Thursday, December 1, 2011

Nigeria Unity and the Politicians Wars

News out of Nigeria can sometimes be very depressing, you really have to do your level best to keep yourself sane, especially given the frenzy pull to the abyss its politicians often pulled the nation. Just this week, we learnt of the death of Alex Ibru, founder and publisher of the Guardian Newspaper-the flagship of Nigeria's journalism. The man who single handedly changed the face of newspaper journalism in Nigeria. One could argue that without the advent of Guardian newspaper in the mid-80s Nigeria fiery brand of journalism would have remained comatose after the dizzying height Babatunde Jose and others had catapulted it in the '70s.

We also heard this week about the death of Dim Emeka Ojukwu. The man who personified everything about Nigeria's birth from colonialism and yet did a lot to pull the entity into an abyss. Ojukwu by accident of birth is a consumate Nigerian. Born in Zungeru, to one of Africa's first millionaire merchant. Ojukwu rarely spend any of his formative years in south east Nigeria. At various times he went to school in the north, Lagos, Ilesa and London before he joined the military.

He is a man who could speak any of Nigerian major languages fluently and yet he led a putsch to divide Nigeria and he nearly succeeded to dismember the nation but for the genocidal hunger unleashed on his people by the Yakubu Gowon led federal government in Lagos.

The fact however remains that the rationale advanced by his seccesionist government and ractify at the ill fated Aburi accord remains an albatross on the Nigerian nation. Every clauses of the Aburi accord, rings true today as it was then. Resource control, right to religious freedom, trade and commerce all of which precipitated the civil war and included in the resolution advanced at Aburi are now issues on all agenda advanced by agitators of the proposed sovereign national conference. Perhaps the only point of dissent I have with Ojukwu is what he did subsequent to Biafra. Ojukwu post Biafra, nearly destroyed the legacy of fairness he had burnished for himself. He fraternized with all and every dictators that ever reigned in Dodan Barracks or Aso Rock. At one time he even went on a junket accross western countries to canvass support for the most pernicious and evil ruler that ever ruled Nigeria-Sanni Abacha!

Let me also state, that whilst I support Ojukwu call for freedom for all Nigerians pre civil war, I however believe in the sanctity of Nigeria. The unity of Nigeria should be "sanctum" and non negotiable. Sadly, it is politicians like the post civil war Ojuwku that did a lot and continue to do a lot to put clogs in the wheel of advancement of the Nigerian people through their divide and rule mendacity.

The poor in Kafachan, are not any different than the poor in Umuaiha or Ipetu Ijesha! Whilst the politically rich and well to do can afford to send their children to schools abroad the poor "vulcanizer" and bricklayer in the slums of Ajegunle are stuck on surviving on a less than a dollar a day. Every time I travel in Nigeria i weep at the sufferings of the people and grit my teeth in disgust at the politicians who fan the embers of discord among the Nigerian people. Sadly, the education of Nigerians is a task for every well meaning Nigerian. And you can start today, by refusing to fight the politician phoney ethnocentric wars! Let them bring their own kids to work as party thugs and die for their ill conceived vitriol. Nigeria unity should be non negotiable!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Will Bayelsa Gubernatorial Election Imbroglio Predict PDP’s Plan for 2014?

President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is widely acknowledged to have departed from his predecessors well known penchant for meddling in administration of election during the last election. Professor Attahiru Jega, INEC chairman, was allowed to pick his staff and conduct the election to the best of his abilities. Other than allocation of funds, and provision of security, the presidency step out of the way of the commission. Should we expect the same scenario to play itself out as we march gradually towards the next presidential election?

Recent events in Bayelsa state seems to point to a negative answer to this loaded question. Bayelsa is the home state of President Goodluck Jonathan. He was once a deputy governor and governor of that state before he ascended to the post of vice president and subsequently president of our dear country. What is happening now in PDP’s Bayelsa gubernatorial electoral politics had been described as the very worst of Nigerian politics and likened to a battle for the very soul of our democracy. Every news story on the debacle speaks of contempt for due process, arrogance of power and stark display of naked dictatorship. It confirms everything some of us have always known about the so called People’s Democratic Party. A party without any fundamental ethos and democratic values other than to win election by every means possible, legal or illegal.

According to the Nation online, “the state was supposed to have carried out ward congresses on Monday, November 14th, but it turned out to be a farce. The party headquarters deployed men and police from Abuja, gathered the delegates and other party faithful, and whisked the materials to Abuja after misinforming the party men and women that they wanted to pay a courtesy call on the governor who never saw them.” In a party known for giving establishment support to all its incumbent governor, the party seems to have thrown the current governor under the bus, for no reason other than a perceived disagreement with the commander in chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is as if what we have in our constitution is an imperial presidency and not a constitutional one.

To ensure that everyone knows where the sitting governor’s problem comes from, the federal government on the eve of the gubernatorial primary suddenly disbanded the state security outfit without any reason. This was quickly followed by declarations of interest by other party men, loyal to President Jonathan.

What does this story portends for our democracy? First of all, we need to understand that we cannot rely on President Jonathan to defend our hard earned democracy. He is no different from every other PDP dictators the party has thrown up in our faces since 1999. More importantly we need to seriously push for a sovereign national conference that will devolve more powers to our local and state government. A federal police force is a veritable tool in the hands of dictator for destruction of our democracy. It is time to stop believing the ruse that Goodluck is any better than Obasanjo or Yar’adua before him. They are all fruits from the same poisonous tree aptly called PDP- People’s Destruction Party!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Second Comming of Ngozinomics: Balancing the Books on the Back of the Poor

“The definition of the alternatives is the supreme instrument of power”
- E.E. Schattschneider “The Semisovereign People” (1960)

Most economists agrees that many factors contribute to economic growth, ranging from the productivity of the work force, shares of private savings available for private investment, increased public expenditures that help spurs growth during recession, reduced tax burdens that will encouraged private investment and spending by the large swath of the population, to list just a few. Sadly none of these matters in Nigeria, since the current ruling class in Nigeria is fixated on one thing and one thing only: Petroleum subsidy. Every government in Nigeria including the most profligate and corrupt almost inevitably look at the supposed petroleum subsidy as the anti-dote to all Nigeria economic woes. It was never about the structure that makes the world fifth exporter of crude oil, one of the biggest importers of refined petroleum oil. Never about the poverty of ideas that have rendered the manufacturing sector of the economy comatose due to the high cost of nonexistent electricity.

And now we are back to the beats again, thanks largely to President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s “unconstitutional prime minister”: Ngozi Okonjo Iweala. The last time she was in the saddle as minister of finance she pushed for the removal of the same subsidy. At that time she promised that she is doing it for own good and it will be the last time. She promised it will fix our economy and spurred economic growth. Well, if anything was spurred it was the bank account of the politicians. She also successfully negotiated some of Nigeria debt and got kudos for her effort. All of these in turn spurred Ms. Iweala’s personal profile with World Bank and IMF, her erstwhile boss, who in turn promoted her as managing director.

