Friday, December 30, 2005

My Hopes and Wishes for 2006

Earthlings are about to witness the the dawn of a new year. We will remember 2005 for its gifts of joy, and/or pain depending on who you are and where live on the planet. I pray the in-coming year- 2006- brings better tidings to all of mankind. It is my fervent prayer that the 2006 brings more genuine love, a stronger will to do good, deeper knowledge and wisdom, deep-rooted passion, and renewed energy to the world, and to Africa in particular.

The future of Africa will be shaky and bleak as long as those in the seats of power remain shackled and blinded by tribalism, lack passion and fervor in their hearts, and the teaming masses on the continent choose the easy but regressive paths of apathy and ignorance. For these reasons, I fear that 2006 will remain uneventful and deplete of positive developments for many African nations.

The problems in the African continent seem to have defied all logic and the strategies designed to curb the decay and disintegration of the constituent nations. What appears to be the bane of Africa, and the reason everything appears “upside-down” is the combined and interactive forces of ignorance on the part of the governed, a serious lack of passion, empathy, and ingenuity on the part of the governors, and our general tribalistic tendencies. These factors, acting in synergy, have proven to be the Achilles heel of all African nations, particularly those in the sub-Saharan region.

A wide spectrum of instances of awe and disappointments abound in the continent-- from our general lackadaisical attitude to the AIDS and corruption pandemic; or the recent unrest between Chad and Sudan; or the "rule-till-you-die" mentality of Mugabe and pranks and antics of Museveni; or the genocide in Darfur and the famine and (its denial) in Niger; to the silly "I-know-it-all" attitude of Obasanjo-- these deplorable events and actions demonstrate the tribalistic tendencies of the men in charge who lack the passion and commitment to do their jobs right, and the ignorance and/or apathy of the masses.

The salvation of Africa is in our hands. I pray 2006 grants us the fortitude to get the job done.

I congratulate you on witnessing the dusk of 2005 and the begining of a new year!



Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Nigeria: Some True Dividends of Democracy

It is quite easy to get engrossed in the general deplorable state of the Nigerian nation and overlook some commendable deeds occurring in nooks and crannies of the nation. In what may seem uncharacteristic of state governors in Nigeria, some- actually three governors- stood out and have performed quite well, and deserve recognition for their foresight, passion, and simple applications of commonsense.

In my humble assessment, Donald Duke of Cross Rivers, Ibrahim Turaki of Jigawa, and Bukola Saraki of Kwara State have separated themselves from the lot of non-performing Nigerian governors by delivering to their people, at least, some dividends of democracy.

The government of these states, under the direction of these resourceful Nigerians, have taken bold steps in using tourism, information technology, and agriculture to improve the lot of their people.

It will be naïve to assume that these men are without blemish, or free from controversies; however, the cumulative effects of the strategies initiated by each of these men outweigh their individual shortcomings.

Unlike their colleagues that appear to be operating without direction and clear-cut agenda, these men have found and created niches for themselves, and have delivered "big-time" in their chosen areas. These men deserve commendation for giving their people true dividends of democracy, and for keeping the hope of millions of Nigerians alive.

Donald Duke, Cross Rivers State: Tourism

The state of Cross Rivers has huge potentials for tourism and Duke has capitalized on this, and has invested hugely in actualizing his agenda. He has achieved quite a lot through his tourism initiative. Duke’s idea to use tourism as a “vehicle that will promote the orderly growth and development of sustainable tourism (eco, business, leisure and roots tourism) for the social and economic development of Cross Rivers State” has been yielding fantastic results.

The Obudu Ranch - a holiday resort located on a plateau of about 1,600 meters above sea level has undergone massive renovation under his administration. This temperate exotic location has an airstrip, a water park, a cable car, and integrated honey and diary farms to mention few of the attractions. Recently, the resort was the venue of an international mountain race; this event was the first of its kind in Nigeria.

Perhaps the most ambitious of Duke’s tourism initiative is the Tinapa Resorts which has been tagged “Africa Premier Business Resort”. Tinapa is an eco-tourism project with integrated business and leisure resort being built along the Calabar River. When fully completed, the “complex will provide international standard wholesale emporiums, integrated shopping complexes and product distribution elements supported by business tourism and entertainment facilities”.

Ibrahim Turaki, Jigawa State : Information Technology & Solar Power

Jigawa State under the leadership of Ibrahim Turaki won the first ever W2i Wireless Communities Best Practices Award for Digital Inclusion in 2005.

The citation from W2i speaks to Turaki’s innovativeness and resourcefulness:

“There are few telephones to speak of in Nigeria’s arid Jigawa State. As recently as 2001, the population of four million mostly poor farmers had no information technology — let alone dial-up Internet access over clunky copper-wire infrastructure.

But when Governor Ibrahim Turaki took office in 2000, he decided to change all this — and he wasn’t waiting for Nigeria’s telco or cellular operators to help. With $6 million in World Bank grants and state and federal monies, the governor bought two satellite dishes and set up 47 access points to connect schools, libraries, cyber cafes and a new university with Wi-Fi access. The state buys bandwidth from a European company at considerable expense, but it can now bring voice, data, and video capabilities to schools, university students, and local economic players. Local authorities facilitate the rollout with real-estate rights of way.

