Archive for September 2009

NIGERIA: The Making Of A Dangerous Country

September 11, 2009
By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye,

“Something startles me where I thought I was safest,

I withdraw from the still woods I loved,

I will not go now on the pastures to walk…”

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) in the poem, ‘This Compost’.

In October 2004, Professor Chinua Achebe told Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s “civilian” ruler at the time, that Nigeria under his watch was unarguably “too dangerous.” That was about five years ago. Today, words would fail anyone, including Achebe himself, to describe Nigeria’s current state. And if by any stroke of misfortune the 2011 general elections still throws up this same band of (mis)rulers, whose insatiable greed and obscene display of unearned wealth now constitute the greatest and most effective incentive for the prolongation of Nigeria’s current nightmare of kidnapping, violent robberies and ritual murders, what this country will become in the next few years from now is better imagined.

President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua And Queen Elizabeth of England

President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua And Queen Elizabeth of England

Mid-last month, July 15, 2009, to be precise, The Nigerian Tribunecarried a very brief story whose significance may have been lost on many people. At 3.00 am on the Sunday of that week, a thief was caught in the bedroom of Mr. Sule Lamido, the Governor of Jigawa State. The story, according to the newspaper, has been duly confirmed by the Governor’s Director of Press, Muhammad Sanu Jibrin. Before now, who could have imagined that a thief, any thief, would have been able to violate the sanctity of a governor’s bedroom? But that has now become part of our history. I won’t be surprised to hear tomorrow that a governor or his wife has been kidnapped and taken to an unknown destination, from the safe confines of the Government House. Given the horribly complicated security situation in this failed state we call our country today, such a possibility already stares everyone in the face.

There is always a huge price to pay when a nation is left in the hands of an irresponsible and wayward elite to do the only thing it knows how to do with it, namely, primitively bleed it pale and callously run it aground. That is today the story of Nigeria. And the situation is becoming horribly complicated. Those outsmarted in the grab-and-plunder game have taken up arms to get their own share of the cake, provoked mainly by the sudden wealth being flaunted by the “lucky few” with easy access to public funds. Now, the smell of blood and death hangs in the air, like a dreaded epidemic! Fear walks on all fours. Yet, the looters are still busy plundering, hoping to use what they have accumulated to purchase safety and comfort for themselves in the midst of death and destruction. What a foolish thought.

On Their Own: Who protects these ones?

On Their Own: Who protects these ones?

On July 18, 2009, Saturday Independent reported the gruesome murder of two former aides to the Education Minister, Dr. Sam Egwu, at the burial ceremony of the father of a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain in Nnewi, Anambra State. A Federal lawmaker, Paulinus Igwe Nwagwu, who was also hit by bullets from the same gunmen, however, still has his life intact, and was at the time of the report receiving medical attention at an undisclosed hospital. It was even reported that due to “the deadly onslaught of this gang of killers”, Gov Sullivan Chime of Enugu State, and Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, who were already set to attend the funeral in Nnewi became scared and retreated indoors. Do you blame them? When a state fails, not even governors or deputy senate presidents can appear safely in the open, despite the intimidating security apparatus at their disposal.

And make no mistake about it: this can only get worse until the political and ruling elite decides that looting and plundering of commonwealth must not remain inextricably intertwined with governance, and that Nigeria needs to be healed and rebuilt and not continuously gang-raped. Well, the bad (or good) news is that very soon, treasury looters may no longer find any safe ground to ply their lucrative trade. The words of British clergyman, Willaim Inge, may soon come alive to everyone: “A man may build himself a throne of bayonets, but he can’t sit on it.” Indeed, no one can sow the wind, and expect NOT to reap the whirlwind. Nigeria appears to be the only country where people are busy eating and drinking poison, and yet wishing to live. Our rulers live their whole lives destroying the country, and yet wake up each morning expecting to see it flourishing like a May flower. No, you don’t bring home ant-infested faggots, and expect to be excused from the visit of lizards. For goodness sake, Nigeria is too young to die. It has never been this unsafe. And no part of the country is immune.

Living Dangerously: Who Cares?

Living Dangerously: Who Cares?

