Archive for December 2008

Are You Sure You Want To Do This, Dora Akunyili?

December 24, 2008

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye


As Director-General of the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Prof Dora Akunyili captured the admiration and great respect of most Nigerians due to her selfless, determined and very successful battle against fake and substandard drugs and their vile merchants, who, in their most ungodly desperation to make huge profits, succeeded so well in dispatching not a few Nigerians to their early graves. Everybody loved her, sang her praises, wished her well, and prayed for her, except, perhaps, the murderous fake drugs manufacturers and distributors, who saw her as the unshakable obstacle to their most devilish trade. So solid and widespread were her popularity and acceptance that some people began to urge her to run for presidency.  


Akunyili was regularly celebrated in this column. In my most recent piece on her entitled, “The Meaning of Dora Akunyili,” I said: Each time you confidently purchase a drug, fruit juice or any other consumable and go away with full assurance that your liver would still be intact after you have taken it, you should not fail to remember Akunyili and be grateful to God for her life. Akunyili means the return of sanity in a society overrun and made unsafe by heartless counterfeiters; she means the safeguarding of many lives which would have since been lost because some devilish souls were looking for blood money… Akunyili could simply have accepted the blood-stained billions [the fake drugs merchants] were all too willing to give her and allowed them to unleash their lethal products on all of us, but she chose to safeguard lives.  And by that decision, she may have saved you, your beloved mother, father, wife, uncle, precious, tender children and friends.


Dr. Dora Akunyili


In Nigeria today, most people would not hesitate to classify any drug or beverage without a NAFDAC Registration Number as killer poison. And that’s because Nigerians believed everything Akunyili told them. The NAFDAC number on any product clearly represented Akunyili’s assurance to Nigerians that that particular drug or beverage was safe for human consumption. And because it was said by Akunyili whom they had learnt to believe without reservations, they usually accepted it without any fears. But, unfortunately, all these may recede into the dark recesses of a distant past given the acceptance by Prof Dora Akunyili last week to serve as the Information and Communication Minister in the very bankrupt and shriveled regime of President Umar Musa Yar’Adua.  


Indeed, only one reason may have informed Akunyili’s appointment. The Yar’Adua regime only wanted to exploit the enormous admiration and goodwill she enjoyed from Nigerians to shore up its badly battered image. But by accepting to serve as Information Minister in a regime like Yar’Adua’s which by the very nature of its constitution represents a huge lie built and sustained on a foundation of undiluted, poorly, unintelligently concocted lies, Akunyili is, no doubt, overdrawing from the public trust, admiration and goodwill that had overwhelmingly flooded her the moment she began to excel as NAFDAC boss.  It even looks like Akunyili herself is already catching the lying bug, going by the brazenness with which she made the outrageous and overly obscene claim last week that her appointment was divine.   


Now, because I still love and respect Akunyili, my sincere question to her today is: Are you very sure this is really what you want to do? Is it really worth it? What value would your job as the image-maker of a critically unfocused and purposeless regime add to Nigeria? Indeed, I find it very difficult to believe that a person with Akunyili’s intimidating reputation would just wake up one day and decide to allow everything good, noble, edifying and lovely about her to flow down the drain just like that simply because she wants to be in government. Why would she see a clear tragedy and embrace it with beaming smiles?  Now, just how Akunyili would sell the overly unattractive Yar’Adua regime is what beats many of her admirers? What new lie would Akunyili tell us about a regime utterly disgusted Nigerians have, for very good reasons, already written off as irredeemable and a never-do-well? What would she say are the set targets of this regime? What are the timeframes for the realization of those targets?  What exactly is one redeeming point of the Yar’Adua? Television and other media adverts for its totally colourless and bankrupt Seven Point Agenda have gulped incredibly huge funds, but if one may dare ask: at what stage of implementation can anyone place any of the items on the Seven Point nonsense? This regime has done nothing but inundate Nigerians with countless empty promises, bored and over-sickened everyone with overdose of talk-talk and lie-lie. Talk, is cheap. If it was possible, the Yar’Adua regime would have felled countless Irokos with the lying tongues of its countless false prophets.


