Sunday, October 31, 2010

Nigerian Terrorism

In the arcane,subterranean,murky,and hard to define, world of politics,and diplomacy,the lines are blurred when it comes to defining anything. Take terrorism,for instance,one man's definition of terrorism ,is another man's definition of a freedom fighter,or patriot.
And both definitions are correct. Father time,is the ultimate judge of who exactly was what.

The international news channels,as usual,have been bombarding us with news of the latest attempt by Al Qaeda to cause chaos in the West.

So what exactly is terrorism? There is no universally accepted definition of terrorism. It is terrorism if you are on the receiving end,but something else,if it benefits you!According to one definition,it is the systematic use of terror to coerce,or force people,or an individual,to do something. Terror,is fear. So terrorism is the use of fear,to achieve an aim. Israel call Hamas,and Hizbullah, two Islamic organizations,terror groups,but to the people of the West Bank,and Lebanon,they are the only way they can fight what they see as Israeli oppression.

So who is a terrorist? When does a person become a terrorist? The crazy thing about the world we live in,is that the same individual,or group,could be labelled as a terrorist,or a freedom fighter,by the same source,at different times,under different circumstances.

The most famous terrorist ever,is Osama Bin Laden. We all know him as America's greatest enemy;but what many people do not know,is that Osama Bin Laden,was created by America! America armed him to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan! Then,he was a freedom fighter to America,and a bulwark against terrorism.

But the problem with a man who has been taught to use the gun,is that he does not unlearn that skill,and no longer trusts alternative means of dispute resolution! The way of the gun is faster,and produces better results for the man shooting the gun?

So how does this concern Nigeria? Where do we feature in the whole equation of terrorism?

Very much,I must sadly confess! Like Osama Bin Laden,Henry Okah,and many of the militants we currently contend with,were once hailed by people in the top echelons of government today,as freedom fighters! The numerous revelations coming out now,show how complicit our politicians are with them.It is convenient,and fashionable now to pillory these individuals,and subject them to public opprobrium, but the fact remains,they were created by people in government to fight personal wars.

Terrorism,or should we call it nationalism? Take your pick,has the same progression everywhere. It does not matter the culture,or the period,or the conflict responsible for it.

When people "make peaceful change impossible,they make the violent inevitable",in addition,when disputes are not resolved in a peaceful,and mutually satisfactory manner,it forms the nucleus for terrorism to grow from the resultant malcontent.

Furthermore,when people refuse to abide by laid down rules governing a process like an election,or the sharing of a nation's resources,the results,could form the basis upon which terrorist acts are committed. Lastly,but by no means the least,is when young unemployed people are armed by powerful individuals to fight a personal war,the cessation of that personal conflict,does not necessarily mean the end of armed conflict in that area.

All the necessary conditions mentioned above are ongoing,prevalent,and preponderant, in Nigeria today.

The militants,another word for terrorists,in the Niger Delta of Nigeria,were created by politicians to fight political opponents. When the politicians abandoned the boys on the attainment of their own objectives,the boys decided to work for themselves by terrorizing Nigeria's economic interests. It is easier to placate an "economic terrorist",than one who is fighting on the basis of an ideological injustice! You just give him money!

So far,what we have dealt with,are people who want money. When the general elections are conducted next year,if we do not conduct them in a transparent,and equitable fashion,we may end up with our own ideological terrorists! This is the type the British government has struggled with in Northern Island
for centuries. At the end of the day,they discovered that the only way to eradicate them,was not by force of arms,but through dialogue.

We are not prepared for this type of terrorist,but the conditions are perfect for his emergence! It is only when people subjugate the attainment of their own personal interests under the overriding attainment of national interest,that we will survive as a nation. This was what Al Gore,the democratic candidate did in America,when he refused to pursue a court case that would have hobbled America.Is it possible,for our politicians to rise to this rarefied height of patriotism? Or will they end up becoming terrorists,who inflict terror on Nigeria.

The truth is,at the end of the day,one man's terrorist,is another man's patriot,or freedom fighter!


Friday, October 29, 2010

Politics Without Manifestos Equals "Politrics"

If there is one thing we do in Nigeria,that riles me,it is our proclivity to either rewrite universally accepted laws,or to assume that these laws do not apply to us.We believe,erroneously,that we are, somehow,exempt from their given influence.

When we come late to events, we explain it away with the euphemism of African time! The last time I checked,time was still a universal concept! When we fail in spite of our unfair,and overwhelming qualification to succeed, we call it the Nigerian factor.What we ought to say,is that we were careless!

We are almost like some national Ogbanje,or Abiku,a  wicked, and vile,spirit child reputed by some cultures in Nigeria,to be destined to die in spite of whatever care,or love you give it.