A couple of weeks ago, on a Friday, a heavily armed gang reportedly raided two commercial banks in Nsukka, Enugu State; they took their time to thoroughly clean out one bank before moving to the other to repeat the same exercise, killing a Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in the process. While the reign of terror and bullets persisted, no form of resistance came from any quarters. When they were through with the banks, they moved with an even greater fanfare to the Nsukka Police Station, where all the ill-equipped and poorly motivated policemen had fled for dear life. Then they opened the cells, released all the inmates and razed down the police station. After the robbers had finished their operations and gone, the Enugu State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Mr. Ebere Amaraizu, told Saturday Independent (probably from his hideout in Enugu) that the Police Commissioner had dispatched some more policemen to Nsukka to go and help catch the robbers. Nigeria, Great Nation, Good People!


Face of Danger: No Place To Hide

Face of Danger: No Place To Hide

Whether we like it or not, the rise of violent crimes is to a large extent being provoked by the massive, unrestrained looting going on in public institutions. Time was when everyone, including criminal elements among us, watched passively as those in government, their relatives, mistresses and errand boys became rich overnight and obscenely flaunted their ill-gotten wealth before every eye that could see. Now the situation has changed. Those without access to government coffers now have access to guns. But in their determination to “make it” like their counterparts in government and politics, they are unable to achieve reasonable discrimination between those who acquired wealth by dint of hard work and those who bled the treasury pale. I have heard it said several times among the populace that if the robbers and kidnappers would direct their efforts solely on those carting away public funds, no one would bat an eyelid. It would then amount to a balance of criminality. They steal from the public; the thieves and kidnappers steal from them! And so long as those outside this godless ring remain untouched in the desperation of the two camps to out-steal each other, no one would complain. Imagine such a reasoning flourishing in supposedly sane country!

Tender Victims: Usually The Worst Hit In A Dangerous Country

Tender Victims: Usually The Worst Hit In A Dangerous Country

Welcome to Nigeria, a country no one wishes to slave or die for. Nigeria is like a collapsing House, cordoned off by the Ruling/Eating Class, who are busy day and night carting away the much they could before it goes down. No one is interested in rebuilding it so it could remain for all of us. But the marginalized out there have taken up arms to force their own portion out of the looters. There is “war” in the land which might become more complicated, ensuring that there would be no more places to hide. And as 2011 approaches, it is bound to get worse. But why can’t we decide today to halt this massive looting and start rebuilding Nigeria? If graduates get jobs tomorrow, will they steal and kidnap? We better open our eyes to the stark reality of today’s Nigeria and act fast to fix our country for the safety of both the ruler and ruled. But if we continue pigheadedly on this path of perdition, even a blind man can see what this place will become tomorrow.



The High Cost Of Presidential Visit

September 11, 2009

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

Recently, the Bayelsa State Commissioner for Information, Orientation and Strategy, Mr. Asara Asara, told reporters in his office that the state government spent over N456 million on the recently cancelled two-day “working visit” of President Umar Musa Yar’Adua to Bayelsa. According to him, the initial budget for the visit was N1.2 billion, but when the Due Process and e-Governance Bureau reviewed it, it found reasons to abridge it to N456 million. And the State Governor, Mr. Timipere Sylva, who was eager to have the president in the state, wasted no time in approving the sum.

President Yar'Adua: Too Many, Meaningless, Expensive Trips

President Yar’Adua: Too Many, Meaningless, Expensive Trips

Now, according to reports, the president was coming to Bayelsa solely to commission some projects completed by the Sylva regime and perform the foundation laying ceremony for the Bayelsa International Cargo Airport in Zarama-Epie, Yenogoa Local Council Area. Nothing more, nothing less, dear readers! Yet, some fellows thought that this simple activity provided sufficient reason for Bayelsa State to fritter away N1.7 billion just like that! If this does not amount to obscene profligacy and prodigality, somebody should tell me the right words to describe the very outrageous decision.

Toiling Under The Sun Daily To Subsidize The Profligacy Of Their Leaders

Toiling Under The Sun Daily To Subsidize The Profligacy Of Their Leaders

Okay, the money was eventually reduced to N456 million. Indeed, to the fat cats at the corridors of power, this may be just be some “little change,” which may even be insufficient to host one night of riotous party for a couple of public officers with university girls and state prostitutes, but pardon me for insisting that N456 million is indeed, a big sum – too big for such a simple activity. And I fail to see how the mere act of the president flying into Yenogoa to commission some projects and lay the foundation for an airport project should gulp such a huge sum. It is just wasteful, to put it mildly. Indeed, such a sum can easily give numerous boreholes to some communities and make the people there happy drinkers of potable water in a region where virtually every stream has been horribly contaminated in the course of oil exploitations. Why do our public officers find it so easy and natural to callously squander public funds without any restraints while masses of deprived people in their domains yearn each day for very essential amenities that may never be provided? Sadly, every insignificant event provides excellent opportunity for wallowing in profligacy and self-enrichment.

