Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Regrets in 2014

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The sun sets over my city for the last time.

The next time my city will see the sun, it will be a new day, in a new month, in a new year.

Looking back now at all the experiences I had in 2014, the choices I made, my decisions, my mistakes, I realize that, perhaps for the first time since I gained self-awareness, I have just concluded a year in which I had no regrets. The sun may be setting on 2014, but it was a sunny year indeed.

Thank you, Jesus!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Frisky Larr [Dec 29, 2014]: Many Reasons To Hate Buhari! But Many More To Crucify Jonathan!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Let me make it emphatically clear that this is not a clarion call to crucify President Goodluck Jonathan even though he has been likened to the Christian prophet Jesus Christ, who was “crucified” on the cross. It is a call to massacre President Jonathan’s identity, his party and everyone associated with him strictly with the weapon of the ballot.

About one year ago, I would have advised General Muhammadu Buhari to take a back seat and groom personalities like Nuhu Ribadu and Nasir El-Rufai as capable political materials for future endeavors. Having seen the political immaturity displayed by Nuhu Ribadu in his political prostitution of convenience and El-Rufai in his holier than thou account of his stewardship under President Olusegun Obasanjo however, I have come to my personal and subjective conclusion that the political scene – far and wide – presently lays bare, a glaring shortage of a worthy poster child to rescue Nigeria from Jonathan’s brazen political assault.

General Muhammadu Buhari is by far, not the best presidential material any right-thinking individual will be unreservedly proud to present to Nigeria in these turbulent days in spite of some exemplary character traits that should make him the envy of the neighborhood. I will address this issue later in this discourse. So huge is the ballast that Muhammadu Buhari’s legacy contains that he should ordinarily be scaring the wit out of any sane mind, who wonders which destination this stern and rigid-minded “fanatic” of fortune may end up taking Nigeria. Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka beautifully cataloged some highly disturbing evidences in his urgent appeal to Nigerian voters in 2007 that were made manifest during General Buhari’s days as our military leader.

One clear example was seen in Buhari’s apportionment of blame and punishment for members of the helpless and rudderless government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari that he overthrew in a coup that was led by one Brig. Sani Abacha in 1984. Wole Soyinka explained it thus:

“The head of (that) government, on whom primary responsibility lay, was Shehu Shagari. Yet that individual was kept in cosy house detention in Ikoyi while his powerless deputy, Alex Ekwueme, was locked up in Kirikiri (maximum security) prisons. Such was the Buhari notion of equitable apportionment of guilt and/or responsibility.

There is no mincing words that General Buhari spoke the minds of many ordinary Northern Nigerians when he made several statements in the past that could be understood as a sentimental appreciation of Boko Haram. Indeed, there were times, in which many Nigerians understandably considered Muhammadu Buhari as a possible sponsor of Boko Haram, who sought to use the group to make Nigeria ungovernable under Goodluck Jonathan who General Buhari considered as ruling on a stolen mandate. His comment that “…dogs and baboons will be soaked in blood” if elections were rigged did not mark him as a moderate statesman. It all came to a head in the early days of June 2013, when President Jonathan finally ordered a military crackdown on Boko Haram probably without knowing the extent of the involvement of elements of the military in Boko Haram’s atrocious activities.

General Buhari had flipped and deteriorated as far as characterizing any attack on Boko Haram as an attack on the North. He had condemned the collateral killing of civilians in the hunt for Boko Haram fighters without condemning the repeated killing of innocent Christian worshippers at the time. General Buhari had compared the senseless and brutal and mass killing of innocent people by Boko Haram terrorists with the kidnapping for ransom, murder and sabotage activities of the former Niger Delta insurgents that were rehabilitated into mainstream socio-political life by the late President Yar’Adua. The resultant call for the arrest of General Buhari by Christian leaders was largely acceptable to many observers in the South at the time. It therefore came as no surprise that Boko Haram publicly announced the name of General Buhari as a mediator that would be acceptable to it.

Until early to mid-2014, when General Buhari began speaking out more clearly and fearlessly, many Nigerians still considered him – at best – a quiet supporter of Boko Haram. In May 2014 however, he came out in the clearest terms possible, calling Boko Haram a bunch of “mindless bigots” who he did not regard as “followers of God”. This indeed, was the turning point in the general perception of Boko Haram across the board. Even in Twitter interactions, where Northerners were hitherto generally perceived as not feeling quite comfortable with criticisms of Boko Haram, a sense of rejection and defiance began taking hold.

In spite of the general sympathy that General Buhari often showed for the North for several years, seemingly as a matter of priority over the rest of Nigeria, there now seems to be an understanding on his part that he will have to rule over entire Nigeria and not the North alone if he is ever elected President. Today, a completely refined General Buhari is a party man who will not seek to smash a hole in the wall with the force of his head alone not giving a damn, what others may want. He will not pick a Muslim-Muslim ticket because his party has reached a collective decision not to do so. The Buhari of past years (much like the Sanusi Lamido Sanusi of the Central Bank days) would have done more to appease his northern constituency before anything else.

In a sober reflection of the reality of our time, everyone now seems to have realized that Boko Haram represents a disaster and no ideal whatsoever, neither for the North nor for the South. The actions of the Islamic State in the Middle East, which seems to inspire more gruesomeness and savagery by Boko Haram and other terror organizations all over the world, now seems to have woken our Northern compatriots to a new dawn of hope for the corporate existence of Nigeria. It was such an emotionally overwhelming proof of this realization to read that over 200 northern volunteer youths came together to protect southern Christians worshipping on the Christmas day of 2014, from the now customary Boko Haram attack on churches in the North on Christian festive days. It marks the beginning of the end of divisive politicking.

It also marks the temporary peak of the systematic transformation of General Muhammadu Buhari, which seems to resonate positively with a large section of Northern followers.

Indeed, no right-thinking individual will object to passion for any religion or geographical region. When the interest of an entire nation is however subjugated to the rulership addiction of a geographical region however, there is a serious reason for hatred. General Muhammadu Buhari’s personal intransigence, sometimes accommodating no leniency or compromises as detailed in Wole Soyinka’s submission, his antecedent of acting more in favor of the northern trajectory when a choice is to be made between the north and the south as the example of Alex Ekwueme and Shehu Shagari exemplified, are reasons enough to simply hate General Muhammadu Buhari’s guts.

Unfortunately however, President Goodluck Jonathan has done everything within his power during his four years of clueless rulership (not leadership) to make the hard and stringent side of Gerneral Buhari the conspicuously marketable character and one that is acceptable in polite society. The result is that Nigeria now needs a leader and President with a personal character and strength that is roughly equivalent to what Buhari has. A president with the guts and stubbornness to fight the mafia of the oil sector hands-down! A president that will dare to take on Generals in the army, unveil the political manipulations that have undermined the efficiency of our military that was once the envy of a continent and reorganize the system altogether! A President that will be ready to take hard decisions against the resistance of powerful interest groups not one that chooses the easier option of removing fuel subsidy to avoid confronting the criminals of the sector! In the public arena today, only two characters stand out with the credentials to dare such onerous task and succeed – Olusegun Obasanjo and Muhammadu Buhari! Ibrahim Babangida would be too busy maneuvering and outwitting his opponents to succeed in such a task that requires brute force and stubbornness.

Since Olusegun Obasanjo is not on the ballot and would not even stand a chance of winning if he was, the only candidate that every lover of Nigeria should support and vote into power today is just Muhammadu Buhari. It is a hard choice and there are many like me who are simply praying today that the gamble may work and that Buhari does not turn out to a be a nightmare for the corporate existence of Nigeria through excessive stubbornness and negative partisanship. As it stands in the present moment, the continued presence of President Goodluck Jonathan beyond 2015 will be the death knell for Nigeria’s existence.

General Muhammadu Buhari’s modesty and personal rejection of unnecessary, to say the least of excessive material wealth simply serves to further underscore why Nigeria needs a man of such character sooner rather than later. This will be a President that will not require a foreign contractor to first build a church or a mosque in his own village as a prelude to awarding a government contract. It is a man that will not empower a Boko Haram commander to play Asari Dokubo because the man has guts himself. It is a man, whose staffs and others working around him will have a hard time reeling in a frenzy of corrupt enrichment.

Muhammadu Buhari is worth hating in every sense of the word. Confronted with the choice between him and President Jonathan however, only sycophants and people feeding and surviving on Jonathan’s free-for-all looting at the top will prefer Jonathan. I know no man of intelligence and honor that will pitch his tent with President Jonathan with his proven lot of cluelessness, incapacitation and wanton corruption. If voted President and I have no doubt, he will be no matter the odds, I dare predict that Muhammadu Buhari will end up being more hated than Olusegun Obasanjo because he will be ready to step on toes and probably more brutally than Obasanjo did. It remains to be seen however, if he will be ready to pay the ultimate price of letting Goodluck Jonathan and his criminal clan off the hook in the interest of maintaining peace and fostering unity on Nigeria. After all, judging by widespread public sentiments, not even the dangerous calculation of not holding elections in three states of the North on grounds of intensified Boko Haram activities will help Jonathan at the present moment.

