Thursday, 31 January 2013

esus Voltrons, Gutter Media And Justice For Sale

By Emmanuel Nwachukwu

I know I should not be talking about this. I should let this matter rest. Yesterday, Bukola did send me a message, requesting that I let go, and yes I gave him my word that I will speak no more about it. I was determined to keep my word to a trusted friend and comrade, but the decision of the Editorial board of ThisDay newspapers, to, throw to the dogs, every sense of dignity, reason, ethics and professionalism was just too much for my mind to take in. I just couldn’t hold my peace anymore. Now I find myself breaking a vow I made to a brother. Hence, I deem it expedient to tender an unreserved apology in advance to Bukola (or @zebbook as his twitter followers call him), for breaking a vow I made with him. That said, I will move swiftly to the reason why my heart is in pains.
The right and freedom of speech that God and human laws have bequeathed to us, is, maybe life’s greatest gift. The fact that we have the freedom to incubate thoughts and propagate them somehow is amazing and must be cherished. However, as the Bible says, life and death can swiftly be produced by our expressions. They shape, not just our own lives, but that of all you read or listen to. It is an irrefutable truth that you and I are a product of what we hear, watch and read. Hence, it is safe to say that the world knows no human force greater and more powerful than the media. When I say the media, it is convenient for your mind to quickly think of the likes of BBC, CNN, FOX, London Times, AIT, NTA, PUNCH. Well, if you just did, then you are very correct. They are the front-line media we all have come to know and depend on for dissemination of information andpropagation of various ideology.
But limiting it to the mainstream media is just not different from believing that wildlife is all about Lions and Tigers! Your Church, School, Clubs, Associations, friends, neighbours etc, are all part of the new age media. With the advent of social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, you and I are now essentially “journalists”! You would be shocked to know that a seemingly innocuous tweet you wrote with your small Nokia phone in the comfort of your bedroom in Isiala-Ngwa, would forever change the life of a man on the streets of Mumbai in India.
That brings me to the tweet made by @zebbook, wherein he used Jesus as subject in a simple analogy. @zebbook has over the years not hidden his disapproval for how President Goodluck Jonathan has conducted the affairs of the nation, nor has he shied away from showing his disdain for the mode of operation of his media aides. To drive home his point that these aides find an occupation in “mudslinging”, @zebbook opined via twitter, that if a man as righteous and perfect as Jesus was to criticize Mr President’s actions, his aides would smear his image by going as far as accusing him of immorality! Writing this, I still can’t find a single thread of blasphemy in what that was said! I saw the tweet, and by virtue of his large followers, I’m certain hundreds of others saw it. But little or non of them reacted.
One of those who saw the tweet was former FCT minister Mallam Nasir El Rufai, who found the tweet funny and clearly showed that when he retweeted it. But that was the perfect opening some unscrupulous persons wanted to perfectly play on the fickle minds of some religious bigots. Notable amongst this mischief makers was regrettably Prof. Pat Utomi. One would expect an academic Don of Utomi’s standing to spot a harmless analogy when he sees one. But for reasons I don’t know but would certainly be keen to know, the Prof made use of his media strength to create a notion of blasphemy in the minds of many. What ensued was a chaotic and disgraceful show of holiness from many.
Suddenly, the same Jesus who couldn’t find as much as two persons to fight for him when his life was literally in danger, had hordes of twitter and Facebook Voltrons! They cursed, swore, condemned and even made death threats and promises, so much so that I was left wondering if Jesus was really that vile and violent. The same people who scream the name of Jesus shamelessly at the height of sexual pleasure with a man or woman who is clearly not their legally married spouse, turn around to show an impeccable height of holiness that would make even the Almighty God feel he has just sinned. But condemn this shallow minded ones the much you like, it is crystal clear that their line of thought was guided by persons they looked up to, who unfortunately turned a tweet on its head to score cheap political points. To say these ones are a colossal disgrace to humanity will be showing amazing self-control on my part, as they are worse than that.
Later that day, both @zebbook and elrufai, in separate statements, apologized to those who honestly found the tweet and retweet offensive. Let me say categorically that, while I see nothing wrong in the tweet and retweet, recognizing that some persons are offended by our actions, and saying sorry is great maturity. Nasir elrufai should, by virtue of his position in the society, be more careful as the rules that apply to the ordinary man on the street are different from his. As the saying goes, “to whom much is given,much more is expected”. Although your actions are not wrong, its effect on the people might be negative, thus discernment is needed from men like el-rufai. However, that apology, which in Nigeria is a rarity from “big men” would suffice. For me, it shows they understood the discomfort they caused and wanted to calm the storm. How wrong I and so many of my specie were to think so!
This morning, ThisDay newspapers, a media outfit with an audience spanning the length of the country, carried a report on the incident, but for reasons that only they (and maybe) God knows, deliberately distorted the facts of the matter. ThisDay reported that elrufai was the one who tweeted the supposed blasphemous tweet and when he saw the uproar it generated, sought to douse the tension by adding LWKMD(Laugh Wan Kill Me Die) by way of a retweet. Now that is a LIE!
But while will a media house choose to distort facts and feed an unsuspecting public with false and damaging information? What does ThisDay stand to gain by bringing the name of Mallam elrufai to disrepute? What was the price paid to ThisDay to throw all the values, principles and ethics of journalism to the dogs by publishing outright lies in the name of a news report? Without mincing words, ThisDay’s performance has been disgraceful, shoddy and pathetic. That was A crass display of gutter journalism and clear intention to live by standards that would make the devil shrink in fear.
Unfortunately, the man they sought to attack has lived the last 6 years as the focal point of the federal government’s venom and attack. If he has not only survived but come out of them all, stronger and more determined and focused, then, I think ThisDay would have to do better than that to get at him. That they even alluded to a perceived 2015 Presidential ambition on Mallam El-rufai’s part, indicates that the editorial board of ThisDay has allowed political affiliations to becloud their sense of reasoning. I sincerely hope that someday, jaundiced media houses like that would be put in their place. Unfortunately, what used to be our last hope, the judiciary, has now become a premium partner in the project “Ruin Nigeria”.
I am not a lawyer, judge or judicial expert. But do I really need to be one to understand that the judiciary has in recent times, become a cog in the wheels of the nation’s progress? Lawyers can argue and seek to confuse anyone with their legal terms and terminologies, but what matters to me is the result their exercise produces. The effects of judicial pronouncements these days are mind-blowing and heartbreaking.
The judiciary now glorifies high level corruption and slams the hammer on petty crimes in such a manner that I’m forced to think that what brings the wrath of the Nigerian law on you is not what you did or did not do, but the magnitude. How do you explain to me that the same law that sentences a young man to 10 years in jail with no option of fine for stealing a goat, sentences another to two years in jail or a N750,000 get out of jail free card! I am sorry, I’ve just been informed that the criminal pleaded guilty and asked for mercy, after he purportedly forfeited 32 houses to the federal government. How touching!
Why didn’t the judge just discharge him? He has suffered enough, after all, it is just N23, 000,000,000 he stole! Idiotic reasons! Judgements are not just meant to be meted out, they are also a means to educate the public. The judiciary is supposed to be the final hope for the common man. But most importantly for me, judicial statements are sacred words and guidelines that tell us what path to take.
Now I ask, what lessons are there to learn from the judgement handed down by Justice Abubakar Thalba on the stealing of over N23billion by Mr John Yakubu Yusufu? Give me one good reason why, by virtue of that judgment, I or anyone else shouldn’t go stealing our own N23billion and paying N750,000 for our own get out of jail free card? What happened to that law that condemned some thieves to death or massive jail terms? Why can’t same laws be applied in massive frauds?
For those who are advancing the now annoying plea-bargain theory, was that the reason Bode George and Tarfa Balogun also got mild punishment for stealing? Or was it plea-bargain that gave James Ibori a clean bill of health in Nigeria only to get a dose of first-class justice in the United Kingdom? I admit wholeheartedly that I am a layman and you my lawyers and judges are learned, hence I implore you to teach me the now magical nuances of the Nigerian law.
There is a conscious effort to frustrate Nigerians into accepting the dubious and criminal system as a norm and standard of life. So far, their tactics has been working. But let it be known to all and sundry, that while judgement is reserved for God in heaven, we shall someday, separate the wheat from the weed. And that day, is just some days away.

