Thursday, August 28, 2008

Nigerian newspapers and international news agencies are reporting that President Yar'Adua is sick and currently in hospital in Saudi Arabia. Yar'Adua left to participate in the lesser Hajj in Saudi Arabia right after firing the Chief of Defense Staff, the head of the Army and Navy, last week. The President;s health situation has resulted in the indefinite postponement of a state visit to Brazil which was to occur on Thursday, August 28th.


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Monday, August 25, 2008

Nigeria's history is marred by repeated military dictatorships and regimes that ruled the country for many years. Every regime was characterized by suppressed political debate. Supporters of the dictatorships were rewarded with wealth and important positions, while opponents where publicly and politically isolated and some, like Dele Giwa, were also killed because they were considered dangerous. With the return to democracy, there is now a slow-growing interest in the Nigerian public for political issues and debate - factors crucial to the creation of a veritable Nigerian democratic system. Unfortunately, President Yar'Adua's party, the Peoples Democratic Party or PDP, is instead sowing seeds of propaganda in the media by alleging plots to topple Yar'Adua's administration. The PDP is even accusing opposition parties (which are part of a group called Nigerians for Democracy (NUD)) of

"working in concert with some foreign entities who are hell bent on creating instability in Nigeria in order to play down the growing influence of Nigeria in regional and international affairs..."
The PDP's 'saber rattling' could be authentic, but it is hard to not interprete their actions as an attempt to stifle debate and possibly transform Nigeria into a one party 'democracy'.

Yar'Adua has consistently presented himself as the champion of the rule of law and has committed himself to
"a purposeful and result-oriented administration that will yield tangible and visible benefits for all Nigerians."
However, Yar'Adua fails to benefit the people if he sits by and watches his party make unqualified accusations against the opposition. Additionally, Yar'Adua's act of firing Nigeria's Chief of Defense Staff, the head of the Army and Navy further validates the accusations made by his party, and spells a collaborative effort to weaken the opposition and thereby weaken Nigerian democracy. This is almost as bad as Mugabe's thugs beating up Zimbabwe's opposition leader, Tsvangrai, earlier this year. Except in the case, the beating is not physical.

While the PDP's claims could of course be legitimate, their allegations remain mere rhetoric unless they provide clear and concrete evidence of their accusations against the opposition. As they claim to be a party of the rule of law, they should have known that allegations without evidence could amount to libel which is obviously punishable by the law. The PDP should also remember that Nigeria is a country with enough instability. Lack of security reigns supreme from Lagos, to the Niger Delta, and to the North. People are afraid to drive at night not only because of the horrible conditions of the roads but becasue they could also be ambushed by armed attackers. Therefore, informing the populace that there are coup plots and treasonous attempts to destabilize the country do not help Nigerians in any way shape or form.

These actions only serve to create an environment of fear in the hopes of endearing the populace to the PDP. There are better ways to achieve such endearment and affection, though. The PDP has been in power for 3 terms and needs to actually tackle problems such as healthcare, wages for striking teachers, the creation of jobs for graduating students and of course, better electricity supply to the populace. The achievement of those goals would serve the party better and prevent it from resorting to what seems like cheap diversionary tricks to throw Nigerians off the reality which is that we all have to work harder at improving the nation.

I hope Nigerians will not fall prey to such fear mongering tactics and I strongly encourage Yar'Adua to put a lid on such destructive behavior by his party and others. But, I wonder if he can. Nevertheless, I have to hope that he can deter a repeat of such action because sanctioning this unnecessary behavior by his the PDP will be the clear beginning of a return to the Abacha era when Nigerians lived in fear and abstained from political debate or discourse. How ironic it is that we may be seeing the return to suppression in Nigeria, but this time in a democratic regime.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Becoming a millionaire has never been easier. In Nigeria, the quickest way to become a millionaire is not to marry rich, but to simply become a member of the National Assembly. Despite my recent suggestion that lawmakers follow the example of the Ivory Coast and take a pay cut, Nigeria's legislators have increased their pay by over 100%. According to news reports,

"the basic salary of a Senator has increased from N993,697 to N2,484,242.50, while that of a member of the House of Representatives has been jerked up from previous annual salary of N794,084 to N1,985,212.50."
As such, a Senator will now receive approximately $21,000 plus a wardrobe allowance, a newspaper allowance and an additional assortment of incredible perks. A member of the House of Representatives will in turn receive approximately $16,800 and their own set of allowances and perks. Nevertheless, these individuals are all millionaires in Nigeria's currency, the Naira.

