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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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?

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.

And God said unto Nigeria, “Let there be Light!”

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let there be light

Anytime I read the creation story in the bible where the first thing God says is “let there be light”, my soul sheds a tear for my country Nigeria. Heck if we were to go by the amount of power blackouts people experience in Nigeria, you would think that perhaps the “let there be light” proclamation did not apply to my dear country. We must be the reason why Africa is called the Dark Continent. Perhaps electricity was not created for our country. Maybe in the same way the drapes should match the carpet, our “light” situation should match the complexion of our skins. I call dibs on the light skinned igbo, Fulani, yellow ijebu lady, she will have much electricity. We might need to have a national bleaching day to ensure that the gods of electricity look favorably upon us. Now that I have utterly offended some and put a smile on the face of some self-deprecating yet patriotic mind out there who like me loves to hate and hates to love Nigeria, I shall continue with my train of thought. Better buy a ticket and hop on, destination:  unknown. Perhaps if it is an electric train we will encounter power outage somewhere between Onitsha and Kano and all the passengers will sweat to death or perhaps suffocate if we are lucky because the engineer designed the train for just air-conditioning, no windows!

I think fondly or not so fondly to the time when I was serving my fatherland. Indeed that year I had quite a mixed bag of experiences. Did I ever tell you of the time I spent 2 months without electricity? I kid you not. I was housesitting, think babysitting but for people with houses they don’t really use who were so kind to give this lowly corper a place to rest his head. I am a grateful young man, can’t be uttering nonsensities about my patrons. My point is, I received a monthly electricity bill for 90 thousand naira. Chineke me o! I had my hand on my head, I went to the NEPA/PHCN office and stated my case, begged, pleaded, argued, shouted, beat my chest, heck even did my sexy face and winked but alas they were steadfast in their resolve to deny me of electricity. What is that you say? I should have ignored the power authorities and ran a generator? You must be kidding, I did not make enough to engage in that bout of madness. The house did have a generator, it was like an old soldier trying to engage in coitus without the help of Viagra. It was malfunctioning. I first attempted to put my engineering degree to good use by googling possible ways to fix it and I tried, changed the spark plugs even. Serviced it. Even called mechanics who fixed it and it would work for a few days and go down again. Much like the old soldier, I blew hot and cold but it would not get up.

Of course the epic battle with the generator was after I paid a NEPA/PHCN worker to come and hook me up illegally. This lasted a week and I came back from work and found it disconnected. I suspect the same worker came back and disconnected it and wanted me to come back and bribe him again. Ya ci kaniyansa (hausa insult). Long story short, I spent two months with an epileptic generator, visiting aunts on weekends or travelling home, exploring the nightlife of mainland lagos and did I mention my hookah/shisha which became my night time buddy. After work and dinner, if I felt like just chilling at home I would light up my shisha, finish one or two charcoals and drift blissfully into sleep. All this in a bid to avoid the stubborn mosquitoes of the city of lagos and the buckets of sweat that accompanied sleeping in a room where the windows almost never faced the direction the wind was blowing. O well it was quite the experience. If I ever get a biography of me made, it will go in there. This will be after I single handedly bring light to Nigeria. I am kidding, or am I?

I am not old enough to claim I know of a time when there were no power outages in Nigeria. Perhaps that was in a time dinosaurs roamed the forests of Sokoto (see what I did there). I am however old enough to claim that there was a time it was less frequent than it currently is but so can anyone who has lived for about a decade or more. I remember as a kid that our family did not own a generator. My father in his almost always proper ways did not like the noise they made, they were an unnecessary expense and we always lived in multi storeyed buildings. I watched so much TV and movies growing up without the help of a generator that I feel sad for the kids of today. They are growing up in a world filled with the noise of generators and fumes. A world where a 10 year old knows by looking at a house what the KVa of the generator that could power it would be, a world of tone deaf children with everyone shouting, “Eh?! Papa Iyabo. What did you say?!”

It’s a shame that constant electricity is a luxury that surprisingly even the relatively wealthy are not immune to. They shell out ridiculous amounts of money to buy diesel to fuel their generators. Anything you buy in our country has a power outage markup that is either implicitly or explicitly applied. I recently read our Power minister talking about increasing the power generated by 4,000MW in 8 years. They have turned us into a country of electrical engineers, everyone is an expert in Megawatts. All this in a country that needs about 50,000MW to light up every corner of the nation and truly develop its industrial potential not to talk of attracting foreign investment. His assertion had me in tears, I was laughing so hard at our power minister and his mediocre target that I started shedding tears. I guess my village can forget about ever getting electricity. That’s a topic for another day. Anytime I hear a government official speak about improving the power situation in my dear country, I automatically switch off. We have heard millions of promises over the years and stories of companies signing contracts to do one thing or the other and alas we are yet to see any significant dividend.

