Lest We Forget

a commentary on socio-political developments and institutional policies

Of Badoos and Political Fraternities

The siege on Ikorodu by Badoo Boys has run into several weeks. The airwaves and newspapers are filled with reports of orgy of killings and gruesome murder of the people. The offence of their victims was that the hapless citizens could not afford to fortify their residence with electric fence, security guards and alsatian dogs. Their assailant, the Badoo boys did not see anything wrong in doing the wrong things. Who will cage them and call them to order in a country where lawlessness is the order of the day?  How can these small fries see anything wrong in their actions when our leaders also act with wanton impunity? In a country where “Evans” was arrested in 2006 for armed robbery but was magically released by the police without a judicial trial how can Badoo boys be punished? Impunity! In a country where Senators are expected to know that when the provision of an act is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution, the provision of the act is null and void to the extent of its inconsistency, but elect, not to know, who will cage the Badoo Boys? Immunity is power, impunity is absolute power!  After all Magu Must Go, the Almighty Senate has decreed, and the Nigerian  Constitution must bow and tremble before them. The Senate by its current posturing is the alternate Presidency.  

There is always a strong fraternity among cultists – injury to one is injury to all. That is why not only are they dreaded as a group but as individuals, too. Other cult members do not consider the infractions or wrongness of their members’ activities before they defend, and, avenge them. In other words, their members can do no wrong. This is why cult members are untouchable. You touch one, you touch all, it does not matter that you are right, and their member is wrong. It is called class protection! 

Unfortunately, similar scenarios are emerging on the political horizon. The Senate that, ordinarily, has nothing to do with a Senator’s recall process has come to announce to Nigerians through the Senate President Bukola Saraki, and his Deputy Ike Ekweremadu, that the attempt to recall Senator Daniel (Dino) Melaye of Kogi West Senatorial District by his constituents (who elected him in the first instance) would be resisted. The Senate did not even give INEC the dignity of concluding the process. After all, they must have reasoned quietly that if Melaye is successfully recalled anyone of them can also be successfully recalled. Ma ja du e, ma ja du ra mi! – Fighting for you is fighting for myself!

Before anyone could say “What?”, another political fraternity rose in defence of its member. This time it is the club of Governors,  Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) rising in defence of Governor Yari. Lest we forget, EFCC had announced a couple of days before that it would commence investigation against Dr Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar of Zamfara State on the disbursement of the refund $3m London-Paris Club fund. Is Governor Yari incapable of defending himself before EFCC? Are his Commissioner for Finance, Accountant General,  Auditor General and his Attorney General so incompetent to present, analyze and defend the expenditure of Zamfara State that Nigeria Governors’ Forum felt it would do a better job by lambasting and blackmailing EFCC? The Governors also must have reasoned like their politician-Senator counterparts -if, Yari, a sitting Governor (in spite of his immunity) is grabbed by EFCC successfully, then they are all in trouble. To the clarion call: Ma ja du e, ma ja du ra mi! 

The emergence of political fraternities will weaken our institutions and rubbish democracy the more. When the citizenry discover that our correctional institutions and provisions are ineffective, prostrate and in limbo the people will take the law into their own hands. The greatest disservice to this nation is for political leaders to assist in circumventing the law and castrating our institutions from achieving set objectives. Let every man carry his own can and face the law. Our languages may differ, our social status may vary but our laws must be one, and binding on all. That is how great nations emerge: supremacy of the rule of law.

But much more unfortunate, the only body that is expected to act as a whole, the Executive, is moving in opposite directions. While the proceedings of the Legislature can be covered by the media, not so with the Executives. No one is interested in the individual opinions of members, but the collective decisions. No one knows how it transpired at their meeting but what transpired. For the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to tell Nigerians that the view of the Acting President Yemi Osibajo on the proprietary of Senate to confirm certain nominees was his personal view is a brazen display of a split in the presidency. Even if he personally disagrees with the Acting President should he have made it so public except he is politically naive. If he wants to project himself as a powerhouse in the presidency, his steps are counterproductive. He has presented himself as disdainful and contemptuous of the Acting President. Even that does not build his own image. Is it not impolitic to present a divided presidency when their Government is buffetted on all fronts by separatist agitation, ethnic landlord quit notice, a sluggish economy, an implacable National Assembly and an ailing President?  By the way, would Malami have said the same thing about President Buhari if he (President) has said a similar thing? 

Lest we forget, it was President Buhari that chose Osinbajo as his running mate, and, therefore his Vice. If he would not respect the person his principal has chosen to act on his behalf then his respect for President Buhari, his principal, is not absolute. May God save Nigeria! 

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The Resident Evils

Quite often one has encountered warning about food combinations that could possibly trigger serious health issues or, even, death. I have heard such warning as not to eat mango after a meal of soaked garri.  While this may sound hillarious, there are times when danger comes in quietly due to a wrong combination of food and drugs. Innocently, we have used beverages to take tablets and capsules. As far as we are concerned, it is just to get some liquid to flush the medicine down our throat. In the absence of water we have used drinks. How deadly wrong can we be! 

Sometime in 2007, a Nigerian company, Fijabi Adebo Holding, bought large quantities of Coca-Cola, Fanta Orange, Sprite, Fanta Lemon, Fanta Pineapple and Soda Water from the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) for export to, and subsequent retail in the United Kingdom. The UK food safety authorities, however, found that the Fanta and Sprite contained some levels of unhealthy chemicals which could cause cancer. In such a situation, the drinks would be confiscated and destroyed. What a loss to Mr. Fijabi!

The chemicals were sunset yellow and benzoic acid. The evidence was further corroborated by European Union food examination board. Unfortunately, not only could these chemicals cause cancer in the consumers, anyone who made a mistake of using the drink to swallow Vitamin C, a common prescription to build immunity for cold would instantly be poisoned. Lest we forget,  NBC which produced these drinks is resident in Nigeria.

This development of the use of unhealthy and dangerous chemicals is within the purview of NAFDAC to redress.Irresponsible as NAFDAC was, it chose to do nothing! Not immediately, not later, not ever! What happened to peer review? What happened to global best practices? When your peers find fault in what you are doing should you not take a second look at it? If there are overwhelming evidences that you are wrong is it not reasonable and sensible that you take corrective or remedial steps? Whose interest is NAFDAC serving, if we may ask?  Multinational corporations or Nigerians? 