Erasmus Ikhide [Dec 18, 2014]: The Robber State Can Now Drink Her Oil

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The hope of restoring normalcy to a morally bankrupt nation to a place in the sun greater than it had ever been is ebbing gradually. Nigeria is in economic straits, maimed by official corruption, which slices off more than 50 % of her GDP in revenue. The nation's oil deals which has been shrouded in the caucuses of bargaining and appalling crudity has left the people in abject poverty.

But President Goodluck Jonathan's sidekick wouldn't have any of such. They are used to thinking that the ugly picture is a mere grotesque hodgepodge concocted by half-baked, uneducated neurotics who are bent on sabotaging the humane president. It's time Mr President summon the moral courage and pledge the reversal of the nation's menacing presence and the future.

Regrettably, the argument of Jonathanians is not supported by Mr president's broken promises, overt corruption, oil theft and pipeline vandalism. The gruelling grind of irony in a land flowing with energy under its belly vanquished presidential hollowness for its failure to make the economy boom.

In 2011 NNPC signed a USD28.5 billion Memorandum of Understanding, MOU with the Chinese to build the NNPC Greenfield Refineries in Bayelsa, Kogi, and Lagos States'. So far, none has been built, four years down the line. In 2012 at the Nigerian Oil and Gas Conference, the bogey minister promised that Turn Around Maintenance', TAM, will gulf USD700 million for the four refineries within 12 months.

As we speak, none of the four Nigerian Refineries operates with more than 60% capacities. Kaduna refinery operates below 30% of her installed capacity. That is after billions of dollars was expended. How else can we explain that TAM was a waste of our common patrimony and the crudest form of corruption? The four refineries can produce 445,000 barrel of oil per day, if they are functioning at 100% capabilities; which is still below Nigeria's current need of about 39 million litres according to the PPPRA per day!

President Jonathan's government expended trillions of dollars on the so-called Fuel Subsidy that was reeked with hyper-corruption. When Nigerians protested the enrichment of the president's cronies with the oil scam, Mrs Diezani Allison-madueke deadened her concerns scornfully and bluntly told the nation to go to hell or that the Fuel Subsidy would be reduced by half any time she choses.

It was a show of sheer unconcealed disdain for the Nigeria masses. The protest against Fuel Subsidy was partly against her career of gross abuse of office and blatant assault on the volition of the people to benefit from the resources of their nation. While the people haggled and groaned under the excruciating hike in the price of fuel, the federal government remained blunted in her responsibilities to the electorate as stipulated by the constitution.

That profound deadening of consciousness is the sheerest negation of nation-building, where the peoples' demand for access to common till is viewed as doing them favour. Any surprise that President Jonathan gloated and gloried suppressing protesters who seek the reversal of fuel increments in the past? Even after many people have lost their lives, all the promises of palliatives never came.

Till now, the consistent figure of about N200 billion the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, pays to petroleum marketeers quarterly for subsidy hasn't changed. Yet, Nigeria remains one of the few OPEC members still importing majority of Refined Petroleum products to the tune of over USD15 billion yearly.

There is no doubts that the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, has accumulated dust wherever is it kept. This is due largely to the frosty relationship between the Hon. Minister and the National Assembly members. This has resulted into her getting Court Injunction stopping them from investigating the alleged N10 billion allegedly expended on private jets. This is away from the USD20 billion missing in the NNPC accounts as alleged by the former CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, now the Emir of Kano.

The Presidency is aware that the non-passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, is gravely affecting investment in the oil and gas industry and that continued delay is inimical to the nation's economy. The passage of the PIB would have fast-tracked the exploration of oil in many part of the country where oil has recently been discovered. The President is also aware that the passage of PIB will steam the tide of mega-corruption and the suitcase oil portfolios will come to an abrupt end.

We are back to the same position. My former union, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG, in alliance with the Petroleum and National Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, has embarked on industrial action, grounding the already traumatised economy for lack of faith in the government of the day. The oil unions are accusing the president of inability to fix existing and build new refineries, bad roads, arbitrary sacking of union members by oil companies. The Trade Union Congress even took it further.

Arising from its National Executive Council, NEC, the central labour union enthuse: "The congress expresses dismay that the prices of refined petroleum products have remained unchanged despite the significant fall of crude oil prices which the CBN acknowledged as a steady one. "We therefore called on the government to direct the appropriate agency to respond by adjusting the pump price of petroleum products, which will ameliorate the impact on the purchasing power by the devaluation of the Naira.

Now, Nigerians are reminded to be contented with the oil goddess with the burning beauty who the alternate lot falls upon as the OPEC's Chairman that becomes a shinning jewel on her scrap-iron crown! A fourth-grade schoolmarm could have thought that the minister even the hewers of wood and the drawers of water knew when to demand for wage increase to cushion their labour. She was the least possessed of that burning sense of mission to end the ogre of corruption the perennial crisis of fuel scarcity.

Over the weekend, the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr Godwin Emefiele disclosed that Nigeria loses N24 billion yearly on waivers granted to importers of crude oil. This is in spite the fact that those enjoying the waiver are the same people as those criminally benefiting from Fuel Subsidy graft.

Both the International Energy Agency and former U.S. Energy Information chief Guy Caruso predict oil prices are likely to remain lower for a while, barring a major disruption in supply. "It's highly unlikely OPEC gets their act together, so I see prices being weak for the next six months or so," Mr Caruso said.

It's obvious that Nigeria will remain politically stunted, economically traumatised, developmentally backward for many years to come for refusing to diversify. It's a stark choice we have to make. Either we diversify or we start drinking our oil! An anti-State agent? A megalomania? A sadistic fancy? All of them in part. It's because the State itself has become the biggest swindler and crook. A robbers' state! The hope of nation-becoming, which early in 2011 vividly accomplished President Jonathan's restoration's campaigns has faded in the twilight of 2014.

There is no retelling that Mr Jonathan's moribund regime represents the most harrowing of the nation's nightmares over and beyond even the horror visited on the nation by military juntas. I am certain Nigerians will be approaching the polling booths across the country on February 14, 2015 with one thing in mind: Nations collapse or perish for whom it exists when the loss of force of resistance by the people give way to oppressive despots to triumph in their oppression.

ite House Director of the US National Economic Council, Mr. Jeff Zients, highlighted Nigeria’s economic woes when he said a few days ago that the cessation of oil imports from Nigeria had to do with the significant rise in domestic US oil production.

Zients, US Labor Secretary, Thomas Perez, and White House Policy Council Director, Cecelia Munoz, told a few US journalists thus: “across the last several years, US oil production has ramped up significantly by more than 50 percent to now over eight and a half million barrels per day.” He explained that such a high turn up in local US oil production “has now dramatically reduced our dependency on imports,” Zients noted, adding that “in fact, we now produce more here than we import.”

The Guardian Newspaper reported that the White House official stated that the development is consistent with President Barack Obama’s energy strategy, which has changed “quite a bit over the last few years as we are much less dependent on oil imports.” That strategy has not only left Nigeria in the lurch, but has generally also driven down the international market price of oil to a ridiculous $60 range over the last few weeks. Oil prices, which soared around $100 in September, is now $56.52 for the WTI Crude and $61.38 for the Brent Crude oil.

But Zients and other US officials at the press briefing did not address the issue of the ongoing importation from other oil producing nations, including OPEC members like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and non-OPEC suppliers like Canada. In fact, as at last month, it was reported that, while US completely halted oil imports from Nigeria, it increased its importation from those three countries. Now, Saudi Arabia foreign reserve has hits $1.5 trillion dollars while Nigeria’s meagrely hovers around $39.5 billion dollars!

The reduction of US oil importation from Nigeria to zero is the very first time since 1973 that the US did not import oil from Nigeria. US Shale oil production is responsible for the infusion of “light, sweet crude,” said to be similar to Nigeria’s Bonny Light oil, and US refineries are said to prefer buying the locally produced oil, which is cheaper than Nigeria’s light crude.

Comrade Adams Oshiomhole aptly provided an answer to the question I put before Mr President a few days ago. Here is the question for emphasis: "Is it that Mr Jonathan knows a thing or two about the oil bunkering at the backwaters of the degraded Niger Delta region"?

Those involved in oil bunkering do not fetch crude oil with bowls or buckets. They do so with cargo ships, Marine tankers and ocean liners and, they are known. It's alleged that the wife of Mr President, Mrs Patience Jonathan owns MT Patience cargo ships 1-10 that are involved in oil bunkering at the Forcados Terminal, Brass in Port Harcourt and other oil producing States in the Niger Delta. These gigantic marine tankers don't have wings with which they fly. They are regularly being escorted by the Nigerian navy and other security apparatus across the coastal lines. Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer, accounting for more than two million barrels per day. But from investigation, more than 4 million barrel per day is produced, but only two million is accounted for. Even the Nigeria Liquified Gas, NLG is not left out of this bizarre business.

