Dapchi: Dangerous Example Of How Not To Help Boko Haram By Azu Ishiekwene

It’s like a tale from fish-wifery told by moonlight: how Boko Haram entered a Nigerian town as villains, kidnapped dozens of schoolgirls, and 32 days later returned them to the same town as heroes with flags
waving and crowds cheering and not a single Nigerian soldier in sight.
Amend the last part. The soldiers who were in sight were present to stop journalists but to ensure the safe passage of Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi’s men.

If it were a movie, it would have been titled: “From Shekau to Al-Barnawi: The Making Of Another Monster”. Are these fellows still wanted? I’m bereft.

One month ago, we woke up to the news that Boko Haram had kidnapped 110 girls from their dormitory in the Government Girls Science Technical College, Dapchi.

From all accounts, the incident happened under very bizarre circumstances. Even though the region remains the epicenter of Boko Haram activities, the army was withdrawn from the town and two weeks later, the terrorists struck.

To say they struck, is to dramatize the incident. They came in Nigerian Army uniforms as if they had come to their playground. They came in nine trucks over miles of open, largely flat ground, released a few random shots in the air and within an hour rounded up 110 girls, while a few managed to escape.

The cries for help fell on deaf ears. The police station in Dapchi was conveniently empty and multiple sources reported that the phone numbers of the Divisional Police Officer were switched off.

God knows we’re glad to have the girls back, and we should do all we can to help them recover from the trauma. We’re deeply saddened about any of them who may have been lost or left behind, and we remember again the remaining Chibok girls.

But there’s a lot that the government needs to account for. We can’t say Shekau and the ascendant outlaw, Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi, are wanted men and yet continue to deal with them like the fellows next door.

The only way for Dapchi not to happen again, for this whole thing not to become another criminal enterprise, is for the government to tell us exactly what happened and to adopt a different approach to this problem, instead of feeding the monsters.

I have a sickening feeling that we might be heading down a slippery slope with the lives of innocent children and sending a dangerous signal that parts of Nigeria are safer under the control of terrorists.

When are we going to be able to tell the terrorists that our children’s lives will not be toyed with?

My children grew up staying mostly with me. They did not go to boarding school; and even when they went away on holiday, I cannot recall them spending two or three weeks away at a stretch.

At about 18 when the eldest moved into the hostel after her admission to the University in Lagos, there was hardly any weekend when I did not find an excuse to visit, often under the pretext of taking some needed provision to her.

I’ve found out that I’m not alone. If we can help it, we, parents, want our children to be near, until it becomes inevitable to free them from the nest.

After the kidnap of the Dapchi girls, I’ve been thinking about that day when I left my daughter all by herself in her new school outside the country. For the first time in both of our lives, she was going to be on her own, not knowing what was going to happen to her after my departure.

If I could be so deeply confused and saddened by the prospects of her safety in a largely secure place, then I wonder how the parents of the Dapchi 110 must have felt losing the apples of their eyes to murderous strangers with no idea where they were or what was happening to them.

And I can imagine what joy it must be to have them back.

Buhari came close to this experience in a public way, lately. In December, his son, Yusuf – his only son – was involved in a bike accident that nearly claimed his life.

The country rallied round him and the First Family – which is as it should be. I still remember those pictures from the early days of the accident, when the poor chap’s life was hanging by a thread at Cedacrest Hospitals, Abuja.

Buhari and his wife, Aisha, visited the hospital a couple of times. On no occasion was the red carpet laid out for them like it happened during the President’s visit to Dapchi.

When I saw photographs from that Dapchi visit that was the first thing that struck me – the red carpet and Buhari’s light blue three-piece agbada and a matching cap.

I’m not saying his heart was not heavy with grief or that he should have faked his concern by appearing in rags. But for God’s sake, it was a somber visit, in some way reminiscent of his visits to Yusuf after the chap’s bike accident.

It was a visit to a crime scene strewn with the broken emotions of a community that is half-dead, as one resident described it. If it didn’t occur to Buhari’s chaperons not spread the red carpet and deck the place like a set for the Oscars, didn’t the President himself
think that his appearance was insensitive?

It may seem an irrelevant point now, after the girls were rescued on Wednesday. Yet symbols, especially genuine and moderate symbols, can help any community going through difficult and distressing times.

It didn’t help matters that Buhari was comparing his response with that of former President Goodluck Jonathan in Chibok. He ought to know that no two miseries are ever alike; yet each demands our fullest
empathy and nothing less.

Is Dapchi the emerging template for dealing with Boko Haram? It worked for the release of over 101 Chibok girls, but even in that case, we did not see the terrorists in a triumphant procession on the streets of Chibok.

Something has changed. Al-Barnawi and his men have become emboldened to the frighteningly alarming point where they can march confidently down the streets of Dapchi with crowds waving the same Boko Haram
flags that gallant soldiers laid down lives to remove in many parts of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa in the last three years.

This dangerous sign can only be viewed with pleasure by Al-Barnawi, other Boko Haram franchises and their accomplices for whom we’re opening yet another door.

It’s true that Buhari said almost three years ago, that he was willing to negotiate to free the Chibok girls. But now, the handshake has reached the elbow and Dapchi may have signaled the end of our sovereignty.

#NoTooYoungToRun But #TooNaiveToHarmonise By Damilola Banjo

I am happy to be young at this time in the history of our dear country, Nigeria. The youth seem to be saying enough is enough as to jettison being used as pawns in the political chess game. They are fighting for a seat at the table instead. The #NotTooYoungToRun bill has been endorsed by 24 states assemblies. Younger people are coming out to run for various offices across Nigeria. A number of them ran for elective offices in 2015. More would definitely run in 2019. We have seen younger Nigerians throw in their hats to run for the highly revered Presidential seat in Nigeria against 2019, yes, that’s the audacity I am talking about. I counted about 22 of them last week and I heard they are more but Fela Durotoye, Adamu Garba and the publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore who joined the race barely three weeks ago, seems the most popular people in the pack. Is not this a good time indeed?

However, reading “The Long Walk To 2019” an article written by the Simon Kolawole, the publisher and founder of TheCable Online Newspaper, it confirmed my long held view that the younger generation might not be too young to run but they sure are too naive to harmonize.

Let me digress a little, I always enjoy reading SK’s opinion because he not only present his opinions in the most lucid and noncontroversial way, he also enriches same with a good dose of history. For people who were not born during the military era or who were too young to understand the politics of our early democracy or people like myself who are late bloomers in political discourse, SK, with his articles, helps you connect with the events of the past so that you can appreciate and better understand current happenings. “Long Walk To 2019” was rich in history. It established the fact that the only reason All Progressives Congress (APC) was able to unseat now fragmented PDP was because the opposition came together. He also validly opined that what happened in 2015 could not happen during President Olusegun Obasanjo’s reign in 2003 because the opposition could not unite. Obasanjo, the Ebora of Owu himself, bought over the oppositions so much that even when the people became tired of him, they could simply not unseat him. The Only visible opposition at the time, Alliance for Democracy (AD), was a regional party hence could not stand the formidable front and structure Obasanjo had built in PDP. That changed in 2015 when the opposition harmonized and with the resolution of the people to change Goodluck Jonathan, it was a walk in the park for APC.

This simply confirmed what I have been saying to friends in my little circle. The youth need a single voice to stand a chance of having an “Emmanuel Macron” moment in 2019.  The younger people aiming for presidency really do not stand a chance on their own except there is a deliberate coalition able to cast aside all forms of insecurities and doubt. And my reason is not because they showed interest too close to the election as many have opined. A lot can change in 24 hours with the right strategy and support, in fact, the oldies have not declared their interests openly, they are strategizing and mobilizing their war chest, they are conditioned to believe that we are only waiting for bread on election day. They will be shocked, but that’s only if we unite. They are not debating or discussing ideas, only the young aspirants are meeting and greeting people, having town hall meetings (something I personally find inspiring).

And here I’d lack to dabble into the “experience” theory, I hear that a lot. “Oh, they lack experience”, I beg to differ, It is not because they lack experience, it because we don’t seem to get the meaning of experience, Ask yourself, what has the country benefited from the experienced leaders except ineptitude, cluelessness, clannishness and complete incompetence? However, I think the young aspirants do not stand a chance because they are too naive to know that except they come together and unite as one they do not stand a chance in 2019.

