Archive for March 2008

Speaker Bankole’s Ceremonial Tears

March 31, 2008

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

For a young man whose almost every photograph is distinguished by a toothy smile that somehow reminds one of Ibrahim Babangida, when the wily General was that age, the image of Dimeji Bankole, Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, weeping profusely before the members of the Children’s Parliament who had visited him in his Abuja office, would have marked a refreshing change.

But, sadly, our press photographers missed that bit, and we were merely served some drab tales about how Bankole was overcome by emotions, and had to let the tears flow freely from his ever twinkling eyes, after his younger colleague, the Speaker of the Children’s Parliament, Miss Chinyere Nwaneri, had lucidly articulated the harrowing ordeals Nigerian children regularly experienced, and which the authorities were yet to raise a finger to address.

“We have come to inform the Speaker about some inhuman treatment that children are going through in this country. Some are being raped by even their parents while some others are going through mutilation. We have tried to sell the country abroad through our programmes but these things are affecting our image. You should try and do something about it,” the Speaker of the Children’s Parliament told Bankole in Abuja.

I want mention in passing that I have serious problems with all these talks and efforts and cravings to “sell the country abroad.” It is very saddening that the bug has equally caught up with our children. For goodness sake, let’s sell Nigeria to Nigerians first, let them have faith in it, and develop stakeholder-feeling towards their nation.

How long shall we continue to woo unimpressed buyers with our substandard product? Why can’t we deploy all that energy to dissuade Nigerians from continuing to see their country as some unfortunate but richly-endowed whale washed ashore by sea waves, which anyone who is able to outsmart the others is very free to rush onto with sharp knives and large basins to cut and carte away as much as he or she could, before the fish totally rots away?

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Dimeji Bankole, Speaker, House of Reps

 

Let’s make Nigeria work, and we won’t have any need trying to “sell Nigeria” to anybody. A good market, we all know, sells itself. Moreover, all this talk about “selling Nigeria” makes me very uncomfortable. I am not ready for any twenty-first century slave-trade!

Now, back to Bankole’s tears. When the matter cropped up at our weekly Editorial Board meeting at the Independent three weeks ago, there were disagreements among my colleagues as to the actual reason for the Speaker’s tears.

Was the House Speaker weeping because he was hearing about the plight of Nigerian children for the first time? Or had he just emerged from a very rewarding rehearsal with a band of professional mourners, and so wanted to show off his prodigious talent?

I don’t think I have seen Bankole make a speech since he became the Speaker of the Lower House, neither did I see the footage of Miss Nwaneri’s presentation in Abuja when the Speaker hosted her and her colleagues. If I had, it would have helped me determine whether the Speaker of the Children’s Parliament had displayed such exceptional oratorical skills that the Speaker of the Adult Parliament had to weep and bemoan his own handicap.

Well, like Bankole, I had also wept because of a child’s very touching plight last May, but unlike him, I lacked the power to do anything. I was on the perilous Onitsha-Owerri Road heading to Orlu to watch my friend, Pastor Mike Ihenacho’s stage presentation of his play.

As we pulled up at a filling station to buy fuel, a very tender (and I must add very weak) voice cut through my ears to my very heart: “Buy Pure Water! Buy Pure Water!!” As I turned to look at the owner of the soul-rending, tiny voice, the very tender boy I saw carrying a small bowl containing about six or seven ‘pure water’ sachets could not have been anything beyond four years. I thought about my own daughter of that age back in Lagos, and oh, what a dreadful, scary thought!

My heart bled. I struggled with tears.

I longed so much to give him more money than he could make in three days and ask him to go home, but I had a restriction. Remember the Nigerian factor: Some of those fellows idling away at the filling station there might come up with the crazy idea that I wanted to do ‘juju’ with the hapless boy, and my compassionate act could land me in serious trouble! And so, I moved away most reluctantly.

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Former Speaker, Patricia Foluke Etteh

 

 

Even as I write now, I can still hear that haunting voice. My heart still bleeds for that tender child and several others like him out there forced into the streets by the impossible conditions created in such a richly-endowed country like Nigeria by callous, ultra selfish and thieving rulers who have always cornered the commonwealth to themselves. We live in a country where about ninety percent of the nation’s resources are in the hands of less than ten percent of the population.