I’m Nwachukwu Emmanuel, and I love to hear from you on twitter. My handle is emma_dele

Like the Military, Like Jonathan? COMMENTARIAT | EFE WANOGHO | JANUARY 31, 2013 AT 2:50 AM

Like the Military, Like Jonathan?

Efe Wanogho
This piece is not an attempt to compare the government of President Goodluck Jonathan to the inglorious era of the military in the driver’s seat of governance. Not that there are many points of variance between this administration and those led by the military juntas that held sway for the most part of our post-independence corporate existence.
For one, the era of the Jonathanians is as much plagued by the scourge of a near-zero accountability to the people, as the era of the military was. In the eyes of the military, the people do not matter; they didn’t count. No wonder the first action that conventionally signposted the new order after any military overthrow of a civilian administration was the suspension of the Constitution and the gagging of the press and proscription of political associations. Of course, this was a clear indication that the captains of the ship of State do not care for the pulse of the people.
The paradox, however, lies in the nature of ascendancy of the civilian administrations to power, as is reflected in the Jonathan administration, in which there is a semblance of people-power, as the government is believed to have ridden to power on the goodwill it is able to extract from the people after a period of tortuous campaigning for electoral votes, and is thereby expected to be subservient to the popular will of the people; but decides to turn around to become the lord and master of the fiefdom, callously proclaiming in the market square, that it does not give a damn what the people think regarding its policies.
Whereas there is a marked convergence of dictatorial tendencies by this government, and the ones before it; we must credit the so-called democratically elected governments, Jonathan’s inclusive; of being less hostile to dissent. At least, Nigeria has managed to outlive the era of having political prisoners forming the majority of incarcerations in our prisons. This seems to be arguably, the single most important “dividend” of the period of civilian administrations; what with the boundless reaches of the internet and social media platforms that has seen free expression of thought.
During the reign of the Babangidas and the Abachas, the Nigerian economy witnessed a huge influx of foreign exchange from the sale of oil, without any corresponding growth and development in the real economy in terms of infrastructure and socioeconomic conditions. This situation was not peculiar to the dark days of the military under the gap-toothed and dark-goggled Generals. The Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, and the Jonathan administrations, share a common heritage in having excess incomes over meaningfully deployed resources for the good of the country. This is practically the same for the other indices of measurement like, rule of law, accountability, and the corruption perception of by the people of the government.
However, the present administration of Goodluck Jonathan, breaks away from the other civilian administrations and shares a particular attribute with the military, particularly in the days when it became obvious that Nigerians had had enough of the khaki boys.
We saw, at the twilight of the military era, a disposition from the politically aware, that seemed to suggest that Nigerians would accept any administration but a continuation of the military in office. I would like to think that this was the motivation of the politicians and political parties that deified the person of Sani Abacha as they churned out the infamous “who the cap fits” adverts; asking Abacha to transform himself to a civilian Head of State. I decide not to imagine that it was greed and fear of the unknown that led supposed leading lights at the time, to be singing the praise of a man that was manifestly and latently evil. The unofficial, but widely acclaimed motto of the political class was embodied in these words: anyone but the military.
The foregoing thoughts were given life by a trend which is slowly but steadily creeping into the psyche of Nigerians. As it was in the military era, in which Nigerians were ready for any other government other than the military; so it is turning out to be that Nigerians seem to be singing in unison, though in a discordant harmony of sorts, that they would accept anyone to emerge as President in 2015, but certainly, not a continuation of the directionless government of the man from Otuoke. The platform on which the President assumed power, the PDP, an amalgam of strange bedfellows in itself, is at risk of self-implosion. The opposition parties, as uninspiring as they have been, seem poised to cash-in on the travails of the PDP.
The Children of Anger appear to have reached the summit of their anger as they are steadily provoked by glaring incompetence, monumental sleaze by politically exposed persons, and unprecedented insecurity across the land. The silent understanding inthe camp of the facebooking, tweeting, and blogging community of the angry children, in the face of scandals upon scandals in and around the corridors of power; is to shake their heads, tend their wounds, and wait for 2015. Whilst the, anyone-but-Jonathan movement is gathering momentum, and the PDP is at war with itself; it becomes most apposite and imperative that the votes of the largely rural and indifferent population, be targeted. To this end, the need to trumpet the gospel of change from the confines of cyber-world and the metropolitan areas to the hinterlands cannot be over emphasized.
The soul and future of Nigeria is up for grabs by the most determined among us. There is ample evidence of the degree of desperation of status-quo politicians as reflected in massive rigging of polls, fought on a do-or-die basis by force of arms and bloodshed, power of incumbency, and downright monetary inducement to sway voters. These ones are in control of the conventional media outlets, and they are known to resort to misinformation and destructive propaganda, to keep the mass of the people in perpetual servitude. Thus, it is only natural that for positive change to happen in the land anytime soon; there must arise from among the people, a resolve to quit the siddon-look approach to governance and take meaningful action that would catalyze the emergence of a new generation of Nigerians that would have zero-tolerance for mediocrity, incompetence, and criminality.
As has been stated severally, in the task of nation building, there are no spectators. You are either among the builders, or you are in the camp of the destroyers of the nation. Indifference to governance is not synonymous with being gentlemanly, but sheer cowardice. A gentleman, or lady, properly so called, must take steps to improve the standard of living of the people. Resorting to debilitating survivalist individuality is in reality, collusion with the very enemies of the people. We must transform our agonizing to a focused organizing for change. One sure way to begin is to condemn the ills perpetrated by those who swore to serve the collective good. The next, is to align with progressive forces in building the required critical mass to cause that long awaited but yet elusive, seismic shift in our sociopolitical landscape.
I am on twitter as @efewanogho.

Oby Ezekwesili And $67bn:

Nigerian Government Is Dishonest And Self-seeking – Femi Fani-Kayode

I think that it is a pity that President Goodluck Jonathan’s Government declined to take up the challenge of the former Minister of Education, Mrs. Obiageli Ezekwesili, to a public debate on the $67 billion savings that President Obasanjo left behind in 2007.
I do not think that our government ought to have run away from the debating ring. They ought to have accepted the challenge of a rigorous public debate and allow the Nigerian people to listen to it and make up their own minds about who was right and who was wrong. I thought that the response of the Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, to Obiageli Ezekwesili was more logical and made far more sense than that of the Honorable Minister of Information, Labaran Maku. But I still believe that Obiageli Ezekwesili was right. I believe that the Government’s position on this issue and its attempt to over-aggressively defend what I personally consider to be the indefensible is not only disingenuous but is also essentially dishonest and self-seeking.
The charge that our foreign reserves were heavily depleted between 2007 and 2013 cannot be convincingly or logically denied. In 2007, President Olusegun Obasanjo left $45 billion in our foreign reserves and $22 billion in our Excess Crude Account. If the two figures are added up the amount that you will come up with is $67 billion of savings for our country. This is the figure that Obiageli Ezekwesili cited. It represents what was in both our foreign reserves and our Excess Crude Account put together.
Let us look at the history. When President Olusegun Obasanjo came to power in 1999 Nigeria only had $1.5 billion in her foreign reserves and consequently no-one in the world took us seriously. We were poor, weak and lonely and we were viewed as a failed state and a pariah nation. No-one trusted us, no-one wanted to do business with us and no-one seriously believed that we as a people or as a nation were capable of enduring the rigours of serious economic recovery, prudence and fiscal discipline. As far as the developed world was concerned, Nigeria was only good for its endless supply of sweet bonny light crude oil.
Yet Obasanjo proved the world wrong and showed them that Nigerians could do far better than they thought. After eight years of good stewardship and the display of fiscal discipline and remarkable prudence he built up those foreign reserves from a measly and pitiful $1.5 billion in 1999 to no less than $45 billion by 2007. This was quite an achievement. Sadly, what took place after Obasanjo left power was very disheartening.
It was not only a downer but it was also sad and unfortunate. I say this because by the Federal Governments own admission, and four long years after leaving $45 billion for the Yar’Adua administration to build on in 2007, we still only have that same figure of $45 billion left in our foreign reserves today. Worse still this was after it had plummeted to a shameful $30 billion under late President Umaru Yar’Adua. Had it not been for the fact that whatever was coming in after we left in 2007 and over the last 4 years was being recklessly shared and spent by the Yar’Adua and later Jonathan administrations our foreign reserves ought to have doubled and reached at least $100 billion dollars by now. That is just the foreign reserves alone and I am not even adding the Excess Crude Account figures yet. If I were to do that I would be talking about an expected increase of up to $150 billion by today. That is what we ought to have in the savings kitty today if the two governments that succeeded Obasanjo knew anything about prudence, good management and fiscal discipline.
The difference is that under Obasanjo it was ”save, save, save” whilst under Yar’Adua and later Jonathan it has been ”spend, spend, spend’. Yet if they insist on spending the question is what do they have to show for such high expenditure and what has this cost the Nigerian people in real terms. I believe that these are legitimate questions.
Mrs. Ezekwezile may have been inelegant or a little too harsh in her use of words when she made those weighty assertions in her speech; but her analysis and conclusions surely cannot be faulted. Yet the Government has given no reasonable explanation or response to her or the Nigerian people and they do not even appear to like the fact that questions are being asked.
As a matter of fact, they appear to believe that it is an achievement for us to be exactly where we were four years ago in terms of our foreign reserves by openly boasting that we have $45 billion saved today. The questions that we should put to them are as follows – did you not save anything in the last 4 years in either foreign reserves or the Excess Crude Account? Where did all the money that accrued to you and that you ought to have saved go? How come 4 years after being handed $45 billion in foreign reserves and after billions have come into your hands through record price crude oil sales you still only have $45 billion saved? Is this not strange and absurd? Is this the way a responsive and responsible government ought to behave? Do they know the true meaning of ”saving for a rainy day”?
It is not surprising that the Prime Minister of Great Britain, The Right Honorable David Cameron, asked just a few days ago where the 100 billion USD that Nigeria received from oil sales in the last few years has gone. Would our Government be good enough to answer his question and tell him even if they feel that they don’t owe the Nigerian people themselves an explanation? As far as I am concerned it is not something that our government should be proud of that 4 years after Obasanjo handed $45 billion to them as savings in foreign reserves they have not built on it in all that time but rather they have spent all the receivables and inflows that came in after that time and that ought to have been saved.
Yet the story does not stop there. It gets worse. Apart from the sorry tale about our foreign reserves, the story about the usage and outright draining of our Excess Crude Account is even more damning. It goes like this. When President Obasanjo left power in 2007 the Excess Crude Account had just over $22 billion in its coffers. This figure was built up by Obasanjo from zero in 1999 because at that time there was no Excess Crude Account. In 8 years he built it up from zero to $22 billion. Yet when the Yar’Adua administration and later the Jonathan administration came in ALL the money in that account was shared with the state governors and spent.
The Federal Government saved nothing for a rainy day and instead chose to just spend all the money. It was initially run down to zero by President Umaru Yar’Adua government but, in fairness to President Jonathan, he has now been able to build it up to approximately $10 billion. This represents approximately half the figure that Obasanjo left in that account in 2007. But at least it is a step in the right direction. Yet if both the Yar’Adua and Jonathan government had continued to save and not just spend all the money we would have had at least $50 billion in the Excess Crude Account today and not just a paltry 10.
Whichever way one looks at it, when one sees all these figures and considers the strong position that we were coming from in 2007 it represents a failure in fiscal discipline by both the Yar’Adua and Jonathan administrations. This is because the Federal Government was meant to build up on the legacy that they inherited in 2007 and not spend and squander all that money. For the purpose of emphasis permit me to repeat the fact that had they been doing the right thing in the last 4 years and not overspend we ought to be hitting at least $100 billion in our foreign reserves by now and at least $50 billion in the Excess Crude Account. Yet we have not seen anything near that and instead all we have seen is depletion and a drain of both accounts and the monies that ought to have accrued to them since 2007.
Finally when President Obasanjo came to power in 1999 our foreign debt was 30 billion USD. Yet by sheer hardwork, by the time he left office 8 years later he had paid off the foreign debt completely and for the first time in its history, Africa had a debt-free nation.
This was a monumental achievement by any standard and one that every serious-minded and patriotic Nigerian ought to be proud of no matter what side of the political divide they stand. Yet sadly 4 years later we are back in chronic debt to the tune of $9 billion and we are still borrowing. In view of the foregoing it is perfectly legitimate for anyone to ask how come so much money was spent, what it was spent on and how the government has managed our resources over the last 4 years. As a matter of fact not asking any questions would be most unpatriotic and it would lay some of us open to the charge of cowardice and collusion.
Since 2007 we have seen nothing but depletion of our resources and more and more borrowing. Unlike President Obasanjo, both President Yar’Adua and President Jonathan’s governments did not build up our reserves or save any money. Instead they both spent recklessly and borrowed more and more. As a matter of fact, if our government continues to borrow at the rate it has been borrowing for the last four years for another two years Nigeria will be back to having a foreign debt of close to $30 billion very soon. That was where we were in 1999 and if that were to ever happen it would be a tragedy of monumental proportions.
I sincerely hope that other than the usual insults, intimidation, sponsored stories, persecution and baseless allegations that are channeled against and heaped on some of us for pointing out these matters and raising these questions, the Federal Government will endeavour to change its ways and display a greater degree of fiscal discipline and accountability to the Nigerian people. To that extent, I am in total agreement with my former cabinet colleague in the Obasanjo administration, Obiageli Ezekwesili.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Christiane Amanpour Is A Bully And Rotimi Amaechi Is Not Photogenic–By Jude Egbas