What should be done? A thorough treatise on the solution to Nigeria’s power woes might be my next pet project. I think a lot of the solutions lie in policy, legislation, anti-corruption and engineering maintenance. The technology to solve Nigeria’s power problems exists and has existed for decades. My layman or not so layman opinion is that allowing states to produce their own electricity and reap the benefits of the electricity they produced is a step in the right direction. Incorporating oil companies into the fray and involving them in projects to supply natural gas for gas fired power plants is another good move. Passing legislation to privatize the power sector and let private companies produce and make money off generating, transmitting or distributing electricity would be another ace move. However, The recent increase in electricity tariffs without accompanying improvements in service delivery is a no-no. It would also be key to diversify the power generating sources and employ some hybrid power plants that make use of both fossil fuel and renewable energy sources. Revamp of existing power plants to maximize power output and efficiency would provide a shorter term solution and yield quick dividends. Some of these steps are already underway or so it seems if I am to believe what I read in the news and the pronouncements of our government officials.

O Nigeria, when shall we see a renaissance to pull us out of these dark ages we are in. Not that I don’t think dark is beautiful but I would definitely like to see what is in front of my face. Jesus said let us be the light of the world, How can we be the light if we stuck in darkness. How can we hear the word when it is drowned out by the voice of Chinese generators speaking in devilish language. Let us do ourselves a favor, lets us bind and cast the spirit of generators. Hearken to the lone voice crying out in the wilderness, “Let there be light”. For how can we create a better tomorrow for Nigeria without light? How can Nigeria be the giant of Africa that is poised to lead if Nigeria is blind?

What are your experiences with power outage in Nigeria? What solutions do you see to the problem?

Not Yet Uhuru: We the People….our demands

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So now that the elections are over and the mood on the ground is that this was somewhat the freest and fairest election we have ever had as a country, I would like to remind us that indeed the struggle has just begun.

We as Nigerians will be tempted to take the elections as a sure sign that “fresh air” has come to stay in Nigeria. Whether or not that is true is not my main concern. My concern is that we should not stop being vigilant. The elections are mostly gone but the problems we have as a country and as a nation are still there. This is not the time to rest on our laurels like an Olympic runner who goes on to consume plates of pounded yam before the final race. We should realize that the task of building a better Nigeria is a marathon and not a sprint.

We must demand better service from our country. I suggest that the websites and platforms that people used to report on the elections be left open and transformed into performance monitoring tools. It is time for each and every Nigerian to be part of the running of this country. We must demand that each and every one of our elected officials have open communication lines, be it phone numbers, emails and the like where we can contact them and speak directly to them about the problems in our community. If you want to speak to your senator about the lack of water in your village, then damn it you should be able to. We can no longer sit down and expect the top to do everything. Real change starts at the grassroots and we are the agents of change.

It is no longer acceptable for our children to get poor education, we will not stand by and watch children finish primary school and not know how to do arithmetic. It is not acceptable to have our future leaders staying in squalid hostels not fit for animals all in the name of boarding schools. It is not acceptable for the schools to lack laboratory equipment, to lack access to computers and Internet in the 21st century. We can no longer accept a syllabus that was written in the 80s. Get out of here with that nonsense. We can no longer accept a mindset that Maths and English are the only subjects worth learning. We can no longer accept harassment of students in Universities, crowded lecture halls and poor hostel living conditions. We can no longer accept a youth service that sometimes turns into a death sentence for those serving their country. We cannot accept a youth service that doesn’t lead to jobs for members. We will not accept a youth service where the corpers are not paid a living wage

It is imperative that the issue of unemployment be tackled. We as a people will no longer accept a job selection process that is not completely transparent and merit based. We will only accept equal opportunity recruitment process without regard to gender, tribe, ethnic group, religion and co. Any hint of discrimination will be met with swift action against any accused company. We will no longer accept taking an expatriate to copy and paste documents from one folder to another when you have so many computer literate youths looking for jobs, we will no longer accept a country where a graduate is treated as a sub-human just because he/she is looking for a job. We will not accept selling our country to foreign interests who do not adequately give back to the community. We will hold them to the same standards that they hold Nigerians to in their countries. Our country will not kiss the ass of any multinational, if they don’t like it they can leave.

We will no longer accept that our country will experience power outages. We are determined that every power outage must be accompanied by a cogent reason pending the time when full and consistent power coverage is given to the country. If there is going to be fuel scarcity in any part of the country, the people there demand their right to know and plan accordingly. Lack of water supply is a thing of the past. We will not accept anything but a drive to reform the health sector and make primary healthcare available to all areas of the country, including the rural areas. We will not accept any situation where basic services are not rendered to citizens.

We will not accept a country without adequate security. We will not accept the fact that a robustly sized police and security force cannot protect the lives and properties of its citizens. We will not accept poor intelligence gathering, we will not accept bomb blasts, armed robbery and kidnapping as part of the national norm. We absolutely denounce any security personnel that engages in any practice that is harmful to the citizenry, be it bribery, selling of arms to thieves and so on.

We will not accept bigotry in any form. We denounce any priest, pastor, bishop, evangelist, imam, uztaz, mallam, babalawo etc who incites people to violence and preaches anything but love and peace amongst neighbours. We condemn them as agents of the devil, Iblis or whatever name he goes by these days. We will not condone the stealing of public funds. We will not be responsible if your hands are cut o, so watch yourself.

We solemnly swear to protect the sovereignty and dignity of our country. No one has the right to interfere in our business. We will use Nigerian solutions for Nigerian problems, nothing more nothing less. We refuse to be burdened by aid with punitive conditions. We want a Nigeria where Unity, Peace and Progress reign. We want our freedom and will not hesitate to take it back by force. We are committed to a better Nigeria. We no dey play o! We go wound devil finish!