How can Bankole’s tears help that little, tender child hawking ‘pure water’ along Onitsha-Owerri Road and several others like him around the country? Since he wiped his tears in Abuja, after the visit of the Children’s Parliament, can anyone guarantee that he still remembers even a word of all that the children had told him that day? If yes, what practical steps has he tried to take through the House he leads to ensure that those who sexually abuse their children, relations or even non-relations, no matter how highly-placed, are made to pay for their hideous crimes?

What about those Government officials whose actions and non-actions create conditions that make this country hellish to children? Has Bankole’s House any plans to check their boundless greed and heartless exploitation of the disadvantaged?

Or are they not all one and the same people?

Not too long ago, a UNICEF report stated clearly that Nigeria is very unsafe for children. Again, an official report of the University of Maiduguri’s Department of Obstetrics, as reported by Daily Independent last November, contains the chilling information that 400 out of every 1000 children in the North Eastern part of the country die before they attain the age of five! The situation could be as worse in other regions. In its editorial of Friday, March 7, 2008, Daily Independent reported that a World Bank survey not too long ago had discovered that about 20 million Nigerian children “go to bed every night without any meal.”

Now, what do all these mean to our ‘Weeping Speaker’ wallowing in limitless privileges, and the unfeeling and exploitative class he represents?

Okay, just the other day, the newspapers were awash with reports about Bankole’s lavish wedding. In the course time, too, God willing, the cry of a baby will ring out from his house, and we can be sure that the delivery will take place in one of the best hospitals in the UK or the United States. And as the child reaches school age, he or she would certainly be enrolled in one of the best schools abroad, especially, if the father remains in public office.

But, what are Bankole’s plans to ensure that a rich country like Nigeria also builds, equips and duly staffs good schools that can be affordable to other children born by other human beings like himself? How does the House he leads ensure through its oversight functions that the various departments of Government perform their statutory obligations to the citizenry to alleviate their hardship?

As Bankole wept that day before the members of the Children’s Parliament, N600, 000 ‘change’ which is his Entertainment Allowance as a lawmaker was lying safely in one corner of his fat account. Also, the N500, 000 duly awarded him as Wardrobe Allowance sat pretty in the same or another account, itching to be spent. He should have started by donating these to help at least few Nigerian kids through school.

There are also the jumbo Constituency votes which most of the lawmakers, reportedly, spend on themselves, instead of the purpose for which they are mapped out and the several other huge allowances that flow into their purses almost on daily basis. Over and above all these are their scandalously fat salaries, which are upwardly reviewed with alarming regularity.

For this year, the National Assembly allocated to itself the sum of N147 billion naira in the Federal budget, a hundred percent increase from the N76 billion they got last year. As all these resources flow to the largely unproductive National Assembly, the children of the masses, the most productive class, whose very sorry conditions Bankole would want us to believe had brought tears to his eyes, study in dilapidated buildings and are taken to hospitals that are in very horrible, scary states. This class of Nigerians has been effectively conquered and forced to live like slaves in their own country.

That is why the Speaker must be told that his tears were utterly meaningless to most right-thinking Nigerians. In fact, I found it very offensive that he would be seeking to appear to be sympathetic to the plight of the unfortunate Nigerian children while he is also at the very top of the oppressive class supervising the mass suffering that has become the daily menu of these very children.

We may condemn the parents of that less-than four-year-old boy hawking ‘pure water’ out there, but choose to turn a blind eye to the very impossible conditions that could motivate parents to take such an action.

So, Bankole and the callous class he represents should spare us their ceremonial tears and duplicitous sympathy. Such grand acts may earn them major roles in Nollywood, but to the longsuffering and grossly impoverished Nigerians, such spurious gestures are simply provocative.