The next phase includes a massive voice-over IP network to provide low-cost mobile voice services across the state and into neighboring jurisdictions.”
In addition, the impressive use of solar energy by Jigawa state has been showcased in a CNN documentary. This feat was achieved in collaboration with The Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF), a nonprofit organization.

Bukola Saraki, Kwara State: Agriculture

Bukola Saraki just won the 2005 Dr. Kenneth Kaunda Leadership award for his commonsensical approach to agriculture.

An earlier post on Grandiose Parlor:"There's no Aggro or Animosity"- says Zimbabwean Farmers in Nigeria, highlights Saraki’s initiative to invite some displaced Zimbabwean farmers to settle and farm in Kwara state. It appears his gamble has paid off, not only have the expat farmers fully settled in the state, the federal government is encouraging other governors to replicate this commercial farming initiative in their states.



Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Nigeria: Is it Too Late...?

Yes!...The Nigerian constitution will be amended soon to allow third terms for elected officials. It is just a matter of time- even if Obasanjo decides to vacate office come 2007. The fact that this issue has lingered this long (since 2004) and grown big wings (the majority of Nigerian governors and state legislatures are in support of a third term, and the National Assembly may amend the constitution to permit it) means the third term agenda has taken strong roots in Nigerian politics, and it is just a matter of time before it becomes legalized...with or without President Obasanjo.

The Nigerian president, Obasanjo recently squandered a brilliant opportunity to set the record straight on the third term rumor by choosing to not answer a question directed at him during a live televised talk show last week. Rather than stating in clears terms what he wants once and for all, he went off on a tangent, beating about the bush... Oh dear!

“…Fielding questions on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) programme, 'The President Speaks', anchored by Mr. Cyril Stober, a caller from Sokoto had asked the President to comment on the speculations that he wanted an extra term. Rather than address the question, the President went into a long-winding story about the reforms programme of his government thus cleverly evading the issue..”, writes ThisDay, a Nigerian news daily.

What a disaster!

One wouldn’t be surprised by this level of arrogance and recklessness (or should I say stupidity) going by the statements of Fani Kayode, one of President Obasanjo’s trusted henchmen, when he asked recently, via a ThisDay article cynically entitled: “...Presidency ‘Earnestly’ Searches for Obasanjo’s Successor”:

“… How many of these people [Nigerians] are really capable of ruling the country in an efficient, just and equitable manner as being done today? How many [Nigerians] are capable of running the economy and fighting corruption the way it is being done today? How many [Nigerians] are capable of restoring the fortune of Nigeria in the international arena as it is being done today? How many [Nigerians] could have won us debt relief and debt cancellation as has been done today? “How many of the several millions of Nigerians that could have boosted our foreign reserves, increased agricultural production, consolidated our banks and revived the manufacturing sector as has been done today…?”

[Ouch! What an insult!!!]

If this is the mindset of Obasanjo and his inner caucus, then the debate is over and we can all close shop and go home.

This man and his henchman just don’t get it! The nation needs reassurance and closure on this matter, but when the opportunity presented itself, Obasanjo and crew of wise men flunked the test, in front of 130 million listening and watching Nigerians. This is the biggest PR blunder of the century, and our president and his boys are totally blind to the damage they have caused.

Reflecting on the insulting (yet accurate) remarks from Fani Kayode, I am not surprised that he has such questions in his head, because not many serious-minded and honest Nigerians will be interested in partaking in the mockery called democracy in Nigeria, and until the government can provide an enabling environment for peace and justice, only rogues and thugs that are connected to the president and his party, the PDP (People's Democratic Party), will dominate the political arena in Nigeria.



Saturday, December 24, 2005

From my House to Yours...

Warm wishes to you and yours during the Yuletide!

Enjoy the festivities and pray for brighter days in the coming year.


Be well / Wa-paa!

-imnakoya @ grandiose parlor


Friday, December 23, 2005

...And the Godfather Strikes Again!

What I can’t fathom is how an illiterate political thug (that some call “godfather”)-muster the clout, resources, and dexterity to hold a duly elected (maybe not duly elected) government to ransom with ease and impunity ?

There are profuse reports in the Nigerian news dailies that supporters of Lamidi Adedibu, the celebrated thug and self-acclaimed political kingmaker of Oyo state , and Rasheed Ladoja, the state governor, freely exchanged gun fire, turning the state’s secretariat, governor’s office, and house of assembly into a war theater! Some died as a result and even the deputy governor had be evacuated from his office.

