Tuesday, 27 August 2013

What Do The Igbo Want?



I was half-way examining the unfortunate events in Syria when a friend called to encourage me to write an update of an essay I wrote for an online medium in the summer of 2004 entitled, “The Nigerian presidency and the Igbo nation.” I reminded him that in a roundabout way, I had revisited the topic last year in “The Igbo and Nigeria’s political arrangement” (The PUNCH, April 18, 2012).
But the more I thought about the topic, the more I became convinced that, at least for now, I have said all there is to say about Igbo Presidency. Then, I had an epiphany: Considering the forceful cyber-debate between Nigerians of Igbo extraction — and considering also the heated debates that sometimes take place between them and other groups — perhaps it makes sense to ask, “What do the Igbo want?” The question may be uncalled for; condescending, even. If that’s the case, then, I apologize. After all, nobody ever asks the Hausa-Fulani and the Yoruba what they want.
Nonetheless, it is a question that needed to be asked especially when one considers the plurality of debates about the “future of Ndigbo.” But before I expand on this question, I thought I should make a few sentences about the events in Syria.
First, we know that governments and individuals in and outside of the Middle East have, for several decades, been looking for ways to roam freely from Beirut to Tehran (by way of Damascus and Baghdad). They are not likely to leave Syria alone until they accomplish their mission. Second, insofar as the recent accusation of gassing is concerned, no one should rush to judgment. We urge the USA, NATO and the United Nations not to rush to judgment. Careful investigation by impartial professionals may, in the end, show that President Bashar al-Assad did not gas his own people.
Furthermore, President Barack Obama should be careful. He should, as we say in Nigeria, “shine your eyes.” There are Heads of Government in and outside of the Middle East who have, for several decades, been looking for ways to “catch and crack” Damascus. These same entities are today looking to use President Obama’s “hand to catch the serpent…use his head to crack the coconut.” Our hope is that Obama will NOT fall for their despicable tricks and do a repeat of Tripoli. President Bashar al-Assad may not be a saint; but he is not evil.
Show me any Head of Government anywhere in the world that is a saint. And in fact if al-Assad was weak and subservient, he won’t be in the artificial mess he’s in right now. Imperialists and expansionists have a way of making you hate those with “lesser sins” – much the same way they made many to hate and or become suspicious of Fidel Castro, Yasser Arafat, Hugo Chavez, Mahmud Ahmadinejad and a few others.
Back to where I was: To hear some Igbo tell it, “Nigeria has not been fair to us and we can only feel secure and wanted in Biafra.” For this group of Nigerians, therefore, Biafra will never die. It is the homeland they nostalgically and lovingly yearn for. It is their “Jerusalem…their Palestine.” Not for them, the “fraud and the artificiality of Nigeria.” No! It is Biafra or nothing! And so, year after year since 1970 or so, they’ve dreamt about and toiled for a Biafra.
One of the contending and contentious conversations many pre-independence African leaders had was whether or not to single-mindedly pursue economic or political freedom. They pursued political independence.  I cannot think of any country that simultaneously pursued both, or who gave preference to economic independence. With the benefit of hindsight, perhaps, they should have prioritized economic freedom.  And perhaps it is for this reason that many of my Igbo friends believe that “we the Igbo should leave politics alone and gain control of Nigeria’s economic space…economic superiority will lead to political freedom.”
It seems to me that the history of the Four Asian Tigers (Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea), along with the Tiger Cub Economies (Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines), vindicates the preceding thinking: Economic prosperity hastens political development. So, should the Igbo abandon and or pay less attention to the political arena in favour of economic dominance and control? Or, perhaps the presidency means more to them?
Nnamdi Azikiwe, a Nigerian of Igbo descent, was the ceremonial President of the Republic from 1963 until 1966. He was succeeded by Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi (January 16 1966 – July 19 1966). No one considers Aguiyi-Ironsi a proper head of government; nonetheless, it’s been 47 years since an Igbo ruled the country. The closest an Igbo has got to the presidency is Dr.  Alex Ekwueme — who served as Nigeria’s first Vice-President from 1979 until 1983. And of course, there was Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe. When you think of this, and when the Igbo think of it, the question becomes, “Why not a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction…don’t they deserve it?” They do! And rightfully so!
No one knows the scientifically acceptable percentage of Igbo who want a President who hails from Igboland. And for that matter, no one knows how many want a Republic of Biafra; or how many who aspire to the economic domination of the country. We simply don’t know.  What we know, and what seems clear, is that the Igbo – as with all other federating groups, want justice and equity. They want to be able to function and thrive in a country where all human and civil rights are respected. They want a just and justice-driven country!
As Paschal Ukpabi, an attorney practicing out of Southfield, Michigan, said: “We want a free and democratic Nigeria that practices true federalism,” otherwise those clamoring for Biafra may get their wish. Emeka Maduewesi, an Intellectual Property and Technology Attorney living in San Francisco, concurred: “Justice, equity and a strong and thriving democratic environment will go a long way, and will also strengthen the country.”
What do the Igbo want? Well, no one should have to tell the Igbo what they want or shouldn’t want. However, as my good friend, journalist and speaker, Kaanayo Nwachukwu, considered by many as Nigeria’s foremost social media activist and strategist, asked: “What strategy do the Igbo have to actualise their aspirations. It is not enough to want or to aspire to small or grand designs; there must be short and long-term strategies behind any move they make.”
Well then: What strategy do the Igbo have to actualise their aspirations — whatever those aspirations might be?

Written by BY SABELLA ABIDDE  for punch newspapers

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Is Jonathan really a total failure?