Now, she is back with the same gambit, she believes she can fix Nigeria’s economic woes by removing all petroleum subsidy. Everyone in government believes this is the right thing to do. What do they care? They do not shop where ordinary Nigeria buys food. What is more, their kids do not attend the failing schools they promised to fund at the end of the last exercise; and when they or their progenitors fall sick they simply fly to the best hospitals in US, UK or South Africa; while the poor and the dispossessed get to deal with the attendant ripple effects of the removal of subsidy at home in Nigeria. To adopt a popular refrain from political science, one can conclude that the flaw in Nigeria’s ruling class petroleum subsidy mantra is that their heavenly chorus sings with a strong upper-class accent. Evidence shows that every time politicians ginned up this excuse, prices of foodstuffs and household goods rises steeply. The attendant inflation is a self fulfilling prophecy. The funny thing is that their excuses get irritating and embarrassing each time they bring it up. They claim the subsidy encourages illicit export of subsidized products: and my answer to that is whose job is it to guard the porous border? The poor farmer in Kafachan? They also claim that prices in some part of the country are different from others: again my answer is whatever happens to price control unit commission? And why are there no prosecutions of erring fuel stations owners? Are they too powerful?

There is no doubt, that the ruling class in Nigeria is populated with “fanatics” who have a fetish attachment to removal of subsidy. They dismiss logic, knowledge, morality and intellectual integrity in favor of this “sacred fixation” with removal of petroleum subsidy. To the ruling class in Nigeria, removal of petroleum subsidy is “sine qua non” for economic growth. It does not matter if it flies in the face of every logic. No effort to explore any other alternatives. As Upton Sinclair wrote in 1935, "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it." “Ngozinomics” is back again, we are in trouble. Who will save us from our politicians masquerading as economist?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Of Auto Pilot, People Pilot, God Pilot and the Challenge of Visionary Leadership in Nigeria

“Someone had written in the papers: is Nigeria on auto pilot? I tell them
that Nigeria is not on auto pilot, God is in-charge and God will take us to the
destination he has destined for us” –President Goodluck Jonathan

According to one of Nigeria’s burgeoning online newspapers, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, recently waxed philosophical on who is in charge of our dear country. In an address at an interdenominational service ahead of Nigeria's 51st Independence Anniversary in Abuja, he absolved himself of any blame as God is in charge. Even though he initially cautioned himself before addressing such an important issue before a largely Christian gathering, he made some highly inflammatory statements that we need to dissect “seriatim”.

One would have wished that the president had heeded his own words and just attend the service without making any remarks. Sadly, his voice of reason was crowded out by the tug of faith and now he might have created more problems for the country through his ill-advised philosophical rant. First of all, he stated: “You have been praying for us but others are praying that we shouldn’t move an inch, especially those of us who are politicians.” So who are those praying against his government: Moslems? Atheist? Bloggers? Critics? Journalist? Make your pick. When viewed in context, “others” here could only mean those who are non-Christians i.e adherents of other faiths. But is this what the president of Nigeria really has in mind? I seriously doubt that. After all one of the oaths he sworn to uphold is to an unalloyed fidelity to the Constitution of Nigeria which places strong emphasis on the secularity of all its institutions including the presidency.

The second thing that jumps at me from reading the text of the president address is this amorphous claim that it was not the vote of Nigerians that got him to Aso rock. Here I quote him again: “But God knows why I am here as the President even though I don’t have any of these attributes or characters. But through your prayers, God placed me here.” In other words, those Nigerians who went to great length to vote for him and many who stayed back in the rain and sunshine to protect their vote did all that for nothing, as he only got to Aso rock thanks to the prayers of Christians which in turn moved God to placed him in Aso rock.

Again I asked if this is what the president really meant and I doubt that. Let me say I am no theologian, but I seriously doubt God has a hand in Yar’adua’s death. Even if the good Lord did, I doubt he likes Goodluck better than Pastor Tunde Bakare! I seriously doubt God will want to have “neither part nor lot” in a political party such as People’s Democratic Party. In short, if Christians truly desires to see change in Nigeria, they are better of heeding the admonishing of Christ to “watch and pray”. Any politicians telling them to close their eyes and pray will soon take off with their loot while they and their children’s children pay the debts.

As Fredrick Douglas once remarked, “I have found that to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken his moral and mental vision, and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason.” Herein lays the tricks of modern day religious purveyors. Again as Douglas reiterated in his clarion call to reason against blind faith, “I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. Never was there a clear case of stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in”. Those who profit from the perfidious religious tote bags of Nigeria will want Nigerians of all hue to focus on the religious and ethnic differences between them even while they loot the country. They anoint themselves as bearers of religious symbols and standards even while they commit the most heinous crimes against the people of God. Douglas hatred and contempt for similar ilk in his days is worth repeating: “I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, which every where surround me. We have men-stealers for ministers, women whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members. The man who robs me of my earnings at the end of each week meets me as a class-leader on Sunday morning, to show me the way of life, and the path of salvation. He, who sells my sister for purposes of prostitution, stands forth as the pious advocate of purity…We see the thief preaching against the theft, and the adulterer against adultery. We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support the gospel, and babes sold to purchase Bibles for the poor heathen! All for the glory of God and the good of souls! The slave auctioneer’s bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master. The dealer gives his blood stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity. Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other-devils dressed in angels’ robes and hell presenting the semblance of paradise.”

Next, the president threw a red herring: “don’t need to be a lion. I don’t need to be Nebuchadnezzar. I don’t need to operate like the pharaohs of Egypt. I don’t need to be a military general. But I can change this country without those traits.” I don’t know where the president got this “delusion” from, but I have never read any newspaper in and outside Nigeria where anyone enjoys him to be a pharaoh, a military general or a Nebuchadnezzar. All we asked is for him to uphold the oath he took to enforce the laws of Nigeria, no matter whose ox is gored. All we asked is to bring culprits of religious riots to book be they Christians or Moslem. All we asked is for the president to act as commander in chief of Nigeria! If he likes he can use servant leadership or commander leadership, all we asked Mr. President is for you to lead! Enough of sending your godfather to placate law breakers even as dissidents shoots and kill innocent bystanders. All we asked is that Nigerian government under your leadership moved quickly to rescue Nigerian traders of “Igbo extraction” from Libya before you kow towed to Western demand to recognize Benghazi’s rebels murdering every black person in the street of Tripoli. Mr. President, we do not care if President Obama offered you praise or Ban Ki Moon gives you an award, your loyalty is not to these masters but to the Nigerian people and the earlier you realized that the better for your regime!

By far the most revolting of all the statements made by the president is this: “Some people were saying; is Nigeria on auto-pilot? And I say yes. Nigeria is being piloted by God himself. There is no pilot, no matter the number of hours he has to his credit flying an aircraft that can take an airline to a destination if God wants to stop it half way. God is in charge and God will take us to the destination he has for us. It is not going to be easy but God using you and us; we will go to where we want to go.” We all know the folks who flew jets to the Twins Towers on 9/11 believed they were been used of God! You can be sincere in your religious belief and still be sincerely wrong! Many have proffered that God was using them in the name of religion even while they make their adherents to drink poison. Even the good book says “Where [there is] no vision the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy [is] he” Mr. President, stop hiding behind God cloak and start keeping the law so and you and all of us can be happy! It is almost six months into your term, and yet there are no clear directions or vision on how we are going to generate more electricity, repair our epileptic power supply, rebuild our dilapidated infrastructure, assure security for every Nigerian in every part of the country, restore the faith of all Nigerian citizens in the Nigeria experiment, educate our citizens for the challenges of the twenty first century, and provide in a succinct form a foreign policy direction for the whole country.