If they go to the poll individually, they sure would come back with terrible JAMB scores like the “blackberry party” did in 2015. How will Adamu Garba convince thousands of Chukwudumem Kalu who want nothing but Biafra to vote for him? How will Fela Durotoye get the votes in the grassroots, where the majority of the voting population are, when those who know him are ‘elites’. Who knows  Kingsley Moghalu in Kanlajali village in Sokoto state? I am impressed with the number of people Sowore has got talking in less than a month that he made known his ambition to run. Some of the prominent online newspapers are generating buzz around him, either positive or negative. Sadly, we already know that those who vote in Nigeria don’t have the luxury of social media. Iya Bose is too busy selling yam to care about who is trending on Twitter neither is Kabiru aka “Mighty Body” engaging in any debate on Facebook.

Again, I agree with egbon Kolawole that President Muhammadu Buhari has lost the goodwill he enjoyed two years ago. Some people even believe he will not seek re-election, contrary to his body language. The opposition party is also in disarray. I don’t think PDP has a known candidate yet. Atiku is still romancing SDP for a ticket. This is the best time for the youth to come together and take back Nigeria if only they will see beyond their naivety.

Imagine if all these younger aspirants come together, harmonize their resources and support, there would be no stopping them. Not APC, not PDP, and definitely not the 1% moneybags who would be strong enough to push aside 50 million youths.

Unfortunately, these people will not only have to contend with the money bags in the bigger parties, they will also have to compete amongst themselves. The support that could come together to secure collective success for us all would be divided along Sowore2019, TeamFD, Garba for president, etc. etc…

I am for Omoyele Sowore. I will rather ‘throw away’ my vote than vote APC, PDP or anyone from the old bloc. Also, I believe in Sowore and I think Nigeria needs a radical person like him at this point of our national development. But the realist in me knows it would be a tough call if he had to battle the thieving political class who already hates his gut and also struggle for the attention of the youth who are divided along different loyalties. I wish I could call all these people to their senses, force them into a room like brothers and sisters, and have them come up with the real coalition of vision driven youth. Unfortunately, I do not have that clout, at least, not yet! I can only hope that somehow, they will realize the need for them to harmonize, organize and stop the divisive self-inflicted agony.

Progressive Communication And The Defence Of Good Governance

By Semiu Okanlawon

As a postgraduate student some years back, I chose to do a thesis on Politics and the New Media. This decision was inspired then by what I envisioned was going to be a boom in new communication religion with the burgeoning fortunes of telephony in Nigeria and the rest of Africa.

With the advent of the Global System of Mobile Communication (GSM) and the growing availability of internet facilities across our continent, I had no doubt that the future of politics was going to be determined and shaped by a wider scope of communicative culture where restrictions, controls and censorships, as they were known, would become tall orders.

I knew certainly that with telephones and internet on citizens’ hands, so many conventions and norms would change especially in political communications. I was also confident that public opinion would no longer be monopolized and manipulated by the few aristocratic and elitist media owners. I also knew that a time was coming when even campaign funds would be raised and spent through communication technology.

Obviously, no time in history has communication been so democratized than now. Voices no longer exclusively belong to the affluent who could buy airtime, pay for ample spaces in print media and possess massive resources to toss the minds of the masses; swinging them in whatever direction that suited the elites at each particular occasion.

The people can now tell their stories! A government that is not conscious of the people’s mandate

runs the risks of instant judgment. And in equal terms and quantities, a government that is well at home with the people’s mandate could measure the backing of the people through the ceaseless communication which tells the stories of its successes and groundbreaking attainments.

Researchers in political communication must by now be conscious of an emerging trend of the progressive culture and its communication strategies that is well rooted in Osun, South-West region of Nigeria.

As a case study, the emergence of what was initially a ‘ragtag’ group of scattered, zealous, young men who simply noticed that there was a clear departure from the old order in governance and democratic norms, began to morph into a concise army of highly organized youth group all in defence of good governance.

Those who had followed the Osun political space since the inception of the Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola administration would have no qualms coming to the conclusion that a government that prides itself as “unusual” readily and, willy-nilly, puts itself up against all the arrows. Many might not have taken cognizance of the import of the swearing-in-day declaration by Governor Rauf Aregbesola on November 27, 2010 when he paused to announce that he would not follow the norms; he would break ‘rules’; and definitely upset the apples cart to achieve the human development, the reason for his political adventure to Osun in the first instance. In an environment where political gladiators are only known to be gifted with highfalutin, grandiose speeches full of promises, it could not have been a surprise that most people didn’t take Aregbesola too serious with his promises then.

Beyond the allure of demagoguery, how many campaigners keep their words anyway? Aregbesola has kept his own. By the middle of 2011, about seven months into his first term, it was becoming clearer to those who never took much notice of the November 27, 2010 ‘threat’ that the governor meant every word in his promise to run an unusual government.

By that time, the stage was already set for a new direction in the state’s education. Also in the conviction that the state needed a fresh face to attract new fortunes, a new brand must be built in line with the new desires for the state. From these two components of the “unusualness” alone, Aregbesola’s had stirred the hornet’s nest causing ripples that were never known in the history of the state since its creation. But the ripples were for the good!

The adoption of the Sobriquet, Ipinle Omoluabi (State of the Virtuous); dumping the toga of the State of the Living Spring, a new flag, a new crest, garnished with an anthem, were to bring the state to confront a huge deluge of criticisms ranging from allegations of secession plot to raising and training of militia to confront Nigeria.

While the fire of that was raging with ferocious fervor, the assault on the rot in the education sector began with schools re-classification into Elementary, Middle and High Schools. That necessarily culminated in the movements of students from some schools to others with all the attendant logistic issues. But those who were in haste to abort the pregnancy of these ideas did not have the patience to wait whether the delivery would bring blessings or curses.

In addition to these reforms and many others that the Aregbesola administration determinedly brought forward, it was obvious that the state would be the centre of all attractions especially given the eagerness of the opportunistic opposition to bring down the administration and return them to reckoning. This was further compounded by the existence of a populace that was tied to the old order and too rigid to explore new possibilities.

In the face of this stiff opposition came the army of young minds who could see through the impact of the new initiatives and were up to defend it against the venom of those poised to frustrate them. As in many templates that have been adopted in other places and even by the Federal Government, I am of no doubt that there are different organizations of young men and women forming themselves into progressive communication pressure groups in other places convinced now that their voices must be strident, amplifying and strong enough to drown the ranting of the opposition.

In a way, the emergence of the Progressive E-Group in Osun further amplifies the strategic youth engagements of the Aregbesola administration that reforms the minds of young men and women and makes them find fulfillment in befitting and gratifying ventures rather than the destructive and demeaning engagements youths think are the last options in some other places.

Had the environments under the Aregbesola administration not been conducive and encouraging, couldn’t these energetic men and women who have taken it upon themselves to defend good governance today be found as militants, kidnapers, fraudsters, prostitutes, armed robbers and other promoters of social vices? But there is an established trend of progressive youths engagements in Osun as illustrated by the creation of the Osun Youths Empowerment Scheme (OYES), Osun Rural Enterprises and Agriculture Programme (OREAP), training of young farmers in Germany to acquire modern technologies in farming, training of young technicians for the repair and maintenance of communication devices such as laptops, telephone handsets, iPads, under the OYESTECH Scheme.

Members of the Progressive E-Group in Osun and other allies find their voices through the fresh capacities and power offered by the social media to say that these (the Aregbesola ways) are the ways to go.

If anything, the facebooking and tweeting generation in Osun has rescued the state from what could have been an invasion by the anti-progress elements and elites. Of course, it is a reality that these elites would always rise against such people-oriented governance simply because it erodes their hitherto unchallenged monopoly and manipulation of the people to keep them down and trample on them. In clear terms, the communication technologies that the electorate live with every day of their lives also offers them the power, just as their votes do, to remove bad governments and support good ones. The power, from all indications now, lies with the people.

