Daylight Robbery!!!

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Before I go on, I must state that my views have changed from those expressed in my earlier post. I no longer support deregulation, removal of fuel subsidy or whatever name government wishes to call it. The government have brought forward their arguments (which they were able to use to bamboozle me for a few hours) but in the space of a day or so, I have come across superior arguments which have cast doubt on the governments logic. Thanks to enlightening interviews like Professor Tam David-West, we now understand that what government is doing is more like daylight robbery.

Thanks to people who have shed more light on the whole fuel subsidy or no fuel subsidy argument, we now understand the government is actually taxing our fuel consumption and that the whole story of importing refined petroleum products is nothing but a barefaced lie. The government says that with the removal of the subsidy, more money would be freed up for capital projects that will benefit the majority of Nigerians. Even when there was not enough money, a former governor from the Presidents party made off with over 50 billion Naira from the state coffers. This is state that can barely generate 10 billion Naira monthly and has to wait for its monthly allocation from the Federal Government to be able to do anything meaningful. All the whole thing means is that there will be more money for government at all levels to steal.

What the President and his cohorts are trying to do reminds me of a Bushism credited to George W. Bush. While trying to get across the great desire of the American government of which he was head to hurt Al-Quaeda, he fumbled the grammar and made it sound as if it was the American people he wanted to hurt (they must have thought so to by the end of his presidency). He is reputed to have said: “Al-Quaeda is always looking for new ways to hurt the American people, so are we.” That seems to be the problem in Nigeria. An average (incompetent, eneducated, unenlightened and inept) Senator earns more than Barack Obama, the President of the most prosperous nation on earth. As some sort of sacrifice, the President announced a 25% cut in the salaries of members of the executive branch. Which is nothing since we know the greater proportion of their money is in their allowances. They all travel first class and go about with massive entourages (which I talked about in my book, The African Prince). The Nigerian political office holder is the most subsidised in the world, yet they’re always looking for new ways to hurt the Nigerian people.

The President is talking tough and saying their is no backing down. This is quite a far cry from the stance of consultation and dialogue he started with. It is therefore clear that the days of election promises are far gone and can no longer be remembered.

(Ayoade Oluwasanmi is a lawyer and the author of The African Prince, a satire about governance in Africa. The African Prince is published by Trafford Publishing www.trafford.com)

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THE MYTH OF JUDGE’S IMMUNITY

Ever since the Department of State Services (DSS) laid ambush to the official residences of certain judges late Friday night, broke down doors and arrested them early Saturday morning, different people have taken sides as to the legality or otherwise of the action and much has been written and said about the act. There are those who believe the action of the DSS was wrong. According to them, the Constitution is clear that the National Judicial Council (NJC) is the only body empowered to “discipline” judges and that what the DSS did was ultra vires their powers. Those in this camp have described the action of the DSS as “Gestapo” tactics. Then there are those like me who believe that the DSS was justified and acted within their powers, regardless of what the Constitution says about the NJC having the power to discipline judges.

 

Let’s start with an analogy. A judge is on his way to the airport for his annual vacation. While on the road, his official vehicle is hit by a normal Nigerian citizen. His police orderly and his driver both come down to argue with the occupant of the other car. Angry that the occupant of the other car does not want to accept responsibility for the accident, the judge comes out of the car, removes his police orderly’s side arm from its holster and shoots the occupant of the other car. Now, and this is key, according to those who believe the section saying only the NJC has the power to “discipline” judges, he cannot be arrested for the crime. According a post I saw on Facebook yesterday supposedly written by someone who went to one of my secondary schools, he described crime as “common”. So because he supposedly has immunity under that section, he can get back in his car, drive on toward the airport, board his plane and travel, probably never to come back again if he so chooses. All because he is still a judge and the NJC has not met to discipline him and he has immunity till then. And so the argument is that until the family of the person killed actually writes a petition to the NJC, which then meets only God knows how many months later, he is still a judge and purportedly immune from arrest or prosecution.

 

Or another analogy. A girl comes to the police station to report that her boss has sexually molested her. The police ask her to take them to her boss’s house. On getting to the boss’s house. They then decide they can’t arrest him because only the NJC can discipline him and they leave, waiting for the girl to write a petition to the NJC who might then take months to meet. Meanwhile, the judge has the power to obstruct justice by paying the girl to keep quiet or send her far away or even kill her. I don’t know about you but I believe that it would the resulting outcomes in both situations would be manifestly absurd. Under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) the only people who have immunity against arrest and prosecution while in office are the president and governors.

 

I believe the problem arises from the interpretation given to the word “discipline” with regards to the powers of the NJC. The first rule of interpretation is that words must be given their normal, ordinary every day meaning unless it would result in an absurdity. The Oxford Dictionary online edition defines discipline as “punish or rebuke formally for an offence”. The question therefore is, which offence can the NJC discipline for? Can the NJC discipline in respect of any offence, including offenses that are crimes? Or only with regards to offences connected to a judge’s conduct while carrying out his official duties?

 

In the immediate aftermath of the news of the arrest, Femi Falana SAN disagreed with the position taken by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA). He wondered why NJC would only recommend that a judge who was accused of extorting N179m from a litigant before him be dismissed without recommending that he be prosecuted for the alleged crime. I would proffer that the reason for this is that despite their bravado; even the NJC recognises that the power whether or not to recommend prosecution lies solely with the Attorney-General of the Federation. This power is wielded by the Attorney-General himself or those whom constitutionally he has delegated this power to. Nowhere in the constitution is the power to recommend that a person be prosecuted for a crime been delegated to the NJC.

 

If I have any problem with the arrests, it’s with the optics. I believe that before a government takes any action, after it has convinced itself the action it seeks to take is the correct and proper thing to do, it must then ask itself how the action it seeks to take will be perceived both by its citizens and those watching from outside. Most foreigners have the perception that Nigeria’s judiciary is not independent. In the midst of a recession with the country looking for foreign investors, the action might be perceived as an attempt to cow the judiciary.

 

Everyone knows like most of Nigeria, the judiciary has a corruption problem which the legal profession has refused to address because the people who are supposed to address the issue are those perpetrating the corruption. I remember someone telling me I shouldn’t expect justice in a matter I was involved in because the judge, the claimant and his counsel were all friends at St. Gregory’s College. The said judge has since been dismissed for corrupt practices in another matter. I believe the outrage by lawyers is because someone else has waded into our private space with a hammer to solve the problem we have been unable to solve.

 

I understand Justice Walter Onnoghen is to be sworn in as the Chief Justice of the Federation upon the retirement of the president Chief Justice. I would like to hope that he would be a Chief Justice who would put the future of the judiciary before his personal ambition. I would like to hope that before taking up the position, he would have a frank discussion with President Buhari He would tell President Buhari that he has no interest in taking up the position unless he obtains a personal guarantee that the executive organisations like the DSS, the Nigerian Police and others would obey orders of court. And that if he does assume office, if any judge’s order is disobeyed by any of these bodies, he would immediately resign. I know it sounds crazy in a country where men love to acquire and hold on to power, even to the detriment of the institutions they lead. However, I can hope.

 

 

 

Ayoade Oluwasanmi is the author of the novel, The African Prince, a satire about governance and politics in Africa. He is also the author of the short stories, It’s My Body, a satire about feminism in the West, Let Me Love You, a story about peadophilia and courage in the face of abuse, and Letters To America  a perspective on certain social issues seen through the eyes of an African. He is a lawyer and lives in Lagos, Nigeria. You can follow him on Twitter at @authorayoade.

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NO EASY PATHS

It was Wednesday and the bus I was in was stuck in traffic along the Lekki-Epe Expressway. It was around past 7 in the evening and I was already late for church. I kept staring at my watch, hoping that for my sake time would stop moving so fast and that the massive number of cars on the road would suddenly thin out and I would magically find myself at my bus stop. At the Lekki Phase 1, Marwa, Elf and Ikate bus stops, I wondered that maybe I should just alight from the bus, cross to the other side and take an alternative route to church. But I never did, always hoping the traffic situation would suddenly be kind to me.