An excerpt from the Nigerian Tribune reads:

“…Offices in the governor’s office were broken into and vandalized while the monitoring gadgets of the State Security Service (SSS) was badly damaged. Offices of the Personal Assistant to the governor, Special Assistant to the Governor on Protocol and that of the Chief Detail were destroyed and property looted. The deputy governor of the state, Otunba Bayo Alao-Akala, and the Chief of Staff, Barrister Abiodun Alli, were smuggled out of their offices by security men attached to the deputy governor. The governor did not show up in the office...”
The governor and Lamidi Adedibu have been locked in a deadly political feud since the governor assumed office about 3 years ago. This current fracas may have been triggered by an attempt to impeach the governor by some legislators loyal to Lamidi Adedibu. And somehow, the notorious Nigerian Police may be an accessory to this distasteful and treasonable action. An excerpt from The Punch reads:

“The pro-Adedibu legislators and their supporters, backed by a massive police contingent, subdued the pro-Ladoja group and forcibly gained entrance into the assembly complex…In spite of the heavy presence of policemen at the assembly complex, adjacent to the governor’s office, a group of 18 lawmakers loyal to the governor’s estranged godfather, Chief Lamidi Adedibu, engaged the group of 14 lawmakers loyal to Governor Rasheed Ladoja in a gun duel that lasted for over four hours...”
Political violence and intrigues as this is not totally out of place in the Nigerian political arena. It's happened in the past, and most recently in the eastern Nigerian state of Anambra, where a local political don, Chris Uba, successfully (or almost) banished the sitting governor, Dr Ngige, from office.

It’s obvious and also unfortunate that some- if not all- of the characters on the Nigerian political terrain have no inkling of what democracy is and how the politics is played...I worry that their antics and confusion present a very potent threat to democracy in Nigeria.



Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Burden of AIDS in Africa

Check out “Human Ball” - a Médecins Sans Frontières’ animation on the impact and burden of AIDS in Africa.

I was awestrickened after viewing...

Watch the animation here.

***By the way, this marks the the 100th posting on Grandiose Parlor***



Are Political Appointees & Civil Servants Birds of the Same Feather?

Are the bureaucrats without any clout and can used willy-nilly by the political class to facilitate their kleptomaniac tendencies?

Is there a symbiotic relationship in place between the two entities that encourages mismanagement and facilitates the abuse of office as witnessed in many regions of Africa?

The bureaucrats or civil servants as they are often called, have chosen a career in public service. As policy wonks- formulators and implementers of policies- they are primarily the brain-box and the workhorse of the government. They are there to make your life and mine more pleasant and meaningful.

Going by the sleuth of documentations (written and oral) on events and issues relating to governance (in Africa and particularly in Nigeria) in the mainstream media and on the blogosphere; the politicians and their political appointees (generally referred to as “politicians” in this post) have had more than their fair share of criticism. The bureaucrats, on the other hand, are usually insulated and not very much in the limelight, yet they may be equally as corrupt as their cousins- the politicians.

Politicians are always in transit, and are time-limited creatures in the scheme of governance, while the bureaucrats are somewhat omnipresent, and in my opinion are the “custodian of government”. Regardless of the disposition- civil or military government- the civil servants have always had the same purpose, served the same need, and have often remained keyed to their primary loci in the civil service.

The high-ranking bureaucrats, often experts in their fields, are the real brain behind any government. They exist to guide and nurture the politicians. The politicians have to learn from them, and literally feed off their hands to understand the workings of their portfolio. What happens then when the top echelon of the agency is slack, corrupt, and lack energy? The events unfolding in the Nigerian aviation agency and the call for removal of the Aviation Minister (who has spent about 6 months in agency) is an example. Could the Minister have prevented the plane crashes and effect visible changes within 6 months?

One can only wonder why the myriad of policies upon policies implemented has failed, and the course of governance is laced with obstacles and difficulties? Have the bureaucrats been feeding the politicians the wrong meal? Have the civil service bosses (Permanent Secretaries, Director-Generals, and Directors) been feeding the politicians with the wrong diet? Why is our national growth stunted? What are the reasons for the general malaise in governance?

Whatever the scenario, I am convinced that the majority in the civil service are equally as corrupt (if not more) as their cousins in the political class; a thorough appraisal of the bureaucracy is urgently needed to move the nation out of the woods.

The question is: Who will facilitate this process, their cousins the politicians?



Tuesday, December 20, 2005

MTN Provides Nigerian Varsity with Digital Library

Corporate entities appear to be stepping up to the plate in provide much needed infrastructure to educational institutions in Nigeria. One of the country's wireless cellular phone operators, MTN, connected the University of Lagos* to its MTN Universities Connect program last week, according to news report. Given my disparaging prose in earlier blog- "Nigerian Universities: Built for Eggheads, Manned by Morons"- this development is simply delightful!

Excerpts from the Daily Independent:

"...Just last week the MTN, one of the four telecommunications giants, commissioned the “Universities Connect”, which is aimed at ensuring availability of library materials for university students and staff. With the MTN “Universities Connect” the university community would be linked to the outside world for reference books for research materials as well as projects.

Speaking at the commissioning ceremony at the University of Lagos, Executive Director, MTN Foundation, Mrs. Amina Oyagbola, said the company’s corporate social responsibility was the key to a long-term business strategy, and the foundation, which was commissioned in May 2005, is the vehicle for aggressive agenda in this respect.

“For us, corporate social responsibility is about making practical, positive impact on people's lives everywhere you go. It requires us to understand clearly the issues that concern our key stakeholders and our society and intervene in a way that is sustainable and guarantees maximum impact to a large number of people...