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scruples2006@yahoo.com

www.ugochukwu.blog.com

 

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Between Governors And Housewives

March 20, 2008

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye  

What really is the difference between what housewives do for their families and what State Governors do in Nigeria? The answer, if you ask me, should be obvious, but I am very reluctant, for a very obvious reason, to answer it with just one word: None! Certainly, I do not want to start this Wednesday morning with placard-wielding housewives thronging the front of my office, protesting an unfair comparison.   And so, I will be fair. But, first, let’s look at one clear similarity: A husband labours, earns some money, invites his wife to one corner of their house, and gives her the “monthly allocation” for the family upkeep. Nigeria also takes its God-given oil, markets it, and then State Governors are invited to Abuja, to cart away their own “monthly allocations” for the upkeep of their respective States. 

 Is there any difference? Yes, I think there still is. At least, we now have wives who also work hard to help diversify the sources of   revenue for their families, unlike many Governors whose only understanding of governance is, like housewives of old, to sit still and eagerly await the monthly allocation from the Federation Account, a fraction of which they spend to make some impressions here and there, and then call press conferences and buy spaces in national newspapers to showcase their “wonderful performances.”

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 A housewife in Plateau State: Who says she can’t be a refreshing

alternative to a thieving and inept Governor

They do N1 work and advertise it with N100.  It is really a great tragedy. Now, tell me: why should any Governor with any brains in his skull, and the slightest hint of self-esteem, expect me to clap for him for renovating (or even, in most cases, merely repainting) a few school buildings and filling a couple of potholes on some roads? Even if he builds new roads, new schools and hospitals, has he done anything extraordinary? Shouldn’t all those form   part of his routine duty?   By the way, what is he supposed to do with the billions he carts away from Abuja every month? Hide it in his wife’s bedroom, and then begin to use it to gallivant about town, to increase the number of his girlfriends and the leisure spots he had explored? Now, what extraordinary talent is required to pay salaries to workers (out of the billions duly packaged and given to someone who is an adult) or clean up a few streets in a State capital?  Even my small daughter in the Primary School can do better than that! Please, let’s stop turning ourselves into laughing stocks before sensible and civilized people out there. Assuming oil was not flowing beneath us here, and so no monthly allocations or “excess crude earnings” to share in Abuja, what then would be the work of a Governor in a Federal State like Nigeria?  Or, are we to take it that no one would have agreed to become a Governor if such a situation existed? Whatever happened to great ideas and insights for generation of opportunities and wealth creation with which talented administrators are distinguished? Why has Nigeria reduced governance to mere routine assignments like provision of power, potable water, roads and exercise books for  pupils? So, if I pay my children’s school fees or fuel my car, I should expect any person to applaud my “great achievements”, even though I sweat out the money, unlike the Governors that merely receive theirs?  Do our so-called leaders ever bother to listen to the vision statements of their colleagues outside here? Well, what more can I say? I was making these points the other day and somebody just looked me in the face and bellowed: You should be grateful that there are some Governors who are even willing to spend some bits of the money to fill potholes and repaint school buildings; what about those who just pocket the entire money and jet out of the country to dump them in coded accounts? What are you going to do about that? So, just praise those who agree to do something.  

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 L-R Chairman of Governors’Forum, Dr Bukola Saraki (Kwara)[middle] Niger State Gov., Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu, Benue State Gov., Gabriel Turwua Suswan, Gov [Arc.]Nnenadi Sambo of Kaduna State, at Governors’ Forum meeting in Abuja [March 8, 2008]