Now, that might not seem like an exorbitant amount to some, but please consider that according to the United Nations and the World Bank, over 9 out of 10 Nigerians live on less than $2 a day. Therefore, the majority of Nigerians are dirt poor! It is therefore ridiculous that those with the responsibility to work for the masses are becoming millionaires off the poverty of their constituents.
When I last discussed whether or not Yar'Adua should receive a pay hike, reader, Ade, responded in the comments,
"If we want to attract decent candidates for public office, we need to move towards paying them a decent salary - nothing outrageous just decent - look at what is paid to parliamentarians in the Europe and America....."
I understood Ade's line of thinking then and now. However, I see things a little differently and believe that this view is not applicable to the current leadership in Nigeria. For the 'representatives of the people' to have not introduced comparable legislation to increase the living wages of their constituents is purely unconscionable. Nigerians don't even have access to regular power supply. They have to deal with the reality that food is extremely expensive. Their children's teachers are on strike and of course, they face a constant lack of security, but yet their elected representatives are now millionaires. Even Imnakoya goes as far as to state what many are thinking -
"I would have no qualms if those law makers are the true representatives of the people. But they are not."[sic]
Alas, I share his opinion on this one. This simply confirms the growing argument that Nigeria does not have leaders with the people's interest at heart or even on their mind. These men and women are not worthy of this pay hike and unfortunately, they will bathe themselves in the lap of undeserved luxury, nonetheless.

* - For currency conversion, I used Coin Mill and the conversions were done on Thursday, August 21, 2008.

Hattip to Imnakoya. 

Further Reading:
- Look To The Ivory Coast For Inspiration
- Should Yar'Adua Get A Pay Raise?

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Nigerians, like so many others, are extremely excited by the prospect of a Barack Obama presidency. This excitement has created a fervor amongst many Nigerians who have organized themselves to show their support for the Presidential hopeful. One such active group is 'Africans for Obama' which recently held an event that raised N100 million ($861,502). Well, the Obama campaign just disassociated itself from Africans for Obama and it is easy to see why. However, this disassociation raises some larger concerns for other individuals or groups who choose to show their support for those they find inspiring.


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Monday, August 11, 2008

Former teacher and self-proclaimed healer, Mohammed Bello Abubakar, was recently interviewed by the BBC. The 84 year old Nigerian claimed to communicate directly with the Prophet Mohammed, the most important symbol of the Islamic faith. While such a claim is enough to generate significant discussion, what was most interesting about Abubakar's story is that he is apparently married to 86 women and has been blessed with 170 children. However, in his interview he discouraged others from following in his footsteps.  While I agree with him that having a family that large can be problematic, I have to say that many should actually take a page from Abubakar's book. Nigeria's leaders and ruling elite especially could learn a lot from him.

Baba Mohammed Bello Abubakar

As I read the BBC article on Abubakar, I initially found it funny that he discouraged others from following in his footsteps. But, I found nothing funny about his comment,
"A man with 10 wives would collapse and die, but my own power is given by Allah. That is why I have been able to control 86 of them,"
Of course, there could have been a miscommunication between speaker, translator and interviewer, especially if Abubakar's primary language is Hausa and not English. Yet, the word 'control' conjured images of mindless animals being herded to slaughter. It made me bristle. But, as I took some time to think about what he was saying, something clicked. Although I have publicly called for the illegalization of polygamy and have been heavily criticized for it, I must say that Abubakar might be onto something.

For those of us that are familiar with polygamy, we know that it is a system that can breed serious competition amongst wives trying to gain favor from their husband for themselves or their children. Therefore, to maintain a family as large as Abubakar's must require a delicate balance between keeping competing wives and interests in check. However, the pictures of Abubakar's wives showed relatively content women. And, while I have no idea how he manages to feed and clothe his large family, I daresay, Abubakar must have learned how to keep what must be a complex network of partnerships, interests and differing attitudes together under his 'roof'. Regardless of how I feel about polygamy, I have to commend Abubakar for his management skills. He should write a book and share his tips. I don't think I would go as far as Durano's suggestion that pharmaceutical companies "analyze and recreate what makes him tick and ... produce a product that would effectively compete with viagra from his DNA.[sic]" But, that is a story for another day.

Far too often, it seems that Nigeria's leadership has little to no control over various issues in the country. Consider these craters that currently exist on many streets in Lagos. Better control and management skills could be of great use to residents that are forced to use this street which if anything is a hazard.
                                                                                  Source: Lagos City Photo Blog

The Niger Delta and the stalled Summit that Yar'Adua proposed also reflects a the importance of controlling tense situations. As with Abubakar's large family, the ultimate goal is to keep Nigeria together and control the various problems that will undoubtedly arise. Instead, the planned Summit was forced to fall apart before it even began. Since then, there has been sluggish progress in bringing security to the residents of the Delta. And, the village of Abonema, from which my mother hails, has become a ghost town because cult members and armed gangs turned it into a battle ground. Some leadership is clearly needed for the populace who are at the mercy of armed thugs and criminals.

No matter what one thinks, leadership requires some level of control. The word 'control' might not be palatable to the sensitivities of many but the reality is that a nation will fall apart if those charged with its maintenance fail to control the many competing factors and interests. I do not suggest a clampdown on differences as can sometimes happen in Nigeria, just a better effort at getting most things under control. It would give citizens more faith that something good is on the horizon. Abubakar is managing to do it in his household, why can't Nigeria?