“We initiated ‘Schools Connect’ last year. To date we have completed the second phase, and we commenced the third phase in October this year. So far, our efforts through this project have been felt in six states and 24 secondary schools across all geo-political zones in Nigeria...Universities Connect” project, which was rolled out in collaboration with Netlibrary, was a logical extension of the MTN Schools Connect project and the focus is the transformation of university libraries to meet the challenges of the digital age."

The project would be used in harnessing technology and innovation, and leveraging the intellectual resources of over 5,500 libraries, organisations, publishers of academic journals, professional reference and scholarly works. This library will support the assembly and creative use of up-to-date information at the click of a mouse.

“This world-class digital library here at the University of Lagos is equipped with 125 networked computers, three laser jet printers, a server, and VSAT-based Internet connectivity. We have also completely overhauled the library furniture, fittings and the reading area, giving a favourable environment through space renovation, provision of adequate lighting, 15 air-conditioners, furniture and alternative power generation. The library is also guaranteed two-year subscription to journals, books, etc., as well as a two-year maintenance contract will also be initiated to ensure the environment is adequately maintained. Training will also commence for at least five existing library staff, who will work with Netlibrary over the two-year contract period...”
At last, it seems the future isn't that bleak anymore.

*Correction: It is University of Lagos and NOT University of Nigeria as written earlier.



Sunday, December 18, 2005

Fewer Nigerians Receive Basic Education...

The emphasis on education in Nigeria has always been on tertiary education. Primary and secondary education are often overlooked whenever national debate on education occur, and are often the last to receive attention when decisions are made. Yet they are the most important strategically.

One does not have to be “degreed” to be considered educated or literate. The High school/GED (secondary) level of education is the minimum requirement in the United States (and probably in other advanced nations) where holders of the GED certificate are recognized and often enjoy their fair share of employment cake.

It appears Nigeria has a long way to go regarding this basic form of education because only about 6 out of 10 Nigerian children attend primary schools and about 4 in 10 attend secondary schools. This data is derived from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) project (2003), and stated as analyzed and succinctly presented on Friedrich Huebler’s Education Statistics Blog.

Huebler also shows that “many Nigerian children are in school at a level that is not appropriate for their ages.” I extracted the statistics below from one of his postings:

“In Nigeria, children often enter school at an advanced age and leave school well past the official graduation age. The primary school age in Nigeria is 6 to 11 years and the secondary school age 12 to 17 years…Only 36.6% of all 6-year-olds were attending primary school at the time of the survey…”, and “among 12-year-olds, only 13.9% were attending secondary school.”
He demonstrates the existence of gender and socioeconomic (residence and household income) disparities in education, and positive corelations between primary and secondary school enrollments and Gross Domestic Product(GNP) per capital i.e, lower income countries have lower school enrollment. Please, check out his site to read about other interesting education statistics on Nigeria.

This picture depicts by this data is far from rosy, and demands urgent intervention by the relevant authorities. Historically, government agenda on primary and secondary education in Nigeria has been confusing. Even at this moment, policies still appear fragmented and without focus.

My attempt to navigate through the Federal Ministry of Education website with the hope of deciphering current national policies on education was unsuccessful. The browsing through the website was fraught with difficulties and frustration (What were the web designer and department of education thinking with the advertisement slots and junk information loaded on the site?).

There has been a recent spike in the numbers of private primary and secondary schools in Nigeria, but it may be too early to discern their effects on student enrollment and school attendance using the DHS survey data.

I'd love to see data like Huebler's publicly disclosed on government websites, and used in benchmarking achievements and failures as policies are formulated and implemented. Afterall, what is the point in policy implementation and accountability if data are not accessible to the public.



Nigerian Universities: Built for Eggheads, Manned by Morons

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure that the Nigerian education system is in doldrums. Past interventions have not worked, and the present attempts (if any) to revive the system and inject some life into it has not shown any promising signs so far.

An earlier post on Grandiose Parlor (American Students Bail Out Nigerian Law College) showcased one of the problems in tertiary education in Nigeria. Though the posting specifically referred to a particular university, the gist of the post- the inadequacy of infrastructure- equally applies to any public learning institute in the country.

Ask anyone familiar with Nigerian system what the problem is: “Lack of funds” is usually the number one reason (or excuse) given. As it is anywhere in the world, money is a limited resource and it can never be enough. The combination of insufficient funds (primarily from the government), and poor policies, and management are responsible for the present state of the education system.

What is obvious is the lack of direction and purpose on the part of education and school administrators, who have not put the meager resources at their disposal to the best use, or channeled it at most cost efficient projects.

It is easy to throw mud at a faceless entity- the government. What about the administrators and professors and lecturers that man these institutions, have they all pulled their weights? Have these eggheads lived up to their calling as teachers and problem-solvers?

I have heard many tales of woe from some recent Nigerian graduates that requested their transcripts from their alma mata. One would expect that after many extended years of frustrating tutelage at the Nigerian universities that one is entitled to the courtesy of a promptly processed and accurate transcript. Not in Nigeria! This is not the government at play but school administrators, often holders of PhD’s and all sorts of exotic degrees slacking in their responsibilities!

As ubiquitous as the Internet has become in Nigeria, the old (and perhaps tired) horses running the show have failed to see the versatility of this technology and put it to good use in the general scheme of things. Majority of Nigerian lecturers are not computer-literate. Only few schools have domain presence on the Internet and even fewer maintain their sites, of these elitist group, just a handful have a central computerized database one can be proud of.

