The One Year Hangover from Change

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The messiah of Nigeria and supreme anti corruption crusader who is friend to everybody and belongs to nobody (who cares what he said, he translated hausa to english and thought it would sound as good, it sounds better in hausa) has spent a year in office. We have had a year of the party who came onboard with the change mantra in power. I bet over this weekend we have read thousands of articles about this and I guess this is one more. Before I go ahead I would like to acknowledge that the PDP gave us 16 years of mediocre leadership and oversaw a kleptocracy which led to the limiting of the potential that is Nigeria. Whatever successes they might have had, Nigeria could have been a lot better; before someone enumerates the ways in which PDP succeeded I am neither a PDP nor APC voltron. My name is HRH SIR Farouk and I just want to make esoteric sense because obviously if I wanted to make common sense then what I would say would lack any insight and be the same with what any Tolu, Dike or Hassan would say. Anyway so a year after changing the party in charge and leadership, how do Nigerians feel?

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2015 Elections: The Choice Before Us – GMB Part 2

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My Fellow Nigerians,

Not exactly 24 hours after the first post but I had to pause and watch the kickoff of both campaigns by the presidential candidates. For the first time in history GEJ sounded like he had some balls. Although he rambled on and on and was mostly on the defensive with almost every statement being prefixed with “they say”. However I do commend the passion he showed, a passion I never thought he had even though it was a bit of passion without substance. He did defend some of the accusations against him and dropped some new bombs at us (MEND hired to assassinate him, really bro? After you exonerated them 4 years ago?). Even if the opposition does not win the presidential elections, I believe our democracy has become richer because of the strong opposition we have. We are now seeing the ruling party sit up so to say because of their fear of the opposition which isnt an achievement in itself because indeed all governments should fear their people and we should be their first priority. Anyway, today let us enter the valley of the shadow of APC. Read the rest of this entry »

2015 Elections: The Choice Before Us – GEJ Part 1

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My Fellow Nigerians,

It has been a long 54 years plus of existence and as we enter this new year it seems that the choice we make in the upcoming elections will determine not only the short but the medium and long term future of this country. It will determine the type of nation we want to live in and the nation we want our children and grandchildren to live in. We are holding our future in our hands. The Presidential elections are in a month and 6 days or so by my calculation and it is quite the choice. Personally, I am not overly impressed by either of the two main candidates or their parties but it seems when forced to pick between the devil and the deep blue sea one might pick the sea on the off chance that one can swim and perhaps get rescued. On the other hand, if one picks the devil what awaits is eternal damnation. it is the topic on everyone’s lips in Nigeria nowadays so I figured with my new years resolution of writing more let me give it a dig. Read the rest of this entry »

What Is The Nigerian Dream?

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If you came here looking for some sappy platitude about how Nigeria can become a great nation or a variation of MLK Jr’s “I have a dream” speech with a Nigerian tilt then I am sorry you have hopped on the wrong blog post. Somewhere between my disappointment at the Zimmerman verdict and this interview given by Chimamanda Adichie while reading Max Siollun’s book on Nigerian politics during the Buhari and Babangida regimes, I thought up this post.

A nation is often a product of its dreams. The American dream despite being difficult to attain for a lot of people still provides something to aspire to and based on my little knowledge the American dream is a dream that every American can become what they aspire to become and that if anyone works hard enough he can achieve these dreams through sheer will, perseverance and a level of creativity. This is a recurring theme in Hollywood movies with an inspirational tilt or even action movies where the little guy triumphs over the big guy despite the odds due to the sheer power of determination. What is the Nigerian dream? What does the average Nigerian aspire to? If a nation is as good as its dreams then perhaps the Nigerian dream might be a tad bit dysfunctional. What follows is my characterization of what I feel is the Nigerian dream and some responses I got on twitter.

