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.                                                                                


How Nigerians Work At The Passport Office

May 5, 2009


A recent visit to the passport office in FESTAC, Lagos here, did quite a lot to renew my hope that Nigeria may not after all be a totally lost case. Nigerians will always reciprocate with positive responses whenever and wherever there is purposeful, exemplary leadership to show the way and dictate the tempo. Indeed, I never imagined that the Nigerian Public Service still had in its fold such wonderful Nigerians whose industry, dedication and warm, friendly approach to service delivery could constitute worthy, ennobling benchmark even to many private organisations.

My business at the FESTAC passport office was to obtain an E-Passport to replace my old copy which had recently expired. I had arrived very early on the appointed day, as I was advised to, thinking I would wait for ages to be attended to, based on my previous knowledge of what obtained in government offices in Nigeria. But the lady that addressed us before we were ushered to the place we were to sit down to await our turns to take the photographs and complete other formalities was punctual. She was also polite, friendly, but firm and resolute. She simply explained to those intent on obtaining more than one passport or supplying wrong information that the law would naturally take care of them. There was a touch of humour in her speech, but there was no doubt that she meant business. I was impressed.


                                                   The E-Passport

Inside the building, those smartly dressed men and women worked with a sense of urgency, dedication and meticulousness that was rare, peculiar and hope-restoring. They worked with the gusto, cheerfulness and carefulness of people who enjoyed their work. As they fed the information the people supplied into the computers, they displayed remarkable understanding, patience and accommodation that permeated the entire room with soothing warmth and friendliness, reducing every discomfort arising from having too many people queuing at several tables at the same time and having to stand for a long time to complete all the process.

Even though the people were so many, and the lines seemed interminable, these officers managed to convey the impression that they were not bored or tired, but rather derived immense pleasure doing their job. I sought in vain for the slightest hint of irritation or snapping patience towards those who either kept making mistakes or were slow in proofreading their information. I can’t recall ever feeling at home in any government office, but at the FESTAC passport office that day, I really felt welcome and at home. Their seemingly inexhaustible patience was also on display at the thumb-printing and photograph points. Some people, especially children and old people, took their photographs several times before good copies could be obtained. I looked at the faces of the officers to see any signs of exasperation, but saw none. They kept beaming. Even when the persons concerned tried to suggest, after a couple of attempts, that the photographs were manageable and could go in like that, the officers still politely asked them to allow them to try again. And they would help the people to arrange their heads properly until good copies were obtained. Though the work usually dragged through several hours, with   hardly any pauses, the workers remained their cheerful and friendly selves.

But this friendly atmosphere never existed at the expense of thoroughness. They ensured every information is correct before it is posted. They also watched out for people intent beating the system. While I waited for my turn, I observed a scene that would make an excellent comedy. A woman had come with some kids, and one officer who had been sitting meekly on a desk observing everyone insisted on speaking with her before she could be attended to. Suddenly the man was telling her that the kids were not hers. The woman argued furiously, and showed serious offence at such a suggestion. Then the officer asked her to excuse him, so he could speak with the kids. But as the woman went outside, he called the woman’s husband instead, whose number, I suppose, he got from the forms. There and then, his suspicion was confirmed that the woman had come to obtain those passports for the children without the consent of their father, and that the letter of consent she had presented was forged. When the woman was brought back, he confronted her, and as she continued insisting that the letter was duly written and signed by her husband, she was gently led out of the room.



Now, I was thinking that the exceptional work attitude I saw at the FESTAC passport office only flourished there until my wife recently went the passport office in Ikoyi, and came back with even more wonderful stories of how they attended to people there. Please, let’s not just gloss over this. If we are serious about breathing some life into our public service, a close study of the work attitude at these passport offices needs to be carefully undertaken to determine the secret behind the pleasant stories emanating from there. Dates for collection of passports are automatically generated once you are through, and on that day, you would go there and pick your passport without any hassles. I   suppose these exciting stories are replicated at all passport offices across the country. Although, there are still vestigial remains of the Nigerian thing there, like touts crawling about and “helping” people to bring forward  dates for passport collections or get early appointments, what remains clear is that it is difficult to encounter these passport offices and not move away with lasting hope-restoring impressions. With such an efficient system in place, the touts would soon run out of patronage.