It often takes months for examination results to be collated and released. Then it is not uncommon for students to discover, to their chagrin, that their GPA’s have been wrongly computed, either because they were not credited for the right courses, or awarded credits for courses they didn’t register for.

This is the era of distance education globally, but unfortunately our schools are still locked in the dinosauric era- school curricula and syllabuses have remained stale over the years and have lost relevance. As citadel of knowledge and innovation, it is ironic that Nigerian universities have yet to develop creative means of revenue generation and ways to arrest further decay of infrastructure. In the era of emails, instant messaging, and teleconferencing, it is shameful that some universities still list their Telegram numbers on their official letterheads. Please tell Professors Egghead that the Telegrams, Telex, Morse codes, et al belong to the World War II era!

Have you heard of the “shakedown” (request for sexual and financial favors from students) and hand-out scams perpetrated by some low-life academics? If you haven’t ask the next Nigerian you run into. And how about an administrator that sacked 49 lecturers in one sweep? Many of those sacked are top-notched medical scholars! It is simply insane to delete this many from the payroll without a backup plan. These would make a good topic for another blog posting.

Are these the antics of eggheads or morons? You decide!



Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Nigeria: Civil Aviation Reform

Why should reforms be limited to the Nigerian aviation industry and not all sectors of transportation? (In fact Nigeria need a wide-scale reform). In this era, no form of transportation exists in total isolation; they are all are inter-connected somewhat and somehow.

Following the latest airliner crash in this country, many had called for aviation reforms and it appears the Nigerian government has heed these calls by grounding two airlines. As appropriate as this action may seem, to me, it may just be another example of the government playing to the gallery.

Any meaningful and long lasting reform should be well grounded in sound logic and economics,and economics by the way, is hardly ever unidirectional, but systemic and multi-faceted. It is only logical that Nigeria needs to adopt a systemic approach to dealing with its issues and problems.

The majority of Nigerians travel by land, it is my guess that the death rate is higher in road than air traffic accidents. I also guess that the total costs and burden of road traffic-related accidents surpass those related to air traffic. These will include, but not limited to, healthcare and economic costs, and the years of potential lives lost. So, why not extend the reforms to road management?

The other areas that deserve attention are the railway lines and sea/waterways, these have have been ignored for decades. These are crucial forms of transportation and will serve as catalysts to Nigeria’s economic and industrial growth.



Monday, December 12, 2005

Liberia: A Confused and Chauvinistic George Weah

A tragic weekend it was for Nigerians, particularly the families affected by the latest airliner crash in Nigeria: the third in number and the second in fatality this year. How much grief can the people bear? My weekend was a mess, spent under nerve-racking anxiety and suspense trying to ascertain that all is well with my family and associates in Nigeria. Well, my family is safe, that I have confirmed, and none of the names on the manifest looked familiar.

My condolences and sympathies to the families that lost loved ones in the accident.

As I await my laptop to boot up this morning- looking through the patio door, quietly savoring the aroma oozing from my coffee mug, and acknowledging the works of nature in the snow-covered landscape of my neighborhood- I pondered in my sub-conscious mind the possibility of Nigeria and Africa being under an evil spell given the pathetic conditions of the African nations.

“Nah, it is not likely”, I said to myself. “These nations have been poorly managed, that is why”, I rationalized.

Besides, I don’t want to entertain any negative thoughts because I need to cast off the spirit of gloom and hopelessness that had wrecked my weekend. I switched off the thought and moved over to my computer.

As I grappled to handle the multitude of information synthesized on my news aggregator, the BBC coverage of the latest antics of Liberia’s George Weah caught my attention.

Supporters turned violent after “Mr Weah addressed several hundred supporters, alleging the election had been rigged and saying his rival would not be sworn in.”

According to the BBC coverage, he promised to block the inauguration of Johnson-Sirleaf as president. Ms John-Sirleaf is an acclaimed technocrat and the declared winner of the recent presidential bye-election she and Weah contested in Liberia. The election was well monitored and judged free and fair by most observers. If sworn in January, John-Sirleaf will be the first female elected president in Africa.
"There is no victor for now, and I say there will be no inauguration in the country until the world gets together and finds a means for a peaceful resolution to the problem," the BBC quotes George Weah.
“What a pathetic jerk”, I said aloud.

All the respect I’d for George Weah quickly dissipated. I’d thought given his stature- as a highly successful international soccer star, his philanthropic gestures, and the popularity he enjoys with the Liberian youths- that he would be a beacon of hope and source of inspiration to the disfranchised people of his country and Africa as a whole. How wrong I was.

Based on his attitude and statements thus far, it appears Weah is confused, swallow-minded, egoistic, chauvinistic, and intellectually retarded. He portends a present danger to the fragile peace in Liberia, and should be shunned by all well meaning Liberians.

“Well, Africa may indeed be under an evil spell”, I said to myself…correcting the initial assertion I’d made earlier about Africa being possessed by evil forces, the continent will need mega infusions of divine and all sorts of interventions to break free.

Now it is going to be a Herculean task to arrest and discard the sour taste of hopelessness I’ve had in my mouth all weekend.