Although it is common to see Nigerians tear down the Goodluck Jonathan administration in so many unprintable words, I have not found myself dispassionately querying these assessments until I read an article last week.
The writer dwelt on various ways in which the Jonathan administration has failed Nigerians including the eyesore which the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, arguably the first choice entry point into the country, has become. He was angry that Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party has invested so much time in retarding Nigeria’s progress and that the current president has gone ahead in the tradition of his precursors, surpassing all of them to become the worst of all. This, in the opinion of the writer indicates that the remaining two years of Jonathan’s administration could be nothing but the further “maladministration” of Nigeria!  Really?
Of course, I am aware of the gross level of underdevelopment in Nigeria. That supply of electricity is still epileptic, that we have about 11 million out-of- school children, the highest anywhere in the world. I am aware that Nigeria has about 40 million adult illiterates and that the quality of education has continued to decline. I know that Nigeria is number two on the list of countries with the worst cases of maternal and infant mortality. I know that unemployment is at an all-time high 24 per cent and that the number of Nigerians who cannot feed increase by the day.  I realise that Nigeria lacks anything by the name of an health system and that life expectancy is at a scary 52 years. I agree that Nigeria still has so many stories of woe to tell, but it is absolutely dishonest to dump all this garbage at the doorpost of President Jonathan.
The truth is that some of the challenges which Nigeria currently faces are as old as the nation and it is impossible to wipe out these problems within just a few years of anyone’s administration especially with the various security challenges that the government has had to deal with. For example, the problem of out-of-school children from which the country currently suffers dire consequences as evident in the Boko Haram challenge started before Nigeria’s independence when the Northern region did not encourage parents to send their children to school. The level of poverty in Nigeria as it is currently is founded in the discovery of oil in 1956 and the boom that followed in the years after the civil war. The oil boom was followed by a streak of reckless expenditure by the Federal Government and the gradual abandonment of every creative way of revenue generation by state governments. A corollary of these is the pervasive corruption that has become our albatross.
Secondly and more importantly, Nigeria is a federation with three levels of government saddled with different roles all of which should work together for the nation’s development.
By virtue of Part 2 of the Second Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the substantial part of the basic educational, health and some level of economic needs of the populace are dependent on state governments. Granted though that the Federal Government is responsible for overall national fiscal and monetary policies.  Specifically, the creation and management of primary and secondary education and health are within the purview of the state and local government administrations. The constitution also gives states the power to create industries as well as generate electricity for the consumption of individual states. The 1999 Constitution equally allows states to create agricultural policies.
The implication of this is that states are as much in a position to affect the lives of their citizens as the Federal Government. And I want to speculate that framers of the constitution anticipated a situation in which every tier of government would contribute its own quota to the development of the country with the effect that all of this would work for the collective good of the people.
While it is impossible to claim that the Jonathan administration has affected Nigeria in any dramatically life-changing way in its two-years in office, there are positive signs of steps being taken to address the various challenges that Nigeria faces. Of importance is the credibility which the administration has brought on the democratisation process. With the appointment of Professor Attahiru Jega as chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Jonathan showed his readiness to deal with the abominable level of electoral fraud in the country. This confidence has been justified in the 2011 general elections as well as the governorship election which have held in Edo State. Even the recent registration of the All Progressives Congress testifies to Jega’s independence.
It is also worthy of note that this administration is perhaps for the first time in the recent history of Nigeria making appreciable attempts to diversify the country’s economy. Agriculture is once again taking its place of pride in the economy while the cement, steel and textile industries are gradually gaining momentum. Government’s intervention in revamping infrastructure in the aviation industry is equally noticeable while there are testimonies of various road projects that are going on all over the country. Although primary education is not a direct responsibility of the Federal Government, it has gone ahead to intervene in the situation of out-of-school children in the northern part of Nigeria with the establishment of Almajiri schools, which is expected to get over 9 million children into schools. We are not there with power but there is a road map which seems to be working. As tokenistic as it is, a few thousands of Nigerian youths have benefited from the Youwinprogramme while the SURE-P employment scheme for unskilled youths and women is actually real. I understand that empowerment of other Nigerian youths is one of the pre-requisites for Youwin. There has also been appreciable progress made in the restoration of railway in Nigeria.
Concerning corruption, this is a cankerworm that every Nigerian, including opposition politicians, the judiciary and members of the legislature would have to jointly battle. Recent events in Nigeria have shown that every stratum of the society is infected with the corruption virus and nothing but the determination of all of us to put an end to the reign of corruption would do the job.
While we are at that however, public affairs commentators must strive to play a non-partisan role in the appreciation of national events.  Since citizenship is a key component of democracy, Nigerians should begin to demand performance from elected representatives at all levels and public commentators owe the people the provision of adequate information which should guide them in holding politicians accountable and exercising their electoral franchise correctly during elections. While I concede that national development is an organic process which follows adequate planning and single minded execution of those plans, I hold the opinion that Nigeria would be far more gone in the process of development if all state and local governments in the federation worked harder at it; If we all do not depend on resources from petroleum. States can complain about inadequate revenue forever, but what have we made of the little resources available to us? Some states have more than a thousand political appointees drawing salaries and allowances monthly, yet they complain of meagre resources. Politicians at all levels should learn to deny themselves of some of the ostentation that we see and get their hands dirty facing the real business of making life meaningful for the people.