It is a maddening frustration,and the most vexatious of griefs!

Why are we so? 

Another way we try to rewrite universal laws,is the call in some quarters for us to collapse all the political parties into two "major parties". People point to America,and the England,as examples. They forget that we are practicing a democratic system;a system founded on the plurality of free,unhindered,and unforced, choice.

The examples such advocates give are not even correct,these countries do not have two parties,they both have two major parties,or two and half,if you count the Liberal Democrats!

Where would the freedom of choice be,if we force Marxists into the same party,as dyed in the wool capitalists?

Babangida,when he sullied,and muddied,the Nigerian democratic spring, tried it when he was Head of State,and it did not succeed.

The latest idiocy to appear on the political horizon,is indeed truly a Quixotic apparition.It is politics without a declaration of intent. People are not talking about the manifestos of political parties,all they seem to be preoccupied with,is where the president would come from,his/her ethnic group,who zoned what to who,and all the other tomfoolery!

Are we truly serious people? We have turned the presidency of a nation stuttering,and wheezing, because of successive bad leadership,into a beauty contest,a charade of the charades!

No one is talking about what he/she would do when he becomes president,the parties are silent,some would say,but they said they would fight corruption? So? How does that translate into jobs,how do we increase Foreign Direct Investment,how do we fast track our infrastructural renewal? How?

If you have attended,or watched a typical Nigerian beauty contest,you would have observed that a lot of times,many of the girls on display,are what Americans call bimbos,beautiful girls without brains. And the similarity between them and many of the gladiators angling to occupy Aso Rock,is quite uncannily close.

Playing politics without manifestos, is like asking a waiter at a restaurant you have never patronized before,to bring you anything he likes: you have no expectation,you have no right to reject what is set before you,and you have no choice. It is like a human being without a soul!


Is this our gift to the world? Politics devoid of ideas,and ideals? Is this what we mean when we talk about our nascent,never maturing,democracy?

We have stumbled,and tottered, for fifty years to get to where we are now,and it is not a very good place,in fact,it is a horrid,and abominable, place!

If we are not to be sold a very red herring,we must demand from our parties,and their candidates,precise,and easily verifiable manifestos. We must not allow ambiguous, and nebulous,generalizations like,"we will construct roads,we will build schools,and fight corruption",those are normal things,that normal governments do everywhere!

We want to know,what type of roads are you going to construct,and why? Are you going to focus on roads in the rural areas to facilitate evacuation of agricultural produce for instance? Or,are you going to bring back the groundnut pyramids by moving Zimbabwean farmers to the North? These are the type of specifics we should hold them to,and they must have timelines that are verifiable?

Let us wake up.we must not allow our politicians to reinvent politics,it is a universal subject,and cannot be redefined by our politicians to cheat us as usual.

If we can do this,we would truly be laying the foundation for a truly great Nigeria. Not the hollow one we currently have,but a robust and savagely healthy nation! 


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Exclusion Of Women In Nigeria's Politics.

I love women! How can I not? I was born by one,I'm married to one,and I have one as a daughter. In addition to these,my first job in Abuja was with the Maryam Babangida National Centre for Women Development. 

I have watched women over the years call for increased slots for women in government. It is a desire to actualize that seemingly elusive goal that has driven me to write this.

I believe that women are not taken seriously in politics today,due to a deceptively devious design by men! 

Men do not have any interest in women participating fully in politics. They have fostered this through one very simple,but deathly efficient tool;the comically named "Women's Wing".

Every party you look at today in Nigeria, has a "National Women Leader",who leads the "Women's Wing" But has anyone ever bothered to find out why it is so? Why is there no "National  Leader" for men?

The men understand that by creating a Women's Wing of the party,they effectively can define what the women can aspire to. It is a way of saying politics is a man's game,but women would be allowed as adjunct,or auxiliary, members of the party. This move naturally,removes the women from the decision making process in parties.
They become a sideshow,and what a show they love to put on. Trust the women,they would usually deliberate back,and forth, on the design for the convention "aso ebi",or uniform, to be worn. They would discuss who should be engaged as caterer for the event,they would decide what colour scheme the decorations should follow,this is in addition to composing the convention anthem.

Sometimes,their work would involve vetting which musician would be invited for the gala night. Some women would argue that it is very important work,they would be hosting the men!

For the women to deliberate on all these,they would need to have a separate meeting from the men.

While they are busy doing this,the men are taking key decisions on who can attend the national convention,who can contest,who can be a delegate,where certain positions are to be zoned to,all this,sadly,behind the back of the women.

In most cases,these decisions do not factor the interest of women into the equation. Politics is a game for men!

