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Friday, 21 September 2012

What's wrong with the Nigerian version of "Hold Me Back" video?


Following the release of the Nigerian version of Rick Ross’ video “Hold Me Back” people, including Nigerian artists, have started expressing their indignation about the video. This video has generated great controversy among Nigerians. Some have based their displeasure on the premise that the video portrayed Nigeria as a poverty stricken country, while others have argued that the video should not have exposed the hardships we face in Nigeria, but rather should have portrayed the brighter side of the country. When you compare the American version of the video and the Nigerian version there is a thin line that runs across what was portrayed. Both videos depicted a ghetto-like environment and the hardships people face on a daily basis, especially young people. These people who have raised concerns about the video were simply irritated because they did not like how the video exposed the slums and people living in those slums in Nigeria. They preferred a video shot in Aso Rock or Tinapa resort or Obudu mountain resort that depicts glamorous lifestyle and ecstatic environment; they fancy a video that masks the destitution over 70% of our national population live in. They did not like the video because they think they are highly patriotic and as such their connotation of patriotism is to pretend that everything is fantabulous when in reality everything is messy. They forgot that patriotism entails speaking for countrymen who cannot speak for themselves; fighting for people who are unable to fight for themselves. They loathed the video because they are ashamed to expose poverty and hunger in Nigeria and that is because they think only for themselves. And this brings me to my worry.

I am worried about the way we treat poverty and hunger in this country; we recycle poverty; and we claim hunger does not exist. We are too shy to say we are poverty stricken even when the figures published by our own bureau of statistics show that over 70% of our national population live below poverty line ($1 per day). We live in a country where one-third of our national population go to bed hungry every night and we pretend it doesn’t exist because we are in a comfort zones. We live in a country that contributes over 5% to the global hunger and we pretend it does not exist because we are not affected in our comfort levels. We live in a country that ranks in the top 20 countries most wrecked by hunger in the Global Hunger Index reports and we still pretend it is not happening because we don’t feel the hunger. We are not perturbed by the worrisome statistics (including the ones doctored by our own agencies) on poverty and hunger against our dear Nigeria, but rather we are irritated by a video that depicts the status quo in our country. No matter how we try to mask the truth it will always stare us in the face. Those who think that the Nigerian version of "Hold Me Back" by Rick Ross is a travesty of Nigeria’s situation should please have a rethink!

For us to fight poverty and hunger in Nigeria, we must expose them. To do this we must know where the hunger is and where poverty resides. We must know the victims and how hunger varies among them. We must put together voices of those vulnerable to poverty and hunger; they must be exposed and heard; and not shut up anymore. We must improve on the hunger awareness and feedback systems. We must accept the fact that poverty and hunger exist in Nigeria!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

LIFE, A FUNNY PLACE


Life is just a “funny” place
You have to have the greatest “fun” of it
While you’re in it.

It moves at a snail’s pace
Tick-tack,tick-tack……..,tick-tack it goes
Tending to stop at any seconds.

To have that fun
It’s always a “struggle”
Like that of the “class”

You give in everything you’ve
You live as a masterpiece
B’cos u wanna be on top.

But when it buffers
You’ve two minds
One positive, the other negative.

You’re at cross roads
You must decide which to follow
Positive or negative???

Whether positive or negative
It matters not
The “place” of the “fun” matters most.

It’s a two sided place
One affluence, the other poverty
Both are “funny” places.

If you’ve had great fun on “one side”
The other is where you wanna be
Just in earnest.

It matters not how you got there
But how well you’re
Matters most.

You step on people
People step on you
It makes no difference at all!!!

© June 2009

LOVE IS A "FREAK"



Love is a "freak"
Some say it's wicked
Others say it's painful

Some say it's blind
To some it's sweet
To others it's bitter
So who the hell are you?

Love tastes good at first sight
It becomes sweeter when reciprocated
But goes sour if not given in return.

When you're in love
You always go totally gaga
Not willing to compromise
B'cos you're always on a spree.

Love's painful side
Is when given not as expected
Or not given in return
Then you take it as a "gee".

Love thrives in "comfort"
It does not exist in "poverty"
It reveals its true colours
At the ends between "having" and "not having"

© June, 2007

DRAMA OF LOVE


Skirts fly at will
Trousers move at a direction
Both have missions
And are attracted by each other.

When both meet at ‘twilight tale’
There’s always a ‘drama’
That goes with great passion.

‘Apples’ grow in ‘trees’
The ‘eyes’ behold the apple
With much eagerness to devour
But the apple is not willing to drop
Though ripe
For it has many admirers.

Looking at the apple with great passion
This apple I must pluck
I am stuck in the middle!

‘Spectators’ are many
All eyes are widened watching
All hands are widely opened waiting
For the apple to fall
In whose hands will it fall?

From being a spectator
I became a ‘player’
Now I’m in the game of passion.

As the game continues
So the passion whets
It’s a game one person must win
It’s all but a “drama of love.”

© June 2007

"DEAR MOTHER“DEAR MOTHER”


Oh! Dear Mother
What a seraphic gift
You’re to me.
Nine months I was there
In the world of the “unknown”
Not quite sure I would transit
But you brought me into mother earth.
With much love, care and affection
You nurtured me
With whips, scold and shreds
You brought me up
That was to make me wise.
Under the sun; under the rain
Morning; afternoon; night
Spring; summer; winter; fall
You toiled
Just to make me comfortable.
What I have
What I am
Whatever I wish to be
I owe to you
My Dear Angel Mother!!

