Thursday, October 30, 2008


“If we must win the fight against corruption in our country, we must eschew friendships, tribal ties, consanguineous relationships, generational solidarity and face the facts of each case as we see them”
-Festus Keyamo, Lagos lawyer, in his letter to Hon. Dimeji Bankole, Speaker,
House of Representatives asking him to explain the controversial Peugeot
purchase deal.

I wrote sometime ago that the fight on corruption was dead on arrival in Nigeria. Once Farida Waziri was enthroned as EFCC chairman by Honorable Dimeji Bankole and his coterie of “do-nothing” legislators, we are sunk! And now, the chicken is coming home to roost.

I am one of the few who are willing to give Hon. Bankole a chance to prove us wrong. After all, until a few years ago, he was one of us, Nigerian abroad. He knows what representative democracy means, he understood the fiduciary nature of the call for public service. In fact he got his present position as Speaker, after his predecessor had been disgraced out of office for corruption related affair. So when the news broke about the Peugeot 407 scandal currently rocking the House of Representative in Nigeria, I could not help but lament how we Nigerians continue to ignore the lessons of history.

Let me posit here however, that Hon. Bankole is yet to defend himself of all the allegations so unlike some I will refrain from reaching any conclusions on that issue. The issue I really want to address is the ongoing charade at the House of Representatives Committee on Ethics and Privileges. At the hearing, the committee members made it explicitly clear they are not really interested in finding the truth about the scandal rocking the house, but are more focused on ferreting out information about the “whistleblower.”

They want to know how Mr. Keyamo got his information and not if the allegation were true. When it got to the turn of Newswatch, the Executive Editor of Newswatch, Mr. Bala Dan Abu, who stood in for the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine, Ray Ekpu, was available and he again was interrogated on the source and authenticity of the magazine’s story on the scam. No attempt was made to first investigate the allegation by staff of the house. None of the administrative staff implicated in the scandal was brought to the hearing.

Mr. Abu told the committee that while the news magazine stood by the content of its story, it had no further presentation, additional information or submission to make.
“This is the magazine I edit and I cannot deny any information contained in it. We stand by all the information contained in our story. It is not as if I have additional information,” he said. You would think the House members will stop here and start asking the right answers instead of red herring. Well, you don’t know them.

And then the members asked the blackmail question, here I will quote the account in Thisday published online on October 30, 2008 “verbatim ad literati”: The House members asked “On whether there was still need to push for the enactment of the Freedom of Information Bill (FoI) in the face of the prevailing situation where the mass media procure official secrets and publish stories such as the car purchase scam.”

Tell me what has the FOI bill got to do with an inflated contract? It was not as if they doubted the veracity of the document submitted by Mr. Keyamo. In actual fact they were astounded that an ordinary Nigerian will have access to a public document. Document that should and ought to be made available online by every democratic government for scrutiny by the public and tax payers. There you go folks, our distinguished House of Representative now engages in blackmail. The implication for the press is to stop any probe of the House expenditure and budget if they want to pass the Freedom of Information bill. This I called the ultimate blackmail.

For me, I have reached an inevitable conclusion that we cannot trust the present Nigerian politicians to pass the freedom of information bill, the political parties and politicians in Nigeria today will be committing political “hara-kiri” if they passed the FOI bill. It will cut off the source of their ill-gotten wealth. Nigerian masses and activist have to prepare themselves for a long slug fight to a constitutional amendment if Freedom of Information were to become law in Nigeria.

Francis Adewale
Spokane, WA

Monday, October 20, 2008


"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts."

-Daniel Patrick Moynihan, former U.S Senator from New York

Nigeria’s mainstream media is characteristically myopic in outlook. Nigerian journalist and news editors of today rarely hide their ethnic prejudices and preconceived notions. The smart journalist of yore used to hide and camouflaged it, but of late it has become increasingly embarrassing. You can see through these shenanigans with the way they celebrated and headlined otherwise somber reflections of the state of Northern Nigerian economy by its leaders and business executives in their news reports on the Northern Nigeria Economic and Investment Summit organized by the Conference of Northern States’ Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (CONSCCIMA).

A cursory reading of the discussions during the summit clearly shows that every problem highlighted as the cause of the ongoing economic malaise in the north is clearly applicable in any part of Nigeria. Indeed the whole of Nigeria economy is on a slump whilst the federal government is fast asleep.
In the news report on the summit, we learnt from the Bauchi State Governor that there cannot be any investment in the North when there is no peace in the region:
“The North is very backward; at least the death rates among our women and children indicate so. But the truth is that there cannot be investment, where there is no peace. Is there peace in the North? We know how religious riots drive away the investors,”
The fact is everything the Governor stated here is equally applicable to the southern part of Nigeria. The only metrics the north could be said to be below the south is education. And the south had“head-start” thanks largely to the initial rejection of western education by the North during the colonial time.

The economy of the southern part of Nigeria is also in ruins. The biggest companies listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange are oil companies owned largely by foreigners, northern Nigeria investor and a smattering of Obasanjo created millionaires, all of which gave a semblance of affluence in the midst of abject poverty. Where are the Cadburys and the cocoa derivatives industries like Cadburys and Food specialties of Nigeria? Whatever happened to the industrial park in Ikeja, Warri, Enugu and Port Harcourt? The big companies in southern Nigeria today are not manufacturing or introducing innovative products, they are all glorified money changers and bureau de change called universal banks.

If you want to talk about wars and riots, it is as much a problem of the south as it is with the north. We all know about the full fledged war going on at the Niger-delta. Only the brave will bring investment and manufacturing companies to Ibadan where miscreants recently took control of the state government aided and abetted by their god father. Need we mention the macabre dance in Aba where allegiance to Okija shrine determines who gets to live and govern the state.

At least the northern Nigeria leaders are talking about their problem. What is the south doing about the mass killing going on in the Niger Delta? When was the last time the fractured south addressed the problem between the Modakeke and Ife? Or the fratricidal war for the very soul of Warri by ethnic warlords.

The Lagos-Ibadan-Enugu press can continue to celebrate mediocrity all the want, I am not happy with the state of my country. This is not a time to finger point. These times called for action from educated Nigerian. It is time to educate the electorates to the impending catastrophe that the PDP government is foisting on all of us. It does not matter whether you live in the north or south.

As my good friend and a consummate Nigerian, Finance Minister, Dr. Shamsuddeen Usman pointed out during the forum: “It is not enough for you (referring to the army generals and former governors) to stay in the comfort of your homes and complain. You must show interest on who is representing you. The point I am making is that you must take up challenges. Nature abhors a vacuum. You cannot do it alone by staying in your comfort zone. You have to take the challenge.”