Written by Niran Adedokun

Follow me on twitter @FemiShine

Between Mandela and Mugabe

Between Mandela and Mugabe


South African legend and Nobel peace laureate, Nelson Mandela, turned 95 last month and expectedly the whole world was agog for this global icon. As he continues his recuperation from a recurring liver ailment, it is equally not surprising that the whole world is praying for his speedy recovery. Talk of a man who is widely respected, loved and idolized the world over, Nelson Mandela is it! Bordering South Africa, the country of the Madiba, is Zimbabwe which shares similar colonial experience with South Africa. Inside Zimbabwe is President Robert Mugabe, 89, the country’s ruler since 1980. Based on the outcome of the country’s recent presidential election, Mugabe has got his people’s mandate to extend his 33 years’ hold on power.
Mandela and Mugabe represent the link between Africa’s colonial and post -colonial history. Undoubtedly, these two men have defined the history of their respective countries in various ways and, indeed, shared lots in common. They were both born in the colonial era and actually witnessed the various complications of colonial rule in their respective countries. They both had their earliest education at Christian mission schools and same Fort Hare University in South Africa. They were both involved in a bitter struggle to end white minority rule in their respective countries. Similarly, they were both imprisoned for various numbers of years (Mandela, 27, Mugabe, 11) by the colonial governments in their separate countries for their anti-colonial activities. Equally, they both led their respective countries to independence and served as the first post -colonial black leaders of their separate nations. The similarities between these two African leaders are rather endless.
However, despite their similar colonial experiences, the two leaders sharply differ in the manner in which they handled socio-political issues and other related matters in their separate countries after providence bestowed the leadership of their respective nations on them. Upon his release from prison in 1990, Mandela entered into negotiation with South Africa’s ruling white elite for a period of four years before apartheid was finally dealt a final crushing blow in 1994. As the country’s first black president, Mandela, became an apostle of national reconciliation. Irrespective of the ruthlessness of the apartheid regime in his country, Mandela was more interested in uniting the various groups in the country in order to achieve his dream of a prosperous South Africa. He encouraged his people to forget the bitterness of the past by forging ahead to build a united South Africa where all would have a sense of belonging irrespective of race and other interrelated dynamics. On the contrary, while Mandela encouraged dialogue with the apartheid rulers in his country with a view to healing the wounds of the past and reconciling the various groups in the country, Mugabe, on his part, simply continue to launch a relentless attack on the white community in his country. As far as he is concerned, Zimbabwe’s whites are nothing but impostors who must not be given a conducive space to operate.  Unfortunately, Mugabe’s onslaught was not only against the white society in his country as the various black opposition groups, opposed to his prolonged stronghold on power in the country, have had to contend with serious realities of his iron hold on power.
Therefore, while Mandela chose the path of national re-union in his country, Mugabe would have none of that in his ‘kingdom’. The result is that, as South Africa continues to thread along the course of relative peace and socio-political stability, national harmony, socio- economic and political solidity remain a mirage in Zimbabwe. Today, South Africa is, unarguably, a giant of Africa, in many respects. To deny the country’s leadership position in Africa is to deny the existence of air. It enjoys a relatively buoyant economy while its technological advancement is almost second to none on the continent. Regrettably, same cannot be said of neighbouring Zimbabwe where a large chunk of the populace has continued to live in abject poverty as all economic indicators keep pointing to a nation on the brink of socio-economic collapse, no thanks to Mugabe’s uncompromising stand against western creditors.
Perhaps, the most intriguing of all the dissimilarities between these two sons of Africa is their respective perception of power. In a continent where majority of the leaders do many despicable things to perpetuate themselves in power, it is instructive that Mandela was contented with ruling for just a five-year term in office as he relinquished power in 1999. His argument then was that South Africa, being a young democracy, needed a younger and dynamic leadership to steer her ship. That was how Thabo Mbeki succeeded him. This singular move has continued to earn Mandela much respect across the globe. And this is where most African leaders, Mugabe inclusive, get it wrong. It is rather sad that by perpetuating himself in power, Mugabe has rubbished every effort he made in the past towards fighting colonial overlords in his country. The assumption that no one else but him could steer the ship of the country, at 89 and after 33 years of being in the saddle, is nothing but a charade.
The tragedy of the African continent is that most of its leaders, especially those who have little or nothing to offer their people, have continued to toe the ignoble path of authoritarianism. Is it not funny that most of the leaders, whose stay in power have pauperized their people, would rather prefer to die in power rather than giving opportunities to others with fresh ideas to rule? For those who argue that Mugabe’s prolonged hold on power is as a result of the love and affection his people have for him, they need to be reminded that Mandela is equally held in high esteem by South Africans across racial divide. That he is well loved by his people is further reinforced by the several outpouring of unsolicited affection, emotion and care being showered on him as he continues his battle with the liver ailment that has made him bedridden for months.
A good leader should know when to quit. Perhaps, more importantly, a good leader must invest quality time and resources in developing new crop of leaders for the purpose of progress and stability. This is where Mandela differs remarkably from Mugabe. For the unusual feat of relinquishing power despite constitutional provision that allows him to run for another term of five years, Mandela is today a global icon while his country has continued to make healthy progress in all spheres. On the other hand, Mugabe, rightly or wrongly, is mostly viewed as a despot ruling over a country grappling with economic decline, political instability, international isolation among others numerous other challenges. At 89, Mugabe needs a break.  Zimbabwe deserves a new beginning.
Written by Tayo Ogunbiyi

Follow me on Twitter @FemiShine

Britain’s Tim Newman reveals a thing or two about oil, corruption in Nigeria [Must Read]

Britain’s Tim Newman reveals a thing or two about oil, corruption in Nigeria [Must Read]

