Thursday, March 30, 2006

Nigeria: When a Political Party (the PDP) Crosses the Line

I read with dismay the newspaper coverage of the meeting between the top hierarchy of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), President Obasanjo’s political party (the ruling party in Nigeria) and Senators from that party.
“Top officers of the Peoples Democratic Party rose from a four-hour meeting with senators elected on the party’s platform on Wednesday, with a warning that senators opposed to extended tenure for President Olusegun Obasanjo were free to leave the party.”—Punch.
This is an unnecessary meddling of the PDP in the affairs of the legislature. Yes, the Senators were voted in on the platforms of the parties, but must the party control the soul and conscience of its members? Where is the line between party affairs and legislative matters? Does this party, the PDP, know when it has crossed the line? Who will call it to order?

It is expected and permissible that a political party should be able to exert some but limited influence on its members, particularly on issues relating to the core principles and doctrines of the party; however, its utterly unacceptable for the party to mandate its members in the legislature to act in ways that may contravene the very constitution they have sworn to upheld.

The extension of the terms of office for elected officials, as it’s being clamored and orchestrated is one instance that contravenes the Nigerian constitution, and for a political party, the PDP, to mandate its members in the national assembly to support this agenda is unethical and in fact treasonable. The political parties have no business whatsoever manipulating the legislators; it is a rape of democracy that defeats the purpose of the institution.

News agencies also report that the PDP top hierarchy states: “security would be tightened at the National Assembly; the gallery will be cleared and access will be granted only to governors, party officials and those accredited from the Presidency”. This is absurd!

Again what business does a party have in meddling in the internal dealings of the national (or state) assembly? Where in the world does a political party start advocating for- and controlling the protocol in- the legislature?

To suggest that the Presidency determines who have access to the gallery of the national assembly is a reflection of the ignorance and shallow-mindedness of the big guns of the PDP.

Who would grant access to advocacy groups, or general members of the public and the electorate that gave the legislators their mandates in the first instance, or anyone that have genuine reasons to attend the assembly sessions? The Presidency?

Nigeria is in serious trouble, if this is what democracy has turned to in the country. The undue interference and influence of the parties, particularly the PDP, in matters in which it has no business is very unsettling and will only lead to the collapse of the democratic institutions in Nigeria.



Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Charles Taylor Caught Traveling in a Land Rover with Diplomatic Plate Number

It's on record that the Liberia's new president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, said in an interview with The New York Times before her inauguration in January that "Mr. Taylor's fate was a relatively low priority, given the myriad problems facing Liberia and the fragility of the peace there."

The reason for the sudden change of heart is puzzling. Some have suggested that the Ms Johnson may have been pressured by Washington to prosecute Taylor or the US will "withhold aid to Liberia if she did not act". So she asked Nigeria to hand Mr. Taylor over, and Nigeria agreed.

On the realization this he (Taylor) fled and almost made it out of Nigeria. Almost.

Charles Taylor has been captured. He was traveling in a Land Rover with diplomatic plates as he attempted to slip out of Nigeria into Cameroun.



Monday, March 27, 2006

Nigerian Politics: Starting from the Bottom- the Local Government Areas

Check this out:

A "Nigerian-born British Policeman, Chukwudum Ikeazor, has thrown his hat into the ring, and declared his intention to run for next year's Presidential election in his country of birth...Although not affiliated to any political party as at now, the former Mobile Policeman and law graduate is hoping that any party or group that is 'genuinely seeking to lead Nigerians out of the present and endemic quagmire of misrule, mismanagement and corruption, will quickly sign him on.'"-- This is an excerpt from Tunde Oyedoyin's article in the Sunday edition of the [Nigerian] Guardian.

There are many Nigerians like Mr Ikeazor. Rather than seeing Mr Ikeazor's move as a mere publicity stunt- even if there is overwhelming evidence that it is- I see it as one of the anomalies of the Nigerian psyche: we all want to start from the top of the leader. Even when we can hardly crawl, we want to not climb the ladder but sit at the very top!

Nigeria has lost many sound-minds to this anomaly. The last presidential elections featured some of the best minds in the country: Olu Falae, Gani Fawehinmi and Kris Okotie to mention a few.

Some in the race could have won the gubernatorial elections in their states and many- the senatorial or the local government chairman seats. Many would have found the last option particularly quite distasteful and very belittling. However, the truth is that the local government areas present excellent opportunities for those passionate to serve and effect paradigm shifts in the nation. But it's often the most ignored because it's the least attractive!

Any serious neophytic politician worth his salt and genuinely ready to serve can't ignored the grassroots, in fact he or she must be willing to start from one of the low-laying rungs on the political leader.

Politics is serving the public, so if the form of government closest to the public are the local governments why are they being shunned? I'm sure Mr Chukwudum Ikeazor would make a good chairman of his local government area. What do you think?



Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Niger Delta Actors

Mr Ibori the Governor of Delta state (one of the oil-producing states in Nigeria) made this statement (below) while receiving five Ministers from the Niger Delta who paid him a solidarity visit over the problem in the Niger-Delta region.
“…He is handicapped by the refusal of Niger Delta militants to release the three hostages they are holding in the creeks, pointing out that unless they are freed, he will not have the strength to continue with the struggle.

“In fact, he (Obasanjo) understands it very well. He knows what needs to be done. He is prepared to assist us in doing this but we cannot do it except these hostages are released. That is the point I have been making.”
When a Non-Nigerian reads this statement, what would he/she think of the efforts of the Nigerian government in resolving the conflict in the Niger-Delta?

Who among these men (the delta state governor included) has done all they can in effecting positive changes in their land?

Mr Ibori speaks of “struggles”, what struggle is this? Yes, he is one of the Governors wanting more allocation from the federal government, and this is fine, but isn't it rather silly to call for more funds when he and his cronies in other oil-producing states can't account for funds they have received for the past 7 years?

His struggle is definitely not the Niger-Delta struggle. One needs to read this article on Elendu Reports: Ibori in Oil Deals? (October 20, 2005) to understand him and the caliber of many other people claiming to be “leaders” or “part of the Niger Delta struggle”.



Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Census 2006: Another Nigerian Spectacle?

Despite four censuses in the past, the much awaited and keenly debated 2006 census commenced under a cloud of apathy, apprehension and acrimony. The widespread confusion and pockets of violence in some regions as reported by the various news agencies and in the Nigerian blogosphere makes me wonder if Nigeria has what it takes to exist as a progressive nation.

Would it be too early to predict a lousy result given what is unfolding in the country?

No, I don’t think so; events reported so far point to the same conclusions: lousy planning, irrational decisions and shoddy execution.

I wonder if the Nigerian Population Commission, the agency in charge of conducting the census, is even capable to doing a thorough job if it can’t decide “when and how long” restriction of movement should be.
“First, we were told to stay at home Tues-Sat. Then, the President stepped in and said we only have to be grounded Fri and Sat. Meanwhile, Lagos State had already decreed that everyone must stay home for the whole 5 days, as originally planned…”,reports Jeremy, a blogger residing in the Nigerian capital city of Abuja.
To have thought of enforcing restriction between 8:00AM and 4:00 PM for 5 days is absurd and irrational!
“I know quite a few people who did leave their state of residence (despite numerous directives by the government not to do so) to spend the census 'holiday' in their states of origin”, -- Oro, another Nigerian blogger.
Isn’t this sort of transition between “states of residence” and “states of orgin” defeating the purpose of a census?

The 2006 census appears to be doomed before it even started because of the threat of boycott following the exclusion of ethnicity and religion questions from the survey. These are important but not critical variables, and in my opnion doesn’t warrant the call for boycott as I stated in an earlier post:

The widespread logistical mess unfolding is a painful rendition of what is wrong with Nigeria. According to the Reuters News agency:
"Many census takers refused to begin because they were not paid. Reuters correspondents in northern Borno, Bauchi and Kano states, central Plateau, southeastern Anambra and Enugu and southern Rivers, all reported delays over unpaid wages…

"In an apparently isolated incident in Anambra in the southeast, members of a separatist group, the Movement for the Actualisation of a Sovereign State of Biafra, tried to stop people from being counted.

"In southwestern Ondo state, where five people died in a dispute between two ethnic groups over ownership of a village.

"State television footage from across the country showed crowds of census takers in shouting matches with officials of the National Population Commission. There was almost no footage of counting taking place.”
Given the shoddy arrangement for the census, the use of- and reliance on- technology is silly, isn’t it? Check out this statement credited to the Nigerian President, Mr Obasanjo by the Voice of America:
"For the first time in the conduct of census in Nigeria, the 2006 census has employed such technology as the use of geographic positioning system, GPS, and satellite imageries,"
Pure hog crap! Has the president ever heard of the phrase: "Garbage in, garbage out"?

Will someone tell the president that technology (in this case) is not a silver bullet; it's relevant and useful only after thorough preparation, adequate logistics, and pertinent issues have been handled.

Finally, there is a question that is yet to be addressed that demands a prompt answer:

How does the insurgency in the Niger-Delta impact the census in this area? Is there any provision (by the government) to address the (expected) undercounting of the people of this region?



Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Foreign Investment in Present Day Nigeria: Where is the Sense?

"Our vision is for Nigeria to become a financial services centre in Africa and for Nigeria ultimately to become a global player in the financial services industry"-- Dr Ngozi Okojo-Iwela

Pro-foreign investment statements similar to that credited to the Nigerian finance minister are common in the Nigerian mainstream media. The fact is there are enough Nigerians in the Diaspora to ignite and set the investment drive into motion. Nigerians know the terrain better and are conversant with sociopolitical terrain, so why has this not happened on a significant scale? If deep-pocketed Nigerians in the Diaspora are reluctant to invest in Nigeria, why would a foreigner?

