Friday, January 27, 2012

What Mr President should do

The president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, a...
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I have always felt Goodluck Ebele Jonathan might be the wrong sort of president for Nigeria.

The peculiarities of the Nigerian experience, I felt, are too diverse and complex to be left in the care of a man whose past experiences show that he lacks the kind of strong will leadership of a country like Nigeria so clearly needs.

My misgiving about the man and his antecedents was shared by many, but our numbers were not enough to keep him from winning a largely free and fair election.

Those misgivings of mine have proven to be justified, as he seems not to realise the enormous power he wields as president of a regional super power. He has tried to act, but only succeeds in appearing more helpless to stop Nigeria’s gradual slide to anarchy.

Truth be told, President Jonathan did not cause much of the problem he is saddled with now. It has been said that the man means well for the country and has himself said it is his desire to leave the country better than he met it. He has even, a first for Nigeria, declared that he will not run for a second term.

Perhaps the man may go on to become successful as a president all the same; perhaps his self-professed good intentions will become clear to Nigerians. While all that reside in the realm of speculation, what is clear is that Nigerians are largely unhappy with their president.

Even those who still hang on to the notion of him being a messiah with a divine mandate to rescue Nigeria feel Goodluck Jonathan is missing in action, though they believe his failure for effective leadership stems from the fact that he had surrounded himself with the wrong sort of people.

On Friday, January 20, 2012, Boko Haram fighters overran Kano and held the ancient city to ransom for hours on end. They killed hundreds, destroyed properties, threw the populace into a heightened state of panic and disappeared.

The attack was a new angle to the ever-shifting Boko Haram mode of operation, a new vista of the reach and bloodlust of a sect whose insurgency have been said to have started as a localised conflict between them and allegedly heavy-handed police officers.

While it would not be right to blame the president for the acts of a sect that has defied coherent definition and who have rebuffed every call for dialogue, it is right to blame him for not doing enough to safeguard Nigerians within the borders of a country that is the regional power broker.

Why him? Some may ask.

Well, because he is the president and the buck stops smack on his extra-large desk.

So far, Jonathan’s media managers have made a very big mess of the simple job of reading the mood of the nation and making sure the president understands it and articulates the right kind of response. Perhaps they misunderstand the issues themselves or are still caught up in that stale system of governance that underestimates the intelligence quotient of the average Nigerian.

Examples of these gaffes abound, whether we look at the erstwhile-celebrated presidential spokesperson Reuben Abati’s insult in the face of the Kano carnage (“seven people dead” he said, when the body count is in hundreds) or the attempt by Information Minister Labaran Maku and co to sell the fuel subsidy bullshit to Nigerians.

I understand what Goodluck Jonathan is facing, maybe just a little but that should suffice here. I know how difficult it is for one to function effectively as a leader when people who feel they are your superior intellectually and those who may have played big roles in ensuring your electoral victory surround you. It is worse when the wishes of those “powers” differ from yours and when hurting them may spell more trouble than you can handle.

The president needs to understand that no matter the route he took to get to where he is now, no matter the role played by any individual, he is there and that is the status quo. The nature of that position places him above everyone else, as he is the lord of the land until the next election. He wields enormous powers; he is in charge and should be seen to be thus. The only people he needs to answer to are the Nigerian people.

Going forward, the president needs to take more proactive measures, seek advice beyond the traditional channels.

He needs to, as a matter of urgency, suspend the Minister for Petroleum and ensure investigations into that rotten-through sector, which remains the mainstay of the Nigerian economy and the centre of corruption.

He needs to start a process that will overhaul the nation’s security apparatus, moving them from job creation agencies to the professional bodies they should rightfully be. Besides there are too many uniforms in Nigeria, all doing the very same thing.

Bottom-line, Nigeria is in dire need of a comprehensive overhaul, and Goodluck Jonathan should be man enough to begin the process. Let us for the first time in its history see Nigeria work right.

