Friday, December 14, 2012

Nigeria on the Brink: A Nation that Negotiates with Terrorist will Deal with Kidnappers

“We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....” –Martin Luther King Jr. "Beyond Vietnam"
There is a scourge loose in Nigeria, this scourge is aided and abetted by an incompetent State headed by some of the most educated elites that ever ruled our land. I wrote elsewhere that there is nothing wrong with Nigerian that can’t be cured with what is right with the country. But sometimes the level of incompetence in Nigeria truly beggars belief. Administering a state in this century is definitely not rocket science but the current Nigerian leadership in Aso rock may have turned their ineptitude to an art. The entire apparatus of administration in Nigeria is farcical in appearance and reality. Every step of the regime in Abuja seems to be steep in colossal failure. Even they themselves know it but they would rather live in denial so they could continue to milk the country dry while the entire state apparatus of governance goes to the dog.

The Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s administration (GEJA) may go down in history as perhaps the most incompetent in terms of application of the massive resources available to it and its sheer incompetence in the administration of same. We are almost four years into GEJA effective control of the levers of powers in Nigeria and one cannot point to any positive achievements of this administration in any strata of Nigerian’s society. This is a government that comes loaded with so much promise and yet abysmally succeeded in frittering away every opportunity to advance Nigeria in the comity of nations. The carcasses of its missteps are everywhere to behold; name it, power generations and distributions, road constructions, infrastructural developments, oil subsidy imbroglio, failed banks, stock and financial management meltdown and most important of all inept security management. Yes, I readily agreed that some of the problems may have been caused by forces beyond the reach of the administration but then consider the inept response GEJA has made to address some of the problems.

It is not as if the administration is short of funds or hampered by inability to borrow funds. In fact under GEJA, the “Federal Government has borrowed a total of N2.57tn… The Federal Government’s debt profile rose from N4.18tn as of June 30, 2010 to N6.75tn as of June 30, 2012, ” as we learnt recently from Punch Newspapers. From the moment Jonathan was sworn in as the elected president on May 29, 2011 to June 30, 2012, the debt profile of the country rose by 61.48 percent: within 2 years!

It is not as if we have massive infrastructures to point to as fruits of all these expenses, we’ve got zilch! Zero! Nada! To the contrary, more people in Nigeria are mired in poverty at this time than at any other time in the history of our country. According to a report by Nigerian Bureau of Statistics widely publicized by BBC in February 2012, the number of Nigerians living in poverty rose from 54.7 % in 2004 to 60.9% in 2010 and is still growing. I agreed that the same report shows the Nigerian economy grew exponentially during the same period. The truth however lies in between. Most of the economic gains we had went to a very select few at the top echelon of the country. These are politicians and their contractors who can afford to send their wives to Western Hospital and their children to well heeled universities abroad. The saddest part of the saga is that despite the huge windfall we are getting from high oil price and increased production, GEJA has saddled this country with more debt than any other administration in the history of the country albeit with little or nothing to show for it. GEJA currently plans to borrow N633.85 billion from domestic debt market in 2013. What they intends to use the borrowed money to do remains illusory. In 2012 alone, GEJA earmarked N560 billion for domestic debt servicing. When you consider the fact that some of the politicians running our government owned some of the banks we are borrowing from one will see the inevitable conflict of interest. In fact, the irony of a coordinating minister of the economy who championed the nation’s exit from foreign debt between 2004 and 2006 but who now leads the charge to send the country to a future laden with debt is not lost on anyone.

The saddest part, is that there are hardly any feel good story coming out of Nigeria since GEJA got the reins of governance. Increased terrorism in the northern part of the country ensures that half of the country will remain on lock down for a long period of time, even though the government spends more money on intelligence and security than tertiary education. The lack of viable opposition ensures that our National Assembly remains at best toothless bulldogs, if not a substantial contributor to the national malaise. Our financial sector is in doldrums, the power sector that would have provided an elixir has been hijacked by powerful interest in the ruling People’s Democratic Party. Impunity reigns supreme in Nigeria. If politicians steal millions from the coffers without any prosecution, it will surely instill in terrorist and kidnappers that they could get away with nefarious acts.

What these breed is an increased state of lawlessness. Whenever and wherever people lost hope in their government the result is what we are seeing now, increased brigandage, kidnapping, brazen acts of terrorism, and brutalization of innocent citizens. Someone once said that “a society is judged by how well it cares for those in the dawn of life, the children. By how well it cares for those in the twilight of life, the elderly. And by how well it cares for those on the edge of life; the poor, the sick and the disabled.” You can pick up any Nigerian news daily and find news on how someone somewhere brutalized Nigerian children, the elderly, poor, disabled and the sick. You do not even need to look far; the fact that a nonagenarian mother of our Coordinating Minister on the Economy could be brazenly kidnapped in daily light and her family had to pay ransom to rescue her speaks volume on the ineptness of our security agencies. The fact that the president’s own wife and brother had to be flown abroad for emergency hospital services speaks to that ineptness too. What is more, majority of the children of our government officials in Nigeria attends schools abroad!

Of course, I expect some folks reading this piece will say that government cannot fix all the problems that ails our nation. Well, what have they fixed lately? And is it too much to ask that police patrol the street of our nation to keep people save without demanding bribe? After all, as Edmund Burke once argued, representative government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants and men have a right that these wants should be provided for by this wisdom. Effective leadership as Peter Drucker once said is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes. It is high time our mainstream media start holding GEJA to task for the inanities of its realm. The sideshow about the fall out between President Jonathan and his godfather, retired General Obasanjo, should not merit the front page of any well meaning newspaper in our country. Let’s focus on the million dollar contracts GEJA and the OBJ administration before it awarded with little or nothing to show for it. Who got these contracts? Why are we borrowing money to put our great grandchildren in perpetual slavery to creditors? Let’s save our country from a disastrous future.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Quotes from elsewhere

A society is judged by how well it cares for those in the dawn of life, the children. By how well it cares for those in the twilight of life, the elderly. And, by how well it cares for those on the edge of life; the poor, the sick, and the disabled. - Anon
It is part of the purpose of representative government as conservative forefather Edmund Burke himself once envisioned: “Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have a right that these wants should be provided for by this wisdom.”

Karl von Clausewitz: “The higher the rank, the more necessary it is that boldness should be accompanied by a reflective mind . . . for with increase in rank it becomes always a matter less of self-sacrifice and more a matter of the preservation of others, and the good of the whole.”

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My Problems with Achebe’s Personal History of Biafra Part I

“The triumph of the written word is often attained when the writer achieves union and trust with the reader, who then becomes ready to be drawn deep into unfamiliar territories…towards a deeper understanding of self or society, or of foreign peoples, cultures, and situations”- Chinua Achebe

In his new book, “There was a Country: A personal History of Biafra,” Achebe wrote as follows: “The Igbo culture, being receptive to change, individualistic, and highly competitive, gave the Igbo man an unquestioned advantage over his compatriots in securing credentials for advancement in Nigerian colonial society. Unlike the Hausa/Fulani he was unhindered by a wary religion and unlike the Yoruba he was unhampered by traditional hierarchies”(p.74). Let me start out by saying that I have indeed finished reading the book. I am not literary critic and as such this piece is not meant to be a critical review of Achebe’s new book. I will also hasten to add that I had no problems with the personal history of Achebe as he relates in the book, especially his upbringing, education and how he became a successful writer despite all odds stacked against him. I found that part of the book, which is restricted to the first few chapters of the book very informative, instructive and enlightening. In addition, and as I wrote earlier this month, I think it is high time Awoist accept the flaws in Pa Awo and acknowledged the fact that his role in the civil war particularly as it relates to the starvation policy leaves much to be desired. Achebe’s is on point in all of these issues and backed every one of his assertions and claims with facts, figures and interviews with the principal actors. It is a well sourced book on all these scores.

My problems with the book have to do with something that is very common among Nigerian intellectuals and political elites: a resort to worn out ethnic superiority argument to explain an endemic complex socio-political milieu. They often deploy this well worn out card time and time again to prop up their ethnic groups while taking a dig at other ethnic group, without any serious thought on the damaging implications for Nigeria body politics. Let me state here that the idea of one ethnic group as superior to another did not start with Achebe. It is a common refrain among Nigerian elites. You can see variants of these in one form or another from the likes of Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe: “It would appear that the God of Africa has created the Ibo(sic) nation to lead the children of Africa from the bondages of the ages... The martial process of the Ibo nation at all ages of the human history has enabled them not only to conquer others but also to adapt themselves to the roles of preservers... The Ibo nation cannot shrink its responsibility from its manifest destiny.” Chief Obafemi Awolowo: “I have always insisted to myself that my first duty is to the Yoruba nation....And I put that nation first, then the one called Nigeria. The people of the Western Region may be divided roughly into two groups: the Yoruba and the non-Yoruba. The Yoruba are a fastidious, critical and discerning people....the non-Yoruba elements were rabidly anti-Action Group, because they were anti-Yoruba.” Similar sentiments have been expressed by Bola Ige, Ahmadu Bello, et. al and now Chinua Achebe.

First of all, Achebe seems to build this premise on nothing other than his bare assertion. If this assertion were to be true then the British should neither have come up with “magna carta” nor invent the best naval warship; as they would have been hampered by traditional hierarchies. The reality Achebe completely ignores is that the Yoruba traditional hierarchies were not without moderation. A cursory reading of any Yoruba history books about the Oyo Mesi, and the “checks and balances” inherent in Yoruba’s traditional institution will show that it limits the absolutism that would have impeded the advancement of knowledge and development. The discovery of Ife bronze and other Yoruba pre-colonial works also puts lie to such tales. A recent book by Frank T. Kryza also revealed that Sultan Bello was suffused with knowledge about the world before the arrival of the colonialist even though he is deeply religious. Kryza notes that when the explorer “Clapperton reached Sokoto on October 20, 1826, where he was escorted to the same house he occupied on his first visit. He was cordially received by Sultan Bello, whom he found reading an Arabic translation of Euclid’s Elements.” Knowledge, growth and advancement are not unique to any ethnicity in Nigeria.

