Tuesday, November 29, 2011


It has taken the Nigerian senate, less than six months to pass a law, criminalizing same sex marriage! It is a wonderful feat in expedited passage of laws! The great feat begins to look silly, when you consider that it took the same senate more than twelve years to pass the Freedom of Information law!

Our lawmakers have shown an inhuman, and mind-boggling capacity for what can only be described as certified, incontrovertible, and indubitable, stupidity! How do we contextualize this new bill, in the light of the glaring challenges faced by Nigerians daily! 
Over eighty percent of Nigerians live on less than a dollar a day
Bills on power sector reforms, constitutional review, and all manner of weighty issues have been foot-dragging through the legislature, like a fasting pilgrim, coming to the end of a thousand mile walk of pilgrimage, and penance; without shoes, in the Himalayas!

Nigerians possess, undoubtedly,one of the richest nations on earth! One where natural resources are surfeit, and able to move the people from poverty, to prosperity!

 However, to the dismay of the ordinary man on the street, a deliberate, and criminal, lack of political will, has made all the wealth of the nation seem like property acquired in dreamland:useless!
Access to water is still a major problem in Nigeria
It is instances like the expedited passage of this law, and the foot-dragging of the same senate, on crucial, and life-changing legislation that would bring Nigeria into the modern world, that continually baffles right thinking people everywhere!

It cannot be that it is because they are not properly remunerated: they are! Our law makers, in the upper, and lower chambers, individually earn more than the American president! And I must quickly add, while working less than Barack Obama!
This is a school!
Whenever we are granted access to the "hallowed" chambers, what one sees, are over-fed, over-pampered, men and women, with double, and in some cases, triple chins! 

They are so full, that they can hardly sit up during debates! They have to slouch, and sometimes sleep, like some five year old, after a long day at school!

One would not be surprised, if, one of these days, a motion is moved to introduce beds into the chambers, to make the work of legislation less-cumbersome! 

These are people whose allegiance, is not to the electorate, but to their stomachs!

They see public service as an avenue for self-enrichment, and not service to the people! They are like the pigs of George Orwell's Animal Farm!

They have hastily passed a law that is useless!  

What is the business of the government, in a person's sexual orientation? Especially, when that government has not invested meaningfully in the lives of her people!

Nigeria might as well be ruled by a colonial master, and her wealth used to develop the colonial master's country; for that is exactly how it feels right now!

We are seeing the wealth with our eyes, and that is where it ends!

My admonition to the pigs is, remember the Spanish saying, that every pig has it's Saint Martins Day!


Sunday, November 27, 2011


The only time I had the honour of meeting General Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, was in 1992, I believe it was in the December of that year! 

I had just resumed at the Maryam Babangida National Centre for Women Development, as the photographer! 

It was also my first year in Abuja! The Centre had a guest house, which was not operational yet, but the pioneer general manager, Greg Obong-Oshotse, a very resourceful man, could not wait for the place to generate some income for the centre!

So he came up with a novel plan, he wanted some staff, who had been employed for other reasons, to volunteer to run the place, while the process of giving the place to a management firm could be started!

I was one of those who volunteered! It was in the course of my working there, as a telephone operator/porter/housekeeper, that I met the man Ojukwu!

Greg Obong-Oshotse, has always been a man, light years ahead of his time!

He decreed then, that the women centre, including the guest house was to be an alcohol, and tobacacco free zone!

He had not reckoned with guest Ojukwu in Room 201! 

Ojukwu came, and occupied one of the new rooms: we were happy a VIP was one of our guests!

We felt he would tell other VIPs of our excellent hotel! We needed the income to run the Center! 

That was until he checked out of the room! 

To our dismay, we discovered the Ikemba had been smoking a very pungent brand of cigarettes, or cigars, in the room! 

As far as he was concerned, a hotel was not a boarding school!

In addition, there were empty bottles of exotic brandies, and other unholy spirits, in the room! 

