Nigerian Banks, Billionaires And Your Sorry Ordinary Ass

By Pius Adesanmi

Some of my friends have said that we moved too quickly within the same week from Hijab-Gate (religion) to Innoson-Gate (ethnicity). I told my worried friends that I do not share their despondency.

On the contrary, I am saying Allah be praised for I have learnt to give thanks and praise to God for little mercies concerning Nigeria. At least two days separate our cursing and hating each other on account of religion, from our cursing and hating each other on account of ethnicity this week.

That is considerable progress and sufficient ground to celebrate and give thanks to God, considering the fact that we used to multitask our hatreds on several fronts simultaneously. Now we hate on one basis at a time, before we transition to the next basis for hate. One hatred at a time. No more multitasked hatreds on multiple fronts at the same time.

Having done Christianity versus Islam over hijab before transitioning to Yoruba versus Igbo over Innocent Chukwuma this week, chances are we will be back to APC versus PDP by Christmas. Is this not progress?

Given the fact that we have less than 48 hours before we forget GTB and Innoson and move on to the political front of hatred (then back to religion, ethnicity, politics; repeat cycle of hatred ad nauseam), I deem it important to enter a few pertinent submissions so that your sorry ordinary Nigerian ass may once again contemplate the enormity of the price you pay for your stubborn and congenital apathy towards memory.

Save for a comment on my friend, Barrister Abdul Mahmud’s wall, I have largely stayed away from the raging inferno of ethnicity feeding into a business relationship gone bad between a bank and a business man. In the main, I see a typical Nigerian farcical plot complete with layers of irregularities, counter-irregularities, and plain bad behaviour. Somewhere in all this is a dividing line shaped by ethnicity and primordial sentiments.

If you are Igbo, you tend to believe that the bank is a rogue Yoruba bank that has been stealing money from the business man, violating court orders, and corralling the instruments of the Nigerian state to intimidate the hapless business man.

If you are Yoruba, you are probably retailing the acerbic narratives of the bank and the EFCC, aided by your friends from the North who have been dragged in because their Sai Baba is being accused of going after the business of his enemies in the South-East.

This, in the main, is where we are. We are here because, once again, we have sacrificed memory on the altar of primordial sentiments and failed to press our immediate past experience into the service of our collective interests as the little peeps.

You see, primordial sentiments are not just invidious, they are also blinding and require a fundamental surrender of the part of one’s critical faculty that should be constantly sentient in order for one to be able to grasp the full dimensions of one’s situation.

Were your sorry ass as an ordinary Nigerian not blinded by primordial sentiments, you would have been able to reason on the basis of memory that who scammed who between GTB and Innocent Chukwuma is an intra-class fratricide that is none of your business.

When we speak about a particular class we call the Nigerian elite, many have a reductionist conceptualisation of the matter. You think in terms of individuals, of those one percenters in politics, social circles, and business.

It is important that you broaden your understanding of the elite. It is individuals. It is their social group or class. It is also their institutions and apparatuses of dominance, control, and exploitation. In other words, the politicians, the state and her instruments of violence (the Army, the police, EFCC, etc), the banks and other instruments of financial accumulation and oppression, are all part of a one percentile elite organism of exploitation and oppression.

An individual member of this group in a feud with an institutional member of the same group is really a case of Gambari pa Fulani. It is none of your business because however it plays out between Innocent Chukwuma and GTB, none of the feuding parties will lose. YOU will still lose out, you and your sorry little ass. Forget ethnicity. Forget your Yoruba-Igbo incubus: you will both pay the price of this feud between a business man and his bank.

This is where memory helps. Unfortunately, memory and the Nigerian are always hostile neighbours in the same sentence. In 2009, the current Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, rendered an historic service to this country. It was one of the most patriotic acts ever rendered this country by a citizen – a blue blooded one percenter for that matter. He was then CBN governor. He carried out a thorough audit of the banking sector, indicted so many misbehaving and criminal bank chiefs and, in a revolutionary manner, published lists of bank loan defaulters in two installments.

Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s action was a climacteric. Nearly two hundred and fifty names – the most prominent names from every corner of Nigeria, old money, new money – were involved in the most egregious abuse of depositors’ funds in criminal collusion with our banks.

Virtually every billionaire in Nigeria appeared on the list of chronic debtors – Dangote, Otedola, etc. Virtually every corporation, every holding in the country, featured in the list as owners of non-performing loans or outright bad debts.