All these historical facts matter a little to those who think their ethnic group is superior to others. Achebe wrote his new book as if he is still the director of Biafra ministry of information, summoned to fan the embers of ethnic jingoism. I found the book to be an attempt to fight the unfinished civil war business in print, and to lift up his ethnic group as the best there was and will ever be. I am very leery of people that think their ethnic group is the best thing since sliced bread. The fear that some mindless reader may cease upon this theory to forment another Rwanda-like genocide and tribal killings prompt me to write this piece. Every human being no matter the race they come from or belong is endowed with potentials to be the best. In Achebe's book, everything wrong with Nigeria is down to discrimination against Igbos and there is nothing that cannot be put right in Nigeria if we simply let Igbo individualistic spirit we have been holding down since independence free. Even the corruption in our land can be explained away as due to the shackles we put on Ndigbo. If we had only give Igbo people a little leadership in Dodan Baracks and Aso rock we may now be living in Achebe’s Eldorado. Things like corrupt laden Ajaokuta Steel Mills is linked by any means possible to the Soviet participation in civil war and the MIG they supplied to the federal side. It has nothing to do with endemic selfish inhibitions common among political leadership in “obodo” Africa, something the several Igbo governors and local government chairmen since the civil war are as guilty of as any other in modern Nigeria.

The attempt to paint one ethnic group as superior to the other often comes with deliberate distortions of facts or an outright side step of stubborn facts. Achebe played fast and loose with facts in his new book. As Patrick Moynihan argued, we are only entitle to our opinions and not our own facts. In Achebe’s book, the British would still be ruling us, but for the Igbos who drove them out of Nigeria. Achebe of course won't let banal facts- such as the fact that it was in Western Region that the motion for independence was first made-stand in the way of his superior race argument.

He wrote: “This group, the Igbo that gave the colonizing British so many headaches and then literally drove them out of Nigeria was now an open target, scapegoats for the failings and grievances of colonial and post-independence Nigeria”. Excuse me? You meant only Achebe's Igbos fought for Nigeria's independence? I bet Achebe’s Igbo parliament moved the motion for independence and suffer the hardship that the colonialist visited on them. The reality however is that nationalist came from every part of Nigeria, from the Egba and Aba women who rioted, to the Coal miners in Enugu, to people like Ms. Ransome Kuti's, Aminu Kano and particularly Zik and Awo!

In 1955, an American journalist, John Gunther, wrote the following about the nationalist movement for independence: “ this particular time, a severe constitutional crisis was at its peak. The African ministers representing one important political party, the Action Group, had adopted a non-fraternization policy, and would not accept hospitality from the Governor, although their Northern colleagues did. They were perfectly willing to talk business with Sir John McPherson in Government House, but they would not accept “hospitality” from him, not even a glass of water. There was nothing particularly personal in this. Macpherson was widely liked as an individual. But Government House symbolizes the Crown, and both West and East were at that time boycotting the Crown as a matter of principle.” Gunther also wrote this about an important Nigerian hero: “In March, 1953, came a positively savage crisis. Its effect was to paralyze government. An Action Group deputy, Anthony Eronsele Oseghale Enahoro, (This young man, born in 1923, is a firebrand. He has been imprisoned three times for sedition) rose in the central House of Representatives and introduced a resolution demanding complete self-government by a specific date-1956. … The East and West leaders, “Zik” and Awolowo, who had been fighting like scorpions the night before, publicly embraced, and pledged themselves to make the common cause.”

The tendency to play fast and loose with facts may be a good trait if you are a fictional writer but may not serve you well if you purport to give your reader a deeper understanding of self or society or of foreign peoples, cultures, and situations. Achebe is of course entitle to his opinion but he cannot remake history to continue the civil war in print, and set us back again. There is indeed a critical mass of Ndigbos who are still very bitter about the civil war and rightfully so, and Achebe is one of them. They are right about the fact that Ndigbos suffered a lot before, during and after that war. We should learn from the mistakes made by leaders from both sides so we don't fall foul of them again. I also believed that there might be need for some reparations in one form or another and acknowledgement of wrong by leadership of Nigeria before we can move on. But Nigerians who believe in the superiority of their ethnic group are hindering a full and frank discussion of issues afflicting Nigeria. The disservice this mentality does to our national psyche is telling indeed.
We cannot grow as a nation with this type of mindset. Corruption, nepotism, dictatorship and attempt to scuttle individual freedom reared its head in Achebe’s Biafra just as it continues to pervade our polity even now. Even Achebe alluded to an instance where his brother-in-law was court martial and had to face a death sentence in the new Biafra for expressing an opinion on the lack of preparedness of the military for War. We need to understand that the endemic problem Nigeria face has had helpful assist from all hue and ethnic group in Nigeria, including the leadership of Ndigbos, the Yorubas, the Hausa/Fulani and other ethnic groups. The way out of the logjam we found ourselves in Nigeria is for us to eschew any attempt to pull us apart and stand firm in the fight against corruption, ethnicism, nepotism with a determined resolve to fight for merit in all facets of our national endeavor.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Open Letter to Awoist: It is time to Apologize to Ndigbo for that Starvation Policy

“But when I went what did I see? I saw the kwashiorkor victims. If you see a kwashiorkor victim you’ll never like war to be waged. Terrible sight, in Enugu, in Port Harcourt, not many in Calabar, but mainly in Enugu and Port Harcourt. Then I enquired what happened to the food we were sending to the civilians. We were sending food through the Red Cross, and CARITAS to them, but what happen was that the vehicles carrying the food were always ambushed by the soldiers. That’s what I discovered, and the food would then be taken to the soldiers to feed them, and so they were able to continue to fight. And I said that was a very dangerous policy, we didn’t intend the food for soldiers. … So I decided to stop sending the food there. In the process, the civilians would suffer, but the soldiers suffered most.” –Chief Obafemi Awolowo.

We can either chose to live in denial and pretend that Awo never participated in the terrible decision to starve people of eastern Nigeria of foods and medicine during the Biafran War or own up to the fact that he did it to save Nigeria, apologize for it, and then move on. The abuse of anyone who dares to raise the fact that Chief Awolowo was culpable for the death of millions of children as a result of the policy will not make this disastrous policy go away. Awoist and Chief Awolowo family need to stop getting unnecessarily defensive and antagonistic when this issue is raised. Fact is fact and nothing we humans do could suddenly turned facts into fiction or fiction into facts. Fact is Chief Awolowo championed the policy on starvation to win the war to use his words. There is no other way to look at it. It does not diminish the greatness of the man in terms of what he achieved for his people. We can even disagree on what motivates him to take that decision: ambition? Or statesmanship? But what should not be subject to pejoratives and needless harangue is the very fact that the decision happened at his watch.

Some have tried to put the blame on Gowon or the military leaders but Chief Awolowo’s own words is clear: “I decided to stop sending the food there.” It was not a military decision by Adekunle or Murtala. This is a decision made by the Finance minister of the federation, Chief Awolowo. He owned that decision in the interview quoted above. Whenever this issue is raised Awoist and the Awolowo family usually drew umbrage, assailing whoever called Awo out on this issue and generally attacking the character of those who dare to confront Awoist on the frailties of their leaders. It is time for Awoist to realize that Chief Awolowo is not infallible. He made some sound decision in governance as well as other horrendous decisions, one of which is this starvation policy. He might have done it to please the northern oligarchy who had promised to install him as president or he might have had a truly altruistic motive; whatever the case this is a sadistic policy that should never have been put in place by any Nigerian leader.

The impact on Biafra’s children reverberates around the world. It was such that over 40 years later, Steve Jobs referenced it in the interview for his biography written by Walter Isaacson. In fact it had such an effect on him that it turned him against the Christian God that would permit such a cruel injustice on poor children. Lets quote the biography: “In July 1969, LIFE magazine published a shocking cover showing a pair of starving children in Biafra. Jobs took it to Sunday school and confronted the church's pastor. "If I raise my finger, will God know which one I'm going to raise even before I do it?" The pastor answered, "Yes, God knows everything." Jobs then pulled out the LIFE cover and asked, "Well, does God know about this and what's going to happen to those children?" We may not be able to know for certain if God knows about those children but we do know for a fact that Chief Awolowo knows and understand the impact of his decision on those children as evident from the above excerpted interview. To quote him directly, “So I decided to stop sending the food there. In the process, the civilians would suffer, but the soldiers suffered most.”

What is more, Chief Awolowo, as an intellectual should have known better. The 4th Geneva Convention put in place in 1949 specifically require that civilians be protected during wars. It requires parties to the conflict in Part II, Article 15 to make provisions for food supply to the civilian persons in the war zones, either directly or through a neutral State or some humanitarian organization. Nigeria did contract with CARITAS but Chief Awolowo yanked the arrangement after visiting the liberated cities of Calabar, Port Harcourt and Enugu. As he stated in the interview I quoted above he did what he did because he believed the food was being used to feed the soldiers. That may well be true, but Nigeria suffered more public relation damage for that blockade than it gained. At that point in the war it was clear that Biafra had lost. Several strongholds had been liberated and are under control of Federal forces. What do we stand to gain by starving innocent children to death to punish soldiers?

Some Awoist have argued that Professor Achebe excused Dim Chukwuemeka Ojukwu; my response to them is to wait until Achebe’s book is out before rushing to judgment. And by the way, when does the other guy is also bad becomes a defense to genocide? The starvation policy led to the death of millions of innocent Igbo children and civilians. It is a moral disaster for the federal government of Nigeria and until the leaders of Nigeria own up to the depravity of that decision we will continue to drift as a nation. It is often said that a nation that will not learn from its history is bound to repeat it. If we can’t learn from such monumental loss of judgment by our revered leaders, our standing in the comity of nations will continue to slide, and our unity will remain a mirage.