Nigeria, it’s now very clear, is too sick to be left in the hands of a critically overwhelmed and ever-groping president who is evidently unsure of his next move and grappling with snail-speed some ill-digested ideas he is not even sure would work. So, what would Akunyili tell Nigerians to make them see this regime differently from how it really is? Now, assuming Yar’Adua disappears tomorrow for ‘prolonged sessions of prayers’ in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of some German specialist hospital, and instructs Akunyili to keep feeding us with the most exasperatingly infantile lie that he is in a mosque somewhere in the city praying hard for solutions to  Nigeria’s ever-mounting problems, how would she manage that? Has it occurred to her that from now on, she would be the very ugly and overly revolting face of this very unpopular and irredeemable regime, and that whatever disgust and resentment Nigerians had reserved for the directionless and unproductive regime would automatically be transferred to her each time she emerged to feed the nation with a new set of lies? Now, is Dora very sure this is what she really bargained for after all these years of selfless service to the nation as NAFDAC DG? Is this totally thankless job really what she wanted? 


Well, to be fair, I can appreciate Akunyili’s dilemma. We run a very lousy system where ministerial nominees are usually not informed before hand of the particular portfolio that would be assigned to them. Akunyili, no doubt, could not have imagined that Yar’Adua would eventually saddle her with such a messy job of bearing the horribly cracked Chief Megaphone of this failed and ugly regime and being soaked daily with the undiluted odium and resentment of overly disappointed Nigerians. Like many Nigerians, she may have thought she would be sent to the health sector where her competences would be deployed to the benefit of Nigerians. But, as we all know, the well-being of Nigerians is hardly the concern of this regime, which is so sad.


It is not too late in the day for Akunyili to sit down and quietly count the very high cost of this totally unrewarding misadventure. And one thing she should not lose sight of is that after sometime, when she would have become irredeemably odious to Nigerians and her voice very loathsome to everyone as a result of continuously doing the dirty of job of marketing this hard-sell called the Yar’Adua regime, she would be unceremoniously dumped to quietly nurse her deep credibility wounds alone at the refuse dump of thoroughly discredited yesterday people, while the regime move on with another willing sacrificial lamb. And that is why I ask Akunyili again: Are you really sure you want to do this messy job? Now, Dora, if the answer is NO, do not allow anyone intimidate you with the lie that you have fait accompli before you. You certainly don’t! So, no matter the blackmail they may dredge up (due to some entanglements they may have carefully arranged before now to entrap you), follow your heart, go ahead and call Yar’Adua’s bluff and bolt away. That’s your Hobson’s choice.







Yes, Yar’Adua, Let The Immunity Clause Go!

December 18, 2008

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

 Unless, this is merely another of those statements he usually makes to grab the headlines and circulate the misleading impression that some form of governance is going in Abuja, after which nothing more is ever heard about the matter again, last week’s call by President Umar Musa Yar’Adua on the National Assembly to expunge the irredeemably iniquitous Immunity Clause from the Nigerian Constitution, most surely, ranked, in my opinion, as the most significant thing the man had uttered since he assumed office in May 2007. The Immunity Clause gives statutory protection to the president, his deputy, governors and their deputies against arrests and prosecutions for any unlawful acts throughout their tenure of office. In other words, even if a governor or president empties the whole treasury into his pocket, the much anyone can do (since the  lawmakers are also in his pocket) is to wait patiently until he is out of office before he could be brought to book for such a hideous crime. The purpose of this  odious law, we are told, is to ensure that this  category of public officers are spared every distraction which their arrests and prosecutions could constitute, so they could devote their whole self and time to govern the people well.


But, as we have all sadly found out, this has become the most abused law in Nigeria. The Immunity Clause may have been added with good intentions, but   given our bitter experiences with successive rulers, nothing now justifies its continued retention in our statute books.  Unfortunately, the governance of our hapless nation has been hijacked by a criminal class whose only mission in the various Government Houses is to loot the places dry. After they had stolen so much and stashed billions in coded accounts abroad, they would abscond once they leave office, and only return to the country to enjoy their filthy wealth after they had successfully used the billions they had stolen to install and sustain one of their own in power, so that no matter the national outcry against their boundless criminal accumulations while in office, the various anti-corruption agencies would endeavour to look the other way once their names are mentioned. “Corruption is endemic in this country,” President Yar’Adua said last week, “and there is no way this country can achieve its potential until and unless this evil is confronted promptly by all Nigerians, and one of the steps and measures that we may have to take in order to entrench this fight against corruption is to look at some of our laws. I today call for the abrogation of the constitutional provision of immunity for president, vice president, governors and deputy governors, and I want all Nigerians to join me in this call … this provision of immunity should be expunged from the Nigerian Constitution.”