No thanks to a confused high-school dropout-turned-politician.




Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Deadly Nigerian Airspace

There is tragedy in the land again; I write this blog posting with a heavy and saddened heart. Once again, Nigeria, my home country, is under a heavy cloud of sorrow and anguish following another airliner crash at Port harcourt, a city in south east Nigeria. The plane crashed, according to news report while attempting to land at the city’s airport on Saturday December 10, 2005. At least 101 souls perished in the crash. some of the casualties were some 50 children, between ages 10 and 16, returning home for the Christmas holidays.

Many families are still grieving following the 117 lives lost in an earlier airliner crash on October 23 of this year, then this happened. It is grief-time all over again.

The incessant and unnecessary loss of lives in Nigeria is nothing but appalling. This is a nation where thousands die each year from preventable causes like poor access to health care, and traffic accidents such as these airliner crashes. Just as it is with land travel in Nigeria, the aviation facilities and airliners in use are poorly serviced, or too old to be put to any save use.

Some disasters are simply unpreventable, in Nigeria there appears to be one common factor to all these incidents- a corrupt and redundant bureaucracy. Corruption breeds redunancy and ineptitude in the system, and it is responsible for the moribund, decayed and disinvested national infrastructures. It has overwhelmed the education, health, and power sectors, now it seems it has seized the aviation industry in a deadly hug. As the Nigeria mourns once again and prepares to bury the dead, how many more will die before the nation is rid of this canker worm?



Richard Pryor: Comedy Pioneer Dies

Richard Pryor will be remembered for his jokes and struggles against drug addiction.
He was uneducated, foul-mouthed, controversial, and darn good at what he did- making people laugh.

Aside from being an inspirational point of reference to the burgeoning class of stand-up comedians in America, Richard constantly threw banters at the American consciousness through his often audacious jokes on racial inequalities.

Pryor once marveled: "I live in racist America and I'm uneducated, yet a lot of people love me and like what I do, and I can make a living from it. You can't do much better than that."

He died of heart attack at age 65.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Nigerian Pentecostal Churches & National Revival

Missionary churches as the pioneers of Christian evangelism not only propagated their religion to many parts of Africa, they brought education, built valuable infrastructure, and generally helped developed many regions of the African hinterland. The church and its congregation, as it were in those days, fed off each other in a symbiotic manner that benefited the society as a whole.

There are hardly any community or household in Africa that have not directly or indirectly benefited from those Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, et al missionary pioneers. For instance, I attended a Catholic school for my secondary education in Nigeria just as many other non-Catholics. These missionaries built Old People’s Homes, orphanages, health care centers and hospitals all over Nigeria. Although these steps were initiated many years ago, the structures they erected are still standing, the services they provided then have not ceased, and if not for the some over zealous Nigerian second republic politicians, the humanitarian activities of these missions would have expanded ever further.

What is on ground in modern-day Nigeria is a multitude of indigenous religious outlets or enterprises, as I’d like to call them. Their doctrine seems to be primarily economics. These churches have become experts in social marketing, and it is not uncommon to see hyped-up members of the congregation strive to outshine each other in weekly contributions and pledges made to the church. Revivals on “economic breakthrough” are now the order of the day. Smooth sweet-talking and well-dressed pastors are now popular primetime characters on the mainstream media, some of these Pastors-turned-CEO have even taken their craft a step further by adding a “minimum clause” to the contributions and tithes demanded from their congregation. This is the era of the Pentecostal church- a multi billion Naira (do I hear dollars) enterprise, the bigger and fancier the church, the better. Now, CEO-Pastors often own and travel in fleet of top-of-the line jets, the era of modesty and chastity is over y’all, “bling-bling” rules among the yuppie clergy of the Pentecostal church.

It appears the Pentecostal church is less interested in the community they operate, it doesn’t matter if their evangelistic activities negatively impact the general population, the focus is the size of the church, till, and congregation. Community development or enhancement of any sort is no longer a priority it appears.

Consider this instance:

Some Pentecostal church heavyweights hold monthly revivals along the Lagos-Sagamu expressway- the only dual carriage road that connects the state of Lagos to the Nigerian hinterland. The Behemoth traffic gridlocks that always ensue anytime these revivals occur constitute significant nuisance factor and sometimes safety hazard to motorists.

Do the pastors of these churches realize this?

In December of 2004, I was unfortunate to be traveling on this stretch of highway during one of those revivals- so I know what it feels like to be ensnared on this road among all sorts of contraptions called vehicles. Although it was dark, I was certain that the traffic gridlock stretched for miles in both directions because all vehicles on both sides of the highway have been stationary for hours.

As fate would have it that day, a kerosene tanker, for some unknown reasons started leaking its inflammable content all over the road, just a couple of feet away. There was nowhere to run, it suddenly occurred to me that we could be roasted alive if the unthinkable happened. I and many other motorists did the most reasonable thing- we abandoned our vehicles and moved away from the tanker as far and quickly as humanly possible. I doubt if we would have survived if the tanker carried gasoline (petrol) and not kerosene. The prayers from the revival must have saved us! I still cringed anytime I remember what happened on that night.
Since the government seems unready to fix this traffic problem, it beats me why these churches haven’t designed a long lasting solution to this problem? They have sunk a lot of money into their revival grounds- so relocation is not an option. They have the means and resources to finance the construction of an overpass (flyover bridge) and the necessary frontage road network to divert traffic from this trouble spot, but they have chosen to ignore the problem in a manner typical of the Nigerian mentality.

