Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Genesis of King Jonathan and his Coterie of Profligate Special Advisers

“It is not a feasible excuse to blame the clouds for the rain that floods one's front room, if you have failed to repair the roof” – Anon

Many Nigerians are crying foul that they had been deceived by the pretence of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s transformational agenda. They believed that they voted for him because he claimed he understand what exactly is wrong with Nigeria and has the panacea to fix the country. There is no doubt that many Nigerians bought the campaign mantra that a “shoeless” president may govern better since he might know where it hurts. The fuel subsidy has exposed the underbelly and paucity of this monstrous deceit. The subsidy regime announced by the regime on January 2, clearly exposed the emollient presidential campaign of Goodluck Jonathan as nothing more than an inveigle dissemble preened to perfection so the People’s Democratic Party can continue its misrule.

My argument is that Nigerians should have known better and if we do not learn this lesson now we may yet fall foul of the credulous glib of the destructive party again. There are several acts of the regime immediately before and after the election that should have forewarned Nigerians about the fact that this is not a government for the people. It might have been elected by the people but the government clearly revealed his hands as been pro-PDP elites and foreign institutions more than pro-people of Nigeria.

First of all, the government immediately after the election set up a transitional committee headed by retired General Theophilus Danjuma. The panel amongst other recommended that the president pruned down the number of ministry and parastals sucking the Nigeria economy down the drain. What did the government do? It expands the executive arm of the government. It created more special adviser than any other government that has ever ruled Nigeria, including pernicious military rule. The regime in June 2011 sought and obtained the approval of Senate to appoint 20 special advisers to assist him in running his government. The President with acerbic impunity and in apparent breach of legislative directive went ahead to appoint at least 24 advisers as at the last count. A quick sample of some of the advisers clearly reveals the mendacity of the regime. There is a special adviser on New media (Twitter and Facebook), who is attached to the office of the special adviser on research and strategy even while the special adviser on Media and publicity exist separately. All of whom by the virtue of their designations have staff attached to them with benefits ordinary Nigerian can only dream about.

Even after the outcry of the Nigerian people following the subsidy upheaval, instead of reducing the bloated executive arm of government, the president announced a 25% pay cut for all political appointees. The joke here is what exactly were these special advisers doing to advance good governance and reduce corruption- the main bane of the country?

Here is the truth, you do not borrow to finance a bloated government and then come back to balance the books on the back of the poor by withdrawing subsidy that is more attached to inflation than any other thing. Even the devil and its mother-in-law know that anytime price of petroleum went up in Nigeria, it is a clarion call to all traders, jobbers and shop owners to increase prices of goods and services.

We are already being taxed for government inefficiencies. Why should you increase our tax by 116%? The song that keeps coming up on this issue is never going to go away: Practice what you preach. Former minister of the Federal Capital Territory a little while ago asked a pointed question that is worth repeating: “the Minister of Agriculture recently “bought 150 Toyota Hilux vans for monitoring projects. “What are they for? A few years ago, the Minister of Agriculture bought the same type of cars for monitoring.” They should stop all these useless spending it will not add value. The federal government has no land, agriculture is basically a state government and private sector affairs these are expenses that don’t make sense.

The Guardian newspapers published on January 5, 2012 reported that of the 21 parastatals under the federal ministry of education (with two supervisory ministers), from august to December 2011, activities of the two ministers were wrapped around eight parastatals and yet the other parastatals have upwards of 200 staffs and structures. Some of the “obscure parastatals” according to Guardian includes “Nigeria French Language Village”, “Nigerian Arabic Language Village” et al. The sheer waste of resources and money by this regime boggles the mind.

This again, is why we need to start practicing true federalism if we are not going to fall prey to more subterfuge taxation by the corrupt government at Abuja. All these one size fits all is stupid. Agricultural needs of Shaki in Oyo state are quite different and distinct from that of Dutse in Jigawa state. There is nothing the federal government interstate regulatory regime could not do through joint interlocal regional agreement with States using states expertise and technical staff.

Finally, the president’s party controls both arms of the National Assembly, it is time for that party to push for a legislative Act that will reduce and permanently limits member’s allowance and benefits. The biggest state legislatures in the world is in the State of New Hampshire (USA) and their member’s take home pay is less than $100 per month, while the average cost of maintaining each of our federal legislator is $2.1million per year. That is the reason why some of them will kill, maim and rigged election to win office. They are not in it to serve the people but their pockets.

President Jonathan is right, yes, we need a transformational agenda albeit not the ones he is currently carrying out. The only thing that will save our democracy is a government for the people and not the ones elected by the people to lead them to penury.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Blogging my way through my First Visit to Africa

Today I yield these pages to a smart 11 year old who made her first trip to mother Africa late last year. I trust you will find some of her observations of our country and culture poignant.