With my whole I heart I endorse this most important call by the president. We have always been fed with such bunkum like how irresponsible and unpatriotic Nigerians would use countless frivolous petitions and lawsuits to “distract” the governors or the president from his determination to turn Nigeria into another paradise. And how instead of spending all the time “transforming” the state and delivering “democracy dividends,” he would be in one court or the other where he had been charged for corruption or other criminal activities. Please, spare all such trash for hare-brained fools. Since the immunity clause had protected these fellows from “distractions” what have they achieved? For eight years, 1999-2007, Nigeria enjoyed unprecedented prosperity from oil exports, which sold as high as $135. But despite the total absence of “distractions,” what did our rulers achieve? Nigeria is still battling with prehistoric darkness, with industries folding up and relocating to neighbouring countries, as a result of the total collapse of the power sector. Roads have remained impassable. The school and health systems have since packed up, and no one is even attempting to extend them the honour of an autopsy. Indeed, the immunity clause has only helped the heartless, thieving rulers to mindlessly steal without “distractions.” This just must stop! We require only one quarter of what was stolen by public officers in this country to turn it into another Europe. Imagine what this country of highly creative people would become if we had uninterrupted power supply? No nation where thieves are kings ever survives! The greatest hindrance to Nigeria’s development is CORRUPTION. No more, no less.


So, let the immunity clause go. If it only helps the governor or president to realize he is NOT some emperor to be worshipped, and that state funds are not his to squander the way he likes, that’s okay for now. Whoever thinks he would be unable to take the “distractions” from “frivolous petitions” can simply excuse himself from aspiring to become president or governor.  Maybe, after this, the  genuine servant-leaders, whose mission is to truly serve the people, would emerge to rescue this nation from the resilient criminal class that has held it to ransom for many years now. Every other nation seeks daily to transfer more power to its people to enable them hold leaders accountable, but in Nigeria, everything is done to render the people voiceless and powerless. I see the removal of this immunity clause as one effective way of returning power to the people. By the way, what is all this fetish about “distractions”? Anambra people still retain pleasant memories of the brief tenure of Chris Ngige as their governor, yet, only few people remember that Ngige did all he did to win the love of his people in the midst of a most savage fight against him by Aso Rock-empowered renegades.  So much for “distractions.”




What is Gov Ohakim Afraid Of?

Mr. Ikedi Ohakim has said countless nice things and did a few things right since he happened in Owerri as Imo Governor, including tarring the road to my village in Umuaka halfway – something previous regimes could not even attempt despite profuse promises. And, although, many people on this side of civilisation recoiled at his suggestion the other day that treasury looters should be stoned (to death, I suppose), such an outburst, however, was construed by many as indicative of the governor’s deep revulsion for corruption. But just a few days after his historic statement, and President Yar’Adua had called for the abrogation of the obnoxious immunity clause, Ohakim thoroughly embarrassed his admirers and Imo citizens by becoming the first serving public officer (in less than twenty-four  hours or so) to voice his public disagreement with Yar’Adua on this issue. “I believe that there are many areas of the Constitution that require amendment to assist Nigeria in fulfilling its manifest destiny, and not the issue of corruption,” he told reporters in Kaduna. Indeed, given that corruption has since distinguished itself as the most destructive enemy of Nigeria’s development, Ohakim’s uncritical stand  certainly cost him countless friends, and placed a halo of doubt over his past media posturing on transparency in governance. Did he see the degrading comments his unedifying position attracted from enraged Nigerians on the internet? But why is Ohakim suddenly jittery? Is he scared of a past to which the removal of immunity clause might attract more discreet scrutiny or a present which when exposed by the removal of the immunity shield might look very scary? Or was he merely, characteristically, dropping another headline-grabbing bombshell? A sad day for Imo indeed!    







Enough Of The Obasanjo Family, Please!

December 15, 2008

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye          

Last Saturday (Nov 22, 2008) I wanted to purchase a copy of Bitter-Sweet: My Life With Obasanjo, by Mrs. Oluremi Obasanjo, the woman who is sparing no effort just to underline her belief that no matter what anyone, including even Gen Olusegun Obasanjo himself, thinks is the case, the truth she would want everyone to see and swallow is that among the countless women swarming the Obasanjo harem, she is the only one qualified to be called his wife. Others, she insists, are mere concubines. To buttress this point, she reminds us on page 91 of Bitter-Sweet, that while broadcasting the profiles of leading members of the Obasanjo junta just before he handed over power to Alhaji Shehu Shagari in 1979, “the NTA showed me, and my husband, and our five children then, as the officially recognized and properly married wife, the wife of his youth he swore to keep forever.”