By Jude Egbas

The face of a bully
The face of a bully
CNN’s Christiane Amanpour did a darn good job of interviewing Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, last Wednesday. But that is only one half of the story. The other half has to be that Amanpour strikes me as a bloody bully—a big, bad bully! And I will explain:
She left my President standing out there in the snow of Davos, Switzerland ( save for his trademark fedora and some sweater) and wouldn’t even let the man get done with providing an answer to one question, before throwing in another. Such nerve!! The result was that the President mangled his lines, was incoherent, stuttered, threw in several grammatical bloopers for good measure and lied through his false teeth to the watching world. He must have heaved a sigh of relief as the bully that was Amanpour put an end to the grueling Question and Answer session. I bet I could hear the sigh of relief from Lagos, Nigeria.
As a member of Reuben Abati’s ‘Children of Anger’ Association (CAA), I didn’t take this act of bullying from Amanpour, sitting down. After the interview, I dashed straight to bed, pouting over how our number one citizen had done such a ‘good job’ of representing us all. He has to be the best man for the job, come 2015–Shoes or not.
CAN Should Be A Political Party
How about this face on a poster?
How about this face on a poster?
Next time your electronic device attempts to correct ‘ACN’ to ‘CAN’, don’t fret. The inbuilt ‘auto-correct’ probably knows a thing or two about life that you do not.
Last week, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) left no one in doubt that the church Jesus Christ left in Nigeria may not be the same church he will meet upon his return.
While we were admiring Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor’s Private Jet and his propensity for the ‘bling bling’, the Catholic arm of CAN, wanted out of the union. Among the reasons for severing ties with the National body, the Catholic Bishops said they were suspending “participation in CAN meetings at the national level until such a time when the leadership of CAN reverses back to the original vision, mission and objectives of CAN”. They had also noted that:
“CAN is being dragged into partisan politics thereby compromising the ability to play its true role as conscience of the nation and the voice of the voiceless”.
Speaking on the Catholics’ withdrawal Wednesday, spokesperson for the 19 Northern chapters of CAN, Sunny Oibe, told journalists in Abuja that the Catholics were free to walk away if they so desired, retorting;
“There is no need for anybody to lose sleep over the threat by Catholics to pull out of CAN because without them CAN will still continue. The constitution of CAN makes provision that membershipcan be terminated by any group that is misbehaving or any group can also terminate their membership.
“Why is it that when Catholics were in the leadership of CAN, every bloc supported them, but now because power has changed hands, they are threatening to pull out and causing confusion?
“They have been agitating that the Presidency of CAN must come from the South. They are appendage of PDP and PDP themselves. They are known for double standard. A man of God should not be double speaking.”
That, right there, is how you call one’s bluff.
So, there you have it. One arm of the Church accuses the other of aligning with the worst political party in Africa, the other throws mud at the other for becoming all too cozy with politicians. There is a common denominator if you look at the mud-slinging going on closely: both warring factions of the Nigerian Church may well be interested in partisan politics. In which case, CAN should proceed to the electoral body and get registered as a political party without further ado.
And I see nothing wrong with this. Politics is too serious a business to be left in the hands of politicians. Let the church join the fray and let’s all try to gobble this national ‘moi moi’ that never runs out. The church is really marching on.
Beyonce Lip-Syncs, But Who Cares?
Who runs the world? Beyonce
Who runs the world? Beyonce
Long before Jay Z won Beyonce’s heart, she won mine. Miles apart we may be, but her music still gets me rocking on the chair and her beauty still leaves me smacking my lips. They call it ‘having a crush’; I call it ‘plain stupidity’ on my part. Pitifully, I didn’t belong in her ‘circle’ of friends and so I couldn’t ‘put a ring on it’.
At President Obama’s inauguration last week, Beyonce was accused of Lip-Syncing; meaning that the Star Spangled Banner we all heard her render from the steps of Capitol Hill on Cable TV, was probably pre-recorded. No, she didn’t hit those notes, live. The CD did. A spokeswoman for the US Marine Band had told the media:
“We did pre-record it and it was BeyoncĂ©’s decision at the last minute to go with the pre-recorded version,” the spokeswoman told a British paper. “We pre-recorded all music as a matter of course and have done since time immemorial,” she said. “This is our 54th inauguration .… There is no question of there not being any music — it’s not because the performer cannot do it.”
So, what’s all the fuss about if it was Beyonce’s voice on the pre-recorded version? She probably thought the live band equipment may not work properly so she took the safest option: she went into a studio the day before the Inauguration, recorded the anthem, handed it to the US Marine Band, and sang along to it on inauguration day. It is called ‘playing safe’, not cheating. Beyonce has earned the right to get away with anything, including fooling us all.
Please and please, you all should let my Beyonce be ( And I amlooking at you, the American Press!). Plus, I didn’t like the fact that Jay Z was hanging on her coat-tails all afternoon as if to say; ‘back off Jude and y’all, the girl is mine’. Duh!!
Mikel Obi Never Scores Goals; Even In DreamLand
I promise never to hurt the goal posts
I promise never to hurt the net. Oh blimey!
Hello!!! I am Nigerian and that makes me an automatic supporter of the Super Eagles. Thank You.
But what was Mikel doing taking a penalty in open play during the game against Zambia? Before all Mikel fans get on my back, I am aware that Mikel once scored a penalty in Calabar as the Eagles battled Liberia for a Nations Cup place, but that was certainly some mistake. This is the same Mikel who is so goal shy at Chelsea FC, one of his coaches once placed a bet with him that he (the coach) will strip to his pants if Mikel did score a goal in open play. Of course the Coach didn’t lose his bet because Mikel never scored and hasn’t hit a barn door for Chelsea in years.
Mikel doesn’t like the look of goal posts, and the earlier we all (including Keshi) realize this, the better for our hearts at the ongoing Nations’ Cup. You can count the number of midfielders with abysmal goal records in world football; and Mikel Obi, who will rather pass the ball backwards or sideways than drive his team with forward passes, should be atop that list. I am expecting Mikel to shut me up with a goal or two in this tourney. But until that day, he should never take a penalty kick for Nigeria again, not even in his dreams. And I mean, NEVER!!!
Rotimi Amaechi Is Not Photogenic
Winnie The Pooh? Hell No!
Winnie The Pooh? Hell No!
The Nigerian Governors’ Forum sent back one picture from London last week. The Governors (including those of Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Benue States) had one goal in mind: to convince us all that Enugu State Governor, Sullivan Chime, was alive and well.
With the benefit of hindsight, it was a photo-opportunity the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi , could have done without. Of all the four Governors bedecked in winter jackets just outside the Wellington Hospital in London, he looked the ill one; the one the rest had gone to pay a visit to. He was staring straight into the Camera, pot bellied and clownish. A friend remarked that he looked like the cartoon (Bear) character, ‘Winnie-the-pooh’.
I once shook hands with Amaechi (Yeah, that’s me bragging now. *Pops collar*) and I have sat from across him at a function. He definitely isn’t that ugly and is no ‘Winnie-the-pooh’. For once, the Camera lied. Amaechi’s political detractors may well have been behind that picture (I see you, Godsday Orubebe). We should stop this picture from circulating, jare. Amaechi na fine boy. Who no know, no go know!
The writer is on twitter as @egbas

Oby Ezekwesili: The wealth and poverty of a nation – Who will restore the dignity of Nigeria? (Part 2)

(Part 2)