Only God knows the number of Nigerians in whom carcinogenic seeds have been sown through the consumption of NAFDAC-approved Fanta and Sprite drinks over the years. Only God knows those who have become poisoned, and eventually died, by using Sprite to swallow Vitamin B tablets. Sprite is a clear mineral and could be tempting to use as substitute for water to use drugs. Many have so done, to their peril!

To make matters worse, NAFDAC refused to make a plea in court. The management treated the case, and by extension the court, with disdain. By the way NAFDAC is a parastatal under a particular Ministry. The Director General of NAFDAC should explain why for nine years they have failed to remedy the situation, causing Nigerians untold health harms. The liability of the judgement payment should be shared by both the current DG and other DGs (retired) between 2008,  when the suit was filed, and now. The pensions of the retired DGs should be suspended forthwith while the current DG should be retired, immediately. There should be no sacred cows! Goverment functionaries should do what they are paid to do, and do it admirably well.

They have taken the Nigerian populace for granted, for too long. NAFDAC as currently operational is a resident evil that must reform or be disbanded. According to the trial judge, Justice Adedayo Oyebanji,  NAFDAC has failed the nation. In fact, if it should take a judge to warn us on our health, NAFDAC has, indeed, failed the nation. In other climes, by this unflattering verdict, heads would roll in the dysfunctional agency. Have questions not been raised about the fitness for consumption of other products such as Ajinomoto and its cousin, Onga? Has NAFDAC done anything? May the soul of Prof. Dora Akunliyi rest in perfect peace. NAFDAC died after she left!

Now to the Nigeria Bottling Company,  the manufacturer of the poisonous products. Their only singular defence in court was that the products were for “local consumption”, and that Mr. Fijabi did not tell them he wanted to export them. Can you believe that! NBC did not even plead that the products were safe for consumption by anyone to the best of their knowledge. In other words, to NBC, Nigerians are subhumans who could be fed with anything, anything, so long as they are making profit.

Even if reducing the amount of dangerous chemicals in the drinks would adjust the revenue of NBC, which I so much doubt anyway, should NBC not have considered the safety of Nigerians above pure profit motives? What Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) can be greater than protecting the lives of your customers? Does it make sense to subject those who love you and patronise your products to untimely death?  Is the submission of NBC to the court not equal to racial discrimination against Nigerians in ensuring that the right things are done?

By the way, is NBC working in cahoot with some foreign pharmaceutical companies, to surreptitiously create an army of sick Nigerians who would, in years to come, have to patronise their pharmaceutical products?  NBC in Nigeria is a resident evil that must amend its ways or be shown the way out. Should there not be a class action against NBC? Nigerian Bar Association, where are you? Where are the Nigerian Consumer Protection agencies and activists? Sequel to this judgement, especially in light of the role played by both NBC and NAFDAC, I expect the appropriate National Assembly committee to summon them for scathing upbraid.

The social media is fast becoming the fourth estate of the realm, marching furiously where the main media fear to tread. It is a disparate power that needs to be harmonised and focused. It might be better and more beneficial to train the focus of the social media community on erring and complacent service delivery institutions in the country until such institutions seat up, or the government is forced to shake it up in response to the pressure. This is far better than pilorrying and mocking every Nigerian President while resident evils are allowed to thrive and flourish untouched. 

While the South African xenophobic attack is condemnable, the resident evils in Nigeria, such as NAFDAC, must not be spared. While inhuman treatment of Nigerians in foreign land should be shouted out, the inhuman treatment by resident evils such as NBC must not be overlooked.

In this struggle to birth a new sense of institutional responsibility,  Dr. Fijabi should not be left alone. The resident evils in our midsts should be fought to a stand still by all socio-legal means. The social media should call the Nigerian Bottling Company to account. The 90-day deadline for issuing warning on the bottles must be monitored. It would expire by June 12, 2017 or thereabout. We must let nauseating capitalism and multinational corporations know that they cannot make their money on our blood. We must, collectively, resist the commodification of our lives. We can even call for a total boycott of NBC products. After all, how are we sure the other products, too, are not meant to kill us, silently?

While I salute the courage of the trial judge in pronuncing NAFDAC a failure (that is a damaging  and deserving verdict) however, the award of N2 million Naira against NAFDAC is a slap on the wrist. Anyway, I believe Mr Fijabi would appeal the judgement for a more punitive pronouncement against the two resident evils, at least in fulfilment of the essence of his name. Of course, nothing good comes easy!

I Feel Sorry For Buhari

One person whom I have known to have been cruelly mocked by fate is President Muhammadu Buhari. Here was a man who,  after taking a very long panoramic view of his society and dissatisfied with what he saw, volunteered to lead his country to a better life that he thought was possible for them. An ascetic figure who ought to have retired into religious circles (after his meritorious military service),  going by his rigorously modest, disciplined and austere life quite unbecoming of Nigerian military men and politicians; however, (he) chose to go into politics.

He has had the singular misfortune, not only of being elected to lead the country after a rapacious squandering of national riches twice but of offering to help a patently impatient and unappreciative populace. I feel sorry for him. I feel sorry for him because fate like she does in fabled Greek mythologies has twice  played a fast one on him by giving him on each occasion a barren scepter – the treasury is again empty. Unfortunately, love favours only a good man who can spend recklessly and  not a righteous man who spends sensibly.

I feel sorry for him because those who contributed in no small measures to the destruction of the economy, in the looting of the treasury are using our present mental attitude and social frustrations to launder their image and win our hearts. It is frustrating to lead a nation of literate but un-informed citizenry as much as illiterate populace. Whenever President Buhari tried to drum it into our ears how we got to this sorry juncture, the architects of our misfortunes wasted no time in telling him that Nigerians were not interested in how it happened but what he wanted to do. What shameless boldness! And we the traumatised victims of their unpatriotic and inhuman acts clap for our erstwhile oppressors as speaking our minds.True, we are interested in what the President wants to do but when we block history won’t we repeat it? It was Wiston Churchill, the great Prime Minister of United Kingdom (UK) who admonished the world that “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it”.