In the days of the missionary churches, this problem would have been fixed, it may not have even occurred in the first place. The missionaries developed the community and enhanced it better than they met it. The Pentecostal churches on the other hand appear only interested in building edifices and proselytizing.

The Pentecostal church, as any other church, is non-profit and enjoys a tax-exempt status. Has the Nigerian government ever audited the financial records of these churches? I have often wondered how they make use of their funds. Are there some measurable indices that can be used to evaluate the socioeconomic impact of theses churches on Nigerians?

I would like to know the profile and socioeconomic status of students attending the few nascent Pentecostal church-owned universities. How many are from poor families? How many are on scholarships? How many are “non members” of these churches? How many students in Nigeria have benefited from grants and scholarships from these churches? How many social infrastructures these churches have built? Have Pentecostal churches positively influenced the majority of Nigerians as the missionary churches did in those days?

In their quest to save souls and spread the gospel, I hope that the indigenous Pentecostal churches also remember to reach out to underserved Nigerians and marginalized communities as the missionary churches did many years before them- in manners and ways that extend beyond proselytization.



Monday, December 05, 2005

American Students Bail Out Nigerian Law College

"The William Mitchell student chapter of the Minnesota Justice Foundation [USA] has collected, cataloged,and packed more than 8,000 legal texts to re-establish a law library at the Nigerian University of Abuja, Faculty of Law, and as a result saved the law program at the university”, according to an article on the William Mitchell College of Law news web page.

Are you wondering what is going on, and what is the connection between these colleges in Minnesota and Abuja?

Why would the law program in Abuja need saving by some folks in Minnesota?

This is why:

The university of Abuja’s Faculty of Law library has only 250 books for the school’s 3,000 students- a ratio of about 12 students to one book! The Nigerian Council of Legal education decided this was totally unacceptable and summarily rescinded the accreditation of the faculty.

So the law faculty of university of Abuja went soliciting (a.k.a begging) for assistance. Thank goodness there are people like Hauwa Ibrahim, a part-time law professor at the Abuja law faculty, who was able to make the necessary connection with the Minnesota college of law. As I understand, the books will be shipped to Nigeria and Abuja before Christmas.

I doff my hat to Hauwa and those good-hearted folks in Minnesota for saving the future of some of my Nigerian kindred.

Thank you!

Hauwa by the way, is the first female lawyer from northern Nigeria, she won the European Parliament’s top human rights award- the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2005. Hauwa represented Amina Lawal- the Muslim woman sentenced to death by stoning by a Sharia court in northern Nigeria for having had a child while divorced.

It appears it is going to be a sweet Christmas for the law students at University of Abuja.

So, what it required was 8,000 law books plus shipping cost and some able bodied, good intentioned souls to revive a dying law school in Nigeria? Not much, just the right dose of emphathy.

Does it then mean that there are no deep-pocketed, or groups of concerned and empathic Nigerians that can bail out the Abuja law faculty?

By the way, the University of Abuja is located within the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria and as close as it is to the Nigerian seat of power; the ears that heard and responded to their cries of help were thousands of miles away, in a land of different tongue and tradition.

Something is definitely not right.

See: Nigerian Universities: Built for Eggheads, Manned by Morons



Sunday, December 04, 2005

Nigerians Need to Act or Shut Up!

Nigeria is about to witness another round of elections in 2007. Even if the political horizon remains foggy due to reverberations of third term (instead of two as the constitution dictates at present), it is crucial to learn from the past. Someone once told me that the reason Nigeria is where it is today is because Nigerians are ignorant of history. This is not totally true; the issue is that we have refused to learn from our past, and if we have, we are yet to devise practical means of avoiding the mistakes of the past.

Vagabonds in Power

Nigerians including my humble self are darn good critics, but unfortunately our rants hardly get transformed into actions. A good example is the current political nonsense unfolding in Nigeria, despite the outcry from all corners of Nigeria and the world it appears those with the powers to act not listening or ready to take action. From all the three levels of government, tales of political indiscipline and executive abuse of power abound. One can see by their actions and statements that Nigerian elected officials are confused, inexperienced, egomaniac, kleptomaniac, intellectually comatose and a slightly better grade of the Nigerian area boys (street urchins and social miscreants), or the various permutations of the these characteristics.

Isn’t it amazing how these characters got elected? Oh yeah, I forget they stole their way into office by stuffing the ballot boxes! That is how. So if they actually did that, then why do Nigerians always cry to high heavens whenever these politicians and elected officials entertain us to some drama or show their gangster-like attributes? This, I’m yet to find an answer to. So let us all cry series and series of cries some more even if we and these politicians know its all going to achieve nothing. And just like an automation, the same thing will repeat itself over and over again.

Are Nigerians Resilient or Apathetic?