© June 6, 2009.

“MY DREAM”


I had a dream
That I would be great
How......When......I do not know.

The road is rough
It’s like a “great wall”
As I climb, I fall.

The “battle field” called “life”
Is very fierce
Many have fallen.

As I struggle to get over
"The wall of silence"
I feel a magical hand
Pulling me down.

When I look down
I see many “faces fell”
"Their faces are pictures"
They are marred by dust
Sored with blood
They have fallen!!!

When I look up
I see an unending wall
Yet to be climbed.

The more I conquer force
Harder it gets
Deux ex-machina where art thou??
This wall I must get over.

Though, I was not born great
No one to make me great
Greatness I must achieve.

© June 8, 2009.

"BETTER TO LIGHT A CANDLE THAN CURSE THE DARKNESS."


Caroline Baroness Cox of the then House of Lords said and I quote: “ If nations are allowed to commit genocide with impunity, to hide their guilt in a camouflage of lies and denials, there is a real danger that other brutal regimes will be encouraged to attempt genocides.” In translating this to today’s scenario on the killing of Yusuf Mohammed, religious leader and others, I will say: If NPF is allowed to commit homicide with impunity, to hide its guilt in a camouflage of lies and denials, there is a real danger that other security/defence machineries and even the populace will be encouraged to attempt homicide.

Taking a quote from Eve Curie, a French author, “ We discovered that peace at any price is no peace at all. We discovered that life at any price has no value whatever; that life is nothing without the privileges, the prides, the rights, the joys which make it worth living, and also worth giving. And we also discovered that there is something more hideous, more atrocious than war or than death; and that is to live in fear. Right from my childhood I had always thought that the major work of the NPF is to protect and safeguard lives and properties and that police station is supposed to be a safe haven for the entire populace. But today, we have all began to live in fear (which is in contrary to normalcy). I just recalled what happened to my friend some days ago on his way from Lagos to Abuja. Unfortunately he missed his way and followed a wrong route that strengthened his journey greatly. By the time he got to a place called “Kabba” it was already so late that he was advised by the neighbours not to further his journey till next day’s morning. So my friend saw a police station around there and felt it would be safer for him to put up a night there. He went in and explained his condition to the officers and asked if they could allow him to pack his car and pass a night there in his car with his driver. The NPF officers told him that it wouldn’t be possible on flimsy ground that they (NPF officers) were scared of what might happen later in the night because they did not know whatever he was having in the car. He gave them his ID and even his car keys, but still they refused and suggested to him to look for a hotel to put up at. Is police station not supposed to be a safe haven for the citizens? If this guys were to be pursued by robbers, was that how they would have been left deserted by the NPF officers? Alas! They were allowed to pass a night after long hours of chinwag by the officers. This shows great laxity on the part of our so called lives and properties protectors. This gives a clear picture of what actually happened to Yusuf Mohammed and others in police custody and what will still happen to others. God Help Us!!!

Taking a quote from Peter Benenson who said: The candle burns not for us, but for all those whom we failed to rescue from prison, who were shot on the way to prison, who were tortured, who were kidnapped, who “disappeared,” That’s what the candle is for.” I am not for the atrocities the religious sect leader and Co have committed, but I am against the way their lives were terminated and I am for the truth and justice. I must always, in good conscience, protest against unnecessary suppression of our rights as free men. According to Ramsey Clark, " A right is not what someone gives you; it's what no one can take fro you." Not even the government. I always live by the Chinese proverb which says: “Better light a candle than curse the darkness.” We have legal procedures for prosecutions and these procedures entail truth and justice. Sadam Hussein for example was not only alleged to have committed crimes against humans but was also captured and was convicted in a law court via legal procedures. Why did America choose legal means and not to shoot him straight up? We have other cases out there we should use as spring board against this “jungle justice.” Taking away the life of an oppressor unjustly will never justify whatever atrocities he might have committed; it is better to prosecute an oppressor “judicially”/“legally” than to use “jungle justice” because if you preach equity which is justice, you come to equity with clean hands not with dirty hands. Making killings is praising the darkness. We must not burn down the house to kill the rats.

"MEMORIES"


0n the 9th day of January, 1984, at hours between 12am and 12.30am, a child was delivered and was brought into mother earth. In his mother’s womb, he had suffered thirst and hunger; heat and cold; sour, bitter and sweet; tiredness, discomfort, indigestion and perhaps toxic illness. He was so fortunate that he did not complete his life span without ever setting foot into this world of rock and ether. This child, who was confirmed a boy, was coming with great ambitions, desires; above all to achieve greatness. He knew from his mother’s womb that greatness could be achieved either by being born great, being made great; or achieving greatness. He chose to achieve greatness because that’s the most important part of greatness.

He thought he was coming to world of comfort; a ritzy world; world full of roses. But he did not know his world would be full of cheats; backbites; miseries; disappointments; sorrows; man’s inhumanity to man; malevolence; what you’ve got!!! He was neither born great nor was made to be great; may be he knew of these, that was why he chose to achieve greatness.