 

Maybe if I had alighted, I would never have heard the conversation. I can’t really say when his conversation intruded into my consciousness, but I suddenly found myself listening to a conversation I wasn’t a willing participant in. There was a young man on the phone (I could tell he was male from his voice) speaking to a friend. He was busy complaining to a friend about how he had been unable to secure an appointment in Lagos. He seemed to have gone to several places looking for a job, written several applications as well all to no avail. He complained that he had even sought employment at NAFDAC (his course of study never came up during the conversation). However, unless you had connections from Abuja you could not secure an appointment there (I wonder who told him that). However, the most interesting part of his side of the conversation was when he declared he was going back home to his village to rest and think about his life (I had a feeling he came from somewhere in the eastern part of the country) and he didn’t think he was coming back to Lagos.

 

When I heard him say he was giving up and going back to his village, I had to turn and look at him. He seemed to be in his middle to late twenties. A thought came to me that the only reason he was admitting defeat and going back home was because he has no wife or child depending on him. Maybe I’m wrong about him. Maybe he will go back home and start a business. Even though I doubt it, I hope so. From his side of the conversation, all I could sense was resignation and defeat, frustration and anger. They say Nigeria can do that to you.

 

When I finally got to church and I mentioned it to someone there, he told me his story. According to him, when he came to Lagos many years ago and he started coming to church, people used to commend him about the smartness of his clothes based on the fact he knew how to apply starch and iron clothes. According to him, because of the comments, he began to take church members clothes home to wash and iron. From that venture, he informed me that all those years ago he used to make nothing less than N6, 000 every week from the clothes he washed. According to him, if you’re not ashamed to do menial work and you’re determined to work hard, you can make it in Lagos.

 

Various celebrities like Ali Baba have told stories of how when they came to Lagos, before they became well known, they sold pure water, learnt how to make or sew shoes. In a bid to encourage they’ve told personal stories of how they started out doing menial jobs before finding a job or creating one that utilised their unique gifts and talents. However the problem with Nigeria is no one wants to start small, we all want a job with a multinational like Shell that pays a six-figure salary and we can go for summer in London, Paris, New York or Dubai or wherever the fancy takes us. The average Nigerian wants to write an application or use connections so he or she can work at Shell but no one wants to create a Shell. Like Adekunle Gold, we don’t want to do the hard work Dangote and Otedola have done but we want to drive a Rolls Royce or Bentley like them. We all want to hammer. We all want to be part of someone else’s success story but we don’t want to create our own. Therefore we have become a nation of applicants.

 

No nation can grow economically without an entrepreneurial class or an entrepreneurial spirit. No nation can fully develop to its potential when all we want is for foreigners to come and bring their money and develop our country. When the mood suits them, they’ll take it out again. We all tell ourselves that companies like MTN or Shell cannot leave Nigeria because of the large population which equals to a large market that Nigeria represents. But we need to ask ourselves, what if they did? Companies have left Nigeria. Virgin left and they didn’t look back. Since the recession others have left. So what if the one’s we think can’t leave, leave?

 

I worry about that boy. I worry that he’ll go back home, settle for something mediocre and waste his gifts and his talents simply because he couldn’t hack it in Lagos. I understand that not everyone can live in Lagos or stand the traffic jams. After all, I was born here and I love it here. But I still worry about him. I worry that he’ll grow up feeling bitter, thinking that no one gave him a chance when he never gave himself a chance. I worry that he won’t fulfil his potential simply because he was looking for someone to hand him a pay cheque instead of taking the time and effort to probably build something that will last for generations. The thought makes me sad.

 

 

 

Ayoade Oluwasanmi is the author of the novel, The African Prince, a satire about governance and politics in Africa. He is also the author of the short stories, It’s My Body, a satire about feminism in the West, Let Me Love You, a story about peadophilia and courage in the face of abuse, and Letters To America  a perspective on certain social issues seen through the eyes of an African. He is a lawyer and lives in Lagos, Nigeria. You can follow him on Twitter at @authorayoade.

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YOU BEFORE ME

Saturday the 1st of October marked the occasion of Nigeria’s 56th Independence Day celebrations and as usual, The Platform was held in Lagos. The anniversary edition of The Platform is an annual event convened by Pastor Poju Oyemade of the Covenant Christian Centre with speakers from the private, public and religious spheres of the country with a view to proffering solutions to Nigeria’s myriad of problems.

 

This year, one of the speakers was Sam Adeyemi, the presiding pastor of Daystar Christian centre, one of the largest churches in Lagos. While giving his speech, it was also been shared on social media via tweets on his official Twitter account. In response to the tweets, various Nigerian youths made comments, asked questions and as is par with the course, it would seem that some could only contribute abuse and insults in line with the level of their intelligence. Some of these comments and questions asked were then re-tweeted by his account. Two comments in particular caught my attention. In response to comments Sam Adeyemi made about the direct correlation between political power and economic power and the fact that those in control of political power in Nigeria presently do not want the majority of Nigerians to enjoy economic prosperity, one person asked who the person was who was going to lead the mental revolution that would bring about the desired change. Another person wondered who was going to be the Nigerian version of Martin Luther King Junior who was going to lead people to the Promised Land.

 

While those may seem to be valid questions, it highlights a point I made in my last post. Nigerian youths seem to think that it is someone else’s responsibility to provide them leadership. I have had many discussions with friends on this issue and I have long posited that the problem lies with our educational system, especially at the tertiary level. We have an educational system that does not create a leadership mind-set in those pass through it. That’s why millions of people leave various learning institution and everyone is looking to the either the government or someone else for work. Our educational system has failed to develop critical thinkers or people who posit rational intelligent arguments which is why most Nigerians today take up positions when arguing about national issues based on ethnic and religious bias. However, while the educational system has a large role to play, one cannot discount the need for personal development. However, one cannot talk of personal development when one does not understand that there is a deficiency to be addressed.

 

Having thought deeply about those comments, it is quite clear that there only two places they could be coming from. One is a place of low self-worth. Like I said in an earlier post, Nigeria’s youth seem to be looking for salvation from someone other than themselves. This could be because they look at themselves and like 10 of the 12 men sent by Moses to spy out the land of Canaan, they are like grasshoppers in their own eyes. Therefore they seem to be looking for salvation from someone more intelligent, richer, older, more politically connected than themselves which of course is sad. On the other hand, their comments could be motivated by fear. Africa has a history of repressive and oppressive regimes, both civilian and military. Everyone has at the back of their minds what happens to those who oppose governments in Africa. Also, we have seen what happened to Funso Williams and Dapo Daramola, popular politicians who were perceived of being something of a challenge to those entrenched in power. Therefore the desire for someone else to lead the revolution we all want is probably borne out of self-preservation, that in the event the revolution is crushed and the leader is arrested or killed, we can slink back to our own homes and enjoy our lives in peace.

 

Earlier this year, one of Nigeria’s online newspapers Sahara Reporters released the telephone numbers of Nigeria’s senators. The story is told of how when one of the senators in Ekiti State elected on the platform of the PDP, a Mrs. Olujimi was contacted by angry youths calling to voice their displeasure at the wanton profligacy of the Senate, she berated them. According to reports, she wondered why they why they were calling her. She was said to have asked them whether or not they collected the financial inducements offered by the party for them to vote for her while they were on the line and that if they did, they shouldn’t dare call her again. The point of all this is that if you think someone, somewhere whom you believe to be a “leader” either political or social is going to fight for you without you taking up the fight yourself, you have another think coming. We all need to step up and be counted and let our voices be heard.