We need to tell Reno Omokris of this nation, all who contributed to this sorry pass that they are irritating us. We need to tell them to shut up, and allow the President to concentrate. We can do without their noisome distractions. In a sane clime these people will keep quiet, ashamed of their plunderage. Unfortunately, ours is a society that knows no shame or moral restrictions. All of a sudden those who should be declared political persona-non-grata have become the masses spokespersons. How time changes! This is the time for governance and not politiking. When it is time for re-election they can bash the President and barbecue APC. But for now, they should spare us their noisy gongs.

Now, all of a sudden Dr. Bukola Saraki has found his lost voice. Presiding over the Senate plenary session after a very long holiday (while Nigeria roasted), he was quoted to have said that Nigerians were no more interested in who brought the nation into this mess but how to get out (an indirect way of throwing jabs at the President). Yes, while we are eager, in fact, desperate to get out of this mess we must not tire to remember and mention how we got into this pathetic situation and those who are responsible. That is what is called the verdict of history. No attempt to erase it will succeed.

Well, it can be said that we are tired of hearing how we got here because we cannot make connections between the looting of the treasury and those who died in accidents due to bad roads. We are tired of hearing because we refuse to see the link between the looting and the patients that died because our hospitals are ill-equipped. We are tired of hearing because we do not know that since funds were looted the public universities could not expand and take more students compelling parents to send their children abroad thus draining the scarce foreign exchange in the process. We are tired of hearing because although we are literate majority of us are not well-informed.

I read Dele Sobowale’s angry riposte on President Buhari’s Edo State Gubernatorial campaign statement that he would make Nigeria great again. In the piece titled “Every recession creates jobs; not those governments want” published by Vanguard Newspapers, he screen-shot each Nigerian government from colonial era until 2015 and gave a verdict that no Nigerian government had ever taken the nation near greatness let alone achieve it. That is the judgement of prosterity.

When posterity judges, you just need to keep quiet. There is an African adage that the king whose tenure brought prosperity would not be forgotten, likewise the king whose reign brought misfortunes. Of course they would not be forgotten because the people keep talking about them. To say that Nigerians are not interested in who brought us here is to attempt to banish history,  to banish our memory, to banish our sense of judgement. We need to mention them loud and clear, those who stole our money, those who put us in this economic mess in memory of all the victims of their greed and wickedness – the soilders killed because of insufficient weaponry, the patients that died because there were no drugs and other medical facilities, the casualties on our roads, the victims of armed robbery because money meant for industrial growths were looted and our jobless youths took to armed-robbery as the last resort to eke a living.

We must mention their names and their heinous deed so that those who are there now, and those who will come later will learn to use their offices and the state funds judiciously. We need to mention them repeatedly so that all incumbents will know that the judgement of posterity is not fifty or hundred years away. It begins the day after they leave office.

Amnesty For Looters!

The Punch Newspaper (Online) of May 23, 2016 carried a news report titled “Senator seeks amnesty for looters”. The Senator in question is the Chairman Senate Committee on Gas, Senator Bassey Albert Akpan. Till date the honourable Senator has not been reported to deny the statement which he allegedly made to journalists in his Abuja office or claimed that he was misquoted. According to him, “The time has come when we have to think outside the box and my own position is this, it is possible that the government can declare amnesty on stolen money. Let every Nigerian that has taken money out of this country be given amnesty to bring back the money and invest in the country.”

Amnesty for looters?  We are in trouble. Can you imagine his position and the rationale? So jejune and clearly untenable. If for the eight years of previous administration no high profile politician was prosecuted for corruption despite overwhelming evidence, was that not amnesty by other means? Did that make them to stop looting or repatriate part of the stolen funds? If punishment prescribed by law is considered not deterrent enough, then amnesty, which is equivalent of non-prosecution and non-punishment, can not persuade them either. In fact, it is a blank cheque for more stealing!

If a Senator could mull such a fantastic idea, are we then surprised that we are described by some other dwellers on this earth as “fantastically corrupt”? For only a “fantastically corrupt” mind can spew out such a provocative and outrageous suggestion.
He added, “Why are we suffering in the midst of plenty? Amnesty was created for militancy, we should create amnesty for anybody that has taken money outside this country so that they can invest them in the9 country. We can generate a hundred billion dollar in the process in less than six months.”

Did you get that? I would have thought Bovi, Ali Baba, A.Y or any other stand up comedian said that. But a Senator! His reason: “…so that they (the looters) can invest them (the looted funds) in the country”. Can a highly placed person, a Senator, make such a daft proposition? Yes, it is daft and bereft of good judgement!  Who told him that looters are interested in investing in the country? Otherwise why have they not invested the looted funds in the country ever since they have been looting?  Why would they have to loot what ten generations may never finish? Why did they not steal what was just enough to set up a business, say just some tens of million naira? Why did they have to stash away such humongous amount in foreign countries? They have allegedly stolen in billions. The federal government is still counting and adding more, it is still trying to identify the hidden vaults of stolen funds all over the world.

By the way, at what point should looted fund be de-criminalized and “amnestisized”? Before investment or after investment? Would there be a deadline to “invest or be prosecuted”? Wonders shall never end. Is the rationale behind such a “brilliant” idea because those involved are big men or that they stole big? Or both? Or is it that the Senator is proactively preparing a futuristic soft-landing for himself as the Chairman of the lucrative Senate Committee on Gas?
Honestly, if a band of thieves deserves amnesty at all, who more than the other deserves it? Is it the band of less privileged thieves who stole out of necessity because they lack the legitimate ways and means to make ends meet or the band of thieves who stole out of luxury because they are privileged to be entrusted with our commonwealth even though they are well taken care of and sumptuously pampered?  Did the Senator imply all thieves should be granted amnesty, whether big men or common men?  If so, where was he when our judicial systems jailed those who stole to buy food to eat, those who stole to make ends meet, those who stole to pay for their wives’ hospital bills, those who stole to provide meals for their family or pay for their children’s school fees? Or is he pretending that no common Nigerian has been jailed on account of stealing irrespective of such compelling but inexcusable motives? Okay, is it only the big men that should enjoy amnesty because their elephantine loot is investible? Arrant nonsense! If petty thieves could be lynched in jungle justice (ask them in Lagos!), those who betray our trusts deserve no less. 