Speaking during a visit of the Association of Enigies from Edo South to him yesterday, Oshiomhole said, “Over the past 18 months, we have not shared the excess crude account and yet, the account is empty. Sometimes we are told they have taken money from it to fund subsidies including subsidy on kerosene but your royal highnesses, there is nowhere in your various domains where kerosene is sold for N50. So in the name of subsidy, large sums of money are being stolen.

“Things are tough now around the country because the Federal Government mismanaged our national resources and what is being stolen, nobody agrees it is being stolen. What is arguable is who is responsible for this stealing. When the Federal Government and the President talk about oil theft and the amount that is allegedly stolen is huge such that whereas we have the capacity to produce about 2.4 million barrels a day, what accrues into the federal government account is less than 1.8 million barrel a day.

“From the last time we had a meeting, the handouts they distributed shows that sometime for a period of two weeks, we were losing as much as 700,000 barrels a day and that has been on for the past twelve years. I am not able to understand why, suddenly, Nigeria cannot protect its territorial waters because the boundaries have not changed and the people are still the same and at the peak of the so-called militancy, we were still exporting about 2 million barrels a day.

“Then how can we explain that after we have resolved the issue of militancy in the Niger Delta, we have rehabilitated the ex-militants and even awarded contracts to them, that we are losing as much crude oil as that to oil thieves and to the best of my knowledge, there is no major known person who has been prosecuted and convicted for oil theft in a way that reflects the magnitude of what is being allegedly stolen.

“What this means is that our budgets have not performed over the past 3 years whereas the budgets have been based on an average of between $77 to $78 and $79 a barrel. The average price of Nigeria’s sweet crude has been around $108 per barrel. That gives a surplus of over $30. Ideally, we ought to be saving $36 per barrel and 2.3 million barrel a day over the past three years and if you look at these numbers you will find that what we have in our excess crude oil account should be over $30billion but as we speak, we have barely $3 billon in our excess crude account.

“Now oil price has dropped to $60 and because we have not saved, the naira is undergoing devaluation. Already as low as N180 per dollar and I believe by February when the elections are over, nobody is going to want to hold the naira. Wherever the election goes, I expect that the naira will hit over N200 per dollar. The inflationary consequence of it is that prices of goods and services will go up and part of the vicious cycle of the devalued naira in the manner that is being done is that the price of petroleum products imported in dollars will go up in naira and government will be asking people who are already poor to pay more money for petroleum products", Oshiomhole said.

For years to come, Nigeria will lie outside the main stream of countries whose economy recharged itself by their Leaders' commitment to development. The oil price fall is so devastating that it will take Nigeria several years of redirection and diversification to recover from it. Unfortunately, President Jonathan's cringers and lickspittles belief nations grows naturally. There are no naturally grown nations; they stemmed or are forged from leaders with the intellectual capabilities to think through policy frame work. Savage corruption gives birth to political backwardness, economic stagnation and decimates its currencies.

The singular act of surging corruption will set Nigeria apart from and behind the other aspiring developing countries. Nigeria which has become a problem child of the globe, a nation of gifted, vigorous people aided in the past by military caste and by great intellectuals suddenly embraces an uncanny passion for unbridled corruption. The President couldn't bring his earlier taunted virtues - modesty, toughness, forbearance and a blunt brute into collision with the treasury looters in his government and crush them into pieces.

President Jonathan has brought Nigeria into an artificially stabilised state at a medieval level of confusion and weakness. He could not fight Boko Haram insurgents, nor stop finical haemorrhage, or crude oil theft. His government depicts a logical failure of all that had gone before - or at least of all that had been glorious! The President has pulled himself up by his own bootstraps.

The Otuoke man rarely litters his mind on the crazy patchwork nation whose intermittent socio-economic status broadly reduces her stance in the comity of nations aspiring to become one of the largest economies in the world by 2020. Perhaps, our President needs to read Nietzsche in which Thus Spake Zarathustra was written: "I say unto you: it is the good war which halloweth every cause. War and courage have done more great things than charity". Nigerians must make the right choice and resolve the nation's leadership question in next year's February election before insanity closes down our minds.

Links 1 and 2 to source.

Funke Egbemode [Dec 07, 2014]: Are The Men Still Clapping?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014
For other articles by Funke Egbemode, please click here.

This was not what I really set out to do. Since I did the piece ‘And she died’, I have been inundated with protests from men. How could I make men look like monsters and women like saints? Women are mean, ask Adam. A few male readers shared their experiences in the hands of daughters of Eve and some of the stories are quite moving. So I went ‘digging’, asking more men ‘we’ have dealt with over the years what they think of women.

My research findings were baaaad. Women are bad. Girls are badder. What to do? Publish the evils that women do and how they often catch up with them. That was what I wanted to write about this week. That is one topic I will write as soon as possible. But not today. Today, I’m not really going to hit the men, ahem, at least not like that. Let’s just say I want to draw their attention to some obvious facts they daily ignore.

Now, I must confess that this piece was triggered by a text message joke I received from a co-conspirator. Here goes;

11 people were hanging on a rope under a helicopter. There were 10 men and a woman. The rope was not strong enough to carry them all. So they decided that one of them had to leave, otherwise they were all going to fall. They were not able to agree on who that person would be. Until the woman among them gave a touching speech. She said that she would voluntari­ly let go of the rope because as a woman, she was used to giving up everything for her husband and kids or for men in general. She said she was used to always making sacrifices and getting little or nothing in return. As soon as she finished her speech, all the men started clapping…

All the men, of course, dropped to their untimely deaths and she flew away alone in the chopper. Well, what can a woman do?

That is the power of a woman, the brand only smart men recognize and ac­knowledge. If there had been at least one of those 10 excitable men who could see beyond that woman’s ‘moving’ speech, he would be alive today. But don’t we all know that men don’t do much thinking when they see women they want?

In my mind’s eyes, I could see the woman in that joke wearing a very short skirt, no bra and a top with a plunging neckline. How do you reason with a man drooling over ample cleavage? If you scream ‘Praise the Lord’, he won’t shout Halle­luyah because he is far away in la-la land. The woman in that joke, I’m sure, also had smooth skin, probably fair skin. All 10 men simply threw their thinking caps in the air or how else do you explain why they all forgot that they did not have third hands and that once they started clapping they were going to drop to their deaths?

That is exactly my point. A smart woman can make a man do whatever she wants him to do. We are that powerful. Oh, don’t even try to disprove it. Just save your energy for the next time a woman is delivering a speech and you need all your wits about you to hang on to life instead of clapping your way into an early grave.

Of course, I’m the first to admit that there is something comforting about the sight of a woman. We were created like that. Every woman has the right gadgets to comfort a man, make him feel safe, give him life. That is the reason baby boys suck breasts more fervently than baby girls and when you wean him off breasts at 12 months, what does he do? As soon as he is old enough to recognize that there are other breasts apart from mummy’s own, he goes breast-hunting. Poor men, you can’t wean them off breasts. They need to be regularly nourished. Who’s complaining?

Don’t forget that this piece is about alert­ing men to the dangers of their bad wild ways on the one hand and the powers of a woman on the other. No man should delude himself that his woman is powerless. If you doubt my sermon, ask yourself how much you spend on your daughter and compare it with how much your sons cost. Even your little tyke is twisting you round her pink fingers.

A smart man works all day, sits on his butt for eight-straight hours trying to seal a deal. He finally gets it in the can, tired but happy. He drives home and sights these half clad daughters of Eve along the road and stops to give one a ride. He convinces himself he’s celebrating his new deal. Before you know it, he is expending more energy and spending money that is not yet in the bank.

I see my sisters who have not much to show in terms of source of income living in posh apartments in choice areas of town and driving wonder-on-wheels. Who’s paying? Men who are clapping when they should be holding on firmly to the rope. Well, the girls are having fun and the men are not com­plaining. I just feel like warning them today. Men should stop thinking that it’s a man’s world. Please, it’s women’s device to keep you clapping. It suits even me to convince men that it’s their world. But it isn’t.

My brother summed up this whole clapping-when-you-shouldn’t business when he said ‘men are forever prostrating for their women when the women are not riding them.’ I’m still trying to decode that one.

Are the men still clapping?

Funke Egbemode [Dec 28, 2014]: The Sky Is So Dark

Tuesday, December 30, 2014
For other articles by Funke Egbemode, please click here.

Imagine watching your son fad­ing away slowly because he has diarrhoea and there is not the simplest drug to give him. He just stools and stools and gets weaker by the hour yet all you can do is cradle him in your arms, whis­per ‘it is well’ to your weeping wife while you die inside.

Imagine you, a landlord six months ago, now sleeping on bare floor of a tent so your children and kid can share the stu­dent mattress that is the only bedding for your family of four. You watch helplessly, wondering where and what you did wrong. The mattress is so small it could only serve as pillow really, they are actually lying on the dusty floor of the tent. Your daughter is shivering from the cold, you are cold too but you still remove your shirt to cover her. Your wife is dozing, exhausted after hours of fanning mosquitoes away from her chil­dren. The children are bewildered asking questions you have no answers to:

‘Daddy, when are we going back home?