We are talking of hundreds and hundreds of billions of naira. Nigerian banks will take your owo oniru, owo oniyo, owo alata, your hard-earned deposits of one thousand naira, the money of the newspaper vendor, the money of the roadside mechanic, the money of Iyaloja, the money of unpaid teachers, nurses, the money of civil servants, roll them into billions and parcel them out as non-performing loans and bad debts to Dangote, Otedola and billionaires of every tribe, politicians of every faith, social climbers of every hue.

What SLS revealed in his 2009 list showed that Bukola Saraki was a boy scout with his heists at Société Générale Bank.

The bank chiefs, mostly Bible-wielding, Holy Ghost fire-spewing morons, understand the game. They do not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, tribe, or political affiliation. Once you are one percenter, you are in on the family crime that is the Nigerian banking and financial sector. They give you billions in loans and credit instruments with little or no due diligence because there are all kinds of in-built cuts and kickbacks. The banks rub your back and you rub their backs.

They will never lend to your sorry little ass as an ordinary citizen. They will never lend to your little business. If you are a Mai Shayi, you better not approach them for a loan to grow your business. Pray that Governor Ganduje wakes up on the happy side of his bed tomorrow morning. If you are a market porter in Makurdi, you better not approach Nigerian banks for a loan to help your small business hustle. Pray that Governor Ortom dreams about wheelbarrows tonight. The banks will not give you loans but they will take your little money, your meagre deposits, and parcel them out as loans to the billionaires. Never really to be repaid.

Because it is all a game, Nigeria made noise for about a week after Sanusi published the lists. And we moved on to our eternal shame and damnation as a people. Not a single arrest. Not a single prosecution. We moved on.

In fact, Professor Pat Utomi, who appeared in the list as a loan defaulter, did a lot of gragra. He made a lot of noise and threatened to sue. I guess someone eventually whispered to Prof to observe the golden rule of silence and let the matter blow over. We never heard pim from Prof again. We never heard from any of the 250 people listed again. We moved on.

But your sorry little ass as an ordinary Nigerian has been paying for the crimes of these one percenters and the conniving banks. Oho, so you think that the banks went to sleep just because Dangote, Otedola and every other Nigerian billionaire did not repay the loans?

No, the loans are passed on to you in a cruel Darwinian equation. That is why Nigerian banks are forever making you pay fees that you cannot for the life of you understand. That is why they are always criminally withdrawing little sums from your account – fifty naira here, a hundred naira there. They charge and charge and charge and bill you out of existence. You are repaying the non-performing loans and bad debts of their criminal one percentile family members.

Innocent Chukwuma and GTB are family members in this game. It is poverty that makes you invest in Yoruba-Igbo feuding when there is no such thing going on in this matter. One percenters are too rich and busy to think like you. No matter how this pans out, the debts will be parceled out to your sorry little Igbo and Yoruba asses in the bills and charges you pay for the 17th-century services of GTB. They will milk you to get that money back, while eventually reaching a deal with Innoson.

Let’s recap for it is very important that you understand these things: Nigerian banks, Nigerian instruments of state violence, and social, business, and political actors are all branches of one class organism called the elite.
In Nigeria, this expanded elite is irredeemably criminal. It is also a non-sentient, sociopathic elite with zero inclination towards even the most rudimentary understanding of the social contract. The only social contract between you and this elite is the partnership between the horse and its rider. That is the only way the Nigerian elite can ontologically relate to you.

So, fight GTB but do not fight GTB on account of its family member – Innocent Chukwuma. Fight GTB in a broader, expanded and more meaningful sense because she is a member of a criminal cartel called the Nigerian banking sector.
Nigerian banks are wholesomely irresponsible. They offer you the most atrocious services imaginable. Customer service is zero. Banks in the Songhai Empire of Askia the Great offered better online services in the 15th century than what Nigerian banks currently offer in the second decade of the 21st century.

When they maltreat your sorry little ass, they don’t care about your ethnicity or religion.

With elections around the corner in the next two years in Nigeria, many of them are already prospecting for who could become governor, who could become a senator and potentially head a “juicy” Senate committee. With your deposits, they will extend credit facilities to these potentially bankable politicians.

You will only hear about it if things go south and they begin to fight.

Stop picking sides.

Grab a popcorn, open a bottle of Orijin, and enjoy the fight.

Pius Adesanmi, a professor of English, is Director of the Institute of African Studies, Carleton University, Canada.

Warning to Nigerian Parents, By Pius Adesanmi

There is a certain Nigerian demographic that is being raised by my generation. All of a sudden, the kids of many of my course-mates in the University are now undergraduates. My generation is raising Nigerians in the 17 – 25-year-old bracket. Millennials, I have called them, are the orphaned generation because they have been left to their own devices at too many levels owing to the complete collapse and atrophy of Nigerian society and nation.