You can imagine how shocked we were!

But that incident, epitomizes who Ojukwu was: a man who walked his own path, all his life! 

He was not content to walk in the paths laid down by others!

Need I talk about his romance with Bianca Ono, a relationship that produced a wonderful set of twins?

Ojukwu decided that he was going to marry someone, whose naming ceremony as a baby, he had attended! 

It was not a matter for debate: the public registered their displeasure, and for Ojukwu, his heart was set on what he wanted to do, he married his beauty queen!

He was his own man, through, and through!

Many do not know, that he joined the army, against the wishes of his father, a very influential, and wealthy man in his day! 

His father used his connections to prevent Ojukwu from gaining entry into the defence academy! 

In keeping with his dogged resolve, he chose to go to the military school instead, thus joining as a recruit!

It was when he got into trouble with his drill instructor, for the umpteenth time,  ostensibly for correcting him on the proper way to pronounce "safety clip" and not the "safiti kili" the fellow kept telling the recruits, that he got his wish!

Other recruits who knew the right pronunciation kept their counsels to themselves, but not Ojukwu! He had not schooled in Britain for nothing!

A British officer who knew Ojukwu's history, and his father's hand in preventing him from going to the academy, decided that enough, was enough, and there and then, recommended the fellow for officer training!

And that innocuous act, changed the course of Nigeria's history!

We all know about his war with Nigeria, and the reasons behind it, the killing of Igbos in the North!

The serious question we should be asking ourselves now, is, have the conditions that led to the formation of Biafra changed?

A follow-up to that question would be, is Nigeria a more humane, just, and equitable society, after the loss of uncountable lives in the civil war?

If things have not changed: sadly, it means that we did not learn any lessons as a nation from the traumatic episode, and are doomed to repeat it!

May God grant his family the courage to bear this great loss!


Monday, November 21, 2011

Phantom Pain from a Phantom Government!

There is a weird, but true condition in medicine: it is called Phantom Pain! It is pain experienced by amputees, in the region where a lost limb used to be! 

It is usually treated by administering pain killing injections!

It is hard to believe, but the brain registers pain, as coming from a severed member of the body! What does this have in common with our beloved government? Plenty! 

A phantom is defined as something apparently seen, or heard, but having no physical reality!

Do you see the uncanny resemblance between the definition of phantom, and how our governments at all levels operate?

They make a lot of noise, they posture for us in the media, and speak what is expected: they are politically correct!

When it is time to make good all the elaborate promises, we are left with dry mouths on a hot day, darkness at night, and a vacuum, where there should be support! 

I am beginning to wish it was possible, for one to block them (all governments, at all levels) the way one blocks an offensive person on Facebook!

Why do I need government?

I already generate my own power through my generator, I provide my water through my borehole, I pay for private security for my home, and I use private health providers!

So of what value is government?

I know that the children of the government, those who benefit from them would say, they are there to provide order! 

What order?

Is it the order of the People's Democratic Party, PDP, disobeying a court order, to stage her gubernatorial primaries in Bayelsa, the president's own state?

Is it a part of providing order, to have soldiers cause mayhem, in the supposed fight for Boko Haram?

Will I call the action of government vehicles running me of the road, with their sirens, and large four wheel drive vehicles, order?

If you ask me, the only tangible manifestation of government, at all levels, seems to be the chaos, and disorder they spread!

It seems to me, that government, and phantom pain, are conjoined twins: they both cause pain, and have no gain!



Hell, a place of torment!

That is what Nigeria seems to have become, at least our roads!
I have not traveled to the Southern part of Nigeria, in the last one year! 

Before this hiatus, I had made an average of two trips a month, between Lagos, and Abuja, by road! And it was fun then! I prefer road trips, more than the cursory flyover, simply because I get to see so many visually stimulating subjects I can photograph!

My latest trip to Ondo town to deliver a wedding cake, is in danger of changing my preferred mode of travel! 