Lest we forget, every naira that is looted (embezzled) has been appropriated for a particular developmental programme or project. So by their looting of our resources they make constant electricity unattainable, artisans unproductive, potable water unavailable, roads impassable, flood uncontrollable, jobs inaccessible, graduates unemployable, hospitals unvisitable, business uninvestible, workers unpayable, robbery irreducible, happiness impossible, Nigeria unbearable and life undesirable. Now the Senator wants to make our laws inapplicable to looters! Hnmm!

In fact, one begins to wonder whether our leaders actually went to school at all or they just collected certificate at Oluwole (or is it Toronto?).  If they went, were they strictly and only concerned about their narrow and parochial discipline to the utter neglect of the greater and more robust general essence of education, tertiary education especially? Apart from lawyers who deliberately twist logic and distort arguments for (understandably) pecuniary reasons, there is a way that you expect every beneficiary of university education to reason, even when thinking outside the box, pragmatically. And more especially, a Senator, on whom voluptuous resources of the nation are lavished, should not insult the intelligence of the rest of us through ridiculous and mind-bending logic.

Like many of our national political players his pedigree can be interrogated. What credentials, apart from certificates, did they bring to bear on the governance of this great nation? Senator Akpan worked in Lagos at UBA, became Assistant Manager at First Atlantic Bank, Lagos, later Vice-President of FCMB Plc between 2005 and 2007 before he was appointed as the Commissioner for Finance in Akwa Ibom State until 2011, and in 2015 was elected Senator for the Federal Republic. Just like that, a meteoric movement, but is that enough? I am not sure he wrote a single paper or even an article on issues affecting the nation, not even in the area of finance and fiscal issues, his acclaimed area of competence before he forayed into politics, and finally became our Senator.  He is not alone, but symptomatic of the quality of the 8th Senate. What are the personal convictions of our legislators on the issues of law and its supremacy, morality and public conduct, accountability and probity, transparency and corrupt practices, and the other nuances of governance? May be we need an Institute for Leadership, Patriotism and Good Governance for prospective politicians and would-be national leaders.

For Christ sake, the position of a Senator is an awesomely heavy post, his words and opinions are heavyweight and of free freight in the media. Only 109 out of  about 170 million (170,000,000) Nigerians belong to that class at a time; such an exclusive class, such a highly-privileged class and such a heavily influential class. That is why no Senator can afford to make a reckless, careless and ill-digested utterance about the nation, the economy and the politics. Senators are expected to be grave and deeply reflective, men of grace and finesse, men of deep intellect and profound intelligence, men of astute knowledge and grand wisdom, men of robust experience and sublime world-views. Is there any among our Senators?

For the information of those who are giddy about age, who feel the Buharis of this nation should vacate the political scene for the younger generation, Senator Bassey Albert Akpan is a 44-year old politician. How old was Buhari when he was the military head of state in 1984? He was 42 years old.  Even now at an old age of 74 years his convictions on Nigerian issues are as strong, patriotic and unassailable as they were thirty-two years ago. This underscores the fact that sterling public performance is not a function of age but of serious mind and convictions. If your mind is sound, your mind is sound. If President Buhari was the one throwing about such a silly idea would he not be accused of being senile, by the likes of Ayo Fayose, the irascible Governor of Ekiti State? Now, have we begun to have senile young men?

May be like the wise Senegalese it is high time Nigerians reviewed the essence and the existence of our own Senate too. Because of a paltry 16 million dollars, the Senate of Senegal was scrapped to make more money available for the citizenry, especially to tackle the flood menace in that country. Of recent, our hallowed chamber has been seized electorally by some banal people, people of incredible conspicuous consumption, people whose moral values are below the average, and whose mental faculties are also below average. If we do away with the Senate at least Nigerians would be 60 billion Naira (300 million dollars) richer, which is just about half of the statutory transfer to the national assembly in 2016 budget appropriation. We would save enough to spend on other pressing needs. We would also save ourselves the agony of foisted follies!

Esa!

Nocturnal market
Fire-lamps dotting the dark
Like stars at night
Esa is awake!

Mokan is asleep
Esa is awake
Circuitous markets of life
The relay race of life

Esa
Spirits and humans transact
Openly. Confluence
Of life and death

Run, run, run,
Esa makes provisions
For the night
When Mokan is drowsy

Starry-eyed feet
Stumble not in dark
The Spirits of Esa guide
The young and the old

No night keeps the hungry
Esa, the benevolent
Provisioner
Caring and catering

Mokan at dawn
Esa at dusk
A happy couple
Thy children are raucous

Midnights fall
Fire-lamps fall
The stars dim
Here and there

Kamil, My brother
Son of Ashowo
Broke the news
Esa is no more!

Esa is no  more!
Mokan is dying!
Desolate children
Better days gone

Anadoru!
Thy children nostalgize
Lamp-lit nights
Curing hunger

Empty nights
Spirits roam
Humans grope
The market square

The nocturnal market
Finally slept
No more lively night for Esa
No more spritely dawn for Mokan

Ajina where are you?
Anadoru is no more
Wail! Sons of Ashowo
Thy fire-waisted mother is no more

Children walk the land
In hunger
Esa! Esa! Esa!
The Mother is gone!

The N56,000 Minimum Wage Comedy

Not a few workers will be delighted at the proposal of =N=56,000 (Fifty-six thousand Naira) national minimum wage hy the Nigerian Labour Congress. Nothing excites a worker like more income. More income means more purchasing power. A man’s purchasing power is a determinant, and also a function, of his social status. That is why workers itch for promotions, politicians angle for juicy appointments, senior executives eye foreign courses and assignments,  all in a bid to rake in more and more Naira. That the extra income may end up being expended on the mundane and other inanities is immaterial. Who will blame them for the craze for more income?

In a country that one has to practically create a micro-government for his home or family nothing is sweeter than more money. You will need to build your own house,  if you want to evade the unspoken societal verdict of being a failure. Even if it is a “face cap”  uncompleted bungalow,  build something. Either you or your spouse must be the Minister for Housing and Infrastructural Development. You will need to sink your own borehole or a well as the Minister for Water Resources. In a country that gives you more darkness than light you will need to appoint self or spouse as the Minister for Energy and Petroleum Resources, struggle to buy an electric-power generator, and search for unavailable petrol that you must be happy to get at a cut-throat price. Since the Nigeria Police is your friend, it will be inconsiderate and uncharitable of you to burden your “friend” with the duty of securing your life and property at night while you are sleeping. To solve the problem you will need to relate with other micro-governments around you to get some night watchmen. In all honesty, you need all the money you can get or grab by new promotions,  better employments, and the like to execute these onerous tasks.