My generation could still peep into the political public sphere and bask in the symbolism of credible and worthy role models. Today’s millennials have no such luck as the Nigerian political public sphere is peopled exclusively by unprincipled brigands and Ishola Oyenusis occupying political office and every space of public symbolism.

If you are working for a political office holder today and making politically correct noise to defend them on social media, chances are that in the safety and privacy of your bedroom and your conscience, you will never be able to brandish your principal to your children as a role model.

My generation also enjoyed superior, ethical, visionary, informed, principled, and purposeful parenting on a very broad basis. I understand that there is a risk of generalization here, but it is a risk worth taking in the service of contrast with the sort of parenting we are providing to today’s millennials. I think there are fundamental principles we received from our own parents that we are now failing to pass on to the new demographic we are now parenting in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions.

Of course, I am a funky, in-touch, cosmopolitan pragmatist. I would be the last to recommend an unmodified transfer of the parenting manual of our own parents to the new generation. I am the first to always advise my own mother, Mama Adesanmi, that she has to modify her relationship with today’s millennials; that she cannot just copy and paste the methodology with which she raised me and my generation at Titcombe College while trying to train and discipline millennials (her grandchildren’s age) in Isanlu today. I tease her that her parenting methodology is old school lapel and she must receive training in how to relate to today’s kids from me because I have those millennials aplenty on social media, and I am more in tune with their psychology than her.

In essence, I am aware of the need to raise today’s kids in today’s circumstances with today’s tools and methodology. However, this should not translate to a wholesale jettisoning of the fundamentals of parenting that we received from our own parents. Consider the case of work ethic. What exactly should be old school about the work ethic, the conceptualization of hard work, honest labor, toil and grind, and swotting that our parents passed on to us? That is how we were raised. Why is this philosophy of work ethic not being passed on to the next generation that we are raising today? Mama Adesanmi’s work ethic should not be old school lapel. We should be able to pass it on to today’s millennials.

If the work ethic of the millennial is appalling, abysmal or even non-existent, the reason is to be found in the sort of parenting that my generation is providing. It is terrible. Consider the case of the education sector. Nigerian tertiary education has moved from rot to total collapse. University, Polytechnic, and College of Education students have been at home for so long, some of them will need driving direction to their own campuses whenever they eventually resume. All around, I see millennials who have zero clue what to do with all the free time on their hands and I put that down to disengaged and uninvolved parenting.

As an undergraduate, there was no year I did not spend a minimum of two to three months at home due to ASUU, NASU, and other assorted Aluta strikes. The first rule of Baba Adesanmi’s parenting methodology: school closure due to strikes is never an excuse for your education or personal development to stop. For every ASUU strike, I had to come up with a reading and study program, which he supervised meticulously. He was constantly on the lookout for all kinds of conventions, seminars, and other activities of personal and intellectual development that I would attend.

Baba Adesanmi would contact and write letters to Professors he knew in far away Universities – ABU, UI, University of Ife – to ask about opportunities I could productively engage in during the strike: “My dear Professor so and so, your son, Bola, is at home because Unilorin is currently closed as you know. I was wondering if…”

Productive engagement of my time during strikes and school closures was crucial to my father’s methodology of parenting. I was never allowed to transform school closure into an alibi for indolence, laziness, or fatalism.

My work ethic, rigor, and incipient sense of pertinent initiative were not to be affected by strikes. Baba Adesanmi would not tolerate that. Engaged parenting ensured that these things remained intact. Today, knowledge is borderless, democratic, and free because of the dynamics of the global knowledge economy, but I look around me and I see a demographic grounded by tertiary education strikes; grounded and lost because they mostly do not know how to rise above the strictures and limitations of their immediate circumstances; they do not know these things because of parental disengagement. Strikes become an alibi and an excuse for far too many of them.

Recently, Bamidele Ademola-Olateju and yours truly launched the Sahara Reporters’ Education Café in Lagos. Our target: University undergraduates. We had space for only thirty students and we stated that very clearly in the advertisement. The ad went out on our Facebook Walls as well as the combined Twitter and Facebook accounts of Sahara Reporters boasting nearly five million followers.

Our mission: Teach participants how to navigate the resources of the global knowledge economy for your personal development and education for free.

You are a LAUTECH student and constituted authority has grounded you at home for months in Ibadan. Are you aware of all the free online courses at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, etc, that you can stream and follow for free to grow your knowledge base? Are you aware of the knowledge hubs and cafes that you could join for free in order to rub minds with your peers in Europe, North America, and Asia via streaming? Are you aware of how to navigate these opportunities and maximize them? What to do with them? How to acquire and utilize the skills and resources of the new global knowledge economy?