I left Abuja at mid-day, knowing that the trip to Ondo town, would not be more than five hours! I was so sure I would get to there before seven pm that day!

The usual traffic jam, at Gwagwalada, in the Federal Capital Territory,FCT, was there, but bearable! 

The town usually sees high, and intense, traffic jams on Mondays, Fridays, and Sundays! All other days, are better!

From Gwagwalada, the trip proceeded as planned, until a few kilometers to Abaji, the last town on the way out of Abuja!

It was a perfect recipe for disaster! A twelve-wheeled truck, locally known as 911, loaded with onions, fell on its's side! That is normal on our roads! 

What was not normal, however, was the geography of the place! It fell just before a bridge across a river, and at peak period! There was no way out, we could not leave the road, and divert through the bush, so we all waited for the valiant men of the Federal Road Safety Corps!

The Abuja-Lokoja road, has been under construction for the past six, or so years! It is meant to be a dual carriage way, and some sections of the dual carriage are already in place: this was the next factor in our hellish trip! Vehicles approaching from the FCT, not only clogged up the old road, but spilled into the new too, thereby creating a bottleneck!

Those coming into Abuja could not, and neither were we able to go as well!

I have noticed that, wherever there is a flat surface, and a car can be placed on it, Nigerians would drive there! It does not matter if it is the side walk, a football pitch, or someone's compound, or back! Our people would gladly drive on it, without thinking! 

We all stopped, at first, not knowing the exact nature of the accident, and pined away in the wilting heat of a scorching mid-day sun! 

If hell was hotter than this, then it surely was a bad place to end up!

At one point, I heard a commotion in a bus beside my car: a child was convulsing! Apparently, a sick child was in transit with his parents! The poorly-looking, gaunt,and  feeble creature, succumbed to the heat!

In the bedlam, people shouted instructions to the confused, hapless, helpless, hopelessly-looking, and clueless, parents! Some screamed, "make the mama piss for him mouth (let the mother pee in his mouth)! You could tell, I was shocked by my reaction to that one! Others said, "put  a spoon in his mouth! "Pour water for him body!

A smart fellow, picked up an onion, the source of our becalment! I suspect, he was trying to use it like smelling salts! And he seemed to be succeeding! I moved close to see what they were doing to the boy! I was again amazed at the level of lack of care! He was hanging in the air, between four adults! One held him by the head alone, another by his feet, and two others held each hand!

I was afraid the overzealous treatment would kill the boy, so I told the idiot holding him by the head, that he was in danger of strangling him! He then proceeded to hold the shoulders! The father was running around like the infamous headless chicken, making phone calls to helpers unseen!

Eventually, the boy, I guess afraid that they would treat him to death, opened his eyes! The parents, who had no water of their own, had to get some from a co-traveler, to pour on him!

We spent two, and half hours, waiting for the fallen truck to be removed! And the journey continued!

I did not get to Akure till nine pm that night!

My return leg of the journey, was uneventful, until I got to Okene! I always tell my friends that, despite my being a model road user, I am more careful anytime I am driving through Okene! Some of the young men in that town, have such short fuses, and would gladly burn one's car for a trifle!

I was waiting in line behind a truck, wondering why we had not moved, when some government fat cats, sirens blaring, and with full bravado, ignored the line of waiting cars, and took the liberty of the "free" lane meant for traffic coming from the opposite direction! 

As soon as they offered this great leadership, all manner of similar social misfits,joined the trailing train!

And as simple logic dictates, the rightful user of that lane was bound to show up: and he did!

A very big truck! 

One of those juggernauts, laden with goods!

Under normal circumstances, they treat other road users with disdain, and in this case, he was not willing to share his rightful lane!

All the errant drivers started squeezing into any available space to make way for him! In the process, one fellow, smashed my side mirror, and the left front fender! Here I was keeping the law, and suffering from another fellow's recklessness!