Tim Newman is a British expatriate working in the Oil and Gas industry. He also has a blog on desertsun.co.uk. It makes for an interesting read, but be prepared to trek through the paragraphs. :D
Okay, so now I’ve got a post about Melbourne out of the way it’s time for me to say a little something about Nigeria.  With the exception of a week in October when I need to clear out my apartment, I’ve pretty much left Nigeria. My assignment there officially finished on 31st July, although I will have to return for business trips over the course of the next 3 years because the project I am on in Melbourne is for Nigeria.
Somebody once said that there is much to write about Russia, but when one tries you can never find the words to write the first line.  Nigeria is much the same, and indeed there are many similarities between the two countries. I have tried to describe Nigeria to people who have never been there, and failed on most occasions.  A colleague of mine stopped telling people back home about the place because he was getting a reputation as somewhat of a bullshitter, even though he didn’t exaggerate anything.  I was at a seminar in Paris some time ago and I was describing the working life in Nigeria to a group of Frenchmen.  One of them quipped that I was exaggerating and that “it couldn’t be that bad”, which prompted another Frenchman, sitting beside me, to nudge me in the ribs and remarked “wait until he does his Nigerian assignment”.  He was based in Port Harcourt.
Nigeria has a reputation, and I knew about it before I arrived.  Most of what I’d heard proved to be completely true.  Almost all of it, in fact.  To get a general picture of Nigeria, just read the news, and you’ll not be far wrong. It isn’t a place like Russia, the US, or France which surprise visitors when they see the contrast between what they’ve imagined (based on exposure to their tourists or foreign policy) and the individuals they encounter.  But beyond the general picture, there are some subtleties worth mentioning.
It’s first important to understand that degree is as important as form. Russians, faced with criticism of corruption in their country, often retort that corruption is found everywhere, even in the UK.  Which is true, but in many countries it does not infest every authority, office, and institute like it does in Russia.  It is the degree, or extent, of corruption which makes Russia different from the UK, not the form.  Understanding this concept is important in describing Nigeria.
There is no getting away from the fact that corruption in Nigeria has infested almost every aspect of life, work, and society.  I can’t think of a single area where I didn’t encounter a scam of some sort.  Some of them were pretty normal – policemen hassling motorists for bribes, for example – with others being less common elsewhere.  Filling brand named alcohol bottles with local hooch was widespread practice.  Not so bad in itself, but these were being sold through supposedly legitimate suppliers and turning up in established bars.  Others were unique to Nigeria.  I knew a guy in charge of oil shipments for a foreign oil company who received a call from somebody in the authorities saying he was not going to release the multi-million dollar cargo until somebody had bought his cousin $10 worth of phone credit.  My acquaintance found himself going to the shop, buying a phone card, and handing it over to some scruffy bloke who showed up at his office in order to allow his crude oil out of the country.
The corruption, theft, and graft can take many forms: falsifying a CV (I don’t mean enhancing, I mean pretending you’re a Lead Piping Engineer of 12 years experience when actually, until yesterday, you were a fisherman); selling positions in a company; stealing diesel from the storage tanks you’re paid to protect; issuance of false material certificates; impersonating an immigration officer to access an office, from which you then tap up the people within to fund your latest venture; selling land which isn’t yours; deliberately running down the country’s refining capacity in order to partake in the lucrative import of fuels; falsifying delivery notes of said refined fuels in order to receive greater government subsidies; deliberately restricting the country’s power generation capacity in order to benefit from the importation of generators (which must be run on imported fuel); theft of half-eaten sandwiches and opened drink containers from the office fridge; tinkering with fuel gauges at petrol stations to sell customers short; conspiring with company drivers to issue false receipts indicating more fuel was supplied than actually was; supplying counterfeit safety equipment; falsifying certificates related to professional competence (e.g. rope access work); paying employees less than stipulated in their contract (or not at all); cloning satellite TV cards, meaning the legitimate user gets their service cut off when the other card is in use (the cards are cloned by the same people who issue the genuine cards); the list is literally endless. There is no beginning or end to corruption in Nigeria, it is a permanent fixture.
Nepotism is rife: family members are employed and promoted before anyone else.  Outright theft is rife: from a pen lying on a desk, to billions from the state coffers. Dishonesty is rife: from the state governors to the street urchin, lying to enrich yourself is the norm.  You name the scam, it is being done in Nigeria.  Eventually, nothing surprises you. As I said before, you’ll find such practices everywhere, but to nowhere near the extent found in Nigeria.
Apparently it wasn’t always like this.  There was a time, probably from around the 1970s to 1990s, when Nigeria had a reasonably diverse economy. Besides the oil and gas, they had agriculture, manufacturing and assembly (Peugeot set up an assembly plant in Nigeria in the mid-1970s), brewing (there is a both a Guinness and a Heineken brewery), refining, construction, and pharmaceuticals.  Some of these survive today.  There were decent universities, and students wishing to graduate had to apply themselves. Security wasn’t much of a concern to the average citizen. I don’t know the details, but at some point in the 1990s one of the military dictators decided to flood the place with oil money in order to buy support.
This had the effect of drowning every other form of enterprise and ensuring that oil and gas was the only game in town.  This is bad in itself, but by no means unique to Nigeria.  What was worse is that this quickly instilled a mentality across Nigeria that there was a lot of money up for grabs, and getting your hands on it wasn’t in any way related to honest efforts or applying yourself to something constructive.  Nigeria became a place where if you’re not getting your hands on some of the oil money, either directly or indirectly, then you’re going nowhere.  With oil money washing over the whole country like a tidal wave, soon everyone was trying to secure their own piece of the action, using fair means or foul.  Imagine throwing a huge box of sweets into a playgroup shouting “Grab what you can!”, and the chaos that ensues will be similar to what happened to Nigeria on a national scale.
At least, this is what I gather happened – I may be wrong – but for sure, the current situation reflects what I’ve described.  The economy is funded almost exclusively from oil and gas revenues, and everything else is merely feeding off that.  The new hotels in Lagos, the growth of capital city of Abuja, the importation of luxury goods, the Audi and Porsche dealerships, the sky-rocketing real estate prices, the money earmarked for infrastructure projects, the increase in flight passengers, all of it is directly or indirectly linked to the oil money.  Okay, maybe there is some hyperbole in there.  Agriculture still makes up the lion’s share of GDP, and the services sector is booming.  Advertising is a big industry in Lagos, although the most common thing you see advertised is advertising space.  But nobody is going to get anywhere herding cattle, picking pineapples, or working in a sawmill. Even the owners won’t be earning that much, not if that’s their only income. There is very little opportunity to get rich, or even advance, unless you are somehow connected to the supply of oil money.