This is a version of my article on Jonathan's failings as a leader published by Daily Times Nigeria here
For the raw, uncut and lengthier version, go here

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mr Goodluck; please be the President!

The president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, a...
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I strongly believe that Jonathan's political foes and friends have a hand in what is currently happening across the country. I also believe that the president is making the job of those fighting against his government very easy. Checkout the fuel subsidy debate, where he lost the chance to get Nigerians fully behind him and battle graft to a standstill. Something that had he done, even if only that, would have made him one of the best presidents Nigeria ever had. 

Check out the BH rubbish; where he danced to the tunes of technocrats who kept lying to him that the Nigerian security agencies, already compromised by years of unchecked corruption, can effectively handle the insurgency their heavy-handed approach caused in the first place.

While I condole with the families of the hundreds of Nigerians sent to an early grave by Boko Haram and the Police, I say we do not forget where all these evil stem from: Bad leadership, corruption, poverty and a security force that is seen first as a job creation unit for jobless Nigerians, and where tribe and region plays an important role in ensuring one is recruited.

Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has to be a Nigerian president. He has to stand firm and exude confidence. He needs to wake up to his real responsibility. I don't believe an OBJ or a Buhari would be in this mess now. GEJ appears to respect people he thinks are better than him too much. One time he was differing to Adebayo, another time it was Obama, then Dangote, etc. He needs to realise that he is the PRESIDENT, THE NUMBER ONE. Every other Nigerian, no matter how rich or powerful, is under him and should be subject to his command. He needs to realise that he actually has the power and begin to use it sensibly.

These thoughts are from my facebook post

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Fashola's speech, as the army invaded Lagos

English: Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, at t...
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A full excerpt of the speech as delivered by Babatunde Raji Fashola on military occupation of Lagos state:

Dear Lagosians,

For the past few days, I have monitored the developments related to the public protest against the increase in the pump price of petrol. 

During that period, I have at the invitation of my colleagues in the Governor’s Forum responded to an invitation from the Presidency.

My role since last Monday till date has been to find a ground of compromise that stabilizes the polity, protects our democracy and prevent any loss of lives.

Inspite of these efforts, we were not wholly successful in preventing the loss of the life of a young Nigerian, AdemolaAderinto who was sadly shot. 

I am truly saddened by that ugly development. While I condole with his family, I pledge the commitment of our Government to bring the alleged perpetrator to justice.

I have decided to address you today in view of the very disquieting developments that occurred overnight especially the deployment of soldiers across Lagos.

I have the highest respect for members of our military, especially because they have made a contract with all of us that they will willingly lay down their lives whenever it becomes necessary to do so, in order to protect us.

This covenant is instructive, because soldiers did not sign up to stop us from expressing our grievance about things that we are displeased about.

It is not disputable that the citizens who have gathered in several parts of Lagos like Falomo, Ikorodu and Ojota to mention a few have largely conducted themselves peacefully, singing and dancing while they expressed their displeasure at the way that we have taken decisions that affect them.

That in my view should not offend those of us in Government. The majority of these people who represent diverse interests have not broken any law. If they have, it is my opinion that in a constitutional democracy, it is the police that hasthe responsibility for restoring law and order if civil protests threatens the breach of the peace.

This is not justification for sending out soldiers to a gathering of unarmed citizens. Every one of us, or at least majority of us who hold public office danced and sang before these same people when we were seeking their votes.

Why should we feel irritated when they sing and dance in protest against what we have done?

For me this is not a matter for the military. The sooner we rethink and rescind this decision the better and stronger our democracy will be.

If anything, this is a most welcome transformation of our democracy in the sense that it provokes a discussion of economic policies and this inevitably may result in political debate.

I therefore urge the reconsideration of the decision to deploy soldiers and implore the President and Commander-in-Chief to direct their withdrawal from our streets, I must also emphasize that the rights of free speech and protest is not absolute. They impose the duty not to break the law, breach the peace, endanger human life or destroy property whether public or private.

