Friday, November 30, 2007

Dear Yardy:

Can you believe it? It has been 6 months already! Some doubted that you would make it this far. Even Shinzo Abe could not handle the task of running Japan and resigned after less than a year. He was later treated for exhaustion. Incredible, considering how healthy the Japanese are. So many of them even live past 100 years, while we Nigerians seem to kick the bucket at 47 or less. Anyway, running the juggernaut Nigeria , with less than prime health (as in your case), is even more difficult. Congratulations.

It seems it was only yesterday when you gave what some called an inspiring speech while accepting your new position. You then followed that up with an incredible feat - declaring your assets. Average Nigerians are still reeling in pleasant surprise from that move! Good job! You might become a pop icon. So many people have developed all sorts of nicknames for you. Femme even thinks that the name 'Yardy' is "sexy"! Did you ever think people would attribute that word with you? You, a simple former teacher with a no-nonsense reputation and anti-corruption spokesman.

I will not dwell on any shortcomings, for after all, you are human, shebi? Besides, this is a congratulatory letter, so I will avoid the negative. Instead, let me congratulate you on creating a new attitude amongst the Nigerian elite - fear! It appears that many now realize that their status and wealth might not be enough to protect them from scandal, shame and maybe even jail (though some people clearly deserve much longer prison terms than they are getting). Even Julius Burger is scurrying to "clean" up its act!

So, maybe continuously touting "rule of law" and taking forever to announce the members of your cabinet might pay off after all. I wish you the best of luck in moving Nigeria forward. The feat, is Herculean. With each success, there will be disappointments. But, as long as you continue to work towards the development of the Nation, and you lay the foundation for others to continue such development, you might just overcome the cloud of illegitimacy with which you became Head of State.

Best of luck, Yardy. The pressure is high and we are watching. Please do something about Aondoakaa. His actions suggest that your administration might not be so anti-corruption after all. Shikena!

With warmest regards,

PS: Don't worry, I will return to my usual cynical self in a few hours. I just wanted to give you a slight break! And by the way, you never told me your thoughts on The Nigerian Proclamation. Call me!

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Okay, not really, but if the following joke were real, that would be the leading headline in all of Nigeria's newspapers and even in many foreign papers as well.

Enjoy the 'lighter' side of Nigerian politics....

A driver is stuck in a traffic jam on the motorway. Nothing is  moving.

Suddenly a man knocks on the window. The driver rolls down his window and asks, "What's going on?"

The man responded "Militants have kidnapped, OBJ, IBB, Atiku,Buhari, Tony Anenih, Ahmadu Ali, Dariye, Nnamani,
Odili, Ibrahim Mantu, Tinubu, Kalu, Maurice Iwu, Adedibu, Ibori, Olubunmi Etteh, and Igbinedion.
They're asking for a $500 million ransom. Otherwise they're going to douse them with petrol and set them
on fire. So, we're going from car to car, taking up a collection."

The driver asks, "How much is everyone contributing, on the average?"

The man responded "About a litre of petrol and a stick of matches."

Too funny!!!

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Monday, November 26, 2007

For over a year, Siemens AG, the venerated German conglomerate, has been the subject of many intertwined investigations in various parts of Western Europe and America. The tactics used by this company to obtain contracts came into question when it was discovered that the company had a multi-million dollar "slush fund" of almost $256 million. The resulting scrutiny has led to various arrests in Europe, a case against a Siemens 'conspirator' in America, and apparently, a probe by Nigeria's ICPC into handsome bribes totaling 10 million Euros that were allegedly paid to high ranking Nigerians in order to obtain lucrative government contracts.