Bamidele and I went to the venue of the event with very concrete resources we were going to share with participants. Because we are both social media public figures, we easily filled the room to capacity. However, our audience was made up exclusively of postgraduate students, Lagos-based professionals, and social media admirers eager to benefit from resources we had designed exclusively for undergraduates. Only two undergraduates were in the audience. We went ahead and had a fantastic time with our audience, but I kept thinking about all those Unilag and LASU undergraduates. I kept thinking of all those Polytechnic and College of Education kids in Lagos.

Most importantly, I kept thinking of all the parents of undergraduate millennials that Bamidele and I have combined on our walls. Such a well-advertised, unbelievable learning opportunity with resources for free during endless strikes. Bamidele and I had gone to that event expecting not only to meet undergraduates but their parents who had taken the pain to invest the time in coming with them.

In my undergraduate years, Baba Adesanmi would have borrowed money to buy petrol for his car and would have personally driven me from Isanlu all the way to Lagos to attend such a program and interact meaningfully with the facilitators.

If you are parenting a millennial in any of our higher institutions, here is a warning and an admonition: His or her work ethic is your responsibility. It is still malleable. And, I’m afraid, you’ve got competition from corrupt politicians and public officials for your child’s time.

You will either shape that work ethic the way your own parents shaped yours or a Governor/Senator/Rep with a very long EFCC rap sheet will move in and shape your child’s work ethic for you via social media.

There Is A Future For Us Beyond The Orangutans By Pius Adesanmi

Any public figure whose name we fail to agree on will always cause wahala.

Evan Enwerem? Evans Enwerem?

James Onanefe Ibori? Onanefe James Ibori?

Now we have Hammeed Alli! In a single edition of The Nation Newspaper on September 13, 2015, the headline reads “Hamid Ali” while the opening line of the same story reads “Hameed Ali”.

Names matter. When you do not get the name of public figures right, some catastrophic consequences arise. Ask the Washington regime of Mr. Donald Trump. They mixed up the spelling of the British Prime Minister’s name and ended up with a British porn actress!

Ever since President Buhari appointed Ogbeni Ali and he, in turn, inflicted himself on public consciousness, we have been spelling his name as chaotically as he has been acting in office. Is it double em and double el? We have been combining his consonants and vowels anyhow. It is almost like we are working our way through the 20 possible spellings of Ghaddafi.

I propose a division of labor. Some of you should try to determine the correct spelling of his name and get the Nigerian media to pay attention. Others should endeavor to put the current uniform imbroglio in proper perspective.

I propose to undertake mission 2 here.

Many of my friends have been arguing legalese and constitutionalese around this issue of uniform. I think this misses the bigger point.

Hammeed Alli rubs me the wrong way. He rubs me the wrong way because he imagines he is bigger than an institution of the Nigerian state. He rubs me the wrong way because he is a big man and is making sure he inflicts himself on public consciousness as a big man. He wants us to remember everything that comes with that terrain of meaning and sociality in Nigeria. Hammeed Alli rubs me the wrong way because he is an Oga at the top and he expects me to sneeze two times, stifle the third sneeze in my throat before uttering dazzol at the end of his name.

Hammeed Alli is bigger than an institution of the Nigerian state because he is a friend of the President. And he wants you to understand that.

What I think of the Nigerian Senate is immaterial. What I think of the Senate asking Hammeed Alli to wear uniform, danshiki, or bante is immaterial.

The overriding concern for me is this idea that there can be an individual bigger than an Institution of the Nigerian state just because he is a former military officer and a close friend of the President. That is not acceptable to me and we should not tolerate it.

We enable this unacceptable idea of the big man bigger than the state every time we find legalese and constitutionalese to explain that bottom line away. And there are linkages between things.

That is how the Inspector General of Police said the other time that he was waiting for the Emir of Kano to return from lesser hajj before he could act on something! Translation: the Emir of Kano is bigger than that particular institution of the Nigerian state. And like play like play, he did nothing till the Emir returned! I felt so violated in my citizenship! This is not a democracy. This is not a state. This is a jungle.

In a country where there is so much arrogance of power; in a country where we are trying to demystify and demythify power in order to restore the supremacy of the citizen, we must not tolerate the slightest hint of the big man.

The psychology of the Nigerian big man is atrocious. Our attitude should be: just who the heck is Hammeed Alli to be too big to appear before the Senate according to that institution’s instructions?

What we think of the Senate should not matter here. Some say the Senate is filled with corrupt crooks and that invalidates her ability to invite Alli.