The Nigerian dream is a dream borne out of the sheer exasperation of the Fela sung “suffering and smiling” syndrome. It is seeking to have basic amenities that people in developed countries take for granted, it is taking a poop and not having to hope that there is water to flush the toilet. It is a 50 cent album title made manifest. It is the spirit of get rich or die trying. The Nigerian dream consists of trying to make wealth whether by hook or by crook. The pursuit of “hammering” you see is the beginning of wisdom. You see everybody wants wealth but the Nigerian dream consists of wanting to have wealth not only for oneself but for one’s children up to the 4th generation as well as have money for your extended family, village and ethnic group. That’s quite a lot to aspire too and is the common trigger for corruption. The Nigerian dream means that you can sponsor your extended family members to go to school so they too can be in a position where one day you can apply the science of nepotism to put them in your workplace.

The Nigerian dream is to become a big man or woman, that sort of mini deity that exists in the Nigerian populace. The big man and woman in addition to having wealth has the influence and power that goes with the wealth, he/she might not be the president, a governor or senator but has the ability to get in touch with those in such positions and is able to get concessions and obtain juicy contracts, job positions and other forms of patronage obtainable in Nigeria. The mega Nigerian dream is to own an Oil bloc and sit around while that sweet revenue flows in. Shoutout to the TY Danjuma’s of this country and Alakija or the Dangotes and Adenugas.

The Nigerian dream is to be able to say “Do you know who I am?!!!” or “Don’t worry let me call my boys!!!” or “I will deal with you!!!” and watch people instantly squirm and acquiesce to your every demand while others observing look upon you with awe and envy. Ooh what an important person you must be. This dream is a dream of being able to talk down to those you perceive to not be of your class. It is the dream to speak in foreign accents and constantly remind people that you have been abroad. It is the dream of constantly finding fault with everything that goes on in Nigeria and analyzing it using big big words while proffering no solution.

The Nigerian dream is having an overbloated sense of national pride despite the fact that our nation has really achieved nothing when compared to its wealth. It is the loudness, it is the boldness, it is the sanctimonious and hypocritical behaviours, it is the opinionated and prejudiced views, it is the diversity of ideas, dreams and vanities that makes us who we are as a nation.

I guess the Nigerian dream is to go from being a plantain boy to become a big boy. lol. What is the Nigerian dream to you?

Corruption: Evil Prospers When the Good Remain Silent

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police collecting egunje

How do you maintain your integrity in what seems to be a system that is corrupt at its core? How do you become an agent of transformation and change in a society where anything seems to go? Is it sufficient that you do not participate in the debasement of values? Or is the solution praying to a deity (read: God) and hoping that he comes down from heaven to change a situation that you are not willing to change yourself?

Clearly if I had the answers to these questions, I would write a book and be on a world tour giving public speeches and making appearances for a cool sum of money. Although if you ask me a lot of self-help authors and the like give common sense advice and get paid for it. Like a certain former US president who came to Nigeria and said the problem of terrorism in Nigeria is tied to education. No shitting me Sherlock! I could give you that pearl of wisdom for free. I’m not hating, I’m just saying. If you know me, do not give me a self-help book as a gift ever in your life. It’s tantamount to dipping a demon in holy water (if you believe that kind of thing exists and the proffered dipping is the solution). That being said, I would probably smile, collect the gift, say thank you and walk. I will like not read the book, I will skim through it if you persist.

When it comes to corruption in Nigeria, I believe we are all aware of what it is and the crippling effect it has had on our society. You would hardly hear a group of Nigerians discussing politics and not mention the issue of corruption. It is in everybody’s top 5 reasons why Nigeria has failed to live up to expectation or depending on who you speak to why Nigeria has failed. Generally our leaders and government institutions get blamed for being bastions of corruption. To quote Monsieur Jesus in Matthew 7:13 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” I know not all Nigerians are corrupt but I believe many of even the honest ones are silent partners in the culture by committing what we would call in catechism, the sin of omission.

There is a prayer said at the beginning of the catholic mass that goes thus (dear God, does the fact I know and remember this and some bible stuff mean I m not all that evil even though I m a born sinner)

“I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and WHAT I HAVE FAILED TO DO; and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.”