I believe it is now incumbent on Awoist and the Awolowo family to finally accept the frailties of their leader before they trot out the many things he did to help the Ndigbo. Fact is Chief Awolowo helped many Ndigbo recover their properties in Lagos after the war. This is why the abandoned property saga is not as pronounced in Lagos as Port Harcourt. But all these will pale into insignificance if Awoist and the Awolowo family do not summon courage to confront the fact that Pa Awo was wrong on that starvation policy. You cannot deny the glaringly obvious inconvenient facts and expect others to appreciate your other good deeds. It is time for Awoist to stop living in denial. War is evil and the only true debt we owe posterity is to tell the truth about our past. When we do that we honor the memories of the dead and prepare ourselves to face the future with fortitude. It is only then that the labors of our heroes past will not be in vain.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Jonathan’s Administration: Confronting Simple Problems with Drastic and Complex Solutions

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~Leonardo DaVinci

A good summary of Steve Job’s autobiography by Walter Isaacson could be aptly put: “simplicity”. Job committed his entire life to turning complex human technological problems into a simple easy to handle tech marvel anyone and everyone can use. No wonder people of all hue will readily pay any price to lay their hands on any Apple products. The current regime in Nigeria on the other hand could easily enter the Guinness Book of Record for turning simple problems into nightmares for everyone. The regime is well known for recommending complex palliatives to simple problems. Some of their recipes for what ails our land are often mostly “hit and miss” badly thought out proposals without a grand view of the impact on the society.

One can run through a gamut of the current government’s miscues since Jonathan’s election to the highest office in the land. For instance, when it found it was paying too much to oil barons who are exploiting the oil subsidy to make quick money. What did they recommend? Their first thought was not to apprehend the criminals but to abruptly remove oil subsidy. When the Central Banks discovers that the cost of printing notes is too much, the first thought was not to find out why foreigners own the patents to the notes in the first place, and how the cost of printing the notes could be reduced. They came up with an unconstitutional policy restricting how much notes Nigerians could withdraw from a bank, all in the name of cashless banking. And now the same Central Bank thinks that the new solution is not to address the systemic inflationary indices, but to print more notes in higher denominations.

The Central Bank imbroglio is atypical of Jonathan’s administration ineptness. The regime has never found a problem they can’t turn into a hydra-headed monster even if it comes to them with a simple solution wrapped in a manger! Their pronouncements on economic structures of the country are as firm and arrogant as some of the religious fanatics they are fighting in the northern part of the country. Whatever problems lurk on the horizon, be it economic, social or structural are imagined primarily as hydra headed political problems, orchestrated by the enemies of the regime and the only way out is to “settle” the opponent by throwing the poor and the dispossessed under the bus. It does not matter if such opponent is a terrorist. The victims of their nefarious acts must be made to pay the cost of transporting their abuser to Aso rock, where the killer will be feted and received with pomp and pageantry. Of course, what inevitably pass as governance in Nigeria is money changing hands between politicians and top civil servants of all hue. No thoughts on building infrastructures and systemic structures that can stand the test of time. Inevitably while the politicians and their accomplices in government shower money on themselves and their children the poor masses in our country pay dearly for the cost of such inept governance.

Sad as this may appear, this problem do not begin with the Jonathan’s administration. The genesis could be traced to his predecessors particularly the infamous Obasanjo regime. Obasanjo’s adventures in power could at best be termed the lost decade for the country, more because of the opportunity lost than any other factor. He had been in power in the 1970s and many thought his second coming would at least be a corrective one, albeit with lessons learned. Sadly, his eight years as a civilian president could serve as a public administration case study on the pitfalls of visionless leadership. What began with hope and pageantry with an unusual inclusion of many of Nigeria’s best technocrats’ home and abroad, mutated into corrupt, bloated and wasteful regime that left more Nigerians in poverty than any other civilian regime in the history of our country. Obasanjo’s neglect of the institutions and infrastructures that he inherited will take Nigeria at least another decade to repair and restore. For those who doubt this assertion just take a drive on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, or the eyesore called the Asaba-Onitsha bridge gateway.

The Jonathan’s regime is hell bound in outdoing Obasanjo record of nonperformance in office. At the height of Obasanjo’s debt repayment hypocrisy, he famously referred to the cell phone “GSM” revolution as perhaps his greatest achievement, an achievement for which his regime contributed nothing in terms of infrastructures and policy mechanism other than setting up proxy telephone companies owned by retired military officers. And now Jonathan’s is on the cusp of making such claims with power distribution in the country, even though all it did is to collect rent for foreign corporation who will gouge ordinary Nigerians in the guise of providing electricity.

“Why is our country in such a dire straits?” a friend of mine asked me casually on a recent trip back from the heartland. My first retort is to point to other countries in Africa undergoing the same pain, but realizing that my friend will not take such a pessimistic answer from me while we are on 15 hour flight together I decided to take my time to answer him. More so, when he knew that my knowledge on public administration in developing countries is well known. So I gather my thoughts and pointed out to him point blank that no developing countries will ever get out of doldrums if it spends 90% of its income on payment of salaries to politicians and public servants and less than 10% on infrastructural development. He immediately asked me what should we do, I told him what we need is a public will and constitutional amendment to force every government in Nigeria to raise taxes it will use to pay salaries for itself out of a general fund, while all income accruable from our natural resources and dedicated levies are paid directly into an enterprise account for building and maintenance of infrastructures, like hospitals, roads, educations etc. Politicians and their comrade in civil service salaries will only be paid by the people impacted by the structures they build. This may not be a perfect fix to the problems of leadership in our country but it is at best the best place to start. Of course, for this idea to work, we need to make governance a community affair. The closest government to the people is often the ones that impacted them most. The days of sitting in Abuja to preside over the cost of repairing water-works and drainage in Ilesa should be over.

The federal government as currently set up is over bloated and needless. If we need a legislature at all, we do not need a bicameral body, membership there should also be part time with a strict instruction to meet for three months to set policy direction for the executive, approve budgetary allocations unless there is a special session called by the executives. The executive arm should also be pruned; the federal and state governments should have no business managing sports and cultures. These are practical simple solutions to anemic problems, but our governments are used to chasing shadows.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Between Commercialization of National Awards and an Attempt to Humiliate Justice Kayode Eso

“The essence of the rule of law is that it should never operate under the rule of force or fear. To use force to effect and act and while under the marshall of that force to seek the court’s equity is an attempt to infuse timidity into court and operate a sabotage of the cherished rule of law. It must never be.”
 –Hon. Justice Kayode Eso (retd) in Government of Lagos state v. Ojukwu (1986).

The Goodluck Jonathan regime in Nigeria is either downright daft or playing roulette with the fate of our nation. This is one regime that continues to jump from missteps to miscues, from one disastrous decision to self inflicted catastrophe. It is as if the government is hell bent on antagonizing his friends and ingratiating himself with his enemies by every means possible. It is difficult to point to one sound judgment by this government since its violent electoral victory. It is hard for anyone not to conclude that the election of GEJ has operated more like an elixir for bad decision than a call to good governance. The list is long and growing but we can list a few for those who may not be abreast with things in Nigeria. First is the announcement that the president is scheming to amend the constitution to permit a six year term for the executive arm of government, then the oil subsidy saga that nearly set the nation ablaze, no sooner had that abate that the government plunged itself into a security nightmare on the Boko Haram issue- by first backing its erstwhile security chief who accused the president’s party of culpability and then tossing him aside a few months later, while the nation burns. The illegal sacking and refusal to reinstate Justice Isa Ayo Salami also comes to memory, not to talk of the bungling of the simple act of renaming a university governed by statutes after the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola.

And now, the latest saga is the announcement of the Federal government National Honors Award. The Nigeria Honors Awards was established by the National Honors Act No. 5 of 1964, during the First Republic, to honor Nigerians who have rendered special and outstanding services in their various callings. The legislation empowers the President of the Federal Republic to make provisions for the award of the honors. The abuse and commercialization of the honors by successive presidents and head of state in Nigeria is an issue that has worried many. President Jonathan has not only joined the list of Nigerian leaders who made mockery of the honors but he has actually gives Nigerians a reason to perceive the honor as a commercial enterprise of the ruling People’s Democratic Party.

Let me hasten to state, that no one is directly accusing the president of receiving filthy lucre before honoring the awardees but some of the proposed recipients give cause to raise the commercialization accusations. Take for instance, the proposed award of the highest honor GCON on the president’s party financier and government contractor, Otunba Mike Adenuga. A few years ago, Otunba Adenuga was on the run and had to relocate to Ghana on a self imposed exile given the warrant obtained by former President Obasanjo’s anti-corruption commission. The warrant and the corruption accusations were never publicly resolved in the court of justice, everything was swept under the carpet, partly because Otunba Adenuga, a multi-billionaire came back and contributed financially to the current president’s electoral campaign coffers. Even if one could concede that the president has absolute discretion in determining who to dish the awards to, one is still left with questions on the “quid pro quo” of giving the award to a citizen under investigation for corruption.