The Rice War: How Asian Rice Importers Sabotage Nigeria’s Rice Policy By Mustapha Ogunsakin

Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, must by now have understood what it means to fight the rice mafia in Nigeria. For about a week now, he has been in the eye of the storm over comments reportedly credited to him, relating to the fact that seven rice mills had closed shop in Thailand on account of the drop in the importation of rice by Nigeria.

Apart from the response of Thailand Ambassador to Nigeria, Wattana Kunwongse, denying remarks that rice mills are collapsing in the Asian country; many people had gone to town, particularly on the social media, to castigate the minister for telling lies. This was done rather than viewing the statement credited to the minister in the context that Nigeria is involved in a trade war that dates back many decades.

Kunwongse, in a statement, said: “The report is not only misleading but a distortion of the actual conversation between myself and the honourable minister of agriculture at the federal ministry of agriculture and rural development.” He narrated how he “praised President Buhari’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), the essence of which is the endeavour to move the country to a self-sufficiency and export-oriented economy, and to that worthy cause, Thailand stands ready to work closely with the Nigerian government in the field of technological transfer and agricultural machineries.”

It seems relevant and necessary to ask how the exporting country hopes to benefit from assisting an importing country in technological transfer and agricultural machineries that will end up stopping the latter from continuing to depend on the former. Some issues raise questions of correlation and causation. What the ambassador did not explain is how his country exported 1,647,387 metric tonnes of rice to Republic of Benin in 2017 alone. Mr Kunwogse also did not mention that Thailand’s export of rice to Benin Republic has been steadily on the increase, 805,765MT in 2015, and 1,427,098MT in 2016, while official export from Thailand into Nigeria was steadily declining.

Nigeria has an estimated 180 million people while the population of Republic of Benin is about 11 million people. In 2014, 1,239,810MT was imported into Nigeria. It declined to 644,131MT in 2015, and to 58,260MT in 2016, reaching an all-time low of 23,197MT in 2017, and if this trajectory remains on a downward path, Nigeria may not be importing rice by 2020. The flow of rice exported from major Asian origins to Benin for onward shipment to Nigeria is a factor that should not be ignored in the regional rice trade in West Africa.

ECOWAS data indicate that over half of the rice Benin imports is sold into the Nigerian market. Port of Cotonou statistics show about 2.4 million metric tons (MMT) of cereals arriving at the port in 2014, over half of which is rice. USDA data shows about 700,000 MT of net rice and wheat imports, coming under lower duties, another reason for the large volumes of cereals transiting from Benin Republic to Nigeria. Rice is by far the most important commodity for the Benin Food Importers Association.

This should be a cause for concern as Nigeria consumes parboiled rice exclusively, but Benin prefers white rice. Rice consumption in Nigeria is almost entirely of parboiled rice. In West Africa only Nigeria consumes parboiled rice. Other West African countries, including all the neighboring countries to Nigeria (Niger, Benin, Cameroon, Chad) are not consumers of parboiled rice. In Africa only South Africa is the other major country that consumes parboiled rice.
The shipments of parboiled rice from India and Thailand into Lome, Cotonou and Douala ports is a very fair estimate of smuggled rice into Nigeria as none of these countries have internal consumption of parboiled rice. All the parboiled rice exported to these countries finally find their way into Nigeria. Consumption of parboiled rice by Nigeria’s neighbours like Togo, Sierra-Leone, and Niger Republic is not significant as parboiled rice is not part of their staple food. So where is this humongous rice import meant for?

Smuggling of parboiled rice from across the borders (mainly Benin Republic) is creating a major disaster for the rice industry in Nigeria and is upsetting the country’s economy. Will it then be correct that the exporting country is involved in the smuggling by proxy? These neighboring countries don’t consume parboiled rice! Details on this argument can be found on: https://www.proshareng.com/ news/Agriculture/Smuggling-of- Parboiled-Rice-from-Across- the-Borders/37718 .

In a few weeks, Nigerians will celebrate Easter, a very important festival for Christians in Nigeria which celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the other season apart from Christmas that the demand for parboiled rice will reach its peak. Why is it now that the attack on the minister over importation of rice loudest? Much of the rice exported to Republic of Benin are expected to find their way into Nigeria at all cost, particularly through smuggling.

Investigations reveal that the rice gang has become so ruthless and sophisticated that they will stop at nothing to ensure that these goods get into the country. The smugglers who move in convoys of not less than 50 vehicles, are always battle ready and well equipped to kill anyone, including customs officials, who dare stop them. A case in point is January 17, 2018, when smugglers engaged custom officers in a gun battle at Abule-Egba, Lagos State, where the smugglers incited the people into a riot, claiming one of them was killed.
The attack on Chief Ogbeh therefore seems part of a ruthless campaign that has been going for years to ensure that Nigeria never reached self –sufficiency in rice production. Ogbeh’s predecessor in office, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, now President, African Development Bank(AfDB) was also fought to a standstill.

In July 2015, the government of Thailand announced that it has struck preliminary deals to export a total of 760,000 tonnes from its huge stockpiles to several countries in Africa. This announcement was made by the Thai Rice Exporters Association which said the rice will be supplied to Nigeria, Mozambique, and South Africa.

This was despite the restriction placed on importers of rice and other items from the official foreign exchange market by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Mr. Godwin Emefiele, the CBN Governor, had at that time bemoaned the high bill on rice importation which had resulted in huge unsold stock of rice cultivated by indigenous farmers as well as low operating capacities of the many integrated rice mills in the country.

But Reuters quoted Chukiat Opaswong, honorary president of the Thai association, in a phone interview from Johannesburg, saying most of the rice going to Africa is parboiled and shipments will start in September. The rice would be sold at around $430 a tonne netting the government more than $325 million, that is roughly N117 billion. Nigeria is one of the major importers of the commodity from Thailand, importing about one million tonnes of rice valued at about $700 million every year.

A research by Bloomberg then revealed that Thailand Government held around 17.8 milliom tons in stock piles and was keen on selling 10 million tons of stockpiled rice in 2015 and around seven million in 2016 through tenders. (“Thailand’s rice export to the world in 20 January-December 2017 reached 11.48 million tons equalising $5.1 billion (USD), a 15.54 per cent increase compared to previous years, which is one of the highest figures in the history of Thailand’s rice exportation). The stockpiling means the rice exported is not necessarily fresh as it is kept for years in stores and only drawn upon during the time of export.

In 2015, Dr Adesina fought the “Rice Cabal,” a group of exporters of parboiled rice from Thailand and India, to a standstill. In 2014, he warned that “Nigerian government will not allow any company to undermine its policy of food self – sufficiency”, and then added “Nigeria is not for sale”.

For over a decade, a cabal of foreign rice importers has held Nigeria by the jugular, determining the quantity of rice to be imported into the country from Asian countries such as Thailand, and India. So much was their influence that they have no regard for government’s quota of rice importation. These companies are so powerful to the extent of owing government N35.6 billion on duties from imported rice in 2014 alone, according to the former Minister. It is not clear whether these companies paid the tariff after the Buhari administration took over government.

In recent times, Nigerians have begun to patronise their own local rice which they have turned into delicacies, attracting higher prices than imported rice. Virtually all eateries across the country now serve local rice, one popularly called “ofada”. Across the cities, women with coolers take the rice to offices and sell to ready customers who pay higher price.

Nigerians are also beginning to appreciate the nutritional value and taste of their own local rice as against parboiled rice that has been laced with preservatives and warehoused for years before getting to their destinations.

Nigerians living in the city of Lagos woke up in December 2017 to the cheery news of sale of local polished rice by Lagos State government. The product, christened LAKE RICE, was a product of partnership between Lagos and Kebbi states to ensure food security and showcase the ability of Nigeria to become a food-producing nation. Over a million bags was sold. It went a long way to reduce the price of rice during the festive period. Since then many state governments have formed joint partnership in the production of rice and other staple foods.

Foreign rice importing companies are therefore experiencing serious competition from patriotic Nigerian rice growers, farmers, and even state governments who have embraced government’s rice policy and have become major investors in the local rice sector. Nigerians are taking the gauntlet and freeing themselves from shackles of dependency. Nigerians are feeding Nigerians.
The fear or competition by these Asian companies and their unwillingness to pay billions of naira to the treasury is what is driving a devious campaign against the rice quota allocations. For once, Nigeria is winning the rice rice war, and after Chief Ogbeh spoke to put this in context, hell was let loose.