 

Also, a speech delivered by a former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi has been garnering plaudits on social media. According to a tweet I saw yesterday, Peter Obi is something of a refreshing politician; someone who will tell you what he has done instead of what he intends to do. I must confess that I haven’t seen his speech but someone has sent me the links to the videos of the speech on YouTube. However I must confess I am surprised at the quick move by people to deify him or in the least make him a saint, especially by those of his ethnic grouping. I believe there are certain questions that need to be answered before we start pushing him as a potential president of the future. I used to think Rochas Okorocha had credibility when he was contesting as president though something of a joker. Now I think he’s an absolute disaster.

 

Like I said, I haven’t watched Peter Obi’s speech but I have just three questions. Maybe the answers might be found in his speech. If they are, maybe someone can tell me or I’ll get them there. One, does he collect a pension from Anambra State like Saraki, Igbenedion, Tinubu, Donald Dule, Akpabio and all the others we have been unfortunate enough to have elected into office? Two, what did he do with the hundreds of millions he collected as security vote? Three, a saw a video on Facebook where he spoke about how he was chosen by A. B. C. Nwosu as a gubernatorial candidate and he spoke about how he was chairman of Fidelity Bank, was on the board of two banks as a Director in which he owned substantial interests. He spoke at length about how he used to travel abroad regularly. He also mentioned a course he attended at Kellog University in Chicago that he paid $15, 000. Therefore the third question is what business was he into before becoming governor through which he amassed his wealth? There are probably other questions that need to be asked but if he could provide answers to these, maybe I just might join the legion of fans he has acquired. Till then, I’ll hold on to my cynicism about political office holders in Nigeria.

 

 

 

Ayoade Oluwasanmi is the author of the novel, The African Prince, a satire about governance and politics in Africa. He is also the author of the short stories, It’s My Body, a satire about feminism in the West, Let Me Love You, a story about peadophilia and courage in the face of abuse, and Letters To America  a perspective on certain social issues seen through the eyes of an African. He is a lawyer and lives in Lagos, Nigeria. You can follow him on Twitter at @authorayoade.

 

 

 

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NIGERIA AND MILLIONS OF PROBLEMS

I recently discovered Nigeria has a massive problem. A problem so huge, it’s scary. And no, I’m not talking about the recession the country is currently facing. Neither am I talking about the current free fall of the Naira against the United States Dollar. Those are just symptoms of a greater problem. The greatest problem Nigeria faces at this critical juncture of its history is the current mind-set of millions of its citizenry, especially its youths. For any country to survive, grow and thrive it needs its youths who are at the height of their strength and mental powers to be actively engaged in charting a course for the growth of the nation. However at present, Nigerian youths are not that concerned about building a nation. You see, Nigerian youths are angry.

 

A quick visit to social media or the various popular gossip blogs like Linda Ikeji and Bella Naija would reveal the state of mind of the average Nigerian youth. There are more interested in voicing vituperations and insults than seeking to do something, anything to change the things they don’t like. A final year student of the University of Lagos was recently rusticated for two sessions. He wrote a Facebook post castigating the University Senate for their reaction to student agitations on campus. However while he might have been making a valid point, his post was filled with insults, referring to the administrators as “ignorami” and other insulting words. It would seem then that rather that channel our emotional energy into making a difference, we would rather abuse.

 

It is said that there are two types of people in the world: those who create problems and those who solve problems. In Nigeria at present, we have three: those who create problems, those who support and enable those who create problems (either because they are from the same ethnic group, religion or are benefitting from the problems created) and those who stand by and complain about the problems created while doing nothing to change it. And please note that these three categories are not mutually exclusive. People from one category can be found in others. However most of Nigeria’s youths can be found in the third category. We are busy apportioning blame and doing nothing to change the trajectory. It has become a way of life. We work in an office and the photocopier goes bad. Rather than looking to fix it or buy another one, we want to know who used it last so we can apportion blame. It gives us a sense of satisfaction but does knowing who used it last change anything? The photocopier is still spoilt.

 

When John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States spoke the immortal words “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”, I believe he was not only exhorting the citizens to less self-centred, he was also asking them to become leaders. Sadly, in Nigeria we think leadership is all about winning (or rigging) elections and political appointments. Therefore Nigerian youths are basically sunk in the funk of frustration between elections because they think the only power they have is their voter’s card. They think they only have power at election times.

 

Taylor Rosenthal is a 14 year old American who turned down $30 million for his idea of a vending machine that supplies medical equipment when you put in money. He rejected the money because according to him he wanted to see how far he could take the idea. Now he believes the idea is worth $50 million. His teacher likened him to Bill Gates. At 14, Taylor Rosenthal is a leader and he doesn’t need a political post or title for people to recognise him as such. According to him, like the Bill Gates’ and Steve Jobs’ of this world, all he wants to is change the world and make it better. It is said that you are paid for the problems you solved. Like with most things in Nigeria that’s different from what happens the world over, in Nigeria people become rich from the problems they create. But for how long can that continue? And must it continue?

 

The saying says that in every dark cloud there is a silver lining. Presently, Nigerian youths are too busy twiddling their thumbs, navel gazing and abusing their fathers to look for silver lining. We are busy looking for magicians to solve our problems and getting frustrated because we are left looking to flawed, imperfect people for answers and salvation. And therein lies the problem. The salvation we are looking for must come from within. Mike Murdoch says the most important thing you can do is ask a question and that the change you want comes as fast as the question you ask. Rather than whining about the exchange rate of the Naira to the Dollar and how it’s going to cramp your style and you won’t be able to go to America for summer or you won’t be able to buy the latest iPhone, one question to ask is how to promote Nigeria and make it a tourist destination. A person I follow on Twitter noted that Nigeria is a less popular tourist destination than even some war torn countries like Iraq. In spite of a State Department warning that practically every state in Nigeria was unsafe, Mike Zuckerberg,  one of richest men in the world came to Nigeria and left in one piece. And yet somebody is probably waiting for government to take the first step to promote Nigeria.

 

And so my question is, what are we waiting for government to do that we can do ourselves? What have thought impossible because we haven’t tried? What have we thought impossible because we haven’t taken a first step? There is no better time than now to take the lead. I was at the premiere of 93 Days, a movie about Nigeria’s escape from the scourge of the Ebola epidemic. Dr. Stella Amayo Adadevoh made a choice that most likely saved millions of lives here in Nigeria and globally. The choices we make today will determine what tomorrow looks like. Sitting down, waiting for a monthly pay cheque while cursing and abusing others because we can’t live the lifestyle we want while waiting for 2019 to dust our voter’s card is the wrong choice. If we are not part of solution, then maybe we’re not just part of the problem, we could be the problem.

 

 

Ayoade Oluwasanmi is the author of the novel, The African Prince, a satire about governance and politics in Africa. He is also the author of the short stories, It’s My Body, a satire about feminism in the West and Let Me Love You, a story about peadophilia and courage in the face of abuse. He is a lawyer and lives in Lagos, Nigeria. You can follow him on Twitter at @authorayoade.

 

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THE NIGERIA WE HAVE MADE

Yesterday, I witnessed something obscene and wicked and on national television. I must confess that I normally do not watch Nigerian news. Apart from reading the newspaper at my workplace during the week or at home at the weekends, I no longer sit down to follow the news on television. However when I put on the generator and the television came, it was tuned to Channels Television. While reading the headlines, the story about the proposed interview with an Executive Director of the Association Electricity Distribution Companies caught my attention. (We have associations for everything in Nigeria. Even mobile phone recharge card sellers have an association.) Even after the interview had come and gone, I still waited in front of the television for one reason or another. That was when I saw it.

 

The story was about homeless men and women taking shelter in a school. But they were not always homeless. At a time, these men and women had a place to call home. But these places are home no longer. Why? They have been thrown out of the places they called home because of their inability to pay their rent. They were unable to pay rent not out of choice, not because they wish to stay in a house that does not belong to them to free like others. They were unable to pay rent because when they retired from the Federal Civil Service, the Nigerian state represented by the Federal Government, whom they served possibly diligently for the better part of their productive lives refuses to pay their terminal benefits. These were men and women who have been failed by their country. They have been failed by you and I.