Notice the highlighted part, it is believed in le doctrine of the Papists that a failure to act in the presence of evil is in itself a sin. Are you beginning to see my point? When it comes to corruption many of the honest and good people in our country turn a blind eye to whatever shady dealings are going on around them, they refuse to outrightly report the wrongdoing. Sometimes it is because even the bosses are corrupt, other times it’s a fear of losing your job in a country that has become a Mecca of unemployment, other times still it is a moral/religious thing where the person is honest to go to heaven and is a practice in self control much in the same way as some people abstain from sex, he/she wants to partake in the looting but he/she has learnt control through religion. In a country, where a governor who loots the treasury but does some work is hailed as being at least cleaner than his counterparts it is little wonder that the man or woman that chooses not to participate in bribe taking, contract inflation and the other potpourri of corrupt practices is sort of a moral hero, an example of people to look up to.

On the other hand, the whistle blower and person who goes against the corruption is often seen as a trouble maker; a person who refuses to eat and wont let others eat (there must be an African proverb that captures this sentiment). In many cases such people do not end up wealthy, they end up chewed up and spit out by a system that seems rigged to punish crusaders against corruption. Their lives are slandered, people will make up rumours about them most likely the corrupt people in the first place. If their honesty elevates them, they might become targets for assassinations and many of the like. It is reasonable to say that the typical reward for standing up to corruption in Nigeria does not encourage people to stand up to corruption so we all sit down and play dumb to what is going on around us or make it known that we don’t participate in such (example – Ah! No involve that madam o, she go spoil our runs. I hear say she be deeper life. Them no dey collect bribe)

It is a trifle sad that I have to act all abstemious, sanctimonious, holier than thou before people can safely assume I will not participate in their feast of corruption. If you are a yuppie person who seems generally fun and street smart chances are people will try to co-opt you into their schemes, it is left for you to say no and ignore the actions or perhaps your job or life might be at stake. No kidding. Stories abound of an employee who refused to engage in the nation’s past time or refused to give kickbacks to the boss and was ignored for promotions, or even set up to be fired or worse still put in a dangerous place where an accident was quickly arranged to silence the person who would not participate.

The reason the average Nigerian will tell you straight up that we are not corrupt is that there is a silent majority who sit on the side lines watching the evil being done who would not engage in it themselves. As much as in some relativistic way of thinking, it is admirable that we have a large number of individuals who are honest. I think it is naïve to believe that we will be ever able to minimize corruption in our nation if this silent majority does not turn into a vocal majority challenging the perpetrators of corruption, refusing to let their subordinates engage in bribe taking. Perhaps when this happen, then we can talk about fixing Nigeria.

Readers, So how do you act when faced with corruption? In what ways can we as individuals fight corruption in our nation?

Democracy Day: What is Nigerian Democracy?

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Goodluck Jonathand

I was born and came to consciousness of what democracy was in an era of military rule. In primary school we were told that “Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people.” Sounds like a great soundbite and of course I thought my primary school teacher “Uncle Francis” (No, he is not my father or mother’s brother, we just had a habit of calling teachers Aunty and Uncle, smh) was so smart until I grew up and found out it was a quote from Abraham Lincoln. Back to the matter at hand, if democracy is people driven as implied by the definition; what if the majority of people in question are a set of selfish, bigoted, biased, unpatriotic, power hungry, wealth driven, corrupt and illiterate human beings waiting for God to come down from heaven to fix their country himself when clearly they aren’t God’s chosen people (read:Israel?)? Happy Democracy Day Nigeria!

Yes, some of you are thinking shame on me for being so darn pessimistic. If you are looking for a feel good message, I believe a prosperity preaching pastor would be more up your alley. Don’t get me wrong, I bet there are things to be optimistic about in Nigeria but forgive me if I fail to see them at this moment. Democracy is great in principle and when you look and think about it, Nigeria has managed to sustain 14 years of democracy and that is quite an achievement. From the pseudo-dictatorial days of Obasanjo to the laissez-faire, amnesty giving and slow motion presidency of Yar’adua to the clueless and drunken stupor of a presidency of Goodluck Jonathan (You gotta love a man that can handle his liquor. Link), of course one would be amiss to mention that all the regimes have had one thing in common, corruption to varying degrees of intensity.