But a new collective national wage increase is a different ball game. It is a zero sum game, a catch 7 7. It is a game that you win everything and lose everything. You will win, no doubt. And surely you will lose. Check the past records from Udoji Awards of 1973 to Gbemu Aremu (that’s the sobriquet for Olusegun Obasanjo’s salary review) of 2003. In the long run are the workers the better? No. Because no sooner had such financial windfall come than inflation, like pacman game, would purse, overtake and swallow the fat salary.  That is why, today, there is a new wave of agitation for a salary review. Your landlord will take his pound of flesh, the prices of household commodities will skyrocket,  because the market men and women must partake of the cake, transport fares will go up,  other ripple effects will lynch the new salary.

The private sector workers will agitate for a return to the “status quo ante”. The belief is that the private sector workers must earn better pay than their public sector counterparts. Individually, their unions would force them to “jack up”. The companies will jack up the pay packet of their workers and also increase the cost of their products in the market, waiting to collect from you a part of what they pay their staff. Not only that, the companies would lay off some workers who one way or the other becomes a liability to you. As a rule every citizen must be financed every day, whether they are employed or not. In other countries their governments finance the existence of the unemployed through several welfare packages. In Nigeria, however, it is the workers, that’s probably including you, who finance the existence of the unemployed. Invariably, you are left with nothing but a fresh desire for a new salary review.

The way out is the strengthening of the Naira. Increasing the purchasing power of the currency is a more reasonable demand than a populist, ill-wind, comedic jumbo minimum wage request. Let there be reflationary packages that will bring down the cost of living. Let the =N=10 (ten naira) be able to buy more than a sachet of pure water. The highest Chinese currency is 100 yuan, ours is 1000 naira. Introduction of higher denomination is a subtle devaluation of tge currency. Let the lower currency denominations be re-introduced. Comrade Ayuba Waba will do well to agitate for a deal that will benefit the workers in the long run.

Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commision (RMAFC) in conjunction with  National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) should drastically hack  the overbloated income and emoluments of political office holders, especially the federal legislators.  In fact, the highest paid political office holder in Nigeria should not earn more than thrice  the salary of the permanent secratary, the most senior civil servant.

Lest we forget,  how many states are currently able to discharge their wage burden under the current =N=18,000 (Eighteen thousand Naira) minimum wage, paltry as it is? To add the yoke of =N=56,000 will be the last straw that will break the proverbial camel’s back. Let the NLC and the TUC be more serious and realistic.  We do not need a troublesome comedy.

The MTN Jigsaw – Season 2

Who wants MTN dead? At least most Nigerians do not. Yet that does not give the private SA commercial enterprise the latitude to ride rough-shod on us. Rules are meant to be obeyed and not breached. Any breach will naturally attract the necessary sanctions in an organised society. However, there are times when the capacity of our leaders to take well-informed decisions, especially in line with global best practices, is brought under critical interrogation. Our approach to issues can, at best, be described as pedestrian and unscientific.

Take the issue of Nigeria Communication Commission, NCC and Mobile Telecommunication Network popularly called MTN. MTN was slammed with a N1.4 trillion fines for its failure to register or deactivate 5.1 million customers’ SIMs (Subscriber Identity Modules), a laxity which President Buhari later revealed as contributing to about 10,000 deaths in the hands of Boko Haram insurgents.  It must be reiterated that all service providers were privy to the fact that failure to register customer’s SIM would attract N200,000 penalty per SIM. Aware that Nigerian laws and penal provisions were mere paper tiger, the service providers went on to flout the NCC’s warnings and instructions.  While the other service providers complied and deactivated most of their unregistered lines, MTN like a drum-major refused to abate.  At the end of the day all of them were appropriately sanctioned by NCC to the degree of the infractions of each of them. That was how MTN acquired its humongous N1.4 trillion liability. As a form of leniency, after the initial hues and cries, the amount was reduced by 25% further dropping the liability to N780 billion.

Instead of approaching the NCC for further terms of settlement, MTN became intemperate mounting an international propaganda and playing the xenophobic card, forgetting that both Airtel and Etisalat, which were equally sanctioned, were as foreign as it was. It initially took its case to the court of public opinion before finally heading for the trial court to challenge the NCC and its constitutional rights to impose fines on defaulting service providers.

While the courtroom drama was going on diplomatic moves were being made with subtle blackmail that the fines would send wrong signals to prospective investors that Nigeria is a hostile environment to invest. In a silly and thoughtless reaction, one South African Vestact Fund Manager, Sasha Naryshkine, called it an “over-reaching regulation”, saying “It simply adds to perceptions about Nigeria as unfriendly place for foreign capital” as if such disrespectful business conduct and  infraction could ever be tolerated in South Africa.  As a fallout of the critical situation the MTN Group CEO, Mr. Sifiso Dabengwa resigned and Mr. Phuthuma Nhleko was later appointed to take over.

All of a sudden there was information that the MTN has paid N50 billion ($250 million) to Government “in good faith”, a claim that NCC initially denied of its awareness, thus prompting the intervention of the Senate to unravel the “mystery payment”. It later transpired, at a Senate inquiry, that the money was paid into a FG special account bypassing the NCC the regulatory agency that imposed the fines. The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, the Accountant General (AG) and the CBN were fingered as having entered into an agreement with MTN without any representation from NCC the supervisory and regulatory agency?

First and foremost it must be borne in mind that each day that the MTN refused to deactivate the unregistered SIMs, as directed by NCC, the service provider was smiling to the banks with a very huge revenue at the cost of the integrity of our regulatory laws and security of lives and property. Having made such a huge illicit revenue, in spite of our regulatory laws, why should it not cough out some of the revenue as penalty? If the MTN pleads that the penalty is huge and unpayable in one fell swoop should it not provide its revenue profile and bank statements to NCC as clear evidence of its inability to pay the penalty at once? After all, the company is the one at fault and begging for mercy. Why should the profile of MTN be raised by making it to negotiate directly with FG rather than the NCC? Is the FG implying that NCC is not competent to handle the negotiations?

