Tuesday, February 28, 2006

General Obasanjo: Nigeria's First Life President

“Everything I do now is to protect Nigeria’s interest, and if that will cost me my life, so be it.”-President Obasanjo

ThisDay, a Nigerian newspaper, writes about the President's statement that "the it had become necessary for his administration to ensure the consolidation of the gains of his economic reforms by recruiting a crop of Nigerians that would sustain them for at least 15 years."

I wonder why the president is just asking for another 4 years, why not go all the way and become Nigeria’s “Life President”.

He deserves it after all, he’s the only Nigerian that has been head of state twice, and being the smartest Nigerian alive; he‘s been able to proffer practical solutions to the Nigerian issue and problems. Besides, he’s willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, lose his life for Nigeria.

What a man!



Friday, February 24, 2006

Nigerian Banking Consolidation: Matters Arising

The consolidation of the Nigerian banks initiated last year has been achieved. The initiative required commercial banks to raise their capital base to 25 billion Naira. At the end, of the initial 89 original banks, 25 bigger and supposedly better banks emerged. Eighteen banks didn't "make cut" and have since been liquidated.

What is the fate of the depositors in the so-called "failed banks"- the banks that didn't make the cut: What becomes of the funds trapped in these banks?

Many "good things have been said" about the consolidation initiative, primarily about how it will strengthen the Nigerian economy particularly the banking and financial sectors, and ex cetera.

Back to the question, who pays the depositors? Traditionally depositors are insured up to an xxxx amount of Naira.

Would this law apply to depositors under this circumstance?

What steps has the Central Bank, the apex and regulating bank in Nigeria, taken to ease the pain of depositors whose money is now locked up in the failed banks?



Cleaning Oil Spills with Old Water Sachets...

-- a Nigerian chemical engineer.

Tucked away in a Nigerian newspaper, The BusinessDay, is an article on a research that states materials developed from used water sachets (used "pure water" sachets, using the local palance) can be usewd to absorb spilled crude oil in large quantities.

"The materials in form of wafers, granules or powder and packaged in pillow-like forms could be used to absorb the oil spill. The materials can then be removed hours later to another location where the crude oil is squeezed out of them. The oil can still be recovered, and the 'oil-sorbing' material is reusable."
The inventor, Professor Sulyman Abdulkareem, a chemical engineer at University of Ilorin states the materials can absorb as much as 100,000 gallons spilled oil.

If this is indeed true, then its a major discovery given the frequent oil spills in the oil-rich Niger-Delta. Oil spills have led to serious environmental pollution and degradation in this region.

Oil spillage and the various consequences of oil exploration have been widely discussed in the Nigerian blogoshere. About a decade back, the renowned playright, author and an indigene of the Niger-Delta, Ken Saro Wiwa and eight other activists were executed by the government of Gen Abacha for campaigning against the devastation of the Niger Delta.

Just today, a Nigerian Federal High Court upheld an earlier fine on Shell, the Anglo-Dutch oil company and a major player in the delta, to pay $1.5 billion (£859m) compensation to the Ijaw people of the Bayelsa region for environmental damages.

"The Ijaw were first made the award in 2000 for environmental damage to their homeland in the Niger Delta through Shell’s oil exploration. Shell refused to pay and has since been targeted by Ijaw militants who have attacked the company’s facilities in Nigeria and are currently holding nine foreign oil workers hostage."--London Times.

Read more about environmental degradation and oil exploration in the Niger-Delta at Grandiose Parlor, and these Blogs: Black Looks, and Chippla's Weblog.



Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Prez Obasanjo on to a 3rd Term?

The Nigerian President is hell-bent on going for a third term. Despite the sectarian violence and the anarchy in the Niger-Delta, the Nigerian Constitutional Committee, the machinery that would enable President Obasanjo's third term, is already in motion.
"...The Nigerian Constitutional Committee (I’m not sure if this is a committee set up by the government) deemed it wise to commence public hearings on constitutional reforms in Nigeria this week...These hearings are purportedly to gather opinion on many proposed changes to the 1999 constitution, but high on the list is the number of terms the President and the 36 state governors should serve...Whatever the ulterior motive of these hearings, the timing shows a serious disconnect between the government and the governed."--EthnicLoft



Monday, February 20, 2006

Naija Blogo-drama!