Government’s rice policy is geared towards encouraging investment in local rice production and milling as government has announced the plan to distribute more small mills across the rice production zones. As Easter festivities approach, the Nigerian authorities will have their hands full in controlling imported rice from finding their way into Nigeria through smuggling. Nigerian rice producers and the entire value chain will also need to make sure local polished rice reaches the nooks and cranny of the country. States like Lagos are also expected to control the huge Lagos market by selling at subsidised rate the way they did last December. Then the words of Audu Ogbeh will be understood that the Asian Tigers are at war with Nigeria and West Africa on rice, a war Nigeria and the West African sub region must win very quickly and permanently.

#HATESPEECHBILL: The Law Of Boomerang Respects No One By Adebayo Raphael

Nigeria is speedily sliding into a democratic dictatorship. All indices right now are working against the sustenance of democratic principles in the country. In a democratic dictatorship, public opinion is irrelevant. The democratically elected leader calls the shots at all times, regardless of whether the people are in support or not. Unfortunately, this is the situation in Nigeria, and those who are engineering this barbaric, out-of-fashion style of governance are in control of the aces – they are the anchors of the ship, hence, dictate where the ship goes, albeit in favor of their egoistic individualism.

In any thriving democracy, public opinion is sacrosanct. Even from time immemorial, political leaders, coup-plotters, and anyone who is desirous of power are always on the lookout for when the pendulum of public opinion would swing in their favor, and the smart ones are always quick to seize the opportunity. But, a democratic society where little or no consideration is given to public opinion is unfit for the appellation. For it is often true that any society without a functioning social capital is susceptible to being impugned by a bunch of shallow, confused mortals.

Recently, a legislative bill seeking to hang purveyors of hate speech upon conviction was sponsored on the floor of the Senate. The bill, which was sponsored by Senator Aliyu Sabi (APC, Niger State), says: Any person found guilty of any form of hate speech that results in the death of another person shall die by hanging upon conviction. Surely, this begs some serious questions: (1) What is Hate Speech? (2) Should Purveyors of Hate Speech be put to death? (3) Who decides if a particular expression is Hate Speech? These questions certainly cannot be answered absentmindedly.

Firstly, Hate Speech is any derogatory speech from one person or a group of persons, to another person or group of persons, on the basis of their race, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation, disability, or gender. Equally, it is important to understand the meaning of Dangerous Speech, which is often confused with Hate Speech. Dangerous Speech is any speech that incites a person or group of persons to condone or participate in violence against another person or group of persons.

Secondly, we cannot yank off the head merely to cure a headache. Death by hanging is certainly not going to end Hate Speech in Nigeria. If history has taught us anything, it is the fact that this extreme measure will only fuel Hate Speech the more, which could ultimately metamorphose into Dangerous Speech.

Thirdly, I ask, who decides if an expression is hate speech? Nigerians in positions of authority and politicians generally have demonstrated, again and again, that power is nothing to them if they cannot abuse it. We have constantly seen, how people in these positions unfeelingly embark on a mission of vendetta, to settle old grudges with their political rivals, or people who supposedly bruised their ego.

Further, we have seen how continuous disregard for details by Nigerian leaders has repeatedly and increasingly created problems, rather than solutions in the country. Between June and December 2016, Center for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), a research-based institution in Nigeria, captured 6258 items of Hate and Dangerous Speech. CITAD noted, that while over 82% of the hate and dangerous speech items were in response to statements made by others, religious and ethnicity constitute more than 80% of the data captured. Rightly so, the problems of national identity and religion have been perennial in our national history because some viciously egoistic mortals have dedicated their life, resources, and patrimony to polarizing Nigerians with those primitive narratives, simply to perpetuate evil and individually or esoterically aggregate our commonwealth.

In addition to religious-based and ethnic-based hate speech, there are other causes of hate speech like Poverty, lamentable economy, highhandedness and opacity in government, perceived marginalization, Politically Discontent Persons (PDPs), Injustice, Political Vendetta, Wrong approach by government to resolving communal crises such as the Shia conflict, Herdsmen/Farmers crisis, etc. All of these are reasons for the articulation and spread of hate-filled messages. It is, therefore, myopic, lazy, incompetent, insensitive, and grossly offensive for any lawmaker to think that proffering a superficial, extreme, and most likely diversionary ‘solution’ of hanging people for hate speech would solve the deep-rooted crisis of vitriolic and incendiary speeches in the country.

It is unfortunate, that our lawmakers do not even know, or perhaps care less, about drawing the lines between muzzling freedom of speech and curbing hate speech. Even more unfortunate is the fact that leaders in Nigeria are too lazy to do great work. Instead, they think lazily and work shoddily. On this perspective, the masses, the church, and the press stand at a great disadvantage if this lethal piece of legislation become law.

Important to note, however, that this is not the first time the 8th National Assembly, president Buhari’s administration, and members of the APC would come up with something ludicrous. As a matter of fact, there had been many attempts, but let’s look at a few together. In 2015, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah (APC, Kebbi South), sponsored the Frivolous petitions (Prohibition, etc) bill, otherwise known as the anti-social media bill. But for public outcry and denunciation, the bill was thrown into the bin. Similarly, in July 2017, Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed, openly declared his anti-fake news army to counter any perceived fake news on the social media. The ruse behind the move was uncovered and the fake news army literally crashed. Again, in 2017, the Federal Government declared hate speech as terrorism. However, Nigerians did not take it lightly. Even so, towards the end of 2017, the military warned that it would start monitoring the social media – another move allegedly to curb hate speech which did not succeed because the people resisted it. It is therefore unsurprising that this ignominious bill was proposed on the floor of the Red Chamber. As a matter of fact, anyone who has been following the consistent display of dictatorship tendencies in the Buhari-led administration would have predicted this insalubrious bill. What baffles me, however, is how the same people – members of the ruling political party (APC), who campaigned virally using largely hate speeches, are now hell-bent on shushing the people.

You may cast your mind back to seven years ago when someone made a vitriolic comment about the dog and the baboon being soaked in blood. In his words, he said; “They either conduct a free and fair election or they go a very disgraceful way. If what happened in 2011 should happen again in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog, and the baboon would all be soaked in blood.” He was never condemned to death, instead, he got all kinds of ridiculous rationalization from people who share the same IQ with him. The same person is now in the saddle and suddenly, they want to hang people to death. Surely, the law of boomerang respects no one. The consequence of unhealthy politics is lethal to our society and democracy.

While it is true that the Nigerian people must be more cautious with their speeches, it is also expedient for the government to step up to the plate and begin to perform. The nub of hate and dangerous speech in Nigeria is the disgruntlement of the people with leadership across the country. Leaders are to be emulated and followed. Leaders ought to be problem solvers. But the reverse is the case in Nigeria.

According to John Stuart Mill, the right action is always the one that provides the greatest good for the greatest number of people. We must ask ourselves; does this proposed bill provide the greatest good for the greatest number of people? Because, quite frankly, to solve any problem, one must be ready to interrogate the origin of the problem, the triggers or activators of such problem, its impact on the society, the principal characters in the problem and their way of life, the different approach employed by convergent thinkers in the past to solve such problem, and finally, the strategies we can employ to solve such problem with a perspicacious understanding of our society.

At this point in our national history, our leaders need not be concerned with cosmetic remedies but long-lasting ones. For the nation to overcome hate speech, we must first attack the source of hate speech – the ever-growing disenchantment of the people towards government. For instance, the flagrant abuse of human rights in different quarters of the country has escalated hate speech across the nation. One graphic way to typify this would be the conflict between the Nigerian state and the Shi’ite Movement. It has been more than two years since the Leader of the Shi’ite Muslims in Nigeria, Sheikh El Zakzaky has been unlawfully detained incommunicado. His followers who have chosen to exercise their fundamental human right to protest have been attacked by the state’s instruments of repression on several occasions. What’s worse, the government has constantly flouted court rulings ordering the release of Sheikh El Zakzaky. It is almost impossible to be moderate with your expressions whilst expressing your grief in this kind of situation. Similarly, the present administration has failed to exhibit the required sympathy and will in fighting the scourges of terrorism and kidnapping in different parts of the country, and the northern regions in particular. Certainly, the victims of these dreadful acts would not sing the praise of government either. In summary, the government cannot expect a people who are disenchanted with its cluelessness to be modest in their expressions. For injustice, hardship, and insecurity always breed aggression.