I have heard it said that a people deserve the type of leadership they get. Definitely that is the case in Nigeria. How do you expect your leaders not to show ethnic bias and nepotism when majority of Nigerians mistrust people of other ethnic groups or regions or on the flipside only trust people of their own ethnic group or region? How do you expect the leaders not to be corrupt when people are consistently cheating each other in business, marketplaces and homes daily, when people are basically waiting for their turn to taste part of the national cake? How do you expect the government or leaders to value the lives of their citizens when the citizens don’t feel outraged or upset over the loss of a single Nigerian life as long as it doesn’t affect them?

Truly truly I say unto you that even if we have a free and fair election it wont solve anything whatsoever. Why? Well first of all if democracy is the will of the majority, what if the majority vote based on ethno-religious bias and do not vote for the most qualified candidates? Will that produce leaders capable of changing Nigeria? Do I hear someone living under the delusion that Nigeria is on the fast track to being a nation free of ethno-religious bias? (#nawash) What if the people vote based on monetary persuasion? When such leaders get elected and seek to recoup their electoral investment with interest through corrupt practices, are they not somewhat justified? What if the parties are only concerned with the attainment of power for the sake of power, influence and wealth and not because of any genuine desire to move the country forward? What if the politics of the country is not policy driven and almost all the parties have similar or same manifestos? I guess the concept of choice goes out the window. What if even an election amongst 35 governors cannot be properly done without controversy? Where is the hope for 2015? What if the country still has political godfathers capable of single handedly deciding the outcome of an election with their power, influence and wealth? What if the parties keep recycling the same politicians with the same ideas they had 30 years ago? What if the youth are not any better and seek power for the sake of popping more bottles of champagne in Abuja clubs? Democracy is a hell of a thing, no?

Democracy is a great thing when you have a people that are willing to put aside petty differences. It is a great thing because it gives rooms for a pool of ideas to be shared and the best ideas are utilized to move the country or polity forward. Democracy is a great thing because it allows for checks and balances and leaves no room for any individual group to completely control a country. Democracy provides for an independent judiciary, legislature and media. Democracy makes the government accountable to the people that put them in power supposing they did. Democracy is a beautiful thing when a country has moved beyond vying for regional dominance and seeking to find policies that will better the lives of citizens. Democracy is delivering dividends in security, education, health, power, infrastructure, agriculture, poverty eradication, reducing the wealth gap, fighting corruption, fostering unity, peace and progress.

Once again, Happy Democracy Day my fellow Nigerians. Ladies and Gentlemen, What is wrong/right about our Nigerian democracy? How can we make it better? Is there hope for this country? Will the poor not wake up and eat the rich one day? I humbly await your comments.

State of the Nigerian Nation: On Terrorism and Corruption

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Thisday Nigeria Bomb Blast Abuja

My Fellow Nigerians,

It would seem we are stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea, stuck between a rock and a hard place. These days it is hard to remain positive about my beloved country Nigeria. It seems as though the country is beset on all sides by astronomical problems that would seem Herculean for any man born of a woman to solve. I pay a lot of attention to news of what is going on in my country and day after day, I see more bad news. Terrorism has sadly become part of the Nigerian discourse and the Nigerian condition. Cases of corruption in high places keep coming to light that make you wonder if the perpetrators of these acts have any shred of human decency, I daresay humanity in them. Terrorism and Corruption are similar in the damage they do to our people and society, one kills immediately while the other kills by perpetuating poverty and committing ethical genocide for generations to come.

Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad better known as Boko Haram struck at the media by attacking two newspaper locations for one of Nigeria’s most widely read papers, Thisday. Both were suicide bombs, one was in Abuja the capital and the other was in Kaduna. This comes a week after the US embassy issued a warning to its citizens about an impending attack in Abuja. The government and intelligence spokespersons came out and claimed that the report was false and citizens have nothing to be afraid of. I am sure they now have both feet in their mouths after the tragedy of these suicide bombs. Several people lost their lives and of course our president comes out and gives a replicated speech expressing what by now seems like feigned outrage. It has become a pattern. Bomb goes of, people are in pain and angry at how helpless the country seems against these terrorists and our knight in shining kpangolo, President Goodluck Ebele Azikwe (how dare he use that name) Jonathan comes out and gives us one of his copy and paste speeches and feigns an outrage that would win a razzie for worst acting performance.