Siemens Logo
Siemens was found guilty of paying out bribes in a Munich court last week. German authorities then released the names of foreign individuals that were involved in fraudulent activities. These individuals have been indicted by the Munich court and will eventually have to make themselves available for questioning. On the list were a dew Nigerians including Bello Muhammed Haliru, Tajudeen Olanrewaju and Senator Jubril Aminu. Most of the alleged fraudsters have denied any involvement with any Siemens corruption.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

The world is achatter with talk of AFRICOM and no matter where you turn, the prognosis is negative or at least unclear. The only people attributing anything positive to AFRICOM is the U.S. government and even they don't seem completely convinced.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

The Coalition against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL), a group of young Nigerians, took to the streets of Lagos today with calls for the prosecution of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

CACOL's members marched to the Ikoyi offices of the EFCC and submitted a petition that alleged that OBJ stole money from the nation's coffers and should be arrested and prosecuted. The petition provided apparent evidence of OBJ's unjust enrichment by pointing to the creation of his privately owned library, a privately owned educational institution, Bells University of Technology, and the former general's Temperance Farm at Ota. CACOL is also calling for an investigation into the management of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund. They elaborated that,

“The Ad hoc Committee on the operation of the PTDF gave a verdict in February 2007, indicting the former President of gross financial mismanagement and corruption.

“The chairman of the panel, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN), said that the former President issued public funds for the prosecution of his third term bid and supervised the diversion of public funds which were illegally deposited in banks”

The petition and protest were closely followed by the EFCC announcement that it is ready to investigate and prosecute OBJ for any unjust enrichment.

I am happy to see that young Nigerians are exercising their democratic right to protest and to call for accountability. I can only hope that Ribadu will actually follow through with a thorough investigation into the allegations. In a way, I feel sorry for Obasanjo, because I can admit that he did some very good things for Nigeria, particularly for the economy. Nigeria will probably benefit from some of the right choices he made during his administration. Unfortunately, he destroyed his own legacy by not alienating himself from the calls for a third term, interfering in the 'election' of Yardy as President and aligning himself with dubious characters like Kalu and Adedibu (who was finally arrested and might actually face justice for his un-god fatherly activity in Ibadan!).

Congratulations to CACOL and others that are willing to defend the rights of Nigeria. They, for better or worse, are Patriots!

And what is all this about Iyabo Obasanjo being a two time convict in the United States?

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Pew Research Center released a new report that suggests that blacks cannot be considered a single race. The reason for this, according to participants, has to do with divergent values between upper and middle class Blacks and lower class Blacks.

Reading over the report and listening to the commentary it generated on NPR this morning suggests to me that the concept of 'Blackness' is in flux. I always believed that one's blackness primarily had to do with the color of their skin. In fact I would argue that historically, that was the case. If one is to believe the new Pew report, one's Blackness now has more to do with your class and values.

Nevertheless, I was taken aback by a glaring ommission. It appears that the study did not focus on an important source of diversity within the 'Black' group - the growing number of foreign born Blacks in America and their heirs. In this day and age, the average 'Black' American can be of Caribbean or African origin. My neighborhood can definitely attest to this phenomenon. I live within shouting distance of 7 African families (6 of them are Nigerian).

I completely understand that the Pew report was meant to focus on African-Americans. Consequently, I am curious as to why a discussion on the diversity of Blacks did not touch on foreign-born Blacks. But considering the fact that a major contender for the Democratic Presidential ticket is part Kenyan, and the number of Black immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa continues to increase, I believe that it is high time that the existence of foreign-born Blacks be recognized and their issues addressed.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Not too long ago, Nigerian papers were awash with the arrest of Mrs. Asuni and some others who at the time were accused of espionage and terrorism. They apparently recorded footage of various oil installations and other allegedly sensitive locations in the Niger Delta region.

When I initially heard the story, I ignored it. After all, every nation has spies. It is commonly understood that foreign spies are in Nigeria just as Nigeria has agents in foreign countries. The possibility of there being spies in the Delta, though troublesome, is not shocking considering the energy agendas of most oil-hungry nations.

Unfortunately, I can no longer ignore this story because I find it incredibly worrisome that the 'spies' have been released and all charges against them have been dropped by Nigeria's Attorney General, Michael Aondoakaa. Aondoakaa failed to give a reason for his action, but apparently, his decision was 'based' on Section 174 of Nigeria's Constitution. Section 174 (1)(c) basically allows the Attorney general to drop a suit as long as no judgment has been reached. As the case was yet to truly begin, Aondoakaa was free to discontinue the case against Asuni and the other 'spies'.