Why is it tough for many earthlings to handle criticism? President Obasanjo, Nigeria's enfant-terrible, is a poster child for this trait. He will shout, rant and curse you-out if you share and dare voice out a divergent view to his.

Many Nigerians are like that, and the Nigerian Blogosphere is fast getting highly intolerant of disseting views, and some Nigerian bloggers are quick to forget that after all this blogging business should primarily be fun, and nobody is the ultimate and perfect repository of knowledge. Why can't we all live to share and learn from each other?

Check out Jeremy's post on titled: "Its 2006 abroad, but 1956 in Nigeria" and the comments it has generated. As I write, there're 30 comments, and counting!

If you have ever been to NaijaBlog where Jeremy does his stuff, you would have noted his likeness for "words", he simply plays with words, well, I'm not surprised, afterall he's an Oyinbo man, even if he calls himself a "English/Yoruba Hybrid".

So when he literally tore apart a statement credited to a well-liked social advocate, he drew blood. And using Fela's lingo it's been "scatter-scatter" even since. An exercise in simple semantics has turned frivolous and nasty.

Jeremy's post was an excellent opportunity to discuss issues relating to domestic violence in Nigerian women, unfortunately the post didn't have a chance- it suffered a still birth, courtesy of some hot heads, so of whom are well-known for their irritating and often misguided opinions. But that is their perogative, as long as they keep it within the confines of their urls and domains.

I shall continue with the other tale at a later date, which is along the same theme but extremely chauvinistic in nature. A man must have style and be cultured regardless of the circumstance my father thought me. This major-domo of the Nigerian blogosphere lacks these traits. And I'm not surprised.

To be continued.



Multiparty Elections in Uganda

Come Thursday, February 23, Ugandans will get to elect a new President and Members of Parliament. Despite the myriad of controversies this election has generated, it still bears some relevance and speaks to the hocus pocus in Nigerian political arena.

As I wrote last year November, "President Obasanjo administration has less than 2 years to go, yet the political terrain is still murky and it is unclear whom the likely successors would be" this is because there is a strong push for an unconstitutional third term, which the Nigerian President has yet to fully deny.

Here are some interesting facts in the upcoming elections in Uganda:

Dr Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change will be on the ballot despite his ordeal at the hands of the ruling party government of Yoweri Museveni. Kizza has had to contend with numerous legal issues stemming from the charges of treason, terrorism and rape leveled against him by the government. It is interesting to note that a poll showed Dr Besigye leading over Yoweri Museveni in three of the country's five regions.
"The run-up to the presidential elections has been dominated by protracted legal proceedings, and at one point it looked possible that he might be disqualified from standing - or even in prison on polling day. But although not yet cleared of all charges, Dr Besigye is still in the running."-- BBC.
This election is also the first multiparty elections since 1980, and features an exceptionally high numbers of independent candidates. These are encouraging given the notion that a multiparty system encourages sectarian violence. The fact is violence has been kept to a minimal in Uganda.

"A strong opposition is healthy for the thriving of democracy...One of the remarkable things about these elections is the large number of independents. It is not surprising that there have been a big number of independents at all levels. In a way this is the direct consequence of the ‘individual merit’ system that has been in place for the past two decades." --The New Vision
I hope elections go well in Uganda. I also hope that President Obasanjo of Nigeria is watching the events there. It's about a year to the next election in Nigeria, yet there aren't any signs of a viable opposition to the People's Democratic Party, the ruling party in Nigeria, the party of President Obasanjo. To even think of independent candidates/parties at this stage is a pure fantasy.

All eyes are on Nigeria and we'll all get to see what's in Obasanjo's bag of hocus pocus.



Saturday, February 18, 2006

Nigerians Kill Each Other Over Cartoons!

