Posts Tagged ‘Nigeria’

This House Is Not For Sale!

September 10, 2010

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye  

“Why do I ever think of things falling apart? Were they ever whole” – Arthur Miller, Late American playwright and essayist    


I am forced by some very discomforting thoughts to remember today Bessie Head, the late South African writer and her 1989 collection of short stories entitled, Tales Of Tenderness And Power. I remember particularly one of the stories in that collection captioned,  “Village People,” especially, its opening lines which reads: “Poverty has a home in Africa – like a quiet second skin. It may be the only place on earth where it is worn with an unconscious dignity.” 


When Will These Embarrassing Notices Stop?

When Will These Embarrassing Notices Stop?

Now, this is one assertion that immediately compels one to start visualizing images of scenes and objects that readily constitute benumbing evidences of “dignified poverty” spread all over Africa, where people try to give some form of shine and panache to a very horrible situation they have somehow convinced themselves would always be with them. In those two brief lines, Ms. Head states a truth about Africa which we may find very demoralizing and objectionable, but which would remain extremely difficult to contradict. 

But is poverty the only thing we appear to have accepted as inevitable component of life in this part of the world? What about crime? How come crime appears to have gradually become too natural with us in Nigeria here, that we even go ahead to put up notices to moderate its operation? We appear to relish more the very unpleasant job of merely alerting people to it than doing anything to stamp it out. Now, if I may ask: what usually occurs to your mind each time you enter a hotel room in Nigeria and on the wash-basin, dressing mirror, bed-sheet or towel you see the following inscription: “Hotel Property, Do Not Remove!”   

If you ask me, this warning simply takes it for granted that guests would naturally wish to remove those items, and so to forestall that, care is taken to advise them not to remove those particular items as the hotel is still in need of them. In other words, the absence of such a warning on any other item should be construed as an automatic authorization any guest requires to move those things together with his personal effects, if he so wishes, at the expiration of his stay.  That’s just the implication.  Or have we not also thought about that? What are we then, by this practice, telling numerous foreign visitors that use those hotel rooms daily about ourselves?  

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Criminalisation of Poverty

August 12, 2010

  By Ugoochukwu Ejinkeonye  

 It was a normal news report in a not too recent newspaper; the type we are used to seeing regularly, but would, most likely, merely glance through before turning our attention to more ‘important’ matters. But when I saw this particular report, confined to a small corner of the newspaper, something about it spoke a very clear message to my heart.   

Under the heading, “Cow Thief Bags 12yrs Jail,” the report said that an Oshogbo Magistrate Court presided over by Mrs. Ayo Ajeigbe had sentenced a certain Mr. Audu Mustapha to 12 years imprisonment for stealing a cow belonging to one Julie Idi. The estimated cost of the cow was N60, 000. The police had accused Mustapha of selling the cow and using the proceeds to purchase a small truck with which he conveyed ‘liberated’ cows to either where he sold or hid them. 

Now, if Mustapha who had earlier served a jail term in Ilorin for a similar offence, does not have a powerful, well-connected godfather, especially, in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), or other equally criminally powerful places, he should, as you read this article now, be in one of our dilapidated and uninhabitable prison houses enduring the just recompense of his grave sin against the State, and dreaming about his young (and probably beautiful) wife and their three tender children.

Was The Cow ‘Liberated’ By Mustapha As Robust As This?

I must hasten to add that nothing can justify Mustapha’s ungodly action. Even people poorer than he is are resisting the temptation to steal; he knew the dire consequences of his chosen career and still tarried in it, because, it had juicy promises of quick, undeserved wealth. Now, the excruciating day of reckoning is here, and he has no choice but to quietly savour the bitter reward of his criminal endeavours. I will only sympathise with his family if they were unaware that in order to put food on their table, Mustapha was cruelly dispossessing other people of their fat cows. This can only teach one lesson: when crime is punished, deterrence is instituted.  

Now, if that is always how all such cases end, society would really be a better place for all of us. While down here, we, in an impressive show of self-righteousness, may haul condemnations further down on Mustapha with every scorn and unmitigated rage befitting a common criminal, more discerning people would rather view him as an unfortunate victim of a disastrous accident on his way to the exalted circle of the nation’s elite class. I suspect that he did not bother to study the rules of the game very carefully and so may have easily run foul of a very important law of the game, namely: Thou shall not be too greedy 

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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.


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.


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!    







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.