One of the results of this national free-for-all is the formation of groups, societies, associations, and unions whose raison d’ĂȘtre is to obtain as much money and benefits for their members as possible.  This isn’t much different from Europe in respect of trade unions, but groups and subgroups form at micro-levels with sometimes comical precision.  The Lagos Association of Road Maintenance Engineers, Roundabout and Lay-by Division, 4th Department.  The Nigerian Association of Water Truck Drivers, Lagos Chapter.  Membership of one or more of these associations is both essential and compulsory: essential because an individual would get trampled very quickly in the general melee of Nigeria, and compulsory in the sense that you have almost no chance of being allowed to quietly ply your trade without paying dues to some group or other. It’s not clear what the legal standing of a lot of these groups is, but it’s often hard to tell how they differ from a standard extortion racket.  One of the most powerful unions in Lagos, the transport union, used to shake down any okada (motorcycle taxi) driver passing through their checkpoints, claiming the money was used “to protect them from the police”.
I doubt the money was used in such a manner, but people do need protection from the police in Lagos.  Not that the okada drivers had any say in the matter: membership was automatic, and the union muscle would beat any non-compliant driver or confiscate his vehicle.  The power of the oil and gas workers unions is legendary, ensuring their members enjoy pay and benefits which are the highest of any local staff in the world, and often outstrip those of the expatriates.
This in itself might not be so damaging, but ubiquitous to all competing factions is a rapacity the likes of which I doubt can be found anywhere else on such a scale.  There is a culture so prevalent that it is a defining characteristic of Nigeria whereby no amount is ever enough, and no sum too small to be pilfered.  There comes a point in the career of most people who have gotten rich, either legitimately or otherwise, where they stop chasing the small stuff and are only interested in adding to their pile if the increase will be substantial.  The police chief of a sizable Thai resort town has his fingers in many pies, but he’s not interested in shaking down street vendors.  His minions might in order to supplement their salaries, but generally once the boss has his cut of most of the action, he’s not interested in sweeping up every last baht.  As a result, commerce can continue relatively unmolested.  The same is roughly true amongst the Sheikhs of the Middle East.  Bung the Crown Prince a few million for the contract, and he’ll allow the project activities to go ahead pretty freely.  He’s not interested in making an extra $10k by insisting you hire his brother’s lorry fleet to transport the gravel.  Such restraint may also be practical: the dodgy official in the UK isn’t going to be interested taking pennies if he risks getting fired or going to jail, he’ll have a minimum price he’ll work for.
But Nigeria has the same problem I saw in Russia: an almost pathological insistence of securing for yourself 100% of everything that is available, and not a kopek or kobo less.  I have observed before that Russians would rather have 100% of nothing than 50% of something, and the same is true – but on a far greater scale – in Nigeria.  The inequality in Nigeria is horrific.  The middle-classes are tiny, those who are neither stinking rich nor mired in poverty.  As it happens, most of the Nigerians I worked with fell into this category: lucky enough to have well-paying jobs, but not ordering Porsche Cayennes for each family member.  Statistically, almost all Nigerians are dirt poor.  A very few are stinking rich.  Again, a manageable problem in itself, but the rich haven’t finished yet.  Indeed, they’re only just getting started.  I spoke to a couple of Angolans in a seminar once, and they said that although their ruling classes had enriched themselves immeasurably, they were at least spending some money on the country, and improvements were noticeable.  The reason the Russians accept with a shrug the siloviki helping themselves to millions is because they (rightly) feel this is inevitable and – more importantly – life is actually improving in Russia and has been doing so since they came to power.  Sure, it’s a slow improvement and life is still hard, but they are at least moving in the right direction (for how long is a discussion for another post).  There have been improvements in infrastructure in Russia, the new Sheremetovo airport to name one example.
By contrast – and I challenge any Nigerian reading this to disagree – there have been no discernible improvements in Nigeria in the past decade (outside of Abuja, where all the politicians happen to live).  The infrastructure is crumbling, electricity shortages abound, Lagos airport is a national disgrace, project after project gets sanctioned but rarely started, never mind completed, before the funds disappear, and unemployment is rocketing.  I heard somewhere that 2m people are added to the workforce every year in Nigeria.  To do what, exactly?  There are no jobs.  One source of employment for young men was to drive okadas, until they abruptly got banned in Lagos last year.  The roads are now much better, but you now have tens of thousands of young men with no source of income and no hope for a job.  Since the ban came into effect, crime – robberies, car-jackings, burglaries – have increased by an order of magnitude, even in the rich neighbourhoods of Lagos previously thought to be safe.  It’s not difficult to see why.
Meanwhile, Nigerian senators – of whom there are 109 – enjoy an official package worth $1.5m per year, which they recently requested to be increased to $2.2m per year.  By contrast, the US President gets an annual salary of $400k.  Given the unofficial incomes of a Nigerian senator through graft and backhanders is probably 3-5 times that, we can probably estimate most of these guys are taking home something in the order of $4-5m each year.  Yet they put in for a 46% increase, in a country where 45% of the population lives beneath the poverty line.  This is hardly surprising for a group of politicians, and far from unique to Nigeria.  The problem is, this behaviour is repeated through every strata of society from the very top of the government to the lowest street urchin: whatever is there, I want all of it; and I want more.  I saw wealthy middle-class Nigerians move to ensure drivers did not enjoy a fringe benefit worth about $10 per week.  If you threatened to report a low-level official for corruption, he would usually tremble with fear of his boss finding out: not because his boss shuns corruption, but because he will want to know why the proceeds of this particular scam haven’t been coming to him.  We already had the example of a multi-million dollar oil cargo being held up until somebody’s relative received a kick-back worth $10. If any amount of new money arrives in the economy – due to a new oil project, for example – those who are already wealthy, via their societies, organisations, unions, and political connections will ensure 100% of that new money will go to them.  Insofar as sharing and dividing the spoils goes, it is between groups who are already of the same wealth.  If any trickles down to the next layer, it is almost by accident, and to be corrected at the first opportunity.
I came to the conclusion about 2 years into my assignment that Nigeria is probably the only genuinely classless society I have seen.  Class is very different from wealth.  Upper class people can be dirt poor (bankrupt dukes) and lower class people can be fabulously rich (Russian oligarchs).  Class is about behaviour and attitudes, not wealth (a point made very well in Kate Fox’s excellent book Watching the English).  And insofar as behaviour goes, I didn’t see a shred of difference between the top politicians, down through the officials in the national authorities, through the middle class professionals, through the service providers, right down to the area boys. The behaviour was identical across all strata: I want more money, and I will do absolutely anything to get it.  If you were to replace the politicians – let’s say our 109 senators from before – with 109 random people from the Nigerian citizenry, you would get no change in behaviour.  You could repeat the experiment a thousand times, and you would get no change.  There is no ruling class in Nigeria, there is just a set of rulers.  Where any change is expected to come from I don’t know.
I believe one of the root causes is the bizarre situation where being dishonest is not socially frowned upon.  Not really, anyway.  If somebody is caught with his hand in the till, he is not shunned by his peers.  The whole situation is treated with utter indifference, and sometimes admiration (if the scam is particularly imaginative).  Societal pressure plays an enormous role in shaping the behaviour of a population, probably more so than the brute force of the law, and whilst all Nigerians complain about the crime and dishonesty so prevalent in their country (it affects them far more than the expats), they remain utterly silent when a perpetrator is identified from within their peer group.  At best, you’ll get a shrug and a statement to the effect of “that’s just how it is”.  If you’re a Nigerian caught running a scam against your employer, your colleagues aren’t going to think any less of you.