‘Won’t we go back to school?’

Now, it’s Christmas and you are there, homeless, wiping tears your children must not see. You are still father and head of your family but you cannot provide any­thing. There is no toothpaste and the only chewing stick you all take turns to use. You are worried about your wife because she doesn’t look so well. You know it’s because of her blood pressure issues but she has run out of drugs. You are scared she may suffer a cardiac arrest or stroke but what can you do? Will your family ever come out of this place, this hopeless dark hole? Will you all come out alive? You offer another heartfelt prayer to God as you work barefoot (the slippers you arrived camp with are in tat­ters, worse than your wife’s two wrappers) to the nearby bush to ease yourself. God, please do something, you whisper, your blood-shot eyes searching for God’s eyes somewhere in the dark sky.

Life in the camp of the Internally Dis­placed People (IDPs) is hell right now. Not just because they are cooking rationed food in the open but because they don’t know if they will ever wake up from this nightmare. This time last year, they bought Christmas clothes for their children and cooked special rice and slaughtered the biggest cock in the compound. Today, for no fault of theirs, they are refugees in their own country. This time last year, they had a roof over their heads, they had dreams for their children, hope of a better tomorrow. Today, they depend on other peoples’ left­overs and discarded clothes to cover their nakedness. I wonder how the women cope while having their monthly period. Do they have toothpastes, bathing soap, simple analgesic, sanitary towels…? Do they have doctors in the camps? Is this the end of the children’s education?

One day they were happy families working towards a better future and then boom, a loud noise, gunshots and angry tongues of fire swept through the village, consuming every­thing and they ran and ran and ran, for dear life, barefoot, with only the clothes on their backs, their children tired, asking where they were running to.

The devastation of Boko Haram, the pain and wounds and scars of insurgency all over the north. So many homeless and hopeless. Nigerians living in refugee camps in their own country. For how long ,oh Lord will you forsake us. Please let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end.

Dead policemen, missing soldiers, orphans and widows of war, let’s spare them a thought. The men who went out in the morning and never returned. The men who laid down their lives to stop the advancement of this dreadful army of occupation. They went in search of their daily bread and their careers ate them up. And when the head of a family suddenly dies, the vultures gather to feast on whatever they can find. The widows still stunned and numb may be dispossessed and even when they are not, their precious possessions are gone all the same. Daddy will never come back or at best, his remains return in a coffin draped with green-white-green. Those children may never become what their father desired them to be. They may never reach their destination because their means of transportation there has been taken away.

Let’s not just spare these distraught fami­lies a thought. Let’s all find widows and or­phans of policemen and soldiers and help them. If you take an orphan and I empower a widow, we’ll be doing more than our bit but gladdening God’s heart. I’m not talking about giving them rice at Christmas alone. I’m talk­ing about helping with the rent, school fees, feeding . If you find the widow of a slain cop or soldier with four children, just take over the education of one child and call three other friends to take care of his sib­lings. Call your friends, please. You and I know how much we have spent on ‘aso ebi’, perfumes, shoes, jewellery in the last one month. Do you know what difference a bottle of your designer perfume or shoes will make in the life of a family?

How much thought have you given to those poor girls in the coven of the insur­gents? But that is a question for the gov­ernment, those in authority, really. How do they sleep at night, what kind of dreams do those, whose responsibility it is to bring back those girls, dream? When they gave their daughters money to shop for Christmas a few weeks ago, how did they feel, knowing that the Chibok girls are still missing? Is this administration really going to wind down without find­ing those girls? Is this government going to explain to us on May 29, 2015 why it couldn’t do its duty, deliver on the se­curity vows it made to us? From where I sit, that will be openly, shamelessly or shamefully admitting that Boko Haram won. We all know fighting insurgency is not a war you can win in a day but not finding those girls… that’s admitting fail­ure. And before those who have read big big books about how difficult fighting insurgents is, first imagine where those girls were, what they did last Christmas and what they are doing now? Yeah, you can pocket your security expertise trea­tise, it does not help the pain of a griev­ing mother.

As we dance, eat turkey and clink glass­es that we made it this far, let’s spare a thought for those who in bewilderment are wondering how they ended up in refugee camps or as internally displaced persons. Let’s deny ourselves a little comfort and help them back on their feet.

May 2015 be a better year in every way than 2014.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Americanah: America, Where The Sun, Being Neither Half Nor Yellow, Always Shines

Monday, December 29, 2014

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Americanah, a story by a non American Black, a story about the American life of a non American Black, a story about America, where the sun always shines (and that sun, a full sun, with stars and stripes to boot, is white, not yellow, not colored, definitely not black); yes, America where the white sun always shines, casting whites in the light, non-American Blacks in shadow, and American Blacks oscillating someplace in-between...

America, where American Blacks from their assigned spot on the verandah, peer through the window for glimpses of the American Dream, and then gleefully recount their "personal experiences" of that Dream to the non American Blacks outside the gates, being sure to leave out the inconsequential little detail that they were themselves bystanders who, far from being allowed into the room, had to peer at goings-on from the only window that opened to the verandah - a toilet window (or bathroom window, as they call it), positioned so high and with an aperture so small that they had to climb all over themselves in order to see the silhouettes on the walls cast by the people in the brightly lit room...

Americanah, where returnee non-American Blacks forget how to eat eba with their fingers, like their fathers did; where these members of the new "elite" wonder why "bush" Nigerians do not drink coffee more often, out of paper cups, like the civilized do elsewhere, why they don't teach their children "self-expression", why Nigerian children do not know to sing along when tunes of that Star Spangled Banner rent the air, why they don't recognise Nigerian winter for what it is, and instead refer to it by the Third World name of "harmattan", why...

Friday, December 26, 2014

"I Saw An Angel" ... Merry Christmas

Friday, December 26, 2014

A friend of mine posted a video on Facebook in which he sang the popular Christmas song wherein he, with lots of nostalgia – the kind that finds perfect expression when you are fresh out of bed on a not-so-cold winter morning in Salford – sang about his dream of a white Christmas, the kind where treetops glisten and children listen…you know that kind. You probably know the song. If Ojeaga rings a bell on Facebook, the right Ojeaga that is, then you probably saw the video. Another posted a link to me in Cyrillic, and when I followed the link, I was rudely reminded of all the reasons why you should never follow links to websites you do not know if you have a curious, wide-eyed eleven-year-old looking over your shoulder. I quickly shut the window, but I could not as easily shut down the battery of questions that followed. So I got him to go out with some other children to a movie, and finally settled to begin Adichie’s Americanah. That iss my Christmas gift to myself – a good book every Christmas always is, and so far, I am enjoying it immensely. I thought I should share this passage from it.

One day, the year Ifemelu turned ten, her mother came home from work looking different. Her clothes were the same, a brown dress belted at the waist, but her face was flushed, her eyes unfocused. “Where is the big scissors?” she asked, and when Ifemelu brought it to her, she raised it to her head and, handful by handful, chopped off all her hair. Ifemelu stared, stunned. The hair lay on the floor like dead grass. “Bring me a big bag,” her mother said. Ifemelu obeyed, feeling herself in a trance, with things happening that she did not understand. She watched her mother walk around their flat, collecting all the Catholic objects, the crucifixes hung on walls, the rosaries nested in drawers, the missals propped on shelves. Her mother put them all in the polythene bag, which she carried to the backyard, her steps quick, her faraway look unwavering. She made a fire near the rubbish dump, at the same spot where she burned her used sanitary pads, and first she threw in her hair, wrapped in old newspaper, and then, one after the other, the objects of faith. Dark grey smoke curled up into the air. From the verandah, Ifemelu began to cry because she sensed that something had happened, and the woman standing by the fire, splashing in more kerosene as it dimmed and stepping back as it flared, the woman who was bald and blank, was not her mother, could not be her mother.

When her mother came back inside, Ifemelu backed away, but her mother hugged her close.

“I am saved,” she said. “Mrs Ojo ministered to me this afternoon during the children's break and I received Christ. Old things have passed away and all things have become new. Praise God. On Sunday we will start going to Revival Saints. It is a Bible-believing church and a living church, not like St Dominic’s.” Her mother’s words were not hers. She spoke them too rigidly, with a demeanor that belonged to someone else. Even her voice, usually high-pitched and feminine, had deepened and curdled. That afternoon, Ifemelu watched her mother’s essence take flight. Before, her mother said the rosary once in a while, crossed herself before she ate, wore pretty images of saints around her neck, sang Latin songs and laughed when Ifemelu’s father teased her about her terrible pronunciation. She laughed, too, whenever he said, “I am an agnostic respecter of religion,” and she would tell him how lucky he was to be married to her, because even though he went to church only for weddings and funerals, he would get into heaven on the wings of her faith. But, after that afternoon, her God changed. He became exacting. Relaxed hair offended Him. Dancing offended Him. She bartered with Him, offering starvation in exchange for prosperity, for a job promotion, for good health. She fasted herself bone-thin: dry fasts on weekends, and on weekdays, only water until evening. Ifemelu’s father followed her with anxious eyes, urging her to eat a little more, to fast a little less, and he always spoke carefully, so that she would not call him the devil’s agent and ignore him, as she had done with a cousin who was staying with them. “I am fasting for your father’s conversion,” she told Ifemelu often. For months, the air in their flat was like cracked glass. Everyone tiptoed around her mother, who had become a stranger, thin and knuckly and severe. Ifemelu worried that she would, one day, simply snap into two and die.