Whatever choices you make from today for the purpose of helping build a New Nigeria will most certainly cost you something. Such is the reality of nation rebuilding.
The wealth and poverty of a nation – Who will restore the dignity of Nigeria?
Being the concluding part of a speech by Dr. Oby Ezekwesiliat the 42nd Convocation Lecture of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
For Nigeria’s dignity to be restored your generation must build a coalition of your entrepreneurial minds that are ready to ask and respond to the question “What does it take for nations to become rich?Throughout economic history, the factors that determine which nations became rich and improved the standard of living of their citizens read like a Dignity treatise in that they all revolve around the choices that ordinary citizens made in defining the value constructs of their nation. We learn that it takes a very strong interplay of political and economic dynamics for nations to climb out from the rung of poverty and raise the standard of living of citizens. The political foundation of nations emerges as the principal reason why some nations grow rich while others remain poor in the field of development economics. A ground breaking work by Daren Acemoglu, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technologyand James Robinson (economist), a Harvard professor has brought politics to the center stage of economic development. Although sound policies and access to capital for investing in development priorities remain very important for economic success no country can however achieve development without having a strong political foundation made up of political players, system, processes and structures that are grounded in inclusivity and accountability. The active participation of the citizens who seek to restore their individual and collective dignity in the politics of their nation is what ensures that THE PEOPLE and not a bunch of power hungry and extractive elite will set the agenda and determine the quality and substance of governance.
The simple version of this thesis is “sort out a nation’s political mess and you improve the chances of getting a productive economy that grows and delivers the benefits of growth in the form of jobs and improved incomes to all citizens”.  Although this advice is rooted in empirical evidence from economic research it does sound very basic. Not being one of those earth shattering solutions that Nigerians are often enamored of, we may choose to ignore it.  Yet if we are willing to confront our past and present reality with sincerity and ruminate on our political history, this thesis may actually be a Turning Point “Aha” moment for us. The Turning Point is that moment when we all suddenly realized that Politics- a process that defines the How, Who, Which, Where, When and for What any individual or group of persons who seek to govern Nigeria- is indeed the root cause of our  repeated failures. Neither our thirty four years of cumulative military governance nor the nineteen cumulative years thus far of our democratic governance provided us “inclusive and accountable governance.” Evidently, it is the undeveloped character of our political history, inchoate political structure and system and mostly uninspiring cast of political leadership that threw Nigeria into a hole from which it must climb out quickly to secure its continuing existence. Instructively, a person or as in our own case; a nation is counseled to “stop digging when in a hole”. Lamentably, in our case we have consistently rebuffed the wisdom behind that counsel. We have instead dug deeper and the more we have dug, the deeper into the hole we have sunk and all because of political misadventures.
Trace the political history of our country since independence in 1960 and you will better understand the horror of our faulty political foundation.  The first democratic government ushered in an independent Nigeria but was cut short  by a coup in 1966, a counter coup in 1967, civil war from 1967 to 1970, military rule from 1970 at the end of the war until another coup in 1975, another unsuccessful coup in 1976 the then Head of State was murdered, continued rule of the military until 1979 when a successful political transition ushered in the second republic but it became a democratic process that was known more for its prodigality than for governance until it was cut short in 1983 by yet another military coup but this new junta was itself sent packing by a coup in 1985 with a new military junta ruling from 1985 until 1993 when it thwarted the political rights of citizens who had elected a democratic president by annulling the elections.  It responded to the public disturbance and agitation that followed by installing an interim national government that lasted only three months following yet another military intervention that was more heinous than ever until 1998 when divine providence cut short that particular leadership ushering in yet another military ruler who committed to and successfully conducted a transition that ushered democratic governance in 1999. That it is now fourteen years of uninterrupted even if fledgling democratic governance since 1999 is perhaps the very tiny ray of light in what is otherwise a canvass of political tragedies.
Yet, despite the general consensus satisfaction with the record number of democratic years since 1999, darkness still ominously clouds our political landscape.  While the nation continues to experience the paradox of plenty and citizens are once again provoked by this latest round of prodigality of our political elite one cannot but sigh in disbelief that these casts of gladiators seem not to have learned anything from our inglorious political history. The recklessness and impunity with which public institutions and resources are being handled; the daily news of systemic and now democratized corruption by political office holders and their business elite collaborators has entrenched cynicism and pessimism in the land. How can our political elite not see that we are all sitting on kegs of gun powder? How can they not see that whatever peace we may appear to have at this time is like the peace of the graveyard? How can they not see that the teeming population of extremely angry and more interconnected young people cannot be silent for too much longer? How can they not know that preachments of patience and sacrifice will no longer placate the two million young people who annually enter the terribly constrained labor market pushing up the already worrisome 40% unemployment ratio among our youthful population? How can they not see the hypocrisy of the platitudes on sacrifice to poor citizens who thanks to greater access to information are able to closely follow the lifestyle of delusional grandeur and debauchery that their leaders finance from the public treasury? Where is the much needed innovative and entrepreneurial mindset that the public sector must earnestly deploy in solving the multiple problems of our nation?  Why does our own variant of political elite not even understand the most basic necessity for change of the status quo methods that have failed to deliver benefits of governance to citizens? “Elites resist innovation because they have a vested interest in resisting change — and new technologies that create growth can alter the balance of economic or political assets in a country. Technological innovation makes human societies prosperous, but also involves the replacement of the old with the new, and the destruction of the economic privileges and political power of certain people,” wrote Acemoglu and Robinson. Yet when elites temporarily preserve power by preventing innovation, they ultimately impoverish their own states. Sadly, they most often do not care what happens to the rest of the nation, and that arguably has been the lot of Nigerian through the years.
In the course of the last six months of my returning home to Nigeria after five year in international public service at the World Bank in Washington DC, I have many times come across the cutting anger of unemployed, disillusioned citizens who are louder in their disaffection with the condition of the country. The strident voices of citizens in public debates of national issues are louder and more penetrating than ever before. We are indeed at a turning point. How it turns however will be determined by you my dear friends. Today, you are the generation that holds the ace. You are the generation for whom the stakes are highest on the issue of how well this nation turns its governance corner. You are the generation that can define a new character and quality of politics in Nigeria and inherently the quality of governance outcomes in the decades and century ahead. You are the generation that can birth a New Nigeria devoid of all negatives that have inhibited our greatness and one in which every citizen is mobilized to construct a “National Integrity System” which is imperative for the building of every decent society.
You can do so by seeking to understand and to engage the stunted political context and nation that you have inherited. You will have to take hold of both and turn them around into a mature democracy and nation. What you must seek to do is to create a new political context in which citizens’ demand for good governance and accountability begins to compel those who govern to persistently make choices that will more likely improve the outcomes of economic management for the larger number of Nigerians. You have the tools needed for massive political and civic education of your illiterate peers on the importance of political rights and participation in the political process. By virtue of your university education and experiences you understand the economics of politics in Nigeria better than your illiterate peers who ignorantly trade off their political rights and chances for better governance outcomes for a mere mess of porridge.
Economics teaches us that there are some basic Smithian conditions (as espoused by Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations) for sustainable economic growth. No country has become rich, and stayed that way, without establishing these conditions. Countries such as Great Britain and the United States became rich because their citizens overthrew the elites who controlled power and created a society with political rights more broadly distributed and the government accountable and responsive to citizens. In these countries the great mass of people could take advantage of economic opportunities and so the entire nation prospered. To the contrary, nations dominated by self-centered elite fail and they are extremely poor.
Your generation can work as collectives across this country and set the agenda for lasting positive change in the political architecture of Nigeria. Only after reading Why Nations Fail did I finally understand the wise words of Plato that “one of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors”. Therefore, do not be like me and my kind who have ignored politics and left it to professional politicians to determine its character and substance. The incentive that must drive your own impulses on whether to engage or not is the knowledge that except the insalubrious political context that has produced a persistently failing Nigeria changes positively; your individual talents, opportunities and greatness will not materialize nor be maximized. In deciding to free Nigeria from its legendary political failures, you will actually free yourselves to excel like your contemporaries in the rest of the world. “The positive dimensions of succeeding at this task democratizing political powers beyond the minuscule are accountability, property rights and rule of law, which in combination provide low transactions cost so that markets can work effectively and efficiently. When these conditions are absent, a society faces corruption, instability and poor human rights. Investors, including domestic investors, flee such settings”. Do you now see how inextricably connected our political and economic fortunes are in determining the quality of life of the Nigerian? Do you now see what our Big Problem is?
A recent global survey showed that your generation around the world stands out as the most connected to the developments in international affairs. So, most of you will assuredly be aware that not just in our nation but that everywhere else world over, people are seeking for those who can solve the Big Problems in their respective nations. In several other nations the solutions to Big Problems are coming from your generational peers. Surely, having established that our own Big Problem is the failure of politics to deliver the right environment in which a productive economy can thrive outside of the extraction of natural resources that fuels the destructive choices of our ruling elite you have the information needed for driving change. You would have to decide whether you are ready to play the role a change catalyst or would rather adopt the safer option which is to “siddon look.”  There is no better time to make such life changing decisions than the day of one’s graduation from College.
I should know about making decisions on graduation day! On my graduation day in 1985, my fertile mind having absorbed as much of the eclectic knowledge available on this campus as possible was budding with curiosity about the challenges of good governance in Nigeria. I made up my mind at that time to never lose my VOICE in the society and that for as long as I lived, I would always speak up on matters of governance, transparency, accountability and probity. Divine providence followed that decision and the supportive actions I took to back it and my steps began to be ordered on a trajectory that had me as one of the leaders of our own generations’ campaign for democracy and good governance- The Concerned Professionals with the likes of Pat Utomi, Sam Oni, Morin Babalola and many others. Staying committed to that decision that I made on graduation day was what provided me the rare privilege of becoming one of the few co-founders and a founding director of Transparency International the Berlin based global non-governmental organization that pioneered the work on anti-corruption and promotion of transparency. That decision that I made on graduation day informed all my life choices and paved the path for what you know of my vocational endeavors. So what decisions are you prepared to make today, dear friends? I assure you that the greatest gift of God to mankind is the power to choose. You are therefore empowered to make decisions and choices today that will ultimately determine what, where and how you will be in the next twenty eight years and beyond……..
But I warn you to be mindful and not rush to decide. You will need to fully assess all the possible costs of your decisions and choices and then determine whether you have the strength of will to bear them. Whatever choices you make from today for the purpose of helping build a New Nigeria will most certainly cost you something. Such is the reality of nation rebuilding. Those who truly build their societies pay a price. They are not For example you cannot be one given to the lure of free money, one who cannot defer gratification and one for whom the path of least resistance holds abiding fascination; and then say you are part of the Turning Point Generation. No! The willingness to “enjoy” wealth that is not earned is not consistent with such Turning Point paradigm.  For example, for anyone of you in the Class of 2013 you cannot having perverted the maxim “reward for effort” cheating in exams or using forged certificates to gain your admission and say you are a catalyst for the emergence of the New Nigeria.  If your decisions or choices from today are driven by some selfish interest of replacing the failed and fading generations so as to repeat their nation-hobbling pattern then please know that you are not of the Turning Point Generation.
I have spoken to you today to stir up your collective effective angst at the indignity of your inheritance. If I have succeeded in raising your determination to free our nation from the trap of oil, then my coming is worthy. If I have succeeded in helping you see how continuous education not more extraction of oil will help you outperform and take Nigeria up the economic development ladder, then my coming worthy.  If I have succeeded in preparing you to embrace dignity of labor as your philosophy of life –never shunning legitimate vocation that helps you earn a living regardless of how lowly it might seem- then my coming is worthy. If today, I have succeeded in preparing you for a life of private and public integrity then my coming is worthy. If I have deposited in you a deep seethed contempt for poor governance, then my coming is worthy. If I have succeeded in preparing you for a lifetime of costly choices that invariably ennoble your path then my coming is worthy. If I have succeeded in helping you realize that you are not weak- that you are actually very powerful- and have both the exceptional opportunities and the tools like your peers in other nations to solve our own Big Problem then my coming is worthy. If I have moved you to decide that you will be one of those that will redefine and build a New Nigeria of our dream then is my coming worthy. If I have succeeded in inspiring a resolve within you to uphold from today a strong sense of personal responsibility for the political governance of Nigeria then my coming is worthy. Above all, if I have succeeded in getting you motivated and empowered enough to walk out of this hall seeing ready to walk and work as a part of the Turning Point Generation that courageously dares to restore the dignity of Nigeria then my BEING is truly worth it!
I salute you, the great lions and lionesses of the class of 2013! All of you, my dear fellow alumnae of the University of Nigeria are indeed the true Wealth, the Greatness and above all the Dignity of Nigeria!!
Thank you for listening.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

