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TAKE BACK YOUR HUMANITY 

SM Evils

I woke up on the morning of Easter Monday, floating back to earthly life from deep thoughts on unspoken matters. I had just been re-energised by simple meditations on beautiful and uncomplicated things, inspiring my heart with a positive outlook to life. My mind was on fire with all the songs I had just finished singing from the previous nights’ concert, and I still could literally feel the bellows of the Church organ resonating in my bowels. Still longing for my bed, I had to wake early to go see my sister, whose birthday it was. I didn’t mind. My legs were tired, but my mind was alive.

Spoiler Alert!

I’m usually alert to spoilers, but not on this morning. I was revelling in unguarded pleasantness, until I scanned through my Twitter feed. Usually, I search specifically for informative content, particularly from individuals who have a history of tweeting articles and following it up with a great conversation. Sadly, my feed was plastered with commentaries on a recent statement made by a traditional ruler, which set Nigeria’s Tweetosphere ablaze. So many tweets were flying around the subject matter that I had to carefully trace what exactly prompted all the vitriol. Unfortunately I followed the Rabbit trail (all in a few minutes of siting in the car waiting for my sister) and realised later that I had squeezed out almost every ounce of joy in my heart. 

How did that happen? While I sat there amazed at how people turned on each other over someone else’ comment, I was ignorant of how the bile had seeped into my mind and cast a dark showdown over my thoughts. I was now thinking on how this might spark electoral violence, ethnic rivalry, and a series of unfortunate events in Lagos. By the time I arrived at the local Catholic church with my sister for the Mass, I was a different man. I had lost the sense of the beautiful I woke up with. I sat in church contemplating Nigeria’s troubles, rather than enjoy the strange art of worship I wasn’t used to. I had just swallowed the bitter pill that online social media serves us daily.

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A TRIBUTE TO MY OUTGOING PRESIDENT: YOU SIR, HAVE MY RESPECT.

Goodluck PencilReally, you didn’t have much of a choice because the handwriting was clear that Nigerians needed a change. Not because you didn’t do well, but because the propaganda against you was seethed in the red hot belly of strong alliance that formed from the moment the unexpected knocked on your doors.

Despite the failures of your government, both perceived and real, your nobility breaks through the preponderance of narrow narratives of politics and persuasions that border on the preposterous. I believe you were given to our country as that lonely wall upon which our differences, vexations, animosities, and bile will be nailed to, just to unite us on the common activity of breathing out our devils.

Personally, I do not prefer your leadership style. To this, I have learnt that we are all made different and crafted for a given time, a given setting, and given people. For this, I can see through the heat and mist of my desire, beyond the trifling conveniences of my ignorant learning, to the higher calling of personal graces with which some are endowed.
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BOKO HARAM WAS FOUNDED BY SANUSI???

boko-haram-map

Sorry the title is misleading. I just needed your attention. It’s not spelt Sanussi. It’s Sanusi.

Now that I have it for a few minutes, let me share this.

Last year, I hosted a guy in my office who had just returned from a one year posting with the Joint Task Force Operation in Borno State. I knew him quite well, having worked with him the previous year on some community based issues.

He appeared in the office with his official uniform, something close to the camo worn during the operation desert storm. He however looked quite frazzled and I asked what the matter was to his surprised that I noticed. I eventually discovered that he had gone through a lot in the heat of the battle against the Boko Haram insurgents.