Oho, so Alli is leading a public institution of saints? Is the Senate as corrupt as Customs? Nigerian corruption is a pyramid of fantastically corrupt public institutions. On top of this pyramid of stratospheric corruption, Nigerian Customs and NNPC share the gold medal. So what is this talk about the corruption of the Senate and what has it to do with what we are talking about here?

In Nigerian corruption, the Senate is a boy scout. Customs is a five-star General. So, let us stop this talk of corruption and focus on the issue: bigmanism. This issue is not about uniform. It is about institutions of state and the individual. When you make it about uniform, you are trivializing it to rationalize Hammeed Alli.

The focus on corruption assumes that the Senate will always be as hopeless and as corrupt as she has been since 1999. It assumes that the Senate will always be populated by orangutans as she has been since 1999.

You have to constantly own the right to project into a future when we would have won the battle and there would be real, 21st century human beings in a credible 21st century Senate who are there for their constituents. When this happens, what will you do about the precedent you are setting today – allowing a big man to be bigger than the state?

It is true that we have largely been ruled and violated by orangutans since independence and one of the consequences of that is the normalization in our national psyche of the travesty in which there are individual Nigerians bigger than the state and her institutions.

No matter how corrupt, dysfunctional, and useless such institutions currently are, our challenge is to win them from the orangutans, cleanse and re-purpose them for 21st century civilization. We are not called upon to use their current leprous condition as an excuse to play footsie with the egos of our big men.

The point is to dare to think beyond the limitations of our present challenges.

Thoughts On President Buhari’s Medical Advice To Nigerians By Pius Adesanmi

From what I’ve seen thus far, President Buhari’s return is being framed as a short convalescent respite in Abuja before he returns for “further checks” in London. Until I hear differently, I have to take it that this is the true state of things.

Whatever the case may be, I say welcome to him and I wish him God’s speed in the journey to recovery and full health. I also pray for strength for his immediate family as they continue to take care of him. I was in their shoes for 22 years, from 1985 to 2007.

I know the toll it takes on one to have to take care of one’s loved ones when they are ill. The Yoruba have a proverb that those taking care of the sick are the sick. For the 22 years that my mom, sisters, and I had to take care of my father, we were sick too. The President’s immediate family needs our prayers and support.

That said, there is also a familiar narrative of human callousness and lack of respect for the dignity of the indisposed. No matter how weak and frail the human bodily frame of President Yar’Adua was, some people somewhere needed the political symbolism of his appearance in Abuja for their own selfish purposes. No matter how weak and frail the human bodily frame of Danbaba Suntai was, some desperate people needed the political capital of his return to Jalingo.

The same primitive sentiments by the same forces who lack fundamental human decency and are genetically incapable of thinking Nigeria beyond their pernicious narrow and personal interests are now at work. However, unlike President Yar’Adua and Governor Suntai who were parachuted in barely conscious, President Buhari has agency and is a player in this unfolding scenario. He is responsible for his own decisions.

The trip and prolonged stay were already so badly handled. What is the purpose of a convalescent cameo return at such unbelievable costs to the tax payer? The proper, dignifying thing to do in the circumstances is to allow a full return to health in London before returning or to return to Abuja only when the President’s health has reached a stage where treatment could continue at home.

For me, continuing the management of his health in Abuja – we pay an awful lot annually for that State House Medical Centre – would not reduce the damage done by the fact that he went on a health safari at all or the way the whole thing was managed – deceiving Nigerians initially, dishing out information parsimoniously as if it were a privilege, bullying and blackmailing Nigerians for asking questions – but it will at least not compound the situation with an expensive cameo convalescent return to Abuja.

Premium Times has given an in-depth account of President Buhari’s statements to his cabinet and some governors in the State House upon his return. Premium Times reports that the President weighed in on education and health. I agree with the President on education, albeit with my own amplification. On health, I sincerely hope that Premium Times has either mis-reported the President or quoted him out of context. However, until there is clarification from the Presidency, I will go with Premium Times’s account.

According to Premium Times, the President stated that we must take the education of our children seriously. Says Premium Times:

“Mr. Buhari said the world was fast changing, and more efforts must be made to equip the younger generation with relevant skills to compete in the global economy.”

I agree in toto with the President here. However, in addition to educating our children to be active participants in the global knowledge economy, we have a more urgent task to overhaul the delivery of the humanities and the social sciences in Nigeria. We need an urgent reinvestment in critical thought. We need to make two semesters of philosophy compulsory in every Nigerian tertiary institution.

That way, we will start to produce citizens who are not only capable of feeling insulted in their civic essence by the way that this whole Presidential health saga has been handled but who will be interpellated to ask tough and hard questions and understand such as their right and duty to Nigeria.