Then, on Easter Saturday, a dour day, the first quiet Easter Saturday in Ifemelu’s life, her mother ran out of the kitchen and said, “I saw an angel!” Before, there would have been cooking and bustling, many pots in the kitchen and many relatives in the flat, and Ifemelu and her mother would have gone to night mass, and held up lit candles, singing in a sea of flickering flames, and then come home to continue cooking the big Easter lunch. But the flat was silent. Their relatives had kept away and lunch would be the usual rice and stew. Ifemelu was in the living room with her father, and when her mother said “I saw an angel!” Ifemelu saw exasperation in his eyes, a brief glimpse before it disappeared.

“What happened?” he asked, in the placating tone used for a child, as if humouring his wife’s madness would make it go away quickly.

Her mother told them of a vision she had just had, a blazing appearance near the gas cooker of an angel holding a book trimmed in red thread, telling her to leave Revival Saints because the pastor was a wizard who attended nightly demonic meetings under the sea.

“You should listen to the angel,” her father said.

And so her mother left the church and began to let her hair grow again, but stopped wearing necklaces and earrings because jewellery, according to the pastor at Miracle Spring, was ungodly, unbefitting a woman of virtue. Shortly afterwards, on the same day as the failed coup, while the traders who lived downstairs were crying because the coup would have saved Nigeria and market women would have been given cabinet positions, her mother saw another vision. This time, the angel appeared in her bedroom, above the wardrobe, and told her to leave Miracle Spring and join Guiding Assembly. Halfway through the first service Ifemelu attended with her mother, in a marble-floored convention hall, surrounded by perfumed people and the ricochet of rich voices, Ifemelu looked at her mother and saw that she was crying and laughing at the same time. In this church of surging hope, of thumping and clapping, where Ifemelu imagined a swirl of affluent angels above, her mother’s spirit had found a home. It was a church full of the newly wealthy; her mother’s small car, in the parking lot, was the oldest, with its dull paint and many scratches. If she worshipped with the prosperous, she said, then God would bless her as He had blessed them. She began to wear jewellery again, to drink her Guinness stout; she fasted only once a week and often said “My God tells me” and “My Bible says,” as though other people’s were not just different but misguided. Her response to a “Good morning” or a “Good afternoon” was a cheerful “God bless you!” Her God became genial and did not mind being commanded. Every morning, she woke the household up for prayers, and they would kneel on the scratchy carpet of the living room, singing, clapping, covering the day ahead with the blood of Jesus, and her mother’s words would pierce the stillness of dawn: “God, my heavenly father, I command you to fill this day with blessings and prove to me that you are God! Lord, I am waiting on you for my prosperity! Do not let the evil one win, do not let my enemies triumph over me!” Ifemelu’s father once said the prayers were delusional battles with imaginary traducers, yet he insisted that Ifemelu always wake up early to pray. “It keeps your mother happy,” he told her.

From Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 2013:41-44

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Can We Translate This Awareness Of Ours Into Action In 2015?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Watching the APC primaries on Channels TV this afternoon, it occurred to me just how far we have come from another time and another "primaries" when a baritone voice sang the tune: "Obasanjo, Obasanjo, Obasanjo, Obasanjo, Ekwueme, Obasanjo, Obasanjo, Obasanjo, Obasanjo, Obasanjo, Ekwueme, Obasanjo, Obasanjo, Obasanjo, Obasanjo..."

Yes indeed, we are in a different era. We are more aware of the responsibilities of our leaders, more aware of our responsibilities as followers. 

Can we translate this awareness of ours into action at the polls in 2015?

Saturday, December 6, 2014

#TGIF: The Morning After

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Waking up early in the morning to sounds from the singing of the birds, the "business" of the couple next door, the prayers from the mosque across the street - beautiful.

Waking up early in the morning to sounds of quarrelling and fighting by people who are still suffering from (the effects of) their hangovers - pitiful.

Reality may go on holidays Friday evenings, but it always comes back home Saturday mornings.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wole Soyinka: King Nebuchadnezzar - The Reign of Impunity

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Prof Wole Soyinka

Blognote: Prof Wole Soyinka is usually introduced in Nigerian circles as a Nobel laureate (or maybe as the Nobel laureate), and rightly so. But I like to think of him as the up and coming conscience of the nation, the man who is in some ways beginning to wear those big shoes that Gani Fawehinmi left behind. 

His calls for decisive action against Boko Haram, for punishment for those police officers who attempted a coup on the National Assembly, for an official commitment to good governance..., these calls may not make much difference to an administration whose legendary inertia for good governance is surpassed only by its unequalled capacity for rationalizing absurdities in the pursuit of its political adversaries. Nor does he expect them to. 

It is however important that he makes these statements. It is important that people around the country whose patriotism is to Nigeria, - and not to parochial interests of a religion, an ethnic group, or a club of any melange of interests - continue to speak up every day and in every way. It is important for posterity to have evidence that tells them that not everyone in our days was a blind follower of Jonathan, Buhari, Okorocha, Atiku, Amaechi, - or a blind antagonist of these and other characters, for that matter. The good professor is therefore putting himself on the right side of history by taking what I consider to be an impartial position on issues of contemporary relevance. 

In what follows, which is the text of a speech attributed to Professor Soyinka and which I have retrieved from Dr Kinikanwo Orlu's Facebook post, the professor affirms the obvious: the solution to the country's problems will come at a price. The question is: How much are the citizens willing to pay? And how soon?

For other articles by Professor Soyinka, please click here.


I shall not insist that the historic/biblical figure of Nebuchadnezzar is uniquely apt for the pivotal figure of the ‘democratic’ history in the making at this moment – for one thing, Nebu was a nation builder and a warrior. One could argue even more convincingly for the figure of Balthazar, his successor, or indeed Emperor Nero as reference point – you all remember him – the emperor who took to fiddling while Rome was burning. However you should easily recall why I opted for King Nebu –the figure that currently sits on the top of our political pile himself evoked it, albeit in a context that virtuously disclaimed any similarities, even tendencies. Perhaps he meant it at the time when he claimed: ‘I am no Nebuchadnezzar’. Perhaps not. One judges leaders on acts however, not pronouncements, which are often as reliable as electoral promises. King Nebu remains relevant – and not only for leadership. We, the citizens, are beginning to feel the heat. Without any claims to prophecy – unlike Shadrach and company, we wake up each morning to a sensation that we have been cast in the furnace together with those who at least committed the crime of dissent or criticism. No divine miracle appears to be at hand for a last-minute rescue. In desperation, one is reduced to hoping that the evocation of his own biblical reference point will resonate somewhere in the mind of one who is so ostentatiously humble and pious, kneels at the feet of a priest who could easily be mistaken for an office worker, and cultivates the high and holy company of acknowledged spokesmen of God.

So, here goes. Gentlemen of the Press, let’s not beat around the bush: the line has been drawn. The people must decide – whether to submit or resist. We may be no-count plebeians in the sight of the new-born patricians of Aso Rock and their apologists but, must we revert to the Abacharian status of glorified slaves? Of course, it is up to any people to decide.

The Praetorian Guards have been let loose – to teach the rabble their place. The recent choice of a new leader for the Guard was clearly no accident, and this hitherto unknown enforcer, one Suleiman Abba, has wasted no time in inaugurating a season of brutish power.

When a people’s elected emissaries are disenfranchised, cast out like vagrants and resort to scaling fences to engage in their designated functions, the people get the message. However, the choice is always there, and each choice comes at a cost. It is either we pay now, or pay later.

The latest action of the supposed guardians of the law against the nation’s lawgivers is an unambiguous declaration of war against the people. I am glad that a commentator has referred to it as an attempted coup d'etat. And it nearly worked.

Legislators are not elected for their athletic powers, and such endeavours should not be demanded of them. There are even presidents and prime ministers who were elected despite physical handicaps. The brain is where it matters, the vision and commitment to service. Our legislators however have been made to perform over and beyond the call of the Olympics. I don’t understand why some media have described their action as a show of shame – this is a very careless, easily misapplied designation. The act of scaling gates and walls to fulfill their duty by the people must be set down as their finest hour. They must be applauded, not derided. If shame belongs anywhere, it belongs to the Inspector-General of Police and his slavish adherence to conspiratorial, illegal, and unconstitutional instructions – to undermine a democratic structure, and one – to make matters worse – convoked in response to an emergency of dire public concern.

What sticks to this policeman is worse than shame, it is infamy. Such a public servant deserves to be publicly pilloried, tried and meted a punishment that is appropriate to treasonable acts, if only to serve as a deterrent to others in positions of responsibility under the law. To demand less is to reduce ourselves below the status of free citizens of a free nation. It means we endorse violence against our representatives; that we are content to submit ourselves to the jackboots of the armed forces. It is to annunciate the era of the brute as the current fundamental modality of governance.