The terms of payment were as ridiculous as the composition of the illegitimate committee. First they slashed the penalty from N780 billion to N300 billion! What the heck! That translates to roughly N50,000 per unregistered SIM! What a whopping loss of revenue!  What a great injustice to the other service providers that were charged and promptly paid N200,000 for each unregistered SIM. The implication of this is that if you want to commit infraction, as a foreign company in Nigeria, commit a very heavy infraction, and negotiate to get a slap on the wrist. This will not augur well for level playing field constantly advocated in the communication industry. Justice and fairplay demands that the charges of other service providers should be slashed to roughly N50,000 for each unregistered SIM at the time of the penalty, and the balance of their overpayment be refunded to them. That is natural justice.

It is just that in Nigeria our institutions are not strong and independent. Otherwise NCC should challenge the legality and legitimacy of the “kangaroo arrangement” in court and fight for the restoration of its legitimate rights and duties as the lawful regulatory body, Nigerian Communication Commission.  In fact in other climes, the Executive Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Umaru Danbaba would have resigned in ptotest for the gratuitous insult and an undeserving vote of no confidence to which the usurpation of his functions amounted.

Buoyed by inexplicable motives, the National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers (NATCOMS) made an unpardonable suggestion urging “the Federal Government to accept the N50 billion payment by MTN as the total fine”. One begins to wonder whose interest NATCOMS is protecting, Nigeria’s or providers’? Is it canvassing for business conduct impunity which has characterised most of the services of the telecommunication organisations -the drop calls, the unsolicited sms, the cross-connections, connections without communications, connections without ringtones, and a host of other nauseating infractions? Is that how business is conducted in other settings? Yet the supposedly consumers protection NGO would want MTN to be almost completely let off the hook. What a shame of consumer protection!

By the terms of the proposal of MTN it would take MTN five years to settle the debts. MTN would pay N100 billion between December 31st,  2016 and December 31st, 2020 “in five equal annual instalments”. That amounts to N20 billion annually. What happens if MTN falls foul of the law in the intervening years or if it fails to redeem in subsequent years, probably pleading a fall in revenue? By the way, is it the duty of MTN to prescribe for us how it will settle its indebtedness, some of which it proposed to do in kind? How ridiculous! Penalties are punishments, and punishments are not supposed to be enjoyable or convenient. If MTN has to pay on its own convenient terms and conditions, then everything ceases to be a penalty. It becomes corporate social responsibility activities by other means.

In fact, the greatest insult to our intelligence is the MTN’s proposal to use N150 billion of the penalty fines to participate in Nigeria’s sovereign bond purchase. According to MTN “such participation in sovereign bond purchase is as a demonstration of its commitment to and confidence in the Nigerian economy”. They should pay their debt and get out of the country if they have no confidence in our economy. This laughable proposal is akin to the proverbial using of Abu’s money to entertain him, with Abu reciprocating in thanks and praises. In other words MTN would use the N150 billion penalty fines to buy Nigeria’s sovereign bond, which will accrue back to MTN later with interest. Haba! Are we such dunces? This must be the joke of the millennium. This is real MTN jigsaw puzzle; the more you look, the less you see. Apart from the fact that NCC was not carried along in the ludicrous negotiations, the proposal in its entirety is a charade and  unacceptable to us as Nigerians. If MTN decides to close shop other willing communication companies will certainly come in.

Lest I forget, nobody wants MTN to leave or to die, nevertheless it must play by our rules, failure of which it must bow to the full weight of the sanctions. Pure and simple. On the other hand, if you disagree with my views on this issue, let me know your take on it.

January 15 1966: 50 Years After

As young chaps living in the rustic and sleepy town of Ota, a major suburb of Lagos, we were woken up to a strange news of a military coup d’etat on the 15th of January, 1966, the implication of which fully dawned on us a couple of days later. In fact, the mutilated body of the Prime Minister was reportedly discovered later at Sango-Ota. It would be recalled that back in 1963, even at a much younger age, as children we had been a part of the political community of Ota that mounted a series of street protests against the Federal Government for the release of Chief Obafemi Awolowo who was standing trial for a phantom coup plot. It is important to note that only women and children partook in the protests unmolested, even though we were teargassed. Any able-bodied man found within the vicinity of the protests would be promptly arrested by the police.

It was the days when police respected women and protected children. We were made the cannon fodders because our parents knew quite well that, apart from slight inconveniences, harm would not come our way. The protests lasted days, and by the second day we had learnt to equip ourselves with kerosine-soaked handkerchiefs to minimise the effect of the tear gas on our eyes. Eventually, Awolowo was jailed, some of his lieutenants were freed, including a local politician and a good neighbour of ours, one Chief Akinsanya whose return was highly celebrated in our area. Till this day I still wonder why my father, a strict disciplinarian, who never allowed us to go and play in the adjourning compound would have released us to partake in such horrendous confrontation with state apparatus – a subtle radicalisation against injustice and government authoritarianism.

The January 15, 1966 calamitous event brought a chain of reactions that permanently changed the destiny of Nigeria. By benefit of hindsight, if the actions of Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and his co-travellers were obtrusive and diversionary regardless of their claims to patriotism, the action of Major General Johnson Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi was most reprehensible, unpatriotic and selfish. At times the greatest error might not even be from he that made an initial mistake but from he in whose hands lay the means of correction but failed woefully to do so.
The greatest singular mistake of 1966, precisely 50 years ago was not the failed coup by Major Kaduna Nzeogwu and the other adventurous Majors that decimated a crop of Nigeria’s finest and foremost politicians, but the failure of J.T.U Aguiyi Ironsi, the then Army Chief of Staff who having rounded up the coup plotters failed to restore  civilian authority instantly.

There was only one duty expected of him as the Chief of Army Staff, to hand over power back to the civilians through either Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, the President, who would have called on the NPC (Northern People’s Congress), the party in power to nominate another Prime Minister; or Chief Nwafor Orizu, the President of the Federal Parliament who would have called for a replacement of the slain Prime Minister by his party. But at the most critical point in the nation, Aguiyi-Ironsi failed woefully. He allowed the selfish desire, even though opportunistic, of becoming the nation’s Head of State becloud his sense of judgement and his sacred duty to the nation. Had he taken this honourable path, that singular action would have sent a clear, unambiguous signal to would-be coup plotters that the Army had no role in civil governance except the protection of the government itself and the territorial integrity of the nation. That would have been a clear sign-post that the Army was not designed for civil governance.