 

There were varying stories among these homeless people. Particularly harrowing was the case of three men who not only have developed diabetes but are now blind as well. Not only do they have to contend with the loss of their sight, they also have to contend with a chronic and debilitating illness they have no money to manage. A chronic illness that will most surely kill them. One of the blind men said he was retired from the Federal Ministry of Works in 1999 and the Federal Government has till date not paid his terminal benefits. He was thrown out of his rented apartment by his landlord for his inability to pay his rent and has since been abandoned by his wife and children. I watched as he burst into tears, pleading with the government to pay his benefits. Watching a grown man cry is a terrible thing. Another of the blind men was fortunate enough to still have his wife with him. She was still trying her best to take care of him. However, her stall in the market from which she sold goods from which she earned a meagre amount to take care of both of them was recently demolished. These are men and women, left without hope.

 

A few years ago I remember going to the premises of the Lagos State Civil Service at Alausa. I was appalled to see aged men and women, some in their seventies, others probably in their eighties left out in the dry in the noonday sun. With no chairs provided, some stood while others sat under trees, hoping for shade. They were bent and some carry bodily infirmities. They were there for the regular “I Am Alive” exercise. This where the pensioners who retired from the Civil Service gather together to fill all sorts of forms to prove to the government they’re still alive and entitled to the meagre amount the government doles out to them. Every time they come, they come carrying the same documents. I have heard my mother say it so many times, I know most of the documents myself. Letter of appointment, letter of last promotion, letter of retirement. As I watched them, it cut me to the heart to think this was what my mother and my late father had to go through to get their entitlements.

 

But that is what we have caused as a people. We have watched as a people while those who worked and gave their all are side-lined by politicians who control everything. We have watched as in the midst of plenty, with oil selling at over a $100 per barrel as our leaders have wasted our commonwealth on themselves, their wives, children and concubines and cronies. We have watched as they have bestowed largesse in the form of spurious contracts, allowing them to do so because we hope that one day we will know someone in power who will bestow such largesse on us. We have refused to make government accountable out of fear on one hand and out of greed in the hope we will benefit from the lack of accountability. We no longer want to work, we want to “hammer” mostly through dubious means. We have become ethnic and cultural warriors, held bound by the smallness of our minds, defending politicians who have committed economic malfeasance simply they come from our tribe or we share a religion. They say a man is corrupt and we say “Is he the only one?” In the process, we have condemned those three blind men to their fate. Simply because we think it could never be us. It could never be someone we know or love. And so we don’t care. And we say nothing. Nigeria may not be the way we want it. But it is definitely the way we have made it.

 

 

Ayoade Oluwasanmi is the author of the novel, The African Prince, a satire about governance and politics in Africa. He is also the author of the short stories, It’s My Body, a satire about feminism in the West, Let Me Love You, a story about peadophilia and courage in the face of abuse, and Letters To America  a perspective on certain social issues seen through the eyes of an African. He is a lawyer and lives in Lagos, Nigeria. You can follow him on Twitter at @authorayoade.

 

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SKYE BANK, CORPORATE RAIDERS AND THEIVES, IMPUNITY AND THE ILLUSION OF AFRICA’S BIGGEST ECONOMY

Last year, just before Nigeria’s general election which was conducted on May 29 in which the incumbent president was soundly defeated by the opposition, there were reports in the papers that several businessmen and captains of industry had allegedly banded together to donate to a war chest that would guaranty the re-election of Goodluck Jonathan. One of the names that stood out was that of a Tunde Ayeni, the then chairman of Skye Bank. According to reports, Mr. Ayeni allegedly donated N2 billion to the war chest. From the reports, I was unable to ascertain if the N2 billion was a personal donation from himself alone or whether there were others who had contributed. However when one dug deeper, one would find out the donation from Mr. Ayeni was not altruistic. Around the same time, there were also allegations that Mr. Ayeni was a close friend to the president who allowed Goodluck Jonathan to launder money through the bank. Fast forward a year later and the Central Bank of Nigeria has forced out several members of the board of Skye Bank and has taken over the bank because it is facing a liquidity crisis. There are fears that after the holidays, the bank may face a run on its deposits by depositors who are scared of losing their money.

 

In today’s divisive political climate, there are those who will seek to put the blame of demise of Skye Bank on the president and the present administration. The ethnic and religious bigots who now inhabit cyberspace and can be found on every social media will point out that the imminent collapse of the bank is evidence of the failed policies of the present administration. They will moan and wail that the erstwhile president handed over “the biggest economy in Africa” which the present administration had brought to its knees. However none of these people can point out what Nigeria actually produces to merit the title of largest economy in Africa. The illusion of growth which was actually bloating is perpetuated by Nigerian banks who have zero ideas on how to grow the economy or create wealth. All Nigerian banks are adept at doing is fleecing depositors through all sorts of ingenious levies. From alert fees to ATM withdrawal fees, from card maintenance fees (how does a bank maintain a card in my possession?) to levies on transactions and transfers between accounts, in my opinion Nigeria’s banks main source of income does not come from supporting businesses but from daily fleecing their impoverished customers. Even banks like UBA charge a levy for withdrawing certain amounts over the counter.

 

However the fall of Skye Bank is not only due to the general paucity of ideas by bankers on how to create wealth. It would seem that the present traumatised state of the bank is as a result of a co-ordinated and persistent rape by those entrusted with its care. I only just found out yesterday that the bank was in trouble. Waking up this morning and googling the words “chairman of skye bank Nigeria”, I see a story that not only nauseates at the extent of the gross betrayal of trust, it leaves me wondering, “How many other businesses in this so-called largest economy are in the same position?” According an article by Sahara Reporters titled “Inside Story of Skye Bank Management Takedown By Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Tunde Ayeni is owing the bank “at least N102 billion that had remained unpaid for several years”. How is a business supposed to survive when one man who has a fiduciary relationship with the bank owes over a N100 billion? According to the article, he bought Mainstreet Bank from the Goodluck Jonathan administration for N135 billion. He also allegedly used funds from the bank to buy several electricity Discos, the moribund Nigerian telecommunication’s carrier NITEL and owns a private jet. I doubt any of these assets are in the name of the bank. I’m sure they’re in his name or his wife and children’s names.

 

The article then goes on to name several businesses and persons owing the bank huge amounts of money. Some of the names listed are now part of the infamous rogues’ gallery in Nigeria. The names Atlantic Energy, Jide Omokore and Kola Aluko features on the list of debtors with an alleged indebtedness of over N70 billion. On the other hand, it was probably not surprising to see the name of Jason Fadeyi, the chairman of Pan Ocean Oil Company who is allegedly indebted to the bank to the tune of N90 billion. From personal experience, the law firm I work for has a client, a major player in the oil and gas services industry to whom Pan Ocean was indebted to the tune of several hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not over a million. It took us filling a petition seeking the winding up of the company for us to recover the amount owed. Presently, Pan Ocean owes an affiliate of the same company several hundreds of thousands of dollars.

 

I have never been a fan of the local content policy pushed by the previous administration. While it was nice in principle, in practice it was a disaster. All it did was create opportunities for friends of the administration to make a killing doing nothing. There was the stipulation that players in the industry must have majority indigenous participation while indigenous firms were favoured in the award of contracts. It however created a problem as several indigenous firms did not (and some still do not) have the technical know-how to execute the contracts tendered and won on the basis of indigenous presence. They would then bring in a foreign firm with know-how to execute the contract while they collect the money and take a lion share. From my attending seminars and speaking to several clients in the oil and gas industry, I am aware that several indigenous players are up to their neck in debt. Our oil and gas industry is built on a massive and unsustainable lie.