For this latest outrage, one in an escalating series of impunity, the buck stops yet again at the presidency, and that incumbent, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, continues to surprise us in ways that very few could have conjectured. Peaking at his own personalized example where he set the law of simple arithmetic on its head – I refer to the split in the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), and his ‘formal’ recognition of the minority will in a straightforward, peer election – democracy has been rendered meaningless where it should be most fervently exemplified. Nothing is more unworthy of leadership than to degrade a system by which one attains fulfillment, and this is what the nation has witnessed time and time again in various parts of the nation, the recent affront against the legislative chamber being only the most blatant and unconscionable. We know of course that this is not the first of its kind in the nation’s history, but precedents are not binding. Each leader selects his or her own model for emulation or avoidance, and that choice is certain indication of the true nature of such a leader, and a clue to the kind of conduct that a people can expect of him. It is a warning. His choices for the occupancy of crucial public positions - such as the protective arm of the nation - constitutes an even more immediate and constant public alert. The signals are ominous – for and beyond 2015.

These, to state the obvious, are not ordinary times. The menace of Boko Haram hangs over the corporate entity called a nation and over individual, citizen or mere bird of passage. The cliché ‘heating up the polity’ may grate the ear-drums with its banality but I think that we have a right to demand of a leader not to stoke up the furnace in which events have cast its citizens. Every day records a new violation of our humanity. The atrocious targeting of the great mosque of Kano has rendered any lingering doubt of impending national implosion an invitation for collective suicide, preferably through piecemeal dismemberment. The theories of cause and effect can wait, or continue – it does not matter – the omniscient in such matters continue to pontificate, some of them blithely forgetting that they indeed contributed to policies that landed us in this brutal cleft. What does matter is an awareness that the nation is only part of a global eruption of fundamentalist delusions whose staple diet consists of destabilization and dehumanization – all summed up as an ideology of hate for the different. For the defiant. This should form the basis of understanding by which an implacable enemy is confronted. And it should form the basis of leadership awareness. It should have led, by now, to national mobilization on an unprecedented scale, one that may even impinge, however temporarily, on those liberties that you and I consider non-negotiable in our rights as citizens.

However, imagine, just imagine that today’s leadership were of such a cast of mind, one that makes demands of sacrifice from the citizens. The response would be outright rejection. And deservedly so, because any such motion would be distrusted. It would be seen as an act of insincerity, an opportunity to acquire even more powers for citizen enslavement. This is the price you pay for encroaching on the precincts and entitlement of others with whom you share a structure of authority. You lose the trust of the other legs of – in this case – a governance tripod. Every act, especially in abnormal circumstances, would be viewed with extreme suspicion, and the gates, open wide, without any strenuous effort on its part, to the triumphal progression of the enemy. That is the collateral damage that the abuse of power attracts to whatever should be a collaborative undertaking. Where governance has degenerated to such a level that any individual, on account of his uniform, can stop an elected representative of a people, in this case a governor, from going about his legitimate duties or exercising his basic, elementary right as a citizen – as happened during the recent Ekiti elections – we do not need to guess what happens in a situation that calls for general mobilization, on which, needless to say, the good will and trust of all arms of governance depend in a crisis. This of course requires the capacity for forward thinking.

The shambles that punctuated a presidential campaign visit at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State a few days ago merely underline the total alienation of President Jonathan from the reality that has engulfed the nation. Yes, political campaigns are part and parcel of the bloodline of the democratic process. We know that they never stop. However, that a national leader should go campaigning on the platform of ethnic support at a time when priorities dictate a united national engagement for survival, is a grotesque undertaking that was tragically rebuked in the massacre of worshippers and desecration of the Kano mosques, almost simultaneously with alienated gathering of selected crowned heads and journeymen at the OAU campus, a macabre echo of Balthazar’s feast. Long before Nyanya, long before Chibok, long before the mildest of the now innumerable violations of our basic right to exist as free citizens, the march of a nation towards implosion has dominated the landscape, but an obsession with the pettiness of power has obscured remedial vision and thus, the creative options constantly open to any prescient leadership.

If Somalia was too far away an instruction, then surely Mali remains sufficiently close warning. With the invasion of Mali by al Qaeda and its clones and surrogates, we moved from mere portents, from mere distant rumblings, to the wake-up knock right against our gates - and yet leadership slumber remained unbroken. Mali was retrieved, a breathing space created, but it would appear that this was when complacency took over and snoring attained its highest pitch. The few waking moments have been spent on sterile, tawdry intrigues and consolidation on the marshes and quicksands of power. That failure in the aggressive destabilisation of the enemy is the cross that the nation bears today - but we must concede that this gross dereliction applies not only to Nigeria but to her neighbours - indeed to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) – and the collective failure for concerted action.

Leadership counts however, and it was Nigeria that took the lead in that critical and timely mission that was spearheaded by France.

The lesson of Mali was completely lost on complacent leadership however, leaving time and space for alien invaders to make common cause with the internal, unleashing destruction at will and dancing around a nation whose armed forces have acquitted themselves creditably on foreign missions. The architect of that initial policy of containment was the recently deceased Gbenga Ashiru, then a Foreign Minister, unceremoniously removed for the ends of premature politicking, before the logical development of that initiative. Now of course, the very manipulators of Ashiru’s removal are falling over one another to heap praise on the quality of his achievements in office, skirting – who can blame them!- the tawdry reasons for his removal from office. Petty, retaliatory calculations that placed the interests of the nation, the very security of its people in acute jeopardy from unfinished business. Ashiru’s presence in that position had become a fly in the palm wine of Balthazar’s Feast. Caution: no one dares predict that the plight of Nigerians would be any rosier had his ideas been pursued till the very end. The point is simply this – a process was interrupted, truncated without thought, petty politicking being made to override substance. I wrote Ashiru to commiserate with him and to bolster his morale. He replied in only two words: USE AND DUMP!

Defend yourselves! This is what the perceptive have preached and groups like the so-called Junior Task Force translated into action, the real heroes of the defence of the tattered “Nigerian sovereignty”, Among them, a hitherto unknown, a woman, has become one of the symbols of resistance, an ordinary woman turned extraordinary, one of the hunters who routed the diabolical hordes who appear to rout our military even before their appearance. Does it sound today as whimsical as it may have sounded to some when l urged the organisation of willing survivors of Boko Haram into local defence corps, their women especially; proposed that they be kitted out fully, and formally inducted as auxiliaries. Ladi, it would appear, needed no such urging from any direction. It was obvious to her, and others like her that it was futile to await salvation from a centre that is so self-obsessed with power that it no longer sees even the danger to its very existence. A people must defend itself. These are no ordinary times, and we have moved beyond orthodox solutions. “Where two or three are gathered together…” I shall complete those words my own way - “they must anticipate, organize, obtaining or improvising the wherewithal as circumstances dictate". Fascism is the eternal enemy of freedom, and it comes both in internal and external forms.

Today, it would be premature to claim that Suleiman Abba and the many incarnations of Shekau are cut from the same mould but, remember, we have been here before. Who can forget Sunday Adewusi, the original Robo-Cop! And so, consider this; the ripples from the fascistic eruption of a Suleiman Abba may actually result in far greater casualties and inhuman degradation of society than those so far recorded even at the hands of Shekarau and his cohorts. That is the real and present danger. This is why the call for vigilance is real and urgent, and a need to clip the wings of this predatory bird before it devours society has become paramount.

Beset by external and internal threats to liberty and dignity, abandoned internally by a do-it-yourself government on the one hand, and externally by (claimed) impediments from cynical allies - as we are made to believe in the media - let no one cry anarchy when the people respond to that historic cry of liberation, to which one leader after another – the most recent being the Emir of Kano and the Ulama leader, Yahaha Jingir – have felt moved to urge upon their people.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Funke Egbemode: Virgins At The Village Evening Market

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Blognote: Funke Egbemode is a great columnist. She writes beautifully and I enjoy reading her thoughts. This article, which appeared in the most recent edition of the Sunday Sun, highlights some of the considerations we should be making as we inch closer to Decision Day 2015. Some of the feminist overtones in the piece rankle, particularly those areas that misrepresent men as compulsive spoilers. But on the whole, it is a good read.
For other articles by Funke Egbemode, please click here.

It is that time and season again. Everywhere is a bee­hive of activities. We are being tantalized and titillated. They are whispering the sweet­est things in our ticklish ears and promising us they will love us for­ever. Or haven’t you heard them? Of course, you have. It’s like the evening market in the village. The village damsels are all powdered and smelling nice. Their wrap­pers are tied in ways that show off their well rounded backsides. They bare their youthful skin, their necks tilted at angles that leave the men panting.