 When I called the number on the invitation card for the public presentation of the book (which I didn’t attend), an elderly female voice told me to go to James Robertson Street in Surulere, that I would get the book there. In Surulere last Saturday, especially, on Adeniran Ogunsanya Street, and virtually all the other streets in the area, including Ogunlana Drive, Masha Road, and James Robertson, I encountered one of the worst traffic situations Lagos may have experienced since it began to exist, which served as painful reminder of the abysmal failure of character and leadership that had distinguished the eight-year reign of the subject of the book I was taking all the trouble to purchase. As the traffic situation worsened, I abandoned the car in one of the streets, jumped onto an okada, and in no time, was in James Robertson Street. Since I needed to get an additional copy for someone, I bought two copies – one hard cover (N3, 000) and soft cover (N2, 000), and there went N5, 000 which I now sincerely believe, after reading the book, could have been invested in a more rewarding and edifying venture!


Mrs. Oluremi Obasanjo at the public presentation of the book

Now, forget the sensational reviews of the book you may have encountered so far since it was presented to the public at a very poorly attended ceremony in Lagos a fortnight ago. The book contains only very insignificant, highly biased items that could be considered new to what the public already knew about Obasanjo; there is hardly any information therein with the capacity to shock or awe; nothing really exciting, enlightening or edifying about the subjects treated in the entire book. The public appears to have more than it offers.

The book is all about a woman’s attempt to rewrite herself into prominence and reckoning in one man’s life, to demonstrate, albeit incoherently, that no matter who the public saw starring with Obasanjo in all those days he hugged the limelight   as Nigeria’s ruler, it was she, Oluremi, that the man regarded as the central figure in his life, despite the countless battering she got from him; that it was she who turned down the offer to live with him in Ota; that her decision to stay apart left a huge void in his life; that he was always pleading with her not to leave him alone; and that despite his brutal actions   towards her, he loved and respected her and only kept the other women as “ponies.” Although, it is known that the author and her husband were separated at some point in time (and she keeps talking, about “when I  was kicked out”) the strength of the book lies in her ability to leave the reader in total confusion about when exactly this happened, how long it has lasted, or whether it has been intermittent. Instead, greater energy was devoted to show the prominent role she continued to play in Obasanjo’s life, playing down the separation and reducing all the other women to mere fringe elements in Obasanjo’s life. Dripping from the pages of the book is the undying love she retained for her man, and her willingness to receive him back any time he returned from his boundless wandering through countless skirts. The author’s bitterness towards late Stella was so palpable; it could not be assuaged even by her death. And the way she always gleefully announced the misfortune that met the several people that did her hurt speaks volumes about the nature of her heart. And despite all she suffered from Obasanjo (including being detained on Obasanjo’s instructions at the Lafenwa Police Station, “stripped to my underwear”), she, like Carol McCain, still loved him. But she makes a touching confession on page 64: “He is the only man I have known all my life … So when I found out his philandering exploits, I regarded it as the unkindest cut for his breaking   the sacred vow we took at the London Registry.”


Olusegun Obasanjo
Now, I sincerely think that time has come for Obasanjo and his dysfunctional family to excuse Nigerians from their endless problems and the incredibly suffocating stench that always oozes from that obviously desecrated homestead, and school themselves to realize that we are all sick and tired of it all. I can’t remember the last time I heard anything wholesome and edifying from that family. Not too long ago, Gbenga, Obasanjo’s son shocked the nation when he stated in an affidavit that himself, his father and father-in-law, were sharing his wife, and that his father was rewarding his wife with juicy government contracts after sleeping with her. He went further to say that due to this multiple sleeping partners his wife was generously hosting with immense relish, he required a DNA test to establish the paternity of the children born to him by his wife, since he was not sure any more who among the three had fathered them. What a family! My heart surely goes out to those hapless tender children, who never asked to be born into the badly mismanaged Obasanjo family, and who would grow up tomorrow to grapple with the serious debilitating doubt over their paternity, raised by no other person than the man they call their father.


Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello

Senator Iyabo, on her part, is always in the news for the most horrible reasons. When she is not transacting very controversial and ugly deals with a name other than her own, she is being accused of mismanaging committee funds in the Senate. In fact, a newsmagazine once called her on its cover, “The Queen of Scandals,” a tag her mother on page 123 of the book thinks does not befit her daughter. Rather, Oluremi thinks her children are all unfairly having image problems because of “the name, Obasanjo.” And so, the attempt by the EFCC to get Iyabo to explain her role in the scandal involving the Senate Health Committee fund was all done “in a bid to humiliate her because she is Obasanjo’s daughter.” Iyabo, she maintains, was not appointed Ogun State Health Commissioner because she was Obasanjo’s daughter, but rather she had worked hard to earn it. I suppose she expects anyone to believe that?

My problem with this book is that it is a needless effort to advertise raw bitterness. And it would end up dishonouring the same children she loves and defends. But what sickens me most is her attempt to exonerate her children from matters in which the public is even in possession of superior facts. What it tells me is that if Obasanjo had not kicked her out of his life, she would also have been out there today defending him against Nigerians who dared express   disgust at the unmitigated disaster and organized banditry he effectively supervised for a whole eight years in Nigeria, during which corruption was effectively institutionalized and celebrated,  and  the country ruined.

For her, so long as a person is in her good books, the person can do no wrong. So, why should I bother myself about such a person and her book?


When Will This Barbarism End In Nigeria?

December 15, 2008

 By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

Jos, the Plateau State capital, has just concluded another wild celebration of raw barbarity and extreme savagery. Some barbarous creatures, who have laboured so hard to demonstrate so well that they have no place within the bounds of decent and civilized existence,  had hurriedly grabbed their knives, poisoned arrows and guns  and rushed into the streets to do the only thing they knew how to do so well, and derive immense pleasure and animation from, namely, killing and maiming. And before they could significantly assuage their unquenchable blood-thirst, some hundreds of mostly innocent women, children and men, have been cruelly slaughtered for no other reason than that they were unlucky enough to share the same environment with irredeemable savages.


But I blame it all on our lawless country, where people now believe they can just do anything that excites their warped minds and get away with it. But crime has no other definition known to civilized man and should attract no other treatment except commensurate punishment capable of deterring other potential criminals.  So long as human beings are aware that their nation’s laws are too weak and pitiably toothless, that they can always manage to escape the just rewards for all their misdeeds, no matter the magnitude, the incentive to commit even more heinous crimes would always be abundant.


Since the mass slaughter of human beings occurred in Jos more than a fortnight ago, we have been inundated with so many brands of the usual ‘politically correct’ shibboleths, with which we have always managed to delude ourselves that we are helping to find the ‘right and realistic’ solutions to the problem. Oh, we have this   very acrimonious “indigene/settler” problem in Jos North Local Government, we are told. And while the “indigenes” have vowed that they would never be ruled by “settlers,” the “settlers” on their   part are insisting that there is no way they would continue to be regarded as “settlers” in a land they have been living in for about a hundred years now. No, it was a PDP/ANPP matter, others insist. If one party had not out-rigged the other in the council elections, there would not have been any orgy of violence and wanton killing of human beings. So, to prevent any future mass slaughter of human beings in Jos, there must be dialogue to settle the indigene/settler rift, so they can coexist harmoniously and peacefully.  


Now, assuming one million dialogues and peace conferences do not succeed in bringing about peace between these two irreconcilable parties, what should the   country do? Fold its hands and continue to pray that nothing happens to inflame passions and offend habitual murderers perennially baying for blood and looking for the slightest reason to assuage their bloodlust?  No I don’t think so. In America today, the deep hatred and resentment some incurable racists and rednecks reserve for coloured people around them, including even their present president-elect, is far worse than can ever exist among the indigene/settler combatants in Jos North Local Government. But what makes the American experience different is that no matter the depth of anyone’s hatred for the other, such a one must school himself to appreciate the fact that the strong hands of the law would never spare anyone who dares to give murderous expression to his or her hatred. Once you decide to take another person’s life, you are already very sure of your very severe appointment with the law.