Nigerians have been described as resilient and pliant; I feel gullible and apathetic will be terms that aptly describe how we are. How can we expect politicians whose agents stuffed ballot boxes, and blatantly used all forms of inducement and terror tactics deliver the true dividends of democracy? Yet, this is our expectation. How gullible! If the Politicians show some persistence despite our grumbling and ranting, then we go into a state of apathy- a state some have inaccurately termed resiliency.

Democracy or any electoral process requires some level of civic responsibilities from the masses. This meaning of civic responsibility is lost to many Nigerians, it is totally erased from our collective memories. While I cannot state decisively that it ever existed, I’m inclined to believe that it must have existed sometime in our collective memories given our rich political history during the first republic. What led to the arrested development of this much needed attribute is a matter for another post.

This is not a lecture on civic responsibility, but for the purpose of this post it suffices to state that the meaning of civic responsibility goes beyond mere casting of votes. It is important to vote, there is no question about that, we also have to realize that civic responsibility is a process that start way before the ballot.

Democracy and Civic Responsibility

Majority of Nigerians do not get to know the candidates they vote for. They do not care to ask meaningful questions about their agenda. During the last campaign, many of the manifestos (of candidates that had one) were not only lousy, one could easily discern the shallowness and lack of seriousness of the candidates. If we were alert and civically responsible, we should have seen the red flags there and then. We voted for them all the same it seemed, or the ballot boxes were stuffed as we later found out.

It can be argued that the common man on the street is too impoverished to care about the intricacies of civic responsibility, okay fine, I can grudgingly live with that excuse, but what about those higher on the social ladder- the students, teachers, civil servants, professionals, business people, retirees, opinion leaders, traditional chiefs, and so forth? They need to pay more attention to the campaign and electoral processes.

Nigerians need to step up to the plate in unison and discard the cloak of apathy that we have worn for so long. We need to engage and challenge the party candidates at every opportunity. We need to not only ensure that our siblings, neighbors, and associates register and vote on the election day, we must also mount vigil at the ballot centers to ensure that no fishy dealings occur afterwards. It is our neighbors that stuff these ballot boxes, they are human not extra-terrestrial beings. Since we know them we can stop them for messing with future.

Regardless of the genetic mutation or whatever it is that deleted the meanings of civic responsibility from our collective memories, it is crucial that we reformat our minds and relearn the process before 2007. This present political dispensation is done, tired and about to be retired. The errors, accidents and calamities that have happened or yet to happen can be avoided in the next dispensation. It is grossly inadequate to only highlight the imperfections in our political system without take steps to avoid them by being more proactive and civically responsible.

We Need to Exercise Our Rights

Nigeria is ours and we need to exercise our rights and powers to the extent permissible by the constitution. If we really have the desire to live our lives in Nigeria by design and not from crisis to crisis, then we will find practical ways to prevent thugs and thieves from getting into office, and we can do this right from the ward and local government levels up to the gubernatorial and presidential levels. This is the only thing we can do for ourselves, and perhaps the only legacy we can pass on to the future generation of Nigerians.



Saturday, December 03, 2005

Street Light Thieves & Metal Scavengers

Some undesirable elements in the city of Baltimore have been exhibiting some Nigerian-like attributes lately. What would one call the actions of some residents that have been stealing street lights, yes, street aluminum poles and the light fixtures on them? According to the Yahoo!, “about 130 aluminum light poles have vanished this fall [in the last 2-3 months] from locations across the city, despite the difficulty of carting off the 250-pound objects.”

Just in case you were wondering, vandalism and thefts of steet lights, and aluminum poles and railings are common occurrence in Nigeria, but the U.S modus operandi is slightly more sophisticated than that in Nigeria. The report states that the culprits usually dress dressed up as utility crews, “…and placed orange traffic cones around the poles they are about to take down to avoid making motorists suspicious. Police have no suspects in the thefts”

The audacity of these thefts has left residents, law enforcement and city officials baffled. The aluminum poles are usually sold off as scrap at about 35 cents a pound.

This act of vandalism is not limited to Baltimore, it has occurred in New York City too, although theirs is different and much more outrageous! A couple of people have been arrested for prying off pieces of the historic Brooklyn Bridge and selling them as scraps.

The cities of Baltimore and New York have one of the highest densities of Nigerians, and as it can be expected, sprinkled among this mass are some bad Nigerian elements. Is it a wild assumption to suggest that perhaps these street light thieves and metal scavengers have learnt one or two lessons from our good-for-nothing Nigerian country-men in these cities?

Not impposible, but I won't be surprised if they are associates of Alamieyeseigha, the Nigerian king-pin of common thieves.


The Burden of Blessing

Life can be one heck of a conundrum- an unrelenting puzzle of paradoxical events and circumstances often juxtaposed and intertwined in the most bizarre manner.

The picture above (courtesy of Sam Olusegun of Nigerian Guardian Newspaper) depicts a mother with her quadruplet sons supposedly begging for alms at one of the markets in Lagos, Nigeria.

Must Nigerians (or anyone for the matter) beg for alms and endure incessant humiliation because nature has been too good to them?

Unfortunately instances like this are not uncommon in Nigeria- proof that the nation needs to create social and economic safety nets for its teeming vulnerable citizens.