And therein lies my issue. For all the talk of "Rule of Law", Nigerian laws make no sense! Under the Constitution, Aondoakaa is allowed to drop charges in practically any situation and no basis is required. The Constitution does not provide clear parameters within which the Attorney General can function. This problem is quite significant because a successful democracy requires defined rules by which it must operate with an eye for equity regardless of circumstance. How can the "Rule of Law" be applied when officials, by law, have no obligation to explain their decisions to the public they serve? Or, are we just supposed to trust officials? Considering Nigeria's track record, it would be absolutely foolish to assume that any official has the interest of the general public in mind when they act. My opinion might not be very popular, but I believe that it is much better to be pessimistic and allow Nigerian officials to surprise you and prove you wrong, than otherwise.

So, back to the pressing question, why did Aondoakaa suddenly and immediately drop all charges against these 'spies' considering the fanfare with which they were initially paraded before the nation and the world as potential agents working against Nigerian stability? I knew the situation was fishy when within days of finding 'spies' in the Niger Delta, it was revealed that Mrs. Asuni was actually a naturalized Nigerian of American origin. I knew then that like all things Nigeria, this story had many twists and turns that no ordinary human would ever fully discover!

Anyway, the laws that govern the land must be specific and detailed so as to limit the unilateral actions and ambiguous decisions by officials. This goes for Aondoakaa and his arch-nemesis, Nuhu Ribadu. The only way that Nigeria can properly function is if we review the various laws that empower the many offices and institutions upon which the nation depends. Too often do these laws conflict and undermine each other, making calls by Yar'Adua for the "Rule of Law" a toothless term of little to no consequence within the Nigerian situation.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

The oil companies have been given 7 days to "rectify faulty oil pumps and stop oil spills." Apparently, this ultimatum is in response to a recent trip to the Delta that was taken by a few Senators who apparently had little idea about the severity of the damage and poverty experienced by Delta residents.

Senator Eze of Enugu North said, "The Senate President has rightly put it that this is going to be a test case that we are not toothless bulldog. This Senate will bark and bite and we have to demonstrate the centrality of the Senate in the nation's democratic governance."

The motion passed by the Senate included the following language,

We "[c]ondemn unequivocally the Shell Petroleum development Company for its dastard act of neglect of the Ikot Ado Udo Oil Spillage in Akwa-Ibom for three months, leading to loss of livelihood to the people.

"Urge the President, Commnader-In-Chief [sic] to direct the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and other relevant multi-national corporations to rectify oil pumps and stop further spillage in the areas within seven days.

"Direct its Committees on Petroleum (Upstream) and Environment to invite the Minister of State Energy (Petroleum) and Minister of Environment to look into the issue and all other outstanding issues in the Niger Delta raised by the various Syndicate Groups and report back within two weeks.

"As a long time measure, direct the Committees on Petroleum (Upstream), Envir-onment and Judiciary and Legal Matters to immediately forward proposals for the amendment of all existing legislations to compel the multi-national oil companies responsible for oil spillage/ecological degradation of their operating areas to restore/develop the host communities/operating areas and pay adequate compensation."

Alright, it took a trip from some Senators for them to finally realize that oil companies must do a better job in the Delta? I hate to be so cynical, but they make it too easy for me. Besides, reading the 'motion' makes me realize that all this is empty rhetoric! It fails to contain a specific plan on addressing the environmental problem other than passing the buck on to the relevant agencies.

Something tells me that Senator Eze's words will come back to bite him. But, I wonder, why are there no laws that require the oil companies to observe better environmental practices? I concluded that there aren't adequate laws based on the last paragraph of the motion. The Senate should not be condemning, urging or directing. They should DECISIVELY institute a motion to create the necessary laws that will protect the Delta's people and give oil companies the guidelines within which they can properly operate. TAKE CARE OF THE PROBLEM, ISN'T THAT YOUR JOB? The Senate makes it seem as if the oil companies are the bad guys! The government is at fault for not regulating the oil companies! If the Senate truly wanted to regulate oil production, it would.

We are watching....

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Considering how often Aondoakaa and Yardy are criticized on this blog, I am excited to report that the Federal Government is suing 3 major tobacco companies. The suit is for $40 billion in compensatory damages and alleges that cigarettes cause harm to Nigerians.

This is not only a first for Nigeria, it is a first for the African continent. “It is the first time ever that an African state files a case against a tobacco company. No other state in Africa has ever done it,” said Babatunde Irukera, the lawyer representing the Nigerian government. Four states, Lagos, Gombe, Oyo and Kano State have also filed suit against tobacco companies, while three more states are preparing to sue as well.