What is the secret behind this functional system in the midst of extreme passivity, crippling slothfulness and boundless decay in the public sector? What kind of orientation was given to these men and women to turn them into such shining models of excellent service delivery? The Comptroller-General of the Immigration Service should be given a platform to explain to all of us the secret behind this totally odd situation.


Somebody might say: Ugochukwu, why are you getting unduly excited and praising people for just performing their duties very well, for which they are paid every month? Well, you must pardon me? I have been to several government offices where officials see anyone demanding some modest service as only coming to disturb their peace. They are usually very discourteous, resentful and sometimes outrightly hostile. Your reward for making a simple enquiry could be an angry outburst. People remain idle all day, chatting away or sleeping. At the passport office, I never heard that anyone’s file developed legs and disappeared only to reappear when the person had parted with some crumpled notes. Selflessness and commitment appeared deeply entrenched in all their operations.

So, today, I wholeheartedly pronounce the workers at the passport office, and their leader, the Comptroller-General of the Immigration (I don’t even know his name), the Heroes and Heroines of this column for this month for keeping hope alive that Nigeria is not a lost case, and that Nigerians are capable of being great models of excellence given the right atmosphere, motivation and leadership. Indeed, with focused leaderships at the highest points of power at both the federal and state levels, Nigeria would easily find its way back to the path of recovery and development. No doubt, Nigerians are ready to be led, but alas, where are the leaders?


Dora Akunyili,This Is Becoming Too Ridiculous!

May 5, 2009


f before the end of this year it becomes clear that the sterling performance of Dr. Dora Akunyili as Director General of the National Agency For Food, Drug Administration And Control (NAFDAC) has been completely erased from the people’s mind and rudely replaced with the clearly odious role she now plays as the ebullient head of President Yar’Adua’s misinformation machinery, she would have no one to blame but herself. And it would be very sad indeed. No doubt, the costly, but naïve decision she took to become the image-maker of a passive and rudderless regime must, without fail, exact an even costlier price. 

Never a one to miss an excellent opportunity to strike when the head is still on the block, Mohammed Haruna has stepped forward with the strange theory that the indisputable and widely acclaimed success of Dr. Akunyili in her determined battle against fake and substandard products may have been unduly exaggerated. “The problem with propaganda is that it almost always leads to self-deception. Akunyili may have succeeded possibly well beyond her wildest  imagination in turning NAFDAC into a well-known brand, but the reality of food and drug administration in the country is that her success has been more of image than substance,” wrote Mr. Mohammed in a March 4, 2009 column. He did not stop there: “The fact is that contrary to the image that NAFDAC under Akunyili has virtually eliminated the phenomena of fake drugs and drug abuse both have hardly experienced any significant decline. In spite of all her efforts, the open and illegal drug markets in the country including the three most notorious ones at Onitsha, Kano and Aba, have never really gone out of business. So also have those who openly hawk prescription drugs on our streets”, Mohammed declared.                                                                                          


Dora Akunyili: Attempting The  Impossible?

A few months ago, before Akunyili accepted to work for the very unpopular Yar’Adua regime as Information Minister, Mohammed, despite his sterling reputation in matters of this nature, would have thought twice before launching such an unfair broadside, but now, who would want to fight for a once widely-admired Dora who, for reasons that can only be less-than edifying, has chosen to hasten her self-immolation with her own hands? 

As DG of NAFDAC, Akunyili was regularly celebrated in my newspaper column even though I have never met her.  The same way, most Nigerians who had loved her, prayed fervently for her and had pleaded with her to resist the temptation to soil her shinning reputation by accepting to become the spokesperson of this clearly bankrupt regime, did not know her personally.  And they would regard as gratuitous insult Mohammed Haruna’s suggestion that they may have been hypnotized by Akunyili’s successful propaganda and media hype. 