 

If that then is the case, what else do we actually produce in Nigeria to warrant being the largest economy in Africa? The textiles we wear, especially the ankara, is produced in Holland, our drugs are produced in India, our electronics and phones are from America and Asia, our household appliances are from Europe. We are busy spending our money consuming telecommunication services and yet the largest telecommunication company in Nigeria is South African and we can’t see the irony. The present administration is blamed for the lack of power yet the supporters of Saint Jonathan conveniently forget to avert their minds to the fact that we are partly in this position because the last administration divvied up the power assets among their friends, family members and acolytes who had no knowledge whatsoever of managing those assets and getting them to produce.

 

The story of Skye Bank I believe is the story of several Nigerian businesses. Shortly after the death of the well-known CEO of a prominent Nigerian bank, a friend of the deceased gave what was to me a thought provoking and illuminating interview. According to the friend, who along with the dead executive started the bank, what motivated his friend was the desire to be rich. Not to create wealth or grow Nigeria’s economy. Simply to be rich. Which is why when you go round the various highbrow parts of Lagos today, the bank CEO’s and former CEO’s own some of the best houses in Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Parkview, Lekki and Banana Island. They are Nigeria’s version of the nouveau riche. When one man takes depositors funds to buy a private jet, leaving the depositors in penury because of his inability to grow their money, while giving them a paltry 3% rate on their money while the inflation rate is over 10%, I consider such an act to be criminal. I wonder how many other CEO’s are living the high life while impoverishing the company they have been entrusted with (even if they founded the company) and paying their workers the barest minimum. How many of the so-called successful businessmen we admire and seek to emulate run this model of “success”? Living the high life while being indebted to banks as a result of loans they have no interest repaying? Loans they obtained simply because they knew someone on the board and not because they had a viable business idea and plan.

 

Yesterday I went to Abeokuta and I came back through Epe. Just after Ajah, I noticed Shoprite is busy constructing another shopping centre. Their expansion in Lagos is aggressive. If my memory serves me right, this will be their fifth in Lagos alone. That tells me they’re successful and making money in Nigeria. But it’s not owned by Nigerians and the profits made would be repatriated after paying their staff the barest minimum. It seems to me that the people who are really making a success of businesses in Nigeria are the South Africans, Indians, Pakistani’s, Chinese and the Lebanese. And the Europeans and the Americans. Practically everyone but Nigerians. How are we going to “buy Nigerian to grow Nigeria” when Nigerians produce nothing but consume everything? That is the conundrum this administration in collaboration with those who mean well for the country have to solve. And fast.  Also, those who have put Skye Bank must not be allowed to go scot free. They must be made to suffer the natural consequences of their betrayal of trust regardless of whether or not people will wail about a witch hunt.

 

 

 

 

 

Ayoade Oluwasanmi is the author of the novel, The African Prince, a satire about governance and politics in Africa. He is also the author of the short stories, It’s My Body, a satire about feminism in the West, Let Me Love You, a story about peadophilia and courage in the face of abuse, and Letters To America  a perspective on certain social issues seen through the eyes of an African. He is a lawyer and lives in Lagos, Nigeria. You can follow him on Twitter at @authorayoade.

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Toilets and Hypocrisy

His Autocratic Majesty (HAM)

Barack Hussein Obama,

Absolute Ruler of the Great United Divided States,

Great High Priest of Militant Liberal Causes,

 

Hail O King. I salute you.

 

How great it must be O great majesty to be the Supreme Fountain of all Law in your country. To think that the power to make laws, enforce them and even interpret them (including those you did not make) rests in you only boggles the mind. Also it paints a picture of how important and powerful you are O great king.

 

I understand that recently O great liege, that you did make an order and a decree, that henceforth in all educational facilities provided for young minds throughout the realm of the Great United Divided States, all boys must be permitted to use all storage conveniences and sundry hygiene facilities hitherto used by girls alone without let. I also understand that you did proclaim and decree that henceforth throughout the realm in those same educational facilities, all girls must be allowed to use storage conveniences and sundry hygiene facilities hitherto used by boys again without let. To cap it off, I understand that you did further decree that henceforth that no restriction be placed on either girls or boys as to which sport to participate in or which team to join to participate in the sport. According to the Autocratic Decree, the only requirement for boy to use the girl’s storage facilities and sundry hygiene facilities and be in a girls team is that he considers himself a girl in his mind though he bodily be a boy. Conversely all that girls need to do to use the boy’s storage facilities and sundry hygiene facilities and be in the boy’s team is that she also considers herself in mind a boy in her mind though she bodily be a girl. Wonderful isn’t it?

 

Let’s stop with the old English thing for a while. As a lawyer, I have long believed that no one has absolute rights. I have long held the view that when one person’s right is in dissonance with another person’s right, there must be some sort of arrangement where the competing rights are balanced. However, I have recently come to the sad understanding that under your administration, the only two categories of people who have absolute rights in America are radical feminists and anyone who by any tenuous means considers himself a member of the LBGTQ community. Their rights trump everyone else’s rights. And that was not a pun. By now you’re probably of the opinion that the only people who are not in support of what I consider your recent blackmail efforts targeted at schools are bigoted Christians and obstructionist Republicans. That is extremely shallow thinking. I wonder how many people want to speak up and say something but are afraid of being labelled due to the toxic atmosphere and division your policies have created.

 

Every parent has a right to protect their children. They also have a reasonable expectation that when their children go to school, they will not be put in harm’s way. Your directive that students who say they are transgender must be allowed to use the bathrooms, toilets and locker rooms of the gender they identify with instead of the gender they are born with and which is on their birth certificate does just that. But I guess you don’t see it that way. You and your fellow worshippers have probably told yourself that the likelihood of a boy entering a toilet or bathroom meant for girls and raping or sexually assaulting a girl is low, therefore the policy is good. I disagree. Even if there is the slightest possibility that such a thing could happen, even if the probability is negligible, then people’s daughters should not deliberately be put at risk because of your crusading zeal and the need to pander and appease.

 

I understand you have two daughters yourself. I recently read that your elder daughter Malia is going to Harvard after a taking a year off. (Knowing how the world works, did she get into Harvard because she met the educational qualifications for getting into Harvard or is she going to Harvard because her father is an alumni and the current Absolute Ruler of the United Divided States?) However considering the fact that she’s leaving high school, maybe I shouldn’t use her as an example. But you do have another Natasha usually called Sasha who is 14. I just checked Wikipedia and found out that your children attend a school described as “a highly selective Quaker private school”. That got me thinking. Do they collect government funding like the other schools you threatened to sue for discrimination or are they privately funded and therefore have no need to comply? Or perhaps, seeing as they are a Quaker school, they have religious objections protections? When I thought about what to write, I had wanted to ask whether your own children participated in sports or used those locker rooms, toilets and bathrooms you want to make unisex or whether they get whisked off to the grandeur of the White House immediately school is over. I guess those questions are moot now.

 

Riddle me this. Are you saying you have no problem with a boy who is bigger and heavier than girls, playing a contact sport with girls simply because his mind tells him that he’s female? Are you saying you have no problem with the potential for injury when a boy wipes out a girl when a tackle is made? Are you saying that you have no problem with sexual predators posing as transgender persons and entering female locker rooms, bathrooms and toilets to ogle girls your younger daughter’s age and younger and possibly assault and molest them? The answer to those questions is probably “No” seeing that you’ve made the decree in furtherance of your militant LBGTQ world-view. I would have said that makes you a bad parent considering those children could be your daughters. However, I just think you’re a hypocrite considering your own daughters are not at risk.

 

 

 

 

Ayoade Oluwasanmi is the author of the novel, The African Prince, a satire about governance and politics in Africa. He is also the author of the short stories, It’s My Body, a satire about feminism in the West and Let Me Love You, a story about peadophilia and courage in the face of abuse. He is a lawyer and lives in Lagos, Nigeria. You can follow him on Twitter at @authorayoade.