In fact, the only behaviour I managed to identify which would cause a Nigerian to be shunned by his peers and made an outcast, is if he decided he wasn’t a believer and therefore wasn’t going to be showing up in church (or mosque) any more.  I don’t think I met a single Nigerian who didn’t attend either church or mosque, and religion plays an enormous – possibly the key – role in Nigerian society.  I’m not going to go into this topic, mainly because I’m not reflexively anti-religion, but I do suspect that a lot of Nigerians justify unsavoury behaviour during the week by going to church on Sunday and washing themselves of sin.  In this respect, the place is very similar to the Gulf States.
Now a reminder of what I said at the beginning of this post.  Degree matters. You will find every type of individual in Nigeria, including the kind, funny, generous, honest, and everything else that is good in a person.  You’ll find lots of them too.  I had the pleasure of working with some great individuals, who were genuinely skilled, could apply themselves, held positions on merit, and were extremely well-mannered and respectful.  The team of Nigerians I managed was one of the nicest bunch of people you’d ever hope to meet, and easy to manage as well.  (My theory is that engineers are often like this: if you’re bone-idle and want to earn money dishonestly, there are easier things to do than an engineering degree.)  The problem these decent people have is that they are vastly outnumbered by those who are not.  For every Nigerian who is honest, well-mannered, and diligent you’ll find a hundred whose only goal is to get some money whilst expending the minimum amount of effort possible.  If they can use personal connections, lies, or trickery in lieu of learning a useful skill and applying it, they’ll take that option every time. It’s a numbers thing: if 50% of Nigerians were more like 10% of them, the country would be okay.  And that’s the fundamental problem of Nigeria summed up in one sentence: way too many dickheads.
When I was bored in our morning meetings – which was on most days – I would canvas my team’s opinion on certain things, often the state of the country. They were by and large in despair.  Nigerians are famously optimistic, but this is often through desperation.  Nowhere was this better demonstrated than on the occasion when a bank put a Christmas tree up on a roundabout with “presents” at the bottom, and the next morning all the presents had been ripped open.  If somebody thinks a box under a tree on a roundabout contains an X-Box, then you’ve gone way beyond optimism and into desperation or delusion.
My lads were a happy enough bunch – as Nigerians usually are – but had no hope of things getting better any time soon.  I ventured the suggestion that a return to military dictatorship might be on the cards, and I got no objection.  One of them explained that during the times of military dictatorship, it was only a handful of people at the top creaming off money. Now, with democracy, it’s tens of thousands.  And during the military dictatorship, crime was much lower, and few had concerns about personal security.  Democracy is all well and good, but I’ve often said that it is a means to an end, not an end in itself.  I am sure the world will howl with outrage and impose sanctions should Nigeria undergo another military coup, but few can deny that democracy is failing to deliver peace, prosperity, and basic services to Nigeria.  I remain far from convinced that many Nigerians would not welcome such an event.
So what did I think of my time in Nigeria?  In truth, I didn’t like it, but not for the reasons you might think.  The worst thing, by far, was not being able to go anywhere and do anything at the weekends.  The security situation did not allow us to travel beyond a very restricted area of Lagos, and even if we could there wasn’t much to do.  I like walking about with a camera, camping, exploring by going to a town and drinking lots, skiing, driving around, visiting people, riding a bike, and hill walking.  There was no scope to do any of that in Lagos, for reasons usually related to security.  That meant for weekend after weekend after weekend there was nothing to do but watch sports on TV, go to the gym, and lie by the pool.  Those with families did whatever families do; the single guys went to bars and clubs and picked up Nigerians girls; guys like me – married, single status – didn’t do very much at all.  I used the time well, learned French, read countless books, improved on the guitar, and got fit.  Nigeria has excellent weather, and even better pineapples, but I would much rather have spent my time doing something else in another place.
Those restrictions were by far the worst aspect of my Nigerian assignment. Insofar as the daily life in Lagos went, with all its challenges, that was manageable.  You get used to anything eventually, and at some point I was able to shrug off almost everything Nigeria had to throw at me.  I never quite got used to the traffic, so used to plan my day to avoid the worst of it.  Dealing with the Nigerians took some getting used to, a process that was eased considerably when I figured out they weren’t the most difficult factor to consider.  There’s rarely any point in getting upset about locals anywhere, because they are the raw material you have to work with.  If you go to Nigeria, you will have to work with Nigerians, so deal with it.  Some aspects of it were frustrating no doubt, but what can I do?  Nothing.
What infuriated me more was that some of the expats I encountered were hopelessly unqualified and too inexperienced to be there.  Nigeria is a difficult place to attract talent to, and as such – like a lot of oil towns worldwide – those who end up coming are usually way below the standard that should be demanded.  Unbelievably, incompetence and stupidity seem to be imported at great expense into Nigeria.  This annoyed me considerably, as it did when I encountered a similar state of affairs in Sakhalin.  If you are going to come into somebody else’s country on the basis that you have skills they don’t, you’d better make damned sure you have those skills and they are on full view.  If I had a quid for every time I’ve seen somebody fail this basic test in the oil business, I could retire and bump yachts in Monaco with Roman Abramovich.  I’m pretty sure I upset a few people in Nigeria, and maybe there were a few who didn’t want me there, but nobody could accuse me of not adding value.  Nobody could point the finger at me and ask “Why, exactly, do we keep this guy?”  If nobody else, the lads in my team didn’t mind me.
I gave them direction, support, and cover and got somewhere close to the best out of them.  What infuriated me more than anything was coming across a Nigerian with a reputation for being useless, and on further investigation learning that they’d never been given a job description, never been given any meaningful direction, had no understanding of the context of their job in the department or the department in the company, and had just been plonked at a desk and expected to do something.  I came across this far more than I should have, and it pissed me off.  Fair enough, if somebody is useless then call them useless; but first you have to give them every opportunity to succeed, and only then can you call them useless if they don’t perform.  Hey, you could even call this practice management!  There was a serious lack of it in Nigeria.  How many half-decent Nigerians are shoved in the corner of an office and written off as useless in this manner I don’t know, but I’ll bet it’s a lot, and it does the place a serious disservice.
As final proof that I didn’t dislike the place that much, I signed up to another 3 years of involvement when I had the opportunity to get out away from Nigeria for good.  I learned some things during my assignment in Lagos, and that knowledge is useful.  I know Nigeria, and what it’s like to work with Nigerian companies and Nigerian people on a Nigerian project.  A lot of people don’t.  I’m used to it, it doesn’t hold any mystery or reason for fear as it did when I first arrived almost 3 years ago.
I’ll be back there at various points in the future, but honestly I hope I don’t have to live there permanently again for the reasons I stated.  I don’t consider it 3 years wasted – far from it – and I didn’t hate it.  There were moments, plenty of them, where I positively enjoyed it.  And as assignments to Nigeria go, that’s not too bad