It appears that there is a growing awareness of the danger of tobacco products. Various organizations and official entities are beginning to campaign for better public health by discouraging smoking. The Federal government is a signatory to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and in observance it instituted an anti-smoking campaign that is featured on radio stations across the country. In 2006, Lagos State
recorded more than nine thousand cases of tobacco-related diseases at its hospitals. The state has spent over N2.7 billion treating these cases over the course of just one year. Considering this information, it is no surprise that Lagos State, and the federal Government, seeks compensation from tobacco companies.

It is about time that our public officials actually serve the people and their interest. I am happy to learn that public officials are working with small local organizations to improve public health and Nigerian life expectancy. I am hopeful that this and other positive acts on the part of various Local, State and Federal officials is sign of better things to come for Nigeria. Hopefully, other African countries and developing nations from other parts of the world will also take an active step in reducing the deadly impact of cigarettes.

For another take on this very important issue, please visit Akin Aworan's blog. He cuts right to the chase on this one...

Further Reading:
- Selling Cigarettes to Nigeria's Children

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Sunday, November 4, 2007

Yardy bucked custom and publicly criticized Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe at the ongoing EU-AU Summit in Germany. Nigeria's head of state again used the term "Rule of Law" (I wonder if anyone is counting how many times the man has uttered that term, Nigeria Politricks, are you game?). To the gathering of European officials and African representatives, Yardy said,

“I want to emphasise that what is happening in Zimbabwe is not in conformity with the rule of law. I do not subscribe to this."
Okay, I will admit that I am also getting tired of hearing the term "Rule of Law" uttered by Yardy. It appears that every time I read any statement made by him, it must contain those three words. He is obviously working hard to be make "Rule of Law' his moniker. That is fine because we all know that Nigeria and some other countries - Zimbabwe, included - need to better practice respect for the rule of law.

Yet, I cannot help but notice that Yardy was pandering to the audience. He was in Germany for the European Partnership with Africa Summit. He went on to implore attendees to not turn the presence of Zimbabwe into a divisive issue that could steer attention from the fact that the event will be mutually beneficial for EU and AU nations. Yardy also requested the equivalent of the "Marshall Plan" for Africa. His suggestion was to increase foreign assistance to develop African nations. He apparently said the right things. And, this makes me wonder why the President of Nigeria can be such a capable speaker about Zimbabwe when he in Germany, and yet fail to decisively comment AT ALL on pressing corruption issues at home! Yes, once again, I am harping on the Ettehgate scandal which he avoided by simply relegating it to a due process issue.

I mean, come on, you have to take a stance! Even, OBJ is publicly questioning Yardy's "sof'ly, sof'ly" style. Obasanjo told Nigeria's The Nation newspaper, ""For Nigeria to be great, [Yar'Adua] must be prepared to take tough decisions and carry out reforms..." Although, I believe OBJ is not in a position to comment on the performance of the present administration, I must confess that for once, we are of the same opinion on an issue.

Related Articles of Interest
- Zimbabwe
- Nigeria, Mugabe & The ICC
- 'Soiled Hands' & Strategy":What Nigeria Says About Democracy
- Yar'Adua, Mugabe & The "Rule of Law"

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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Akin asked a very pertinent question in response to my last post about former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mrs. Patricia Etteh. His question was "Hang on: are you telling me that she won't even be punished or anything??"

Unfortunately, with Nigeria, one cannot always proffer a definite answer. I will say this, however. The Integrity Group specifically referred to the Corrupt Practices and Other related Offenses Act of 2000 and the possibility of up to 47 years in jail for actions related to the scandal. Unfortunately, the head of the ICPC recently told the press that his office was yet to be contacted by the Integrity Group or any Parliamentary Office yo place charges against Etteh or her deputy. He also clarified that the Etteh scandal would more appropriately fall under the auspices of EFCC but that his office could, if invited to, place charges against her. Now the fact that these individuals are talking about this suggests that people are thinking about the next step for Etteh. Meaning, it is not a forgone conclusion that Etteh will go unpunished. Considering our history, that is an excellent development.

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