Mr. President, our greatest concern should not be, as Abraham Lincoln rightly once said, whether God is on our side, it should be that we are on God’s side, for God is always right. It is not right for a country that is the fifth largest producer of oil to lagged last in income generation and poverty. It is not right that a Nigerian citizen with southern progenitor, born in Zungeru cannot claim to be a citizen of Niger state. It is not right that corrupt politician who supports your election can walk freely and flaunts their ill gotten wealth while the common thief that stole his neighbor’s goat for hunger linger in jail without trial because of a corrupt judiciary. More than anything else, God may be counting on you to steer the ship you thought was on auto pilot, but was actually heading to disaster. This is because all we currently see in the driver’s seat are rogues on steering wheels, save for a few smart technocrats who have no say in the party that controls the pilot’s license, more appropriately described as people’s destroyer party! Mr. President, God is counting on you to steer this ship to safety.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Katsina Alu’s Escalation of Nigeria’s Judicial Rot as Banal Descent into a Dark Abyss

“Nigeria is chaos. But the chaos is created, organized by the government.
Chaos allows it to stay in power.” –Richard Dowden “Africa: Altered States,
Ordinary Miracles” p.6 (2008).

Nigeria defies logic. As one writer rightly pointed out, by any law of political or social science it should have collapsed or disintegrated years ago. It remains a mystery while Nigeria, which is clearly a failed state, still works. We know for a fact however that it partly works thanks to the resilience of its people. The leadership of Nigeria, political, social, religious and economic, have all being doing their level best to tip the nation over time and time again; but despite their best efforts, the country still remain standing albeit to the utter chagrin of its destructive greedy leaders.

One of such exercise in leadership betrayal of the people of Nigeria is the attempt by the outgoing Chief Justice of Nigeria to destroy Nigerian judiciary by every means possible even as he takes his exit from the judiciary. The genesis of his latest antics lies in the personal battle he is waging against his nemesis, the equally outgoing president of the Nigerian Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami. Chief Justice Katsina Alu readily receives an assist from President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, whose electoral victory is being challenged in a court presided by Justice Salami.

Nigerians are used to “kangaroo” tribunal set up by ousted military junta who used to deploy them to settle scores during their days. One of the then military tribunals convicted the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti of having foreign currency in his possession after coming back from a foreign trip. Such tribunals are usually set up hurriedly with appointees selected by military fiat from those who will readily carry out the dictates of the junta. They are usually asked to preside over incidents that were legal at the time of its occurrence but were now retroactively legalized and made punishable by term of imprisonment and even death. What Nigerians never imagined is that even though military rule is a thing of the past, their legacy lives on.

More importantly, it seems the Nigerian Judicial Council (NJC), albeit, the one presided over by Chief Justice Katsina Alu, learnt a thing or two from military rule. The NJC hurriedly meets without quorum and without giving opportunity to the accused-Justice Salami, and proceeded to sack the president of the Court of Appeal on the ground that he did not apologize to the Chief Justice over an ethical issue that was not a ground of dismissal as stipulated under the constitution of Nigeria, even whilst a case challenging the jurisdiction of NJC is pending in court. President Goodluck Jonathan gave its imprimatur to this illegality by approving the sack of Justice Salami and appointing a replacement which he believed will do its bidding at the electoral tribunal. That conjecture is rightly justified since there is no rhyme or reason to the presidency stand giving the fact that it had earlier enjoined the parties to maintain the “status quo ante”

Nigerian leaders and politicians often try to pretend that its bad image is some Western media conspiracy against Nigerian and Africa. The truth is that Nigeria’s popular image falls short of the reality. Our problems are mostly self inflicted. No thanks to the mindless and mendacious leadership abundant in the top echelons of our country. I have no doubt that Justice Salami’s problem lies solely in the current regime self interest. Nigerians home and abroad need to stand up for the integrity and independence of the judiciary by appealing to President Jonathan to reinstate Justice Salami immediately, allowing him to serve out his term as president of the court of appeal; even as we institute an enquiry into the cause of the rot in our judicial system.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Jonathan’s Six Year Tenure Constitutional Amendment Bid: Bad Time, Wrong Priority

President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan received a lot of goodwill from many people home and abroad for his humility and the way and manner he assumed the leadership of Nigeria without any “grandstanding,” massive rigging and “vote buying” common with many of his predecessors. My fears today is that much of that goodwill will be fritter away on the altar of self perpetuation in office. Yes, I know his press minders like the newly minted, former gadfly; Reuben Abati, denied that his boss is planning to elongate his tenure through an amendment to the constitution. This is definitely beside the point, Nigerians no thanks to former president Olusegun Obasanjo, has heard this tale before and clearly knows where this is heading.
Former President Obama’s commerce secretary and the new US ambassador to China once defined priority of government as follows: “focusing on results that people want and need, prioritizing those results, and funding those results with the money we have.” When one measures President Jonathan’s new policy roll out on constitutional amendment vis a vis the turmoil and economic precipice Nigeria currently finds itself, one would find that no matter how laudable the idea of constitutional amendment to provide six year tenure may be, it is a wrong priority for this government at this time in the history of our nation.

As many have argued, there are many problems facing our body polity greater than politician six year term tenure issues. We have civil wars going on in the northern part of the country, no thanks to Islamic militants under the guise of Boko Haram. The Niger Delta militancy problem with its attendant frequent kidnapping and bombing yet unresolved. The Nigeria market sector is at its all time low. The prices of goods and services defied inflationary or any economic metrics or trends in its downward spiral. Our manufacturing sector that used to be the leader in Africa has all but succumbed to death in the hands of our comatose power sector. And now coming out of its inaugural cabinet meeting, the issue of six year term for political office holder is all that the federal government could think about? What is wrong with the leadership of our country? Don’t they get it? Nigerians want functional government and not political jobbers!

Every commentator on constitutional amendment readily agrees that we do need to constantly examines and reexamines our constitution with a view to make it better, but not at the expense of addressing bigger and more pressing issues affecting the generality of Nigerian masses. What should be the priority of our government in Nigeria? Our federal legislature spent the last four years giving billions of Naira to corporations and governmental agencies saddled with power generation without any oversight whatsoever. The refrain we often get from them is that they are busy amending the constitutions to enable federal legislators have more control over political party executive committees. And now we are going to embark on the same fruitless exercise. Are these folks tone deaf? Maybe what we need is a constitutional amendment asking our elected leaders to simply do their job!

The ludicrous argument advanced by the presidency in support of this mindless exercise is that elected officials are often consumed by electioneering and campaign during the four years that the time between elections is barely enough to get things done. The logic is that if we gave them six years they will be able to use four years for electoral campaigns and two years for governance. Do these people even listen to the logic of their argument? In other words they seem to be arguing that they need more time because the time they have now is barely enough to carry out any of the public task as they are consumed by their own ambitions during the four years. Here in the United States, members of the House of Representatives are elected every two years, and you hardly find them pleading for more time. Most congressmen travel back to their district sometimes every weekend or during the holiday to feel the pulse of the people and find out what is going on in their district. Nigeria federal legislatures received funding for constituency offices but rarely open any in their district. Some who for the fear of EFCC have offices, barely staff such offices, as a result their contact with their constituencies are nonexistent.

I believe it is high time for all Nigerians to demand from our president and his party what are the priorities of his government. You can do that today by sending an email to him or posting a message on his Facebook page. Is he the president Nigerians toil and struggle to elect or is he another Olusegun Obasanjo? He needs to come out and tell us as we are sick of Peoples Democratic Party shenanigans!