One other event of that era that must be laid in final and permanent resolution was the purported coup d’etat of Chief Obafemi Awolowo leading to his incarceration. This political intolerance among other manifest political delinquencies was one of the torrid events that eventually culminated in the  excuse for the military strike of January 15, 1966. The Federal Government headed by Alhaji Tafawa Balewa was not comfortable with the sweeping popularity of Chief Obafemi Awolowo which was traceable to his people-oriented programmes (rather than the current crude and crass inductive “stomach infrastructure” of  new millennium politicians). The only weapon the Balewa government could use to circumscribe and curtail Awolowo’s fledging political influence in the West, and in the nation was to frame him up for coup.

Has any one wondered why General Yakubu Gowon not only released Chief Obafemi Awolowo but made him a member of the Federal Executive Council, and indeed the Vice Chairman?  It was because he and other northern military elements of those days knew that Chief Awolowo’s incarceration was purely politically motivated. It was a phantom coup, a coup that existed only in the imagination of those in power. Talking about the North of those days, it was the North that never forgot, that never forgave. If indeed Awolowo was scheming to remove one of their own (Tafawa Balewa) from power he would have been left to rot in gaol especially since he was lucky enough to have missed the coup plotters deadly hit list. Just like the phantom coup alleged by General Sani Abacha for which Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Shehu Musa Yar Adua were terminally incarcerated, the Awolowo coup, in truth and reality, never existed.

50 years down the lane, the time has come to unravel the mystery coup and bequeath truth to posterity.
In fact political intolerance was alluded to by the original coup plotters (the five Majors) as one of the causative factors of the military puscht of January 15, 1966. Nevertheless, Major General J.T.U Aguiyi-Ironsi’s rash and irrational decision of forcing the remaining members of Balewa cabinet to resign was one of the three major decisional catastrophes in the Nigerian nation management policy that befell this nation, the other two were committed by the administrations of Murtala-Obasanjo and General Babangida. This would be treated in subsequent articles.

Indeed, had J.T.U Aguiyi-Ironsi taken the constitutional path of restoring democratic governance instantly, there would have been no civil war, and the current unproductive and unsustainable balkanization of the administrative components of the country. The situation of Nigeria today would have been totally different. That would have sealed the floodgate of subsequent coups and counter-coups. The politicians would have failed and learnt from their mistakes. They would have been replaced routinely by the electorate, and in five good decades we would have  got a well-nurtured Westminster democracy, a stable polity and a fairly advanced nation. There would have been no need for the introduction of the  fiscally expensive and financially haemorrhagic presidential system of government.  There would have been no Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, the evil genius; there would have been no Sani Abacha, the devil personified. Today, January 15, Major General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi (Ironside) would have been gloriously remembered as the greatest Nigerian hero who defended democracy selflessly by putting national interest above personal interest.

The MTN Jigsaw – Season 1

One of the major pillars of advanced nations, which regrettably is lacking in developing countries, is the enforcement of law. Because different people with different socio-cultural orientations must be forged together to become a nation, there is the need to fashion out common denominators, of which, at least, two things brilliantly recommended themselves: Currency and Law. They are national binding factors. The Currency of a nation enjoys unfettered legal tender within the political territory of the nation. No other currency may upstage or supplant it. Its instrumentality is not negotiable. So also is Law. At least, in advance countries. Laws are meant to be obeyed. Breaches are sanctioned; they are not negotiated. Because laws are enacted for good governance, law breakers are often viewed with dim regards. They are penalised to prevent a further breakdown of law and order to which anarchy is sequel. The supremacy of law is so overwhelming that like the primitive people’s idol its creators must bow to it.

Tragically, for us in Nigeria, the application of the necessary provisions of the law is an avoidable inconvenience. Our laws are enacted that we, like the primates resemble and imitate Man, may have a semblance of civility, civilisation and organisation. Sincerely, we don’t mean our laws. Our guests are quick to notice this peculiar virtue, and they try to outdo us in our lawlessness to our own chagrin. What the foreigners and their enterprises dare not in their land they do here with impunity. Why not? There is always a super Nigerian, a big man who would negotiate their infractions and ensure their escape from justice. Of course,  the big man does not engage himself in fits of anger at the temerity of foreigners to desecrate our laws. No. He is not upset. In fact, he is pleased. He uses such opportunities as a sociopolitical barometer not only to guage his influence and relevance but to further entrench it. So, it is in the eternal interest of the big man that foreigners should ride rough shod on our shoulder, that his interventions may be sought and his influence further peddled. After all, did he not facilitate their coming in the first instance? And of course for permitting a big man to have his ways in spite of the odds, written and unwritten, there is always a clear and present reward, either in cash or kind. In addition, you become adopted by the big man whom, one day, you might need in the uncertain trajectory of your career. His support is a delayed gratification that you had better treasure. Every Nigerian knows that. After all “Godfathers never sleep”. Apology to J.K. Randle.

In case you are obstinate, and decide to fight on behalf of the law, you would soon discover to your dismay that you are acting on your own. OYO as the acronym goes. Someone else would still do the big man’s dirty bidding. When you take a stand for the law you take a stand for the society. That, of course, should be the right thing. Wrong!  The mortal sin is to obstruct a big man. The big man does not forget, he does not forgive.

So as a nation we have wobbled and fumbled. We have granted import waivers when we should not. We have granted tax holidays to undeserving foreign businesses. We have created a huge mess, so messy that an American Republican presidential candidate and business mogul by the name, Donald Trump in October 2015 called for another 100 years recolonisation of Africa because, according to him, Africans “know nothing about leadership and self governance”. He lambasted further, “From the government to opposition, they only qualify to be used as a case study whenever bad examples are required.” This is a neo-colonialist clarion call coming 55 years after Nigeria’s Independence. Will you blame him? Should we not, by now, be ashamed,  well enough to get things done properly, no matter whose ox is gored?