Our mirrors locked in a deadly embrace! One can see the
 truck in the background, applying pressure on the Toyota Camry
The Camry, now entering the lane he should have been on.
I took a photograph of the two mirrors locked in the deadly embrace, and his license plate, to ensure I could trace him, if he were to escape! But he did not! So we parked a few kilometers from the madding crowd!

He came down, begging that it was an accident! 

I, as is to be expected, was adamant! I told him he had no business being where he was in the first place! 

His lack of care had become my own loss!

I told him calmly, that he was going to replace the mirror, the scratch on the fender, I would sort out! The fellow volunteered that he was coming from the East, and was broke! He said if I did not mind, we could exchange phone numbers that he would fix the car in Abuja! Then he shocked me: he told me he was a pastor! 

More traffic at Okene, on a single lane road.
Pastor? If pastors are breaking the laws of the land with impunity, what would the congregation do? I did not tell him I was a christian, I intend to have him fix it, so that he would remember to behave in future! And it seemed to work too, because a few minutes after, we encountered some more traffic, and when others were facing oncoming traffic to escape, he stayed put!

Gwagwalada was the last point of extreme road rage! Traffic has to converge on a narrow bridge, within the vicinity of a motor park, and a market! I suddenly found myself waiting again, this time for more than thirty minutes! As I waited, I watched as my temperature gauge kept rising, and I kept praying, silently! 

At Gwagwalada, people formed seven extra lanes on the right shoulder of the road! They raised so much dust, and made so much noise! In addition, others used the shoulder across the road, to form two extra lanes! 
If the other side of the road looked like this, one can only
wonder what the right side would have looked like!

The most culpable people I discovered, were government registered vehicles, and very rich-looking vehicles!  

I kept wondering to myself, if being a government operative, exempted one from obeying the law? 

When I got to where the helpless, overwhelmed, road safety marshals were, I asked them, why they seemed to favour those who were on the shoulder of the road, breaking the law, more than those of us, who were law-abiding? 

They informed me that the government vehicles, including police men, were the cause of the confusion! 

Some policemen, had come to threaten them with guns, to allow them go through an unlawful route!

My experience on this trip, has left me wondering:if I were to be a tourist visiting Nigeria for the first time, and had encountered this traffic nightmare, would I want to come back next time, or recommend the place to others?

Secondly, if there is a medical emergency, like a woman in labour, or a sick child, and they have no access to an ambulance with a siren, would they survive what is gradually becoming a routine for us?

It is obvious that soldiers do not make good policemen, they are not trained to! A situation where military checkpoints, force five lanes of traffic into a single file, and end up, not doing more than look at the occupants of the vehicle, and collect bribes from transporters, leaves a whale lot to be desired!

I am wondering what would happen on the road, when the annual mass migration induced by the yuletide season sets in! With the bad roads, checkpoints, and bad road culture, our people are bound to experience hell on our roads in a season meant to celebrate the coming of heaven to earth! 


Tuesday, November 15, 2011


There are certain simple things in medicine, though unimportant by themselves, that are precursors, or harbingers, of momentous, and monumental events! Sometimes, these could be symptoms that are more of an inconvenience, that actually signpost a deeper, grave, and life-threatening medical condition!

Something as simple as a headache, could be a sign of a brain tumor! Another time, an upset stomach, could actually be pointing to bowel cancer!

But it should be noted that it is not in all cases, that these preconditions, actually point to the deadly conditions I have enumerated!

In like manner, certain events, in the life of a nation, can indicate how healthy the leadership style is ,or a deep insidious, retrograding, retrogressive, and recalcitrant leadership!

I have refrained for the past twenty days from commenting on the Nigerian situation, not because we have not had the usual foot-in-the-mouth moments; but because I decided to take a break from the maddening crowd Nigeria has become!

The latest debacle in a litany of low points, is the recently concluded national honours ceremony! 