But in Nigeria, when people wake up and start killing their fellow human beings, instead of calling a crime by its real name and visiting it with the exact punishment it merits, we go ahead to dress it up in such self-serving phrases like “ethnic crises,” “religious crises” or even the complex term, “ethno-religious crises.”  And so, when some fellows rose up some  time ago, and   started slaughtering their fellow Nigerians because one obscure cartoonist in far away Denmark had published an illustration they found offensive, we quickly dubbed it “religious crises” and within a few weeks, the bereaved quietly buried their dead where they were able to find the corpses, mourned silently, cleaned tears from their eyes, nursed their pain and anguish, and everybody went about their normal businesses, waiting for the next opportunity for another mass murder to occur.  But if the government had put its foot on the ground, and insisted on having all those who participated in the killings, especially those who instigated them (which I believe they can fish out if they really want to), to taste the full wrath of the law, in future, some other people would think twice before embarking on the next killing expedition. Last Saturday, The Guardian published on its front-page the very revolting picture of many blood-thirsty youths described as “mercenaries” coming to Jos to help their like-minds to terminate more lives of people who may neither be members of the PDP nor ANPP. Now, have far have the security agents gone to establish the owner of the vehicles that were conveying them before they were intercepted? Who hired the vehicles? Who gathered those bands of young, eager killers, addressed them and sent them off to Jos to prosecute more barbarous killings? Were there no security men at all in the state from where they set off? Have their sponsors been identified, and how soon would their prosecution commence?


Already, the very hideous criminal act of mass murder of men, women and children in Jos has already been dubbed “religious/ethnic crises”, and another useless probe has also been set up to buy time, and let the bereaved forget their pain and anguish.  And the children who had been brutally orphaned and women cruelly widowed by the mindless killings would now be abandoned to eat their loaves of sorrow and bitter sufferings all alone. That is the nature of our country. I am not against dialogue. I am not against probes and reconciliation meetings, but we deceive ourselves if we continue to give the impression that dialogue and making people account for their hideous acts are mutually exclusive. Both must be allowed to play their separate roles in the peace and reconciliation process. Most of the people who participated in these killings may not be members of any political party.  In fact, many of them may not have voted in the contentious council elections. And majority of them may not even be able to say the difference between the ANPP and the PDP or the names of the different candidates. All they needed to go into the streets killing people like enraged demons were for somebody to gather them to one corner, give them an overdose of some delicacies, including burukutu, fire them with some hate-speeches against some people they have always been taught to regard as mortal enemies, and unleash them on society to wreak boundless violence. That is why even though we are being told that this was a PDP/ANPP war arising from the outcome of council elections, it soon came to be known as “ethno-religious” crises. If the Commissioner of Police in Jos says he is unable to fish out the people who instigated this mass killing of human beings, including some young corps members whose throats were slashed for no other offence than that they were unlucky enough to perform National Service in a part of the country where heartless killers are carefully bred and kept for wanton murderous acts and most irrational and savage destructions, then he is not qualified to occupy that post. Until this nation arrests and prosecutes the prominent criminals who instigate violence and bloodletting among the citizenry just to make a political point, these killings would remain a regular occurrence. And if we continue to treat this very serious matter with kid gloves, maybe, because it is only the poor and nobodies that usually die, one day, the killers would grow wilder and extend their murderous adventure beyond the high walls of the cosy quarters where the affluent, highly placed bloodsuckers hide to instigate the poor to kill themselves.




Mr. President, It’s Too Dark Here!

December 15, 2008

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye


“…we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness. We grope for the wall like the blind, we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men.” —-Isaiah 59:9-10.


Dear, President Umar Musa Yar’Adua. I know that as a human being, you have a heart capable of being touched by a people’s unbearable, indescribable torments. May I inform you, therefore, (since you appear to be unaware) that despite your repeated promises and policy statements, threats to declare a State of Emergency in the Power Sector, and the several committees you have set up on the country’s power situation since you came into office, Nigeria’s dully authorized and unrepentant Agent Of Darkness known as National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), which now prefers to be called Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN — Problem Has Changed Name), has for a long time now descended on us here with all the  fury and malevolence of its total and blinding darkness. I do not know whether you ever attempt to find out how it is with us down here from the comfort of your exquisite castle where limitless  luxury, soothing serenity and ease abound, but I think it would help if I inform you that one of the most heart-rending sights in the world today is the very gloomy picture of sad, pained and traumatized Nigerians cruelly enveloped in NEPA/PHCN’s very thick and suffocating darkness, groping like people trapped in a murky, danger-infested night, and savagely attacked by the deafening noise and fatal fumes of countless generators.