No matter how revolting we may find Akunyili’s present engagement, we cannot in all honesty deny that she did quality work, as NAFDAC DG, to restore the people’s confidence in drugs and beverages circulated in Nigeria. So, solid was her work that as not a few Nigerians entered shops and confidently bought fruit juice or other beverages, and left with full assurances that their livers would still be intact after they had consumed them, they gratefully remembered Akunyili and thanked God for her life. As a baby suffered from jaundice, and the mother rushed to a nearby chemist shop and purchased the antibiotic prescribed by the doctor, and the drug saved the baby instead of killing him or her, that mother, depending on how informed she was, more often than not, would remember Akunyili. As drug manufacturing firms which were almost forced out of business (many multi-national drug companies actually closed shop and left the country) because their products were being indiscriminately counterfeited returned en masse and began smiling to the banks with their millions and billions instead of singing tales of woes, they remembered Akunyili, and thanked God for such a rare gift. To most Nigerians, Akunyili meant the return of sanity in a society overrun and made unsafe by heartless counterfeiters; the safeguarding of many lives which would have been lost because of the desperation of some devilish souls to rake in blood-stained millions at the expense of precious lives. 

As I read recently the Daily Trust web copy of Mohammed’s March 4 article and saw the comments posted by readers, it dawned on me that Akunyili’s lower descent may even happen faster than I had feared.  But then, it has always been evident that the first thing a public officer acquires in Nigeria is thick skin. That is why the very damaging allegation by one of Mohammed’s readers (which Daily Trust allowed to be posted) may not even bother Akunyili. That may also explain why she is most stubbornly going on with her overly exasperating re-branding campaign despite widespread agreement among the citizenry that it is nothing but a useless and wasteful exercise.   

I have heard that when people enter government they tend to be willingly ignorant and blind in order to survive for too long there. Else, how can somebody with Dr. Akunyili’s intelligence, training, exposure and endowments wake up one morning and convince herself that by attacking my phones daily with the very uninspiring slogan: “Nigeria: Good People, Great Nation,” she will succeed in intimidating me into suddenly forgetting all the indescribable pains tormenting me in this country as a result of the abysmal failure of leadership and character on the part of our rulers, and start grinning from ear to ear? Does a country become great simply because some fellow stood in some cosy office in Abuja and attacked my phones with silly slogans he or she does not even believe?  What do these people really take us for? A population of empty-headed fools? Now, if a father who had wasted his money on wine and women, and, consequently, starved his family sore, suddenly woke up one morning and started reciting: “My Family: Healthy, Well-fed!” won’t his wife and neighbours think he has gone crazy? How can such a useless slogan better the lot of the family he had irresponsibly neglected? How would that secure him the love and cooperation of his family members and make them to stop seeing him as an irresponsible and failed family head? 

I seriously think that this is becoming too ridiculous! There is a disgusting penchant in Nigerian leaders to always throw money at problems and expect a magic to happen – a clearly lazy, insincere man’s option that would always be rewarded with resounding failure.  We always want to seek a shot-cut to glory by seeking to purchase a good image. How can any nation hope to re-brand itself in a vacuum, with practically nothing to showcase? Will the potential tourist or investor simply start rushing down to Nigeria because of one meaningless slogan when the verdict of Country Risk Analysts about this same country remains alarming? Why this indecent haste to re-brand? Why not Yar’Adua now set a realistic date to achieve uninterrupted power supply in Nigeria, for instance, and when that has been achieved, use it as a milestone to anchor a re-branding campaign? 

To clearly underline the fact that the rest of the world is unimpressed by our infantile campaign of misinformation, Nigeria was recently excluded from the G20 Summit of world leaders which it had before now attended as merely an observer. What it means then is that even as an observer, the global community is sick and tired of enduring the unprofitable company of this perennially sick baby. And when this happened, Yar’Adua mourned in Abuja: “I must say that today is a sad day for me. And I think it should be for all Nigerians, when 20 leaders of the leading countries in the world are meeting and Nigeria is not there. This is something we need to reflect upon,” he cried. 

Well, I can only hope that Yar’Adua and his unwieldy crowd will truly reflect upon this, and tell themselves that even if a G40 Summit is holding tomorrow, Nigeria may still be excluded, even if we sink billions to re-brand and re-brand and re-brand.  Somebody should please tell Akunyili what I think she already knows too well, namely, that when a room is horribly messed up with the indiscriminate droppings of a very reckless dog, what you must do is to bend down and carefully wash the place with an active detergent.  Only then would you get back the fresh, pleasant air that makes a room worth inhabiting. But if you take the unhealthy short cut of spraying the dog-shit with heavy dose of deodorant, then you will get a putrid scent that will make the room more repelling than ever before.  Indeed, it is time to discard this unprofitable and ridiculous exercise and roll up the sleeves to work to move Nigeria forward.  Without any re-branding campaign to hoodwink anyone, companies are closing shop here, and relocating to Ghana. Yar’Adua and Akunyili can also reflect on this. A good market, they say, sells itself.