Can you beat that? Does anyone see what our country has become? Maybe, our salvation might actually lie in the housewives whom we have always relegated to the background. Maybe, Nigeria would become better, if the Governors are immediately replaced with housewives and housewives with Governors.  As is evident, most husbands have little or nothing to complain about how their wives manage the “monthly allocations” in their homes. They return virtually everyday grateful that their homes are in good hands, and that virtually everything that ought to be done had been done. The housewives not only buy into their husband’s visions and aspirations for the prosperity of the home, they also generate their own ideas which any husband spurns to his own hurt, and would readily contribute their own lot to ensure their realisation.  But what majority of our Governors do is to just sabotage our hopes and aspirations with their boundless greed and callousness. They could be likened to irresponsible housewives who alienate themselves from their husbands’ good dreams, and ensure they never come to fruition. Instead of investing the “monthly allocations” to move the home forward, irresponsible housewives stash them away to prosecute their own selfish agendas. Some spend it on younger lovers or on other equally obscene preoccupations. At the end of the day, the home would suffer untold setback, and sadness and despair would then settle down as prominent guests.  This is the situation in many States today. No doubt, most Nigerians believe that their Governors are mostly wayward and underemployed. Some of them cannot even think beyond how to squander the monthly allocations on several indulgences of the baser sort. Others, seeking to “internally generate” revenue, would almost kill the people with taxes. Lagosians are yet to forget what they saw under Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The man almost taxed everything, including rats and cockroaches, that is, if he didn’t. Yet, Lagos remained the dirtiest and most chaotic State known to modern man. So, where did the money go? Well, imagine a housewife forcing the children to part with a larger chunk of their pocket-money to service her greed, frivolities and wild fancies.  

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Gov Adebayo Alao-Akala of Oyo State: This, too, is Governor in Nigeria….

I am not bothered that some people may laugh at my position today, but our Governors have failed us so much that I keep wondering if Nigeria’s political class is capable of ever producing a committed, altruistic and visionary leader with sound, workable ideas. Will Nigeria ever witness responsible leadership till the end of time?  I am glad that those who, like me, are almost giving up on Nigeria will agree with the analogy here today, because I have met several men who kept boasting that their lives are almost entirely managed by their wives, while they concentrate their entire energy accumulating resources for the family. Some say they don’t even know when they need new clothes, shoes or even undergarments. They would just return home, go to their wardrobes and discover that those things have been dully purchased and neatly placed at the right places for them. Would such a man be reluctant to fully appreciate, support and be fully committed to his wife? One man even told me that if his wife goes today, he would simply die. Now, these are not loafers or layabouts, but very successful and highly principled men managing very big and flourishing outfits.  Can’t these wives be made to transfer these managerial abilities to the State Houses, so we can be relieved of the empty noise makers encumbering the ground at those places today?  Now, who would you prefer: a housewife whose testimony you have heard, and whom you have not given any opportunity to prove her worth, or the Governor who has continually failed you? I repeat: perhaps, this nation may move forward if we shove aside all these loquacious parasites in our Government Houses and replace them with housewives, even if the latter did not go to school? If you ask me, I am yet to see anything our “highly educated” Governors have done to prove that they posses better ideas and abilities than even housewives in remote villages. And I am not joking.  Sadly, we are stuck with Governors with little or no ideas about what to do to move their various states forward. Some of them even appear so blank that one is left wondering whether they just woke up one morning and were told they had become Governors. Even when they want to impress you with some poorly plagiarized ideas, it would be too obvious they are yet to even comprehend the convoluted theories they are tormenting you with, so how then would you expect them to implement them. I am yet to see anything to make me believe that some Governors ever lose any sleep at all because of the enormous problems in their States, unlike a housewife that would even yoke herself with undue stress just because they are expecting a guest in the home.  

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Former Gov Alams of Bayelsa: Tried and convicted for corruption

Indeed, any Governor in Nigeria with the slightest hint of commitment to and concern for the welfare of the masses would be wishing he had more than twenty-four hours in a day, because the problems are so much. Yet, our Governors are hopping around town without any care in the world, as if there are no very urgent matters craving their attention, attending one frivolous function or the other.  Have you heard that the Governor’s Forum is about to pour away N5.8 billion to build an owambe Secretariat for themselves in Abuja, where they would gather occasionally to laugh, hug backslap and generally have good time at our expense, before hitting town with the boys?   Have you also heard  that Gov Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State is frittering away N6.7 billion  to build himself a “befitting” Government House in Uyo, because, the equally magnificent one there now, built not too long ago, is beneath his status? That’s what they all think about. Men without the gravity of mind to appreciate the enormity of responsibility on their shoulders.  With so much money at their disposal them and without any sense of direction, all they can think about are vanities and  frivolous projects that do not advance the well-being of the masses. I wonder how they even muster the presence of mind to indulge in this revolting profligacy.  A housewife would certainly be more considerate and compassionate. Whoever unleashed this army of unrelenting leeches on the nation must be its greatest enemy. What a sad situation.  ==================================

scruplees2006@yahoo.com

 www.ugochukwu.blog.com 

BREAKING NEWS ::: Edo Election Tribunal Sacks Prof Osunbor, Declares Oshiomole Winner!!!!!