They also impose the duty to respect the rights of others not to support our protest and indeed to support what we oppose. At the end of the day, it is a contest of ideas in which the most persuasive will get the endorsement of the majority of the people we serve.

I am convinced that our democracy is mature enough to accommodate this. We must do our best to ensure that it does.

God bless you all.

BabatundeRajiFashola, SAN
Governor of Lagos State 

Monday, January 16, 2012

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Friday, January 13, 2012

The Inheritors (#occupy Nigeria)

They walk in death's shadow
The evil they should've feared
live within their hearts
Bidding them heed darkness residing inside

The gun is their strength
Through it our is obeisance is obtained
As they rampage through this valley
Before them we stand

Trembling hearts caught
In-between chattering dental
Bladder loosened by fright
Body taut in heartless readiness
waiting for hot lead to strike

Do they not laugh?
Teeth sparkling ever thus
Behind tinted glasses they slyly cough
As hunger pushes us towards them
in servitude

They know not the gods' name
Therefore, beseech them in vain
They hearken only to their hate
That hunger that knows no sate
Their god is money

We know their oppression
Is only for this while
We hoped for death's call
Its call whispered song
For them, not us

Alas, we hoped in vain for
Fate holds back our saving rain
They knew death's name' thus
Planned all along to cheat him
did they

When their progeny return
from across the sea where they're groomed
Away from empty classrooms where
They hoped to keep us blind and doomed
While theirs seek the light

Alcoholics and addicts
Infused with ways foreign
Speaking white tongue whitely
Speaking ours strangely
If they speak at all

Our culture repulses them
Our dances bemuses them
Their roots cut off
Replanted in cities far away

To them it's said our future is given
To carry our flag, write our laws,
Fight our wars, and rule our land.
To them, for who we are
Another piece of inheritance

Our land is bequeathed

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Why I am occupying Nigeria

This is a rant, with which I aim to show how the governance of Nigeria has personally affected me and why I do not have faith in our so-called leaders.

I never expected that a time would come when I would have to explain why I am against the government that runs my country. This is because since I got old enough to analyse and understand what governance is all about, I have not found a Nigerian government that I can wholeheartedly say I am in total support of.

Even as a child, I saw many of the people that purportedly lead us for what they were—selfish men and women who are more concerned about the size of their bank balance than the diminishing returns that has characterised the country for years. From my first vote, cast in the 1999 presidential elections that brought in Olusegun Obasanjo, I have continuously voted against PDP and its band of nation wreckers. In other words, I have always been part of those that occupied the mindset that until we do away with PDP and any politician that have had lengthy involvement with that party, the nation will continue with the downward spiral.

I boldly stand this ground today, occupying and unwilling to back down, because the history of this country and my experience as a patriotic law abiding Nigerian is riff with examples of how insincere and roguishly criminal people in government can be.

As a child, visiting my grandmother in the foot hills of Obeagu, Awgu LGA, Enugu state, the songs of otanishi—a play of the word austerity using an Igbo word that loosely translates as head-biting, or a sting to the head, referencing the austerity measures introduced by the Shagari administration—was one of the lasting memories I took away. The refrain of “otanishi egbu’go anyi o, ka’anyi’changie shagari o, o ’iwe di anyi na obi, iwe!—austerity has killed us, let’s change Shagari, anger is in our hearts, anger” rings in my head to this day.

As a kid attending primary school in Kaduna during the heady IBB days, I still recall the much-vaunted structural adjustment program (SAP) and how it was supposed to only bite for a while, but the bite lasted longer than was promised and continues to this day.

Even though still just a child in 1993, I still remember with pride how my dad and his friends would argue endlessly about the merits of an MKO presidency and how SAP will finally be laid to a well-deserved rest. Well, what happened to that expectation is well documented and Nigerians continued the speculations of my father and his friends to this day.

For decades, I heard promises of reform that never materialised; promises of good life that still eludes us; promises of increased opportunity that goes no further than the vile mouth that issues them; promises of better education in the face of increasingly ridiculous and never actualised education policies, and can’t help but snicker at the promise of a coming magic year that constantly kept being officially moved forward as each one loomed.