Hugh Hefner: Same Old Playboy At 83!

April 22, 2009


By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye


Although the American media has successfully elevated 83-year old Hugh Hefner to the status of a “legendary icon,” many people loathe him with unqualified contempt, and disdainfully dismiss him as one “dirty old man” despite his great wealth and fame. In an interview with TIME magazine published in its January 26, 2009 edition, Mr. Hefner gleefully celebrated what he considered his paramount contributions to society: “When I first published Playboy [magazine], nice young people did not live together before they got married. Having a baby out of wedlock was a scandal that drove some people to suicide. Oral sex was illegal. Playboy played a major part in changing all that,” he declared. Asked whether he sometimes feels like a dirty old man, Hefner replied: “Not for a moment. I’m on the side of the angels and always have been.” What an affront!


Recently, at the Palms Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Hefner, America’s most notorious bachelor, marked his 83rd birthday surrounded by current and ex-girlfriends. “As you can tell I am very, very happy. To celebrate my birthday with new girlfriends and former girlfriends is perfect, it’s wonderful,” Hefner said in an interview in the course of the celebrations, which had received more colour and attention because of the American Country Music Awards holding at the same time and place. During Hefner’s 82nd birthday last year, another symbol of Western depravity and immorally advanced culture, Pamela Anderson, appeared topless to serve the “old, frail playboy” his birthday cake!


Hugh Hefner: icon of moral irresponsibility?


Born on April 9, 1926, in Chicago, Hefner studied Philosophy at the University of Illinois, worked briefly for Esquire Magazine, before coming up with the idea of his own magazine to be known as “Stag Party.” But when he discovered that somebody else had already trademarked that name, he chose another name, Playboy. The first edition, which featured the picture of Marylyn Monroe, and which he was said to have put together on his kitchen table, appeared in December 1953, and sold 50, 000 copies. Encouraged by this initial success, Hefner reinvested his profit in the venture, and by 1959, he was selling about one million copies monthly. With two crashed marriages to his name, Hefner has endeavoured to be a human demonstration of his magazine’s name. He is now known as the “ultimate playboy” – always living with several “official girlfriends” who many believe are flocking around him because of money and fame. Rumour has it that he invites countless girls, many of who are young enough to be his great grand daughters, after a couple of dates, to reside with him, and compels them to star at “the twice a week orgies” he organises with immense relish in that his house of boundless immorality.


Recently, Hefner added a new girl-friend to his harem. She is 22-year-old Crystal Harris, a Psychology Student at San Diego State University. Already, he had the 19-year-old twin sisters, Karissa and Kristina Shannon, who had enjoyed the limelight as his newest addition until Crystal arrived. A photograph of him and this “trio of bland way too-young girlfriends” is already being widely circulated to reinforce his playboy image and show the world that at 83, he is still mired in shameless immorality and very unrepentant.  


Now what kind of desperation and lust for fame and wealth would push two sisters, twins for that matter, to agree to become one man’s sin-partners, probably performing threesomes with him from time to time? Given the obscene excitement with which the American, and indeed, Western media, celebrated this unqualified abomination, one is tempted to conclude that most of the Western society have lost the capacity to be sickened by anything, no matter how revolting. But a thoroughly sickened Daily News reader posted this comment: “Doing sisters at the same time – that’s weird and nasty to me. I wonder if he has dates for each? The whole thing seems to be about publicity – I think it is.  It keeps his empire alive if people are talking about it.” Hefner had chosen the beautiful twins to replace Ms. Holly Madison, who had to break away from him, heartbroken, after her determination to tame him, and make him marry her, so she could have the child she desired so much had failed.


“Dirty old man,” Hugh Hefner with girlfriends (sin-partners)–Crystal Harris

and the twins –Kristina and Karissa Shannon–: Revolting! Isn’t it?