Perhaps the one that befuddles the mind is the attempt to humiliate Justice Kayode Eso (retd) with a CFR award. This is an award that was once given to the disgraced former speaker of the House of Representative, Patricia Etteh. Justice Eso is an eminent jurist that has contributed a lot to the development of Nigeria judiciary, the rule of law and the establishment of constitutional democracy in Nigeria. In the infinite wisdom of President Jonathan, Eso is to share this CFR award with none other than the wife of former governor of River State, Justice Mary Odili (the first wife of a politician with the fastest meteoric rise to the Supreme Court of Nigeria). This is a subtle humiliation Of Eso by an inconsiderate Jonathan regime given the history between Justice Eso led panel on Rivers State Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Governor Peter Odili, the husband of Mary Odili. Many would recalled that the commission was set up by Governor Rotimi Amaechi to “investigate the sources of dissension within the state, forge reconciliation and make recommendations to the state government. The panel met with hundreds of witnesses, sat in Port Harcourt and Abuja, and in the report that has since been submitted by the Committee, Justice Eso minced no words in speaking the truth, as he saw it, including referring to Dr. Peter Odili, the past immediate Governor of the state, as insincere.” The presidency cannot claim that they do not know about this history as the penultimate quote was sourced from an article written by the president’s own media aide, Reuben Abati and published in May 2009.

Justice Eso, commenting on a baseless accusation of impartiality by Governor Odili said
“With reference to our integrity, it is sad that our integrity has been so glibly attacked, or put in doubt, by Sir Odili, without producing or attempting to produce an iota of evidence in regard to his ominous accusations. He did this to the hearing of the world qua NTA, which aired our proceedings, and we are obliged to answer this accusation here now at our only opportunity, lest silence be taken as consent. If the former Governor, Dr. Odili, had convinced himself that our integrity was in doubt without evidence. The rules anywhere in the democratic world, practicing the rule of law, do not permit a slaughter of people’s integrity, without at least, trying to justify the accusation by the production of some evidence however infinitesimal. These gentlemen and lady, whom I have the honour to lead, have the highest reputation and their integrity is untarnished. On integrity, they have won their spurs ever before being asked to come into this commission. As for our humble selves, it is with the greatest humility and praise to God, that we are able to declare that, on record, throughout our public life, which has spanned over half a century, nobody, friend or foe, domestically, nationally or internationally, has ever cast doubt on our hard earned integrity. With us, it has always been the Shakespearian melody of – Set honour in one eye and death in the other and I will look at both indifferently. That is how much premium we put on honour and it is that credo that advised us to have accepted this assignment, notwithstanding its being set within the din of battle, insurgency and threats of death. However, having regard to the delicacy and sensitivity of the work in hand, it is our decision not to be ruffled by this ridiculous accusation, nor influenced to bend out of our objectivity and impartiality. No one among us could be moved to do the wrong thing by blackmail.”

This is why I called on Justice Eso, to reject and shun this award as Professor Chinua Achebe did last year. It is nothing but a cruel joke to give an award bestowed on Patricia Etteh on Justice Eso, who for many years was the “Shakespeare of our Supreme Court”. As my friend, Mutiu Ganiu and I wrote some years ago,” Justice Eso frame cannot hold his fame in judicial excellence and does not need an award to validate his legacy”. It is high time Nigerians start sending resounding signals to this pernicious political party, that we would not condone trivializations of our national institutions. Justice Eso is an institution, which should not be demeaned by a measly award!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Barth Nnaji’s Resignation is Testament to the Need for Public Declaration of Asset

“No man is allowed to be a judge in his own cause, because his interest would certainly bias his judgment, and not improbably, corrupt his integrity. With equal, nay with greater reason, a body of men are unfit to be both judges and parties at the same time.”  -James Madison

Earlier this year, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, came out with a mind boggling argument on why he is not a big fan of asset declaration. In a widely published interview he asserts: “The issue of asset declaration is a matter of principle. I don’t give a damn about it, if you want to criticize me from heaven. The issue of public declaration I think is playing to the gallery. You don’t need to publicly declare any assets. If I am somebody who wants to hide it is what I tell you that you will even believe.” And now with the resignation of Professor Barth Nnaji as energy minister, over the issue of his conflict of interest in a power distribution company, we can conclusively say that the chicken is finally coming home to roost and the president may have committed what we Nigerians often calls “foot in the mouth disease”.

One can unmistakably surmise that Nnaji’s imbroglio would not have happened if he had been made to publicly declare his asset before his appointment as energy minister. Corruption is a big threat to democracy everywhere and anywhere; it hinders good governance, democratic processes, fair business and political competition. A recent joint report by Anti Corruption Network and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recommends that a public declaration of asset by politicians and political appointees will help: “ increase transparency and the trust of citizens in public administration, by disclosing information about assets of politicians and civil servants that shows they have nothing to hide; help heads of public institutions prevent conflicts of interest among their employees and to resolve such situations when they arise, in order to promote integrity within their institutions; help monitor wealth variations of individual politicians and civil servants, in order to dissuade them from misconduct and protect them from false accusations, and to help clarify the full scope of illicit enrichment or other illegal activity by providing additional evidence.”

Let me hasten to state here that Professor Nnaji has not been accused of any wrongdoing and may have actually acted above board in all his dealings as Nigeria’s power and energy minister, the problem here has little or nothing to do with impropriety but an appearance of such. For months, the workers and labor unions in his ministry have been making insinuations about his financial interest in some companies bidding to buy some of the assets of Power Holding Corporation of Nigeria. According to the Guardian newspapers, “Nnaji’s resignation may not be unconnected with revelations at last Friday’s meeting of the National Council on Privatisation (NCP) that companies allegedly owned or linked to the former minister made bids for the Afam Generation Company Limited and Enugu Distribution Company Limited.”

One can only rue what could have been, if the president and his ministers as well as all political appointees had been made to publicly declare their assets in an open and transparent manner. For one the general public would have known that the minister has an interest in a company bidding to purchase Afam power plant even though he has put his shares in what he called “a blind trust.” As one senatorial candidate from Massachusetts once quibbled “The blind trust is an age-old ruse.” In the United States of America where we drew the fountain of our constitution and democracy, the first elected official to use a blind trust was President Lyndon Johnson, he did this so he could hold on to his interest in a Texas television station, an industry heavily regulated by the Federal Communication Commission. Most of Johnson’s successors followed his lead, but only in 1978, with the passage of the Ethics in Government Act, did blind trusts become a formal option for executive-branch officers seeking to avoid conflicts of interest. The Act requires that trustees must be independent of the official, that such trust must be free of restrictions on sale or transfer of assets, and that the official is to receive no information except for quarterly updates on cash value and income or loss, needed to file income-tax returns. We do not have a similar legislation in Nigeria, the closest policy we have in Nigeria is the People’s Democratic Party’s “Manifesto, Programme and Policy Trust for 2011-2015” which commits the party and its members to “to ensure that its elected officials openly declare their assets.” We all know that all PDP officials, including the president flagrantly fouled this policy.

President Jonathan often allude to US president Obama as a good study on governance, in fact his entire campaign for Nigerian presidency seeks to mirror President Obama’s own campaign four years ago. His oft reference as a man without a shoe becoming the president of Nigeria is an attempt to draw parallel with Obama’s campaign of hope in a black man with foreign sounding name ascending to the presidency of the United States. It is not enough to campaign like Obama if you are not willing to follow his actions. As Todd S. Purdum argued in his article in Vanity Fair last month, “as a freshman senator, Barack Obama—whose wealth comes almost entirely from his book royalties—set up a blind trust but later that same year sold all of his stocks and closed the trust because he decided that even such an arrangement could not protect him from the appearance of a conflict. Most of his wealth is now invested in U.S. Treasury bonds and diversified funds—about the most transparent option available. What’s good for the country is good for Obama, and vice versa, to coin a phrase.” We can also say that what is good for Obama is good for Jonathan and his ministers.

Now is the time for the National Assembly of Nigeria to pass a comprehensive legislation similar to the US’s “Ethics in Government Act” which would make it mandatory that all executive, judicial and legislative office holders declare their assets openly and publicly before their swearing in. And as the OECD paper pointed out, a public declaration of asset without verification is meaningless, given the prevalence of corruption in our polity. It is imperative that the media and the public should have access to means for verification of such assets through the Freedom of Information Acts. Any public officials who may falsify their assets or hide assets in any way should be sanction in addition to the certain public opprobrium that would follow. Our democracy is too fragile to leave in the hands of politicians with skeletons in their cupboards.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Case for Obamacare: Opening Statement

John Bull, is not a decent hard-working citizen, he is not a shining example of the American Dream. John Bull is an all American worst example of a broken system. He is black, homeless, nameless, faceless derelicts that wander aimlessly through the streets of our country every day by the thousands. We step over them in doorways, we cross the street in order to avoid actually coming into contact with one of them. We look at them with a mixture of pity and contempt and fear. We don’t want them hanging around the sidewalks of our hospital, churches and places of worship, and yet people like John Bull fell sick just as you and I do and need to use the hospital or pray in churches. We choose not to see that under their ragged blankets and their filthy clothes, is a frightened, lost human being. Just like you and me.

John bull was not a hero, he is often weak and unable to walk because of a broken hip until few weeks ago when he finally got the attention of a kind surgeon who helped performed surgery to repair his hip. He often had to go to jail to get access to medical treatment. He also hear voices in his head some of which tells him to destroy himself as no one cares. We will show that John Bull lived in a world where a little attention by medical personnel make a world of difference between intense pain and emotional turmoil.

Testimony will show that in the afternoon of 11th of March 2012, Mr. Bull had been having intense pain at his hip for more than 1 to 2 months, he had tried to take to see a doctor to no avail. He tried to lessen the pain by drinking beer, when he couldn’t find any medication but the pain soon flood back with vengeance.

Testimony will show that he finally summoned enough energy to make it to the ER at Sacred Soul Medical Center. He requested to see a medical doctor about his hip but he was wheeled to the mental health area. Evidence will show that hospital staff then forcibly removed Mr. Bull and dropped him off at the sidewalk, where he laid in agony and pain.

Testimony will show that security staff repeatedly asked him to leave the sidewalk and he refused. Evidence will show that when police officer asked him to leave, he sat up and immediately laid back down due to pain on his hip. Officer then told him he would be arrested and take to jail and Mr. Bull sat up and immediately request to be taken to jail knowing that he will get the needed medical attention at Spokane County jail. He was then transported to jail without any incident.

