Saturday, June 30, 2007

Mr. Rotimi Adebari is the mayor of Laois. He congratulated the people who voted for him and noted that Ireland is becoming a more 'accepting' country.

Read the report on BBC.

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As of June 28, 2007
Compiled from various media reports
AMOUNT (Naira)
Cash in Nigerian Banks:
132,396, 162.21
Bank PHB, Nagogo Road, Katsina branch
Bank PHB, Apapa Lagos Branch
Bank PHB, Head Office,Kaduna
UB Plc (formerly Intercity), Imani Branch, Abuja (loan & debit)
UB Plc, Imani Branch, Abuja (loan & debit)
Cash in Hand
(derived from savings, campaign and post campaign contributions)
Details of property in Nigeria
Yar'Adua Quarters Katsina (acquired through inheritance in 1997)
Multi-storey building in Abuja (land granted to him in 1998)
Duplex, in Malali, Kaduna (gift from late brother Shehu)
7-Bedroom duplex in Kaduna (built in 1987)
Undeveloped Plots
Asokoro New Layout (granted in 1998)
Farm in Ruwan Godiya, Katsina (acquired in 1982)
Farm in Ajiwa, Katsina (acquired in 1993)
Honda Accord AC 151 ABC
Mercedes Benz
29 new (campaign) vehicles
Household Furniture
Details of Spouse's Properties
3 local houses (acquired 1998)
1 twin bungalow (acquired in 2002)
3 vacant plots (acquired in 2003)
Investments in and outside Nigeria
Habib Nigeria Bank PLC shares (acquired in 1998)
2,000,000 units
Intercity Bank Plc shares
100,000 units
Muradi Hotels Ltd. Shares
100,000 units
GRAND TOTAL ASSETS (minus worth of shares)
945,446, 162.21
[Unity Bank Plc, Imani Estate Branch, Maitama, Abuja ]

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Friday, June 29, 2007

In most Western democracies, the financial assets of politicians and other individuals of significance and clout are usually readily available. This information is not always accessible in most African countries. However, for the first time Nigerian history, a politician has let us know what he is worth. Yardy declared his assets at $5 million or N850 million.

I congratulate Yardy on sharing this information with the Nigerian public. Apparently, Yardy typically released such financial information when he was governor of Katsina. Upon releasing the information yesterday, he declared that his action “was borne out of his conviction that the war against corruption cannot have meaning until those at the helm begin to live by example”. According to ThisDay, he also added that he would work with the leadership of the National Assembly “to see what can be done to make assets declarations an effective weapon in the fight against corruption and abuse of office”. A statement of his wife's assets were also released and stand at N19 million.

As a strategical move, declaring his wealth reinforces Yardy's reputation as an honest and non-corrupt politician. It will prevent or at least limit, accusations of graft, which are sure to come. However, even this cannot clean him of the stench that was the elections. Questions as to his legitimacy remain. Yet one cannot help but applaud the effort to foster transparency in Nigerian politics. After all, transparency is a concept seemingly alien to Nigeria and its introduction to most facets of Nigerian life could serve to help alleviate some of the problems we have - CORRUPTION, INEFFICIENCY.

Nevertheless, Yardy, a former teacher, has done very well for himself. Let us see what his next step will be.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Is it true? Did many former state governors leave their states bankrupt or close to bankruptcy? According to Rueben Abati, Akwa Ibom, Jigawa, Niger, Plateau and Sokoto State are facing empty coffers.

Many of you will comment that I should not be shocked, but I am. I understand that 'leaders' can "chop money well, well" (translation: steal money), but I would hope that in this day and age they would steal with caution and sophistication. Take a little - skim off the top. Leave enough to cover your tracks.

Don't get me wrong, I am not endorsing theft of public/government property and/or monies, I just would appreciate them leaving a little for the masses. Case in point, the new governor of Niger State has announced that Niger must borrow more than N700 billion to pay state workers and is already beginning to negotiate with labor leadership over the issue. The issue is so pervasive that Enugu State's deficit of N4 billion was referred to as a "modest figure under the circumstances." No wonder several former state governors were on the run even before their successors were sworn into office. Their immunity was up and they could now be held accountable for their failures.

My people, if you know a former governor who has been proven to have left his state with empty coffers, use your cell phone to take a picture of him/her, note the time and place and put it up on Youtube. That way we all know what he/she looks like and can keep an eye out. No, really. This has got to stop, politicians are servants not tyrants and are accountable for their actions. There need to be a top ten list of thief-thief people. Just like the FBI's most wanted list. Like Fela sang long ago, "Catch am, catch am, thief thief...."

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Being Nigerian is like being the mother of a wayward, troublesome child. You obviously love your child and are proud of his/her accomplishments but are deeply hurt and disappointed by his /her shortcomings. This relationship, between Nigerians and Nigeria is one that is frequently tinged by pride and pain. Nothing illustrates this as clearly as the following experience.

I am currently in the Commonwealth of Dominica and everywhere I go are reminders of home. Everyone is nice and kind. Many people even look like they could be Nigerian (yes, sometimes people can look 'Nigerian"). I see fruits I ate as a child living in Lagos - mangos, pawpaw (papaya), guava, breadfruit, bananas and much more. When I tell people that I am Nigerian, I get warm smiles and nice compliments (some rasta promptly called me an "African Queen"). I even discovered from a street vendor that Nollywood films are extremely popular here and in other parts of the West Indies.