My First Visit to Mother Africa

12-7-11 My Big Family Trip to Africa

Today, we took off. I feel like I can see everything from up here. I love flying. I’m really excited to be going to Africa for the first time but nervous too. Exciting because I can’t wait to try new things and see my extended family for the first time but nervous because what if my family doesn’t like me or if something goes wrong at my Aunt’s wedding. I know this trip will change me in many ways but for the better or worse I can’t tell yet. (And my first stop is San Francisco).

12-8-11 Safe Landing in Lagos

Finally we’re in Lagos, Nigeria. The first thing I noticed about Nigeria was the heat at the airport-Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Ikeja, Lagos State Nigeria. Stepping outside the plane, you are immediately stung by about 91 degrees heat wave. You feel like throwing up. Your entire body convulsed into a broiling broth, finding a way to churn your entire system upside up. Strangely, not many of the Nigerian born travelers felt the sting. Perhaps they were not coming from frigid winter weather of inland northwest of the United States of America into a raging inferno and boiling cauldron of Lagos tropical weather. The comfort of the arrival lounge of the airport is no comfort; the wings where few air condition are working had open windows with airport staff standing nearby. The sections with malfunctioning air condition hummed like drones. Strangely, everyone took it in his or her strides; it was like I am the only one feeling the pinch. Everyone seems to be oblivious to the boiling cauldron of an airport. No one complained to the airport staff, they all seem to have accepted this normal. So off they go, as if this is expected of every airport in Nigeria. Even some who flew with us from Atlanta and saw the excellent service at Atlanta and Houston said little about the appalling condition of MMIA.
Stranger still is the treatment of those who carry Nigerian green passport. There is a long waiting line with few custom officials attending to them, whilst foreigners visiting Nigerian are quickly attended to. One Nigerian with US and Nigerian passport standing in front of us, could not bear it any longer so he tried to use his US passport to check in, but he was told that he needed to have obtained Nigerian visa before traveling. He tried to get back to same place on Nigerian passport long line but was rebuffed by others. Then the loud argument started. OMG! Everyone had an opinion on what should happen to him and they all want to express it at the same time.
The first member of my extended family I met in Nigeria, was my Aunt Kemi and her son, Daniel. Aunt Kemi drove us to her house at Surulere, behind the National Stadium. Lagos is a bustling city with modern houses and structures competing in a macabre dance with old dilapidated structures. Every thing points to a faint attempt by planners to impose their will on the city, even as its inhabitants and developers struggles to thwart all of such efforts. There are signs of government intent to demolish illegal structures on some building whilst new building are being built on the same drainage with government approval plan painted with black ink on the fence. One imposing billboard proclaims: “This is Lagos!” Welcome is a luxury every one-can ill afford in Lagos, every soul is on the move. Everyone is trying to get to some place in hurry and if they had to crush the car ahead of them to get to that destination they do not mind. The only one standing around is either selling you some China made wares or begging for your money.
My aunt Kemi drove like a New York cab driver, she yells at other road users who might not be paying attention and scream at men driver who may be trying to take advantage of her feminity. As she drove us to her house, I noticed most houses had gigantic gates and high fence; I asked her why? She said incase armed robbers comes to attack you. Later my uncle Yemi and Dapo came over and had dinner with us, and since it was Uncle Yemi’s birthday, we had cake. After the cake, we packed up our suitcases and luggage in Uncle Yemi’s car, since we are spending the night at his house. That house is where I am sitting on his couch writing this journal entry.

12-9-11 Nothing really happened

Nothing really happened today, Auntie Kemi showed us where to buy sandals, and then she took us to the mall. Shortly, after that we went to this interesting hair salon, which is bare of any equipment, and my mom got her hair done. Oh and earlier in the morning my Dad left to go to Ilesha, his village in preparation for his sister’s wedding. Tomorrow we are going to Ilesha and it’s a four hour drive and I wish we were flying.

12-14-11 Delicious Suya

I just got back from my aunt’s who lives in Akure, hence the gap in my journal from 12-10-11 to 12-14-11. She took Sam and me with her to Akure, Ondo State. When we got there, she took me to do my hair, it took three hours to make my hair pretty like an African queen. The three seemed like three years or at worst an eternity, but the folks who work there talked to me the entire time so it wasn’t that bad.
After they finished my hair we went back to Auntie’s house for dinner. We ate this awesome spicy red meat called “suya”, it was so delicious.
As soon as we finished , we start to watch T.V and play hide and seek in the dark with Sam, Feranmi (Fern), my 11-year-old cousin. It was pretty fun. We stayed up till 3:30 a.m. On the third day, I didn’t wake up till 2:00pm we ate lunch then we drove back to Ilesha. When we got there, I found an astounding sight, the house my Dad had been building for more than a year was now practically done, it looks really awesome and my Dad said I could paint my own room. And I am going to be a bridesmaid in the wedding. I’m not that surprised, I knew there had to be a reason why they kept measuring me before we left Ilesa to Akure.