In conclusion, therefore, the national assembly must understand that punishing people by death for the articulation and spread of hate speech is like using pain-killers to kill cancer. It is merely superficial. The lawmakers must isolate their selfish interest from their national duty of making laws that will solve problems in the country. They must desist from trying to solve problems superficially and begin to look deeper for sustainable and lasting outlooks. It is important, for Senator Sabi and other lawmakers, to understand that insofar as they continue to come up with palliative measures instead of lasting ones, our problems will never go away. And like the previous ones, this dangerous bill will be thrown into the trash can because the Nigerian people will certainly resist it.

 

9 Stupid Myths Nigerians Need To Let Go Of By Moroti Olatujoye

Growing up in Nigeria or in most African societies has instilled some beliefs that have led us to take decisions that have in many ways affected our lives. These are what I’d call myths in the course of writing this piece.  These myths have boxed us up, making it impossible for us to see life as it truly is. In other respects, these myths have defined the way people behave, interact with people of other backgrounds or reasoning among others. So, here are some of the things we should learn to stop thinking are true.

Girls and boys should be brought up differently

This is probably the hottest topic now. Following Anthony Joshua’s comment on how he trained his niece to be a good and disciplined woman and let’s his son have his way. As much as people have criticized his words, I realize that the blame is not on him but the mentality of his guardians, parents and surroundings.  Girls and Boys SHOULD NOT BE TRAINED DIFFERNETLY. This is the only way we can have good fathers and mothers. While you train your girl to do dishes, train your son to do dishes for days when he’s a father and his wife is probably sick or dead. Train your son never to date multiple women because he needs to keep himself for his wife as much as she is trained to. Strong headed men will read this part of my article and say I’m a feminist, I’m not I just don’t want to end up with a man who has no self discipline to impact on our children because his parents didn’t give him any.  I’d end this part by dropping Chimamanda’s words; “We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man. Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are.”

IF a girl goes to a guy’s house, she can’t claim to have been raped

This is one of the saddest myth I’ve grown up seeing people talk about, and unfortunately even parents are guilty of this. If a girl decides to visit a man often times than not no one will ever believe she was raped, because ‘na she use her leg waka go there’.  Just as the chances of you realizing that you are sitting with a robber in a public transport are rare till you get robbed, so are the chances are that a lady will visit a man and know that she intends to be raped. As a man asking a woman out shouldn’t give you the go ahead to rape her when she visits all because according to you she already ‘knew you like her’. Finally we all collectively have to know that rape is a terrible crime, not just to the person’s physical state but also psychological state and it worsens when the case is shoved aside because she went visiting. RAPE IS A CRIME, AND NO REASON JUSTIFIES IT. Young men might not understand till they have daughters they will die protecting in the future.

Men can’t be raped/ sexually abused

This is another big lie we have unknowingly been brainwashed with. Men can be raped, infact small boys are getting sexually abused by older ladies and women but pride wouldn’t let them come out to say it, because when they finally get exposed to the sexuality that they never knew they had, they feel the person who abused them helped them become MEN. As a matter of fact, an article I read years ago while preparing to see a play Tazan Chronicles had revealed that most men had their first sexual experience with an older female. So please don’t just watch who carries your daughter to sit on their laps, watch who interacts with your son and the attachment your son has for a particular aunty.

Sugar causes Pile and Menstrual pain

For ladies to know more about their feminine side and how their body works, I strongly recommend my father’s gift to be on my 16th birthday ‘Every Woman’ by Derek Llewellyn-Jones. It was at this point I realized that contrary to popular believe, sugar is not the major reasons we have cramps, bile or diabetes. According to my findings online (please feel free to read some more, and ask your doctor, PS not the quack one who gives malaria drugs for every sickness o) cramps are caused by the contraction of the uterus to help expel its lining. Hormone-like substances involved in pain and inflammation trigger the uterine muscle contractions.  Pile is also not caused by too much sugar as we have been made to believe by our “Alagbo”. Internet is your friend, please use it.

Girls who are exposed and free are sluts

Back in school, guys will talk down on a girl they are certain is slut because she loves to go out, meet friends, and are friendly. As a matter of fact our shallow minded majority believe that a girl who is friendly towards a man definitely likes the guy. Please wake up o, we are in the 21st century. Just as men love to go to places girls also love to go to places, meet strangers and talk for long hours without thinking in their minds that they will ever meet them again. It’s a temperament thing or perhaps a personality treat. Just because a girl is not quiet and reserve doesn’t mean she is slut, and quiet girls are not always good girls too.

All guys who have 8-5 jobs are responsible

I remember watching Tyler Perry’s movie- For Coloured Girls, where a young lady was deceived by the fact that a young man who like her was responsible enough to be invited over for dinner. This guy walked her to her studio with flowers regularly with suit and tie going to work, only for him to rape her in her own house. My mother was also once in love with a young man in my church for me, he was perfect to her, he came to church, dressed well, no tattoos, low cut, good 8-5 jobs and all the endless lies we grow up thinking made a good man. I eventually had to show my mum my chat with her ‘angel’ for her see what the guy was under his decency. Responsibility goes beyond looks, and what they do for a living in most cases. Please this is not to say there are no decent guys, all I’m saying is this is not a reason to think he has sense.

Marriage makes you happy

Thank God for blogs that share true life stories of what people face in marriage giving us a better platform of exposure to real life situations, it is clear to the blind that marriage doesn’t take all your problems away. If you’re broke now, getting married wouldn’t help you. If you’re dirty, depressed, incapable of been faithful, selfish, irrational and so much more marriage wouldn’t make you better. To reduce the rates of broken homes, singles who are yet to venture into marriage should know that marriage is not a magical place where all your problems disappear. Yes you should marry someone who makes your life better and vice versa, you shouldn’t also take all your burdens into it. Be happy, be financially stable, get rid of the hurt from your ex’s, have a plan for your future before you go into marriage.

There’s a certain age for everything

This is 100% true in Nigeria. For ladies at the age of at most 26 you should be out of your father’s house and into your husband’s home. You should be in the university by at most 18, you should have a job by 25 as a guy, in an organization where you seem to be the youngest, the elderly ones believe you don’t deserve to be paid a particular amount because you’re too young. Luckily for the younger generation this myth might not really be in existence because we have suffered from it so much we sure wouldn’t let our children go through the same thing. As long as we should make hay when the sun shines, our paths are different to bring us to our purpose. Don’t go into armed robbery or fraud because you’re 30 and still don’t have 3 million in your account. Read true life stories of great men and women and see how the world wrote them off because they had passed the age to succeed and learn your lessons. Be forced, work hard, and set your own age limits.

People who study art in school are lesser students than lawyers, doctors…….

This would be the last on my list for stupid myths we must stop believing in. This has a lot to do the fact that I studied theater arts in school though, because I had a lot of people pressure my parents to not let me study what I had chosen. Now the supposed better students who study law are graduates who work in law firms that unfortunately pay N30,000 monthly, an amount that a graduate of music would make times two of in one show. I wouldn’t talk about engineers who work as bankers o, I’d just shut up and move on to the point. There is no such thing as better course of study in colleges honestly, we all need everyone. We need doctors, and artists, we need lawyers and dancers, we need people who studied history just as much as those who studied accounting.

Another experience a friend had was that of his parents mandating him, the 4th out of 6 boys to go for Sciences in his secondary school days. He refused and went to art to work on how to become a journalist. Finally, when he finished and became a Journalist, he became a pride of the family whom most of the family members go to whenever they have any media related jobs to do. This has made him a figure to reckon with in the family. Now, the other 2 boys are not mandated to go to any class.

Wherever your son or daughter wants to go to, just encourage him/her to be serious, dutiful and become good members of the society in the future. Leaving your children to follow their passion is more advantageous in the future to them and to you as parents. Watch It!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Progressive Drive

If we may paraphrase the Roman Emperor Pliny, out of the State of Osun, there is always something new. The latest manifestation of this thrust is the commissioning of this week by the Ogbeni Governor of the Workers’ Drive.