Do you, Mr. President, remember that MTN television advert that used to feature a handsome young man asking a beautiful young girl to step out on her balcony to behold the beauty and delight of golden and brilliant sunshine? Oh, you will agree with me that such an advert, if it was still being aired here, would have looked utterly ridiculous and outlandish in our present circumstance; because, to talk of brightness and the beauty of it in this nation would not only amount to debasing such glowing terms, but would constitute unqualified provocation to the hapless masses of Nigeria trapped in manmade, avoidable darkness. But, Mr. President, like that girl in the advert eventually did, you can today step out of   dark Nigeria into the brilliant ambience of Ghana, Niger, Togo, South Africa, Swaziland, and several tiny countries in Africa where uninterrupted power supply has for countless years now been taken for granted. And then from there, you can look back at the big-for-nothing country you purport to be governing and see the amount of darkness that has engulfed it, and how hapless Nigerians are choking and wasting in the womb of impenetrable and asphyxiating darkness.   Needless to say that when put together, the resources of these countries may eventually not add up to what Nigeria earns from oil exports alone.   So how were they able to succeed with ease, where you have failed woefully? How do you feel when in the midst of other African leaders, and they mock you by referring to you as the leader of the African Giant? When they talk about how their citizens enjoy uninterrupted power supply, does it embarrass you at all? Or have you lost every capacity to be so affected?

Maybe, we are even very ungrateful. We have been very unappreciative of the long nights you are alleged to have been staying awake on our behalf thinking and planning on how to usher us into a blissful paradise! Pardon us, please, Mr. President. It is just that the increasing decay and dilapidation we see everywhere in our nation daily are just not what anyone expects long hours and nights of planning and strategizing to produce. That’s just the point, Mr. President. Well, we still have something to be grateful to you for. We at least have you to thank for helping us realize that in this nation, Government has become totally irrelevant in our lives; a needless burden too heavy to bear; in fact, it might as well be scraped since all it does each day is to remind us of its parasitic nature, and how better we would even fare if it were not there to perennially rob us. 

As I stand on my balcony each evening, gazing into the atmosphere, and trying to make some meaning out of the very chaotic and dysfunctional city in which I live, all I am greeted with are the sanity-threatening din and clatter of several power generating sets locked in a clearly mad competition to out-roar each other.  Every house contributes generously to this bedlam. Eardrums come under serious threat. Hypertensive cases become more complicated, drawing their victims closer to their graves. Sanity struggles to take leave of several people, as the combined effect of the roaring noise from every house tear into what should have been a quiet evening, with violent rage, piercing fierceness and tormenting loudness. Very lethal, thick, black fumes also ooze into the atmosphere, targeting the hearts and lungs of men, successfully turning the area into one huge fatally saturated gas chamber. But why does everyone decide to set the angry machines roaring every evening, when people require calmness to give their bodies refreshing sleep after a day of hard work to make a living in an impossible country like ours? Why? Because, Government has idled itself into irrelevance. Prof Chinua Achebe’s words are true: “This is an example of a country that has fallen down; it has collapsed. This house has fallen.”


Dangerous Begging By Imo Pupils

Last week, I was in Imo State, and was confronted by a very strange phenomenon.  I was visiting a woman, a relative of mine, who had a young, very handsome son who should either be twenty or nineteen. Shortly before I arrived, two female pupils from a near-by secondary school had sauntered into her compound and demanded to see the woman’s son. They wanted him to do ‘Sign-Sign’ for them. Disgusted by the whole thing, the woman sent them away. Now, as it was explained to me by both the woman and a teacher, a particular amount has been set as target for every secondary school pupil in Imo State, to be realized within a specified time.  I understand that a student that fails to meet this target would be in serious soup. They were equally assigned cards where each donor would sign after making his or her donation. So during school hours virtually everyday now, the teachers unleash these hapless teens into the towns and villages to go and do “Sign-Sign”. One teacher said the money was for a “book lunch” by the State Education Ministry. It was also suggested the money was being raised to execute some government projects.  Teachers and headmasters too are under pressure to ensure their pupils raise this money. I am only bothered about the dangers the pupils, especially, the girls are being exposed to by this totally bankrupt policy. Somebody in Owerri should, please, order the pupils back to the classroom, before the inevitable results of the “Sign-Sign” nonsense begin to show through several protruding tummies, STDs and cases of missing of pupils in a couple of months from now.