His father was a great man in his own wisdom. He strived valiantly to break into the threshold of greatness, but his life was cut short by some unforeseen titanic forces of the evil. Even at the point his work was done, he believed and still believes in his immortality that his five “wannabe” great men and a “jewel” will achieve those he could not achieve.

He was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth like other children. He toddled on a sandy soil full of rough and tiny stones; not on a rug or carpet. He has been much familiar with the rough side of life, that gives a clear picture of why he is never chagrined whenever he faces ugly situations; he is too familiar with them. Growing up as a kid was not easy at all. Though, his father was an average gentle man; he provided all the family needed and offset family bills at that time before the surface became rough. The rough side of life started after his father’s retirement from public service in 1989 and subsequent creation of states in 1991 which demanded that teachers should go back to their states of origin. His mother has been a teacher since early 1980’s and as a result of the circumstance, the family had to relocate to their state of origin, Onitsha to be precise, and thus started a new phase of life. The apartment they all kicked in to move up for was not really a nice place. You can imagine where a family of father, mother, five guys and a girl put up at a room apartment. Nobody had his or her own bed or closet, instead, they had a pile everyone respected for each other. They slept on the floor, sometimes on the corridor depending on when you got home because there was no enough space.

He cannot lose memories of being a 12-year-old lad, now living in a two-bedroom apartment, who had traded in various forms street peddle. He would come back from school and the next thing would be to put on his head his own portion of wares, sometimes with the school short on, to the market. You dare not ask for food before hitting the streets with the wares, of course you would be disappointment to hear that none had been prepared because what to eat depended on what was sold. He had much more confidence in peddling “Akara” (a round bean cake) and bread than in peddling Igbo cola nuts (Oji Igbo). He had as much doubt as confidence. Each time he went out with his wares, he always prayed his confidence would win over his doubts because if you eventually came back home without much sales, you would be ready to go bed with an empty stomach. That was just a motivation word in your ears!!!

His father left nothing but words full of wisdom. These words can make one successful if one abides and lives by them. This man lived all his life in Marxian principles; he lived as a Marxist. He believed that having the right people are more important than wealth ( onye nwelu mmadu ka onye nwelu ego). It was really awesome to have listened to his quiet moments. Of all his wise sayings, the one that touches me most is the one he said often whenever he became sour: “ I am hoping that I will find no Jews or Gentiles, Catholics or Protestants, Germans, Englishmen or Frenchmen- In short, no whites, no reds, no blacks and all that, when I shall have crossed the bar to the other side. I am hoping that I will find there only human souls, brothers and sisters all, unmarked by race, creed or colour, for I shall want to be done with intolerance so I may Rest in Peace throughout eternity. I am sure he is in peace in eternity now!!!

REFLECTION


Every 31st December of every year is always a special day of reflection and making resolutions on our lives. The night is tagged a crossover night to the next year. People reflect on their lives in the passing year and make resolutions for the coming year. My reflection this time was quite different. It was anchored on three moments that stand out in my life. People always have worst moment of their lives, but mine were moments; I have three worst moments of my life. I could not get my mind off these moments. Every January 12, 15 and February 22 is memorable to me.

12th, 2001 was the date my Dad. started his death process. People don't just die like that in one day. I believe that as birth has process, so does death. I was just a 17-year-old boy studying for JAMB examination. I prepared his water for him to have his bath and he went into the bathroom. After a while, he didn't come out. I sensed it was unusual for him to have still been in there because he never spent much time having his bath. He believed, like I do, it was only women that spent time in the bathroom because of the many "ceremonies" they perform in there. I decided on him to see if all was well. To my chagrin I saw my Dad. lying helplessly on the floor. His looks were strange and frightening. Before that moment, I had always thought I was a strong guy with a strong mind. But I just realised that I was chicken-livered; I was so freaked out. Some neighbours came and helped to bring him into the house. He was laid on the bed; he was breeding wheezily. I was stupefied. I rushed off to my Mum's school which was just a phone call away to let her know of the situation. Chuka appeared from no where; he was God sent. He got the priest because he thought Dad. was giving up the ghost. I didn't believe he was dying until the priest brought out a holy communion and put into his mouth. As an alter boy I understood what that meant. After a while, the communion came out of his mouth because the way he was breathing he couldn't consume the communion. I then said since he didn't eat the communion that meant he was going to die; and he did not. He was rushed tbest friendâs hospital. Dr. Chuba convinced us with his actions that a friend in need is a friend indeed. He tried his best to save him.

15th, 2001 was his death day. I was with him all through the thick and thin moments. But it was unfortunate I wasn't there when he gave up. I never believed my Dad. could die at that time. He had suffered many things and survived. I believed he would scale through because he was a strong man. But it happened; he died. That night I was just sitting alone at a corner thinking of how foolish and un-witty I had been while I was with him in the hospital. It never dawned on me that though my Dad. couldn't talk he could write; I could have given him a paper and a pen to at least put down some things. I realised now that there were many things he could have let known to us if he had the means, that might serve as a clue to what is happening today in the family. He must have had many things he would have wanted us to know about his "evil-coated" brothers. I was just a “dumb-ass.”

February 22, 2001 was his B-day; burial day. He was laid to rest. He came into mother earth as a dust; that he returned. It was painful that he left like that. It is painful that I cannot see or talk to him now that I need him most. I MISS HIM; WE MISS HIM!!!