A magnificent investment in the infrastructure uplift of the state, it is quite a wonder to behold. ‘Workers Drive’ is a 2.8km dual carriageway, which will greatly facilitate ease of movement and commerce in the state.

It also has a significant undertone. Ordinarily, edifices such as this are named after a worthy son or daughter of the soil, or an acclaimed international figure, an avatar, for example, Nelson Mandela or Kwame Nkrumah. This time, the mould has been broken. Naming the edifice “Workers Drive” is an acknowledgement of the excellent input of the Labour movement as well as the impact of all workers in general to the development of the State of Osun. This represents a break in the normal tokenism, whereby workers are celebrated once a year during Workers Day.  Ogbeni Aregbesola succinctly paid tribute to the input of the workers in stating the raison d’etre for naming the road in honour of their excellent cooperation, – “The governor said: “We have decided to name the road after our workers in the state because of their loyalty, commitment and perseverance in the quest to achieve this. I salute the workers for all their commitment; our workers have been the cutting edge instrumental to the realisation of our goals to our people.”

Aregbesola’s celebration of the input of the Labour movement is to be expected. He has been, from the days of student activism a dye-in-the-wool progressive social democrat. Administering Osun has given him the opportunity to turn theory into practice. This, he has done with imagination as well as unwavering commitment and determination, even in the face of fiscal adversity.

The administration he has headed has been pro-actively worker-friendly. A lot of this is reflected in the social intervention programmes of his administration such as O’YES, the free school feeding programme, as well as the uplift in the social infrastructure, such as greater investments in Education and wider access to health services.

A key point here is that in a very difficult fiscal climate and hamstring by a debilitating quasi-federalism, Aregbesola has shown the durability of the non-monetary benefits of social intervention to the workers. With determination, he has shown that social capital is the most resilient of all manner of capital formation and the enduring mechanism to deploy as an anti-poverty tool. We therefore salute the courage and foresight of this most pro-worker of administrators.

APC-NEC And Tenure Elongation

For a party that rode onto office on the promise of change, we find the decision by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the All Progressives Congress to extend the tenure of the John Odigie-Oyegun-led national executive body beyond the terminal date of June as both disconcerting and unfortunate. Aside undermining the principles that the party claims to stand for, it lays the party to a fair charge by critics of hypocrisy, impunity and complete disdain for rules as one would expect of a disciplined organisation.

Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello, had at the end of the party’s NEC meeting announced that the body, in accordance with its constitutional powers, decided to extend the tenure of its Chief Oyegun-led National Working Committee (NWC) as well as the party’s state executives by one year, purportedly on the strength of Article 13.3 (ii) of the party’s constitution, which empowers the NEC to “Discharge all functions of the National Convention as constituted in between elections”.

Said Bello: “Considering the time left for the party to conduct all the congresses and conventions and considering that our leader, Senator Tinubu has been charged with the responsibility of reconciling all aggrieved members of our party, we cannot afford to approach the general elections with more dispute and crises. Let me tell you that this will not stop the convention of the party, but to go into elective congresses is what we are trying to avoid, relying on the constitution of our party.”

That a political party would seem to act in flagrant disdain for process must be seen as something beyond the pale. Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, certainly did well to put things in correct perspective: “What was done today is only an expression of a desire to extend the tenure of Chief Oyegun-led national executives. The power of the convention to extend tenure is exercised only by way of a constitutional amendment. The power of the National Executive Committee of our party cannot go beyond doing so by way of constitution amendment”.

We couldn’t agree more with him. The decision, to be legal and constitutional, can only be done by the National Convention of the party by way of a constitutional amendment. To be sure, only the tardiness of the current leadership and their failure to provide disciplined leadership can resort to arbitrariness. Article 17 (i) of the APC constitution would seem clear enough: “Except as otherwise provided in this constitution, all officers of the party elected or appointed into the party’s organs shall serve in such organs for a period of four (4) years and shall be eligible for re-election or re-appointment for another period of four years only…”

This is further reinforced by Section 223(2a) of the 1999 constitution (as amended): “the election of the officers or members of the executive committee of a political party shall be deemed to be periodical only if it is made at regular intervals not exceeding four years…”

The suggestion that the power delegated to NEC vitiates these fundamental provisions can only be borne out of mischief and this can create a dangerous precedent that can only spell doom for the party.

We expect that the four-year tenure of the current team will be allowed to run out in June. In the circumstance, any contrary decision can only be taken legally by the National Convention. As to the fear of another cycle of democratic contestation imperiling the party, such fears are not only ludicrous but utterly self-serving.

Truth Of The Matter with AYEKOOTO: A Unique Monument In Appreciation

Perhaps, never in the history of this country has any government ever thought of recognising the essence of workers to the extent of naming a monument to honour them.

This is exactly what happened in the first week of March, 2018, in Osogbo, capital city of Osun, when one of the major roads in the state, newly reconstructed to modern taste, was commissioned and christened Workers’ Drive.

The dual-carriage way, a 2.80km stretch, Olaiya to Itaolokan, constructed by the government of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola is a masterpiece by all standards in aesthetics, quality and durability. It is estimated by experts to have a lifespan of fifty years at the minimum.

Why a Workers Drive? The relationship between Osun governments and its workers has a chequered history behind it. And one may not be wrong to suggest that it was anything but cordial, at least in this forth republic. But all these have, thankfully, been consigned to the dustbin of history because of the atmosphere of understanding that now exists in the relationship.

Going down memory lane, the government of Chief Bisi Akande, had its nose bloodied as a result of its flexing of muscles with workers, due to widespread downsizing, an option which the then opposition feasted upon to ride to power, costing the man his second shot into the government house.  It was a battle-royale for the Progressives, represented by the Ogbeni, to return to power in 2010. All things looked so good from 2010 between workers and government until the unfortunate financial conundrum began to rear its head sometimes in 2013, which also threatened the 2014 reelection bid of Ogbeni with the conspicuous connivance of the powers in Abuja, logistically and monetarily. 2015 was a defining moment as government didn’t have the ability to pay even a dime to the workers. Organised labour in Osun was adamant in demanding for workers’ right to be paid their wages. It was indeed a very trying period for the governor.

The opposition, known for waiting to latch on to such opportunity, quickly pitched its tent on the side of the workers, even without caring to appreciate the cause of such unfortunate financial situation. Expectedly, issue of salary payment became a political tool in the hands of opposition. But a section of workers and pensioners as well as the grassroots citizenry, women leaders, students and trade unions showed understanding and did everything in their capacity to campaign for and return the government back to power in 2014. The dire financial situation continued into 2015 but thanks to the financial ingenuity of the governor and his team as well as the active support of organised labour led by Comrade Jacob Adekomi and his team as well as veteran labour leader Comrade Hassan Sunmonu, (who agreed, despite all odds, to chair a committee on monthly revenue allocation). This committee acts the go-between the workers and government during the long trying time, and even till present moment. The impeccable integrity of Comrade Sunmonu played and is playing no small role in reducing the tension.

In all, this special kudos is reserved for the workers in their entirety and their leaders, led by Comrade Adekomi, who found themselves in dilemma of identifying with the workers whom they represent and protect as well as sympathy for a government which they know is truly handicapped. Distant observers will think Comrade Adekomi is antagonistic to government cause, but this was denied by him. He exuded happiness with this unique gesture of government such that he even rode in same vehicle to and from the venue with Ogbeni.

In a chat, Comrade Adekomi reiterated workers’ support for the government because, according to him, “no governor has named any monument in the name of workers; and despite all the challenges, the governor has not retrenched any worker. The governor will be remembered as he who came at the period of serious challenges and was able to face it and surmount it.”

This Workers Drive naming is very symbolic. It is a symbol of appreciation for the teeming workers who have endured despite overpowering challenges over-hyped by the Osun opposition. So, it is an epoch making bid to show appreciation for workers’ understanding, support and sacrifice during the yet-to-be-over financial crisis orchestrated by the general national economic woes.

