, and I know that Abuja enjoys enviable amounts of public water supply. We are rejoicing over that now, because it is wonderful; but for someone like me, who has seen Festac 'in all of it's glory' before, I fear for Abuja because it may just go the way of Festac thirty years from now.

Why is it difficult for us to have well thought out, structured, dynamic and dependable development. Is there some kind of curse on the black man? The money we spend on projects in this country, and the mileage we get from them are inversely proportional. What seems to be certain is that tomorrow, things are bound to go bad. 

When I drive across the length of this country ( I have been to every state except Ebonyi ) one constant emotion on my trip is sadness at the missed opportunities I see everywhere. I have always said I would never live outside Nigeria, because I love our great climate, people, and way of life, but my fear is that my worry for this country is inimical to my health. I am now seriously reconsidering my decision.I really need encouragement right now.

Friday, April 23, 2010

This Culture of Impunity

If James Ibori, a man who served as governor for eight years, can decide to become a fugitive from the law, then all is not well. It could be for one of two reasons, and they are both not pleasant.

The first is that he understands that the law is powerless, and therefore can be broken with impunity: or he knows that when those in power seek to selectively enforce the law, they even break the law to do so.

Everyday we see manifestations of this culture of impunity at play in all aspects of life in Nigeria. It begins in the morning when you are going to work, and the usual traffic has built up, what do you see: a man in military uniform,or a political office holder with his security detail driving against oncoming traffic. We do not even bother to complain, instead we yearn to join them in their idiocy and madness.

You get to a place where you have to queue to be attended to, and again some fat cat office holder with a jobless policeman in tow, walks to the head of the line and demands to be served as if the rest of us do not matter, sometimes I believe they think we are some kind of office furniture. 

It is the same attitude their wives and children display when they are stopped by law enforcement agents, the first thing they would tell the hapless policeman is 'Don't you know me? They would then call someone on their mobile ,give the phone to the policeman, he would receive wonderful unprintable insults from the imperial personage at the other end, he would subsequently apologize to the people he had arrested for breaking the law, and promise to be of good behaviour next time.this scene is repeated countless times before the end of the day all over Nigeria.

The truth is that there are two laws: one for the rich and powerful, who are always in government, and one for those outside government. Ibori, probably, is suffering from some kind of power hangover, he has not come down from his exalted pedestal.

Barack Obama is the president of America, he knows he would be in trouble if he breaks the law. No one would shield him. How many times have we seen Senators and Governors resigning in America because of one indiscretion, the most famous example that comes to mind now is the Watergate Scandal.Can you imagine a Nigerian president resigning because PDP, his party, spied on ANPP, a rival political organization;this would  sound ludicrous to anyone in Nigeria. Everyday we see people in government getting away with murder,genocide and armagadon combined.

Meanwhile, in America people have resigned for things as' private' as having an affair. In Nigeria,on the other hand, the more affairs a politician has, the more he is hailed as a man of the people. People would even tell you they would volunteer their daughters too, for a share of the largess that is sure to come.

Until we get to a point in Nigeria when we are all equal before the law, we would always have cases like the Ibori fiasco. Government should not use the law to witch hunt people, the law should be applied because that is what makes a society civil. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Deceit In Self-Deception

I have heard it said ,by more spiritual people, that you cannot deceive God because He is all-knowing, the devil because he invented deceit, and yourself because you know the truth.

When a whole nation seems to be engaging in collective somnambulism (Sleep Walking) It is a sad case of self-deceit. It is classic psychology that if you tell a man something forcefully, and repeatedly enough, he would believe it, even if that thing is rooted in falsehood.

Do we truly have a government? Are we normal people? Do we deserve a better lot in life than we are currently regretting ? 

The latent, and manifest potentials of Nigeria as a nation have been documented over and over again. Why are we now worse-off than we were before independence. In my estimation, we are worse than Zimbabwe! That nation is suffering because it does not have, we are because we have too much.

Half of Europe has been comatose due to a volcano in Iceland, We have been constantly, with seeming determination, retrogressing as a nation with every step taken. The military killed the system, now the civilian undertakers are burying what is left. It has been one violent avalanche, and earthquake, rolled into a tsunami and volcanic eruption of bad leadership.

While we have been spared the natural disasters, the failure of leadership has ensured that we have not missed out on any misery.