If we listen to President Buhari and educate our children properly, the hordes feeling privileged that the President has deigned to bless them with a convalescent return and disturbing the peace all over social media will understand that after the human sentiment of euphoria and relief (I was quite relieved seeing the President), they have an even bigger duty of asking tough questions as his employers. And they have a duty to themselves to completely ignore any bullying by Citizen Abobaku.

Beyond education, Premium Times reports that President Buhari has other advice for Nigerians. He has health advice for them. According to Premium Times:

“President Buhari noted that the government would continue to discourage Nigerians from self-medication, urging those with discomforts to ensure they get proper diagnosis and doctor’s prescription for drugs. He lauded the quality of treatment he got during his medical vacation.”

I don’t know what to say to this if Premium Times reported the President’s statement correctly. All I will say is that people in power and government and Citizen Abobaku who bullies his fellow citizens to support them unquestionably at all times should try from time to time to show that they have human feeling and that they are capable of empathizing with the downtrodden in Nigeria.

President Buhari is not the only person that is sick. Psychologically and emotionally, our citizens are also ill because they have been so badly beaten and battered. We should be mindful of this and be compassionate, not add to their emotional and psychological stress.

A Nigerian has probably not been paid his salary in the last 8 months. He cannot feed. He cannot pay his rent. He cannot pay his children’s school fees. He cannot afford the ramshackle health facilities we have in Nigeria. The doctors are on strike anyway because they are not paid.

In all of this, he has borne your own medical trip to London because you traveled at public expense. Then you return from London to advise him to “get proper diagnosis and doctor’s prescription for drugs”. And you also praised the quality of the medical treatment you got abroad?

Is this a joke? Is this blindness to irony? Is this callousness? Is this lack of empathy? How exactly is a Nigerian supposed to feel about this very strange medical advice from the President? Where exactly is a Nigerian supposed to get this diagnosis and prescription drugs from? London?

A citizen who reads that he or she is being advised to get medical care in crumbled and ramshackle clinics and hospitals by a President just returning from a publicly-funded medical safari in London is also sick because such a citizen has just been emotionally and psychologically violated.

So when we are bullying Nigerians to empathize with the President, let us also remember that the victims of our bullying are human and deserve empathy, much more empathy than the President.

The Road From Only To However By Pius Adesanmi

In December 2015, a gay man was lynched in Ondo by folks who claimed that his homosexuality was such a serious cultural contravention that only jungle justice and murder would assuage their sense of cultural injury. Unhappy that they were not part of the original mob that murdered the gay man, many Nigerians have been making a pilgrimage to the dead man’s Facebook wall to curse him and justify and rationalize his murder – when they are not gleefully sharing photos of his bloodied head and prefacing the shares with superiorist moralizing.

The slightly saner among Nigerian humanity are condemning this murder but only after introducing caveats, qualifications, and ‘conditionalities’ in order to establish a cultural soft landing for their condemnation: “so sad that the guy was killed. I condemn the murder. However, he was gay…”

The coarsening of Nigeria’s attitude towards the sanctity of human life is part of the decay of our core that I decried in “B’Aja Ba n Gbo” but it did not start with the “howevers” with which we now qualify the orgies of murder and massacres that have blighted the Nigerian present, placing another question mark on our membership of 21st-century civilization. Before there was however in our culture of qualified reaction to the taking of human life, there was “only” – we started the journey with “only”.

Come with me to 1986. The tyrant, General Ibrahim Babangida, was at the beginning of his declaration of war on the Nigerian education system – a war that has been sustained ever since by the Nigerian elite. Babangida faced serious resistance from Nigerian students. During one such student uprising on the campus of Ahmadu Bello University, Babangida sent tanks to the campus. The soldiers were ruthless. Yes, there was ABU Zaria before there was Tiananmen Square in China.

Nigerian newspapers started to headline the numbers of ABU students mowed down in cold blood by Ibrahim Babangida’s soldiers. As in all things Nigerian, each newspaper had a different figure. The divergence in figures notwithstanding, it was incontrovertible that students had been killed on Ibrahim Babangida’s watch.

The fact of murder was not as important to ABU Vice Chancellor, Professor Ango Abdullahi, as the politics of murder. The man went on national air to complain about the exaggerated figures of murdered students being bandied about in the media. “Only four died!”, he screamed and scolded Nigeria. He didn’t remember to mourn “only four” of his students that died. Today, Ango Abdullahi and Ibrahim Babangida are “elder statesmen” in Nigeria.

Ango Abdullahi’s “only”, his privileging of politics over the fact that even one of his students had been killed by Ibrahim Babangida’s soldiers, is a significant moment in our long journey to collective inhumanity and decay. That journey would take several turns and bifurcations, leading us to a moral and ethical impasse which makes the definition of a thief totally impossible in Nigeria. In our national morality, one man’s thief is another man’s Chief.