 

 

Does Nigeria Still Have Time To Prevaricate? By Tope Fasua

Left to me, every able bodied Nigerian man or woman should be lunging forward, throwing themselves into rescuing our collapsed country. Someone will say that this state of collapse has been our perpetual and now natural mode; always dancing on the brink and managing to save ourselves just when everyone thought we would tip over and careen into the canyon, never to be pieced together again. Yet we keep breathing. Those who work for government will swear we are prospering, and marching sure-footedly into a glorious future. For them, all that matters is that the government is keeping its side of the bargain… to them.

The truth however is that slice or dice it, Nigeria is in deep trouble; it is in reverse and has absolutely no time to dance around in circles, toy about the edges, and continue kicking the can down the road. For too long, we have eaten our cakes and had them. We are the ones the holy books had in mind when it asked: “shall we continue in sin and expect favour to abound?” Nigeria is that land immersed in official sin, reveling in all that is bad. Nigeria is the land of mediocrity, wastage, and ostentation in the middle of want. It has become so bad that most African countries are leaving Nigeria behind. Yet we claim to be the giant of Africa; the failed big brother.

When I see and read our very educated, internet-savvy and uber-intelligent professionals take a fine comb and begin to dissect those who have offered themselves to lead Nigeria out of this morass; whether their ambitions are driven by an over-bloated feeling of self-worth or genuine love for country; whether they are such as will add to the problem they propose to solve or they are truly inspired by content, vision, drive, ability and a complete-finisher capability, I just marvel. I want to state here that no youth or not-so-young person who has really thought about this country from a selfless angle should be knocking the effort of others from their glorious perch. I say they should be adequately worried to the extent of calling for more people to crowd the leadership space if they cannot themselves. I say that those who are experts at criticising the efforts of others are worse culprits of the shortcomings they criticise. Some have only thumbed their noses and sniffed at Nigeria for so long. They reel out degrees and experiences with Fortune 500 companies. But in terms of practicality; when it comes to putting the ball on the ground and scoring goals, they are nowhere to be found.

These are some of the barbs this group of people have been throwing at those who want to at least try:

1. They are too inexperienced – meaning that you haven’t been hearing their names since 1960;
2. They should go and start small; perhaps from their wards as councillors, rather than aspire to lead a whole Nigeria;
3. They don’t have a ‘grassroots’ pedigree;
4. They don’t have money to spend on buying votes;
5. They don’t understand the rigging process, or how politics work in Nigeria.

And much more. The above concerns largely also mean that these inexperienced people are likely not part of those who brought Nigeria to its knees today. This should be an advantage, not a disadvantage. Of what use has experience been, given where Nigeria has found itself today? If a politician should saunter out and pound his chest about how he has been in the centre of Nigeria’s affairs for decades, I believe such a person should be, at best, ignored, if not pelted with stones. Yes, I know, Nigerians have become inured and unshockable. The absurd and nonsensical, the backward and negative, have been successfully sold to us as the new normal. One would have expected the savvy, and the grammatically-enabled to see through this, but perhaps we will now have to rely on the pragmatism of the poor but street-wise Nigerian. Nigeria needs new blood, new thinking, a totally new culture.

Simple

Let’s look at the other points raised: That someone who believes he can provide the leadership for the whole of Nigeria should and must go and start from the councilorship level. Well I understand, if we believe that such a person cannot inspire or lead anyone. But what does it take to inspire and lead? I have heard the proponents of this idea mention Barack Obama’s work as an organiser, and also tell us how Macron and Trudeau went through some special education. This sounds like only one road leading to the market; it is against our traditional wisdom. Indeed Obama, Trudeau and Macron, or lets even add Sebastian Kurz of Austria, actually followed very diverse trajectories to the position of leadership. What mattered most was how they applied themselves to whatever circumstance they found themselves in. And then there is the luck factor. No one knew Obama until he was given the floor at the 2004 Democratic National Convention for example. Trudeau had the luck of being born to a former PM. Luck always counts, one way or another. So in the end, no one who hasn’t at least tried, can win. Why would people who are not trying at all, spend so much energy shooting down those who are?

When we talk about grassroots credibility and ability to understand the rigging, thuggery and violence process of elections in Nigeria, do we know that those are exactly what we need new blood to change? Do we really want a better Nigeria? Or is it all just a joke; some sort of voyeurism or sadomasochism? Let us check ourselves. Do we truly imagine a day in the near future when our rhetoric and analysis of Nigeria will move away from this gutter-level issues of mass poverty and unemployment, out of school children and terrorism, kidnapping and armed robbery, and a majority of people whose minds have been almost irretrievably damaged by decades of want, to higher-level issues of how high we want to grow, and how we want to harness the mental potentials of the majority of our people? Yes. Do we ever imagine that all what we have been complaining about can actually be possible? If we do, then we should try and embrace at least one, if not some or all of those guys who are explaining how this can come to pass.

What is the option? The only option is to analyse and argue, criticise and take apart, and be stuck with the same mediocrity for decades hence. What will it profit us just to say ‘I was right, you cannot win and you didn’t win?’ Must we be right all the time? Why not put that your wizardry into making a profound change no matter how difficult it may look? If it’s about grassroots, all those we hail today for being in touch, started one day. Anyone who had built anything great will tell you that what mattered most is too start from somewhere and proceed, brick by brick.

The 20 Percent GDP Growth Challenge

And so I threw a challenge somewhere. I said if Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP) wins the coming elections, Nigeria’s economy can grow by 20 percent year on year for five years. That would be over 100 percent growth – or a doubling of the GDP – in five years. Many people have been criticising the projections, many of them pointing at economies that have already plateaued. The fact that no country is doing that rate of growth does not mean that no one can. As a matter of fact, setting GDP growth targets is akin to budgeting. It’s always good to aim high. My thinking in throwing that challenge is that Nigeria is currently in reverse; and losing ground daily – even to other African countries. If someone is meant to be going at 10 kilometres per hour (kmph), and is current reversing at 10kmph, then he should explore how he can stop reversing and start moving at the required speed. That may amount to 20kmph.

I threw the challenge of that double-digit growth rate because of a further research I have conducted. Late last year, I informed readers on this page of the kind of budgets that some of our fellow African countries were proposing for their people. Today, I have updated that research to include the plans of 12 other African countries for their people in 2018. Nigeria is not only performing woefully, it is dreaming woefully. our leaders are not only crazily greedy and corrupt to the point of madness, they are also lacking in imagination and plans for the vast majority of Nigerians, to the point where I can only put this at the doorstep of wickedness.

Why would South Africa plan a budget of $155 billion for its 58 million people this year, and Egypt budgets $68 billion for its 95 million people, while Algeria plans $59 billion for its 40 million people, only for Nigeria to plan a paltry, sickly, corruption-infested, discouraging, unimaginative, and wickedness-induced $23 billion for 180 million poverty-stricken, undereducated, strife-beaten, terrorised, crime-battered, globally-despised and hungry people? Just how do we justify this? And so, those who are arguing with the future, while giving a get-out-of-jail free pass to the past and present, should know that they are calling for a continuation of everything that is bad about Nigeria.

Table 1: 2018 Budgets for some African countries. Note; sources include Reuters, country’s Ministry of Finance websites, sundry Internet sources. I have used a uniform source for USD exchange rates (market rates), since ‘official rates’ are not obtainable in some instances. Hence, Nigeria’s N8.6 trillion was converted at N360=$1. Also, I have emphasised the revenue aspect of the budget (most countries plan budget deficits), so as to show that many ‘smaller’ countries have the capacity and capability to raise more national revenue than Nigeria – the ‘largest’ economy in Africa.

If we were serious and sincerely wanted a better Nigeria, and if we believe that all these years of agonising and criticising and bellyaching, writing long epistles and using the best vocabulary in the world to describe our failures as a nation, is directed at something positive, now is the time to make a push, not sit by the sidelines and snigger.

I believe there is no time to beat about the bush, and wonder whether now is the time to get rid of disconnected, expired, tired, irresponsible, unresponsive, catatonic, retrogressive, archaic, mentally-lazy and complicit leadership which has driven Nigeria to this sorry crossroads. Anyone who prevaricates is simply an enemy of progress.