To Read More & Follow the writer, check out the blog: http://www.desertsun.co.uk/blog/?p=1734

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Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The Madness called Lagos


I was sent this article via blackberry messenger this morning and i couldn't stop myself from laughing hysterically all through , the writer hits the nail on the head on issues bothering many Lagosians. Kudos for this wonderful write up. Dig right in and enjoy 

The Madness called Lagos

A lot of people have been distressed by the recent developments in Lagos State. They are not alone. The news of the deportation of some Nigerians from Lagos hit me like a train. How can one be an alien in his country? Such a question can only be answered by the gods of the state. On reading some of the news excerpts, I reckoned that some of these deportees were returning from their place of work. Some of these people are those selling their goods in the Lagos traffic that has become our skin. I thought to myself, what if I was arrested like these unfortunate people? I don’t possess a birth certificate that will show that I’m a bonafide Lagosian as I lost that in an inferno some years ago neither do I possess a national identity card that will show that I’m a Lagosian. I might have as well been deported to Kano state because I can pull off a Hausa look comfortably.
A popular lingo within the older generation of Lagos residents, “Were lo le gbe Eko”, which means “only the mad can survive in Lagos” in loose terms, has become the status quo in the state. So many madness have been exhibited from the state government to the very last citizen. Aren’t we tired of the touts? It is the same government, who generates debatably the highest internal revenue that will toll a public road. Some might argue that it was a public private partnership, but it should be understood that in a well civilized environment, a consensus is meant to be reached by the very people that would  ply the road by an agreement as to whether they want a tarred road which will be tolled or not. Where are the taxes going to? A large chunk of money is allocated to the state because of its status as one of the most densely populated states in the country. Where is this money going to?
I can remember the hypocrisy exhibited by the governor when he lent his voice in the sit-at-home strike spearheaded by Occupy Nigeria to force the hands of the federal government to reduce the hiked pump price of pms. I can also remember how he vehemently voiced out his disagreement with the move of the federal government to use the military to dismember the crowd from gathering at the appointed venues for the protests. This same governor went ahead to use the same military to prevent people from staging a peaceful demonstration lending their voices against the erection of Lekki toll gates. Who is fooling whom?
In continuance of the aforementioned argument, I went to pay a visit to my granny during the Moslem holidays and I felt really bad for my car. The hinter-roads are such in a dilapidated state that one will be forgiven when one thinks this is a post-apocalyptic area. “Fashola is working” some of his proponents will be quick to point at. Do you get applauded for eating? This government has only used pigheaded style of government to get away with things. Some will further point to the fact that he being a lawyer is what the state needs. I beg to differ. His style of administration is close to an Emperor’s where “take it or leave it” moves have been taken so many times by the administration.
During the campaign for 2011 election, AC Party shared helmets to bikers popularly known as Okada riders to serve as protection as they ride on the road. This was used as an avenue to solicit for their votes during the election. Bang! Few months after the election, the Okadas were banned from “some” public roads. Be sure to have the law enforcers to seize this opportunity to inflict pains. Lagos state residents were turned to Israelites, walking to their various destinations. I recall having to walk miles after work from the bus-stop to my house. During this period I usually find myself talking to myself. I couldn’t and can’t still explain this occurrence. When I couldn’t take it any longer, I sent a well constructed text message to the PRO of the Police Force reiterating the fact that bikes were allowed in the hinter-areas of the state. Few days later, the bikers were allowed to ply the routes leading to my house. Why not inform these bikers of the ban during your campaign if there is any iota of truth in you? Why gain their votes then few days after take away their means of livelihood? However, bikes with 200CC upwards are allowed to ply the roads. Is this a better way to circumvent the imploding number of bikers in the state? What if the number of the allowed bikes increases? What other easier way to die.
We are antagonistic beings and reasoning with humans has to be the hardest thing to accomplish. However, that doesn’t mean iron fists should be used on the people who humanely voted you in democratically. A very good example will be the case with the trucks transporting various commodities to and from the state. Some years back, the truck drivers had an unwritten agreement to ply the public roads at appointed times. This administration came up with idea of giving a window shelf for their movements which didn’t sit well with these drivers. They flood the roads at anytime of the day contributing to the already dire and life killing heavy traffic on Lagos roads. I spend nothing less than three hours from my place of work to my house which by the time I get home; I’m fully spent from just sitting in the vehicle seeing as the commuters move slowly like a very long centipede. This problem would have simply been avoided if there was a round table discussion. It has gotten so bad that once a truck breaks down on the highway, the driver will leave it for LASTMA to deal with.
One now drives with the fear that one will be arrested by one of the road and traffic law enforcement agencies. There are so many of such posses that it is very confusing to know what and which each stands for. If you have ever been stopped by VIO, you’ll understand this. There is a joke by a popular comedian that Lagos state has exhausted all the color codes that they now use Ankara prints to signify and distinguish the new and upcoming law enforcers.
What confirmed the madness of Lagos has to be the two news that drew the final straw. One being that Lagosians, in the next few years, will not be allowed to bore holes to get water for domestic use with no alternative. I started wondering, when the news got to me, that are we in a Military dispensation where the welfare and compassion of the populace means nothing to the government? The water board I grew up knowing has become defunct and it is six feet under the ground. How does the state government intend meeting the water needs of about 20 million people in the state overnight? And the second being that Lagosians are no longer allowed to spread clothes on the fences and verandas of their houses which the state didn’t build for them. I find this very funny that I can’t seem to understand why and how this came up.
For what it’s worth, if he really wants to reduce the nuisance in Lagos, he should return the Agberos back to Oyo state where they came from. Let it be known that I don’t intend painting this administration in black, I only want to bring things to perspective. There are two sides to a coin, I have only dealt with one side that is facing me; blinding me with its shiny surface. Think about it. If it isn’t madness, why toll a public road. If it isn’t madness, why make life hard life to the very people that voted you in democratically. If it isn’t madness, why deport people in their country of origin. In fact, Lagos is mad.
credits: http://thespoutsofwinsala.wordpress.com/

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Are You A Pervert?....Find out now

                                   
  Are You A Pervert?