And at the end of the day, it may turn out that only an insignificant fraction of the budgeted sum was spent on the event, while the larger part found its way into private pockets. Now, let’s return to Yar’Adua’s botched visit. Apart from the Central Working Committee headed by the Bayelsa Deputy Governor, Mr. Peremobowei Ebebi, there were also more than 16 sub-committees, all put in place to ensure a successful presidential “owambe.” Six masters of ceremony were hired to feature at the event. No doubt, all these committees, sub-committees or sub-sub-committees have their huge budgets to play around with, to give the impression that a really big event is taking place, to justify the huge sums of money being squandered with unpardonable recklessness. There is also the publicity committee headed by the Information Commissioner himself, whose job may just be to organize media coverage for the programme, hire the six MCs and place adverts in the media welcoming president – a job just one man can successfully execute within two days. In fact, what some of the committees and sub-committees might undertake with excessive fussiness and fanfare, to justify the huge funds allocated to them, could be perfectly carried out by just one person with only a telephone.

Gov Sylva of Bayelsa: Chief Host Of The Expensive, Meaningless Trip

Gov Sylva of Bayelsa: Chief Host Of The Expensive, Meaningless Trip

The commissioner said that since the trip had been cancelled, unspent funds would be returned, as the various officers and committee heads render accounts. It also means that those who had overshot their budgets would also seek reimbursement. The trip, according to my brother, Doifie Ola, the Governor’s Chief Press Secretary, was cancelled so the governor can attend to some “pressing state matters.” But the story out there is that Yar’Adua was scared stiff by some benumbing security reports, and had to cancel the outrageously expensive and wasteful trip. There is also the joke that if Yar’Adua was kidnapped in Yenogoa, the ransom would not be anything less than N500 billion. It is high time we spurned all these wasteful activities that contribute nothing to the lives of the citizenry, like useless presidential visits to “commission projects” and carry out “foundation-laying ceremonies.” Such side attractions only provide momentary excitement and nothing else. They contribute nothing to progress and development. Yar’Adua should sit back in Abuja and face the mounting national problems staring him the face.

Indeed, governance should be a more serious business than some governors and presidents are showing it is.


An Ever Unserious House?

Recently, it was reported that the Honourable Members of the House of Representatives deemed it appropriate to adjourn plenary to have lunch with President Yar’Adua’s Special Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Mr. Abba Aji.

Speaker Dimeji Bankole: Heading A Visionless House

Speaker Dimeji Bankole: Heading A Visionless House

The motion for this dishonourable act was moved by the House Leader, Tunde Akogun. Before they rushed out to have the lunch, only one out of the seven items listed in the Order Paper for that day had been treated.

And, on this particular day, the House had commenced its sitting scandalously too late, about three o’clock. Yet, they had the effrontery to look Nigerians in the face and abandon such very important national assignment committed in their hands to go and do “longer throat”.

Nigeria's House of Representatives: Idling Away In Abuja At Huge Costs

Nigeria’s House of Representatives: Idling Away In Abuja At Huge Costs

We must be worried by the quality of minds that periodically show up at our National and State Assemblies to make laws for us. Readers of this column know that in several essays published here, I have been unable to contain my sorrow and deep pain over the quality of lawmakers we end up with each time, and how such a misfortune continues to sabotage our best expectations for progress and development, since all it does is to extend generous incentive to the Executive to celebrate its insufferable ineptitude and directionlessness with indecent fanfare.

As our decadent politics continue to inflict the nation with grossly underweight and light-minded fellows as lawmakers, that is, individuals who neither have any acquaintance with sound ideas nor the capacity to appreciate the gravity of the assignment they are supposed to be performing in Abuja, what the nation gets in return can only be retrogression and unchecked decay. What has remained sadly true is that for most of the lawmakers who had diminished our legislative chambers with their uninspiring presence these past few years, their real reason for showing up in Abuja has been to just scramble over dirty naira notes like wanton street boys over balls of akra suddenly falling off the tray of an indiscreet hawker.

Indeed, these were mostly down-and-out fellows dusted off from here and there, easily excited by such little things as a sumptuous lunch with presidential aides, and they would emerge each time from such feasts feeling so high that they would forget their very important brief in Abuja. So sad.