Perhaps a reminder about our woes will ginger us to do the needful. Nigeria’s so many infamous firsts:

1. This week, the managing director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) told us of how Nigeria is the ONLY Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) member that imports fuel (PMS);
2. He also said Nigeria is the largest importer of PMS in the world. They said we import a million tonnes monthly. I wonder what we produce that we use all of that fuel. Another mega fraud is going on;
3. Nigeria overtook India on January 17, 2018 as the country with the highest number of extremely poor people. When I checked on March 3, 2018, Nigeria had 83.2 million people that are extremely poor, while India’s numbers were down to 80 million. Nigeria is one of the few countries around the world – most of them in Africa – where poverty is still increasing. See worldpoverty.io;
4. Nigeria is the country with the worst police force in the world. The World Security and Policing Index (WISPI) rated Nigeria worst, especially with its low ratio of police to civilians. What the WISPI did not know is that most of the police it counted are working as bodyguards to politicians, civil servants, 419ers, money-miss-roads and their children and concubines. The serving AIG Zone 5 Benin, Mr Rasheed Akintunde says all of 80 percent of our policemen are on ‘body guard’ duties just a couple of weeks back;
5. Nigeria has the highest number of out of-school children in the world at around 15 million. This is higher than in the world’s most populated countries of India and China, where the population is almost ten times ours (each);
6. Nigeria has the highest proportion and numbers of unemployed and underemployed people in the world;
7. Nigeria has one of the worst health systems in the world. Bar none;
8. Nigeria is indeed the most corrupt country in the world. This one borders on insanity;
9. Nigeria is the most polluted country in the world, where we cannot take care of our
solid waste;
10. Nigeria has one of the world crime rates in the world – kidnapping, murder, fraud,
terrorism, religious and tribal strife, corruption and embezzlement, and so on.

Given these issues, I believe there is no time to beat about the bush, and wonder whether now is the time to get rid of disconnected, expired, tired, irresponsible, unresponsive, catatonic, retrogressive, archaic, mentally-lazy and complicit leadership which has driven Nigeria to this sorry crossroads. Anyone who prevaricates is simply an enemy of progress.

Nigeria as a country is like a building that has been running on generator since. None of the ideas that got us this far was ours originally. We produce nothing. We innovate nothing. We maintain nothing. Just like running a generator for a building… after a while it starts to cough. The proverbial generator running Nigeria has since been misused and is now coughing, bellowing black soot and is sure to ‘knock engine’. The crude oil that we depend on has become a liability to us; whether the price goes up or stays down, we are in trouble. One would then wonder what the benefit is.

And the surest evidence we need to know that Nigeria has no time at all, and no excuse in the world for being where it is, is that at least five companies, some created by mere teenagers, are valued more than Nigeria presently. Amazon, Google (Alphabet), Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple, are each all worth more than the whole of Nigeria. More on that on another day. But given these evidences, who in their right minds will delay the salvation of this great country?

Let me close by quoting Shiekh Mohammed Bin Rasheed Al Maktoum in his famous book My Vision:

“With each new day in Africa, a gazelle wakes up knowing he must outrun the fastest lion or perish. At the same time, a lion stirs and stretches, knowing he must outrun the fastest gazelle or starve. It is no different for the human race. Whether you consider yourself a gazelle or a lion, you simply have to run faster than others to survive.”

I wonder why he chose to speak about Africa. But it is prophetic for Nigeria today. We shouldn’t look too far to Europe… even countries in Africa may soon eat Nigeria up, while we argue about those who have no ‘experience’ and get stuck with dinosaurs for leaders.

No Country For Sick People – The State Of Mental Health In Nigeria By Aisha Salaudeen

Amanda Anene spent most of October 2017 locked up in a Pentecostal church in Awka, Anambra. Her parents had her isolated in a storeroom in a church in a bid to deliver her from what they felt was a demon ‘making her mad’.

“The pastor said I was possessed by demons and needed deliverance. I was isolated in a church room for three weeks. It’s not that I don’t believe in religion or miracles, I was just certain that I was not possessed” she said.

After 21 days in the room, Amanda signed herself up to see a psychiatrist where she was diagnosed with Clinical depression. “I have been seeing a clinical psychologist for about three months now and it feels good talking to someone that understands,” she told me in a voice tinged with relief.

“My parents are still getting used to all of this, they say the healing process did not work because I don’t have enough faith. They’d rather carry on the religious way but I am no longer having any of that” she said.

For many people living with mental health disorders in Nigeria, Amanda’s tale will feel a tad relatable as there’s a good chance their illness has been dismissed or labeled spiritual.

What do the numbers say?

There is not enough data on Mental health in Nigeria. However, the available figures are nerve-racking. The federal neuropsychiatric hospital, Yaba, Lagos, estimates that over 21 million Nigerians live with mental health disorders. Many people are unaware that suicide, depression, eating disorders, anxiety and drug abuse are all linked to mental health.

According to a 2015 report by the World Health Organisation (W.H.O), Nigeria has 20.3 suicides in 100,000 people per year. The same report found that 4 in 10 Nigerians suffer from clinical depression. This seems small but when we consider that there are less than 10 mental health facilities in the entire country, it becomes alarming. Mental illness is covered up, ignored or countered by religion as opposed to medical attention – a lot of times out of shame and the fear of being stigmatized.

Religious belief system.

Part of why anything linked to mental health is tagged religious is because of the deeply entrenched religious and cultural beliefs in Nigeria. Religion splits the human experience into physical and spiritual. God and demons, for example, are spiritual while food and the planet are physical. When something isn’t obviously physical, it is quickly interpreted to be spiritual or out of the ordinary.

Hauwa Ojeifo, a mental health coach and founder of She Writes Woman, a not for profit organization giving mental health a voice in Nigeria, says one of the biggest challenges in creating awareness around mental disorders is the belief system of the average Nigerian.

“When it comes to physical illness with obvious symptoms, everyone’s ready to see an expert, you find people rushing to the hospital. But when it comes to the mind is ill, there’s suddenly an issue. The belief system is faulty, it assumes that the only form of illness or disorder is obvious or physical. If you cannot see it, it does not exist” she told me.

“There isn’t a lot of awareness regarding mental health and illness so a lot of people are ignorant to what it actually entails. The way religion is being translated does not help either” she explained.

On what religion says about mental health, Abduljaleel Olori-Aje, Imam of the Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) in Nigeria says Islam recognizes mental health disorders and proffers preventative and curative measures.

“There are mental health disorders that Islam provides a cure for. For example, ‘Ruqya’ which is a form of spiritual healing can be a solution to bipolar disorder and depression” he told me. “I think the root of the problem is with certain people that don’t have a proper understanding of the religion. They make it look like Islam does not recognize medicine or the need to see a psychiatrist.” he clarified.

Esther Zamani, a ministering Pastor in one branch of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Nigeria shares a similar opinion. She says for those who believe in God, the possibility of being cured when faced with a mental Illness is on the high side.  “Sometimes mental disorders like psychosis can be caused by the evil eye. This is when someone is so envious of another person he goes through an unnatural[ [voodoo] way to harm the said person. In such a case, a believer in Christ needs to lean on religion to break free.” she explained.

Esther says that over time religion has been abused “Where people get it wrong is that they think religion is the only solution. Many times God leads people to the solution of their problems but because it is not within the walls of the church, they miss the signs”. She said.

The core issue is that many Nigerians who uphold religion believe it is the only way to prevent or cure any form of illness, including mental illness. There is not enough awareness on mental health and the need to speak to an expert when symptoms occur.

Mental health awareness.

For the Nigerians living with mental health disorders, they wish for more people to be educated on the importance of seeing a mental health specialist when faced with symptoms. A lot of the time, it is not enough to speak to a religious leader. Hassanah Alimi [not her real name], says more agencies need to take up the campaign to encourage people to speak up and seek help. “I was initially indifferent about mental health till I got diagnosed with Bipolar disorder,” she told me.

Knowing first hand the implication of incomplete information around mental health, Hassanah places emphasis on the need to seek medical help and not only religious solutions when confronted with mental health issues. “I know now that the mind can get sick just like the body. I think it is key to transmit the correct information about mental health to people” she said.

While it may take a while to change how Nigerians relate with mental health, it is important to uphold and start conversations about mental illness and disorders – and ways to move forward from the misconceptions around it.