While sitting on the floor, in primary school, listening to a teacher chalk away at the ancient blackboard in Army Children School New Cantonment “A”, I exactly believed that was how life was meant to be, that sitting on the floor is normal and that that it is our lot. I thought so, even though the Command Children School that shared the same compound, and which two of my siblings—using my dad’s old army ID and resultant quota—were fortunate to attend, had desks, better-dressed students who eat cake at break time and more teachers. I thought so because I felt Command Children School and others like it were for academically gifted children who needed more care than we do. Anyway, even the Command Children Schools of those days were not too much removed from us—aside from having more desks and those juicy cakes, yes I tasted them for my now late brother used to sneak into our zinc and wood classroom to share with me.

True we saw standard classrooms in the few movies we got to watch and in Sesame Street, but that was another life, one of fantasy, one that belonged to the TVs we escape to at 4pm. I also felt there was nothing wrong with there being two sections of the same school, one for morning, and another for afternoon. Yeah, Command Children School had only one morning section, but that was ok, they are more brilliant kids, they don’t need to go to school under the morning sun. Can’t remember much what I learnt in primary school, other than the best way to play dead during the game of police and thief. Mind you, I learnt to read and write from my father, who also taught me elementary mathematics, and much of what I know about maths to this day.

Secondary School was worse; I got to go to Government College Kaduna, a very popular secondary school renowned for its past glory because my father could not afford the better private ones that were just then beginning to spring up.

There, the sitting on bare floors was worse, especially with our uniform being white on white. We also had to go to school in the afternoon, at least those of us in the junior section had to. The memories I have of junior secondary school were of not having teachers and spending the day playing fives or shooting pigeons with catapults in the school’s extensive vegetation. Yeah, the chairs did come—think I was in JSS 2 then—from Buhari and other alumni. As for teachers, nothing changed until we entered SS 1, extremely under-educated and most barely able to string English words together without blunders. I must add that we had no teacher for mathematics and English the entire duration of our Junior Secondary miss-Education.

I was lucky; yes, I was, for I had inherited the love for books from my father and a fight, its resultant punishment and a kindly librarian who supervised the dusty task of sweeping the school library introduced me to a world far removed from the one I know. I began reading, garnered knowledge on my own and managed to make the best out of a very bad situation. I was not alone in this, and those of us who learnt anything from Government College Kaduna, did so on our own.

Then came the battle to enter university, a mighty struggle for us half-baked secondary school graduates. We struggled, paid for extra lessons and read until our eyes watered until the university doors opened and swallowed us. Back then examination malpractice in the form that it is today was the preserve of those who can afford it and you only steal from those you feel know more than you, unfortunately, I fell into the group that were presumed to know, so I didn’t get to steal from anyone.

My stay in the university was marked by increase in school fees. I got admitted in 1999 and paid N1600 (one thousand six hundred naira) as a fresher, by the time I left five years later in 2004, school fees was N17, 500 (seventeen thousand five hundred Naira). Math understandably never became my thing, so let someone else do the maths on percentage increase over a four-year period. I can’t recall how many strikes from the Academic Staff Union of Universities occurred while I was an under-educated undergraduate, but I know it was enough to add an extra year to my four course.

The story of how I eventually got a job and the struggles and anguish in between will be better told in the future, but the fact that as an editor of a magazine and with a salary many times over the recently reviewed minimum wage, I still find it very impossible to survive month to month. I don’t have vices and have learnt from my years of struggle to respect money, yet I can’t afford a tokunbo car on my salary or a house big enough for my family, not to talk of taking proper care of them.

I am a half-baked Nigerian graduate, all my life the Nigerian government has not shown it cared I exist or that I have a stake in this country they claim is ours. Therefore, until I am assured that my children will not pass through the same hard route I did to get here, I shall continue to occupy.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Joint Communiqué of the Emergency Meeting of the National Executive Councils of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) Held on Wednesday 4th January, 2012.