Monday, June 27, 2011

“Productivity is a measure of output from a production process, per unit of
input” –OECD Compendium on Productivity

The next war in Nigeria may have nothing to do with Boko Haram or Niger Delta, but all to do with labor and productivity. Currently the federal government of Nigeria and the states are in a logjam on who is responsible for the non implementation of the new minimum wage for public sector employees. The federal government and labor organizations claimed that they reached an agreement in principle that binds all state government to pay the agreed wage increase which seems substantial when you consider the paltry allocation each state gets from the federal purse. The various state governments claims they are not party to that an agreement even though they were invited to the negotiations. I believe at the heart of this grotesque imbroglio is the antiquated idea that workers earning should be fixed monthly irrespective of output.

I think the parties are putting the cart before the horse, any attempt to determine an arbitrary wage increase without an appreciation of productivity is bound to fail. What is more, it actually breeds corruption. Even though the supposed increased wage may look and sound substantial one needs to look at it against the backdrop of the huge inflationary trends in Nigeria. Every benefits of publicized wage increase to workers in Nigeria often invariably leads to arbitrary increase in cost of living and expense.

An arbitrary fixing of wage may also be the main reason why civil servants rarely stays at their job post as they are busy looking for other means to support their family. Anyone who thinks earning the newly set minimum wage will help increase productivity is dreaming. The new wage cannot feed a family of two for a week. So workers earning such pay will basically sign in and then run around looking for contracts or have a shop somewhere where they could make ends meet.A serious reform will overhaul the entire civil service, stream line jobs, state by state based on the needs of each community. The federal government for instance is top heavy without any commensurate performance and impact on local community. Some of the state government are so bloated and irrelevant to the community they are meant to serve. For instance, there is no reason why the Federal government should be involved in building houses, at best it should encourage states to pull resources together such as would encourage interlocal cooperation that would ensure prices of building materials such as cement et al would not be too exorbitant. The FGN should of course help such states access funds by providing guarantees for such interlocal agreement. Nigeria is perhaps the only "federal" government where the central government directly repairs and build road networks including putting up sign post on the so called federal highways, which in itself is an aberration.

A true federal government ensures regional government carried out its will through smart deployment of resources through federal legislation that tied funds to interlocal cooperation among local government and state governments. Duplication of services between federal, states and local government will be reduced and accountability will be better ensured. The current scenario makes for a bloated federal government.Who in their right mind, would for one second think if the Lagos-Ibadan expressway or Lagos-Benin expressway had been a primary project of regional governors with the same access to funds that FGN had invested on these roads for the past 12 years will still remain comatose and eyesore as it is?Heck the Lekki road that was concession-ed after the former is going at a faster pace than Lagos-Ibadan road where nothing but the signboard announcing the award of the contract had been in place for more than 2 years!

It is always difficult to make federal government accountable in the current scenario; a smaller federal government will put focus on “lazy” state and local governments. All the popular changes we have witnessed so far in the fourth republic have all come from visionary state government, be it Donald Duke’s Cross Rivers state or Governor Fashola’s Lagos. Democratic efforts for change in government in places like Ogun State, Imo State and Nassarawa state also come from state citizens tired of inept state government who are not doing anything for them. Whereas it is easy for politicians at the federal level to blame Federal Government ineptness on sharia, militants, Boko Haram, or any ethnic palaver, it is much more difficult for governors like Gbenga Daniel to blame lack of portable water in Ijebu Ode on sharia!

We need increased productivity but it can only come after a smart reform that will ensure that we do things differently and that will ensure we get maximum productivity from our civil service even while we paid them well for their services. It is suggested that such reforms must neither be political, nor political party driven! We are currently running a civil service with colonial mindset in the 21st century!

Friday, May 27, 2011

When Will Nigerians Enjoy Stable Electricity?

I just got back from Nigeria and the highlight of my visit is the pervasive darkness when night falls. Thanks to Fashola, things are not as bad in Lagos, but the problem have left night life and the attendant economic activities after 7:00pm comatose in every other states.

I am no friend of Obaigbena's Thisday, but his rag sheet did a thorough job a little while ago on this issue. I archived it then and I will reproduce it for those of you interested in the history of power generation in the last twenty years. Btw, as I reiterated earlier, I just came back from gidi, and I will in a short while write up my impression on what I found. For now, we should commend efforts by the likes of Fashola on this issue.
Here you go:

From ThisdayWhen Will Nigerians Enjoy Stable Electricity?
THISDAY’s Investigative Team: Kunle Akogun, Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, Stanley Nkwazema, Chika Amanze-Nwachuku, Ike Abonyi, Ali M. Ali, Patrick Ugeh and Julius Atoi, 04.07.2008

Ever since President Yar’Adua complained that $10 billion had been spent on the power sector between 2000 and 2007 without commensurate result, the nation has been awash with stories of scams and shocking revelations. What is the state of the power projects today? What went wrong along the line? Who is lying and who is telling the truth on the amount of money that was spent? Why is Nigeria still in darkness despite all measures applied since 1999? What is the way out? THISDAY investigates and reports Power to the People? What Obasanjo Met… When Chief Olusegun Obasanjo assumed office as President on May 29, 1999, the power sector – represented by generation, transmission and distribution – was on the verge of collapse. The nation was constantly in darkness. The National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) had its acronym reinterpreted: Never Expect Power Always.

Even the feeble attempt to make it look like a publicly owned company, with the change of name to National Electric Power Plc (NEP Plc) only gave more mischievous ammunition to the public who defined the new acronym as “Never Expect Power, Please Light Candle”. The entire economy ran on generating sets as NEPA could only muster 1,500MW, out of a projected need of 4,000MW, for transmission and distribution across the country.

The diagnosis was that epileptic supply was a product of the dilapidation of the power infrastructure in the country. The generating stations were not being serviced; transmission lines were routinely vandalised; and the distribution transformers were worn out without replacement of parts or service. NEPA itself was in a sorry state as corruption was the order of the day. The accumulation of these inefficiencies brought a height to the decay and periodic system failures that had variously thrown the entire country in darkness. Obasanjo inherited four thermal stations: Egbin, Ughelli, Sapele and Afam.
There were also three hydro electric stations at Kainji, Jebba and Shiroro. Whereas the installed capacity was 3,500MW, production had shrunk to as low as 1,500MW. Out of the 78 generating units in the country then, only 28 were generating electricity and feeding a paltry 1500MW into the nation’s economy. Hope raised and dashed… Obasanjo, having lamented the rot, set out to address the problems. He started on a wrong footing, many would say, by appointing a seasoned lawyer and politician, Chief Bola Ige, as Minister of Power and Steel, rather than a technocrat who would have understood the terrain better because of the technical nature of the sector.