"MY COATS OF MANY COLOURS"



Each time harmattan weather begins to bite, I start to reminisce about my life as a teenager. Then in high school, whenever harmattan sets in, it tells us that yuletide is around the corner. Most of our discussions were centred on how the upcoming Xmas would be like. We always had chinwags about our various families’ preparations for Xmas. My folks in the course of the natter often let slip most of their family secrets, but I, always taciturn, would choose to be mum. It was like a routine to us then: instead we would focus our mind on how to write and pass the first term exams coming up (because that was always the period for first term) with flying colours; we would busy ourselves, especially during recreational hours, with fairy stories. As a “guy man”, though not a bad guy, I was always amidst the tough guys. I was never seen among my mates in terms of physical assessment. I hung around guys who were taller, brawnier and heftier, though not, more intelligent than I was. I hung around these or they hung around me; whichever way, because we were complementary. They stood as my guiders and protectors against qualms from other students and I stood as their messiah and mercenary in exam hall. Now you can fathom how helpful both parties were to each other.

Our chitchats as regards to yuletide season were full of fairy stories. We exchanged gist about the kind of wears (like yuppie jeans, t-shirts with inscriptions such as Nike, addidas, etc, wrist watches, timberland boots, sneakers, and so on) our parents would buy or had already bought for us. It was really amazing sitting for several hours listening to cock and bull stories of all kinds. I always listened and never uttered, not because I never had what to say or could not cook up some tales, but I chose to be a good listener than a story teller. Sometimes I would be compelled by my amigos to say something and I would give those stories that when you hear them you would wonder if fibbing was a gift from God to me. I always told them what they wanted to hear. I would glut their ears with tales of how my mum bought me pairs of yuppie jeans; Nike sneakers and how my aunty in America sent me timberland boot and other stuffs which I knew were all fibs. Though my mum always got Xmas wears for me and my siblings but not the likes of yuppie jeans and timberlands.

Growing up, Xmas was always a mixed feeling for me. On one hand, talking about visiting home (village) during Xmas, my house went agog each time it was mentioned that we were going home for Xmas. I was always gaga personally because as a teenager I enjoyed going home for Xmas and I loved my town (ahinze chukwu mbulu onye ohokwu). Home visiting during Xmas gave me much time to see again folks I had met the previous home coming and the chance to visit forests and rivers where I normally showcase portfolios of my mischief. This love would account for those numerous times I would opt to go to the villa to spend some time with my granny (Mmuka ana-eme, RIP). I was not used to my maternal home, though my elder brothers at that time had already bonded with them, until it dawned on me via several incessant admonitions from my mum and upon my realization that if there should be “fire on the mountain” in my fatherland, my motherland would be a place of refuge. Just like Igbo adage says: “oso chuo nwata be nnia ona n’ikwu nnie.”

But Xmas home visit was always flurry; we never stayed longer at home. We always left for the city immediately after New Year’s celebration. Gosh, I detested that in Toto because I always had unfinished “runs” that I often pushed over till the next visit. Sometimes I even lost them before the next time. Woe betides you if you dare utter a word in contrary to that. Of course nobody would like to invite my dad’s torrential wrath. I will never forget that New Year’s day nobody was allowed to go outing because we had to leave for the city early morning the next day. This was to make sure that everything was packed properly to avoid leaving anything behind. I tried to query that and that earned me chunks of hard knocks on my head from my dad; that ached my head rest of the day.

On the other hand, talking about wears, my mum took it upon herself to get something new at every xmas for us. If it was not clothes; it would be shoes, if not shoes; it would be something else. The point is that she never failed to buy something for us. But my mum always found it difficult deciding what to buy for me because I was always known for nitpicking. My dad wondered if I would ever stop carping. But that did not mean I was not appreciative. I valued every gift given to me by my parents because even after rejecting those gifts at the initial time I would still go back and ask for them. It was just that I allowed resentments to stray me away. In fact, my mum would have to ask me special what I would like her to buy for me before she bought it to avoid my grouse. My idiosyncrasy later told on me when my mum stopped buying stuffs for me and I started lacking things. Most times I resorted to putting on my brothers wears and that IK hated most.

Being a young-old man now, I do not get those gifts any longer. Now I know how priceless and inestimable they were. Each time I muse over those gifts, I see them as my "coats of many colours." Now, state of affairs has changed; the scenario has become a horse of a different colour; “ugbo ebuyaligo onodu.” I am now the one giving the gifts and she is the one making choices but without carping because she knows I am doing my best. The onus has fallen on me!!!

I DIDN’T REALIZE UNTIL NOW


I remember on this day so many years back
We went out: only you and I
The reason you chose me
I didn’t realize until now!

You were sipping your favorite brand: STAR
I was sipping my mineral: COKE
Though I was gazing anxiously at your glass
Wishing you would let me take a feel of it: ALCOHOL
You did: to sooth my thirst; I felt revived afterwards
It was a great time out, indeed
I didn’t realize until now!

Today you’re gone
We are left with memories of you
The belief that you live in us
And the hope to make you proud
11 years down; you’re still evergreen in my mind
I’m left in this small bed of mine
With my mind full of your pictures
It’s funny how I think you’ll come back
At least for the old times; another time out
How impossible it’s to turn back hand of a clock!
How impossible it’s to undo the deed!
How impossible it’s to return life once taken!
How impossible it’s to be alive again once dead!
I didn’t realize until now!