The ‘They, We And Us’ Conundrum–By Ikemesit Effiong

By Ikemesit Effiong

PROGRAM AREA: Agriculture & Trade
My morning routine usually consists of waking up, greeting the Lord and setting the agenda for the day with Him, freshening up, battling with my hair (not like the ladies do), go through the confusion of what to wear and then dash off to the car port only to dash back into the house to pick up something I need.
And note that I always dash back to the house. Always!
In the midst of the melee, my television is always humming in the background to either the sound of CNN’s World Report moniker followed by the faces of my faithful friends, John Vause or Rosemary Church or the banter of Channels Television’ Sunrise team (Is it only me who likes Suleiman Aledeh’s baritone?).
Recently though, I have revisited an old habit, watching Kakaaki on Africa Independent Television (AIT). It was on one such morning, during a sometime worn out conversation on the North-South dichotomy, that AIT’s Senami Omionokhae made quite a profound statement. She asked one of the well attired men in the studio who had ascribed the title of expert to himself, if part of Nigeria’s problem was that we see the nation’s many ills as ‘their’ problem and not ‘our’ problem?
The question of who is that indeterminate ‘their’, the ‘their’ who will finally release ‘our’ dear motherland from its present malaise and take ‘us’ to the everlasting light of concrete social, economic and political development has been a most perplexing one. Why this question has abided with us for so long is that it feeds off the popular perception of the masses that ‘their’ saviour would soon arise.
Nigeria has always been a fractured society and its strictures are made more glaring when you apply your mind to the circumstances of our corporate birth. While I won’t necessarily circumscribe to the opinion of one of my colleagues when he said that Lord Frederick Lugard is a … and launched into a bag full of expletives, in hind sight, the actions of Lugard seem bereft of wisdom or sound judgment from a post-Independence perspective.
But for how long will we blame the colonial legacy for our present woes? I circumscribe to the school of thought which essentially posits that my generation will not have the moral excuse of telling our children that “it was the British who did all this to us”. That argument has simply run its course and is now officially expired. We are the sole architect of our present dilemma. Let’s admit that fact.
The Jonathan administration has in its unquestioning wisdom decided to mark the centenary of our formation as a nation and while that idea is in itself insulting to our present circumstances and forgetful of our historical antecedents, it is indeed time we dwell on some pertinent questions that still remain unanswered a hundred years after Nigeria as an idea was born.
What is our identity as a nation? What do we stand for? Are we truly a nation in every sense of the word? Why do we make the same or similar comments to the one that Sir Ahmadu Bello made in 1953 when he said that the North is in danger of being swallowed by the South? If any part of our nation is apprehensive of its subjugation by another, it simply means that we still haven’t broken from our colonial mode of appraising national issues. It presupposes that we have not dealt with the central question of what it means to be a nation.
Why should a section of Nigeria leave another part of the country and say “That is their problem”. “They are the cause of all this”. “We have done all we can do”. If it is Boko Haram, “The North is responsible”. What about corruption. “All of them in power are responsible”. Militancy: “Those people in the Niger Delta are greedy”.
I was appalled beyond my senses when a senator from the North said that a solution to the Boko Haram insurgency would be to grant amnesty to the terrorists, “just like they did to their own people in the Niger Delta”. I agreed with the idea of amnesty in part – I have in an earlier piece said that it has been done in several other conflict hot spots globally – but the phrasing of the argument was disgusting.
It implied that the lawmaker wanted amnesty offered to murderers just because it had been done to an earlier set of murderers from another part of the country. On that score, the argument lost a lot of goodwill.
Do we really want this country to be divided? Do we really want to go our separate ways? I must caution here that history is not on our side. Out of the three great British amalgamations in history, two have broken up – violently. India in 1947 broke up into modern India and Pakistan which further subdivided in a civil war in the early 1970s to Pakistan and modern Bangladesh. Sudan is now the State of Sudan and South Sudan with the western part of the country bloodily campaigning to secede. We are the third amalgamation.
It is instructive to note that these countries divided along either ethnic or religious lines. Pakistan, Sudan, Bangladesh are all Muslim or Muslim dominated entities. India and South Sudan are societies with an admixture of ethnic, religious and social affiliations but are notably non-Muslim with a strong adherence to ethnic roots. Nigeria is not so different. My cousin in the middle of a heated political exchange once said that it is a miracle that Nigeria was still one.
The prospects of a divided Nigeria are best imagined. We seem to have developed a collective amnesia to the unique context we occupy. There are an estimated one and a half billion people of Negro extraction in the world today. Of that number, we are the single largest black political entity in the world. In other words, we are an example to an entire race. If we fail, we have in effect failed every member of the black race. India is not the largest Asian country, China is. Pakistan is not the largest Muslim nation of its kind in the world, Indonesia is. The same applies to Sudan. Do you get my point now?
We have to take collective ownership for the failings of our past and set the course for a more hopeful future. The first thing we have to do is eliminate ignorance. The ignorance of our neighbor; the ignorance of the person from the other ethnic group; and the ignorance of the person from the other geographic side of the country.
In writing this piece, I struggled with the direction I wanted it to take until my friend; Olanlokun Daramola said something that jolted me. In his words, “We have to stop fighting ourselves and realize we aren’t our enemies. It is frustration that makes us monsters”. Indeed, ignorance is often times, the child of the past, the friend of today, and the enemy of the future. It is not about ‘They’, ‘Them’, ‘Their’ or ‘We’, it is about ‘Us’.

The Wealth And Poverty Of A Nation: Who Will Restore The Dignity Of Nigeria?–By Oby Ezekwesili