Ige promptly promised that by the end of 2002, Nigerians would experience uninterrupted power supply, a promise he was forced to retract when he was confronted with the enormity of the problem later on. Obasanjo would later say in 2007, more than six years after the assassination of Ige, that the former minister “did not know his left from his right”. But when Obasanjo set out to address the problem in 1999, he had the objective of turning NEPA around within the first six months. Generation increased same year, obviously not as a result of his ingenuity but because of the rainy season which had improved power generation at the hydro stations.
In March 2000, he set up a Technical Board for NEPA with Senator Liyel Imoke as chairman. Obasanjo released funds for the importation of spare parts and new transformers for the reactivation and rehabilitation of generating, transmitting and distribution infrastructure. The Federal Government was said to have spent $1.3 billion (N1.319 billion) for the supply, installation and commissioning of additional materials and spare parts for the completion of major rehabilitation work for NEPA’s 330Kv and 132Kv circuit breaker at major power stations located at Afam, Sapele, Kainji, Egbin, Ikorodu, Akangba and Jebba. Total generation rose to 3000MW by December 2000 and 4000Mw by the end of December 2001. In generation, the reactivated Afam, Delta 11 and the injection of the AES-Enron Independent Power Project into the Egbin unit had brought 276MW, 150MW and 270MW respectively into the national grid. The Abuja Emergency Power Project and the Agip IPP at Kwale (Delta State) also imputed 150MW and 450MW respectively to the power pool.

To achieve the set target, the government embarked on rehabilitation of another set of 20 generating units at the various power stations to bring additional 1,500MW of electricity into the system. In the area of transmission, government awarded 26 contracts for the re-enforcement of existing lines and substations and another 30 contracts for the construction of new lines, which increased the transmission capacity by 2000MVA, while in distribution, the Federal Government installed 1000 power and distribution transformers, which brought another 420MVA of electricity at 33Kv. Additional 4000 distribution transformers were also delivered. This was expected to increase distribution capacity by another 1600MVA. The Imoke-led Technical Board focused mainly on generation through rehabilitation of old units and by the time its assignment was over in December 2001, Obasanjo was setting new targets for the power sector: 10,000MW by the year 2005. There was considerable debate then on what the government should do: privatise NEPA or keep funding it?

This was a major decision to be taken on the future of the utility. If the decision was for privatisation, it meant government had to stop pumping funds into NEPA; if the decision was to continue funding, there was the perennial issue of government inefficient management of utilities in Nigeria. While the debate was on, and a decision was finally taken to privatise, there began a phased withdrawal of government funding. NEPA began to run its activities with an increased drive for commercially generated revenue. The marketing staff were given targets to meet – a situation that developed into complaints about “crazy bills” from consumers nationwide. In the meantime, works had virtually stopped on the rehabilitation of older units at the power stations as the power sector reform bill – designed to liberalise the sector – lay untouched at the National Assembly. Gradually, with reduced funding and a reliance of the old turbines, the power situation continued to decline and the nation was thrown into darkness again.
To be cont'd

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Post Election Blues: Is it time for Real Democratic Governance in Nigeria?

“We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom
cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are
not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which
dictatorships are made"– President Frederick Delano Roosevelt, USA.

The much awaited election to state and federal offices is over in Nigeria and one can only pray that discussion will shift to real governance in Nigeria. However, if history is any guide one should not expect much in terms of governance, policies and programs. If anything at all, the victors usually take all, no thoughts are given to forming a government of national unity. And of course, the vanquished heads to court, disputing every vote obtained by the opponents. As things goes, nothing gets done, the citizenry went back to their penury until the next election circle when politicians dole out gobs of stolen funds as campaign “settlement”.

As FDR rightly argues in the quote above, true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence, as necessitous men are bound to remain in bondage. For there to be true democracy in Nigeria we first have to fight to create structure that will breed free and fair election. As long as the economic situation remains anemic politicians and political jobbers will always found a way to take advantage of the rot in the system.

This is why efforts by Lagos and Osun states government to create jobs through programs which encouraged private and public employment opportunities should be commended. A viable Nigerian state will remain a mirage until we restructure our country to reflect true federalism espoused in our constitution. No true federalism governs from the center with the hope of a trickle down democratic dividends. The government closest to the people of Nigeria remains the least funded in our polity. Strengthening Nigeria’s local government through adequate funding and oversight ensure accountability.

Recent bloodshed and violence following the presidential elections could be directly traceable to the Nigerian mindset that often wrongly believes that whichever region has his/her son or daughter at the center stands at a better advantage than others. As we found in the southwest, and as I am sure the people of south/south and southeast will soon found out, things are not often as they seem. If the protesters in the north had stop to ask themselves what economic benefits had accrued to them when Northern Nigerian sons had ruled at the center they would have been better served to focus their energy on voting out political jobbers at their respective state houses instead of unleashing their anger on defenseless National Youth Service Corps members.

We are a nation of deep passion and allegiance, which unfortunately often get deployed in the wrong direction. It is high time we start directing that energy and passion in restructuring our country so it could be better serve its citizens. Nigeria needs true federalism before it could deliver the true dividends of democracy to its citizens. There is a promise that with a sizable opposition in the federal parliament, we may begin to explore this direction but as V. O Key states: “There are two radically different kinds of politics: the politics of getting into office and the politics of governing”

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bashorun J K Randle and his Diatribe on Role Model in Politics

"All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials
smoke the same hashish they give out." – I. F. Stone
Perhaps the most important political “sour grape” of the current electoral campaign season in Nigeria remains the Lagos State Gubernatorial Debate. Ever since Oyo state had been taken over by warlords and “political godfather”, Lagos state has become the cynosure of all eyes when it comes to free and fair elections. That state has now for all intents and purposes become the oasis of democratic dividends since the advent of the third republic. Thanks largely to its highly intellectual populace and urban setting, Lagos state is now the pace setter state in anything democratic and economic developments.

The Lagos state gubernatorial debate was therefore keenly watched by most Nigerian in Diasporas. I was fortunate to watch the debate posted by one of the “forumers” on Nigerian most popular soccer forum: The Cybereagles. Before watching the debate we had argued back and forth on the intelligent questions that we expect each candidate will ask their opponents. For instance, we had hoped that at least one of the candidates will acknowledge the good work being done by Governor Fashola with a follow up question on how he plans to reduce the increasing debt portfolio of the state.

You can then imagine our horrors, when in actual fact rather than ask sound questions about the management of the state, the contestants regaled the audience on who can shout the loudest and hurl the vilest abuse on each other. At the end of the day, Governor Fashola came out even better than he went in. He out-thought, out-smart and out-strategize all the contestants in tow. He understood the state like the palm of his hands and knows what the problem with the state are and the solutions to those problems some of which he is already tackling. Even the question one would expect to trip him, like the issue of striking medical doctors was sufficiently explained by the Governor with gusto! He traced the genesis to the lopsided revenue allocations between the state and federal government.

The most embarrassing participants are the one we had all expected will perform well, for example: Bashorun J.K. Randle. To call his performance a meltdown will be doing injustice to those words. First of all, to whom much is given much is expected. As an astute accountant, we all expected that he would have done his homework on the “ballooning debt” of the state and as such will be able to proffer solutions on how to tackle it. Instead, he started out in jest talking in his opening statement about how his Chelsea football club beat Governors Fashola’s Manchester United that weekend. Then, he asked a rather innocuous question about the lack of access to the state governor. On its face, this would have been a sound question if and when asked by a private citizens complaining about government neglect of a community initiative. It turns out that his complaint is entirely hinged on a pecuniary interest to him alone. He wanted Fashola government to bend the rules in his favor with respect to a house he had built on top of drainage. When the governor draws his attention to that fact, he drew umbrage. From that point onwards he started sulking. He got unhinged, and started behaving erratically.