The answer can be found in the last paragraph above: “Nigerians…are conversant with sociopolitical terrain”. The abject disregard for rule of law and wanton lawlessness in the country would make any serious investor think twice before setting up shop in Nigeria.

The Nigerian government has made the matter worse in through its mockery of the judiciary by repeatedly disregarding and disobeying court orders. It seems the Nigerian executive arm of government have forgotten that a strong and independent judiciary and legislature are critical to a thriving economy.

The Nigerian courts have been on lock-down following the “stay at home” actions of lawyers in protest of the incessant disobedience of court orders by the government. What indictment can be more damaging than this?

The nations in the western hemisphere became the economic heavyweights of the world because their law courts are scared and are respected by all. The justice departments in these countries are, to a great degree, autonomous, free, effective, and the final arbitrator. At the moment Nigeria courts are far from these.
So when are we ever going to stop deceiving ourselves in Nigeria? When will those smart Ministers in Abuja stop making statements about investment when the very crucial ingredients and entities that would cement and bind any deal have been rendered grossly impotent by the very government that wants “foreign investment”?
In Nigeria of today, wealth and societal status do not even matter; anyone can be robbed or assaulted by the men of the underworld.

This week, I read about the visit of the Nigerian Vice President and the Inspector General of Police to one Nigerian VIP who was attacked/robbed at his highbrow residence of Abuja. How can these men, particularly the Police chieftain, not be ashamed that they have failed in their primary responsibilities?

These “reformer bureaucrats” need to step out of their comfort zones in Abuja and take a look around the country, interact with common Nigerians and then decide if events in present day Nigeria lend much (if any) sense to the call for foreign investments. Just last week the media reported that power (electricity) generation was down by a significant percentage, yet they all yap about foreign investment.



Thursday, March 09, 2006

Where are the African Billionaires?

Africa is the cradle of civilization. The truth is given the mess in the continent at the moment; it is getting tough to state this with conviction. Historically, Africans have had some head starts over humans on other continents, another seemingly false but true statement, which this excerpt from National Geographic archives confirms:
"[Africa] is the place where the evolutionary lines of apes and protohumans diverged…It is the only continent our ancestors inhabited until around two million years ago, when Homo erectus expanded out of Africa into Europe and Asia…Europe's became the Neanderthals, Asia's remained Homo erectus, but Africa's evolved into our own species, Homo sapiens.”- National Geographic
In addition, based its extensive natural resources, Africa is the richest continent on earth, and there is no other continent as deeply blessed.

In keeping with its annual tradition, the Forbes magazine published its annual ranking of richest people in the world- the billionaire list.

There are 793 people on the list, up 102 from last year and worth a combined $2.6 trillion, up 18 percent since last March. Their average net worth: $3.3 billion.

Bill Gates is still the richest man in the world. The US has 44 newer billionaires, India 10, Russia 7, and China 6. Seventy-eight women make the list. 10 more than last year, though only 6 are self-made. Hind Hariri, daughter of slain Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is the youngest member at 22.

Ex cetera.

There isn’t a single self-made African among the list, not even among the 102 newer additions!

Given the aforementioned “qualifications”; it is odd that Africa is the only continent not represented on the list.

NOTE: Readers are free to draw their conclusions.



Nigerian Cheerleaders

"In short, if you look closely at the cheerleaders of the third term campaign, you'll find basically two groups of people those who have something to hide and those who are hiding from something. In the midst of the macabre drama, Obasanjo, the Pontifex Maximus, is playing both sides of the field, waiting to grab the prize, while at the same time, giving himself enough room to get out, if the going gets too messy."-- The Punch (Nigerian Newspaper)
Is the Pontifex ever going to back out? I can't wait to see the outcome of this drama. It's just so wrong!


Monday, March 06, 2006

Niger Delta: How do you tell a story under 5 minutes?

I have seen many headlines on Nigeria in the local newspapers here in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota; I usually don’t think much of them.

Today’s piece for one reason or the other had a different reaction on me: "Oil rich—and Dirt Poor" was the headline that screamed at me from the international section of the Star Tribune.

Despite the fact that I have blogged on this topic and have read a lot about it- seeing the headline and the now ubiquitous picture of some oil pipes in the middle of the Niger Delta jungle did a number on me. And it was one of anger and frustration. What is happening in that part of Nigeria is an abomination. It is also a lose-lose situation for all the parties concerned.

I braced up for the questions and comments that were bound to follow at work; and sure enough there were much chitchat on the issue with colleagues.