Being text of the lecture delivered by Nigeria’s former Minister of Education and former Vice President (Africa) at the World Bank, Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili; as the 42nd Convocation Lecturer at her alma mater, the University Of Nsukka, recently.
I am hugely delighted to return to my alma mater the great and only University of Nigeria to speak at your 42nd convocation. Twentyeight years ago I sat just like you– those of you who are part of the graduating Class of 2013; excited by my graduation. It was 1985 and I was very privileged to be one of the then only 3% of our own youthful population that had the opportunity of a university education.
Today, you are still fortunate to be one of the yet paltry 4.3% of your own youthful generation with an opportunity for university education. For Nigeria that percentage does not compare favorably with 37.5% for Chile, 33.7% for Singapore, 28.2% for Malaysia, 16.5% for Brazil and 14.6%. Our lag in tertiary education enrollment is quite revealing and could be interpreted as the basis of the competitiveness gap between the same set of countries and Nigeria. The reason is that “…. tertiary enrollment rate which is the percentage of total enrollment, regardless of age, in post-secondary institutions to the population of people within five years of the age at which students normally graduate high school…….plays an essential role in society, creating new knowledge, transferring knowledge to students and fostering innovation”. The countries with the most highly educated citizens are also some of the wealthiest in the world in a study by the OECD published by the Wall Street Journal last year.
The United States, Japan, Canada, South Korea, Finland, Norway, Israel, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia also have among the largest Gross Domestic Products. All these countries aggressively invest in education.
The same cannot be said of Nigeria. The crawling progress in tertiary education enrollment since my graduation more than two and a half decades ago is therefore one key reason former peer nations left us behind at the lower rungs of global economic rankings. Economic growth rate and ultimate development of nations are determined by a number of factors that range from sound policies, effective andefficient public and private investments and strong institutions. Economic evidence throughout numerous researches proves that one key variable that determines how fast nations outgrow others is the speed of accumulation of human capital especially through science and technology education. No wonder for these same countries by 2011- South Korea of fifty million people has a GDP of$1.12trillion, Brazil of one hundred and ninety six million has $2.48 trillion; Malaysia of twenty eight million people has $278.6Billion; Chile of seventeen million people has $248.59Billion; Singapore of five million people has $318.7 Billion.
Meanwhile with our population of 165 million people, we makeboasts with a GDP of$235.92 Billion- completely way off the mark that we could have produced if we made a better set of development choices.
More dramatic is that this wide gap between these nations and Nigeria was not always the case as some relevant data at the time of our independence reveal. In 1960 the GDP per capita of all these countries were not starkly different from that of Nigeria- two were below $200, two were a little above $300 and one was slightly above $500 while that of Nigeria was just about $100. For citizens, these differentials are not mere economic data. Meanwhile by 2011, the range for all five grew exponentially with Singapore at nearly $50,000, South Korea at $22,000, Malaysia at $10,000, Brazil at $13,000 and Chile at $14,000. Our own paltry $1500 income per capita helps drive home the point that we have been left behind many times over by every one of these other countries. How did these nations steer and stir their people to achieve such outstanding economic performance over the last five decades? There is hardly a basis for comparing the larger population of our citizens clustered within the poverty bracket with the majority citizens of Singapore fortunate to have upper middle income standard of living.
Again, how did this happen? What happened to Nigeria? Why did we get left behind? How did these nations become productively wealthy over the last fifty years while Nigeria stagnated? How did majority ofthe citizens of these nations join the upper middle class while more Nigerians retrogressed into poverty? There are usually as many different answers to these sets of questions as there are respondents on the reasons we fell terribly behind. Some say, it is our tropical geography, yet economic research shows it has not prevented other countries with similar conditions from breaking through. Others say it is size, but China and India are bigger, yet in the last thirty and twenty years have grown double digit and continue to out- grow the rest of the world at this time of global economic crisis. Furthermore, being small has not necessarily conferred any special advantages to so many other countries with small population yet similarly battling with the development process like we are.
Some others say it is our culture but like a political economist posited “European countries with different sorts of cultures, Protestant and Catholic alike that have grown rich. Secondly, different countries within the same broad cultures have performed very differently in economic terms, such as the two Koreas in the post-war era. Moreover, individual countries have changed their economic trajectories even though “their cultures didn’t miraculously change.” How about those who plead our multi ethnic nationalities as the constraint but fail to see that the United States of America happens to be one nation with even more disparate ethnic nationalities than Nigeria and yet it leads the global economy! As for those who say it is the adverse impact of colonialism, were Singapore, Malaysia and even China not similarly conquered and dominated by colonialists?
That Nigeria is a paradox of the kind of wealth that breeds penury is as widely known as the fact that the world considers us a poster nation for poor governance wealth from natural resources. The trend of Nigeria’s population in poverty since 1980 to 2010 for example suggests that the more we earned from oil, the larger the population of poor citizens : 17.1 million 1980, 34.5million in 1985, 39.2million in 1992, 67.1million in 1996, 68.7million in 2004 and 112.47 million in 2010! This sadly means that you are children of a nation blessed with abundance of ironies.
Resource wealth has tragically reduced your nation- my nation- to a mere parable of prodigality. Nothing undignifies nations and their citizens like self-inflicted failure.Our abundance of oil, people and geography should have worked favorably and placed us on the top echelons of the global economic ladder by now. After all, basic economic evidence shows that abundance of natural resources can by itself increase the income levels of citizens even if it does not increase their productivity. For example, as Professor Collier a renowned economist who has focused on the sector stated in a recent academic work, countries that have enormously valuable natural resources are likely to have high living standards on a sustainable basis by simply replacing some of the extracted resources with financial assets held abroad.
Disappointedly, even that choice eluded our governing class who through the decades has spent more time quarreling over their share of the oil “national cake” than they have spent thinking of how to make it benefit the entire populace.
There are perhaps three broad classes of resource rich countries. The first are those which like Norway have built up all other types of domestic investment from which revenue is generated and can therefore save their huge revenue from gas in foreign assets. The second are those mostly of the Middle East countries like Kuwait which also have saved huge revenue in foreign asset and generate sufficient revenue from the asset to be better off than other countries without resources. However, for Kuwait this may be only because they live well from resource rents rather than becoming productive. The third category of which our country is a classic example are countries which though resource rich have neither been able to build up foreign asset for citizens to live well off of nor evolved new and alternative sectors of productivity.
The appropriate response to the revenue extracted from our oil over the period 1959 to date would have been to use it in accumulating productive investment in the form of globally competitive human capital and physical asset of all types of infrastructure and institutions. Such translation from one form of nonrenewable asset to renewable capital would have been the right replacement strategy for a wasting asset like oil. Unfortunately unbridled profligacy has made us spend and continue to spend the free money from oil like a tragic Rentier state that we are called in development circles. We spend most of what we generate on mere consumption with no tangible productive asset to show for our so called “wealth”.
Due to profligacy we have dismal human development indicators which are inconsistent with the scale of our earnings. For example using life expectancy as a proxy measuring how we score on human development, 51.4years for Nigerians falls far short of the 80years for citizens of Singapore and South Korea, 78years for citizens of Chile, 73 years for citizens of Malaysia and 72years for citizens of Brazil. We may in fact be the world record holder in the rank of natural resources rich countries that tend to have worse human development scores when compared to countries without endowments.
As our human development scores have lagged, we continued with our binge on oil revenue and became trapped in cyclical decline of national competitiveness. It explains why every other economic sector in Nigeria has suffered the effect of the oil enclave economy. Oil has unleashed shocks and volatility of revenues on our economy due to exposure to global commodity market swing, proliferated “weak, ineffectual, unstable and systemically corrupt institutions and bureaucracies” that have helped misappropriate or plunder public resources. Nations with abundance of natural resources especially in Africa, Latin America and part of South Asia have experienced the fueling of official corruption and “violent competition for the resource by the citizens of the nation” .
While there may not be concurrence on the causes of Nigeria’s colossal under-performance, most of our citizens however agree that poor governance and the more visible symptom of corruption have had virulent impact in arresting the development of Nigeria. The poor in our land have paid the highest possible price for being born into the world’s best example of a paradox. The common wonderment of these poor citizens – whether east, west, north and south- is “why would more than half the population of a country that earned nearly one trillion dollars in oil revenue since the Oloibori discovery of crude oil; continue to wallow in poverty?” Well, economic evidence shows that the answer which we must all ponder deeply is that oil wealth entrenched corruption and mismanagement of resources in government and warped the incentive for value added work, creativity and innovation in our public, private sectors and wider society. This being the case, the larger population of our people is deprived of the opportunity to overcome poverty and this is what economists call the “resource curse”. The oil revenue induced choices made by our ruling elite over the five decades of political independence cursed several of our citizens to inter-generational poverty!
To be continued

Why bother wearing a dress? Rihanna steps out in her most revealing outfit yet (PHOTOS)

We’re starting to think that Rihanna‘s nipple ring is her favorite accessory.
The 24-year-old singer and budding fashion designer brought her typical sexy outfit A-game to hot Hollywood spot Eden on Thursday night. (At the same time, presciently, Taylor Swift and Jennifer Lopez were wearing especially revealing dresses. Did they have a three-way call where they planned this?)
Rihanna’s long-sleeved frock may have had sub-elbow sleeves, but that’s about all that was modest about it, as the fabric revealed her skimpy black underwear and totally-not-even-there bra.
Not that we’re surprised to see a sheer dress from the person who posts topless photos on her Instagram on the regs and goes out in New York wearing only a lacy sheer bra. Hey, we suppose nipple rings DO go with everything.