His answer to every other question often dovetails into an incomprehensible ranting and talks of lack of respect for elders. This is very common with Nigerian of all hue. Once we lost an argument we take refuge in age, as if the age of Methuselah has anything to do with Solomonic wisdom. To top it off, at the end of the debate, he refused to shake hands with Governor Fashola. Unbeknownst to him that he still has a live microphone on at the end of the program, he loudly rant: “Awon Omo ti o le ko” which could literarily translated meant: “Kids without home training” while refusing to embrace the governor.

And now, we learnt from a report in Guardian newspapers published on Friday March 11, 2011, that his latest grouse is that there are no more role models in politics. Well, he needn’t look too far for that reason. All he needs to do is look in the mirror. There is a great need for us to respect the office we are seeking. You don’t disrespect that office by publicly calling the occupant of that office a kid with lack of home training, just because you are older than the current occupant. He also twisted or out rightly misunderstood the governor’s response on the lack of access to him.

The governor stated in that debate that building on drainage is a criminal activity and if Bashorun Randle wishes to resolve that case he should contact the attorney general of the state. Nigerians often speaks against nepotism but will look the other way when they are the ones perpetrating such evils. To erect a monument to honor a past hero, instead of going through your elected representative in the state assembly we often tries to up ended the process by going directly to the governor and then complain bitterly later when rejected.
Bashorun Randle has little or no temperaments that will enable him handle the combustible politics of Lagos. Thank God for that debate, we learnt more about him in that debate than any other candidate on the podium. We know one thing: He is not fit for the office he is campaigning for.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Bribery and the Nigerian Psyche: More from Dowden

More from Dowden:

[b]About Lagos[/b]

Can Khartoum and Lagos be on the same planet, let alone the same continent? While Khartoum dozes safely in an eternal haze, Lagos bursts with dangerous energy. Lagos is like a Hong Kong feeling it's fallen behind, a New York without the good manners. But unlike the prodigious creativity of New York or Hong Kong, the maelstrom of frenetic motion seems like some monstrous machine that has broken its drive shaft, gone into hyperdrive and is whirling intself to pieces. Seems? Impenetrable, incomprehensible to outsiders, Lagos survives. It pulsates. It grows. It works.

So does Nigeria. By any law of political or social science it should have collapsed or disintegrated years ago. Indeed it has been described as a failed state that works. Recalling the image he had used in his novel [i]A Man of the People[/i], Chinua Achebe, Nigeria's celebrated novelist, wrote of Nigeria in 1983, 'this house has fallen.' Maybe, but some peoople are living fabulously wealthy lives amid the ruins. And others survive and get by. How? it's a mystery. The secret lies in the layers of millions upon millions of networks, personal ties, family links, ethnic loyalties, school fraternites, Church connections and scores of other unrecorded, informally organized bonds of trust that make things happen. (This ha its advantages and disadvantages, for one it provide a social security which the government ought to put in place, but the demerits is that it feeds nepotism and cronyism. Lets continue with Dowden) . Forget the government, the formal structures. What makes Nigeria works is a matrix of social, political and economic connections that ensure most people get food and shelter. The hidden wiring also creates Presidents, makes fortunes and prevents wars. But it also ensures that the vast majority of Nigerians are kept outside the ruler-owner circle, never given the chance to fulfill their- or Nigeria's - potential.

A successful Nigeria could transform the continent in the twentyfirst century. Its resources grow more valuable as they become globally scarcer. Among the world's biggest oil producers, it is becoming one of America's main suppliers. Gas too has come on stream and production is expected to double and double again in the decade. Its 120 million plus people- or is it 140 million? The numbers are disputed like everything else in Nigeria- are a quarter of sub-Saharan Africa's population and among them are astonishing talents.

In business, law, science, art, literature, music, sport, Nigeria produces phenomenonally talented individuals as if its superheated society throws up brighter, hotter human beings than anywhere else.

[b]Murtala Mohammed Airport (MMA) [/b]

It is ironic that most people's first experience of Nigeria is MMA at Lagos, named after the only ruler of Nigeria whom almost all Nigerias revere. Murtala Mohammed came to power in 1975 in a coup committed to order and efficiency. The airport named after him became a monument to disorder and dishonesty. Visitors vie with each other to recall their most bizarre and alarming experiences there. In 2000 the pilot of a British Airways flight from London taxiing his Boeing 747 for take off suddenly saw logs in front of him strewn across the runway. He jammed on the brakes and, as the plane juddered to a halt, figures scurried beneath it. they unlocked the hold and unloaded the baggage into trucks before escaping through a hole cut in the perimeter fence. The police arrived a comfortable two minutes later.

Europeans and Americans, coming from lands where spontaneos offers of help are rare, are often enchanted by the warm welcome they receive in Africa. At Murtala Mohammed it can burn you. With smiles wider than their faces men offer to sort out customs and immigration for you, carry your bags or find you a taxi. unsuspecting visitors who have accepted have been robbed, kidnapped and even murdered. Officials in uniform, often the biggest hyenas of all, tell you, 'You are in big trouble. Come with me' and lead you to a side room to explain how the 'problem' can be solved. They keep your passport and say, 'Please wait here, until you pay up. Two hundred dollars is a modest opening bid.

If someone influential does not meet you, you find yourself floundering in a pool of piranhas. It is the same when you leave. Once, after three weeks of exhausting Nigeria, I arrive at the airport carrying a couple of masks I picked up at a tourist shop. While I wait to check in a huge Nigerian family seeing off their daughter joins the queue behind me. The daughter is going off to study in Britain and carries the biggest suitcase i have ever seen. It exceeds her weight allowance. Having very little baggage, I offer to take some of hers. It is a calculated risk. Arrest for being an inadvertent drug carrier at Heathrow seems preferable to being a friendless foreigner at MMA. The family is deeply grateful.

Then I come face to face with a huge, square-faced, scowling woman in the uniform of a customs official. 'open,' she snaps without even looking at me. She gazes with lacy heavy-lidded eyes at my belongings. I usually pack my smelliest washing at the top of my bag when expecting customs trouble but she insists I empty it. She spots the masks and her eyes light up.
'Where is your export certificate?' she demands in the voice of one who has asked an unanswerable question. 'Every item leaving Nigeria needs export certificate from the National Museum -like this.' And she whips a green form from under the counter, clearly kept there for dramatic effect. I try to explain that these masks were made recently for tourists and are not old art, but she knows better. 'this is our heritage that you Europeans are stealing. i shall arrest you." she waddles off telling subordinate, 'arrest this man'. The British Airways staff ignore me, even though I am their passengers. But the family with the daughter going to England weigh in to defend me. The mother turns out to be a solicitor and tears into the customs officials. they are polite but they can do nothing. the boss has gone, leaving orders that must be obeyed. A stupendous slanging match ensues. then the man ordered to arrest me winks at me and helps me repack my bag. I take out my wallet but he shakes his head and points to the departure gate and encourages me to slips away quickly.

I wander casually up the airport concourse still puzzling at Nigeria's ways, while the family and the officials exchange angry insults. After a minute or two the family breaks off the battle and joins me, laughing and celebrating my escape. i am just about to go through immigration when a traffic blow crashes down on my shoulder. I reel round to find myself looking into the eyes of the Amazonian customs chief. 'Where you go now? You under arrest. You have stolen Nigerian heritage property and now you try to escape. you in big , big trouble now. Come!' she shouts, grabbing my arms and dragging me off.