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ANGST, AFFIRMATIVE ACTION AND THE DESTRUCTION OF THE OSCARS

So, barring a monumental disaster of epic proportions (either natural or man-made) or the end of the world, when the Academy Awards are held later this year, Leonardo DiCaprio will win his first Oscar for Best Actor. He’s probably going to be glad he’s winning it this year since as from next year winning an Oscar is going to mean nothing. No thanks to diversity and inclusiveness.

 

African-Americans are outraged that for the second year in a row, no African-American was nominated for any of the best acting awards in both the male and female categories. Some prominent African-American actors and actresses have decided to boycott the event while several white celebrities like Piers Morgan have written copius column inches accusing the members of the Academy of racism.

 

In all the outraged arguments in favour of “diversity” and “inclusiveness” one thing that struck me, especially in comments by African-Americans was the sense of entitlement on their part. It was quite striking to me that African-Americans expect and demand to be included in the best of anything category when it comes to acting in spite of the fact that African-Americans make up less than 15% of the total American population. From the comments made in the media and on social media by aggrieved African-Americans and their supporters, African-Americans naturally should have nominations no matter what unless of course it’s due to racism. Even though they’re official a minority.

 

In the aftermath of the whole episode, all the right words are being said to soothe the nerves of African-American actors and actresses who are talking about a boycott of the party being thrown in their honour. Because they’re not the ones being honoured. ‎And they’re unhappy about this and so they want to throw a collective temper tantrum. Which of course is their right. But they don’t have to ruin the Oscars for the rest of us.

 

In all the talk about diversity and inclusiveness, no one has mentioned the word “tokenism”. African-Americans are so peeved that they didn’t get nominated, they don’t mind being nominated as a sop to the feelings. They just want to be nominated for the fun of it so that people will remember that black people too can act. So they want the Academy of Motion  Picture Arts and Sciences to embark on some form of affirmative action to include more African-Americans in its membership and it’s film nominations. Now, this might be a good idea for fostering inclusiveness in education and maybe in the workforce, but in a voluntary association and an awards show? All this will do is breed mediocrity and further the sense of entitlement African-Americans feel. And this will affect the craft of movie production and acting. Because African-Americans will know they can continue to churn out rubbish films and turn in crap performances in movies because they know they’ll still get nominated no matter what. And who suffers? The people who spend their hard earned money to go and watch films and who watch award shows hoping only the best films and actors are rewarded.

 

As from ‎next year, that will no longer happen. As from next year, actors and actresses can expect to be nominated for an Oscar based not in the performance they put in in a movie but based on who they are. I was waiting for the LGBTQ crowd to weigh in with their own perspective and I wasn’t disappointed. Ian McKellen practically accused the Academy of homophobia because no openly gay man has won the best actor award. Although the Oscars are almost here, I’m still waiting for comments from the Hispanics, the transgendedred, the physically disabled, the Muslim community and the atheists  as to why they think one of them has never won a best actor Oscar (bigotry of course) and what they can do to change that. At least the Buddhists have Richard Gere.

 

Even more illuminating, I have learnt that Will Smith’s pain for the alleged insult dealt to the African-American is really for the fact he wasn’t nominated. When the cast of the now defunct sit-com Friends decided to band together for contract negotiations and ended up being paid $1m per episode, it sent shockwaves through Hollywood and showed what could be achieved if the cast were united and there was no perceived “star” who made most of the money because the show somehow relied on him or her to be a success. Janet Hubert’s stinging rebuke and revelation about how Will Smith refused to band together with other cast members to get a better deal for others tells me his angst over the Academy not nominating a person of colour has more to do with him personally missing out than the fact it hurt other actors.

 

Thankfully the election season has begun in America with the Iowa caucuses. Maybe President Barack Obama can declare that being nominated for an award is an alienable right of all African-Americans and Hillary Clinton can campaign to make it a reality.

 

 

 

Ayoade Oluwasanmi is the author of the novel, The African Prince, a satire about governance and politics in Africa. He is also the author of the short stories, It’s My Body,  a satire about feminism in the West, Let Me Love You, a story about peadophilia and courage in the face of abuse, and Letters To America  a perspective on certain social issues seen through the eyes of an African. He is a lawyer and lives in Lagos, Nigeria. You can follow him on Twitter at @authorayoade.

 

 

 

 

 

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The African Prince

The expression on the senate president’s face changed to one of longsuffering. ‘It hasn’t been easy. As you know our own democracy is new too we’ve had democracy on and off but this present dispensation has just been on for like 15 or more years and we are still on a learning curve. We’ve made mistakes but that’s not to say we’ve done badly. In my opinion, we’ve really tried in spite of the constraints we face.’

 

‘Our greatest problem is that of remuneration. What we get as remuneration is a mere pittance. We have asked the president many times to look into it with a view to increasing our benefits but he has refused.’

 

Chief Chukwuma looked bored. ‘I’ve said it over and over again, there’s no money to increase anyone’s salary. If I increased everyone’s salary, there’d be no money for anything else and we’d be back in debt.’

 

‘So you see,’ the senate president continued mournfully ‘we try to manage what we have as deeply patriotic Nigerians. We understand that it is part of the sacrifice we have to make in order to ensure that the country moves forward.’

 

‘Take for instance the number of days we were mandated by law to sit in a year. 300 days in a year! Can you imagine? What would we be doing? Sleeping in the Senate chambers? So we shortened it to 150 days while retaining the sitting allowance as it was. Also we reduced the sitting hours from 9 o’clock in the morning to 4 o’clock in the evening to 10 o’clock in the morning to 3 o’clock in the afternoon with a one hour break in between. This is to serve two purposes. One, to enable all the Senators who had a late and hectic night to wake up properly and attend sittings and two, to allow everyone close early to attend to other pressing matters, if you know what I mean.’

 

Oti couldn’t exactly say he knew and he didn’t want to guess.

 

‘Out of the money given to us for capital projects, we saw a need to provide shelter and transportation for our members. A house in the federal capital and 3 cars was not exactly befitting a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So we decided to purchase a house for each senator in the state he’s representing and an additional car for contingencies. This is what we intend to do for all the members of the Senate after every general election regardless of whether they are new or returning members.’

 

‘But is it necessary to buy for all the senators? After all, some that already have will be returned after they win their elections. Shouldn’t it be only those who are coming in newly that should enjoy that benefit?’ Oti asked, flabbergasted by the sheer expense.

 

‘No, no, no. We don’t want anyone to feel left out or excluded. If you keep getting re-elected, it’s to your own benefit. It should serve as a spur for all senators to do well, so that they can be returned by their constituency. And after all, the money is there. We are not the 6th largest producer of oil for nothing.’

 

‘How many times have you been elected to the Senate?’ Oti asked.

 

‘Well, this is my third term as a senator and the first as senate president. By the grace of God, I hope to have many more terms.’

 

Of course you do. And many more cars and houses too I would imagine. ‘Are there any special benefits for the leaders of the Senate?’

 

‘Of course, of course,’ he said laughing nervously. ‘How else can you differentiate between the leader and led unless the leaders benefits are more. Well, officially everybody gets one house in the federal capital city because after all, you can only live in one house at time. Officially, I get two extra houses while the other leaders and the powerbrokers have one extra.’

 

‘Is that right?’ Oti said staggered at the sheer waste. ‘Shouldn’t you make the sacrifice of having less?’

 

The senate president looked at him in amazement. ‘To my own detriment? My friend, you must be joking. I need to get all I can. I’m not going to be there forever. But the fact is that those close to me also got something extra. I need to take care of those who supported me you know. That’s what my predecessor didn’t realise.’

 

‘Your predecessor? In the last term?’

 

‘No, this present term. He lasted only a few months. He was just too greedy. He wanted to eat everything all by himself. He was buying houses and cars for himself and his family members alone. He didn’t understand that it’s better to spread the money around. In the end, his removal was inevitable. We were able to rally most of our colleagues in support of his removal. Everyone was tired of his stinginess.’