Hefner hit the headlines again during the recent US presidential elections when he called on the Republican Vice Presidential candidate and Alaska Governor, Mrs. Sarah Palin, to pose nude for Playboy magazine if she failed to be elected. “Palin would make a great centrefold. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about a really sexy-looking woman wearing glasses. Imagine what she’s like when those glasses come off. It would be a new definition of the word vice in vice president,” he told OK! Magazine.  Sometimes, I wonder what human dignity still means to the Western mind. Why would anyone in his right mind be inviting a state governor, vice presidential candidate of the ruling party, wife and mother, and anti-abortion and pro-abstinence advocate to pose nude for a magazine that services the depraved taste of a decadent society? In Nigeria, even with all our imperfections, such a proposal would have provoked a national uproar. And the governor concerned would have considered it a grave insult, and may even resort to legal actions because of the damages her mere consideration for such an obscene pre-occupation may have caused her.


Former Republican Vice Presidential Candidate

Alaska Governor, Mrs. Sarah Palin: Hefner once invited her to pose nude

for his dirty, immoral magazine



What people do in these parts to earn instant and, maybe, perennial isolation from decent society transform them automatically into well sought-after celebrities in the Western world. When the identity of 22-year-old Ashley Alexander Dupre, the high-end prostitute that brought down the former New York Governor, Elliot Spitzer, became public knowledge, Larry Flint, publisher of Hustler magazine, immediately announced a $1million payment to her if she would pose nude for his men’s magazine. The publisher of Penthouse Magazine, Ms. Diane Silberstein, also immediately joined with an offer to put her on the cover of her magazine. There were book and movie offers, and even invitations to appear on such high-profile programmes like Dianne Sawyer’s “Good Morning America” on ABC. I am sure that Monica Lewinsky is now a very rich “celebrity” because of her most outrageously immoral behaviour that shook the American Presidency. And if she would let out the word today that she is ready to pose nude, she would become an instant billionaire! Indeed, something must really be wrong with a society that celebrates its weirdoes, its deranged and the incurably depraved in its midst: a society where the human being has lost the slightest hint of dignity and respect.    But once in a while, however, one also finds a lone voice of reason. The Vancouver Sun titled the Miss Dupre/Spitzer story thus: “Call Girl Could Parlay Infamy Into Payday.”


The fellow that called Hugh Hefner a “media-sponsored paedophilia” may indeed be right. Many in America and other Western nations are already bemoaning the silly interpretation their society had given to freedom many years ago, which has now turned their worst nightmare. Hefner’s Playboy Mansion which first existed in Chicago, but now located in Holmby Hills area of Los Angeles, California, hosts all sort of obscene and depraved shows weekly. There is no stopping the frail, dirty old man! It is said that “he pops Viagra like candy.”  What is the “over-liberated” American woman saying to the unending abuse Hefner subjects her gender to, using little girls as mere playthings to amuse himself? In a more decent clime, a man like Hefner would be abhorred by decent society and labelled a shameless old dog. But he is a rich American “celebrity” and pays huge taxes to the Father of soulless Capitalism, so, why would he not be celebrated by the West? Any hope of reclamation then for this morally challenged old man at 83?


Yar’Adua May Still Happen Again!

February 25, 2009

 By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye


Gradually, President Yar’Adua’s health condition is becoming an item for very debilitating blackmail. And it seems to be working effectively!


Just wonder aloud why the president of such a critically sick and sinking country cannot allow himself to be roused from crippling inertia to seek with clear vision, focus and vigour the nation’s healing and revival, and the next accusation that would be laid at your doorstep is: “Oh, there you go again, making fun of the president because of his ill-health.”


And so political correctness now dictates that we all enlist in the confused choir of incurably naïve optimists who seem to derive peculiar animation from continually chorusing the hope that a heavy truck trapped in the middle of a collapsing bridge, because its driver was having a good, refreshing nap, would not soon disappear into the deep waters even though the bridge is already down and about to be washed away.


I think this is sad and most unfortunate.


Now, why would somebody make fun of anyone because he or she is sick? Can the person accurately predict what the state of his or her own health would be tomorrow? I think what most people are trying to say is that there are too many sick persons in the country and Mr. Yar’Adua just happens to be one of them. What we owe all of them are our sincere sympathies, prayers, and help if we are in a position to offer any. But there is definitely no justification for turning anyone’s personal health challenges into a national burden. In other words, Nigeria cannot continue to just sit still, fold its hands and do nothing in the face of threatening devastating global economic crises on the unpardonable excuse that its president is sick – as if there are no capable and healthy persons in the country?