Weeks before the event, many commentators spoke on the need to properly define the criteria for giving a person a national award! 

The most visible conscientious objectors, was Professor Chinua Achebe, who declined for the second time, the offer of a national award!

In Nigeria's case, the criteria for receipt, was simply the occupying of an office, and the being properly connected to those in power! 

Individuals were been awarded national honours, not because of some rarefied act of heroism, bravery, or uncommon contribution to Nigeria's greatness!

Contractors, consorts, and concubines of those in power, have become, those deserving of our national awards!

What ought to celebrate our very best, has now become a forum for mocking all we hold dear:our integrity!

It smacks of a mockery of common sense, and as those dyed-in-the wool defenders of our president are going to point out, it is a system he met on ground! 

It then begs the question, wherein is the much trumpeted transformation agenda?

That bit of our self-inflicted wound, is not the point of my blog today! What ails me, is that the medals on offer, were less than the number of people to be honoured! 

I know that one person will quickly point out that this is the president's first time, that is if we do not count the national awards given out during our fiftieth independence anniversary!

In all the years that this ceremony has been marked, we have never been informed of a shortage of medals!

It is like a university not having a degree to present to a graduating student, on the day graduation! Or, a conductor selling more seats, than his mini-bus can possibly carry!

We have a minister for special duties, who does nothing, as far as I am concerned, more than preparing for the national honours! 

That is the high-point of the minister's year!

The rest of the year, he just sharpens pencils, and jets around with the president!

Was it that the contractor responsible for producing these medals, ran out of materials? 

Or was it that the list was amended till the time the presentation ceremony itself? Or, the unthinkable, was it that the usual contractor was replaced, for a more favored person, who was not tried, and tested? 

The same shameful debacle of medals not going around, happened during the golden jubilee celebrations!

Is it that we are incapable of learning from our mistakes, or we are incapable of learning at all?

A friend of mine, who was virulently miffed by the sad episode, concluded that it shows that we have become so incompetent as a nation, that incompetent nations, are now calling us incompetent!

If we cannot handle a simple issue like matching medals to the number of people, can we seriously claim that we understand the dynamics of managing an economy? 

Because with the economy, the numbers are bigger, more complex, and oversights cannot be remedied with a simple "you will get your medal in one week" solution:instead, lives are usually lost, and fortunes too!

I kept asking myself, that if we cannot manage an award ceremony for less than five hundred people, how do we intend to manage one hundred and fifty million Nigerians?

Our people have a proverb, that the chick that would have a rich comb when it becomes a cock, usually shows it at a young age!

Nigeria says it wants to build a nuclear reactor, is this the style we want to use to manage it? This happy-go-lucky, cavalier, devil-may-care, manner? Then Fukushima, in Japan, will be child's play when we have our own melt down!

We have proclaimed our desire to explore space, I suspect whoever we put in orbit will never come back, if we do not change!

This show of shame, is a symptom of the malignant disease eating our nation: the rule by strong individuals, and the abdication by weak institutions to them!

A committee was saddled with this assignment, does it mean, that all the members of that committee, do not know how to count?

They do! 

However, the problem arose when the committee, (an institution), finished it's job, some individuals, (strong men), decided to set their hard work aside! 

That is what has kept Nigeria in slavery, and retrogressive retrogression since independence! 

It is what has made us an anachronism, an oxymoron, among all the nations of the world: a country richly endowed with all manner of resources, but peopled by those who live in abject poverty! 

The minister for special duties has not resigned, it is the Nigerian way! He is a strong man, in a weak government, (another institution)!

Someone has exonerated the president by saying, that his bus conductor, loaded more people than his bus could carry, my answer is, the driver is responsible for everything that happens to, and in, his bus, because he is the one who holds the steering!

As many dubious individuals were getting their dubiously earned awards in Abuja, a friend of mine gave me a dubious award too! 

He conferred on me the CFR, which, according to him, is Critic of the Federal Republic! 

I like it!