Wanting more evidence on what he had gone through, he brought out his phone and proceeded to walk me through horrifying pictures of absolute carnage. He suddenly looked like a ghost to me because I couldn’t imagine how he managed to survive such intense fighting. He said to me something like this “Oga, we kill them, kill them, kill them tire.” When I asked how many Nigerian military men he had seen killed in action, he admit that several were killed but because they were more equipped, Boko Haram usually suffered heavier losses during battles. He noted that a lot of these insurgents were not Nigerians but from Niger and probably Chad.
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Just a thought on the proposed National Conference in Nigeria

ImageA first question one should ask is how important a National Conference is to the progress of Nigeria. Over several years, many groups and individuals have agitated for such a gathering to negotiate or renegotiate the polity. I think this is very important and can never be said to be late if done now. Unity can be forced, especially when the gun is the article of enforcement. However, when the gun is rusty and broken, there will be an implosion, the kind we have witnessed in countries where force has been used as a tool to maintain peace. Lasting unity is one that is negotiated and agreed on. Humans and their groupings are interest-driven, making it inevitable for such collective aspirations to be the interfacing nodes with other individuals and groups. Nigeria is no different and in many ways a case in point on the need to bring all parties to the table for a more commonsense consensus.

I commend this government for taking this Bull by its horns and hearkening to the several voices of interests around the country. It takes real courage to initiative a process for which you cannot predetermine its outcome, even when you assume you can control all variables involved. However, I have noted with care the absence of the word ‘Sovereign’ from the proposed National Conference. This is critical because it informs us that the agreements produced by such a conference will not be binding on the active institutions, seeing that these decisions will not be made by a sovereign. This makes one very suspicious that this whole episode will be a charade and at best a cosmetic treatment to a festering sore. For this reason, the process is already limping from the start and commitment of the government is yet doubtful.

Although no government wants to be the one to summon a Sovereign National Conference, someone, at some point will have to get it done. The reality with a SNC is that even the government in place will be subject to the SNC since we cannot have two sovereigns at the same time, in the same geopolitical expression. This is tricky for any government. The SNC might as well decide that the present constitution be suspended and government dissolved, and that will be final. So it is understandable when governments push aside or away the responsibility for such policy finality. A simple National Conference places the weight of such critical decisions on a system whose measures are questionable. Let us however see how we make use of this opportunity to get the best of what this government has chosen to do.

The first step in setting up a committee to work out the modalities for the National Conference is a positive one, and the selected actors are in no doubt of proven ability to set things up. I will therefore suggest the following to this committee in implementing the conference.

  1. Let the people in each local government through their traditional rulers decide who will represent them. There should not be a regulated process to how each local people decide who stands for them. It is pertinent to begin the process by recognizing the rights of indigenous people to decide how and who represents them. The only requirement I would suggest is for a timeframe to be given and that the selected representatives be people of means, people who will not use this as an opportunity to seek personal profit. The latter is important considering the third point below.
  2. A defined start-to-finish time should be given for the conference. This should be so for the purpose of funding. We are at the point where every naira matters to every Nigerian, so transparency in allocating resources to this process should be paramount. In this light, the conference should hold in the year 2014, so the presidency can make budgetary provisions in the 2014 Appropriation Act as approved by the National Assembly.
  3. Also in funding the National Conference, only the transportation, hotel, feeding and general administrative bills should   be covered by the budget. No allowances or stipends should be paid to any of the representatives. This answers to         selecting people of means who will not be busy waiting for sitting allowances to be paid before they carry-out their         duties.
  4. The current constitutional review process should be put on hold and preference is given to the National Conference, as  the results of this will be less political as in the case with the National Assembly’s attempt at reviewing the constitution.
  5. Although I would have preferred that such a conference be held in a place (such as neighbouring country) far from any influence and control of the government, pressure groups and media, I recognize that this might be costly to                   implement. So efforts should be put into situating the conference in a place with minimal outside noise and                     interference. Also, external observers should be engaged to sit in through the process to verify the quality of the             conference and to objectively validate or discredit the outcomes of the conference.  

It is very significant that this discourse between Nigeria’s people be done in the year 2014. This is because it marks a hundred years since external powers amalgamated the North and South to form one political administrative unit. Like Babatunde Raji Fashola, governor of Lagos State aptly stated, Nigeria was not born in 1914. No! Amalgamation is not the same thing as a union. Amalgamation suggests the activity of a third party, while a union indicates the agreement between parties directly involved. If we go down this road, the very question of a Nigerian state can be totally questioned. For this reason we must not shy away or deride the chance at negotiating our togetherness so we can determine a common destiny as a country; a destiny which every part subscribes to.

