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 – 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 »

Now that we have been desensitized to bomb blasts….

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Culled from Daily Independent

Its actually quite pitiful how desensitized to violence we are in this country. It hasn’t been long since bomb blasts became part of the Nigerian psyche yet we have become so desensitized to it. Over the past weekend three bombs went off in different parts of the country. People died and definitely others were injured. Let us not lie to ourselves and say we are as outraged as we were the first time a bomb went off and killed people in this country. Not to go off topic but sometimes I believe our “God is in control”/”E go better” attitude prevents us from being outraged and demanding change, our complacent nature. God is practical not theoretical jo. I refuse to allow bomb blasts become as commonplace as road accidents, armed robbery or even kidnapping. These things are not normal. No offence, but this is Nigeria not Iraq. We are not at bloody war!

The news and media are not helping. They carry news about these bomb blasts for a few days; if we are lucky a week and then they move on. Are you kidding me? The media should be proactive and ask the police what they are doing to solve these crimes against our nation and humanity. You should never let people forget about issues like this, instead you want to focus on zoning of ministers and the like. These are the things that cause divisions in this country. So what if the president has instituted a committee on the election violence or even Boko Haram, what if he has signed an Anti-terrorism bill? This doesn’t mean squat if bomb blasts are still occurring and people are still dying. I dare anyone to mention one committee on such an issue that succeeded in effecting a positive change. Many times after the committee is done, people have forgotten the issue and the government ignores their report. We just like to create committees to continue to chop money when there are people whose responsibility it is to do the jobs the committees are doing.

In my opinion, it is a damn shame that our National Security Adviser, Director of SSS and various heads of security agencies in charge of protecting the lives of our citizens have been retained. It doesn’t make an ilk of sense. If people are dying and you are not catching those behind it, it is safe for me to assume you suck at your job and deserve to be fired. Simple and short. An overhaul and reorientation of our security agencies is needed.

How? Of course I have a few suggestions. Apart from overhauling the security agencies and making sure non-performers are eased out in favor of performing officers, there is a need for greater intelligence training. We need to have informants. Security officers need to befriend some of the shadier people in our society who might have information about crimes that are about to go down. Every security officer needs to know his community well and be friendly with the people he is serving. This way he will be in touch with what is going on in his community, the good and the bad. This will help in reducing crime by a lot.

In line with greater intelligence training and gathering comes another important tool for any security agency, undercover work. Yes you might think I watch too much American movies and TV. Yes, I m a fan of 24, Jack Bauer kicks ass. Only if we had a Nigerian version of Jack B to kick terrorists’ ass. Yes, these people setting off bombs are nothing but terrorists. It is crucial that security agencies infiltrate these groups. It doesn’t take much, in the case of boko haram you will need a Muslim officer who speaks hausa/kanuri/Fulani and can blend into the group and stay with them for months and trace the key figures behind the bomb blasts as well as pass information to security agencies to enable them stop these attacks. It is very important to be pro-active not reactive in the war against terrorism.

This also brings me to another point I have said over and over again, it should be a crime in this country to make hateful/inciting speech. These people especially the Boko Haram have cassette tapes and CDs in circulation in markets filled with hateful and inciting speech. I believe it is within the full rights of security agents to follow the trail of such inciting media, find their source and deal with them appropriately. Haba, the time when people acted in this country with impunity should definitely be over.

We as a people need to stand up and demand changes. We cant let people to continue dying. If we let this go on, we will no longer be surprised or express shock when a bomb blast occurs. We will just shrug and say thank God no one I know got hurt. Haba Nigeria, we should be a nation that even if 1 person loses his/her life we should be outraged. As much as I know that power and unemployment are priorities for our new president, it is important that he ensure the security of lives and property. That is one of the main functions of any government. Lets fix this now before kids grow up thinking its okay to gut a human being. Smh.

NYSC: A Brainstorming Session, ideas on how to make the NYSC scheme better.

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So over the past few weeks, the NYSC program has been under the microscope after the spate of killings that followed the elections leaving Corps members dead. This has triggered widespread condemnation of the killings and the NYSC Program itself. Some call for the outright scrapping of the NYSC while others call for a review. Either way, it is my sincere hope that something is indeed done about the NYSC program because in its current state, the program is not living up to its initial billing. The hope not only lies in hoping that the government does something, I also hope that we as a people don’t forget the sacrifice that the corps members made. Many times, it seems as though we easily forget tragedies and move on to the next thing without demanding change. A laissez-faire population will lead to a country in chaos where nothing is ever solved.

Of course the central issue of most of the writings on the post election violence as relating to NYSC has been basically outrage and who can blame anyone. After all these are our brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters who lost their lives. However, I would like to take the position of suggesting potential solutions as regards to reviewing the program not only to secure the lives of our corpers but to improve the welfare and lot of the NYSC members. This is important because in the bigger scheme of things, the NYSC program represents the future of this nation. Its members are graduates of tertiary institutions who hold skills and ideas that could change this nation. In addition to this, NYSC is one of the few opportunities for people to step out of their comfort zone and experience a different part of the country thereby fostering unity. It is also instructive that this crop of young men and women who are serving the country are future ministers, industrialists, academics, philanthropists, and so on and hence deserve to be treated with respect.