When he was released from jail, he contacted New Port Radiology and they completed a scan of his hip where they found severe degeneration that requires surgery. That surgery was recently done and Mr. Bull is recovering.

And all the evidence and exhibits in this case will point you to the inevitable conclusion that Mr. Bull is NOT GUILTY, our state law allows the defense of necessity. He was commanded to leave the side walk of the hospital when he could not walk, he stood up but fall back down due to the excruciating pain on his hip, which also contributed largely to his inability to think clearly and follow instructions.

I am now ready to begin the trial. As you listen to the evidence I hope you will keep this in mind: You have the grave responsibility of deciding whether Mr. Bull is a criminal, because he could not walk away from the sidewalk, it is as simple as that, and I urge you to be careful in making that decision. In choosing you for this jury, this humble courtroom took on the status of the highest court in the land and from this moment forward becomes one of the most important in Mr. Bull’s life. In asking you to assume this burden, we have entrusted you to do the just and right thing, to render the only just verdict this evidence and exhibit allows: A verdict of NOT GUILTY

*this is a real life case but the opening statement has been prepared with helpful assist from Cher's character in the movie "Suspect". The real names of characters involved was also edicted to protect their privacy.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Is Goodluck Jonathan incompetent or just too scare to dare Nigerian tormentors?

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.”

― Albert Einstein

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Between Home Made Brew Violent Extremist and Imported Interlopers

President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan finally sacked his kinsman, General Azazi (retd), as the national security adviser last month. Contrary to what many experts predicted the news barely drew any whimper. In fact, all sides of our political divide simply view the announcement as long in coming, not necessarily because of anything nefarious General Azazi did but because of what he failed to do. The announcement of erstwhile General Babangida aide camp, Sambo Dasuki however drew commentaries from many analyst of the Nigerian political scene. Some view it as a sellout to the Northern oligarchy, some of whom have been at loggerheads with Azazi because of his comments on the root cause of the Boko Haram menace.

Opinions on Boko Haram insurgency is as diverse as any discussion on the Nigerian national soccer team. Every Nigerian thinks they can fix the rot in our national team with a mere wave of hand, just as they seems to think they can put an end to the menace posed by Boko Haram violence. The truth however lies in between. What most seems to be missing is any serious attempt to find the root cause of the menace.

Some analyst mostly from the south seems to think that Boko Haram sect was spurned by Northern politicians to create a cog in GEJ administration, whilst others from the North believes that the sect has been hijacked by Al Queda in Maghreb to pursue their nefarious religious ferment.

Whether home made or foreign brewed, the most important thing to most Nigerian is to nipped the menace in the bud, and this is one area the GEJ administration has been caught bare footed with little or no strategy other than platitiudes; despite huge security vote to that effect. I wrote elsewhere that the most important thing, this administration could do is to invest majority of the security vote in gathering intelligence about the sect, either through modern technology or what they call in the state "shoe leather" law enforcement investigation.

The months and years ahead will reveal to us whether Sambo will heed this advice and for once nipped this menace in the bud.

Furious Frank

Monday, June 4, 2012

Who will save us from PDP Dictatorship and Misrule?

“By any law of political or social science it [Nigeria] 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” – Richard Dowden

Many Nigerians died during the long enduring march to democratic rule during the terrible days of Babangida and Abacha military rule. They died with the hope that they and their children will one day live free from oppression. They died with the hope that a Nigerian nation where justice and equality before the law will triumph over dictatorship. We thought we won that freedom from the jackboot of dictatorship when we succeeded in driving military rule from governance of our nation in 1999. Sadly, the democracy we got is not the one we fought for, the government we have does not in any way look like the government of the people for the people. Our struggle was hijacked by militricians who care less if Nigerians eat from garbage or live in ramshackle houses. What is more, they have also hijacked our judiciary, the only and perhaps last hope for the common man in Nigeria. Even during the terrible days of military rule we have military rulers who are willing to listen to the voice of reason by our judiciary.

One could recall an attempt by the regime of Raji Rasaki to forcibly evict Dim Emeka Ojukwu from his father’s house at Villaska Lodge, Ikoyi, Lagos. The Biafran war General simply went to court and the Supreme Court restored him to his home with an order. The then military rulers do not pick and choose court orders they will choose to abide. Fast forward to the civilian rule of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and you can bet Ojukwu would have rot on Queen street, waiting for the government of the day to obey a decision of judiciary restoring him to his home.

How else can one explain the refusal of the People’s Democratic Party to honor the decision of the constitutionally created Judicial Council restoring Justice Salami to his position as President of the Court of Appeal?

Time and again, PDP as a party have shown itself to be anything but a democratic party. Its conventions often end in charade. Party members’ burn and maimed each other, use any means including violence to win electoral primary and then dragged the main election between parties to court based on the rigged primary. None of its governors save Governor Duke, can be said to have performed with any distinction, rather they have been indicted by anti-corruption agencies in Nigeria and abroad. It is a party that could not be trusted to obey its own constitution not to talk of the country’s constitution. They rule by their own dictates and answer to no one but themselves only. The party and its members can be fingered in every political murder, assassination and mayhem since 1999. Their thirst for Nigerian innocent blood is evident in the many air disasters, road accidents and terrorist attacks foisted on the nation by their willful and negligent misrule of every federal governmental agency.

It is against this background that many thought Jonathan promise to bring a change to politics as usual was viewed as a breath of fresh air when Nigeria helped restore him to presidency after the demise of his former boss- Umar Yardua. What we forgot is that it is difficult for a leopard to change its skin colors. And now we know that the salvation of our country lies in our collective struggle to rid our land of Peoples Destroyer Party!

Sadly, our options are severely limited. Even when we vote, we have been told that “he who counts the vote determines the outcome of the election”. We can choose to drag them before the judiciary but they will pick and choose the court order they will obey. We are indeed running out of options other than mass protest and rallies. The petrol subsidy protests in January make it apparent that the government will do anything to infiltrate the ranks of prodemocracy activist and hijacked it for its own selfish ends. It is time for prodemocracy activist to go back to the drawing board and start strategizing on how to rid our land of every vestiges of People’s Destroyer Party. We may not have a country left when the looters in government are finished with us. History will not forgive us if we sit idly by while we let them destroy our hard earned democracy.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

An Open Letter to Nigeria’s News Media

“To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the … public”- Theodore Roosevelt 1918

Let me start out this letter by asking all Nigerian news media if they believed that Nigeria exist to cater to the interest of People’s Democratic Party or the Nigerian people. Recent reports about the comment made by the National Security Adviser, General Owoye Azazi (retd) at the “South South” Conference and the attendant reports and comments by Nigeria’s news media prompted me to write this missive. Most of the print and electronic media in Nigeria reports that the NSA chief states that the Peoples Democratic Party undemocratic “zoning” clause should be partly blamed for the increasing destruction visited on Nigerians by the “Boko Haram” sect.

It is now almost a week after the conference and no news media in Nigeria has been able to print or post online the full text of the speech delivered by the NSA. Rather, Nigerian media has participated in an orgy of condemnation of the NSA chief, all without any balance. Some of the comments printed by the news media excoriating General Azazi range from the ludicrous to the insane. For instance, virtually all news report that carried responses to the General’s comment starts out “General Azazi (retd) on Saturday came under fire over his claims…”

No serious attempts were made to evaluate or analyze the comment made by the General. Not even an ounce of efforts were made to publish the entire text or audio online or in print. The press joined in the demonization of the security chief who is hired to analyze Nigeria’s security situations. Most of the reports seem to conclude that the primary duty of the National Security Adviser is to the president and his party, not the entire the country. Of course most of these media couched the response in form of reports of other people’s comment such as the one attributed to Olisah Metuh, the national publicity secretary of PDP. Some reports seem to have gone out of their way to solicit acidic comments of politicians from the northern part of the country.

One commentator, a former commissioner of police, Abubakar Tsav states “The remark … could be true based on intelligence available to him, but the public utterance by the NSA is irresponsibly faulty. The only honourable option left for him is to throw in the towel and resign. He has no business in government. He even appears not interested or dedicated to his job.” Here, is a call to sacrifice truth on the altar of violence by a former police chief and no reporter bother to challenge Mr. Tsav. Another commenter, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, said that “to begin with, the Boko Haram insurgency began in Yobe state in 2003 and later spread to Borno and Bauchi states under ANPP.” Here, I expect the reporter to ask the Alhaji if he had listened to the speech or read the full text. This is because the security chief dissertation is not on the origin of Boko Haram sect but its profligacy. Another comment attributed to Governor Yuguda excoriated Gen. Azazi for making a comment capable of smearing the name of PDP, to him “Azazi ought to have used his experience in moulding his statements, adding that any matters that affected the party should first of all be discussed internally before any public pronouncement”. Again, I expect reporters to ask the governor if Azazi’s allegiance should be to PDP or Nigerian people who pay his salary, sadly the reporter simply let it slide.

My query to the Nigerian news media is this: If Nigerian politicians appears on your news broadcast or editorial board interviews to make comments that were outright lies or such that will endanger the safety of the country, won’t you take a moment to halt the conversation and correct them? At least, I’d like to think so. Don’t you think it is apposite to direct such politicians to some indisputable fact stated in the speech? For instance, in the speech the General states “Today, if you arrest all the leaders of Boko Haram, I don’t think the problem would end, because the situation that created the sect has not been tackled e.g. poverty and the desire (of some people) to rule Nigeria. These issues cannot be isolated unless they are handled comprehensively”. One could of course, conclude that most journalists in Nigeria are too lazy to challenge insinuations, conjectures and suppositions with facts.