I therefore support the National Conference and believe that it has the potential to begin a process of national healing. As an individual, I have opted to find ways to make the best of current circumstances, or use the present resources to achieve my intended goals. I think this is what we must do as a country rather than constantly discredit any government initiative due to our dislike or distrust of the government officials. So what we should be looking at is how do we make this conference deliver value to us, rather than kill it on arrival.

 

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IS DEVELOPMENT THAT DIFFICULT?

Nigeria's Minister of Aviation - Princess Stella Odua

A few years ago, I went on a short family trip to Costa Rica. One of the instructive things that I noticed was how that little country managed its resources. Right at the airport, you are told plainly that for every tax you pay at the airport, one dollar is meant for upgrading and maintenance of the facilities. Not only that, the entire development plan and its timed phases were boldly and transparently displayed around the airport to give a quick snapshot of what was to be achieved. I saw a similar case in the Johannesburg International Airport in South Africa with even more detailed development plans. At the Dubai Airport, frequent travelers will agree that about 3 years ago, Lagos bound passengers had to board their flights from the tarmac, after being conveyed on a bus. However, today that is not the case because they have fully implemented a plan, which was public knowledge about creating new boarding terminals.

Every time I have the rare privilege of traveling and seeing these possibilities in other countries, it simply points to the fact these countries are working and precious hard-working people make it so. Development is not difficult if those responsible are willing to mire their hands in the very difficult task of planning and working the plan DELIBERATELY till it is thoroughly executed to the last detail. If we have this in Nigeria, without noise our infrastructures will flourish with relative ease because people are doing what they have to do behind the scene.

I have visited many Ministries, Departments, and Agencies and sadly you can smell the culture of sloth all around. Several people come in and pursue their private initiative and have very little concern for the Ministry goals, neither do they have a ‘jig’ or ‘saw’ to complete organizational ‘puzzle’. This tells you the kind of deliverables that will come out of these government establishments. For everything that works well, check it, there are efficient people behind the scenes making the positive outcomes possible. When this is not the case, check it, it might be as seemingly insignificant as a secretary not expediting action on a simple letter of reference.
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NIGERIA: THE BEGGARS COLONY

This is one of those rants I cannot but punish you with because I am getting really sick and tired of its frequency. Almost anywhere you go in Nigeria, you are faced with beggars begging right up to your face and totally crowding your space that you feel your only escape is to settle them. I am not talking about the poor, haggard, and destitute soul on the street without a home to go back to; not the physically maimed citizen crisscrossing go-slows to tap on your car’s window screen for their sustenance. It is not even the poor person in the neighbourhood who has genuine need and shows up at your gate on a weekend. If it were just these, I would understand for even Jesus said we will always have the poor with us.

My concern is with the pervasiveness of subtle beggars who trudge our corridors of service, demanding privileges that they do not exactly deserve. They are everywhere from the supermarket you frequent to the professional offices where they don the most formal attires. Anywhere you go it seems you are bound to encounter what feels like an organized mob of commercial inducers, asking for settlements for all kinds of spurious reasons ranging from ‘weekend money’ to ‘big man status money’. The latter is very upsetting because you now have to pay for looking affluent, as though it were indicative on the flesh.

The matter has become very embarrassing (or ‘embarazzing’ for emphasis) to the point that I am suddenly put on the offensive every time I request a simple service. Even when I am not asking for any services, usually some freelancer suddenly appears and imposes a service for which you have to cough out something. I drive into the parking lot of a public facility and the security man directs the parking process, a role for which he is also employed along with securing the vehicle. The profuse greetings you get from the security man on alighting your vehicle has its cost implication. The doorman usually almost prostrates before opening the door even though he sees your fully functional limbs. You have to factor all these into the expense to be disbursed at your location – of course not forgetting the tips you have already given for services in the inner sanctum.
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