The National Executive Councils of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) took place today, Wednesday 4th January, 2012.

The NLC and TUC noted that:

The Presidency announced the removal of petroleum subsidy and adjusted upward, the pump price of petrol on 1st January, 2012 even when it claimed it was consulting Nigerians.

Due to this upward review of prices, the pump price for petrol is now selling for between N141 and N200 per litre nation-wide rather than N65. This prohibitive increase in price of PMS once again confirms the position of Labour that deregulation to this government means incessant price increase of a strategic product (petrol) that impact on cost of living, cost of production and the general well-being of increasingly impoverish Nigerians.

The immediate generalized negative impact of this price increase on transport cost, food, drugs, schools fees, rents, indicate that government is totally wrong to underestimate the impact assessment of the so-called  deregulation policy.

Due to the untoward hardship workers and other Nigerians are experiencing based on excessive increase in petrol prices,  there have been sporadic protests by Nigerians in at least 10 cities;

These protests, which are peaceful have witnessed the use of unprecedented force by the Police leading to harassment, intimidation, arrests and the murder of a protester.

There is a subsisting understanding between Congress and the Federal government in 2009 that removal of subsidy will not commence until certain conditions have been met. These include the fixing of all the refineries and building new ones, regular power supply, and provision of other social infrastructure such as railways and repairs of roads as well as eliminating the corruption associated with supply and distribution of petroleum products in the downstream sector of the oil industry;

After exhaustive deliberations and consultations with all sections of the populace, the NLC, TUC and their pro-people allies demand that the Presidency immediately reverses fuel prices to N65.  If the Government fails to do so, they direct that indefinite general strikes, mass rallies and street protests be held across the country with effect from Monday 9th January, 2012.

From that Monday, 9th January 2012 date, all offices, oil production centres, air and sea ports, fuel stations, markets, banks, amongst others will be shut down.

We advise Nigerians to stockpile basic needs especially food and water.

We call on all Nigerians to participate actively in this movement to rescue our country. The emphasis is on peaceful protests, rallies and strikes while refusing to be intimidated.  Labour calls on the police, armed forces and other security agencies to reject orders that they turn their weapons on fellow Nigerians.  We warn that anybody who does so, will be individually brought to justice.

The primary objective of this patriotic call and movement is to revert PMS price to N65, restore normalcy and reclaim Nigeria for Nigerians.

No Retreat!
No Surrender!!
Forward Ever!!!

Abdulwahed I. Omar                    Peter Esele
President, NLC                         President, TUC

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Badluck for Nigeria

As we trudge the streets, we bear this in mind. They do not feel our pain!!!

Africa: Benefiting From The Tablet Wars


Light weight, portable, convenient, ultra-mobile and sleek are some of the adjectives that have been used to qualify the recent gizmo fad among techies -- the Tablet computer.  Tablet computers are a cross between a laptop and a mobile phone, offering all or some of the features of both devices.

Tablet devices, especially Apple’s iPad, took the world by storm and is presently the topmost must-have device among the business class and technologically perceptive individuals. Initially, with much of the tablet computers in the market selling for over $300, many who would have loved to switch to the new technology considered the price prohibitive.

However, with the launch of Amazon Inc’s Kindle Fire, which retails at a mass market friendly $199; most analysts have begun predicting a drastic fall in the price of tablets as competition heats up. Lower prices will ultimately lead to desirability-fuelled purchases, especially in the west where there is already very high penetration of smart phones and laptop computers.

In truth, much of the analyses around Tablet computer market performances have been done without recourse to the African market. As market projections focuses on the Asian, European, South American and US markets, not many people are looking at how much of an impact the pocket friendly Kindle Fire and its kind would have on the ever growing African Phone and computer market.

Jumping the technological divide

While the present market of tablet computers in Africa is centred on middle class professionals and business executives, there exists a vast market that decreasing prices will in time open up.