© 15.11.11

.....on the fuel subsidy removal

As the Nigerian people were in jubilation and merry-making over the transition to a new year, 2012, and as some were giving thumbs up to the president on the declaration of state of emergency in some ravaged areas in Nigeria (which most people, including me, saw as a big surprise unlike “GEJ”and as a new year gift to Nigerians), little did they know that the government was just “kissing their cheeks only to finger their asses”. It was like a bombshell to a population of more than 150 million people.

The negative effects of recent fuel subsidy removal (if there was anything like that in the true sense of subsidy removal) are widely known to a common man in my village. So there is no point belabouring over that. But it will suffice to say that the current action of the Nigerian government is nothing but a gross affront to the MDG’s, especially the first on the list- reducing poverty by half by the year 2015; a spit on the face of the recently celebrated (by GEJ’s administration) fall in the HDI in Nigeria; and a whip-in-the-asses of the electorates who massively voted for GEJ under the deceit by the campaign messages- “transformation agenda,” and “breath of fresh air.” An Igbo adage in the part of the world I come from, loosely translated into English, says that ‘when the heavy wind blows we will see the hidden buttocks of the hen” The wind has blown and we can now see that all the transformation agenda, breath of fresh air, etc are all gimmicks. I wonder if anybody in Nigeria is breathing fresh air or contaminated air. Your guess is as good as mine!
There is no doubt that the logic of ODA/IMF in pushing forth the deregulation “conditionality,” which fuel subsidy removal is an integral part of the story (of course you cannot be talking of about down-stream deregulation and still be spending much subsidizing petroleum products) is now in motion as being paraded by the chair of the “Ivy-league ministers” or better still the “transformational economic team”, though she keeps exonerating herself from the well-known fact. But we all know her pedigree!

There is nothing actually wrong in fuel subsidy removal as evidence from the economic literature has shown that fuel subsidies are a costly approach and thus exhibit an unequal balance on the average income of the people. (See D. Coady et al 2010 and J. Granado et al 2010). But everything is wrong with the timing and the sequence Nigerian government approached it. Subsidy removal policy is a gradual process, which involves consultations with the people directly or indirectly (end point of every policy should be peoples welfare) and putting mechanisms (stabilization policies) in place to absorb the shocks there-from. People ought to have been engaged via town meetings, after all the president literally went around the whole country soliciting for people’s votes prior to April 2011 elections, or better still allow the National Assembly to deliberate extensively on the issues using referendum or plebiscite mechanisms. This goes a long way in explaining the nature of policies introduced in Nigeria over the years. Anecdotal evidence has shown that policies in Nigeria never go beyond official launch of the policy document. You can easily verify!

Moreover, there is a stack difference between native intelligence and academic intelligence as well as there is difference between intelligence and wisdom. The current Nigerian leadership has shown that it lacks the native intelligence and wisdom needed in every leadership as it has failed to understand that peoples’ welfare should be at the centre stage of every policy. Welfare of every Nigerian citizen is enshrined in the CFRN. The current leadership has failed to guarantee that. Despite the array of intellects present in the current leadership, the material conditions of the Nigerian people keeps retrogressing rather than otherwise as one would expect. This simply underpins the truism that parading avalanche of PhD holders (most of whom were fortunate to be trained with the government’s funds) from Ivy League schools does not guarantee good governance. Those eggheads end up experimenting on the Nigerian economy with their adulterated, though brain-wave, case studies from Harvard, IMF/World and the likes, which never works and will never work until the right structures are put in place. The common Nigerian man end up being their apparatus!

The time is now ripe for wind of change to blow. Now is the time when the heat of the battle is on. The government has eaten more than it can munch. Politicians have taken the Nigerian electorates for granted enough. They will come to our neighbourhood with flowery promises, give us few crumbs and nothing will happen afterwards. Nothing will ever change until we become politically empowered- holding the people we voted into offices accountable for their actions, responding aggressively to untoward policies of the government, and asking the right questions such as: why have successive governments left the refineries in a state of moribund while spending hugely on subsidy? What has happened to excess crude accounts over the years? What are the chances that the savings from fuel subsidy withdrawal will go unhampered into infrastructural development like building functional to capacity refineries? Will the fuel subsidy removal imply emasculation of monopolistic powers of the NNPC as sole importer of refined petroleum product or is this another round of gimmicks towards sustaining the NNPC’s rent seeking tendencies? Why should I, a citizen of the largest oil producer in Africa, be made to suffer the burden of governments incompetence and inept to control racketeering or profiteering by bunch of cabal the governments has shamelessly often referred to?

I rap up this extemporaneous write up with lots of doubts that the current fuel subsidy removal will put an end to the issue of cabal, which has precipitated the sudden subsidy removal. The truth is starring us in the face. They know who the members are; they dine and wine with them. The cabal will only retreat to re-engineer tactics! I may not be the one to effect the change but I can bring the spark that can make the change!

References:



AM I MY BROTHER’S KEEPER?