We moved from the “only” of Ango Abdullahi to the “however” of ethnicity and religion in our national instinct to theft and corruption.

This explains why I, Pius Adesanmi, could go to Nigeria today and rob a bank in broad daylight, certain that there will be no consensus over my action. He is a Christian? No wonder all these Muslims are accusing him of theft! Nonsense! Do Christians steal as much as Muslims? See their Dasuki! Pius Adesanmi carry go jare! Wait a minute, he is not only a Christian, he is also Adebola Adesanmi o. No wonder it is only Igbos and Hausa-Fulani folks that are screaming and calling him a thief! Nonsense! We wii not take eet! Pius Adesanmi ride on!

In essence, once you determine that the thief is from your ethnic or religious neck of the woods, you introduce a “however” somewhere to absolve him and muddy the waters in terms of clear-cut definitions of theft and corruption.

That ‘however’ is what we have now transplanted from the province of corruption to the province of human life. I have watched in despair over the last couple of weeks as the processing of gory massacres in our national life is subjected to a brutal politics which makes murder uncondemnable without hedging and qualification for so many of our folks. I have watched in consternation as Nigerian dead bodies – murdered by fellow Nigerians – are declared unmournable on the altar of identity and politics.

It is unacceptable that we have reached a low in national life which subjects murder to ethnic, religious, and other identity scrutiny before deciding which human life is mournable and which is unmournable.

The Agatu were murdered. Hundreds of Agatu murdered on their own soil. And you hear fellow citizens introducing however to qualify anything they have to say.

“It is sad that they were murdered o”

– However, why are Fulani herdsmen mentioned in connection with the massacres?

– However, it appears the numbers have been exaggerated.

– However, I feel that my ethnicity and religion are being scapegoated in the attribution of responsibility for the Agatu massacres.

Notice that in all these ‘howevers’, our friend is yet to mourn any Agatu dead. He is yet to say that the murder of just one Nigerian is unacceptable and should be condemned on the fundamental basis of humanity instead of subjecting it to stupid ethnic and religious forensic analysis.

Pro-Biafra protesters are being shot at and murdered by soldiers of the Nigerian state. You hear the same rhetoric.

“It is sad that they were murdered o”

– However, they were pro-Biafra protesters.

– However, it appears the numbers have been exaggerated.

– However, bla bla bla

From “only” to “however”! My fear is that “however” will not be the end of our journey to inhumanity. Unless we do a serious national soul-searching – we have a National Orientation Agency that is moribund – we shall arrive at a situation of such debasement of our humanity that we shall react to murder with worrever!

Hundreds of Nigerians were massacred yesterday?


The Road To 2017 Budget By Pius Adesanmi

What the creatives prepared by Budgit – the social conscience outfit that has become the nemesis of even the most ingenious yam eater in Nigeria – on President Buhari’s 2016 Federal budget is to ensure that even members of NURTW can discuss the said budget at Agodi motor park in Ibadan, while eating amala and abula amidst squeals of “Ado kan!”, “Ado kan!”, “Ado kan!” The budget is now accessible in a format that Iya Kubura and Baba Kasali can understand and President Buhari and his team are finding out, too late and disastrously so for them, that yesterday’s monkeys in Idanre have disappeared, replaced by socially-conscious agents capable of grasping the monumental fraud in the budget.

If you thought that you’d seen the worst in that budget with the creatives by Budgit, it means you have not gone through the forensic analysis prepared by the media outfit, Premium Times. Entitled “Inside the Massive Fraud in Buhari’s 2016 Budget”, one passage in this report is worth quoting in some detail:

“A particularly disturbing instance of misplaced priority is the allocation for books for Vice President Osinbajo’s office. Mr. Osinbajo’s office has more money allocated to it for books than what each of the federal polytechnics in the country are getting for the same purpose. While N4,906,822 was proposed to be spent on books by Mr Osinbajo, the total allocation for books for 11 out of 22 federal polytechnics, which actually have book allocations, was a mere N3,832,038.”

Because Nigerians can squeeze humour and laughter out of stone – it is not for nothing that they earned the distinction of being the happiest people on earth – they have been able to turn President Buhari’s budget tragedy into a source of national carnivalesque. But all the comedy, all the humour, all the laughter which has greeted the unbelievable perverseness of the 2016 budget is the laughter which the Yoruba say is the only recourse of those who have run out of tears.