I wasn't sure I saw seeing right when I saw this, it's amazing and troubling what religious fanatism can do:
"At least 16 people have been killed in northern Nigeria in violent protests over by Muslims over the cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Eleven churches were burned during the riots in Maiduguri, the capital of the north-eastern state of Borno", states the BBC.
Shame on the Muslims in Borno State, shame on those who have contributed to this frenzy. I can only imagine what these bigots would've done if the cartoons were published in the Nigerian press... This is appalling...Burning killing people because of something that happened in some foreign land. Islam is at its lowest erb!

These jobless mullahs and their clerics have shown that the admixture of religious bigotry and ignorance is the most potent vehicle of destruction ever! And no thanks to some super-dumb cartoonists. As I learn't there's a $1 million bounty for their heads! Courtesy of a Pakistani cleric.

Shame! Shame!! Shame!!!



Friday, February 17, 2006

Beyond Firefighting in the Niger-Delta

It appears the Nigerian government may have commenced on a military campaign against the militia operating in the oil-rich Niger-Delta region of the country. The Nigerian Times, CyBlug and Chippla's Weblog all have postings describing and discussing the conflict that occurred earlier this week.

Responding to Nigerian Times' post caption: "Fire Cannot Put Out Fire", of course fire can be used to fight fire. Seasoned firefighters routinely use the "backburn" technique - to suppress large wildfires, and the salvo of attack on militia-dominated regions is analogous to using this technique, which in experienced hands is quite effective but can easily get out of hand if not done right.

The Niger-Delta militia stands no chance against the military might of the federal government. The fact is "waging and winning a military campaign" against some rag-tag bunch of inexperienced locals is not an achievement any serious-minded nation should be proud of.

History has shown that it's the ordinary civilians that suffer the most during these conflicts, thus the government offensive is necessary and well in order as long as the targets are the militia. Beside, there is need to maintain law and order, as well as ensure adequate security for the billions of investments in the delta.

Back to the fire analogy- ideally there is life after a fire disaster; the norm is to rebuild after devastation. Can the Nigerian government "rebuild after the firefight"?
"Oil has been the bane of several things in Nigeria. It played a role in the country’s civil war of 1967-1970. But it also had its positives—bringing in much needed foreign exchange that was used to build modern infrastructure in Lagos and other cities in the 1970s, among others. While some Nigerians benefited from oil, those who lived on the (rural) land from which the oil was being extracted saw practically no change in their primitive lifestyles since oil was discovered."-- Dr. Chippla Vandu, Chippla's Weblog.
I pray the policy makers in Abuja see the sense in this. It is just shameful and unacceptable that the Niger-Delta is one of the most underdeveloped regions in Nigeria. Given the millions of barrels of crude oil sucked out of this area since the last 4-5 decades, it has little or nothing to show for being the "national power house". It is just shameful and unacceptable that the the Niger-Delta is one of the most underdeveloped regions in Nigeria.

The level of poverty, environmental degradation, and dearth of development in the region is an indication that just firefighting, has it's been done now, and in the past, will not work. The Niger-Delta deserves to be developed, in fact it MUST be developed.

Photo: ODIOMA, NIGERIA. A villager walks through the ruins of the southern Nigerian community of Odioma, a fishing and trading centre, and a historic centre for the Ijaw people in the oil-rich Niger Delta. It was burned to the ground on 19 February 2005 by government troops hunting a local militia leader accused of ordering the murder of 12 people from a neighbouring village during a dispute over the ownership of the proposed site for a new oil well. DAVE CLARK/AFP/Getty Images /



Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Coach Steve Keshi: No World Cup Fiesta

"FORMER [Nigerian] Green Eagles captain Chief Segun Odegbami has chided the Togolese Football Federation (TFF) for sacking Coach Stephen Keshi as the country's national team coach. The Togolese football authority yesterday announced the termination of Keshi's appointment for what it described as irreconcilable differences between him and key players of the national team, the Hawks."-- Daily Champion, a Nigerian newspaper.