Criminalisation Of Poverty In Nigeria

July 25, 2008

By Ugoochukwu Ejinkeonye

It was a normal news report, the type we are used to seeing regularly, but would, most likely, merely glance through before turning our attention to more ‘important’ matters. But when I saw this particular report, confined to a small corner of the newspaper, something about it spoke a very clear message to my heart.

Under the heading, “Cow Thief Bags 12yrs Jail,” the report said that an Oshogbo Magistrate Court presided over by Mrs. Ayo Ajeigbe had sentenced a certain Mr. Audu Mustapha to 12 years’ imprisonment for stealing a cow belonging to one Julie Idi. The estimated cost of the cow was N60, 000. The police had accused Mustapha of selling the cow and using the proceeds to purchase a small truck with which he conveyed ‘liberated’ cows to either where he sold them or hid them.

If Mustapha who had earlier served a jail term in Ilorin for a similar offence, does not have a powerful, well-connected godfather, especially, in the ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), or other equally criminally powerful places where even heinous crimes and treated as “family affair” and simply swept under, he should, as you read this article now, be in one of our dilapidated and inhabitable prison houses in the country enduring the just recompense of his grave sin against the State, and dreaming about his young (and probably very beautiful) wife and their three tender children. Nothing can justify his hideous action. Even people poorer than he was had resisted the temptation to steal; he knew the dire consequences of his chosen career and still tarried in it, because, it had juicy promises of quick, undeserved wealth. Now, the excruciating day of reckoning is here, and he has no choice but to quietly savour the bitter reward of his criminal endeavours. I will only sympathise with his family if they were unaware that in order to put food on their table, Mustapha was cruelly dispossessing other people of their fat cows. This can only teach one lesson: when crime is punished, deterrence is instituted.

If that is always the end of all such cases, society would really be a better place for all of us. While up here, we, in an impressive show of self-righteousness, haul down condemnations on Mustapha with every scorn and unmitigated rage befitting a common criminal, more discerning people would rather view him as an unfortunate victim of a disastrous accident on his way to the exalted circle of the nation’s Elite Class. I suspect that he did not bother to study the rules of the game very carefully and so may have easily run foul of a very important law of the game, namely: Thou shall not be greedy. What this means is that if he had generously ‘settled’ all the OC’s at the checkpoint (Carry go, Sir!), or even ‘cleared’ with the DPO of all the police stations on his route, nothing would have ever taken him before the learned judge in Oshogbo, even if he had stolen a human being!

In fact, he would have been a free man today, doing his ‘honest’ business without let or hindrance, and even getting the opportunity once in a while to attend state banquets and shake the smooth, soft hands of the high and mighty, if he had allied himself with some very influential and ‘responsible’ party elder in his community, secured a Molete-kind of immunity, and regularly donated handsomely to help the ‘great party’ facilitate its ‘fraudslide’ victories.

The truth we all know today is that majority of all the people parading themselves as prominent Nigerians today climbed to the top through the Mustapha route or variants of it. At the risk of repeating myself, assuming Mustapha was not ‘interrupted’ this early in his career, and his business had thrived and he had been wise enough to invest his wealth in the installation of many of his colleagues in power, he would today be dinning with ‘distinguished, honourable’ lawmakers, governors, foreign and local diplomats and even the president, and being invited regularly to chair high profile events where brilliant lectures would be delivered on integrity, transparency, anti-corruption and good governance. But, while he would now languish in jail for twelve years for stealing a cow whose present cost was put at N60, 000, important convicts like Big Tafa and Governor-General Alams got a few months each for playing around with the nation’s billions. And many of their more daring colleagues in criminal accumulation are still out there throwing expensive parties and hobnobbing openly with the nation’s rulers.

Something, indeed, must be wrong with a nation that severely punishes small thieves and celebrates bigger criminals. One must be forgiven if one goes on to conclude that in Nigeria, what makes a small thief culpable is not the crime he has committed, but the poor background he operates from. In other words, he is a criminal, not because of his offence against the State, but because of his status in the society. That is why despite several very factual allegations of very grievous graft levelled against serving and former public officers, especially in the media, security agents do not even bother to investigate them – unless, perhaps, when the person so accused finds himself on the wrong side of power. Well, somebody should tell those in power that they are merely sowing the seeds of anarchy, because, when the law is only reserved for the ‘unconnected’ poor and the real and imagined enemies of those in power, that law may soon lose the power to contain the likely challenge that may come from those whom it has been used to unfairly oppress.