The dangers posed to our polity and democracy by such jejune extrapolations and censorship is real and present. In a time when we are trying to make equally difficult security decisions against a backdrop of homegrown terrorist and complex corruption problems, it is incumbent on the news media to play a role in helping Nigerians obtain the best, most accurate information available. Without it, the odds that we will not make the right decisions at this perilous time are greatly are greatly increased.

Perhaps it's easier to allow our media to pass along a distorted version of history. It is always easier to pile on and precipitate the removal of an honest security chief for political gain. Vultures are already waiting in the wings; those who want the job will stand at nothing to use their friends in the media to push the president to remove the NSA chief. Nigeria will be the worst for it at the end. But being complicit in the twisting of Nigerian political history isn't just lazy, it's dangerous. It has consequences that will affect the health, wealth and lives of all Nigerians. It lessens the chance that our children and grandchildren will ever get to see true democracy enthroned in our nation.

Please, print the full report of the General’s speech and asked Nigerian politicians who are drawing umbrage from the comments what they think is the root cause of the intractable security problem we are facing. History will remember you for doing so.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Maitama Sule on Religion and Ethnic Politics

Today I yield this place to Nigeria's former Ambassador to the United Nations, Yusuf Maitama Sule, in an interview with The Nation Newspapers he said
 “the problems in Nigeria and indeed in the North are two: tribalism and religious bigotry. I see no reason why religion should be a barrier to our unity, not only in the North but also in the entire country. Nigeria is a very religious country. The Christians in Nigeria are more than any Christendom. The Muslims are more religious than any Muslim in any part of the world. “If there is justice, the people in power will be concerned and create jobs, look after the people. It is not force that will make the people obey. The world can never be governed by force, never by fear, even never by power. In the end what governs is the mind. What conquers is the spirit. Today, what we need in the North in order to arrest the situation is unity. And we should learn from the lessons of our elders. But I beg you: let us try to revive the glory of the past. We are all brothers, if there is any trouble it will affect every one of us. Let no one think that he would escape. The problems facing us today are much greater than any problems that faced us before. And these problems are more pronounced here in this part of the country in the North. It is true that there is poverty all over the country but there is much more poverty in the North than anywhere else. Insecurity is all over the country, but there is much more insecurity in the North than anywhere else. Disunity is very pronounced here. We have to do something about this. In order to understand or appreciate the position in which we found ourselves let us revisit the past and see how we started in the North and the East.

He said further:
“I remember way back in 1949 when we started the very first organization in Northern Nigeria the NPC. What informed our decision to organise that was the political development taking place in the South. We felt that we in the North needed to be organised so that we in the North might be in the main stream; so that we might contribute our own quote; so that we might bring together our brothers in the South. “What has gone wrong? The moral teachings of all the religion are the same. If we are to follow the moral teachings of the religions there will be no fighting. There is no religion that says you should go and pressurise someone to embrace it. The essence of every religion is love. Love is what is lacking in Nigeria. Let us teach love. Today there is poverty in the country. There is injustice in the country, if there is justice there will be peace. If there is development there will be work for everybody. We must create jobs to get people employed so that they may not be ideal. I think that is the source of insecurity.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

JFK and Balewa: The First Satellite Telephone Conversation between Heads of State

Recently the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library opened its vaults with huge trove of information about the Kennedy administration. One of the most salient is the transcript and audio of the first satellite telephone conversation between an American president and the head of government of Nigeria-Sir Tafawa Balewa. This historic conversation happened during the launch of the satellite telecommunication system in the United States. The audio conversation was not only saved by the Kennedy White House staff, they also made diligent efforts to transcribe and save the transcript of the conversation. Links to both can be found at Max Siollun’s Website

Few things jumped at me as I listened to the conversation and read the transcript, one as I stated above is the diligence with which those who transcribe the telephone conversation took in ensuring the accuracy of the information. The second is the confidence and erudition of the Nigerian Prime Minister, Sir Tafawa Balewa. This was clearly different from the caricatures portrayed by the Nigerian media, north and south of the prime minister. Most of the post independence press in the north, often portrayed Sir Balewa as a stooge of the Sardauna of Sokoto, while the southern press viewed him as an irredentist ethnic jingoist who is totally disinterested in ruling Nigeria and as such was ignorant of current affairs in any other part of Nigeria. The prime minister, not only speak in a clear and convincing manner about his interest in satellite telecommunication, but went further to celebrate and bragged about the exploits of Dick Tiger, a Nigerian boxer who beats an American boxer. He reminded President Kennedy that it was a very great day for all Nigerian when Tiger beats an American boxer to win the title.

This goes to show that many of the myth Nigerian have about their leadership could be exploded by bold efforts to enforce the Freedom of Information Act, recently signed into law. Our country need to start taking information dissemination seriously. Many polls show that Nigerians do not trust their leaders. Many more believed that Nigerian leadership is riddled with corruption and hardly think about policies before they announce them. It is hard to blame them for such conclusion as we have had presidents who announced many policies with much fanfare only to rolled same policies back when they are suddenly confronted with the negative impact on the public; most of which would have been apparent by a little bit of scrutiny.

As I reiterated in another piece on similar topics it is incumbent on Nigerian political leaders to analyze every public policy before they announce such, examining the alternatives and showing a rational plan that will get us to the goals and objectives of such policies. The Freedom of Information Act will help us learn from our mistakes as it has more upside than downside. The days of making decisions with little or no regards to its impact on the people should be a thing of the past. I doubt if the National Archive have a recording of Balewa ‘s conversation with President Kennedy and even if they do, it may be unreachable to mortals like us. Our presidential system of government needs an extreme makeover with its information management.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Views On Awo, Zik And Obasanjo —Ojukwu

This month I yield this space to excerpts of an interview with Late Chief Dim Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu,  culled from Tribune Newspapers published on Saturday, 03 December 2011


In life, his image loomed large. In death, quintessential Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, has also remained an enigma, going by the avalanche of glowing tributes from the high and low, following his demise last Saturday in a London hospital. In his book, Because I Am Involved, the ever-blunt and cerebral leader of the defunct Biafram Republic, gave his candid views and estimation of some past and present Nigerian leaders and his wife, Bianca. Excerpts:


HOW does a son begin to assess, for posterity, the virtues or otherwise of his own father? In asking me my opinion about Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, the Owelle of Onitsha, you have, as it were, put me in a very tight spot – nothing I say can pass the test of objectivity. Here is a man, I have known all my life; a man I was brought up to give even more respect than my father; a man who looks a giant in every respect within my childhood memory. He was the indefatigable fighter for freedom and equality. To all intents and purposes, Zik inserted the word ‘politics’ into my life’s dictionary. I respected, I worshipped, I considered him a hero, and saw him as a living legend.

At independence, he cut a rather tragic figure. He was to me the symbol of a Nigeria that might have been, but was not. He became the one Nigerian, alongside whom every other Nigerian achievement, every other success, paled in comparison. He became Governor-General, the Queen’s official representative. He later became President — a ceremonial executive. Throughout the First Republic, it slowly permeated the perception of the masses that his position in terms of power was empty. He could not dissociate himself from the inequities of the First Republic. He could not intervene to halt the inequities, and from time to time we saw him justifying and rationalising actions we were sure conflicted with his better judgment. With bitterness, we began to learn that Zik, whom the British colonial administration could never incarcerate, he willingly constituted himself a prisoner of what appeared to us as northern interests. With many others, I began to feel let down. During the war, which to a certain extent was a war to free him, he rallied to the Biafran side but later switched his support when it appeared the Biafran resistance would fail.

Deriving from this act, many have questioned his commitment to the Igbo. Many have recalled that he is of Onitsha extraction and that Onitsha has with great pride claimed and continued to claim a non-Igbo lineage. The foregoing, coupled with the fact that the Igbo appear today to be marginalised and lacking in any appreciable influence within the power structure of Nigeria invariably has made the leadership of the Igbo by Zik a subject of a vast amount of discussion. In my own candid opinion, Zik did not set out to lead the Igbo and has not in fact led the Igbo. He has been first and foremost a Nigerian who aspired to a Nigerian leadership. When the British withdrew in 1960, Nigeria was left in the hands of three great men. Of the three, Zik could be said to have been the dreamer whilst the others were hard-headed realists. Zik believed, worked for and made sacrifices for a Nigeria that had not yet come into existence – the ideal Nigeria. Those who followed him worked for this ideal, and perforce had to make sacrifices for this ideal. It is only natural that finding this ideal increasingly unattainable, they found themselves deflated and deprived vis a vis the realists, who from the beginning, ensured for their groups a share of whatever was going.

I have no quarrel with Zik, I cannot quarrel with Zik. I am rather too small for that. In Igbo culture and tradition, a son cannot quarrel with his father. Zik is my father. I grew up on his lap. My father considered him his friend and testified to this fact at the Foster-Sutton tribunal. It is true that he and I have not agreed on many issues. This is more due to the generation gap than to anything else. Our ambitions are different — where he would appear to wish to lead the Igbo, I would be content to serve them. In Igbo language, we say that one does not choose one’s relatives, but friends. As a father, I love and respect him. As a politician, I disagree with his policies which I believe, to a large extent, have left the Igbo naked.

Chief Obafemi Awolowo

In political terms, he would be considered an adversary of the Igbo given the intense rivalry between him and Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe. As a leader of the modern cast, he has left Nigeria standards which are indelible, standards beside which future aspirations to public leadership can be eternally measured. He was, for a long time, the only Nigerian leader that enunciated principles and played down personalities. He was a brilliant political administrator and a most erudite teacher. He not only identified himself wholly with the aspirations of the Yoruba people of Nigeria but also he was able to convince the Yoruba people of Nigeria that he, only he epitomised the highest point of their political aspirations and consciousness. He was loved, he was feared but above all he belonged to the people he professed to lead. At his death I had the singular honour of proposing for him this epitaph that has endured — ‘he was the best President that Nigeria never had.’