When one of the women finally returns to the hall to ask for the chairman's view on an inane menu item,she would discover that the deed has been done. In desperation,like our very much beloved Sarah Jubril,she would throw her hat into the ring;and just to humour her,and because they know she does not have an earthworm's chance in a pool of catfish,they would put her name on the ballot. 

So the poor creature goes around spending money on campaigning for a position that has been designed out of her reach!

Come convention day,the poor woman,would get only three votes from a possible three thousand!

How can we reverse this trend? It is quite easy,abolish these wings designed to perpetuate this injustice!

Why do we not have a wing for men in our parties? Because the men are declaring that the whole of politics is a man's business,and youths,and women,would only be allowed to have token representation.

The day women refuse to be segregated into some wing of the party,and demand full participation in all the activities of the party,they would find their fortunes changing. 

It is not something that men would willingly give them,they have to fight for it,power does not change hands without a struggle.

Even in America,with her illustrious democratic history,the old perceptions are just beginning to change. Women are on the cusp of entering the land of political promise! 

In our own case,women have a very long way to go,they are still in bondage in Egypt!And that is why they should start now.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The President We Need,And The One They Want,And The One We Deserve

There is a huge difference between getting what a person wants, or deserves,or truly needs. In the first instance, wants refer to the whole gamut of desires that may not be rooted in reality,or backed up by common sense.

When a person gets what he deserves,it means he has not been cheated,neither has he cheated the giver,he has received what he/she is qualified to get,or has worked for.

Needs,on the other hand, refer to an absolute prerequisite for survival,or sine qua none  for continuance of life. 

As I ruminate on the sketches appearing on our political canvas,one clear issues irks me deeply.

Are we,as a nation, going to get the president that Nigeria needs at this moment in time?

Or would it be that some people would get the president that they want;or would our complacency, deliver a president that we deserve,because we have let slip the fundamental,and cardinal reasons for electing a president in the first place.

I believe,that the president that we need,is one who would fix the problems of Nigeria. He/she might not succeed in doing so in eight years,but would have succeeded in putting us on an irreversible track of accelerated development,and modernization in the true sense of the word.

It would require deep thought,and bold political steps,to get us to the cusp of development. 

We deceive ourselves into thinking that we are a developing,or modern nation. We even call ourselves the giant of Africa!

We are not!

What we are,is an oddity,an anachronism,a consistent inconsistency!

The Maitama,and Asokoro districts,in Abuja today,are some of the most modern,and "developed" areas in Nigeria. I live in Abuja,so I know,but what do I see when I drive through neighbourhoods in these areas,cart pushers, selling water in jerry cans! That is not an example of development, it is an example of the worst of the bizarre! 

How can an area planned in the last twenty years not factor in how to provide water for residents?

If you go there in the evening,the deafening cacophony of all manner of imported generators,declare the wealth level of the various households in the area.

After fifty years of independence,we are still grappling with electricity generation in the midst of some of the richest hydro resources in the world!

Drive through most of the streets of Abuja,and you will see the ugliest contraption ever to come out India,the tricycle! In this day,as we speak,there is no efficient mass transit system in Abuja. And it is the case with the rest of Nigeria.Development seems to be like healthy skin peeping through a bad rash of eczema! The unsightliness of the two cohabiting,is galling.

When we get the president that we need,we would plan our development,and assign resources to the right areas,and have a holistic development.

But that is only possible,when we get the president that we need.

If on the other hand,some people get the president that they want;he/she would become,like all the others before,an ethnic champion,and a palace jester. He/she would wear the robes of a nationalist,and but pray the prayers of an ethnic bigot.

The fellow would only pander to the dictates of his/her ethnic group,and those who made him/her president. Contractors would become richer,and the people would become poorer. That has been the story of Nigeria,and we are in danger of writing a bad sequel.

The third possibility,is that we get a president that we deserve. Not the one that we need,or the one some people want,but the one that becomes the default by reason of our indifference,non vigilance,and carelessness. 

This would be a president that belongs to everybody,but is useful to nobody. In politics they call such a president a consensus candidate,a person afraid to offend the powers that be,a weakling,and a worm! 

This fellow is there because the majority that could have swung the vote in the right direction,did not come to the event. They were too busy twiddling their thumbs,and minding their business. 

Such a president would be phenomenally pedestrian in his outlook,and unimaginative in the way he tries to solve our problems.

Believe me,we have problems,big problems. 

They are in our education,in our economy,our banks,the power sector,in every imaginable area. Our problems would require deep thinking,and unwavering boldness to solve them.

My fear is that we may just get the president that we deserve,because some people want to enforce who they want on all of us,and this is not the kind of  president that Nigeria needs.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Nigeria,As A Metaphor For Poverty.