Man’s business on earth was to look out for himself; that was under the old ethic. That was the ethic of the jungle; the ethic of the wild beast. You take care of yourself, no matter what may become of your fellow man. In Genesis 4:9, a question was asked; “Am I my brother’s keeper? This question has not been satisfactorily answered in a way that is reflective of the civilized world we claim to live in today. We still live like we are in the old time; the era of barbarism. Our mode of life today is nothing far from a reflection of Charles Darwin’s premise on Survival of the Fittest, which in nature paralleled Karl Marx’s premise on Class Struggle.

The recently exposed Police Pension scam is just one of such ethics of the wild beast, which portray man’s inhumanity to man. Media evidence has tagged the sum of the Police Pension funds scam at N32.8billion (it may be higher). The Nigerian Pension Reform Act, 2004, has inter alia as its main objectives: To ensure that everyone who has worked meritoriously receives retirement benefits as and when due to reduce old age poverty; To assist improvident individuals by ensuring that they save in order to cater for their livelihood during old age. A typical assessment of operations of the Pension Board vis-a-vis these objectives reveals a total flop in efficiency, effectiveness, transparency, and whatever mechanism one may employ. The scam is an exposition of bestiality, greed and wickedness. We don’t need any sorcerer to tell us that we are still living in old time. We don’t need to be convinced by anybody that there is a thin line between humans and beasts given our interpersonal relationships to some extent. If you think I have gone to the extreme with those statements, just picture corruption as an act that uplifts a few number of people’s standard of living and debases chunk number of others living standard. If you still think otherwise, please think again!

The first time I read the headline on the Police Pension scam I remembered my friend, whose mother retired in early 2011 from public service. She has two younger sisters. Their father died long ago. I called my friend the other day to enquire about life and things in general. The response I got was a shocker. She has abandoned university for the moment due to her inability to meet up with the academic expenses. Her siblings are equally at the verge of dropping out as her family’s situation has gone bad. Her mother has not been paid a dime since her retirement. Her name has not even been captured in the pension list. Why? The answer is because she has not greased some hands in the pension’s office- she has not been able to pay an amount (as a handout) that was demanded before she would be included. I thought my ears didn’t hear very well that part of hand out and I asked her to repeat again and to be louder; she said her mother needed to pay a substantial sum before her name would be included in the pension list. The punch line is that retirees now give handouts for their names to be captured in the pension list. To make it clearer, people pay handouts to pension officials before they can stand a chance of receiving their retirement benefits. It is hard to believe but there are several stories of this scenario happening today. While retirees are subject to unnecessary hardship in the name of registration and data capturing process, officials are busy looting pension funds for their personal aggrandizement. It is a well known fact that pensioners die wretched while waiting for their benefits.  Cases abound where many pensioners have collapsed (and died) in the process of data capturing and registration. Now tell me what can be more bestial than that? Tell me how to conceive a recovery of N1billion cash from a civil servant? Now explain to me how a serving civil servant can acquire three luxury estates with about 27 blocks of deluxe flats in Abuja? I’m yet to understand how a whopping sum ofN2billion cash was recovered from a house belonging to a civil servant.  You tell me again how a civil servant can acquire hotels and fuel stations while still in government service? Now you see my aggression. Like I stated before, pension scam is just one of those predispositions that depict Survival of the Fittest in this new era of ethic of the jungle; the era of the wild beast, which we have always portrayed (wrongly) as civilized era.

Now that their names have been disclosed, their offices revealed (though not all as I believe there are still unrevealed names), their positions exposed, their faces unveiled, their looted wealth uncovered, the question is what’s holding their conviction? These are top public service officials, including a Permanent Secretary. There are always sacred cows in Nigeria’s corrupt cases. The judiciary will soon terminate the charges on the basis of legal technicalities and judicial jargons rather than looking in-depth from undeniable evidences of recorded assets and wealth accumulated by those criminals. Only the unfortunate ones will serve a few year jail terms. We are all aware of the numerous similar corruption cases that have been discharged on court pronunciation for lack of evidence and merit. Some have even been adjourned sine die. A British court has recently disgraced Nigerian courts (if only they will see it as such) by sentencing a high profiled criminal, whose corruption charges were discharged in Nigeria on the basis of judiciary jargons previously mentioned, to 13 years jail term.

I chose to talk about the pension scam because it is a sad state of affairs. It is sad because it violates the essence of man- basic rights. Though every corrupt practice is condemnable, the systemic looting of hapless pension funds is nothing but an abomination of the highest order. What corruption can be more heinous than that? Now you see why I am different to the system of society, in which we live in today and portray as a civilized society. As a civilized society we are meant to be our brother’s keeper. We are under moral obligation to ourselves, not by any mawkish sentimentality but by the higher duty we owe inter se. It is under this premise that the constitution of Nigeria is founded. And it is under this spirit that Pension Reform Act, 2004 is founded. Those officials have defeacated on the principles guiding the reform act. They have desecrated the Nigeria constitution, which forms the basis for every reform. When the judiciary fails to convict those officials, it spits on the faces of hapless pensioners. I end in the words of Eugene V. Debs, in his 1908 speech: What would you think me if I were capable of seating myself at a table and gorging myself with food and saw about me the children of my fellow beings starving to death? The answer is starring you in the face!



My arguments against CBN's CURE.