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Nigeria's former corruption czar, Nuhu Ribadu, was publicly demoted yesterday by Nigeria's Police Service Commission. In reality, news of his demotion hit the newsstands almost a month earlier with quoted sources claiming that Ribadu's upcoming demotion was due to his rapid rise through the ranks of the police force and because

"Ribadu has stepped on toes; many officers in the Nigeria Police cannot tolerate his arrogance and confrontational nature. They believed he is so full of himself as he hardly pays compliments to his colleagues and seniors". [sic]
Ribadu who was once head of the Economic Finance Crimes Commission (EFCC) and under whose leadership the EFCC recovered over N600 billion in stolen public funds, has now gone from a rank of Assistant Inspector General of Police (apparently, the number two position) to the rank of a Deputy Commissioner. Ordinarily, the demotion of any police officer would not be something to think about for more than a few seconds. But, this is Nigeria and with many things in Nigeria, one must think critically in order to get a grasp of the issues involved. This is one such political incident.

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Monday, August 4, 2008

To the people.

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Friday, August 1, 2008

Brutish Airways is having a hard time. The Brutes now have a 5% drop in passenger numbers according to Business Week. These numbers were even higher when travel to the African continent was considered. Passenger numbers to Africa fell by 7.9%. The Airline is blaming tough economic times for its woes.

Well, instead of dealing with its dwindling economic numbers, the Brutes have now sued Mr. Ayodeji Omotade, the man at the center of the Brutish Airways incident that led to the Nigerian boycott of the airline. Omotade who at one point was accused of doing 'something illicit' for attempting to travel with approximately £1600 (a wedding gift for his brother and sister in law), is now accused of "threatening, abusing, insulting and disorderly behavior towards a member of the crew of the aircraft."

And what is the Nigerian government doing about all this? Your guess is as good as mine. Yardy's administration took a full month to react to the initial incident and then threatened that it "would not tolerate the inhuman treatment of any Nigerian for any reason, even when there are allegations of criminal activities." Yardy even went as far as promising Nigerians in South Africa that his administration would place sanctions on the airline.

Instead, Yardy recently went on an official visit to the United Kingdom. This was despite the very controversial fact that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, offered military intervention to 'help' in the Niger Delta. This offer of 'assistance' has now been seen as an attempt to infringe on the national sovereignty and potentially transform Nigeria into a war zone. If that in itself was not reason enough to cancel the President's trip, then a little lawsuit against a Nigerian citizen whose maltreatment sparked heated debate, diplomatic talks, lawsuits by the Nigerian Bar Association, and the outrage of Nigerians and other sympathetic non-Nigerians around the world is never going to be enough to get Nigeria's leadership to truly protect national pride and interests. Thankfully, a group of organized Nigerians, the Liberty Forum, protested Yardy's visit and forced many of his events in London to be changed or cancelled. If that trip is Yardy's way of working for the Nigerian public and the interests of the people, then the average Nigerian cannot be criticized for continuing to believe that Nigerians cannot wait for their government to protect them.

What is even more unfortunate than the reality that the Nigerian government is unwilling to take any real steps in protecting Omotade and/or Nigerians in general is the saddening reality that Nigerians are not doing enough damage to Brutish Airways. I commend all those who continue to do their part, no matter how small to stand up against discrimination against Nigerians. In Nigerians, 'Brutish Airways & Respect Pt. 1', I specifically pointed to a few strategic options that could show Brutish Airways and any other organization that Nigerians must be respected because our money is just as good as any other consumer. This, if ever, is the time for Nigerians to hit the Brutes where it hurts. The company is already suffering financially and the current state of the global economy does not suggest that things will improve for the airline. Now imagine if every Nigerian and sympathetic supporter travelling with a competitor of the Brutes specifically called competitors and said "I am buying a ticket from you because I am boycotting Brutish Airways." Just that simple act alone, in large numbers would be significant.

Once again, I insist that the current administration ban Brutish Airways from Nigeria's airspace. In addition to this and the other suggestions I have made, I believe that Lagosians should shut down the streets around BA's Victoria island offices via peaceful protest. Residents of Abuja should do the same. BA's headquarters, wherever they may be in the United Kingdom should also be visited by peaceful protesters. And, since the Nigerian government is clearly 'ill-equiped' to protect the interests of its citizens, they should suffer the consequences as well. And as for Omotade, I wish him the best in defending himself against BA. I also hope that someone recorded the incident that happened on that flight from Heathrow that resulted in 136 Nigerian passengers being removed from the flight. Video footage would help to show the world what exactly happened and it would hopefully, put this case to rest.

Further Reading:
1 - Nigerians, 'Brutish' Airways & Respect Pt. 1
2 - Nigerians, 'Brutish' Airways & Respect Pt 2
3 - Finally, Some Concrete Nigerian 'Action' on Brutish Airways
4 - "Casual Racism" at Brutish Airways?
5 - A Brutish Airways 'Apology'?
6 - More on Brutish Airways
7 - Brutish Airways Calls Police on Nigerians
8 - Possible Sanctions Against Brutish Airways

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