I empathize with Mr Keshi, getting the Togolese to qualify for the World cup is a huge achievement, and it appears he won't be there to guide the team through the tournament. The woefully display of the Togolese team in the just concluded African Nations, however, is a dark shadow that seem to have totally obliterated Mr Keshi's earlier feat. I wonder what went wrong?

BTW what makes it Chief Odegbami's job to chide the TFF? I didn't realize he's now Mr Keshi's manager.



May the Avian [Flu] Virus (H5N1) not Mutate- Amen!

Ever since the Avian flu started ravaging some Asian countries in 2003, I've been wondering how Nigerian authorities will handle the menace when it arrives in the country. Some projection showed then that its just a matter of months for the virus to find its way into the Nigerian stock of birds.

That time came last week, or sometime before then (since nobody knows for sure when the virus arrived)- the first cases of the bird flu were confirmed in northern Nigeria. The H5N1, a highly pathogethenic strain of the avian flu virus has arrived.

Having the virus in the nation is no big deal; how the virus is handled is the big deal, and it appears the authorities in Nigeria have yet to get a good handle on the problem.

"Panic selling of birds infected with bird flu has helped spread the H5N1 virus in Nigeria", states the Reuters. And I'm not surprised and neither should anybody familiar with Nigeria. There aren’t clear modalities for compensation, and that is the only way owners of infected chicken will be more inclined to destroy their stock.

I have also seen pictures of people disposing infected chicken wearing just face masks. No gloves, or any protective clothing what-so-ever. This is disturbing, is just like playing Russian Roulette with ones live.

At the moment, the only way humans can get infected is through birds. The greatest concern is a genetic mutation of some sort that will permit person-to-person transmission which could then lead to a global pandemic that kills millions of people.

Going the rapid spread of the virus in Nigeria and the lackadaisical government intervention, one can only pray for some divine intervention that will minimize the transmission of the virus to humans and prevent the much dreaded genetic mutation.

This is one prayer we can’t take lightly.



Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Malawian Former Minister Jailed 5 years for Stealing $1,500

I’m sure the former Malawian education Minister, Mr Yusuf Mwawa, would have wished he was a Nigerian. He has been sentenced to five years in jail for fraud and corruption because he used $1,500 of public funds to pay expenses for his wedding at a hotel in Blantyre. --BBC

Tafa Balogun, the former Nigerian Police Chief has just finished a 6-month jail sentence for stealing about $100 million from the coffers of the Nigerian Police force.

Poor Yusuf, he recently in prison following a bout of hypertension and diabetes. He will also have to forfeit the seat he won in the paliament.

Mr Mwawa, you're simply living in the wrong country, revoke your nationality and become a Nigerian, please!



Monday, February 13, 2006

Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti Passes On

Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti, one of Nigeria's foremost political and social activist died during the weekend from complications of cancer of the lungs. He was 65. Beko was a younger brother to the late afrobeat musician Fela Kuti.

He was jailed, along with others, by late General Sani Abacha for a 'cooked-up" charge of treason in 1995.

Beko was raised in a family known for their passion for social activism. His parents Rev. Israel Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, an educationalist and the patriarch of the Kuti family, and Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti were involved in the campaign for human rights in pre-independence Nigeria. His father formed the Nigerian teachers Union while his mother organized Nigerian women to fight for their right to vote and be voted for.

Dr Beko founded the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, a very vocal and prominent anti-government organization during General Ibrahim Babagida's regime. Being physician, he was a very active member of the Nigerian Medical Association. His last years were spent organizing a sovereign national conference to address some of the nagging constitutional issues in Nigeria.



Friday, February 10, 2006

[When] Political Parties Abet Corruption

Ahamefula Ogbu of Nigerian ThisDay writes:
“Governor Joshua Dariye of Plateau State opened a can of worms, revealing how a N1.6 billion Ecological Fund meant for the state was, on the directive of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), spent on the 2003 campaign of President Olusegun Obasanjo…
Giving the breakdown, the governor said the beneficiaries of the fund included the Deputy Senate President, Alhaji Ibrahim Mantu, who, he alleged, got N10 million; the PDP South-west (N100million); PDP South (N100 million) and Plateau State (N800 million).”
Does this allegation hold water? Should it be regarded as the last futile attempt from a drowning man?