In 1999, Gen Olusegun Obasanjo, whose farm had failed, was practically a poor man, and he did not hide it. One of his closest aides had told the nation that what the man had in his account was only N25, 000. But now, as former president, his Bells University and Secondary School is valued at billions of naira. There is also his now resuscitated and greatly improved multi-billion mega naira farm, a couple of other companies and sundry investments, a Presidential Library Project for which billions of naira were raised by “Presidential extortion”, and his famed bottomless pocket which has effectively crowned him one of the richest billionaires this side of the Atlantic. He has left office for more than a year now, yet no one can claim to have sniffed even the faintest resolve to make him explain the sources of his mysterious wealth, or how $16 billion heartlessly squandered in phoney power projects only plunged Nigerians into deeper, thicker darkness. Now, Mr. Liyel Imoke, Obasanjo’s Minster of Power, has just lost his immunity, having been sacked as Cross River Governor at the Tribunal, so what is delaying his arrest and questioning on how, under him and Obasanjo, the sum of $16 billion could only purchase the nation an impenetrable darkness?

As cases of suspected graft (and they are legion) are swept under, impunity is effectively entrenched. Influential Nigerians abound whose sources of boundless wealth are shrouded in very deep mysteries. Nigerians know many of them as Very Important Criminals (VIC), but the government and even the media celebrate them as ‘statesmen’ and ‘patriots’. Unlike Mustapha, they were able to avoid being caught until they amassed enough wealth to qualify for admission into Nigeria’s privileged, criminal class of untouchables. They are the same people that get National Honours and are appointed or ‘elected’ into highly exalted positions of power and influence, where as, depraved villains in public office, they characteristically deregulate and institutionalize stealing and political criminality.

What this goes to show is that in Nigeria, it is safer to be a successful criminal than a poor man. Successful criminals are either in power or its corridors, or friends and associates of those in power. They are those set of ‘law-abiding’ citizens who are able to purchase and build palatial homes in ‘approved’ places.

But the poor are the confirmed criminals, always hounded and oppressed by the government, for being able to only afford to seek refuge in the slums, which governors, ever thumbing their noses at them, have already marked out for demolition and prompt allocation to the same criminal class. It is the honest poor that get arrested on the mere suspicion that their haggard, hungry look suggests they might be criminals, or even for such non-existent offences like ‘wandering’, and dumped and forgotten in detention camps for being unable to buy their freedom.

Yes, they are the same people that suffer most the consequences of bad roads (since they can’t afford to fly), power failure (they can’t afford healthy alternatives), insecurity and increases on the price of petroleum products, which in turn jack up prizes of goods and services. In Nigeria, where crime is class-defined, the poor and poverty has since been criminalized. The rich only get into trouble when they are on the wrong side of the power equation, and their ‘trials’ are celebrated to score some cheap point. If you don’t know this, then you don’t know anything about Nigeria.


Nigeria: Very Rich, Very Irresponsibly Managed

July 21, 2008

By Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye

Last Wednesday, we had a very important and urgent need to be in Kumasi very early the next day. It was already midnight (Nigerian Time –11pm in Ghana), and we were still in the heart of Accra, surrounded by its brilliant lights, soothing serenity (there was not the faintest hint of any generator anywhere) and profound modesty, wondering what to do. But a Ghanaian who was with us did not seem to share our worries. He simply told us to hit the road, that in the next three hours, we should be in Kumasi.

I looked at him with surprise and disbelief. Who was sure nobody had hired him to lure the three of us into a well-laid ambush by violent robbers? When I expressed my concern about armed robbers, his answer was sharp, with a tinge of impatience.

“There are no armed robbers!”

When I repeated the concern much later, he said something he should not have said, but which Nigerians need to continue hearing no matter how painful we find it: “I have told you… no armed robbers! This is not Nige…!” He cut himself short. It occurred to him, a bit too late though, that he had gone too far in his bid to emphasize that point. Just like the way I felt when I shouted to some Nigerians at one place we had gone to in Accra some days later when the driver was about to run over a bag: “Remove that Ghana-Must-Go bag!”

When I called a Nigerian friend and he reassured me that the long journey from Accra to Kumasi was safe, we hit the road. At the one or two places where very friendly policemen had stopped us, they merely looked at the vehicle and waved us on with their torches, without the slightest hint that they wanted an ‘egunje.’ And so, after a long journey through lonely, lengthy stretches of the expressway, and vast quiet countryside, we embraced the warmth of the clean, well-lit streets of Kumasi early that cold morning, and found our way to the serene ambience of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.