12-15-11 Nigeria Standard Voltage is 120

After getting to the new house at Ilesa, all I did for a few hours is my homework and Kumon and read. Then I ate lunch. After that people started coming so I met a bunch of extended family members, most of them are nice. We tried to set up our Wii but I won’t work. My Dad explanation is that it carries US standard voltage of 110 and the Nigerian standard voltage is 120. There are frequent power outage and surges so that is why almost everyone including us has a generator connected to their home. Just before I went to bed for the night, I tried on my pink bridesmaid dress. It is actually more of a darker pink design all over it and it looks beautiful.

12-16-11 The Engagement Party

The engagement party was today, it was awesome! There was dancing and singing, it was so loud you had to shout to talk to the person next to you. Interesting enough, this do not bother anyone around, even some mothers with little infants tucked at their back went about the party with aplomb. I can just imagine the earplugs of the kids exploding. One nursing mother even sat in front of the public address system breast-feeding her baby with reckless abandon.
On a good note, I finally met my aunt’s “hubby to be” he seems okay. He is very quiet, and unassuming. I wonder what is going on in his mind. In fact what do spouses to be think about a day before their wedding….hmmm. (note to self: food for thought).
I also met Nifemi and Murewa, my cousins from Akure, which meant they are all Far’s siblings. Everyone likes Nifemi, but they all call her Nife, Nigerians are just like Brazilians-they gave their kids long names and then later devise a shorten version of such long names. I wonder why they don’t just named her Nife. When I asked Dad, he said something to the effect that African names must necessarily reflect the spiritual world Africa lives in (or words to that effect). Nife is 14 years old, cute, brainy and very quiet-which of course explains why many likes her. She had just got back from boarding house. She attends a gifted school called Federal government Academy in the northern part of the country. She told us that a bomb recently went off at a church near her school. The northern part of the country is notorious for religious clashes between adherents of Islam and Christians. Nife came back from boarding school last night, which probably explains the reason why I didn’t see her while I was at Akure. One thing I found out about her later is that she is bossy sometimes. I later understand that being older than you means that the elder boss the little ones. Nife’s brother bosses her so she boss they and me expect me to boss my little ones…on and on like that without end. Nife, however is also very blunt and I like her. She is also one of the bridesmaids, along with my other cousin and Yemi-Uncle Boye’s first daughter, me.
Murewa is 16 years old and also goes to boarding school, we really didn’t talk much to each other, but he’s cool. By the way, did I say I can’t wait till the wedding tomorrow.

12-17-11 The Wedding

The wedding “proper” (to use my Dad’s words) was a blast. The church service was super long and boring though. I felt like I wanted to sleep during it but the reception was WOW! They served Jollof rice and fried rice with chicken for lunch and on every table they had little blue bowls filled with candy – I still do not know why Nigerian called candy “sweats”. It was delicious and they also had this awesome punch that was to die for. As usual my nurse Mom, threw cold waters on my excitement by saying that the reason we all liked it is because Nigerian punch is extra sweetened by fattening sugar.
I also talked to some of my new uncle’s relatives- in case you are wondering, my Mom insist that I should called my aunt’s new hubby uncle. When I asked why, she said are you going to call him by his name? She said that is very disrespectful. It all comes down again to title. Why do Nigerians like titles before their names? Any way, my Aunt’s new family is fairly nice. They are from the ancient Oyo town, but the husband is a stockbroker based in Ile-Ife, another ancient town in Yoruba’s lore. In fact the Yorubas believed the whole world descended from heaven and landed at Ile-Ife. When I asked my Dad for veracity of that story, he said it is all mythology.
The dancing at the reception is probably my favorite part, since we got money from dancing. Here’s how it works, if they throw money at you, it is called spraying, but you have to make sure you pick it up quick, as there are street urchins called “area boys” who will quickly pick it up and pranced away. At the end of it all, I was super tired after the reception so as soon as we got to the house I fell asleep.

12-18-11 The Goodbyes

Today we said goodbyes to everyone that came for the wedding, since most of the people invited do not live in Ilesha. Most often came early before the wedding and stayed at our house until it was over and now we had to say goodbyes. We had got used to most of them. One thing about African is the togetherness, I think the idea of nuclear family is alien to the African culture. For more than a week, these folks had lived at our house and felt at home even though some had to sleep on bare floor.
After everyone left, we started to tidy up the house, there was dirt all over the floors, pounded yam wrappers, candy wrappers, water bottles et al. It took a couple of hours but eventually, trust my Mom everything was tiptop!
Then we (kids) got to pick our rooms, I chose the room next to the bathroom since I share with my little sister and she pees ten times a night (only kids room are not self contained, all the other rooms had bathrooms and restrooms enclosed). At about 6:30 pm my Dad got all of us together to take a walk around the neighborhood. We saw lots of forest but no animals. We came back around 7:00pm and ate dinner. I then had to do my journals, which is what I’m doing now.

More to come next month