This allegation merits further investigation because the use of state funds to bankroll elections and political campaigns is not a new phenomenon in Nigeria. In fact, monies spent in this manner account for a substantial proportion of “diverted state money”- money that should have been used to improve the lot of Nigerians.
All state and local governments in Nigerian have a pool of funds tagged “Security Fund”; have you ever wondered how these monies are spent, especially during an election year? Have you ever wondered what the term: “Power of Incumbency” really means? If you assume is it means the ability of the incumbent to spend state money on political endeavors you are not wrong.
If the investigation is done thoroughly, which is very unlikely, it will be impossible for the political heavyweights at all arms of government in Nigeria to escape indictment. And that means a multitude of politicians from Aso rock big-wigs to the barons at local governments!

Dariye did jump bail and “ran home” after being arrested for money laundering by the UK police in 2004. Since then he’s been engaged in a series of battle with the Nigerian anti-fraud unit- the EFCC. This allegation is the latest in the series of drama and innuendos that have characterized the case.

Unlike many western nations, there are no laws guiding political campaign/election financing in Nigeria, and if there are such laws, they've never been enforced.



Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Flag Burning Ceremony at Kano's State Assembly...

"Nigerian MPs [Members of the Parliament / members of House of Assembly ] cheered in the northern majority Muslim state of Kano as Danish and Norwegian flags were burned in a ceremony in the parliament premises.

"The flags were torched to show disapproval of the publication in Denmark and Norway of cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad. Earlier Kano state MPs passed a resolution to call off multi-million dollar trade negotiations with Denmark." --BBC

The State House of Assembly has turned into The Theatre of the Absurd! One wonders if these MPs have anything better to do with their time? And who stands to benefit more from thes trade that's been called off- Kano or Denmark?

From religious bigots to idiotic newspaper editors; many have lost their senses and really getting high on this religious opium...really fast. How's it going to end I ask?



A Bridge in 60 days

Thirty men working for 60 work days; 150 tons of excavation; 175 tons of concrete; 47 tons of timber; and 6 tons of steel pipe was what it took to build the Eze River bridge in the Anambra state village of Ozubulu.

The bridge was totally hand-built by Dr Stong, a retired engineer, and the men and women of the Ozubulu village.

The bridge is 264 feet long and can carry a 3-ton vehicle. The most amazing fact is the construction was done without any heavy equipment! The only mechanized assistance came from a Chinese-made bulldozer used to grade the access road to the bridge.

As I wrote last October on Grandiose Parlor, the major financier of the project is the Worldwide Organization of Women based n Utah, USA. Dr Stong is an American engineer that does volunteer work in many developing countries. In addition to working free-of-charge on this project, he also donated some cash to the project.

He says of his experience in Nigeria:
“For many reasons this has been a very good project to show how the people themselves can get up and do for themselves when it is obvious the government will not or can not do what they wish for a better life. Here is a marvelous bridge birthed in a jungle across a muddy river and swamp. Just as easy it could have been a school, a clinic, a library, a community palm oil processing plant, a cassava starch extraction plant, a maze of fish raising ponds, a complex of chicken houses.”
Dr Stong had to leave for the United States before the bridge was fully completed, but he’s full of confidence that the men he left behind in Ozubulu will finish the project.
“Due to the bridge timber taking 6 weeks to be delivered instead of the planned 10 days, we went from ahead of schedule after the first 30 days to behind schedule by the 45th day on the bridge. Thus when it came time for me to leave, all concrete foundations and abutments had been placed and the roads to each end of the bridge developed, and we had placed all the timber for the deck we had which covered about 7 of the 20 spans with the basic transom beams (crosswise), longitudinal beams (under the wheels of the trucks), and deck planks. We needed to add the 3 railings, tread way and the 6x6 bumper planks. All that remained to be done was essentially mastered by the men, but that had to wait for the rest of the timber at the time I had to depart.”
Imagine this happening in every local government areas of Nigeria!