March 20, 2008

The Elections Petitions Tribunal sitting in Benin City, the Edo State capital, this afternoon ( Thursday, March 20, 2008) ruled that it was the former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Governorship Candidate of the Action Congress (AC), Mr. Adams Oshiomole, that won the April 2007 Governorship Elections in Edo State, and not Prof Oserhiemen Osunbor of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as claimed by the Prof Maurice Iwu-led ‘Independent’ National Electoral Commission (INEC).

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Prof Osunbor : Sacked by the Tribunal

Delivering the well anticipated judgment, which lasted over four hours, the Tribunal Chairman, Justice Peter Umeadi, declared that based on the evidence before the Tribunal, it was Oshiomole who scored the highest number of votes and not Osunbor. Oshiomole, he said, had scored a total of 166, 577 votes.

He then directed that a Certificate of Return be issued to Mr. Oshiomole immediately by INEC, and that he should be sworn in as the Executive Governor of Edo State.

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Adams Oshiomole: On His Way To The Throne?

The outcome of the Governorship Electoral dispute in Edo State, which has engaged widespread national interest, has been widely hailed. Wild jubilatons greeted the Tribunal’s ruling in Benin and several parts of Edo State.

But counsel to Prof Osunbor, while speaking with reporters immediately after the ruling, indicated their intention to appeal the judgment. It remains to be seen what the Appeal Tribunal will rule………

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What Is Government To Me?

March 7, 2008

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

As I walked leisurely into my street last Sunday afternoon, trying as much as possible not to think about the obviously enraged sun bathing me with its stinging golden rays, I would have been forgiven if I had thought I had missed my way and strayed into a very busy industrial area. But then, the place I had just gone was a yelling distance away from home, and so, there was just no way I could have missed my way.

I live in a very small street, secured at both ends by two gates manned by some nice Mallams, whose salaries are paid from the Security Levy I unhappily part with every month. As soon as I passed the gate, I was greeted by the tormenting din and clatter of several power generating sets locked in a clearly mad competition to out-roar each other. Every house contributed to the bedlam. Eardrums came under serious threat. Hypertensive cases became more complicated, drawing their victims closer to their graves. Sanity struggled to take leave of several other people, as the roaring noise from every house tore into the very hot Sunday afternoon with violent rage, piercing fierceness and tormenting loudness.

Very lethal thick, black fumes also oozed into the atmosphere, targeting the hearts and lungs of men, having successfully turned the area into one huge fatally saturated gas chamber. Why did everybody suddenly choose to set the machines roaring this afternoon? Maybe, this was what always happened every other afternoon, but because I was not always around in the afternoons, the whole thing now assailed my ears with menacing strangeness.

After sometime, I paused and listened, trying to make some form of meaning out of the whole chaos. What came into my mind was: Yes, this is a failed state! Like Prof Chinua Achebe once said: “This is an example of a country that has fallen down; it has collapsed. This house has fallen.” 

My mind went to Countee Cullen, the African American poet, whose 1925 poem, Heritage, opened with a very significant question that had bugged his mind at time, “What is Africa To Me?” In the same vein, I could not help asking: What Is Government To Me? Or put differently, of what relevance is Government to me in a clearly ungoverned enclave like Nigeria ? If I provide for myself virtually everything Government is supposed to make available to me as a law abiding citizen, how then does Government justify its relevance, or even existence before me?

Take the issue of security that I mentioned earlier, for instance. One of the very basic functions of Government is to secure lives and property. But inNigeria , this has since ceased to be part of Government’s priority. In fact, it is doubtful if those in authority still remember that provision of adequate security is part of their responsibility towards the citizenry.