Many have wondered what I meant by this, but I believe the statement was clear. Nigeria would have benefitted from his presidency because of his innate presidential qualities. Nigeria must continually regret that he never, for many reasons, had the opportunity to serve at the presidential level. Awo was a leader of great stature. He was a leader who was eminently successful. That he did not fulfil a presidential ambition cannot detract from his leadership, and us, poor us, who were not his people, must continue to regret that our own leaders had not led us as he did his people or achieved for us as he did for his people.

He perceived his job as leading his people and God bless his soul. He did a lot for them. Whenever he saw an opportunity for his people, he went for it. He had a dream for the Yorubas and was steadfast in the pursuit of that dream. He knew where he was going and he took his people with him without deceit. That is why he will remain immortal in the area of his influence.

Sir Ahmadu Bello

Whenever children, the heirs of our today, read the history of Nigeria the one name that must command admiration and one which will, without doubt, attract the largest fan club would be that of Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto. Here was a man every inch a prince who bestrode the Nigeria of his days and won, if not admiration, then the respect of friends and foes alike. Here was a man who roused the sleeping giant of the North from its centuries old slumber and within the short span of six years placed it in a dominant position in Nigeria. He laid he foundations of a northern pre-eminence in Nigeria that has lasted until today and which threatens to last into a future without limit. In all his actions the Sardauna was regal. When arrogant, his arrogance was perceived and accommodated as the normal prerogative of royalty – sort of droit de seigneur.

His perception of Nigeria was perhaps different from mine. He was more of a continuation of the Sheikh Uthman Dan Fodio’s grand design, than the creation of a modern Nigeria which favours accommodation as opposted to absorption. Everything Sir Ahmadu believed, he believed sincerely. He was both haughty and down to earth, he was loved by those he led, of both high and low estate. He understood his people and inspired them to heights which they never appeared to think possible. As a leader, he was superb and very successful. As a Nigerian leader we all wished he led us all, directed us all and inspired us all. His legacy was, however, a legacy of competition, a legacy of a dialogue into which the North entered from a position of strength.

Sir Ahmadu Bello was in every sense a giant. He perceived Northern Nigeria as his domain and proceeded by sheer force of character to pull up that section of Nigeria from its bootstraps. He took over the leadership of the North when the North was weak and disadvantaged. When he left the scene after a short spell of time, the North had become the bully which everyone feared. He was a great leader of his people.

Yakubu Gowon

People make me laugh when they talk about an enmity between Yakubu Gowon and Ojukwu. That Gowon and I did not see eye to eye on certain issue was as a result of our different perceptions of the situation at the time. These were perceptions built into our being in Nigeria. If I were from the North my perception of the situation would have been entirely different, just as if Gowon had been from the East. In leading the war we both postured. For anyone, therefore, to try and extend this posturing and make it permanent on the national stage, to my mind, is sterile. I will most certainly invite Gowon to my house for lunch any day.

Segun Obasanjo

Then came Obasanjo. I would have felt some relief at Obasanjo’s ascendancy. Afterall, I had known him earlier as a young officer who joined the 1st Brigade on exercise in Kano. I remembered him well and remembered his rather portly presence that never ceased to amuse. I remembered his rather unpropitious return from the United Kingdom into the Nigerian infantry. I remembered that we had been friends, that I had discussed his service prospect with Brigadier Ademulegun who later advised Obasanjo to transfer to the Corps of Engineers. We had been sufficiently intimate and since I could not call him Oba, I had opted with tongue in check to call him Omo-Oba. I remembered him during the Ifeajuna coup. He had just returned from a course and was used as an intermediary between General Ironsi and Major Nzeogwu in Kaduna.

My initial enthusiasm on his becoming the Nigerian Head of State was rather dampened by the thought of certain unfortunate statement he was alleged to have made after the war, about the war, about the vanquished areas to a people he was directed to reconcile and reintegrate. I was confused by the novelty of his concept of dual sovereignty — ‘The Murtala-Obasanjo Regime.’ I was enthused by his peaceful hand-over to civilian rule, dismayed by his reference to juju in the search for a South African solution, excited by his forthright commentary on contemporary Nigerian matters and absolutely elated by his leadership forum: its concept, articulation and execution. If I were to give a confidential report on this great son of Nigeria, my verdict would be that ‘Here was a man who without being a great statesman in his time grew to become the greatest statesman of his time.’

Bianca Onoh

What can I say about this very beautiful young girl that won the 1989 Miss Inter-Continental pageant? I must confess that having only met her once (as of the time of writing the book), I cannot claim to know her and neither was I present in the audience when she won her very-much coveted crown. The year, 1988, must have been for her a year of triumph and naturally as a Nigerian I pray that she continues for ever to triumph.

I won’t comment more on her phenomenon than on her person for I feel more to ease with this for if after looking at her photographs in the newspaper or viewing the repeat broadcasts of her Inter-Continental triumph, if after seeing this, I exclaim with all men that she is beautiful, it would be like standing in front of the Empire State Building in New York and exclaiming that the building is high. I would be stating the obvious and it would be trite.

I must state categorically that I do not see anything wrong in beauty pageants and beauty contests. What I regret is that very often the beautiful ones are not, for one reason or the other, on view. There can be no doubt that beauty, like all gifts, is an asset. An acclaimed international beauty is a national asset - like a champion in any sphere of activity. This year, Nigeria must be proud that for once we have brought forward a beauty that can compete favourably with the best in the world. We have a queen we can proudly proclaim, not as a matter of jingoism or with tongue in cheek, but rather with the full confidence that we have a world-beater.

Like all endeavours, winning beauty contests is not an easy matter. It is an effort that demands absolute self-discipline. It is an effort that begins even before birth, carries through home training and years of self-denial comparable to the commitment of a world class athlete. Because beauty is all pervasive, not just a matter of physical proportions, positioning and production, but rather compromises equally of internal and latent moral and intellectual attributes, more is demanded of the beauty queen than the athlete. The athlete is permitted emotional tantrums whilst his private peccadillos are accommodated provided he wins. The queen is granted no such indulgence. Like Caesar’s wife, she must, at all times, be beyond reproach. In Nigeria today, we have at least one girl that can meet with all these standards — Miss Bianca Onoh. We should all be proud of her. When she returns home with the Miss Universe crown, Nigeria would have produced another world champion, would have won another gold in an international competition, another platinum disc award, an Oscar, a Nobel Prize. When this happens, the vehicle for such international acclaim and honour shall be none other than Miss Bianca Onoh.

Fela Anikulapo-Kuti

Here is one Nigerian who has never appeared to want to be anyone else, anything else but Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. Fela has indisputable genius. He has been and still remains one of the finest musicians on the African continent and it is most gratifying for me as a Nigerian to note the very wide acceptability which his music commands worldwide. When Fela is criticised, it is usually because of his life style. No individual is perfect. Fela is Fela and can never be Emeka just as Emeka is Emeka and can never be Fela. He is a political gadfly, a social critic and an indefatigable fighter against all forms of pomposity and hypocrisy. When he acts, his aim is to reduce the target of his action from the sublime to the ridiculous.

His lesson is to teach us not to take ourselves too seriously, to get into the habit of laughing at ourselves. Fela is an eccentric. When a society is not sufficiently elastic to accommodate essentricism that society, and not the eccentric, is sick. Our society needs Fela as a therapy; Fela reduces tension within our society. Whenever he forces authority to descend from its pedestal to join issues with the pedestrian, it is the authority that loses, it is the authority that appears ridiculous and it is the authority that we end up laughing at.

Gani Fawehinmi

Whenever a final history of this country of ours is written, I am sure that the name of Gani Fawehinmi would merit a prominent passage. Gani symbolises, perhaps, the very best of professionalism in an epoch where everything including the intellectualism is up for sale to the highest bidder. Gani is, without doubt, one of the nation’s best lawyers and perhaps also the hardest working. Where others lawyers are content to win cases, Gani’s aim remains to employ his very extensive knowledge of law to ensure justice. To him fees are of a minor consideration. What he always considers important is that the poor obtain from him the best legal protection against the rich and powerful. When he goes to court, it is very often to pose a pillar that will become part of the perimeter fence of social justice.

He is fearless and would not hesitate to take the initiative in pointing out and challenging the excesses of authority. Gani is a firm believer in the supremacy of Law. He is a crusader for the establishment in Nigeria of that supremacy. He believes the lawyer is an officer of the court and not the agent of a client. Naturally, his uncompromising posture in his relentless pursuit of social justice irritates governments. Indeed, the more autocratic and fascist the government authority, the more irritation Gani causes. Yet, there can be no doubt that Nigeria is better off with the courageous crusade of this lone-ranger.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Shock Therapy: Jeffrey Sachs Prescription for Nigeria

Professor Jeffrey Sachs is a well known and widely respected American economist who remains the youngest economics professor in the history of Harvard University. His success in prescribing solutions to developing countries problems is at best mixed. His best and most influential work was in Bolivia where his economic prescription helped reduced that country’s hyper inflation and stabilized the polity. He spend considerable time in studying Bolivia peculiar problem and at the end, his plan which includes ending government subsidies, eliminating import quotas, helped reduced Bolivia’s hyperinflation from 11,750% to 15% per year from 1985 to 1987. It is hard to argue against his success in Bolivia until you examine the results of the same prescription in Boris Yeltsin’s Russia.

It is against this background that one can better understand his strong support for the Nigeria’s government sudden removal of petroleum subsidy on January 2, 2012. Professor Sachs went further than any Nigerian government official to argue in his Op-ed in the New York Times that “when Nigeria won relief on its external debt in the mid-2000s, the savings on debt service were actually redirected to meaningful social investments in states and local governments...” I seriously doubt any Nigerian government official can make this claim with any modicum of seriousness. In actual fact, at the government sponsored debate held in Lagos before the withdrawal of subsidy, virtually all the government official in attendance attest to the fact that Nigerian people are right to be skeptical about any promised dividends from the subsidy removal given previous results. What we know from the National Assembly probe is that the surplus gained during the mid-2000s was largely expended on an ill fated attempt by the Obasanjo’s regime to amend the constitution to gain an additional third term.

