Monday, 30 April 2012

Thoughts on Nigeria..

Appearing below is an excerpt from an email that my friend sent to me recently. I share all of the views that he expressed and with his permission, I thought to share them here:

"Nigerians need a reality check.

On The Pakistani ambassador offered help from Pakistan to Nigeria to combat terrorism. The scorn Nigerians poured on the poor guy, saying Pakistan is synoymous with Terrorism. I was thinking, is this a case of the pot calling the kettle black, how sad.

The same criticisms Nigerians were levelling at Pakistan, is what other African countries could say about Nigeria. It seems every month at least one act of terrorism will occur.  When the Abdulmuttallab incident occured Nigerians were in  denial, saying it was a one-off. What a big lie that was, terrorism had been bubbling away unnoticed beforehand, that time it just went international.

It is evident President Jonathan has neither the means nor resolve and is surrounded by dimwits or people who are working against him. As a result Boko Haram have free rein to kill and maim whomever they want, whenever they want. There is no such thing as counter-intelligence or proactive measures (these words and their meanings are lost to security chiefs). No one is even calling for the dismissal of such ineffective personnel. The security forces only appear after the scene of the crime, to pick up the dead bodies [and beef up security after the event] and the minister of infomation issues some lacklustre speech about "combating terrorism". How lame!

It is quite apparent that some powerful political leaders in the north and foreign backers behind them are responsible for this. Yet the security apparatus can do nothing. Even when people get caught, they are released (intentionally), or forcibly sprung from jail, as has been seen in Gombe and Bauchi states.

I cannot see any bright future for Nigeria in the short or medium term. The glaring wrongs remain un-addressed. President Jonathan is talking about changing BRICS to BRINCS, and nonsense like that. The oil subsidy reform was 60% unsuccessful. Since then Jonathan has kept relatively quiet.

The BBC correpsondent, Mark Doyle has an interesting series on Nigeria.

(When will Nigerians let go of such dubious claims to global significance, by saying that they are Africa's "most populous nation", and are an "oil producer". When you have no tangible, genuinely self-made achievements you are forced to cling to straws. I don't hear China, boasting of being the most populous nation in the world. In fact they are working hard curb population growth. Yet Nigerians know better it seems...)

Somehow, it confirms my conclusions. Nigerians in pursuit of wealth are self-destructive. Any innovation or mechanism that is designed to enhance the quality of life, is abused and ends up making life worse for the people. This is a national trait, it is not dependent on ethnicity or religion, the majority of Nigerians have this world view. We see that there is no justice in Nigeria. Ibori was only jailed when he left Nigeria. When he was in Nigeria (the scene of the crime), he was carefree and happy. This shows how the British justice system has subverted that in Nigeria, and shown it to be ineffective and ridiculous.

People were shouting for democracy, when democracy finally came the elite hijacked it and are subsequently abusing it. Other developing nations were complaining about not receiving adequate monetary reward for their exports. Nigeria can never use that excuse, they have had more than enough  money from oil, and yet the result is a big disaster. No matter what opportunity is placed in the hands of Nigeria, they turn it into a disaster and start saying it's the "oil curse". Yet other countries with oil utilise it wisely and sensibly. 

The destruction being wrought in the Niger Delta by both the government and the locals is shocking. Yet no one gives a shit. That land that was so green and fertile, has now been turned into a wasteland. We know Nigeria has no green credentials, so there is no chance of it being restored. There are people who pay lip service to environmental restoration, but as we know, this is a ruse just to obtain more money and misappropriate it.

The fact that the locals aren't getting their fair share of oil revenues, does not justify allowing local gangs to devastate the land. The South South zone is/was the most fertile region in Nigeria. But as Africans we seem to be incapable of logically develop ourselves. We can only make a mess, and then send someone outside to ask for help. When eventually a poor response is received, this too is squandered/embezzled and we then find all sorts of silly reasons to account for our failure, rather than facing the truth by saying it is no one else's fault but our own.

You look at other nations, and you can see the managed approach adopted to oil exploitation, with Nigeria it is just one big mess that all sorts of scallywags are attempting to benefit from 'a lack of control, order and discipline'. With such devastated land the locals either have to live in that hell hole or move away. That is our fate it seems."