When young men go to evening market, it is not to buy vegetable or local seasoning. It is usually because their libido is running wild. Their blood is hot, their loins burning, seeking to be assuaged by a damsel’s you-know-what. Somehow, most of the maidens you see in this market are also not here to buy pepper or dry fish. They have, most times, left home without their mothers’ consent, sneaking through the back into the dark. They also want to spread their wings and experiment. The girls enjoy the sweet lines the boys are armed with. Away from the flickering light of the oil lamp, they sneak into darker corners to nurse their desires. Under the cover of the night, far from the real buying and selling, the young men sell their lies. A few young gullible girls drink to their hearts’ content the dripping honey-coated lies, moaning until the mourning morning after. A few maiden heads have been reported broken in those couple of hours.

The hot loin cooled, the man goes home grinning like the cat who got the milk. And indeed, didn’t he? The virgin sneaks back in, confused, close to tears, wondering if she hadn’t sold her honour and future for a few minutes of inde­scribable ecstasy.

The evening market has a short life span. So everything is done quickly, under the cover of the night. The results of such nocturnal consorts of course always come out in the light of day, by which time the young man is satis­fied and the virgin no longer a virgin but a mother-in-waiting. The hands of the clock, however, moves on irrevers­ibly. The deed in the night leaves a mark, the one that makes or mar the life of the nocturnal actors. A protruding tummy, a graph that moves quickly from linear to parabola can be mean on the eyes and psyche. And it is often worse when the hot-blooded, loving man of last night becomes the sneering, denying hard-faced man in the morning. With a lost maiden-head and a baby on the way, a disconsolate unprepared mum-to-be, a growling father threatening thunder, a bewildered mother, yesterday’s maiden is often faced with the consequences of her indiscretion and gullibility.

So, I say again, it’s that time of the day again. The evening market is on.

The politicians are all over us like hot-blooded males. They are armed with their sweet nothings promising us heaven and earth and luring us further and further into dark corners, away from the flickering light of reality. They left home prepared, determined to have their ways with us. Are we prepared to resist their charming lines and roving hands? Are the virgins armed to resist the lies? Are we discerning enough now? Did we learn anything from the repercussions and consequences of the last evening market in 2011?

Take a good look at your graph, is it in the shape and curve you want? Is this nation where you want it to be? Did your state make the right decisions in 2011? If it didn’t, are you again listening to the pink poem of the politicians or think­ing with your head and not your hearts? When a man wants to gain access to the secret place of a woman, what can’t he promise? His legs will shake because he’s on fire and he will say things that he will deny the morning after. But right now, on the campaign trail, they are touching all our buttons, flicking and squeezing. They know all the right places and because we are human (and woman) and they are man (and mean), there is a clear and present danger if we buckle at the knees.

Are they not appealing to our hearts? Oh yes. They are selling us zoning and religion. They are telling you that voting for your kinsman is the thing to do. What if your kinsman is a m-u-m-u or a thief seeking bigger loot? If he is a failed man­ager of a small shop, should you entrust a shopping mall to him just because he speaks the same dialect as you? Fine, he has money and he’s throwing it all over the place just like the hot-blooded male seek­ing a maiden-head to devour or destroy. And you are considering giving up your priceless honey pot just because he says he will handle it with care?

I have always wondered why we believe politicians who sell their cars and houses to seek elective posts so they can serve us, you and I. What brand of balderdash is that? We are the people who want to be served, why are they the ones making all the sacrifices? Shouldn’t we be the ones pooling resources and raising funds for the man we want to serve us? Yet, year in year out, Nigerian politicians sell their properties, stocks, and take bank facilities to fund their love for us. Incredible, unconditional love like no other. And we believe them. What kind of people does that make us, foolish virgins at the evening market?

Fine, I know it’s difficult to resist a man who knows the password to your system but if your knight in shining armour denied you the morning after the last evening market, shouldn’t you change your password?

The truth is we have done things the same way for too long and though it is almost too late for us to let us make an effort this time. We all know what we want; the return of the glorious days and even better. We want public schools we can be proud of. We want Nigeri­ans to school abroad and return home. We want the naira to exchange for two pounds . We want a diversified econ­omy, not the one that is good only on paper and power point presentation. And yes, a safe country where we can have family holidays again in Yankari Games Reserve in Bauchi! We need to keep this country together, strong and viable. Right now, we are in the dog house, like the deceived damsel who let her parents down by given her gold up in a dark corner. We cannot continue like this. We are in a frustrating place and we need to take a detour on this road to national perdition.

Let’s ignore what the politicians are whispering in our ears. They know what they want. Let us also do what we need to do. Sentiments, ethnic and religious, have led us nowhere, why should we keep staggering down this dirt path like drunken idiots? Why? Consider this: If you vote for that man who sits beside you in church not because he can deliver the goods but because he is your church­man, when he wins and is sworn-n, you will not even be able to sit beside him or greet him after service because his security men have a job to protect him from you! Exactly.

Let us stay within the vicinity of the flickering oil lamp. Let us keep our heads. Let us change the passwords to our system. This maiden-head must remain intact after this evening market. We should give it up honourably only to the man who deserves it in the cosy comfort of a warm bedroom, not against a rough wall, in the arms of a Judas, in a dark corner.

Wole Soyinka: The Crimes of Buhari

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Blognote: My opposition to the idea of a Buhari presidency has been clear from the outset. As a matter of principle - and discipline, really - the man who led a coup against an elected government has no business seeking to get elected (the Egyptian option). I may not have been old enough to understand what life was like in the country that Buhari ran, along with Idiagbon, at the dawn of the 80s. But if I was not old enough, it does appear that Professor Wole Soyinka was. In the lead-up to the 2011 general elections, he wrote an article that showed that he had not forgotten much of the ills of that despotic era. That article, retrieved from the website behind this link, seems to be even more pertinent now in 2014 than it was back in 2011. The article follows hereunder.

For other articles by Professor Wole Soyinka, please click here.


This intervention has been provoked, not so much by the ambitions of General Buhari to return to power at the head of a democratic Nigeria, as by declarations of support from directions that leave one totally dumbfounded. It would appear that some, myself among them, had been overcomplacent about the magnitude of an ambition that seemed as preposterous as the late effort of General Ibrahim Babangida to aspire yet again to the honour of presiding over a society that truly seeks a democratic future. What one had dismissed was a rash of illusions, brought about by other political improbabilities that surround us, however, is being given an air of plausibility by individuals and groupings to which one had earlier attributed a sense of relevance of historic actualities. Recently, I published an article in the media, invoking the possible recourse to psychiatric explanation for some of the incongruities in conduct within national leadership. Now, to tell the truth, I have begun to seriously address the issue of which section of society requires the services of a psychiatrist. The contest for a seizure of rationality is now so polarized that I am quite reconciled to the fact it could be those of us on this side, not the opposing school of thought that ought to declare ourselves candidates for a lunatic asylum. So be it. While that decision hangs in the balance however, the forum is open. Let both sides continue to address our cases to the electorate, but also prepare to submit ourselves for psychiatric examination.

The time being so close to electoral decision, we can understand the haste of some to resort to shortcuts. In the process however, we should not commit the error of opening the political space to any alternative whose curative touch to national afflictions have proven more deadly than the disease. In order to reduce the clutter in our options towards the forthcoming elections, we urge a beginning from what we do know, what we have undergone, what millions can verify, what can be sustained by evidence accessible even to the school pupil, the street hawker or a just-come visitor from outer space. Leaving Buhari aside for now, I propose a commencing exercise that should guide us along the path of elimination as we examine the existing register of would-be president. That initial exercise can be summed up in the following speculation: “If it were possible for Olusegun Obasanjo, the actual incumbent, to stand again for election, would you vote for him?”

If the answer is “yes”, then of course all discussion is at an end. If the answer is “no” however, then it follows that a choice of a successor made by Obasanjo should be assessed as hovering between extremely dangerous and an outright kiss of death. The degree of acceptability of such a candidate should also be inversely proportionate to the passion with which he or she is promoted by the would-be ‘godfather’. We do not lack for open evidence about Obasanjo’s passion in this respect. From Lagos to the USA, he has taken great pains to assure the nation and the world that the anointed NPN presidential flag bearer is guaranteed, in his judgment, to carry out his policies. Such an endorsement/anointment is more than sufficient, in my view, for public acceptance or rejection. Yar’Adua’s candidature amounts to a terminal kiss from a moribund regime. Nothing against the person of this – I am informed - personable governor, but let him understand that in addition to the direct source of his emergence, the PDP, on whose platform he stands, represents the most harrowing of this nation’s nightmares over and beyond even the horrors of the Abacha regime. If he wishes to be considered on his own merit, now is time for him, as well as others similarly enmeshed, to exercise the moral courage that goes with his repudiation of that party, a dissociation from its past, and a pledge to reverse its menacing future. We shall find him an alternative platform on which to stand, and then have him present his credentials along those of other candidates engaged in forging a credible opposition alliance. Until then, let us bury this particular proposition and move on to a far graver, looming danger, personified in the history of General Buhari.