In terms of securing the lives of NYSC members, it is important that all states build substantial corper lodges. They also need to provide subsidized housing for the corpers. This subsidized housing will be cheap enough for corpers to afford and would help improve security of corpers as these places would be given sufficient security detail. It would have the advantage of having congregating corpers together and giving the needed “safety in numbers” effect. A buddy system would have to be adopted in which corpers would look after each other and ensure the safety of their fellow corper. It would also help to provide corpers with sufficient combat and weapons training. Another approach would be to make it necessary for traditional leaders to know the corpers and also afford them the security of whatever local militia helps to keep security in the said ward/village. Lets face it, in the real rural areas militia hold more sway than the police.

Apart from security, the NYSC program suffers a lot of other problems. The problems include insufficient wages, corruption, community development (Yes CD is a problem), a lack of sufficient jobs for corpers once they finish and poor placement of corpers based on skill.

In addressing the insufficient wages for corpers it is key to note that simply increasing corper allowance is not acceptable. It is not enough to only factor in federal government pay to corpers but it is imperative to look into the amount corpers receive from their places of primary assignment. It is pitiful that in this day and age some corpers receive as low as 3,000 naira from their places of primary assignment, add this to the approximately 10,000 they receive from federal government and you have maybe 13,000 a month for a graduate living and working in a place like Abuja and Lagos. You have to be kidding me. I propose that government factor in the living cost of different areas in the country as well as regulate the amount organizations give their corpers to ensure fair treatment. It is also important to note that in the time of some of our parents, NYSC allowance was about half of what a staff in places of primary assignment received. If a corper was earning 100 naira a month then, a full staff earned like 200 naira. If you are going to give workers a living wage, you have to give corpers a living wage because in most instances these corpers are away from home and need to be reasonably comfortable. Comfort and security as well as employment will help better integrate the country as you will see cases of corpers staying back in the areas they served to work. Hence a better mixing of the polity outside of ethno-religious lines will occur.

Looking at corruption in the NYSC scheme would be a really deep undertaking as the NYSC is basically a mirror of the corruption in our society. You have bribery to influence places of primary assignment, you have people paying off officials so that they can basically skip the whole NYSC experience and stay at home or keep working abroad (a little bit common amongst foreign-trained folk, yeah I said it!). You also have paying officials after skipping Community Development (I m guilty of this, cant lie). My suggestion for this would be an anonymous tipping service that will allow corpers report cases of officials harassing them or requesting money from them. Aside from this transparency in the manner of assigning of places of primary assignment, CD, as well as all things NYSC related including posting of people to states. The processes and methods of deciding these things need to be publicized. We don’t want to hear about connection anymore, if Nigeria is to evolve into an egalitarian society, it is important that the NYSC be merit based and transparent. No Nigerian is more equal than the other because of wealth, status, ethnic group, religion or connection, the country belongs to both me and you.

Linking from the previous point, the Community Development scheme of the NYSC has become riddled with corruption as funds are not even made available to corpers to execute thought out community development projects and in some urban areas, the CD has turned into a joke with people coming and standing/sitting around for hours till their CD cards are signed. Also in some cases there doesn’t seem to be a choice of where one wants to do his/her CD and even in cases where corpers undertake a project they are subjected to red tape and sometimes have to use some of their own money to fund the said project. This is not acceptable. The process of assigning CDs needs to be transparent. The CD itself should be an open process that would allow for brainstorming of ideas from corpers and implementation of projects to develop their communities based on the skills they possess and what interests them. If I want to install a solar powered pump borehole in a community that I m serving in, there should be forum for me to share my ideas, draw up a cost estimate and project plan and get funding from the NYSC scheme or suitable NGO partners. Corpers have brilliant ideas on how to develop communities and the nation as a whole only if we let them.

Lack of sufficient jobs for corpers once they finish is another problem that is more societ wide with the high unemployment rate in the country. Of course, there have been attempts to help corpers with entrepreneurship training. Lets be serious though, you want a graduate of engineering to start weaving baskets and selling them? Are you bloody serious? You need to do better. If you place corpers in the right places to serve based on their qualification, interests and experience you will get better value from the corpers and you will more likely retain them. Entrepreneurship schemes are good and I believe that is a legit step in the right direction to tackling unemployment. However it will make no sense if you teach people entrepreneurship skills and not provide funds or loans for them to engage in said business. No sense at all. Another point to make is that the year a corper spends in the place of primary assignment should be a time where the company trains the corper and gives him/her the necessary skills. The NYSC service year can also serve as a graduate trainee year in which corpers are trained with the intention of retaining them after the finish serving. Maybe companies will complain about the basic skill set of corpers, if that is the case the companies should conduct aptitude/skill tests and interviews before they select corpers. This would make for a more equitable process of primary assignment selection and result in fewer rejections. It would also be a good idea if a database of CVs/ Skill set is created that would allow organizations to look and select potential corpers they would like to recruit.

All in all, this is my attempt at a constructive criticism of the NYSC scheme and a solution based approach to reviewing the scheme and helping to unite and progress Nigeria. I m sure I missed a lot of points, do you have any suggestions for a thorough review of the NYSC scheme if it is not eventually scrapped, share. I m interested in hearing people’s ideas.

A patriotic jingle below to get your blood pumping.

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!