The bomb that went off in Abuja was driven into the premises with a jeep, which of course meant less scrutiny by the security, why? Because in Nigeria, we do not want to offend the big man driving a jeep by asking too many questions and guess what, the terrorists know this as well. Hence they are not showing up driving an outdated car that will be subject to much scrutiny because they know that the appearance of being rich is akin to being a god in Nigeria. Also get this; after bomb went off, standers by went to loot the offices that were just bombed. Are you kidding me? When I read the story, I had to shake my head at how the situation highlighted two of the biggest problems we are currently facing as a nation today, terrorism obviously and poverty.

Another dimension to the attack on the Newspaper is the fact that they attacked a newspaper. This adds to the institutions they have targeted so far. They have attacked schools, markets, government offices, security and armed forces, churches, mosques and prisons all of which are in the northern portion of the country. They justified the attack on the newspaper by saying that they decided to attack the newspaper for misrepresentation. Since when has bombing a place served as a rejoinder to an article about you? Obviously this is not only an attack on the media but an attack on free speech as a whole. They have decided to threaten the media and blackmail them into cowering and refusing to publish the truth about the group. By doing this they have sent a shiver down the spine of many an editor or reporter in the country. I sincerely hope the media refuses to back down and takes up the challenge to continue to do their job. The media and newspapers especially are one of the last bastions of freedom in our country. Kill the media and you kill hope for the common man, you kill their voice.

Speaking of the common man, another tragedy that has befallen our great nation (yes I will forever call Nigeria great) is the issue of scam. No I am not talking about the advanced fee fraud (419) we are or were notorious for as a nation. I am talking about things such as the Pension scam where civil servants colluded to rob the pension scheme of billions of naira. I am talking of the fuel subsidy scam where the NNPC, fuel marketers and importers colluded to defraud the country of money that if the reports are to be believed reaching into the trillions of naira and by translation billions of dollars. It is my hope that the judiciary does its job and prosecutes these people and gets to the bottom of the situation. The uncovering of these two scams make me wonder about what else is hidden that has not been uncovered. How else is the Nigerian populace being defrauded today? It is a sad story because if one is to look around at things that are not working well, you don’t have to be a genius to guess that there are yet many skeletons that are yet to be uncovered. I sincerely wonder from where the common man will get help from when he is beset on all sides by so many problems. He cannot move around freely in his own country for fear of crime, accidents, terrorism and of course the dreaded hydra of corruption has connived it seems with these evil forces to rob him of his wealth and dignity.

I believe when a person steals public funds he is not just stealing from the government, he is stealing from each and every Nigerian. Every naira stolen can go a long way to righting the many wrongs in this country, it is the money stolen that can help provide jobs, help send children to school, build roads, better equip our hospitals, and reduce poverty to its knees. It is really shame that when I was a kid and someone stole millions you would be amazed and dumbfounded. Nowadays it takes stealing billions of naira of public funds to even warrant any outrage or attention from Nigerians. It is reaching a point where we have been desensitized to reading about people embezzling billions that if care is not taken trillions will become the norm in the near future. One of the more frustrating things is that the system seems to be self-perpetuating. The system of corruption seems so endemic that a solution seems light years away. I think we as a people need to stop celebrating people that we know are living beyond their means. When a person comes to give testimony about how they bought a 100 million naira house and they earn a little less than 80 thousand naira a month and have 4 kids, it is our responsibility to question the source of these people’s wealth. We should stop glorifying the pursuit of awoof money (post for another day) and start asking questions, publicly!

On terrorism and corruption, what I can say in summary is that we should all be watchful. It is our country, it is our homeland we have the right to be here. No group of people is greater than the rest of us. We are Nigerian and we are a proud and strong people. Anyone who connives to kill and steal is no friend of ours, he/she is an enemy of progress and must be made to pay.

The video below is purely tongue in cheek, my actual thoughts on Goodluck right now is, shirmen shugaban kasa, dan iska kawai (translation, not a big fan of our dear president)