For goodness sake, this state of inertia has gone on for too long. If the president is not sick, let him wake up, think, roll out his plans and work? And if he is, and unable to perform, as seems to be the case, let him excuse himself from the throne, instead of holding everyone else to ransom. I am quite sure that not many people would object to Nigeria undertaking to pay the president’s medical bills for life, as compensation for the “invaluable sacrifice,” if he decides today to let go and retire to the serenity of his family house in Katsina.


But will the leeches and parasites feeding fat on his incompetence and the nation’s carcasses allow him to make up his mind?


For a nation as badly run as Nigeria is, where decisions and actions that determine the direction and future of the country are mostly inspired by acute selfishness, Yar’Adua would never lack a formidable army of self-serving loyalists hailing his special capacity to sleep through the worst crises, as we are witnessing at the moment. It is not impossible, too, that a President Umar Musa Yar’Adua may reappear in Abuja in 2011. I think that should not shock anyone who has been watching the course of events in the nation’s political horizon for the past few months. This is one nation where people are continually drinking and eating poison with utmost relish, and yet wanting to live; yes, a country where people continue to assure and reassure themselves that no matter how long they keep stabbing their nation and drinking its blood, they would still wake up every other morning to see it standing on its feet and flourishing.


Well, all these acts of self-delusion would in no distant time be forced to evaporate by the grim realities that would soon dawn on this nation. For so long now, Nigeria has remained the best example of how a richly endowed country could look like in the absence of any of form of government. People who found themselves at the seat power merely looted the treasury pale and retired at the expiration of their tenures to enjoy their unearned wealth. So long as there was still oil pumping out crispy dollars for the next regime to loot and put away in coded accounts abroad, no one complained; and no one was asked to give account. Only those foolish enough to die, like Gen Sani Abacha, were branded corrupt, and their loot diligently looted.


And so, at a time world leaders are spending sleepless nights with their economic managers and experts, devising ways to save their nations from the looming global economic calamity, we, in this ungoverned entity called Nigeria are busy debating about our president’s vacation, which, if we must be sincere to ourselves, he has enjoyed with little or no interruptions since May 29, 2007. I once heard that the motto of an association of pensioners was: “Rest Is Sweet After Labour.”


Pray, what has Yar’Adua done since the two years he has encumbered the ground in Abuja to warrant his disturbing the nation’s peace with tiresome talk about vacation? Which responsible and responsive president would allow himself to be caught dropping the slightest hint about a vacation at time oil prices, his country’s   sole revenue earner, was crashing from near $145 to about $30? The earthquake in the nation’s stock market is an economic tsunami that ought to have kept any president alert and worried, but our own man could not just be bothered. He would rather go on vacation, even as major multi-national companies are closing shops in Nigeria, and relocating to functional countries like Ghana, causing countless Nigerians to be dumped in the unemployment market. Mind you, Nigeria remains the biggest market for these companies; they produce in Ghana and sell in Nigeria. What an unlucky nation.


Despite Yar’Adua’s repeated promise to declare a state of emergency in the power sector, power supply has worsened beyond what anyone would have imagined was possible in a nation ruled by a human being. I doubt if there is any community in Nigeria today where anyone can walk to a public tap, fetch healthy water and confidently drink it. Indeed, no one with the means to afford alternatives in Ghana, Cameroon or any of our tiny neighbours, takes the risk of enlisting his children in Nigerian schools any more. I challenge Yar’Adua or any governor to prove that his children are in Nigerian public universities – where many public official had attended.  Nigeria’s health institutions are only patronized by those willing to take a risk with their lives, because they are too poor to fly out for medical treatment; not even the president of Nigeria receives treatment in Nigerian hospitals.


But the worst is yet on the way, in fact, very close to the door.


By the time the devastating effect of President Barack Obama’s New Energy Policy reaches home to us here in Nigeria, there is no doubt that the price of oil may go down to 50 cents. At that time, there won’t even be enough public fund to steal. Maybe, then, and only then, would Nigerians be forced by very unbearable conditions to seek authentic leaders, people with a mind and clear ideas to move society forward, and not a horde of bankrupt creatures occupying offices where they are not even qualified to be cleansers. Today, we are complaining about the rise of violent crime in Nigeria. By that time, it would degenerate to almost an open war.


And until then, some vacuous fellows can still afford the luxury of campaigning for a Second or even Third for Yar’Adua, so he could stay back to “continue the good work he is doing.” What a nation!  


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.