The family grab my other arm and I am pulled in half as I am yanked this way and that across the concourse. A crowd forms. The nice official who had helped me pack intervenes again and has a word in the woman's ear. Then he returns gravely to me. 'she needs an apology' he announces and tells me to deliver it in her office. I assume she could not be seen to take a bribe in full view of all the passengers but would be happy to accept dash in the privacy of her office.
I follow her, clambering over the check-in desks and making my way through dimly lit corridors to her important looking office. She squeezes herself behind her desk and fiddles with some papers. Then she launches into a lecture on the evils of European colonialism and neo-colonialism and the looting of Nigeria's cultural heritage. She makes me promise I will never, ever again try to take any object of art out of the country without a certificate - even if it is bought from the airport tourist shop. I grovel and apologize for my wickedness. A smile breaks across her fearsome features and i reach for my wallet. But she puts up her hand and the smile disappears. She looks shocked. I mumble goodbye and totter towards the door completely confused. Can it be that, after all, this woman, head of customs at MMA is letting me go free? Has the customs department, Nigerian officialdom, Nigeria itself, become honest? As I close her office door, the nice official who had managed my rescue springs the trap. 'fifty dollars for negotiation,' he demands.

I pay.

In the next installment, a member of the Brigade of Guards took bribe from Dowden during his visit to Aso rock to interview OBJ!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Two Views of Nigeria from Different Epoch: The More Things Change The More They Stay the Same

Nigeria is chaos. But the chaos is created, organized by the government. Chaos
allows it to stay in power. –Richard Dowden “Africa: Altered States, Ordinary
Miracles p.6

Many have argued that the Nigeria we have now was not the Nigeria the colonialist left for us. This revisionist history is often perpetrated by educated journalist who should know better. All it takes to know where Nigeria was before independence is to read books about Nigeria before and after independence, but they won't do that. Very often this romanticised opinion of Nigeria's colonial Eldorado are mere figments of lazy journalist who do not have the time to read.

Recently I picked up two books to read while I spend time at home with my kids. The two books are by two different authors. The first book by Vernon Bartlett is titled "Struggle for Africa" and published in 1953 by Praeger inc. The entire ninth chapter of this book is dedicated to "the New Nigeria." The second book by Richard Dowden is titled "Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles" published in 2009 by Public Affairs Books and foreworded by Chinua Achebe. Here again, the entire sixteenth chapter was devoted to everything Nigeriana.

Both authors travelled widely in Africa, visited and lived in Nigeria for a while. Their uncanny observation of our social political state is both compelling and sad to boot! Much as I struggle with the fact that these authors are neither African nor sympathisers, I had to remind myself that they do have a stake in the future of our dear continent-all human kind should. Afterall every human being on our planet earth can trace their roots to Africa. Vernonn Bartlett is a famous British journalist, one-time London Times foreign correspondent, News Chronicle foreign affairs advisor, author of fifteen books. Member of British Parliament for twelve years and British diplomat to the United Nations. Richard Dowden is director of Royal African Society and spend a decade as Africa editor of the Independent, and then another decade as Africa editor of the Economist. He has made three television documentaries on Africa, for the BBC and Channel 4.

I intend to excerpts huge chunks of these books in coming months, because as we march towards the next election we need a lot of reflections on how we got here and what needs to change.

So folks here you go, let's start with Dowden (remember he wrote this in 2009):

Everyone has a Nigeria story from beyond the normal bounds of credibility. Some are terrifying. Most are funny. Nigerian politicians try to pretend that its bad image is some Western conspiracy against Nigerian and Africa. The truth is that Nigeria’s popular image falls short of the reality. It is not just white visitors who fear it. Other Africans do too.

By any law of political or social science it should have collapsed or disintegrated years ago. Indeed it has been described as a failed state that works. Maybe but some people are living fabulously wealthy lives amid the ruins. And others survive and get by. How? It’s a mystery. The secret lies in the layers of millions upon millions of networks, personal ties, family links, ethnic loyalties, school fraternities, secret societies, Church and Jumaat Mosque connections and scores of unrecorded, informally organized bonds of trust that make things happen. Forget the government, the formal structures. What makes Nigeria works is a matrix of social, political and economic connections that ensures most people get food and shelter. The hidden wiring also ensures that the vast majority of Nigerians are kept outside the ruler-owner circle, never given the chance to fulfill their –or Nigeria’s- potential.

A successful Nigeria could transform the continent in the twenty-first century. It’s 120 million plus people- or is it 140 million? The numbers are disputed like everything else in Nigeria- are a quarter of sub-Saharan Africa’s population and among them are astonishing talents. In business, law, science, art, literature, music, sport, Nigeria produces phenomenally talented individuals as if its superheated society throws up brighter, hotter human beings than anywhere else. The leader who manages to harness and direct all that energy- physical and human- will create a formidable country that will change African and the world. Were it to implode like its neighbors, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire, the human catastrophe would be unconscionable and it would take much of West Africa with it. Nigeria lives on the edge.

Colin Powell, the then American Secretary of State, once let slip the opinion that all Nigerians are crooks. (It is interesting that few years ago, he appeared as guest at an event organized by a Nigerian publisher in London, without any mention of that allegation. If all Nigerians are crooks, one of my friends asked what is a former Secretary of State doing in the midst of crooks?). All? Maybe not, but a lot of Nigerians dedicate their lives to fulfilling the stereotype. And being Nigerian they are also often world class. An official of the US Drug Enforcement Agency spoke in awe of the Nigerian drug smuggling gangs. “We thought we knew most of the tricks of the drug trade until we came up against the Nigerians” he told me. “Then we realized we were just beginners.”

One area in which Nigeria seems to be deficient is political leadership. With the possible exception of Murtala Mohammed- and he was murdered seven months after coming to power-the country has not had a single decent leader. When Achebe wrote the lines “This house has fallen” in 1983, talking about the house left behind by the colonialist and taken over by “the smart and the lucky and hardly ever the best”, he was writing about Nigeria. Politics in Nigeria is a business career. Any politician who does not end up a multi-millionaire is regarded as a fool. Not many Nigerians are fools.

In 1996 a commission of inquiry discovered that the $12 billion surplus revenue from oil resulting from the high price during the Gulf War was missing. Much of it was in offshore accounts controlled by President Ibrahim Babangida. None of it was ever recovered. When Babangida’s successor, Sani Abacha, died in 1998, his family were forced to pay back $2 billion stolen during his five year reign. But they were allowed to keep the $100 million that he stole before he seized power. Many Nigerian think that $2 billion is small change compared to what he actually stole.

Corruption is such an important part of the Nigerian political scene that politicians can be quite open about it. Ahmed Sani, the governor of Zamfara state, admits to taking money when he held a senior position at the Central Bank. He says it was given to him by Abacha when he brought cash from the bank to the presidential villa.

Yet the rulers who steal Nigeria’s future and a poor man who steals a yam at the market are judged very differently. Pinch a yam in the market and you will have a petrol-soaked tyre jammed around your neck and set alight. Trouser a billion dollars of state funds and everyone laughs and fawns on you. No big man in Nigeria has ever been punished for theft, though under Olusegun Obasanjo’s rule one or two of his political enemies were asked to resign and give back some of what they had stolen. Corruption exist everywhere, but Nigeria’s hilariously brazen corruption puts it in a different league. Elsewhere it is conducted behind closed doors or by nods and euphemisms. In Nigeria it is open and it is everywhere.