 

‘And it’s not as if there’s no money in Nigeria,’ the senate president continued. ‘After all, we are the 6th largest producer of crude oil in the world. The money is there. If only he had shared the money, he would still be senate president today. I don’t see why we shouldn’t get to spend the money. It’s just that the miserable Nigerian public gets all sanctimonious and there’s always a hue and cry when they hear that the Senate needs money. We have had to grow more creative when it comes to appropriating funds.’

 

‘How is that?’

 

‘Oh, we have developed a creative method of augmenting our allowances. If you can’t beat them, you join them you know. Every Senator is given a certain amount of money to execute projects in his area. We even have a creative name for it, we call it constituency allowance. One would think that we had abandoned our primary responsibility of making laws and we were busy executing projects like common contractors. But that is not the case. We are just trying to help the executive in bringing developmental projects close to the people. A senator is allowed to decide what project he wants to do. If he decides to spend a fraction of the money allocated to him and pocket the rest, that’s his luck. After the project has been completed, he gets to call the media to come and witness the commissioning.’

 

‘What’s commissioning?’

 

‘Ah, that is a typical Nigerian phenomenon. That’s when after you’ve executed a project; you invite a large crowd of dignitaries, both local and foreign, including the people from the area in which the project is situated to witness the process of the project being put into use. This entails ribbon cutting, plenty of media presence both radio and television and a lot of photo opportunities. If you can get the president to come for the commissioning, all the better.’

 

‘Does the size or importance of the project matter?’

‘Goodness me, no. It could be that you just graded a sandy, two kilometre road or you just tarred a one kilometre road that leads nowhere. It doesn’t matter. Every project you do deserves to be commissioned.’

 

 

 

Ayoade Oluwasanmi is the author of the novel, The African Prince, published by Trafford Publishing in the US. He is also the author of the short stories, It’s My Body a satire about feminism in the West, Let Me Love You, about peadophilia and courage in the face of abuse, and Letters To America http://www.amazon.com/B00JVW9PAY  a perspective on certain social issues seen through the eyes of an African.

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Is There Not A Cause?

Dear Ms. Sola Salako, I must commend your efforts to mobilise support for the APC candidate in the just concluded Presidential elections, President-elect General Muhammadu Buhari. I also must commend the zeal you’ve shown in further mobilizing and energising support for Akinwunmi Ambode, the APC candidate in the forth-coming gubernatorial elections in Lagos. However I must confess that I am disturbed and alarmed by some of the reasons you have adduced in comments on your Facebook page as to why we should vote for Ambode and not for Jimi Agbaje.

According to you, we need to vote in an APC government in Lagos State so as to be in sync with the government at the Federal level so as to enjoy the benefits that accrue from being part of the “mainstream politics” as the saying goes. This has several implications and connotations, none of which are good. Personally while I do not have a high regard for the PDP, I do believe that there are a few competent and capable men of integrity within its ranks. I also believe that people should be allowed to choose and vote for the leaders and political representatives of their choice based upon their perception of that person. However in your statement about enjoying benefits that accrue from the Federal level, I not only sense an attempt at coercion of the will of people and an implicit blackmail. And what this means is that any state where the citizens are “stupid” or “wilful” enough to want to choose political representatives of their choice as governors should expect to receive nothing from the Federal level if those governors are not APC governors. Which then begs the question: Is that the way the APC at the Federal level wishes to proceed? By developmentally stalling the growth of non-APC states because the people dared choose their leaders freely? How then would the APC be any different from the PDP? Is that the change we voted for?

If that is the method by which the APC seeks to operate, then non-APC states would suffer some sort of double jeopardy. In 16 years or so of democracy in Nigeria, I have noticed a trend. What you could call a rule. And the rule is this: While APC governments are basically corrupt; they do manage to do some modicum of work in the state where they govern. They get some things done. On the other hand, PDP governments are not only corrupt, they are inept. If there is any PDP governor that can be said to have achieved anything while in power, I’m sure I could name 5 or 10 APC governors (from any of its iterations e.g. AD, ACN, CPC) who have done more. For instance, I want to university in Edo State and I remember Edo people complaining after Governor Lucky Igbenedion’s first term that he had failed. And this was in spite of the fact that Edo State gets the 3rd highest allocation from the Federal Government as derivation revenue. One of my enduring memories of his government was his inability to fix the drains in front of Okada House, a property that belonged to his father and which during his tenure was the PDP secretariat in Edo State. As the story goes, his father then pointed out that if you send your child to school and they say he has failed, won’t you tell him to repeat? Therefore since the people of Edo State were saying that his son had failed, he obviously had to repeat. And repeat he did. Unless a person is being extremely partisan and unreasonable, no one can deny that Governor Adams Oshiomole is a significant improvement on Igbinedion.

I must mention that the exception to the rule of non-performing PDP governors is Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State. However everyone was knows he won two consecutive elections on the platform of the Labour Party before decamping to the PDP. So he had performed before jumping ship to be part of mainstream politics. Now the fact that his Deputy Governor jumped ship to the APC (allegedly with a few commissioners) a few days before the Presidential elections, aggrieved that he had not received his own “share” of the over N1 billion President Jonathan allegedly gave the governor for election campaigns gives an indication as to why he went back to the PDP.

In light of this, states in the South-South and South-East, who to borrow the words of Marc Wilmot, have human disasters as governors are going to be further impoverished if the only states the Federal government will help are those with APC governors. I have friends from the South-East who have PDP governors in their home states. They complain bitterly about the lack of development and corruption. All the governors seem to be concerned about is emptying government coffers and buying up property in their states, Lagos, Abuja and overseas. Considering that all the able bodied men of Eastern extraction have seemingly migrated to the Western and Northern parts of Nigeria, it’s obvious that the governors are doing a lot wrong. However I believe political affiliations should be by choice. The threat (or promise) of withholding or giving of Federal help should not be a carrot to get people to switch political allegiances. This should not be. While the PDP was the dominant party in government, I never could understand the boast by President Jonathan and members of the party about how many governors they had when all Nigerians knew most of them (if not all) were incompetent, inept and corrupt.

Now considering that the governors in the East and South-South are non-performing which is why their kinsmen have all run to Lagos and Kano, there will be those who will ask why they are coming to Lagos to flex their political muscles when they can’t seem to get the governors in the East to be responsible to the needs of the people. However the fact is that as long as they are law abiding and contributing their quota to the development of Lagos, especially by paying their taxes, they have right for their voices to be heard especially in the way they vote. I therefore wonder why some see it as a “gang-up”. If the government was responsive to the needs of the people, there would be no need for a
gang-up. If you want more people in the East to vote for APC then the proper thing is for pressure to be exerted on people like Governor Rochas Okorocha to work and show that there is an alternative to the PDP in the East. Also, government should in my opinion do more for those states to show that the APC cares rather than trying to spite them for their choices. Psychologists tell us that people respond better to encouragement rather than force. On the other hand it’s not as if the APC has shown that it’s a great a party of noble men and women who are full of integrity and honesty. As a lawyer if I lived in Rivers State, I would not vote the APC candidate because of the way Governor Rotimi Amaechi has decimated the judiciary and the legal profession in the state, denying many lawyers most of whom earn their living through the courts the ability to do so because of his inordinate ambition to appoint a yes man as Chief Judge. And like I pointed out above, the APC is also full of corrupt men and women.

I remember listening to the news and hearing that the “footbridge” added to the pre-existing Falomo Bridge was constructed at the cost of N2.7billion. I can still remember laughing hysterically and manically. Nowhere else in the world (except in Lagos, Nigeria) can 30 metres of water, sand, cement plus labour cost N2.7 billion. While I am not a contractor, I am not a fool. I’m sure if I gathered a few civil engineers and used a few unemployed Nigerians for labour, we could have built that “footbridge” for less than N700 million and this brings me conveniently to my second point. According to you, people only want to vote for the PDP because of an “unreasonable hatred” for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Instead of answering the criticisms, you have danced around the issue and made light of people’s concerns as if they don’t matter. Actually they do.