There are more pictures on Flickr, or start at the side bar flickr.

PS: Dr Stong will be leaving for Mexico by the end of February to supervise the building of a rural water supply system.



Thursday, February 02, 2006

Removal of Cotton Subsidy is not Enough

Yebo Gogo blog reports the removal of government subsidy for cotton farmers in the United States, calling it a “fair share for Africa". He states "West Africa should be affected the most -- the rocky, sandy soil of the Sahel is best suited for cotton...”

I agree this is good news for Africa and hopefully the development would bring better tidings to the cotton farmers in Nigeria, however, the removal of cotton subsidy by US government will not necessarily translate to more money for cotton farmers in Nigeria.

If cotton farmers continue to use antiquated farming methods, produce low quality cotton, and lack government assistance, the removal of these subsidy will be meaningless. At present, Nigerian cotton is of a poorer grade compared to the neighboring francophone states mainly because of high “thrash content”. To manufacture finer products, Nigerian texile industries commonly import better quality cotton from these countries and blend with home-grown stocks.
In general, production of cotton in West African is far below other regions. "During the past decade, average yields in West Africa have remained flat, while the average across all other countries has increased by 150 pounds per acre,” states the West Farm Press

“...Potential for growth is not determined by the U.S. cotton program, but, instead, will depend on whether or not they can address a number of internal issues related to their production, ginning and distribution systems.”
More recent data on lint production in Nigeria is unavailable, however, the projection for 2003/2004 was 100,000 metric tons. Clearly, there is a lot of room for growth; “100 kilo metric ton is nothing” given the perfect climate and the huge expanse of arable land appropriate for cotton cultivation in Nigeria and West Africa.



Dog Food for Kenyan Kids?

"Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper said Christine Drummond of the Mighty Mix company in New Zealand had offered to send dog food powder to hungry children in western Kenya.

"The information appeared to be coming from a New Zealand newspaper, which said Drummond had been moved to make a donation of 6,000 emergency packs of dog food mixture after the daughter of a friend visited the drought-hit country."- Reuters

Africa may be a basket-case and the "Dark Continent", and it is unfortunate and tough to accept the fact that our leaders have failed us. But when an as***ole, who has just emerged from the hole he calls home decides the best he can do for a starving child is feed him "dog food", that just breaks my soul, and it leaves me speechless...for a second. He'd better stay in his hole and not come out!



Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Plays Rough!

It appears Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf means business in Liberia:
"Liberia's new President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has sacked the entire staff of the finance ministry as part of her anti-corruption drive." --BBC.
The Liberian president states, "they [the sacked workers] would all have to reapply for their jobs and those who were successful would be given extra training to improve their skills."

Just what President Obasanjo of Nigeria needs to do to many of the government agencies in his country. Does he have the guts to do this? After 7 years of mucky policies, it's obvious he lacks this initiative.



Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Okada Business in Paris

I read an article titled: "Two-Wheel Taxis Tap Upscale Market in Paris"
in the Startup Journal. Here is an extract:
"As a tourist in Thailand and the Dominican Republic, Cyril Masson hopped on unlicensed motorcycle taxis to get around. Back home, the 33-year-old Parisian and two friends hit on a business idea that some might consider just as crazy: running a two-wheel-taxi operation in one of the world's most genteel cities...

Today Citybird [the name of the okada business] has around 2,500 clients and adds more than 150 each month, Mr. Masson says. Its bikes total around 70 trips each day.

Down the road, Mr. Masson figures Citybird and its growing field of smaller rivals could equal around 4% of the total Paris taxi market. He wants to maintain Citybird's 50% share of the taxi-bike market. "In a few years we could have 200 motor scooters," he predicts."

Via The Wall Street Journal Online. Author: Daniel Michael.


Argument: There is nothing bad in Okada afterall. "Even oyinbo man dey do okada and dem dey ride am well-well"

The Counter-argument: The white-man (oyinbo) has other means of transportation, better roads, and obey traffic laws (at least more than they do in Nigeria). He wears helmets also- most of the time.