There are as many definitions of poverty,as there are economists. One can also add the myriad definitions by lay people who can think,and it is to the latter I belong.

There are two basic schools of thought,one defines poverty as the condition of being alienated from education,health,shelter, etc,the other reduces it to subsistence on a monetary value;they say if you are living on less than one dollar a day,you are poor.

I do not completely agree with the two schools of thought. I believe poverty,from my observation of people in the different countries I have visited,is an amalgam of the two,and much more.

The value of a dollar in Nigeria,is about one hundred and fifty naira. If we are to follow the World Bank's one dollar benchmark for poverty,if you can afford one hundred and fifty naira everyday,you are not poor.
The globalization of this simplistic definition,is a gross error! And it is so for one simple factor,inflation.The cost,and value,of goods,and services,are not uniform all over the world!

What a dollar can purchase in Ulan Bator in Mongolia,is not the same in Berne Switzerland! If all you have to survive on everyday in Switzerland is two dollars,you will not last for long!

Meanwhile,if you are in the United Kingdom,and you are a citizen,the society ensures that you will survive better on less than one dollar a day,than in any of the two aforementioned places!This is due to the social security net in place. To the Mongolian,you are a King!

On the other hand,there is the definition that presupposes that access,or lack of it, to social amenities,is a sure benchmark. What the proponents of this definition forget,is that states are not run as charitable institutions! America,as advanced as the country is,was polarized by Barack Obama's health reform.

And even where these social infrastructure seem to exist,they may not be performing their fundamental roles.

A  queer quirk can be observed when one looks at the Nigerian situation. In Nigeria,the figures do not just add up. Given variables elsewhere, are shifting,or non existent here. I'll explain. If all you have to survive in Nigeria is two dollars,you are worse than poor.

You could have access to all the social amenities,for example,  hospitals,where you have to carry out your laboratory tests in commercial facilities outside the hospital, and pay commercial rates, and drugs that you have to purchase from commercial pharmacies.

Need we talk about schools where children are told to bring chalk,or their own furniture.Or is it  electricity,where despite your being connected to the national grid,you are forced to generate your own electricity from generators,and still pay the power utility company for service not rendered at the end of the month!

In a nutshell,because of the uncertainties inherent in the system,a person who subsists on only one hundred dollars every month,which is fifteen thousand naira,is worse than poor! 
And this is what encourages graft,kidnappings,extortions by uniformed personnel,and all the concomitant evils that have become synonymous with Nigeria.

Nigeria is an anachronism,people are living in lack,in the midst of plenty! They are not doing so under colonial rule,nor because of some armed conflict,or natural disaster!It is happening in peace time! And that is why it is scary. If people are poor like this,when there is peace,what would conditions be like in times of conflict,or natural disasters.

General Santa Ana,the famous Mexican General,whose defeat,led to the ceding of California to the Americans,was a man famous for "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory";in Nigeria today,we have patented the art of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

In adding to the definition of poverty,I would like to add that an inability to determine one's political will,and representation,a lack of transparency in the electoral process,is actually the ultimate sign of deep-rooted poverty.

For where an individual is denied transparent political representation,such a person is truly poorer than poor. 

And in that regard,almost every Nigerian is living below the poverty line!

As we all collectively come together to right this injustice,


Monday, October 11, 2010

Why I have been silent

I am sure many have looked to me say something on the numerous missteps that we have taken as a nation,I decided to take the back seat,and watch what others would say. I have been impressed by the robust condemnation of the bomb blast,I have been disappointed by those calling for one candidate,or the other,to be disqualified. 

I have even been more disappointed by our playing the ethnic card in matters as weighty as who becomes the president of Nigeria. As I looked at the political,and economic,landscape,one expression from the Bible came to mind,2 Tim 3:7"ever learning,but never coming to the knowledge of the truth".

One would think that with the body of knowledge available to us,and the influence of other nations our people have traveled to,we would naturally embrace what is right,and just. No! We obstinately refuse,and continue to play the same politics our ancestors, Zik, Awo, Sardauna,and the others played. Politics that strengthen our tribes,and weaken our nation.

When are we going to get it? That is how "hunter gatherer" civilizations decided who got what. It is primitive,shameful,unjust,and retrogressive.

If we must survive in this modern world, we must embrace an open and fair society.A place where you are not judged based on what tribe you are from,but on what you are bringing to improve us all.
Barack Obama is admired by many of us today,we like the fact that a black man is president of America.
What we fail to realize is that if he had been born a Nigerian,he would never be allowed to contest for the office of a ward councillor. We would tell him the position has been zoned somewhere apart from his place,or we would tell him he is not the right religion!

As we take stock, change our ways,and arrive at the knowledge of the truth,and accept it,