And to this I add:

Not many Nigerians are willing to accept the reality and face the truth. Many of us are in denial and are still dwelling in a make-believe, fantasy world. The actuality is that our opportunities for setting our country on the road towards achieving real development are finite, and only so much frittering away of those opportunities can we can get away with. There is only so much time available to us, and that time is fast running out.

Reality catching up with Northern Nigeria, says Bishop Kukah

Activist and head of Catholic Diocese of Sokoto State, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, has declared that the reality of undervelopment is catching up with Northern Nigerian in comparison with the South.
Kukah was speaking on “Power without authority: Leadership crisis in Nigeria”, at a Nigerian Leadership Initiative (NLI) lecture in Abuja.
In a summary of his speech SaharaReporters obtained in Abuja, Kukah said that the North has so many challenges of development and it is “daybreak because the reality of the situation is obvious.”

He said while Nigeria has consistently produced office-holders, it has not produced leaders, as different people have assumed control by accident, and without preparation. 
He also observed that while the problems of this nation were not caused by President Goodluck Jonathan, it is remarkable that the rot that is being dug out in the National Assembly is happening during his time.

Turning specifically to the North, he said, “Clearly, my message for my brothers and sisters in the north is to ask ourselves, ‘what is happening?’” he said.  “And the north must also appreciate the fact that the return of government to the north in whatever shape or form is not going to solve our problem, and will not be the solution to the problem. And it’s daybreak, because the reality of the situation is obvious. This is where I feel quite disappointed by some of the utterances I have heard. I heard somebody like Alhaji Adamu Ciroma saying that the problem now is that: ‘we need a Danfodiyo to come.’”

He urged Nigerians not to give up.  “There is hope in Nigeria. I am a Bishop, I market hope. But let us be realistic, what I have seen in the Southwest. The Southwest states have developed a roadmap of where they are heading- a critical question I ask myself is: where is northern Nigeria? The north has literally and increasingly perceived to be a liability to the rest of Nigeria.

“The whole notion that somehow, by some dysfunctional philosophy, we can still line up and say: it is our turn to govern Nigeria, that is not the way the rest of the world is going. I appeal to us to appreciate the fact that the problems of this nation were not caused by President Goodluck Jonathan. But I think what is also quite fascinating is that the rot that is being dug out in the National Assembly is happening during his time.”

“Nigeria has consistently produced office holders but not leaders. Nigeria has produced through different processes, men and women who came to power and office largely by accident. Check out the list: Tafawa Balewa-Ironsi-Gowon-Murtala-Obasanjo-Shagari-Buhari-Babangida-Shonekan-Abacha-Abdusalam-Obasanjo-Yar’adua-Jonathan. None of these great men came to office with any degree of preparation or experience in governance.
Analysing the patterns of ascent to power in Nigeria, he noted that only four of the eight Nigerian Heads of State have been civilians. “The others have come to power through military conspiracy and coups. There is hardly anyone who has not come to power through very controversial circumstances, framed in allegations of electoral fraud and so on. If truth were told, these circumstances of accident and chance in coming to power have taken a toll on issues of authority and legitimacy. Good governance relates to the strategies and mechanisms adopted by state for the delivery of public, social and political good. The duty and responsibility of every state is to deliver these services to its citizens or those who legitimately enter its territories.
Bishop Kukah then offered the following questions about the nature of the Nigerian polity today.  “Can the nation’s apparatus of security contain internal threat and dissent? Do citizens feel secure as individuals, families or communities? Do they feel secure in their homes, their places of work or worship? Are their properties protected either by the state or other mediating agencies? Do the security agencies enjoy respect and co-operation among the citizens? Do citizens enjoy protection under the Constitution? Has a culture of transfer of power by constitutional means become acceptable in the country? How does the country’s legal system work? What again, is the cost of justice and do citizens generally feel that the law protects them? How do individuals, families and communities assess the rule of law? How much does justice cost the weakest members of society? Are all citizens equal before the law? Do citizens understand the constitution as a secular document with a sacred ring to it? Does the government respect Court judgment?”
Reblogged from Sahara Reporters

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Where to begin..