Now, I have always been proud to be Nigerian. At no point in my existence has my nationality posed a problem. Until recently. Dominica is located in the Windward section of the Caribbean and is surrounded by other exciting destinations such as Grenada, Guadeloupe, Trinidad & Tobago and St. Kitts. Well, being that I am in Dominica, I decided that the family should visit Martinique - a neighboring French speaking island. A trip to Martinique should ordinarily take a quick 30 minutes by plane but a trip by a Nigerian with a Nigerian passport- now that wouldn't be that easy.

I called the local French Consul and was informed that as a Nigerian, it would be difficult to get a visa to visit. Although Martinique is located in the West Indies, it is a French colony and thus considered part of the EU for most purposes. Therefore, I would need to get a visa to travel there. However, the closest embassy is in St. Lucia and it only deals with the paper work of OECS citizens (Organization of Eastern Caribbean States). The kind lady I spoke to even suggested that as a U.S. resident, I "really should get an American passport." Long story short, I will not be visiting Martinique or any other French colony on this trip.

As a side note - travelling to Dominica was easy. As members of the British Commonwealth, Nigerians do not need a visa. So, if you feel like taking a trip, consider visiting Dominica. It is just a shame that carrying that green passport can be such a pain for Nigerian citizens even all the way out here in the Caribbean.

Further Reading:
- My Nigerian Passport Strikes Again!

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Brazil's latest celebrity is a reality tv show highlighting the federal police force. Over recent weeks, cameras have followed the police as they document corruption and arrest offenders. By offenders, I am talking about judges taking bribes and congressmen "arranging the purchase of ambulances at inflated prices." (Source: The Economist) Can you imagine a similar show in Nigeria.

Before you start wondering, I do not believe that such a show is coming to Nigerian television sets anytime soon. But I am quite sure that if it did, 'Corruption TV' would definitely be a ratings hit! It could also help stem corruption. However, such a program would probably require the cooperation of so many various organizations such as the Nigerian police, the EFCC (or other anti-graft agencies), the courts and state and federal governments, to say the least. Getting those many 'parts' involved could be taxing especially in a country where the rot is entrenched in every layer of society. The producers of such a show would have to worry that everyone, from a high ranking police official, to a lowly desk clerk could blow the operation with the receipt of a small bribe from 'interested parties'.

Nevertheless, I would pay good money to watch 'Corruption TV' if anyone ever dared to produce it. I think that by putting a face to the nameless pilferers would do Nigeria good. However, anyone who would attempt such an enterprise would need 'balls of steel'. To have such a show in Nigeria could prove costly and I am not talking about money.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

I mentioned recently that a few bloggers are working on a new project. That project is the Nigerian Lighthouse and it is an initiative to use information and technology to foster democracy in Nigeria. To achieve this goal, Nigerian Lighthouse will rely on the collaborative power of Nigerians and particularly bloggers.

The Nigerian Proclamation was a first step towards achieving the stated goal. As you know, Nigerian bloggers successfully used their blogs to respond to the recent electoral process in hopes of encouraging improvement from our government. Nigerian Lighthouse aims to build upon the success of that project and continue to encourage collaboration as a tool to improve governance on the local, state and federal level.

We hope that you will be interested enough to wank to participate because this endeavour will require many hands doing many things. Forget that old adage that suggests that too many cooks in the kitchen is a bad thing. With today's technology and the skills and experience of Nigerians around the world, the only way to make Nigeria work will be for the many to unite into one. It is with this sense of purpose that Nigerian Lighthouse aims to proceed in bettering Nigeria.

So, please keep your eye on as that will be our future home of the organization. We are currently making the website user friendly and trying to create a format where willing Nigerians and other individuals can join in the next step in making a change in Nigeria.

Thanks for your support and commitment. The road ahead will be difficult, but we will get through, together.

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Did anyone else notice that despite the criticism received by Nigeria for 'flawed' elections, Yar'Adua's inauguration was attended by many dignitaries from all over the world? It seems to me that democratic values are secondary to economic and political interests.

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Sunday, June 3, 2007

The United States House of Representatives will hold hearings on the recent Nigerian elections this Thursday, June 7th, 2007. Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Wole Soyinka and others has been invited to participate.

The hearings will be sponsored by the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health which is led by Congressman Donald Payne. It is entitled 'Nigeria at a Crossroads'.

To read more, please click here. (Source: Nigeria's Daily Independent Newspaper).

Please view a copy of the Hearing announcement.

I have decided to reserve my comments, for now.

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Saturday, June 2, 2007

In his inaugural speech, President Yar'Adua reached out to MEND and other Niger-Delta militants. He informed the nation, and the world, that the Delta crisis was one that needed to be solved immediately and called for a ceasefire.

MEND in turn responded that it was willing to participate in a ceasefire but only if certain expectations were met. This news caused ripples all over the world and the price of oil lessened, though briefly, due to optimism that some resolution was forthcoming.

Well, we must all give Yar'Adua a big pat on the back because MEND just announced a ceasefire. MEND will give the new administration one month to develop a peace plan. The militant group said it hoped Yar'Adua would "ruminate on positive and realistic measures towards a just peace in the Delta". And in a showing of good faith, MEND released a group of Chevron workers that were originally kidnapped on May 1st. It said, their release showed "a preparedness to dialogue with a willing government."

Yar'Adua has taken the first step in addressing the crisis that is the Niger Delta. Additionally, it is extremely positive that MEND referred to his government as being "willing". Let us all hope and pray that this is a sign of good things to come and that communication and cooperation will be the hallmarks of this administration and Nigeria as a whole. Such qualities will definitely move our country forward.

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