The first time I read about the CBN’s introduction of NGN5000 notes I thought it was one of those rumours peddled by online newspapers who solicit for viewers. But my visit to the CBN’s website confirmed it. Having gone through the CBN governor’s briefing note I was convinced that it is either the CBN leadership has lost ideas on how to deliver its mandates or that it is devoid of any deliverable. It made me wonder again in whose interest the policy is formulated. This adds to the list of policies that have come through this leadership that lacks merit when you take into account welfare of national population.

CASE 1: Sanusi found his policy very important because according to him “it entails the CBN being responsive to the changing needs of the economy and keeping pace with evolving trends in contemporary currency technology-world.” This argument is misplaced! Currency restructuring to higher denomination does not in any way represent the current need of Nigeria (we are in a period unemployment has become unbearable and inflation rate soaring higher every quarter). Talking about the “contemporary currency technology-world,” Sanusi failed to tell us how many economies in this 21st century facing similar challenges as Nigeria that have moved towards higher denomination. What a baseless and misguided argument!

CASE 2: “In addition, in line with international best practices, monetary authorities are required to review their nations’ currencies at intervals of between five (5) and eight (8) years.” This is certainly a pretense! You can review your currency with the objectives in hand but you don’t necessarily need to restructure (not when the outcome is counterproductive). To my knowledge there was a review of the nation’s currency in 2009, which led to the adoption of Polymer bank notes in replace of the N5, N10, N50, etc paper banknotes. This fact Sanusi acknowledged in his words: “In Nigeria, the last comprehensive review of the currency was carried out in 2005. It resulted in the introduction of the N20 polymer banknote followed by the varnishing of the N5, N10, N50 paper banknotes in 2007. These lower denomination notes were eventually converted into polymer banknotes in 2009.” He just used the word ‘comprehensive’ grandiosely to paint a blurred picture!

CASE 3: Sanusi again, to support his policy, stated that “Public apathy towards the usage of the 50K, N1 and N2 coins, introduced in February, 2007” was among the challenges revealed in the 2010 review (again it was a review but not comprehensive) of the nation’s currency series. This white lie is really hard to defend! Is it that the public suddenly disliked series of currency they were used to for many decades or that the CBN decided to stop circulating them, thereby indirectly pushed them in to extinction?

CASE 4: Sanusi in all his wisdom as an “economist” (questionable) and professionalism listed among others below as objectives his currency restructuring tend to achieve.

“Upgrading the design of the entire existing range of currency denominations in order to enhance the quality and integrity of the banknotes.” This is really a waste of resources, especially in a period when over 70% (112.5 million of estimated 160 million as given by the NBS) of the population lives under USD1 per day. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the current quality of the currency. A bank note does not lose its economic value due to wear (if that’s his line of argument in the quality of notes) because even though they are poor in condition they are still legally valid claim on the issuing bank. The only worry is the cost of replacing the bank notes in poor condition; but they are not. Talking about integrity, he argues about integrity where his policy adds nothing positive to the exchange rate regime. He failed to tell us how his wonky policy adds to Nigeria’s competitiveness in the international market.

“Achieving an optimal currency structure that will ensure cost effectiveness and balanced mix and utilization of all the currency denominations” This is again grandiose! In terms of cost effectiveness, this is a fallacy. High denomination notes have lower cost only if you’re comparing them to the cost of coin of the same value.

“Introducing new series of coins that would be generally acceptable for purposes of transaction.” Another misguided argument! The coins that the CBN unprecedentedly pushed into extinction and now want to resurrect were never out-rightly rejected by the people. Those coins have (I wouldn’t use ‘had’ because they were never legally suspended) legal tender status.

“Reducing the cost of production, distribution and disposal of banknotes by introducing a higher bill that would reduce the volume and cost of notes in circulation.” This argument is lackluster! There is no magic bullet here! How can a frolic venture reduce cost? May be it works in another planet; not on earth.

CASE 5: Sanusi failed to tell us how his currency restructuring to a higher denomination would tackle the anticipated inflationary strain on the economy. He asserted that “inflation in Nigeria is a monetary phenomenon.” This is a truism as supported by Milton Friedman (who argued that “inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon”). So this is not applicable to Nigeria per se. I do not want to override the fact that inflation is a fiscal phenomenon too. When you take a closer look at Friedman’s argument, especially in relation to the experiences in the 1980s, you will become conscious that it’s not as revealing as it may sound. Inflation is equally a fiscal phenomenon. Period! If we go by Sanusi’s point, then he has no argument against the claim that his policy could mount inflationary pressures on the economy. By the way does he expect his monetary base and money demand to be zero after the introduction of the new currency (if the purpose of currency inter alia is to facilitate transactions) given the clear relationship between money growth and inflation?

Another look at this, by conception, introducing new currency will imply printing fresh money, which means the CBN, will increase the monetary base, and government will purchase real goods and services in exchange for the new bank notes- Seigniorage.