The Nigerian Malaise: Are The Citizens To Blame?–By Ayobami Oyalowo

Ecclesiastes 10:16
Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning!
“The government being the people’s business, it necessarily follows that itsoperations should be at all times open to the public view. Publicity is therefore as essential to honest administration as freedom of speech is to representative government. “Equal rights to all and special privileges to none” is the maxim which should control in all departments of government.”
~ William Jennings
I have taken a position of “nothing surprises me anymore” with President Jonathan. He has elevated the act of poor public speaking and un-presidential conduct to an art. Recently he was reported to have retorted that airing the documentary on the deplorablecondition of the police college in Ikeja, Lagos, was an attempt to smear his government. One will think a sensible leader will see that as an opportunity to address the obvious and glaring problems, but, hey! This is Goodluck we are talking about here. Therefore being the accidental, unprepared and the happy- go- lucky ruler that he is, some opposing forces must have been at work.
He was also seen fidgeting on CNN as he was grilled by Christine Amanpour and you could have been excused if you thought it was a question and answer session by a Madam to her houseboy. Amanpour appeared to have a better grasp and understanding of happenings in Nigeria than even the president himself. He lied freely without any conviction, while berating his unseen enemies as usual. How does a leader who does not accept or acknowledge glaring problems, be expected to solve them? The Jonathanian era has turned the game of shifting blames to a national pastime. His government never acknowledges nor admit to any problem, he would rather turn a blind eye while hoping such problems disappear and if they persist, take the easiest route– blame those unseen forces as usual. The forces range from anyone who disagrees with the government to, the clincher: “evil spirits”. Yes, evil spirits are even part of our problems!
But as much as I have refused to let Jonathan and his horde of presidential aides and minions bother my life, something happened recently in Bayelsa, during the burial of General Owoeye Azazi that has refused to go away. The president took his ignominious position on national issues to another level. He denied that corruption was a problem in Nigeria and blamed”our attitude.” He went as far as saying more accidents happened on well tarred road, rather than on roads with crater-sized potholes.
Permit me to ask some serious questions: Are Nigerians inherently a bad people? Are we truly as beastly as these privileged government officials are wont to make us appear? I would normally havedismissed it as the usual ramblings of a misguided but excited owner of a new pair of shoes, but for the various debates it generated on twitter and its unsavory aftermath. Some people agreed that truly Nigerians are undisciplined and unruly people who will rather seek to break the law and seek a short cut, instead of doing the right thing.
These arguments, germane as they seem, have very faulty bases and that, ladies and gentlemen, is the core of our discourse in this treatise.
Some of the ills of Nigerians, as highlighted by those who blame the citizens for our woes, include (but are not limited to) not paying taxes, jumping queues, running the red light in traffic etc. Some even blame the citizens for voting the present crop of looters, sorry, I mean leaders, in to government, effectively blaming the common man for our woes. Another school of thought says the people in power are not from Mars, they are Nigerians and so on and so forth.
On the surface, these arguments look okay, but when you examine them deeper and scratch below the surface, there is a huge lacuna and that is what we shall attempt to fill in this essay.
The UK is a great place to live, an extremely organized society. Citizens pay their taxes, they don’t run red lights, they keep within the speed limits etc. That for most Nigerians is a model society. I have equally witnessed how fellow Nigerians maintained a queue at Heathrow Airport, but the same Nigerians became rowdy the moment our plane taxied into the Murtala Mohammed International airport. Why is that so?
On our initial arrival in London, the air conditioners were in pristine conditions, they worked fine. We did not have to pay for trolleys and when we had successfully passed through immigration, our luggage came out pretty effortlessly– the conveyor worked nicely. The immigration officers were courteous and nobody solicited for cash or gifts from us. Judge for yourself why people who were organized suddenly became so unruly after just 6 hours. Upon arrival in Lagos, Nigeria, the only thing that looked international about the airport was the insignia below the control tower. The air conditioners were not working, the immigration officials were as unfriendly as they could be, trolleys weren’t enough and if you were lucky to get one, you had to pay for it. At the point of baggage claims, the conveyor was not working. As a matter of fact, everything was the opposite of our experience in London.
London is the capital of England, with an organized people. But on the 4th of August, 2011 an event occurred: the Police shot and killed a certain Mark Duggan and between the 6th and 10th of the same month, there was an unprecedented breakdown of law and order. Violence, arson, mass and widespread looting broke out in most London boroughs. The rule of law became an aberration; the rule ofthe jungle became the order of the day. Unimaginable crimes were reportedly committed and hitherto unseen gory sights became normal in that magnificent city called London. What happened? The rule of law broke down.
Man is man anywhere: what distinguishes and differentiates societies and civilizations is the strict adherence to the rule of law. No normal human being loves to pay taxes or stay far behind in a long queue on a hot afternoon. What compels people to doing right is the principle of cause and effect. Wherever people are aware that every action has a consequence, it is natural for them to not want to be on the wrong side of the law.
It is worthy of note that throughout my three week stay in London, there was no power outage and my host had never heard of power generating sets. I also visited Edinburgh, in Scotland, a ten hour journey by coach. I noticed the smoothness of the roads and how the drivers kept to speed limits. As the coach gets to a particular city, a new driver took over the wheels, thereby mitigating effects of fatigue and poor judgement.
So why did the same people empty into the streets and behaved like savages between the 6th to 10th of August 2011, when there was a breakdown of law and order? In Nigeria, we have a permanent breakdown of law and order. The rulers are subjected to different laws from the commoners. We have all witnessed how people who steal goats get jailed for years, whereas those convicted of stealing N13 billion, bag 6 months jail terms. Most of them don’t even get locked up for a day– the jury smacking of a mere charade. We all witnessed how Zamfara State Governor amputated a certain, Jangebe for stealing a cow, meanwhile years later, the same governor has been accused of stealing billions of naira, yet he walks freely as a federal senator.
From the foregoing, attitude is always an issue in any human setting, but where the rule of law is supreme, majority of the citizens will fall in line. The immediate head of the American secret service, the CIA, resigned his appointment due to an allegation of sexual impropriety. Note that he wasn’t accused of stealing, embezzlement or human rights violation. Compare and contrast it with Nigeria, where Diezani Alison-Madueke who has been serially indicted of huge financialmisappropriation running into trillions of naira, struts her stuff with uncanny flippancy across the land. But rather than resign or get fired, she not only continues to preside over the most lucrative ministry in Nigeria, she is also a regular on the entourage of the president to any of his numerous junkets around the globe.
Also in the year 2009 four UK lawmakers were accused of false claims bordering on over-expensing. They were charged to court for doctoring expenses ranging from £2,000 to £ 30,500. The issue was thoroughly dealt with and justice was served. Back in Nigeria, lawmakers have been accused of various misdemeanor, ranging from over bloated pays, to bribe taking and generally reprehensible conducts. But Despite plausible accusations, including recorded bribe giving and taking, not one case has been successfully prosecuted with diligence.
Workers pensions, running into billions of naira was allegedly stolen, almost a year after the discovery. Not one person has been made to face the law, while pensioners are daily dying of hunger and starvation. N2.1billion took a stroll from the vault of the security printing and minting company. ‘Ba wahala’, life goes on. Crude oil running into thousands of barrels daily disappears with no trace. All “Na carry go”. The laissez faire attitude of the Nigerian government officials towards corruption and misgovernance is such that the citizens do not see any need to be good or model citizens. It is a rat race for survival. People have come to accept that it is Everyman for himself, God for us all.
Why should I pay taxes when the roads are nothing but death traps; when I have to generate my own power, and provide my water through boreholes?
Am I a learner?
Why should I obey the law when I have to provide personal security and still feel insecure? Why pay tax when I have to pay through my nose to ensure my kids get a decent education in unnecessarily expensive private schools, since the public schools have become a junkyard for the production of schooled illiterates?
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The malaise inherent in the Nigerian government has ensured Nigerians do the opposite of what is expected of citizens. If Nigerians are alive to their civic responsibility abroad, then the environment back home is largely responsible for the haphazard nature of our lives. Until corruption and irresponsibility in government is curbed to the barest minimum and the rule of law is supreme, where none is above the law, even a change in the attitude of the commoners will be mere tear drops in an ocean of despondency. War against corruption must be thorough and total. Like Efe Wanogho will say, “there should be no middle grounds”.
Enough of paying lip service to the fight against corruption. For as long as the people are alienated and those in power are immune to the reality of the suffering inherent in the land, there’s not much that attitudinal change can achieve. Nigerians are good people. All you need to do is travel around the world and see the good works they have achieved. But back home, corruption, nepotism and irresponsibility of the rulers has created such a gap between rich and poor and has bred so much resentment that the masses don’t care about the country. But I am certain that with the right leadership that is disciplined and focused, Nigeria can be great again.
Nigerians are a good people and a great nation, but like sheep without a shepherd, are scattered and divided, seeking for pasture and succor. We can be great again, if we get real leaders who understand the business of leadership. Our prayer to God should be getting the requisite leadership. Thus far, the worst of us superintend over the best of us. A real shame, if you ask me.
I am @Ayourb on twitter