Goodluck Jonathan,the Acting President, has not seen his boss, since he left for Saudi Arabia, and also since his purported return to the country. Where else can this happen, Ariel Sharon of Israel had a stroke and his deputy Ehud Olmert was sworn in, the Polish President ,and a host of leading lights in Poland died, and before their burial election dates had been fixed and new ministers appointed.

Is President Yar'Adua dead. I believe he is. We are deceiving ourselves thinking that God would come down from heaven and help us, the Good Book says 'As soon as Zion travailed she brought forth her children, she was born of a man child' We need to travail like the people in Thailand are. I find it revolting that the only things we travail over is the latest car in town, or the biggest and most expensive house with Italian and Spanish interior decor, or the next billion we can add to our bank balance.

To our shame, we have allowed a crime against us to go go unpunished Instead we have rewarded  the criminals with the perks of the highest office in the land.Yar'Adua is dead, and some people are using his name to hoodwink us. 

The story is told of a white slave trader who used to drive his oarsmen ( the people who used long oars to row a ship) to row as fast as was inhumanly possible. Sometimes it became too hot down below, and the fellow would need to come to the deck for fresh air. This fellow was blind in one eye, and as was the custom then, he had a glass eye.
When he was ready to go up he would remove his glass eye and say to it 'Eye, I am going to the deck, look out for anyone who stops rowing while I am away, when I return let me know'  With this , he would leave and go up to the deck: his ship never slowed down, instead it went faster than before.

Right now they are using Yar'Adua's "glass eye" to hold us to ransome, and we are afraid!

If you love Nigeria, and you want a change email this note to a friend.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Democracy: Nigerian Style

It is the hallmark of wisdom when people domicile knowledge and apply it to their situation. In doing this however,they must be careful not to stand logic on it's head.
That is what I see with politics in Nigeria today. 

The three main party leaders in Britain are holding debates to enhance their electoral fortunes. It has become apparent from the first debate that some are succeeding while others have stumbled. A candidate could not be said to have won an election until votes have been cast, and counted. In Nigeria,sadly, it is not so. If you are the candidate for the Peoples Democratic Party, you are already ninety percent elected. That is why people spend money, and in extreem cases, kill perceived stronger oponents, to get the nomination.

This party has already informed the acting President that the presidency has been zoned to a northern moslem. Is this democracy at work, or cultism! How can you justify disqualifying a man when the constitution has not done so, particularly when the race in question has not even started.

Is the PDP superior to every institution in Nigeria? Do they know something we do not know ? It looks like the body language of an armed robber who knows that the owner of an item is only  keeping it safe for him to come and steal it at night.

If I were Goodluck Jonathan, I would just appoint Nuhu Ribadu as the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission. Without a corrupt INEC Chairman elections will be reasonably free and fair in Nigeria.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Most Important Profession in Nigeria

It is ironic today that the most important profession in Nigeria today is not medicine, law, accountancy ,or information technology. It is a profession that no one reckons with in developing and promising societies. It does not have a future there.

The most sought after professional in Nigeria today is the Generator Repair Man! I arrived at this strange conclusion after closely observing Generator Repair Men at work. They are constantly interrupted by phone calls from other people who are waiting for them to come and and sort out their generator problems.
Sometimes one wonders if they can fulfil all their obligations. I have seen a fellow who was still working on my generator tell his other client that he was already in a taxi. I then wondered how many times I had also been the unfortunate object of a similar lie.

These fellows are doing very well in these depressing times of constant,and crippling,  power outages. Some of us have two, or even three generators so you can imagine how often we have to call them.I was even  told of Opa Williams, of the Night of a thousand laughs fame, how he has five generators. I do not know how far this is true but in today's Nigeria, it is plausible. I shudder to think of the nightmare that has pushed him that far.

That all other professions are incapacitated by their inability to function without a generator underscores how low we have fallen, and how far up we need to come. The Generator Repair Man, has become the independent variable. All others now revolve around him.

Someone needs to deliver us from the cartels retrogressing the energy utility company PHCN, and the those responsible for importing generators.

Until we take the bold step of banning public sector offices, and officers, from using generators , even in their homes, we will not improve our power management because there is a cheap alternative:the generator.

That Generator Repair Man is treated with the the respect hitherto reserved for teachers and police men in the immediate post colonial Nigeria is tragic. I have not seen anyone insult his Generator Repair Man even when the fellow is eight hours late.

For a nation that aspires to be among the first twenty economies by the year 2020, we can not get there on the back of a generator.