The grounds on which General Buhari is being promoted as the alternative choice are not only shaky, but pitifully naive. History matters. Records are not kept simply to assist the weakness of memory, but to operate as guides to the future. Of course, we know that human beings change. What the claims of personality change or transformation impose on us is a rigorous inspection of the evidence, not wishful speculation or behind-the-scenes assurances. Public offence, crimes against a polity, must be answered in the public space, not in caucuses of bargaining. In Buhari, we have been offered no evidence of the sheerest prospect of change. On the contrary, all evident suggests that this is one individual who remains convinced that this is one ex-ruler that the nation cannot call to order.

Buhari – need one remind anyone - was one of the generals who treated a Commission of Enquiry, the Oputa Panel, with unconcealed disdain. Like Babangida and Abdusalami, he refused to put in appearance even though complaints that were tabled against him involved a career of gross abuses of power and blatant assault on the fundamental human rights of the Nigerian citizenry. 

Prominent against these charges was an act that amounted to nothing less than judicial murder, the execution of a citizen under a retroactive decree. Does Decree 20 ring a bell? If not, then, perhaps the names of three youths - Lawal Ojuolape (30), Bernard Ogedengbe (29) and Bartholomew Owoh (26) do. To put it quite plainly, one of those three – Ogedengbe - was executed for a crime that did not carry a capital forfeit at the time it was committed. This was an unconscionable crime, carried out in defiance of the pleas and protests of nearly every sector of the Nigerian and international community – religious, civil rights, political, trade unions etc. Buhari and his sidekick and his partner-in-crime, Tunde Idiagbon persisted in this inhuman act for one reason and one reason only: to place Nigerians on notice that they were now under an iron, inflexible rule, under governance by fear.

The execution of that youthful innocent – for so he was, since the punishment did not exist at the time of commission - was nothing short of premeditated murder, for which the perpetrators should normally stand trial upon their loss of immunity. Are we truly expected to forget this violation of our entitlement to security as provided under existing laws? And even if our sensibilities have become blunted by succeeding seasons of cruelty and brutality, if power itself had so coarsened the sensibilities also of rulers and corrupted their judgment, what should one rightly expect after they have been rescued from the snare of power” At the very least, a revaluation, leading hopefully to remorse, and its expression to a wronged society. At the very least, such a revaluation should engender reticence, silence. In the case of Buhari, it was the opposite. Since leaving office he has declared in the most categorical terms that he had no regrets over this murder and would do so again.

Human life is inviolate. The right to life is the uniquely fundamental right on which all other rights are based. The crime that General Buhari committed against the entire nation went further however, inconceivable as it might first appear. That crime is one of the most profound negations of civic being. Not content with hammering down the freedom of expression in general terms, Buhari specifically forbade all public discussion of a return to civilian, democratic rule. Let us constantly applaud our media – those battle scarred professionals did not completely knuckle down. They resorted to cartoons and oblique, elliptical references to sustain the people’s campaign for a time-table to democratic rule. Overt agitation for a democratic time table however remained rigorously suppressed – military dictatorship, and a specifically incorporated in Buhari and Idiagbon was here to stay. To deprive a people of volition in their own political direction is to turn a nation into a colony of slaves. Buhari enslaved the nation. He gloated and gloried in a master-slave relation to the millions of its inhabitants. It is astonishing to find that the same former slaves, now free of their chains, should clamour to be ruled by one who not only turned their nation into a slave plantation, but forbade them any discussion of their condition.

So Tai Solarin is already forgotten? Tai who stood at street corners, fearlessly distributing leaflets that took up the gauntlet where the media had dropped it. Tai who was incarcerated by that regime and denied even the medication for his asthmatic condition? Tai did not ask to be sent for treatment overseas; all he asked was his traditional medicine that had proved so effective after years of struggle with asthma!

Nor must we omit the manner of Buhari coming to power and the pattern of his ‘corrective’ rule. Shagari’s NPN had already run out of steam and was near universally detested – except of course by the handful that still benefited from that regime of profligacy and rabid fascism. Responsibility for the national condition lay squarely at the door of the ruling party, obviously, but against whom was Buhari’s coup staged? Judging by the conduct of that regime, it was not against Shagari’s government but against the opposition. The head of government, on whom primary responsibility lay, was Shehu Shagari. Yet that individual was kept in cozy house detention in Ikoyi while his powerless deputy, Alex Ekwueme, was locked up in Kiri-kiri prisons. Such was the Buhari notion of equitable apportionment of guilt and/or responsibility.

And then the cascade of escapes of the wanted, and culpable politicians. Manhunts across the length and breadth of the nation, roadblocks everywhere and borders tight as steel zip locks. Lo and behold, the chairman of the party, Chief Akinloye, strolled out coolly across the border. Richard Akinjide, Legal Protector of the ruling party, slipped out with equal ease. The Rice Minister, Umaru Dikko, who declared that Nigerians were yet to eat from dustbins - escaped through the same airtight dragnet. The clumsy attempt to crate him home was punishment for his ingratitude, since he went berserk when, after waiting in vain, he concluded that the coup had not been staged, after all, for the immediate consolidation of the party of extreme right-wing vultures, but for the military hyenas.

The case of the overbearing Secretary-General of the party, Uba Ahmed, was even more noxious. Uba Ahmed was out of the country at the time. Despite the closure of the Nigerian airspace, he compelled the pilot of his plane to demand special landing permission, since his passenger load included the almighty Uba Ahmed. Of course, he had not known of the change in his status since he was airborne. The delighted airport commandant, realizing that he had a much valued fish swimming willingly into a waiting net, approved the request. Uba Ahmed disembarked into the arms of a military guard and was promptly clamped in detention. Incredibly, he vanished a few days after and reappeared in safety overseas. Those whose memories have become calcified should explore the media coverage of that saga. Buhari was asked to explain the vanished act of this much prized quarry and his response was one of the most arrogant levity. Coming from one who had shot his way into power on the slogan of ‘dis’pline’, it was nothing short of impudent.

Shall we revisit the tragicomic series of trials that landed several politicians several lifetimes in prison? Recall, if you please, the ‘judicial’ processes undergone by the septuagenarian Chief Adekunle Ajasin. He was arraigned and tried before Buhari’s punitive tribunal but acquitted. Dissatisfied, Buhari ordered his re-trial. Again, the Tribunal could not find this man guilty of a single crime, so once again he was returned for trial, only to be acquitted of all charges of corruption or abuse of office. Was Chief Ajasin thereby released? No! He was ordered detained indefinitely, simply for the crime of winning an election and refusing to knuckle under Shagari’s reign of terror. 

The conduct of the Buhari regime after his coup was not merely one of double, triple, multiple standards but a cynical travesty of justice. Audu Ogbeh, currently chairman of the Action Congress was one of the few figures of rectitude within the NPN. Just as he has done in recent times with the PDP, he played the role of an internal critic and reformer, warning, dissenting, and setting an example of probity within his ministry. For that crime he spent months in unjust incarceration. Guilty by association? Well, if that was the motivating yardstick of the administration of the Buhari justice, then it was most selectively applied. The utmost severity of the Buhari-Idiagbon justice was especially reserved either for the opposition in general, or for those within the ruling party who had showed the sheerest sense of responsibility and patriotism.

Shall I remind this nation of Buhari’s deliberate humiliating treatment of the Emir of Kano and the Oni of Ife over their visit to the state of Israel? I hold no brief for traditional rulers and their relationship with governments, but insist on regarding them as entitled to all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of any Nigerian citizen. This royal duo went to Israel on their private steam and private business. Simply because the Buhari regime was pursuing some antagonistic foreign policy towards Israel, a policy of which these traditional rulers were not a part, they were subjected on their return to a treatment that could only be described as a head masterly chastisement of errant pupils. Since when, may one ask, did a free citizen of the Nigerian nation require the permission of a head of state to visit a foreign nation that was willing to offer that tourist a visa.?

One is only too aware that some Nigerians love to point to Buhari’s agenda of discipline as the shining jewel in his scrap-iron crown. To inculcate discipline however, one must lead by example, obeying laws set down as guides to public probity. Example speaks louder than declarations, and rulers cannot exempt themselves from the disciplinary strictures imposed on the overall polity, especially on any issue that seeks to establish a policy for public well-being. The story of the thirty something suitcases – it would appear that they were even closer to fifty - found unavoidable mention in my recent memoirs, YOU MUST SET FORTH AT DAWN, written long before Buhari became spoken of as a credible candidate. For the exercise of a changeover of the national currency, the Nigerian borders – air, sea and land – had been shut tight. Nothing was supposed to move in or out, not even cattle egrets.

Yet a prominent camel was allowed through that needle’s eye. Not only did Buhari dispatch his aide-de-camp, Jokolo – later to become an emir - to facilitate the entry of those cases, he ordered the redeployment – as I later discovered - of the Customs Officer who stood firmly against the entry of the contravening baggage. That officer, the incumbent Vice-president is now a rival candidate to Buhari, but has somehow, in the meantime, earned a reputation that totally contradicts his conduct at the time. Wherever the truth lies, it does not redound to the credibility of the dictator of that time, General Buhari whose word was law, but whose allegiances were clearly negotiable.