The situation is made much worse by President Buhari’s chronic inability to recognize moments of national solemnity and do what is needed. When a Federal budget is this badly bungled, it is a moment of national disgrace and humiliation which tragically undermines the humanity and dignity of the Nigerian. The first order of national healing happens when the President accepts responsibility, comforts people, addresses them, and promises appropriate sanctions.

We need to start teaching Nigeria’s leadership that the sky does not fall when you talk to your people, accept responsibility, and comfort them in times of national solemnity. We need to start teaching Nigeria’s leadership that if you accept responsibility for things gone awry, ojuju Calabar will not come and carry you in the dead of night. To address Nigerians vaguely and casually through a Facebook update by Garba Shehu welcoming criticism on this grave budget matter is an insult. There are moments which require the face and the voice of the big man himself. Diehard supporters will resort to the default mode of saying that the President cannot personally speak to everything. They are wrong. They are ignorant of the power of symbolic national moments when the Nigerian needs to hear directly from his President.

Nigeria being Nigeria, we must accept the crumb that we have received from Garba Shehu. He says that they are prepared to listen to criticism of the budget in good faith. We tell them that, hopefully, the 2016 budget will be the last that President Buhari and his team will ever present without having read a single page of it. We understand perfectly that this is a long-standing Nigerian tradition. No administration, no previous government, has ever read a budget they presented. You just have civil servants photocopy the text of last year’s budget and make the necessary yam adjustments for inflation.

Let President Buhari finally settle down to read his 2016 budget, he’d be amazed by its similarity to the budget he read in 1985. He’d be amazed by its similarity to every budget that has ever been read after 1985, all the way to President Jonathan. Only the figures and the size and scale of the theft and the padding are adjusted by civil servants. The text is essentially the same insipid and unimaginative text – it never varies. The sentences are the same.  The only other thing which varies is the christening: budget of hope, budget of growth, budget of creativity, budget of transformation, budget of restoration. Then you start again from hope and run through the same titles year after year.

In essence, nobody is saying that the national shame of copying and pasting last year’s budget without reading it, merely inserting new yams and adjusting old yams for inflation, started with president Buhari. What he is to be blamed for, his monumental failure, is in not changing this paradigm. He is supposed to be the first President to have ever read the budget he presented in Nigeria’s recent history. He is supposed to have spent weeks poring over every detail, he and his team huddled in his office, reviewing and revising the text, with plenty of Nescafe sachets, goro, and tomtom wraps littering the work space.

The damage has already been done. This is the time for President Buhari and his team to start preparing to earn their salaries by actually reading the 2017 budget. Too many people are holding civil servants responsible for the budget mess. I’m afraid President Buhari bears singular responsibility for this gargantuan failure and betrayal of public trust. If you keep sugar coating things for the President and absolving him of every misstep, if you keep saying that the buck stops at the desk of civil servants and political aides, you are on the path to destroying this President. You are not helping him.

Let me remind you, career absolver of President Buhari, that when criticism emerged of ethnic lopsidedness in the President’s appointments, you pleaded with Nigerians to understand the fact that the President needed to appoint only trusted hands that he knows and can trust and can supervise and can work with. You said that he needed to appoint only people he was sure would not mess him up. You said he needed those who would do a great job. Similarly, when he took twenty years to form a cabinet – I’m a writer; I use hyperbole for effect here – you frog-marched the same rationalizations into his defense. You said that he needed all the time in the world to appoint competent people he knows.

If you are now saying that all these people are the ones to blame for messing up the budget… do you see the problem of logic that has just fallen on your laps? It is time for you to stop insisting on ogbono that has lost its slimy and draw capacity. Okro is also draw soup. Boil water and prepare okro.  In other words, stop blaming aides every time something goes wrong. Try holding the President responsible for something for a change.

You must read your budget before presenting it. Hopefully, President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo, who wants to read more books than all Federal polytechnics combined, have learned a lesson. However, reading your budget is one thing, knowing that a budget is an identity document, a philosophy of your essence, is another thing. I have written about this before in my essay on the Dubai of the belly. You don’t just consider a budget an annual ritual in which your ministries and agencies and other mechanisms of your bureaucracy cobble together a spending diet for the year. The story of postcolonial budgeting in Nigeria is the story of ostentation, opulence, lazy and parasitic consumption without producing. Every budget document shows a pathological national hatred for genius, innovation, creation, and sacrifice.

A fundamental shift in budget philosophy requires a very deep understanding of symbolism. President Buhari will never reach this understanding if he is constantly reassured that his aides, ministers, and civil servants are responsible for his errors of the rendering.

President Buhari must take the bold step of looking in the mirror every morning and telling the man starring back at him: the pot is yours. You break it, you own it.

I wish him Godspeed.