Thankfully, everyone is now aware of African mobile telephone revolution, which saw more people in the continent connected to telephones in the last decade than the whole of the preceding century.  Presently, Africa is unarguably the fastest-growing mobile phone market in the world.

According to statistics from the International telecommunication Union (ITU), with an annual growth rate of 65 per cent, Africa’s mobile telephone subscription grows at twice the global average.  The continent is also the first place where mobile connections superseded that of fixed line connections. The reason for this is not farfetched as prevailing financial downturn in many African states makes mobile technology a cheaper alternative to conventional telephone that requires telephone cables, poles and many other facilities to function. By adopting mobile technology, African states succeeded in not only making it easier for their citizens to access the pleasures of information technology, they also successfully bridged the information divide by jumping the large gap between it and advanced societies.

In Nigeria, South Africa and others, the progresses made as a result of mobile technology is immense and the potential market for mobile phones is still enormous, however, the question might be asked about the validity of claims that Africa may become one of the top market for tablets computers.  Respondents, looking at the status of the purchasing power of the average African, might answer in the negative, but with reference to the mobile phone and how easily the technology was adopted across the continent, a more positive answer would readily come to mind.

Power saving, portability are factors

Looking closely at the African market, one would find that given a choice between a laptop computer and a desktop computer, most tech savvy people would go for the laptop. Yes, portability is a catalyst, but so also is the fact that the laptop comes with a rechargeable battery that allows users to work for hours on stored power.

Power is still a very critical issue across the African continent and the nature of tablet computers, the fact that they have the power storage ability of the mobile phone and laptops, is a top selling point.

It is instructive to note that that same factor that enabled consumers in Africa to extensively adopt mobile phones would also play a part in the incursion of tablet computers. With the average tablet computer having more portability than any laptop computer in the market, while retaining all of the laptops ability, there is no gainsaying that fact that most buyers would consider it a better option than the laptop.

Therefore, it would make very good business sense for manufacturers to key into the African market and take advantage of the millions of users who are seeking a portable device that can grant them all the technology of the mobile phone and the laptop computer.

What to watch out for

Unlike what holds in the developed world, where desirability plays a greater factor in the tablet market than need, the African market is overflowing with first-time buyers for whom the choice would be a matter of price and practicability.

With 3G penetration still at a very low percentage across Africa, sensory and technological aspects of tablets need not be a major issue. It is a given that tablet computers may have to be tailor made for the African environment, especially by paying close attention to the following details.

Power: a longer lasting battery would be of great attraction due to the endemic power outages that remain the norm in many African countries.

Price: while it is true that many people across the continent are buying high-end phones, much of the population are concentrating on the more affordable entry-level versions, or buying second-hand phones imported from Europe, the Americas and Asia. For the ready market for tablet computers to be effectively harnessed, the prices of the device must be reduced drastically, even lower than Amazon’s low priced Kindle Fire.

Scaled down versions: reduction of prices might be a hard nut to crack for tablet computer makers who have had to invest a lot of resources on research and development, but like Amazon did with Kindle Fire, scaling down the devices by removing some features might do the trick. The key is the billions of people in Africa eagerly awaiting connection to telephone lines and consequently, the internet.

Specialised adaptations: while it may make sense to remove features that may be redundant in Africa, it also makes better sense to include practicable features. For example, Nokia reported that the inclusion of a flashlight, FM radio and local language options pushed sales of entry-levels in many African countries.

Though, at present, content might be overrated or negated by very slow internet speed, the berthing of more submarine cables and the connection of that to the growing number of fibre optic cables between cities in Africa means that will remain an issue for long. Something that manufacturers should pay heed to.

Most importantly, there is a need for manufacturers to commit recourses into researching the African market and coming up with advertisement policies that will better sell their products to the millions of potential customers in Africa, especially now that the question of whether there is a ready market for information technology in the continent have been answered.

By Mazi Nwonwu

Article previously published in Business in Africa magazine

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