Ghana is a very poor country. Beyond the glitter of an efficient system is poverty that is real and palpable. But Ghana has been lucky with its leaders. What nation would not prosper under the watch of a visionary, patriotic leader who is not afraid of his people who had elected him in fairly free and fair elections, but lives among them (instead of hiding himself in an impregnable fortress like Aso Rock), and is able to inspire the citizenry to believe in him, and buy into his determination to put in place a workable system? It is only thieving, failed leaders that live in perpetual fear of their people.

Throughout my stay in Ghana, I never dialled any number twice with my Ghana MTN line, no matter the country I called! But in Nigeria, if you dial a number saved in your phone, what you would probably hear is: “This number does not exist on the MTN network.

Then you try again: “The number you have dialled is incorrect.

And you dial the third time: “The number you have dialled is switched off.

Fourth time: “The number you have dialled is unavailable.”

And if you have the patience to try the fifth time, it may then go through! What a country! Ghana Telecom Service Providers are effectively monitored and regulated, unlike what Ernest Ndukwe claims he is doing for us here. The begulatory body ensures that no service provider sells lines more than it has the capacity to manage. It once, reportedly, called MTN to order, when it attempted to roll out lines like it does in this our lawless jungle.

Each time I recharged my line with 2Ghana Cedis (N230), I would make several calls both to Nigeria and within Ghana, and would still have much credit remaining. But here, the thing finishes with incredible speed.

It offends me each time anyone attempts comparing Nigeria with Europe or America. From Swaziland, Botswana to Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia to Uganda, Benin, Ghana, Ivory Coast to the Gambia, Nigeria is, perhaps, the only country in the whole of Africa that is yet to achieve stability in its energy supply. We are here still grappling with pitch darkness and watching our pitiably blank and hare brained leaders telling embarrassing, infantile stories about their inexplicable failure and insufferable incompetence, while very poor countries we can easily buy up have since left us behind on this issue of power supply and provision of other social amenities.

In most of these countries, one can conveniently walk to any public tap and drink water, but whoever tries that here any time some liquid manages to trickle from any public tap would be guilty of attempting suicide.

At Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Americans, Britishers, Chinese and people from diverse nations of the world are proudly enrolled as students. In 1993, I met an America Professor of Economics who proudly announced to me that while he studied for his Masters Degree at the University College, Ibadan, (UCI) in 1958, he stayed at Kuti Hall. I wonder if he can advise any American child today to get near that same Kuti Hall he spoke so glowingly about, or encourage the child of his worst enemy to attend a Nigerian University.

While a friend and I took a walk around midnight on Saturday, we felt so safe, despite the several trees in the well landscaped and beautified compounded that lend the school its serenity, but which could provide cover for any cultists to strike. As we stood on a walkway, about eight American youths hopped across, chattering, laughing and feeling so much at home. I am told that children of countless Nigerian government officials are enrolled in the school, generating huge funds to Ghana with which it now offers divers scholarships to its own citizens. Yes, Nigerians would prefer paying all the money to Ghana than improving and making our own schools safe so that youths from several parts of the world can also come here (as used to be the case) to study. Indeed, the KNUST faculty Guest Houses can comfortably diminish some things that pass for “big” hotels in Nigerias.

Ghanaians do not have the drive and innovativeness of Nigerians. Under sincere and honest leaders who are not mere common criminals whose eyes and hearts are only focused on the treasury, what would stop Nigeria from becoming one of the greatest countries in the world?

But what do we get here: the Babangidas, the Abachas, the Obasanjos: rulers who derive peculiar animation from prospering by marketing the nation’s entrails.

Obasanjo’s only noticeable achievement while in office was to join the emergency Billionaires’ Club with such fanfare and brazenness that sent all the others scampering for safety . But while leaving office, he left us in the hands of an Umoru Yar’Adua whose only understanding of leadership seems to be to perennially grope for direction.

So, while our leanly endowed neighbours like Ghana are gradually laying solid foundation for greater tomorrow, Nigeria is decaying and sinking into unimaginable depths. Laden with insufferably inept legislator, and an odious character like Maurice Iwu as INEC Chairman, what options are left for a country so immensely rich, but so irresponsibly managed? What a tragedy.