You have a problem with abnormal sexual desires? The majority of people experience problems with living out their sexuality for many different reasons. The term "perversion" is very subjective and has to be seen in the proper cultural context. Some people even believe they are perverts, when they are in fact totally healthy.
Since there are many different reasons for, and different kinds of perversions, it is not easy to provide a simple "How-To". The best advice is to get professional help.

EditWhat is perversion?

Psychologists use the term "perversion" for sexual desires and related patterns of acting, where those patterns heavily diverge from what most people see as normal. This means mostly, that the person doesn't aim at having relationships, but only looks for stimuli, which target the satisfaction of sexual impulses. Often the goal isn't sexual intercourse, but different activities. People, who feel attracted to children, animals or objects, are considered to be perverse. There are different kinds of perversions, for example
  • Exhibitionism (exposure of parts of the body to another person)
  • Fetishism (sexual arousal brought on by objects, situations or body parts not conventionally viewed as being sexual in nature)
  • Masochism (the tendency to derive pleasure, esp. sexual gratification, from one's own pain or humiliation)
  • Necrophilism (Sex with dead bodies)
  • Pedophilia (sexual attraction to children)
  • Sadism (Hurting and discriminating others)
  • Zoophilia (Sex with animals)
  • Voyeurism (Watching others having sex)
  • Coprophilia (Excrements)

It is healthy to have such fantasies, even to live some of them, unless they develop a strong pull to the point, where normal sexuality does not interest/satisfy you anymore (and of course, when people get harmed).

EditCauses of perversion

Becoming a pervert can be caused by different reasons, the most prominent being
  • supression of emotions,
  • negation of the overall need for sexuality,
  • inaccurate self-image,
  • neurological malfunctions (which are rare),
  • social and cultural discrepancies,
Being perverse is usually a matter of habit. You start with finding out, that you like a certain thing and following the impulse. By repeating the pattern you get used to it until it is a normality to you, and all of a sudden you realize, that you are no longer within the main stream.
There are two main forms, in which perversion may afflict you: It can just extend your spectrum of enjoyment, or it narrows it down. The latter is to be considered a problem.

EditAm I a pervert?

You are suffering a serious condition when your desires are causing problems in the real world. These may be
  • Being ashamed of what you want,
  • you harm yourself,
  • others feel offended,
  • others are harmed,
  • you tend towards illegal things,
  • the desires interrupt your life (E.g. you dare not to engage in a relationship),
  • and more.

EditSteps

  1. 1
    Check your condition, by asking yourself: How much is your perversion preventing you from living a good life? Do people get hurt? Is the "perversion" really causing problems?


  2. 2
    Write down a list, how and when your perversion influences your life.


  3. 3
    Write a small text, where you explain to yourself, how getting rid of your perversion would change your life, in detail.


  4. 4
    Admit to yourself that you are having troubles.


  5. 5
    Decide that you want to be less of a pervert.


  6. 6
    Prevent new perverted images and ideas from entering your head. Stay away from everything that increases your lust in that particular area.


  7. 7
    Learn to watch yourself. Get to be aware of the impulse before you react on it. Meditation helps a lot for achieving this.


  8. 8
    Practice to control yourself, not only in the area of your perversion, but in general.


  9. 9
    Find rituals for redirecting the impulse to something better.


  10. 10
    Instead of staring at her breasts, focus on her eyes and on what she has to say. If you catch yourself doing it, don't worry, but look into her eyes again. Recognize that your eyes are naturally drawn to look over another person's body, and that it is an instinct which will always be there.


  11. 11
    Get used to "normal" practices again, by having "normal sex" increasingly more often.


  12. 12
    When you sense perverted thoughts seizing you, immediately get yourself away.Take a shower, do physical exercise, clean your room, meet a friend.


  13. 13
    Don't look at pornography if your problem is about having too much sexual thoughts.


  14. 14
    Use a parental control tool from preventing you "unintentionally" opening porn web sites. If you have to unlock that software, this buys you some seconds to think again and direct the impulse somewhere else.


  15. 15
    Keep it up. Like with any addiction, the longer you go without doing it, the easier it will be to be less of a pervert.



EditTips

  • Limiting the sexual images already in your head is of little value if you let your imagination run free.
  • Intense thoughts tend to re-affirm themselves, when you allow them to fill your mind. Try to keep perverted thoughts and images out of your mind, without creating too much nor too little pressure, do small steps. Avoid things that affirmate your perversion, such as porn, certain people. Try to observe, what is triggering intensive unwanted thoughts and try to avoid the triggers.
  • Get help. Confide in a friend or family member. They can help you along your journey and make it easier. Contact supporting groups and/or professionals. If you're uncertain, any doctor can help you with further hints.
  • Think of your mind like a swimming pool, and the perverted images as algae. Once you get something disgusting into a pool, it takes a long time to get it out. but if you control the influx, and stop the algae that's already in the pool from reproducing, you can eventually cleanse your mind.
  • Trying to hide your perversion will only increase pressure. You need a way to compensate.Find someone, you can talk to about it. It might be a bad idea to talk to persons with similar interests, as you would probably confirm yourself instead of making it better. Talk to someone, who wouldn't initially understand your perversion, to give you a chance for deeper reflection.
  • Do not get a boyfriend or girlfriend, unless you are able to talk about your perversion or find a healthy way to live (with) it.
  • If you are married, you should really do something about your perversion. Try to find a way to talk about the situation with your partner. Professional assistance can help you with learning to overcome the fear of destroying your marriage.
Culled from http://www.wikihow.com/Be-Less-Perverted

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