The problem with Professor Sachs’ prescriptions for Nigeria is a fundamental lack of understanding of Nigeria situation. In Bolivia, Professor Sachs spends considerable time studying the problem of Bolivia and even lived in that country. At most, Sachs barely knows the fundamentals of the Nigerian economy. It is apparent that he thinks Nigeria has a centralized economy when in actual fact Nigeria economy is oligarchy driven. Majority of the national corporations are in actual fact owned by the few oligarchs who used them as tools to further their nest, inflating contracts and influencing policies as they go. This indeed also explains the failure of Sachs’ prescription for Russia. It would be recalled that Sachs advised Russia (under the Yeltsin administration) for two years from December 1991 to January 1994. As Nancy Holmstrom and Richard Smith pointed out the drastic decreases in industrial output over the ensuing years, a near halving of the country's GDP and of personal incomes, a doubling of the suicide rate, and a skyrocketing unemployment rate is indirectly traceable to Sachs’ prescription for Russia.

One can only hope that on Professor Sachs’ next trip to Nigeria he will ask his Nigerian host to show him where the “meaningful social investments in states and local governments” in the mid-2000’s really are. If they are honest they will probably point him to the Swiss and Cayman Island bank accounts where they stashed the funds, but I will not bet on it!

More on Trip to Mother Africa

12-19-11 Bugs Everywhere

I killed ten bugs in my room last night, it was very scary. Today, my Mom and Dad left to go stock up on food, while they were gone, one of my grandma-I am required by tradition to refer to all my Dad’s sister as grandma (another peculiarly Yoruba-ish respect thing)- gave us lunch. We had rice and drank this water that came in sachets. We were suspicious of the water at first but eventually we all drank it. About an hour after my parents got back, Daniel and Sam suddenly said their stomach hurts. Sam went to lie down but Daniel decided to go play outside, as it turns out that was a good decision, he threw up on the dirt outside, and we didn’t have to clean any of that up. 15 minutes after that he threw up again. Then like 10 minutes after dinner Sam threw up and it smelled worse than Daniel’s and after that I wanted to throw up.

After cleaning up Sam throw up, my Mom asked me what we had for lunch and we told her. She said that the sachet water was “pure water” and since we weren’t used to it that’s what made Sam and Daniel throw up. So I’ll pretty much remember this day as a day of gross smelling throw up. This stinks! And also it turns out we’re going to Akure on Wednesday, I can’t wait!

12-20-11 Lost in the Forest of One Thousands Demons

We got lost today. Here’s how it all started. My Mom dropped us off at my Uncle’s house so she could run some errands, Sarah and Daniel played with my cousins, while Sam, David and I read our books. I finished two of them. We had PB & J sandwiches as a snack. And these delicious noodles called Indomie for lunch. Then my Mom came to pick us up. After about 15 minutes of driving I realized we were lost apparently my mom realized this too, because she pulled over and asked for directions the guy said to go straight. In Africa, every passerby you asked for directions will always first tell you to go straight. After another 15 minutes, she asked another person and again this other person said go straight too. I was beginning to think road should never end. 10 minutes passed she asked another person and received the same answer. It is now I missed our GPS we left in Spokane, but then will it work in Africa?

Now, I was angry and felt like this whole town was playing some horrible joke on us. After another 15 minutes of driving on this insane “straight” long road we were finally home. I had never been so happy to see new our house at Ilesha.

12-21-11 Lost Again

Today we got lost again! My Dad’s sister in Akure invited us to stay till Friday and we accepted, we left at about 6:20p.m, which is when the sun goes down in Nigeria and its dangerous to drive on Nigerian roads at night. But we ‘ve never been a very safe family. Then the arguing started, my Dad decided to go a way that would show us the farm his maternal grandpa used to take him to, but my Mom said that way wasn’t safe. Finally, since he was driving my Dad decided to go his way. But his way was bumpy and rocky and my Mom wanted us to turn back but the road is too small and we couldn’t. Eventually we found a place where we could back up and turned around and we did. But we didn’t know where to go so we just chose a direction and drove that way till we found the main road. When we got to Akure, I saw all my cousins once again and cheered up. We sat and watched TV and talked till the power went out and everyone went to bed.

12-22-11 A walk around the Neighborhood

The power was out forever today. Later we went on a laptop on to facebook. We sent friend request to one others so that when my family goes back to Spokane we can stay in touch. It was actually cool for once, so we took a walk around the neighborhood. On our walk we saw tons of kids playing with dirt and adults sitting together in clumps on porches having parties. So when we got back to my cousins house we decided to have our own little party we ate oranges and drank juices we talked about school. All my cousins go to boarding schools. So I asked what it was like they said it was O.K. Then the power came back and we watched T.V. for the rest of the night.

12-23-11 Indomie Noodle for Lunch and visit to the ZOO

Today we woke up and did our usual morning ritual which consists of us brushing our teeth, taking showers, eating breakfast, and doing our Kumon and homework. Then we watched T.V. then had Indomie Noodles for lunch. At about 3:00 pm my Dad told my siblings and cousins that we were going to a wildlife park. We were super excited so we hurriedly put on our shoes and socks. I wish I could tell you our excitement hadn’t been wasted but I can’t. Here are the reasons why our trip to the wild life park was horrible. One, there was no guides or people walking around the park to make sure you are o.k. So if you get lost then there’s no one to find you. Two, all the animals looked sad and underfed. I wanted to let them out of their cages but my Dad said I couldn’t. Three, most of the animals were hiding so I didn’t get any good pictures. Finally we got back home from the horrible wildlife park and watched T.V., ate dinner and went to bed.

12-24-11 Christmas Eve

Its Christmas Eve today and I’m so happy!! We left Akure today but my family also split ways. My Dad, my siblings except Sarah, my aunty children in Akure except Ty went to Ilesha while my Mom, Sarah and my aunty went to Kabba to see the latter’s husband’s mom. They’re coming back on Monday but I’m sad I wont b e able to spend Christmas with my little sister. When we got to Ilesha, I found out that every cousin I had on my Dad’s side was spending the nigh at our house. The names of all the cousins on my Dad’s side at our house are: Bose, Kenny, Yemi, Nife, Tosin, Feran, Bolu and Praise. My Dad told me all of them were staying till Tuesday. I was excited to spend time with my cousins. The rest of the night we watched a bunch of African movies, which were hilarious because a bunch of people died, and the people used magic to kill them. We went to bed at about 12:30 p.m. all the girls slept in my room and all the boys in Sam’s room. It was a fun day.

12-25-11 Christmas Day

Christmas this year was probably the best Christmas ever. First, we went to my uncle’s church, I could barely sit through the service. Then we went through giving rice and vegetable oil which we bought with the money we raised from mine and Sam’s widows and orphans fundraising in Spokane, to the widows around my Dad’s old neighborhood. After that we went to a party my grandma had for all her friends. I had to say “hi” to almost all of them and so did all my cousins and siblings. My Dad could tell we were getting restless so he said we could go. We were really excited because we were going to Erin-Ijesha waterfalls. Erin-Jesha waterfalls are these waterfalls that have 7 levels you can climb up everyone says that they pre really fun to climb so my Dad said we could go. Kenny, Tosin, Bolu, Praise, Daniel and David stopped at level 2 but the rest of us decided to keep going but in the middle of levels 4 and 5 we really started to wish we had brought some water. Finally, we made it to level 7 and we immediately knew the climb was worth it. You could see everything from up there, lush green foliage et al. It was beautiful. We quickly descended when we got back down to level two we all had a huge water fight. Everyone was soaking wet when we left but we all agreed to had been the best day of our trip so far.

12-26-11 Another Wedding Introduction

We went to a wedding introduction today. It’s where the two families meet each other eat, drink, talk, be merry and exchange gifts with each other. Kids really didn’t have anything to do there so it was super boring. When we got home my Dad made my cousins, siblings and I stand up and say 5 things about ourselves. He said the person who remembers the most people’s 5 things he would give them #200 naira. Yemi won that contest. Just then grandma came in and my Dad says that we should make movie about our family history. So got out the camcorder we all gathered around my grandma and she told us where she was born, who her parents were and etc. It was pretty interesting since she let us ask a bunch of questions. I found interesting facts like that in college, my grandma dropped out of school because she joined wrong gang. Everyone laughed when they heard that. Making the movie was a lot of fun and I know that I’ll be sad when my cousins leave tomorrow.

12-27-11 Missing you

All of my cousins left today, I’ll miss them a lot but I’m happy I’ll get to see them again next year (?). After my cousins left it got really boring since there was no one to talk to and I couldn’t use Kenny’s phone to go on the Internet anymore. I thought about talking to my siblings but that’s like torture. So I ended up helping and talking to my Mom in the kitchen. It was nice talking to her again I hadn’t realized how much I missed her until now. She told me about her childhood and I listened carefully. After I finished talking to my Mom, I went outside and played with Daniel and Sarah for a little while. They were playing with dirt and my Mom got so mad when she saw that they got their clothes all dirty.

12-28-11 Empty, Bare and Alone

My Mom told us that we’re going to Abeokuta tomorrow and from there to Lagos and eventually to Spokane. We had to pack up most of our stuff and that took forever and when we got done the house was bare. It looked to empty and write alone and I felt like giving it a big hug, but didn’t since it’s a house. When we were done packing Mom told us to write a list of all the foods here that we want to bring to Spokane with us. We argued a lot over the list until my Mom said to put everything that everyone wanted on the list and she would decide what stays and what goes. After that I went to my room and read my book and played some games on my kindle. Then I hung out with my siblings until dinner and after dinner, bedtime was here.