How do you explain the madness in the Niger Delta to an American from the Midwest? Where and how do you start? How do you tell the Niger-Delta story under 3 to 5 minutes and make sense?

It’s not possible.



Sunday, March 05, 2006

Nigeria: The Widening Gap between Research and Policy

The Director General of the Nigerian Medical Institute of Medical Research, Dr. Oni Idigbe, made some startling statements over the weekend in the Sunday Punch, a Nigerian Newspaper.

This excerpted statement culled from his interview with the newspaper says a lot about how Nigeria works:
"There has been a gap between the researchers and the policy makers...How do we translate research findings into actions, policies, improved strategies, diagnosis of patients and development of new drugs? A lot of data are available but there is a break in link between the researcher, the government and the policy makers..."
Dr Idigbe state further that there is "no department in the health ministry that has been given that schedule to really come up with identifying important findings and advising government on how best to use them."

Although Dr Idigbe is a medical scientist, his assertions can be generalized to almost all facets of the Nigerian public sectors.

The fact is he hasn't said anything new. Those familiar with Nigeria would have deduced before now that the country is a place where policies are implemented haphazardly, and once implemented, they are hardly evaluated for their impacts and efficacies.

Is it still a mystery why nothing works in Nigeria?



Friday, March 03, 2006


I got tagged by Rombo, the sis at "What An African Woman Thinks". The idea is to answer the questions in bold fonts- which I have answered to the best of my wisdom.

To move this prank on to the next level, I'll need to find four bloggers to tag, and I have; Scroll down to see who.

Here are the Q & A:

Black and White or Colour; how do you prefer your movies?

Color; why deprive myself.

What is the one single subject that bores you to near-death?


MP3s, CDs, Tapes or Records: what is your favorite medium for prerecorded music?

iPod; Nanopod to be specific.

You are handed one first class trip plane ticket to anywhere in the world and ten million dollars cash. All of this is yours provided that you leave and not tell anyone where you are going … Ever. This includes family, friends, everyone. Would you take the money and ticket and run?

Yes I'll leave, but not without my wife! So I guess I won't get any money!

Seriously, what do you consider the world’s most pressing issue now?

The madness in Africa.

How would you rectify the world’s most pressing issue?

Shoot and kill all the clowns messing things up...I guess that will be too nice. I'll make them serve some time in the Siberian wilderness- working 12-hour shifts of hard labor! That will make everybody sit up. Right?

You are given the chance to go back and change one thing in your life; what would that be?

Go to a different planet; too many crazies on Earth!

You are given the chance to go back and change one event in world history, what would that be?

The amalgamation of Northern and Southern protectorates of Nigeria in 1914.

A night at the opera, or a night at the Grand Ole’ Opry – Which do you choose?

This question is not culturally appropriate. I will rather go to Fela live show; I know what its all about.

What is the one great unsolved crime of all time you’d like to solve?

I can't think of any; maybe figure out who orchestrated the death of Martin Luther King Jr.

One famous author can come to dinner with you. Who would that be, and what would you serve for the meal?

Pounded yam and okra soup!

You discover that John Lennon was right, that there is no hell below us, and above us there is only sky — what’s the first immoral thing you might do to celebrate this fact?

Inappropriate question this is. I'll Skip.

Over to: Chippla, Black River Eagle, Emeka Okafor, and David. Gentlemen just do it :) Thanks!


Thursday, March 02, 2006

African Students Live in a World of Fear in Russia

Kayode, a cousin of mine wanted to continue his medical training in the former USSR last year, but I discouraged him from going. After reading about the plight of Africans, particularly African students in some universities in the former communist enclave; I’m glad I did.

A BBC article, titled: Living with race hate in Russia describes the hardship faced by Africans in the country. From subtle racism to overt physical attack, many students in Russia live in a world of fear, intimidation and hopelessness.

To complicate things further, many of these students are miserably poor; “one in 10 Africans at RUDN [a university in Moscow] has to live on a daily budget of 15 roubles ($0.50, £0.30), the price of a loaf and two eggs or a single ticket on the Metro.”
"One thing democracy brought Russia was the freedom to insult and attack people and be sure of not being punished…even the murders are immediately treated as cases of hooliganism".--A professor at Moscow's Gubkin Oil and Gas University.
The old USSR used to be a big ally of many African states, and Africans in Russia were well respected during the cold war era. Apparently when communism collapsed, that “friendship” and “respect” died with it.
“After the USSR collapsed, Russia paid no grants to foreign students for five years. A fraction of the system was restored in 1997, and today the number of foreign students in Russia from outside the ex-USSR is barely half the 1991 figure. Some 1,000 African students from 43 states now study at RUDN, Moscow's purpose-built university for foreign students. Communism may have gone, but the quality of Russian education is apparently still high.--BCC
I wonder if this “education” is really worth all the stress?

Acknowledgement: Emeka Okafor for finding the BBC article.