Corruption pervades Nigerian life so broadly and deeply that is hard to imagine life in Nigeria if it were suddenly to end. Without a little something a policeman will not investigate a crime, a journalist will not write up a politician’s speech, a politician will not speak to a constituent, a tax inspector will not sign off your tax return. You may suddenly find your telephone does not work. It has been mysteriously disconnected or ‘tossed’ as the Nigerian say. Or your electricity is cut off. When you try to find out what has happened you will be presented with a demand to a ‘quick quick’ reconnection charge.

In Nigeria every contact between an official and an individual seems to involve an extra payment, that personalized VAT. To check your name on the voters’ register, to get a passport, to pass through a roadblock, all involve a few note changing hands. Even when I want to interview President Obasanjo, the staffer escorting me slipped Obasanjo’s bodyguard a few naira. It was not asked for, just slipped discreetly from hand to hand. Why was that necessary? What relationship did that cement?

Nigerian politics appears to be a zero sum game. The popular assumption is that if the Hausas are in power, they are eating well so the Yoruba and Igbo must be losing out. Northerners will tell you that they should be rulers because that is what they are good at, and that Yorubas should be the civil servants and Igbos the businessmen. This ethnic stereotyping is countered by the Southerners’ proposal that the presidency should rotate between regions. The assumption- spelled out shamelessly at political rallies – is that each group may suffer for a while but every decade it will also ‘eat’ – meaning gobble up the national resources. In other words, the elite of each region of Nigeria will take it in turns to loot the country. Faced with these alternatives no wonder the military has been allowed to rule for so long in Nigeria. Everyone fears that political breakdown will lead to strife: a bare-fisted, free-for-all fight to the death.

Nigeria is famed for its sudden explosions of violence, usually in cities where a politician has stirred up his own ethnic group or co-religionist to try to wipe out a rival. These brief explosions regularly leave 400 or 500 dead in a couple of days when gangs to thugs take up clubs, machetes and knives. Whole suburbs are burned down – often with people locked in their homes. Then it stops as suddenly as it started. The incidents rarely make more than a paragraph in the Western press. The world sighs and moves on. Violent Africa.

On the contrary, I sometimes feel Africa is not violent enough. If Africans fought back sooner against theft and oppression instead of allowing themselves to be slaves to the rich and powerful, Africa would be a much more peaceful place. Instead African patience allows exploitation and oppression to thrive until everyone loses their temper and explodes.

Nigerians are probably no more “tribalist” than any other human communities. Nigeria’s size in fact makes it more of a melting pot than many smaller African countries and most Nigerians can trace many ethnicities in their family trees. The root of the problem is that the Nigerian state depends not on constitution but on a commodity: Oil.

Religion reinforces some of Nigeria’s political divisions but it is not the cause of the division. Nigerians are deeply religious, the vast majority Christian or Muslim. When religion overlays ethnicity and culture, it is easy to claim God or Allah backs your cause. Ahmed Sani – the man who took money to Abacha when he worked at the Central Bank- used up the cash Abacha gave him to get himself elected as governor in 1999 but he needed to get elected again in 2003. In his first term there had been widespread lawlessness and robberies in Zamfara state to he suddenly turned religious, reintroduced full Sharia law to please the largely Muslim electorate and started chopping the hands of thieves. He also demanded that the state be officially Muslim and at one stage he even ordered the destruction f all Christian Churches. This easy political stunt nearly split Nigeria in two. It led to judicial stoning and amputations and caused scores of deaths in Muslim-Christian clashes and riots. It also got Sani re-elected. He nearly ran for President in 2007.

And now Bartlett, (again remeber he wrote this in 1953):

Nigeria, like Gaul, is divided into three parts. "Whatever you do," they said to me in the Northern Region, "don't be misled by those people in the South. Lagos doesnt in the least represent the opinions of Nigeria." In the Western Region they criticized the East: had I managed also to visit the Eastern Region, I should doubtless have heard similar criticisms of the West. I had expected some rivalry between the larger tribes- the Hausa and the Fulani in the North, the Ibo in the East and the Yoruba in the West. I had not expected the British officials also to feel such regional loyalty.

The northerners, as Moslems, have been slow to develop schools, and the southerners are therefore inclined to treat them with contempt.

One of the commonest words in West Africa is "dash", which is West African for 'backsheesh". A patient in hospital has much more hope of getting the medicine or the treatment the doctor ordered if he 'dashes' the African nurse or orderly. Too many African civil servants are ready to accept bribes, although the service they render has already been paid for by the State. It is perhaps not so much that the man who does something for an African expects a bribe; it is rather that the African expects to show his appreciation for services rendered. It is the outcome of a personal relationship which does not fit in with the idea of impersonal service to the community. But this tradition of courtesy is all too likely to lead to corruption.

The European is violently criticized but he is slavishly imitated- in his bad behavior as well as his good. In the Island club in Lagos- the only club I have found in Africa where Europeans and Africans manage to forget the color of each other's skins- most of the Africans, who include many of the Ministers and higher civil servants, drink imported Dutch beer at two and three pence and bottle; the Europeans generally dring the local product at ninepence.

Prices of Nigerian exports have risen so steeply, and the African change of status has been so sensational, that a certain nouveau riche ostentation is easy to understand. The disquieting side of it is, however, that the wealth will, for many years to come, be dependent on European advice, technical help and capital, and the tendency to dismiss them as unnecessary.

What the white man can do, one is assured, the black man can do. Hence the enthusiasm throughout black Africa for the advantages of education. This enthusiasm is pathetic, inspiring, depressing, according to your way of looking at things. Pathetic, because the people are prepared to make such sacrifices to attain it and have such exaggerated ideas of the happiness and contentment it will bring them. Inspiring because the changes being wrought by it, for good or ill, are so tremendous even in the remoter hamlets. Depressing, because there is still so few Africans who understand that an ability to quote slabs from Shakespeare or to solve some fairly simple mathematical problem does not carry with it automatically the ability to rule other men wisely.

The desire to run one’s own country, even if one runs it badly, is a natural desire, especially if the existing overlords are men not only of another but even of another color.
But the riots in kano in May of 1953 have made it necessary to re-examine a constitution introduced with such optimism a bare two years earlier. The result is that too much of this desert-like country (speaking of Kano) is given up to cash crops, and too little to food, so that there is too much to spend and too little to eat. A man who is suffering from malnutrition may have a smart new bicycle, the African’s equivalent of a motor car.

The small group of business men with more money but less prestige, and little of the official’s paternal sense of responsibility for the African’s development towards independence.
The women of West Africa have done several things the women of East and Central Africa have not yet managed to do. They have emancipated themselves sufficiently to persuade their menfolk to carry some of the burdens and to do some of the agricultural work-near Lagos I almost ran over a cyclist with a pickaxe, a hoe and a spade balanced on his head. Elsewhere in Africa, the men have the wealth, in the form of cows; in West Africa, the women have it in the form of bales of cotton.

I went from Kaduna, the capital of the Northern Region to Ibadan, the Western capital. We were flown in an alarmingly small machine by a pilot who sported an enormous beard. The only event occurred when he handed back a slip of paper which I thought would give us the usual details of height, speed, and estimated time of arrival. Instead it had only the words: “Arsenal nil. Newcastle United one,” The result of the greatest soccer match of the year.