Its been a while since I've written on this blog and I wont even attempt to make excuses for my prolonged absence. Let it be sufficient for me to just say that my absence has been due to circumstances over which I had little control; but the good news is that I'm back, for good. I did miss writing on this blog though, because I've since realised that it has provided me with an outlet for expressing all those thoughts, feelings and emotions needing to be expressed, and to a broader spectrum of people than would otherwise be possible. 

Even during the period of my absence I would from time to time check up on the blog, and it was with a considerable amount of consternation that I observed the blog's visitor numbers steadily decline, such that these days, visitor numbers per day are significantly less than what they were just a few months ago. This surely is unacceptable to me and I have now set myself the task of restoring those visitor numbers to what they used to be.

Well, having said that, its been over a week since I've been preparing my mind and working on something to write about. But to no avail. Its not so much a case of me not knowing what to write about, but rather, one of having an overload of issues to discuss and not knowing where to start. It wasn't that long ago that words simply flowed off my fingertips without much effort. Now I find myself struggling with the task of rallying thoughts and feelings, and marshalling them into the written form; into a blog post. 

The world did not suddenly became a less interesting place, nor did I abruptly become even slightly less enchanted or fascinated by it. But I suppose there's a price that one must pay for temporarily abandoning writing. Its almost as if I'm having to start all over again. I tell myself however that if I did it before, so certainly I can do it again..  

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Feeling rather silly..

I feel compelled to say something about how I'm feeling this day and I could think of no better way than to set it out in a blog post.

John has been away in Ghana. And since we've been apart, we've made a point of staying in touch by telephone, speaking at least once daily, many times even more frequently. Last Thursday evening, we held our usual bedtime pillow-talk, agreeing afterwards to speak again in the evening of the next day, Friday. On Friday afternoon however, I received an important email about something I've been working on for a while and about which I needed to make a swift decision. I wanted to speak to someone about it and seek their opinion so I telephoned John, as anyone would their partner.

"The number you have dialled is currently switched off, please try again later", came the polite electronic woman's voice at the other end of the line. Okay, I reasoned, he's switched off his phone because he's engaged somewhere, doing something that cannot be done while holding a telephone conversation at the same time. It was mid afternoon, so I thought I'd give it a couple of hours and try again, but not before sending a text message asking John to get in touch urgently. It would be very much unlike John to receive such a text message from me and not call me back as soon he received it. So I sat back and waited, and waited, and waited..

Several hours later and well into the evening, I still hadn't heard from John, so I dialled his number again, only to hear once again that his number was switched off. Slightly alarming no doubt, but I'll give it a while and try again, I said to myself. To cut a long story short, I dialled John's number no less than twenty times between around 9pm and 1am. And his phone continued to be switched off. It was then that the panic started to set in and my fertile imagination went on overdrive; all manner of calamitous eventualities; gunshots, screams, ambulance sirens, each taking turns to explode inside my head during what turned out to be a sweaty, restless, sleepless Friday night! What had happened to John? Why had he not responded to my text messages, of which by which time I'd sent about ten? Why was his phone switched off all day long?

By Saturday morning, I'd almost completely broken down. Its been four years that John and I have been together, but there had never been the occasion for me to obtain the contact details of any of his relatives in Ghana. There was no one that I could ring up to find out what had happened, if at all. In the morning I dialled John's number again several times, time after time receiving the same polite automated message urging me to "try again later", a message that by this time had become quite depressing and upsetting to hear.

I'd stored letters, cards and notes that John had penned to me over the years. I retrieved all of them, together with the few photos of him that I have in my possession, staring at the photos, fingering the letters and notes, reading them, over and over, deeply distraught, crying, sometimes loudly wailing, wondering what my neighbours would be thinking as they heard a grown man cry, wondering what happened to John, this most precious part of my life..

The answer to my question, when it finally came, turned out to be so mundane and simple that I was left feeling rather silly for having reacted in the way that I'd done. At about 1pm on Saturday I braved it and dialled John's number again. And his phone rang! And his voice came on! And the anguish and turmoil of the several previous hours melted away in an instant! It happened that at the time of our chat on Thursday, the battery on his phone was very low, but he had not been able to charge the battery because there had been a power outage in the district of Accra where he was. His battery had gone completely flat and the electricity power was not restored until just a few minutes before I had called him on Saturday afternoon. He had just put his phone on the charger and had not even had the opportunity to respond to my texts before his phone rang. Now I'm utterly embarrassed..