I pass through the Lawanson area fairly frequently and whenever I pass along the main road, I remember Tinubu. The road was one of those done during his tenure. Sadly the drains have been blocked by passers-by and the dirty habits of those with shops along the road. If you were to ask me, I would say that Tinubu for me is the best governor Lagos has ever had, even better than Fashola. Frankly, to be honest I really don’t see what all the hype about Governor Fashola is all about. A friend recounted a tale of a meeting with a Director in the Land Use Charge
office who was gloating about how poor house owners in Lagos were rushing to come and pay the Land Use Charge fees so as to avoid prosecution by the government. The picture he painted got me thinking. I thought that had begun as a tiny spark that niggled and disturbed me crystallised and I came to conclusion that the great Action Governor of Lagos wasn’t as great as people were making him out to be. Under him, success has become a curse in Lagos and I’m sure Lagosians must be the most taxed people in Nigeria, yet because there is no accountability or transparency, there is no commensurate development. All we have is inflation of contracts and a lot of noise. A lot of people have pointed out that the cost of the Lagos Light Rail Project is significantly higher than
the cost of another light rail project approved in Abuja yet no one understands why. Fashola introduced a new Sales Tax and yet we can’t see the effect of the heavy tax burden that we bear. And yet he’s supposed to be the best governor in Nigeria. That is a scary thought. If that is true then the country is in trouble. My view is that internally generated revenue is greater under Fashola than it was under Tinubu yet there was greater development under Tinubu.

With regards to the allegations against Tinubu, we’ve all heard them before. If the reports are to be believed, he owns an airline, a TV station, a radio station, a hotel, collects a certain percentage of the money collected as tax or internally generated revenue in Lagos, owns a transportation company, owns the company responsible for tolling roads in a part of Lagos, owns part of a medical diagnostic company, owns houses and land in the choicest part of Lagos and much more. And all these are believed to have been obtained as a result of being the former governor of the state. Even if half of the allegations are true, then there is good reason for people to be angry. Yet you describe their anger as “unreasonable” hatred. In the immortal words of David before he killed Goliath, “Is there not a cause?” As a Christian, I believe that when a person works, he is practically exchanging his life for the salary he is being paid. Government then forcefully collects a certain percentage of the money that you have exchanged your life for in the form of tax under the guise that they want to develop the country or state. You then hear that the same money you’ve exchanged your life for is being poured into someone’s pockets. Do you expect people to be happy?

Presently car owners in the Victoria Island-Lekki-Ajah axis, while going through a 20 or so kilometre stretch of road have to pass through two different toll gates (soon to become 3) between their homes and their places of work. Now, if a person has the double misfortune of living in Badore while working in Victoria Island and owning a personal vehicle, in a 22-day working month, to go to and from his house to his office and back, he’s going to spend over N10, 000 to pass through the toll gates. Then you think of the hundreds of thousands of people who pass through the toll gates daily. And then you think of the fact that the toll gates are going to be there for the next 30 or so years. And then they tell you that everything is going into one man’s pocket. And you think people do not want to be free from that?  It’s also quite interesting that the toll starts just after the hotel that allegedly belongs to him so his guests from Victoria Island and Ikoyi don’t have to suffer the inconvenience of paying toll. While I am not against PPP’s, there must be transparency. Do you think that those who live in that axis or pas through the toll are happy? Do you think they won’t vote for a person who will promise to take away the toll and the financial burden it imposes while making someone rich? Is there not a cause?

While governor, Tinubu created 37 Local Government Areas in addition to the existing 20 at the time. I stand to be corrected but I can say categorically that none of the chairmen are doing anything of note. All they do is share the monthly allocations that accrue to them and then siphon the money into their personal accounts in conjunction with other council officers. They do not see themselves as accountable to the people or the governor as they believe they owe their allegiance to Tinubu alone and cannot be told what to do. Hence the ineptitude. I was in a bus recently and I heard the story of the APC House of Representative candidate for the Oshodi-Isolo Federal Constituency who fainted and ended up in hospital when he heard the results of the election. Why did he end up in hospital? Because he expected to win since he had the backing of Tinubu. According to those in the bus, he had done absolutely nothing for the community. He took the people for granted and ended up in hospital. According to rumours, even the chairman of my own council in Oshodi-Isolo lives in Lekki. In my area in Isolo, Okota is populated by a lot of people from the East. Even I think that the state of the area is deplorable and the government, both local and state have not been good to the area. The main road through the area that state government has been constructing for the last 5-6 years remains uncompleted. They voted massively for the PDP in the last election. I expect more of the same come Saturday. Do you think Lagosians are happy with unresponsive and unaccountable representatives? Is there not a cause?

Thirdly, no matter how much you or the APC leadership try to demonise Jimi Agbaje, it won’t work, just like the demonization of General Muhammadu Buhari by the PDP did not work. Personally, if people voted for candidates and not parties, I would vote for him in a heartbeat. I wouldn’t even consider Ambode for a second. I have heard only good things about Jimi Agbaje from those who know him and have interacted with him. The only problem he has is the party he belongs to and the perception people have of the leaders of the party both at the national level and in Lagos. As much as I want Lagos to be free from Tinubu’s grip, the thought of people like Bode George and Musiliu Obanikoro as party leaders in Lagos gives me great pause. For a long time before the news was official and rumours were still swirling, I had asked myself if I could vote for Jimi Agbaje if he joined the PDP. His comments about the Niger Delta perpetrating violence if President Jonathan lost and his silence in the face of the rampage in Lagos by thugs and miscreants of the O’odua People’s Congress have hurt him in my estimation. Like I said, given a straight choice between him and Ambode, I would vote him. All that is left is for me to decide who I dislike the more, Tinubu or Bode George. Of course Bode George wins hands down.

I would have preferred if Olasupo Sasore was the gubernatorial candidate of the APC. Apart from the fact that he’s a fellow lawyer, he’s cultured and well spoken. These things would have made the fact that he would be a Tinubu stooge personally easier to bear. For me, whenever I see Ambode, with his chubby cheeks and round head, he reminds me of the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Ikuforiji and that is not a pleasant association. Whenever I see Ikuforiji, the things that come to mind are the 3 T’s. Thug. Tout. Thief. And because of this association, I ask myself why I should vote for Ambode. So I have decided that I will most likely not vote come Saturday unless of course a third popular choice presents itself. As much as I want to vote Jimi Agbaje, I can’t stomach the people behind him. However I know a lot of people who voted APC in the Presidential Elections who have vowed to vote PDP in the gubernatorial elections. Whoever wins, I will accept the outcome of the elections. The question therefore is, if the APC loses the election, will it accept the result? President Jonathan has set the bar high by conceding defeat and all eyes are now on the APC in Lagos. Just like the Presidential Elections was some sort of referendum on President Jonathan’s performance, some see the election in Lagos as something of a referendum on Tinubu’s popularity and influence. If the APC loses, will it accept the result and wait for the next for years to win back the state? Or will it unleash violence on the land in the hope of achieving by violence what it could not achieve through the ballot box? I understand from a relative that both parties are busy mobilising thugs in states like Ondo, Lagos and Edo as they see these states as must win states. Acting with impunity will get the nation nowhere. President Jonathan declared that his political ambition was worth no person’s death. I wonder if the leadership of the APC believe that. Judging from the comments attributed to the Oba of Lagos, it seems not.

 

 

 

Ayoade Oluwasanmi is the author of the novel, The African Prince, a satire about governance and politics in Africa. He is also the author of the short stories, It’s My Body,  a satire about feminism in the West, Let Me Love You, a story about peadophilia and courage in the face of abuse, and Letters To America  a perspective on certain social issues seen through the eyes of an African. He is a lawyer and lives in Lagos, Nigeria. You can follow him on Twitter at @authorayoade.

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