Government has since conceded defeat in this area and clearly demonstrated its inability to protect Nigerians. In other words, it has since relinquished the monopoly it ought to exercise over the instruments of violence and coercion, and Nigerians have become mere lame ducks before hoodlums and criminals who invade homes and offices, taking their time to steal and even sexually abuse the women with every fearlessness and fanfare. Robbers are no longer in a hurry because they know very well that nobody would dare disturb their operations, and that policemen would rather take to their heels at the sound of their rifles than attempt to repel them.

And so, because we are now “on our own,” we had to, like many other residents of other areas in Nigeria , engage the Mallams to man our gates? But as we all know, our protection is in the hands of God, because, these same Mallams would be the first to beat Ben Johnson’s track records at the first sound of the gun! And where is the Government in this picture? An absentee as usual!

Nigeria presents the best example of how a nation could be in the absence of any form of governance.
What then is Government to me? Darkness, Darkness and more Darkness everywhere? The clatter of generators I encountered last Sunday afternoon was a very sad reminder of the painful and oppressive fact that for several weeks now, power supply in my area has gone down to almost zero. When we could be considered lucky, power would be supplied for an hour or two, and that would be all, in a whole week! But the normal thing now is that week after week, no one sees the slightest hint of power supply, not minding that the agents of that useless body of sadists called NEPA/PHCN would keep sending their huge bills with religious zealousness.

We used to complain of irregular power supply, not knowing that that time was our finest hour. Now, total darkness has enveloped the whole place. I know how much I have spent for some weeks now on fuel to generate my own megawatts for my household. That automatically means that I am my own President and Energy Minster, no matter the idle, unproductive fellows pretending to occupy those offices inAbuja .
If then I am doing for myself what Government is supposed to be doing for me, it can only mean that as far as I am concerned, Government does not exist, having since lost its relevance, the basis for its existence. It might as well be scrapped. A tree that bears no fruits only emphasizes its crying irrelevance.

If anyone needs potable water in Nigeria today, such a one must provide it for himself. Reason? Government is on an interminable recess. In the eighties, one could just walk to any tap, even by the roadside, open it and drink clean water. Whoever tries that now, if at all any liquid gushes out from the tap, could be tried for attempting suicide. And I can guarantee that not even a very large-hearted judge like Justice Ogebe would agree to set him free!

Today, because Government only exists in name, people must sink boreholes in their compounds to provide potable water for themselves. Others must make do with the generous typhoid distributor they call “pure water” (or pure gutter). In fact, it has got to a stage that if my children ask me today the functions of Government, I wouldn’t know what to tell them, because I wouldn’t want to tell them lies. As far as I am concerned, the most inactive and unproductive institution in Nigeria today is the Government. And that is because, I do not want to say that it is useless. Well, Government is not exactly inactive. It has duly distinguished itself as that far-removed, very distantly located band of men and women who only exist to plunder and squander our commonwealth.

They only remember us during election time, not because they really need our votes to acquire power, but it makes them feel good to be able to say that we gave them our mandate – something they had already appropriated long before they came to us canvassing for our votes. They also come to us as occasional sources of irritation, demanding taxes or “more sacrifices” from us in the form of punitive policies like fuel price hikes. We equally encounter them when they run us out of the roads with their blaring sirens.

Today, in most places, if the road leading to one’s house goes bad, the people inhabiting that area would have to contribute money to fix it, or else, it would be there ruining their cars and giving all of them body aches. Public schools which are supposed to be maintained by the Government have since collapsed, so one has to cough out the very high fees charged by quality private schools if one desires that one’s child should get quality education.
Most Government hospitals have long become very smooth expressways to the grave, which only those who cannot afford any other alternatives still go to gamble with their lives. It is sad, so sad. It is most painful and overly frustrating. It is provocative.

And as I think about these things, I am compelled to ask myself again: What is Government to me? I would have compared it to a refuse dump, but I am reminded that refuse dumps serve some useful purpose as they provide manure for farmers to grow their crops. But as for Government in Nigeria , I cannot readily recall what it stands or exists for, or any form of use it presently is to the generality of Nigerian people, except that it has become a dispensable burden too heavy to bear, and a very easy route for a privileged few to gain entrance into the billionaire club. So sad really.
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