Illustration


Nouriel Roubini and David Backus (1998)  shows that Seignioraget = ðMt / Pt , which in words means new notes printed during the period (t)/ price level during the period (t). They argued that since by printing money government purchases real goods and services (if you understand the argument behind seigniorage) and if this holds, then seigniorage becomes in effect a tax imposed by the government on private agents, which you can also call inflation tax. Then, ð  Seignoraget = ðMt / Pt = (ðMt / Mt ) (Mt/Pt). Also, since the rate of money growth (ðM/M=m) is equal to inflation (p) (if I assume, as Roubini and Backus (1998) did, for plainness, that the output growth rate is zero), then, ð  Seignoraget = pt (Mt/Pt), which in words means that the inflation tax is equal to the inflation rate multiplied by the money balances in real terms held by private agents. If this holds, it will be more sensible as the inflation tax has to equal the tax rate on the asset that is taxed multiplied by the tax base. For example, for the inflation tax, the tax base is the money balances in real terms, as the tax rate at which they are taxed is the inflation rate. In a plain language, if I hold for a period, say 1, a sum of real money balances = Mt/Pt, the value of such balances in real terms- that is its purchasing power in terms of goods- will be decreased by a sum = pt (Mt /Pt) after period 1. Thus the reduction in the value of my monetary balances in real terms as caused by inflation is precisely the inflation tax, that’s the amount of real resources that the government pulls out from me by printing fresh money and creating inflation.

CASE 6: Sanusi likened Nigeria with some countries such as Singapore, Germany and Japan as countries with high denominations and as a motivation for his proposed currency restructuring. Firstly, he failed to tell us if there is any structural homogeneity between Nigeria’s macroeconomic framework and that of those countries. This is a very wrong comparison! Secondly, he didn’t tell us what the macroeconomic regimes were in those countries relatively to Nigeria when they adopted such policy. I wonder why he didn’t tell us about the USA! He alluded that high denominations in these countries “have relatively high dollar equivalent.” Is he implying that if we adopt high denominations that Naira will have high dollar equivalence? Fallacy! In shooting himself in the foot, he acknowledged the fact that these countries maintained single digit inflation, but he forgot to say that our inflation was at a rising double digit.

CASE 7: Sanusi believes that in the long term that “higher bill would complement the CBN’s cashless economy policy as it would substantially reduce the volume of currency in circulation.” He sounded more like a positive economist! How this will work is not clear. Allusion is often made to the long term because we believe all adjustments must have been in the long run, but truly this does not happen all the time. Sanusi probably forgot that it’s not his expectations that matter, but people’s expectations.





WHY WOMEN?....WHY NOT?


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This morning I was forcefully woken up from sleep by the avalanche of black berry broadcasts I received on my black berry because I forgot to turn off it before I went to bed. It was an editorial about a female robber caught in the ‘act’ of robbery in the Nigeria’s capital city. She was stripped naked from head to toe by the crowd. People took pictures of her nudity; and like a fuel poured into an incipient fire the story spread swiftly.

Having read the story, my worry about a society that is grossly attached to patriarchalism resurrected. And so many questions began to rumble in my head like a rail engine. I then began to formulate a proposition in my head and it centers on WHY. Why would a woman be stripped naked for being caught in a robbery? Even if she was caught red handed in the ‘act’ why would she be stripped naked when legal procedures have not been pursued? Why do our societal practices still negate the principles of gender equality even in the 21st century? Why do we hardly see male armed robbers treated in the same way (stripped totally naked) that woman was treated? Each time a woman is caught in an ‘act’, however untoward, we treat her with great disdain; like a pariah; like someone who has committed the most heinous offence on earth, why? Each time we read stories about a woman’s nudity we broadcast and make it spread like an inferno; we take every undue advantage to paint a horrendous picture about women; we take brainless and witless bliss from publishing such stories, why? Why do women broadcast and spread such stories and not repudiate in strong terms the gender stereotyping associated there-in? Why are majority of women always blind and intellectually lazy to raise gender issues associated with such stories? Why do we always take laws into our hands by resorting to ‘jungle justice’?

Why do these things happen? The reason is not far-fetched. If you want to know why attach NOT to each of the questions and whatever question I have provoked in your head, and the answers you seek smoothly come out and stare you in the face. Then you see my second proposition WHY NOT, which is outshone by WHY because WHY NOT exists as a sterilized and depressed notion. Purse for a second, WHY would a woman be stripped naked for being caught in a robbery? WHY NOT? WHY do our societal practices still negate the principles of gender equality even in the 21st century? WHY NOT? WHY do we derive exceptional elation in spreading pictures of a woman’s nudity? WHY NOT? Continue in this sequence and put forth your questions. It is because they are WOMEN. That is the premise upon which the proposition WHY NOT is formed.

We live in a society where women have no privacy; where men believe that essence of women is matrimonial and as such women’s roles do not go beyond domestic; where male chauvinism is ingrained and has become recalcitrant; where women are sliced every day on the altar of patriarchalism by the institutions of government; where people turn deaf ear to serious gender issues that are in negation to women existence; and where a lot of things go wrong and people pretend there is no cause for alarm.

Nothing in my opinion is in support of female robbery. But all I have pointed out is the prejudice in handling women issues; the senseless dehumanization of women who are caught in the ‘act’ of crime; the insensitivity of the society to women issues; the undue recourse to ‘jungle justice’ by the citizens when someone is caught in the ‘act’; the silent character of the judicial system to the high spate of the so called ‘jungle justice’ in our society today. I put forward the equality of the sexes: men and women. What is good for the goose is equally good for the gander. Next time you want to harshly judge a woman do not forget these lines from Lesley Lokko (the author of Bitter Chocolate): “before you pass judgment, just think about all the things you have never had to do, the choices you have never had to make.”
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