Businesses, whether government or private, are conducted without emotions, and within the confines of laid down rules and regulations. Little wonder despite the down payment of a whopping $40 million by Nigeria’s TV company,  HiTV to UEFA for the broadcast rights of the highly lucrative EPL for 2010-2011 season the company lost out as it could not provide a bank guarantee for the remaining two seasons by Monday July 19, 2010. However, the company had letters from Nigerian banks that the guarantee would be ready by Friday,  23rd July 2010 – a mere difference of 4 days. Losing $40 millon is no joke. The company came crashing, and has laid prostrate since. It was a serious scorch for Toyin Subair.

To typical Nigerians, it’s just 4 days difference. To the whites, you missed the deadline. EOD. Europe was unwittingly teaching us in a hard way, using one of us as a classical example of how (or how not) to conduct business. No sentiments, no emotions, just rules – whether just or unjust. Nobody talked about racism or any form of bunkum. No intervention by any big man. Law, itself, is the big man (or I dare say the big blind woman). Rules are meant to be respected, not perverted. Rules do not recognise colour or creed. At least, they are not supposed. They just must be respected. Simple.

The Gbomogbomo Economy

I remember decades ago when I was an elementary pupil of African Church Primary School, Igbore in Abeokuta. It was early sixties. That was when the famous Baptist Boys High School perched gloriously and majestically on Egunya hill (Oke Egunya). Egunya hill on the other hand was notorious for preventing decrepit vehicles with weak engine from climbing it. Even at gear one, your vehicle was likely to fail Oke Egunya test by developing coughs, spurt, jerks, and eventually stop before making the last100 metre dash to the entrance of BBHS.

There was a piece of  land lying between the two schools that prevented them from sharing a common boundary, back to back. That parcel of land was always bushy leaving a narrow footpath to connect the schools. Unfortunately, the footpath also connected to some residential areas on Oke Egunya. It was this connection to residential areas that made the footpath notorious in those days. It was, as alleged by our parents, gbomogbomo’s red spots. Some pupils would swear that they saw a shadowy man with a black sack standing afar off along the notorios “Gbomogbomo’s route”. Since we did not want to end up in one Gbomogbomo’s black sack, being small enough to fit into  his sack, we usually warned ourselves from taking the path.Not even in groups did we ever venture to tread that path-to-hell after school hours.

Those were the days when “gbomogbomo” was indeed a kidnapper – as they actually went out to nab or “nap” kids. Then it was notably for ritual purposes by blood-sucking vampires desperate to make money through human sacrifice. The warning then was not to talk to strangers or be enticed by their offer of child-irresistible candies and cookies. If you were not kidnapped as a kid the chances that you could ever be kidnapped as a teenager or adult was zero. It was tidier for them than attempting to kidnap an adult who may not only successfully resist but expose the kidnapper for the public to apprehend. But that was then. Things have changed. Kids are no more endangered than adults. I mean real adults. If you are sixty-five and above you have entered the landmines you miraculously escaped earlier in life. Especially, if you have a high social or political visibility, you are of high economic value to the 21st century kidnappers. The ritual process of pounding flesh and bone, and mixing same with blood and some other herbs is not only satanic but protracted, messy and traumatic, even for the get-rich-quick desperados. A new method had to be devised. Enter ransom kidnapping.

With ransom kidnapping you can be stupendously rich in under one week. A new industry has come to town, very lucrative.  In the twinkle of an eye the business has so blossomed that hardly will a week pass without a case of kidnapping. It was initially a fad in the Niger Delta when the militants kidnapped foreigners and expatriates for ransom. Now like a dreaded contagion the malaise has gone viral. I remember the highly publicised case of the mother of the former Minister for Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who was kidnapped in 2014, and for whom an undisclosed ransom was paid to secure her release. Before and after, however, several hundreds have been abducted, many of them unreported. And till date, the incident of kidnapping has remained unabated.

In the first three weeks of September 2015 alone, there was the abduction of the Chairman of Cometstar Manufacturing Company, Sir James Uzochukwu Uduji in Lagos with an obstinate demand for a humongous ransom of N220 million. So also was  Archbishop Ignatius Kattey who was kidnapped in Port Harcourt. And yet, 70 year old Reverend Japhet Obafemi of Apostolic Faith church, Ilepa, in Ikare Akoko was reported kinapped with a ransom demand of N16 million, coming at the heels of the dramatized release of Chief Olu Falae who was earlier abducted by Fulani herdsmen in the same Ondo State with a demand ransom of N100 million. Also from Rivers came the report  of the abduction of two ministers of God, Venerable J.B Lawson and Venerable Isobo Dokubo of the African Church with a joint ransom of N25 million. The list is almost endless. 

One of the characteristics of a developing nation is the slow and tardy reaction to social malaise. It takes eons to formulate policies and statutes to counter novel antisocial or criminal phenomenon. Our jurisprudential mechanism is abysmally archaic, reactive and insular. There is a pathetic disconnect between societal experience and legislation. The legislature, the policing system and the courts are not consummative of societal aspirations and expectations. Is there a department in our Ministry of Justice that liaises with the various intelligence departments of the police and other security agencies with the objective of synthesizing intelligence information and forwarding same to government through the office of the Attorney General periodically with recommendations on how to fine tune extant legislation to meet nascent criminological issues emanating from the various intelligence gatherings? Hell, no!

This hiatus makes our laws to be late and lame in the face of festering ingenious criminality.  Because we are a Third World nation, new crime runs haywire before egregious law begins a feeble attempt to arrest it. By the time a solution is found the issue has already become gargantuan and monstrous with a reproductive life of its own. And the solution becomes antiquated and inadequate.  So was the issue of Boko Haram. So is the issue of kidnapping. Unfortunately, we seem helpless. The abductors smile to the bank, the victims, also, smile to various worship places, at least to thank God for living to tell the traumatic story. Every economy is named after its most visible and influential elements.  We had agricultural economy before independence, oil-boom economy until now. Can we afford to have “gbomogbomo economy”?  Businessinsider.com  placed Nigeria 5th on the global index of kidnapping risk. Except something is done, urgently and ruthlessly too, Nigeria may soon become number one nation in the world in abduction and kidnapping crime. That is not good for an economy in dire need of direct foreign investment. We should not allow insecurity to kidnap the economy. Every form of insecurity must be decisively dealt with. Security is not a luxury item. It is a basic necessity.

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